Willow pressed "Send", and the e-mail was on its way to Tara. The story she had forwarded was set in all-girls English boarding school, and chronicled how Aphrodite Priddy, a headmistress with a Cupid complex, had arranged for two clashing students to find each other. Xena Gilly was a brash senior on a scholarship from South London, and Gabrielle Ainsworth-Eggleston was the privileged daughter of a minor member of the English peerage. The tale was of two girls from radically different backgrounds with not a little animosity between them whose punishment for a name-calling hair-pulling catfight on school grounds was several intensive community service sessions together. Sparks flew all over the school grounds during their community service, followed soon after by sparks of a more...extracurricular variety.
Willow felt pretty sure that Tara would enjoy the story as much as she had. Over the last seven months, she had developed a good idea of Tara's likes and dislikes. This story felt in many ways like a British version of The Facts of Life, which had been a favorite television program of Tara's during childhood - although Aphrodite certainly cut a different figure in this story than Mrs. Garrett had. Willow wished she had known Tara as a child - she always listened with fascination at Tara's stories of growing up in a small town, shy and isolated, and how coming to college had expanded her worldview tremendously.
As had attending UberCon '05. Though Tara's friendship with Anya had afforded her a lot more social interactions than she would have had on her own, it was her discovery of Faith's mistaken identity ruse and her subsequent "coming out" to Willow that had really shattered the last vestige of the reserved, anxious girl that had lingered, whispering thoughts of self-doubt and urging her to hang back in the shadows. As Tara had told her so many times, it was Willow's love that helped to set her free and discover a whole new world inside herself. Willow was always amazed at the things Tara attributed to her and their relationship - how she felt free to be the person she was, that she wasn't afraid to show her quirks, and how she felt desirable.
Thoughts of desire mixed with thoughts of the story, fresh in Willow's mind, and she daydreamed about her and Tara's own first time. Though it was only three months ago, in many ways it felt like they had been making love forever, and Willow couldn't remember a time when they hadn't been intimate. But in other ways, that night seemed like it was just yesterday...
It was a Tuesday night at Tara's apartment, and it had become part of their routine that Willow would spend the night since she didn't have morning classes on Wednesday. They usually went to bed early, but didn't actually go to sleep right away. Willow loved their Tuesday evenings together - they spent time talking about how their weeks were going, what projects and tests they had, and what they wanted to do during the weekend.
Of course, they spent a lot of time kissing, too.
"I have to tell you something," Tara said, pulling away from a long kiss as they were lying together on her bed.
"Something wrong, baby?" Willow asked. Tara's cheeks were flushed, and Willow was sure there was an answering glow in her own. "Are you sick?"
"No," Tara replied. She caressed Willow's cheek with the back of her hand. "I-I want you." She looked searchingly into Willow's eyes.
Willow gave here an affectionate, if slightly confused smile. "You've got me. I'm right here."
"No," Tara said, blushing slightly. "I want you. You know. I'm - I'm ready. To make love. And I wanted to tell you, in case you feel ready too."
Comprehension dawned on Willow's face. "Oh!" She smiled again, as her heart threatened to overflow with feeling. Suddenly feeling shy, she looked down at their linked hands, watching as Tara stroked her fingers. She looked up into Tara's eyes, finding warmth and love there.
"I feel ready," she said. "I think I have for a while."
Tara smiled. "When should we, uh...go for the gusto?"
"Um, now?" Willow said. She laughed. "Just kidding. Sort of. But with Anya and Xander in the next room, maybe this isn't the best time."
"Especially with what I intend to do to you," Tara said, with a quick nip at Willow's ear. "I'm not sure you could keep quiet."
Willow shivered. "This weekend, then? Buffy's going to L.A. to see Angel, so we'll have my apartment to ourselves."
Tara nuzzled Willow's neck. "That sounds perfect."
Willow had been simultaneously struck by two conflicting feelings - overwhelming excitement and anticipation that she thought would surely kill her before Friday arrived, and almost crippling nervousness. What if she didn't know what to do? For all that being with Tara felt like the most natural thing in the world, what if when the time came she didn't know the right way to pleasure her? What if she wasn't any good at...oral sex? She also felt a little self-conscious. Even though she couldn't wait to feel Tara's lips and tongue on her sex - had fantasized endlessly about it, so it seemed - what if Tara didn't like the taste? What would she do then?
