Title: Turtle
Author: Golden Waffles
Rating: G. As G as G can get.
Description: A snapshot from Season 4. It's Valentine's Day, and Willow's had a rough day. She goes to Tara for comfort, and to make a little delivery.
Disclaimer: I own nothing except the turtle.

A/N: I don't know why I'm only posting Season 4 stuff, but I guess that's where my head is right now. This is one of the only one-shots I've ever managed to write. Enjoy!


She's asleep. She's busy. She's sick of me.

Willow stood once more in front of The Door. She had been there countless times in the past weeks, for all sorts of reasons. Today she was sad. That was today's reason. And here she stood, coming up with nothing but reasons why Tara should slam the door in her face. And one reason why she wouldn't.

She's Tara.

She knocked on the door anyway, appreciating the familiarity of the action. As always, it opened promptly. To her credit, Tara was starting to look less surprised to see her new friend turn up unexpectedly and with no clear reason.

"Willow." After blinking at her for a brief moment, taking in her woebegone appearance, Tara ushered her in, and the forlorn redhead immediately deposited her backpack at the foot of the bed and sank down onto the soft mattress. She even pulled off her high-school-esque fuzzy pink sweater, leaving just a red shirt behind. The fuzzy didn't really suit her mood. Luckily, the dimly lit room with its dark walls and eccentric decorations was exactly what she needed. She inhaled deeply, taking in the scent of the room. Magic. She had noticed it immediately. The room smelled like everything she associated with magic: herbs, spices, candles, old books, and something else unique to Tara herself.

The blonde was quietly perched at her desk, pleased to see her, but obviously concerned about her sullen expression.

"What's wrong?" It was a remarkably simple question, and one that she had been asked hundreds of times over the past few months. It was different coming from Tara, though. For the first time in weeks, it actually sounded like the asker was interested in the full answer. Still, she didn't respond right away, trying to think of a succinct way to sum it up. That usually didn't work out, though.

"I'm a dummy." Yeah. Better stick to that stream-of-consciousness babbling I do so well. Succinct isn't my forte.

Tara, although tempted to begin an avalanche of disagreement, decided on a simpler path.

"Why?" See, now she can do succinct. Me? Not so much.

"It's Valentines Day, you know?" Willow lay back on the bed to face the ceiling. "The day that coupley people are couplier and lonely people are lonelier." She raised a hand to rub at her face. Her eyes were burning uncomfortably. "And for some inexplicable and dumb reason, I got this idea in my head that He would come back today."

"Oh, Willow." Tara whispered, moving from the desk to join her on the bed. Willow failed to smile properly.

"Pretty dumb, huh?" she asked sardonically, turning onto her side to face her comforter. Tara scooted closer.

"No. Not dumb. Natural. You miss him."

"Yeah. I do. It is dumb, though. I just don't understand why it didn't sound so dumb yesterday or this morning." She felt rather than saw Tara's hand brush against her hair.

"I think…" Tara trailed off uncertainly. Only with gentle prompting did she continue. "I think it's s-scary that it's so far out of your control." She took a breath, looking almost apologetic. "It feels better to f-find something. A pattern or a reason that he would come back today. Hope, but with more statistics." Willow felt fingers slowly sift through her hair as she considered the words.

"Yeah," she said finally, shifting her head partially into Tara's lap. It was soft and warm and encouraged more of the hair-stroking. "But there's no good reason for it. I don't know… I just had this picture in my head of him showing up today of all days with an armful of roses, saying he couldn't stay away any longer. Something really dramatic and romantic." Maybe I've been watching too many romantic comedies lately. Or maybe my Id just decided to take the wheel. "I was kind of waiting for him to show up all day. Only he didn't." She drew her legs more securely onto the bed, gently kicking her backpack in the process.

The backpack contained the ultimate evidence of her stupidity- a large stuffed turtle, bought a full week ago as a Valentine's Day and Welcome Home gift for Oz. It was probably mocking her now. Ha. Mock turtle. It would only be worse after today, sitting in her room, reminding her of her dumb assumption and continued loneliness.

