"Brother!" Tara blurted out, not waiting to hear Finn's response. You were gonna say 'boyfriend,' weren't you - you dumb son of a bitch.
Willow turned to Tara with a surprised look, as did Riley.
"Um, yeah. Willow, this is my brother... Donald." Tara smirked at her boss, who glared at her in return.
"Well, uh, come on in, I've just made us some coffee," Willow said, stepping aside.
Once the redhead had moved into the kitchen to retrieve another cup, Tara spun around to face Riley, fury in her eyes.
"What the hell are you doing here Finn?" she hissed.
Riley ignored the question and brushed past the agent.
I can't believe this. Now I'm going to have a whole new set of lies to deal with. I'm gonna kill him. Tara reluctantly curbed her homicidal daydreams to join Willow and Riley in the living room. She started to move to sit on the couch next to Willow, but instead opted for a chair facing her.
"I can't believe you have a brother, Tara. I mean, it's not like I know that much about you, but I guess, me being an only child, I got an 'only child' impression from you too."
"Yeah, um... well... Donnie wasn't around much, and I haven't seen him in a while, so I guess I felt like an only child."
"I guess I can sort of see a resemblance," Willow remarked, pouring Riley's coffee and thus missing the looks of disgust that passed between the two agents. "So, are you in the Army, Donnie?"
"Yes, ma'am," Finn replied, grimacing at the name. "Just got back from overseas and thought I'd pay a visit to my little sister." Turning to Tara he quickly added, "I called your work - they gave me Willow's name and address."
Nice save, asshole. But I'm still gonna kill you.
"So tell me, Tara, how are Mom and Pop?"
Tara's face went white and her coffee cup came slamming down onto the saucer, shattering both. She stood up with a jerk that sent her chair careening backwards. Riley stared at her in shock. Willow moved to her side and gently touched her shoulder.
"Tara, are you okay?"
Tara shrugged off the hand and didn't respond to the question, just continued to stare bullets at Finn.
"Outside. NOW," she growled.
The blonde burst out the door, closely followed by Riley.
Willow automatically moved to clean up the spilled coffee and pick up the fallen chair, but after a few minutes her curiosity got the better of her and she wandered over to the window. Peeking around the shade, she saw the two figures sitting in a black car. Tara appeared to be arguing vehemently, while Finn sat with his hands wrapped firmly around the steering wheel, staring straight ahead.
Okay, I should definitely not be watching them. It's intrusive... and wrong... and none of my concern. Oh God, is she crying? Why is she crying? I should - go to my room... and study and... mind my own business. Right. Moving now... right now... moving.
The jangling of the telephone broke Willow away from her moral dilemma. Stupid morals.
"Hello?... Giles, hi... uh-huh... no I haven't forgotten... your place is fine, say 2:15? I'll need to leave by 5... I know it's important, but I can't be out any later... it's not like we have anything new... well then maybe you should just find someone else... of course I still want to, how can you ask me that?... no, not yet... look I have to go, I'll see you tomorrow, okay?... Bye, Giles."
Just as she was replacing the handset in the cradle, Willow heard the front door open. Tara walked past the redhead without a word, went straight to her room and closed the door.
Okay - I'll just wait here in case she comes out and wants to talk. I'm sure she'll be out aaanny minute now, and here I'll be, right here, waiting to talk.
By 8:00 pm Willow was contemplating breaking down Tara's door. She'd attempted to study, but her thoughts kept drifting to the blonde, who had yet to leave her room since that morning. When lunchtime had come and gone, Willow had hesitantly tapped on the door to ask Tara if she would eat something. She'd barely been able to hear the reply of 'not hungry.' Her concern beginning to verge on panic, she finally walked to the door and was about to knock more forcefully when it was opened by a bleary-eyed Tara. Willow moved without conscious thought, taking the blonde's face in her hands.
"Tara, are you - what happened?"
Tara reluctantly retreated from Willow's comforting touch, and sat down on the bed.
"He," Tara began, "He just... brought up some stuff... my parents..." she trailed off as a fresh wave of emotions threatened to overwhelm her. After a long pause to collect herself, she continued. "My father... he lost everything in the Depression, and it just... broke him. He tried to find work, he looked everywhere, and when he c-couldn't support us - he just left. I don't think he... it's like he couldn't stand to be there and feel so... useless. M-my m-mother - she came down with tuberculosis not long after. I tried to find him...after... after she d-d-died... but he was just... gone. I've n-never heard from him... I don't think he even knows."
Tara was startled by the proximity of the voice. At some point Willow had moved to the bed and sat down next to the blonde, taking the distraught girl's hand. Tara stared at the fingers entwined with her own, a freckled thumb lightly stroking her knuckles.
"T-two... two years since s-she..." her voice broke, and when Willow's arms wrapped around her she tightly gripped back, holding on desperately as sobs wracked her body.
Tara had no idea how long they remained that way. Gradually her shaking ceased, and the flood of tears became a trickle. She took a deep breath and caught the faint scent of gardenias. Opening her eyes, she saw a curtain of red curls enveloping her. She felt the redhead smoothing her hair and rocking her softly. She heard the whispers of 'it's okay' over and over again, and felt warm breath on her ear. She very nearly laughed, realizing that this was exactly what she had intended to do for the other woman the night before. Years of suppressed pain had left her numb for most of the day, replaced now by an overwhelming sense of calm and safety. Her eyes felt heavy from crying, and she let them drift closed in contentment. When she felt slender fingers caressing her cheek, she willingly leaned into them with a sigh. When she felt a hand cup her cheek and gently turn her head, she complied instantly. And when she felt soft lips brush her own, she returned the kiss without reservation.
Willow thought she had finally come home. The moment her lips met Tara's, she knew with certainty the answers to all the questions that had been swirling around in her head. She'd never experienced anything so undeniably right. She felt dizzy and drunk and strong. A hunger she had never known threatened to overpower her. The moment she felt Tara flinch ever so slightly she pulled away, just far enough to look into her face.
Tear stained eyes fluttered open slowly and stared, heavy-lidded, into smoky green. Willow searched the eyes for a signal to stop or continue, but she saw only exhaustion.
"You're tired," she whispered. "You should get some sleep, and I should... I should go - to my room... so you can... sleep." She stood up but did not move away from the bed or drop Tara's hand.
The words were spoken so softly that Willow thought she imagined them, until she felt slender fingers squeeze her own.
"W-would you just... stay with me... just... tonight... hold me?" Tara quietly pleaded, staring at the floor.
Willow simply nodded, even though she longed to make promises for more than just one night. She would stay, even if it were for tonight only, even if in the morning the blonde told her the kiss was a mistake. Tonight wasn't about what they might become in the future. This was about comfort now - one who needed, and one who could provide. Never losing contact with the blonde's hand, Willow scooted onto the bed to curl around the other woman. Neither spoke, and soon both drifted off into deep slumber. The same thought passed through each just before sleep overtook them:
I think I love her.