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Just One Of The Wiccans

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Willow frowned as she gazed at the numbers on her screen. Something just wasn't right. One of them didn't fit correctly in the program and it was bothering her. It was definitely a big--

"Problem!"

Blinking, Willow looked up at Buffy hovering over her, a perturbed expression on her features. "What?"

"I have a problem," Buffy said dramatically, sitting next to Willow in the computer lab. "A big one."

"Aren't you supposed to be in history?" asked Willow, frowning. "You're going to get in trouble again."

"Giles is dating my Mom," Buffy waved it off. "He's not going to do anything to me. Besides, I need your help."

"Uh huh," said Willow, studying Buffy closely. "So what's the big problem anyway?"

"Three guys," Buffy began as she let out a huge breath. "Asked me out for this weekend."

There was a pause of complete silence then Willow turned back to face her computer screen and said, "I'm making my new program now. Call me when an actual problem comes up."

"Will!" whined Buffy, clasping onto the redhead's arm. "This is a problem! Prom is coming up and you know I'm not really happy with Riley anymore."

"Then go on a date with one of the guys who asked you out," said Willow in tones that echoed of the word 'duh'.

Rolling her eyes, Buffy replied, "I would but they're all like Riley. Boring with a capital B. I'm starting to get very concerned with the quality of guys who ask me out, Will. They're all cute, sure, but they seriously lack brains."

"I thought you didn't care about that," Willow chuckled lightly. "You always said you just wanted a pretty face."

"I know, I know," Buffy sighed. "But I'm starting to rethink my priorities, seeing as we're graduating soon. In the real world one needs brains, right?"

"Unless you're in a fraternity like Riley, yes," Willow nodded, wincing slightly when Buffy punched her on the shoulder for the comment. "Ouch," Willow rubbed her shoulder. "That hurt. Are you working out again?"

"I'm naturally butch," said Buffy drolly. Shaking her head, she murmured, "I really don't know what to do. You're lucky you don't have this problem."

Feeling an intense gaze bore into her, Buffy lifted her eyes and met Willow's narrowed green eyes that clearly said she was in trouble. Laughing nervously, Buffy was about to apologize when the computer class teacher walked in the room, saving her from it.

"All right," Jenny announced, forming her usual slow smile. "You've all been bothering me constantly ever since I announced the contest to win a summer internship at Walsh Enterprises, who we all know are..."

"The top company locally for computer programming," the class chanted together, wearing wide grins. Buffy in the meantime, just looked baffled at this outburst.

"Bingo!" Jenny grinned. "I've looked over all the programs you've submitted carefully and I'm happy to announce I've picked a winner for our school. There can only be one since Walsh only has two positions open for internships and the other goes to Pylea High."

On hearing this, the room was filled with boos and various insulting shouts that caused their teacher to form another slow smile as she shook her head.

"Yes, yes," said Jenny. "We all know they're bad, icky, people at that school. That's why I let you guys get away with sending them viruses. But they still deserve a shot at getting as good as you all. Anyway," she turned to walk back into her office. "The winner of the contest will be posted after lunch on the main announcement board."

With that, the pretty brunette disappeared back into her office, leaving her computer class in relative peace.

"I hope I win," said Willow quietly. Looking at Buffy, she smiled and said, "It would be great to be able to work for an actual computer company. I could learn so much."

"You'll win," Buffy assured. "Who in here could beat you? You've got them all beat on years programming and talent."

"Thanks Buffy," Willow smiled softly.

"No problem," said Buffy easily as she rose to her feet. "Now I better get out of here before someone else asks me out on a date. Three is enough for one weekend."

"Aren't you exaggerating?" asked Willow dryly, raising an eyebrow. "I know you're popular but--"

"Buffy?"

Together, green and hazel eyes focused on the nervous figure of a bulky and rather dense looking football player as he shifted foot to foot.

"I was wondering," he gave a shaky smile. "Do you maybe wanna go out this weekend?"

Closing her eyes, Buffy shook her head and muttered to herself, "Why me?" Then she swiftly exited the room and left the football player alone with Willow.

"Uhm," he said slowly as he looked at the redhead. "Was it something that I said?"

For a response, Willow only sighed.

---

"That really wasn't nice, you know," Willow chastised.

She and Buffy were having lunch off campus at a local restaurant, as was their right as High School Seniors, and Willow felt it was the perfect time to elaborate how much she didn't like apologizing for Buffy to sensitive jocks.

"How was I supposed to know he'd cry?" said Buffy sheepishly, looking a tad guilty. "I'm sorry, Will, honest."

"Don't do it again," grumbled Willow, taking a bite of her pasta. Looking past Buffy, her eyes widened in alarm.

"What?" Buffy asked, seeing the panic on her friend's face. "What is it? Is someone else here to ask me out?"

"How did you guess," a familiar voice purred in Buffy's ear, causing a shudder to run through her body.

Buffy turned and scowled on seeing who it was. "Anya," she stated in chilly tones.

"That's me," Anya said, sounding pleased with herself as she plunked down in the seat next to Buffy. She reached out to toy with the sleeve to Buffy's shirt, only to have her hand immediately slapped away. "Ohhh, forceful," Anya teased, giving a naughty grin.

"Stop harassing Buffy," commanded Willow, pointing her fork at Anya. "Or I swear I will get some of those tiny hidden cameras and record all the freaky stuff I know you plan on doing so I can show it to the folks."

"Her parents are gone for two weeks," Anya informed Buffy, leaning close so her breath lightly hit the blonde's neck, causing Buffy to scoot away. "Me and my uptight cuz, all alone without companionship. I'm thinking you want to help us out with this, am I right?"

"I wouldn't touch you if we were the only people alive," Buffy said calmly, staring Anya right in the eye.

"I'm hurt," Anya pouted cutely, drawing back. With a sigh, she focused on Willow with a grin. "I guess that just leaves me and you cuz," she waggled her eyebrows. "How does that saying go? Incest is best?"

"Anya!" shrieked Willow, turning bright red as she leapt to her feet. Upon noticing that everyone in the restaurant was now staring at them, she sat down quickly and replied in a more subdued hiss, "Stop embarrassing me. I swear, I think mom and dad were right... spending your childhood traveling around Europe with Auntie did scar you."

"Not so," corrected Anya, waving her index finger back and forth, making a tsking sound. "I prefer to think of it as a wonderful journey into my preteen sexuality."

"When you were six you lived in a brothel in Amsterdam for eight months," Willow said dryly. "That was a wonderful journey?"

"Some parts of it," Anya smirked.

Groaning softly, Willow shook her head and rising to her feet she looked at her cousin pointedly. "I'm leaving," she announced. "Try not to get arrested before school's out."

"I don't make promises I can't keep," said Anya with a wide smile. Her hand slowly inched up and she ran just the tips of her fingers across Buffy's arm who turned to look at her with a murderous expression. "Later sexy."

Yanking her arm away, Buffy shuddered again as she walked out of the restaurant with Willow. "No offense to your family or anything, Will, but your cousin just gets creepier each time I see her," Buffy remarked. "And I really should be used to her after five years."

"Anya's Anya," Willow shrugged. "I just try to stay out of her web of sexual intrigue and we get along fine."

"Except for that time she tried to take nude pictures of you," reminded Buffy, giving a snicker.

For the second time that day, Buffy was on the receiving end of a very harsh Willow glare. One that told her most definitely she was in trouble yet again.

---

I think I won, I think I won, I think I won.

This was the mantra that Willow repeated to herself, walking down the hallway with Buffy at her side. In a few moments she would find out just who Jenny had chosen for the internship at Walsh Enterprises, something she had wanted more than anything since hearing of the contest.

She had to have won, she just had to.

"Willsterrrr!"

Stopping abruptly in her hurried walk, causing Buffy to almost crash into the back of her, Willow looked over at her other oldest friend, Xander Harris, who was currently being draped on by several girls. Looking uncomfortable with this situation, Xander wound himself away from them and dashed over to the two girls.

"The Harpies ensnared me in their claws," Xander whispered to Willow who giggled at this.

"That bad, huh?" she asked.

"Worse," said Xander melodramatically. "I think one of them tried to touch my family treasures and please! You know I'm not having any of that!"

"Don't worry," Buffy soothed, standing at Xander's left side, hooking her arm in his as she patted it. "We're here to protect you from scary straight girls."

"Hallelujah!" Xander declared, shooting his arms up in the air. "I have been saved by the light of the Lord!"

"Right," Willow said in dry tones, taking Xander's hand in her own and leading them down the hall. Looking back at him, she said, "Don't you think all of your problems with scary straight girls might lesson if you just... oh, I don't know... came out of the closet?"

Xander looked horrified at this suggestion. "Come out?" he pressed his hand to his chest. "And face severe social ostracism and many a beatings up from the guys who call themselves my 'friends'? I don't think so Willy the Pooh. That's just not happening," he said firmly.

"Besides, Will," Buffy cut into the conversation, wearing a mischievous grin. "Isn't he obvious enough already? If he came out most everyone would just go 'durh'. Except for the dense girls who chase after him and his--"

"Oh no," Xander said, slapping his hand forcefully over Buffy's mouth to silence her. "We're not going there."

Hazel eyes pleaded with Willow to finish her statement for her, and smiling now, she said, "I'll do it. Your oh so mysterious girlfriend. Of which we've never met."

"You did it," groaned Xander, letting his hand fall away from Buffy's lips. "Why did you do it? We were having a pleasant conversation and you bring up my beard."

"I'm sure she appreciates being called that," Willow pronounced in droll tones.

"Honey, she appreciates me," Xander said, giving his best flirty smile which was rather charming. "I am a catch."

"You're queer as a three dollar bill," Willow stated, rolling her eyes. "And she has no idea. If she really exists. Part of me thinks you made her up in a vague attempt to stave off the ravenous herd that chases after you here."

"She's real!" Xander cried in offense. "Real and hot. Really hot. I have a hottie for a girlfriend beard, I do."

"Uh huh," said Willow skeptically. Xander was about to reply when the redhead went running ahead quickly and stopped in front of the glass case ahead. When Xander and Buffy caught up to her, she was staring at the contest results with an expression of disbelief. "I lost," she said after several seconds of silence. "To Jesse."

"How did you lose?" asked Buffy, glaring at the results, feeling both confused and perturbed with them. "You're the best one in that class, aren't you? Jenny said so."

"I don't know," said Willow sharply. A look of determination spread across her features as she then said, "But I'm going to find out."

---

Sitting at the side desk in Jenny's office, Willow loaded her program onto the spare computer. She went through it step by step and still... she didn't understand. It was a good program. Why did it lose?

"Did you see what Buffy was wearing? I swear, she's giving Joyce and I heart attacks. Constantly we have to hear her complain about the boys that ask her out but she still wears those blasted outfits."

Mr. Giles, she recognized him immediately. Anybody would, he was probably the only British person around in a thousand mile radius. Just as she expected, what she heard next was Jenny's warm laugh. She had always loved hearing that laugh, it was so kind and comforting, but now... well, it just made Willow scowl.

"Honestly, Rupert, what do you expect?" Jenny replied. "Buffy's a teenage girl. They all dress like that."

"Willow doesn't," Giles said smartly, sounding pleased with himself for using this answer.

"Yes," Jenny agreed in smooth tones. "And she's still quite the beauty, isn't she? I sometimes get distracted."

"You're not going to start that 'if I were younger' rubbish again, are you?" Giles questioned. "That's what got you in trouble last time."

"And how would she find out if I did, hmm?" Jenny asked, her tones teasing yet somehow threatening. "Are you the spy who's been snitching me out?"

"If I were, I wouldn't tell you," Giles said, his voice growing distant as he walked out of the room. "She's far more frightening than you could ever be."

Jenny chuckled again, causing Willow's scowl to grow deeper as the computer teacher walked into her office and saw Willow waiting for her. Blinking with shock, she took in the scowl the redhead wore rather warily.

"Willow?" Jenny asked hesitantly.

"Why did I lose?" asked Willow immediately, pulling no punches. "My program was good, I know it was. So why did I lose to Jesse? You always said I was the best."

"You are," said Jenny. Sighing deeply, she massaged her forehead and murmured, "You're the best in the class, you always will be because you have the most talent. But this wasn't about talent... it was about skill. Your program just didn't show the skills I know you have." Jenny looked Willow dead in the eye and said quietly, "To be perfectly honest, it was a disappointment."

Reeling with shock, Willow stared at the computer screen and said in stark tones, "I worked so hard..."

"I know," Jenny was sympathetic. "You always do. It's just, you didn't try very hard, Willow. The winner of this contest had to have the skills, the drive, and the creativity to make an impact with an actual company. I don't think you can do that right now. Because as talented as you are, you're not trying to come up with new ideas."

Willow didn't know why it was but as Jenny said this, all she could hear was the echoing comment about her looks. Staring at her once favorite teacher with a harsh gaze, she bit out, "I guess I just don't try enough with anything, huh? Maybe I'm just too 'distracting' for you."

"Willow!" said Jenny with alarm, her eyes going wide. "What are you trying to--"

"My program was good and you know it!" Willow declared, storming out of the room. "You know I deserve that internship, not Jesse. He just won because you don't find him nearly as pretty as me."

Alone in her office, Jenny stared at the classroom door slamming shut before she released a huge sigh. Feeling a headache coming on, she muttered to herself, "And today started so good, really it did."

---

Naked boy. Near naked boy. Naked girl. Near naked girl. Naked boy with another naked boy. Near naked boy with a near naked girl. Naked girl with another naked girl. Near naked girl with a naked boy and a naked girl.

And so on and so on.

Poster after poster, Anya lined her walls until one could no longer see the pale blue of the paint and her room was completely covered in naked and near naked bodies.

"Much better," Anya said, giving a contented sigh.

She was about to put up her favorite poster, which had several naked boys and girls featured on it when the ring of the doorbell sounded. Forming a frown, Anya put the poster down on her bed and walked over to her window, peering outside to see who was there.

Immediately on spotting a familiar green jeep, Anya frowned and muttered, "Brainless brawny boy. Huzzah."

A few seconds passed when the doorbell rang several times in sharp succession and rolling her eyes, Anya went to answer the door. Walking downstairs, she said, "She wouldn't touch me if we were the last people alive but she'll boink him? Where is the justice in the world?"

"About time," was Riley's greeting as she opened the door. Stepping around Anya, he gave her an imperious look and demanded, "Where's Buffy?" His eyes then narrowed. "You better not have molested her."

"Not yet I haven't," replied Anya coyly. When Riley scowled and seemed to move closer to her, she backed up and waved her hand towards the patio. "She's outside, trying to convince Willow not to drown herself."

Turning on his heel, Riley marched outside and observing him, Anya shouted, "Civilized barbarians say thank you!" Shaking her head, Anya walked upstairs. "If that's what a fraternity turns a straight man into... ugh."

Meanwhile, Riley walked outside to a most welcome sight. Buffy clad in a skimpy red bikini top and jeans, sitting on a chaise lounge with Willow next to her talking. Striding over to his girlfriend, he smoothly sat behind her and hugged her waist. Kissing the back of her neck, he said, "Weren't you going to call me? I was worried."

"Sorry," Buffy replied, not looking over her shoulder, still focused on Willow. "I sort of forgot."

"Just don't do it again," Riley lightly teased or at least, attempted to, while his hands wandered up Buffy's back to play with the double knotted ties of the bikini top.

"Yeah, sure," said Buffy absently. "Anyway, Will," she began, looking at her friend. "I know Jenny likes you and all but I don't think she like likes you, and if she did why would she let you lose? I'd think she'd let you win."

"To throw people off track!" Willow declared hotly. "I just can't believe her. She said I had no creativity, that I didn't push myself to create a great program. That I just do what I know and nothing else."

"She's wrong," said Buffy emphatically. Frowning, she looked over her shoulder at Riley who wore an expression of total concentration as he fiddled with her ties. "What are you doing?" she asked sharply.

"Why do you always make double knots?" Riley whined.

"Stop that!" Buffy ordered, wriggling away from him. "I'm talking to Willow. She's in crisis."

Staring at Willow who met his gaze blankly, Riley commented, "She doesn't look in crisis to me. C'mon," he wheedled. "Her folks are gone... lets have some fun. We can't at your place and the frat house is so crowded."

"Riley!" Buffy shouted in definite outrage. "That's, you, I can't... god!" Rising to her feet, she looked at Willow and said, "I'm sorry, Will, really I am. I'll take him away."

"Huh?" Riley said dimly as Buffy took his hand and dragged him off the patio and into the house.

"Call me later!" called Buffy before she disappeared totally with Riley in tow.

Sitting alone for a moment, Willow sighed then rose to her feet and walked inside. Wandering upstairs, she found herself walking towards Anya's room. It was true that her cousin was a raging pervert but sometimes she was also a good person to talk with.

Unfortunately, when Willow stepped foot inside Anya's room and saw what was plastered all over the walls she no longer knew quite what to say.

"Like it?" Anya grinned on seeing Willow. Spreading her arms wide, she said, "I did some redecoration."

"You made your room a shrine to porno," Willow pointed out dryly, regaining her ability to speak.

"Exactly," said Anya, waggling her eyebrows. "I think it speaks well of my personality and libido. Now when I get ready for sleep at night, I'll be surrounded with all of my fondest dreams, hopes, and future memories." She studied Willow for a moment then said, "You going to tell me what's wrong with you or do I have to guess?"

"My life sucks," Willow complained.

"Oh?" Anya arched an eyebrow, sitting down on her water bed with a muffled wave of noise. "Why's that?"

"You know the computer program I've been working on for that contest at school?" Willow began. "Well, it lost."

"How come?" asked Anya, lying down on her stomach and tucking her pillow under her chin.

"Because I'm a girl," replied Willow sarcastically. Leaning against the wall, she continued, "And Jenny thinks I'm cute. That's why I lost. She doesn't take me seriously. She just sees me as... as... something cute!"

"Uh hmm," Anya said, looking a tad skeptical. "Jenny never struck me as the equal sexist type. Why would you think that anyway?"

"I heard her saying I was a beauty and how if she was younger she'd--" Willow turned bright red. "Anyway! She picked Jesse as the winner and his program wasn't nearly as good as mine. The only reason he won is because he's a boy and uncute so he's taken seriously! Well, I won't stand for it... this is cute prejudice!"

"You don't say," murmured Anya in droll tones. Flipping over to lie on her back, she stared up at her ceiling and the poster directly in front of her. Pointing up at it, she said, "Cecilia had a similar problem. She wanted more than anything to join the army, but where she was from, some foreign country I forget, girls couldn't join. So she dressed up in drag as a guy, called herself Cecil, and joined the army, living out her dream and having semi-gay sex with several unsuspecting queer soldiers who thought she was a gorgeous hunk of girlish man meat."

Blinking at this story, Willow shook her head and said, "As weird as that is, I don't think that helps me."

"Hey," Anya shrugged. "It's a quality porno."

"I bet," said Willow dryly. "But that still doesn't help me with my problem. I just know if I was a guy..." Slowly a look of amazement crossed her features as Willow let her words trail off into nothingness.

"If you were a guy what?" asked Anya, turning around. But by the time she did, Willow was gone. Frowning at this, Anya shrugged again and focused back on looking at her various porno posters. "What a view."

---

Anya was still contemplating her porno posters and perhaps trying out her new vibrator when the doorbell rang yet again, causing her to scowl.

