MEET THE ROSENBERGS
4.22.x (taking place during the summer break between seasons 4 and 5)
Warnings: some mild sexual innuendo
Tara, Willow, and other characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel were created and are owned by Joss Whedon.
RIIIIING! RIIIIING! RIIIIING! RIIIIING! RIIIIING!
"You've called the home of Ira and Sheila Rosenberg. No one is home to take your call right now, so leave your name and number and a brief message and the appropriate party will get back to you… … … … …Oh—" BEEEEEEEEEEP!
"Hi Mom and Dad. I'm here at Xander's and I'll probably be back late, so don't wait up for me. Just to let you know, I'm going to Tara's early tomorrow then we'll just take the bus from campus back home, so there's no need to pick us up, Dad. Okay. See you tomorrow… Oh, and Mom, remember, my girlfriend's name is TARA. That's T-A-R-A. Not Terry. Oh! And I know we went over this already, but I want to make sure everyone's clear, she's my euphemism-girlfriend, not just my friend-girlfriend, like Bunny is—BUFFY! is… okay? Just so we're clear. Again. Okay? Okay. See you both tomorrow." CLICK.
"Willow? W-Wake up, sweetie. W-We're going to be late!"
Willow rolled over onto her back from the fetal position she'd been in while napping in Tara's bed. She had been dreaming a frog dream—a potentially good frog dream, for once. She was the frog, which for the first time didn't fill her with horror and send her bolting out of her sleep, as Princess Tara was about to—
She cracked an eye open to peer at the Tara-colored blur ransacking her girlfriend's dorm-room closet. Several brightly colored scarves flew out like exotic birds arching across a tropical sky, though in her present state, it struck Willow more like a bad magician's trick gone haywire. "What time is it?" She croaked.
"I-it's already 6!"
"Tara, dinner isn't until 7!" Willow groaned. "Believe me, dinner with my parents is an event you'd rather be late for than early." She rolled back on her side to try to get back to her dream to see how Princess Tara intended to—
"Oh no you don't, missy. We made love for two hours straight before you fell asleep which was…" Tara paused to do the math, "two and a half hours ago! It smells like a locker-room in here, and you smell like the league MVP after the championship game!"
"Mmm baby, you're making me swoon with the butchy sports metaphor…"
"Willow, not now! Get in the shower already. We are not going to arrive late the first time I meet your parents." Tara smacked her girlfriend's ass to get her moving before hurrying to the door to take down her robe from its hook. "And we are not going to their house with you smelling like me!" Willow sat up just as Tara's robe flew through the air and landed in her lap. "You can use this!"
"Ew, it's wet! Did you—?"
"Yes. I took my shower while you were sleeping."
Willow grumbled as she shrugged the damp robe on over her naked body, got out of bed, found most of the clothes she'd discarded earlier and started for the door. "Spank me and make me take my shower alone, will ya? Don't worry, payback's a…"
"Willow! Stop muttering and just go take your shower."
"Yes, ma'am." Willow headed for the showers.
It turned out to be fortunate that Tara hurried Willow out the door as soon as she got back from her shower, as the city buses were only running one an hour during the summertime while the majority of UC students were back home with their families. They barely caught the 6:22 bus into the Sunnydale suburbs and were deposited a block from the Rosenberg house at 6:38.
"Walk slow! Walk slow!" Willow hissed at her girlfriend.
"W-Willow, it's not going to matter if w-we get there fifteen minutes early."
"You think that now, because you haven't met them yet!"
"Oh, w-way to pump up your girlfriend's confidence, Will."
"Instilling false hope never leads to anything but tears and recriminations later. We should have a plan before we go in… Okay. Remember this," and she made a finger wagging gesture with her hand, "means RUN!"
They arrived at the Rosenberg residence just as the sun was setting on the July day. Willow opened the door with her keys and led Tara inside by the hand. "Mom! Dad! We're here."
