Buffy heard the sudden exclamation from her best friend. She looked up from her spot on the front porch, quickly put down her coffee and bolted into the house, taking the stairs leading to the second floor two at a time.
"Will!" Buffy was panicked. "What's wrong?! Are you okay?!"
Buffy burst through the door of the guest room and quickly found herself sprawled on the floor. She tried to stand but realized this was difficult since she was tangled in skirts...and jeans...and shirts...and...Oh.My.God.... bras.
"Buffy! Are you okay?"
"Uh...yeah...I think so." Buffy grimaced as she removed the red lace bra from her head. "Will? Why does it look like the day after the ‘Day After Thanksgiving Sale' at Bloomingdale's in here?"
Willow reached down to offer Buffy some help standing and swiftly began to help her friend get untangled.
"I'm sorry, Buff. I'll clean it up, I promise. It's just...I mean...I've just...Buffy, I've been through all of the clothes I brought with me and I don't have a thing to wear!" Willow huffed heartily and pouted at her blonde friend, crossing her arms defiantly over her chest.
The blonde looked around at the 4 suitcases and 2 garment bags worth of clothing strewn about the room. Every surface was covered. Ohmygod! Where did she hide the bed? Buffy scooped up an armful of various items from the fully covered bed and tossed them into a pile. She sat in the empty space she created.
"What do you mean you have nothing to wear?" Buffy looked at her friend and spoke calmly. "Willow, you brought enough of your wardrobe to clothe a small third world country. There are girls in the valley who would give their right arm for what you have thrown about here."
Willow looked at the small blonde - guilt clearly showing on her face - and quickly began to pick up the clothes and toss them into empty suitcases.
"But, Buffy, I have to look just right! This isn't just any other day...this is the day...this is T-day...Tara Day. I can't just throw on any old thing and look as droolworthy as you! I need help!" Willow was getting desperate, and she decided she was not too proud to beg.
Buffy glared at Willow in mock indignation and shook her finger at the redhead. "Hey! It takes a lot of work to look this effortlessly fabulous!" Her expression then changed to a friendly pout. "Don't hate me cuz I have stylish yet affordable boots." Buffy batted her eyelashes playfully at Willow.
Willow could never resist "Buffy flirty face" and the blonde knew it. She laughed along as her redheaded friend burst into a fit of giggles.
"Okay, Buffy, okay! You got me. Now help me figure out what to wear. You know how important this day is for me. Please!" Willow gave Buffy her own pouty face and silently pleaded with her friend. Pouty face always works. Pouty face always works. Please. Please. Please.
"First of all, Will, of course I'm going to help you." Willow squealed and pounced on Buffy, giving her a tight hug. Buffy then held her friend at arm's length and looked directly in the redhead's green eyes. "Second, you have got to calm down! You aren't supposed to meet her for another 6 hours!"
"Six hours? I gotta hurry! Buffy, why didn't you tell me it was so late?" Buffy didn't say anything. She couldn't. All she could do was stand in awe of the redheaded tornado as Willow whipped through the room; she would pick up a skirt or blouse, look at it, and then throw it down again. And as she ransacked the room...again...Willow never stopped talking. "I've got to find something to wear and then I have to shower and do my hair and then get dressed and ... Ohmygod!" Willow stopped and turned to look at Buffy. "What am I going to say to her? What if we have nothing to talk about and we just stand there looking at each other? Or worse! What am I supposed to do when I see her? Do I give her a handshake or a hug...or...or...a hearty slap on the back?" Buffy remained silent as the redheaded tornado continued her path of destruction. "What if she expects bunches of European air kisses on the cheeks? What if she's different? What if she hates me? Oh God, Buffy! She's gonna hate me!"
Tornado Willow finally downgraded to a light breeze as she sank into a pile of clothes on the floor. She held her head in her hands as she tried to keep from hyperventilating. Please don't hate me. Please don't hate me. I'll die if you hate me.
"Will. Willow." Buffy could tell that her friend was nearing the breaking point and decided it was time for some tough love. She moved in front of Willow and looked down at the redhead, trying once again to get her attention. "Willow!" Willow still held her head in her hands and began to rock back and forth. Realizing that saying her name wasn't helping, Buffy knelt in front of her friend, grabbed her shoulders and gave a quick shake just to get her attention. "Hey! Look at me!"
