The redhead sighed and gave a few random steps that led her towards the lake. How many nights she had come to the lake, to sit down on the rock she was just sitting on... How many nights she had walked around the lake and settled under her homonymous tree, letting her back rest against its slender trunk, with its delicate branches falling all around her, feeble enough to move with the wind... Those nights were uncountable, this night was already unforgettable for her.
Memorable, because Tara was with her this time. The blonde approached her and sat on the rock beside her. This had never happened before; before, she had no one.
"This place..." Willow muttered, her voice husky with emotion "Here. This is where my father proposed my mother. Here, looking at the moon, the lake and the willow tree. It could've been on a night like this one. I remember my mother telling me the story when I was a little girl; it was like another fairy tale for me, and I really believed it. But after that night... I don't know whether I should believe it or not. Maybe my mother had just adorned the story for me. For all I know, my parents could have used this forest just to fuck behind a bush. You know-"
Willow looked at Tara, searching for some kind of confirmation, but she saw that the blonde was just shaking her head slowly. She was suddenly so mad, so mad at everything... This had been her dream-place and her retreat since forever, and that night a month ago, it had been shattered. Her father had intended to marry her to an unknown idiot. How was she supposed to believe that her parents went to that same place to declare their love towards each other? Right now, she couldn't believe a thing.
"I almost feel disgusted, sitting here..." she said, seeing the drops on her knees before acknowledging that they were tears and that she was crying.
"Willow..." Tara looked sincerely concerned "This place isn't disgusting, it's beautiful. It's not in either of our castles. Do you understand?"
She did, she understood the meaning of Tara's words. It really didn't matter what had happened here. It was just a beautiful place, as simple as that, and she was trying to share it with Tara. Moreover, it was some kind of neutral place. The war seemed easy to forget here. Their fathers' castles seemed far away.
"I... Look, I was angry, I can't tell you how much. I was kicking at things, breaking furniture with my sword. I don't know... this marriage thing... how dared they? How did anyone dare to direct my life?" she brushed some stray tears from her eyes "Look, Tara, I should have been angry with them, with my parents; they were the ones that had agreed on the wedding. I know, but instead, I directed my anger towards your brother, towards your family, your kingdom. My father brought me the Slayer, and I've trained with her all this month, as hard as a soldier. It's a battle, I was eager to fight in the real thing. Sounds terrible, but that's how I felt."
"It's okay, I understand. I was right there with my family too. You're not guilty of anything."
"But your brother-"
"Donnie is my brother" she said, her face serious "but I'm not blaming you, Willow. He used to beat me up a lot when we were younger, that's why I learned to fight. To defend myself, and I'm quite good at it, don't you think? He hits me no more; he tries to insult me sometimes, but that's because don't whip him for doing that."
"Tara, I'm sorry..."
They fell silent, and then Tara did the most unexpected thing: she turned to face her and brought her arms around her shoulders, hugging her. Willow was still for a second, but then shook the surprise from her head and leant in; that way, Tara could draw her arms around her shoulders completely, and unite them at the back of her neck. Willow rested her forehead on the curve of the other girl's neck, and closed her eyes when she felt Tara picking and rubbing some strands of her hair between her fingers. It provoked a very pleasant feeling inside her.
A feeling of calmness and safety that covered and invaded her. She didn't know how much time they spent like that, bent against each other, sitting on that rock, but it was enough for Willow to forget her previous tears. More than enough, but still, she didn't seem to get tired from simply being with Tara like this. They were simply being; not fighting, not discussing anything or even thinking much.
"I've never..." Willow muttered.
Tara backed up a little, leaving some space between them so that she could look at Willow's face and eyes. She had never what?
"I've never... hugged anyone... like this... before."
"Why? Did your military training take up all of your time?" Tara grinned, jokingly "Because I can't believe you haven't had hundreds of important lords trying to court you."
"Let's not touch the courting topic, please?" the redhead returned the grin.
"I was, you know, joking. I haven't hugged anyone like this before either. The only person I've ever hugged was my mother, but it wasn't..." she left the sentence trail off.
"It wasn't the same" Willow frowned, as if she had a tricky puzzle before her.
