Return to You Make Me Smile Chapter Twelve

You Make Me Smile

Author: MissKittys Ball O Yarn
Rating: NC-17
Feedback: Please let me know what you think... cause I love feedback. I hope you enjoy. Please leave feedback on the You Make Me Smile thread on the Kitten Board.
Disclaimer: Joss owns it all. Except my brain... well, probably that too.
Notes: Thanks to my beta, Starcomed for reviewing this and making notes with her pretty magic markers...this update wouldn't have been much fun to read, otherwise.
Thanks to Jea (Kindagay) for reading over part of it for me. Luvs ya, sweetie.

It was crisp outside that day, as Tara and Ginny sat out on the back patio watching the kids play. The leaves that had fallen from the tree in Tara's backyard varied in color from deep red to an orange-ish sort that crunched beneath the kids‘ boots as they walked on them.

Spencer, along with Ginny's two children were busying themselves; piling the leaves together into medium sized mounds that dotted the landscape of the small backyard. The kids were having a great time together, and Tara, who'd already completed three paintings that morning - mostly watercolors - had welcomed the break from work and chance to catch up with her friend.

It'd been a long time since she'd had time to really sit down and enjoy Ginny's company. And the time they spent together had become even more stretched since Ginny's separation from her partner of ten years, Julie, last year. Tara rarely saw Ginny these days away from art shows or the occasions she'd come over to look after Spencer for a few hours. It was nice to simply be able to sit and chat.

They'd been talking earlier about the upcoming art show in San Francisco, but now were just sitting quietly, sipping steaming cups of tea and watching the kids play. Ginny's two children, ages 3 and 5; both of them went to the same school as Spencer. Maddy, the little girl, was such a sweetie and very smart for her age. Tyler, the older of the two was a rough, tough little boy. Even though Spencer was a year older than Tyler, and less robust, they'd always gotten along well together.

"I didn't know you had the kids this weekend..." Tara said casually.

"Through Tuesday. Julie's gone off with her new girlfriend to visit her mother in Maryland."

"How are you doing with that..?" Tara reached a hand out and touched her friend lightly on the arm. She could see a flash of pain light across Ginny's eyes, but it was gone as fast as it had come. Tara could remember the weeks shortly after Ginny and Julie's separation when she'd go over to her friend's house and find empty bottles of alcohol tucked away behind closed cabinet doors. She didn't think Ginny was drinking anymore, but she felt her friend's pain and it hurt her just the same.

"I'm hanging in there... You know how it is."

Tara nodded, not really wanting to think about how her own situation with Logan had been in the beginning weeks of their separation; even though it was she who‘d done the leaving, it was still slightly difficult to think about. She suspected that if she thought she'd really hurt Logan, aside from monetarily, it would have been even harder to think about. She didn't like hurting people.

"So... I tried to call you yesterday, but I kept getting the machine..." Ginny hid her smile behind the rim of her mug. She had a thought as to where Tara had been, but she didn't want to say anything. Yet Tara was blushing, which only confirmed Ginny's suspicion. She grinned and gave Tara a teasing poke in the shoulder. "You spent the night?" Ginny asked tactfully, around a sip of her tea. They both knew who she was referring to.

Ginny eyed Tara suspiciously. She'd never seen her friend this glow-y and happy in all the years that they'd known each other. Tara was more of the type to be a mellow happy, but as Ginny watched, she could see that Tara was practically beaming; which could mean only one thing. Tara and Willow must have had sex over the course of their little overnight rendezvous.

Ginny was secretly delighted. There was something about Willow that Ginny liked. Even though she'd only been briefly introduced to the woman that day at the art show, Ginny got a really good vibe from her.

Tara could tell the direction her friend‘s thoughts had taken. "Yes...but it wasn't like that...nothing happened." She could tell Ginny wasn't buying it. "Oh come on, do you really think I would do anything like that with Spencer right there, in the next room?"

"Why not? I would have."

"Remind me never to ask you to baby-sit again," Tara teased.

