Tara was grinning. For once, she felt like she was being useful to the Scoobies. Willow reassured her all the time that she was needed by the gang. But being able to do this protection spell with Willow on the Summer's house was putting words into action and she liked the feel of it. As she and Willow finished the spell in the foyer to prevent Dracula's return, they listened to Joyce speaking behind them.
"He seemed so nice and normal…A little pale…"
"A good Sunnydale rule of thumb? Avoid white-skinned men in capes," she teased.
"I didn't…" Joyce stopped her argument. Sure, Willow had a point about the light skin but still. "He was in a suit. A lovely suit… He came by the gallery, and he was amazingly well informed about art history-."
"Probably because he was around for most of it," Tara quipped, making Willow smile.
"I want you both to know, I am not like this," Joyce told them. "I do not invite strange men over for coffee. It's just…it's been way too long." Realizing how the sentence came out, Joyce quickly added, "Since I met anybody. You know, someone even remotely interesting?" She gave a deep sigh. "When you girls get older, you'll understand. It's hard to date. Sometimes you feel like giving up on men altogether."
Willow and Tara exchanged a knowing grin. Now was the chance. Tara gave a subtle nod toward Joyce but Willow looked undecided.
'You,' Willow mouthed. Tara gave a small shake of her head and insisted with facial gestures that Willow should be the one to say something.
Willow knew Tara was right. Now was the moment. If anyone should say something to Joyce it should be her. In all honest, she thought that maybe Buffy had already told her mom but by the tone of the comment, both women knew Joyce was oblivious to their relationship.
"Yeah," Willow began, "Uhh…A-About that Joyce..." Willow paused. Damn - telling my own mother was easier.
She wondered for a moment how that could be possible. But the truth was simple - Joyce's opinion of her mattered more.
Joyce took an interest in not only Buffy's life but the life of her friends too. The image of Joyce bringing them beverages and snacks as she, Xander and Buffy lay in Buffy's bed during video nights came back to slap her. Yeah, she complained about waiting on them 'hand and foot' but she really didn't mind. In fact, Willow was sure Joyce appreciated it on some level as odd as it might sound.
If Joyce hated her or shut her out for loving Tara, it wouldn't change her feelings. She would still love Tara and she would still love Joyce too but it would be a gap in her life she'd come to know and even depend on. Willow felt her mouth go dry and her palms grow sweaty at the thought of continuing but she pushed on.
"I'm not sure how to say this so I'm just gonna say it…Tara and I…we're a couple...So the giving up on men part? Kind of already happened."
"What?" Joyce asked from the stairs with a confused expression. Maybe more dumbfounded than confused, Willow considered as she watched the woman, open and close her mouth repeatedly without making a sound. Maybe she's in downright shock. Willow knew she had to say something. This silence was killing her worse than if Joyce was screaming obscenities.
"Tara's my girlfriend but she's also my 'girlfriend'. It's a bit surprising I know," she offered as a means of conversation. "It might seem-."
Willow didn't get a chance to finish. Joyce finally regained her voice.
"You're a lesbian? Since when?"
Willow paused. It was the first time anyone actually called her a lesbian. Even her mother didn't use the word.
"Well, to be honest I haven't really thought about it like that but…I guess I am. I just know that I love Tara despite any political statements that my mother or anyone else might attach to it."
"I'm sorry," Joyce said quickly. "I didn't mean to offend you. I'm just-."
"No," Willow said, stopping to reassure her. "I'm not offended Joyce I-I…I guess I just never heard anyone say it out loud until now. But yeah, I am." Joyce looked like she wanted to ask a question but was holding back. "Go ahead," Willow added. "Say what you want to say." Even if I live to regret it Willow added silently in her head.
Joyce pursed her lips at first as if she wanted to find the right words.
"Have you and…Buffy ever…?"
Joyce said letting the sentence hang, not quite sure how finish it and maybe more so, not sure if she wanted an answer. Yes she wanted to be a part of Buffy's life but she didn't want to dive too intimately into her daughter's life.
At first, Willow wasn't sure what Joyce was trying to say but then it registered and her eyes widened and jaw dropped.
"Oh Gods, no! Buffy and I are…we're not with the cuddles. Never have been. I mean we have cuddled. Like when one of us is sad? But it's not like the romantic kinda cuddles. Friendship cuddles only with me and Buf," she told Joyce with a confident nod.
"So you and Buffy haven't…been together?"
"No," Willow said firmly to make the point clear that she and the Slayer had a strictly platonic relationship. But in doing so it sounded as if Buffy wasn't worthy somehow and Willow found herself in babble mode again. "But that's nothing against Buffy," she added quickly. "I mean she's cute. Well, beautiful actually. And strong and brave and…nice curves. Plus she's got that tough gal snarl thing when she's facing down a vamps," Willow said with a growing grin.