Tara looked around the living room they had just stepped inside of to take stock of what kind of family she might potentially find herself a part of one day. Willow's teasing had given her a confused idea as to what her girlfriend's parents were like. Tara assumed they had a wry sense of humor, if Willow's was any indication. They were both academics, which explained Willow's educational overachieving tendencies, and would be well-read and probably opinionated about a variety of topics. One of Mr. Rosenberg's doctorates was in world history while Mrs. Rosenberg's was in sociology. They wrote scholarly works and were frequently on the lecture circuit. The way Willow described it, much of her childhood was spent with either one or both of her parents away on a book promotion, lecture tour, or, as was most often the case for Ira, serving as a visiting professor at a distant campus. Being academics, most of their summers were free though they often took advantage of the three month hiatus to travel overseas. As they proudly judged their daughter to be overly mature and intelligent for her age, they always offered Willow the option of joining them on their extended vacations, but Willow, not wanting to be separated from her friends for so long, had typically declined. They were Jewish, though from what she understood, Willow's family was more or less secular. Tara had taken it upon herself to learn a little more about Judaism anyway since Willow was still questioning, and she herself was curious as to how her own Wiccan beliefs might conflict or complement the faith her girlfriend had been raised in and still partly identified with. Both she and Willow, as witches and as apprentice demonologists, had taken an interest in mysticism and Kabbalah, though it was certainly not a topic that Tara suspected would come up tonight. No, tonight, it's all about the gayness.
Trying to gain insight into Willow's parents by the kind of home they had made for themselves and their daughter, however, was proving more difficult than she imagined. It was a warm enough place, eclectic in style, though a little darker and with more of a country element than Tara would've expected of a middle-aged academic couple. The room clearly ran counter to her own taste. Although her sense of style hadn't fully developed yet being not quite twenty, having grown up with authentic country under her very fingernails virtually all her life, she could spot the faux variety fairly easily. Tara realized it was those elements, the simple, homey utilitarian touches, that she disliked the most. They reminded her of her own home, and real country. Something inside her, a niggling doubt Willow's sweet kisses had not yet fully assuaged, whispered that perhaps real country, hard hands and sparse, harsh words, were all she should realistically look forward to, or all that she was entitled to, given the limitations of her unusual delicate situation. The country kitsch was just homey enough to remind her of her own home, but strange enough to reinforce that Willow came from a very different world. Could my demon be content in a place like this? Or would it rebel? Unbidden, a vision of the same room bathed in blood, the furniture torn and destroyed flashed through her, and she shuddered as her breath hitched. No! I'd kill myself before I let you hurt anyone… I'll find a way to kill you first!
Willow turned to Tara at the sudden squeeze of her hand and the small gasp. "What is it, baby?" A look of concern, then guilt washed across her face. "You're not really nervous are you? 'Cause there's nothing to be nervous about. I was just teasing about my parents. You know that, right? Well, mostly. But I know they'll love you right away. Who wouldn't?" Before Tara could use her rhetorical question as an occasion to launch into another bout of self-doubt, Willow leaned into her girlfriend and stole a quick kiss.
Tara recovered from the unexpected gesture quickly and shot her eyes around the room. Willow's move, however, had successfully distracted her. "Willow! Your parents could walk in any second."
"I know. Why do you think it wasn't a proper smooch?"
Thinking of how it might have been to meet the Rosenbergs just after being caught with Willow in a full liplock perhaps involving tongue instead of the fairly chaste peck made Tara blush. Willow grinned and pulled Tara further into the room.
"Hmmph! I was hoping at least Mom would be here, ready to greet us. Make yourself at home, baby. I'll just go find them." Willow headed toward the kitchen where she suspected her mother was putting the final touches on her dinner preparation. Sheila was a surprisingly good cook when she had the time to prepare the family's meals.
Tara sighed after her girlfriend left. Her birthday was coming up in just three months, and it was at times like this when the urge to confess her darkest secret and ask for help was almost overwhelming. Not for the last time, she thought of consulting Mr. Giles about her demonic heritage.
