Chapter 36

"Are we there yet?" Tara whined in a child-like voice, causing Willow to giggle.

"Not yet, but you'll know where we're going soon enough."

"We've been driving forever, no wonder we needed to leave early."

"Thanks, by the way, for trusting me to drive your car."

"Well," Tara smiled, "I trust you with my child, why wouldn't I trust you with my car?"

Willow grinned and squeezed Tara's hand tighter. They hadn't let go of one another since Tara arrived to pick up Willow. The intense need to be physically connected had never been stronger; they simply could not stop touching, even for one second.

"Tara, can I ask you something?"

"Of course, is s-something bothering you?" Tara noticed Willow's apprehension immediately and sat up straighter to give her full attention.

"Well, no…not really bothering me, per say. I-I was just wondering, now that Buffy knows about us and more people are bound to find out, eventually, do you um, think that maybe we should at least tell our parents? I-I mean before they find out from someone else. Because I think they'd be upset and I really don't want them upset about us. I mean, they'll probably be upset enough just with the big gay news and…why are you grinning?" Willow's babble finally came to an end when, out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the smirk plastered on Tara's face and the amused glint in her big blue eyes.

"You're so cute when you babble."

Willow mockingly scolded Tara. "Hey, no changing the subject."

"Yes ma'am!" Tara joked back, complete with a salute in Willow's direction.

"Do you uh, do you ever think about it? Coming out…" Willow asked in all seriousness.

Tara sighed, knowing it was something they definitely needed to discuss. "I do and it's just…hard. Admitting it to yourself is tough enough…the gay part, not the you part. Anyway, I'm not sure that I'm ready to tell our parents just yet. I'm especially w-worried about telling yours. Plus, I…I like having something that's just…well, mine."

Willow's heart soared and she blushed furiously. "I like being yours."

"I like you being mine and I like belonging to you. I also like our sleepovers and if they knew…"

"No more snuggly sleepovers." Willow said flatly, finishing Tara's sentence and receiving a nod in agreement. "I know and you're probably right about my parents being the big question mark, but I think your mom would be okay with us and maybe she could help us with telling my parents? Although, what happens if it drives a wedge between our Moms? And they forbid me seeing you or worse...send me to reparative therapy!?" Willow's eyes grew wide and her breath quickened as panic started to set in.

Tara squeezed Willow's hand and tenderly kissed her knuckles. "Sweetie, let's not freak out just yet, okay?" The redhead nodded as her breathing began to even out again.

Willow hadn't really given much thought to the possible ban on sleepovers and she was glad Tara brought it to her attention. Her parents had never pressured her one way or another when it came to dating, but not talking about dating and coming out as gay were two different things. Having grown up Jewish she'd seen first hand just how crazed Jewish parents, especially mothers, could be when it came to their daughters social lives. More specifically, whom they chose for a mate and since Willow had never dated at all; she had no idea how they would react. She held out hope it wouldn't be earth shattering, but also knew that if Tara were a boy...there would be no sleeping over.

"So, what makes you think my mom would be okay?" Tara said in an attempt to further curb Willow's panic attack.

"Huh? Oh, well," Willow shrugged her shoulders. "I just think she would be, she seems pretty chill out about things."

Tara thought for a moment, "Your probably right and besides, after having to tell your mom you're pregnant at sixteen…kinda makes everything else sorta pale in comparison. Like…Hey mom, I just robbed a convenience store! That's nice dear, but did you remember to pick up diapers on your way home?"

Willow snorted with laughter. "That reminds me of a movie-"

"Raising Arizona?" This time it was Tara who finished Willow's sentence.

Willow cleared her throat and deepened her voice. "I'll be takin' these Huggies and whatever cash ya got." Then grinned at her attempt to impersonate H.I. McDunnough.

Tara raised both eyebrows and smirked, the irony of Willow's comparison was not lost on her. "So, that's twice in the last 24 hours you compared me to a Nicholas Cage character. Kind of ironic, don't cha think?"

Willow laughed nervously, "Well, you know irony is kinda ironic that way. Hey look, we're here!"

Tara looked up and her eyes went wide and a huge grin spread across her face. "The Seaside Boardwalk!"

Willow nodded as she parked the car, reveling in Tara's excitement and happy with the knowledge she'd made the right choice. "You like?"

"I love! I haven't been here in years. My mom used to bring Donny and I every summer." Tara said, still grinning from ear to ear as she recalled some happier childhood memories.

