Queenphoenix08 – Glad you enjoyed it! Yep, Willow's large with the protective instincts!
Emerald Demona – Aww, thank you :)
Dirty Tube Socks – I don't mind buses too much, but I hate when you're cramped into a seat with a heavy bag on your lap and someone sits beside you. Especially when there's other seats available -_-
Oh I'm not underestimating the vertical fun. I'm all about the vertical and rarely about the horizontal…but Willow and Tara…they're a different story ;)
Yes, or you're saving the last most delicious bite and take a little break before you eat it and bam! Someone takes it off your plate thinking you're finished.
The move is kind of a joke that I'll probably expand on again. Hint: Do you watch HIMYM? Lucas ain't so bad, you're right.
I think only concern for Tara stopped her actually throwing one of them over.
I felt cruel writing it, but I couldn't resist.
Tara busied herself in the back room of the administration office, filing the many forms and paperwork that passed through on a daily basis.
She was happy to spend her time working in there, even though she quite liked the women she worked with, it was a small office and got crowded quickly.
She hummed quietly to herself as she sorted papers into their various folders, until one of the women called her name. She popped her head around and saw Judy handing her cell phone to her, having mistakenly picked it up.
"Very sorry dear, we have the same message tone."
"That's okay," Tara replied, checking the message quickly.
Ready to get wet later?
"The kids are so forward these days," Judy commented to the other two, grinning just slightly.
Tara turned bright red and quickly shook her head.
"I-it's not…" she started, pocketing her phone and taking some soft breaths to calm her cheeks, "She's taking me swimming."
"In my day a date was a nice dinner and trip to the drive-in," Judy said, pushing her glasses up on her face, "I won't say what went on there, but it wasn't usually watching a movie."
Tara went to collect the newest pile of papers to be filed.
"It's not a date. She's teaching me. I had an accident last weekend and fell into a river."
All three women expressed their concern at that, but Tara was quick to reassure she was okay and got back to work.
Willow had been quite serious when she'd mentioned teaching her how to swim and Tara had felt compelled to agree after the incident, though was nervous about their first lesson that afternoon.
They were going to the pool on campus, so Tara wasn't worried about getting swept away by the water, but she was a little embarrassed at needing to be taught at all.
She hoped she didn't make too big a fool of herself.
She tried not to think about it as she got on with her work. She settled easily into her routine of work and kept her head buried in paperwork until she heard some chatter, more than usual, from the office. A glance at the clock told her what the likely cause was.
"You're a sweet girl, coming for her every afternoon like this."
"I miss her," Willow answered Judy, getting quite used to the interrogation every time she came to collect Tara. Her face lit up as she appeared, "Hi baby!"
"Hi," Tara replied, smiling softly, then spoke to her co-workers, "Um, I got A through K done for those freshman files, is that okay?"
All three women smiled and nodded at her, so Tara walked around the desk to take Willow's hand.
"Have fun swimming!" Judy called after them and the other two could be heard laughing.
"Oh, you told them?" Willow asked, holding the door outside open.
"They saw your text," Tara replied and saw Willow try to hide a grin, "Don't look all innocent, you know what you said."
"Well at least someone got a giggle out of it," Willow replied, sticking out her tongue, "Do you want to get some lunch before I become Willow Rosenberg: Master Swim Coach?"
Tara shook her head, eyes on the ground.
"I don't think I could eat much."
"Are you feeling okay, baby?" Willow asked in concern.
"I just feel stupid that I don't know how," Tara admitted sheepishly, "To swim, I mean."
"Don't feel stupid. You can't know something you were never taught," Willow reassured with a gentle back rub, "We can skip lunch if you want."
Tara's nerves weren't exactly quashed, but she knew Willow must be hungry.
"No, let's get something."
"Great!" Willow replied, leading them towards the cafeteria, "My belly is begging me for some fries."
Tara rolled her eyes good-naturedly.
"It's amazing you're not covered in zits the amount of greasy food you eat."
"Years of conditioning!" Willow quipped, again being the gentlewoman she was to open the door for Tara, "You can eat apples and I'll eat potato chips and we can stay hopelessly in love because opposites attract. You can't argue with science, Tara."
"I wouldn't even try with you around," Tara replied with a wry, crooked smile, "Sometimes I think science is your mistress."
"Pfft," Willow said with a dismissive hand wave, "Science is just a hobby. My laptop is my mistress."
Tara giggled, a sound that always sent a jolt of joy to Willow's heart. They went through the cafeteria line, Tara getting a turkey sandwich and Willow a double helping of fries, then went to sit around a table in the corner.
