Tara felt an unnerving sense of déjà vu as she stood in front of Willow's home... her real home this time. While the actual building wasn't quite as imposing as Willow's Aunt's home in Paris, it was actually ten times worse because it was where the parents lived. The thought that she actually might meet them was enough to send her into a near state of panic.
She walked up the stairs to the door, tackling each step one at a time, as though each were a huge hurdle. It took what seemed like an age to actually make it to the door and when she was actually standing in front of it, it was all the more imposing. Tara lifted her hand to press the doorbell but before she did the door flew open with such speed that Tara stepped back in fright and almost fell backwards down the stairs.
The door of course had been Willow-powered. The redhead now stood on the threshold with shining green eyes. Tara struggled to fight the immediate urge to seek out those pink, rosebud lips with her own and kiss Willow within an inch of her life. Willow was obviously thinking exactly the same thought, her mouth was parted slightly in a silent plea of need and want. All they could do for those first few moments was stare... drinking and devouring each other with their eyes.
Tara searched every aspect of Willow's face and found it to be exactly the same as it had been the day they had said goodbye at the airport... minus the tear tracks of course. Each freckle was present and accounted for. There was just the tiniest little blemish on her chin, probably a result of eating too many of the chocolate truffles that Tara knew Willow was so very fond of.
Willow thought Tara looked a little tired, the blond had circles under her eyes, probably as a result of the plane flight just the day before. Everything else however, was still perfect... the eyes which had watched over Willow in her dreams every night for the past two weeks were now staring at her for real. A smile crept across her face and she took a step forward onto the doorstep. Tara needed no further invitation as she threw herself into Willow's arms, her own arms flinging around Willow's neck accompanied by a small exclamation of delight.
"Ah, Tara!" Willow whispered as Tara squeezed her to the point of cutting off her supply of oxygen, "Breathing?"
"I don't care about breathing!" Tara relaxed her hold and drew back so she could stare into Willow's eyes.
"Well, it's kind of necessary... but I think with the amount of time I have to spend holding my breath when I'm around you... it's definitely overrated."
There was a small cough behind them and Willow and Tara sprang apart. Jenkins was standing behind them, obviously wondering why Willow had suddenly usurped his task of opening the front door to guests.
"Ah Joe, this is Tara Maclay, a good friend I met in Paris, Tara, Joe... our butler."
Tara smiled and shook the hand he extended to her warmly, "Pleased to meet you Joe."
"Ah, Tara... there's that thing I wanted to show to you in my room," Willow winked in Tara's direction and then added with a smile, "Excuse us Joe."
Willow grabbed Tara's hand and the two of them ran up the stairs, taking them two at a time.
"You have a butler?" Tara asked incredulously as Willow dragged her along.
Willow slowed once they reached the landing at the top, "A butler, three maids, two cooks, a gardener, a chauffeur... and I used to have a nanny, until I was thirteen and she got sick of me showing her how well I could do math sums in my head."
Tara looked at Willow with a raised eyebrow and Willow laughed, "Well, I was really too old for a nanny but I did used to do the sums to impress everyone... I was a bit of a geek... and I liked attention."
Willow led Tara into her room. Normally those first few moments would have been used to let ones eyes roam over the previously unseen bedroom, perusing the record collection or sighing at the pictures of Elvis and Frankie Avalon on the walls. However, as soon as the door was shut behind them, Willow and Tara practically threw themselves at one another. Tara felt her back slam against the door as Willow's body weight pressed against her with all the force of a miniature tornado. Their lips hungrily sought out each others and they proceeded to do what they could only imagine doing when the were staring at each other on the doorstep.
As they kissed, they realised how much they had really missed each other. Hands roamed over tightly pressed bodies. Breath fell hot and fast into each others mouths. Tara felt her legs turned to custard as she tasted Willow's lips, felt Willow's breasts press against her own. If it wasn't for Willow's weight holding her against the door she would definitely have fallen over.