"I already bought the tickets online. I got the Adventure Passes, so we can ride anything, as many times as we want and I brought lot's of cash. So we can play games, eat…whatever you want, my treat!"

Tara frowned and turned to face her girlfriend. "Willow, I can't let you-" Her protest suddenly interrupted by Willow's lips.

After a long minute, Willow pulled back; cupping Tara's cheeks. "I wanted to bring you here so we could be ourselves. So we can hold hands and have a real date. Let me spoil you a little…please?"

Knowing that Willow wasn't going to budge, and completely unable to deny her anything, Tara finally acquiesced. "Okay Sweetie," She breathed, pressing their lips together once again.

A couple hours later the girls found themselves standing at the base of the Seaside Slayer. The popular ride boasts a one hundred fifty foot vertical drop tower that carries riders to the top and then releases them into a free fall at a speed of over forty-five miles per hour. Willow was starting to wonder what on earth made her decide to bring Tara to the Boardwalk in the first place. A nice quiet dinner and a movie were starting to sound really good right about now.

"Will, you don't have to go, I can ride it by myself or we can go ride something else together." Tara said as she eyed Willow carefully. Her girlfriend was standing as still as a statue and staring up intently at the menacing tower.

"No, i-it's fine. We've pretty much ridden everything else, except the ferris wheel. Plus, I don't want you to have to ride by yourself. It's just…so high and falls so fast…" Willow's words trailed off as she watched another group of riders shriek as they dropped from the sky.

The normally skittish redhead had ridden everything Tara suggested, aided by a motion sickness pill she'd taken right before her girlfriend picked her up.

Normally, just watching amusement park rides made Willow a bit nauseous, but she was determined to face her fears and give Tara a fun night out. She just hadn't bargained for the blonde being so fearless. Willow thought they'd ride the merry go round, the ferris wheel and bumper cars; all somewhat benign but still fun. Willow was floored to find out that Tara was a closet adrenalin junkie.

Once Willow rode her first 'scary' ride, everything else was easy. In fact, the only ride she'd been reluctant to go on was the roller coaster and it had taken everything Tara had to get her to agree, but once on, the redhead found that it wasn't so bad after all. A twelve story vertical free fall, however, was a whole different story.

Willow's life long fear of heights and falling had led to nightmares over the years and she was secretly terrified, but still too high from her 'roller coaster accomplishment' to allow herself the voice of reason. This case of false bravado had caused her to lapse into fearless gal mode and that was the point at which she initially agreed to riding The Slayer with her girlfriend.

"Have you ever been on it before?" Willow asked.

"No, they didn't have it the last time I was here, but it looks fun."

"Yeah…fun." She squeaked, "That's exactly what I was thinking." Willow swallowed hard knowing it was now or never. Finally, her resolve set in and she was determined to go through with it. "Okay! Let's do it, before I lose my nerve."

"Are you sure? I don't want you to feel pressured."

"No, I want to…really. I mean how bad could it possibly be?"

Unfortunately, that question was answered within five minutes after they were all strapped in and slowly ascending The Slayer's tower. It was a slow and methodical rise to the top. Tara appeared relaxed and nonchalantly kicked her feet as they swung freely in the cool night air.

The single row of 15 seats wrapped around the tower, allowing each rider their own unique birds eye view of the city and they were seated in such a way that Tara couldn't fully see Willow's face. If she'd been able to, she would have seen the raw panic. The girl was sweaty, pale and had a death grip on the foam covered steel harness that was clamped over her shoulders. Her eyes were tightly shut and she was quietly chanting, 'Oh God, oh God, oh God,' over and over again.

"Willow?"

"Oh God, oh God, oh God…" Willow continued to chant, "Oh God...Tara, I feel like I can't breath!"

"It's okay baby, don't look down-"

"Too late…oh God, oh God…"

"Will, just focus on my voice, close you're eyes and hold on. I'm right here with you, okay?" Tara was starting to worry and used the most soothing tone she could muster.

When they'd ridden all the other rides, they'd been side-by-side and able to hold hands or at least touch in some capacity. Touching Tara had been distracting and there was no need to panic. Without Tara's calming touch, Willow was officially freaking out.

"Oka-" Before Willow was even able to finish the word, she heard a click and felt the seat drop out from under her as she plummeted back towards the earth at an alarming speed. She clamped her jaw shut so tightly, that when the ride finally came to a halt, approximately 3.4 seconds later, she thought she might have broken a tooth. She only vaguely remembered hearing Tara scream on the way down.

