Willow was relieved that no one was home when she arrived back from her date. She went to the room she shared with Fred, changed into her jammies and got into bed. She wasn't sure what to think about her evening. The time spent with Tara was amazing; she was interesting, kind, never mind the fact Willow found her absolutely beautiful, but she couldn't understand why Tara's sister and friends were so hostile towards her and she didn't, yet, know how to handle it. Then a little smile played over her face, that kiss was pretty special; a promise of something more with lots of passion and fire. Willow trembled at the thought. Okay, maybe a little hostility could be worth it. All she had to do was work out the why and then get them to like her. She thought she could do that, she knew she wanted to at least try.
Tara looked almost fearful when she entered the coffee shop, a part of her thought that Willow wouldn't be there; that Will's bad behavior was bound to have deterred her from showing up, but there was Willow waving and motioning for her to come over.
"Good morning, I was beginning to wonder if you were standing me up," quipped Willow.
"Morning, I had problems parking, s-sorry," said Tara.
Willow waved away Tara's concerns. "No sorrys needed Swe..uh Tara. I'm glad you're here, so, what would you like to eat?"
A sudden naughty thought flashed through Tara's mind which she held back as she answered. "Uhm a veggie omelette and coffee would be good," said Tara.
"Then a veggie omelette and coffee is what you will receive," said Willow, pulling a funny face and making Tara giggle.
Penny walked past Jen's Java hoping to catch sight of Willow enjoying breakfast with Fred, as she often did on Saturday mornings. The smile she had when she caught sight of Willow walking back from the counter died when Penny saw that at the table she was heading to, sat the blonde from last night. Anger welled up inside her, that ho had obviously seduced Willow and they had spent the night together. This had gone far enough; she needed to find out just who this woman was and put a stop to the whole thing.
"Everything's ordered," said Willow. They sat in silence for a while. Willow tried to say something and then her eyes met Tara's and she looked away, with a slightly embarrassed look.
"W-willow have I done s-something..."
The waitress gave a tight little smile, she knew an awkward situation when she saw one; she gave them their order and quickly departed.
The redhead rubbed the palms of her hands against her forehead ruffling the tips of her hair with her fingertips. "I... I like you I really do..."
"Why can I feel a but coming on?" Asked Tara, trying to hide the regret she felt.
"No buts... well kinda buts... it's your friends and your sister..."
"Dawnie? You knew I had responsibilities when we..."
Willow could see that Tara was close to leaving the coffee shop so she gently laid her hand on Tara's arm. "I didn't mean it like that, they have all been very protective of you, which is sweet but it's kinda intimidating."
"I suppose I should explain," said Tara sadly, she knew that if her relationship with Willow was going to go anywhere had to tell her about her past. She had hoped that she wouldn't have to do it quite so soon.
Willow kept quiet as Tara told her story; she winced as she described the abuse her mother had suffered at the hands of her father and the emotional abuse that Tara and Dawn must surely have suffered because of that violent and sadistic man. How her brother had gotten into the habit of beating on Tara whenever his teenage frustrations with school, football or anything else in his life became too much. The strength her mother had shown when she found out about it. The resolve she had that he'd never again lay a hand on Tara or ever start on Dawn. How she'd tried to make sure of it by getting them out of that violent household. Her mother had been putting money away, so she packed Tara and Dawn up and headed to California. Just when everything had started to go so well her Mother had found out she had cancer.
Tara explained about her mother's death and the bitter custody battle she and Jitty had to go through for her to keep Dawn. Then she told of the last terrible beating she had received from her brother and the court case where they tried to use her sexuality like it was a terrible thing. Finally, she told of her absolute determination that Dawn would never suffer the same abuse she did. Willow let out a breath as Tara finished her story; she reached for her coffee cup her hand shaking slightly. She wanted to tell Tara she was so sorry for everything she had been through but it didn't seem to be enough. She felt the need to hold Tara and tell her that she would keep her safe, but worried it was too much too soon.
"I'm s-sorry for laying all this on you," said Tara, pushing her breakfast away untouched.
"Don't be sorry," said Willow. "I was just trying to think of sufficient words to say how sorry I am that you had to go through those things, but somehow sorry doesn't seem to be enough. Now I understand why your friends are so protective of you. I'll have to re-assure them that you're safe with me."
"You still want to see more of me?" Asked Tara a little surprised but happy that her gamble with the truth had paid off. "Baggage girl."
Willow stroked her hand down Tara's arm until she reached her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Everyone has baggage Sweetie, but not everyone manages to get over it and of course I want to see you again. Do you wanna go for a walk? There is a nice little park not far from here."
