Buffy caught a brief glimpse of an approaching figure as the door to the auditorium swung open-shut-open-shut. Oh good, a welcome committee.
Buffy decided to meet the greeter half-way and entered the meeting place nonchalantly, but with a conscious thought to be friendly. Have to make a good impression for Willow. Her smile was hiding just a bit of nervousness.
As soon as she was fully into the auditorium, it became clear that it was not the welcome wagon approaching. The foreboding figure caused a gut reaction in Buffy contrary to the one she had intended. With a bit of a squeal, she began backpedaling towards the door she had just cleared, her back coming to rest with a thud, just to its side.
"I come in peace, I come in peace!" Buffy had no idea why she was being charged, but it seemed like a good offering. Upturned hands at shoulder level tried to create a barrier between her and her assumed attacker, while closed eyes shielded her from witnessing the results.
"What the hell are you doing here?!" Kara's nose flared as she stomped to a halt just a few paces from Buffy.
Still waiting for physical contact to accompany the accusatory inquiry, it was a moment before Buffy braved one eye open. Seeing that the woman had halted before her, she opened the other and relaxed her shoulders just a bit. Just as she was about to fully relax, she saw another figure quickly approaching behind the first. She resumed her original stance and gave another squeal.
"No, no, it's ok! I'm friendly, hun!" Jeffrey had slid in between Kara and Buffy. Quick thinking on his part, given he had no clue what was going on.
Neither did Buffy. Again, she began with one eye opening. She saw the smiling guy blocking the angry young woman and relaxed a bit again, both eyes opening and shoulders falling slightly.
Jeffrey took one of Buffy's raised hands and shook it. "Hi, I'm Jeffrey. Welcome to PFLAG. We love to have new visitors. Don't we Kara?" He nudged an elbow behind him, making contact with Kara's stomach.
A muted UMPH was followed with more angry words. "Not this kind of visitor we don't!"
Still smiling, Jeffrey continued. "Excuse me for a moment, won't you, dear?"
Soothed by the young man's southern charm and drawl, Buffy nodded and smiled without a thought.
"Hey, psycho straight-girl! What is your problem?" He tried to whisper with as much force as possible. He grabbed Kara by the shoulders, hoping to shake her out of ...well, whatever it was she was in.
Kara was still glaring over Jeffrey's shoulder as she tried to explain, also whispering. "She's the reason Tara's not here."
Knowing full-well why Tara wasn't at the meeting, and knowing that this girl in no way fit the description of the red-head who had broken Tara's heart, Jeffrey only responded with a raised eyebrow.
Kara exhaled in resignation, and finally looked at Jeffrey, cutting her glare away from Buffy. "Alright, not the reason exactly, but she has something to do with it at least." She looked back over Jeffrey's shoulder. "Hey, how's Jack?" Her tone gave an auditory image of a small child sticking her tongue out in defiance.
"Jack, huh? Who's...what? And huh?" Now Buffy was scared and confused.
"You know full-well who I'm talking about. Little miss match maker!" Kara leapt into action again, only getting as far as the human shield in front of her.
"ENOUGH, CRAZY-PANTS!" Jeffrey tightened his grip on her shoulders as he shouted. Once he was sure he had halted Kara's movement, he gave one more shake before making a half-turn and positioning himself perpendicular to the two girls, one hand ready to fly out in defense towards each girl. He spoke to Buffy. "I am SO sorry." He was genuine. He turned briefly to Kara, admonishing her with a finger near her face. "Stay!" He hissed at her before turning back to Buffy with another pleasant smile. "I didn't catch your name?"
Buffy breathed for the first time in many seconds, feeling a huge sense of relief that there was someone between her and the angry girl who at least seemed to be able to control her. She tried to return Jeffrey's smile as she took his hand. "I'm Buffy." She tried to laugh, if awkwardly at the situation. "And I have NO idea what she's talking about." She looked Jeffrey in the eye to convey her honesty.
