“I've gotta say, I wouldn’t have expected this from you, Tara,” says Buffy, eyeing the items laid out on Tara’s small dorm room bed.
There are a lot of things people don’t expect from Tara, and this year, she’s been doing them all.
“Please don’t forgive me,” Buffy had said, and Tara could do nothing but hold her. If there is one power Tara has always known she has, it’s the ability to appear calm and be still while anger churns her stomach and fear catches in her throat. She’s good—too good—at hiding what she used to assume was the demon inside her, but that night, Buffy’s tear-stained face buried in her lap, Tara had been glad her serene presence came so naturally. It felt like all she could do—be a girl of solid rock in the living room of a house she used to sleep in, back when the woman in front of her was dead—until Buffy whispered, “I wish I didn’t like it so much.”
Tara kept holding her, waiting to see if Buffy would continue, and after another round of sobs, Buffy said, “The things he does to me—the ways he, he hurts me—I wish I didn’t like it, Tara. I never used to let myself think about that kind of stuff. And I hate it, because if I need that so much, I’ll be stuck with creepy guys like Spike forever, and maybe that’s all I deserve anyway, if I want all these things that are so…wrong!”
And then Tara knew something else to say.
Tara’s body tenses as Buffy examines Tara’s toy collection. It’s small, not like the fantasy dungeons in the books she reads sometimes when she’s willing to put up with the purple prose, or the walls of leather and chain she remembers from the one time she and Willow worked up the courage to go to a sex shop. Do the ropes and the clothespins and the cheaply-constructed flogger look too amateurish to Buffy? Or do they look too intense?
“I don’t know if I want the clothespins,” says Buffy after a moment.
Tara nods. “No problem. W-would you…like it if I tied you up?”
“I think so? But these might not be able to hold me,” admits Buffy, grasping the ropes. “I’ve got this whole super strength thing going on, you know?”
Tara smiles. “We could, um, enchant them if you wanted. Make them stronger. But we could also not, not do that. If you want to be able to get out.”
“If I need to get out, you’ll untie me, though, right?”
“Of course! I just meant, if that would make you feel more, um, comfortable.”
“No, I think I’d like it if you could make them stronger. If it’s not too much work.”
Tara puts her hand on Buffy’s arm. “It’s just a quick spell, sweetie.”
Talk of spells still makes her think of Willow, and Tara suspects it has the same effect on Buffy. Before either of them can bring the other witch up, then, Tara says, “How about the flogger? Would you like me to, um, beat you?”
Buffy’s face flushes, and Tara can sense both embarrassment and arousal behind her reaction. Tara grins, and raises her eyebrows. She’s starting to get into this; she likes this feeling of taking someone’s hand and guiding them somewhere they both want to go. Even when it had been her turn to top Willow, her girlfriend had never really let herself be led anywhere, and much as Tara had marvelled at and learned from Willow’s streak of constant egoism—that is, until it had made Tara unsafe in her own home—there’s something Tara finds quite exciting about the way Buffy seems to be handing the reins over to Tara. Tara just hopes she knows what to do with them.
Buffy nods. She doesn’t seem quite able to vocalize her desire for the flogger, so Tara asks her more questions—how long, how much—and when Buffy just nods to them all, Tara decides it’s time to get started.
“There’s nothing wrong about wanting someone to hit you, Buffy,” Tara had said then. When Buffy just kept crying, Tara continued, “Lots of people—good, trustworthy people—enjoy that. It’s really, um, not that weird. I-I actually—I like it too, sometimes.”
Buffy had raised her head then, wiping her eyes and nose on her arm. “Did you and Willow…?”
Tara hadn’t been sure how much Buffy really wanted to know about her best friend’s sex life, but she said, “Sometimes. A little bit. We switched roles. I liked being the one, um, on top more. And Buffy, there are lots of people who like that, people who will love and respect you, too.”
“Not like Spike.”
“Or, or maybe like Spike, if that’s how you feel about him. It’s up to you. But you don’t—if that’s the only reason you want him, there are other people you can do that with.”
“I wish I could do it with you,” said Buffy, then clapped her hand over her mouth. “Oh god, Tara, that was so…not cool. Inappropriate. I’m so sorry. I can’t do anything right right now.” She buried her face in Tara’s skirt once again.
Tara remembers swallowing, then, one of her big, gulping swallows she’s always done when making her hardest decisions. And then Tara remembers saying, “Buffy. It’s OK, sweetie. I-I’m not upset, or, or offended, or anything. I actually—we could talk about that, later, if you want. But not right now. Right now I think you need something warm to drink. Do you still have any cocoa powder in the house?”
“What’s your safeword?” Tara asks Buffy, securing the final rope against the bedpost. She smiles at how easily knots always come to her—they’re one of the few things she’s glad her father taught her.
“Red,” remembers Buffy. “And yellow, if I just need us to pause, or slow down.”
