Return to Catching Sunflowers in Bloom Chapter Six

Catching Sunflowers in Bloom

Author: MissKittys Ball O Yarn
Rating: PG-13
Feedback: Please leave feedback on the Catching Sunflowers in Bloom thread on the Kitten Board.
Disclaimer: We all know the drill... but I guess it must be said. I don't own anything even remotely related to Willow and Tara nor do I plan to get anything that resembles monetary gain for such creative musing. The great and powerful Joss owns all and I am not but an unimportant bug to be crushed (now that that's been said...)

Ira put the phone back on its cradle. That phone call had been from his office in LA. They needed him to come back right away and that meant taking Willow back with him. They'd have to end their time here early. He sat down on the couch and waited for Willow to come home. She'd been spending a lot of time with her new friend, and he wasn't looking forward to telling her that they were going to have to go..He'd never been that close with Willow, his job kept him away from home for most of the year and he really had been looking forward to spending time with her this summer...he thought she might be enjoying it too, even if she did have trouble showing it. Ira had sensed hostility from his daughter the whole way out here, but now there was a pleasantry between them. He suspected it had something to do with Tara, She seemed to be good for Willow and Ira hated to pull his daughter away from that. He didn't want his daughter to turn fifteen hating him, but there was nothing he could do.

Tara sat in the middle of her bed. Her legs crossed underneath her, she stared, unblinking at a speck of dirt that had made its home on the wall directly in front of her. Tara hadn't bothered to turn the lights on, the darkness seemed to comfort her in ways artificial light never could. There was a knock at the door but Tara didn't turn toward the sound. She didn't want to talk to anybody and she didn't want anybody to talk to her.

Tara cleared her mind, she saw nothing but the darkness of her room and felt nothing but the sweatshirt she wore, hanging loosely against her body. That tactile sensation was unavoidable. The sound of the doorknob turning edged its way into her self imposed desolation. Tara cursed herself for looking at her mother as she entered the room. She knew her mother would know what was wrong. Her mom always seemed to know what was going on with her, but this was something she wasn't ready to share with anyone.

"Hi Mama" Tara, said softly, her resolve disappeared as her mom sat down on the edge of Tara's bed.

"I just thought we could have a little talk..."


"So... Donny's downstairs looking guilty about something... do you have any idea what that might be?"

"Tara shrugged her shoulders in a way that was neither conclusive or inconclusive. She wouldn't lie to her mother, but she wasn't ready to talk about it either.

"Is everything okay with you and Willow?"

"Tara nodded silently, she turned her eyes from her mother, to look out the window. Tara felt her mother take her hand. Tara felt the tears she had thought she'd left behind start to sting the back of her eyes again.

"I noticed you didn't eat anything tonight and I was worried you weren't feeling well..." Odessa said, changing the subject.

Tara was thankful that her mother changed the subject. She felt the tears recede and she turned her face to her mothers.

Odessa Maclay looked her daughter in the eyes "I want you to know that you can talk to me about anything."

Tara looked down at her hands.

"Is there something you want to talk about?" Odessa asked.

Tara shook her head.

"Alright..." Odessa said, standing up she kissed Tara on the forehead. Odessa crossed the small room to the door. Turning around as if remembering something, she stuck her hand in the pocket of her apron. "You wouldn't want to lose this..." She said, handing the necklace to Tara. "Its very pretty...must be for someone special..." With that Odessa left the room closing the door behind her she left Tara all alone in the darkness.

Willow came in through the front door. "Hi dad" She said happily. Going past him, she started up the stairs toward her room. She hadn't come straight home after saying goodnight to Tara, instead she had decided to go for a walk and had ended up sitting by the creek for a couple hours throwing stones into the slow moving water. Her shoes felt wet and made a squishy sound every-time she took a step, but Willow didn't care she had had a wonderful day

"Hi honey... say... you want to come here for a minute..?" Ira called up to her. Willow paused halfway up the stairs. Turning around, she came back down. There was a tone in her dads voice... like he had bad news or something... "Oh god... Is mom okay? Did something happen?" Willow said, jumping to conclusions....

"No honey... Mom's fine... she's still in Seattle..." He paused... looking down at the ground before continuing.

She'd never seen him like this before and it was disconcerting It had to be something bad because he kept running his hand through his hair. Willow wished he would just say what he had to say and get it over with.

