Fear. It was fear that goaded my clumsy limbs forward. I'd never been much of a runner in my life, but now I found myself flying forward with a speed I had thought virtually impossible from me. If I hadn't been so scared, I would have been amazing.
"Wow, that's really good! What happens next?"
"Faith!" Willow immediately snapped the lid of her lap top shut down, using more force than necessary, and then winced, hoping the damage wasn't too bad. "I told you not to read over my shoulder!
Faith, unrepentant, plopped herself down onto the stool next to Willow's at the island, and studied her with an intensity she recognized. Willow sighed, and waited for the round of questions.
She surprised her by asking only one. "Open the lid for me." It was more of a demand than a question.
Willow shook her head stubbornly. "Not a chance. My writing is for my eyes only."
Faith gave her a malicious grin. To Willow's shock-and horror- she hopped up onto the counter, perched on the end, and began to quote her writing at the top of her lungs. "'A beautiful, blue-eyed vixen, with long blonde hair that cascades down to the small of her back in rich, lustrous waves!"
"Faith!" Willow squeaked as she leapt up onto the counter, and tackled her. They both slid across the garnet countertop, and would have continued onto the floor if Willow had not hooked her foot at the opposite end to stop them.
Faith grinned at Willow, feathers hardly ruffled. "You know," She quipped cheerfully over her shoulder. "That sounds like you, Tare!"
That was the final straw. With a hard shove, Willow unceremoniously dumped the brunette onto the tile floor with a loud and ungracious thud.
Tara didn't even break her rhythm, accustomed to the violent squabbles that had become increasingly frequent in the past week and a half since Willow had arrived at the ranch. She continued to scrub the plate she had been washing, but Willow saw the left side of her lips curl up in a lopsided smile. "It does," She agreed mildly. "But I'm sure it's just coincidence. Isn't it, W-Willow?"
"It is," Willow agreed whole-heartedly, then shot a fearful glance at the blonde, afraid she had offended her. But Tara just kept on smiling as she rinsed the sudsy plate, and moved onto the next one.
From where she was sprawled on the floor, rubbing the back of her head, Faith muttered, loud enough for both Tara and Willow to hear: "I bet she based Grace off you, Tara, 'cuz she's in love with you!"
"That's it!" Willow threw herself off the counter and at Faith with the force of a wrecking ball. Faith twisted to meet her, and they rolled together, a tangle of crimson-and-chestnut hair and thrashing limbs. Faith gained the advantage almost instantly, rolling to bring herself on top of Willow before she mercilessly gave her a good punch to the jaw, upon which Willow jerked her knee up instinctively, catching Faith in the stomach.
A gentle, but firm hand yanked them apart. Tara wrapped one arm around each struggling girl, as if she was embracing them rather than restraining them. "Enough," She ordered, eyeing them both sternly. "You both have work to do." Then she seemed to realize what she was doing, and she quickly pulled her arm away from Willow, who took a step back. There was a moment of awkward silence as both women stared at their feet, embarrassed.
Tara broke the silence first. "C'mon, F-Faith..." Tara, keeping her arm around the brunette, half dragged, half yanked her out the door.
"Ouch, Tara! Let go! That hurts! Hey! Tare, your hands are cold!"
Willow couldn't help but grin, but the grin quickly faded at the sudden quiet in the room as the sound of Faith's struggling and Tara's uneven footsteps disappeared as she jerked Faith out the door. She wrapped her arms around herself, and shivered her way back to her lap top. It was strange, but she had a feeling that as soon as Tara had left, the room had gotten a little colder, and much darker.
"She likes you, you know."
"Who now?" Tara asked the question even though she had a very good idea of who Faith meant. She felt her stomach tickle with butterflies, and had to stop brushing Trixie to wrap both hands around her uneasy stomach.
"Willow. Duh. Cripes, T." Faith spoke with petulance-No surprise there, Tara thought with a smile of affection- and she sounded annoyed, her movements more brisk than necessary as she swept the body brush over Noelle, a pearly grey mare.
"Well, I hope she does. We do have to live together. And she is kind of my boss. My fate is whatever she decides." Tara smiled to herself, like she always did when she thought of Willow, and was grateful that her back was to Faith so the brunette couldn't see her grinning like an idiot.
"That's not what I mean!" Faith sighed with exasperation. Hands grasped Tara, and spun her around. Tara gasped as Faith leaned forward, her eyes boring into Tara's. "She likes likes you."
Heat blossomed on her cheeks. Tara roughly shrugged Faith off-Faith only resumed her grip more tightly- and averted her eyes. "And you're an idiot idiot, Faith. Now let go. We have work to do!"
Faith's eyes narrowed, and she leaned closer- Tara tried to squirm away, but failed; she had no choice but to look Faith in the eye and blush.
"Do you like her, Tara?"
Tara blinked. Even though she knew it was useless to play dumb, she did it anyway. "Of course. She's kind, and sweet, and funny..." And beautiful, gorgeous, caring, amazing-
"No, no!" Faith interrupted, giving Tara a little shake to cut her off. "Don't feed me that crap, T. Do you really like her?"
Tara blushed. She shifted. She tried to pull free. Sighed. Blushed some more. Finally, she answered with a simple: "I don't know."
It was the honest truth, and Faith could see that. She released the blonde, and sighed, shaking her head. "You're so weird, T. She's absolutely gorgeous; just go get her."
"Beautiful," Tara corrected automatically. "That's pure beauty, Faith."
