Return to What's Your Tale, Nightingale? Chapter Thirty-Four

What's Your Tale, Nightingale?

Author: Alcy
Rating: R
Disclaimer: The characters of Willow and Tara, Buffy and Giles all belong to TPTB, I'm just playing for a while.

Willow was breathing heavily as her feet flew across the sidewalk, even as she ran she was awkwardly trying to pull on her apron while at the same time trying to hold her heavy book bag. With the apron still hanging off one shoulder, she struggled to pull open the door of Dennis' Diner. The door prised open she slipped inside and almost fell over in the process. She looked up to find Faith paused in the middle of wiping a table. The brunette then glanced up at the clock before fixing a decidedly reproachful frown on her face... directed at a rather bedraggled Willow.

"Fifteen minutes late Willow... again!" Faith chastened, although her tone was teasing rather than annoyed.

"I'm so sorry!" Willow dumped her back behind the counter, she poked her head over the counter into the kitchen where Dennis was slaving away over a hot grill, "Sorry Dennis, I'll start fifteen minutes early on Monday."

"No problem Willow," Dennis smiled quickly before returning back to the beef patties sizzling away beneath his expert gaze.

Willow was trying to tie her apron into a bow but her cold fingers refused to co-operate. She gave up in a huff, throwing her hands in the air at her lack of basic co-ordination.

"Starting to regret trying to work and study at the same time?" Faith came to the rescue, spinning Willow around with a gentle pressure on her hip so she could do the apron strings up for her.

"No..." Willow said, although there was a trace of weariness in her voice that gave her away, "It's just..."

"Hey," Faith pulled the strings into a taut bow in the small of Willow's back before spinning Willow back around to face her dead on, she smiled warmly, "Doll, you know you want more in life than this," she playfully plucked at the front of Willow's apron, "And you've got everything you need to get what you want...the brains, the willpower... excuse my pun... and people who love you... including an unnamed person who would follow you to hell and back."

Willow couldn't risk breaking into a smile, "I wouldn't have lasted a semester without her, let alone almost to the end of my degree."

Faith recognised the warning signs in Willow's voice and she quickly moved to put a halt to the Tara-adoration she knew was coming up.

"I recognise that tone in your voice Will!" Faith laughed and tried to distract Willow with a mention of her second favourite thing to eat... food, "Hey, why don't you take a seat and I'll make you a sandwich... you look as though you haven't eaten all day."

Willow was about to protest and say she really ought to get to work when her stomach rumbled loudly and removed that excuse altogether.

"Five minutes!" Willow said firmly as she took a seat at the marble counter top. Faith beamed and went to work fixing a sandwich from whatever ingredients were handy.

Willow tried not to notice exactly what was going into her sandwich. She glanced around at the small but bustling diner which besides home and university, was the place she spent all her time. For two months Tara and Faith had made it their top priority to convince Willow that she ought to continue with her studies despite the fact her parents had refused all financial help. Willow had been at her wits end trying to convince them she did not need to study... and she failed miserably, she had never been a good liar. Tara had even offered to work two jobs to pay Willow's way through school... at which Willow huffed and puffed and said she most certainly would not.

A few weeks later Willow landed a job at the diner where Faith worked... mostly thanks to Faith pestering Dennis non-stop until he employed her. The following semester she had picked up her classes at college and embarked on what was a very busy schedule. Between working and studying she began to fret she wasn't seeing enough of Tara. However, every time she rubbed her eyes in frustration after staring at a page of text for too long or came home stinking of hamburgers... Tara was there.

"Willow!" Faith said suddenly, snapping Willow out of her Tara-induced stupor by slapping a plate laden with sandwich down in front of her, "You've got one of those soppy looks on your face again... get it off before you put the customers off their food!"

Dennis jammed his large palm down on his bell and Faith immediately whisked away to collect the order, leaving Willow to look dubiously at the sandwich in front of her. Nevertheless, she tucked into it with gusto and discovered that it was actually a lot better than she would have thought.

"Hey, Joe was telling me that the new Audrey Hepburn movie is opening at the Embassy tomorrow... do you and Tara want to come with us?" Faith asked as she swept past Willow with two armfuls of empty plates.

Willow chewed her mouthful quickly so she could reply, "We'd love to... Tara's been waiting for that movie to come out for ages but she has to work tomorrow... and I have an essay to finish."

