Had it really happened? It was so long ago now that she could only remember it as being the singularly most unexplainable, important event in her life. One kiss. One kiss that was the best kiss of your entire life and it was some girl on the street! She sat in the lobby, staring blankly ahead of her, her eyes glazed and fixed on a point just past the receptionist. Her hands were folded in her lap, her legs bouncing impatiently, nervously. Not to mention the fact that it could have been the drugs that made it so amazing. It doesn't seem that way. It doesn't seem like it was the seratonin flooding my body that made that kiss seem so unbearably perfect. It was her eyes, the nervousness with which she regarded me, the electric shock that runs through my body when I remember it. Her mouth released the smallest sigh ever known to man. Still could be the drugs.
In the end, it didn't really matter whether it was the drugs or not. Not when the redhead was still the only woman Tara could think about, day or night. Not now, two years after the fact when she still woke up with the name on her tongue, when it sprang unbidden to her lips throughout the course of her day, a blessing and a curse. Willow, the girl who gave solace without truly existing. Willow, the girl who broke Tara's heart every day simply by not being there.
Still, in many ways, Tara owed her life to Willow. I wouldn't have "left" Faith. I wouldn't have met Anya. I wouldn't have this chance. Her heart began to pound wildly in her chest; she had ignored this impending meeting by keeping herself busy with her favorite distraction... until now. Now, the mind numbing terror flooded through her body anew, now more terrifying than it had been on the streetcar as she made her way to these offices, than when she had woken up that morning. She was terrified of what they were going to say. We've decided your book is terrible and you should never attempt to write again. You have to give us back the money we gave you.
"Ms. Maclay? He'll see you now." The receptionist forced a smile at Tara, shooting her eyes over towards the elevator as if to direct the girl.
"Oh." It was all she could say as she picked her body up on unsteady legs, and slowly berated herself in her mind as her limbs seemed to rebel against normal, casual movement. She reached the elevator and pressed the button, feeling very much like she was on her way to certain destituteness. She swallowed heavily, and it seemed to echo in the emptiness of the elevator as she rode to the top floor.
The doors slid open on another receptionist behind a mahogany desk, behind her, the company name carved from a copper plate. Council Publishing Company, one of the largest publishers on the West Coast, certainly the biggest in Oregon. She always felt intimidated when she walked in here.She took a step forward out of the elevator, and promptly tripped over her own two feet. She winced, more out of pain than embarassment, and nearly died when she heard a voice from above her.
"Dear Lord!" The man swept the glasses off of his face, and offered Tara a hand. "Are you alright my dear?" He asked, his voice filled with genuine concern.
Her skin flushed bright red, and immediately the curtain of her hair swept forward to cover her face as she stared down at her feet. Stupid feet! "I-I'm fine." More wincing. Stupid mouth!
"I should hope so." He smiled in a fatherly way that was actually completely reassuring. "Are you Tara?" Her name off his tongue made her relax as if enveloped in a warm hug.
Letting out a breath to steady herself, she opened her smile and looked him in the eye, "Yes, I'm Tara Maclay. I'm here to see Mr. Giles." She searched his face trying to place the man, and realized quickly his very presence was comforting. Something about him was terribly familiar, but how she did not know. Still, he was in no way threatening, and she felt her whole body relax.
"Wonderful. I am Rupert Giles. Follow me."
"Ms. Maclay..." He started after sitting her down in his too impressive office.
"Tara, please." She smiled at him, stilling the nervousness she felt tingling all over her body.
"Tara, then..." he smiled back at her. "As you know, the Council has been very interested in bringing your children's books to the market. We would be very lucky to be the ones to bring your work to the world."
"Thank you so much for the opportunity, Mr. Giles. I think we're making good progress. I was so pleased..."
"Giles, please. Everyone just calls me Giles." His face filled with an exasperated smile.
"Of course... Giles." It sounded silly coming from her mouth, used to the pleasantries of common courtesy. She felt comforted by the familiarity and his warm manner, but it still felt odd. Strange to be in this office of ornament and antiques. "I was surprised by your interest in my books."
