Title: Southern Comfort
Fandom: True Blood
Disclaimer: I don't own them.
Tara breathed in deeply, taking the steam hovering in the air of the large washroom into her lungs. Exhaling softly, she allowed her eyes to close and enjoyed the feeling of being clean and warm and wrapped in a big fluffy towel. She felt something that she vaguely recognized as contentment, but she knew that it wouldn't last long. It never did. She never let it.
Tara sighed, weariness coming over her once again at the thought.
She walked towards the washroom sink and reached out, running the palm of her hand over the foggy mirror, clearing a big enough patch for her to be able to see herself in the mirror.
She knew that the horrible make up she had applied earlier was gone, and her hair was out of the side-ponytail, but as she looked at herself all she could see was the sad clown girl that had been stumbling around in a gaudy red dress on too-high heels earlier in the evening.
Prom 2001 had been embarrassing enough in 2001. In 2008 … Tara sighed and looked away from the mirror.
Miss Jeanette might have been a lying, thieving, evil, bitch whore, but the woman was right about one thing. There was something seriously wrong with a person who couldn't stand to look at themselves in the mirror to the count of ten. She might not have had a demon, but there was something dark and destructive inside of her, and Tara was tired of seeing it look back at her every damn time she looked at herself.
She didn't want to be the way she was. She wanted to be better. It just seemed like the world wanted her to stay deep down in the gutter … just where she'd been her whole life.
Tara turned her head to the side and blinked, trying to clear her thoughts as a knock sounded at the door. She clutched the towel that was loosely draped around her body more tightly against herself and shifted so that she was facing the door.
"Yeah?" Tara called out.
"It's Maryann. I brought you some clean clothes."
Tara looked down at the red dress lying in a heap on the floor. Despite her upbringing, she was a proud woman and she didn't like taking anything from anybody, especially if she suspected she would never be able to pay them back. Maryann had already paid her bail and taken her into her home, and given the general splendor that surrounded her, Tara didn't think that she would ever be able to help this woman out with anything.
Still, she really didn't want to have to put that dress back on.
"Come on in," Tara called out before sighing softly.
There was pride, and then there was stupidity. She never had been, wasn't, and didn't plan on being stupid.
A moment after she spoke, the door opened and Maryann appeared in the doorway. The steam in the washroom made her image a little unclear, left her shimmering, and Tara found herself staring at the woman, almost mesmerized by her for a second before Maryann took a few steps forward and entered the washroom completely, breaking the illusion.
"They might be a bit big," Maryann said apologetically, her eyes dipping down to look at the clothes in her hands. "I'm a little long-limbed."
Tara smiled at that, the expression almost shy and reached out for the clothes being offered her.
"Thank you," Tara said softly.
Maryann wasn't that much bigger than her, so the clothes would probably fit fine. And if they didn't, she'd just roll up the pant legs and the sleeves. She'd gotten very good at making do over the years, and at least the clothes she was holding then were clean, which was more than she could say for some of the outfits Lettie Mae used to send her out in.
"You're welcome," Maryann said gently, a soft smile touching her lips as Tara looked down at the clothes in her hands.
The clothes smelt fresh, light and flowery, like the air after a brief summer rain and the scent thundered through her, calming her even as it made her eyes sting with tears. She thought about Maryann's warm smile, her gentle voice and the soft, sweet smelling clothes in her hands and wondered if this is how others people had felt as children, people who'd had someone to look after them and take care of them.
When Tara looked up again, she found Maryann watching her with a thoughtful expression on her face.
"What?" Tara asked, shifting under the older woman's gaze, embarrassed and self-conscious to be studied like that.
Maryann blinked and then smiled softly, seeming to understand Tara's unease.
Tara jerked her head back as the brunette reached out for her, her eyes tracking Maryann's hand suspiciously as it moved slowly towards her.
"It's okay," Maryann said softly, her eyes meeting Tara's and holding them as she spoke. "It's okay," she repeated, her voice still impossibility soft.
Tara relaxed and leaned forward again, allowing Maryann's fingers to brush against her cheek.
"You're a beautiful girl," Maryann said gently as her fingers tenderly brushed over Tara's smooth, velvety skin.
Tara blinked, her lips parting to speak but no words came out.
She wanted to be creeped out by Maryann's touch and her words. She thought about pulling away from Maryann's fingers. She thought about glaring at her and growling, "You a predatory bitch" before throwing the clothes back in her face. She thought about grabbing her dress and walking out of that house with it and Maryann's fluffy towel.
What she actually did however, was squeeze her eyes shut in an attempt to control the urge to cry, because what Maryann had just said was the sweetest thing that anyone had said to her in a very long time, possibly ever, and that combined with the brunette's thumb gently gliding over the cheek was almost enough to undo Tara completely.