"Honey... I have to tell you... The office called today and I need to get back there right away... a merger that was taking place has been jeopardized and they need me to talk to the client..." Ira's voice trailed off as he waited for Willow's response. He braced himself for tears and screaming, but he should have known his daughter better than that. Instead of the usual teenage act, Willow Rosenberg was one pie chart away from a complete corporate takeover, selling options like a pro. She was more like him than he'd ever noticed before. He had to smile

"But dad... can't you talk to them over the phone? There isn't anything that can't be solved over a nice cup of coffee and a good ol' fashioned phone call... I always say..." Willow tried to sound optimistic but her enthusiasm wavered as she could see the deflated way Ira was just standing there, looking at her... she could tell that her dad wasn't buying the "over the phone" chat scenario she was pitching...

"No sweetheart... I have to be there in person..."

"When? I mean... when are we leaving...?"

"Well... I have to make a quick stop in New York before we go back... so I'd say three days at the most."

Willow took a step back. All she could think about was Tara, and how she wasn't ready to leave her. Would she ever be ready? That question lingered in the back of Willow's mind. So far back that it wasn't a conscious thought spoken in words but more of a feeling that caused her tummy to do a little flip. She had to tell Tara. Willow wasn't aware that she was still taking steps backward until the doorknob struck her hard in the back. Wincing, Willow blinked. turning around, she pulled the door open... she'd tell Tara tonight.

"Hi Miss Odessa... Is Tara here?" Willow asked. She had let herself in and had found Tara's mom in the kitchen leaning over a sink-full of dishes. Willow felt silly as that question slipped past her lips. Of course Tara was there...where else would she be?

Tara's mom wiped her soapy hands on her apron. "She's upstairs sweetie... But I'm not sure that she's in a mood for company."

"Is it alright if I go up anyway? " Willow was sure the concern in her voice was apparent. When they had left each-other that evening, everything had been fine, and willow wondered what could have happened in only a few hours to change all that.

Miss Odessa nodded her consent and Willow turned, leaving the kitchen. She needed to get to Tara. As willow climbed the stairs that led to the small hallway at the top of the landing and up to Tara's room Willow sniffed the air. She loved the way Tara's house smelled. It always smelled like someone was baking an apple pie, unlike her house which smelled like Chinese take-out mixed with the technological scent of floppy disks fresh from the computer. She was certain she had learned to use chopsticks before the customary fork.

Willow paused outside Tara's room, she knocked softly on the door . "Tara?" She said tentatively when there was no response from inside. "Fine... you won't let me in, I'll just sit here until you come out... and you can't stay in there forever... it's a nice room and all... but last time I was in there I didn't see a hot-plate or a secret entrance to a bathroom hidden away anywhere..." Willow's slid her back down the wall, sitting down next to Tara's door, she prepared herself for what might turn out to be a lengthy wait.

" can't leave me out here, you know?... not after what I went through to get here..." There was still silence behind the door so Willow continued. "I was practically attacked by a squirrel you know...!"

"A squirrel?"

Willow heard the muffled question come from behind the doorway and she felt encouraged. Willow smiled, she had Tara now... there were many things the blond could withstand... but one of Willow's stories was definitely not one of them.

"Yeah a big, brown squirrel. He was a yard if he was a foot" Willow gestured with her hands, indicating just how big this supposed squirrel was, she did this even though Tara couldn't see her. " So there I was... all alone and unfortunately holding a baggy of pretzels. The squirrel eyed the pretzels... we met face to face... except that he was down on the ground... and I was towering above him... predator against prey..." Willow paused. She heard a light chuckle come from close by. She knew that Tara was sitting on the floor of her room... only a wall separated the girls. Willow was confident that she was breaking Tara down with the cuteness of her story. She just knew that at any moment Tara was going to open the door.

"Which one of you was the prey?" Tara asked, and Willow felt herself melt at the sound of Tara's sweet voice. Willow stretched her arm across the wall to press her hand against the wooden door, the need for connection urgent inside her. Willow continued the story, this time with less zeal, her voice softened with need.

"He saw me... I saw him and neither of us willing to make the first move. That's when I formed the most brilliant of plans."

"What did you do?" came the soft voice again.

Well... I distracted him by throwing a pretzel as hard as I could over his head. It landed behind him and when he turned his furry little head in the direction of the pretzel, that's when I made my move..." Willow paused allowing for full dramatic effect.

"Oh no! you hurt the squirrel?? " Willow heard Tara gasp from behind the door.

