Return to Saving Grace Chapter Eight

Saving Grace

Author: Amber Lee
Rating: PG to PG-13
Disclaimer: I don't own the rights to BtVS... nuff said. No spoilers for any season.
Feedback: Sure, I love it!

Because Tara's hand wound wasn't 'too serious'- Willow had conflicting views with the doctor, but decided not to pick a fight and ruin Tara's chances of coming home on Christmas eve- she was released that evening. The long drive in the pick-up was made back to the farm, and then everyone, exhausted and still in a bit of shock from Tara's accident- which she constantly apologized for until Faith threatened to do something about shutting her up about it- was sorted into their rooms. Xander and Anya were placed in Willow's bed- on the condition that they didn't 'ruin the sheets' as Willow put it- with Buffy and Dawn on the floor on a double inflatable mattress Riley had dug out of the closet. (Dawn had done her best to convince Buffy to let her bunk with Faith, but Buffy had refused, no doubt worried about the corruption of her baby sister in the hands of Willow's farm hand.) Which left Willow to stay with Tara, partially because of her double bed and partially because Tara needed to be woken up every two hours.

So that was how Willow found herself shuffling into Tara's room, dressed in a pair of holey PJ bottoms- luckily the holes were only around the ankles and not in any embarrassing places-decorated with smiling clouds-harmless, she figured- and a too-big tank top, praying to herself that Tara wasn't going to be completely covered up and make her feel like a real slut. But that was all the furthest thing from her mind; her heart was heavy with a suppressed dread, and she was having a hard time breathing. The butterflies in her stomachs were starting to choke up her throat.

The room was empty. Willow glanced around quickly, and then called tentatively: "Tara?"

A soft laugh behind her. "Looking for m-me?"

Willow spun quickly, and then sighed when she saw it was only Tara behind her, smiling crookedly. Her eyes lingered briefly on her face before they moved automatically to check her outfit, and then she felt a deep flush begin to blossom on her face when she saw Tara was in a tight, light blue tank top and pair of casual orange shorts. Short casual orange shorts.

Whoa. Tara-legs. legs...I wonder if...No. Willow, don't go there! Willow blinked, and tore her eyes away from Tara's legs to drag them back up to her face.

"You, uh, look great."

Tara, instead of staring at her, only smiled, and flushed a light shade of pink. "Well, gee, this isn't my Marc Jacobs look, but I'm glad it appeals. Thanks."

Willow blinked, watching as Tara made her way slowly- was she doing it on purpose? Not fair!- and sensually over to the bed to pull back the quilt. It was only when Tara had settled onto the bed did she realize Tara hadn't stuttered once.

You sleeping standing u-up?" Tara patted the space beside her invitingly, but Willow couldn't go to her. Not yet. She had something to say, and she was determined to stay standing until the words came out.

"No." Willow took a deep breath, and lifted her chin to look Tara in the eye. "Tara, I have to say something."

Tara sensed the change from her adorable confusion to seriousness in a heartbeat, and her smile slide sideways off her face. "W-Wil...I'm so s-s-sorry...I'm making y-y-you uncomfortable, a-a-aren't I? God, I'm s-so stupid. I just t-t-thought...w-w-with the hospital, and the...Oh, god, I'm s-s-s-s-sorry. If you want to try and get a hold of O-Oz still, you c-can, and I-I'll take the floor, o-or you can go into the room with your f-f-friends. I u-u-understand, I r-r-really-"

"No, Tara." Willow shook her head, cutting her off, and took a few steps closer to the bed. "Tara, I have to tell you-"

"No, I understand. You have to be with the people you l-love." Tara ducked her head, staring at her hands, clasped on the bed.

Willow took another deep breath, carefully easing herself onto the edge of the bed. "I am."

Tara looked up so suddenly her head went fuzzy. Not that she wasn't already dizzy. Her breath was coming hard and fast, and she was starting to feel light-headed. "You mean...?"

Willow gave her the widest grin she could manage, and reach hesitantly across the bed to take Tara's hand in her's, twining their fingers together shyly. "I mean. Okay?"

"Oh, yes." Tara tightened her fingers with Willow's, and took a moment to just stare at their hands, seeing the stark contrast between her sun-tanned, skin and Willow's pale, freckled, and reveling in the warmth that had gathered her in its arms. A feeling, she came to realize, was love.

Willow's nervous giggle brought her back to her senses, and she looked up, smiling apologetically, only to find Willow looking over her shoulder. She frowned to herself. "W-Wil?"