Tara smiles at the scene in front of her—Buffy, lying on her stomach, her arms tied to the corners of Tara’s bed, wearing nothing but a pair of pink silk panties. Tara loves how perfectly the panties suit her—Tara doesn’t think she has a single pair that nice, even the red ones Willow gave her as a solstice present—and she loves the serious expression on Buffy’s face as she lists off her safewords to Tara. Tara wants to do this right, and that requires Buffy to want to as well.
Tara runs a finger down the middle of Buffy’s back, tracing her bound friend’s spine until her hand rests at the top of Buffy’s underwear. Buffy shivers, and Tara repeats the motion, this time digging her nail ever so slightly into Buffy’s flesh.
“I’m going to start slowly, to warm you up,” says Tara, “and I’ll check in when I want to go harder. OK?”
Buffy nods, and Tara picks up the flogger and straddles her friend, hiking her skirt up around her hips.
She made sure to practice flogging on her pillows this afternoon, because it’s been a while since she’s done this, and also because Tara suspects Buffy will want to go further than Willow ever did. Still, Tara’s first stroke is tentative. She aims for Buffy’s right shoulder blade, and hits right on target, earning a tiny sigh from Buffy. Feeling a bit more confident, Tara strikes Buffy’s other shoulder blade, then continues to alternate, building up to a light but steady string of blows. She smiles as she hears Buffy’s breath quicken.
Tara stops and reaches out to stroke Buffy’s upper back, feeling her own arousal building as her fingers touch warm, red flesh. Inspired, she smacks Buffy’s skin with her open palm, the sound cracking through the air, different from the duller thud of the flogger. Buffy hisses softly, squirming slightly on the bed. “Is this OK?” Tara asks. Buffy nods.
So Tara smacks her again, this time on the same spot she just struck. She hits that side a few more times before switching to the other, growing wet at the sight of Buffy’s skin reddening beneath her palm. There’s something so intimate about hitting someone with your bare hands, thinks Tara, and something so lovely about hearing their moans as they try to make sense of the sensation.
She digs her nails into Buffy’s skin, then, and grins as Buffy actually growls. She scratches lines of red down Buffy’s back—where Buffy’s wings should be, she thinks, only she wishes the thought didn’t make her picture Buffy in heaven. Buffy jerks underneath Tara, pulling on the ropes. Tara places a hand on Buffy’s back, firm and steady and—she hopes—reassuring. “Are you still doing OK?” she asks again.
“I kind of wish you’d go harder, actually,” says Buffy. Tara can see her biting her lip.
“So when you struggle like that…?”
“Oh. I, um, is it OK that I’m doing that? I kind of like it. It makes the pain…feel nicer, for me? Less painy?” Tara can see Buffy working to find the right words.
“Of course. Just checking.” Tara likes how much Buffy is moving, now that she knows it’s not a sign of hesitation or fear. She think she enjoys expressive bed partners. She picks up her flogger once again, and hits Buffy with enough force that Tara can see dots of red blossoming under Buffy’s skin. For the first time, Buffy cries out, biting down on a pillow to muffle the sound. Tara feels her nipples harden and her clit begin to throb.
They had met two days later, in a corner table of the Doublemeat Palace after Buffy’s shift. It had felt strange, and awkward, and Tara remembers the sweat on her hands and the grease on her fries making her skin feel impossibly slippery, like a fish. Buffy had struggled to get words out, which had made Tara struggle too; neither of them seemed able to tell how serious the other really was about wanting to do whatever it was they might do together. There were thoughts of Willow, and of Spike; words like selfish and betrayal hung in the air between them.
But Tara was done with only thinking of others, and also, Tara could see in Buffy’s energy how much Buffy wanted. Wanted this? Wanted something else? Tara had swallowed; there was only one way to find out. She opened her mouth, and the words finally came—questioning words, calming words, open words; words ready and willing to take any other words in return. And when Buffy had nodded, Tara had grinned, her mind already racing with possibilities.
There are a lot of things people expect from Tara, and this year, she’s only been doing the ones that do not require her to shrink herself, or to bury her desires so deep she barely remembers what they are.
Tara hits Buffy again, and again, the sound of rubber against flesh filling her tiny dorm room. Buffy’s moans and whimpers and cries are growing, and Tara wonders if she should ask Buffy to quiet down, or stop to do a spell to muffle the sound, but the idea of pausing or changing anything about this seems utterly ludicrous to Tara. Buffy is moving more purposefully now, grinding against Tara’s sheets, and Tara is doing the same on top of Buffy, pushing herself rhythmically against Buffy’s ass with each stroke of her flogger.
Tara loves how much Buffy wants this, how her cries seem less tortured and more excited the harder she strikes her. She purses her lips in concentration, not wanting to lose herself to this power—she knows it’s something she needs to stay in control of, remember that she is simply a conduit for the sensations Buffy wants, that her pleasure must never take precedence over Buffy’s just because Buffy has temporarily put herself under Tara’s authority.