Jeffrey nodded reassuringly. "She's apparently not herself right now. And frankly I have no idea who she is at the moment."
Kara tried to interject "You know ex..."
Jeffrey cut her off with a wave of his hand. "YOU! SIT!" His wave continued past her face to point at the nearest theater seat. He continued pointing until Kara gave up her fighting stance and flopped with a huff into the seat. Jeffrey returned to Buffy.
"Let me try to get to the bottom of this," he suggested to Buffy.
Again, she could only nod.
Jeffrey approached the Kara, hovering over her for authoritative effect.
"Kara. Do you think you can tell me what's going on using your nice words?" Jeffrey let his hands fall on his hips giving him a teacher look. He let his weight shift to one foot so he could tap the other.
Kara looked back and forth between Jeffrey and Buffy a few times before deciding she could comply. "Jeffie, she's the one who yanked Jack away from me at the mixer so he could hook up with Willow."
A light bulb flashing over his head, Jeffrey suddenly understood everything. He nodded emphatically. "OK, I get it Kara. I do, but that little display did not help anything. You're here as an officer, not Tara's personal protector." He crouched down to remove the tension between himself and Kara. "I'll find out why she's here ok?"
Kara nodded and sulked.
...And Buffy always says that I look good in black. Willow had let herself wander into her mind. It was the only way she could figure to block out the Mr. and Mr. Annoying show going on in front of her. I bet it's happened before, hasn't it? I mean, people convert to Judaism all the time, I'll just be making room for them when I de-convert? I don't know about the shoes though. Sensible is good, but...
Her train of thought was derailed by the cacophony of bodily function noises acting as the finally to the radio show. The boys didn't even wait for the closing sounds of their own show to finish before they were out the door.
Finally! Her joy at being freed from the hell that was the last two hours was cut short when she saw the hosts leave without putting anything away. She huffed her way into the other half of the studio and started unplugging headphones. Gosh, do boys have ANY redeeming qualities? Nun is sounding better and better every second.
After cleaning up the mess, Willow popped in a CD of a syndicated show the station ran every evening at this time. If it weren't for the grants Willow acquired for the station every year, they could never afford those shows, and some upper classman would have to suffer through shows similar to the train wreck she had just survived.
Grabbing her bag, she left the studio, locking the door behind her. Willow assumed the stance that had become instinct over the past week; arms crossed over her chest tightly, head down, shoulders hunched. She started on her way with purpose, but after a few steps realized she didn't have a mission. I've buried my nose in books every free minute lately. I don't even have any homework left to do. She sighed and wandered aimlessly out of the building and into the crisp night air. What am I going to distract myself with tonight?
"OH!" At least something was starting to make sense. "That Jack." Buffy was sitting with Jeffrey a few rows behind the still-steaming Kara. So far, that was the one bit of information that had been settled. She nodded knowingly until she realized that the knowing had come to a stop. "Ok, so what about Jack?"
Jeffrey hadn't formed an opinion of Buffy yet. She was here, so there was something intriguing about her. He just hadn't figured it out yet. He was, however, impressed with the slight girl's sassy stylishness. Nah, no way she's family. Stereotypes or not, I don't get any vibes. He was trying to process as quickly as he could. He wanted to have her figured out in case she wasn't willing to completely explain herself.
Jeffrey was good at it too. Having been out "since he was nothin' but sperm and egg" as he liked to say, he had learned to read people for fun and safety. He had amassed a collection of hags on campus through the "fun" reads, and as for safety, well, he knew when to run.
Natural blond-ish, but not that blonde. California tan equals local, and more importantly, she backed down from Kara, so she most likely means no harm here. The opinions were forming in his head within mili-seconds.
Jeffrey had to think for a minute. Kara hadn't been all that coherent in her ranting, so he had to think twice before finding an answer to Buffy's question. "Oh, Jack! Kara seems to think you stole the love of her life at the mixer, only to feed him to the love of her best friend's li..." His gossip-column style explanation was cut short when Kara flew over the three rows between them to smack him in the back of the head.
