Title: Beer Very Bad
Author: Golden Waffles
Rating: T. For occasional mentions of sex. Only alluded to in this chapter.
Disclaimer: Of course I don't own the characters or settings of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Just the situations I put them in here.
A/N: Apologies to everyone. I know I've been on hiatus for over 6 months. I was finishing up grad school, applying for jobs, and starting my first full-time job. And it turns out having a full-time job kind of strangles my writing impulses. I think as I get used to it, things will improve. Either way, have no fear of me abandoning this project. I get too much of a kick out of this story to stop now. And I'm really glad you guys are still reading it, even after all this time.
A/N2: For this chapter, I debated for quite some time how Xander would handle this situation. That's part of why I haven't posted sooner. I've never done as many rewrites of a chapter as I did for this one. Also, WTWTA is kind of a confusing episode, and I've already changed it a lot, so I keep having to improvise things. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it and I look forward to moving on to next chapter, where we get more reactions.
"It's so cool that you guys have a secret headquarters."
Willow bit her lip, glancing at Tara's half-shy, half-beaming expression. She tended to talk the Scoobies up more than necessary sometimes. She couldn't help it; Tara always seemed so impressed every time she talked about their high school adventures or used words like 'slay' or 'recon'.
"Well, it's mostly just Giles's house," she admitted reluctantly. "But we do meet up here whenever there's an apocalypse coming up."
Tara's clear blue eyes surveyed the building, sweeping from the roof to the foundation.
"Does it have a secret basement, like Lowell House? Where he trains Buffy?" she asked. Willow grinned, unable to avoid catching a little of Tara's enthusiasm.
"Not really. Actually, Buffy doesn't train with Giles at all anymore now that she's in college and he's technically not her Watcher. He got fired from the Council."
"Oh," Tara seemed slightly let down by this information. "He's nice, though, right?"
Willow wrapped an arm around her shoulders and gave her a gentle squeeze. Judging by her eyes, Tara's nervousness was starting to bleed through her excitement.
"He'll love you. I promise. Just talk to him a little about magic and tea and books and stuff. You'll be his favorite."
"Are you sure?" the blonde asked, clearly skeptical. Willow tried to give her a confident smile.
"Hey, weren't you the one who wanted to meet everyone so bad?" She was pleased to find that her voice contained exactly the right amount of bravado. It was almost enough that she could ignore the bats flapping around in her stomach. Tara shrugged sheepishly.
"Well, yeah. I mean, they're important to you. They're your family. I want to know what they're like." She lowered her head and her voice in embarrassment. "And I… um… I kind of want them to know who I am, too."
Willow's heart melted, and she leaned over to swiftly graze Tara's lips with her own.
"Absolutely. I want them to get to know you, too." She gave a smirk. "I mean, you're amazing. I'll bet they'll totally understand the me-dating-a-girl thing once you guys spend some time together."
A reluctant smile crept over Tara's face.
"It's what I do." Willow gave her shoulders one more squeeze and withdrew her arm to step forward. With one final bracing breath, she knocked on the door. Within seconds, it was opened by Xander. The second he took in the two of them, his face flushed deep red.
"Oh, hey Will. And friend who I have not met before under any circumstances. Come on in." He backed away quickly, stumbling a little on his own feet.
"I think he remembers you," Willow muttered, her voice just loud enough for Tara to hear. Her girlfriend nodded back, an answering blush coloring her cheeks.
Giles was standing by a bookshelf, one of his tomes in his hands. He barely looked up as they entered, but gave a quick second glance when he saw the new face.
"Oh. Hello there," he said to Tara, setting the book down on a nearby desk. Willow stepped forward.
"Right. Everyone, this is Tara. She's my… friend. My magic friend. She's a witch, too. A really powerful one."
Xander mostly kept his eyes trained on the flickering television screen. Anya glanced up, but apparently didn't have much to say on the matter. Tara bowed her head at the flattery, shrinking back slightly.
"Um… not really," she disagreed.
"Yes, really. She's been helping me out a lot with everything. She's the one who helped me conjure the katra."
Giles raised his eyebrows in interest at this. Xander still kept his eyes averted.
"Yes, very nice to meet you." He stepped closer and shook Tara's hand. The blonde's handshake was excited but cautious, like she was meeting a celebrity.
