4.19.x (set a few weeks after Willow comes out to Buffy in "New Moon Rising")

Spoilers: season 4
Pairings: Willow/Tara.
Rating: Teen, mild sexual innuendo
Feedback: Yes, please, including criticism (the gentle kind)
Note: Thoughts in italics

Tara and Willow and other characters from the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel were created and are owned by Joss Whedon.



Willow Rosenberg quickly scanned the forty or so lines of code she'd just typed into her laptop, scrolling up to compare them to the lines she'd typed prior that had been pushed off-screen by the rapid fire clicking of keystrokes in the last few minutes. The completed program took the place of a final exam for her advanced computer science lab and was due in two weeks but, to her satisfaction, was just about finished and ready to be handed in, a polished and, she was smugly aware, superior product. As was well known among her circle of friends and a few of her envious classmates, she was of that rare breed of student who actually liked homework. She found the structure of assigned reading and defined, goal-oriented tasks a way of focusing her active and, at times, too creative mind. Despite the fact that many of these assignments were frankly beneath her intellect, she found that doing them improved her discipline and helped her develop a methodology that could be used in her more creative independent endeavors, both as a programmer and hacker and as a witch.

She paused after coming to the end of a particularly layered line, a frown crinkling her brow as she brought her hand to her mouth and unconsciously bit down on the tip of her thumb. She teased the syntax out then returned to typing before the logic of her solution escaped her.

So engrossed was she with the assignment that the two hours she spent at the compact keyboard of her laptop barely registered until she paused again, and she noticed the dull ache in her wrists. She leaned back and stretched, yawning as she hit Save. A double mocha latte would be nice right about now, she thought. But do I really want to go out? I'm thinking not. Just another hour or so at this and I'll be done. Besides, I should probably think about dinner instead. It's almost 5:30. There's some of that breakfast cereal left, but I think we're out of milk. I wonder if Buffy can pick some up—

No, she can't. She's with Riley and I won't see her tonight. I rarely see her these days. We really need to talk about that. And it's Thursday. Tara's got her late class tonight.

Despite the sour note of the last thought, the mere mention of her girlfriend in her inner monologue brought a smile to her lips and sudden warmth between her legs. The two witches had been openly dating for a month now, and their relationship had grown intensely physical in that time, their intimacy accelerated proportionately as they came out as a couple to the university at large which presently served as their home.

Just then, a gentle tap at the door brought Willow out of her reflections. "Who is it?" Learned my lesson from Spike. Gotta admit, though, if I hadn't taken a chance that night with the Gentlemen, Tara and I might never have—

"W-Willow? It's me. M-my class got canceled."

Willow jumped up to open the door, grinning even before taking in the welcome sight of her beautiful girl. Tara was dressed in a long sleeve baby blue tee shirt and a long, flowing floral patterned skirt, her book bag over her shoulder and a paper shopping bag in one hand. Willow liked the outfit. The tee shirt was just tight enough at Tara's bosom and the skirt hugged at her hips to show off Tara's womanly figure. "Come on in, baby."

"You're not busy?"

"Nuh-uh." Willow grabbed Tara's free hand and pulled her inside. She leaned in and giddily kissed the older girl's full lips before closing the door. "And just for the record, for all future instances, I'm never too busy to see you."

Tara smiled, still feeling shy about just dropping by on her girlfriend without calling after she'd found her professor had unexpectedly canceled her class. Willow and she were relatively still new as a couple, though Tara knew without a doubt she'd already fallen hard for the redhead. She'd had the chance to call when she stopped by her dorm room on her way over, but had thought it would be a good opportunity to try to be more spontaneous with her much more outgoing girlfriend. She raised the paper bag. "Good. I brought some dinner."

"Thanks for this."

"Well, I figured I'd head you off before y-you left for the Espresso Pump." Tara smiled shyly. "That is where you w-were going, right? Not the cafeteria w-where the semi-healthy food is?"