"Can I snag a fry before you empty the whole salt cellar onto your plate?" Tara asked with a playful smile.
"Alright, Teasey McTease," Willow replied with a chuckle, leaving a generous handful of fries onto Tara's plate, "Why do you care so much about my clogged arteries anyway?"
Tara picked up half of her sandwich to take a bite from.
"Well if I'm going to spend my life with you, I'd like it to be a long one."
Both of them paused then; Tara with her sandwich halfway to her mouth and Willow with the salt cellar in her hand.
Willow took a moment to really hear what Tara said. She still felt the initial thrill of the implication but thought about what her girlfriend really meant.
She was part of an 'us' now, an 'us' that she wanted to be a part of forever. An 'us' she was sure Tara felt the same way about. And that meant making sure she was her very best self, for herself, and for Tara.
She didn't plan to start an all-kale diet and take up running right that second, but she knew she could do better to eat healthier.
She left the salt down and smiled.
"Wanna half that sandwich?"
Tara handed half her sandwich over without question but looked worried that she'd spoken out of turn. She knew she'd expressed her interest in the very long-term with Willow, but never quite so offhand.
"Willow, I-I say things I shouldn't, often actually, and in public, but–"
Willow scooted her chair closer to Tara and took her hand, then lifted it and softly kissed her ring finger.
"Know where I just kissed?" she asked, then smiled when Tara shook her head, "Where I'm gonna put a ring someday."
Tara looked overcome for a moment, so Willow pressed a soft kiss to her cheek.
"You don't need to worry about playing games with me, Tara. Tell me how you feel. You won't scare me off. I already want forever with you."
Tara looked over to meet Willow's eye.
"I want that, too."
Willow smiled softly.
"Well, good. So you can teach me how to take better care of myself so we can be healthy little old ladies together, and I'll teach you how to swim so that we can visit all the exotic beaches in the world and go skinny dipping," she said, giggling, "Deal?"
"Deal," Tara replied promptly.
Willow offered her pinky, which Tara linked and used to pull her in for a quick, chaste kiss.
Willow smiled happily and picked up her half of the sandwich to eat. She looked surprised as she took the first bite.
"Hey, this is good! What's all the crunchy stuff?"
"Lettuce and cucumber," Tara answered, one eyebrow quirking upwards, "You've never had a sandwich before?"
"Yeah but I normally pick out the green-y stuff," Willow replied, peering between the bread to learn more about this new vegetable wonderland, "Do all veggies taste this good? I mean, I've eaten some onions and peppers and stuff but only when they're buried deep in lasagnes and pizzas."
Tara felt sad for a moment that Willow had clearly never had a real, home-cooked meal.
"You can try different kinds and see what you like," she replied, transferring some of her side salad to Willow's plate, the fries pretty much abandoned, "Try some of that. There's radish and carrots in there, and some beets."
Willow's attitude towards vegetables before had resembled that of a petulant child, mostly because her parents had never bothered to force that attitude from her. She was willing to try for Tara, however, and was quite excited they weren't the horrible slimy mess she thought they were.
She tried all the different components of the salad, giving each a thorough chew. She quite enjoyed most of it, though one thing left a bad taste in her mouth.
"Not too sure about these things, are they the radishes?"
"They're the beets," Tara replied.
Willow pushed the beets to the corner of her plate.
"Okay, not so much with them…but the rest is good! I hope you realise the small miracle you've performed getting me to eat and actually likethis stuff!"
Tara took the beets back to eat herself.
"When was the last time you ate a vegetable that wasn't on a pizza or in a pasta?"
Willow had to think about it for a moment.
"My Bat Mitzvah?" she asked and saw the surprise on Tara's face, "I know I'm a bit of a spoiled brat sometimes… just… lots of ready meals and take-out from junior high onwards. I really thought I was getting all I needed from them… you know, carbs, dairy, meat and veg on a pepperoni and mushroom pizza."
Tara just smiled.
"There's nothing wrong with pizza every once in a while."
"And there's nothing wrong with vegetables at all!" Willow replied, amazed at the words coming out of her mouth, "Look at that! I don't even want the fries!"
She looked at them for a moment, then picked a few up sheepishly.
"Okay, maybe one."
Tara smiled again and had a couple, too – she liked to eat well because it made her feel good, especially after going through so many years of malnourishment when she lived with her father, but in no way wanted to be the food police. Still, she was happy she could show Willow that vegetables weren't the Devil.
They finished up and got back to their dorm, where Willow seemed eager to get on with their plans for the day.
