Rupert Giles woke to beautiful Parisian sunrise streaming through his window. He fumbled for his glasses in order to glance across at his alarm clock and see if he could possibly stretch his lying in bed time out for just a few more minutes. He nuzzled back into his pillow with a happy smile on his face, already contemplating what he would have for breakfast that morning. He was lying in near silence until the unmistakable sound of someone crying filtered through from the room next door. It took a few moments to register... Next door... Tara's room... Tara! Giles threw back the covers and tugged on his robe before padding out his door. He knocked softly on the door and there was a hurried sound of someone trying to stop themselves crying with little success.
"Tara?" he asked softly.
An fresh wave of sobs was enough for him to open the door without a word from her. He walked in to find Tara curled up in the middle of her bed, still fully dressed from the night before. Giles' heart wrenched to see the gentle blonde in obvious pain, her face tear streaked from a long night of crying. He crossed to the bed and placed an uncertain hand on Tara's back which was heaving with great, choking sobs. Tara crawled into his lap and he put his arms around her gently, not saying a word until she was ready.
"S-she hates... m-me," Tara choked in a small voice, her fists clenched into tiny little balls.
"Willow? Did something happen last night with Willow?" Giles was patient, waiting for her sobs to subside before she could answer.
Tara managed to sit up and look at Giles eye to eye, her shoulders were hunched dejectedly, "Giles... I ruined everything... the best friend I ever had and now she doesn't want to see me again."
"Whatever happened between the two of you, I don't think that Willow hates you," Giles fished a handkerchief from his robe pocket, "Whatever you may think you've done... "
"Giles, it's nothing I've done... it's what I am," Tara took the handkerchief he offered her and blew her nose noisily, "and she hates me, how could she not?... I-I've never told anyone before but I told her... that I'm gay... I was angry and upset and it just came out... so stupid."
"You're not stupid," Giles said in a concerned tone, "Did Willow not take it very well?"
Tara looked at Giles through her hazy eyes, frowning slightly, "Giles, I'm gay... aren't you supposed to say 'bloody hell' or 'dear lord' or something... at least clean your glasses?"
"Why would I do that?" it was his turn to frown.
Tara looked up at him and her mouth gaped in realisation, "What, you mean... you knew?"
He just nodded, a sympathetic smile on his face, "Far be it from me to jump to any conclusions about you dear girl... but I knew from the moment you told me about Willow that you had very strong feelings for her. And when I saw you looking at her... well, I may be old, decrepit and English but I do notice these things."
"Giles, you're none of those things!" Tara protested," Well, yes you are English... but... was it really that obvious?"
He nodded with a sad smile. Tara looked away from his gaze, letting her eyes roam over the tangled bed sheets. She didn't know how she was supposed to do any of this! It was all so frustrating, how were you supposed to tell someone you were interested without having it all blow up in your face?
"Then why couldn't Willow see it? If she knew how I felt... why didn't she say something?" Tara asked in a pleading voice.
"I don't know the answer to that Tara... but sometimes, even when the signs are right in front of you, you can't see them for any number of reasons... so... did she not take the news very well?"
"Well, yes... no... she didn't say anything but I know what she was thinking, you should have seen the look on her face!"
Tara bit her lip as she realised what she had done, it was far from fair that she was making assumptions based merely on a reaction, she hadn't given Willow any chance at all to collect her thoughts and reply. However, Willow had said very clearly that normal people couldn't be gay... Tara remembered the sting of the words all too clearly. It was still raw.
"I think she thinks there's something wrong with me," Tara whispered.
He sighed and reached out to cup her cheek, "There is nothing wrong with you... far from it... Tara, you are the most caring and compassionate young women I have ever met. I think Willow can see that just as well as I can."
Tara fervently hoped that was true, "I don't know what to do... w-what should I do?"
"You'll know I'll always be here for you... but I can't answer that question for you."
Tara tried to sniff back a fresh flow of tears but failed miserably. Giles held out his arm and she sank into his warm embrace gratefully. He held her as her own father never had, letting her cry until her sobs resided.
"I l-love her Giles," she choked.
"Then there's the answer to your question."
"It's not that simple... "
"It just isn't... I mean... it's complicated... "
"No it's not... you just said you love the girl. Well? Do you or don't you?"
"Then talk to her... without running away before she has a chance to respond," Giles retrieved the piece of paper with Willow's phone number on it from Tara's bedside table, pressing it into Tara's palm.
Willow wasn't at her aunt's house when Tara called, no one seemed to know where she was, just that they had not seen her come home. Tara hung up the phone sadly and stood in the booth for a few minutes, her mind a complete jumble of thoughts. She may not hate me... but I don't think she can ever give me what I want from her... I'd rather she hated me... Tara pressed her forehead against the wall. Just when she thought she had no more left in her, tears trickled slowly down her cheeks. She decided to go for a walk to clear her head.