She hits even harder, each strike pushing a cry out of Buffy now, and mottling the slayer’s back with redness. The world seems to shrink to just the two of them, and Tara remembers her mother telling her that there is magic in everything, because what could be more magical than the way she is making Buffy fly right now, enabling her to turn hurt into delight? Tara’s body is buzzing, as though her arousal cannot be contained in only certain parts of herself and is spilling out, the way it feels like her wetness is spilling out, and Tara thinks of fish again, but this time not from grease and awkwardness but from the way the air between them seems to dance like water, like an ocean where both of them somehow know how to breathe.
Buffy’s noises change, and Tara pauses, trying to make sense of the new sound. It takes her a minute to realize Buffy is crying. She bends down, then, stroking Buffy lightly on places she has not beaten—her arm, her neck, her lower back. “Are you alright?” she asks.
Buffy takes a minute to answer. Finally, she says, “I think so. I mean, yes. I mean, could you keep going?”
“Of course,” says Tara, relief flooding her belly. She runs her hand through Buffy’s hair.
“Is that OK?” asks Buffy. “Or is that too much for you?”
“That you want me to hit you while you cry?”
Tara feels as though the two of them are nearing the edge of somewhere sharp and hot and shimmering. It’s not somewhere she’s ever been. But, Tara notices, she feels like she knows how to take Buffy there, and bring her back again.
“Of course it’s OK, sweetie,” says Tara. She tightens her grip in Buffy’s hair, and Buffy growls. Tara whispers in Buffy’s ear, “I’m so honoured you’re trusting me this much, Buffy.”
Buffy doesn’t seem to know what to say then, so Tara pulls back and begins again, building up much faster than she did before, striking Buffy’s flesh so hard her arm hurts and her hand feels tense from gripping the handle of the flogger. Buffy’s sobs continue, and Tara doesn’t know what to make of the fact that they turn her on too, but whatever this is, it feels like the opposite of dangerous. Tara feels their joy and their need and their love cocooning them, and she remembers the first time she touched herself, how she knew immediately that nothing about her hand between her legs could possibly be wrong or bad or evil, no matter what anyone told her.
Tara pauses her flogging once again, this time to reach between Buffy’s legs. When her fingers touch the soaked material of Buffy’s panties, Buffy cries out, her voice deeper than before. Buffy grinds her cunt against Tara’s fingers, and Tara slips underneath the silk, exploring wet folds, glad she remembered to trim her fingernails.
“That’s so…yes,” says Buffy, her voice sounding far away, sound waves travelling through water. Tara smiles. “That’s so…I like that,” Buffy tries again, “but I…could you maybe…if I did that instead, could you…keep beating me?”
Tara feels her own cunt pulse at the suggestion. “I think I’d like that a lot,” she admits. She reaches over and unties Buffy’s right wrist, letting the other woman slip her hand between her legs and get her bearings before she picks up the flogger once again. It’s funny; Tara feels so incredibly wet that she knows she could come from mere seconds of contact, but she’s not even sure she wants to. All her attention right now is focused on Buffy, on building up the sensation that her friend so desperately wants, and this, Tara thinks, is the kind of selflessness that will never feel like an obligation.
It doesn’t take long, then; Buffy rubs herself in time to Tara’s strokes, and Tara counts only nineteen more before Buffy’s cries take on a different urgency, her muscles tensing, her body rising off the bed. For a moment, Buffy seems suspended, and Tara does as well, two women feeling, for once, the things they want to be feeling. Then Buffy collapses back onto Tara’s bed, and Tara lets the flogger stroke Buffy gently, bringing her back to the surface, out of the depths of wherever they have been diving together.
“Do you want some water?” Tara asks, when she trusts herself to speak.
“Maybe in a minute,” answers Buffy. So Tara lies down beside her instead.
Buffy snuggles up against Tara then, and Tara puts her arm around her, lightly rubbing Buffy’s skin with her fingertips. “I thought it must be because I came back wrong,” says Buffy quietly after a moment, and Tara can see bright, raw feelings clustered around Buffy’s words, replacing some of the numbness she remembers from before. “I thought I must have turned into something terrible, wanting this so much.”
“I used to think it was the demon inside me, that a good human girl wouldn’t enjoy hurting someone, even if they wanted it.” Tara isn’t sure why she said that. She rarely talks about her past—she hardly even did it with Willow. No one ever knows what to say, and then the silence drags on, and it feels like when Tara is trying to get a word out but keeps getting herself tangled in consonants. Lately, though, she’s been thinking more and more about where she comes from—trapping memories, beautiful and awful alike, in amber, now that she knows they could be taken away.
Buffy kisses Tara’s collarbone. “Well, it wasn’t,” she says. “You are one of the least demony people I know. And definitely one of the least demony people I’ve slept with.”
Tara smiles. “So how did I compare?” It’s a nerve wracking thing to say, but she says it, and her voice stays light and steady the whole time.
“All of the fire, none of the burnt skin and smoke inhalation and—bad metaphor. You were…this was…I needed this, Tara. I needed you. So thank you.” Buffy touches her lips to Tara’s skin once again, but this time she bites down, and Tara breathes into the pain, glad to be given a souvenir of the best night she’s had in quite a while.