"I-I've heard a lot about you," she chimed in, eager to make a good impression.
"Likewise, I'm sure." Giles's attention was wandering back to the book on the desk. Willow nudged Tara forward.
"Um… D-do you need any help? Setting up the circle?" the blonde asked quickly. Giles raised his head again, eyebrows elevated slightly.
"Sorry? Oh, yes, of course." He passed her a block of chalk from a table and together, the group began preparing for the exorcism.
Xander and Anya were dispatched to retrieve Buffy and Riley from their 'preoccupation' while Giles, Willow, and Tara evicted the unsettled spirits. Willow kept a careful eye on Tara as they went about setting up for the spell. As usual, the ritual of magic seemed to have a calming influence, and Tara was marking symbols and lines on the floor with a steady hand.
"Um… what kind of spirits are they?" she heard Tara ask as she returned the chalk to Giles. He pressed his lips into a thin line, and Willow could read cold anger in his eyes. The icy glint made him seem more like Ripper than the Giles she was used to, and she shivered.
"Children," he said darkly. "In its past, the building was a home for disturbed adolescents. We spoke with the woman who ran it. She would viciously punish the children for having 'impure' thoughts. They've now established themselves as poltergeists." Noticing Tara's stunned expression, he softened his expression into a faint grimace. "Making it perhaps the worst place on earth to hold a fraternity party."
Tara stepped back, nodding. Willow frowned, noting that her face had paled considerably. She half-closed her book and walked over. Tara looked up as she approached and gave a nervous smile.
"Hey, you okay?" the redhead asked, resting a hand on her arm. Tara nodded without speaking. "Ready for the spell?" Another silent, resolute nod answered her.
All in all, the exorcism went as smoothly as could be expected, although after months of only casting alone with Tara, Willow felt like Giles was like an interloper in their magical synergy. Luckily, the spell was sound, and they were still rubbing chalk marks off the floor when an exhausted-looking Xander and Anya stumbled in, soaking wet and covered in thin scratches.
"The two 'lovebirds' should be here in a minute," Anya grumbled, depositing herself in one of Giles's armchairs and kicking off her newly grass-stained shoes.
"A-Are you two okay?" Tara asked, concern permeating her voice. Anya harumphed tiredly. After a brief, surprised glance at Tara, Xander blushed and nodded.
"Yep. A-OK. Just a little almost-drowning and some crazy man-eating plants. And more of Riley's body than I ever wanted to see." He shuddered theatrically. "You know, all in a day's work."
While they waited for Buffy and Riley to show up, Tara stood by the bookshelf, apparently talking with Giles about one of his books. Now that the spell was complete, he seemed quite interested in Tara's magical background. Even from across the room, Willow could see that Giles was impressed and that Tara was embarrassed but pleased by the attention. The redhead looked on, smiling, until a touch on her arm summoned her attention. Xander stood next to her, wearing an uneasy grin.
"Hey. So, about last night…" He glanced up for a minute, making sure everyone else was occupied with their own conversations. "Don't worry about it. I know it was all because of the ghosts. And I won't tell Buffy if you don't want me to."
Taking in his concerned face, Willow offered a wry smile. He really was a good friend, and not talking to him for so long was like walking around with her left hand tied behind her back. Not a huge deal at first, but quickly starting to feel weird and wrong. She put a hand on his arm and tugged him towards the door.
"Let's go outside for a minute, okay?"
He wrinkled his forehead in confusion.
"Uh, sure. Outside is good. Nature, trees, bugs, smog. All good." His tone was still a little too flippant, like he was overcompensating for internal panic. Regardless, he followed Willow to the door. As she stepped outside, she caught Tara's gaze from across the room. It was full of encouragement and affection, and some of her nervous tension eased at the sight. Tara was there, and Tara would be there when she was finished. That was the important thing. Everything else could be dealt with as it happened.
Not wanting to stray too far, she only led Xander a few dozen steps from the house, to stand under one of the trees on Giles's immaculately landscaped lawn. Her friend followed, one hand crammed in his pocket, one awkwardly scratching the back of his neck.
"So, what's up, Will?" he asked, brown eyes scanning her face for any clues.
"A lot of things, actually," she admitted. "Sorry I've been so AWOL lately."
Xander shrugged a little.