"You shouldn't have been. They are incredible, Tara, really, my own children will not put them down. The books are a parent's dream," He smiled at her again, and continued, "but your work in children's literature is not why you're here today."
Her eyes widened as she regarded him with a puzzled expression. The Council had been working with her for six months on her book, There Is Always Magic. "I'm sorry, Giles, I... I don't understand..."
"You are working with Mr. Wyndam-Price on your children's novel, and that has been going extremely well. I hear nothing but good reports, everything is fine." He smiled at her. "I do not work in children's literature, so I'm afraid I had to sneak copies of your manuscript home to read it to my children. My apologies, but it's been quite the hit in the office, and we wanted to hear some opinions from the target audience, if you will."
She waved off his concern. "Of course, Mr. Giles, I mean, Giles, I'm glad your children enjoy it. But forgive me, why am I here with you?"
"Ms. Maclay, I had the fortune of being in attendance at an open mic at Three Friends coffeehouse. I believe you're familiar..."
Three Friends? The surprise registered on her face. That means he heard me read... Oh god! "Y-yes, I... I read there a few weeks ago."
"Yes, you did." He smiled. "I myself have been known to enjoy a cup of tea... and performing..."
Recognition flooded her eyes. Of course! This is the man who plays his guitar and sings. What a great voice. Anya drags me there all the time to watch him play! "I've seen you sing. You are wonderful."
This seemed to embarrass him. "Yes, well, thank you." He pulled his glasses off his face again, and began to clean them with a white cloth he drew from his jacket pocket. Tara watched his face flush red, and couldn't help but shoot him a grin. "I saw you read." Tara's face matched his in its tomato coloring. "It was wonderful. You have quite a way with words, Ms... Tara." He smiled at her once more. "So, as you can see, although my children and I love your book, I am much more interested in your adult work." His eyes went wide for a moment, and then he repeated, "Your other work, that is."
"Thank you." The red of her blush colored her cheeks and threatened to fill her chest and neck. She focused her big blue eyes on him, embarrassed by the compliment, but politely demure.
What a lovely creature, Giles thought. "Given the nature of your... other work, our company would have to insist on a pen name if we were to pursue publishing it." He made a face that expressed his distaste. "You Americans are so puritanical." He muttered.
"I think that's understandable." Tara smiled, giggling to herself about Giles' off handed comment. She found herself truly enjoying the man's company. "Would I be working with you?"
"Yes, if that pleases you. This is a bit of my pet project you see."
"Yes, Giles, that pleases me very much." She offered him another grin, sinking back into her chair.
Willow looked on in horror as her date took down three shots of tequila, one after another. She raised her glass, offering a weak smile in toast, and taking a sip of her mocha.
"You're not going to drink anything?" Amy asked, tossing her badly dyed blond hair over her shoulder.
"I'm not much for the drinking. Sometimes, you know, during social occasions en masse, like a party? But for the casual hanging out, not so much."
"Oh." Amy answered, her eyes running over Willow's form as if bored at her answer. Her v-neck shirt clung to her curves nicely, the red of it actually complimenting the girl's hair and making her green eyes sparkle. Her dark blue jeans hugged her hips, her form, though perhaps not as curvy as others, was certainly deliciously womanly.
"You like the drinking I see. What else do you like to do?" Willow attempted to make conversation, feeling put off already.
"Mostly I party. Oh, and I love a good cheese tasting. Usually with wine. Or brownies. Especially with a cup of coffee and a shot of Bailey's." Amy stepped forward, putting her hands on Willow's hips. "I like to do other things, too."
