TITLE: College Confidential
CHAPTER RATING: PG-13
DISCLAIMER: Willow, Tara and any other characters from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer franchise belong to Joss Whedon, FOX, ME and a whole host of other entities, none of which are me.
PAIRING: Willow/Tara (from Buffy The Vampire Slayer)
SUMMARY: The first part of the prequel to Hacker Confidential and Family Confidential - the college years!
SPOILERS: Perhaps minor references to the show or stealage of dialogue, but nothing that would spoil the series.
FEEDBACK: Yes please
Willow turned the page of the book she was reading and not for the first time that evening, glanced over at Tara who was sitting next to her in bed, drawing in her sketch book.
She thought they looked a little like an old married couple, but got great joy from that idea.
“What are you sketching?”
“We’re working on perspective,” Tara sort-of answered, pencil lightly shading in some background on the paper.
Willow glanced over and was quite impressed with the image Tara had created of a sinkhole with the horizon of the city in the background.
“That’s wicked cool.”
Tara smiled affectionately, eyes still on the paper.
“You’re picking up the accent.”
Willow leaned over and popped a quick kiss on Tara’s cheek.
“Alls I know is I love ya, dahlin’.”
Tara smiled more but focused on her drawing, though Willow seemed done with her book.
“We’re super cool, in bed at ten o’clock on a Friday night, huh?”
“Did you want to go out?” Tara asked, picking up a new pencil from her nightstand.
“Well you know how I’m such a party animal,” Willow replied with a slight grin, “Wild Willow, that's what they call me.”
Tara wiped some dust from her page and turned the angle slightly.
“I’ll take you out on a date tomorrow if you want.”
Willow’s eyes lit up.
“I do want! Where are you taking me?”
“Surprise,” Tara replied airily.
“You don’t know, do you?” Willow accused playfully.
Tara just smiled and shook her head.
“No, but I’ll figure it out.”
Willow pursed her lips in thought.
“Take me somewhere I've never been before.”
Tara looked up, nose scrunched.
“I don't think I know every place you've ever been.”
“Okay, somewhere we've never been before,” Willow amended, “You have to pull out the real date chops on this one.”
“Date chops, huh?” Tara asked, holding her sketch out in front of her to decide if it was done or not, “Are they like pork chops?”
“Yes, actually. You have to zhuzh it up to make it interesting.”
“Well I'll have to get my thinking hat on then,” Tara replied, then held her sketch out to Willow, “Does this look okay?”
Willow sat up a bit and really looked at it.
“I think it looks amazing.”
Tara shaded in a tiny corner, then closed her sketch book.
“If only you were my professor.”
Willow got a twinkle in her eye and lifted the sheet so she could climb on top of Tara.
“Well...who says I can't be?” she said, sliding one finger down Tara's front to unbutton her pyjama top, “And that's Professor Rosenberg to you.”
Tara tilted her neck into the pillows as Willow kissed her between her breasts and moved down.
“Tara, let me see!”
Tara was standing behind Willow and had her hands over her girlfriend’s eyes to stop her from seeing as she guided them to their destination. Willow was fighting it, but Tara was adamant.
“Not until we’re there. We’re very close.”
“I already know we’re in the park,” Willow whined, “Nature stroll? Picnic? Taking me in the bushes? I'm up for all three.”
Tara turned bright red and ignored the few sideways stares they got. She turned them down to the side and ahead a bit until they were outside the setting for their date. She stopped Willow and took her hands away.
Willow blinked a couple of times, then stared wide at the ice rink ahead, set up as a novelty for the winter months.
“...or a large slab of ice with multiple fall-on-ass opportunities.”
Tara ducked her head and hid her hands in her pockets.
“Sorry, this was a stupid idea. It was just something we hadn't done before.”
Willow felt her heart break a little at Tara's tone and quickly took her girlfriend's hand out to hold.
“No, no, it’s a great idea,” she said, kissing Tara’s hand through her glove, “I’m just being a chicken. Not much with the balance.”
Tara brightened and squeezed Willow's hand in hers.
“I’ll hold your hands.”
Willow smiled, genuinely feeling better, or at least, less terrified at the thoughts of getting on the ice.
“Well then I can do anything. But you have to promise not to let go.”
“Never,” Tara promised, pecking Willow's cheek, “I’ll go get us the skates.”
Willow nodded, a little nervously, and went to sit on a bench where people were changing in and out of skates. She left her shoes on until Tara returned, not wanting to freeze her toes off.