"I've had work stuff. You and Buffy have college stuff. And Riley stuff. I get that."
And Tara stuff, Willow added guiltily in her head. She leaned back against the tree, frowning at how easily he accepted their abandonment of him.
"It doesn't mean we don't want to hang out with you anymore," she promised, pouting as her heart ached a little. "I miss you, Xand."
Xander gave a slight smile at this.
"I miss you guys, too." There was a brief, uncomfortable silence broken only by the rustling of leaves above them. Her oldest friend blinked up at her expectantly. "Is that what you wanted to say?"
"Not exactly." Willow sighed, hands fidgeting with one another. She looked back at the house, half-wishing that she had brought her girlfriend along for moral support. Tara always seemed so steady and composed, even in the midst of catastrophe. It was easier to stay calm when she was nearby. She turned back to Xander with imploring eyes. "What do you think of Tara?"
"Your magic buddy?" The words sounded strange in his mouth. He blushed and looked down, scuffing his feet in the neatly cut grass. "Um… she seems nice. A little shy maybe, but quite an impressive kisser."
Willow managed a small smile.
"All very true," she agreed with a slow nod. He raised an eyebrow at her.
"You know, you're acting surprisingly laid-back about that whole party thing," he commented cautiously, eyes slightly suspicious.
"What do you mean?" she asked. She knew exactly what he meant, but stalling for a few extra seconds helped her feel better.
"I know I'd be pretty freaked out if I were at the party with my coworker Tito and we suddenly started mashing our faces together. I'd probably quit my job and move out of state just so I'd never have to see him again." He paused for a second, frowning. "In fact, just having that image in my head makes me want to quit my job and move out of state."
Willow gave a weak chuckle.
"Well, it's kind of a different situation," she began.
"Why? Because you're girls?" Xander raised his eyebrows. "Because if girls actually make out with their friends recreationally and nobody told me–"
"No, they don't," she interrupted with a strained smile. "But… sometimes a girl might be gay, and have a girlfriend, and it wouldn't be weird for them to kiss each other."
"Yes, Willow, I am familiar with the concept of lesbianism. Every male is. Intimately," Xander deadpanned. There were a few seconds of very loud silence. "But you're not gay."
Willow took a deep breath and imagined Tara standing next to her, holding her hand and telling her to go ahead.
"Well, that's the thing. I… um… might be. Kinda gay. With Tara, at least." Before Xander could react, she sucked in another quick breath and launched into her full, somewhat frenzied explanation. "See, we were all at the Bronze and I was sad because of Oz, so I started drinking, and I met her, and I was drunk and she was gay, and we did some stuff that night– and, to be honest, probably into the next morning– and then I freaked out for awhile, but once I stopped freaking out, we started hanging out a lot and talking, and then casting spells together, and then kissing, and now we're going out and we're girlfriends– like lesbian, gay-type girlfriends– and I think I'm kind of in love with her, so you have to like her, and you have to be okay with us dating because you've been my friend since we were four and I don't think I've ever been this afraid to tell you anything, unless you count the time I accidentally broke your favorite race car in second grade, but that doesn't really count." She paused briefly because she ran out of air. She still didn't look at his face. "I guess the point is that when you saw us kissing last night, that wasn't actually a weird fluke thing. I mean, the ghosts were definitely encouraging us, but we, uh, don't actually need much encouragement. To kiss, I mean. We kind of do it all the time."
She held her breath and waited for a reaction.
At the single word, she looked up. It was hard to read anything in Xander's face besides blank surprise. Willow stared at him.
"That's your reaction? 'Oh'?" She almost felt offended. She had expected angry shouting at worst and happy hugs at best. She hadn't expected 'Oh.'
"Um.. yeah. 'Oh.' That's all I've got so far," he admitted. She gave him several more seconds, but no stronger reaction followed.
"So, you're not wigging? Because Buffy was kind of wigging when I told her."
"Um… It does seem kind of weird. I mean, you liked me and Oz, so I wouldn't have thought that girls were your type–"
"It wasn't something I was expecting either."
"–and if you've really known each other for months, it's weird that you never told me about her-"
"I thought you'd ask too many questions."
"–but hearing you just say it is definitely less weird than walking in on you two kissing like that yesterday–"
"I'm sorry that's how you had to meet her."