" No... I ran away..." Willow replied

"You're very brave..." Tara said in a sweet voice.

"Don't I know it. " Willow replied smiling.. There was silence.

The door opened and willow let the breath out she'd been holding. Standing up, Willow brushed her hands against her jeans. She looked up in time to be witness to the complete radiance of Tara's shy smile. Willow found her gaze being pulled to the sight of Tara's lips. Willow's mouth opened then quickly shut again as she couldn't seem to make any words come out. She redirected her gaze, suddenly uncomfortable. Willow was sure her cheeks had turned a couple shades darker as she had felt the blood rushing to various parts of her anatomy the moment Tara had appeared in the doorway. The scent of the blond's skin still floated in the cool draft created when the door was pulled open. "no lights...?" Willow asked, seeing that Tara's room was dark. Tara shook her head and a sheet of blond hair fell across her eyes, shielding Willow's view of her. Willows hand went out of its own accord, gently she brushed Tara's hair back behind her ear with the tip of her finger. "Can I come in...?" Willow asked quietly.

Tara nodded, stepping to the side so Willow could enter. Willow closed the door behind herself after she'd entered the room. Her hand never left the door as she pushed it completely shut. There was an instant intimacy in the room as she sound of the latch catching reverberated throughout the silent room.

Willow didn't know if she should move closer to Tara or stay where she was. She had been in Tara's room many times, but this time felt different somehow. There was an awareness in the air and Willow was suddenly feeling rather warm. "Is it warm in here...?" Willow asked nervously.

"A l-little... y-yes... warm..." Tara replied.

Willow, slowly crossed the distance between them, coming to a stop a breath away from Tara. She didn't know what force pulled her, but she found herself being drawn even closer to Tara. She wasn't even sure of her own intent she was only aware of the motion of her body. The destination was clear only seconds before the contact was made and by that time it was too late for Willow to stop herself even if she had wanted to. Willow drew in her breath as she pressed her cheek softly against Tara's. There was something forbidden in the contact but neither girl pulled away. Willow felt Tara's hands come up her back tentatively to tangle gently in her red hair. Willow slowly brought her hands around Tara's waist. They melted against each-other. Willow's nose stung with unshed tears. They blurred her vision as she held the blond tightly against her. Her heart was pounding in her chest as the realization hit her with its full force. She was leaving in three days. Oh God how she despised that thought. How could she leave...? "I don't want to go Tara..." Willow said through her tears. The flood of emotion was uncontrollable now, she couldn't stop herself from burring her face in Tara's neck. Willow felt Tara pull her closer.

She called herself comforting Willow, but deep down inside Tara knew the real reason she pulled the red head closer. Tara's heart beat faster in her chest, she had the thought that she should end the embrace then, but she couldn't seem to entangle her senses long enough to make that big of a move. The erratic drumming of rain as it fell hard against the window was the only sound inside the room. It created a kind of white noise but inside the powerful torrents all was ultra quiet. It was almost as if the world around them had drifted into a slightly different dimension. The television that had been loud and annoying even from all the way downstairs only moments ago, faded until it was no more than a pinprick of sound from far off in the distance. Tara could feel her mind start to drift as the smell of Willow's shampoo began to cloud her sense. She hadn't expected Willow to be in her arms tonight, she hadn't expected to be stroking red strands of silky hair beneath her fingers, she hadn't expected to be nearly crushing the girl to her. Tara was afraid of where her actions might lead, the way Willow felt in her arms there was no way she could deny that she felt something stronger than friendship for the girl. And any doubt that Tara had been clinging to about her feelings for willow vanished. Tara wrapped her arms more snuggly around willow's waist.

Willow was unsure of what had driven her to initiate the hug in the first place, it wasn't like they hugged each-other all the time... or even touched for that matter, but now that she was here, letting go was the last thing she wanted to do. Willow was consciously aware of Tara's silky hair against her cheek and the way her body was responding left willow feeling very confused. As her tears began to dry at last. Willow, taking a deep breath rested her head on Tara's shoulders, she smoothed her hands one last time down Tara's back before pulling away the slightest bit. Willow licked her lips subconsciously, her lips centimeters away from the soft skin of Tara's neck. It would have been nothing to snuggle closer and accidentally-on-purpose brush her lips against the pulse point there... what was she thinking? Willow suddenly began to panic. Why was she having thoughts of Tara's neck? Willow pulled back even further, unable to stop herself from locking eyes with deep blue pools. Whatever it was Willow was feeling she could see it mirrored in Tara's eyes. Willow looked away then, She was afraid Tara would see the deep redness flushing across her cheeks and know what she had been thinking. They were still standing.