"You know what I‘s a natural occurrence, Tara. What? You mean you and Logan never had sex with Spencer in the house in all the years you were with her?...Yeah right." Ginny didn't believe that for a minute. She knew there was a vixen in Tara somewhere, just waiting to come out. It was in her eyes, the way they lit up every time Willow's name was mentioned. Ginny knew Tara just needed a little push in the right direction...

"I didn't say that." But what had she said? Tara was beginning to get flustered. Ginny had a way of doing that to her. She had always had a way of turning things around and changing the conversation to compliment whatever point it was she was trying to make. But Tara loved her. And Ginny was truly the closest person in Tara's life to a best friend.

They had met while Tara was still working as an assistant in corporate business - back before Spencer had even been a thought in her mind and Logan had still been her sole world. In fact, Tara was certain that her friendship with Ginny had been, in part, responsible for Logan's unhappiness in their relationship. Ginny had been instrumental in helping to build Tara's self-confidence and in helping her to see that she was her own person who didn't have to jump every time Logan commanded. Tara was sure it was not a lesson Logan would have preferred she learn.

"Then what are you trying to say exactly?" Ginny took another sip of her tea, her eyebrow raised above the chipped rim as she waited for Tara to answer her question. She wasn't about to let the blonde off that easily. It wasn't in Ginny's nature to say only the things people wanted to was too full of little uglies and she knew that.

"Why are we talking about this?"

"We're helping you..."

"Helping me?" Tara wasn't so sure she needed any help.

"Yes...we're helping you get over your fear of intimacy."

"Just because you double as a therapist doesn't mean you know everything. I don't have a fear of intimacy..." Tara said assuredly...though she wasn't really feeling all that sure anymore. Perhaps Ginny was right... maybe a small part of her was afraid of intimacy and she didn't even realize it. But the smug look on Ginny's face made her not want to admit that.

"Yes you do. Everyone does. And it's the reason you didn't have sex with Willow last night. Admit it." Ginny knew she was overstepping her bounds at that point...but she couldn't seem to stop herself from continuing. "It's Kelly isn't it? You‘re afraid of it being Kelly all over again..."

"That's ridiculous." Tara couldn't believe that Ginny was saying the things she was saying, and part of her wanted to get up and run away. She didn't like the turn their conversation had taken.

"What's ridiculous about it? Kelly came in and took something you loved away from you. And now you're afraid that it's going to happen again."

"First of all... I hadn't loved Logan for a long time before Kelly happened. You know that, Ginny. And secondly, I left her, remember? She may have been sleeping around, but I left her." Tara glanced over at the children. They had busied themselves with some bugs that had crawled up onto the boards of the wooden fence and were paying Ginny and Tara absolutely no attention. Still, she lowered her voice. She hadn't meant to get upset.

"I'm sorry...I really don't know where that came from. Maybe you're right... maybe I do have a few minor intimacy issues... but..." Tara blushed, "...but Willow and I are going at a pace that feels right... for us."

"Okay, look...I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you, Tara." Ginny was instantly apologetic. She‘d hit a nerve with Tara just then, and she hadn‘t really meant to take things as far as she had. It had been her intention to rouse Tara a little, not drive her away completely.

Changing the subject seemed to be the wisest thing to do. "Speaking of Logan, have you heard anything from her lately?... child support..? A phone call? A notice in the obituaries...?" Wow, Ginny just couldn't stop herself that day; she was tramping all over the fine line of friendship. She knew Tara didn't like to talk bad about Logan, but Ginny was an incurable "Logan-hater" and couldn't resist a jab here and there every once in a while. After all, Ginny had been there long enough to witness the emotional turmoil Logan had put Tara through for years. Not to mention the fact that she thought it was utterly ridiculous the amount of shit Tara still put up with from her ex.

"Don't say that." Tara watched her son playing across the yard and as she did, she could feel anger at Ginny rising up into her chest, warming her blood. "She is his mother, Ginny. I thought if anyone understood that, it would be you." She regretted her words the instant they came out of her mouth, but it was already too late to take them back.

"Just because Julie and I aren't together anymore, and I'm not Tyler and Maddy's biological parent, doesn't mean that I automatically get it, Tara. I parent my kids...that's the difference between me and Logan. I‘m there for my son and daughter whenever they need me."