Okay... the truth, exactly how you feel Willow, don't leave anything out. There's only one way this is going to be able to work and it's if you say everything you feel... Willow went over and over the thoughts floating around in her head the whole trip to Tara's hotel. She sat on the street car imaging that she looked dreadful in her crinkled theatre dress and with tear stained cheeks. Stop worrying about your looks Willow, there are more important things to worry about... oh god! Like the fact I don't know what to say to her... She had given up trying to plan what she would say when she saw Tara because she knew full well she would forget every word of it when she saw the blonde. Be honest... that's all you can do...Her heart pounding in her ears, Willow stared at Tara's door for goodness knows how long before she managed to rap lightly. There was no sound from inside... Willow knocked a little louder...
Willow almost jumped out of her skin, she turned around to find Giles peering out at her from the room next door.
"I-I was l-looking for... " Willow stuttered awkwardly, "...Tara."
He shook his head slowly, "Tara isn't here... she left to call you about fifteen minutes ago."
"To call me?... But I was on my way here!" Willow pouted at the unfairness of it all.
"I wish I could tell you where she is," Giles said apologetically.
Willow's eyes widened and she whispered, "I think I know."
In the middle of the popular tourist attraction known as Notre Dame, a young blonde stood, unmoving, her face composed as she stared at the floor. The colours played a little game across the flagstones of the church as Tara stood watching. Tourists came and went but she stood calmly, just gazing, just being really. Being here seemed to bring everything into perspective. The confusing thoughts in her head had since been filtered down to just one,
I love her...
Tara knew with a certainty that nothing would ever change that. Whatever happened between them... she would always love Willow. It meant that she now knew exactly what she had to say to Willow... didn't make it easier though...
A tickling sensation ran down her spine... as though someone were staring at her back. Tara closed her eyes for just a few seconds. She knew full well who it was without turning around, she would know that scent anywhere. When she turned around she found Willow standing in front of her...a sad but hopeful look on her face. They just stared for a few moments in order to become used to the fact that they were both really standing there... and it was very much real.
"How did you know I would be here?" Tara asked the most obvious question.
"When I asked you your favourite sight in Paris... your eyes lit up when you talked about this place... for some reason, I knew this was where you would come... after everything... " Willow faltered for a moment beneath Tara's liquid gaze, "I remember every word you've said to me... "
Willow looked at Tara and knew that everything she had felt the night before was the honest truth. Even if by some miracle she could change the way she felt about Tara... she never would. When the words finally came, they came from her heart.
"Tara... I'm sorry for the way I acted last night," Willow looked down at her hands as she twiddled her thumbs nervously.
"N-no, you were right to get away from me... Willow, I-I can't lie about how I feel about you anymore... and I won't," Tara was looking at Willow's face intently... why can't you look at me Willow? "If that means you feel you can't spend time with me then m-m... maybe it's for the b-best."
Willow felt tears sting her eyes when she heard the pain in Tara's voice, "I don't want you to have to lie... I understand completely... "
"How can you understand... you'll never know what it's like to be me. To come from where I come from and... t-to fall in love with someone you can never have... "
"Y-you... l-love me?" Willow asked in a trembling, small voice as she finally managed to look Tara in the eye.
"Please don't tell me how repulsed you are... I know you didn't want to hear that coming from me... " Tara turned away, gazing back up at the window.
Willow extended her hand to Tara's back before drawing it back to her chest, clenched in a fist, "That's not it at all... Tara, please hear me out. Right from the very first time I laid eyes on you I felt something... I didn't know what it was at first, I was so confused. I-I had all these feelings that I couldn't explain and then, last night, when I realised how I felt about you... I was terrified that you didn't feel the same way. Well, after the play I just panicked... and all those words came tumbling out to try and hide the way I felt. I didn't want you to think I... I mean, I was scared I guess. I was scared you'd find out the truth and never want to see me again."
"The truth?" Tara slowly looked over her shoulder to find tears rolling down Willow's face, she had to fight the urge to wipe the tears away.
"That I love you Tara Maclay... I love you."
Willow watched Tara's face intently after the words left her lips. Tara burst out crying in response, and without intending to, Willow followed suit seconds later. Willow still managed to cross the distance between them and throw her arms around Tara. They clung to each other so tightly they could barely breathe... Soaking each other's shoulders with tears...happy tears
"Why didn't you just say so in the first place?" Tara could have laughed if her throat wasn't so choked with tears.
"I don't know! I was terrified... cowardly... and very, very stupid," Willow reached up to touch Tara's hair softly before pulling back to look her in the eye.
"We make such a pair, both as stupid as blind as each other... sending out all the signals we possibly could and not being able to interpret them for what they really were," Tara knew it was absurd and yet none of it mattered now that the truth was out.
"You're not stupid Tara Maclay... you're beautiful... and I love you," Willow grinned through her tears, "I love you. Can I just keep saying it over and over?... I love you."
"Well, I for one am not going to stop you," Tara pressed her nose to Willow's as she whispered, "I love you too Willow Rosenberg."
"Can you say that again?" Willow lent her head on Tara's shoulder, stroking her back.
"I love you... " Tara whispered in Willow's ear, "...my Willow."
At that moment, for both girls... absolutely everything was perfect...