"Always when I'm about to have fun," she remarked to herself, walking downstairs. Opening the door, she stared at the ducked face of a tiny boy wearing a backwards baseball cap. "Yeah?"

"Is Willow home?" the boy asked.

"She's wallowing around here somewhere," Anya acknowledged, turning around. "Willow! Some guy is here to see you!" Facing the boy, she began, "So, who are you..." Anya trailed off as the boy lifted his face and revealed his features in the dim light of their porch. "Willow?" she asked in shock. "What?"

"I fooled you!" Willow proclaimed proudly, walking inside and shutting the door. Pulling off the baseball cap, she continued, "You really thought I was a guy."

"Only because I didn't see your face," Anya replied irritably. Pulling back, she looked at her cousin's outfit and frowned. "What in the hell are you wearing? I didn't know you even owned flannel."

"I sleep in it," Willow replied. Waving her hands about, she said, "But that's not the point! I fooled you! If I can trick you then this could really work! I can do it!"

"Do what?" asked Anya rather warily.

"Be a guy," said Willow breathlessly, giving a grin.

A long moment of absolute silence passed then Anya turned around and said, "You're on crack."

"I'm not! And it's a good plan!" Willow declared, scurrying after Anya who was headed towards her room. "I can enter the contest again at Pylea High and this time I'll win because I'll be a boy when I enter!"

Ignoring Willow's words, Anya stopped in the middle of the room and looked up at her posters, "I never should've told her about your sexcapade adventures, Cecilia. Now she wants to emulate in your freaky footsteps." Forming a slow grin, Anya said, "On second thought..."

"Stop being horny," Willow said, rolling her eyes. "I'm doing this to win the contest, nothing more. I mean, it's a fool proof plan, really. I have to win this time!"

"Willow," said Anya in solemn tones, walking over to her cousin and clasping her shoulders. Locking their eyes she pronounced, "You do know that just because we're Jewish you don't have to emulate Yentl."

Shrugging off Anya's hands, Willow scowled. "Very funny," she replied. "This is a good plan, I know it is. I'll make a very believable boy, trust me."

"Maybe," admitted Anya reluctantly, studying Willow's somewhat androgynous dress. "If you fix a few things."

"Like what?" Willow asked in confusion.

Walking around the redhead, Anya pulled open her closet door to reveal her full length mirror. Standing behind the other girl, who was clad in a pair of dirty jeans and an old flannel shirt, Anya said firmly, "Like your clothes."

---

Lock after lock of hair fell to the floor and seeing just hints of it made Willow start to seriously regret what she was doing. Then again, it was only hair, right? It would grow back... eventually.

Sensing Willow's unease, Xander paused in his cutting to peer down at his friend. "Don't worry, honey," he assured. "When I'm done with you you'll be so pretty gay boys will cry just from the sight of your nummy treats."

"Thanks," said Willow slowly. "I think."

"Now that I think about it," Buffy began as she studied Willow closely. "She would make a very pretty boy."

"Oh lord, the prettiest," Xander declared, snipping off more of Willow's hair with certain flourish. "She's got that sweet face of hers and those to die for eyes. Yum. If you were a man, I'd snap you up so quick, Willy." Frowning as he continued cutting her hair, he said, "You should've been born a boy, my love life would be perfect then."

"Sorry," Willow chuckled. "Blame my dad for that."

"Oh, I do," said Xander darkly. "Evil x chromosome."

"Evil?" said Buffy, sounding offended. "Hey now. Just because Will isn't the right gender to suit your romantic fancy is no reason to insult our only chromosome."

"Sorry, sorry," Xander said airily, giving a final snip before he stood back to study Willow closely. "Mmm. I could just eat 'him' up. What do you think?"

"I'd do her," Anya commented, causing everyone to look at her. Before this, she'd been fairly quiet, just lying down on Willow's bed, observing the hair styling by Xander.

"That somehow doesn't reassure me," Willow said dryly.

"You look hot, Will," said Buffy. "See for yourself."

Following Buffy's suggestion, Willow took the towel off from around her shoulders and walked into her bathroom to get a look at herself in the mirror. Her immediate reaction was to gasp softly in surprise. She knew her hair would be gone... that Xander was cutting most of it off. But still, it was another thing to see it gone.

Running her fingers through her short, spiky, locks that were barely two inches long, if even that, Willow studied her face closely. The vague hints of makeup were gone to leave her face paler than usual but somehow...

"Stop staring at yourself, you look utterly fuckable," Anya said bluntly, leaning on the doorway to the bathroom. "It puts Cecilia in drag to shame. Come on," Anya said, taking Willow's hand in her own and forming a lascivious smile. "We've still got to dress you."

When they walked back into her room, Xander was arranging various outfits on Willow's bed. Looking up, he smiled widely. "I've got you a spectacular wardrobe, honey," he announced. "You'll make hearts flutter."

"Yeah?" asked Willow with a grin. Walking over to him, she looked at the collection of sharply tailored pants, silk button up shirts, and cashmere sweaters. "Xander," she said in amazement. "Did you buy this all for me?"

"Oh, hell no," Xander said, looking at Willow like she was a science experiment. He went back to arranging the outfits and said, "I got them for my tiny boy, except he's mad at me right now and refuses to wear them. I swear, if he'd just leave the pride issue alone we'd be fine. That and if I could get him to wear something other than jeans."

"Mysterious boyfriend," Buffy giggled, leaning towards Willow. "Whom we've never met either."

"I think he's ashamed of us," remarked Willow slyly.

"Embarrassed, maybe, ashamed, never," Xander said in droll tones, finishing his outfit arranging. Looking back at Willow, he studied her for a moment then turned back to pick out a pair of black tailored pants and a long sleeved green button up shirt. "Put this on," he commanded.

A moment of silence passed then Willow, Xander, and Buffy all turned to look at Anya.

"What?" asked Anya, attempting innocence.

"Out," they said together.

"Poo," Anya pouted, allowing Xander to propel her out of the room. "You always ruin my fun."

Moments later, Willow was dressed and a halfway pouting Anya was back in her room, observing her cousin in full drag. Standing next to Xander and Buffy who were eyeing Willow with utmost solemnity, Anya smiled sensuously. "Something's missing."

"What?" asked Willow, looking at herself. She'd even gone the extra length and worn a special bra hold her breasts down.

Anya's smile widened and striding over to Willow she stood behind her and slowly traced her hands down to cup the redhead's waist. Then in a sudden movement, she grabbed Willow's crotch as her cousin shrieked.

Bouncing away from Willow before she could get hit, Anya smirked and said smugly, "No equipment. Don't even tell me that someone won't notice that."

"Oh!" Xander shouted, clapping his hands together. "I nearly forgot! My bag of manly parts!"

"Bag of manly parts?" Buffy and Willow echoed, watching as their friend dashed towards the shopping bag lying on the side of Willow's bed.

"I like him," Anya purred, her smile getting wider.

"Honey, everyone does," Xander chuckled as he searched through the bag. "Gotcha!" he said with triumph before he pulled out a strap on dildo.

Staring at it for several moments, Willow finally said, "Do I even want to know?"

"You put it on," Xander said, sounding like he was talking to a six year old.

---

Stopping her red convertible at the front of Pylea High, Buffy solemnly faced Willow.

"Will," she began, reaching out to clasp their hands. "You're my best friend, my oldest friend besides Xander and I support everything you do... even this strange journey into cross dressing, but promise me one thing."

"What, Buffy?" asked Willow, looking confused.

"You won't root for their team," Buffy said, her expression deathly serious. "They're our mortal enemies and if I saw you at some football game, sitting on their side of the field while I was cheering..."

"Buffy," Willow sighed hugely. "I don't go to our own games, why in the world would I go to one of theirs?"

"I don't know, why are you in drag?" asked Buffy smartly.

"Funny," Willow rolled her eyes. Shaking her head, she squeezed Buffy's hand smiled warmly. "I promise that I'll show no signs of school spirit for my two weeks here."

"Much better," said Buffy, beaming widely. She watched Willow climb out of her car and once the redhead shut the door with a slam, she teased, "Be a good boy."

"Ha," Willow replied dryly. Observing as her friend drove away, she shook her head and turned around to face her temporarily new high school.

Pylea High was just like she heard. Totally crappy. Sunnydale High was only a few miles away but the two schools were completely different. Maybe because all the upper middle class and way upper class families had their kids attending Sunnydale while everyone else...

Well, everyone else got stuck at Pylea.

To be perfectly honest, it was known as high school hell among certain circles. The students were rumored to be an uncontrolled class of criminals, freaks, and psychos.

It almost made Willow wonder if she really should be dressed in her ultra expensive black tailored pants, dark blue shirt, and black dress shoes.

Well, it was too late now.

She had only walked five feet on campus when a gangly boy went running past her at top speeds. Willow leapt out of his way just in time to see a group of two girls and two boys come barreling after him. They were all dressed head to toe in black, most of it leather.

"Where do you think you're going?" the tallest boy growled. He was smoothly muscular with a head of hair Xander would die for.

"Yeah, ducks," the second boy chuckled, circling around the boy as the taller one held him off the ground. "We're not done with you yet. That's not all your money, is it?"

"Miss Edith says he has lovely greens hidden, hidden, away deep down, down in the undies," the lithe brunette in the group sang out, dancing around the blonde boy as she twirled her hands high in the air. "Poof! Gone!"

Smiling wickedly at this, the blonde girl reached for the brunette's waist, pulling her close so they were pressed together. Leaning down, their faces were inches apart as she murmured, "Really, Dru?"

"Hidden away," Dru giggled happily, reaching her hands up to cup the blonde's face. "Will Darla buy me treats?"

"Darla will buy you more than that," Darla promised, giving a harsh smile. Looking over at the tall boy who was nearly strangling their victim as he kept holding him off the ground, she said calmly, "Take his money and drop him, Angelus. Our baby girl needs her fix."

"Spike and I wanted to have fun," Angelus pouted while Spike searched the boy's pants and pulled out a wad of money which he tossed at Darla.

Catching the cash easily, Darla raised a fine blonde eyebrow then pronounced, "Then have fun." She turned on her heel, taking Dru's hand in her own. "But it will be without us." She was about to say more when she noticed Willow gazing at them. "Yes?"

Her eyes going wide, Willow stammered, "Sorry! I just... I mean... I'm new and... sorry!"

"Fresh meat, yeah?" Spike grinned evilly. "I think we just found our next 'donator' to the cause, Darla. Mr. Fancy is probably just stuffed with bills."

Now having a full blown panic attack, Willow tried to come up with something to say to get herself out of this situation when a voice called out, "He's with me!"

Green eyes turned to look at their savior and Willow felt her breath still in her chest when she was faced with the deepest blue eyes she'd ever seen. A blonde girl with hair that ran evenly down her back met her gaze steadily. She had on a pair of boots, loose cargo pants, and a shrunken t-shirt that revealed just a hint of her flat abdomen.

"Tara," said Darla in tones of tired annoyance. "Don't you ever get tired of being such a goody two shoes?"

"Not really," Tara quirked her lips up in a smile. Tilting her head to one side, she asked, "Don't you ever get tired of hoping to get my best friend back in the sack?"

Forming a definite scowl, Darla stomped away, dragging Dru with her as Angelus and Spike followed after. Spike lingered a moment and said cheekily, "She won't want the Slayer forever, you know. Soon as she stops..." He trailed off and smiled darkly. "Bye, bye, blondie."

Tara watched them walk away before she turned back to face Willow. Giving a warm smile, she said, "Don't worry about them. They won't bother you again, I promise."

"Thanks," said Willow with relief. "I owe you."

"No problem," Tara replied, waving it off. "I hate it when they pick on the new kids. It gives a bad impression right away of our school and people should have at least the whole day to realize it sucks here." She blushed then said, "That probably sounded really bad."

"No," Willow grinned. "It was honest. I like that." She blinked then exclaimed, "Oh! I'm sorry. My name's Willo... Will Rosenberg." She offered her hand.

"Tara Maclay," said Tara with a smile, taking Willow's hand and giving a firm handshake.

Distracted by the warmth and softness of Tara's touch, Willow was staring down at their hands when she heard someone shout out the other girl's name.

"I have to go," Tara said, pulling her hand away from Willow's. "It was nice meeting you, Will. Maybe I'll see you around."

"Yeah, maybe," said Willow distantly, standing frozen as Tara jogged over to a dark haired brunette who looked at her with a pair of narrowed eyes.

Seconds later, the bell rang.

"Great," Willow groaned. "Five minutes on campus and I almost get beaten up and robbed and now I'm late."

Then again, she did meet Tara. She seemed nice. Very nice. Very, very, nice. And brave and pretty and...

"Ugh," Willow groaned again, shaking her head as she trooped inside her new school aka war zone. "I should've gotten more sleep. I'm starting to think like a boy."

Whether this was good or bad is yet to be known.

---

"Tara Bear, I love you but you're a pain in my ass."

Smiling playfully, Tara studied her best friend's lovely features that were constricted in a familiar frown. She was used to seeing this expression. It was something that always happened after she did something dangerous.

Or at least something dangerous according to Faith.

"I had to help him," Tara replied in explanation. The two were seated at their usual table having lunch. Faith's reputation and proof as a kick ass fighter with a short fuse kept them both out of trouble with most everyone. And the few people who weren't scared of Faith wanted to fuck her which left them pretty much safely insulated. Darla and her crew were among the latter. "He's new and the Vamps were going to eat him up, Faith."

"Uh huh," Faith said skeptically. Taking a bite of her sandwich she contemplated this a moment before she set it down and said, "Darla's pissed. If you keep this up I might have to throw down with them."

Tara's blue eyes widened in alarm and she said quietly, "I don't want that. I'll lay low for awhile. Not make them mad."

"That's my girl," Faith drawled, forming a grin. The grin left her as she jerked her head to one side. "Ain't that your boy? He's an awfully pretty thing, that's for sure."

Following Faith's gaze, Tara looked across the cafeteria and smiled softly on seeing Will holding a lunch tray and wearing a lost expression on his elfin features. Turning back to Faith, she looked at her with doe eyes.

"Aw, dammit," said Faith with exasperation. "It's not enough that you save his scrawny ass from the Vamps, you want him to eat with us too? What's with you today, Tara Bear? You havin' case worker flashbacks?"

"He's nice," Tara said lamely.

Tara didn't know what else to say, because she really didn't know why she wanted to see the boy again. It certainly didn't have to do with the fact that he had the most beautiful green eyes and a lilting voice. No, it had nothing to do with that at all. After all, she was a--

"Hi Tara."

"Will," Tara breathed his name out, trying her best to ignore the huge smirk Faith wore on her features. "Hi."

"Can I...?" Willow began hesitantly, darting her gaze from Tara to Faith to Tara again.

"Yeah, it's fine," said Tara quickly. She looked over at Faith then said, "Isn't it, Faith?"

"Yeah, yeah," Faith rolled her eyes. "It's peachy keen."

"Thanks," said Willow gratefully, sitting next to Tara. "I'm not used to being at a new school. It's strange."

"Well, you are sort of out of place," Tara agreed. When Willow and Faith both focused on her after she said this, she turned bright red. "I just meant your clothes are a lot nicer than most people's here and... oh, god, forget it," she declared, waving her hands a bit. "I said nothing."

"What Tara's tryin' to say is you look like you got money and most kids here don't," Faith stated plainly. "It's bound to get you into trouble eventually. In fact, sorta already did, huh?"

"Yeah," said Willow reluctantly. She looked down at her clothes which Xander had picked out so carefully for her and sighed. "I guess I'll have to adjust my wardrobe."

"No, it's all right," Tara shook her head. When Willow looked at her, she ducked her head and said softly, "You look nice." Looking up at Willow, she continued, "And I took care of the Vamps."

"You mean my rep took care of them," Faith corrected, leaning back in her chair, smirking. When Tara stuck out her tongue as a reply, Faith drawled, "Save it for later."

"The Vamps?" asked Willow with a frown.

"Yeah," said Faith, giving a nod. She jerked her thumb over at the group from before who were once again busy threatening a kid for his money. "Them guys. That's what they call themselves. Has something to do with the super whacked out Goth scene they're into." Faith's face spread into a huge grin and she said, "Only thing I know is that their leader, Darla, is a certified babe who got a thing for me after I thrashed her boy Angelus."

"Ever since they've called Faith 'the Slayer' for some reason," Tara supplied, leaning closer to Willow. "Don't ask why though. They're sort of," she twirled her finger in a circle by her head and made a funny face as she whistled.

Chuckling softly, Willow said, "They sound scary."

"They are," said Tara solemnly. She pulled back and smiled warmly. "But I'm not scared. I have Faith." She looked over at her friend and said, "She's my leather clad warrior of truth and justice."

"Shut it, smart ass," Faith replied dryly.

Smiling as she watched the two friends banter back and forth, Willow no longer found the school quite as awful as she first thought it to be.

And it was all thanks to Tara.

---

Staring at the blonde woman that sat in front of her, Willow wondered if it was some sort of requirement that all computer teachers in the area be drop dead gorgeous.

"Miss Lockley?" Willow began hesitantly, observing as the woman scoured over her program.

"Call me Kate," the teacher replied absently, running through the final stages.

"Kate," Willow tried again. "What do you think? Is it good enough for the contest with Walsh Enterprises?"

Looking up from the program, Kate looked at Willow with lidded blue gray eyes. "It's a good program," she started, trying her best to ignore the hope that lit up on Willow's features. "But not good enough to enter."

For the second time in a week, Willow felt her world go crashing down around her. Why? She worked so hard on it. What was wrong with the program? With her?

Seeing Willow's confusion and hurt, Kate continued, "This contest is about operating within the stressful life as a software designer, Will. Often you have to come up with a program with next to nothing to guide you." She paused to consider her words then smiling softly, she asked, "We're a capitalist scum society, right?"

"Yeah," said Willow, still sounding confused.

"In such, you've got to sell it," Kate smirked. "Sell your program and sell yourself. You just aren't doing that right now. What did you design? An operating system. Hell, that's all well and good but do we need more of those?" Kate snorted then said, "Do we need more lawyers?"

Smiling reluctantly, Willow said, "I see your point."

"You have two weeks," reminded Kate gently. "That's more than enough time to write a new program. I think you can do it. But this time think along the lines of creating something people won't know they need until they see it. And once they see it?" Kate grinned. "They can't live without it."

"Yeah, all right," said Willow, her tones disappointed as she rose to her feet and walked out of the classroom.

Watching Willow go, Kate sighed to herself then murmured, "Poor kid. Hated to do that but an O.S.?" She shuddered then turned back to her computer, eyes narrowing at the instant message she received. "What?! She got the new scanners first?! I swear, I'll get that woman..."

---

"I'm depressed," Willow mumbled, taking a bite of her double chocolate fudge chip ripple ice cream. "Maybe my life has been a huge lie. I hate computers and what I really want to do is teach gym class."

"You're manly enough now to do it," said Anya not so helpfully, causing Willow to glare at her. "Hey, it's true," she said defensively.

Stretching out on Willow's unusually large bed, Buffy looked at her best friend. "Don't be depressed," she said, her tones pleading. "Whenever you're depressed you end up making me depressed. It's the sad eyes, I think."

"I'm sorry," said Willow, looking at Buffy with her sad green eyes that caused the blonde to shriek and cover up her own before her mood went downhill. Heaving a huge sigh, Willow murmured, "I'm just so confused."