"Logan's there for Spencer..." It was a lie. Tara knew it was a lie, yet she couldn't stop herself from saying it. She mentally brought her hand up to her head, but physically she never lessened the grip she had on her cup.

"When, Tara?! When has Logan ever been there for Spencer? She wasn't even there when he was born! I was there when he was born! You held my hand! And where was she? Off somewhere doing god knows what, with god knows who!"

They were both breathing hard and glaring at each other.

"Just sh-shut up!" Tara couldn't stop the tears from coming. She hadn't meant to yell at Ginny, and she hadn't meant to come off like she was defending Logan's behavior -In Tara's mind, this was the most disconcerting part of all. "I--I'm sorry... I honestly don't know where that c-came from." Tara's hand came up to cover her mouth. She'd never felt that out of control in her life. She hated that feeling, and just wanted it to go away.

Ginny left her chair and wrapped her arms around her friend. She felt like shit for the things she'd said, but she was relieved to see a healthy bit of anger flash in Tara's eyes. An emotion she hadn't seen on the blonde since that day Tara had called Ginny crying almost five years ago... "It's called anger, Tara...and it's a healthy emotion to feel. It was my fault... I just don't want to see you hurt again."

The tension between the friends lessoned a little and Ginny felt comfortable making a little joke. They laughed, and afterward, they settled back into their chairs.

"Come camping with Ellen, the kids, and I tomorrow, Tara. Spencer will have a blast. We can stay till Monday afternoon since the kids don‘t have school until Tuesday," Ginny said, trying to lighten the mood even further. She knew Tara loved camping and nature and wasn't likely to say no.

Monday was an in-service day, Tara had forgotten. "Oh I don't know...I still have a lot of work to do before the show...In fact, I should be working right now."

But when it looked as if Tara was going to say no, Ginny had to switch tactics. "Oh come on...Ellen‘s going to make a batch of her famous brownies..." Ginny waggled her eyebrows at the blonde and when that didn't seem to do anything, she gave Tara one of her best puppy dog expressions.

Ellen was Ginny's current girlfriend and she made the best brownies. Tara never could resist sad puppy dog eyes, and that was exactly the look Ginny was giving her at that very moment. "Okay..." It really did sound fun, and it would be good to get out and enjoy nature a little.

"Great. And bring Willow along...It'll be fun. Besides it will give me the opportunity to get to know her a little."

Willow tapped the pencil in her hand fretfully against the desktop. She'd set up some interviews that morning with a few out of town artists who she knew seemed willing to take on an extra project. The highlight of the interviews would of course be Kelly Strong - one of the best known artists in the Los Angeles area.

In the beginning Willow hadn't even entertained the thought that Kelly might be willing to work on this project. The simplicity of what would be required, and the basic anonymity that happens when a product of this type is marketed, means no one cares who's designs grace the material of a non-brand name textile.

Kirkland Group specialized in economy priced items; targeted to the middle-income bracket. Kelly's work, on the other hand, sells for thousands of dollars at high-end galleries. Willow had to admit this roused her curiosity a little. Why would a woman such as Kelly Strong be interested in this particular project? And more importantly, how had she even found out about it? The only guess Willow could venture was that she and the famed artist had a mutual contact between them. She wracked her memory, but couldn't for the life of her, think of anyone they both knew. It didn't matter anyway. The only thing that mattered was that Kelly had contacted her and they now had a meeting set up for later that week.

Willow swiveled around in her chair to look out the window at the stream of passing cars and pedestrians on the street a few stories below. Business-wise, things were looking better then they had for weeks. On a personal note, she had met someone - someone she could see herself falling in love with. But that wasn't right either... she'd already fallen in love with Tara, hadn't she? Willow could feel her insides grow warm at just the thought of the blonde, and she knew without doubt, that she had indeed fallen in love with Tara. Willow felt a smile touch the corners of her lips as her thoughts turned to the her little boy. Spencer was just too sweet not to love. She loved them both.