Tara felt Willow pull away, not enough to be gone completely they still remaining close enough that their arms were still locked around each-other. Tara looked away. She felt Willow leaning in. Tara's cheek was turned slightly. Was Willow going to kiss her? Tara thought that she might have panicked but there was something that held her calmly in place. Did she want Willow to kiss her? and then the red head's movement stopped. Tara wanted to bring her eyes to Willows..she would mutter something she was sure would be intelligible and then gracefully extract herself from Willows embrace. She felt silly for thinking that Willow would kiss her..that Willow would want to kiss her..." Tara turned her face toward the red head and was greeted with warm dry lips pressing butterfly light against her own lips. Tara's eyes immediately closed. It all happened so fast that she really hadn't had time to process anything more than willow-lips on Tara-lips = good. And then it was gone. Tara's lips still tingled.

Willow had meant to press a kiss to Tara's cheek but as she leaned to do so Tara turned her face the fraction of an inch needed to bring their lips lightly against each-other. No one breathed ,no one moved, that was until Willow pulled away, severing the contact. What the hell was she doing?! She let go of Tara's waist and backed away fast enough to nearly knock over a lamp on the small table behind her. Catching it in time, Willow set the lamp back onto the table, her hands were shaking and she was unable to look Tara in the eye.

Though it had only been for a split second Tara could still feel the tingle in her lips. Her face flushed and she averted her eyes to the floor. She didn't know what to say...she didn't even dare look up into Willow's eyes. It had been an accident...a wonderful accident. Tara cringed as she silently berated herself for thinking for even a split second that Willow might have actually wanted to kiss her. Even with that knowledge, Tara was unable to make herself feel even the smallest amount of disgust at the memory of Willow's lips against hers. Looking up she could see that Willow, however was feeling quite differently.

"Tara... I... I should go..."

"Willow... don't go..." She wanted to reach out to Willow... comfort her somehow... let her know that it was okay... But she dared not move.

Willow felt the urge to far far away. The allure of Tara's lips were too much for her to take. She felt her eyes being drawn to them like a moth to a flame. She longed for the warmth of Tara's embrace. But there were too many thoughts in her head... and they were all saying different things at the same time. The look on Tara's face told her that the blond was just as stunned by what had happened as Willow was... But she couldn't let herself be close to Tara right then...there were too many things to sort through, too many scary feelings that were tumbling around in Willow's stomach. She couldn't stay...She didn't want to feel the implicit intimacy that had flowered between them. Willow wasn't ready to embrace those feelings just yet...she had to leave. The blond moved closer and the only comfort Willow could offer the girl was the very tips of her fingers, she was conflicted even as the blond took what she offered. Their hands linking sent shock waves through Willow's entire body and down into her toes. She had to get out of there now...

Their fingers refused to release even as Willow climbed out the window. Tara felt the words, she'd been holding in well up inside her and she tried to push them down. "Willow..." Tara whispered. She wanted to Tell Willow everything, but the words wouldn't come.

"Tomorrow..." Willow said simply, she released Tara's fingers.

Tara watched red hair disappear into the darkness of night. She had been so close to saying the words... so close... but the moment had been lost and Tara wondered if that hadn't been for the best after-all. What would saying anything accomplish anyway? Willow was leaving in three days... Tara didn't want to make their last few days together awkward... she wanted things to stay just the way they had been before... Tara couldn't bring herself to close the window even long after willow had left, the rain had slowed and was now coming down in pregnant drops that dripped from the shingles of the roof and onto Tara's outstretched hand...Willow would be home by now, but none of that mattered...Tara felt numb... she felt insider her pocket and squeezed the stone tightly in her fist... "tomorrow..." she repeated to herself suddenly she was feeling very tired.

Willow walked home more confused now then when she had ever been. She didn't know what just happened between her and Tara... well... no that wasn't exactly true... she knew the technicality of what had happened, but what she didn't know, was what that meant for them... or if it meant anything at all... Willow felt the verge of an answer on the tip of her tongue but it refused to show itself and this only served to add to her frustration and make her even more confused than she already was. Willow's stomach flipped and she felt the urge to run back to Tara's room. Wilow subconsciously rubbed her fingers together, she could still feel the dull tingle playing across the very tips of them. She felt the wind pick up just as the large friendly drops of rain from only a moment ago morphed into tiny dagger edged drops.

