Standard disclaimer: The characters aren't mine. This should come as no surprise. I am simply a teller of stories that occasionally claw their way desperately out of my head.

Setting: Early Season 5, post-"Family" but before things got hard.

Notes: And again with the dream 'fics. My muse can't talk to me when I'm awake, oh no, she has to disturb my slumber. Still, though, I like this general idea for a series of stories (dribbles, drabbles, ficlets, whatever strikes my fancy) that are just what they sound like -- slices of life from the characters we all know and love. You know, the stuff you usually wish you could have more of in any given episode, but there simply isn't time. I have no idea how much of this I'll really do, but I like to think many. Many would be good. We can but wait and see.

(12 January 2004)


Slices of Life
Slice One: Subtext

"Xena and Gabby are so into mutual smoochies."

Tara sighed inwardly and gave Willow a sideways glance, her eyebrow arching in a bemused expression. At least Willow had waited for the teaser to end before mentioning it this time. Her sweetie was learning restraint. Tara briefly considered not rising to the obvious bait, but ultimately couldn't resist – Willow just looked so darned cute when she was in Debate Girl mode.

Without taking her eyes from the screen, Tara seemed to give the matter serious thought before replying, "No way. They're just friends."

Willow's hand paused on the way to her mouth to deliver a handful of buttery popcorn goodness. Tara had done it; she'd used the 'just friends' argument. Them's fightin' words.

"'Just friends'," Willow repeated, her tone indicating that she was clearly talking to a crazy person. "Didja not see 'The Quest'?"

"Well sure I did," Tara replied, tossing her pillow to the foot of the bed and lying down on her stomach. She lifted her feet in the air and swung them back and forth happily, the only outward expression of her extreme amusement. Her face was all deadly, literary-analysis serious as she continued. "But Xena and Gabrielle were talking on an astral plane, Xena being dead and all. It was a-a meeting of the souls? There was nothing physically romantic in their interaction, it was simply the easiest expression of deep love between two people who care very much about each other." Tara paused and looked over her shoulder at Willow, giving her a sultry, half-lidded smile. "Besides, Xena was in Autolycus' body at the time, and Bruce Campbell's hot."

She turned back to the TV, giving it her full attention as Willow spluttered and choked on her popcorn. "You know. So I've heard," amended Tara.

Willow took a huge gulp of Dr. Pepper to soothe her raw throat and glared at the back of her seemingly oblivious girlfriend's head, but without real malice. Tara was using a new line of arguments, and distracting Willow at the same time. Sneaky little kitten.

"Mmmmm. Ash," Tara moaned in a way usually reserved just for Willow, igniting a new round of coughing in the redhead, this time with the added bonus of carbonation. Fun. Willow wasn't sure she'd ever be able to watch Army of Darkness again. A return to topic was needed, and quickly.

"So," she began, lying down next to Tara and balancing the bowl of popcorn on her pillow, "you're saying you don't think that kiss meant anything at all?"

Tara reached her hand into the bowl and tossed a few pieces into her mouth, munching thoughtfully while watching Xena pull off some extensive aerial maneuvers and making a mental note to ask Buffy if such things were even physically possible. "It meant something," she agreed, ignoring the smug look appearing on Willow's face. "It meant love. I'm not denying that Gabrielle and Xena love each other, just that friendship-love can be as deep as romantic-love and the line doesn't have to blur."

"Ah-HA! But you don't kiss your friends!"

"You kiss Xander."

"Not with tongues!" There was a dead silence as Tara simply raised her eyebrow and smirked, challenging Willow's statement. "W-Well not anymore, cuz, you know, gay now, and my tongue's all reserved for Tara kissage which is most definitely not platonic. Plus, hello, Xander? So over him now. Way over. So over that rainbow I'm in the Land of Oz. Oh, and-and Oz-kisses? Also not platonic, which is totally what Xander-kisses are now. N-Not that I miss Oz-kisses, because I have 24/7 Tara-kisses, which are way better and—"

Willow's babbling was cut short by one of the aforementioned Tara-kisses, and she quickly forgot whatever point she had been trying so desperately to make. They broke apart after a few minutes and Willow grinned sloppily. "So I'm guessing that wasn't an example of a friendship-love kiss."

"Uhm, no," Tara agreed, affectionately smoothing a stray lock of hair behind Willow's ear. "That was pretty much all romantic-love. No subtext here."

"I am in support of the absence of subtext," said Willow, nestled against Tara's arm and interlacing her fingers with the blonde's. "Except on Xena," she added, as the two watched the episode unfold.

Tara rubbed the back of Willow's hand with her thumb and smiled indulgently. "Of course."

"Of which there is plenty."

"Loads."

They watched in silence, simply enjoying a lazy day of no classes, no threats, and plenty of time for each other and the little things that made that time together so important.

After several minutes had passed, Willow gave voice to the thought that had been bouncing around in her head. "Do I even have to bring up the hot tub scene?"

Tara laughed and bumped Willow with her shoulder. "You're such a doofus."

"Then there's the countless nights around the campfire …"

"Okay!" Tara exclaimed, knowing full well that Willow wouldn't let the matter drop without a clear victor. "Xena and Gabrielle are the lesbian couple of the ancient Greek world, whose steamy, torrid love affair inspired Sappho herself. Their every night was filled with passionate love making by the campfire, which explains why Ares was always lurking around. Happy now?"

"Yup," replied Willow with a definitive nod. She snuggled her head against Tara's shoulder, and sighed contentedly as Tara rested her head on top of Willow's. They continued watching the episode in comfortable silence for a while before Tara broke it by clearing her throat.

"Will?"

"Mmm-hmm?"

"With all this acknowledged subtext on the show … "

"Mmm?"

"What do you think it means that Gabby walks around constantly with a really, really big stick?"

Willow answered with a pillow to the back of Tara's head, and the show was soon forgotten in the fierce battle that followed, fought with swinging pillows and hurled handfuls of popcorn. Though the peace process in the aftermath of the brutal conflict turned out to be much more satisfying, the two combatants eventually discovered. And it, too, was subtext-free.