Return to Latter Days/Lonely Nights Chapter Thirty-Five

Latter Days/Lonely Nights

Author: Willownut
Disclaimer: Blah, blah, blah. Many characters are Joss Whedon's. Yada, yada, yada. No harm intended with the use of these revered characters. Peas and carrots, peas and carrots.

Day 8 -Thursday, November 15, 1984)

Where were we: Tara tucked her fingers into her palm. She moved the top of her fingers slowly across her skin. Then she slid her fingers out in a slow and deliberate caress. She felt a gentle rise at her pinky finger and moved her hand higher up to Willow's neck to avoid the forbidden touch. She didn't want to presume Willow would allow her to reach beyond. She wanted to respect the lines, if only in deed.

"Then we should go," Willow started. She had an amusing look on her face for a moment, She looked down toward the hand that still lay flat against her skin, "When I can actually walk again. That's making it hard. That's just making everything hard." Willow blushed when she realized how frank she had been. Willow thought the comment might be a little lost on Tara, but Willow realized if she didn't understand it now, she would soon.

Willow motioned toward the two sleeping girls. Tara froze and listened. Both were resting peacefully. Smith had a hint of a snore just beginning. Kitchen sounded like her breaths were slow and rhythmic. They appeared to be still; there were no appreciable movements indicating that they were not actually asleep.

"Well, I can walk you over for the chocolate since they are asleep." Tara said quietly enough that if either were awake they would hear her and volunteer to do their companion duty. "In payment though, I think I should get your green ones." She moved her thumb slowly across Willow's throat.

Willow's eyes rolled up into her head. They seemed to be doing that a lot lately. Willow relaxed further into the pillow behind her and put her head back and closed her eyes. "And if you don't mind me taking a moment, I think I should use the rest room." She broke the word apart so Willow would understand she wanted some privacy.

A fresh wave of heat went through Willow. Tara was simply, deliciously, sneaky. She knew it was going to be hard to walk without that rubber leg feeling. "Well I would appreciate your help. Sometimes I get a little weak when I need...sugar."

"Oh, I get that way too sometimes. Here let me help you." Tara moved her thumb once more across Willow's throat and moved her hand down to the top of her chest just above where she'd been tempted before. The movement earned her a sharp intake of breath from Willow and her chest heaved toward the touch. Tara pulled her palm away and with her middle finger stroked just under Willow's clavicle feeling the soft flesh she hoped to kiss later.

Willow was struggling not to pant. Tara's touch was so sensual, so seductive. Just one finger and Willow felt like Tara was everywhere, she couldn't get enough. "We should go then." Willow's expression was slumberous, "Although I really shouldn't have sugar this late. After-hours sugar makes me a little irresponsible."

"Well who doesn't let chocolate cloud their judgment?" Tara smirked. She loved that she had so much effect on her girl.

All Willow wanted was Tara's hands all over her. "So much for my diet."

Diet, that's a good one. "Oh I hate diets. The more I try and resist the things I want, the harder it is not to have them," Tara held her words out for emphasis. "Especially when they are so close." Tara switched her caressing digit to her first finger and dipped lower on Willow's chest. Then she looked down at her hand and licked her lips which earned her another chest thrust from Willow. She keep her eyes steady on her goal. "It's like all consuming, you know you shouldn't have it, but it's right there ready to be taken. And you're only cheating yourself by not giving in."

"Well cheating is bad too." Willow started to move a little, but was still weak. "Well I'd like to go down first, but I think you need to catch me." Tara raised her eyebrow.

Willow saw Tara's eyebrow up and replayed her sentence back. She whisper yelled, "Oh! Not that way!" Willow sucked in her lips again in amusement. She looked down at Tara's hand and raised her eyebrows. She continued in a quieter whisper, "Well look at those."

"I have been," Tara admitted to herself and Willow. "a lot." Tara took a cleansing breath to steady herself, "Come on, lets go get you what you want." With that, Tara removed her teasing finger and got down off the bunk. She turned to catch Willow who was busy scooting toward the edge of the bed. "You might as well hand me those before you get down."

"Oh, good idea." Willow handed over the notebooks and pencils and Tara placed them on the desk. "Okay, you're next."

"Ready or not..." Willow climbed down, as she suspected her legs were weakened by her desires. Willow was grateful for the support but the added bonus was being close to Tara again. She took another breath. "Thanks, my sugar awaits." She grabbed some change from her desk and dropped it in her sweats pocket.