Willow closed her eyes... the wind had gone from a light breeze blowing a few rain drops through the air into a full blown frenzy within seconds. The drops now stung her skin as they slashed their way to the ground. Willow looked up squinting into the inky blackness of the night. She staggered a few steps as the wind effectively pushed her backward. She'd have to try and make it to the rental house... she was closer to that then to Tara's, so backtracking wouldn't make much sense. Willow turned around, she could no longer see Tara's house through the rain and wind. nor could she keep her eyes open long enough to focus on anything. The rain was coming down in sheets now and the wind was using the rain to cut at any exposed skin.

Willow continued walking. She had the thought that this might be a tornado, but willow lacked the experience to be too very afraid. She knew from movies that she should be in a cellar somewhere, but since she was currently without a cellar she figured she would keep walking, It seemed a better option to standing still and waiting for something to pummel her. At lease she felt like she was getting somewhere not just hunkering down and waiting for a house to land on her. The sudden image of the house from The Wizard Of Oz falling on the wicked witch flashed in Willow's brain. That served to rattle her a little, even though she wasn't a witch or anything... but suddenly the prospect of a falling house made her glace once again up at the sky... just to make sure, she told herself.

Willow was drenched and freezing, her teeth chattered together in her body's attempt to warm itself.

Willow thoughts once again returned to Tara. She replayed that day in the sunflowers... Willow stopped walking as she remembered how it had felt to have Tara's head on her shoulder. There had been no guilt that day, just a warm, comfortable closeness. Suddenly the thought of never having that again, forced tears into Willow's eyes. Her tears were lost in the rain. How could she have been so blind?Willow had left Tara because she was afraid of what that closeness would mean and now as she realized that with Tara was the only place she wanted to be. The wind brought willow back to the present, the significance of the storm striking the moment she had made the choice to leave the safety of Tara's arms finally dawned on her.

There are certain moments in life when things become completely clear..and for an instant the world makes sense, this was that moment for Willow.

She had to make it back to Tara's house she had to tell her how she felt..she had to know if Tara felt the same way. Suddenly the storm paled in comparison to the thought that Tara might not ever know how Willow felt about her. of course she didn't know... Willow had rushed out hadn't she? she had been scared and stupid and had left Tara watching her walk away. Willow couldn't leave it like that and the impending death scenario only served to drive that message home. Tara was more than a friend..had always been more than a friend and she had to tell her .

Willow fought her way back through the blowing wind. She focused on the thought of Tara, just as she had done so many times before in the cornfield. She prayed that it would work... that the same unseen force that always led her to Tara would lead her to Tara one more time. Willow's eyes were closed as she walked. She instinctively knew that she was getting closer she could feel the blond's essence somehow. She opened her eyes to find that she had made it to Tara's... she stood at the back of the house under the tree, in the same spot she'd found herself the first night she'd made this trek. She had been about to call out when she felt something strike the back of her head. There hadn't been enough time to feel any pain as the blackness was already enveloping her. The last thought in willow's mind before she was completely lost was, that Tara might never know how she really feels.

So what if he'd said something to her? Its not like it wasn't obvious or something. Donny aimlessly flipped the channels. He hated feeling like a jerk but mostly he hated the part of himself that was like his father. There was an anger there... he was torn between love for his mother and sister and the unspoken alliance he shared with his father. He couldn't have it both ways and he knew it.

More often than not he chose his father. Tara and his mother had something he'd never have..they shared magic and that was something that made Donny jealous. He knew his father played on that emotion and pulled from him things he never thought himself capable of. He wasn't like his father, he didn't want to be like his father but sometimes it was better to feel a part of something rather than to be left out of everything... The guilt about Tara was starting to get to him, he knew that he couldn't go on the way things were. He and his sister used to be close, but now with his mother sick and his father's nightly tirades they found it increasingly difficult to connect. There was too much difference placed between them. His father treated Tara as if she were nothing while Donny got special treatment. The boy knew he'd have to stop playing into the faux hierarchy his father created. But how could he stand up to the man in order to do so?

Tara's eyes shot open. She twisted her body to take a look at the clock, she'd been asleep for little over an hour. Tara awoke with the most awful feeling... she couldn't put her finger on what it was though. She got up and went to the window. Placing her forehead against the cool glass, she allowed the coldness to calmed her a little as she willed her tummy to stop doing nervous flips.