She hadn't been in touch with Tara all that day and it was beginning to wear on her. She found herself missing the blonde even more than she would have liked to admit. No woman had ever effected her they way Tara did. She couldn't stop thinking about last night and the way it felt to hold Tara in her arms all night long. She'd never experienced that with anyone before and it made her warm all over - even sitting there behind the safety of her desk she felt out of control.

On impulse, Willow grabbed her cell phone and dialed Tara's phone number.

As it turned out, Willow and Tara hadn't been able to connect at all that day. Spencer had been invited to go with Ginny and her kids to spend the afternoon getting things ready for the camping trip tomorrow. Tara, having received a letter from Spencer's school that day about unpaid tuition, ended up meeting Logan in the city for some answers.

Logan had insisted that they meet at the espresso barn and had been more than adamant that she wouldn't talk unless her demands were met. Tara, just wanting to know what had happened, thought it easier to go along with what Logan wanted this time instead of fighting her on it.

Tara rinsed her toothbrush and set it back up into the holder. She was still furious with her ex. Logan had been so uncaring when they'd met that afternoon. She had shown absolutely no regard for Spencer at all when she callously suggested that Tara ask Willow to pay the school. Was there no end to the woman's selfishness? And it wasn't as if she was asking Logan to pay the tuition every month.

It had been a long-standing agreement between them since the separation that they would alternate months paying for Spencer's attendance at the Montessori school until he was eight. Then they would sit down together and reassess alternative placements

Logan had always known how important it had been to Tara that Spencer, in his formative years, be schooled in a freer environment than public schools had to offer. Logan had always claimed to feel the same way. They both knew what a free thinker Spencer was, and Tara was certain public schooling at this time in his life would only squash the creativity she'd fought so hard to foster in their son.

Tara never knew why Logan acted the way she did, or did the things she did. She could only venture a guess that Logan had felt threatened by Willow's inclusion into her and Spencer's life and was lashing out at Tara because of it.

She knew Logan was aware of her financial situation; so hitting her in the wallet was an effective way to complicate Tara's life. She assumed this was Logan's intention.

The one thing that surprised Tara about Logan's behavior, was that it had taken a lot longer to surface than Tara would have expected. Perhaps Spencer had been excited about Willow and might have been talking about her to Logan in abundance. In any event, Tara could tell that Logan was primed for conflict and intended to make things hard for Tara - starting with Spencer's tuition.

Tara rolled onto her side, her palm cradled under her cheek. She couldn't sleep. She hadn't been able to do any more work earlier and had gone to bed after an hour of worthless attempts to paint something - anything. Spencer had gone with Maddy and Tyler and would be spending the night with Ginny. They'd meet up tomorrow at the park and go camping from there.

The house was too quiet and Ginny's words from that afternoon were still playing in her head. The one thing she hated about her friend was that the woman could never just let a thing rest. For as long as she'd known her, Ginny had always been one to expose old wounds and bring dead things to the surface - things better left buried. Tara wasn't interested in rehashing old "Logan" issues; issues that she'd spent the better part of two years trying to put behind her.

But the day hadn't been a total bust; she‘d finished three watercolors, she'd made some good head-way on an oil she was working on and had covered it, left to finish up tomorrow. Yep she‘d made good progress and if things continued they way they'd gone today she would have more than enough paintings for the San Francisco showing on Friday.

It was clear Tara needed the money the art show would bring in, now, more than ever. They could survive on what little she had in the bank but it wouldn't last long; not with the cost it was going to take to repair her beat-up old van, and the tuition for Spencer to attend the Montessori school. Thanks to Logan's refusal to pay, Tara would have to foot the tuition bill herself, which would only serve to deplete her meager account further.

The best part of Tara's day had been when Willow called that afternoon. It amazed Tara how just the sound of Willow's voice could put a smile on her face - no one had ever had that effect on Tara before now. They'd toyed briefly with the idea of meeting up for coffee that evening...but then the whole thing with Logan had happened and Tara had been forced to cancel. Then when Tara was finally free, Willow had had meetings throughout the rest of the day and it had been impossible to find a space of time to get together. Now it was nearly 11pm and Tara felt like something was missing. And then she knew what it was. She was missing Willow.