"–but I guess if you've known her for that long and you love her, then I can't really–"
Willow's trains of thought all simultaneously derailed.
"Love? Did I say love?"
His brow furrowed and he scratched his head uncomfortably.
"Well, there were a lot of words in there, but yeah, I'm pretty sure 'love' was one of them."
Willow blinked and slowly slid down the tree trunk until she was sitting on the grass, feeling lightheaded.
"Oh." She hadn't actually used that word out loud yet. It seemed so… huge. Love. It was a big deal. Love. I love Tara. It wasn't really new information. Of course she loved Tara. That was obvious. She just hadn't strung the words together yet. Words were important, though. I should go tell her.
Xander cleared his throat, interrupting her reverie.
"You said that Buffy knows?" he asked. Willow glanced up at him from her new seat on the ground.
"Yeah, she's pretty much known since the beginning. Mostly because of the whole 'sharing a room' thing. But she's the only one. Besides me and Tara, that is. And Faith, I think. And maybe this one guy who walked in on us kissing in the laundry room. And probably some of the people at the party or around campus. But officially, just Buffy. And now you."
"And you didn't tell me sooner because…" He raised his eyebrows at her questioningly.
She sighed and pulled her knees up to her chest. This was the question she had dreaded, and the one she was the least confident in her answer for.
"I didn't know how," she said first. It was vague, but it was the truth. "And I thought you'd freak out." She stared up at him again, waiting for a more panicked reaction. "How are you being so calm about this?"
He sheepishly ran a hand through his dark hair.
"Willow, last night, I saw you two almost have sex against a wall. I think my shock is all tapped out. Talk to me again in a week, and we'll see if I catch a second wind." Willow winced a little, but he continued. "Besides, we've all dated, like, bug monsters and cursed vampires and vengeance demons and werewolves. You're just dating a girl. It's weird, but it doesn't really measure up to 'resurrected mummy princess' or 'Malcolm the Internet Demon.'" Willow managed a weak chuckle, and he responded with a slightly awkward grin. "Besides, I can relate to wanting to date girls. Girls are great. I totally understand the appeal." There was a pregnant pause where it looked like he wanted to say something else, but held it back.
"What is it?" Willow asked when he continued to not speak.
"I guess… I guess I just wish you had told me sooner." There was a brief pause after this as he tried to smile at her and failed. He was wearing what she had always called his 'kicked puppy face,' where he tried to pretend he wasn't hurt when he really was. "I mean, this has been going on for months and you've never even bothered mentioning her to me. We're supposed talk about everything, even the dumb everyday stuff. It seems like this should have come up at some point."
Willow lowered her gaze to the grass as a breeze made it ripple like water.
"It's not that I didn't want to talk to you. I was just… scared. I know it sounds crazy after everything we've been through together. I mean, vampires and demons and apocalypses are no big deal, but this… felt like a big deal."
"Because you love her," Xander said, a statement rather than a question. She could tell from his tone that she hadn't been completely forgiven yet, but some of the hurt in his voice had softened.
"Yeah. Because I love her."
He heaved a sigh and nodded, his tense stance relaxing somewhat.
"Well then, congratulations." He looked back towards the house. "Are you going to tell Giles? Or Anya? Or is it still some big secret?"
Willow let her head fall back against the tree trunk.
"I don't know. I kind of just want to skip ahead to the part where everyone knows and I don't have to say anything," she admitted. "But I'm getting kind of tired of hiding. And I don't think Tara likes being treated like some dirty secret." She took a deep breath and tried the words in her mouth again. "I love her." The corners of her mouth pulled upwards against her will. Just saying them gave her a surge of happiness.
The feeling made her heart ache to see Tara again, and she began pulling herself to her feet. Xander offered his hand to help. Once standing, he began to take a step back to the house, but she grabbed his arm and pulled him into a quick hug. He was still a little tense, but gave her a quick squeeze regardless.
"Thanks for not freaking out too much," she said as he pulled back.
"We've been through a lot, Will. It'll take more than that to scare me off." He ruffled her hair and offered her a wry grin. "In exchange, though, maybe you can try a little harder to not hate my girlfriend and judge me for dating her?"
Willow wasn't sure if she wanted to smile or scowl, so she settled for a grimace.
"Yeah, we'll see."