Faith rolled her eyes. "What's the difference?"
"There's a huge one. Gorgeous means they are just plain attractive. Beautiful means that everything about them is attractive- looks and the soul, too."
Faith rolled her eyes again. "Yeah, sure, fine, she's beautiful. Why don't you ask her out?"
Tara shifted her weight to the other foot, and stared at her worn shoots. "She's straight, Faith. No one 'cept you and Riley even know I'm" -Out of habit, she lowered her voice- "gay. I can't just go ask her out."
Tara studied the brunette for a long moment, and only saw honest confusion. Faith couldn't understand why Tara couldn't just go and ask Willow out on a date, even though Willow was straight. Tara sighed, "Because I'm not even sure how I feel about her, and I'm not going to go and make things awkward. She could be a friend, Faith, and that would be enough."
Faith narrowed her eyes. "Sure it will be. You know it's just going to get worse and worse, so bad that you can't eat or sleep, so bad that ending your life is the only way out."
Tara was frightened into silence for a long moment before it dawned on her, and she snorted, trying to hide her worry. "Sure, Faith. How would you know? You've never been in love!"
Faith kept her expression serious, but Tara saw her lips twitch towards a smile. "I've read about it."
"You don't read!" Tara retorted accusingly.
Faith let that one slide. "Okay, maybe so, but I've seen it a million times in movies."
Tara couldn't argue with that one. "Okay, fine. But it won't get that bad, because I'm not in love with her, Faith. She's just a potentially good friend, and that's all."
Even though she spoke them with as much self-assurance as any other phrase, the words felt bitter on Tara's tongue.
Willow half-smiled to herself, but didn't look up, trying to ignore the fluttery feeling in her chest. One hand went instintivley to her chest to cover her suddenly rapidly beating heart, trying to quell it. "Hey, yourself. Come on in." As she spoke, she saved her document, and shut down her lap top. She looked up with another smile.
Tara edged into the open doorway, a plastic tray clutched in both hands. She hesitated for a moment, and Willow smiled in welcome.
"Don't be shy. Come in; I could use the company."
"I-I hope I'm n-not bothering y-you..." Tara murmured as she took another tentative step in, shutting the door behind her. "I-I bought you a g-grilled cheese...I h-hope you l-like them..."
"I love them!" Willow set her lap top carefully onto her cluttered beside table- using one hand to hastily sweep the junk onto the ground to clear space- and bounced into a sitting position. She grinned cheerfully as Tara smiled, and settled on the bed beside her, one foot curled underneath her.
"T-that's good to h-hear..." Tara offered the plate to Willow, who took it gingerly, still cautious with her healing hands. The tray teetered as Willow hit a sore spot, the glass of water wobbling threatingly. Tara reached forward automatically, her hands covering Willow's to steady the tray. The tray fell still, but neither noticed; both women were too busy staring into each others' eyes.
Goddess, she's beautiful. Tara couldn't look away; her free will vanished into those green pools, and Tara knew that Willow's wish would be her command, no matter what that wish would be. As they silence stretched longer, and both began to breathe more heavily, they slowly began to lean forward, their eyes still locked with each others', so close Tara could feel the heat of Willow's flushed skin...
The door burst open, banging against the frame so loudly that both women jumped, and tore their eyes away from each other to look at the open doorway. Tara's eyes were shocked and slightly guilty as she shifted hastily to the side while Willow was glaring more than she was looking. The glass rocked, the only sound in the strained silence, and Tara snatched it up to keep it from spilling all over Willow, an excuse to avert her eyes.
Faith was lounging in the doorway, her expression irritatingly smug as she noted Tara's obvious embarrassment and Willow's not-so-subtle annoyance.
"I'm sorry," She chirped with mock shame. "Am I interrupting something?" As she emphasized the last word, her eyes flickered towards Tara.
Tara's embarrassment was as present than ever, but her irritation was stronger. The look in Faith's eyes was all too familiar, and Tara didn't like what she was implying- though the idea was very appealing in Tara's mind.
"No," Tara answered with forced calm, her jaw tight. "I was just giving Willow some lunch, that's all." She glowered at Faith, who was unmoved by Tara's obvious hints.
"Really? You guys looked ready to make out."
Tara stiffened, and shot a panicked glance at Willow, who was staring at her hands, every inch of visible skin matching the shade of her hair.
"Shut up, Faith," Tara mouthed, not wanting to upset Willow further. Faith only arched an eyebrow, and then chuckled.
"Whatever, T. Anyways, Riley needs you- something about Lalita...?"
Tara felt her whole being go cold. She straightened with a jerk, and eyed Faith carefully. "Lalita? You're sure, Faith?"
Faith's expression sobered, and she nodded, all trace of humour gone. "Yeah. I'm sure."
Tara put the glass down quickly on Willow's tray without bothering to be cautious. She looked over at Willow. "I have to go."
Willow nodded, a little uncertainly. "Yes, of course. Something with the horses?"
Tara nodded as she got to her feet. "Yeah. Lalita..." She didn't finish her sentence; she only shook her head once in desperation and then sprinted out of the room with such fluidity it took Willow's breath away.
After Willow managed to regain her composure, she glanced up at Faith, who was watching her with a rather cocky expression that immediately dragged Willow back down to the earth with a thundering crash.
"Lalita?" She questioned quietly, a little worried by the concern in Faith's eyes- Faith was never concerned about anything.
Faith's small smile was almost sad. "Yeah. Tara's favourite horse. I...I think she's dying."