"Oh my God Will, that was amazing!" Tara exclaimed breathlessly, "Will? Willow?" She repeatedly called to her girlfriend and became worried when Willow didn't reply. She waited somewhat impatiently, for the harness to disengage.

"Baby talk to me, please! You're starting to scare me."

As she felt the harness finally give way, Tara released the buckle and leapt from the hard plastic seat; rushing to her near catatonic girlfriend.

Willow was frozen in place and breathing erratically with her eyes still squeezed tightly shut. All she could hear was a loud buzzing in her ears and she jumped when Tara touched her hands. It was only when she opened her eyes did she realize they were safely back on earth. Willow released her white knuckled grip on the protective bar so it could be lifted over her head, slid off the seat and allowed Tara to lead her down off the ride platform.

Once on the ground, Tara pulled Willow close and walked her to the nearest park bench.

"Baby, you're hands are shaking. Are you okay?" Tara was more than concerned by Willow's current state and began rubbing each shaking hand between her own.

As reality slowly came back to her, Willow finally lifted her head and when her eyes met Tara's…she burst into tears.

"Oh sweetie…" Tara said as she pulled her sobbing girlfriend into a tight embrace and for the next several minutes rubbed soothing circles on her back. The blonde didn't loosen her grip until she felt Willow begin to relax and her breathing returned to normal.

"Sorry," The redhead whispered against Tara's chest.

"No, I'm the one who should be apologizing. I'm so sorry I talked you into going on that ride."

Willow finally sat up, sniffling and wiping her nose on her shirtsleeve. "You didn't make me Tare, I agreed, remember? Besides, I'm okay."

"Really?" Tara felt horrible, she never wanted to see Willow that scared ever again.

"Uh huh," Willow said, sniffling once again as Tara pushed some errant red hair behind her ears. "It just…it really scared me."

"How about we get you a cold drink?" Tara asked, still not completely convinced her girlfriend had fully recovered.

Willow nodded. "Okay."

Tara smiled, "That's my girl. Would you like anything special?"

A wistful look crossed Willow's face. "Just you."

Tara returned the smile and leaned in close as she planted a lingering kiss on Willow's lips; not caring at all that they were in such a public place. "You already have me."

"Mhmm, yay me," Willow whispered as she returned the kiss.

A few minutes later Tara stood, held out her hands and pulled the redhead off the bench. Not wanting to break contact, Tara quickly entwined their fingers as they made their way towards the boardwalk concessions.

Willow hadn't thought she was hungry after the half gainer her stomach did on the Slayer, but as they neared the various concession stands, her stomach began to growl. They decided on fresh squeezed lemonade, a couple slices of cheese pizza and a plate full of funnel cake.

After finding a table, they settled in to eat; chatting happily as Willow devoured her pizza. Tara was barely halfway done, when she noticed that Willow had already moved on to the funnel cake.

The redhead looked up sheepishly when she noticed Tara's trademark raised eyebrow and smirk. "Sorry…guess I was hungrier than I thought."

"Apparently," Tara giggled, before checking her phone for about the twentieth time in as many minutes.

Willow laid her hand over Tara's and soothingly rubbed her thumb across her wrist; waiting until their eyes met to speak. "I'm sure everything is fine."

Tara nodded, "Yeah, I mean, Mrs. Summers is there and Dawn and they would have called if there was a problem, right?" Her worried eyes completely gaving away the true nature of her feelings.

Willow kissed Tara's hand affectionately, "Why don't we give Buffy a call, just to check-in and see how things are going?"

Tara sighed deeply, "No, I don't want her to think that I don't trust her."

"Tare, Chelsea's just a little baby and it's her first time alone with Buffy, of course it's okay to call. I'm sure she won't be offended."

"You don't mind?" Tara asked nervously.

Willow cocked her head curiously, "Why would I mind?"

"Because we're on a date, which is supposed to be about us and who wants their girlfriend obsessively calling home every five minutes?"

"I'd hardly call phoning once in three hours obsessive."

Tara nodded in agreement, knowing Willow was right and that she was just being a nervous mother hen. She blew her bangs out of her face and dialed Buffy's number.

After several minutes on the phone with Buffy, Tara hung up and breathed a sigh of relief.

Willow grinned confidently. "See, I told you everything was fine."