There was a flash of lightning that illuminated the sky for a brief moment, while at the same time a sound pierced through the pounding of rain. The sound wasn't a crack of thunder, it was something more urgent. Tara pushed the window open, the wind sent her hair flying around her face but she paid no attention to that. Tara focused her concentration on listening for what direction the sound was coming from.

Tara knew that it wasn't a Tornado tearing through the sky outside. She'd been through countless many of those and knew by heart the mind numbing fear they always invoked. A Tornado was a suicidal force, releasing its anger and expending so much energy it simply would eventually cease to exist, but this storm had different intent. Tara didn't have to try hard to know the difference between the two. She could still sense a destructive force in the air, it wasn't nearly as bad as a Tornado would've been. Even though she knew It was only a wind storm, Tara breathed a sigh of relief in the knowledge that Willow was tucked away safely at home... Tara didn't even try and stop the thoughts that came to mind then. What she really wished was that Willow hadn't left at all... She wished that instead of standing alone in her room listening for strange sounds in the night she could be holding Willow again and exploring all these new feelings that seemed in existence inside her. But there were some things that Tara just couldn't control and that was one of them. She knew that Willow didn't feel the same way about her, not to mention the fact that Willow probably never even wanted to see her again. Tara's heart seemed to slow down at that thought. and her stomach sank to her toes. If only she hadn't let her feelings take control of her the way they had..if only she hadn't held willow so tightly against her... if she'd just let her go... then maybe everything would have been okay.

Tara was pulled away from her thoughts by that sound again. She let out a breath as she realized what the sound had been."Kaneeda.." She whispered to herself in disbelief. The horse must have gotten out of the barn somehow. Tara didn't think the wind was strong enough to knock the whole barn over and she was certain the wind wouldn't weave its way inside just to pull the mare's stall open. She couldn't let Kaneeda be out roaming around in this weather, it was too dangerous.

Tara's mother would never let her out of the house though, so she'd have to take her chances scaling the roof. If she were careful if wouldn't take very long and she could be back in the house before anyone noticed she was gone. Tara wasn't big on taking unnecessary risks, but she loved the horse too dearly to think of the mare fending for herself in such weather.

Tara tied her long blond hair back with a band and slipped her feet inside her boots. Resting her foot on the arm of the chair sitting next to the window she tied the laces up tightly. Tara put her rain-coat on over top of the sweatshirt she wore. The blond lifted her leg out the window, first one, then the other. She wasn't the most graceful person and her foot slipped out from under her the instant it made contact with the slippery wet shingles but she caught herself in mid-fall and managed to get the rest of the way down without incident.

Dropping to the ground, Tara could see that the storm was a bit stronger then she'd thought earlier. Looking around she caught sight of Kaneeda stumbling around in the field a few yards away. Tara had a thought that the horse might be acting a bit peculiar, but she chalked it up to the storm..storms had a way of affecting animals, making them do strange things. Tara eased up to the mare, running her hands down the horse's mane in an attempt to comfort her. Tara was grateful that she was able to take hold of the reins without much of a struggle, she knew after-all, how unpredictable scared animals could be.

Tara felt the reins in her hand, they were slippery with water and a bit heavier than usual, this caused them to slip from Tara's grasp as Kaneeda suddenly turned her head without warning. Tara grabbed for them again. Holding tighter this time, she tugged. The horse refused to budge even so much as an inch, instead she defiantly planted her hooves into the mud. "Come on Kaneeda... this is not the time for an evening stroll..." Tara pulled harder determined to drag the horse back to the safety of the barn. Kaneeda reared back then, lifting her front legs up off of the ground. Stomping, the mare began to back up, effectively pulling Tara along with her. "not this way..." Tara said, gritting her teeth and pulling back as hard as she could in the opposite direction.

The girl was drenched by now and feeling the strain in her muscles caused by the untimely game of tug of war. Kaneeda was a large animal so she had the advantage in this instance. realizing this, Tara relented. "okay..." She said exasperatedly as the fight in her melted away.Tara felt the reigns she held Suddenly go slack. Kaneeda wasn't pulling anymore, she seemed to calm, sensing Tara's acquiesce. Now instead of pulling she began pawing at the ground and making the most urgent noises. "what is it?" Tara asked.

