The audible click of the door shutting reverberated in her ears, and Tara turned with a tired smile on her face towards the couch. She noted the large brown lump of overstuffed girl and blanket and dropped her body weight next to it. A groan sounded out from beside her, and she bit her lip to keep from laughing. "Will, baby?" She asked gently, reaching out a hand to run along some unidentifiable part of her girlfriend's body.
Something unintelligible came from beneath the blanket, and Tara couldn't help to begin tickling Willow's body over her cotton shield. Shrieking and kicking followed as Willow dissolved into a fury of activity to jump and dodge attempts to tickle her. Finally, she threw the blanket off of her head and declared in a sad voice: "I am never eating so much, ever, ever again in my life." Her body fell limp around her. "Nor are we ever hosting Thanksgiving ever again. I love our friends, but this was so much work."
Tara shot a wide-eyed look at the redhead. "Will... ummm..."
"What?" Willow asked, her eyes growing wide in response to Tara's expression.
"I... I kinda told them we'd make it a yearly tradition." Tara's voice was as small as Willow had ever heard it.
Her head dropped back down to the pillow, and she groaned again. Sympathetically, Tara reached out a hand and starting rubbing her girlfriend's belly. "Buffy and Dawn try to avoid each other and wind up fighting constantly! Xander seems to suddenly be in the room when we kiss, he appears from nowhere! And I like Giles a lot, and Jenny couldn't be nicer, and actually the two of them together are kinda fantastic, 'cuz of the y'know, him liking books and her liking computers? I could just talk to them both for hours... But I kind of get the feeling that they feel out of place here. And Anya... Anya scares everyone." Willow finally stopped to take a breath, and she looked at Tara. "We should definitely make this a traditiony kind of event. We should do that."
Tara burst out laughing. "I told them we should rotate between houses, love."
"It's still a lot of work." Willow pouted a bit from her prone position.
"It is. But I like it. I like having our family here in one place, and I like your friends a lot too, Will. I'm really starting to feel like I could fit in."
"You do fit in. You fit with me, and don't you forget it, missy." Willow grinned, and held her hands out to Tara, who helped to pull her up. They kissed, quickly, before smiling at each other.
"Can you believe...?" Tara trailed off, not knowing how to say how strange life was, how elated she was that things had turned out this way.
"Believe it, baby. We're here." Willow leaned forward, pulling Tara in close to her body. Tara's cheek pressed to Willow's breast and she listened to the other girl's heartbeat. The slow beating, how warm and soft Willow's skin was... she felt herself let go of the tension in her shoulders, felt it drain out of her body like water receding. Suddenly, it was all gone. They fit together. The tension of not knowing, the potential embarassment they would have faced if it hadn't worked out, the pure heart break of looking for someone for years to finally find them: this moment, this night when thanks should be given to whoever and whatever you hold dear for being with you, for helping you, this was the night when her thanks was truly given freely for the first time in her life. Because for the first time in her life, Tara Maclay had everything she needed.
"I love you, Willow Rosenberg." Tara pressed her hand to the girl's face, sweeping her eyes over the woman's expression. Her eyes filled with tears, bubbling big at the tops of her eyelids and then slowly arching out into the unknown and rolling slowly down her cheeks. Willow could watch them form and slowly take the plunge off the cliff. She saw something different in Tara's eyes, and knew it reflected back at the brunette in her own green eyes. "Do you know that?"
Willow did know that. Willow had known that since the bathroom. Willow could feel it in Tara's hands when they touched her: the moment Tara grabbed her hand after they found each other, the one simple gesture that stopped everything from falling apart. Willow could read it in Tara's poetry, in her books, there in black and white and printed on the page was a love story written by Tara for her and she would never forget the words of it, the flow of it, the meaning of it carved forever into her brain as if the words had been inked on her skin, tattoed permanently to her body. Willow knew unequivocally that Tara Maclay loved her. She knew it just as plainly as she knew she loved Tara. It was the essence of truth in her life. "I know that."
Tara grinned. "I can't believe how much you ate." She reached out a hand, rubbing Willow's stomach gently.
