Summary: Willow and Tara make plans after Buffy's death.
Rating: M - Mature, explicit sexual content
Setting/background: Set about 2 months after Season 5, Ep22, "The Gift"
Notes: Thoughts in italics.
Feedback: Please. Constructive criticism especially appreciated.
Willow and Tara and other characters from the television shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel were created by Joss Whedon.
REQUIEM AND RETURN
"Tara, did you pack my yellow sweater in your suitcase?"
Tara looked up from her duffel bag where she had just stuffed Willow's baggied toothbrush and paste in next to their matching dark blue bath towels. Her girlfriend was conversely emptying out the contents of her luggage back onto the queen-sized bed of the room they'd rented for their week-long stay in Phoenix. This was their last day, and checkout from the bed-and-breakfast was in thirty-five minutes. "No, sweetie. Check the drawers again. I think I left it in the top drawer on the right."
Willow did so as Tara began returning her clothes to her bag. It was early afternoon on the last Friday in July and the sun was high in a cloudless sky. The air was almost sharp in their mouths. The window was open, but no desert breeze blew in to their second-storey room. Sure enough, the yellow button-up sweater with embroidered red and blue flowers was in the otherwise empty top drawer as Tara had suggested. Tara had set it aside for her for the trip home. Willow picked it up but almost dropped it as a feeling of déjà vu filled her. Hadn't she done something similar recently?
Yes. The day after Joyce had died.
Tara turned and saw Willow sitting on the edge of the bed, looking pensively down at the garment on her lap. After several moments, Willow set the sweater aside and started stuffing her clothes back into her case. Tara turned back to her own packing.
Tara turned just in time to see Willow abruptly stop her packing once more, this time to dive across the bed for her laptop case. She sat up on the edge of the bed, the case in her lap. With shaking hands, she pulled the zipper open and began setting up her Powerbook.
"Baby, what are you—?"
"I'm sorry, Tara, I just remembered, I forgot to call the housing office and cancel our double before we left. I could have sworn I wrote it down on my first list of stuff to do, but I must've missed it when I was transcribing it onto my travel list. God, I'm so stupid…"
Tara watched, her stomach sinking, as Willow attached her modem line, her hands beginning to tremble so badly she struggled to make the connection. Tara put down the garments she had been packing, and quietly maneuvered next to Willow on the bed as she finally got the cord sorted and pressed the power button. Willow bit her bottom lip as she waited impatiently for the machine to boot.
"Do you remember what the deadline was for changing the option? I can't remember. I think it's the end of the month, so maybe we still have some time to switch you back to a single without a fee." Willow sniffled and hastily rubbed her eyes. "I'm such an idiot."
"Will…" Tara said softly. She put her arm around Willow's shoulders, which also had begun to shake. "Willow, baby…"
"It-It'll just take a second… I just need to find the number again." She brought up a web browser. Her fingers drummed on the case just under the spacebar as the UC Sunnydale homepage loaded slowly. "I-I should have called after we decided we couldn't… not after…"
"But it was Saturday, and no one was at the office. Then after I just forgot… Stupid!"
"I-I'm sure it'll be alright, Willow. W-We just need to explain that—" that she died, and it changed everything. Tara cleared her throat. "—you need to stay with Dawn, instead…" instead of with me. Tara immediately scolded herself for being so selfish.
She was still having nightmares. They were less frequent now, and not as intense. Not nearly as bad as the ones she had just after that awful night when Willow brought her back from her personal hell and the present one they all shared began. But she was still having them. They were of different things, various scenarios. The last one was a fairly common one. Doctors had cut her skull open and extracted her brain. It was local anesthesia, so she could watch, numb but aware, as she had been for the weeks she had been insane. As it lay in the surgical pan, she could see that the ridges and valleys forming the surfaces of the organ were made not by the wrinkles of tissue to expand the surface area of her mentality, but by fat, pale worms, writhing sickly in oozing pale ichor. The surgeon was cutting away at the rotting tissue. Even behind his mask, she could tell his face was screwed up at the odor the mass was exuding. He first halved the quivering ball of grey matter. Then halved one half again. It was not enough, however, and the remaining quarter was reduced to an eighth. Still, diseased tissue remained, and it was halved again. The scalpel flashed. And again. And again…
But Tara knew that these dreams were nothing compared to Dawn's. She didn't complain. When her own whimpers were enough to wake Willow the nights following the disaster at Lunatics' Tower, her lover would wake her and hold her until her trembling stopped. But more often than not, these days, it was Dawn's cries that would wake either or both of them and send them to the younger girl's room to check on her. She wondered how Giles was doing with the Dawn-vigil duties. He had sounded tired when they had called yesterday, relief at their impending return evident in his voice.