I'll talk to him… soon. After I know there's nothing more I can do myself. There's got to be a way of getting rid of it or suppressing it. No one needs to know yet…
Willow was still chastising herself for teasing her girlfriend about meeting her parents tonight as she walked to the kitchen. This was a big step in any relationship—one which she herself had instigated when the opportunity arose unexpectedly that both her parents would be home and available for two weeks between their tours of the Far East and northern Africa. Rather than opting for the normal course of action for a Scooby, leaving the parental units in the dark about anything that might cause concern or, perhaps more importantly, a restriction of liberty, Willow had decided that her recent epiphany regarding her sexuality and Tara's place in her life were too important to hide. In fact, she was rather proud of herself for winning someone so beautiful, talented, and kind. She herself had suggested a family dinner to introduce Tara to her parents and address any concerns they had about her recent change of heart about her sexuality. It was a big step—no, a huge one that would intimidate anyone, much less Tara with her innate shyness and sensitivity. Willow hadn't helped matters with her teasing. Well, I'll make it up to her tonight, after we get back to her room. She couldn't stop the smirk that found its way to her face.
"Mom?" she called as she entered the kitchen. But the room was empty. In fact, it didn't appear as if it had been used all day. Willow frowned, and headed for her father's usual haunt, his study.
Tara started moving slowly around the living room to continue her exploration. I'm not sure what I was expecting… New England Chippendale? Victorian? Eastern European Jewish? Postmodern? She realized that she didn't get much of a sense of a distinct aesthetic style from her girlfriend, other than one inspired by Nickelodeon or The Cartoon Channel. Not surprisingly, perhaps, she could not sense a distinct style from the house Willow had grown up in. It appeared to have been built in the 50s and still showed touches of those beginnings in the small size of the doorways and the iron railing of the stairs to the second floor. However, newer decorating decisions surely made by the Rosenbergs like the patterned wallpaper and furniture with carved feet reinforced the slightly dated feel of their home.
Tara lingered at the framed photographs placed on the serving table behind the sofa positioned at the center of the room. They were all family photos, more than a few of a much younger Willow. Willow mostly took after her father in looks but had inherited her mother's auburn hair. As a pre-teen and young teenager, Willow had worn it darker, straight, and longer, in distinct contrast to her current style of shoulder length copper waves. The smile was shyer, more tentative, but still unmistakably Willow. Her eyes were exactly the same—large, expressive, round pools that hid nothing, in a range of greens from khaki to deep emerald that changed depending on her mood.
Tara smiled at how cute her girlfriend was even in the awkward stage of pre-teen-dom. She felt a brief flash of jealousy for Xander, and wished she had also known Willow at every stage of her life. She was sure they would have been friends from the first moment they met. Well, we're together now. We'll just make the most of it now that we've found each other. Her heart swelled with happiness.
"Well, Mom's not in the kitchen and Dad's not here, either. Dinner might be catered tonight… Hey! Whatcha looking at?" Willow sidled up to Tara. Tara didn't get a chance to respond. As soon as Willow saw the particular photo her girlfriend had been gazing thoughtfully at, she snatched the framed photo off the sofa table.
Without a word to Tara, Willow went through the spread of photographs and collected those of herself not from the past three years. "How the frilly heck did she find these again? It is so not normal to go rummaging around a spider and dust-bunny-infested attic unless it's to hide embarrassing photos of yourself. The woman is evil…"
"W-Willow, w-what are you doing w-with your pictures?"
"Oh, nothing, babe. I'm just gonna find a better place for these." Maybe if I box them up and put them in the tool shed with my old computer junk. She hates that stuff and never goes back there. Or, if she does to do one of her crazed manic purges and she accidentally throws them out, it'll be her fault. Perrrrfect. Willow grinned with the cleverness of her plan.
Tara noted her girlfriend's evil grin and deduced whatever Willow was planning may not be altogether on the up and up. "Um, maybe you should let your mom do that, decorate her own house?"
Willow paused to look at her girlfriend. "'Her own house?' You're kidding, right?"