Tara checked her watch and frowned. "Yes, but uhm I'm afraid I can't, I have to pick Dawn up for her game."
"Oh I forgot, you did tell me that. Another time maybe," said Willow.
"How about lunch tomorrow? Jitty and Will are coming over maybe you could get to know them better." Tara couldn't help but notice the deer caught in the headlights look on Willow's face. "It's okay if you think it's too domestic."
"It's not that," said Willow. "They still feel a little intimidating."
Tara chewed on her lip. "I have an idea. How about you bring Fred, Xander and Gunn and I do a barbeque? I could ask Buffy as well; it'll be fun."
"That sounds good," admitted Willow.
Willow and Tara shared a brief embrace as they left the coffee shop. Tara turned and walked the block to her car. Penny was waiting on a side street and breathed a sigh of relief when she saw Tara walk by. She followed the blonde to the parking lot and watched her slip into an electric blue Suzuki Sidekick. Penny then followed Tara to a boring suburban neighborhood where she picked up a tall, dark-haired teenager and had a conversation with a small Indian woman before giving her a peck on the cheek. Penny stored away that piece of information in case it was something important that she could drop to Willow to prove an infidelity. The rest of the morning was pretty dull with the blonde going to the teenager's soccer game. Penny slunk down low in her seat when she saw them go back to the car after the game; the last thing she wanted was to be spotted. She started to follow them again but realized that they were heading home. She decided she needed to come up with a plan; she really had to find out who this woman was.
"Hey Fred," Willow said, as she got back to the apartment. "Are you doing anything tomorrow?"
"Do you wanna go to a barbeque at Tara's house? She said I could bring you, Xander and Gunn, so what do you think?" Asked Willow.
"Sounds like fun," said Fred. "I'll get Xander to call Gunn."
"How about cutting out the middle man and asking him yourself," said Willow. "After all you badgered me into going out with Tara..."
"Which I have to point out is looking like an amazing success," gloated Fred.
Willow smiled. "So one good turn deserves another."
"Willow I've told you, I can't," said Fred, the smile freezing on her face.
"K," said the redhead. "But if you don't make a move someone is going to snap him up."
"So, how did your date go anyway?" Asked Fred changing the subject. "You were back earlier than I thought, then went straight to bed and up early this morning and given the invite I'm figurin' you and Tara had breakfast together."
"Yep, breakfast with Tara," said Willow giggling. After a few seconds she continued but this time with a more serious tone. "It was good, I like her and she has had a tough time, a really tough time. I think I can make it better."
Fred's eyebrows rose. "What happened to just finding a new friend and after Penny a girl gets a little shy?"
I really like her and uh... she has a kiss like dynamite," said Willow heading towards the kitchen.
Fred got off the sofa and followed her. "Kiss like dynamite... you so have to spill now."
"Nope, I never tell on a lady. There isn't much to say... we had a nice dinner, I went back to her house, for coffee, before you think anything else and then her friend showed up and made it pretty uncomfortable for me. We agreed to have breakfast, where she told me the reason her friends were so protective was that her brother had beaten the daylights out of her. They arrested him, but when Tara went to testify they tried to drag her name through the mud but she still managed to get him sent to jail," said Willow, without turning from the coffee-maker; she didn't want to see the expression on Fred's face in case it read disapproval.
"Heavy stuff," said Fred gently. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"Yes, no, not really..." Willow turned to see Fred's eyes starting to darken. "I know, you think it isn't a good idea and she has even more baggage than you thought, but I like her Fred, I really do."
"Will, don't try and put words into my mouth and yeah I'm worried but, if Tara's managed to come through everything she has and she can run a household, have friends, hold down a good job and be as nice as she seems, then the woman is pretty balanced; besides you like her so I'm just gonna do the best friend thing and support you." said Fred and then slowly and with a little trepidation. "Will, are you falling for her?"
Willow's mouth opened and closed a couple of times, she wanted to deny it and admit it but she could do neither so she just shrugged.
The tension in the room had suddenly mounted and Fred could tell that Willow wasn't ready to go there yet. "Uhm... I have work to do... for Buffy's study sessions, she's learning so fast, I'm finding it hard to keep up." The slight Texan gave her a little grin and started to leave.
"Thanks Fred," said Willow.
"For what?" Fred asked genuinely puzzled.
"For being a friend, supporting me, being here and knowing when to back off," explained Willow as she turned back to the coffee machine and planned a million tortures that she could inflict on Tara's bastard of a brother.