After all the pizza had been eaten and the living room cleaned up, the group returned to the task of getting Willow moved into her new apartment. As the day wore on, Willow didn't fail to notice how quiet Tara was being, or just as she hadn't missed how distracted Tara had been on the drive over earlier in the day.
As She and Buffy took the elevator down to get more boxes from the truck, Willow couldn't hold it in anymore and decided to ask Buffy about it,
"So Buff...do you think Tara's okay?"
Buffy gave Willow a long look before responding.
"I think she will be."
"Good, that's good." Willow said, stepping out of the elevator and out of the building. She reached to pick up a box, but a hand on top of her own stopped her.
"Willow." Buffy began. "I may not completely get it, but Tara does. She will be okay."
Willow's breath hitched as she turned to face Buffy.
"I know....it's just, I guess, I should've...before now. But I just couldn't, and I feel so bad."
Willow let herself be pulled into a hug as Buffy wrapped her arms around her best friend.
"I know Will, and so does Tara,"
"Yeah, but..." Willow protested but Buffy cut her off.
"No buts, okay? You just...need time, you'll get there. Tara really does understand. You've said it yourself, she's kind of amazing like that."
Willow couldn't help the smile tugging at her lips as she pulled away from Buffy.
"Yeah." She said, wiping a tear of frustration from her eye. "Yeah, she kind of is."
Tara looked up from the books she was unpacking to find Faith leaning on the wall by Willow's bedroom, staring at her intently.
"Hey yourself. What's up?"
"Funny. I was just going to ask you the same thing." Faith said, pushing herself off the wall and walking towards Tara. "How are you holding up?"
"I'm fine, really. I'm..."
"Don't say it." Faith cut her off with a pointed finger.
Tara smiled briefly, knowing exactly what Faith did not want her to say.
"Okay. I won't, but I still am."
"Sure ya are..."
Tara frowned, staring at the books in front of her.
"I'm alright Faith, really. It's hard, I'll admit to that." She said, looking up to Faith again. "But it's hard for her too."
Tara paused briefly before speaking again.
"You know, I think not a day has gone by since we first met that I haven't seen Willow at least once."
"No kidding." Faith snorted.
"She just, needs some time to figure out how...and I get that, I really do."
"I guess." Faith shrugged. "Still, you guys may be two of the smartest and down to earth people I know, but this whole thing makes no sense."
"I know I know, and I do kinda get it." Faith said, holding her hands up in surrender. "But it is kinda insane..."
Tara had to laugh at that.
"I suppose it is Faith. I suppose it is."
Willow had been acting strangely for days and Tara hadn't really been sure what to make of it.
Willow would come home and retreat to her room, coming out only to eat, use the bathroom, or leave to go to class or wherever else she disappeared to.
The night Tara had her Women and Religion study group over had been a perfect example.
Willow had come in with a smile on her face, but the minute she saw the group in the living room, the smile disappeared, as did Willow, who made a beeline for her room.
Tara was glad the group hadn't noticed the odd behavior. More often than not, what started out as a quick hello would result in Willow taking a seat next to Tara and joining in the discussion, be it about philosophy, math, history, or whatever else.
But even when she came out to get a drink from the kitchen, Willow barely acknowledged the group.
And any thought Tara had of talking with Willow would have to wait, as Willow left just as quickly and quietly as she had come in.
Tara had been so wrapped up in her thoughts that she almost didn't notice Buffy practically dragging Willow into the room, followed by a perplexed looking Faith.
"Humor me Wills, please." Tara heard Buffy say. She looked up as Willow responded.
"I'm fine you guys, really. See, this is me, fine, Finey McFine is me." She pleaded with Buffy. "Now can I please just be on my way?"
Why wouldn't Willow be fine?
"Buffy, please, I just want to go."
By this time Buffy had noticed their audience and guided Willow to her bedroom.
Concerned, Tara stood and walked over to where Faith had just come from the kitchen holding a bottle of beer.
"W-What's going on?"
"Red almost got killed." Faith answered before taking a drink.
"W-what? What happened?"