"NO!" Kara didn't need to say anymore than that. Jeffrey got the hint.
"Huh?" Buffy had reverted back to her initial confused mono-syllabic retorts.
Jeffrey smiled, trying to wave away what he almost just gave away. "Oh, never mind that." After some quick thinking, he recovered and quickly changed the subject. "So, what brings you to PFLAG?"
As Jeffrey inquired, the rest of the group filtered back in having taken full advantage of the break. Seeing the new arrival, they all smiled as they passed, but immediately turned and began whispering as they took seats at the front of the auditorium. It was getting a little too loud for their chat.
Taking charge again, Jeffrey turned to Kara, who had taken a few moments to finish her massive seat-jump. She winced as she started to feel all the places she had bumped on the way. "Kar, be a doll and go form those committees with the group. We're gonna finish our chat back here." He dismissed her with a wave and turned back to Buffy.
Kara snarled and stormed back to the meeting proper.
"Wow, I am irresistible!" Lynn shouted with a smirk as she watched Tara try to sneak in the front door of the café without notice.
"You're a smooth talker alright. I was halfway here before I realized what was going on." Tara was speaking with an obvious intent to be humorous, but her sullen face and hunched shoulders gave away her real feelings. She slumped onto a stool at the counter.
She looks even worse than Kara mentioned. Lynn tried not to let her face betray her concern for the girl. "Hungry?"
"No, but I should probably eat anyway." Having memorized the menu long ago, Tara hardly had to think about it. "Vegetable soup is a good thing to start with I think."
Lynn nodded, but hesitated a little longer than she had intended before turning to retrieve the order.
Tara sighed. "I know what you're thinking Lynn, but I'm ok, really."
It was almost closing time, and the café was empty. The cooks and wait staff were already in full clean-up mode.
Lynn ladled as she spoke. "I just can't believe you let the girl get to you this bad. I mean what is it about this Will..."
"Nononono, remember? Not talking about her, so I can succeed in the no thinking about her remember?" Tara accepted the soup with a raised eyebrow. "We can talk about anything else, anything at all."
"Alright, fine grumpy girl. Let's talk about me then!" Lynn was only half kidding.
The two chatted and Tara not only finished her soup but Lynn had even talked her into a sandwich. Eight o'clock struck and Tara made her exit, promising Lynn she'd be in better spirits when she came to work in the morning.
On her way back to campus, Tara tried to fight thoughts of Willow, but it was no use. Newly energized from her first decent sustenance in days, her mind was on hyper-drive. She gave in.
I never would have expected that dance from her. Verbal thoughts gave way to only images as she recalled what she had seen. Tara could recall the incident in excruciating detail; how Willow's red hair gleamed under the track lighting of the radio station, each and every flowing, sultry movement her body made, every inch of her body her hands traveled over. Tara savored the memory and felt the same heat rise from her knees, through her midsection, up over her shoulders, and into her cheeks, that had risen when she had witnessed the dance first-hand. As her mind continued it's replay, the heat dissipated as her "eyes" traveled to her left and saw him.
She felt suddenly very cold, just as she had that day. It was for him, I know it, he was right in front. I have to stop. Forget this. Tara tried to conjure different mental images, she tried remembering class lectures, then her visit with Lynn, but every time she tried to pull her mind away, it swept right back to the beginning of the thought she wished to banish. With a sigh of resignation, then a groan of frustration, she allowed the image to play through one more time. This time she managed to stop before the unsavory ending, keeping that delicious heat with her as she made her way on to campus.
"So that's basically why I'm here. To get some help for my friend." Buffy had easily fallen into comfortable conversation with Jeffrey. She told him all about her friend who came out to her nearly two weeks ago and how the friend was all gung-ho about the process at first and was even interested in a certain girl, but then relayed how an embarrassing event -without specifics- had caused her friend to retreat back into the closet and bolt the door.