Since Willow couldn't do anything about the latter, she threw herself into preparing for the former with a vengeance. The first thing that came to her ordered, logical mind when confronted with a problem was to research it. So all week, whenever she wasn't in class or otherwise occupied, she read fan fiction. Smutty fan fiction - more smut than she had ever read before, poring over and over the love scenes between Xena and Gabrielle with an almost clinical eye, taking extensive notes about technique on a pad of paper. She used blue pens for fingers, pink for lips and tongue, and green for "other." She didn't spend too much time on "other" - for their first time, Willow felt pretty sure they would stick to the basics.
When Friday arrived, Willow felt like her head might explode with all the facts, helpful hints, and different methods she had read about. I feel like the biggest perv in Sunnydale. She had finished up her classes and was busy straightening up her already clean room, trying to work off her nervous energy. She glanced at the clock; Tara was due to arrive in ten minutes. She surveyed the room, and picked up the pad of paper with her notes on it for a quick, final scan. As the doorbell rang, she dropped the pad on the floor and nudged it under the bed with her toe, then hurried to open the door to greet a smiling, excited Tara.
Dinner was a blur. Willow had cooked the meal, but she hardly tasted the pasta and vegetables, and couldn't eat more than half her serving. Afterward, she excused herself to go the bathroom, where she surreptitiously brushed her teeth. She had purposefully left the garlic out of the recipe, but she wanted everything to be perfect that night. She walked into her bedroom, where Tara had lit several candles and turned off the lights.
"Wow, it's all candle-y," Willow said as she entered.
"Is it too much?" Tara asked.
"No, it's perfect," Willow said. Tara smiled and excused herself to use the bathroom as well.
When Tara returned, Willow was sitting on the bed. She had butterflies in her stomach - though she and Tara had spent countless hours in this room, tonight was special. She looked up at Tara, coming through the doorway, and was overcome by a wave of love and tenderness. Tara's face was so familiar, and yet every time she saw her, her heartbeat sped up and a thrill laced its way from the pit of her stomach all the way up to her ears and down to her toes.
Tara came a few steps forward and bent over the bed slightly to reach Willow's lips with her own. Willow smiled as she tasted Tara's minty breath.
"You brushed your teeth too?" she asked.
Tara laughed. "I figured you probably had, and I didn't know if you put the garlic in that recipe or not."
"Nope. It's like we're a couple of vampires - no garlic."
"And no steak," Tara said, climbing onto the bed next to Willow. "That means I can do...this." She nipped Willow's neck lightly with her teeth.
Willow jumped. The sensation, while unexpected, was pleasurable. And for a while, there was nothing but Tara, and her world became filled with her lips, her tongue, her hands, her body. It seemed like she had never done anything in her life except to lie on the bed and to kiss Tara, and she didn't think about it consciously when she unbuttoned Tara's shirt and slipped it off her shoulders, and Tara did the same with her pullover, tugging it out of the waistband of her pants and pulling it over her head. Bras soon followed, and then all of their clothes seemed like an unnecessary distraction.
Her butterflies were all of a sudden back with a vengeance, accompanied by moths and what felt like a few caterpillars as well. This was it. They were about to make love for the first time, and it would always be their first time, whether it went well or poorly, and there was no going back. She fumbled a bit with the button and zipper on Tara's skirt.
She felt insecure. That's what it was. She had finally put her finger on it. She wasn't sure if she was going to be good at this. Her track record so far in life was decidedly mixed - give her a computer problem to figure out, a science experiment to perform, or a fan fiction story to write, and she was on familiar ground. But there had also been several things she had tried at one time or another in life that she hadn't been good at. Sports, for example. Singing the lead role of Maria during her high school's production of "The Sound of Music." And dating boys - the angst from which had resolved itself when she figured out that she didn't want to date boys, but still, those feelings of inadequacy had taken their toll.
What if I can't please Tara? Oh god, as much as I want to do this, it was different when it was something that we planned to do sometime in the future.
Willow's hands began to shake as she tugged at the zipper, which stubbornly appeared to be stuck. She hoped Tara didn't notice.