Maryann's fingers drifted away from her face, and Tara shivered, wondering whether it was relief or regret or that prompted her body to react to the loss of Maryann's touch that way.
"Is there anything else I can get you?" Maryann asked softly, her gaze open and caring when Tara's looked over and met her eyes.
"No," Tara said shaking her head, her voice cracking a little as she spoke. "Thank you. You've done so much already."
"I'm glad I can help," Maryann said smiling before taking a step back and then turning to head to the door. "Dinner will be on the table when you're dressed," she called over her shoulder as she reached the door.
"I'll be done right quick," Tara said placing the clothes on the counter so that she could begin to get dressed.
"Don't worry," Maryann said smiling, the expression lighter and more playful this time though still genuine. "Take your time. It'll keep."
Tara watched as Maryann then continued through the doorway and disappeared out of sight. She stared at the spot she had last seen the brunette, her cheek tingling as she remembered Maryann's touch. However, after a few seconds her stomach growled, breaking her revere and she sighed and turned towards the clothes.
Dinner might keep, but her stomach wouldn't.
An Hour Later
"It's just this way," Maryann said, her hand moving to rest lightly on Tara's back, guiding her down the correct hallway as they reached the landing of the stairs.
"I feel like I should have brought some bread crumbs with me or something," Tara muttered, feeling more at ease after having spent some time around Maryann.
A hot meal and some conversation had done wonders for her, and despite the unfortunate circumstances that had brought them together, Tara found herself enjoying Maryann's company.
Maryann had done most of the talking as they ate, which Tara actually appreciated. Normally she couldn't stand people going on about themselves ad nauseum, but Maryann's stories were interesting, and her voice was rich and soothing, and even though Tara found herself zoning in and out as Maryann talked, she drew comfort from the regular, strong sound of her voice.
Maryann chuckled at the comment, and as she did the thumb of the hand she still had resting on Tara unconsciously stroked the small of her back.
Tara found herself hyperaware of the touch. Her flesh seeming to tingle underneath the soft cotton of the t-shirt she was wearing, and she had to concentrate to stop herself from sighing softly and leaning into the warmth of Maryann's body.
"I knew I was forgetting something," Maryann responded gamely, her hand slipping from the small of Tara's back as they began down the hallway. "If you get lost in the night, just stay where you are and holler. I'll get a flashlight and I'm sure I'll be able to find you in an hour or so," she continued, turning her head to the side to wink at Tara as her lips curved up into a sly smile.
"Very funny," Tara murmured, her tone actually sounding quite amused despite the sarcasm of her words.
"Oh, good. I was trying hard with that one," Maryann replied, her eyes drifting away from Tara's almost bashfully as she did.
Tara looked over at her, staring at her profile for a few seconds. She found herself unbelievably charmed by the woman walking beside her, and at that moment unbelievably attracted to her, and before she was really conscious of what she was doing her hand began to extend towards Maryann's body.
"Here we are," Maryann said, coming to a stop outside of a plain white door.
Suddenly becoming aware of what she was about to do, Tara drew her hand back into her body, and turned her attention towards the door, keeping her eyes focused on it as Maryann pushed the door open and walked into the darkness beyond.
Tara ran her fingers over the soft, fluffy material of the comforter covering the bed. She could tell just from the texture that the material was expensive, and she found herself in awe of the luxury surrounding her once again.
"…I tried to fix it up as well as I could," Maryann was saying as she approached Tara from behind, a large fluffy pillow dangling loosely from her fingers, "but I'm not exactly an expert homemaker. I hope everything is alright," she continued, her arm brushing against Tara's as she leaned over the bed to place the pillow on top of the ones already lying on the bed to complete the look.
"It's more than alright," Tara said softly. "Really, I don't think I've ever been able to conjure up something so wonderful in my dreams," she went on softly, her head turning to face Maryann.
Once she turned, Tara found herself staring deeply into the older woman's brown eyes and became almost mesmerized by them; the dark, rich, kind orbs actually making her dizzy as they regarded her. Dazed and enchanted, Tara swayed forward, her hand grasping Maryann's arm as her lips pressed against the other woman's.
She was surprised to find herself kissing Maryann, but the brunette's lips were soft, and her skin was warm, and Tara found herself enjoying the connection. Instinctively, she trailed her fingers up Maryann's arm and over her shoulder until she was cupping the older woman's face gently in her hand, and she brushed her lips against Maryann's again, kissing her more intently.
"You've had difficult night," Maryann said softly when the need for air forced them apart. Her voice was gentle and her arm was resting on Tara's stroking it softly with her thumb.