As if understanding that Tara was trying to figure the situation out the horse nodded her head toward something on the ground a good ten feet away from where they stood.

Tara could see a crumpled form lying on the ground. She might have been inclined to think that it was a Branch that had been blown down earlier if it wasn't for the aura she could feel pulsing around it. Tara knew immediatly that it wasn't a branch...there was only one aura like that... "Willow... she groaned, running toward the girl and kneeling down in the mud. Tara rolled the red head onto her back and put her hands under the girl's arms. She tried to pull but Willow's clothes were soaked, and the rain pouring created a slick mud that Tara's boots sank down into every-time she moved making it impossible to get any traction. Tara, panicked calling out to her mother in desperation before she realized that her mother wouldn't be able to hear her calling, through the noise of the rain.

The wind still howled around them. Tara covered Willow's limp body with her own. Pressing the girl down to the ground as the wind expounded its fury. Tara was struck hard in the back with something the force of it knocked the breath from her. She was stunned for a moment as she felt an ache spread into the muscles of her back. Tara pushed the pain out of her mind, instead she braced her hands on either side of Willow's body effectively shielding the red head from the debris that blew in the sky around them.

She wasn't sure how long they'd been there before the wind finally died down enough to stop the branch's from whipping through the air like airborne missile's. Tara's arms ached with the strain of holding herself up for such a long time, but she bared it because she had to. No force on earth would have been strong enough to make her leave Willow. protection was fierce inside her.

Tara drew in a staggered breath as she felt Willow's arms come up unexpectidly, wrapping themselves around Tara's battered body.

Relief that Willow was regaining consciousness canceled out the pain she felt in her body caused by the blows she'd taken. The wind had let up completely now and Tara dared a downward glance at the girl under her. She had the thought that she should get up. Sucking air into her lungs as the pain in her back centered in her lower spine she lifted herself off the red head. Tara whipped the muddy water from Willow's face with the palm of her hand... "Willow..." Tara said, the worry played it's tune in her voice. When Willow didn't respond Tara got up and ran to get Donny. he was the only one strong enough to carry Willow into the house.

Tara watched as Donny placed Willow on the bed. It surprised the blond how gentle Donny was being. If Tara didn't know better she'd guess that Donny seemed to be trying to make amends from his earlier behavior, even offering Tara a comforting smile. Tara was too worried about Willow to smile back but she did send him a glance that silently conveyed her thanks. She had never been one to hold back forgivness. Tara felt a jolt of love for her brother, that she hadn't felt in a long time..not since they were small children together. Donny left the room without a word and Tara's mom entered. "Did you get a hold of Mr Rosenberg?" Tara asked softly, not daring to drag her eyes away from Willow for even a moment.

"There wasn't an answer..." Odessa said solemnly.

"She'll be alright won't she Mama?" Tara asked, her voice small and vulnerable.

"I think you have something that might help..."

At her mother's words, Tara's hand pressed lightly over denim and against where the small stone rested in her pocket. Nodding silently, she walked slowly to the bed. Noticing only minimally that Her mother had left the room as silently as she'd entered it. Tara swallowed hard as she slipped the necklace around Willow's neck, careful not to touch the red head more than was necessary in order to clasp the necklace in place. But impulse proved to be a stronger force as she pressed a kiss to the stone resting in the hollow of Willow's neck. Tara drew back, examining Willow's eyelashes as they rested against her pale cheeks. There was movement and Tara held her breath. She watched deep green color fleck through fluttering eyelashes as Willow opened her eyes. They were shiny and bright and looking, to Tara's amazement, slightly amused there was no hint of the pain Tara had expected to be there.

Willow's eyes fluttered open. Not for an instant confused about her location. Willow was however confused about how she'd gotten there. The last thing she remembered was looking up at Tara's window and then....nothing...the rest was a blank. Willow became aware of how heavy her clothes felt, the weight of them seemed to hold her down and she realized that they were wet. She wasn't cold could she be cold with Tara so close to her. Willow forgot about wet clothes all together when it looked as if Tara might speak. Coming to terms with her feelings in the middle of a storm had a way of putting things into perspective and willow currently found no guilt in allowing her eyes to linger on the blonds lips just a little longer.

"W-willow... You're awake..." Tara said softly, looking into Willow's soft green eyes, she felt selfconscious by the way willow was watching her.