Willow looked down to the girl's hands on her hips in wonderment. Well, she's got guts, that's for sure. More guts than me, anyway. She placed her own hands over them, attempting to decide whether or not to push them off. Amy took this as a positive sign, and pulled Willow's form into her own, inching her face forward until their lips met with a crushing pressure from Amy. Too much! Willow's mind frantically screamed at her, even as her lips opened in pure shock. Amy took the opportunity to push her tongue into Willow's mouth, greedily moving towards more than Willow intended to give. Willow found the strength in her body to push back off the hands on her hips, their lips shooting back from each other with an audible pop. Amy stared at Willow with some form of disbelief written over her features. Who the hell does this girl think she is?
"I should have known better than to go out with a nerd." Amy said mostly to herself.
"Hey! You back off." Willow answered. "We just met. You don't know anything about me."
"Are you kidding? Willow Rosenberg, 'I used to date a musician'." Amy's voice was cruel. "Are you even gay?" She demanded. "Have you ever been out with a woman before? Fucked a woman before?"
Willow opened her mouth to speak and quickly shut it. She eyed the girl before her. "Yes, I'm gay. I'm here, aren't I?" Okay, not the best comeback in the world, but at least I said something!
Amy laughed. "Oh, sure. One date with a woman and you're gay. Very trendy. How very now. It's unbelievable how lame you are!"
"Amy, you're nothing but an alcoholic!" Willow's voice rose so most of the Bronze stopped what they were doing and paid attention.
"Maybe, but at least I have a life, at least I have friends. What do you have?"
"She's got us." Xander's voice had never sounded better. In fact, as he and Buffy appeared from around the corner, she wanted to kiss both of them squarely on the mouth. My saviors!
"More fucking losers." Amy grabbed her stuff and pushed past Buffy and Xander, knocking them both with her shoulders.
"Are you okay?" Buffy asked, placing a hand on Willow's shoulder.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Never happier to see my two best buds, though." She shot a thankful smile in their direction. "What are you doing here?"
"Where else is there to go, Will?" Xander offered her a kind smile. "What the hell was that? She was an uberbitch... reminds me of Cordelia."
"Well, if she weren't gay, I would have suggested you asking her out." Willow answered with a grin.
"We saw things begin to get rowdy from over there, and figured we'd make our presence known in case you wanted a way out." Buffy said, rubbing her hand on Willow comfortingly. "I see your date went well. And I ask again - what the hell were you thinking?"
Willow sighed. "I was thinking that it was time to stop agonizing over some girl I may never see again and try to get on with things. But the whole time I was sitting here, before she turned into a psychotic alcoholic, I couldn't help thinking that she just wasn't Tara."
"Willow, not to go all Mom on you, but how much different was that from what happened with Tara?" Xander's voice was soft, knowing he was delivering a bit of a blow.
"What the hell does that mean?" Willow snapped back, her eyes beginning to fill with unmistakable Willow rage.
"Woah, Will... relax. Best buds to the rescue, remember?" Buffy moved to stand in between her and Xander.
"No Buff, it's time we finally say something... From the story you've told me, Tara wasn't exactly sober when she kissed you, right? How far off is this from that?" Xander asked, holding Willow's eyes in his own.
"It's completely different! Kind of." Willow moved to sit down on the unoccupied couch beside the table she had just shared with Amy.
"Kind of?" Buffy shot Xander a look that said tread carefully.
"I know you guys mean well. I do. And I know from the outside, it doesn't look all that different, but..." Willow pushed her hands through her hair, and looked down to the floor, her eyes shutting in concentration. "The kiss wasn't all that different, admittedly. But the day after..."
"I'm sorry, Willow." Tara's voice was soft, but her words were crystal clear. Willow couldn't help but feel her heart lift as the girl spoke her name.
"Sorry." Willow parroted back. She swept her eyes over Tara's form, the black pants with creased legs that drove the eyes up to wonderfully curvy hips, the point of her tie acting as an arrow towards the place Willow didn't want to look but couldn't keep her eyes away from. What mysteries laid beneath the fabric? Was her skin really as creamy and perfect as Willow imagined it would be? She followed the tie up, and appreciated the ampleness of Tara's chest, and felt an ache she had experienced so many times before. She had always dismissed it as wishing she had larger breasts herself, but what if... what if what she really wanted was the breasts themselves? She imagined Tara's free of constriction and under her hands and mouth, a shiver working its way up her spine. She shook her head to free herself of the images. "Sorry for what?" She asked, her curiosity peaking.