"Well, more popcorn for Joe and I then," Faith shrugged as she moved to answer the insistent ringing of the bell which ordered their working lives.

Willow grinned and talked despite having a mouthful, "I still can't believe you're dating a delivery guy... even one so nice as Joe..."

Faith arched an eyebrow dangerously as she plonked her elbows on the counter top next to Willow. Willow felt decidedly uncomfortable as Faith cracked her knuckles playfully.

Joe had remained fast friends with Willow. True to his word he had quit the Rosenberg's employment on the very same day he had delivered Willow to Tara. Willow had been immediately sceptical when Faith had begun to show an interest in the young man. The mutual attraction however, was plainly obvious and after a stern talking-to from Willow, Faith reassured her that her intentions were nothing but sincere when it came to the handsome Italian-American. Willow eventually had to admit that she couldn't be happier for them. Joe successfully tamed (most of) Faith's wild ways and he was rarely without a smile.

Both girls were suddenly interrupted by Dennis thumping even harder on his bell. Willow quickly shoved down the last of her sandwich and moved to help Faith with the plates of food. They continued their conversation as they swept effortlessly between crowded tables.

"There's nothing wrong with dating a delivery guy! And besides, he's real smart... he's going to run the business one day!" Faith replied indignantly.

Willow carefully placed the two orders of hamburgers and fries down on a customer's table with a warm smile and received hearty thanks in reply.

"I'm having you on!" Willow laughed as she and Faith moved to clear a recently vacated table for the next customers, "If anyone has a reason to think the world of Joe... it's me... although I have to admit I'm a little surprised at how long he's managed to hold your attention... it's been almost two years!"

Willow paused in collecting up plates to see Faith's cheeks had reddened ever so slightly... even so, it was enough to cause Willow to break into a broad grin, "It's the real thing isn't it?"

"Well, we can't let you and Tara remain the only happy couple in New York... and... yeah... I think it is the real thing... I really like him Willow..." Faith admitted, with just a little reluctance.

"Yeah... I know you do Faith, he's a great guy..." Willow stacked the pile of dirty plates in her arms to carry back to the kitchen.

Faith followed with a plaintive look on her face, as soon as they passed into the relative privacy of the kitchen she burst out, "No, you don't understand Willow... I really like him! It's terrifying! I mean, what if he were to come by tomorrow and say it's all over... break up with me!"

Dennis looked up from where he was liberally squirting mustard and sauce onto a hotdog, "Who's breaking up with who?" the middle aged moustached man had a look of pure shock on his face at the thought of either of his girls being dumped.

"No one Dennis... no one," Willow assured him and his jolly face quickly returned to it's customary state of smiling, "Faith is being paranoid that's all."

"I'm just saying what if!" Faith protested.

"And I'm saying you shouldn't have to, Joe loves you..." Willow piled her armload of dirty plates on the bench and turned to Faith, "and Tara and I love you too... you guys have done so much for us."

Faith narrowed her eyes in warning, "Don't you go getting all mushy on me Willow Rosenberg!"

Willow grinned and threw her arms around her friend to envelope her in the tightest Willow-hug she could possibly manage. Faith pretended to try and squirm away but she could do very little in protest when she was actually quite enjoying herself.

"I love you Faith," Willow whispered very seriously.

"Shut up," Faith replied going decidedly red.

"Hey!" Dennis interrupted the pair of them by thumping two pots together, "I don't pay you two to snuggle in my kitchen... burgers and fries are going cold, coca-cola is losing it's fizz!"

"How's it going honey?" Tara's soft voice filtered through Willow's sleep-addled brain.

Willow's head jerked up suddenly from where she had been drifting off to sleep over her papers. She managed to look just a little guilty as Tara approached, her shoulders slumping slightly with weariness.

"I'm exhausted," Willow replied honestly, although her condition was so evident she hardly needed to say it.

The redhead glanced down at her work to see an untidy scrawl that made absolutely no sense on her paper, she then looked back up at her partner with a weary smile on her face.

"And you've got ink all over your lip," Tara murmured softly, reaching down to caress the aforementioned lip with a gentle thumb.