"Damnit! Why the frilly heck do they put all this crap no one gives a damn about on the front page like this? Whoever designed this web page needs to be taken out and shot! Or forced to sit through all these lame animations all day long. Look at all this!"
"Sorry. It's just… frustrating."
"I know it is, Willow."
Willow navigated the pages without another word. She maneuvered through the site, clicking the appropriate links in search of the housing office's contacts page. They waited in silence as the page they needed finally came up. Willow wrote down the phone number on the stationary provided by the inn. Then she saw the notice of office hours during the summertime. "What the—How the hell can they be closed on Fridays?"
"Willow, it's alright, come on, honey. Don't get mad…" Tara grabbed hold of Willow's hand before her flustered girlfriend could slam her notebook shut, possibly damaging it and causing herself more grief. "We'll call them the first thing Monday, okay?"
Willow relented, knowing she was behaving childishly. It was her own fault, anyway. She took a cleansing breath and let Tara take her precious computer from her hands and place it behind them on the bed. She would wait until Monday. If worse came to worst and the deadline had passed, she could always find a spell or hack into the university's records to fix it. She tore the note from the pad and stuffed the phone number into her jeans pocket.
Tara turned back to Willow, brushed her bangs behind her ear. "Your hair's getting long again," she murmured. "It keeps falling in your face."
"I-I know, I've got to get it cut."
Tara ran her hand down the back of Willow's head to her neck. "Or you could let it grow out. It looks good longer."
"I don't know. It hasn't been long since I was in high school. I don't think I ever want to go back there again." She pulled herself away from Tara, feeling guilty once more.
Tara flinched as Willow turned. Stupid, stupid cow. She's barely touched you all week, what makes you think she'll want to do something more now, with everything happening, right before we have to leave and go back, and her all tense and worried?
Willow retrieved her case and started repacking her laptop wordlessly.
She probably didn't even know what you were doing. She's used to doing all the work initiating things that way, too… Great, Tara. Real smooth. Play with her hair…
Willow was still re-bundling the cord when she started to talk, softly. "Sometimes… I wonder… what happened to her soul? I know we buried her body and had the services for her. But holding them in secret, with hardly anyone there… I mean, how many people did she save? And none of them know? Something didn't feel right. It still doesn't. Like maybe it's not really finished? What if she's… Maybe she's in a hell dimension somewhere, like where Angel went? Do you think that's possible? What if… what if it's not over for her? I mean, why wasn't another slayer called, unless it's because she's not really gone? Maybe she's still out there, trapped, in some kind of hell, in pain, wondering why I haven't come to get her? If only I hadn't—I mean, I could've…"
Without a thought, Tara switched modes. "Willow, Willow, Will, baby, honey, sweetheart, what else could you have done? There wasn't anything more—"
"Don't say that, Tara! There were lots of other things I could've done! I could've gotten Spike up there faster! So that freak couldn't have cut Dawn and started it all! So she wouldn't have needed to… I could've teleported him the way I did—"
"If I hadn't been too weak…" Willow stopped, realizing where that train of thought led. She bit her lip, looked away from Tara to hide her face so she wouldn't slip and let her secret out. She knew, deep inside, that she would do it again. Even knowing what would come. She would do it all the same way again. She was ashamed at being so selfish.
But Tara was already on that train. It had pulled out of the station, taking her away from Willow. Because you'd used up too much to get me back. You feel guilty, regretful. It's why you need to stay in her house and take care of Dawn. Why we can't begin our life together just yet. So you can live her life. Make it up to her. I understand.
Willow could feel Tara shrinking from her, though her body was still there beside her. The feeling was acute—Tara's absence. She panicked and turned. Tara was crying quietly, and she realized what had just happened. "Goddess. I'm stupid."
Tara looked at her quickly. She was sad and confused and became angry at Willow berating herself, all at once. The tears on her face became hot. "You are not stupid, Willow!"
"I am. I'm the stupidest smart person in the whole world. Probably would be on a whole lot of other ones, too."
"Willow, stop saying those things!"
"I'm a dummy. An idiot. You know what I mean, Tara? A complete and utter maroon—not the color. The Bugs Bunny kind. A nimrod—not the ancient Mesopotamian king who founded the Assyrian capital Nineveh. But a real ignoramus with a genius IQ. Do you get what I'm trying to say, baby?"