Willow settled into the touch for a moment, gazing at the beauty of her girlfriend. "I can't believe how much food you made. We'll have leftovers for a week." She picked up her girlfriend's arm, pulling it to her mouth, and placing gentle kisses on her wrist. "C'mon, baby, take me to bed. I want to feel your arms around me."
"Nothing sounds better." Tara stood, linking her fingers with Willow's before pulling the girl up off the couch and leading her into their bedroom.
Anya tapped her fingers impatiently on the table edge, glancing over towards Giles, his face buried in a book. She glanced back towards the stage, rolling her eyes at the pimple faced young boy playing acoustic guitar and doing a bad cover of Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released". Her eyes shot to and fro about the coffeehouse, resting briefly on a man in a beret drinking coffee and working on his laptop. Nice shoulders, she thought absently. She imagined running her hands over the muscles of his arms and drawing him in for a kiss before she decided that he would be a terrible kisser. Enthusiastic, but overly so with his tongue. She turned her attention back to Giles, who continued to studiously ignore her. "Are you ever going to talk to me?"
Giles sighed, eyeing her over the top of his book. "Won't Tara be here soon?" He asked, glancing towards the door.
"She said she was running late. But I'm bored now." Anya whined. "Can't you at least fake some interest in my day?"
"Very well, Anya." He placed his book back in his briefcase and turned his attention to the girl. "How was your day?"
"I held several thousand dollars in my hand. That was lovely." She answered honestly, a dreamy look covering her face as she thought about the money.
"How... charming." Giles drew out the last word, meaning anything but. He sighed, shooting a longing look at his book. "Actually, Anya, there's something I've been meaning to ask you."
Anya nodded. "She only writes about her." Giles regarded the girl, somewhat surprised to hear her answer the question he hadn't asked. When he didn't answer her, Anya shot him a frustrated look. "What? I can be perceptive."
A half smile almost sprang to his lips before he banished it. He shook it away, displeased at the thought of actually liking the demon for a moment. "So it's true then? She only writes about this one girl?" Giles' face betrayed his concern, his fingers rubbing absently at his glasses. His efforts to clean them were usually simply a way of gaining his bearings mentally, and this moment was no different. He had always suspected that the woman in Tara's writing was the same one, the features mentioned too many times to be someone else.
"It's true, if you can believe it. Met her once and kissed her twice." Anya nodded, and then cocked her head to one side. "Or, met her twice and kissed her once... To be honest? I'm not really sure. I stopped listening when I realized she had never had sex with her."
"Of course." Giles replied, as if that was perfectly rational, though the rolling of his eyes gave away his irritation.
"She doesn't even date! It's the most incredible thing I've ever seen! To waste such potential on a woman you may never see again... it's just almost impossible to believe. And it's not like she couldn't be having orgasms. She just chooses not to. There's an incredible amount of women in this town want to sleep with her! And what does she do? Blushes, stammers, makes apologies and then runs home!"
"Anya..." Giles sighed, and attempted to find a way to relate to the girl. "I am worried about her. It's not natural to..."
"Well, I am too." She interrupted, looking aghast. "She's my best friend! Of course I'm worried about her."
"And you say you've tried to take her out? And she turns everyone down?"
"Every last one! It's to the point where I'm thinking of offering my services!"
Giles sighed, unable to stop his eyes from rolling towards the ceiling again. "Anya, I hardly think that that would help the situation."
"Why? I'm attractive! And I'm reasonably sure I can figure this sex thing out. How difficult could it be really?"
"Well, I suppose that depends..." He trailed off. "My good Lord, woman, how is it possible you reduce all conversations to sex?"
"I am truly talented." Anya grinned at him.
"Indeed you are."
The conversation lulled for a moment, as the pimply boy left the stage. They watched him gather his things and go. Finally, Giles turned his eyes back to Anya. "Should we do something?"
Anya rolled her eyes before turning to him fully in her seat. "Great. What should we do?"
Giles sputtered for a moment. "Introduce her to someone else? Take her out?"
"I've tried all that already." She picked up her coffee mug, and took a drink, speaking as she settled it back onto it's saucer. "I think we may just have to let it run it's course."
"Perhaps you're right."
At that moment, Tara strolled through the front door of the coffee shop, putting an end to the conversation.