"You should be," Anya remarked. She nodded at Xander who was sprawled out in a nearby chair. "You're wearing his underwear."

"Eww, I got her new ones, thank you much," Xander replied, crinkling up his nose in distaste. He looked over at Willow and said, "Why don't you just come back to school again, Willy? I mean, so what if I gave you a dykey haircut? We all love you there."

"Love you sooooo much," Buffy added, her eyes soft.

Staring at Buffy for a moment, Willow pointed her spoon at the blonde cheerleader. "Five guys today?"

"Seven," Buffy corrected, her eyes baleful. "It's an epidemic. Plus Xander almost got molested today."

Willow turned to Xander who shivered and would only say that a girl snuck her hand somewhere he never wanted a girl's hand to be remotely near.

"I'm sorry you guys," Willow said after considering the option of giving up. "But I have to stay. Maybe my program isn't good but I can come up with an idea for a new one. Plus," she beamed widely. "Everyone really thought I was a guy. It worked. All I really need is a new idea... a great idea for a program."

Anya opened her mouth to say something and Willow immediately cut her off, scowling as she said, "I'm not programming anything with sex games, Anya."

"Poo," Anya sighed heavily. "Even in drag you're no fun."

---

The next day, Willow was still in drag, and wearing one of the flared collar shirts Xander picked out for her. One that looked great on her but was extremely itchy.

Willow was contemplating changing her wardrobe as she opened up her locker and got out her math book. She had no idea why she was even doing her homework here. It's not like she was staying to get the grades.

Workaholic studying habit, she supposed.

"Great," a nearby girl's voice said dramatically. "I've lost the back of my earring again."

Poking her head around the locker, Willow looked at the figure of a statuesque brunette with beautiful sculptured features. Recalling Buffy complaining about something similar, Willow stuck her head back in her locker to rifle around until she found a pencil and pulled off the eraser.

Shutting her locker with ease, Willow stepped close to the brunette who blinked at this action. "Here," Willow began as she offered up the eraser. "Just use this until the end of the day. It's a temporary solution that works."

"Thanks," the girl said with an easy smile. "I owe you." Noticing the looks of interest her companions gave the newcomer, she said, "I'm Cordelia. And you?"

"Will," said Willow quickly. It had taken awhile but after several introductions around school she was finally used to giving out the shortened version of her name.

"Be seeing you around, Will," said Cordelia smoothly, walking around Willow and brushing against her slightly as she gave another winning smile.

"Yeah," Willow echoed, frowning as she wondered if she had just been flirted with. "See you around."

"Cordelia!" Harmony cried as soon they were out of earshot. "Wasn't he the yummiest? I mean, I usually don't like guys so short but god, he can dress!"

"That he can," Cordelia replied with a smile.

All the while, thinking in the back of her mind that he dressed a little too well. Especially for a straight boy. That just caused Cordelia's smile to widen even more.

At last, she sighed inwardly, a better prospect.

---

Faith was eating lunch peacefully, enjoying her time with her two closest friends when Tara rose to her feet, waved her hand, and called out, "Will! Over here!"

Suddenly, Faith wasn't enjoying lunch quite so much.

Noticing this change, Oz nudged her with his elbow and looked at her with concerned sky blue eyes. "You okay?" he asked, his voice turning softer than usual, if possible.

"I'm fine," Faith answered. She watched Will walk towards them then turned back to Oz. "Just not used to the new boy that Tara's adopted, I guess."

"What's new and unusual scares people," Oz said wisely, pulling away from Faith and wearing a small smile.

Rolling her dark eyes, Faith tapped Oz on his forehead then said, "Thanks. I needed to hear that, Dorothy."

"No problem," said Oz with a mischievous grin.

The two turned back just in time to see Will sit next to Tara and them begin to talk quietly. Upon noticing the stares, Will turned to face them. "Hi," he said, looking at Oz curiously. "I don't think we've met. I'm Will."

"Oz," supplied Oz, offering his hand, looking surprised as he felt the softness of Will's hand. It reminded him of...

Frowning as she noticed Oz's features darken, Willow asked hesitantly, "Are you all right?"

"Yeah, fine," Oz shook his head and looked apologetic. "Having a lousy flashback, that's all."

"Need to dump that dipstick," Faith said strongly, her tones were softened by the fact she reached up to ruffle the back of Oz's hair. "They're not good enough."

"No," Oz said quietly, his tones firm. "It's all right. We're spending some time apart, to think it over."

"Uh huh," said Faith in knowing tones as she looked over at Tara. "And we all know how that goes, right?"

Right after Faith said this, Tara turned bright red and Willow opened her mouth to ask a question when she heard her name being called out. Looking towards the sound, she was met with the sight of Cordelia waving at her and wearing a wide smile.

"It works!" Cordelia informed, smiling. "Thanks!"

"I'm glad!" Willow responded, returning the smile without helping it. When she turned back to the group she noticed everyone had their eyes on her. "What?"

"You know Chase?" asked Faith lowly.

"Cordelia?" Willow blinked. "Not really. I just told her how to fix her earring, that's all. Why?"

"No reason," said Faith, her eyes turning to Tara who was looking off into the distance. "We're cool."

"Okay," said Willow slowly. She also turned her gaze to the blonde and said softly, "Tara?"

"Huh?" Tara jerked, as if she'd been woken out of a deep slumber, then offered a shy smile. "Sorry," she said. "I was just thinking, that's all."

"It's okay," Willow reassured. She gave a wry grin, then said, "Smart people tend to do that." Noticing the pair of headphones around the blonde's neck for the first time, she asked, "What are you listening to?"

A huge smile gracing her features, one that took Willow's breath away, Tara took off the headphones to hand them over. "Faith and Oz's band," she said. "They're great."

"We're playing prom," Oz said in dry tones. "Ohhhh."

"Ahhhhh," Faith added, giving a snicker.

"Stop it, you two," Tara ordered, pointing her index finger at them. "Prom is just to get Snyder off our backs. You've got plenty of real gigs and you know it." Turning back to Willow, she said softly, "Go on. Give it a listen."

Doing as Tara said, Willow put on the headphones and was met with the sounds of rapid drum beats, strong guitar riffs, and the sexiest siren's song she ever heard. She pulled off the headphones and looked at Faith.

"You're the singer?" she guessed.

"Yeah," Faith said, her eyes narrowing. She didn't know why but she didn't trust this guy. Maybe it was because Tara liked him a little too much. "How'd you know?"

"It sounded like you," said Willow simply.

Faith studied Willow a moment later, then snorted as she shook her head. "Whatever," she said.

"So," Willow looked to Oz who was definitely the more receptive of the two. "What's your band's name?"

"Not Driving Stick," Oz said, his expression deadpan.

"Okayyy," Willow drew the word out, vowing to herself that she'd resist the urge to ask why they were named that.

"You should come see a show sometime," Tara said with a smile, touching Willow's arm lightly. "It's fun."

Reveling in the warmth that spread through her, Willow didn't notice a pair of eyes boring into her from across the cafeteria with disarming intensity.

"Cordy?"

Continuing to stare at Will and Tara, who STILL had her hand resting on his arm, Cordelia scowled. "That's it," she said to herself. "I'm going to get him."

"Will?" asked Harmony, catching the last statement. Moving to look at where he was sitting and who he was sitting next to, she giggled. "Well, that won't be too hard, Cordy. Especially when you consider that the girls he's hanging out with have no interest in the male gender. I swear, poor Will, he just has no idea, does he? I wonder if he actually likes Tara or something."

"Yeah," Cordelia's scowl grew deeper. "I wonder."

---

Perched on the small brick wall that surrounded a pathetic attempt at a garden, Willow waited for the familiar sight of Buffy in her car, coming to pick her up.

After several minutes, a shadow fell over her and Willow looked up to see Cordelia. "Will," she seemed to purr as a slow smile spread across her features. "How are you?"

"I'm fine," said Willow, feeling a bit confused. "Just waiting for my ride, that's all. How about you?"

"Good, now that I'm with you," Cordelia replied coyly, sitting next to Willow and reaching out to touch her leg. "I was wondering, what are you doing this weekend?"

Green eyes went wide and Willow swallowed nervously as she realized she was being asked out. Asked out by a very attractive but somehow scary girl. She finally knew how Xander felt when it happened to him.

Before Willow could come up with an appropriate reply, she saw Tara walking towards the parking lot. Giving into the strong need to flee rather than deal with the situation, Willow stood up and shouted, "Tara!"

The blonde turned to face her and Willow noticed her face fall into a sad expression as she saw them. Walking over, she stopped in front of them, her eyes fixed on Cordelia who met her gaze.

"Cordelia," said Tara, her voice going cold for the first time since Willow had met her.

"Tara," replied Cordelia in equally chilly tones. She turned back to Willow and smiled widely. "Now," she said, reaching out to touch her. "About our date."

"I have to go," Willow said quickly, moving away from Cordelia and hiding slightly behind Tara. "I'm getting a ride home from Tara, so I'll see you later. Okay?"

"Sure," said Cordelia, giving a nod. She paused and then formed another seductive smile. "Definitely later."

"Right," Willow laughed nervously, taking Tara's hand and pulling the blonde girl away with her. It took a few moments and a few feet for her to realize she still had their hands locked together. Releasing them, she laughed nervously again and said, "Sorry. I guess I forgot."

"It's okay," said Tara, smiling quietly. They walked side by side in silence, then she ducked her head and said, "I'm guessing you're not too eager to date Cordelia, huh?"

"She's nice, but no," said Willow, fighting the urge to make a childish expression. When she saw the teasing smile on Tara's expression she figured she failed. "I'm sorry," she shook her head. "It's just... no."

"You don't have to explain," Tara murmured. "I understand. But not many guys would say no to her." Silently, she added: not many girls either. Looking back at Willow, she found solemn green eyes studying her. "What is it?" she asked in soft surprise.

"Nothing," said Willow with a shrug. "I said no because I guess I don't want to be with her like that. Besides," she bumped her shoulder lightly with Tara's. "I rather spend time with you anyway. You're much more fun."

Blushing now, Tara ducked her head and said, "I'm not. I'm probably the most boring person in school."

"You're not boring," Willow said emphatically. When Tara lifted her gaze to meet their eyes, she added, "Not to me."

Tara's only response was to smile in soft pleasure.

---

Buffy was the kind of person who got bored easily.

So after a few minutes of waiting for Willow to arrive in front of Pylea High in relative silence, she put in a cd and began singing along with the song.

"What a feeling, bein's believin' I can't have it all, now I'm dancin' for my life," Buffy sang, moving to the song as she did a mini dance inside her car. "Take your passion, and make it happen. Pictures come alive, you can dance right through your life. Now I hear the music, close my eyes, I am rhythm..."

"Hear you roar?"

Jumping in her seat and abruptly stopping her song and dance routine, Buffy turned to gaze at the figure of a very curvaceous girl leaning on her car. Turning down the volume of the cd, she frowned severely.

"What did you just say?" asked Buffy sharply.

"I asked if I could hear you roar," the girl replied evenly, not shaken at all by the appearance of what Xander liked to call Buffy's alter ego, Bitch Buffy. "I'm thinking that you're the type that really could, if you'd let yourself."

Blinking at this, Buffy studied the girl closely. She was clad in a pair of boots, black leather pants, and a far too small white tank top that showed off her assets nicely.

Noting Buffy's interest, the girl smiled and leaned closer, to give just a hint of cleavage. "Faith is the name," she drawled. "What's yours stranger? You're not local, that's obvious. You here to check out our talent?"

"I'm Buffy and no," Buffy said, her tones snarky as she folded her arms across her chest. "I'm only here to give someone a ride, that's all."

"Uh huh," Faith drawled again. "Who? Boyfriend?" Her eyes darkened and she suggested, "Girlfriend?"

Growing nervous at the sensual tone in Faith's voice and the appreciation in her gaze, one that caused Buffy to grow more excited than anything in years, she nodded and said, "Boyfriend! I'm here to pick up my boyfriend... his name is Will! He just transferred." She nodded firmly and looked pleased with herself. "Yep, that's why I'm here."

Faith's expression grew dark and she frowned as she studied Buffy. "You're dating Will? Tiny red haired guy, dresses real sharp? That Will?"

"Yeah, that's him," said Buffy, blinking at Faith. "Are you guys friends or something?"

"Not really," Faith said, pulling away from Buffy. Her gaze moved across the parking lot and she frowned again as she thought back to who Will left with. Turning back to Buffy, she said, "I wouldn't wait around for your fella if I were you. He's long gone. Caught a ride with a friend of mine. Don't worry though, she's not interested."

With that, Faith walked away, leaving Buffy feeling both disappointed and stunned at this reaction. "Wait!" she said before she knew what she was doing. When Faith turned back around, she said lamely, "Uhm... thanks."

"Not a problem," Faith answered smoothly, giving a jaunty smile before she sat down on her motorcycle. She lifted up her helmet and said, "I love helping pretty girls. It just makes me feel like such a hero." Pausing, her eyes were dark and they burned through Buffy. "Y'know, a person like you deserves someone more attentive. If you were mine, I wouldn't forget about you. No way."

Having said that, Faith put on her helmet, started up the motorcycle and drove away. This time leaving Buffy in total shock as she contemplated her words.

And just what liking them meant.

---

Tara stopped her car in front of a house that was a hundred times nicer than anything she'd ever seen. Staring at it for a long while, she finally said, "It's big."

"Try cleaning it," Willow said wryly, unbuckling her seatbelt. When she was done, she looked over at Tara who was still staring at her house in awe. "Do you... do you want to come inside?"

Moving her gaze from the house to Willow, a soft smile spread across Tara's features. "Yeah," she said quietly. "I think I'd like that."

The pair walked inside the house and into the living room, where Willow set her books down on the coffee table. "I'll get us some drinks," she said, moving into the kitchen. "Is soda all right? We have milk and juice too."

"Soda's fine," Tara assured, sitting carefully on the couch which was almost larger than her own living room. Each wall was lined with paintings and on the far side of the room there was a grand piano. Standing up, Tara walked over to the piano and ran her fingers over the keys.

"Do you play?"

Jerking her head up, Tara watched as Willow walked into the room, holding two glasses of soda. Handing Tara her drink, she smiled. "It's all right," Willow said, noticing Tara's nervousness. "I was just wondering."

"No, I don't," Tara shook her head before taking a sip of soda. "I mean, I know a bit, but only because of Oz."

Willow smiled and dipping her head, she walked around Tara and sat on the piano bench. Patting it, she watched as the blonde girl sat next to her. Sitting the glass down on the piano, not really caring about rings, Willow ran her fingers delicately over the keys to play a cheery tune.

"That was pretty," Tara complimented gently.

"Thanks," Willow said. Green eyes twinkled as she said, "Now you give it a try."

"But I can't--" Tara began.

"It's okay," interrupted Willow in soothing tones. "You can do it, I know you can. It's easy, really."

Rising to her feet, Willow stood behind Tara and leaned forward to reach around her and cup her hands. Moving them until the rested just above the necessary keys. With a tender patience, she guided Tara's hands with her own until soon, the song once again filled the air.

When it was over, hands still clasped hands as Tara turned her head to look up at Willow with an expression of wonder on her lovely features. "I played," she said quietly, her face disbelieving.

"I told you," Willow said, a smile curving her lips.

"That was amazing," Tara whispered, her blue eyes lighting up. "I've never done anything like that." She blushed and ducked her head. "Thank you." Lifting her head after a moment, Tara met Willow's gaze to repeat in understated and tender tones, "Thank you."

Willow was about to reply when someone beat her to it. Correct that. When Anya beat her to it.

"If this isn't compromising I don't know what is," Anya pronounced saucily as she leaned on the doorframe to the living room, watching with interest. "And me without my video camera. Did you put the tiny hidden ones in yet?"

"Anya," said Willow with a growl, pulling away from Tara. She felt angry and frustrated with her cousin for interrupting but confused about just what she had gone and interrupted. "What do you want?"

"Nothing," said Anya airily, inspecting her nails carefully. "I was in the kitchen preparing some treats for my newest playthings when I hear voices. Low and behold, I step into a den of repressed sexual foreplay!"

"Get out," Willow ordered, stomping over to her cousin. "Before I find your 'playthings' and show them the photos we have of you playing Jesus at the Christmas Pageant for your all girls Catholic school. Which I still have no idea why Auntie sent you to, considering our religion."

"You wouldn't!" Anya shrieked. When she observed the growing scowl on Willow's features she pouted. "You're a mean, mean, person, do you know that?"

"Out," Willow ordered again, pointing at the door.

"Fine," Anya heaved a huge sigh. Looking around Willow, she grinned at Tara. "Don't be gentle with my macho cousin. He body builds, you know!"

"OUT!" Willow roared at the top of her lungs.

Giggling now, Anya dashed out of the room, saying that she really wished they had cameras all over the house. As she released a groan, Willow rubbed her forehead, trying to fight the headache she felt forming.

Peering at Tara, she said, "I'm sorry. I wish I could explain for my cousin but we're still not sure what caused her to turn out this way. Mostly we blame Auntie."

"It's all right," Tara assured, walking over to Willow. She looked down to meet their eyes. "I'm guessing she stresses you out quite a bit."

"You have no idea," said Willow with a dry laugh.

"Stress isn't good for you," said Tara wisely. The blonde paused for a moment then pulled Willow's hands down to replace them with her own. After a few seconds of gentle rubbing, she heard the redhead sigh quietly. "Better?"

"Much," Willow nodded, smiling gratefully at Tara. Watching as the other girl pulled her hands away, she murmured, "You're good at that."

"The last person I dated..." Tara began, trailing off as she formed a sad expression. "They had headaches a lot."

"I'm sorry," said Willow, unsure of how to reply but not liking Tara being depressed in the slightest.

"It's okay," Tara shook her head. She turned to look at the clock on the wall and said, "I should get going."

A feeling of disappointment swept through Willow as she followed Tara to the door. Opening it, she said, "I'm sorry again about my cousin but it was great to have you over."

"Yeah," Tara smiled kindly. "I had fun."

Watching as Tara walked towards her car, Willow waved when the blonde turned around. The blonde gave a small wave in return before she got into her car and drove away.

Sighing softly, Willow shut the door, wishing things had gone better than that. Now because of Anya, Tara probably thought she came from a family of overreacting headache getting freaks who were chronically horny.

"Your girlfriend's gone already? You didn't know how to show her a good time, did you? And you have all the right equipment too. I'm disappointed."

Lifting her head, Willow scowled deeply as she looked at Anya observing her from the second floor of the house. In seconds, she was dashing up the stairs while Anya gave a squeal of delight before she ran into her room.

Which, to note, was currently occupied with two boys. One of which was devoid entirely of clothes.

---

Chemistry class was when Faith liked to practice her meditation skills. Mostly because it was damn boring and doing that provided a small escape.

And that was what Faith was doing. At least until she heard the familiar sound of Tara's musical laugh. Now accompanied to the more and more common sound of Will laughing along with her.

Opening her brown eyes and scowling, Faith decided right then and there to cease her meditations so she could tell Tara about her run in with the blonde from yesterday. The one that was apparently dating Will.

"Faith," Tara said warmly, sitting next to her best friend. "Will just told me the funniest story about her cousin, you just have to hear it. Even though it is sort of icky."

"It's Anya," Willow rolled her eyes. "Anything that relates back to her is icky in some way, Tara. You'll see."