Willow scrubbed at the offending spot with the back of her hand but only succeeded in smearing it across her cheek. Being that she herself could not see it, she appeared quite satisfied with her efforts. Tara just laughed and drew a small, white handkerchief from her pocket. Wetting the corner with salvia just like a mother would for a child, she scrubbed the spot fiercely until the skin was red but devoid of ink. Willow wrinkled her nose up adorably,

"Ow!" she protested.

"Stop whining," Tara chided gently, "It's gone now isn't it?"

"If you say so," Willow muttered in fake sullenness.

Tara grinned, "Listen to you... I think someone is feeling a little sorry for herself."

She wrapped her arms around Willow's neck, planting a sloppy kiss on her cheek. Willow was playing hard to get, trying to twist away from her partner... enjoying the spot of playfulness in what had otherwise been a very depressing day full of schoolwork and no Tara-fun as the blonde had her time take up by customers all day. Willow had scowled at every customer who walked in the door for intruding on what was the first whole day they had been able to spend together all week.

However, as soon as five-thirty had rolled around, Tara had turned the closed sign around. The last few customers had been politely asked if they would like any help and a few minutes later the girls had the store to themselves. Tara had wandered to the back of the store to find Willow's eyelids closed and her head drooping steadily as though she was moments from full fledged slumber.

Now, with arms wrapped around her neck and a moist imprint from Tara's kiss still lingering on her still red cheek, Willow was almost wide awake. Tara nuzzled Willow's neck playfully, trying to elicit some sort of enthusiastic response from her even as she was playing hard to get. Tara decided to play rough and swung a leg over Willow's lap, squeezing in between her body and the table. Her breasts were of a height with Willow's face, the red head only had to move her head forward a few inches for her nose to be buried in Tara's cleavage. Usually that was a very pleasant prospect for the redhead... but she was forcing herself to remain above temptation. Although, faced with one of her favourite sights... she was of course failing miserably.

"Tara... according to my calculations... I have to do at least a thousand more words before I call it quits for the night!" Willow spluttered weakly... her attention riveted on Tara's hands as the blonde slowly undid the buttons at the top of her shirt. The blonde undid each button with dramatic flair, peeling apart the fabric of her shirt to reveal her creamy skin and Willow just wanted to explore the area with her tongue, "That's not fair."

"What's not fair is the fact that I haven't had sex with my girlfriend all week," Tara purred, running a hand down her throat, taking the exact same path Willow wanted her tongue to take.

"Well, why didn't you ravish me one night after I came home from the diner?" Willow asked quietly, her eyes looking longingly at the soft tissue.

"Because you are always dead on your feet! Last night it was all I could do to half-carry you into bed!" Tara laughed, moving her hands to encircle Willow's neck, rubbing her thumbs along the girl's hairline.

"Well, you should've taken advantage of me," Willow commented with a regretful sigh.

"I'll make up for it now," Tara murmured before lowering her face to meet Willow's.

Their kiss began softly, both taking the time to work into it... as though they were familiarising themselves once more. Although for both Willow and Tara, the memory of the other's taste would not fade even if it was ten years between kisses. At first it was just lips, lips being sucked, tugged at... nibbled gently. Both girls were just moments away from giving in to their desire for one another and explore everything... but at the same time both knew that they had forever to do just that. Willow gave in first, her mouth parting with a sigh to allow Tara full access. Tara wasted no time, her gentle tongue slipping into Willow's mouth. Her penetration was shallow at first before

There was a small but insistent cough from the front of the store and both Willow and Tara looked up to see Giles standing at the front of the store. His hand poised over his mouth as though he had been on the verge of coughing again. Tara squeaked and in her haste to get off Willow's lap, her legs became tangled in her skirt. She slipped sideways and fell with a thud on the floor. Both Giles and Willow reacted instantly to help her... although Willow in her haste simply made things worse by falling on top of Tara. The two girls ended up in a far more compromising position than they had originally been in with Willow lying spreadeagled atop Tara.

"Sorry baby," Willow mouthed to Tara as she eased herself to her own feet before reaching out with two hands to help up her fallen girlfriend.

Tara grinned as she was drawn up into Willow's arms, she quickly planted a last fleeting kiss on the lips she had been exploring so intently before they were interrupted by the embarrassed Englishman.