Tara again quirked an eyebrow in Willow's direction, "Um excuse me, but weren't you the one freaking out about allowing Buffy to babysit in the first place?"

Willow scoffed. "I may have said one tiny thing, but I'd hardly call it freaking out." This time both Tara's eyebrows rose and she crossed her arms across her chest.

Willow's face turned beet red. "Okay, so maybe I was a tad worried, but you know, it's Buffy and she's not exactly the most responsible person in the world," She grumbled. "Trying to duck tape a baby's diaper…hrumph."

Tara giggled and reached out to entwine their fingers. "It was her first time changing a diaper and I seem to recall a certain redhead locked in a death match with talcum powder on her first attempt?"

Willow once again smiled sheepishly, "Okay, okay, I see your point. So, what do you want to do next?" She asked, quickly changing the subject. "Wanna play some games or something?"

"Sure, what'd you have in mind?"

Willow shrugged her shoulders, trying to play it cool, as if it hadn't crossed her mind until that very moment. In reality, she'd already decided that come hell or high water, she was going to win a prize or two for her girlfriend. After all, it was a requirement when you took someone on a date to an amusement park, wasn't it?

Over the next hour, the girls played their way through the standard fare of ring toss, balloon darts and shooting galleries. Their efforts thus far were fruitless. In fact, they'd laughed so hard at Tara's attempt to 'Whack-A-Mole,' that Willow had nearly forgotten all about her quest for a prize.

Tara had been adorable when she'd taken the soft mallet in her hands, spread her feet wide and crouched into a battle ready position. Her eyes narrowed and she bit her bottom lip in anticipation of smashing the fake furry creatures. The first two rounds were easy, but as the game increased its speed, Tara completely spazzed out; shrieking several times and madly striking the board in all directions. Willow laughed so hard she forgot to hit her moles and in the end, an eight-year-old boy had beaten them both.

Tara looped her arm through Willow's as they shuffled away from the game, still giggling and teasing each other about their 'whacking' abilities, when something caught Tara's eye. The blonde pulled Willow playfully in the direction of a small jewelry shop with a plethora of beaded shell and shark tooth necklaces hanging out front. They started sifting through the selection, each admiring different types and sizes. Willow went straight to the chokers, while Tara looked over the longer variety.

"I'm gonna go look inside." Tara whispered in Willow's ear, running a hand over the small of her back.

Willow shivered at the touch and smiled wistfully. "Okay." She definitely had the sweetest, most attentive girlfriend anyone could ever ask for.

As Tara slid into the small shop, she immediately gravitated towards a case of charms. Most were beach related with a good supply of dolphins, shells and surfboards, but it was the right side of the case that drew her complete attention. There was an entire section dedicated to friends and lovers. She looked over her shoulder to make sure Willow was still occupied outside before she began a closer inspection.

When Tara initially spotted the shop, she decided immediately that she wanted to buy something special for her girlfriend. Something that said they belonged to each other. Willow did so much for her, not to mention this wonderful date and she wanted to show her appreciation. But it was more than that. Tara was in love, head over heels madly in love and what better way to show it?

Having made her decision, Tara then requested engraving and quickly paid. She meandered near a rack of generic rings while she waited on the engraving to be done, in case Willow were to wander into the shop, but to her surprise the redhead was no where to be seen.

Several minutes later, the engraving done, the gift-wrapped and tucked snugly in Tara's jacket pocket, she finally emerged from the small shop; glancing around the front of the store, in search of Willow.

There was quite a few people walking along the boardwalk and as they cleared, Tara spotted her girlfriend; standing on the other side with her hands tucked behind her back and grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

Tara returned the smile and sauntered across in Willow's direction. "What cha got there Will? That's a pretty big grin you're sportin'."

Willow continued to grin, bouncing lightly on the balls of her feet. "That's because I have a surprise…ta daa!" She exclaimed as she thrust a fluffy brown teddy bear holding a heart in Tara's direction.

"Aww Will, you won this for me?" Tara asked, receiving an enthusiastic nod. Tara reached out, pulled the bear to her chest and hugged it tightly. "Mhmm, thank you sweetie."

Willow smiled proudly at Tara's reaction, taking great pleasure in making her so happy. She couldn't tear her eyes away and suddenly felt the urge to get Tara alone. "Wanna take a walk on the beach?"

Tara nodded, still entranced by Willow and harboring the same thoughts. "Absolutely."