"Alright guys!" Willow called, coming down the stairs. "I have to go to my night class, I'll see you later!" She smiled at the sight of Buffy, Xander and Dawn sitting on the Summers' couch, watching cartoons. "I'll stop for movies on the way home and we can have a movie night?"
"That sounds great, hanging out with my three favorite ladies." Xander grinned at her.
"Have a good day, Willow." Dawn smiled.
"Try and meet some hot girls to bring home with you!" Xander called at her excitedly.
Willow laughed, throwing her backpack over her shoulders. "Yeah right." She grinned at him, and then took off out the door.
"This has gone on long enough." Buffy's voice left little room for discussion.
"I don't think we're allowed to make those kinds of decisions, Buff." Xander looked at his friend kindly, swallowing a smile. "I know you want to..."
"Xander, this is not about me trying to run her life!" Buffy interjected, prepared to go on a typical tirade.
"Actually, it kind of seems like it is." Dawn grinned at Xander.
"How can you say that?" Buffy demanded, eyeing the two of them on the couch.
"Because, Buffy, in Casa de Summers, you rule the roost, everyone knows that. But this is Will's life, and she's fine." Xander sighed. "I know that we all think she should be out there, meeting other people, but it's not our choice to make."
"But..." Buffy began, before being interrupted by Dawn.
"This is ridiculous. We shouldn't even be talking about this." Dawn looked sternly at Xander and Buffy. "You're her best friends! She would do anything for you, support any decision you made, and you're sitting here doubting her?"
"This isn't exactly..." Xander started.
"This isn't exactly what, Xander?" Dawn stood, looking at him furiously. "How many women have you been out with in the past few years? How many, Xander? The last person you dated was Cordelia for love of whoever! And every woman you've been out with since has been..."
"Psychotic." Buffy filled in, glancing at Xander, who looked properly chastised.
"And you!" Dawn turned, pointing her finger at Buffy.
"What, me?" Buffy asked, trying to look as innocent as possible.
"You're worse than he is." She pointed at Xander, who looked up at her with a deer in headlights expression. Buffy's jaw fell. "Are you kidding me?" The incredulousness in Dawn's voice reached a critical level. "You dated Angel, which fell apart spectacularly after you slept with him, and then Riley - Captain Cardboard himself, who left because you couldn't share yourself with him!"
"I...I..." Buffy attempted to speak, before rolling her eyes and closing her mouth.
"You two have no right to judge her because she fell in love with a stranger. And granted, she doesn't seem to be doing much about that, but..." Dawn sighed.
"Actually, she built a computer program." Xander looked a little guilty.
"What are you talking about, Xander?"
"She built this program, I don't really understand it, but... well, it runs all of the available information she has about Tara - and there's not really much, y'know, but it runs through every Tara who writes something on the internet and every Tara in the phonebook and attempts to sort them from most likely to the least likely candidate."
"It does what?" Buffy asked.
"It's just..." Xander continued, ignoring the question. "There's several thousand possibilities."
"How come she never told us?" Dawn asked.
Xander shrugged. "I don't think she would have told me, either, honestly, but I saw her working on it one day."
"See? She is doing something about it!" Dawn finished triumphantly.
There was a long pause as the three of them contemplated each other and Willow. "She was offered a job in Portland."
"When?" Xander and Dawn demanded together.
"Three years ago."
"Why didn't she say anything?" Xander looked accusingly at Buffy.
Buffy folded her arms across her chest, and glanced out the window before flopping herself down on the couch. "She said that she couldn't be sure that Tara would still be in Portland, and that she couldn't uproot her entire life for a fantasy."
"Instead she can live like a monk here?" Xander asked, incredulous.
"Xander." Dawn's tone informed him he was treading on dangerous ground.
"We all live like monks, I know, but Willow..."
"She's the best of us." Buffy supplied.
"She is. She's helped us all so much. She helped all three of us graduate high school. She helped us when Mom died, she practically supports the house with the money she brings in, I'm sorry, Buffy, but you know she does." Buffy only nodded, looking down at her feet. "And she does it because she loves us. So we need to do something to help her."
"Like what?" Xander asked, demonstrating his ability to be the thickest human being on the planet.
"Like find her." Dawn answered for him.
"How are we going to do that?" He asked.
"I have no idea."