Giles was still very much an embarrassed Englishman and he had to clear his throat again as Willow decided she didn't want to let go of Tara's lips. The girls were still slow in drawing apart, silly grins on their faces as they turned to Giles with their arms still wrapped around one another. Tara's grin however, faded slowly as she saw the all too serious look on Giles' face. Giles saw her reaction and his gaze lowered to his shoes, he scuffed his feet awkwardly. Tara slipped out of Willow's arms and crossed the short distance to stand just in front of Giles.

"Giles?" she asked quietly.

"Tara... Willow... um..." Tara knew that voice too well, he was moments away from removing his glasses and giving them a thorough cleaning, "I have a little bit of bad news girls... well, I don't know if it's bad... although it might sound bad as first but I think in the long term it will benefit me... and you two as well..."

"Giles slow down," Tara said softly, "You're starting to sound like Willow."

"Isn't that a good thing?" Willow asked in a small voice before Tara shot her a quick look.

"No doubt," Giles managed a quick, tight-lipped smile before becoming serious once more, "Um... before I lose my nerve... I have to go home to England."

"You can't leave!" Willow immediately protested.

Tara was a little slower to respond, her face remained emotionless however and all she could do for a few moments was stare at Giles' face. Her oldest and dearest friend was leaving to go halfway around the world. The thought immediately terrified her, they needed him... not for his financial support but the fact that he was one of the few people who accepted their love for what it was.

"Can I ask why?" she finally asked in a small voice.

"I've been offered a position at a university there... a dream position actually... though it was certainly it was by no means an easy decision to make..."

"Nonsense Giles," Tara replied, trying to sound happy for him, "I'm so happy for you..." she turned to Willow and poked the redhead with her elbow, any attempt at subtly failing miserably, "We're really happy for you."

"Like hell we are!" Willow replied, staring straight back at Giles, her red mouth opening into a defiant pout.

"Willow!" Tara turned to Willow with a horrified look on her face as though she couldn't believe that she had just said that.

Willow had the look on her face that she always had when she didn't think she had done anything wrong, "What? You can't just let him leave!" she turned and faced Giles, her lower lip beginning to quiver, "You can't... leave... y-you... because... because... I love you Giles!"

Willow suddenly leapt forward and threw both her arms around Giles' waist, squeezing as hard as she possible could... as though somehow it would change his mind. Giles looked down at the redhead in his arms and reached up a hand to stroke her hair gently. When Willow pulled away there were tears streaking their way down her face, she dashed them away quickly but more took their place. She eventually gave up and simply let them fall unimpeded to the floor. Tara wrapped an arm around her shoulders and drew her close... she needed the contact as well, her own tears were brimming unshed in her eyes.

"I'm going to miss you both dearly but I have to tell you there is something that might cheer you up a little... I'm leaving the store to you Tara," Giles said softly.

"You want me to look after the store while you'll gone?" Tara asked, still not having recovered from the original shock of hearing that Giles was going to be leaving their lives after having done so much for them both.

"No Tara... the store is yours... I'm giving it to you."

"Mr Giles, you can't... I mean..." Tara was speechless.

"I don't want to sell it to anyone... I want it to go to someone I know loves it as much as I do... and I know you do Tara... so it's yours... yours and Willows," he grinned awkwardly, "You can rename it 'Tara's Books' if you want."

Willow pouted playfully, "I think 'Willow's Books' has a better ring to it!"

"Call it what ever you want...and I'll visit as often as I can...I promise," Giles said warmly and honestly, "But please say yes?"

Tara finally relented and allowed herself to be drawn into Giles' arms. Not to be left out, Willow wrapped her arms around both of them and squeezed as tightly as she possibly could.

"Yes," Tara whispered, tears misting her eyes as she missed the kindly Englishman already.

"Is my hat on straight?" Willow looked worriedly down at Tara as the blonde hunched over, smoothing out creases in the bottom of Willow's graduation robes.

Tara straightened to her full height and a smile crossed her face as she looked at her nervous girlfriend, "Firstly, it's not a hat... it's a trencher... and secondly you're not supposed to wear it into the ceremony anyway... you haven't graduated yet."

"Oh," Willow tugged it off too quickly, messing up her carefully groomed hair.

