TITLE: I Understand (1/4)
PAIRING: Willow/Tara (past tense), Fred/Tara
SUMMARY: Fred makes a new friend in a beautiful blonde who seems to understand more than Fred ever imagined.
SPOILER WARNING: "Family"/"Supersymmetry"
DISTRIBUTION: UCSL, BuffyFemSlash, anyone else who wants it, just e-mail me. I'm sure I'm gonna say yes.
DISCLAIMER: The characters are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Kuzui, Sandollar, UPN, WB and David Greenwalt Productions, 20th Century Fox, and whoever else may have a hold upon them. They aren't mine, though ... mmm, I wish some of the ladies were. The storyline, however, is mine. Please don't steal.
FEEDBACK: Please, for the love of God! This was my first fanfic.
NOTES: This fanfic includes F/F slash and sexual suggestion. If you find this sort of thing offensive, don't read it. AU after "Family," where Tara runs away after dancing with Willow. Picks up right after "Supersymmetry" - "Spin the Bottle" and proceeding weirdness has not happened.
"You are. You're essential."
"I didn't want you to see ... what I am."
"See ... that's where you're a dummy. I think about ... what you grew up with, and ... then I look at what you are ... it makes me proud. It makes me love you more."
Red hair, soft hands, loving touch. Forgiveness.
Tara bolted straight up in bed, sweating. Goddamn, she hated that dream. After two years, she had hoped it would go away. Shaking her shoulder-length blonde hair, she rubbed her eyes and swung her legs out of bed. Looking around blearily, she tried to remember where she was.
Opening the window, she saw the brushing of dusky smog covering the city's night sky, meaning only one thing:
Fred stared at the cracked Formica of the table in the bar, blankly swallowing yet-another drink. She knew that she should feel guilty about sneaking out of the hotel after Charles had fallen asleep. Adults didn't sneak away from problems. They confronted them. Sadly, she decided, she had never been good at conflict. Even when she tried, someone always came along, trying to protect her, like Charles had tried to protect her from herself. She looked down at the thin hands covering her beer stein, barely recognizing them as her own.
She looked around at the dim bar in a curiosity born only out of a frantic desire to lose herself. The patrons were people that she would rarely imagine herself to have anything in common with - nightly nomads born of desperation to forget. Tonight, however, she was comforted in the dingy bar, finding previously unknown comfort of Willie Nelson on the jukebox and other lost souls.
Out of the corner of her eye, Fred noticed exterior door swing open to the bar. A beautiful blonde woman wearing a black leather jacket, a fitted maroon t-shirt, and black leather pants strode into the bar. She looked around the bar with a practiced eye, either looking for someone she knew or someone she wanted to know. Fred blushed at her inner monologue - since when did she think she was so insightful that she could tell so much about a person from a glance?
Still, she admitted, the blonde woman had ... presence. Maybe it was just the lack of the desperation and self-hatred that permeated the rest of the patrons. Maybe it was the way she held her head, as if she had nothing to apologize for. Or, she admitted in a rare moment of honesty, maybe it was just that she was so damn pretty.
Tara liked going out alone now, like tightrope walking without a net. She hadn't had a net in years and, she had realized, had started to like how much it made her rely upon herself. She smiled as she strode down the street in her leather pants and jacket, with a stake secured in her pocket. Sure, she had left the Scoobies behind, but she hadn't forgotten the lessons she'd learned.
And some lessons, she smiled to herself, had to be learned alone. Who would have thought that poor, little, stuttering Tara McClay would make it on her own? Nobody that had known her two years ago could have foreseen the certain, if somewhat scarred, woman that stepped confidently down these streets.
She chose the bar at random, as she always did. She never frequented demon bars or witch hang-outs. She spent enough of her professional life around the supernatural - she didn't need to socialize entirely with them. Plus, she had to admit to herself with no small twinge of guilt, witches always reminded her of Willow.
Opening the door into the bar, she immediately felt the despair tangible in the air. She nearly turned around and walked out, but then she noticed the frail brunette hiding at a back table. Something about the girl reminded her of someone she had known once and, she realized, she wanted to know more about her.
Stepping up to the bar, she winked at the bartender, who had jerked himself upright at this unusual young woman.
"A Jack and Coke," she grinned at him. As he handed Tara her drink, she nodded at the girl at the back table, who had suddenly turned her head and was starting intently at the television. "Do you know her?"
"Sorry," the bartender responded. "Never seen her before tonight. If you're lookin' for company, though, I get off around ..."
"Thanks," Tara cut him off. "I think I've got that covered."
Grabbing her drink, she headed over to the brunette's table boldly. Setting her drink down on the table, she gestured to the open seat across the booth.
"May I join you?" she smiled openly at the surprise on the brunette's face. As she had closed in on the table, Tara had quickly realized that this girl wasn't merely pretty - she was breathtaking. Even self-deprecating embarrassment looked good on her.
"I-I-I-I guess not," the brunette blushed.
"I'm Tara," the blonde introduced herself with a glint in her eye.
"I'm Fred. W-w-well, actually Winnifred, but all my friends call me Fred. N-n-not that you're my friend. I mean, I'm sure that you're a nice person, but ..." Dammit, Fred cursed herself, she hadn't stuttered in a long time. What about this woman was throwing her off?
Tara smiled gently and covered Fred's thin hand with her own. "It's ok, Fred. I understand."