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Adult Confidential (Chapter 37)
Rawr
laraghwrites
*******

TITLE: Adult Confidential

WRITER: Laragh

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: They’ve graduated, now they’re faced with the big, bad world of adulthood…the second part in the prequel series of Hacker Confidential and Family Confidential (and follow-up to College Confidential)

SPOILERS: Perhaps minor references to the show or stealage of dialogue, but nothing that would spoil the series.

FEEDBACK: Yes please

Chapter 37

********



Willow stared ahead vacantly as she stood behind the cash counter in the store.


She had really been feeling the weight of Tara’s unhappiness and it made her realise how miserable she’d been herself.


She had been trying to get hold of the manager to make sure she got a day off that was good for her and Tara, and planned to stay in work the extra hour in the morning until he showed up for his shift so she could make sure it happened.


She was still blindly staring ahead when the bell above the door sounded and a short statured white guy in a hoody walked through. Willow paid him little attention as he sulked through the aisles, pawing the Cheetos and Twinkies.


Eventually he came up to the counter and set down a bottle of Mountain Dew, which Willow rung up.


“Is that all for you this evening?” she asked in a bored tone.


The guy reached into his front pocket and held something in there.


“Empty the register,” he said gruffly, like he was trying to disguise his voice but didn’t know how.


Willow looked up, utterly confused.


“What?”


The guy suddenly pulled a gun from his pocket and held it oddly, not that Willow noticed much about his posture after it appeared.


“Do it, now!”


Willow’s heart leapt into her throat and her shaky hands tried to work the register. Her robber yelled at her to hurry up and tears were streaming down Willow’s cheeks as it finally popped open.


He reached over and snatched the cash himself, but there wasn't much there, with just the night float inside.


He cursed and looked back to Willow.


“Where’s the safe?”


Willow couldn’t think straight and wasn’t completely lying when she denied knowledge.


“I, I, I don’t know.”


The robber’s hand shot up and Willow heard something like a click. She screamed silently in terror and imagined Tara’s sweet face at her funeral.


“Safe! Now!”


The adrenaline hit and Willow remembered. She rushed out to the safe, her fingers poking the numbers inaccurately as she shook with fear. When it opened, the robber clocked her on her cheekbone to get her out the way. It hadn’t cut, but it sure did sting and Willow watched in double vision as he grabbed the cash and fled.


Willow stared ahead in shock for a few moments before she locked herself in the break room and dialled 911.


Thirty minutes later, Willow had just about stopped trembling but the skin around her nails had been bitten into oblivion.


It didn’t help when someone started slamming their fists against the break room door.


“Open the damn door. It’s Fred! It’s the owner!”


Willow got up and carefully opened the door. The owner, a balding middle-aged guy who had bloodshot eyes and an angry face marched in with the tweedy and downright annoying manager behind him.


The owner threw his arms out violently.


“You just left the store wide open!”


Willow’s mouth opened and closed like a fish.


“I— there was…there was a holdup.”


The manager snickered and the owner rolled his eyes.


“Cops caught up with him three blocks away. Some punk teen. It wasn’t even a real gun.”


Willow should have been relieved that she had never been in any real danger, but she just felt humiliated.


“It looked real,” she said quietly.


“Why didn’t you push the panic button?” the owner demanded.


One of Willow’s eyebrows arched questioningly.


“What panic button?”


“The one I installed when this place got robbed for the third time!” the owner yelled.


Willow’s eyes flashed with anger.


“This happened before?! You don’t think that was something I maybe needed to know?!”


The owner shook his hands in her face.


“That’s why you were told about the panic button.”


“I didn’t know there was a panic button!” Willow yelled back, not too subtly beginning to lose her temper.


The owner glanced at the manager, who waved a dismissive hand.


“Of course I showed her.”


Willow’s mouth hung open.


“No, he didn’t!”


“She’s been incompetent from day one,” the manager sneered, covering his ass for the six whole minutes of training Willow had been given, “I’ve had three complaints about wrong change on her watch.”