Jeffrey sat quietly during Buffy's story, nodding reassuringly as she spoke. He didn't have to work at looking concerned. He was genuinely interested in her story. He let Buffy breathe a little before taking her hand. "Buffy, you are a really great friend to come here for her."
Normally, Jeffrey would at least consider the friend in such a story was actually the person telling it. Many times, students who were afraid of coming out came to PFLAG first under the guise of ally. It seemed to be a more comfortable first step. In this situation, however, Jeffrey had no doubt in his mind that Buffy really was talking about a friend. He respected her bravery. It wasn't easy for anyone to come to a meeting like this. He also respected that Buffy was conscious to not disclose her friend's name.
This situation had been a heavy weight on Buffy's shoulders, even if she was eager to help Willow. She appreciated Jeffrey's words. Not only did it seem that he would be able to help in this situation, but he also made her feel very comfortable. She felt as if she was talking to an old friend already. Buffy relaxed fully for the first time since she had entered through the swinging doors.
"Thank you, Jeffrey. I just didn't know what else to do, so I hijacked Willow's laptop, and...OOPS!" Apparently she had gotten a little too comfortable. She panicked momentarily, then thought about the slip. No big, I mean I very much doubt he knows Will.
Jeffrey made a literal, head swinging double take. "Willow? Did you say Willow? Willow's the friend?"
Her confidant had made a rapid transition from clam, cool, and caring, to bubbling with excited and nervous energy. Buffy panicked, but what could she do? She nodded, trying to smile through her growing panic. "You know her? Shit, I really didn't mean to..."
With what Buffy was beginning to realize was a trademark move, Jeffrey waved his hand to dismiss her worries. "Honey, it's ok, I don't know Willow, but I do know of her." Still holding her hand, he pulled Buffy to a stand and began pulling her down the aisle and to the front of the auditorium where the meeting was just breaking up.
Speaking over his shoulder, he continued. "I think this going to work out even better than you could imagine."
Willow had been walking aimlessly for nearly an hour now. The cool night air had turned down right cold. She had shivered her way through a few more laps of the residential quad, before deciding it was time to call it a night. Stopping for a moment to take a look where she was for the first time since she began the journey, she found the need to turn completely around before heading straight for her dorm.
It was as if she had just woken up. She had seen nothing and heard nothing along the way until now and was a little surprised to see just how much was going on around her. Willow really shouldn't have been surprised; the campus was always alive in the evenings. The usual congregations of students had assembled on the quad. Many small groups of students lingered in casual conversation, while larger groups engaged in pickup-games of various kinds.
Stupid boys, Willow mentally grumbled as she neared a game of Frisbee. Gosh, when did I become such a man-hater? She quickly replayed the day in her mind and realized she hadn't had a single positive interaction with a member of the opposite sex all day. Her grumpy side took over thought again. That's cuz they all suck. Too bad I've decided against women now too. Nun, nun, nun, nun, she chanted the word over and over in her head. A shout halted her mental rambling.
"Hey! Head's Up!"
Willow wasn't sure where the voice was coming from. She looked up in front of her with the intent of finding something she should be avoiding.
She found something.
The walk back to campus had gone quickly once Tara had been able to latch onto the happier parts of her last vision of the girl she loved. Ugh, not love Tara, you don't even know her. Try as she might, she couldn't convince herself. The heat of Willow's dance still engulfed her and she didn't even feel the slight chill in the air. Since her heart was dictating the situation right now, she resigned to let herself have this one last night to think of Willow before fully embarking on the forgetting.
She was almost near her building now and she glanced down at her watch. No use going to the meeting now. It's probably over and Kara will be home soon. For the first time all week, she wasn't dreading company. She fished in her pocket for her keys as she strolled down the center of the quad.
"Hey! Head's Up!"
She didn't think the exclamation was meant for her, but instinct forced her head up anyway. She froze.
Their eyes locked, and Tara melted. It didn't take much considering her already elevated internal temperature. Her mouth went dry and a huge lump formed in her throat.