"I missed... you... so much!" Willow gasped in between kisses, "I missed you... missed this."
Tara grinned as Willow nibbled her nose and then moved on to bite her upper lip gently, sucking on it.
"Willow," Tara said as she let her hands roam over the redhead's back, "We have all the time in the world, we can talk later... right now however..."
"Oh right!" Willow grinned, looking into Tara's eyes and finding them glazed with passion, "Kissing Tara... kissing..."
Tara silenced Willow by placing her lips firmly against hers, crushing them fiercely. Willow responded, searching out ways to get a moan from her girlfriend. She insistently parted Tara's lips with her tongue, seeking to gain entrance to Tara's mouth. The blond opened her mouth willingly with a slight gasp and then a much more drawn out moan of need as Willow's tongue thrust deeply.
"Willow," came a voice from the other side of the door, the handle turned and the door would have opened if Willow and Tara's combined body weight had not been pressed against it.
Willow and Tara both fell away from the door and each other as it opened to reveal Shelia Rosenberg standing there with a perplexed look on her face. The two girls were both flushed, lips beginning to swell from the intensely passionate kisses they had been sharing before Willow's mother interrupted them.
"Why couldn't I open the door?" Sheila asked Willow, but didn't take her eyes off Tara, the blond went even redder and ducked her head.
"Ah, we were dancing, sorry, we got a little carried away," Willow spoke up quickly, seeing Tara's discomfort. It wasn't too much of a lie... they had sort of been dancing, although not the type of dancing she wanted her mother to think they had been doing, "Ah mother, this is Tara Maclay... I told you about her. Tara, my mother, Shelia Rosenberg."
"I'm very pleased to meet you Mrs Rosenberg," Tara spoke up in a slightly trembling voice.
"Ah, so this is your little friend you met in Paris!" Sheila exclaimed in delight, she was always delighted to be able to inspect Willow's friends first hand, "I saw you two run upstairs and wondered if you would like to take afternoon tea with me in the garden, it's a lovely afternoon."
Willow groaned inwardly and yet she knew her mother would demand an elaborate explanation in the face of a refusal. There was no way out of it... the truth was definitely out of the question,
I can just see the look on her face if I told her what I would much rather be doing than taking tea with her, Willow was thinking as she looked at the openly earnest expression on her mothers face, No mother, Tara and I had planned a leisurely afternoon of making out and later on, some snuggling... She'd probably faint.
"We'd be delighted Mrs Rosenberg," Tara surprised Willow completely by taking the initiative and answering for the both of them. Just by watching the expressions play across her girlfriend's face, she had known as well as Willow that the afternoon tea was unavoidable.
Willow saw the immensely pleased expression on her mother's face and knew Tara had just scored some serious brownie points. She winked at the blond as they followed her mother out the door, Tara brushed a finger along Willow's bare arm as they moved along the corridor.
As they sat in the garden, Tara couldn't help but wonder if she was going about this the right way. Should she have offered to pour Mrs Rosenberg a cup of tea... was it impolite to refuse to take a piece of the layer cake sitting on the tray? In the end, she just followed Willow's lead. Willow poured tea for everyone and she sliced off a generous slice of cake for Tara. Their fingers brushed lightly as she reached out to take it.
Tara sat with her cake on her lap and cup and saucer in her hand, taking delicate sips and probably managing to look as awkward as she felt. Come on Tara, it's just afternoon tea! You can do this... just don't break anything! She was pleased to find Willow's mother to be very unlike Aunt Elizabeth. For the most part, the elegant older woman appeared to be harmless and very friendly. However, the strange manner in which Willow had begun to behave served to unnerve her somewhat. It was the way she would have expected someone from Willow's background to behave, polite, formal and deferring. If she didn't know Willow a lot better, she would have thought that was how the redhead was all the time. Yet Tara knew it wasn't Willow... the real Willow was boisterous, chatty and incredibly clumsy. She loved both of them but she knew which one Willow preferred to be.