“No you have not!” Willow sneered back, wanting to wind up and punch the manager in his smug face, “I’ve done half your job for you!”


“That’s enough,” the owner intervened before staring angrily at Willow, “You’re suspended for not following proper protocol. Only reason you’re not fired is that I got my money back.”


Willow took in two short breaths, followed by one long one which gave her some sudden clarity.


“I quit.”


She snatched her nametag from her chest and flung it between the two men.


“My girlfriend deserves better than the person I have to be to work this job,” she said, her flaming cheeks just growing even more so as she took her things from her cubby, “I deserve better.”


She started to march out and the owner got all in a fluster.


“The cops’ll want to talk to you!”


“Tell them to bite me!” Willow called back, shooting a furious look over her shoulder for good measure, “And the same to you!”


She ran out of the store and slammed the door and its stupid bell shut behind her. She felt a sudden rush of freedom as the cool night air hit her face.


She was triumphant and jubilant for all of about five seconds before she realised she was out in the middle of the night, right outside the place she’d just been held up in.


The fear ran deep and the trauma refreshed itself. It would be a couple of hours before the bus and T lines opened and Willow didn’t want to be outside for another second.


She had a $20 bill in her wallet that she’d saved and had been planning to get Tara a fresh bunch of flowers with on the way home to signal a new start, but she thought her girlfriend would much prefer to see her home in one piece instead.


She hoped, anyway.


She ran around the corner to the nearest taxi rank and hopped into the back. She gave the address and locked each back door manually before finally relaxing again.


With no traffic, she had just enough to cover the fare and tip and didn’t wait for change as she pounded the stairs inside and up to their apartment.


Finally feeling really safe, it all hit her again and she walked around in a bit of a daze. She saw a sandwich but didn't want to eat; didn't want to watch TV; didn't want to do anything.


Tara was asleep in bed, but as most nights without Willow it wasn’t hugely peaceful. She first heard some creaking, then felt the sag of the mattress as a body sat down near her. She felt a headache creeping in from the well-deserved hangover and prayed it wasn’t time to get up already.


She cracked an eye open and recognised her girlfriend’s silhouette immediately. She was confused, as it was still pitch dark in the room.


“Willow?” she asked groggily, rubbing her eyes as she sat up.


She looked at the clock and the numbers staring back just increased her confusion.


“Willow, what are you doing home? It's the middle of the night.”


Tara saw Willow’s face slowly turn to her and could see her girlfriend’s troubled eyes find hers. She had no time to question it as Willow suddenly burst into tears.


Tara’s immediate response was to gather her into her arms.


“Willow,” she comforted, “Honey, I’m here. What happened?”


Willow sobbed into Tara’s neck for a minute or two before opening her mouth and recounting the last couple of hours of her life in full babble mode. For once in her life she was thankful for the ability, as it was the only way she could have gotten it out with any kind of coherence, even what little it was.


She took in a shaky breath and looked at her girlfriend, pained.


“Tara, I-I’m sorry, I-I quit, I—”


Tara cut Willow off by kissing her tenderly, her fingertips trembling against Willow's cheek as she imagined her girlfriend in such peril. She pulled away and cupped Willow's face with both hands.


“You saved us a fight because there wasn’t a chance in hell I was going to let you go back there.”


Willow’s lip started to quiver and she burst into fresh tears.


“It wasn’t even a real gun. I’m such an idiot.”


Tara enveloped Willow in her arms and laid her down, pulling her close.


“Come here. You must have been so scared.”


She stroked Willow’s hair, who didn’t quite seem to calm but instead turned frenzied crying into frenzied kisses.


Tara let her for a moment, then gently tried to extract her.


“Willow, Willow,” she said, tucking some hair behind her girlfriend’s ear, “You’re in shock.”


Willow’s eyes were slightly wild, so Tara tucked her girlfriend under her chin and rubbed her back soothingly.


“Darling, close your eyes. You’re safe. You’re safe here with me.”


It worked as a kind of immersion therapy and slowly Willow’s breath began to even out.