"So, wanna get changed and head back out?"
Nerves were getting the better of Tara.
"Don't we have to wait thirty minutes?"
Willow smiled, mistaking the procrastination for enthusiasm.
"Uh huh, you're right! But we can still throw a bag together and we have to get across campus to the pool. Oh, and I got you something!"
Tara looked concerned as Willow went to the closet to root through a bag, hoping a skimpy bikini wasn't going to come out in place of the demure swimsuit she'd bought for herself.
"Here it is!" Willow eventually said, pulling out a circular container and offering it to Tara, "Goggles, so you can see under the water!"
Tara twisted the top off to let the goggles come out. Nerves aside, she couldn't help but smile.
"Thank you, Willow."
"You're welcome," Willow replied, pulling an old beach bag out from the closet, "Okay, we need towels and shampoo and–"
"Shampoo?" Tara asked.
"Uh huh, for showering after," Willow replied, getting everything together.
Tara watched her and sank down to sit on the bed.
"S-showering…in the pool?"
"No, silly," Willow giggled, "In the showers in the locker room. Get all the chlorine and stuff out."
"Right, okay," Tara replied, resigning herself to getting through this.
Willow threw her older swimsuit that hadn't been used in a while in the bag along with Tara's brand new one they'd gotten during the week and remembered a hair brush at the last minute.
"Okay, that's everything. Unless you want new clothes? But as long as the ones you're wearing don't get wet, they'll be fine."
Tara was once again confused.
"I t-thought I wore the swimsuit in the pool."
Willow smiled softly, finding Tara's unfamiliarity with all things swimming both adorable and sad; adorable that she got to experience her learning something and sad that she'd lost her main parental figure before she'd had a chance to be taught.
"You do, I mean if they get dropped on the floor or something."
"Oh, okay," Tara nodded, embarrassed at being so unfamiliar with something.
Willow zipped the bag up and left it by the door, then sat down behind Tara and gently massaged her shoulders.
"Relax. We're gonna take it real slow," she reassured but didn't feel Tara's tension ease at all, "Tara, if you don't want to do this, we don't have to. I just…if something like that happened again…and…and…"
She couldn't bring herself to even talk about the possibility of Tara being hurt. Tara felt Willow's head drop to the back of her shoulder and nodded a few times for self-reassurance.
"No, it's good. I s-should learn. And…and you won't laugh at me or anything."
Willow's arms wrapped around Tara's torso from behind.
"'Course I won't."
She kissed Tara's ear gently, then offered her hand to help her up. She grabbed the bag with their things and held Tara's hand tight as they strolled across campus to the leisure centre. She peered in at the pool as they passed on the way to the locker room and was grateful to see only one person doing laps. It would give them plenty of room and hopefully ease Tara's embarrassment.
"In here, baby," she guided as they approached the locker room.
Tara followed Willow into the locker room. A bench was attached to the wall in an L shape around the room, and there were a couple of shower cubicles ahead. Willow went to a corner of the room and dropped the bag, then started to strip off.
She felt herself being watched and looked over her shoulder to Tara.
"Your stuff is here," she said, pointing to where she'd laid it out.
Tara looked away from Willow's legs and walked over. She sat on the bench and got her shoes, socks and pants off, but was struggling to get her shirt unbuttoned, worried someone might walk in.
Willow smoothed out the twisted straps on her shoulders until her swimsuit was on her snugly, then glanced at Tara and easily guessed her predicament. She grabbed one of the towels and held it up and around her, giving her a private semi-circle to change in.
"Thank you," Tara said, touched at the gesture without the need for her to even say anything.
"You're welcome," Willow replied, smiling, quite happy with what she was getting out of the deal – wiggles and jiggles in all the right places until Tara finally had her swimsuit on.
"I feel like I'm in my underwear," Tara said, pulling at the ends to try and cover her thighs.
"Nobody can see anything when you're in the water," Willow reassured, "Don't forget your goggles."
Tara got her goggles and followed Willow through the foot bath and out to the poolside. It was larger than she'd thought it would be, but was happy to see how clear the water was and that she could see the bottom.
"We'll get in slow, okay?" Willow said as she sat down and let her calves dangle into the water.
Tara sat by her and copied, her toes dipping in first and the rest of her leg following up to the back of her knee.
"This water feels much nicer than the river."
"Yeah, no kidding," Willow replied with a small grin, "We're lucky we didn't get dysentery."
Tara smiled and gently kicked her feet back and forth a couple of times to get used to the feel.
"I think I'm ready to get in."