She was also convinced that Willow's mother was watching her like a hawk, just waiting for her to make the slightest mistake in etiquette. Tara was sure she ought to have sweat beading on her forehead with all the effort it was requiring to keep her plates balanced and keep a straight face.
Willow watched her mother, hand tightening around the tea cup in her hand as she waiting in agony for the round of questioning she knew would start as soon as she was done with her first cup of tea. Willow suspected the time that it took to drink that first cup was to lull the guest into a state of relaxation before she pounced mercilessly. She looked worriedly at Tara who already appeared to be uncomfortable just sitting in her lawn chair with tea and cake. The two girls made momentary eye contact across the table and Willow gave Tara what she hoped was a reassuring smile. Tara responded by grimacing ever so slightly. For a few seconds Willow was worried but then the fake grimace was replaced by a small, lop-sided smile. Willow poked her tongue out playfully.
"So Tara, did you have a good time in Paris?" Sheila asked as she held out her cup for Willow to refill it.
"The most amazing time ever, the city is certainly the wonderful place that I had always heard it was," Tara replied honestly, it didn't take much for her to gush about how wonderful it had been though. That morning over breakfast she had uncharacteristically talked non-stop to the other girls at the boarding house for a whole half an hour about Paris.
"Were you on holiday with your family?"
That was it, the easy questions were over as quickly as they had begun. Now came the time to either weave a big blanket of lies or tell the truth as much as she possibly could. Tara took a deep breath,
"It was more of a working holiday actually, I was accompanying a university lecturer as his assistant. I was lucky to get a lot of free time to explore the sights... with Willow."
Tara though she saw Willow grimace ever so slightly as she watched for her mother's reaction. Sheila just raised her eyebrows for a moment and continued talking,
"How interesting, how on earth did you meet Willow then? My daughter has never worked an honest day in her life... I would never had thought she knew how to relate to someone who has."
Tara risked looking at Willow to see a pained expression flash across her face. Is this what she had to put up with from her own mother?
"Um..." Tara didn't know quite what version of the story to give Sheila, well, there was only one version, "Actually, I saved Willow from a nasty death by drowning."
"You almost drowned?" Sheila asked Willow incredulously.
"No, no," Tara burst in quickly, "She fell in a fountain because... she was distracted... I helped her out. It was all very harmless really... the only things hurt were Willow's camera and her pride."
Sheila actually laughed and Willow looked at her mother as though she had sprouted an extra head. That was not the reaction she had been expecting at all.
"Yes, I could just see Willow doing that... she has always has had a tendency to get herself into less than dignified situations."
How would you know! Willow thought indignantly, You haven't been around for most of my life!
"Willow, it seems you had a much better time in Paris than you let on," Sheila began and Willow felt her heart thump faster, "But I'm very pleased that you met such a nice young lady to share the fun with..."
Willow looked first to her mother who was smiling genuinely at her and then to Tara, who looked just as confused as she felt. Her mother liked Tara! She felt like bouncing in her seat... this was definitely a first in Willow world. Usually her mother found something wrong with her friends... she had managed to avoid speaking to Buffy for a whole year following their first meeting.
"Will!" the aforementioned friend came out onto the lawn, a broad smile on her face.
Willow grinned and stood to meet her as Buffy threw her arms around her neck enthusiastically. Sheila used the interruption to make her exit.
"Oh goodness, look at the time... I'm expected at a meeting for the Ladies Aid Society shortly. I'll let you young ladies talk," Sheila stood and smiled warmly at Tara, "It was lovely to meet you Tara."
"Thank you Mrs Rosenberg, it was nice to meet you too."
Sheila left the young women to hang out without the aggravating presence of an older person. There were a few awkward moments as they waited for her to re-enter the house and then more awkwardness still as Buffy and Tara waited for Willow to introduce her to her new friend. Tara found her shyness creep up on her unexpectedly beneath Buffy's curious gaze, she ducked her head.