Willow reached out and took Tara's hand; pulling the girl towards the boardwalk steps that led to the ocean. They pulled off their shoes when they reached the bottom of the steps and placed them off to the side.

The night air was crisp and cool, and they giggled as they struggled through the soft deep sand on their way to the water's edge.

Even though they were in southern California, in late fall the water was too cold to wade in, so they steered clear of the surf as they slowly strolled along. Walking in silence for some time, just enjoying the evening and the simple pleasure of being together. The further they walked, the quieter it got; except for the crash of the waves and the faint sounds from the Boardwalk.

It wasn't long before Willow suggested they sit for a while. Tara readily agreed and allowed Willow to pull her inland, away from the crashing waves.

Willow dropped to the ground and Tara wasted no time finding a spot between her legs. She leaned back and melted into Willow's warm embrace.

Willow rested her chin on Tara's shoulder and smiled as the blonde snuggled closer. "Are you cold?"

"No," Tara replied softly. "I'm perfect, actually."

Willow smiled, enjoying the rare quite moment. "Good."

Tara gazed out over the ocean entranced by the moonlight as it sparkled and danced across the water's surface. She was certain she'd never had a more perfect moment in her entire life. Willow was so romantic and sweet and Tara had never been happier.

While Tara was busy admiring the ocean, Willow was busy admiring Tara. Unable to settle on one word to describe her girlfriend, the redhead ran through a litany of adjectives in her head. Beautiful, gorgeous, amazing…breathtaking. Smart, funny… Willow watched as the soft glow of the moon reflected in Tara's deep blue eyes. It felt so good to hold her and Willow never wanted to let go. In fact, she wanted to do more than just hold Tara and that urge, was starting to completely dominate her thoughts.

Willow reached with her free hand to sweep the hair off Tara's shoulder, unable to resist the sweet taste of Tara's skin on her lips. Willow started slowly, placing a trail of light butterfly kisses along the soft milky skin of Tara's slender neck. Her lips eventually slid across Tara's jaw until the girl turned and pressed their lips together. They became lost in the slow and sensuous kissing.

Tara's lips tingled as they kissed and a fire was ignited within her. Their connection was so strong and she couldn't focus on anything else but the sensation of Willow's lips against her own. Willow's tongue…Willow's hands...the ministrations causing her to lose all sense of reality. Spurred on by soft moans, Tara brought her hands to Willow's cheeks and the kissing intensified.

Willow moved slightly to allow Tara room to turn fully and was rewarded when the blonde unwittingly pressed her hip against Willow's already aroused center. She moaned again and unconsciously pushed forward; enjoying how the seem of her jeans was hitting in just the right spot.

Tara's fingers buried themselves in Willow's hair as she pushed harder against the redhead; spurred on by her girlfriend's sensual moaning. The kiss was amazing and even though Tara loved all types of Willow-kisses, this one was different. The air around them seemed to crackle with electricity. It was easily the most intense kissing Tara had ever experienced. They were lost in each other and the fact they were on a public beach was completely forgotten.

As the furious kissing continued and intensified, Tara realized if she shifted, just a little bit more, she could have Willow on her back in a matter of seconds. The idea was becoming more and more appealing, until the sounds of whistling and catcalls broke the spell.

They pulled apart and glanced towards the ocean with hazy eyes at a small group of teenagers that were applauding and giggling as they passed by.

"Oh God." An embarrassed chuckle sprang from Willow's throat as she buried her face in Tara's neck.

Tara simply ignored the group; turning back and snuggling Willow to her. Nothing and no one could take her attention off the beautiful redhead as she softly stroked her fingers through the windblown auburn locks. When Willow sighed and relaxed against her, Tara took the time to settle her own overloaded hormones. All she'd done was kiss Willow and she couldn't believe the level of arousal she was feeling. It had always taken so much more to get her going when she was with a boy. Kissing was always nice, but kissing Willow did something to her. Willow kissage was urgent, exciting and left her feeling completely out of control.

Willow wrapped her arms tightly around Tara's back and snuggled closer. Once her mind cleared, she realized how difficult it was becoming to resist touching Tara intimately, and as Tara held her close, Willow thought about how much she loved the girl. How she cherished every moment they spent together and how alive it made her feel to know that Tara was her girlfriend. The amazing, beautiful and sexy Tara Maclay was in her arms and Willow wanted to keep her there forever.