It worked. Willow raised her head and looked at the blonde in front of her; her eyes were wide and she was breathing heavily. "Buffy...she's...gonna...hate...me." Willow spoke between gasping breaths.
"Will, listen to me...she's not going to hate you! How could she possibly hate you, Willow?" Buffy pulled her friend into a reassuring hug and held her. "It's just not possible to hate you, Willow Rosenberg. There's even a law against it...with a long term sentence for breaking the law...in a cell...with Snyder."
Willow pulled away from the embrace to look at Buffy. She raised an eyebrow.
"A heavy fine?"
"Buffy," Willow chuckled, "there's not a law."
"Well, then there should be." Buffy released the redhead and looked deeply into her friend's green eyes. She brushed Willow's hair away from her face and then gently placed a hand on either side of Willow's face, ensuring eye contact. "Willow, believe me, she could never hate you. And you'll know what to say and do. I have faith in you. But, if you spend the next 6 hours obsessing over this, you will never make it to see her. You don't want that to happen, do you?"
"Oh, no! That can't happen. I have to see her, Buffy. I just have to."
"Okay, then here's what you're going to do." Buffy took Willow's hands and pulled the girl up so that they were both standing in the middle of the room. "You're going to take deep breaths and calm down. Then you're going to go through this room - which now looks like a bargain basement, by the way - and you're going to find your favorite outfit. When you do, you're going to shower, do your hair, do your make up and then you're going to get dressed. Understand?"
"Then you're going to go meet Tara and sweep her off her feet."
Willow giggled for a moment and then gave Buffy a serious look. "Buffy? Do you really think she won't hate me?"
Buffy smiled at her friend and squeezed her hands. "She'll love you, Will."
"Promise. Cross my heart and hope to...well...I'll just cross my heart." Buffy gave Willow a quick wink.
"Anytime, Will. I have to go to work now. You gonna be okay?"
"Yeah, Buff. I'll be fine. Get going. You don't want to be late." Willow gave her friend a quick hug then watched Buffy walk out the bedroom door. She heaved a sigh as she looked at the mess she'd made and began picking up clothes.
A moment later, Buffy popped her head around the doorframe. "Will?"
"How many times do Europeans kiss?" Buffy waggled her eyebrows suggestively.
Willow let out a hearty laugh and threw a t-shirt at her friend. "Get out of here, you dork!"
"Bye. Love ya, Will."
"Love you too, Buffy."
Willow returned to straightening the room and thought over what Buffy had said to her. She's not gonna hate me. She's gonna love me. Buffy said so. God, I hope you're right, Buffy. It's been such a long time. The redhead lost herself in memories as she continued her task.
Willow spent every free moment for the next month at Tara's side. In fact, they were inseparable nearly 24 hours a day. On the day Tara told the redhead about the move to Germany, they made a promise to be with each other until the very last minute. If Willow wasn't spending the night at Tara's house, Tara was at Willow's. Many days were spent helping Tara pack. Fortunately, the Air Force provided a moving service for the Maclays, so there wasn't a lot for them to do. The majority of the girls' time was spent at their tree. They would bring picnic lunches and books and games and spend the days talking about the future. Before the girls knew it, they had less than a week before Tara was to leave.
Willow was lying on the ground with her hands locked behind her head. She watched the clouds as they floated by. She would usually call out the funny shapes she saw in the billowy forms and roll her eyes dramatically when Tara was unable to see the same shape. But today, she just watched them float. What am I going to do without her? She's my best friend...my only real friend. She's the only one who understands me. What am I gonna do? Willow let out a sigh.
"Willow?" Tara heard the redhead sigh and knew there was something going through her friend's busy head. "What is it?"
Willow turned and looked at Tara. Her eyes are so blue. Is there a word for that shade of blue? Yeah...there is...beautiful. How am I going to get through a day without seeing those eyes? "I was just thinking."
Tara gave Willow a crooked grin. "Well, there's something new. Never would have pegged you for a thinker, Will." She winked good-naturedly at the redhead.
Willow shared a few moments of laughter with the blonde, then sat up and faced her friend. The laughter was gone and she struggled to hold back tears.