Tara smiled sympathetically at the petrified look on Willow's face, reaching up to gently smooth Willow's hair back into place. Willow immediately relaxed with the feel of Tara's hands on her head. Her eyelids slid shut and the babble and noise that had filled her head fled before Tara's gentle touch.

Tara took a step back, keeping a light grip on Willow's elbow. Her eyes roamed over her girlfriend's body, it's lithe form concealed by the flowing graduation robes. Everything was perfect...

"Sweetie," Tara whispered, "How on earth did you do it? All those hours of working at the diner... and writing paper after paper..."

Willow smiled, "You should know full well how I did it... you were with me at every step... I love you more than I can possibly say right now."

"Hey!" Faith burst into their room, both Willow and Tara looked at the smiling brunette, "The taxi's here and the drivers been honking on his horn for ages... haven't you guys heard him?"

Tara grinned and turned back to Willow, sapphire eyes searching out green, shining with love and happiness, "We've been distracted."

"I bet," Faith remarked dryly, "Now stop distracting each other or we'll all miss Willow's big day!"

"You don't need to make it sound so tragic," Willow muttered as both Faith and Tara seized an elbow each and began dragging her out the door.

"She's getting nervous," Tara whispered in a conspiratorial voice.

Willow shot Tara a look that only confirmed her words.

Half an hour later, Willow had to admit that Tara had been dead right. She sat ramrod straight in her chair, hands clasped tightly together as she waited for her name to be announced. That small fact in itself was more than enough to cause her an extreme amount of consternation. What if it was pronounced wrong? Willow did not think it was possible to mispronounce either 'Willow' or 'Rosenberg'... although it was highly likely that people would snicker at 'Willow.' She glanced around nervously at the rows of friends an family seated to the side of the auditorium... she hoped they didn't laugh. Unless she tripped of course... then people would laugh. Willow felt the heat creep into her face just at the mere thought of taking a tumble in front of her entire graduating class.

"Willow Rosenberg!" the Chancellor's voice boomed out around the hall

Willow had worked herself up into such of state of panic that she immediately leapt to her feet, almost kicking the poor person seated next to her. She approached the stairs with something akin to blind panic.

Don't trip... one foot after the other... don't trip... smile! No wait... don't smile, you'll look like an idiot... calm... composed... don't trip!

Willow made it safely up the stairs and across the stage to shake hands with the Chancellor who murmured some heartfelt words of congratulations that Willow could not hear.

All she could hear was everyone cheering like crazy, her classmates... people who obviously did not even know her and yet they cheered anyway as she bounded up the stairs with a huge grin on her face. A few voices stood out from the rest. When she dared to turn her head slightly, she quickly found Faith, Joe and Tara standing up, hands clapping above their heads. Willow even felt so brave as to wave quickly in their direction before continuing across the stage and down the other side safely.

As she descended the steps she felt a sense of anti-climax... the rolled piece of paper in her hand... something she never thought she would ever hold. All those hours working at Dennis'... the hours she had spent apart from Tara... were they all worth it?


Willow looked up to see Tara threading her way to the end of her row, she ran down the aisle in her skirts... completely oblivious to how she must look. Willow grinned as Tara swept her up into her arms, swinging her around. Tara pressed her cheek firmly against Willow's, laying a tiny kiss on her cheek.

"I'm so proud of you," she whispered fiercely in Willow's ear.

When Willow pulled back there were tears glistening in Tara's blue eyes. Willow looked down at the paper in her hand and realised it was as much Tara's degree as her own. She pressed the degree into Tara's hand... wishing she could press her lips to Tara's at the same time.

"Tonight," Willow mouthed, a hot flush sweeping over her face for no reason other than that she loved the blonde more than life itself.

Tara arched an eyebrow questioningly as though she didn't quite understand what Willow was meaning, "Willow loving?" she mouthed with a grin on her face that said she knew full well that was what it was.

Willow nodded with a serious expression on her face and managed to mouth her reply with a straight face, "Willow loving."

Later than evening, the four of them were celebrating as far as their budgets would allow. Which meant they were having celebratory hamburgers free of change at the diner. Dennis only too happy to cook four last hamburgers that evening for his favourite employees and customers.

"Where to now Will?" Joe asked before taking a long gulp of his coke, "You can't keep working here now that you're a college graduate."

"What's wrong with working here?" Faith punched Joe in the arm.