Willow looked back over at her, and smiling that same smile that had stolen Tara's heart upon their first meeting. "I...think we have an audience."

Tara frowned again, and craned her neck to peer past Willow, only to see, horrified, that she'd left the door open upon entering, and everyone who happened to be in the house at the time were all crouched in the hallway, huddled in front of the open door, staring at them.

All seven of them, staring at them, wide-eyed, whether at being caught or not, Tara couldn't be sure.

Then, suddenly, Xander stood up. "Wait a minute. I don't even wear contacts!"

Anya, still kneeling below him, mumbled: "I told you she was gay."

"Alright, An, that's great, great help you were. Too bad I don't wear contacts, yes, right..." Xander grabbed her arm, yanked her to feet, and, despite her protests, dragged her down the hallway and out of sight.

The others followed his lead, laughing uncomfortably as they all casually-but quickly- made their way down the hall. Dawn, Buffy, and Faith lingered. Dawn couldn't help herself; with a delighted squeal, she bounced into the room, and flung herself first at Willow, and then Tara, pulling them both into a hug that nearly cut off Tara's air supply. They still managed to keep their hands linked through it, until the hug was finally ended by Buffy, who came in, grabbed her sister by the arm, and pulled her room the room, but not before she slipped one arm around Willow's waist, and squeezed her tight.

They disappeared, only to leave Faith behind. She was, unlike the others, completely serious as she met first Tara's, then Willow's gaze. Finally, after locking eyes with Tara for a minute, she smiled.

"Right, then. So am I to refer to you as the 'lesbian, gay-type lovers'?" She asked tauntingly, the question directed fully at Tara.

Willow looked at her, confused to see Tara flush, and drop her eyes to her bad hand, finding the bandage around it excessively interesting. She looked back and Faith, and said: "Sure, Faith, go ahead. Scream it out the window when we're driving into town for all I care, just get. Out."

Faith chuckled, but did as Willow asked. Just before she shut the door behind her, she called- loud enough for the entire household to hear- "Just try and keep it down in here. I want to get some sleep, unlike some people. So, Willow, when Tara's riding you hard, make sure you-"

From down the hall, Buffy yelled: "Faith!" which only made Faith laugh harder as she shut the door behind her.

Willow sat in silence for a moment, her face beet red, then shook her head, and chuckled. "I still don't see what you see in her as a best friend."

"Oh, if you're going to pick on my friends, than it's only fair I do the same. Don't get me started on Anya."

"Fine," Willow laughed, finally turning around to look over at her, pleased to find her new...girlfriend? flushed with pleasure and embarrassment.

"W-well," She murmured, "That could have been less embarrassing."

Willow grinned. "Please. Baby, that was the best way; now we don't have to tell them tomorrow over breakfast."

Tara didn't answer, only stared at her with an increasingly-idiotic crooked smile on her face. Finally, Willow had to ask: "What?"

Her smile grew. "I-I'm your baby?"

"If you want to be." Willow was chagrined; had she screwed it up already?

Tara smiled again, and then reached forward, taking Willow's hand, which she had withdrawn, again. "Forever."

They stayed up the rest of the night, but not to do what Faith had oh-so-subtly suggested. Far from it; they just talked. Willow was determined to learn everyone about her new girl, and Tara was equally as eager, though she was cautious, evasive on the details of her childhood. As much as she trusted Willow, she wasn't ready to tell her that quite then.

The first half an hour or so was awkward, with them on either side of the bed, and Willow-adorably, as Tara put it, though Willow had other ideas- tried to make small talk. Some of her failed attempts were along the lines of: "So, how's the weather over there?" and "What's for breakfast tomorrow?"

Eventually, they both eased up, slipping back into the familiar comfortable atmosphere they were used to. They slowly moved closer until they were lying side by side, Tara's hand in both of Willow's and Tara's head cushioned on her shoulder as her exhaustion finally won, and she drifted off to a much-needed peaceful sleep. Willow absently traced the lines of Tara's hand, sleepy, but not really wanting to drift off quite then. She was quite content where she was, and she enjoyed watching Tara sleep, for some strange reason. It made her feel calmer, and it lifted her spirits, chased away all her doubts and securities momentarily just at the sight of her sweet face. All the lines that had seemed permanently engraved on her skin- care lines, worry lines, visible signs of her stress, the hard lines that promised a past of betrayal and pain- melted away, leaving her as vulnerable and defenseless as anyone. It gave Willow a feeling of warmth, just to see her released briefly from the every-day struggle that was life.