They left the room quietly and Tara waited as Willow closed the door. She turned toward the "other" room. It was one way to get to chocolate waiting in the vending machine. Tara knew they didn't have a lot of time, so she quickened her pace down the hall. Willow nearly jogged to keep up. The thought amused her: When Tara made up her mind, she was a force to be reckoned with. Tara opened the door and waited for Willow to enter and followed behind, taking a look at the little cheek jiggle she'd been tempted by a few days earlier. Willow turned to face her.

They stood a few feet apart, both looking hopeful but still a little uncertain. They'd been playing at innuendo and euphemisms for awhile, and it was fun, but there was always a risk. Everything was subject to interpretation. Sometimes the imagery referenced was not really supposed to represent a tangible thing. They both needed to be sure of their translations.

Tara started, "So are you sure you want your own?"

Willow watched Tara's lips form the words. She wanted those lips. She knew if Tara were anything like her, this was going to be enjoyable for her. "I just want you to be sure. This will make it harder for you." Willow was speaking from experience. "We can wait, I can wait, I don't want you to feel rushed or forced or like I expect..."

Tara took the last step between them and silenced the babble before it began with a chaste but heart felt kiss. Tara moved her hands to Willow's lower back and pulled them so they were pressed firmly together. She disengaged after a moment.

"Willow." Tara needed for Willow to really hear what she needed to say. She paused between each word so Willow would understand, "What do you want?"

Willow knew what Tara was asking but she'd learned not to think that way. It was always about the other person. She'd spent her whole life trying to be what other people expected her to be. She hadn't anticipated the rush of emotion that question evoked. Tears formed in her eyes.

After a few moments she was finally able to respond. Her voice faltered, but she was able to get it out, "I want it to be okay to love you." When she completed the sentence, her face started showing signs that she was losing control. She thought through all the obstacles that stood in their way, The Church, Tara's family, their mission rules, their mission assignments, the distance between them even after they were home, and society. Willow's heart was breaking.

She felt like there was only one safe haven other than this room right now with Tara. But even Aunt Melody might draw the line if Carol were around. She was old-fashioned that way. So the token she wanted Tara to give her was just another reminder that they would always have to hide, to be less than who they were. They would always have to sneak around like criminals, hiding in shadow, shunned by the very people who were allowed the freedom to profess their love for others in front of god and witnesses any way they saw fit.

Willow's mouth opened as her chin began to quiver uncontrollably. The tears streamed down her face. When she sucked in a breath, a fresh wave of sorrow overwhelmed her. But there were strong arms holding her. "Taraaah." She rested her own hands on Tara's hips.

The next wave of thoughts flooded her mind. She had sought help for her "problem" in several belief systems and been told that if she had enough faith that the feelings for girls would simply disappear. That failure was a reminder that she couldn't even love god right. Willow started to shake as her defenses started to fail her. She couldn't tell Tara that. Tara would see her as a failure too. She had to be strong, there had to be something more she could do, something more to keep Tara safe from all the pain she was feeling right now. But Tara seemed to want to be there with her.

She said we.

Tara waited while Willow plowed through her mental processes. She saw a break in the tears as if some tiny little ray of light had trickled through her mind; Tara seized the opportunity. She kissed Willow on the forehead and wiped her cheek with her thumb. She resisted the urge to put it in her mouth and taste Willow's salty goodness. Tara pulled her close and she whispered soothing words right into her ear, "It's okay." She pulled her closer. "I'm here."

Willow felt Tara's breath in her ear and she felt strong arms around her. Everything was upside down. All her emotions were coming to the surface and she felt exposed. All the doubts she'd ever had about herself, all the pain and sorrow, every harsh word ever spoken to her seemed to resonate in her mind. And there was Tara whispering in her ear, "It's gonna be okay." But it wasn't.

Everything was connected to this thing, this horrible curse. Willow realized early on that she wasn't like the other girls. She wasn't hung up on cute boys and didn't swoon like an insane person when some guy walked by. She didn't care about make-up and trying to impress the school stud. She liked the girls. And now she liked Tara. Here stood Tara whispering that it was okay. But it was never okay. She was never okay. Willow couldn't accept the words. How could she? She wasn't "normal." She was defective.

Being different transcended all areas of her life. It made her strive to be perfect so her family would love her. She tried so hard to be the perfect daughter. She did everything she was told, but it didn't matter. It really didn't even matter if she was in the room or not. Even when her parents were there, they didn't know her. She knew she'd be a disappointment to them if they ever found out, so she learned to hide. Willow found refuge in books, escaped to the library, and ignored her pain by concentrating on school work. Academic achievement wasn't enough though. She knew that.