The blonde laughed and inspected Willow's expression while she seemed deep in thought. After a minute, Tara brought a hand to her face and touched her between the eyebrows and under her lower lip. Instantly, Willow's mask of deep thought vanished, and changed into something else. It seemed surprise, but it was beyond that; her green eyes focused on Tara's, and then on the tips of Tara's fingers, the ones that had touched her.
"What...?" Willow mumbled, not knowing what to ask "What was...?"
"You make a funny little frown when you're puzzled. And your lips too, you press them together and pout when you're thinking hard."
"Yes. It's... it's cute" Tara said, softly.
"Heh, cute?" Willow giggled and then smiled daringly "You know what's cute?"
"No, what's cute?"
"When you smile."
"My smile?" Tara echoed "Well look who's talking."
"See? See? That smile!"
"No, it's true, it's true. The first time we met, when we were little, you smiled the same way when you thought something was funny. Like sideways."
"Oh, the sideways one? That's from my mother."
"No, it's yours. It's Tara's smile. I... ah, sometimes remember your smile."
"You do?" Tara lifted her eyebrows in surprise.
"Yes... Yes, I do. When... when I came into your bedroom the other night and you, uh... sat on top of me? You were smiling like that, looking down at me."
"That's because you were funny yesterday... You wanted to fight me."
"I don't..." Willow paused, frowning again "I don't think I wanted to fight you."
The blonde didn't inquire more, it was as if she understood. She reached out to touch Willow again, this time stroking the rebel strands of hair that framed her face.
"Huh?" Willow shook her head.
"Show me your tree."
They got up from the rock and circled the lake, finally reaching the willow tree. Willow sat under its braches, as was her custom, facing the lake, so they could see the rock, the moon, and the lake. Tara sat down beside her, and took of her boots; there was no need to wear shoes here, there was a soft surface of grass surrounding the lake.
"You like it?"
"Yes" Tara said, touching the tree's trunk "It's... melancholic, but beautiful."
"Tara... I know we're here, but... what are we going to do?"
"About the battle?"
"Yes, about the battle. Shouldn't we do something?"
"You mean, like stop it?" Tara asked.
"Y-yeah, something like that. I can't believe I'm saying this. Me, the anxious warrior."
"Come to my bedroom, tomorrow night?" Tara asked, suddenly timid.
"You want me to?"
"Yes, and we'll talk about this. Now just... relax."
Willow readily obeyed. She rested her head on the tree trunk and closed her eyes. She could feel Tara's arm pressed against hers, and it felt incredibly warm. Then, she felt Tara's hand around her hair, grasping strands and rubbing them again. Mmmh... nice, she thought, unconsciously moving her hand and finding Tara's other hand. She froze for a moment, feeling a shock inside her when she made contact with Tara's skin. Noting that the emotion hadn't killed her, she moved her fingers over what she guessed was Tara's palm, and then down Tara's fingers. Meanwhile, the blonde kept toying with her hair.
Too nice, too nice, Willow's mind screamed, like a blaring alarm. Willow silenced all her alarms and let her head fall on Tara's shoulder again, like their hug on the rock. But this time, Tara turned her head and rested her lips on her forehead, sending tiny ripples of sensation down Willow's face, making her blush like a maiden. Would Tara feel the same if she...? The only way to know was trying it, so she rose her head and placed a tiny kiss on her warm cheek. It was incredibly soft there; it was the softest thing she had ever touched, so she hung there during more seconds than what she had planned.
When she finally detached from Tara's cheek, she felt Tara returning the kiss, on her cheek. "Tara", she was going to whimper. She pulled her head up to say it, but then she came across something. Something met her on the way, pressing on her lips, and then she knew that they were... Tara's lips.
She was sure of this, and she didn't dare open her eyes. She didn't want to, either. As soon as she figured it out, she felt a shudder running down her spine, and kept where she was. She felt Tara's lips opening very slightly and capturing hers. Then, her own lips opened and she did the same. Oh, God. God help me. Tara!, her mind screamed, and her body seemed to obey. She brought her hands around Tara's shoulders and caressed her hair, the threads of gold that fell over her back. Tara did the same - caress her hair - and, when her hand cupped Willow's cheek, she felt a burning warmth. Was it her cheek, was it Tara's hand, was it both? It didn't matter; nothing seemed to matter, while she was kissing Tara.