Willow slid the rest of the way into the water, which came up mid-chest, and stood in front of Tara, offering her hands to help her in.
Tara took one and kept hold of the pool edge with the other, using both as leverage until she was standing firm.
"Let's just walk around the water for a little bit, okay? Get used to it."
Tara liked that idea and nodded. She started to wade through the water, twisting her body around.
She didn't notice she was letting her feet float every few steps until she accidentally wandered in water above her height and started to flounder. Willow was over in a flash, grabbing her and holding her against the edge.
"I've got you, I've got you," she reassured, gently moving them along back to shallower water, "I should've walked with you, I'm sorry. We'll stay up here now, okay?"
Tara kept a hand on the wall until she felt safe to stand again.
"I-I'm sorry if I'm embarrassing you."
"You're not embarrassing me at all," Willow replied lovingly, "I think you're very brave for doing this."
There were some splashing sounds then as the man who had been swimming lengths finished his set and disappeared into the locker room.
"Now, look, we're all alone," Willow smiled, seeing Tara relax a little at that, "I'll show you how to kick first, okay?"
She guided Tara to hold onto the wall and showed her the short, shallow kick technique; based on her own memories of learning how to swim and some instruction guides she'd looked up in preparation.
"Keep your legs straight," she encouraged, then smiled when she saw a hint of a grin on Tara's face, "I think you're having fun!"
Tara smiled a little wider; she was definitely having more fun than she thought she would.
She copied the arm motions for a freestyle stroke when Willow showed her, then worked on doing them while just standing in the water.
"Uh huh, just keep your elbows bent a little more," Willow encouraged, "There you go, you got it! Wanna try it with the kicks?"
Tara straightened up nervously.
"I-I don't know if I'm ready for that."
"I'll hold you under the water on your stomach, you just have to do the motions," Willow replied, holding her palms out in indication, "And we're right in the shallow end, so if you start to stumble, I'll catch you."
Tara took a deep breath and pushed her legs out from beneath her. She had a moment of panic but Willow's hands were under her stomach in less than a second, keeping her steady.
She felt a little silly to be in such a position, but started to kick and repeated the arm strokes.
"That's it, baby, you're doing it!" Willow said, very gently moving Tara back and forth so she was used to the feeling of the water going past, "You're doing so good!"
Willow slowly moved one hand away so she was only giving Tara the least bit of support. Tara didn't seem to even notice and continued swimming in place.
"Tara, do you want to try swimming a width?" Willow asked when they stopped for a break, "I really think you can do it."
Tara looked over to the far pool edge.
"A width? Just across?"
"Just across," Willow confirmed, then waded over to the other side, "Just to me."
The other side of the pool could have been the length of a football field as far as Tara was concerned as it loomed in front of her, but looked on determinedly.
She had a few false starts, her nerves and footing foiling her slightly, but finally managed to push off from the wall. Her arms moved in the right motion, if a little sloppy, and her feet kicked like her life depended on it, but she made it to the other side of the pool without stopping once.
"You did it, you did it!" Willow exclaimed, clapping and jumping around excitedly, "I'm so proud of you!"
She threw her arms around Tara's neck and hugged her tight.
"You are amazing."
Tara was flushing from exertion and in pride.
"It was only a little ways."
"Who cares, you did it!" Willow replied, proud as punch, "Show me again, show me again!"
Tara showed off her new skills a couple of times, with much fanfare from Willow.
"Tara, I can't believe how good you are," Willow said to her genuinely, "Really, you're phenomenal. You are!"
Tara looked down shyly, so Willow waded over to peck her cheek.
"Hey, wanna float?"
"Float?" Tara asked.
Willow nodded, smiling softly.
"You won't sink or anything. We just…float."
She let herself fall onto her back to demonstrate. Tara copied her and fell in line beside her.
Willow smiled, gently running the water through her fingers.
"I feel like an otter," she said, turning her head just enough to catch a glimpse of Tara, "They hold hands when they sleep, you know. So they won't float away from each other."
She felt Tara's hand slip into hers a moment later and the smile completely broke out on her face.
"You did so great today," she said, feeling more proud of Tara than anything else she had before.
"I just splashed around," Tara replied, but Willow was quick to correct.
"Nuh uh, you swam. You really did. And you were good, you were great."
Tara smiled over at Willow.
"You're a great teacher."
Willow lifted their conjoined hands to press a kiss to the back of Tara's.
"You're a great student."
They shared a loving look for a moment, but it wasn't long before Willow burst out with a giggle.
"And you look great in that swimsuit."