“Rest…I love you,” Tara encouraged, “I love you so much.”


It took a while of Tara keeping almost perfectly still, wrapped around Willow until she felt her girlfriend succumb to the exhaustion of the evening. Tara kissed Willow's temple soft enough not to wake up and didn't move an inch so as not to disturb her.


“I’ll keep you safe. I promise.”


She watched Willow's sleeping face, but saw it was still creased with tension.


“Oh, love,” she whispered.


She put her mouth to Willow's ear and started to sing, so quiet it wasn't even a whisper.


Dream baby dream
Dream baby dream
Dream baby dream
Come on and dream baby dream
Come on and dream baby dream

Yeah I just wanna see you smile
Now I just wanna see you smile
Yeah I just wanna see you smile
Come on dream on, dream baby dream…



Willow's face smoothed out and Tara knew she was at peace when she heard a soft snore.


She couldn't help but smile, despite everything. She closed her own eyes and took some deep inhalations in. Her arms remained closed around Willow and would do for some hours.


The thought of Willow in such danger made her feel sick, but she couldn't help be pleased that her girlfriend was finally out of that hellhole.


Tara didn't know where her girlfriend's next destination would be, but for that moment, they were both content for it to be Tara's arms.





Willow woke, sprawled out in bed, not quite remembering getting there.


Her legs shifted and she could feel she only had underwear on. She glanced down and saw her work shirt on and suddenly everything came rushing back.


She gasped and ripped the shirt from her body, throwing it towards the chair in the corner, where she noticed her pants had been neatly folded.


A moment later, Tara — who had heard rustling — appeared in the doorway and approached. She perched on the side of the bed and reached to tuck a piece of hair behind Willow’s ear.


“Hey sweetpea.”


Willow melted into Tara’s touch as Tara cupped her cheek. She felt the flood of shock and fear slowly dissipate.


She swallowed the lump that had formed a few times and in the process became more confused as she saw the mid-morning hour on the clock.


“It’s Monday. Why aren’t you at work?”


Tara lowered her hand and used it to take Willow’s hand in hers.


“I took a vacation day. Promised you I would take a few.”


Willow was touched.


“You took a day off for me?”


“Of course,” Tara replied sincerely, then her nose scrunched a bit, “I might also be a little bit hungover.”


Willow cracked a smile.


“I’m glad one of us had a good time last night.”


Tara looked pained and squeezed Willow’s hand tight as if to make sure she was really there.


“You rest some more, and we’ll spend the afternoon together. Just the two of us.”


Willow felt heavy but tried to fight through it.


“I’m sick of sleeping ‘til the afternoon.”


“I know, but you’ve had such an ordeal,” Tara replied, able to see the exhaustion on her girlfriend’s face, “I’ll cuddle with you if you want.”


Willow let herself be laid back down.


“I always want.”


Tara snuggled into Willow’s side and noticed her shirt was gone and little goosebumps had appeared on her arms. She put her arms around Willow and rubbed softly.


“Cold, baby?”


Willow rested her head on Tara’s chest.


“Not with you here.”


She felt so safe and warm, the antithesis of everything that had happened the night before. Before she knew it, she was sobbing quietly into Tara.


Tara held Willow closer.


“Oh, honey.”


Willow took in short gasps of air as she let all of the emotion out.


“All I could think about was never seeing you again…and I tried to remember the last time I saw your face…”


She lifted her eyes to meet Tara’s.


“A-And I couldn’t remember, not properly. I couldn’t even remember the last time I kissed you.”


Tara moved her hands to hold Willow’s cheeks and brought their faces together.


Willow took in a deep inhalation as she gazed into Tara’s eyes and manged to exhale it without her lower lip shaking. She leaned in and pressed her lips to Tara’s, who wiped her tears and kissed right back.


Willow’s heart initially sped up but then evened into a regular, steady beat. She released Tara’s lips to take in a breath, but kept their foreheads together.


“I love you.”


“I love you,” Tara whispered back.


