March 3 - 13 2008

"Ink Blots", Chapter Nineteen,
Breaking Through the Surface

Tara was exhausted after the day she'd had, but she was still shocked that she'd managed to fall asleep at all. Her mind had been running with a thousand thoughts, worries and doubts, all chasing one another and splitting, breeding more like some kind of horrible, mutating fungus. When she was jarred awake by the knock at her door, she found her hand hesitating as it reached for the knob. To be honest, she'd thought maybe Buffy wouldn't be coming to her door tonight.

The slayer she found on the other side of her door however, managed to silence the exponential doubt growing in her mind, if only for a few long seconds.

"Hey." Buffy stammered, her voice scared and her face uncertain. The slayer was already in her pajamas, a warm-looking set of loose flannels. Her hair was wet and hung in half-wound tendrils at the side of her face. This was unusual to say the least – for Buffy to come to her door ready for bed already, especially considering the awkwardness of their afternoon. It was then that the Sorceress saw the shorter woman was merely holding her shirt closed rather than it being buttoned, and her pulse raced a little involuntarily.

Without a word Tara opened the door wider and Buffy followed her in. Tara reached under her bed and pulled out her large medical kit, placing it open on the bed before sitting next to it. When she glanced up she saw Buffy smiling sadly at her from by the door, still clutching the lapels of her nightclothes shut.

"I'm sorry to bother you," she started quietly, kneeling on the floor in front of Tara, "Willow is staying at Oz's tonight and I was on campus when it happened, looking for those mysterious Commandos – so going to Giles' just seemed…" she trailed off as Tara nodded.

"You d-d-don't need to… W-What happened?" Tara murmured, waving away her excuses; her eyes fixed on the contents of the medical box rather than her patient. She felt the Slayer's warm hand on hers, stilling it.

"I was just thinking," She sighed, "Something saw I was distracted and got the better of me." She scooted up on her knees, placing a hand on the taller woman's cheek to turn the girl's face to hers. Tara closed her eyes to keep the girl from seeing them fill with tears, yet could not resist leaning into the touch. "I wanted to give you space, let you come to terms with..." She trailed off. Tara opened her eyes to look at the Slayer quizzically.

"Space?" she repeated. Buffy blushed as she ran her thumb over the blonde's cheekbone.

"Tara, I would never assume to know everything about you – and to be honest? If I ever did, I think our relationship would suffer because I love that you never cease to surprise me… But I know a bit about how your mind works now, and after the conversation we had this afternoon…?" Buffy's eyes bore inter hers here, as though searching for something. "You barely spoke." She murmured. "You barely spoke, and I could only imagine what horrible, wrong, and horribly-wrong conclusions you must have been leaping to… You asked no questions, never interrupted; so I tried to block any doubts and fears you might have been jumping to by just explaining as much as possible – but in the process I think I might have seriously over-shared … I was half hoping you'd just tell me to shut up at some point – and now I'm worried that I frightened you." this last bit came out in a sob.

"Tara please," she pleaded, a hand at either of her girlfriends cheeks, "ask me anything, please!" Tara closed her eyes again, feeling them begin to sting. She took a series of deep breaths before opening them again.

"I'm glad you c-c-came," she began slowly, "I w-w-was going to give you s-space… I th-thought that, with e-everything you brought up? Y-Y-You w-would want…" Buffy leaned up and planted a solid kiss on her lips at this, followed by another, and then another, a grin on the Slayer's lips the entire time. "… W-Why?" Tara finally choked out when they paused for breath.

"Why what?" Buffy murmured against her mouth, keeping their heads pressed together - determined to keep kissing Tara despite the wide, relieved grin on her face making it near impossible.

"Why m-me? Why… Everything?" the smaller girl pulled back again, her stare once again inquisitive. "Is it because I'm… s-safe?"

"Safe?" Buffy asked, her tone non-committal.

Tara blushed darkly as she nodded. "Safe. And, m-m-maybe… a s-s-s-sure thing?" At hearing this Buffy's face broke into an amused grin. "You m-must have known, how m-much I was… c-c-c-coveting you." She finished quietly, shame evident in her voice. "How much I… admired y-you."

"Tara, I hate to break it to you – but you are far from safe. Think back to our conversation the night we started down this road." Buffy reached up, tucking Tara's hair behind her ears. "If I wanted safe? I would have gone with – oh, I dunno - not you. Tara, you knew I was the Slayer from the night we re-met. You may be able to take on a Vamp or two, but if a group decides to get together to kidnap the woman I love? I'm shit out of luck. And it's not like I could keep the Slaying part of my life separate from the 'we' part of my life – you're an asset, knowledgeable, capable, and as far as Scooby Stress levels; highly necessary."

"Buffy," she tried to stop the tirade of irrational compliments, the need to talk some lucid sense into her babbling girlfriend almost crucial.