Chuckling now, Tara smiled and said, "I hope so."

"Uh huh," said Faith, her voice low. She studied them for a moment, Tara's easy smile and obvious happiness as she talked with Will and the way his damned green eyes kept sparkling around her. That settled it. "You forget about your girl yesterday, William?"

"What?" asked Willow dimly, blinking.

"Your girl, Buffy," Faith supplied. Leaning back in her chair, she smirked. "She was waiting for you. Gotta say, it makes sense, you dating a cheerleader from Sunnytown Happyville. That's your sorta place, ain't it?"

"Buffy," Willow repeated, her eyes going wide. "I forgot all about her..." She focused back on Faith as she recalled what the other girl just said. "Wait? Girlfriend?"

"You having a brain fart or something?" Faith said. "I already told you. Girlfriend Buffy was waiting for you in the parking lot. You forgot her and left with Tara Bear."

It had taken a few moments but it had finally sank in. For whatever reason, when Buffy met Faith she must've said that they were going out. Willow supposed that was good. That kept girls from going after her, right?

Yeah, it was a good thing.

Moving her gaze to look at Tara, who was unnaturally quiet during this entire discussion, Willow reminded herself once again that it was a good thing.

"Tara?" asked Willow softly, hesitantly reaching out to touch the blonde girl's arm. When Tara turned to look at her, she smiled weakly. "I guess I should've told you. I mean, friends tell friends about girlfriends. Ugh, doesn't that sound like a cheesy public service announcement?"

Forming an impish smile, Tara shook her head and murmured, "No. If it was a public service announcement it would go something like: friends tell friends not to forget about girlfriends and catch another ride."

"Definitely," Willow agreed with a chuckle. She ducked her head and when she looked up, she said rather shyly, "I am sorry I didn't tell you. Forgive me?"

"It's okay," Tara assured kindly, squeezing Willow's hand gently before pulling away. "We're still friends." Her blue eyes twinkled mischievously and she added, "But you don't have anymore girlfriends hidden around here somewhere, do you?"

Watching them very carefully, Faith's scowl deepened and she considered giving up on meditation altogether. There were more important things to take care of.

Like straightening out the situation with Will and Tara.

---

"Faith, what's wrong?"

The dark haired girl turned to face Tara and arching an eyebrow, she drawled, "Nothing's wrong with me."

"Faith," Tara heaved a sigh. "Don't fib to me. I can tell when you do. I've been able to since we were six. You get little frown lines around your lips when you do."

"Dammit," said Faith with a growl. "This ain't about frown lines and me telling fibs, Tara Bear. If we should be talking about anything it's you and pretty boy."

"Will?" asked Tara, looking confused. "What about him?"

Shaking her head, Faith looked around study hall, which was, as always, in complete and utter chaos. With no one even looking close to like they were studying.

Leaning over, Faith's dark brown eyes were earnest as they bore into her best friend's. "He likes you," she said in simple cut and dry terms. "I can tell. And..." She frowned to study Tara more closely. "I'm startin' to think that he doesn't got a clue about your real interests."

"Will doesn't like me," said Tara in an easy dismissal. "We're just friends, you're reading it all wrong."

"Right," said Faith dryly. "And I'm Martha Stewart."

"Okay," Tara relented, shrugging. "I'll give into your warped theory he likes me. So what if he does? It's not like he's all gropey and stuff."

"Shoot me," Faith muttered to herself as Tara stared out the nearby window. "All right," Faith said, reaching out to cup Tara's chin and meet their eyes. "I'm gonna say this 'cause I think I should. This... guy," Faith seemed to grimace at the word. "He has a girl." She paused to smile slowly. "A real hot girl."

Watching Faith's dark eyes glaze over slightly, Tara sighed inwardly. She really did love Faith dearly but the girl had the most horrible habit of falling in love at first sight. And falling in love with pretty much anyone attractive and blonde at that. Tara still sometimes had nightmares about the brief period of time when Faith was convinced Darla was her soul mate.

"Faith," Tara drew her name out. When Faith recovered from her daze, she smiled knowingly. "Are you sure I shouldn't be lecturing you about falling for a girl who's dating my FRIEND Will?"

Snorting at this, Faith remarked, "Real subtle with the friend enforcement there. Yeah, I get your point. Still," Faith formed a naughty smile as she thought back to her parking lot encounter. "Don't you think seein' is believin'? Maybe instead of telling him we oughta show him what we're all about. A night on the town."

"With his hot girlfriend?" asked Tara wryly.

"What the hell," Faith said, leaning close to Tara as her smile widened. "I'll be nice. She can come too."

"You're bad," Tara accused lightly. She reached out to tap Faith lightly on the nose. "And if you scare Will to death I don't think I'll forgive you."

"Fine, fine," Faith pulled back, looking completely at ease. "We'll give them the censored tour of our world."

"Lord," said Tara, giving a sigh. "I wonder if they'll survive through the night."

Chuckling softly, Faith said, "They've gotta. If they don't they might never find out we're lesbians."

For a reply, Tara rolled her eyes.

---

"I'm all for socializing, you know me, social butterfly that flutter flutters but... uhm..." Buffy's face scrunched up in a cute expression. "Shouldn't you be working on that new program of yours instead of being all butterfly fluttery?"

The two girls were sitting in Willow's living room, waiting for Faith and Tara to arrive. Apparently they were going to be taken out for a gay night on the town. What that meant, they weren't exactly sure.

"I'd agree with you normally," Willow began wryly.

"Except...?" prompted Buffy.

"Except I have no ideas for a new program yet," said Willow, heaving a sigh. She frowned and leaned back against the couch. "I want something incredible, something innovative, like what Kate suggested. I'm just not sure what."

"Huh," Buffy said thoughtfully. She plopped down next to Willow on the couch, crossing her shapely legs, riding up her already massively short black skirt. "I'd suggest some ideas but you know me and computers."

"Buffy touch computer, computer on fire," said Willow in a dense caveman talk before chuckling.

"Smart ass," Buffy accused playfully, bumping shoulders with Willow who grinned at this.

"That's what Faith calls Tara," Willow remarked. She was busy adjusting her light gray tie which perfectly matched her tailored pants. Then she went about brushing invisible lint off her long sleeved black dress shirt.

"Really?" asked Buffy, feigning disinterest. "That's nice."

Narrowing her eyes, Willow studied Buffy for a moment then said, "All right, spill it. What's with you and Faith? I know you met her that day. By the way," Willow drew the words out. "Why am I suddenly your boyfriend anyway?"

"There's nothing with me and Faith," said Buffy indignantly. "She's leather clad and annoying. Besides, I had to tell her something. Don't even act like I didn't do you a favor. Having me as your wonderful and luscious girlfriend keeps away the harassers."

"Luscious?" Willow echoed skeptically.

"Don't start," Buffy stated, pointing her index finger in Willow's face, only to have it pushed away.

"Okay," chuckled Willow. Taking Buffy's hand in her own, she kissed the top of it lightly and murmured, "I couldn't be happier to have you for my girlfriend, Buffy."

"And the plot thickens!"

Turning their heads together, Buffy and Willow wore identical scowls as they glared at Anya who was leaning against the doorway to the living room. Per usual, Anya was clad in a scanty outfit that revealed oodles of skin.

"Cuz," Anya said sensuously, striding into the room and sitting on the coffee table in front of the couch. She crossed her legs to show far more skin than Buffy could even imagine putting before the public eye. "I'm simply shocked at your behavior, I tell you. Shocked. First I find you with that dreamy blonde about to lip lock and now I discover that Buffy is your girlfriend? Finally," Anya smirked widely. "All those years of repression pay off."

"Anya," started Willow in a low growl.

"I know, I know," said Anya airily as she rose to her feet with certain elegance. "Get out. I've heard it so often that it's becoming repetitive." A loud honk filled the air and turning to look out the front window, Anya smirked once more. "Sounds like your dates are here."

"It's not a date!" Buffy protested, rising to her feet. "This is just... I don't know what this is."

"Uh huh," Anya chuckled lowly. "That's what they all say." Blowing Buffy a kiss as she was dragged out of the living room by Willow, she said, "Don't do anything that I wouldn't do. Which is pretty much anything!"

Buffy and Willow disappeared from sight and Anya smiled slowly as she murmured to herself, "Now I can finally start to have some real fun."

Then Willow's head reappeared around the corner. Frowning deeply, she commanded, "Don't burn down the house, get in trouble with the police, or molest innocents."

"I'll do my best," Anya said mischievously. She batted her eyes prettily then cupped her hands over her heart. "But only if you do me a favor... try and get some. It might just mellow you out for once."

Willow merely scowled again then the only sound was the front door slamming shut. Smiling serenely at this, Anya walked over to the phone and began dialing.

It was time to have some fun.

---

Tara was driving mostly because it would be a really tight squeeze to fit everyone on Faith's motorcycle. Sitting in the front seat, Faith looked into the rearview mirror, eyes locked on Buffy who seemed to meet her subversive gaze.

"You look good," Faith complimented in easy tones. "I figured you were the type that cleans up real nice."

"Thank you," said Buffy in chilly tones, trying to ignore the heat these words caused in her. She averted her gaze to look out the window. "Where are we going?"

"Someplace fun, sugar," answered Faith smoothly. "I guarantee you and your boy will have a great time."

"Faith," chided Tara, hitting her friend lightly on the leg. She glanced into the rearview mirror and smiled warmly. "We're taking you to our favorite club. Faith's band plays there all the time. It's a really nice place."

"They don't card?" asked Willow hesitantly.

Faith began laughing heartily at this, causing Tara to hit her again and the dark haired girl to pout. "Damn, Tara Bear," Faith said grumpily, rubbing her leg. "Why do you got to abuse me so much? I'm delicate you know."

"Right, and I don't dye my hair," Tara chuckled lightly. Glancing back in the rearview to connect with Willow's green eyes, she continued, "They don't card us. We're friends with the management so they let us get by."

"Give us free drinks too," Faith added with a grin.

"That's nice," said Willow, smiling at Tara. "I'm sure we'll like the place." She looked over at Buffy who was gazing out the window still. "Don't you think, Buffy?"

"Huh?" Buffy blinked, snapping out of her daze. She had been doing her level best to go into a mental stupor. Buffy was positive that was the only way she could ignore Faith and the odd affect the girl had on her. "Yeah, I think."

"Got a leg up on most cheerleaders, dontcha?" Faith commented with an easy chuckle.

"Quiet, biker girl," Buffy snapped, scowling.

"Was that an insult?" Faith chuckled some more.

"Faith," Tara began.

"Buffy," Willow started at the same time.

"Be good," they said together.

There was a moment of silence before Willow and Tara burst into laughter and Faith and Buffy frowned.

One thing was for sure, tonight would be interesting.

---

She had never seen anyplace like this. Much less been inside it. Her eyes wide, Willow studied the bright lights, wildly dressed people, and the charged atmosphere.

"Where are we?" Willow whispered to Buffy.

"A club?" Buffy suggested in hesitant tones, sounding like she was slightly unsure about her answer.

"THE club, sweetie."

Turning around, Buffy looked into dark brown eyes that held just a hint of scarlet. The man before her was lanky and tall with spiky dark blonde hair, dressed impeccably in a lime green suit.

"Welcome to Caritas," he purred, reaching for Buffy's hand and kissing the top of it lightly. "I'm the Host."

"Lay off," Faith seemed to growl, sidling up to the Host and pulling him back by his ear. "She's already got a fella or didn't you check out the cute red haired guy?"

"Owww, Faith, honey dew, why do you hurt me so when you know I worship your heavenly body?" the Host gave a slight whine as he smiled sheepishly.

"Shut it, Lorne," Faith smiled, letting go of his ear. "If I didn't lay down the law with you now you would've spent all night bugging us, am I right?"

"I confess nothing," Lorne sniffed. He looked over at Tara and smiled widely. "Ah! The civilized one in the bunch. I hope you plan on keeping her out of trouble, beautiful." In a smooth movement, his eyes flew over Tara's outfit, a knee length dark red skirt and loose white button up shirt that was rolled up to her elbows. "Love the ensemble."

"I'll do my best and thanks," said Tara wryly.

"Uh hmm," Lorne said wisely, his eyes turning back to Faith who was watching Buffy talk to Willow while they inspected the club. Leaning close, he whispered in her ear, "Snacking on forbidden candy is a no no, Faithy."

Dark eyes lifted to meet brownish red ones. "Lorne," Faith said in even tones.

"Yes?" asked Lorne, arching an eyebrow.

"I gotta tell you somethin'," Faith continued, observing as Tara led Buffy and Willow over to the bar.

"What, honey pie?" Lorne frowned, looking worried. "Is something wrong? You're being mood killer serious."

Faith lifted her head to look him right in the eye. "I'm gonna snag that girl if it's the last thing that I ever do."

Blinking, Lorne watched dimly as Faith strode over to the small group before he heaved a sigh. "Here we go again," he murmured to himself. "I just hope she doesn't start any major fights tonight. Renovating is costly."

In the meantime, Buffy and Willow were finding themselves in the middle of a spat amongst the two bartenders. Well, they were hearing about it.

"Then I said to him, 'English, I don't know what jealous bug you got bit with but I have no interest in Lindsey'!"

"Lindsey?" Willow asked in confusion.

"He's in Faith's band," Tara supplied, whispering in Willow's ear, her breath tickling her neck. "A big time swinger."

"Oh," said Willow, acting like that explained it all.

"And you know what he says? He says it's because I encourage them with how I dress!" Gunn looked down at his ensemble which was nothing but a pair of extremely baggy black pants, boots, and a very tight tank top. "Oh, and lord, he insulted my name. Not even!"

"Six shooter," Faith drawled, sitting down next to Buffy and giving her a saucy grin which caused the blonde to immediately turn her head elsewhere. "You complaining about the Missus again? What's the what?"

"He's being a bitch," Gunn informed snippily.

"Yeah?" said Faith, directing her eyes to the other side of the bar where Gunn's partner, Wesley, was doing his level best to look uninterested in what they were saying as he cleaned some glasses. "Why dontcha make up with him? You know if you don't," Faith's smile turned somewhat evil. "People are gonna jump all over his 'you have such a cute foreign accent' tight little ass."

Gunn formed a horrified expression as he realized Faith was exactly right then instantly went scurrying over to his partner and in seconds the two were making out.

"Ah, I love playing matchmaker," Faith smirked.

"What... what... what...?" Willow sputtered as she watched the men devour each other while Lorne shouted for them to try and not break the merchandise.

A smile quirked on Faith's lips and turning to Tara, she rose to her feet and stood in front of her friend. One of her favorite sexy pulse ridden songs of the club was playing as she held out her hand to the other girl.

"Wanna dance?" asked Faith, eyes dark with amusement.

"I'd love to," Tara replied, accepting Faith's hand and walking out onto the dance floor. Looking back slightly at Willow who watched them with wide eyes.

"Will?" asked Buffy in very reluctant tones.

"Yeah, Buffy?" Willow said. She was busy watching Tara who was letting Faith rest her hands on curvaceous hips and pull their bodies close together.

"Have you noticed," Buffy continued as she darted her eyes around the club and took in all the couples that were dancing and otherwise. "A lot of sameness here?"

"What?" Willow blinked, turning to face Buffy.

"You know, sameness," Buffy repeated.

She nodded towards Wesley and Gunn whose make out session was now at epic proportions while Lorne ran around, saving the bottles of alcohol they were knocking off the shelves. She then gestured towards the nearby tables which featured very romantic couples of the same gender exchanging glances, touches, and so on.

"I see what you mean," Willow swallowed nervously.

"Do you think... Faith and Tara..." Buffy suggested in extremely hesitant and wary tones. "You know?"

Instead of replying, Willow focused back on the dance floor as Buffy followed suit. They observed as Faith and Tara moved to the music, their bodies pressed against one another, swaying rhythmically to the beat in a motion that couldn't be anything other than sexual. The heat that radiated off them as they danced was perpetual and they could feel themselves being affected. Especially when Faith traced her hand down from Tara's waist to rub the bare skin of the blonde's leg that was exposed by the slit on the side of her skirt.

"Yeah," Willow said, her voice hoarse. "I think that you know is probably entirely right." She was quiet for a long moment then snapped out of her daze. "But that's okay because I'm cool with it! It's fine. I mean, Xander, right?"

"Yeah, Xander," Buffy nodded fiercely. "We're all with the gay rights and hip to the alternative scene."

"We're fag hags!" Willow added exuberantly.

Seconds after she said this, Buffy and Willow formed similar disgusted expressions. Then they went back to watching Faith and Tara dancing. Very sexily.

"Shouldn't they be getting tired?" Buffy commented rather bitchily after they watched for awhile. "I can see them sweating, they should stop before they stink."

"The sweat makes them shiny," Willow remarked vaguely, causing Buffy to stare at her strangely. On noting this, Willow said, "What? It does!"

Buffy just shook her head in response. Moments later, Willow shifted in her seat rather uncomfortably. "Do you have a stomach ache?" asked Buffy.

"Not exactly," Willow winced. She looked nervously around the club then leaned close to Buffy and whispered, "My... equipment... still bothers me. I'm not used to having stuff down there, you know?"

This time Buffy could only make a face in reply.

And watching her do this from the dance floor with Tara was a very observant Faith. A slow smile spread across her features as she drawled, "We're bein' watched."

"I think you shouldn't care," said Tara teasingly.

"What?" Faith pulled back to look a bit offended. "I'm just sayin' maybe he oughta be watching his girl instead of me and you, that's all."

"Sure," Tara wore a skeptical expression. Moving closer to Faith, she pulled the dark girl against her and leaned forward to whisper in her ear, "Don't think I don't know that you've got another crush again."

"So?" said Faith, sounding adorably like a five year old. Tara was just waiting for the other girl to jut her lip out and stamp her foot in frustration. "I can tell she likes me. Just like I can tell Will has a thing for y--"

"Enough with that," interrupted Tara, rolling her eyes, looking everywhere except at Faith. "Will is a friend. He likes me in a friend type way. I like him in a friend type way. I wish that you'd stop insinuating otherwise."

Brown eyes bore into Tara for a long and endless moment before Tara regarded Faith rather nervously. "What?"

"I never said you liked him as nothin' other than a friend, Tara Bear," said Faith quietly. "Why bring that up unless you're starting to think that yourself."

"I don't have any idea what you're implying," said Tara.

She averted her gaze away from Faith and fixed them on the object of their discussion. Blue eyes immediately widened as Tara observed Will anxiously shifting around in his seat while Buffy tried her best not to look at him. Turning bright red as she imagined just why Will was doing that, Tara snapped her eyes away from the scene.

"What's with you?" asked Faith, moving to follow Tara's line of vision and when she did a huge smirk formed. "You got no idea what I'm implying, huh? Bullshit."

"Quiet!" Tara demanded, her face looking like a tomato. "He's just excited from being here, that's all! I mean, all guys get like that with lesbians around. It's nature."

"Lesbians on Wild Kingdom, yeah, yeah," Faith snickered, watching as Tara scowled deeply and yanked her hands away to then stomp off of the dance floor. Laughing still, Faith called out, "Don't be mad! Y'know it's all part of the circle of life!"

Willow was busy in her shifting when Tara came to a stop in front of them and she immediately ceased this action. It somehow didn't seem appropriate with Tara there.

"You looked like you had fun," Buffy commented drolly, her eyes resting on Faith who was standing behind Tara.

