The young woman stood outside the club, feeling the thumping baseline rumbling under her feet. She was waiting for someone; she kept pointedly checking her watch to make sure that everyone could see that. She hadn’t been to this club before and she was unnerved by the punky types and cliquey high school girls that brushed past her. Like she was invisible. Just when she was starting to feel not invisible. And she shivered, partly from the cool evening air and partly from the sickness that filled her tummy, the anticipation that knotted itself around her insides. She was so nervous, more so than usual, because she was Tara and because she was worried that Willow would see her for what she was.

Half past eight Willow said. It was quarter to nine now. Maybe she got caught up with some Scooby-gang related crisis. Maybe they were fighting vampires or demons or… something. Something that she wasn’t a part of. Maybe Willow couldn’t get away. Maybe, maybe, maybe. She’d always tortured herself with maybes.

It was so cold, why was it so cold? This was California. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. A group of boys, hard-bodied boys with their stubble and their confidence brushed past her, making sleazy comments about her. With boys, she never knew whether they were mocking her or complimenting because she knew, without having to be told, that she was awkward and pale and plump. She could see her own reflection after all. To her, boys were an alien species. Frighteningly male. But Willow made her feel safe and not quite so crippled with shyness.

She felt the sting of tears behind her eyes and she was determined not to cry even as she could feel the water moistening her eyes. She stared up, focusing on the stars, concentrating so hard on not crying that they began to blur. Willow wouldn’t stand her up, would she? Willow wasn’t like that. Willow...

"Tara!" She turned her head sharply to see the redhead loping up the street towards her. She was grinning widely, hair mussed by the wind, and breathless from running. Despite herself, Tara smiled and quickly wiped the leakage away from the corner of her eye.

"Sorry I’m late. Big evil, had to be spell-girl," Willow said in a rush. She looked at Tara for a moment, concerned. "Have you been waiting long?"

Tara shook her head. "I j-just got here." She gave her dopiest smile and Willow beamed back at her. So it was lie, it didn’t matter. Because the anguish of moments before was nothing compared to the way that Willow looked at her. And she never, ever wanted to hurt the redhead. Not intentionally. Not unless… she *had* to.


The End