"Besides! As previously discussed; I had no choice in this – this chose me! I didn't ask to be attracted to women, so is it I my fault if the most sensual and adorable woman I have ever known falls into my lap?" Tara stared at her, slightly wide eyed at this. "Well, you know, metaphorically anyways." Tara couldn't help a single chuckle breaking out at this.

"You think I'm w-what?" Tara asked in disbelief, as though the idea of her and sensual in the same sentence or thought were laughable. But then Buffy's hands slid from her cheeks down her neck, over her collarbones and down her arms, and before Tara knew it she felt Buffy's hands gently gripping her knees – her thumbs applying pressure as they massaged in slow circles at the insides of her legs. The sudden breath she took in was more stammered than any sentence she could ever remember saying… She swallowed hard and gazed down, realizing –

"Buffy, your shirt…" she said, indicating with a nervous hand as she looked away. With the Slayers hands on her knees there was nothing holding her shirt closed. At glancing down, the shorter girl saw that there was a line of visible skin running from her chin to the waistband of her pants. Tara made a mental note of the fact that while Buffy did blush at noticing this – it wasn't much.

"Tara, have you ever wanted something? I mean, really wanted something?" Tara waited. "Where you'd give up a lot to have it, if you could really have it..." Buffy trailed off, shaking her head sadly before sitting on the bed next to her girlfriend. "Something special, something real, rare and not replaceable."

"You mean Angel?" Tara asked quietly. Buffy's head shot up, her look confused.

"What? No!" Buffy stopped herself, something between a chuckle and a sigh bubbling from her lips at this. "Rephrase: Yes, what Angel and I had was special. But, with the having? Very little. A lot of wanting, a lot of – well, rare would be an understatement – but not a lot of having." Tara shifted on the bed, turning to face Buffy fully. "Tara, I have wanted things – badly… Angel being one of them. And I gave up a lot, some might say too much, just to get whatever I could have with him. But it wasn't enough, for either of us," she raised a hand to Tara's cheek again, her eyes on Tara's lips with a far away sort of focus.

"I've wanted things I couldn't have, had things I shouldn't want – and now there's this amazing, wonderful person in my life that wants me back and I just…" The Slayer sighed, sounding suddenly as exhausted as Tara felt leaving the Summers' residence that afternoon. "While I'm busy waiting for the world to realize Wait! Buffy's happy! Let's put a stop to that, you're waiting for me to see what isn't there and pack up and leave…" Buffy took her hand back, wringing her pajama shirt in both hands now, sending a pleading look towards the dorm-room ceiling. "At least my tradition of falling for crazy people has continued …" she muttered.

"C-Crazy?" Tara asked, hesitant.

"Well," Buffy sighed as she glared at the wall behind Tara, "Angel was this murderous Vampire, said to have killed more people than Napoleon in his day, then he gets this tortured soul shoved in with the demon living in his head… Not to mention Faith, who was unstable when she arrived, but got pushed over the edge not too long after…" here she turned a smirking face towards the Sorceress, "Now I have this bedroom-eyed blonde with curves that I'm betting are more exhilarating than the German autobahn, and yet when she looks in the mirror she sees a Glalphiloix demon. Like I said – Crazy." Buffy's grin grew as the blush on Tara's face became so hot she'd actually made herself more uncomfortable.

"We're so busy keeping an eye out for what might break us up, we're wasting the time we have together. And for the record; what you're waiting on? It's not gonna happen. I'm not blind, I'm not under some spell, I'm not with you just because you'll have me – I'm here because I wanna be, because there's nowhere else I'd rather… Are we clear?" Buffy finished, smiling.

"You don't know me," Tara insisted, shaking her head, "There are things –"

"That I will discover, in time – that's what a relationship is!" she insisted, scooting forward on the bed. "I know enough to know I wanna stay and learn more. I know you're achingly sweet, not to mention kind to a fault…" she chuckled here, a hand finding it's way onto the Wicca's knee again. "You're so ready to talk me out of being with you – I think this comes back to our trust agreement."

"What?" she asked, confused and a little disbelieving.

"You said I was gonna have to trust your voice to be the source of honesty – to believe you're ready, when you say you're ready? Well trust mine when I say I want you! Trust my hands when you feel the way I touch you, the change in my breathing when I kiss you…" She picked up one of Tara's hands at this and placed it against her chest. "Do you feel that?" she asked, voice serious.

"Uhm," Tara gasped out, not sure what precisely Buffy was expecting her to feel…

"Tare," Buffy cut in, and the taller woman's eyes snapped from where her hand was now lain, back to her girlfriend's eyes. The Slayer was smirking now. "I meant my pulse."

Tara blushed, a stammering "Oh!" making its way out her lips just as she became aware of the steady thumping under her palm. As the Slayer's hand over her own slid it under one of the lapels of her pajama top, Tara felt the thumping speed up a bit. The slayer smiled, leaning in for a kiss… Her own heart racing, Tara had the briefest thought of mine's definitely in the lead! before their lips connected.

(To Be Continued…)