She gulped as she watched people spin around in neat circles and hoped her balance woes wouldn’t confront her that day. When Tara came back with the skates, she watched her lace them up, then copied. She tried to stand but stumbled straight away, though luckily landed right in Tara’s lap.
Tara took it in her stride and held Willow by the hips.
“You can just ask for a hug you know.”
Willow appreciated the attempt to cover up her lack of grace.
“You know me. Can’t get enough of you.”
Tara moved to Willow’s hands tight as she stood them up and very carefully walked them over to the entrance of the rink. Willow’s heart was hammering as the skate slid onto the ice, but Tara’s grip was firm.
“See, it’s not so bad,” Tara said softly, skating backwards so she could guide Willow, going very slowly.
Willow wasn’t ready to let go, but was enjoying the sensation of being pulled around on the skates and the assurance of Tara's hands.
“Where, um…did you learn?”
“My mom took me every winter,” Tara replied, doing a good job of holding onto the happiness without letting the sadness clout her memories.
“That’s awesome,” Willow replied, smiling for the first time since stepping on, “Really awesome.”
They did a few laps of the rink, Tara gradually going faster, but so slowly that Willow barely noticed.
“This is fun!” Willow said, raising her voice to speak over the wind rushing past their faces, suddenly feeling adventurous, “Can we twirl?!”
Tara was as surprised as Willow by the request, but gently twisted herself in a circular motion so they spun. Willow opened her mouth, thinking she might scream but instead found herself giggling in delight. She almost felt like jumping up and down, had their activity not firmly requiring her feet to stay on the ground.
She could have spent the whole afternoon experimenting with the physics of how they could move, now she'd gotten over her initial fear, but a sharp drop of water landing on her nose broke the excitement. She looked up just in time to get a series of splashes on her face as a raincloud descended on them and rain began to fall.
There was a skirmish for the awning-covered benches by the others in the rink and Willow pulled Tara into the last spot to protect them.
“Guess that’s that plan ruined,” Tara remarked dejectedly.
“Hey, it was great,” Willow replied with a smile, using her sleeve to dry off Tara's face, then her own, “I loved it. Thank you for showing me. Can I get that hug now?”
Tara pulled Willow to her and they embraced in their own little world as people around them looked away awkwardly.
The sound of the rain pelting against the ground eased up a few minutes later, but a quick glance at the sky suggested the grey clouds were only giving them a few moments reprieve.
“Wanna make a break for it?” Willow asked, tying her shoes up quickly as Tara returned the skates.
Tara came back, disappointed her date plans had been cut short.
“Are we just going home?”
“I dunno. Got any other ide-” she started, then broke out in a grin, “Wait! I do!”
She kept Tara’s hand in hers as she walked them quite briskly out the other side of the park and back towards the direction they came from. Willow was looking at each building as they passed, trying to remember where the spot she'd seen earlier was. They finally arrived outside a little alleyway, just in time to step into a building to get shelter as the rain started to pour again.
Tara looked around at where they were, surprised and slightly intrigued by the bright lights and loud noises.
Willow nodded eagerly.
“Well we did your childhood thing and now we can do mine! I loved these places when I wasn’t reading in the bookstore.”
“Well you better show me how it’s done.”
Willow beamed and took Tara to the nearest game, a whac-a-mole machine.
“See you just BAM!” Willow demonstrated, whacking the plastic animals with gusto.
Tara frowned slightly.
Willow stilled and held the hammer up by her shoulders.
“I know…” Tara replied, though that fact didn’t seem to change her opinion.
Willow nodded and set the hammer down.
“Okay, we can play something that doesn’t involve cute things. What about a shooter game?”
“I hate guns,” Tara replied automatically, then turned apologetic, “I’m sorry, you did my thing. I’ll play whatever you want.”
Willow shook her head.
“No, no. We’ll find one you enjoy. Come on, we’ll look around. Oh look, skeeball!”
She brought Tara over and put the quarters in to get the balls.
“You just roll them and try and get them into the holes for points. The more points you get, the more of these little tickets you get and then you can exchange these for prizes. Wanna try?”
She offered Tara the first ball, who rolled it and got in in the largest hole. Willow clapped liked she’d scored a hole in one at the Ryder Cup. Tara blushed but felt encouraged, and landed three out of the remaining four balls into the holes.
“You’re a natural!” Willow enthused, “Look at all your tickets!”