She wondered what Willow was doing at that moment. She wondered if Willow was in bed, or if she was up...perhaps watching television or eating a late night snack. She wondered what Willow did at night, when she was all by herself and nobody else was around.

Toes stretching against the soft cotton sheet pulled up around her body, she willed her body into a more relaxed state. But she was wired, and she knew drifting off to sleep simply wasn't something that was going to happen any time soon. Thoughts of the other night kept curling into her mind like steam from a hot cup of coffee. She missed the feel of Willow's arms around her, and the cozy feeling of knowing that nothing else in the world could infringe on that moment.

Tara looked over at the cordless phone she kept on her dresser, then quickly looked away from it. She had no idea if Willow was asleep or not, but she couldn't bring herself to take that chance - not this time.

The telephone rang, startling Tara out of her thoughts. She felt the hair on her arms stand on end and her heartbeat sped up to an accelerated staccato rhythm. She knew who it was. She thought she could feel her just under the trilling call of the phone.

"I wish you were here right now..." Willow confessed; the phone cradled against her cheek, chin and ear. She was in bed with the covers pulled up to her waist, her purple silk pyjama's felt glide-y and soft wrapped around her body. She'd given in to her urges and had called Tara after all, taking the chance that the blonde would still be wake.

"I feel the same," Tara smiled against the receiver on the other end of the line. "I've been thinking about you...about last night...I wanted to call...but I thought you'd be asleep."

"I'm not asleep...I was worried about you," Willow said seriously. She could feel heat rising in her body and she was sure her face was tinged pink with its warm glow. Tara had seemed upset that afternoon when she'd called and cancelled their coffee date and Willow had been a little worried ever since. Tara had told her the basics about what had happened, but Willow couldn't help but feel there were portions of the story the blonde was holding back. Willow was suddenly struck with the need to hold Tara; to protect Tara from people that would hurt her - people like Logan. Even though it wasn't her place to feel like that just yet, it didn't stop her from wanting it.

"I know..." Tara whispered into the phone, suddenly unable to make her voice any louder. She could feel Willow through the phone line, almost as if the redhead were right there with her.

"I miss you..." Willow said, suddenly feeling very vulnerable. She couldn't control the words; they'd slipped out of her mouth before she'd known what was happening. She held her breath, hoping she hadn't said the wrong thing. She could hear Tara breathing on the other end of the line.

"I miss you too, Willow...I think I‘ve missed you all day."

They were silent for a moment, as they absorbed each other's admission.

Willow broke the silence. "Are you in bed...?" she asked, hoping her question hadn't sounded too intimate...but in a way she hoped it had. She grinned into the phone, embarrassed by her own enthusiasm to hear the answer.

Tara suppressed a chuckle at Willow‘s question. She‘d been about to ask the same thing. "Yes..."

"Me too..." Willow grew quiet and more serious. "Why is it like this?" she asked, knowing she wasn't getting her meaning across clear enough. She was unable to find the words to say it any differently, but was relieved that Tara seemed to understand what she meant.

"I don't know..." Tara paused. "I want to be with you all the time..." She heard Willow's breath catch on the other end of the line and felt a jolt of electricity hit her stomach. Like a stone thrown into a pond, the ripples fanned outward to all parts of her body, before cresting.

"I've never felt this way before, Tara..." Willow admitted. She closed her eyes and swallowed the lump of desire that had formed in her throat. She didn't ask Tara if she'd ever felt this way before. She was afraid of what the answer might be. She didn't want to think about what Tara might have felt with anyone else in the past...all she wanted to know was that Tara felt that way now, with her.

"Me either...When I left this morning...I really just wanted to stay...The other night, too - when you brought me home after our date." Tara couldn't stop herself from telling Willow everything. The thing which surprised her most was that she didn't want to stop.

Willow felt her skin burning in a white hot surge of desire at Tara's words, as she felt her knees come slightly closer to her chest.

They talked for almost an hour, before Tara brought up the camping trip.



"Do you own a sleeping bag...?"

Continue to You Make Me Smile Chapter Fourteen

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