"Buffy... this is Tara, Tara, Buffy," Willow announced with a smile, crossing her fingers behind her back as her best friend met her girlfriend for the first time... although of course Buffy didn't know about the girlfriend part.
Buffy exuberantly extended her hand and Tara was on the receiving end of a very firm, boisterous Buffy-shake. Tara managed a small, shy grin in reply.
A few moments later, a very content Willow sat and observed as Buffy and Tara chatted away happily. It was as though they had known each other for years instead of merely a few minutes. She wasn't surprised however, Buffy was exceedingly easy going and had very little trouble making new friends... and Tara, well Willow did have to admit her opinion was somewhat biased but, who didn't love her as soon as they met her?
"...so it turned out that while we thought we had broken a priceless ancient artefact... it was really just a fake!" Tara finished while Buffy was clutching her stomach in hysterics.
"That is so Will!" Buffy managed after she regained control of herself, "I remember, we were both invited to a birthday party when we were ten. It was for a girl from school who's parents were incredibly wealthy and anyway, Willow broke some priceless French figurine thing when no one else was looking... she started balling her eyes out..."
Willow glared in mock anger at Buffy for sharing that little piece of information...
"...she was so upset. I put the head back on and it looked just fine... but poor Will spent the rest of the party terrified that someone would find the statue was broken... you should have seen her run out the door when the party was finally over. You know... we never did find out when they found it was broken."
Willow looked a little guilty, "I know... it was wrong not to say anything but I was somewhat of a bratty child."
"You?" Tara asked with feigned incredulity.
"Hey, I have since cleaned up my act and now I'm a lot better behaved!"
"Yeah, you stopped blaming the servants whenever you filched a piece of chocolate cake or tracked mud from you shoes all over the house," Buffy laid bare more of Willow's delinquent past much to Tara's amusement.
"Hey! I can't help that I didn't have brothers or sisters to blame stuff like that on!" Willow protested, "I still feel bad about it sometimes now... I'm really a very nice person... honest!"
Tara grinned and risked patting Willow's arm slightly, wanting to linger but not daring to in front of Buffy, "You're the nicest."
If Buffy noticed the look the passed between the two of them, she didn't say anything about it but she didn't stop talking either. If there was one reason Tara could see as to why Willow and Buffy were such good friends it was that they both loved to talk. Or perhaps that was a bad thing... she wondered how a conversation between the two of them would play out.
"I don't know about being the nicest. I mean, if there was one chocolate truffle left she wouldn't offer it to anyone else. There's one thing you should know Tara, don't get between Willow and her truffles."
Tara and Willow shared another glance under the pretence of amusement. However, Willow's eyes said that she was thinking about something far more important than her selfishness when it came to the last truffle.
I'd share everything with you, Willow thought vehemently, ...I want to share my life with you, everything I have... however little that is.
The talked until dusk started to fall and Tara looked at her watch with a slight frown,
"The last street car passes by in a few minutes, I should get going..."
"No stay, Mr Weiss can drop you home later!" Willow protested plaintively.
"It's alright Willow, I'll give you and Buffy time to catch up, she'll want to see all your pictures."
The three of them wandered back into the house, pausing to say goodbye to Tara at the front door. Willow reached out and gave Tara's hand a quick squeeze before the blond left... but what she really wanted was to feel Tara's lips on hers.
"I'll call you," Tara whispered huskily, obviously thinking the same thing Willow was.
"Bye," I love you. Willow watched her go until the door closed on the best view in the world and she was able to turn her attention back to Buffy, "We'll move up to my room, I have heaps of pictures... even though I totally destroyed my camera almost the first day I was there... silly story really..."
The two friends walked up the stairs to Willow's room, once they were inside Buffy startled Willow by throwing herself at her almost in the same manner Tara had a few hours ago. In a flurry of arms and limbs held Willow tightly and proceeded to cut off all the redhead's supply of oxygen.
"You did meet someone in Paris!" Buffy said with wide eyes as Willow struggled to flick out a foot and kick the door shut, "I mean... look at you!"