She already knows me so well, Willow thought. She was leaning back against Buffy's bed as Tara leaned against hers. They were sitting on the floor between the two singles, the remnants of the Thai takeout between them. "Hey, no fair reading my mind."

Tara giggled as she started to put the empty cartons into the bag. "I think if I could read your mind, I'd go crazy in 5 minutes. It seems to get a bit crowded in there."

Willow helped with the clean up. Their hands bumped into each other, reaching for the same container. They felt the familiar jolt of magic at the casual touch. "Not when you're around," Willow said, her voice suddenly sultry and rumbly. "I've got a one-track mind when you're in the room."

Tara blushed and smiled as she got the last empty water bottle and deposited it into the trash bag. Her hair was pulled back into a neat ponytail, else Willow was fairly certain she would've tried to hide behind her bangs as she often did. Which is so crazy, considering she's, like, the most gorgeous woman I've ever met.

Tara got up to put the trash into the receptacle near the fridge. "So, w-where's Buffy? Shouldn't her last class have ended by now?"

"Why, Tara Maclay," Willow said as she got up and followed the older girl, encircling Tara's waist in her arms from behind. She lay a soft kiss on the back of Tara's neck, making her girlfriend shiver. "Are you checking to see if the present accommodations are all clear for us to possibly do some… spells together without interruption?"

Tara blushed furiously, but laughed all the same at her girl's silly double entendre. Her hands went to her waist, to hold Willow's hands in her own. "You do have a one-track mind sometimes." She gently unclasped Willow's smaller hands from her waist and brought them up to eye level, palm to palm, with her hands underneath so she could study the tops of Willow's hands intently, becoming lost in her own thoughts. "But I actually had something else in mind, and I w-wouldn't want Buffy to w-walk in on us and be disturbed by the smell…"

Willow watched indulgently over Tara's shoulder as Tara held their hands up before her. "Hmm. Are you sure you're not thinking the same thing as I'm thinking? Cause from what you just said, it sure sounds like my one track mind is on the same track that your mind's on."


"I'm pretty sure Buffy's at Riley's tonight again," Willow said suggestively. "You know, if you did want to stay here and do… spells or… stuff with me that might make the room smell, um, funny."

It finally dawned on Tara what her girlfriend meant. Again, she felt her face grow hot with the sudden flush of blood that she had come to learn was a normal occurrence in life with Willow. She burst out in a full belly laugh, letting Willow's hands go so she could cover her mouth with her own as she turned to face her girlfriend, who was looking at her quizzically as she struggled without much success to regain her composure. "Oh, Willow, you are just so cute. And deranged. But so cute."

Willow pouted.

"Come here." Now it was Tara who grasped Willow by the hand. She led the way to her book bag she had left by the door, letting go of Willow's hand in order to rummage through the bag and pull out a small vinyl case, which she handed to the curious girl. "This is what I thought we'd do tonight. Not the, um, spells—though doing spells—wonderful. I l-love doing, um, spells with you." Tara cleared her throat. "Though I'm n-not as good with the s-sexy double-talk as you. I'm better at b-being pl-plain."

Willow opened her mouth to protest what that statement implied, but Tara quickly continued.

"S-so I will be. I love making love with you. It's wonderful. It's glorious. Y-you make me feel so alive when you l-look at me like that, when you touch me and you want me. I can hardly believe how lucky I am. For the first time in God knows how long, I don't believe what I've heard all my life about it being better to be born male. I'm happy I'm a girl. Your girl."

Woman. Willow smiled. Womanly Tara.

Tara took a deep breath before continuing. "But to be honest, I think it's better that we only make love in my room." She paused again. "I think Buffy still might not be totally comfortable with you and me, um, being affectionate in front of her, you know?"

Willow frowned at that. "You think?" Tara nodded, sincerely. "I think you may be right," Willow sighed.

"It's okay, though, I get it," Tara said quickly to reassure Willow. "That thing with Riley at the frat house?" She grimaced. "Really more than I needed to know about them, myself."