Maryann's voice was little lower than it had before Tara kissed her, and her eyes kept on lowering to look at her lips, and Tara knew that Maryann had enjoyed the kiss even though she was apparently trying to be a 'gentleman' and not take advantage of her guest.
"The last couple hours haven't been so bad," Tara responded softly, her own voice a little rougher than it had been before.
Maryann smiled at that, her body relaxing a little bit as she did.
"I'm glad," she said softly in response, her thumb stroking Tara's arm one last time before she gracefully allowed her hand to drift away.
"I'm not tryin' ta … I mean this isn't …" Tara began, beginning to realize what her actions might have seemed like to the other woman.
"What?" Maryann asked gently, her gaze as friendly and supportive as it had been all night.
"Listen, it's not like I was tryin' to pay you back by doing that," Tara said challengingly, her eyes holding Maryann's in an effort to convey the conviction behind her words.
"I didn't think that," Maryann assured her, not making any effort to break the eye contact between them.
"Well good," Tara muttered a bit uncomfortably, looking down at her feet the moment that last word had passed her lips.
They were silent for a moment, playing hide and seek with each other's gazes, and then Tara leaned forward, pressing her lips against Maryann's once more.
Before leaning in, she prepared herself for the possibility of the other woman pulling away from her, but Maryann did no such thing. In fact, instead of holding Tara at a distance, she drew her hand behind the younger woman's neck and drew her into her body, deepening the kiss.
When they broke apart, they were both breathless, and Tara felt a little lightheaded and dazed.
"I feel like I shouldn't be doing this … this isn't why … I'm supposed to be helping you …" Maryann said softly. She shook her head, and then tilted her eyes up towards the ceiling, looking abashed and not completely in control for the first time since Tara met her.
"You are," Tara assured her.
Tara had never been with a woman before, but she'd messed around with Kenya some as a teenager, and she figured that if Sookie could sleep with a vampire, that her sleeping with a woman wasn't anything to lift an eyebrow at.
Maryann breathed in deeply, her beautiful cinnamon eyes holding Tara's for a long moment, studying the younger woman.
"Okay," Maryann breathed out, the word falling shakily from her lips as she reached out and cupped Tara's face in her hand once more.
And then it was Maryann's turn to lean forward and press her lips against Tara's.
The Next Morning
Dark limbs moved against light sheets as Tara stretched luxuriously, enjoying the feel of the expensive fabric against her skin. Her muscles were tight and ached a bit, but the soreness only brought a smile to her lips as she remembered straining into Maryann's touch the night before, arching into her fingers and her mouth as the brunette pleasured her. Tara smiled again and wrapped her arms around one of the large, soft pillows on the bed. If she'd known that sleeping with a woman would've felt so good, she'd have done it a long time ago. As it was, she was hoping to do it again with Maryann as soon as possible.
Slim fingers crawled across the sheets seeking out the warm body and tantalizing curves she had been introduced to the night before, but all Tara's fingers encountered were more sheets. Sighing, Tara opened her eyes, the smile that had been on her face fading as she confirmed that she was alone in the large bed.
Drawing the sheet up over herself protectively, Tara sat up, her eyes studying the side of the bed Maryann had been occupying when she'd fallen asleep. The pillow was still slightly indented where Maryann's head had lain for most of the night, but the sheets were cool indicating that the woman had left the bed some time ago.
As she contemplated the empty space beside her and how awkward things were likely to be between them now, faint sounds began to drift into the bedroom though the partly open door. Music was playing somewhere in the house, and as she concentrated Tara was able to make out the sound of pots clanging.
Her stomach growled softly, and Tara shook her head. She always could eat, no matter what sort of shit was going down in her life.
Spotting a pile of neatly folded clothes on an antique chair by the side of the bed, Tara released the blanket she had been clutching to her and threw her legs over the bed.
It was time to get up and face the day.
Tara pressed herself against the wooden frame of the open kitchen door and watched as Maryann expertly cracked an egg with one hand and dropped the contents of it into a sizzling frying pan. Light was streaming into the room from the large windows spread out around the kitchen, and the early morning sun caught the reddish highlights in Maryann's hair, lighting it up and giving her a faint glow. She looked gorgeous, like a goddess, and Tara felt a tingling between her legs as she watched the other woman work.
"Ah, you're awake," Maryann declared with a smile, startling Tara from her thoughts seconds or perhaps minutes later. "Just in time," Maryann continued when Tara offered her a shy smile. "Go on, take a seat. I just need another minute."
Tara nodded and started into the kitchen proper, heading towards the table where they had eaten dinner until Maryann spoke again.
"Head on out to the patio, there's juice and pastries already on the table. It's a beautiful morning. I thought it might be nice to enjoy it a bit."
