"This really sucks Will, I hope you know that." An exasperated and sweaty Buffy said as she dropped a box into the back of the U-Haul Willow rented for the day.
"I know it sucks." Willow replied as she set a box down next to Buffy's. "But you know I have to."
"No, you don't." Buffy sat on the ledge of the truck bed, folding her arms across her chest. "You're just being all good-daughtery."
"Daughtery? Is that even a word Buff?" Willow shook her head at her friend. "But yes, I suppose I am. They did go through all the trouble of buying the place and paying for all the furniture after all."
Willow turned and pushed herself up to sit next to her friend.
"What am I suppose to do? Say ‘Hey Mom, Dad, thanks for the really extravagant graduation gift but you know, I don't really feel like moving so maybe you could you know take it back?' C'mon Buffy."
"I know. Still, it feels like you're abandoning us. What are me and Tara gonna do without you Will? C'mon, you don't have to do this."
"Yes I do, Buff." Willow sighed at the mention of Tara's name. Yes I do.
That's the last of it.
Tara swung a duffel bag over her shoulder, flicked the light switch in Willow's room, Willow's ex-room, and pulled the door shut. She made her way out of the apartment she had shared with Willow and Buffy for three years and stopped at the front steps of the building to watch the two girls sitting on the truck bed swinging their legs.
Buffy's face looked the way Tara felt.
When Willow first told them about the condo her parents had bought for her, they were all excited, until they realized that meant Willow was moving out...and across town.
Across town, that's not that bad. Sunnydale's not THAT big. It's not like she's moving to like Delaware or something. Still...
Tara shook the thought from her head and walked over to her friends, who both smiled as she approached.
"Is this it?" Buffy asked as she took the heavy bag from Tara and tossed it into the truck bed.
"Yeah, this is it." Tara nodded grimly. This is it.
It was an accident, a mix-up, a paperwork snafu, and Tara became friends with Willow and Buffy. Someone in the UC Sunnydale Residence Life office read some form wrong, and Willow and Buffy ended up in a triple dorm room instead of the double they had signed up for during freshman orientation. Neither girl was sure how they felt about sharing the room with a total stranger, but they had no idea how close they would become to the shy, unassuming blonde waiting for them in their dorm room. She was sitting on one of the desk chairs, her bags at her feet, a few boxes just outside the door. She didn't want to just pick a bed and start unpacking without giving them the chance to decide.
After they had settled in a bit Buffy announced she wasn't quite ready to give the cafeteria food a go just yet. She then called her mom and convinced her to invite them over for dinner, Tara included. It became a ritual: weekly Tuesday night dinners at the Summers household. If one of the girls had a night class, the other two would wait and they would head over to the little house on Revello together. And if it got too late to walk back to campus they would stay the night. After the first few times, Willow and Tara started keeping extra clothes in the guest room just in case.
Whenever Willow and Tara stayed for more than one night, they shared the California queen size bed in the guest room. Joyce refused to let either girl sleep on the floor or the couch and neither Willow nor Tara would agree to Dawn sharing with Buffy just so that one of them could use her bed.
It didn't take long for the Tuesday dinners/sleepovers to turn into holiday and school break dinners/sleepovers, with Buffy's mom and sister. Willow's parents were, more often than not, out of town, and Tara never went home for holidays or school breaks, so the Summers' family became their family. Joyce even kept a menorah in the window for Willow during Chanukah, though Willow would join in on the Christmas festivities as well.
It was during the first Christmas the girls spent with the Summers family that Willow and Tara's friendship deepened. Though they got along well and had no trouble finding a topic of conversation, Tara rarely shared anything too personal about herself. If Buffy or Willow brought up stories from their high school days, Tara would laugh along, ask questions, but she never offered her own stories. The only thing she would say about her family was that they weren't really close. But during that evening of food, fun and laughter, shared with Buffy's family, her mom's ‘friend' Mr. Giles, Willow's childhood friend Xander and his half-sister Faith, and Dawn's friend Chloe, Willow couldn't help but notice that something was off in Tara's demeanor.
Tara had smiled at all the right times, sang along with all the Christmas carols, and laughed at the gag gifts courtesy of Xander and Faith. But her smile never quite reached her eyes, and there was sadness in her voice and hesitation in her laughter. And Willow didn't miss the fact that Tara was one of the first to call it a night and head up to bed.
Willow followed soon after, and as she walked into the guest room she was sharing with Tara she found Tara sitting in the papasan, staring out the window and hugging her knees.
"Tara? Are you alright?" Willow had asked as she approached her friend and sat down on the floor by the chair.
Tara gave her a weak smile and nod.
Tara stared out the window a bit longer before looking to Willow and shaking her head.
"Want to talk about it?"
"N-not really." Tara whispered. "I-is that okay?"
Willow nodded, but made no move to stand when Tara returned to staring out the window.
They sat that way for a little while, until the moonlight glistened off a tear rolling down Tara's cheek. When Willow stood, Tara thought she had made Willow uncomfortable and expected Willow to leave. Instead, the basket chair creaked and Tara found herself being pulled into Willow's arms. Tara's tears quickly turned into sobs muffled by Willow's shirt.
Tara woke a few hours later to find herself clutching the hem of Willow's top, her head still resting on Willow's shoulder. She knew from the movement of Willow's fingers along her hair and across her shoulder that Willow was awake, and she wondered to herself if Willow had stayed awake the whole time, holding onto her and soothing her as she slept. When Tara leaned back to look at her friend Willow had smiled and ran her thumb across the tearstains on Tara's cheeks.
Tara rested her head against Willow's shoulder once more and began speaking. With only the moonlight in the window casting light onto the two friends, Tara told Willow about her family and her childhood. She told Willow about her father's abusive behavior, her juvenile delinquent brother, her parents divorce. She told Willow about the few years she had lived with her mom, until her mom got sick. She told Willow about missing her high school graduation so she could fly to New York with her mom to try out a new treatment, and putting off her acceptance to UC Sunnydale when her mom decided she wanted to stop the treatments and spend the last few months of her life with her daughter, in the home they had made together.
When she finished talking she looked up at Willow and was taken by the sight before her. In the first rays of the sun, tears streaming down her face, Willow had never looked more beautiful. There was no judgment or pity in her eyes, only acceptance, caring, and affection.
Tara wanted to speak, to thank Willow for listening and for watching over her, but before she could form the words Willow had placed a fingertip to her lips and shook her head. Willow's hand moved from Tara's lips to brush a stray strand of hair from Tara's eyes, which fluttered shut as Willow caressed her cheek. When she opened them again she found herself staring directly into Willow's eyes.
"Thank you." Willow had whispered, then she cupped Tara's face and placed a soft kiss on Tara's cheek. At Tara's answering smile, Willow pulled Tara close, holding her as they sat there watching the sun continue to rise.
And that was it. That was the moment that Tara began to fall in love.