Willow watched quietly as Tara removed the items from the vinyl case and arranged them on her desk where they both sat side by side. Tara had placed a plastic bowl next to the small bottles and the dish towel. She had half-filled the bowl with warm water from the bathroom tap and now emptied a combination cleanser and vitamin treatment into the bowl. Satisfied, she then turned to Willow and took her hands in her own, guiding them to submerge in the solution. Tara massaged Willow's hands in the water, making sure to completely rub the smaller girl's finger tips to the first knuckle.

"You know, I wouldn't have expected this sort of thing from you."

Tara raised her eyebrow at Willow's innocently made remark. "You wouldn't?"

Willow caught her girlfriend's look. "Oh, not that, you know, you go around with dirt under your fingernails and your hands all chapped and scabby like some kind of Gaean earth yamma-mama." She continued quickly, as Tara's other eyebrow joined the other in shooting up near her hairline. "I mean, manicures? It's so… uh, Cordelia."

"You don't think I could cut it as a beauty pageant contestant?" Tara gently dried Willow's hands with the terry cloth towel. She frowned critically at Willow's hands a moment, hesitating before picking up a nail clipper.

Uh oh. Careful... "It really wouldn't be fair to the other contestants. You're so beautiful and talented, you'd win every time, crushing their fragile hopes and dreams and driving them to half-lives of being trophy wives to middle-management businessmen in one of the cookie-cutter multinational conglomerates." Tara's smirk gave way to an amused chuckle as Willow got the statement out in one breath. Good save!

Click! Click!

"Hm. I thought I read someplace it wasn't a good thing to use a nail clipper. Aren't you supposed to use a file instead?"

"Channeling your inner beauty pageant contestant, lover?" The smirk was back.

Ooookay. Take note, giving someone a manicure can bring the hidden bitca out in the nicest and most gentle of people. Maybe it's the chemicals... Would explain a lot about Cordy... Then Willow smiled goofily. Heheh... She called me "lover."

"It's just that your nails are a little too long for the emery board alone. I have to take them down a little more quickly or we'll be here awhile. They're softer now with the dip, so they shouldn't crack by using the clippers."

"Oh. Yeah," Willow said sheepishly. "I usually cut them when they get too long to type with. I guess I forgot."

Tara's mouth quirked into a half smile as she took the emery board and began to shape Willow's shortened nails. "You bite your nails?"

"Uh, I don't think I do." She thought about it a second. "Well, I guess, maybe sometimes I might've…"

"What do you have to be nervous about, sweetie?" Tara couldn't imagine her energetic, smart, brave, and quirkily beautiful girlfriend being anything but confident about anything. Not to mention the fact that her best friend was a bona fide superhero.

Willow paused a fraction of a second longer than would've seemed natural before offering, "Well, there's living on the Hellmouth all your life..."

Tara let the statement trail off, reluctantly aware, though the feeling was tinged with a little relief, that it might be too soon for any big reveals. "Yes, that'd do it." She continued to shape Willow's nails with the board. She had taken them down shorter than Willow's fingertips, but not so short that the clipper would violate the nail beds underneath. "Not too short, are they?"

"No, they're good. I like them as short as possible—uh, at least I do when I don't ignore them."

They were quiet as Tara administered to Willow's cuticles, carefully working them away in neat, symmetrical arches and removing the dead skin from each nail. "Is this alright?" Tara asked.

Willow murmured it was. Tara washed her hands again in the soapy vitamin solution, then patted them dry once more with the terry cloth towel.

"Is that polish?"

Tara vigorously shook the small bottle to mix its contents. She stopped a moment to answer, "No. It's nail strengthener. You probably don't need it, but you do use your hands a lot, so better safe than sorry."

This confused Willow. She didn't consider typing manual labor, and that just about summed up the extent of the work she did with her hands.

Tara carefully applied the nail strengthener, coating the tips twice. As it dried, she asked Willow, "Did you want polish, Willow? I didn't bring any, but if you have some, I can put it on now."