"Yeah... at least I think so..." Willow couldn't help thinking she must have died and gone to heaven, as she smelled the faintest scent of Tara's hair invade her senses. Willow brought her fingers up to touch the stone resting in the hollow of her neck as if she'd been aware of its presence the whole time. It was warm to the touch and Willow could swear that she felt tiny electrical currents running through it and into her fingers. Drawing her hand away slowly she looked again at Tara. Willow braced herself and tried to scoot her bottom up enough to bring herself into a sitting position but a sudden bolt of pain shooting through her brain quickly forced her back to the bed. She winced as the recolection of being stuck in the head filled in the blank spots of her memory.

"D-don't move... I'll go and get my m-mom." Tara said, quickly getting to her feet.

Willow didn't miss the note of concern. She tried to calm Tara by offering her a little smile, but she remained silent as she watched Tara head for the bedroom door. She wanted to ask the girl to stay. There were so many things they needed to talk about; though, there was something in Tara's expression that told Willow, now was not the time to have that talk. Willow was torn, in a moment Miss Odessa would be up there poking around and fussing over her and the magic of the moment would be gone, but on the other hand she didn't want to rush into anything either, and say something she wasn't sure either of them was fully ready for. The call for words of some-kind won out though, over her better judgment; and she found her lips moving to form the words that she knew would ultimately stop Tara's exit. "Tara... wait..." Willow started softly, praying that Tara would turn around and look at her. At that moment she wasn't afraid for Tara to see the emotions she was sure were reflected in her eyes.

"Y-yes?" Tara Tensed, her back was to Willow as she stood in the doorway. Tara braced her hands on either side of her and turned her head to the side. She couldn't see Willow in this position though.

Willow pushed past the pain, bringing herself to a sitting position. She couldn't say what she needed to say lying down. Willow was finding it hard to push air from her lungs in the amounts necessary to form any actual words. She kicked herself mentally when she saw the blond's body tense. She knew it was now or never... "Tara... about what happened..." she started, but Tara cut her off.

"Just forget it ever happened okay?" Tara said quickly. She turned her body, so that she would be facing Willow. Tara took a few slow steps into the center of the room, her hands fidgeted with the bracelet on her wrist. She couldn't make eye contact with Willow; She just knew that Willow was about to make some excuse for what happened earlier..and tell her that there was a misunderstanding and that she just wanted to be Tara's friend.

"But Tara I..."

"It was a M-mistake..." Tara finished. She couldn't stop the stutter in her speech anymore than she could bare the thought of hearing those words come from Willow's mouth. It was one thing to think it but another thing entirely to hear it. Tara Tried to cover up the hurt in her eyes by adverting them; she examined a flower applique on the quilt that was spread across Willow's body instead.

"A mistake...?" Willow said, not fully understanding. Then the meaning of Tara's words sank in. Tara didn't like her that way... She was saying their kiss had been a mistake. Willow blushed, she felt embarrassed that she'd almost made a fool of herself.

Tara nodded silently and without looking at Willow. She couldn't look at her and lie to her... "friends?" Her voice was shaky as she offered a small glace in Willow's general direction. Not yet bold enough to risk a straight on look.

"...Friends..." Willow agreed slowly. She regretted that word the instant she said it. That was not what she wanted... well... she didn't really know exactly what she wanted, but she was fairly certain that it involved snuggles of some kind... and... kissage... But she'd said that word... God why was she such a coward? why couldn't she just say that she didn't regret what happened? Willow remained silent.

"We couldn't get a hold of your dad... Donny went over but..."Tara's voice trailed off in her half-hearted attempt at changing the subject.

"He was leaving for New York before I came over tonight... so I guess he left already... he's probably on a plane by now..." Willow let out the air she'd been holding in her lungs.

"Oh...." the spoken word was only a breath of air as it escaped Tara's lips. "I'll go get my mom" Tara said again, though more slowly this time. Turning, she found herself back in the doorway. She wanted to turn around, go to Willow's side and tell the girl everything... she wanted to tell her that she didn't think their kiss had been a mistake and that she wanted to do it again... but their friendship was too important to Tara to risk losing Willow forever...


"Yes..." Tara said stopping again, only this time she didn't turn around. Willow's voice was a glimmer behind her.

"Nothing...." Willow said slowly, unable to find the words she'd been so certain of only moments before.

"I'll be right back..." Tara said.

Willow nodded silently. this time she did nothing to stop Tara's forward movement.

Continue to Catching Sunflowers in Bloom Chapter Eight

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