"For kissing you." Tara responded, looking mostly at the floor, unaware of the green eyes she longed to see feasting on her form.
"For kissing me." Willow repeated again, her head nodding as she thought. "Don't be." Her answer was nearly whispered, but firm.
Tara finally looked up at the redhead, aware that her heart was beating out of her chest. She instinctively took a step toward the girl, this time she could do nothing but repeat what had been said. "Don't be..." Another step towards Willow, and her mind rebelled. "No, I am sorry."
"Why?" Willow asked, her head tilting to the side, watching as Tara moved closer.
Another step. "Because..." She trailed off, trying to think of the reason she had had, the reason why she regretted their kiss. "Because Faith pushed us into it, and she was rude. Because you were a total stranger, and I just violated you. Because it wasn't consensual. Because I had no right." Tara shook her head, stepping back away from the girl, feeling her heart break at her own indiscretions. How could I do that to her? She berated herself.
This time, Willow took a step forward. "You're right." Her right foot reached out propelling her forward again. "When you kissed me, I didn't know I wanted you to." Her left followed suit. "And then you pulled away... and..."
Tara's brain tried to wrap around the words that came out of Willow's mouth. Didn't know she wanted me to? Wait. That means that after I kissed her, she did want me to. Wait. What? "Willow, I'm sorry. I-I wasn't... I-I wasn't... sober." Great, now I'm a drug addict that forces myself on people. "It wasn't right." She took another step back.
"Are you sober now?"
"Are you sober now?" Willow repeated, more forcefully than the first time.
"Yes." Tara still didn't get it. She didn't get it as she felt Willow move towards her with increasing speed, and she was utterly at a loss when she felt Willow's arms close around her, pull her close, and Willow's lips covering hers in a kiss that knocked her back against a wall. What the hell is happening here? Tara's brain screamed at her even as she felt herself respond passionately to a woman she'd met the night before.
When they finally pulled apart, it was their bodies reacting to the lack of oxygen rather than an act of will. "Don't be sorry." Willow repeated again.
"I-I don't really know what to say." Tara gathered all of the strength in her body and looked into those beautiful green eyes. "I have to go back to work..." Why did I say that? I don't want to go back to work, I want to push you to the floor and rip your clothes off.
Willow nodded solemnly. "You should." She doesn't want me.
"Okay, then." Tara's brow furrowed as she stared at Willow, backing towards the door. When she felt the handle hit her back painfully, she finally turned around, pulled open the door, and walked out. God, Willow, I want you so badly.
Xander and Buffy shared a look before Buffy spoke. "You never told us that you kissed her."
Willow leveled her gaze at her two friends, neither missing the unshed tears in her eyes. "I didn't know how to say that. It was easier to tell you and myself that I could be gay at the time then admit out loud that I actually was."
"But it changes the whole story Will." Xander interjected. He and Buffy sat down on either side of Willow, and without consultation, each grabbed one of her hands. "It's one thing if she kisses you and you feel a thing, right?" He searches Willow's face as Buffy nods behind her. "It's another thing if she kisses you and when you meet again you kiss her, 'cuz then we're past just thing territory and into y'know, feelings stuff."
"There's a difference between an attraction and real feelings. When you act on attraction, all you're risking is that moment. When you act on feelings, you're kinda risking yourself." Buffy nodded as if acting on some kind of supreme authority.
Willow eyed Buffy up and down and laughed a bit, her face lighting up enough to remove the gloom. "Sage Buffy." As she looked at both her friends, she felt comforted. A long standing tension seemed to dissolve from her shoulders and she stood up pulling them both behind her. "We might as well have some fun tonight. Let's dance."
"Boogeying at the Bronze." Xander grinned and followed the redhead.
"It's what we do best." Buffy muttered to herself, trailing behind and grinning.