"I always do, sugar," Faith grinned wickedly.

Buffy rolled her eyes at this and made a smart ass remark in reply which caused the two girls to go off into a bizarre land of insult flirting with one another. Meanwhile, Tara wiped the sweat from her forehead. Lorne did his best to keep the place cool but it was hard with so many people pressed up against each other.

Particularly when they were pressed up by their own choice. That's why Willow sat, watching transfixed as Tara moved her hands down to her waist, pulling out her white shirt, undoing the last three buttons and tying the shirt off just below her breasts. Revealing an expanse of tanned skin that was beaded with sweat and shined as Willow had noticed earlier.

Graceful fingers rested lightly against a lean belly, caressing the skin delicately in a circular pattern. Swallowing the lump in her throat, Willow followed them as they moved upwards in a slow path, brushing the sides of her body and almost lingering on full breasts.

Then just as Willow was positive she would pass out before she could take anything more, the fingers were now tracing a lithe neck and moving backwards, to lift sweat stroked blonde hair into the air. It was something incredibly simple. Tying back your hair so you felt less hot, less stifled, and she had seen Buffy do it a million times before. But with Buffy it was never this... this...

"Sexy," Willow breathed raggedly.

"What, Will?"

Snapping out of her self induced lust/daze, Willow jerked her head up quickly, turning just as red as her spiky hair. "I... yes... what?" she sputtered in embarrassment.

"Are you okay?" asked Tara, laughing a bit. She formed a frown and hesitantly reached out to clasp Willow's arm. "I didn't scare you, did I? With my dance with Faith?"

"Aw, hell," Faith chuckled deeply. "How the hell could that scare him, Tara Bear?" Dark eyes locked on Willow who paled on seeing them. "He's a red blooded man, no matter how slick he dresses. And we all know guys just love the idea of two hot chicks getting it on." Faith turned to look at Buffy and grinned. "Ain't that right, sugar?"

"I wouldn't know," Buffy sniffed, shooting her gaze as far away from Faith as she could get.

Sighing again as she watched Faith and Buffy interact, Tara shook her head then sat down next to Willow who seemed to be eternally trapped in a daze. "Hey," she said softly, shaking Willow's leg gently. When green eyes focused on her, she smiled. "Are we cool?"

"Yeah, we're cool, so cool! We're frigid even! If we were any cooler we'd be Antarctica which would be impossible since it's a country, region, whatever, but that's what we would be!" Willow said, nodding her head fiercely.

Arching an eyebrow at this, Tara ducked her head and began laughing. Observing her, Willow formed a slight scowl. "Quit it!" she demanded, tapping Tara's hand that was still resting on her leg. Resting on her leg and causing a most delightful burn in her skin, she noticed. "When I'm nervous I babble. I can't help it, I swear."

"Sorry," Tara replied, lifting her head and not looking the least bit apologetic as she smiled fondly. "It's just... I've never seen anything that cute before."

"Right," said Willow skeptically. She studied Tara for a minute, then said loftily, "Well, I forgive you. This time."

"Thanks so much," Tara smiled widely. Suddenly, Willow's eyes turned wide and she formed another look of shock. "What's wrong?"

Instead of replying, Willow pointed towards the dance floor and turning around, Tara saw what the redhead was so shocked about seeing.

"Oh, them," said Tara, looking relieved. "They're always here, aren't they Faith?"

"Huh?" asked Faith, tearing herself away from her sniping conversation with Buffy. Staring at the dance floor, Faith smirked. "Those two? Hell yeah."

Following everyone's gaze, Buffy looked out on the dance floor and exclaimed, "Miss Calendar!"

"And Miss Lockley," Willow added, feeling dazed again.

The two teachers were currently in the middle of what looked like a horrible fight on the other side of the club. Jenny had her arms folded across her chest and wore a cross expression on her features while Kate wildly waved her hands about.

"They sure look aggressive," Buffy said dimly.

"Just wait," said Faith wisely, moving up against Buffy, breathing in her ear. "They always change their tune."

"I give them five seconds," said Tara with confidence.

"Wanna start a countdown?" Faith grinned.

"Sure," Tara replied mischievously.

Together, Faith and Tara began counting, "One... two... three... four... five."

And exactly on the word five, Jenny unfolded her arms to reach out and cup Kate's face, pulling her in for a passion filled kiss. Soon, the teachers were pressed up against the nearby columns, completely absorbed in their embrace.

"What... was that?" said Willow, feeling hot and loosening her tie so she could breathe better.

"That was Kate and Jenny, the Itchy and Scratchy of lesbians," Tara supplied, giving a wide grin. When both Willow and Buffy looked at her with confusion, she elaborated, "You know, like the show. They fight, they kiss, fight, fight, fight, kiss, kiss, kiss. It's the Kate and Jenny shooooooow."

There was a long moment of silence then Faith shook her head and said, "You're damn strange, Tara Bear."

"Strange but lovable," Willow added, giving a smile.

Blushing at this, Tara gave Willow's leg another slight shake and said, "That's swee..."

Tara trailed off and turned bright red as this time the shake and the tiny adjustment of where her fingers were on Willow's leg caused her to touch something that as a lesbian she was damn sure she never touched before. With a squeak, Tara sprung back, hiding her hands behind her back while Willow stared at her in puzzlement.

Meanwhile, Tara's train of thought went like this: I didn't, did I? If I did, oh god, he has a girlfriend! I didn't mean to though, so it's okay. But... oh... do they all feel like that? It was big too! I mean, big! Don't think about that, you're a lesbian. Remember that! It's you, you like girls. Wash, rinse, repeat... Tara Maclay is a lesbian! I wonder what it looks like? It's probably pretty, he's pretty... oh god. Oh god. Why did I think that? Boys aren't pretty. I think I need to get out of here. I'm walking... walking away... very slowly... act calm, give him an excuse that makes some sort of sense then run like crazy. Do it brain.

"I... I have to pee," Tara said in a rush.

Then she promptly turned on her heel and dashed into the crowd of dancers to leave Willow watching in shock. In a second, she felt a hand clasping her shoulder and she looked up into Faith's earnest features.

"Loverboy," Faith said in tones that seemed to threaten with the smoothest of caresses. "Take care of your girl for awhile, huh? I'm goin' after Tara Bear."

"Yeah, okay," said Willow with a nod, running her fingers through her shortly cropped hair. "I'll do that."

"You're a good boyfriend," said Faith dryly before she disappeared into the crowd.

Sitting next to Willow who was frowning as she looked into the distance, Buffy said, "What was that about?"

"Girrrrrl, are you blind? She wants your man."

Turning their heads, Willow and Buffy faced the bar and looked at the figures of Gunn and Wesley. Gunn wore a smug smile on his handsome features and Wesley looked rather wistful as he rested his chin on Gunn's shoulder to gaze at Willow and Buffy.

"Tara? Me? No way!" Willow's eyes went wide.

"Yes, you," Gunn said, arching an eyebrow. "Didn't you see how she was checking on you? And before she ran off I know you felt what she was strokin'."

Willow turned bright red at this comment and Buffy stared at Willow in dim shock. Wesley, in the meantime, nipped Gunn's ear lightly. "Don't tease them so," Wesley ordered, chuckling. "You're embarrassing the poor little heterosexuals, Charles."

"Tch, well, it's the truth," said Gunn. He looked over at Lorne who was approaching. "Ain't that right, boss?"

"Quite the love square, isn't it?" Lorne murmured wisely. Warm brown eyes locked on Buffy and Willow. "I think you all have some issues to work out, no? Beginning with what sort of relationship you have with your boyfriend, young lady," Lorne met Buffy's gaze.

"My boyfriend?" Buffy echoed. She formed a stunned expression then whispered, "Oh no... I forgot..."

---

Anya's night wasn't going at all how she planned. All she wanted, all she really wanted, was to have an orgy. A nice simple orgy. But no, she was to be denied.

Because of a stupid brain dead barbarian.

"You are an evil, evil, evil, nasty man!" Anya accused, poking her finger into Riley's chest as he glared down at her. "And I hope you get an erectile dysfunction!"

"Tell me where Buffy is and I'll leave," said Riley, his expression firm and definitely dense.

"For the millionth time no brain cells boy, I have no clue where your infinitely more intelligent girlfriend is!" said Anya as she scowled deeply. "If I did know, I would tell you so I could get rid of your stupid ass. Now get out of the house. I'm expecting company very shortly."

"I won't leave until Buffy comes back," Riley said. "Her car is in your driveway. If she's not here now then she'll have to come back for it. Until then, I'm not moving."

"Fine! Stay for the orgy! I don't care!" Anya declared hotly. "No one stops me from having my fun!"

Riley, for some reason, didn't know how to reply.

---

The car ride back to Willow's house was very quiet.

Quiet and uncomfortable. Finally, Tara spoke up, "I'm sorry we were out so long, Buffy. I hope you're not too tired at cheerleading practice tomorrow."

"Oh no," said Buffy, smiling nervously on hearing her own lie thrown back at her. "I'll be fine. I promise."

Once she remembered that she was supposed to be on a date with Riley instead of helping Willow pull off her drag routine with her new friends, Buffy had panicked. Which then led to her telling a fib about having an early cheerleading practice tomorrow so they could leave.

"I bet you will," Faith chuckled easily.

"I wasn't talking to you," said Buffy sharply, averting her gaze to look out the window.

"Uhm..." Willow began hesitantly. "I had fun tonight, Tara. Thanks for thinking of us."

"Yeah, I had fun too," said Tara, her body stiff and her face turning bright red.

Faith observed this and gave a soft groan. She then narrowed her eyes as she observed the figure of a guy running down the street, his pants around his ankles and a shirt blocking his face.

"Looks like he had way more fun," Faith remarked dryly.

Watching the guy run away, Buffy frowned. There was something vaguely familiar about him and those boxers he had on but she couldn't put her finger on it. Oh well. She had more important things to worry about.

Like ignoring Faith until they got to Willow's.

Willow was having similar problems. Well, okay, not similar. But she was having problems. Namely the odd feelings that Tara always caused in her when she was around the other girl. That and the fact that ever since Tara ran off earlier, she was acting strangely. Avoiding talking to her or even looking her way.

Was it something she did? And why was she so concerned? She never worried about Buffy or Xander's feelings this way and they were her closest friends.

Did she... did she like Tara? Like the way Gunn liked Wesley or, Willow winced at this, Kate liked Jenny?

And if she did then what?

While Willow was busy contemplating all this, Tara brought her car to a stop in front of her house. "We're here," she announced.

Snapping out of her musings, Willow looked at her house and frowned on seeing two unknown cars parked in the driveway. Now what was Anya up to? Willow just hoped she controlled herself.

As much as Anya could.

Still... where was Riley's jeep? She was sure that he'd be there, waiting in stalkerness for Buffy to show up.

"I had a great time, Tara," said Willow, unbuckling her seatbelt. They were the only ones left in the car since Buffy scurried out of it at first chance and Faith followed suit. "I was thinking, maybe we can hang out tomorrow? Buffy is going to be busy cheering and all."

Staring straight ahead, Tara swallowed nervously then found herself replying before her brain could warn her. "I'd like that," she said. "Call me, okay?"

"Definitely," said Willow with a grin.

Getting out of the car, Willow could only sigh as she observed Faith and Buffy bickering yet again. She had no idea what was with the two girls but their constant ability to irritate each other was clear.

"Buffy," said Willow in a sharp tone. "Lets go inside. You left something there, remember?"

Looking up from her fight with Faith, the blonde cheerleader's eyes widened. "Right!" she turned on her heel and was about to walk away when Faith grabbed her arm. Frowning, she asked, "What?"

"Remember what I said," Faith murmured evenly, her dark eyes solemn. "You deserve better. Someone who'll give you what you need. Real passion," she added.

A shiver of desire ran through Buffy but she still jerked her arm away, feeling nervous about this emotion. "I think I know what I need," Buffy replied.

She then turned to walk into Willow's house. Leaving Willow alone with Faith who looked at her with narrowed eyes. The air was thick as Faith studied the stylish suit and trendy haircut of the redhead.

"Watch yourself, pretty boy," Faith warned.

With that, she got back into Tara's car and the two drove off, leaving Willow in shocked silence. Sighing, she then walked inside her house.

Surprisingly, it was quiet. Willow frowned, wondering where Buffy and Riley were, not to mention Anya. Then she heard Buffy's outraged shout from upstairs.

Trudging towards her cousin's room, Willow prepared herself from anything and everything. Which is really what one should do when dealing with Anya.

Maybe that's why she wasn't at all surprised to find Anya in bed with two beautiful blondes, not looking bothered in the slightest as Buffy yelled at her about Riley.

"How could you initiate him into your weird sex games, Anya?!" Buffy demanded, turning red.

"Well, you ignore him all the time," said Anya. "Case in point, you forgot about him tonight. The stupid caveman wouldn't leave and if he wasn't going anywhere I figured he should at least be of use and serve my girls." She gave the two blondes a grin. "Am I right, Amy and Veruca?"

"Poor boy," Veruca purred, snuggling closer to Anya. "He only withstood twenty minutes before he ran away."

"Wimp," Amy accused with a giggle. "Big wimp."

"See?" Anya said, forming her best innocent expression. "Your boyfriend is so pure and virginal that he couldn't even have fun with little old us. I think that you should do your duty as a good girlfriend and spend some between the sheets time with him or cut the guy loose." Anya grinned salaciously. "Especially now that you're into the alt scene with my cutesy poo cousin."

Buffy turned redder at this and looked like she was about to explode when Willow heaved a huge sigh. Taking her friend by the back of the shirt, she dragged her out of the room, looking back at Anya as she said, "You owe me."

"Ohhhh, sounds fun," purred Anya in response before Willow rolled her eyes and slammed the door shut. Then Anya turned to her companions and said, "Who feels ready for a refreshing round eleven?"

As this went on, Willow was forced to listen to Buffy's endless rants about Anya and her perversity. It wasn't like Willow didn't agree with her friend but what good was stating the facts going to do? Anya wasn't about to change anytime soon, that was for certain.

"Buffy," said Willow, giving a sigh. "Don't you think you ought to find Riley? That's why we came here."

"I don't want to find him," Buffy said with a pout, flinging herself down on the couch. "He cheated on me. Sort of."

"He didn't cheat," Willow said, sounding exasperated. "He just got stuck with Anya for a long period of time."

"I don't care," Buffy said resiliently. "We're through."

"Because of Anya or because he's boring?" asked Willow, forming the slightest of grins.

Eyeing her friend evilly, Buffy sighed then said, "Both. I've been meaning to do it anyway. This at least makes it seem like his fault and gives me an unbitchy way out."

"He broke your clause," Willow said smartly. "You make it sound like a business agreement, Buffy."

"It was that, if you think about it," said Buffy thoughtfully, gazing up at the ceiling while Willow sat on the coffee table to observe her. "I gave him some and in exchange I got a hunky college boyfriend who didn't say much but looked nice at parties."

"And you don't want that now," stated Willow.

"Not really," Buffy sighed again. "I think... maybe..." She turned bright red and muttered, "It's stupid."

"Buffy," Willow cajoled, nudging her friend gently with her foot. "Tell me. We've been friends forever, you're my fake girlfriend. You know I'll understand."

"Okay," said Buffy. She turned her head to meet Willow's eyes and murmured, "It's just... since my parents divorced I never really believed in love. I figured it was made up, a fairy tale thing, you know? And it was better to just find a person you were attracted to and compatible with. It didn't even matter to me there was no passion or spark, because that was a fairy tale thing, right? Except..." Buffy trailed off as she thought of dark eyes, a husky voice, and breasts that... oh gods. "I met someone who makes me feel like they say in the movies and it's scary, Will."

Mulling over this, Willow finally replied, "I think you should do what makes you happy, Buffy. Even if it does scare you at first. Because isn't everything new scary? That's how it is in life. But if we don't try new things we never grow, we stay stagnate, the same for the rest of our lives and that's just eww."

"Yeah," said Buffy quietly, forming a smile. "I get what you're saying, Will."

"Good," said Willow, beaming at her friend. "I'm glad. So," she wore a devilish expression. "Do you want to tell me who this mystery person of yours is?"

A pillow instantly covered Buffy's face and although she couldn't make it out, Willow was positive that the muffled reply of her friend was a resounding no.

---

It was probably the first time she ever invited someone to her house. Faith had been there plenty of times and so had Oz but they grew up with her. They knew about her home life and her family. But Will... he didn't and yet, somehow that didn't matter to Tara.

She wasn't afraid of him being there. Of him knowing her and where she came from. Maybe it was the kindness in green eyes whenever he looked at her or his gentle smile. No matter what it was, it made Tara trust him.

Faster than anyone else she ever met.

That honestly frightened her. Tara didn't let people in so easily, so quickly, and so deeply as she did with Will. It made no sense but it felt right to trust him. To allow herself to get close to him.

Tara knew this feeling well. She had only experienced it twice in her life so far and both times...

Both times she had been in love with the person.

Attracted to them, drawn to them, just like with Will. Only, unlike Will, they weren't boys. Because Tara was a lesbian. She liked girls. Not once in her life had she ever felt this way about a boy.

What did that make her? Was she bisexual now? Did liking one boy do that to her? This had never happened to her before... it was strange... scary and thrilling and...

And it felt right.

She was just happy her family was gone for the day. Her father at work and her brother... well, Donny had gone off on one of his binges a week back. Tara was pretty sure he was either in jail somewhere or sleeping it off. The lord knows that if they were around the excitement they'd have on seeing her act so... girly around Will would be epic.

The doorbell rang and Tara leapt to her feet, wringing her hands nervously before she frowned at herself for doing this. Brushing her hands on her corduroy white pants, she then adjusted her fuzzy blue shirt, the one that always made her feel safe, like a little girl when she wore it.

When she opened the door, Will was shifting from foot to foot, brushing what looked to be invisible lint from his tan dress shirt and dark brown slacks. On hearing the door, he looked up and grinned at Tara.

"Tara," said Willow, grinning still. "Hi."

"Hi," Tara echoed nervously, she moved back to push the door backwards. "Come on in."

Willow stepped inside the small house and smiled at the comfortable atmosphere. It was so much different from her own home that often felt like a museum to her. When she was a child, Willow remembered being afraid of just touching things because she was sure it would break and her mother would end up yelling at her.

But Tara's house wasn't like that. It was an actual home, where people could be themselves and not worry about breaking things. At least, that's what Willow thought.

"It's not as nice as your place--" Tara began.

"No," Willow interrupted, turning to face Tara and giving a reassuring and warm smile. "I love it. Besides," she felt herself blush now. "Anywhere you are is nice."

"Will..." murmured Tara, feeling a familiar heat take control. She shook her head and moved to sit down on the couch and said, "What do you want to do?"

"I don't know," said Willow, still looking around the living room. Her eyes got wide and she looked at Tara with a rather shy expression. "Could I see your room?"

Blinking at this request, Tara recalled the last time someone had asked her that. Smiling softly, she said, "Sure." Rising to her feet, she walked down the hall. "I haven't cleaned it in awhile though."

"My room is a mess too," Willow admitted wryly. "I've been trying to work on my computer program and it's sort of kept me from doing the domestic."

Tara chuckled at this and pushed open a door that had a poster of a punk rock bear with the words 'Tara Bear' scrawled all over it in different colored markers. Willow supposed it was either a gift from Faith or what first gave Tara the nickname that the singer always used.