Tara took her tickets quite proudly and gave them to Willow to join with hers. Willow smiled and rolled them all safely around her wrist. They worked their way through the arcade, collecting tickets at each game and engaging in some playful competition.
“Okay, okay, I admit defeat at Pluck-A-Duck,” Willow said, leaving her ‘fishing rod’ down, “Can’t compete with that steady hand of yours.”
Tara had reeled in an impressive amount of the magnetic plastic ducks, though Willow had run rings around her in the basketball shoot-out. She finished out the game they’d paid for and they moved on.
Willow walked right past the dance machine, but Tara stopped to admire it.
“It’s like in that movie you showed me, with the florist…at the wedding.”
“Oh yeah,” Willow replied with a smile, holding onto the bar, “That was a cute scene. I’d offer to relive it but I think I’d end up needing stitches.”
Tara gave Willow’s shoulder an encouraging squeeze.
“You were great on the skates.”
Willow looked at the flashing arrows on the base of the machine and then back to Tara.
“Well why the hell not?” she said, laughing nervously but with excitement, “You have to promise not to laugh at me though.”
“Have I ever laughed at you?” Tara asked, looking at Willow adoringly.
Willow smiled and shook her head.
Tara answered her smile, then broke their gaze to step up onto the steel floor.
“I’ll embarrass myself first.”
She picked the easy level; she liked to dance, but it wasn't something she'd practiced steadily or done much of in front of Willow. She found the beat pretty quickly, even though the music was a lot faster to anything she was used to.
Willow was once again cheering her on.
“Hey! You’re really good!”
“Are you surprised?” Tara asked with a playful-cocky grin and through a laboured breath, though was quite surprised herself that she hadn't lost her rhythm.
She finished out the steps and some words burst out on the screen at her.
“Nailed it!” Willow read out excitedly, “You nailed it!”
A flurry of tickets rushed from the slot while Tara caught her breath.
Willow looked reluctant again.
“We can do two-player,” Tara offered, off the look.
Willow went back and forth in her mind for a moment before biting the bullet.
Willow stepped up next to Tara and they put a couple more quarters to start the game up again. It started slow and Willow was careful to move her whole foot into the right space. It sped up, and she started to lose her footing, but glanced at Tara, who was just enjoying herself and joined in, following what she could.
She was missing all of the steps, but followed her own rhythm and looked good doing it, or at least like she was having fun.
They flailed around, laughing, for the entirety of the song and got an ‘Okay!’ for their efforts, though neither minded too much.
“Hehe, my legs feel like jelly,” Willow said as she wobbled off and grabbed onto Tara for balance, “That was fun.”
“Lots,” Tara agreed, steadying Willow up against another machine.
Willow appreciated it and took a moment before the decoration on the machine caught her eye and she realised it was a photo booth. Her eyes lit up.
“Let’s get pictures taken!”
Tara wasn’t sure she looked her most attractive after the exertion, but let Willow pull her into the booth. She sat on the small seat and Willow sat on her lap, arms hanging loosely around her neck.
They smiled for the first flash, then Willow pulled a funny face in all her giddiness and Tara laughed. She joined in with the funny faces which sent Willow into hysterics, until they finally quietened and had forgotten they were even being photographed as they rested their foreheads together.
“I love you, Tara,” Willow said, brushing some hair tenderly from Tara’s brow.
“I love you too, Willow,” Tara replied, arms holding her steady at the waist.
Their noses bumped and nuzzled through the last flash, but neither made a move to leave until given explicit, robotic instructions to.
“Please exit the booth. Please exit the booth. Please exit the–”
“Alright already!” Willow snapped, rolling her eyes.
She pulled the curtain back and retrieved the printout.
“Oh wow. We are disgustingly cute…”
She beamed from ear to ear as she showed Tara, then held them close to her chest.
“I love these, I have an old frame I can put them in and everything.”
She was practically skipping and swinging Tara’s hand but stopped after a moment.
“Oh. Looks like we did the circuit. Back to the start,” she said, a little sad their amusement fun was ended, “Wanna go trade our tickets in?”
Tara started to break away.
“I have to use the restroom, you can get whatever you want.”
She handed over her ream of tickets and moved off to the side where the restrooms were. Willow approached the ticket booth and handed them all into the attendant, who ran them through an automated machine.
“You got 125. Anything in the red section.”
Willow peered through the glass at the assortment of prizes. She was deciding between a bandana and stress ball when she saw a small bowl with assorted jewellery inside.
“What’s in there?” Willow asked, pointing to the dish.