"I'm going to miss you, Tare. I already do and you're not even gone yet." Willow looked down and began to play with the laces on Tara's shoes. "I'm going to be so lonely without you."
"Oh, Will." Tara choked back a sob and held out her hand to Willow. She took her friend's hand and gave a gentle tug, indicating that she wanted Willow to sit next to her.
Willow shifted so that she was next to the blonde, snuggling in close and laying her he head on Tara's shoulder. She didn't relinquish her hold on Tara's hand and looked down at their entwined fingers. A perfect fit. Willow closed her eyes and reveled in the feeling of being close to Tara.
Tara glanced at her friend and smiled - Willow had always been a cuddler. She leaned her head over so that it rested on the redhead's and the two girls sat in silence. After a few minutes, Tara began to speak.
"You know, Will, high school starts in the fall. You're going to be so busy keeping the teachers on their toes, you won't have time to miss me."
Willow quickly pulled away from the blonde and looked at her -- her shock evident. What?! Tears were falling freely down Willow's face.
"How can you say that? How can you even think that?" Willow raised her voice at Tara for the first time, surprising the blonde.
"No, Tara! You don't get to talk right now. You need to listen." The redhead had calmed down a bit, but her tone made it clear that she had something to say.
Tara nodded and waited for Willow to continue. Like Willow, she wasn't holding back the tears any longer.
"Tara Maclay, you are the best friend I've ever had...probably the best friend I ever will have." Willow paused to take a gasping breath. This isn't the time to babble. You have to tell her. Wiping away tears with the back of her hand, the redhead continued. "How dare you think I could ever be too busy to miss you? I will miss you every second of every day. I love you, Tara...and I don't know when I'm going to see you again. So even though it will hurt, I will miss you, because at least I'll have thoughts of you close to me, and then maybe you won't seem so far away. And I told myself that I wasn't going to babble, but I did anyway...and...well...do you get it at all?"
Tara laughed through her tears. She reached out and pulled the redhead into a tight hug. "I love it when you babble, Willow. Never keep yourself from babbling. And, yes, I do get it. I'm sorry...I didn't mean it, really. I'm going to miss you too...every second of every day."
Willow held on to the blonde as if her life depended on it. And in some ways, it did. She would always remember this feeling of being in Tara's arms and being surrounded by love. This is the memory she would hold on to; this is the memory that would keep Tara near, even when she was so very far away. Forever. I'm going to keep her forever. Suddenly, Willow pulled away from the embrace and looked at Tara with wide eyes. She just stared at her friend for a minute. Finally, Tara couldn't take the silence anymore.
"Willow? What is it?"
"Will you make me a promise? If you say you'll promise I'll believe you, because you've never lied to me before and I really want you to keep this promise."
"Of course, Willow. I'll promise anything for you. Just name it."
"Well, we have 4 years of high school and then 4 years of college, right?"
Tara nodded and looked at Willow with a slightly confused expression.
"Okay...so here is the promise you need to make...eight years from right now we will both be finished with college. Promise me that eight years from right now...from this very minute...you will be back under this tree."
"But, Will, what if I'm back before then? Or what if you're living somewhere else? What then?"
Willow took the blonde's hands in her own and looked deeply into Tara's eyes. "It doesn't matter, Tara. What matters is the promise. No matter what happens...no matter where we are...no matter what we're doing...promise me that in 8 years we will be back under this tree together. Please?"
"I promise. No matter what happens...no matter where I am...no matter what I'm dong...in 8 years I will be back under this tree." There was no hesitation in Tara's answer. She'd made her promise and Willow knew she's stick to it.
Willow's smile beamed. "So, it's a date?"
Tara gave a quick nod and returned the redhead's smile. "It's a date."
Willow leaned against the window of the room - clutching an armful of clothes to her chest - and looked out over Revello Drive.
"It's a date," Willow said in a dream-like, wistful tone. Suddenly, she jerked away from the window, standing up straight. "Ohmygod! It's a date! I have to get moving!"
The redhead rushed across the room to grab her robe and toiletries and quickly made her way to the bathroom.
No matter what, Tara, no matter what. I just hope you remembered your promise. Please come back to me.