Charcoal dusted walls met Willow's eyes and she blinked at the darkness of it. She had always thought of Tara as a bright and cheery person, so it came as a bit of a shock to see her room like this. Then Tara smiled at her, giving a look of understanding and crossed the room to pull her blinds shut, leaving the room in total darkness.

That's when the room seemed to light up internally and one by one, Willow watched as beautiful paintings filled in the darkness. Women with flowing hair, the swirls of a galaxy forming, and the beauty of the ocean, it was all there on Tara's walls.

"Tara," said Willow, breathless. "Did you do all this?"

"Yeah," Tara confessed bashfully. "I've always liked painting, since I was younger. We've never had much money so I just started painting on my walls. Except, I didn't want my family to see so..."

"You used glow in the dark paint," Willow finished for her, smiling widely at the blonde. "It's wonderful."

Returning the smile, Tara felt her heart grow warm. Then she seemed to realize something and her eyes darted over to one portion of the wall and turning bright red, she ran and covered it with her body.

Noticing this because anyone with eyes couldn't help but, Willow raised an eyebrow and grinned. "Tara," she said in playful tones. "What are you hiding from me?"

"Nothing!" Tara squeaked, giving a nervous laugh.

"Taraaaa," Willow drew her name out in an almost sensual manner as she moved forward. She reached out to lightly touch the blonde's hips. "Let me see."

"No," said Tara, setting her jaw and biting her lip as she tried to hold back the urge to laugh. To say that Tara was massively ticklish would be an understatement. "It's very private and embarrassing and no."

Green eyes met blue ones and Tara swallowed nervously on seeing them bore into her. It was almost like Will was looking into her very soul. Then he formed the smallest mischievous grin before tickling her at full force.

Hunching over as she collapsed laughing, Tara tried to fight off Willow's wandering hands which were lightly resting on her stomach as she calmed down. Lifting her head, Tara's face was inches away from Willow's as she accused with delicate teasing, "Bully."

"Me?" Willow looked innocent. "Never. Now then, lets have a look at what you were hiding," she said this as she moved her head up to gaze at the portion of the wall that Tara had been blocking.

This time Tara allowed her to look, staying still in Willow's bare embrace, and trying to calm her breathing and the erratic beat of her heart. He smelled nice, she noted, like incense and burnt candles. She liked it.

Reluctantly pulling out of Willow's arms, Tara watched the play of emotions cross the redhead's face. That was her most personal painting. A nude of what was, at the time, the love of her life. Finally, Willow turned to face Tara and said quietly, "Cordelia?"

"I used to date her," Tara replied in reserved tones. Blue eyes moved to caress the painting and she sighed. Even now she still found it beautiful. Just like her. "My mother died almost two years ago. Back then, Cordelia and I were just becoming friends. She was there for me through the whole thing and we got close. We... we fell in love."

"What happened?" asked Willow gently.

"After awhile, I couldn't take hiding what I felt for her," murmured Tara sadly. Walking towards the painting, she rested her finger tips on the planes of Cordelia's face. "It was too bad she didn't feel that way." Looking at Willow, she said wryly, "She's closeted and I'm not. As much as I loved her, I got sick of being ignored by her at school and being treated like a second class citizen. So we broke up. It was the best thing for both of us, really, but..."

"You still miss her," Willow supplied quietly.

"Yeah," Tara admitted, giving a sigh. "I think she must miss me too or else she wouldn't..." Tara trailed off and blushed deeply, averting her gaze from Willow's.

"What?" asked Willow in confusion. Her eyes widened as she realized what Tara was saying. "That's why she asked me out. She must think that you... but that's... I mean, you're..." Willow broke out into nervous laughter. "Cordelia really must miss you, to think that."

"Yeah," Tara echoed again, her voice weak.

Looking at Tara closely, Willow swallowed the lump in her throat and neared the other girl. Hesitantly, she moved to clasp Tara's shoulders. When Tara turned around and soulful blue eyes locked on her, Willow gasped at the depth of emotion revealed there.

"Tara," whispered Willow, swallowing again, very aware of Tara's proximity to her and her own role of a boy right now. "You... you like girls, don't you? I'm not--"

"I think..." Tara began in the barest tones. Her hands smoothly reached out, tracing a light path up Willow's neck to rest at the base of her spine. "I like you."

Before Willow could respond, she felt herself being pulled in closer and then soft lips descended on her own. Causing Willow to be lost in a world of gentle touches and passion she never thought she'd experience.

Willow's mouth opened almost of its own will, drawing Tara further into her as the blonde girl backed into her wall, Willow pressed firm against her. Skin burned skin as tongues entwined to taste each other.

Then finally, the need for air overwhelmed them and they pulled apart, breathing heavily. Willow rested her head on Tara's shoulder forming a goofy smile. That had to have been the most amazing thing she'd ever felt.

"Tara, I--" Willow stopped when she lifted her head and saw the expression of horror on Tara's face. "Tara?"

"I... I can't do this," Tara said quickly, moving away from Willow. "You're a... and you have a girlfriend..."

"But Tara," Willow tried again, walking towards the other girl. "It's all right. I can--"

"You should go," interrupted Tara quickly. Turning to look at Willow with a pained face. "I can't... deal with this. I need to think... alone. Could you please leave?"

"But--" Willow attempted once more.

"Will," Tara enforced strongly, though her voice was wracked with unshed tears. "Please?"

Forming a sad expression, Willow nodded and said, "Yeah. All right. But..." Willow sighed heavily then added, "I'll see you at school, okay?"

Tara didn't reply as Willow quietly walked out of her room and then out of her house. Driving away in the car she hardly ever liked to use. Leaving Tara alone with her thoughts.

And her confusion.

---

"She kissed you?"

Sighing heavily, Willow nodded. Once she got home, she paced around, going over the scene a few thousand times in her mind before she gave up and called her two friends to ask their opinions on the matter.

"Cuz, you're such a stud," Anya purred.

Of course, anytime something remotely interesting happened, Anya found out about it and got involved. Which was why she was lounging on Willow's bed, smirking at her cousin who was busy glaring at her.

"Very funny," said Willow dryly. She looked over at Buffy who sat next to her. "At the club, did it seem like Tara, you know, liked me that way?"

"I don't know," Buffy frowned, thinking back. "I mostly spent the night talking with Faith." When Willow arched an eyebrow, Buffy rolled her eyes. "Fighting then."

"Correct me if I'm wrong," Xander commented from where he sat in his usual chair. "But I thought Miss Tara was a part of my extended family. Or am I wrong?"

"That's why Big Willy is a stud," Anya chuckled, looking extremely amused. "My cuz converted a lesbian."

"Not technically. Wind of the Wills does have all the correct equipment, despite their hidden nature," Xander reminded, wearing a thoughtful expression. "Although it is still quite the feat. Drag King seducing an unsuspecting and unknowing lesbian dish."

"You guys!" Willow said, scowling deeply. "I wanted to get your advice and help with this situation, not your... whatever this is!"

"But..." murmured Xander, ignoring Willow's comments. "The girl didn't know about the manly parts I loaned to Willster so..." Xander eyed Willow for a moment then gave a long whistle. "No wonder she freaked, hon. The poor girl think she's got the hots for the man meat."

"Xander!" Willow exclaimed, turning bright red.

"Whatttt?" Xander wore an innocent face as he pressed his hand against his chest. "It's the truth. That's definitely the reason she got so wigged out on you, sweetie. That would be my exact reaction if I suddenly found myself attracted to Buffy and sucking face with her. Oh lordy, it would be worse than that. I'd probably pass out."

"Thanks," said Buffy dryly.

"It's nothing against you, I'm sure," said Xander. He sighed then murmured to himself, "Although with my tiny boy dumping me I might turn to the sheer madness of heterosexual romance." Xander shuddered then shaking his head fiercely, he said, "I think not!"

"I make her want to pass out?" Willow now looked close to suicide before she picked up a nearby pillow, covering her face with it.

Everyone stared at the redhead for a moment, then Anya snatched the pillow away. "No killing yourself," she said in forceful tones, flinging the pillow aside. "It's tacky."

"My life sucks," Willow moaned. "All I wanted was to pretend to be a boy for two weeks, make a new program, win that contest and get my internship. But no... I had to make a new friend and then end up falling for her and--" Willow stopped abruptly when she noticed the strange looks they were all giving her. "What?"

"Falling for her," said Buffy, her expression concerned. "That's what you just said, Will."

"I did?" said Willow, her eyes going wide.

"Well, well," Anya smiled slowly. "Pretending to be a boy has affected you in strange ways, huh, cuz?"

"More like opened her eyes," Xander supplied, watching his longtime friend carefully. When Willow looked at him he gave a soft smile. "Some of those questions starting to get answered for you, Willy?"

"Yeah," said Willow softly. "I... I like Tara."

They were quiet for a long moment as Willow looked around and saw nothing but supportive faces. Then Anya formed a huge smirk and declared, "It's about time you admitted that you're a great big lesbo!"

Seconds later, she was covered with pillows.

---

"You kissed him?"

Sighing heavily, Tara nodded. Once Will left, she sat down on her bed, going over the scene a few thousand times in her mind before she gave up and called her two friends to ask their opinions on the matter.

"Goddamn Tara Bear, why'd you do that?" Faith asked.

Of course, anytime Will was mentioned, Faith tended to get more than a bit defensive. For some reason she had a problem with the red haired boy.

"Because... because I wanted to... oh..." Tara shook her head and looked infinitely frustrated as she flopped down on her bed. Landing next to Oz who was leaning on his arm, his chin in the palm of his hand. She peered up at him and he smiled kindly at her. "Help?"

"Do you like him?" asked Oz.

"I shouldn't but I do," said Tara softly, her expression turning wistful as she thought of Will. "I really do." She felt the bed shift and a light touch on her leg. Meeting the concerned dark gaze of Faith, she whispered in tearfully, "I'm so confused... I've never felt like this before."

"Hey," murmured Faith, pulling Tara up and into her arms, feeling the blonde collapse in the strength of her embrace. "It's gonna work out, don't worry."

"No," Tara cried softly, shaking her head against Faith's neck, breathing in the always comforting scent of the best friend she'd ever known. "He's... he's a boy and it's so weird... liking a boy that way. And to top it off," Tara gave a strangled, bitter, laugh. "He has a girlfriend."

Moving backwards, Faith smoothed some tangled strands of hair from Tara's eyeline and cupped her face tenderly. "I'll ask you once, Tara Bear," she began.

"Faith?" asked Tara with a sniffle, looking confused.

"Do you like Will? Is it like with Fred and Cordelia?" asked Faith, her eyes solemn but accepting.

Moving her gaze down to study her bedspread, Tara finally looked up and taking a deep breath, she said, "It's more. Stronger somehow. It's like... he knows me. He has since the first time we've met, I think."

"All right then," Faith said after a long minute. She formed a slow smile and looking over at Oz, she then drawled, "Howzabout you teach our girl all about the wonderful world of bein' bisexual?"

Giving an easy chuckle, Oz pushed himself up into a sitting position and murmured, "I can do more than that. I can even show her if she wants."

"Oz?" Tara and Faith said together in puzzlement.

"We broke up," Oz replied simply. Before his friends could start comforting him, he held up his hand to stop them. "It's all right," he assured. "I guess I reached the same point you did, Tara. I got sick of hiding."

"Huh," Faith's smirk came back as she eyed her friend. "I'm thinking Tara Bear won't have to worry about that anymore, Dorothy. Not with her latest interest."

"Faith!" Tara exclaimed, pushing her friend lightly on the arm. Her face soon turned sad as she murmured, "Will has a girlfriend. As much as I like him, I shouldn't..."

"Trust me, that relationship ain't lasting much longer," Faith remarked in droll tones. "Not with the way he only has eyes for you and leaves his girl alone with me."

At this comment, both Oz and Tara stared at Faith who almost seemed to blush on seeing this attention. "What?" Faith said defensively. "I'm just sayin'..."

"Faith has a crush again," Oz said in sing song tones.

"And she's a blonde," Tara sang along, smiling impishly.

"Shut it, smart asses," said Faith as she scowled deeply.

This only caused Oz and Tara to sing louder and more obnoxiously about Faith and her latest blonde obsession.

---

The next day at school went by slowly. It seemed like to both Willow and Tara that they would never get a chance to talk to one another.

Finally, lunch arrived and Will walked in, looking beautiful in sleek blue pants and a dark green shirt that matched his eyes. Tara rose to her feet and looking at Faith and Oz, she smiled warily. "Wish me luck," she said before she strode across the room to talk to Will.

"She's gonna need it," Faith murmured.

"Faith?" asked Oz quietly.

Turning to look at her friend, Faith frowned at his worried expression. "What's up?" she questioned.

"Did I do the right thing?" Oz wondered, watching Tara walk out of the cafeteria with Will. "Going along with her on this? I know Tara said this what she wants to do, that she thinks it's the right thing but..."

"No worries," Faith advised, forming a slow smile. "If I get my way, everything's gonna work out for all of us. With everyone getting just what they want."

"Don't you mean who?" Oz smiled.

"Funny, Dorothy," Faith chuckled dryly. "Very funny."

Meanwhile, Tara had taken Will to someplace she knew that no one ever went in their school.

The library.

Eyeing their desolate and dusty surroundings, Willow rubbed her nose and held back the urge to sneeze. "They don't endorse the three r's do they?" she asked.

"Huh?" Tara blinked.

"Reading, writing, arithmetic," Willow supplied in wry tones. "If you want to get technical just one of those is an actual 'r' word, so therein lies the real problem."

Shaking her head at the oddity of the statement, Tara had to hold back an overwhelming sense of affection for Will just being Will and saying something like that. "We have to talk," she said softly, her voice not brooking argument.

"Yeah, I'll go with that," said Willow nervously. She averted her eyes before she said, "About yesterday--"

"I'm so sor--" Tara began at the same time.

Immediately, they both halted their statements and turned bright red. Then Tara took a deep breath as her head was ducked, staring at the library floor.

"Will," she pronounced, still looking at the floor. "I shouldn't have kissed you yesterday. It was wrong of me. You have a girlfriend, I know that but... I was just so confused. I think I have been for awhile."

"What?" asked Willow rather dimly.

"You see," Tara continued, looking out the library window. She just couldn't look at Will as she said this, not when she knew very well it was a lie. But this was the only way. Tara didn't want to be that girl, the one who didn't know her own mind, who was confused about who she was. Or even worse, be the girl who stole other girls boyfriends. God, if she didn't do this that's exactly who she'd be. One of those women on talk shows. This thought made Tara grimace. "I've been feeling attracted to you and... well, you're a boy. This sort of confused me because, hello, lesbian!" Tara laughed a sort of desperate, anxious, laugh as she glanced back at Will. "Only now, I realized it just isn't you."

"What?" Willow echoed again, her voice raw.

"I'm going to prom," Tara informed, turning back to look out the window and squeezing her eyes shut. "With Oz."

Now in full blown shock, Willow could literally feel her heart breaking into little pieces. "Tara," she began, taking a tiny step towards the other girl. "Please, let me--"

"I can't!" Tara shouted abruptly. She turned quickly and Willow froze on seeing tears in deep blue eyes. "I'm not going to be that girl, Will! I won't be on Jerry Springer!"

"Jerry Springer?" Willow asked with puzzlement.

Tara was running out of the library before Willow could question her further and she was left alone. Lost in a state of hazy confusion, Willow found herself leaning against the wall of the library, sliding down to the ground and slumping there. How had this happened?

"You're hurtin' a lot of people, y'know."

Willow didn't even have to look up to know who it was. Sighing on hearing that husky voice, she said, "Faith."

"Bingo, you're a winner," Faith said, her voice sharp. Smoothly crossing the room, she stopped in front of Will and knelt down, resting on the tops of her feet, she peered into green eyes. "Tara Bear likes you. I got no idea why she likes you, but she does. And it's no good for her." Will was about to protest this when Faith grinned and said, "I don't want any excuses from you, pretty boy. You know I'm telling you the truth. I ain't blind, I know you like her too, but still, you're not good for her right now. The way I see it, you won't be any good till you get your own head worked out. Figure out what you want and what you're willin' to do to get it and then to keep it."

Rising to her feet, Faith stared at Will hard in the eyes. "Until then, I think you oughta keep your distance from Tara. Because seeing you is just gonna hurt her." Faith studied Will for a long moment, then added softly, as if in afterthought, "And you too." Faith then turned on her heel and headed out of the library. Only to pause at the door to turn back and grin wickedly at Will. "Oh yeah," she said in a slow drawl. "If worrying about who'll take care of your girl is holdin' you back from Tara Bear, don't sweat that. A line is already forming with me."

With that, Faith walked out of the library. Leaving behind a bigger mess than she could ever imagine.

---

"There's a line? A line is forming? That's what she said, really and truly?" Buffy demanded, appearing to be on a strange sugar induced pixie sticks high.

"Yeah, but--" Willow said with a frown.

Once again, she'd invited her two closest friends over to talk about the state of her life. They were in their usual chatting place, Willow's room. Willow sitting on her bed with a hyperactive Buffy and Anya who was watching Buffy's antics with a lidded gaze of amusement. Xander was occupied with wondering if Buffy had went over to the dark side of the cheerleading force on them.

"I can't believe it!" Buffy cried, hugging a pillow to her chest. "Xander!" she exclaimed, looking at him. He raised an eyebrow at this attention. "She wears leather," Buffy informed with a smug expression. "A girl who wears leather is forming a line for me."

"Congrats," Xander said in jolly tones, giving a smirk.

"Thanks," said Buffy with a happy sigh, flopping back on the bed and smiling widely. "Life is good."

"If I had known leather caused this reaction in her, I would've slaughtered some cows," Anya remarked.

A loud cough then filled the air. Causing everyone to look at Willow who was scowling deeply. "Here to talk about me and my woes," she reminded in grating tones.

"Someone's grumpy," observed Anya. When Willow's scowl deepened, she shook her head and said, "What do you want us to say, cuz? Your life is messed because of this drag deal of yours and you haven't even got a new program yet, have you? You like Tara, find out you're a lesbian or whatever because of it, but Tara thinks you're a boy because of the drag thing, and now she's all confused about her lesbian street cred. Then you've got the whole Buffy is your fake girlfriend issue that's unresolved and keeping you from Tara. Plus the problem of when/if Tara finds out about your womanly self how happy will she be about being tricked? You want us to come up with some way to fix this? Sorry, not happening."

"Anya," they all breathed her name, looking stunned. It was probably the first time they had ever heard the girl say something remotely significant and not sex related.

"What?" Anya said, studying them all like they were mutant creatures. "I have a brain too, you know. And you," she stared seriously at Willow. "Are in deep shit."

"I know," Willow moaned, covering her face with a pillow. Lifting the edge away from her mouth, she asked, "How can I fix it though?"

Exchanging a look, Xander, Buffy, and Anya wore firm expression and answered together, "Tell her the truth."

For a reply, Willow's moan turned altogether pathetic. And somehow, no one in the room could really blame her.

In the meantime, someone who had done a great deal of snooping and scooping finally located the address of the most mysterious boy at her school. The one that was too close to Tara for her own liking.

Ringing the doorbell, Cordelia smoothed her hair and practiced her winning smile that she used on all the boys. The fake one that somehow still managed to trick them all into believing she wanted them badly. Sometimes she thought she should go into acting, it worked so well.