"Dunno. She musta been pretty out of it." Faith shrugged. "She was almost roadkill there for a minute."
"Luckily Faith saw her in time and pushed her out of the way." Buffy added from behind Tara. "She won't tell me what's going on. She just keeps saying she's 'Finey McFine."
"Yeah, what's up with that anyway?" Faith asked.
"Tara? Maybe you can talk to her, after your...thing." Buffy said, pointing to the study group.
"Somebody needs to. You know, she actually asked me who the heck studies on a Friday night? I totally agree with that, but what the hell? She'd study eight days a week if she could."
While Tara was talking to Buffy and Faith, the study group had packed their things and made their way to the door, bidding Tara goodbye.
The last of the group to leave stopped and gave Tara's arm a gentle squeeze.
"I hope you're girlfiend's okay Tara."
Tara couldn't stop the blush from rushing to her face, or her stutter as she responded.
"She's n-not my girlfriend."
Embarassed from her mistake, the girl made a hasty exit after the others, mumbling an apology.
But her apology had gone unnoticed, as did Buffy and Faith's retreat to Buffy's bedroom. Willow had come out of her room just as Tara was speaking. Their eyes locked briefly before Willow turned away, retreating to her room and closing the door behind her.
The soft click of Willow's door pounded in Tara's ears. Somehow, she knew she was the reason for Willow's odd behavior. She had seen it in Willow's face.
Tara made her way to Willow's room and knocked softly. Getting no response she tried the know and found it unlocked. She took a deep breath before entering the room.
Willow was sitting at the edge of her bed, staring at her hands.
"W-Will?" Getting no response, Tara closed the door behind her and approached Willow.
"W-Willow? A-are you alright?"
But Willow remained perfectly still, and anxiety began to take over Tara's nervousness.
"Will? Are you....I mean, d-did I...did I do something? If I did, you can tell me. I probably do it often, and in public, so if you tell me then I can stop. Or start, if it's something I didn't do. Or, you know..."
A small sound came from Willow then; an almost laugh as her eyes fluttered up to look at Tara briefly then back down to what Tara could see was the picture from Willow's nightstand.
Tara sat on the bed, examining Willow's profile as she stared at the picture, caressing her thumb down the frame.
Tara knew, or hoped at least, that Willow would tell her, given time. Tara's eyes fell on the picture in Willow's hands and she couldn't help but smile at the sight of it.
"Would it be so bad?" Willow finally whispered into the silence of the room.
"Would what be so bad?" Tara responded, returning her gaze to her friend's profile.
Willow shook her head, though her eyes stayed fixed on the picture.
"You keep telling people I'm not, but...What if I was? I mean, would you not want me to be?" Willow sighed before continuing. "I mean, I kind of thought, or at least hoped, you would. But you keep saying I'm not. Like tonight, or before at that thing...but, you know, I thought, if you wanted, I could be."
Tara's head was spinning, trying to fill in the blanks of what Willow was saying but not saying.
Willow's not but could be what?
In her mind, Tara tried to recall everything she had said that evening that Willow might have heard.
The only thing I said was...
Then it hit her.
Tara finally realized when Willow's odd behavior had started.
She had gone to a mixer sponsored by the campus GLBT group, and Willow had gone with her for 'moral support.' She had, after all, been the one to encourage Tara to join.
Half the people Tara knew at the party had asked if Willow was her girlfriend, and the other half had asked if Willow was "family."
What their intentions were, Tara could only but would rather not guess.
Though Willow had been slightly nervous to go she had also been happy and excited that Tara wanted her to go with.
But as the night wore on Willow seemed to become more and more uncomfortable. And when they left Willow had been unusually quiet, and had remained so ever since then.
But what did that have to do with Willow's question, unless...
"Will? What are you...are saying that you..." Tara stammered, not knowing where to begin with the questions that were racing through her head. "I only said that weren't because you're not....I mean, not that I don't want to...or don't think that you're... but, well, you're not even..."
"But I could be..." Willow said, finally looking up from the photo and smiling as she looked straight into Tara's eyes. "I could be."