As Willow snuggled a bit against her friend, the blonde took one of her hands in both of her own. Tara's very comfy. This is nice.

"I'm just tired of it hurting. I'm tired of missing him. I'm tired of not knowing where he is or what he's doing or if he's alright. I'm tired of waiting for him."

Willow cut off with a sigh as Tara squeezed her hand gently.

"That's natural. It's not dumb," Tara insisted. "W-Wherever he is, he's not done yet. And in the meantime, you have friends here who l-love you."

Willow let her eyes fall shut as Tara repeated soothing words and sensible arguments. Sometimes, she was sure that this room was her safe harbor. It was hard to be really upset when surrounded by sweet-smelling herbs, old books, twinkling lights, and- best of all- Tara. She had proven herself to be an invaluable source of both comfort and wisdom in the past weeks, even above and beyond that of her usual "best" friends. She certainly gave the most and asked the least in return. She deserved better. Willow's eyes blinked open without warning.

"Hey," greeted Tara quietly. Her eyes were soft with concern. Willow smiled genuinely for the first time that night.

"Hey." Willow sat up, reluctantly reclaiming her hand and scooting towards the edge of the bed. Tara watched with silent curiosity. "I've got something for you. It's a little weird, but… well…. Given who it's coming from, that probably shouldn't surprise you." She tugged the zippers down the sides of her backpack and freed the slightly squashed stuffed turtle. A terrapin for Tara. Ha. She briefly fluffed it back into shape before pulling it onto the bed and into view. Tara gazed at it with a somewhat bemused look, her head tilted at a slight angle and her eyebrows lowering just a little. Willow blushed, embarrassed at the stupidity of buying the thing in the first place, and now re-gifting it to Tara, who really deserved better.

"Happy Valentines Day." Willow's grin was quashed into a grimace as Tara still looked pleasantly puzzled by the whole exchange. After a moment, she reached out and pulled the turtle closer. Her expression melted into a bright smile that threatened to encompass her whole face.

"It's adorable!" She ran her hand over the soft shell and grinned up at Willow, whose grimace relaxed again. Tara approved. Yay.

"Turtles are good?" Willow verified.

"Yeah. I always thought it would be cool to be able to, you know, pull back into your shell. Be all safe in your home, wherever you were. Turtles are very good."

"Well, everyone gets bears. Turtles are severely underrepresented as stuffed gifts." Her heart warmed at Tara's obvious delight at the surprise present.

"Yeah. Bears are boring. When I was really little, my favorite toy was, um, a little stuffed hedgehog."

"Do you still have the hedgehog?" Willow settled back onto the bed, watching Tara continue petting the stuffed reptile. The blue eyes dimmed slightly.

"No. M-my brother used to steal him and, um, rip him up and stuff. When he was mad at me. Eventually I just couldn't fix him anymore." Tara tugged the turtle closer, as if to protect him from invisible angry brothers. "Poor Spike."

Willow's growing frown suddenly quirked upwards.

"His name was Spike?" She couldn't restrain a quick giggle at the thought.

"Yeah. Why?" In spite of Tara's confusion, Willow had to laugh at the idea of a little girl's fuzzy hedgehog toy sharing names with Angel's childe.

"Well, there's this slicked-up tough-guy vampire who comes to Sunnydale sometimes…"



Oz and Tara. The comparison was not lost on her as she later lay in the dark in her own extra-long twin bed. After spending all day pining over Oz, she retreated to Tara's room and was not only instantly soothed, but even delivered Oz's present to she in her life who most deserved it. Oz and Tara. For some reason, it didn't seem like a huge jump in her head. Tara had come along not too long after Oz had left and filled a vital connection. Tara was incredibly caring, physically affectionate, and probably the best listener ever. She wasn't Oz, but she also wasn't Buffy. They connected on a whole different level. It was something. Maybe something powerful.

She hoped Tara liked her turtle.