Willow touched Tara’s cheek.


“I wanted to be good, for you.”


Tara turned her head and kissed Willow’s palm.


“You’re perfect for me.”


It wasn’t what Willow meant, but she smiled nonetheless. Her hand floated down to Tara’s hip, just enjoying being able to touch her unhurriedly.


“I was trying to do right, but it…it didn’t work.”


“You put your everything in because that’s the kind of person you are and I love you for it,” Tara replied, with heart.


Willow came to a realisation and sighed.


“These jobs I’m trying to force myself into…they don’t work.”


Tara shook her head.


“No, they don’t.”


Willow closed her eyes for a moment with unease before they flickered up again.


“Something I love won’t just fall into my lap. I don't even know what I love. Apart from you.”


“Have hope,” Tara replied encouragingly.


Willow didn’t want to dwell right then.


“Have you,” she replied, pecking Tara’s lips again, “That’s all I really need.”


Tara brought Willow into her as she had the night before and rubbed the bare skin over Willow’s spine.


She waited for Willow to fall back asleep before extracting herself and going to grab another coffee.


A few more hours passed and Willow woke again, feeling a lot more rested and simply overjoyed about not having to go to work that evening. She swung her legs out and walked over to the dresser to find a shirt and pants to wear.


Her sunny yellow tank top matched the smile on her face as she walked out to the living room. Tara was standing over the stove in the kitchen, stirring a pot. She smiled too when she saw Willow appear.


“Hey. Good timing. I’m making soup.”


Willow walked over and embraced Tara from behind, one her most favourite things to do while her girlfriend was cooking.


“Smells good.”


Tara hummed softly as she stirred the soup.


“Tell me if I’m asking too much, but I bet one of your famous grilled cheeses would go great with this.”


Willow put her chin over Tara’s shoulder to look at her.


“Do you really want one of my sandwiches?”


“Definitely,” Tara replied with utmost sincerity.


Willow loved being included, and cooking with Tara again. She’d spent many a Saturday batch cooking lunches and freezer dinners with her girlfriend, learning something new every time.


She got the bread and cheese from the fridge and started to prepare. Tara watched her for a moment, glad to see her burden seemed to have eased.


“How’re you doing?”


“Good, actually,” Willow replied happily as she leaned against Tara to get the pan on, “Love how your hair smells today.”


“You’re really cheerful,” Tara commented, somewhat confused.


Willow just kept smiling.


“An afternoon with you, why wouldn’t I be?”


Tara put a hand on the small of Willow’s back.


“You had a very traumatic experience.”


Willow assembled the sandwiches and waited with the spatula to flip them. She turned to look at Tara properly, inhaling and exhaling the same breath in a moment.


“Yeah, I did. But you know, the real trauma was starting to lose us again. That’s a line we’ve teetered one too many times. It was the lousiest wake-up call in the world, but I needed it. Something had to give. You’ve worked so hard to make sure there’s balance and I need to do the same. Honestly, I want to forget about it. Can we forget about it? The only thing hurt was my pride.”


“If that’s what you want, honey,” Tara replied softly, “But if this is staying with you, promise you’ll talk to me?”


Willow leaned over and kissed Tara’s cheek.


“Promise. But the whole night clerk endeavour was an exercise in the sometimes stupid Willow brain. I’d really rather if we just never mentioned it ever again. Like, ever.”


Tara accepted Willow knew what was best for herself. She was the one with the psych degree, after all.


“Mention what?” she asked breezily.


Willow smiled and bumped Tara's shoulders. Tara returned both gestures.


A couple of minutes later, Tara took two bowls down and ladled some soup into them. She decided to fancy them up a little bit by drizzling some cream, crushing some oyster crackers and putting a sprig of parsley on top.


She brought them to the table and Willow joined her a minute or two later with their sandwiches. She sat to the side of Tara and folded her napkin into her lap.


“Oh wow…this is some bowl of soup! I feel like I’m at the Ritz!” she said enthusiastically, “The grilled cheese is more Motel 6.”