It wasn't just her family, she didn't have many real friends. She was not like the others in her class. She did well in school and more than once she caught classmates looking at her work. Those who were brazen enough made friends with her, but their friendships seemed to fade when the shared course was over. The nice ones upset her the most. With each new lost friend, a little piece of her died inside. She internalized the hurt and became shy and inhibited.

Kids pick up on insecurity and fear. Like a pack of wolves, children attack the weak and they are without mercy. Having red hair that was bad enough; and being Jewish was so not the "in" thing. When she skipped a grade, what few friends she had vanished; she was younger than all her classmates. She was that redheaded dork who read all the time: Willow Nose-in-Book or Willow Rosenerd. Those were some of the nicer names they called her.

The older she got, the more she withdrew and distanced herself. Sure there were girls she liked; but she couldn't talk about her feelings, no one would understand. Someone would find out and the risk was just too great. It was all too much. Not expressing herself became the norm, it was easier to hide. She got so good at pretending to be someone she wasn't, that when presented with religious dogma, she just adapted a new ideal. It was easy. And she berated herself for her chameleon like qualities. She felt like she wasn't genuine. And if she wasn't authentic, how could anyone ever actually love her?

And then she met Tara. Tara turned her world upside down. She said we. It was just a glimmer of hope, and she didn't want to let it go. In a moment of weakness, she started to believe that she might be worthy of love. She actually felt like she was herself when she was with her, and Tara liked her back. She made a picture. Another tear trickled down her face when the image came into her mind. It was just a little sheep alone on the island. She said: I love you.

Willow collapsed under the strain and the two fell to the floor, in a tangled embrace. Tara stayed strong, whispering and stroking Willow's hair. She wasn't sure what was going on in Willow's mind, but she knew what turmoil and mental anguish she had been through in the brief time they had been there. She'd found some clarity in her journal when she wrote. And Donny's letter had really helped. However most of her comfort had come from Willow's words. It was Willow who gave her strength to think beyond what she had been taught, to question the source of her beliefs. She realized she had been impulsive when it came to Willow, but it seemed so right. It was that faith in Willow that made everything fall into place. And now Willow was falling apart.

For Tara, Willow always seemed strong. Tara wasn't sure what to do. Willow tries so hard to be obedient and comply with the rules - even when they were hard, well except for staying up too late. And the kissing. Oh, okay Willow was trying. She wondered what had happened in the few moments it took for the bubbly redhead to falter and breakdown. She was afraid to ask, but she needed to know what was wrong.

"Willow?" Tara's voice was like a song. She broke the hushed whispers she'd used before. She pulled back from Willow and looked steadily into her eyes. She stroked her hair again and used a finger to place a wayward hair behind her ear. It fell immediately out of place again.

Willow looked down. She was struggling to hold onto the loving words that seemed to echo through to her soul: We can do this.

"Willow, sweetie, what's wrong?" That seemed the simplest, take the direct approach.

Tara let the question sit for a few moments while Willow tried to compose herself. She went after the wayward hair again, this time she allowed herself the luxury of feeling Willow with her fingers and palm and leaving her hand in place while she continued to gaze at Willow.

Willow could almost feel the emotion and love from Tara's hand as she stroked her hair. The heat radiated from her touch. Willow was so afraid to give in to the sensations that contact provoked. A few more tears leaked out and she shoved them away with her hand.

Tara caught Willow's wet fingers and brought them to her mouth. She kissed them gently one finger at a time. Tara shut her eyes and let the feelings of love pour through each kiss. She took a deep breath and left her eyes closed as she took Willow's hand and held it against her cheek. Her heart felt warm and full.

They sat motionless on the floor huddled together just inside the door. Several minutes passed as Tara waited for Willow's response. Willow's mind had actually stopped working; Tara was holding her.

It was like an epiphany. She was starting to believe. Willow let the reality of that moment settle in her soul. It was as though a tiny ray of light touched her heart: She means we.

It's one thing to hear words and understand the meaning of them. It's another to let them in. At times the biggest mysteries are the things right in front of us. We cloud some truths with our own thoughts and fears, dismiss ideas that seem absurd because it can't possibly be that easy. Life is a discovery simply because we can't always see the things right in front of us. And when your heart has been damaged, when you've lost faith in yourself and feel unworthy of love, then truly the hardest thing to believe is that someone can love you - even when all the evidence is in plain view.

Continue to Latter Days/Lonely Nights Chapter Thirty-Seven

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