"W-What do you mean?"
"Well, just that it's my house, too. And my pictures, so I think I should have last say about how they're used, don't you?"
"Oh. Um, yes, if you put it that w-way. I, um, guess I'd just never think to do th-that in m-my father's house." Tara looked away.
Willow noticed the shift in her girlfriend's demeanor. She had withdrawn back into herself, the way she was when they first met. "Hey, you okay, Tare?" She returned to Tara's side. "Something you want to talk about, baby?" Maybe she's ready to talk about her family?
But Tara's defenses had come on full once more. She smiled weakly. "N-no. I-I'm good. W-We didn't have a… a lot of photos dis-displayed in our house, so I guess I'm not o-one to talk."
Willow didn't buy the flimsy attempt at deflection. "Babe…?"
"Really! I-I am, Willow. Okay. Okay?" Tara tried another smile. "So, w-where w-were you going to put those?"
"Oh," Willow looked down at the photos she'd taken from the sofa table. "Up in my room, of course!" In my closet, until I can come back alone and put them in the tool shed where they belong, with all the other tools. "In fact, you come. You can see where I spent my formative years. You might even gain some valuable insight into the numerous neuroses that collectively comprise your girlfriend's quirky personality."
Tara giggled and followed Willow up the stairs to the second floor. "So did your Mom or Dad leave a note about where they are?"
"Nope. No note. The Rosenbergs are not big on that kind of thing."
"So, here we are… kinda lame, huh?" Willow plopped herself down on her bed.
It was a typical teenaged girl's room, decorated mostly in white and rose shades, with posters on the walls and a bulletin board with pictures. Unsurprisingly, Willow also had two full bookcases. Above the dresser was a framed mirror. More pictures were stuck into the frame. Sitting on the dresser in front of the mirror were some trophies and awards for academic achievements. More sat on her desk. There was also an empty fishtank. A set of double doors led to a balcony outside.
Tara closed the door and smiled. "Not at all." Her eyes settled on a green and red poster hanging above Willow's bed. It featured a couple of stylized cartoon dogs seated at a table, being served a covered dish by a June Cleaver-type housewife. She read the title and her eyes narrowed.
Willow followed Tara's gaze and immediately cringed. "Sorry! I knew I forgot to take one down, somewhere." She sat up straight.
"Oh, it's alright, Willow. At least it doesn't have his picture on it. Then I'd have to ask you for it so I could hang it in my own room."
"Uh, why would you want a Dingoes poster in your room? You don't even like their music, do you?"
"Oh no. But I could use it as a dart board."
Ouch! "I'll, uh, take it down now."
"Really, Willow, you don't have to. You still like their music." Willow hesitated and Tara forced a smile, angry with herself that her attempt to be playful had come across meaner than she intended. She moved to the mirror and began to study the photos. Now if you left a picture of him here, we'll need to talk…
Willow joined her at her dresser. She embraced Tara from behind and laid her chin against the crook of Tara's neck. "See? No pictures of him here. In fact…"
Tara saw the prominently displayed photo of herself and Willow without her girlfriend needing to point it out among the others of Willow, Xander, and Buffy. In fact, it was strikingly similar to their current pose, but reversed in the mirror. She recalled a previous bantering conversation about the topic after Willow had given her a hickey one night. If Willow were a vampire, she would be a right-side biter from behind, and a left-side biter from the front. That's my Willow. Dependable. Tara unconsciously closed her eyes as Willow started nibbling on her earlobe. You have the weirdest conversations when you live in Sunnydale…
Willow sighed into Tara's ear, finding the idea of debauching her girlfriend in her old bedroom on her very childhood bed incredibly arousing. Her hands moved from Tara's hips to just underneath her breasts.
Mmmm… She's so cute when she's fighting being naughty when being naughty is really what she wants to be… This is so… kind of odd, actually. Willow's forehead crinkled into a frown. Usually, it's just about now that Mom would walk in on me. Her timing is normally uncanny. Willow took a half-step back from her girlfriend, lowering her hands back to a safer position on Tara's hips.