Her boyfriend certainly fell for it.

Cordelia heard the sound of graceful footsteps and expecting Will, she formed that winning smile, only to blink when she rested eyes on a gorgeous blonde girl wearing tight capri pants and a spaghetti string tank top that revealed very abundant cleavage.

"Hello there," the blonde girl purred, draping herself on the doorframe. "What have I done lately that makes me such a good girl the heavens sent me an angel?"

"Hi," Cordelia sputtered, unprepared to deal with someone this, well, forward and sexy.

"I'm Anya," the girl smiled. Her hand ran down the doorframe then reached out towards her. Cordelia stayed frozen as she felt the soft pad of Anya's thumb trace her chin. "And you?"

"Cordelia," she replied.

Maybe it had been too long since she was last with a woman. She never had this reaction with the girls she dated before. Then again, they never acted like this.

"So," Anya moved her thumb up, lightly rubbing Cordelia's full bottom lip before she smiled slowly. "Why are you here, Cordelia?"

Snapping out of her daze, Cordelia backed up, just a bit, to leave some distance between her and Anya but not enough so Anya would stop touching her. In fact, Anya's hand fell, tracing Cordelia's face to rest on her lithe neck, a gesture that caused the tall girl to shiver.

"I came to see Will," said Cordelia, shifting nervously. She wondered if she really wanted to go through with her plan now. Especially with someone like Anya around to distract her from it. After all, wasn't it really time she got over Tara and moved on? Cordelia licked her lips in an unconscious movement. Moved onto someone... more seductive? "I go to school with him."

"Ah," Anya said wisely, her eyes glinting with mischievous humor. "You're friends with the studmuffin." Turning around, she called out, "Will! Hunky hunky man meat! You have a girl here to see you!"

There was an instant clamor of noise and rushing around then Buffy peered out of Willow's room to look down at Cordelia who was now in the foyer, Anya having finally shut the front door. Frowning at the taller girl, Buffy then stuck her head back into the room and the noises calmed down to some dull thuds and faint talking.

Buffy and Xander soon emerged from Willow's room. Seconds after they did, Xander shrieked in girlish horror.

"Cordelia!" Xander exclaimed, rushing downstairs. "What are you doing here?"

"Xander?" Cordelia frowned. "You're friends with Will?"

"Yeah, old friends, we're buds, solid," Xander laughed nervously, seeming to deepen his voice which made both Anya and Buffy stare at him strangely. "Me and Will, we go back. Play football together and stuff."

This made Anya burst out laughing and glaring fiercely at her, Xander stomped on her foot. Making the blonde hop around as she grabbed her foot and cursed loudly.

Looking worried, Cordelia watched as Anya hopped over to the stairs to sit down, still holding her foot. Then Will appeared at the top of the stairs.

"Cordelia?" asked Willow in confusion. "What are--"

"She's with me! She's my girlfriend!" said Xander quickly, his eyes darting around and giving his friends a warning look as he took Cordelia's hand in his own. "Aren't you, honey?"

Blinking now and feeling completely lost about the situation, Cordelia tried to figure out what was going on. What on Earth was her beard doing at Will's house? And why did Xander hurt the hot blonde girl? And who was the other blonde anyway?

Cordelia didn't know the answers to any of these things and she wasn't about to get them either. Because she was being pulled out the door by Xander before she knew what was happening. The only thing Cordelia could clearly recall was Anya smiling sensually at her.

And that made it all worthwhile.

---

If there was something Dawn wasn't used to it was seeing her sister this happy. She had to be on one of those club drugs that they always warned them about at school lately. One of the ones that were pastel colored.

Buffy liked pastels, after all.

Then again, something was different. But Dawn couldn't put her finger on it. Something had changed lately. Made their lives infinitely less annoying. What was it?

"Dawnie, my precious little sister?" Buffy sing songed, causing Dawn to blink at her. That solidified it. She had to be on pastel colored club drugs. There was no other answer for the situation. "If Riley calls, I'm not home. In fact, I'm never home for Riley. I'm in Turkey."

"Turkey?" Dawn echoed, eyeing Buffy as she rooted through their refrigerator. She never could understand how her older sister looked so anorexic when she really wasn't and in fact, ate like a pig. "Why?"

"We broke up," supplied Buffy, peering at her sister. She frowned then revised, "Okay, I broke up with him. Only I haven't exactly told him yet. But I think if I don't call him for a couple of weeks he'll get the hint."

Buffy broke up with Riley. All right, maybe she was wrong. Her sister was happy because of pastel colored club drugs and because she was rid of boy boring. She couldn't fault her for that, certainly.

"Why'd you break up?" asked Dawn, giving into her sense of morbid curiosity. This might be good for her journal.

"He was involved with Anya in a most compromising way," Buffy answered. "Plus I met someone better." She closed the refrigerator, revealing that her arms were full of various sandwich supplies. "Someone who's not only sexy but is smart and has a personality."

"Way to go big sis," Dawn grinned. "What's his name?"

"Faith," said Buffy in dreamy tones as she walked over to the pantry and pulled out the bread. "It's a pretty name, don't you think?"

"Faith?" echoed Dawn, her eyes going wide.

"I never considered myself really one thing or the other," Buffy revealed, continuing to make the sandwich. "But I like her and she's so..." Buffy shivered then looked at Dawn before smiling. "If she comes over, I want you to be nice to her, Dawnie. I've sort of already been bitchy enough to last for three lifetimes."

"Okay," Dawn agreed dimly, feeling very shocked.

She watched as her big sister went back to fixing her food and realized that she hadn't seen Buffy this happy in some time. That meant this Faith girl couldn't be all that bad.

Even if she happened to make Buffy act like she was on pastel colored club drugs.

---

Why was she doing this?

She didn't want to do this. Really, she didn't. Ever since that day in the library, Willow hadn't seen hide nor hair of Tara. This caused her to bury herself in her work, making a whole new program partially inspired by her friend.

But still, why was she doing this? Dressed up in a tuxedo and going to the prom? Dragging Buffy along with her.

"Will," said Buffy rather nervously. She bit her lip and smoothed out invisible wrinkles on her sleek black gown that molded perfectly to her body. "Uhm, you know that Faith is playing prom, right? I haven't been able to see her since, well, you know, and..."

"You want to talk to her," Willow supplied with a sigh. She eyed her best friend who looked altogether anxious. "It's cool, Buffy," she smiled softly.

"Great!" exclaimed Buffy happily. She frowned and studying the redhead, who looked altogether sharp in the black tuxedo she wore then asked, "Are you going to talk to Tara tonight?"

"I don't know," Willow sighed again. "Tara told me one thing and Faith told me another and what my heart tells me," she laughed caustically. "That's a whole different story."

"Show her the program," Anya advised, walking in the door, clad in a silk robe. "That'll fix it."

Shaking her head, Willow smiled fondly at her cousin. "It's more complicated than that," she said. She looked at the clock on the wall and murmured, "We should get going. It's starting soon." Looking over at Anya and her attire, she said, "Inviting people over?"

"I'm recuperating," Anya replied, actually sounding tired.

"Then get rest," Willow ordered affectionately, walking out the door with Buffy at her side.

Watching her go, Anya smiled then said quietly, "Good luck, cuz. I hope it works out for you." Stretching in a cat like movement, Anya yawned. "I can't believe I'm going to bed without sex," she said to herself. "I feel so nunly."

---

Tara wasn't sure who decided to name their prom 'seaside madness' but whoever did do it, she'd like to smack them.

Then again, Tara had been rather irritable the past few days. Faith and Oz thought it was a side effect from the lack of time the blonde was spending with Will.

Looking at her friends who were setting up their equipment, well, everyone but Lindsey who refused to play with them at prom. Saying that he was far too mature for this kind of gig. Ever since the boy started dating that law student, Lilah, he'd developed a big head.

Everyone else was here though. Faith, Oz, and... Tara frowned as she peered around the drum set. Where was--

"Hey Tara."

Jumping in the air, Tara whirled around to face the subdued and lanky form of Not Driving Stick's drummer, Marcie, who raised a dark eyebrow at her. "Don't do that," Tara said, taking a deep breath.

"Do what?" asked Marcie, giving a quirky grin.

"Show up out of nowhere," Tara elaborated with the tiniest of scowls that showed she really wasn't upset at all. "It's almost like you turn invisible at times, Marce."

"It's a skill," Marcie waggled her eyebrows and her grin widened. Leaning forward on her drum set, she said, "I'm planning on working for the CIA when I graduate."

"Ha," Tara rolled her eyes.

She was about to say something more when Faith called to her and turning around, Tara froze as she saw Will and Buffy walk onto the wooden dance floor the school had set up on the beach. Of course she knew he'd show up. But it was an altogether different thing to see him. And with his girlfriend at that.

"Tara Bear?" asked Faith, her voice gentle.

"I'm okay," said Tara shakily, closing her eyes and willing herself to be calm. She couldn't cry, she wouldn't cry, it wasn't her right. He wasn't hers, he never was. Feeling the quiet and comforting presence of Oz at her side, she turned to him and smiled. "I have my own date."

"The best date here," Oz said with soft confidence.

"So butch," Tara chuckled, her eyes tearing up as she wiped them away. "All right!" she said before taking a deep breath. "I'm going to be a good date and hang out next to the stage, acting groupie like while you guys start up your first number." Winking at Oz, she gave her best imitation of a happy smile. "How does that sound?"

"Groovy," said Oz in droll tones.

Laughing at this, Tara walked off stage, giving her friends one last wan smile before she disappeared into the crowd. In this time, Faith turned to Oz and sighed.

"Why do I got the feelin' this is gonna be a long night for us, Dorothy?" asked Faith rhetorically.

"At least you have eye candy," Oz replied, nudging Faith before he went to his side of the stage.

Blinking at this, Faith turned to look out into the crowd and grinned on seeing Buffy watching her with what was, for once, an expression that wasn't antagonistic. In fact, it was almost fond. Especially how the blonde gave the smallest wave of her hand as she smiled.

"Well now," Faith murmured to herself. "This just might be my lucky night after all."

That opinion was entirely debatable.

---

Everyone began dancing as the rhythmic and wild beats of the band filled the air. Including Willow as she tried her best not to focus on Tara. The blonde girl was standing in front of the stage, smiling up at her friends as they played, looking totally content.

Willow, on the other hand, was utterly miserable.

An unfortunate situation for her date, Buffy, who was on cloud nine as she let her body go, dancing to the beats and smiling up at Faith who seemed to be singing just for her. Particularly when she would form that sexy smile or her voice would lower into husky, seductive, tones.

It took until the third dance for Buffy to snap out of her Faith induced haze of happiness to realize Willow was trapped in the land of misery.

"Will," said Buffy, forming a face of concern as she clasped her friend's arm, feeling like a total asshole for not noticing earlier. Hormones really were a bitch, Buffy noted. She'd just have to try and not look at Faith if she wanted to be there for Willow tonight. She cringed inwardly at the thought. Not look at Faith? She was just now letting herself look. How unfair. Shaking her head quickly, Buffy reminded: this is for Willow! Willow who looked like she was in a mental coma. "Hey," Buffy said, shaking Willow's arm. "Snap out of it."

"Can we leave now?" Willow said, looking and sounding completely pathetic as she gazed at Buffy with sad eyes.

"Oh Will," murmured Buffy. She reached up to cup her friend's face and said, "Don't do this to yourself. Go talk to her. Tell her the truth, you know you want to."

Willow frowned and formed a thoughtful expression. When she looked up and met Buffy's eyes, she appeared to have made a decision. She was about to reply when Faith's voice cut through the air from the stage.

"This next song is a cover with a special dedication. I think they'll know who they are when they hear it."

The air seemed electrified as Faith took the microphone and began the first lyric, "Your love is like a tidal wave, spinning over my head. Drownin' me in your promises, better left unsaid." Willow shivered, watching Faith's dark eyes rest on Buffy. "You're the right kind of sinner, to release my inner fantasy. The invincible winner, and you know that you were born to be..."

A sense of foreboding ran through Willow when those eyes locked on her and Faith held a menacing stance while she sang out, "You're a heartbreaker. Dream maker, love taker." Her eyes staring straight ahead, Faith shot her arm out, stating her declaration. "Don't you mess around with me! You're a heartbreaker. Dream maker, love taker. Don't you mess around--"

"No, no, no!" the rest of the band sang along.

"Your love has set my soul on fire, burnin' out of control," Faith continued to sing. Stalking the stage, her eyes on those the lyrics were meant for. "You taught me the ways of desire, now its takin' its toll. You're the right kind of sinner, to release my inner fantasy. The invincible winner, and you know that you were born to be..." Faith paused to give a wild grin. "You're a heartbreaker. Dream maker, love taker. Don't you mess around with me! You're a heartbreaker. Dream maker, love taker. Don't you mess around--"

"No, no, no!" the band chimed in again.

The song went on until it ended with a final slam of the drums and Faith's husky voice fading into the shouts of the crowd. Closing her green eyes, Willow tried to dull the pain her chest. That had to have been meant for her.

She opened them just in time to see Tara making her way from the stage towards the refreshments. Seeing a chance, maybe her only one, Willow looked to Buffy who seemed lost in a world of Faith worship.

"Buffy?" Willow waved her hand in front of the blissful cheerleader's face.

"Huh?" Buffy blinked, looking dimly at Willow.

"I'm going to talk to Tara," said Willow. She looked back at the stage and saw the band was taking a break. "Maybe you want to do the same with Faith?"

In an instant Buffy was gone. Chuckling at this, Willow shook her head and headed towards Tara. The blonde was talking with the people running the booth Kate and--

"Jenny?"

The words were out before Willow knew it. She couldn't help it, really. Who could expect that her other computer teacher would be at the dance? Then again, after what she saw at Caritas, Willow wasn't too surprised.

"Will," said Kate warmly. "How's the program going?" The blonde teacher had been a big help to Willow as she worked nonstop in the lab. "Did you work out those nasty bugs?"

"Yeah," Willow said nervously, coughing and purposefully lowering her voice as she darted her eyes to Tara who seemed comfortable to stand there and let the teacher talk. "They're all gone."

Jenny didn't say anything, she merely studied Willow closely, her dark eyes observant. Finally, she formed a slow smile and murmured, "I'm sure you've worked it all out. You're very resourceful, aren't you, Will?"

Green eyes widened and Willow realized right then and there Jenny knew exactly who she was. And for whatever reason, her old teacher wasn't going to turn her in.

"I just love resourceful women," Jenny purred, latching onto Kate's arm while the blonde woman arched one fine blonde eyebrow at this. "They're so much fun."

"Yeah," Willow agreed with a nervous laugh. Looking over at Tara who was gazing off into the distance, Willow reached out to touch her back lightly. When the blonde turned towards her she smiled hesitantly. "Can we talk?"

Gazing into green eyes, Tara once again found herself replying before she knew it was really safe. "All right."

For a response, Willow gave a breathtaking smile.

---

At that exact moment, Anya was wearing a much different expression as she glared at the object of her perpetual annoyance. She really had planned on sleeping tonight, she hadn't been lying. For once Anya wanted to be boring and get some rest.

Only now the most boring person on the planet wasn't going to let her. This truly had to be one of life's greatest ironies. At least to her.

"I've already cursed you with an erectile dysfunction!" Anya declared, her eyes boring through Riley's skull. She was sure if she stared at him long enough, it'd explode. "What more do you want me to do? Hex you with herpes?!" She narrowed her eyes then wiggled her fingers and declared, "Then hex, hex, hex! A pox on your genitalia!"

"Where's Buffy?" asked Riley with a severe frown. "I need to talk to her. She hasn't called me in days." His frown deepened and he leaned closer. "This time I won't let you trick me into getting into bed."

"Like I want you around when there aren't any lovely ladies for you to service," Anya rolled her eyes. "Don't you think that Buffy not calling you for days on end is a sign of... oh, I'd go with... callous dumping of a relationship?"

"Buffy wouldn't do that!" Riley cried out. "She's gentle, kind, sweet, and tender! She's--"

"Nothing at all like that, crack addict," Anya interrupted in droll tones. "Have you been busy watching Leave It To Beaver and hitting the beer bong again?"

"Ye--NO!" Riley shouted, shaking his head. His frown growing wider and deeper, he looked almost dangerous as he declared, "Just take me to where Buffy is!"

"Fine, fine," said Anya dismissively, heading to the door. Stopping only when he yelled her name. "What now?"

"Put on some clothes," said Riley. He made a face as he waved at the silk, almost sheer, robe that clung to Anya's athletic frame.

"Barbarians these days are so demanding," Anya muttered to herself, heading upstairs with a grumble.

---

Faith had taken Buffy to the closest place to the stage that was private. Which was, surprise, surprise, behind it.

Leaning against the wooden frame, Buffy peered up at the sky, trying to control the butterflies in her stomach. Then a soft touch graced her cheek and she looked up and saw Faith smiling, her finger wound around a lock blonde hair.

"So," Faith tilted her head to one side and slowly let the hair unwind from her finger. "You said you know what you need. Are you gonna tell me?"

Her heart beating out of control, Buffy's eyes ran over Faith's curvaceous form, clad in the constant pair of black leather pants and this time a red half shirt. Dark eyes met hers with an easy, almost comforting gaze, as if to say that it was all right. Go ahead and spit it out.

"I think," Buffy began in breathless tones. "That you already know what my answer is going to be. Which, in that case, why should we bother saying anything at all?"

Chuckling softly, Faith grinned and her hand moved up, resting lightly on the nape of Buffy's neck as she pulled the blonde close to her. "I knew there was a reason that I liked you the moment I met you, sugar," she murmured.

"Oh?" asked Buffy curiously. "What's that?"

"We're the same," Faith said before she ducked her head to meet Buffy's lips with her own.

It was everything that Buffy wanted and more. The emotions, the passion, and the wonderful softness of Faith's lips pressed up against hers.

And oh, the taste of her! Buffy never had anything more delicious and the thing that made this truly special was the overwhelming fact that Faith actually had a brain.

It was safe to say Buffy was having the time of her life.

---

Hearing the vague sounds of a make out session from behind the stage, Oz smirked at Marcie who merely made a barfing noise and poked her index finger in her mouth.

"Don't like young love in bloom, Marce?" Oz asked.

"Oh, I like it fine, just not where I can hear it," answered Marcie, giving a snicker.

She was about to say more when her face shifted to a worried expression. Noticing this, he looked into the portion of the crowd she was focused on. Which is when Oz saw him. The person he least expected, the one he'd just dumped for keeping him a dirty little secret, and he was with someone who did the same thing to Tara.

"Xander," pronounced Oz in what was almost a growl.

Hearing her friend say this, Marcie studied the boy she'd only met a handful of times and watched as he shivered as Oz said this. Oh yeah, Marcie thought to herself, he knows he's in trouble.

Big trouble at that.

---

"I've missed you," Willow said softly.

It was the truth, she had missed Tara so much that it physically hurt at times. And looking at the blonde now, so beautiful in the light blue gown that clung to her frame, accentuating all of her curves and revealing the barest hint of cleavage, her hair pulled back, sprouting up in a wild fashion that made her utterly sexy, Willow had to remind herself to breath.

"Will..." Tara trailed off, squeezing her eyes shut. She wanted so much to hear that but it hurt so much. Why did he have to say things like that when he was with Buffy? And why did he have to look so cute in that tuxedo? Leaning against the wooden fence surrounding the dance floor, Tara looked out at the ocean. "I missed you too." A moment of silence occurred and Tara recalled what Kate had said. "You finished your program?"