Tara leaned over into Willow's view. "Are you sure you never dated her Will? Because it sounds like you should."
"No! No!" Willow said waving her hands. Tara tried to remain stoned faced but she couldn't help it. She had to grin as she watched Willow back-peddle. Tara knew she had Willow's heart and fidelity. But still, she enjoyed watching Willow squirm when she'd bust her and Xander girl watching or in moments like this. Absolutely adorable she thought as she smiled at her nervous girlfriend.
"No baby," Willow assured Tara. "I'm just… I'm a little wigged here a-and this is just coming out all wrong. A-And…No. My relationship with Buffy is non-smoochies and will stay that way. I just don't want Joyce thinking that I find Buffy like…you know… some type of leper. That's all." Willow then turned to Joyce and added, "Buf's got lots of great qualities but she's totally straight."
"Oh good," Joyce sighed but then quickly looked up. "No! I mean, that's fine. For you. And I guess it would be for Buffy too but if she ever decided…It's just…" Joyce now found herself rambling right along with Willow and decided to shut up.
Willow held her hands up, letting Joyce know she didn't have to go on. "I get it. It's not the life you'd want for her."
"Exactly," Joyce sighed. "But not in a lesbians are bad way," she added quickly.
"Oh no. I totally understand," Willow reassured her again. "It's hard enough to find a guy who can handle the Slayer gig let alone another girl? Add to the fact that our society isn't the most accepting of gay folks a-and yeah I can see your concern."
Tara started laughing at that point and shaking her head. Joyce and her girlfriend both looked over to see what had her so tickled.
"I'm sorry," Tara began between chuckles. "It's just…listening to you two…If there was an award for the most politically correct coming out speeches…you both would win hands down."
Willow and Joyce both gave each other guilty grins.
"Here's the bottom line Ms Summers," Tara told Joyce. "I love Willow. She loves me. And we thought you should know."
"Well, I'm glad you told me," Joyce nodded.
"And just so you know," Tara began, "…we don't go around banging our chests about it but we don't hide it either. We haven't told you because it hasn't come up…Well, until today…W-Willow loves you a great deal," Tara added. Her stutter returned because her emotions were taking over as she felt the need to explain. "She doesn't have many people close to her that she speaks so highly of. But she does when it comes to you…s-so that should be the main point to this conversation. W-We just wanted to be honest with you because you're important."
Joyce gave a grin and began to play with her manicured fingernails telling herself she wouldn't start to cry. Willow was important to her too. She knew her daughter wouldn't still be here if Willow hadn't kept a watchful eye on her from time to time, doing the things she was doing like putting a protection spell on the house this moment. Instead of speaking immediately she nodded her approval.
Finally, she cleared her throat and looked up. "So everyone else knows I assume?"
"Yeah. And if it's any consolation their reactions were about the same," Willow explained. "Xander just shouted 'Tara's your girlfriend?' before trying to get as many…ahem…details as possible. A-and Giles' remark was 'Bloody Hell' before he passed out. But then we had to tell him again in the morning because he was too drunk the night before and didn't remember."
"Giles was drunk?" Joyce asked.
"Long story," Willow sighed. "As for Buffy she just kept saying my name over and over again – like she had to remind herself it was me she was talking to so…It's surprised everyone. You're not alone."
"What about your folks?" Joyce asked looking at both of them.
"Dad didn't say much one way or the other," Willow told her. "But my mom suddenly became Betty DeGeneres. I've gotten books and magazines and…" Willow added with a roll of her eyes as she sighed. "She means well but…I love Tara because I love Tara. I'm not trying to be a rebel or trendy. I don't think she gets it but that's par for the course."
"What about your family?" Joyce asked Tara.
"Willow and the scoobies are pretty much my family since I came to Sunnydale," she shrugged, not adding more. Truth is she hadn't spoken to her kin in over six months and that was fine by her. She wrote them a letter now and then with no return address, which suited her just fine.
"So," Willow began nervously as she took two steps closer to Joyce. "Are we okay? Because I ah…I can do a spell that keeps us out too if you like."
Willow hoped Joyce wouldn't take her up on the offer but using a bit of levity helped cure the butterflies in her stomach at the thought of Joyce's rejection.
Joyce grinned and stood up from the steps and she walked over to Willow with open arms. Willow accepted the hug and Joyce kissed her temple.
"You're welcome here anytime you like Willow. You too Tara," Joyce called over the Wiccan's shoulder. "Come on," she said pulling Willow by the hand before taking Tara's as well. "I made brownies."
"Oooh," Willow exclaimed as they made their way to the kitchen. "The ones with the walnuts and the dark chocolate frosting?"
Joyce smiled and nodded "Yep. Buffy told me you'd be coming over so I made your favorite."
"Thanks mom," Willow said resting her head on Joyce's shoulder. "You're my favorite mom. Have I told you that?"
Joyce just laughed as they finished their journey.