The attendant got the bowl and put it between them so Willow could look through. She took a pair of puppy-shaped earrings as a possibility when a small ring caught her eye. It was silver in colour and the band had two hands clasped and holding onto a heart in the middle.
She tried it on and it fit snug enough.
“I’ll take this one,” she said, taking it off and holding it up to indicate.
The attendant nodded and took the dish back. Tara came out a minute later, gently ringing her hands together.
“Got this for you,” Willow said when they were close, showing her the ring.
Tara was silent for a moment, surprised.
“You got that…for me?”
“Well, the tickets did,” Willow replied bashfully, “You don’t have to wear it, I know it’s crappy.”
“I think it’s pretty,” Tara replied, offering her right hand for Willow to put the ring on and then looking at it more closely, “It looks a little like a claddagh ring, without the crown.”
Willow was happy Tara liked her choice and twined their fingers as they walked out.
“I’ve heard of those. What are they again?”
“A kind of Celtic ring,” Tara replied, remembering one her mother owned that she was almost sure had been pawned for cash after her death, “It represents love and friendship and loyalty. You wear it different ways to show your relationship status. The heart towards the fingertip on your right hand means you’re single; towards the wrist means you’re in a relationship; left hand towards tip is engaged and left hand towards wrist is married.”
Willow lifted their hands to look and smiled.
“I put it on the right way!”
Tara looked at their hands and just smiled too.
They walked in companionable silence for a while, until Willow squeezed Tara’s hand excitedly.
“Hey, look across the road.”
Tara looked up and across and smiled when she the movie theatre Willow was pointing too. They strolled over just intending to look at the movie posters, but found themselves sitting in a relatively empty theatre for a matinee since they had no other plans for the afternoon.
Willow gently rubbed Tara’s arm, which was sitting on the armrest.
“Had our first date here,” she said, playing with the skin around her girlfriend’s knuckles, “Can you believe it’s almost been a year?”
Tara thought back to the first time they’d been in that theatre; it seemed like an eternity and yesterday all at once.
“Yes and no,” she answered finally, though her mind did fall back to those torturous weeks before they’d gotten together, “This Valentine’s Day will be nicer than the last…but more expensive, especially with our anniversary so close.”
Willow started to frown; she knew the money issue was less divisive between them but hated that Tara had to worry about money at all. She’d never wanted for anything and it was quite foreign to think it a concern.
She put her hand over Tara’s, intending to comfort, when a light bulb went off over her head.
“Hey, I have an idea! Let’s pick a day between Valentine’s and our anniversary and combine them. A… valenversary. One celebration and then we can just have…private celebrations on the days.”
Tara’s nose scrunched as she smiled.
“Valenversary. I like that.”
“Great! Then let's do it!”
She tossed a self-congratulatory handful of popcorn in her mouth while thinking back to how those kind of slightly inane ideas were shot down when she was a child and she was all but told to shut up. She hoped Tara had a little more joy in the good years of her childhood.
“Did you have any dreams when you were younger? Like not big ones like college and marriage and career and stuff but kid dreams?”
Tara rarely questioned Willow’s conversational jumps anymore and just smiled.
“Hmmm…I always wanted to see Paris. City of Lights. City of Love. I always felt a draw there. To sit and draw the city all around me.”
She continued to smile for a moment, then let her eyes settled back on Willow.
“I also wanted to sleep under the stars. It sounded so poetic,” she continued, recalling how much she’d enjoyed nature walks and the like when she was a young child, “I probably would have eventually if my mom had lived, but she didn't want me out by myself and didn't fancy a night on the ground either.”
“So you never?” Willow asked.
Tara shook her head.
“No. After...well...my dad didn’t approve of sleepovers of any kind,” she said but was smiling past it and thinking of the nature walks still, “What about you?”
“Finger-paint my whole bedroom,” she said, smile turning sheepish, “There may have been an attempt at one time.”
Tara laughed out loud, making some people that had come in and sat ahead of them turn to look. She quietened and kissed Willow’s cheek.
“Our kids better not be as unruly as you.”
She rested her head on Willow’s shoulder then, who instinctively put her arm around her girlfriend’s shoulders and kissed the top of her head.
Our kids. That sounds better and better each time.
The lights dimmed then and the screen lit up for the trailers to start.
They stayed cuddled up as the movie started, seats around them free so they had some privacy.
Their hands kept each other warm and never broke once.
- College Confidential (Chapter 54)