She finally glanced at the clock when the first rays of sun hit her. Good grief, it was six-thirty. Tara probably would've thrown a fit had she known she was missing work- though Willow knew there was no way she was letting her near the horses anytime soon and now she had certain leverage to tip the scales to her advantage- and Willow definitely didn't want to wake her.

And then Willow realized what day it was, and she got a little tickle of excitement in her stomach. With all of the drama of Tara's accident, and by the time everyone had gotten home, it had been around five o'clock the night before. Everyone had been so exhausted they had forgotten what day it was.

Christmas, Willow thought while her heart did another little jump of joy inside her, It's Christmas Day.

What was she doing just lying there? There were things to do, places to be...presents that still needed to be wrapped. But she didn't want to move from her position, either...

The beckon of unwrapped presents was hard to ignore. I'll only be a little while, Willow reasoned to herself as she carefully eased Tara's head off her shoulder and onto the pillow. A pause, but there was no response. She gently put Tara's hand down to rest beside her head, and then slide from the bed. She pulled the blanket tenderly over her, and then leaned in to kiss her forehead softly.

"Merry Christmas, baby," She murmured, and then, just because she couldn't help herself, she kissed Tara's nose, too.

Tara's lips curled into a smile, and her hand stretched, out, searching. When it didn't come in contact with anything, she frowned, and struggled with her eyelids. "Mmph. Willow?"

"Right here, Tara."


"People tend to prefer to receive their Christmas presents wrapped, so, yes, but just for a few minutes."


Willow smirked. "Thanks, Tara, but I can wrap a present."

Her lips quirked into a saucy half-smile. "Sure 'bout that?"

Willow laughed. "Positive. Go back to sleep, honey, okay?" It was amazing how easily, how naturally the words and actions came to her, as if it had been a few years instead of a few hours. As if it had been forever. It was as natural as breathing.

"'Kay." Tara burrowed under the quilt, pulling it up to her nose. "Hurry back...cold," She mumbled.

"Of course, baby, I'll be back so quick you won't have time to miss me." Willow started towards the door, only to smile when Tara murmured "Already do."

Willow shut the door quietly behind her, and then turned...

Only to jump, and scream when she found Buffy behind her with two cups of hot chocolate in hand.

"Buffy!" Willow gasped, clapping a hand to her mouth, and the other over her best friend's to shut them both out before they woke Tara up- a quick peek inside; Tara had stirred, but was still oblivious- "What are you doing?!"

"Delivering a cup of hot chocolate-y-goodness while I press you for all the juicy details?" Buffy answered softly, holding up a mug and braving a winning smile.

Willow took it, but grumbled: "Don't sneak up on me like that. We could've woken Tara."

"Ah, yes. Tara." Buffy traced the ring of her mug, and smiled slyly up at her best friend. "How's Tara?"

"Fine." Willow rolled her eyes. "You've been lying awake all night thinking about us, haven't you?"

"Not all night," Buffy protested.

Willow rolled her eyes again. "If you say so. Are the others up?"

"And eating." When Willow listened, she could hear the clang of pans and cheerful chatter floating up from downstairs. "You and Tara still hadn't come down, so I came to check to see if you were still, y'know...alive?"

Willow didn't miss the blonde's mischievous smile. "And so you seized the opportunity to pump me for information. God, I can't believe I just said that. Wrap with me?"

Buffy looked at her. "Huh?"

Willow motioned down the hall. "Wrap with me. My Christmas presents? I've been busy, so I don't have them all done."

Buffy perked up at that. "On the condition that you give me every juicy detail."

Willow shook her head, and grinned elusively. "Wouldn't you like to know? Fine, I'll tell you, but it's not all that juicy. And if you think you're getting a chance to peek at your present, think again, because I already wrapped it."

Buffy watched her friend saunter down the hall, mouth working for a few minutes without any sound before she finally gave chase.

"You tease! That's so unfair! Give a girl a dream and then just tear it away from her!"

Tara listened to Buffy and her girlfriend- girlfriend. The simple word made her tingle to her toes- head down the hall, and waited until she heard Willow's door shut before she finally threw back the covers, pleased to have acted well enough to leave Willow oblivious to her plans- a plan she would definitely disapprove of.

Of course, has soon as Willow had mentioned Christmas presents, Tara had been wide awake. How could she have gone back to sleep when the most important of them all wasn't finished? Tara tip-toed across the room, and quickly locked her door before she headed for her closet, digging out the necessary supplies, begrudging herself for her injured hand that would definitely slow down her progress.

Then again, judging from what Buffy had told her about Willow's wrapping skills, she would have plenty of time.

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