"What do you mean?" Willow asked once she had managed to take a few breaths.
"You're... glowing! I haven't seen you so happy since you came first in every subject at last years school prize giving."
"And I would have come first in everything this year too, if Geraldine Snodgrass hadn't sabotaged my science experiment, that conniving, cheating sore loser..."
"Will!" Buffy shook her by the shoulders, "We're talking about falling in love here... not science experiments... So, spill the beans. Tell me absolutely everything, who is it?"
Willow smiled broadly, she had met someone... the someone but whether or not she could tell Buffy was the real question that needed to be asked. She looked at Buffy's openly expectant face, her eyes shining in anticipation. Buffy was her best friend... they had been best friends ever since they had started school together at the age of five. They had shared everything in life so far, as best friends did... before Paris, there had been no secrets between them... except for the fact that I'm attracted to girls, Willow mused, remembering the way their previous conversation had turned out.
"You're attracted to a girl?" Buffy coughed on her soda and had to set it down on the floor.
"N-no... definitely not, not at all," Willow shook her head quickly, "I was just asking if... I mean, does it happen?"
"Not to my knowledge it doesn't," Buffy looked at Willow as though she had sprouted an extra head, "Are you feeling okay Will?"
Yet, for all the lack of success she had that time, Willow wanted desperately to be able to tell Buffy. She longed to be able to share her happiness at having found Tara with someone else. Willow bit her lip and met Buffy's gaze calmly.
"Oh Will," Buffy said with wide eyes when she saw how nervous Willow was, she placed a hand on Willow's arm, "He's not married is he?"
"No... not married," Willow met Buffy's gaze calmly, whatever her best friend's reaction she would not be ashamed of the fact that Tara was her girlfriend, "It's a little more complicated than that..."
"How can love be complicated?" Buffy asked with a small grin, "I mean, if you love someone... then you love them, it's as simple as that... come on Will, you know I'm always here for you."
"Buffy... it's T-Tara."
"What do you mean Will?" Buffy asked with a frown, "You can't tell me who it is because of Tara?"
Willow shook her head slowly, becoming more nervous by the second, "It's Tara..."
Willow watched Buffy digest the information all too slowly. At first, the blonde frowned in puzzlement before a look of understanding dawned on her features. Her eyes went wide and her mouth worked soundlessly like a goldfish. She stood up and began pacing the room backwards and forth, wringing her hands as though she were in the cast of a Shakespearian tragedy. Eventually she was able to make small sounds, half-formed words...
"W-Will... b-but... s-she... you..." Buffy had a lump stuck in her throat, she coughed, patting herself on the chest before meeting Willow's gaze and exclaiming, "Willow, you're a lesbian?"
"I'm in love with her Buffy... and it's not a fleeting thing... it's for real... I-I can't explain it..."
"Don't Will... don't... I don't want to hear it!"
Buffy stood and threw an angry glance in Willow's direction before walking out of the room. A few moments later Willow heard the front door slam with a resounding crash that echoed throughout the house. Willow stared at nothing in particular for a few moments before she felt her legs begin to give way beneath her. Numbly, she sat on the edge of her bed and stared at the wall. Everything had always been so easy... so simple.
She had changed. The Willow who had everything handed to her on a plate, who could lie or bat her eyelids and escape punishment for something that she knew she had done wrong. Or the Willow who flirted shamelessly with boys for the sake of it, always promising and never delivering... yet still expecting them to follow after her like little puppy dogs. That Willow was gone...
Had she ever really been that person?
Willow felt her eyes sting as her peaceful little world started to crumble around her. In the face of Buffy's refusal to accept her relationship with Tara, Willow had the crushing realisation that everything was from now on would change. Her best friend couldn't accept it, how could she expect anyone else in New York to?
Willow dashed the tears away with the back of her hand, trying to convince herself she didn't care what any of them thought. Yet there was a part of her that did care, so much so that she wondered if she could ever be truly happy if she turned her back on everything she knew.