Willow's voice had grown softer and softer with each slur.
Tara wiped at her eyes. Willow was smiling sadly. "You're a m-moron?"
"A real spaz."
"A-A social retard?"
"That would be me." Willow placed her hands on Tara's shoulders and turned her lover to her. She pulled Tara close, lifting herself a bit to meet her, reckoned the angles, and moved in to kiss her. They did, for a few moments, their lips just rubbing against each other, slightly parted, occasionally puckering to vary or prolong the contact. They slid backward back onto the bed, Tara underneath. Willow pulled back a little, rubbed at the tears still on Tara's cheeks. Tara sniffled. Her face was still a little splotchy, her nose red and her normally clear blue eyes clouded, tired and puffy. "You're beautiful, Tara," Willow said. She dipped down to kiss the tip of Tara's nose. "It's not every day a beautiful woman offers herself to me."
She knew. "I-I w-would hope not."
"Only a complete idiot would say no."
"O-or someone w-with important things to do."
"There's nothing more important."
"Dawn… Taking care of Dawn."
"Okay, yeah, pretty important. But not any more important." Willow closed her eyes, licking her lips. "I wish we could have babies together."
Tara's breath hitched.
Willow's eyes opened. They were a very dark green. "But the motions are still very worth going through, anyway." She pushed her hips forward slightly, into Tara's. "So… do you still wanna…?"
Tara's breathing had become heavy. Willow's thrust had made her hot and damp and achy under her skirt, between her legs. She couldn't stop the moan that rose from her throat.
Willow took it as tacit permission to press her lips against Tara's throat. She kissed and licked her way down, feeling Tara swallow against her lips on her way to the V of Tara's collarbone. Another moan, this one against the tip of her tongue. Willow felt like growling, Tara's moans were so sexy. She reached between them to fumble with the fly of her jeans but had trouble with the fastener. Great! Why do I always have to be wearing jeans when…? Oh… travel day… Shit.
Tara remembered, too. "Willow… I… I don't know if w-we have enough time…" She managed to will her hand from the skin at the small of Willow's back where it had found its way under Willow's blouse to bring her wrist close to her face. "Checkout is in fifteen m-minutes…" Stupid watch. It has to be running fast. Even five minutes fast. Please be fast!
I can be fast! "I can be fast!" Willow had gotten her zipper down and was working on hitching Tara's skirt up enough to get to her lover's panties. "Uh, normally, that's not something I would brag about, but we might have even less time when we get back to Sunnydale, and I get the feeling it'll be a long drive back if we don't get this done first. I mean, I guess we could go check out now and use the back seat of Xander's car before we hit the road. I'm sure he and Anya have done worse stuff in it, but there's something really disturbing about what I just said, and to be honest I don't know if I can even last that long anyway, y'know?"
Tara knew. Oh Goddess, she knew. She was already pretty close herself, what with Willow fumbling around with her panties and hips underneath her skirt. Her own hands had found the waistband of Willow's jeans and underwear and had managed to work the clothing down past the swells of Willow's buttocks, to the top of her girlfriend's thighs. At least she's wearing soft denim… A little easier to work with. They both had begun to breathe heavily. "N-No, I understand. All… All kinds of… motions are valid, depending on the situation… Oh Goddess!" Willow's hand was in her panties, caressing between her legs. She spread her thighs wider to give Willow as much room as the confines of her skirt allowed.
"Oh God, Tara, you're so wet." Willow had no trouble easing two fingers into her lover. She started a gentle rhythm, rubbing Tara's slippery clit with her thumb. "Did you come already? Oh. Never mind."
Tara clamped down on Willow's fingers as her back arched, pushing her breasts, still discreetly covered and demure behind the cotton fabric of her pullover sweater, into Willow's face and lifting her girlfriend with her as she came. Her eyes were closed tightly as she crested her orgasm.
Willow helped her through the aftershocks, using the additional moisture like a salve on Tara's swollen lips and clit as she continued to massage and caress her. She didn't leave as she pulled herself the little way back up to Tara's face. With her free hand, she brushed at the strands of hair sticking to Tara's sweaty forehead and cheeks so she could kiss at the other woman's parted lips. She imagined what it must look like under her lover's skirt, everything coated with Tara's cum, her fingers, the folds and hood of Tara's sex, the little blond hairs covering her mound, her panties and thighs… Her mouth watered and she swallowed hard.
