Willow sat across from Buffy, her eyes wandering around the room that they currently occupied. She took a moment to reflect on the day that they had. It had been special, she had to admit. Between Buffy's lifeguard duties and her frequent part time work, they didn't have wealth unlimited. But it was enough that they could get by without having to resort to handouts, usually leaving enough money to enjoy the odd casual expense one every few months. But with all the stuff they had done today, Willow figured that there weren't going to be any more "casual expenses" for a while and that she would need to take three part time jobs in order to cover the costs.
Their first destination after going home to change had been Santa Monica Place, where they had spent countless hours window shopping. Nothing seemed of particular interest, though they had spent an obscene amount of time at both Frederick's and Victoria's Secret trying on unmentionables of various styles and cuts. The only good that came from that was that it gave Willow a new appreciation of her own body, having tried on several pairs of lingere that were definitely not meant for sleep and drew a polite whistle of approval from Buffy.
The next destination was the theatre, where they watched one of the weekend's new releases, a comedy called "Date Movie." Though she found the movie amusing at times, Willow had to wonder at why Buffy would choose a movie that was so...crude. The lead actress certainly made an effort to perform well despite the weak script and Willow couldn't deny how much she felt for her character in the situation she had found herself in.
And to be honest, that little dance number at the start would make it almost impossible for her to hear "Milkshake" on the radio again without giggling.
The final place the pair had decided to go was their current location: the Il Fornaio. It was a well known Italian restaurant well suited to both Willow's vegetarian lifestyle and Buffy's varied taste in world cuisine. Aside from ordering their meals and receiving their drinks, the pair hadn't done much talking.
Or rather, Willow hadn't done much talking. Buffy had been, in actual fact, going on and on for the past ten minutes about how much she was impressed by Faith. The comments stung Willow with the power of a bee sting and a slap across the face. She had kept her most precious secret hidden from her best friend for the better part of the last ten years, and bubbling in a pot of self made guilt because of it, while some stranger she had known for all of thirty seconds had just walked in out of nowhere and flaunted her (from what Buffy described) rather impressive water skills like it was no big deal. The blonde certainly knew how much Willow enjoyed the water, but had never gone out of her way to say that she was impressed by that. Add the fact that her secret sexual attraction to water was something she kept close to her heart, and she figured she had the right to be bitter about Faith, who from all appearances was everything Willow was not: carefree, charismatic and totally in control of her sexuality.
Willow knew that now was not the time to dwell on Buffy's questionable relationship, work-related or not, with the brunette. Buffy had said that Riley gave her permission to leave early and take the weekend off on the proviso that she come in and work double shifts the following weekend. That gave Willow a small opportunity in which to convince her best friend to lend her diving equipment so that she can go to see Tara.
"Buff," she said, cursing herself for interrupting her friend while she was talking, but then realizing that it was probably going to be the only way to get a word in edgewise. "I...I...I wanted to talk to you about..."
She paused, her nervousness causing her to stutter.
"What, Will?" Buffy prompted.
Willow couldn't help it. She clammed up and shifted uncomfortably. It must have been more noticeable than she intended, for the blonde gave her a curious look. "Come on, Will. You know that you can talk to me about anything."
"I know," Willow admitted. "But this is...kind of..."
"Well, if you don't wanna tell me, I'll understand." Buffy sighed. "I just thought that, with everything we've been through, that there would be no secrets..."
"I met someone," Willow blurted. She hoped that the suddenness of the act wouldn't be too shocking.
Instead, the look that appeared on Buffy's face was one of happiness. "That's great, Will. Who is she? Where did you meet her? Oh, I have so many questions."
"I kinda figured that," Willow noted. "I met her...yesterday."
"Yesterday?" Buffy asked. "You mean...so you didn't go alone?"
Willow swallowed. This wasn't going to be easy, and she knew it. But it would do her good to say the truth, even if it was a heavily modified version. "No, Buffy. I went down alone."
"She saved me."
It was then that Willow realized that she had backed herself into a corner, and that she had no choice but to fully expose her deepest secret to her best friend. Although she knew the possibility might come up, she was still unprepared to deal with it. "It won't be that bad," she thought. "After all, I came out of the closet to her, and she was all fine about it. Finey McFine Fine Fine, as a matter of fact. Well, not really at first. She had this look on her like she just stepped in dog poop and didn't want to look down. But she got over it. So she'll get over this, too. I hope. Please, let her get over this."
