Return to The Midnight Players of SHS Chapter Ten

The Midnight Players of SHS

Author: mangled_monkey
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a rather nice computer. Suing will only make me unable to write. I don't own the Midnight Players either. That is a salute to my high school drama troupe.

They had been walking in silence for three minutes before either dared break it. Willow was looking around, having been following Tara, since she didn't really know her way around yet, and noticed they seemed to be entering a residential neighborhood. She turned toward Tara slightly as they walked, confused. "Is this the way to the restaurant?"

Tara looked around, realizing that she had missed the turn to get to the main street, and stopped walking. Willow stopped with her and turned to look at her. "Tara? Are you alright?" Tara's lost expression scared Willow, as she had never known the girl to be so detached that she would forget where they were going. And there was something else. Fear. The moment it registered with Willow that Tara looked scared was the moment the blonde snapped out of it.

Tara jumped slightly and looked at Willow for a moment as if she had just realized she wasn't alone. She looked down at her hand in the other girl's and smiled slightly, then looked back up into the green eyes that were full of worry. "I'm fine. Just... A little lost in thought, is all." After a moment of silence, she smiled at Willow and began to walk back the way they had came, effectively pulling the redhead with her, since they still held hands. "We just went a block too far. It's this way."

As she began to lead Willow back in the correct direction, Tara's mind was racing. Thoughts and feelings ran through her so quickly she barely had time to register any of them. They were about Willow, and Joanie. They were about what dating Willow meant about Joanie's memory. She felt very conflicted, stuck somewhere between wanting to live her life and wanting to forever honor her dead girlfriend. Suddenly she felt like just being with Willow in and of itself was betraying her. She looked up at Willow and for a moment, just a moment, saw the blue eyes she had known so well looking back at her. She saw Joanie. That moment was enough to drive Tara away from Willow and into the street. She moved backwards so fast that she didn't have time to hold her balance and fell backward, her hands reaching back to catch her. She landed in the middle of the road, and sat there for a moment, breathing heavily and looking incredibly scared.

Willow stood there for a second, utterly shocked, before she began to react. She moved forward and gently took hold of Tara's arm, helping her stand up. "Are you alright? What happened?"

Tara looked up into Willow's eyes, tears stinging her own, and knew exactly how to answer that. She had to lie. "I'm fine... I j-just tripped." She looked at her palms, beads of blood forming from the small cuts all along them. "I uh, I hurt my hands."

The redhead knew there was more to it than that, that something was really wrong with Tara, but she had no clue how to ask about it. She decided that for now, it was probably best to leave it be and let Tara tell her in her own time. If she even wants me to know at all... I mean, this is only our first date. She probably doesn't trust me enough to tell me whatever's wrong. That worried Willow, even though it shouldn't have. It worried her that Tara didn't trust her. She vowed to herself, right then and there, that she would do whatever it took to earn the trust of this girl she had grown to care about so much.

They arrived at the resturant, each girl lost in thought. They entered silently and waited for a table. Once they sat down, Tara immediately opened the menu and began reading it, holding it up and partially blocking Willow's view of her. Willow had been watching her carefully throughout the short walk. She had seen a myriad of emotions pass over Tara's features, none of them good. She hoped that something external was bothering Tara, and not the date. That's really rude of me... I want something bad to be happening to her rather than her just not wanting to be here? She probably doesn't want to be here. She's probably just being nice. Why would anyone want to date me? The self deprecating thoughts depressed Willow, and she brought the menu up to block her face so Tara couldn't see the deep frown forming on her features. So she couldn't see the hurt in her eyes.

About five minutes later, the waiter came and took their order, as well as their menu-sheilds. They were both out in the open now, nothing to hide them from eachother. They each spent a couple of minutes looking everywhere but at eachother, before Tara, staring down into her lap, finally spoke. "I... I'm sorry, Willow."

Willow looked at her, rather surprised about the words she had spoken, not having expected Tara to be sorry for anything. "For what?"

Tara looked up briefly, before fiddling with her napkin and speaking, again to the table. "For... for being so awkward. For being upset. It... has nothing to do with you." Once done speaking, she lifted her head and made eye contact, making sure Willow believed her.

She did, and nodded slightly. She reached across the table and put her hand over Tara's as it played with the bundle of napkin, fork and knife. "It's alright." She gently ran her thumb over the back of the blonde's hand. "If you ever need to talk, I'm here."

Tara smiled, genuinely glad for the comfort. She looked up from where her eyes were resting on Willow's hand on her's to meet the green eyes across the table from her. "Thank you, Willow."

They looked into eachothers eyes, both smiling, until the moment was broken by hands landing on the table between them, and Buffy smiling down at them. "Hey guys, I wasn't expecting to see you here... what's up?"

Tara smiled politely at Buffy and pulled her hand away from under Willow's, putting both her hands in her lap. "Nothing, we just came here to get dinner."

Willow looked across the table at Tara for a moment, then looked up and Buffy and smiled. "Exactly. Just here for a friendly dinner between friends."

Buffy smiled. "Then you wouldn't mind if I joined you. I mean, it's not like it's a date or anything, right?"

The girls looked at eachother, both hesitant to correct her and Willow was the first to speak. "Well, we already ordered... so your food wouldn't be ready and we'd be eating all ‘tra-la-la, we have food and Buffy doesn't, oh aren't we special' and you'd feel left out, so I really think it'd be best if we ate alone."

Buffy furrowed her eyebrows and looked between them. "Is something going on?"

Willow, looking slightly nervous, began to babble. "No, of course not. Nothing's going on, why would something be going on? Do you really think something would be going on between me and Tara? I mean, we're friends. Very friendly friends with friendliness. We are just two friends, going out to dinner. There's nothing wrong with friends being friendly and going out for a friendly dinner, is there? Of course there isn't. It's perfectly normal and what teenage girls do. We go out to dinner with our friends." Willow paused in her babble to look at Tara, who looked as if she wanted to crawl under the table out of shame. She frowned, realizing that talking this way was hurting Tara. She must think I don't like her... God, I am such a dweeb. Here I am, making Tara think I don't like her when... I better not mind-babble right now, I need to clear this up.

Willow took a deep breath, looked at Tara, who was staring at her hands in her lap, seemingly on the verge of tears, then looked up at Buffy. "Buffy... Tara and I are on a date."

Tara looked up at Willow with tears in her eyes, and smiled. That smile, Willow decided, was worth any amount of teasing and ridicule she might endure because of her relationship with Tara. Seeing the girl happy was worth everything.

Buffy looked between them. "You're on a... date... Oh..." She began to back up a little. "Well then I should just..." She guestured at moving toward the door. "I should just go." She continued backing up for a few paces, more and more quickly, until she backed directly into their waiter, who was carrying a tray of drinks for three separate tables. The drinks and the tray went flying and both Buffy and the young man fell to the floor, Coke spilling all over them.

Buffy quickly got up, having landed on top of the poor boy and looked down. "I am SO sorry."

He looked up at her and smiled slightly, then began laughing. He stood up. "It's fine. My name's Ryan." He extended his hand.

Buffy smiled brilliantly, realizing this boy was not only cute, he had a sense of humor. She took his hand and shook it slowly. "I'm Buffy... So... Ryan... Do you have a special someone in your life?"

He grinned. "Just you..."

Willow and Tara watched in astonishment as Buffy walked toward the bathrooms with the person she had just spilled soda on.

They turned to look at each other at the same moment, and Tara broke the silence with "Well... that turned out well..." and both girls burst into a fit of giggles.

Continue to The Midnight Players of SHS Chapter Twelve

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