"Are you okay, sweetie?" Tara asked.
Willow thought of shoving aside her nervousness and just plowing on through, but the concerned, warm look in Tara's eyes convinced her otherwise. There was no doubt about it - Tara was a safe haven. Willow mentally kicked herself a bit for not just talking to Tara right off the bat, but she didn't spend too much time in recriminations.
"I'm a little nervous," she admitted.
Tara's face immediately took on an expression of concern. "Baby, are you not ready for this? I don't want to do anything you're not one hundred percent ready to do." She enclosed the shaking girl in a hug.
Willow returned the hug gratefully. "It's not that, Tare. I want this, honestly, more than anything I've ever wanted in my life. Stupid zipper."
Tara sat on the bed, pulling Willow down after her and urging her to lie down and stretch out. She propped herself up with an elbow and gazed down at Willow, gently stroking the redhead's hair out of her eyes and tucking it behind her ear. "Then what is it, baby?"
"I'm afraid it's going to sound silly."
"Never." Tara punctuated that comment with an emphatic kiss.
"Well...it's this. You know I've never done this before, obviously. I'm just a little nervous...that I won't...know how to please you."
Tara gazed at Willow seriously, taking some time to consider her statement and its implications. Finally, she said, "Well, you know that I've never done this before either, so we're even there. And you know - just being with you, no matter what we're doing, is the most magical, wonderful thing in the world. I love you so much. I can't imagine that anything that we do tonight, or anytime, won't please me."
Willow gazed up into Tara's blue eyes, getting lost in the love and trust and confidence that she saw there. She felt all her doubts and fears melt away. This was the answer - just being together, and trusting each other. It wasn't about how much experience she had or didn't have. It wasn't about memorizing a list of instructions or a technical manual. It wasn't about anything external at all - the answers she had sought came from inside herself and from tapping into the love that flowed between her and Tara. She didn't have to think - she just had to be.
She laughed a little, with relief and amusement.
"What is it?" Tara quirked an eyebrow at her.
"Well, it's just that I did all this research, and I think that all the facts and ideas were kind of crowded all together in my head and were freaking me out a bit. I couldn't see the forest for the trees."
Willow laughed, a little embarrassed. "I've been, um, brushing up on my NC-17 fan fiction to get a few, uh, tips. On technique."
Amusement brought out Tara's dimples. "Did you find anything interesting?"
Willow reached down under her bed and grabbed her pad of paper where she had taken notes. "A few things."
Tara took the pad of paper and leafed through it. "Good god, Willow, this reads like The Joy of Gay Sex! 'Tongues, lips, the alphabet method' - wow."
"Okay, okay," Willow said, reaching for the pad. "Wait, when did you read The Joy of Gay Sex?"
Tara twisted away, laughing. "'Fingers, no fingers?' 'Positions.' Whoa, are we ready to use this yet?"
Willow laughed despite herself, still reaching for the pad. "Give me that!" She tickled Tara's inviting, curvaceous side.
Tara couldn't stand tickling - it instantly reduced her to a shrieking, giggling mess. She dropped the pad on the other side of the bed, grabbing at Willow's hands to try to make her stop. She finally succeeded in capturing her hands, and turned over on her back to gaze up at Willow.
And it happened again. Willow became lost in Tara's eyes, and her world focused on Tara. Just her eyes, her hair, her lips, her cheeks, her chin, her trusting gaze looking back. And her body. Her half-naked body. Without another thought, Willow lowered her lips to Tara's and became lost in a kiss that seemed to last forever. But it must have ended at some point, because another kiss followed, and then another, which led to the hasty removal of the rest of their clothing, touching, stroking, more kisses in new places, and then the gentlest licking which built like a crescendo and was accompanied by soft cries that grew in intensity until the rapturous peak, two voices intertwined, breathing, clinging to each other, and then more lazy, languorous kisses as the two bodies wrapped around each other and slid into sleep.
Willow shivered. The memory was evocative. Not only did she feel overcome by love, tenderness, and an urge to find Tara right now for a prolonged smooching and snuggle session, she had to admit that the English boarding school story had also...stirred her in other ways.
"Bother the headmistress," she said aloud, trying out a British accent. "She bloody well scheduled this meeting during cricket tryouts! Bugger."