Buffy looked at her with a mixture of shock and confusion. "Almost? What's 'almost' about drowning, Will? You really should have known better. Faith never would have done anything that risky."
Willow swallowed again, silently letting the comparison between her and Faith pass without comment. Internally, however, she was hurt by it. She never would have figured that Buffy would be comparing her best friend with someone else, lest of all someone like Faith. It made her wonder just what else about her Buffy compared with Faith.
"Does Buffy still like me?" Willow thought in a panic. "Is this going to be the end of our friendship? And why did she compare me with Faith? I'd call that a low blow, but thankfully, I'm not...equipped in that area."
She realized she would have to say something, lest her silence be taken as an admission of guilt. "Buffy, we've known each other since high school. You said it yourself. We've done and seen everything you could imagine together. But there are some things about me that I don't think you could understand..."
Buffy was getting impatient. "Willow, please stop beating around the proverbial bush. We're best friends, and best friends don't keep secrets from one another."
"You kept Faith a secret," Willow blurted, instantly regretting her decision to do so. Instead of shutting up, she continued, "You said she just transferred here. How do I know that? For all I know, you're as much a lesbo as I am and have been having secret make out sessions while at work and..."
Willow couldn't take it anymore. She broke down and began to sob. It didn't matter that they were in public with over a dozen people watching. She had suffered worse humiliation in high school.
Buffy was clearly upset by this. "Will, you've got to understand me. It's different with Faith. She's...I don't know. I mean, I look at you, and know what you were like when we were in high school, and how much the water was a part of our lives. And then I look at her...and I see us, you know?"
"I sense a 'but' coming," Willow said, looking up with red rimmed eyes.
"But...different," Buffy added. "You know, there's something about her that just tells me that, had we been different growing up, we could have been her." She looked around the room sheepishly. "You know how I am, Will. I'm a protector of the less fortunate, a hero to those who can't defend themselves. And I see Faith...as someone who, given the right guidance and motivation, can be just like us."
Willow realized that she had gotten it wrong about Faith. It was very much in Buffy's character to help out other people, especially if they never realized how much they needed it. And if Willow could think the way she had about the brunette, then how did others see her? Having fought a one sided battle ever since her teen years, she could certainly sympathize with what Buffy saw about Faith.
"And besides," Buffy added as the waiter returned with their dinner, placing the two plates down on the table. "It's not like we keep all of our secrets a secret. Hell, you told me that you're gay." As Willow put on a rather stern look, she quickly continued, "Not that I have any problem with that. I mean, you like girls. So what? Nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all..."
"Buff, I seem to recall baring my soul before we went on this unplanned detour to tangent-ville?"
Willow blushed, and then began to tell her tale. "I was a teenager. It was before we met. My parents were divers, and I always went with them whenever they were on vacation. Well, I never went went with them, since they wanted to keep me safe. Anyways, I think that helped prepare me for my eventual discovery. I've always had a thing for the water, but the pool was always crowded. So one night, I snuck inside after it was closed..."
Buffy couldn't help but smile. "Go, Will! Never imagined you to be one to go against the rules."
Willow felt herself smile. "Never thought of myself that way, either. In any case, when I was there, I started to get...feelings."
"Feelings? What kind of..."
"Sexual? About water?"
"And you...acted...on them?"
Willow bit her lower lip. This was the part where it could go wrong. "Yes. And I know what you're going to say. It's sick. It's demented. It's strange and something that you just couldn't understand. That's what you think, isn't it?"
Buffy tilted her head as she thought about it for a moment. She lifted her fork and began to twirl her pasta. "You know, you think it would be, but it really isn't."
Willow clearly wasn't ready for that. "What?"
Buffy took a bite of her meal, then put her fork down on the plate. "Willow, you're not as alone as you think you are. I've been into the water ever since I was young. I've won medals in swimming competitions. I got certified as a diver as soon as I was able in order to broaden my horizons. I took that job as a lifeguard in order to combine my love of the water with my love of helping people. Now, I'll admit that I've never felt the way that you do about being underwater, but if you feel that way, then it's something that makes you unique, not something that you should be ashamed of. Everyone has their kinks, Will. This one's yours."
As Willow took up her own fork and began to eat, she couldn't help but be elated. Her sexuality was, and still is, something that she was reluctant to share with others. It certainly didn't help her that her particular kink was a small minority in the vast reservoir of sexual fetishes. And she certainly felt some apprehension about telling Buffy, not only because it had to do with Tara, but because it had to do with revealing to someone else a part of herself that was private. But as she watched Buffy explain herself, she realized that she had been wrong in keeping this from her. Of all the people in the world, Buffy was the one who could understand her the most. What a fool she must have been to think otherwise.