Tara pulled her halves apart and dipped the corner in her soup.


“It’s delicious.”


They ate mostly quietly; Willow was hungry and it was nice to just share a relaxed meal together. When they were finished, Tara brought the dishes in to the kitchen to rinse.


“So what would you like to do? We can stay in, go out…whatever you want,” she said with a smile, “Just as long as it’s together.”


Willow smiled back. She didn’t think she’d ever feel this happy to be unemployed.


“Want to go to a movie? They have Monday afternoon specials.”


“We haven’t been to a movie in forever,” Tara replied, drying her hands on a dishcloth, “I’d love to. What’s on?”


Willow stood up eagerly.


“I’ll check.”


She got her laptop, and sat on the couch while it booted up.


Tara came and sat beside her, putting an arm around her shoulders. She leaned in and pressed kisses to Willow’s neck, who sighed softly.


“Tara…”


Tara kissed Willow’s ear.


“Can’t I enjoy having you around?”


Willow turned to face Tara.


“Of course you can.”


Their lips met and moved against each other until the laptop almost fell to the floor. Willow blushed.


“Movies.”


Tara licked her lips.


“Right.”


Willow pulled up the listings while trying not to let Tara’s warm breath on her neck distract her.


“There’s a comedy called Date Night. It has Steve Carell and Tina Fey,” she read out, “You like Tina Fey. She’s the one who did Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live.”


Tara ceased teasing Willow and sat back.


“Oh yeah, I do like her. That sounds fun. I’m in. When is it on?”


“In an hour,” Willow replied.


“Great. Let’s walk over and grab a coffee at the café next door,” Tara suggested, “They do the foam art you like.”


“My last one looked like a monkey!” Willow grinned, “Let me put nicer clothes on. I’ll be right out.”


She pecked Tara’s cheek and went into the bedroom to change into red jeans and a black button-down shirt. She added one of the necklaces Tara had given to her over the years and brushed her hair through a few times.


She returned and Tara smiled at her.


“You look pretty.”


Willow didn’t know how Tara could still make her blush after all these years and with so few words, but she did.


“Thanks. You look prettier.”


She offered her hand, which Tara took and they walked out together. It was a nice spring day and there was the afternoon feel in the streets without the hustle and bustle of commuters.


Some kids were walking home from school and kidding around and there was no congestion of traffic at the stoplights.


The local theatre wasn’t far and was situated right beside an art café that Tara had initially been drawn to, but Willow had grown to love too for their fun presentations of their beverages and food.


They arrived and ordered a coffee each and found a table by the window. After a few minutes, the waitress came carrying their mugs on a tray. She carefully transferred it to the table, where they could see the foam had been made to look like a cat jumping from one cup to the other.


Willow’s eyes grew wide.


“Holy shit.”


“Willow,” Tara said, looking at the waitress apologetically.


The waitress just smiled.


“We get that a lot. Enjoy.”


Willow kept staring.


“This literally looks too good to eat.”


“Well put the kitty in your cup then, I need some coffee,” Tara replied.


Willow reluctantly split the foam and pushed Tara’s mug towards her.


“Okay, the coffee is too much to resist.”


They enjoyed their beverages, holding hands across the table and letting the mid-afternoon sun stream in and warm their faces.


Ten minutes before the movie was due to start, they went to get their tickets and a large popcorn combo to share.


There were a few other afternoon dwellers in the theatre, but they pretty much had their pick of the seats and decided on two in the back.


Willow settled their popcorn and drink between them and offered her hand again to share the armrest.


Their heads rested together and they settled in to happily enjoy ‘Date Night’ for their much-needed date afternoon.





Tara curved her naked front around Willow’s back, enjoying every press of their skin against each other.


Their sated bodies clung together, breathing in sync so they didn’t have to part for a moment.


Tara brushed her fingers along Willow’s arm, down past her wrist to link their fingers together.


“…it’s so nice to hold you after.”


Willow was savouring the moment too and trying to resist the urge to rut back into Tara.