Joe rubbed his arm in mock pain, managed a fairly good imitation of Faith's pout while he did so.

"I don't think Willow is going to be working here for much longer," Tara spoke up, casting a sideways glance at her girlfriend " I have to call you Professor Rosenberg when you're appointed to the college faculty?" Tara asked, reaching up to run both her hands through Willow's silky hair, toppling her trencher off in the process. The silly hat fell unmissed to the floor.

Willow lent down and kissed Tara gently on the lips, her tongue lingering along those beautiful full lips she loved so much, "Only in the bedroom," Willow whispered in a low sultry voice.

Tara's eyebrows raised in semi-shock at the red head's mischievous tone and smouldering green eyes. It did not last long before Willow collapsed into a fit of giggles, burying her head in Tara's shoulder for a few moments to compose herself. When she looked back up again her eyes were brimming with tears of laughter.

"You do beat all Willow Rosenberg," Tara reached out and tweaked Willow's nose playfully.

"Seriously though," Willow sobered up a little, "I haven't even been offered a position yet..."

"Willow, stop being modest! You've all but been officially told the vacancy in the science department is yours..."

"I don't want to get my hopes up," Willow admitted, knowing if she was not offered the position she would be crushed. However, many of the other faculty members had told her she had the job and they were just completing the formalities.

"Understandable," Tara whispered, continuing to stroke Willow's head, this time running her thumb lightly along Willow's jaw.

"And besides," Willow's eyes twinkled again, "I like working here!"

They both looked around at the diner, the scene of many fun filled meals but also a lot of sweat and struggle... and the pay had never been that good. It was a diner after all.

"I know how much you're going to miss customers that yell at you because they have the wrong order... or all the men that try and grab your arse as your walk past their table..."

"Now that I will not miss!" Willow shivered slightly but there was still a grin on her face, "The only fingers I want grabbing my arse are yours!"

"Okay, okay!" Joe held up his hands as though Willow and Tara were about to start grabbing arses right in front of him and Faith, he rose to his feet, "Before you guys get so far caught up in each other... as you are prone to do..." Faith was nodding vigorously in agreement, "I just want to say a few words... firstly to Willow for being so damn smart, don't worry about it... we still love you!"

Faith and Tara both hooted loudly and took deep gulps of their own drinks as Willow nodded her head in acknowledgment.

"Um, we don't want to steal your limelight," Joe spoke up a little awkwardly, his face a bright shade of red," But Faith and I have been waiting to tell you some really great news... at least I hope it's great news, we think it is anyway... do you want to tell them baby," he glanced nervously at his girlfriend.

Faith grinned and was quick to speak up, "Hell yes! Joe and I are engaged!"

Willow and Tara were both struck speechless for a good few seconds at least before Faith's words sank in fully. They turned to look at each other for a few moments as though wanting to confirm they had both heard the same words from Faith's lips. Them like clowns in a sideshow, they both turned their heads to gape at the other couple. Both Joe and Faith were beaming happily at one another.

"Congratulations!" Tara finally managed to blurt out, while all Willow could manage was a silly grin.

Joe lent down to deposit a loving kiss on Faith's lips and the brunette stood to join him for an even better kiss that brought about a rousing applause from Willow and Tara.

"That's really..." Willow was trying to express her feelings but she was just having too many thoughts at one time to manage to get any coherent words out, "That's just... wow!" was all she could manage.

"Do you think Abby and Anya will be able to come to the wedding?" Tara asked hopefully.

Willow sighed a little regretfully, "I doubt their husbands will let them... but we can hope right?"

Everyone else at the table nodded hopefully, knowing that their friends were sorely missed in their lives.

"Well, I don't know about you two... but I have a delivery business to run at 5am tomorrow morning... and a lovely fiancÚ to walk home."

"And leave at the front door!" Tara chastised mildly, "No hanky panky before the wedding!"

Faith chuckled, "You should know it's a little late for that T."

The couple moved out from behind the table and both Willow and Tara stood to join them. Each exchanged warm hugs and a round of congratulations going in all directions. By the time Faith and Joe finally made their departure, Dennis had appeared from the kitchen, ready to turn the lights of and go home.

"Can we stay a little while longer?" Willow asked her boss pleadingly, "I'll be sure to lock up."