It was a beautiful morning, bright but still cool enough to be pleasant, and Tara found herself relaxing almost the moment she took a seat at the table. Maryann had an extensive backyard, stretches upon stretches of emerald green grass shimmering in the sunlight, and Tara wanted to continue drifting past the patio onto the lawn so that she could feel the soft grass beneath her feet. It looked like the Garden of Eden back there, and she wanted to lose herself in the beauty of it.
Everything about Maryann's house was so lovely. Everything about Maryann was so lovely. It was going to break her heart when she had to leave.
"I hope it's not too heavy," Maryann said placing a plate of eggs on the table before depositing another with steak down. "I woke up with quite an appetite," she continued, smiling mischievously at Tara when the dark-skinned beauty looked over at her.
Tara stared at her for a moment, and then smiled and laughed before murmuring, "Me too."
She'd been afraid that things would be strange after what had happened between them last night, that it would be awkward, but with Maryann smiling at her, and the sun warming her skin as birds chirped in the distance she felt relaxed, happy and content. She and Maryann had just met really, but she felt like she had known the woman for much longer. She didn't know how or why it was so easy between the two of them, but she was glad for it, and thought that maybe meeting Maryann really would be the beginning of a new and positive chapter in her life.
Fingers trailed down her spine and Tara shivered before turning to face Maryann, a relieved sigh emerging from her a few seconds later when she felt Maryann's arms wrap around her and draw her into a hug.
"What were you thinking about?"
Tara sighed again, this time unhappily, but didn't make a move to remove herself from Maryann's warm embrace. It felt nice to be held, and somehow with Maryann holding her it didn't feel like she was losing a fight to admit that.
"I don't know," Tara muttered, closing her eyes as she breathed in deeply. Maryann smelt good, and it caught her attention because the other woman didn't smell of perfume of body lotion or any of other number of products that Tara was used to associating with pleasant smells. Maryann smelt natural, rich and smoky, and again Tara had the thought that she was standing in the presence, in the arms of a goddess. "Wondering what I do now, I guess."
"We," Maryann murmured, pressing her lips against Tara's forehead. "You're not in this alone." Delicate fingers trailed over Tara's face, and then ran lower, under her chin so that Maryann could tilt Tara's face up to look at her. "You're not," she repeated softly, holding Tara's gaze for a moment before leaning forward to press her lips against the younger woman's tenderly.
"So what are we going to do?" Tara asked, resting her head on Maryann's shoulder, shaking faintly as she spoke.
"I thought we'd go by your house and pick up some of your things." Maryann's hand stroked her back gently as she spoke, and Tara felt the tremors running through her body begin to fade as the tender caress continued. "You'll be more comfortable with some of your own things, until we can work something out."
Tara stiffened in Maryann's arms, her jaw clenching as she did. "I'm not going back to that woman."
"Good," Maryann responded, a touch of righteous steel entering her voice which soothed Tara. "I wasn't suggesting that you should. The farther away you are from her the better. She's toxic, Tara, and you don't need her. She's hurt you enough, there's no reason for you to give her anymore opportunities to compound the damage."
Maryann's voice shook with emotion, and Tara closed her eyes against the tears forming in them. That Maryann could feel so passionately on her behalf, having just met her …
Tara's arms tightened around Maryann's waist, and the woman breathed in deeply and kissed her forehead again before hugging her back.
"This is about you, Tara," Maryann began softly once Tara had settled down in her arms once again. "Not Lettie Mae or anyone else. This is about you, and I'm here to help you figure out what you want, what you need, and to help you get it."
"Me?" Tara breathed out, the word coming out somewhat chocked as she tried to wrap her mind around the fact that someone was focused entirely on her. She spent so much of her time dealing with other people's bullshit, that it was hard for her to imagine someone else trying to help her figure out her own. But she wanted to wrap her mind around it, she wanted it to be true, because lord knew she could use the help. She'd tried to be her own island, and it had emptied her back account and gotten her thrown into a holding cell in an eight year old prom dress. She needed help. She needed it to be about her for once.
"You," Maryann repeated, still stroking Tara's back, "All about you."
Wind rushed past Tara's face as Maryann's convertible sped down the road blurring familiar streets and landmarks. Tara closed her eyes and tilted her head back, allowing the pulsing hot Bon Temps sun to warm her face. She felt Maryann's fingers brush against her own, and smiled up into the warm light as she allowed their fingers to tangle together.
Tara liked to think of herself as a realist, as a pragmatist, which usually also meant that she was a pessimist. But with the sun beating down on her and Maryann's fingers entwined with her own, she found herself having the very optimistic thought that maybe sometimes, if good people waited long enough, good things would happen to them too.