She most likely wasn't the thing she was being warned of, but Tara was something, well someone, Willow was trying to avoid both mentally and physically. She had considered herself successful in the physical department as she had stayed away from all the places she had seen Tara in the past but mentally-not so successful.
Willow was paralyzed, Her heart began storing beats, only letting out one pound every few seconds. She could hear its *thud* ringing in her reddening ears. How can someone I don't even know have such an incredible effe.."
Her thought was stifled by a different thud. The apparent subject of the original shout, a swiftly spinning Frisbee made contact with the side of Willow's head, knocking her to the ground.
"OW!" Willow forgot where she was momentarily and began rubbing the contact point.
"I said head's up!" Was the only response from the intended recipient of the Frisbee pass as he retrieved the object from Willow's side. She could hear the whole group laughing nearby.
Tara sprang into action without a second thought. "Oh! Are you alright?" Before the three short words had left her lips, she was kneeling on the ground in front Willow. She waved her hands a bit in front of her, before placing both hands under Willow's chin, raising her face to meet hers and assess the injury.
Both of them froze again. Each could feel the intense fire burning up the oxygen between them. Neither could breath.
As her vision cleared, so did her mind. OH God! Tara! Willow panicked. A fight or flight reflex kicked into gear from the plastic assault on her head. It chose flight. She sprang to her feet, her heart wincing at the loss of Tara's hands on her face. Her mind took advantage of the lapse in heart-control and spun her around and started her running away and towards her dorm. Once her heart caught up with her, it reacted by filling her eyes with tears. A rapid montage of memories flashed before her clouding eyes; smashing into Tara in the bathroom, spilling coffee on the both of them at the café, and the dance.
Oh god, the dance.
WHY!? Why am I such a freakish klutz around her? Willow sped up the stairs to her room.
Tara was still crouched on the ground, not quite sure what had happened until she looked up. She caught a last glimpse of red as Willow disappeared into the building. Tara stood, but didn't yet move. She cringed as the last minute caught up with her.
What just happened? Was it because I touched her? I guess she really wants nothing to do with me at all!?
Buffy watched in awe as the two bounced up and down in front of her. All Jeffrey had said to Kara was, " Buffy's here to help her best friend come out. Her red-headed DJ best friend that is." A bright gleam sparked in Kara's eye after only a millisecond of processing and the two were off, holding hands and squeaking like little girls.
Buffy tried to find the amusement, but it wasn't catchy. "Um, I'm really glad you guys want to help, but is this some kind of club initiation thing? Cuz, if it is, I'm feeling slightly less than included here."
Kara bounced over to Buffy and caught her in a huge bear hug.
It was Buffy's turn to squeak.
"Sorry!" Kara realized the possibly confusing conflict between her earlier actions and the one she was currently executing and stepped back. "I just, I mean, I'm so, I..., I..., WILLOW"S GAY!!!"
Buffy still wasn't sure what was so exciting. "Wow, this is definitely an unexpected reaction." She looked back and forth between the two gigglers. "Did I help you guys meet some kind of quota or something?"
That sent Jeffrey and Kara into fits of laughter on top of the jumping.
Kara was the first to find words again. "Oh god, I'm just so excited. I'm sorry Buffy." She physically settled herself, but couldn't wipe the enormous grin off her face. "Your best friend is trying to come out?"
Kara continued, "And that best friend is Willow?"
Buffy nodded again, not showing any signs of new understanding.
"This is unbelievable!" Kara couldn't figure out what to say next. It all came out at once. "My best friend is gay too, I mean, of course she is, but she wants to be gay with Willow, I mean, she likes her." She grabbed Buffy by the shoulders. "MY TARA LIKES YOUR WILLOW!"
The physical connection finally facilitated an easy comprehension for Buffy. Her jaw dropped. "TARA!? THE TARA!?" Forgetting any inkling of having betrayed her best friend's trust, her jaw rose into a grin to rival Kara's "Willow wants to be gay with Tara too!"
Now all three were jumping and squealing.