"No. No polish."

"Okay. Almost done then. Just the topcoat left." Tara shook a different small bottle vigorously. She applied the gloss coat, starting with a line down the middle of each of Willow's nails, then a second and third stroke to either side. The girl's fingertips were so small, each nail required only three strokes at the most. As Willow's nails dried, Tara began putting the kit away.

Willow looked at her perfectly manicured hands as the gloss coat dried on them. After the initial playfulness, Tara had given her the treatment almost reverently, it seemed, and she suddenly felt bad that she had not paid closer attention to her girlfriend's careful actions. They seemed so significant and deliberate, almost ritualistic in retrospect. "Tara? Do you want me to do yours? I, uh, didn't pay attention, but if you walk me through it again, I can try, though I'm not as artistic as you…"

Tara smiled, feeling warmth rush through her to suffuse her chest. "It's okay, Willow, I did mine a few days ago. I usually do mine every other Tuesday, after my History class." She finished packing up the kit, leaving just the bowl with its contents to dispose of, and a tube of skin moisturizer to the side. "But next time, you can do them for me. I'd really like that." She stood and picked up the bowl, then left to dump the contents and rinse it out in the community bathroom down the hall.

Tara came back into the room, putting the bowl on one of the top shelves of Willow's bookcase. Smiling softly, she took her seat again next to her girlfriend. "Dry yet?" she asked, her voice gentle.

"Just about," Willow said. It was testament to the solemnity she perceived in the moment that she did not take the opportunity to quip another horndog euphemism to Tara's question. Instead, they sat silently for a moment, before Tara reached up to push Willow's bangs from her forehead.

"Tara?" Tara's blue eyes immediately fixed on her own. Willow could still sense an intensity in the other girl's gaze, behind the gentle demeanor. "Thank you. I normally can't stand sitting still doing nothing while someone, uh, grooms me. Kinda reminds me of going to the hair salon with Mom when I was little, waiting hours for her to get all the stuff she wanted done as she'd gab endlessly with the hairdresser, while I'd start to fidget and get yelled at by the shopkeeper when I started messing up all her magazines." Willow paused, and looked again at her now presentable hands. "But I really liked this. I liked being pampered."

"You're welcome, Willow. I liked doing it."

"But it meant more, didn't it?" Willow pressed on, then, softer, "To you?"

Tara smiled and nodded. "Yes, it meant more to me. I was, um, hoping it's something we can do for each other, in the future, even though it is kind of t-time consuming. But I don't mind that. Every minute I spend with you is a minute well spent. Best spent. I'd also love to wash your hair." Again, Tara pushed her long fingers through Willow's fiery red hair. "But the dorm showers kind of make that impractical. M-Maybe if one of us gets off-campus housing next year…" She looked down at Willow's hands, testing her work delicately. Satisfied Willow's nails were sufficiently dry, she squirted a pearl of moisturizing lotion into Willow's palms then began to vigorously work it into the smaller girl's skin.

"Um, so what does giving me a manicure mean to you?" Willow asked.

Tara paused, considering her next words carefully. "Y-You know how in girl-on-girl p-porn made for straight men, the actresses always have those long, dangerous looking claws? Worse sometimes even than a v-vampire's. I could never imagine them actually w-wanting to be there, w-wanting to be touched by each other. N-Not really." She paused again, took a breath. "And in my mind, they never made love, which was always the truth to me because I always turned away, e-even though I was curious, as soon as I saw their nails. So n-nothing ever happened in those videos or photos, in my mind, beyond the first t-two seconds it took for me to not see what I needed in them."