"For you doll... of course," and as he was leaving he flicked off the lights, leaving the diner shrouded in only the pale light of the neon 'coca-cola' sign.

"He knows us too well," Willow whispered as she turned back to Tara.

The redhead pressed the blonde up against a stool behind them until she was sitting on the edge of it. Willow slipped a thigh comfortably between Tara's, applying a gentle pressure.

"What a day," Tara replied, nuzzling Willow's cheek with weariness, "Almost makes you sad it's over...and in a way... more than just the day is over..."

Willow pulled back a little so she could gaze questioningly into Tara's eyes. The blonde was obviously tired and yet they still sparkled with her trademark energy. Willow managed to lose herself in them for minutes before she finally spoke...

"How do you mean?"

"Well... Joe and Faith are getting married, which means all manner of new changes... not least of which will be that you and I will be living alone... and you've finished school and are about to be appointed as one of the youngest faculty members at NYU... and I have the store that keeps me more than busy. Doesn't it just seem as though everything has fallen into place?"

Willow cocked her head to one side in an adorable manner than Tara loved... it was her thinking pose.

"Baby..." Willow whispered tenderly before claiming Tara's lips lovingly, for a few seconds she stroked them firmly with her own... teasing just enough so that Tara emitted a small groan when Willow pulled away, "... everyone loves a happy ending."

Tara licked her lips and raised her eyebrows questioningly, eyes sparkling in the dim light, "I don't know if we've reaching an ending... I'd prefer to say we're moving into the next chapter."

"There have already been lots of chapters don't you think?" Willow grinned as she remembered their adventures, "The mummy hand... oh my god, I thought I was going to die in that crate... with your lips right there and me wanting to kiss them so badly..."

Tara let out a breath, "Tell me about it, I could have sworn you heard my heart beating... not to mention that damn painting!"

Willow let out a loud guffaw, burying her face in Tara's shoulder for a few moments, "Those French guys are never going to look at American girls the same way again."

"And I seem to recall a certain red head getting a little too frisky at the dinner table one night... leading to flying food."

Willow blushed bright red, "Why is it that I seem to be attracted to getting into scrapes wherever I go? You know what... from this moment on... I'm going to be dignified Willow... I have a university degree dammit! End of getting into scrapes!"

"But you're so cute when you do!" Tara giggled and felt the full force of Willow's stare before she relented, "Okay, I'll at least let you say it," Tara laughed happily, nuzzling Willow's cheek, "Is it an undeniably happy ending?"

"You betcha... but you know what I'm really looking forward to now?" Willow asked, practically purring as Tara nuzzled her cheek, "The new beginning... any ideas on how it should start?"

"A few," Tara whispered as she ran a hand up around Willow's back, continuing upwards to caress her neck, "Although most of them are not suitable to take place in a place like this."

"Hmmm, I like the sound of those already" Willow had her naughty face on, green eyes twinkling, cheeks pink tinged with desire, "Should we go make a start?"

"Willow Rosenberg... that's the best idea you've had since you decided to fall in that fountain."

"I did not decide to fall in the fountain!" Willow protested as stood on her own two feet, "It was an accident!"

Willow found her feet and reached out two hands to help Tara up from her perch on the stool. She pulled the blonde up and into her arms.

"I'm not going to argue with you Will... mostly because we've got the rest of our lives to argue... let's go home... put Dean Martin on the record player and see what happens shall we?" Tara arched an eyebrow suggestively.

Willow gulped to find her mouth dry as Tara pressed forward further into her arms.

"How do you do that?" Willow asked as Tara gently slid one arm around her waist and at the same time took her hand gently, she applied a little pressure and they both twirled slowly between the empty tables.

"Do what?" Tara asked softly.

Willow drew Tara's hand to her chest where her heart was thumping like mad as though it were trying to burst through her chest, "This!"

Tara winked and began kissing Willow in one long, luxurious caress of her lips. Willow felt as though at any second her knees might buckle and give way beneath her. When Tara drew back there was a decidedly naughty look on her face,

"Because I am so damn gorgeous," Tara replied in all seriousness.

"Oh good lord," Willow whispered, knowing that if they remained the way they were for much longer she would be forced to ravage Tara right in the middle of the diner, "Um, I-I... think we should get out of here... please..."

"Let's go home Willow," Tara whispered, in total agreement.


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