Tara stared out the window of the rental truck, seeming to watch the storefronts pass as they drove through downtown Sunnydale.
She listened as Buffy continued to give Willow a hard time about moving, but her eyes were focused on Willow's reflection in the windshield. Willow seemed to shrug off Buffy's comments as she concentrated on driving.
"And don't think you're getting out of dinner with my mom and Giles missy." Buffy pointed an accusatory finger at Willow.
"You know Buff, he is going to be your stepfather pretty soon. You should probably stop calling him Giles." Tara giggled at Willow's teasing. Mr. Giles had been the librarian at their high school, and as much as she and Dawn already saw him as their father, Buffy was still sensitive about the mental image of him and her mom together.
"I'm not about to start calling him daddy, because, well, that's just weird. And I am NOT going to call him Rupert. What kind of a name is Rupert anyway? I mean, he's Giles. I love him, and he makes my mom happy, but he's still Giles."
In the windshield Tara saw Willow bite her lip and shake her head.
"And no changing the subject you. You're still not missing dinner. They won't have it, and neither will we. Right Tara?"
The truck stopped at a light and both Willow and Tara turned to look at Tara. Tara just smiled and nodded her agreement.
"Okay, okay." Willow put her hands up in surrender. "Like I was planning on missing it anyway."
"Good." Buffy said, settling back into the seat.
Good. Tara thought as the truck began moving again.
With the exception of Buffy begging Willow to stop at the Espresso Pump for some much needed caffeinated rejuvenation, the three friends remained silent for the remainder of the ride.
Willow stopped at a gate and spoke to the guard briefly before he waved them through. After a few minutes she pulled into a parking spot in front of a three story brick building similar to the ones on either side of it. It resembled more of a townhouse than an apartment building, and Willow's parents had bought the third floor one-bedroom unit.
The girls climbed out of the cab and stretched before moving to the truck bed to begin unloading Willow's belongings. They took a load up the elevator and into Willow's unit. As Willow moved to inspect the bedroom and master bath she heard Buffy.
She also heard Tara reply.
"You say that every time we've been here Buffy."
Willow smiled, glad, not for the first time, that Tara had become comfortable enough with them to take part in the ritual teasing of Buffy. When she came out of the bathroom she found Buffy sprawled out on the king size bed in the middle of the bedroom.
"This bed is like, comfortable times ten Will. You know, I was thinking, maybe we could move in with? This thing is big enough to fit all three of us and then some!"
Willow shook her head at Buffy, and as she did her eye caught a smiling Tara leaning against the dresser.
Willow was the queen of cross-referencing and babbling. Tara had learned this lesson quickly in the first few months they had lived together. So the day Tara walked in to apartment to find Willow sitting on the couch, eyes buried in a book. The sight of Willow studying was not an unusual one, even though the summer term had just begun, they had just moved into their new apartment and there were still boxes to unpack. But seeing Willow had just the one textbook in her lap and a highlighter in her hand, Tara was a little concerned.
And when Willow's only answer to Tara's question about what she was studying was "Pscyh," Tara knew something was definitely off.
Willow was tapping the end of her highlighter against the book as she read. Her brow furrowed in concentration, she didn't notice Tara approaching until she felt the couch shift. She looked up to find Tara sitting next to her.
"What's up?" She asked.
"You tell me." Tara said.
"What's to tell?"
Tara didn't speak. She merely folded her arms against her chest and raised her eyebrow.
Willow gave an exasperated sigh and dropped her forehead onto the book in front of her. After a minute or so she leaned back against the couch.
"Remember that party Buffy dragged us to last semester?" She began. That was the party where Willow ran into an old classmate of theirs from Sunnydale High that she used to tutor. When she tried to talk to him, his girlfriend had dragged him off in a jealous huff, but not before Willow heard him dismiss her as the geeky girl from high school who he only talked to so she would help him with his homework.
The girl was in Willow's summer lit class and that day Willow passed her on her way to the lecture hall. As she walked by she overheard the girl laughing as she told her friends what a geek Willow was. She approached Willow after class asking to see Willow's notes, and sneered when she saw that Willow's notebook was in fact multi-colored.
Staring at the ceiling, Willow told Tara how she had been ostracized in school for being so smart, with only Xander for a friend until the Summers' moved to Sunnydale. She told Tara about the older boys who would take her books and play keep away while all the pretty girls cheered them on. She told Tara about never knowing if someone was being friendly because they liked her or because they wanted her to do their homework.
Tara played with the ends of Willow's hair as Willow finished talking.
"So how's this working out for you?" She asked Willow, waving her arm in the general direction of Willow's abandoned book and highlighter.
"It's fine. I'm still absorbing everything, I guess. But, I don't know, it just feels weird." She dropped her arms into her lap and buried her face in her arms, letting out an exasperated sigh. "It's soooo boring!"
Willow heard Tara laughing as the couch shifted again. She looked up to watch as Tara walked over to the dining table in the corner of the room. Tara picked up the notebook sitting on the table and walked back to the couch, dropping the notebook on top of Willow's book, then she walked back to the table.
Willow stared at the notebook in curiosity before looking up to see Tara's back turned to the room as she rummaged through an open box. After a little searching, Tara found what she was looking for. She turned around and leaned on the table. She held up her hand and dangling from her fingers was a bunch of colored pens held together by a pink rubber band.
"C'mon Will, you know you want to." Tara had dropped her head so she was looking up at Willow through her lashes. Her hair had fallen to cover one side of her face a little, but Willow could still see the teasing half-smile Tara was giving her.
Without a moment's thought Willow rose and walked over to where Tara was standing. And when her fingers brushed against Tara's as she took the pens, Willow knew exactly what she wanted at that moment. But it wasn't the notebook, and for the first time in her life it most definitely wasn't the different colored pens.