"But," Buffy added. "If we can detour back onto the drowning issue for a moment..."
Willow set down her fork and braced herself for the worst, but realizing that she had deserved it. There was no way Buffy was going to let that issue drop.
"Just because I understand how you felt doesn't mean I'm willing to let that make me tell you that was a good idea," Buffy continued. "That sort of thing isn't something you do alone." She paused, and broke out into a grin that rivaled Willow's patented quirky smile. "I mean, it is...just not...down there...you know? You know what I mean, right?"
Willow smiled. "Sure, Buff. I get it."
"So you won't do it again?"
Willow shook her head.
Willow nodded in agreement, though inwardly she was heartbroken by the fact that she had to lie to Buffy about that. No matter how dangerous it was, underwater masturbation wasn't an activity she was willing to part with. She just promised herself that she wouldn't do it anywhere where her equipment could get damaged.
Willow realized she had completely forgotten why she had begun talking in the first place. Picking up her fork once again, she asked the question that, thanks to Buffy's recent revelation, was made easier. "Buff, I need to ask you something."
"Sure, Will. Whatever you need."
"I need to borrow your tank."
Buffy cocked an eyebrow. "Why?"
Willow blushed. "I...kinda damaged mine when I..."
Despite herself, Buffy allowed a small smile to form on her lips. "It must have been one powerful experience, Will, for you to have done that."
"Haven't had one like it since my first," Willow admitted.
Buffy let out a small chuckle, then suddenly shifted gears back into what she affectionately dubbed "mother-mode". "Is your new friend going to be there with you?"
Willow grew uncomfortable at the question. "I think so."
Willow decided to tell Buffy as much as she could about Tara. "Well, she's rather...shy. And I didn't act grateful when she helped. She might think I'm a bit of a...spaz."
Buffy let out a chuckle. "Will, I've known you for years. Trust me, acting like a spaz isn't enough of a reason to dislike you."
"You think so?"
"I know so."
Willow took another bite of her meal and chewed thoughtfully. Then a thought struck her. "You could come with me."
"To meet...my friend."
"You sure, Will?" Buffy asked. "I mean, from what I can tell, she sounds like someone pretty special. I wouldn't want to get in the way of...well, anything."
"I'm sure, Buff," Willow answered. "I'm sure she won't mind seeing another friendly face."
As the two continued to eat their dinner in silence, Willow's mind frantically tried to put logic to the situation. "Who am I kidding? Tara was freaked out enough by me, and here I am inviting Buffy to come meet her. And what will Tara think about me bringing another unwanted guest into her kind's underwater kingdom?"
These thoughts raced through her head for the rest of the night. Once she and Buffy finished eating, they made their way home. Once there, Buffy called the docks to reserve a boat for the next day. The two then spent an hour going over their gear, preparing it for the trip they would take the next day.
All the while, Willow's thoughts were on Tara, and how she would react to Buffy. Then her thoughts shifted to how Buffy would react to Tara.
One way or another, tomorrow promised to be a most interesting day.
Tara could feel something in the ocean. A monumental shift in the currents and eddies had just occurred, but she wasn't too sure what to make of it. Whatever it was left an impression on her mind that was difficult to shake off.
Holding her head in one hand, Tara slid into the water and dove under, coming to rest on the rocks below. She hoped that, by spending time underwater after such a long period above it, her nerves would calm down. But no matter how hard she tried, the feelings persisted and linger. And she couldn't help but feel that something had just gone horribly wrong.
Surprisingly, her thoughts shifted to Willow, and Tara realized that somehow, she was at the center of the disturbance. She thought ever so briefly about what might have happened to her. Had she told someone about what happened yesterday? Was she in any danger? Was she hurt?
Tara's heart longed to find out the answers to these questions, but she realized that she would have to wait to find out. Something about the tremors she felt indicated Willow's return to the ocean floor, something that Tara anticipated with a mixture of fear and delight.
She let out a yawn, and realized how tired she felt. Having been awake since the early morning, the need for sleep crested over her like the tides themselves. Shifting uncomfortably on the rocks she was splayed on, she moved to an outcrop that seemed less likely to cause her back problems and settled as comfortably as she could manage.
Tara closed her eyes and drifted to sleep, somewhat afraid of what she would find when they met the world once more.