Willow had seen examples of that kind of porn before, the first time when she and Xander had come across his father's stash while playing in his basement years ago, and many times since then just casually surfing the Internet. But as she had not grown up lesbian, so to speak, looking at the images each time had not really affected her beyond the universal throwaway conclusion that men could be oversexed pigs. But she had a busy mind, and tried to connect what Tara was saying to their own situation. She quickly leapt to a worst case interpretation. A memory recalled, last weekend, of Tara's face, a flash of anguish while in the middle of the throes of passion, mistaken for the intensity of an orgasm. Willow had been inside Tara and thrusting hard, caught in her own crescendo. And hadn't Tara moved a little gingerly the next day? "Tara! Oh God, I hurt you the other night, with the long nails, and using my hands too hard! I'm so sorry, baby—"

Her hands still grasping Willow's, Tara pulled the smaller girl to her and silenced her with a firm, long kiss on the mouth. She pulled back eventually, leaving Willow breathless, her emerald eyes half-closed. "You can never hurt me, Willow, making love to me." She leaned in to take another kiss from her lover, gentler this time, and slower. Willow's eyes were open when the kiss broke. "The manicure was because this, you and me, it's the real thing, it's what I've been looking for, what I need, and I hope you feel the same. It's worth taking the time to make everything, every last detail, right, always."

Willow woke at the sound of Buffy closing the door behind her as she crept into their room the next morning. It was a little after 6:00AM. "Mornin' Buff," she croaked.

Buffy straightened with a little "eep!" and turned to look guiltily at her best friend. "Sorry, didn't mean to wake you."

As it was Friday, Willow had no classes and normally would be dead to the world until at least 10:00. But after some more talking, smoochies and cuddling, Tara had left for her own room around 8:00, giving Willow plenty of time to put the finishing touches on her programming assignment before turning in early for bed. She would've gotten up early, anyway. She yawned and stretched. "S'okay. So, at Riley's last night, huh?"

Buffy nodded with a slight smile. "You? I would've thought you'd be over at Tara's, Thursday night and all."

Willow sat up, running her hands through her mop of morning hair. "Oh yeah. No, she came over here last night instead."

Before she could stop herself, Buffy's eyes darted around the room, as if trying to sense what parts of their quarters had been privy to witchy snuggles or—eek—perhaps more?

Willow chuckled to herself and shook her head, a little sadly. "No, we didn't do it in here—at least, not that."

"Oh—no, Wills, really, I didn't mean—"

"It's okay, Buffy." She yawned again, trying to wake up completely. "Really." She stretched her arms out in front of her, then saw the murky daylight catch the fresh gloss on her fingertips. She brought her hands closer to her still sleepy eyes, smiling. "She just came over to bring me dinner and to give me a manicure."

"A manicure?" Buffy perked up. A manicure, she could handle, surely. That was definitely within her area of expertise. She was almost as expert at manicures as she was at removing vamp dust from suede. "Can I see?"

Buffy took Willow's hand in hers, and inspected Tara's handiwork. "Hey, not bad. No polish, though."

"No. No polish."

Buffy released Willow's hand. "Huh. I wouldn't have figured Tara to be the manicuring type."

"Well, she's a woman of many talents." She's quite the woman, in fact.

"So I see." Buffy's face grew thoughtful, and brightened. "Hey, she likes giving manicures, I like getting them and giving them too. Maybe this is something she and I could do together, kind of like a girly bonding thingy—give us a chance to get to know each other."

Willow couldn't help but chuckle at the rapid-fire pictures that came to mind of her super-straight best friend and her gorgeous girlfriend, after Tara's revelations of last night, her mind moving from point A, beauty shop bonding, to Z, manipulating a woman's body in a sexy way, in a matter of seconds… Mind in the gutter much…? Then she thought about it again. Uh, no. Emphatically, no. She got out of bed, slipping into her slippers then gathered her shower kit and robe. From the doorway, she said. "I'm sure she'd appreciate the offer, Buff, but no one but no one touches Tara's nails except me!"

"Okay, Wills! Not a problem. There's always pizza. Pizza is an even better bonding agent than nail polish! You know, with all the cheese..." Buffy chirped. Willow padded off, leaving a puzzled Buffy sitting on her made bed, her eyes following her best friend out the closing door. Did she just growl at me? I think Willow just growled at me. Huh.