“It’s nice to be held.”


She played with Tara’s fingers affectionately for a few moments before turning herself on her other side to face her girlfriend. She rubbed her knuckles along Tara’s spine, whose eyes fluttered with pleasure at the sensation.


“I never asked how your Easter egg hunt went,” Willow brought up easily, “Thanks for the lemonade, by the way. It was delicious.”


Tara slid her foot over Willow’s shin and settled her head closer to her girlfriend on the pillow.


“It was nice to see the kids have fun.”


“I’m guessing the hangover-inducing part came later,” Willow replied with a grin, “Vodka cranberries again?”


Tara shook her head.


“Just lots and lots of wine. I didn’t even realise I was getting drunk until it happened. Guess I needed to blow off some steam.”


Willow’s eyebrow arched.


“How much steam are we talking?”


“Oh nothing much…” Tara replied casually, “Dancing on table tops…having my way with the hot barmaid in the alleyway…”


Her lips sloped upwards on one side.


“Getting sloshed over dinner and bursting Alice’s eardrums singing country on the way home.”


“Sounds more like it,” Willow replied dryly, “Well, it was Easter. Wine is appropriate, though I prefer the chocolate myself.”


Tara reached up and tucked a piece of hair behind Willow’s ear.


“I saved you a chocolate egg.”


Willow leaned in and pressed a soft kiss to Tara’s lips.


“Thank you. I would have brought you home something from the store but…”


Tara’s nose scrunched.


“I tried their coffee. No thank you.”


“You did?” Willow asked in confusion.


“Called in on my way out yesterday,” Tara explained, “In case you were still there.”


Willow nodded in understanding.


“I would have warned you.”


Tara took Willow’s hand and pressed their palms together. She brought Willow’s hand up to kiss her knuckles, then looked her right in the eye.


“I’m glad you’re out of there.”


“I’m glad I was able to get us a little ahead on some bills,” Willow returned with a sigh.


Tara leaned in to kiss Willow’s forehead.


“Spend the next paycheck on yourself.”


Willow just smiled.


“I’m sure I can think of something…maybe for us both.”


“Good,” Tara replied, though got distracted watching Willow’s plump, moving lips, “You know, I have an idea for tonight.”


Willow gulped as Tara’s lips softly caressed hers, over and over again.


“Oh you do, do you? Just the one?”


Tara moved her hand to palm Willow’s hip. She rolled on top of her and sat back to straddle her.


As Willow took in a short breath, the air was pulled from her lungs again as Tara looked back at her with the most lascivious of her sultry smiles.


“Several.”





Tara arrived at work a little early to catch up on some work she’d missed the previous day.


Alice was one of the few already there and had a smile for Tara as she approached her desk.


“Hello.”


Tara waved.


“Hi.”


Alice sidled up to Tara, conspiringly.


“It was good to see you play a little bad and take a day off for a hangover,” she said, throwing Tara a sly wink, “As your friend, not your boss, of course. You’re not officially on the clock yet.”


Tara left her purse on the desk.


“Actually, um…” she replied, tucking her lunch away in the drawer, “I was taking care of Willow.”


“Is she sick?” Alice asked with concern.


Tara sat in her desk and exhaled slowly. She was still a bit shook up from hearing about it.


“She got held up at the store. Scared her half to death. She quit and just needed some TLC.”


Alice’s eyes grew wide.


“Is she okay?”


Tara nodded slowly.


“She will be.”


“Are you okay?” Alice questioned.


Tara offered a smile.


“I will be.”


“Well, if I can do anything…” Alice said, genuinely.


“We appreciate it,” Tara replied gratefully, “We’re both trying to getting back to normality.”


Alice patted Tara on the back and returned to her desk.


Tara turned into her computer, checked her files for the day, then sent Willow a quick text to say she was thinking about her while she waited for the computer to boot up.


She got a smiley face and a love heart back and it both made her smile and her heart flutter, as intended.


She was already looking forward to seeing Willow that evening.


It was nice to finally be able to look forward to going home again.

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