Tara noticed as they continued to kiss through her slowing pants and Willow's quickening ones. She had her strength back so she gently pushed Willow from her by the shoulders. Her girlfriend let herself be rolled over onto her back as Tara scooted backward on her knees toward Willow's feet, already in their Keds, and pulled the jeans and underwear down to her ankles. They had less than ten minutes to spare, so Tara did not bother completely removing Willow's sneakers or clothing. Instead, she directed Willow to bend her knees just that way. "Spread for me?" Tara implored. Willow obediently complied and she fell open before Tara's eyes. Unlike the dark copper locks framing her face, Willow had kept the auburn curls on her sex neatly trimmed as part of her normal monthly routine. It somehow put everything into sharp and precise focus. Tara bent down to the familiar scent.
The lack of preamble made Willow dizzy. With Tara pinning her thighs down with her hands while her lips and tongue nipped and stroked at Willow's clit, she tightened helplessly. Tara's mouth quickly worked her ever tighter, strummed and pressed and entreated, from the bottom then back to her tip, at her trigger, relentless and confident and loving until… TWANG.
Willow clutched at the coverlet to keep her hands out of Tara's hair so she wouldn't hurt her lover as Tara continued to lap at her as she climbed down from her climax. Her weak groan was Tara's cue to relent. She climbed back up to Willow's side as the younger woman struggled through her shudders to get her jeans and underwear back up her shaking legs. They only had a few minutes to spare to get themselves together, clean up as much as possible, and hand their keys in at the front desk.
"Here, let me," Tara said, licking her lips as she sat up, "seeing as how you're still kind of spastic."
Willow groaned in protest, but neither the will nor the wit to quip back was there yet. They managed to get her clothing back into the correct place, though the troublesome zipper was going to have to wait.
"Actually, while I'm here…" Tara reached across Willow's hips, eliciting another groan. "You can give me the phone number for the housing office." She went into Willow's jeans pocket herself, causing Willow to whimper, then giggle, to fish out the wad of notepaper. "I'll call them Monday. One less thing for you to do, and I should be doing these kinds of things for myself, anyway, since, um, not crazy anymore." Her lopsided smile turned into a grin. She pushed her fingers through her disheveled hair.
Willow caught her breath. Tara was so beautiful. Oh Goddess, she was beautiful. She sighed, feeling the regret fill her again. But the resolve had become a hard thing in her, too. "I wish—" this time she caught herself using those dangerous words, and frowned. Her face turned thoughtful and she continued. "I wish we could live together, like we planned. Waking up every morning next to you. Making breakfast. Leaving for the day bearable, 'cause I know I'd see you when I got home. Having dinner, talking about the day, making love. Falling asleep breathing the same air, dreaming the same dream. Just you and me, all the time, always, home."
"You and me and Dawn, then?" Tara frowned. "Um, not the parts from the making love to the waking up, 'cause that would still be just us, obviously." They both fell into silence as they each tried to work the edits into the mental pictures as quickly as possible.
Willow finished hers quickly, giving her an extra moment to go back to Tara's original statement. "Huh?"
Tara finished rearranging her own thoughts and looked at her girlfriend's still perplexed face. Her eyebrows were scrunched up in that adorable way Tara loved. She realized that this time, she had jumped ahead of her brainy girlfriend. Lover. Partner. Other half. It happened occasionally. Tara knew that as far as logical thinking and scientific knowledge went, Willow blew her and pretty much everyone else they knew out of the water. In the area of common sense, however, Tara usually was queen. She leaned forward and kissed above the bridge of Willow's nose where her eyebrows were trying to meet. It smoothened under the pressure of her lips. She pulled back, smiling crookedly. "I might have to keep a room on-campus to keep my scholarship, but it doesn't mean I have to use it." A horrible thought intruded, an old insecurity. "Th-That is, if y-you think Buffy w-wouldn't have minded?"
Willow ignored the pain in her heart when Tara said Buffy's name. "Oh God, Tara, you mean…?"
"We can use the room in case either of us needs to be alone—"
"That'll never happen!"
"Or I'll keep my art things in there…"
Willow squeezed her eyes shut, her heart threatening to burst. She opened her eyes quickly, not wanting to let Tara out of her sight.
"W-We should talk it over with Dawn, though, make sure she would be okay with it…?"
"We definitely need to talk it over with Dawnie when we get home, but I can't see any reason why not. And I-I think… I think it's what Buffy would've wanted, too."
"We have a lot of stuff to do. Let's go home, baby."