Tara caught her girlfriend's concerned look in the mirror. "Willow?"
"Something doesn't feel right, Tara… I wonder where Mom and Dad are. It's kind of unusual for both of them to not be here when we have a set dinner date. They're normally obsessively punctual."
Tara frowned herself. "I-I didn't sense any strange energy w-when we got here. But then, I'm not sure I w-would've, this being my first time here. Did you…?"
"Well, no, but my sensitivity still isn't the best with that kind of thing. Not like yours. The sun's down already, and they've got Sunnydale instincts the same as everyone else who lives in this town." Willow released Tara to go to her bookcase where she kept a few spell books and her witchcraft notebooks. "Now where in the name of Hecate did I put it…?"
"What are you going to do?"
She took down one of her notebooks from a top shelf. "I've been working on adapting the tinkerbell spell to work on any human, not just on you or me. I think now's as good a time as any to see if the changes will work."
"Should I move? I feel like I should move." Tara looked up at Willow from where she hovered beside her girlfriend as the smaller witch balanced precariously on the end of the stuffed sofa back in the living room, reaching for the last pixie light from the failed spell as it hovered near the light fixture.
"No… not necessary! I… should… have it… soon!" Willow's fingers again grasped and closed on empty air as the pixie kept flitting erratically just beyond her fingertips. "C'mon, you little…" Willow got on her toes and lunged a little, finally successful as her fist closed on the dancing light. Unfortunately, it was enough to push her off balance and she swayed back and forth on her unstable perch.
Instinctively, Tara reached out and grabbed the waistband of Willow's skirt and pulled her girlfriend toward her. They both fell back to the couch, Tara on her back, Willow in her lap. Willow squealed and Tara yelped as they landed.
"Tara! Baby, are you okay? Your back—?"
"I-I think I'm alright. What about you?"
"Well, other than your hands on my ass and booby, I'm okay."
Tara quickly pulled her hands away.
Willow sighed. "Those were the parts of me doing better than okay!" She pushed backward a little, into Tara's warmth and the softness of her breasts.
"Willow!" Tara said through gritted teeth. "Not now!"
"Eh, so I guess it'd be a bad time to tell you, you rushed me out of your room so fast I didn't have time to find my underwear?"
Willow shrugged sheepishly. "I didn't see where they went after you flung them over your shoulder, 'cause, you know, I kinda was underneath you at the time. Then, I figured, we're going home anyway, I'll just put on a pair here."
"And you didn't? We've been here fifteen minutes!"
"It sort of slipped my mind…" She unclenched her fist to reveal the fading embers of the deficient tinkerbell she'd successfully banished. She relaxed further into Tara's lap and it was now the blonde's turn to squirm, knowing Willow was currently going commando under her knee-length skirt. "Y'know, I could get used to this. It feels kinda—"
"Oh Goddess, Willow, don't say it!" Tara moaned, fighting her sudden arousal.
Both witches turned. Sheila was standing in the doorway of her home, looking down at her daughter half-sitting in the lap of a moaning blond goyeh she had never met before sprawled on the sofa in her living room. Behind her, not quite on the threshold was Ira. Apparently, Willow had also gotten her stature from her father, who appeared to be a couple inches shorter than Sheila. He could not see past his wife. They both held paper grocery bags.
"Mom! Dad!" "Mrs. Rosenberg! Mr. Rosenberg!" Willow scrambled to get out of Tara's lap, stumbling in the process. Tara followed, also half-stumbling clumsily as she anxiously reached to keep Willow's skirt down and in place as they collected themselves.
"What's going on, Sheila? Have we been robbed? Are the thieves still in our house? Because if not, I'd appreciate it if you stepped inside. This one-gallon potato salad isn't getting any lighter. And may I ask once more why we needed the one-gallon size? There's only four of us. Or did Willow mention something to you about how big this girl she's seeing is? Why doesn't she share those details with me?"
Sheila walked in, Ira behind her. The four stood staring at one another wordlessly for a long moment.
At last, Willow volunteered. "Mom, Dad, this is Tara, my girlfriend—my gay—LESBIAN type girlfriend!"
"Oh for heavens sake, Willow, we're not stupid, you know. We got your message." Sheila said. To Tara, she smiled. "Thank you for coming, Tara. You wouldn't believe how hard it's been to get Willow to bring over her school friends, other than that Harris boy, and Bunny… Summers?" Sheila smiled, pleased that she had remembered Bunny's last name.
"Well, there was that young man, too. Daniel was his name, wasn't it? Nice Jewish name, although if I recall, he wasn't…"
Willow made a strangled noise in her throat.
Ira suddenly remembered who Daniel was to his daughter and stopped himself. "Uh, never mind."
Um… okay. "Th-Thank you for having m-me, Mrs. Rosenberg." Tara shook Sheila's offered hand. She turned to Ira. "I-It's nice to m-meet you, Sir." Ira nodded and smiled, unable to offer Tara his hand for the armful of potato salad he was still sporting.
"You guys are late!" Willow accused. "We've been waiting for you for the past fifteen minutes! I thought something might've happened to you."
Sheila checked her watch. "Willow, it's just now turned 7:00. If you've been waiting for us for fifteen minutes, it means you were fifteen minutes early."
Willow shot Tara an I-told-you-so look. She made the RUN! hand sign. Tara frowned hard at her.
Ira caught the exchange, and nodded toward Willow's hand. "What was that? Some kind of lesbian sexual sign language?"
Sheila shot him a scathing look.
Huh. This explains a lot. Tara realized her mouth was hanging slightly open and closed it tightly, biting her lip to stop herself from laughing.
Willow smiled sheepishly at Tara before turning back to her father. "No, Dad. It was just a little joke. Here, give me the potato salad. We should get started. Tara and I had a busy afternoon—really, really, really busy! Yup, all with the… uh… studying!" Willow hurried, cluing onto Tara's deepening, horrified cringe. "'Cause, you know, Tara's taking some summer courses—Not that she needs the extra course work or credits! Nope, she's plenty smart, just studious. Really, really studious, which, uh, I'm sure you two of all people can appreciate. So, anyway, we're pretty hungry. Then right after dinner we're heading off to Buf—uh, Mrs. Summers' house." Willow relieved Ira of one of his paper bags and they started for the kitchen, gesturing with her eyes for Tara and her mother to follow.
"How'd you know I had potato salad in that bag?"
Tara didn't hear Willow's response as they disappeared into the kitchen.
"So, Tara, I take it from your invocation as we walked in that you are not Jewish, either?"
Invocation…? Oh. "Um, no ma'am." Tara offered to take Sheila's bag but was waved off as they also started for the kitchen. Willow had mentioned something about a Hellmouth-induced witch hunt that Mrs. Rosenberg along with Buffy's mother had played a part in a couple of years ago, but at the moment, under Sheila's scrutiny, the details escaped her. She wasn't sure if she should volunteer the information that she was Wiccan or not. Isn't tonight about the gayness? Or did what just happened take care of that already? Oh Goddess, help.
As they entered the kitchen, Willow intercepted them. She took Tara by the hand and turned her immediately to exit the room. "Gotta borrow my girlfriend for a second, Mom. We'll be back down before you know it! Definitely back before any monkey business can ensue! Unfortunately." The last word she uttered just loud enough for Tara to hear. Tara was too grateful for the rescue to admonish Willow for her cheekiness as she wordlessly followed the smaller girl back up the stairs toward her bedroom. Once safely inside, Willow closed and locked the door and turned to Tara. "I almost forgot! About my underwear. You can help me pick out a pair to divest me of later. Tide us over for until we get home from the Bronze tonight? Or we can skip the Bronzing entirely if you want. Just go straight back to your room after we're through here?" Willow grinned lasciviously.
Maybe it's this house. Maybe it's possessed. But Tara smiled as she thought it.