"Yeah," said Willow giving a small, happy, smile. "You actually helped a lot with it. I didn't know what I wanted to make but then I thought of you and your paintings."

"How did that help?" asked Tara with confusion.

"Well," Willow began, her smile widening. "I designed--"

The rest of her sentence was cut off by the sounds of a scuffle and the shouts of people Willow recognized. She just couldn't figure out what they would be doing at Pylea High's prom of all places. Especially since Anya was supposed to be asleep right about now.

Frowning at she heard the sounds as well, Tara's eyes widened on hearing a loud shout. "Faith!" she cried out, running into the crowd.

"Great," said Willow sourly, having a moment of pure selfishness. She was just getting somewhere with Tara and then Anya and Riley... wait. Riley? Willow's eyes widened too and she exclaimed, "Buffy!"

Then it was Willow's turn to disappear into the crowd.

By the time Willow caught up with Tara, the fight appeared to be mostly over. She figured that was thanks to Kate who was standing in between Faith and Riley who looked hell bent on beating each other up.

"That's enough!" Kate declared, glaring at first Faith then Riley. "This is prom, not a boxing match." Looking over at Riley, she then said, "You're a little too old to be here picking on my students, don't you think?"

"Not picking on me, I was stomping him good," Faith grumbled, calming slightly when Buffy clasped her arm and leaned against her.

But this action just caused Riley to get, well, riled up again and attempt to approach Faith for another fist fight. Unfortunately, Kate was in front of him. Stepping close, she grabbed the collar of his shirt, yanking him down so she could glare fiercely at him. "Don't make me say it again," she growled. "No one messes with the students of Pylea while Kate Lockley is around."

This statement caused a huge outpouring of shouts declaring Kate to be the coolest teacher of all time and for her to kick Riley's ass all over the beach.

Smirking at this, Kate peered at Riley. "Well?" she said. "Don't you think you should be leaving?"

"She was making out with my girlfriend!" Riley protested, shifting in Kate's hold. "I had to do something!"

"Oh?" Kate arched an eyebrow and turned to face Faith who wore her best innocent expression. Which was, to be perfectly honest, nowhere near believable. "Is that true, Faith?"

"No way," Faith shook her head. "The only person I've been making out with is sugar here," she pointed at Buffy. "And she's going out with Will." She jerked her head over at Will who paled on seeing everyone's looks.

"Hey..." Willow said reluctantly, waving her hand.

"He's not dating Buffy!" Riley wailed discontentedly. He really didn't like being almost beaten up by several girls in one night. If his frat brothers found out he'd probably have to go through hell week again. "I am!!" He glared at Willow for a long moment, causing her to pale even more, then went on to say, "I don't know who that guy is! Buffy could never cheat on me! I watch her too closely!"

The world seemed to freeze as Riley said this and Willow turned just in time to see Tara lose all the color in her face before she faced her, wearing a look of total betrayal.

Then she ran through the crowd onto a deserted portion of the beach. Watching her go, Willow felt her heart seize in her chest and she immediately took after the other girl.

Leaving everyone else quite shocked about the situation.

Heaving a sigh, Kate looked back at Riley. "You ready to leave yet?" she asked in extremely dry tones. "I think you made enough trouble to last a lifetime."

"But Buffy--" Riley began petulantly.

"Oh, that's it!" Buffy shouted irritably as she walked up to Riley, causing Kate to release her hold on him. Glaring up into his eyes, she said, "We broke up! I didn't call you for how many days now?! Broke up! Big b, little u, broke up! And if you don't leave now I'll tell all your frat brothers about those kinky dreams you have involving them!"

Riley turned as white as a sheet and after giving several profuse and quick apologies, he ran away. The last thing he needed was his frat brothers finding out about those dreams.

Smiling triumphantly, Buffy leaned back into the comforting arms surrounding her and looked at Faith. Then she heard an all too familiar voice saying, "Frat boys sometimes do have those glaring tendencies, you know. Sort of like cheerleaders."

"Anya," said Buffy, looking mildly irritated. Willow's cousin was clad in a sheer dress that showed off the slinky red slip she wore underneath. "I suppose you were the one who brought him here. Thanks a lot."

"He was being barbarian like and threatening," Anya defended herself, looking hurt as she pressed her hand to her chest. "If I hadn't brought him here he might have assaulted me with his club." She formed a sensual smile at this and murmured, "That might've been fun though."

"Sick," Buffy accused, rolling her eyes. "You are the sickest person I've ever met."

"Thanks, beautiful," Anya said, her eyes searching the crowd for nummy treats. When she saw a very familiar lithe form, she smiled widely. "I'll see you later. I'm suddenly feeling very hungry..."

"That girl," Buffy sighed.

Faith frowned as she studied Anya closely. She looked back at Buffy and said, "How do you know her, sugar?"

"She's Will's cousin, why?" Buffy's eyes narrowed. "Have you met Anya or something?"

"Somehow," Faith gave a low chuckle as she smiled slowly at Buffy. "I think everyone in the community has met her one time or another."

And how could anyone argue with that apt statement?

---

Willow found Tara near the section of the beach where large boulders were located. It was only a few feet from the dance floor and Willow hoped Tara going here meant that she wanted to talk with her. The place was used by many visitors for a place to sit and watch the sunset on the shore. Tara was leaned up against one of them, her back facing Willow.

"Why?" Tara's voice was hoarse and breaking. "If you weren't really dating Buffy why did you...? Is it because you don't really like me? That you wanted to be nice and spare the poor confused lesbian's feelings when you realized that I liked you?" Moving her head, Tara's watery blue eyes hit Willow like a force of a thousand suns. "Why did you do it?"

"It wasn't like that at all!" Willow protested, taking a slow step forward. "I swear, Tara! I like you so much. It scares me sometimes, how much I like you."

"Then why?" asked Tara, wiping her tears away, and fixing an almost cold gaze on Willow. "I need to know why you lied to me, Will. There had to be a reason."

Shifting from foot to foot and feeling very aware of her fake equipment she was wearing, Willow closed her eyes and took a shaky breath. It was now or never. If she didn't tell Tara the whole truth, she never would.

Ducking her head down, Willow tried to calm her nerves as she shrugged off her jacket, letting it fall on the beach, her fingers then fumbling with the bow tie, taking it off, then undoing the buttons of her shirt. All the while, Tara watching her with widening eyes. When the shirt was unbuttoned, Willow let it fall open, revealing the bindings over her chest which caused Tara to frown. This was it, Willow realized, the moment where she sank or swam.

Her entire body trembling beyond her control, Willow undid the bindings one by one until they fell softly to the ground and revealed a pair of breasts.

Tara's only reaction was to glance from the breasts to Willow's face to the breasts again. "Will..." she began in puzzlement. "But you..."

"I'm a girl," Willow interrupted softly. "My name is Willow Rosenberg and I came to your school so I could enter the computer program contest as another person. I never meant to trick you... Buffy told people she was my girlfriend to keep people from hitting on me. I never knew I would meet someone like you. That I would--"

"You lied," Tara said harshly, her face forming a cold mask. "You not only lied about Buffy but you lied... you lied about everything! You're not even who I thought you were! Are you gay?" Tara shook her head and gave a bitter laugh. "No, don't tell me! I bet you're just a straight girl getting weird kicks off of getting me to fall for you! I can't believe I actually thought I was in love with you!"

"You're in love with...?" Willow began in hopeful tones which were immediately dashed when Tara glared at her.

"WAS," enforced Tara strongly. "I don't know you and I'm starting to think I never did. You..." Closing her eyes, Tara seemed drained of her anger and she shook her head. "Just leave me alone, Will... Willow... whoever you are."

Willow remained completely frozen as Tara walked away, heading back towards the dance and, presumably, her friends. Then she came out of her shock and ran after the other girl, catching up with her on the crowded floor.

Unaware or uncaring of the fact that her shirt was open and revealing her breasts for most anyone to see, Willow grabbed Tara's arm. "Tara!" she called out, turning the blonde around to face her. When she looked down at her with dull blue eyes that were devoid of emotion, Willow felt her heart break in two. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "The last thing I wanted to do was hurt you. I love you."

Cupping Tara's face gently in her hands, Willow moved forward to meet their lips in what she hoped would be a healing kiss, one that would express how sorry she was, one that would bring them back together.

Willow's lips were tender and soft as they caressed Tara's, pulling away slowly, trying to make the moment last. The entire prom was silent as they watched Tara, her eyes still closed and her face shuttered against emotion.

Then Tara's blue eyes opened to focus on Willow.

"It doesn't matter," said Tara quietly. "I don't know you."

Then she turned and walked away, leaving Willow alone, feeling utterly defeated and emotionally shattered.

She was still standing in shock when she felt a tender arm around her shoulders and she looked up at Xander. He was clad in a tuxedo like her, except his was covering more of his body than hers did at the moment. Noting this, his hands reached down to button her shirt and she watched him work with listless eyes.

"I lost her, Xander," said Willow, her voice rough.

"Maybe not, sweetie," Xander murmured, looking up into her eyes. "Give her time."

"She hates me," Willow said in dead tones.

"No, no," Xander crooned, pulling Willow into his arms and rocking her back and forth. "She doesn't hate you. I'm the expert at seeing hate and that girl doesn't hate you. She's just hurt, that's all. If she hated you, she would've looked at you like Buffy looks at polyester."

Laughing tearfully at this, Willow looked up at Xander who smiled softly down at her. "Xander," she whispered.

"Yes, honey bottom?" asked Xander quietly.

"Why are you here?" asked Willow, frowning a bit. "Not that I'm not glad to see you but you don't go to Pylea."

"Ah, but my beard does," Xander replied with a small grin. He darted his eyes around dance floor and not seeing Cordelia anywhere, he frowned. "Although I will admit, I have no idea where that girl disappeared off to. Not that I'm overly worried about that right now. Come on," he said, looking down at Willow. "Lets get you home."

"Yeah," Willow sighed, rubbing her eyes. "That would be a good idea. Buffy will be okay. She's with Faith."

"I love that sooo much," Xander chuckled. "Bufficus has gone 'But I'm A Cheerleader' on us. It's yummy gossip!"

They had just stepped off the dance floor and were about to leave when they paused on seeing someone step in their way. Both their eyes widened as they looked at them.

"Oz," Willow and Xander said together.

"Hiding the truth is never a good thing," Oz murmured, his eyes seeming to never lock on just Willow or Xander, but rather on them both. "Don't you agree?"

"She's had a rough night," said Xander, his voice turning almost hostile. "She knows what she did was wrong but it's a tad late to change things. But," brown eyes were soft as they met Oz's. "She can try to fix things. We all can."

"Yeah," Oz formed a small smile. "We can." Walking past them, he paused next to Willow and murmured, "She does love you. I know that."

"Thank you," whispered Willow.

"No problem," replied Oz. He lifted his gaze to look at Xander and he said, "Call me?"

"Right after I have an altogether traumatizing talk with my parents about the bees and the bees," Xander said as he gave his very best flirtatious grin.

Chuckling, Oz said, "Let me know if you need help."

"Oh, I will," Xander said coyly, giving a wink before he walked away with Willow at his side.

Watching them go, Oz sighed then turned back to the prom which seemed to be slightly back to normal. That meant they could probably start playing again. Only there was one problem with that idea.

Their lead singer was missing.

---

Faith and Buffy were involved in an extremely enjoyable make out session when soft footfalls interrupted them. The couple pulled apart reluctantly to look at the figure of a very distraught Tara with tears in her eyes.

Instantly, Faith pulled away from Buffy and went dashing towards her best friend who collapsed in arms. Concerned and shocked at this reaction, Faith held Tara closer as she leaned down to whisper in her ear, "Tara Bear?"

"Will..." Tara sobbed. She buried her face in the crook of Faith's shoulder, trying to gain a semblance of comfort as she breathed in the familiar scent of Faith's cologne.

"What about Will?" asked Faith softly. All the while swearing inwardly that if he hurt her best friend it was going to be quite some time before he could walk right.

"He's not a he," Tara hiccuped, her hands gripping Faith's half shirt in her grasp. "He lied to me... all this time."

"Tara Bear," Faith began, pulling away from her friend to clasp her shoulders. Ducking her head she looked up into teary blue eyes. "I don't understand. What did he do?"

"Will is Willow," said Tara, wiping her tears away with the back of her hand. "He's really a girl, he pretended just so he could enter that computer contest." Her gaze drifted over to Buffy who smiled nervously. "You," she said quietly. "You knew all along."

"She wanted to tell you," Buffy offered, not quite knowing how to deal with the situation. "She was just scared of... well..."

"How'd I react?" Tara asked, giving a little sob. "Yeah, well," she shook her head. "Sorry for freaking. I was sort of surprised to find the boy I was falling for is really a girl and that I don't know them at all."

"Wait," Faith said, blinking. "Will is a girl?"

"Yeah," Tara and Buffy said, looking at Faith with some concern. Surely the dark haired girl wasn't that slow.

"Why are you upset then?" Faith squinted at Tara. "Your perfect guy is a perfect girl." Seeing Tara scowl at her Faith sighed and said, "Tara Bear, just hear me out." When Tara calmed a bit, she continued, "How much do you like her? Is it enough to try and forgive her? Or is it so little you can't manage? That's what you gotta decide now."

"You're making me feel guilty," said Tara, sounding like a small child as she peered at Faith with sad eyes.

"I'm sorry," said Faith with a gentle smile. "Y'know I don't wanna but that's the deal. You know it and I know it. What happens next is up to you."

"Yeah," Tara sighed deeply. "I know."

The only thing Tara didn't know was exactly what she wanted to happen next.

---

Stepping into her house, Willow noted that the lights were on. Anya must've gotten a ride back home, she observed.

Walking upstairs, she gave into the need to talk with her cousin and pushed the door to Anya's room open, only to freeze as she stared at the scene before her.

"Cordelia?" Willow squeaked, gawking at the tall brunette who was barely covered by Anya's sheets as she hovered above her cousin.

Moving away from Anya to lie on her side, Cordelia arched an eyebrow at Willow and smiled. "Seems that we have more in common than I thought, Will," she said in somewhat teasing tones.

"You... Anya... what?" Willow sputtered in shock.

"Cordelia's days in the closet are over," Anya supplied with an wide grin. "I've set her free, unfettered her from the worries of caring what other people think of her!" She leaned over, leaving a series of kisses on Cordelia's collar bone, looking up at her cousin. "She's been welcomed to the fun that is Anya's world."

"This is... okay," Willow shook her head. She was about to say something more when someone called her name.

Turning to look around the door, Willow saw Xander bounding upstairs, holding her tuxedo jacket in his hand. "You left this in my car, Willy," he announced.

"Xander! Xander, hi!" Willow said, rushing forward. She felt the need, for some reason, to hide the fact his beard was also using him for a beard. "Lets go downstairs, it's nice downstairs, it is!"

"Willster?" asked Xander with a frown. "What's up? Has your brain finally been fried by the crossdressing drama?"

Laughing nervously, Willow said, "Yes! It's fried!"

Before she could say anything else, Cordelia poked her head out of Anya's room, walking into the hall with a sheet clinging to her bare frame. Anya soon followed, not seeming concerned at all with her nudity.

"Xander, good," said Cordelia, sighing. "I wanted to talk with you. As you can see," she gestured towards Anya as her eyes darkened with desire. "The team I'm playing for is somewhat different than yours so..." She trailed off and seemed to ponder how to say it. Cordelia then shrugged after a moment and said, "We're through."

"What?!" Xander cried out. His eyes narrowed and glaring at Anya, he declared, "You little slut! You've gone and converted my beard!" Sniffing, he rolled his eyes and muttered, "You're just lucky I've decided to come out myself because of all these unfortunate revelations going on with crossdressing and Willy. I swear."

"What?" Cordelia frowned now. "You mean you--"

"Honey, I'm as queer as black sunshine!" Xander announced. Looking over at Anya he waved his hand at her and said, "You just treat her right. She was a good girlfriend." Meeting Cordelia's gaze, his voice turned soft as he murmured, "You were divine, darling."

"Thanks," said Cordelia with a smile. "You weren't so bad yourself. For awhile there I had the prettiest boyfriend in town."

"You better believe it," Xander said saucily. Looking down at Willow who was still holding onto his arms, he said, "I'm fine now, Willy the Pooh. Don't stress out on me, you've got a long road ahead."

Looking from Xander to Cordelia who was busy being pressed against the wall by Anya as a spontaneous make out session was initiated, Willow sighed heavily.

Nothing could be more true.

---

Trying to ignore the stares, Willow ran her fingers through her hair. It felt strange to have it so short and to be back in her girl clothes again. And she was happy to be back at Sunnydale High. It was a lot nicer than Pylea. Except...

It didn't have Tara.

That alone made Willow depressed. Along with the fact that the other girl hadn't talked to her in a week. That was how long it'd been since prom took place and in all that time, no matter how many times she'd called Tara, she'd never spoken to her once, or gotten a call back.

Maybe Tara didn't want to see her. Maybe Tara wasn't going to forgive her. Maybe Tara never liked her at all.

Willow now looked like someone shot her puppy.

Noticing this happen for the seventh time today, Buffy sighed deeply and shoved Willow on the arm lightly. "It won't do you any good, brooding over it," Buffy advised. "And brooding is just so..." Buffy shuddered. "It isn't an attractive state, that's for sure. I could never date Faith if she brooded all the time like you do lately."

After she said the word Faith, the blonde cheerleader went off into her usual haze and Willow sighed again. Both her friends were lost in deliriously happy land lately. Buffy in her new relationship with Faith, the girl with a brain, and Xander on getting back together with Oz. Plus the fact he had come out and all the girls who'd been previously molesting him now only wanted to go clothes shopping with him.

And Anya? She didn't change much at all due to whatever she had with Cordelia. What was different was when she went off on her weird escapades she now had someone there with her. Which, in a way, was the oddest thing of all.

That even Anya had discovered someone for her. Someone who would love and accept her for exactly who she was. Willow thought she had found that in Tara despite the fact who she was became obscured by being in drag and wearing certain manly parts.

But Tara wouldn't talk to her.

So Willow found herself wondering if Tara really knew her at all... if Tara ever really cared about her.

"Uh oh," Buffy grabbed onto her arm and Willow looked up just in time to see the jocks approach. "It begins."

"Buffy," said Willow with a huge sigh. "You really should be used to them asking you out by now. Just--"

"Willow?" the head jock interrupted, giving a small smile as he looked nervously at the tiny redhead.

"Yes?" Willow asked, blinking as she wondered just why he was talking to her and why Buffy looked so smug.

"Can we go out this Friday?" the jock asked.

"Me... you... Friday?" Willow repeated in certain shock, unsure why this was happening or how to reply.

Lucky for her, Buffy took over. Hooking her arm in Willow's, she smiled sweetly at them. "I'm sorry, you guys, Willow has been through some bad times lately, she's still getting over stuff," she said apologetically.

The jocks nodded then turned to walk away, leaving Willow in certain shock. Looking at Buffy, she asked, "How did that happen? They weren't here for you."

"Of course they weren't," Buffy smiled slyly. "Don't you know, Wills? I'm a lesbian now."

At this, Willow could only break out laughing.

---

Years had passed since the last time she sat in Jenny Calendar's office. At least, that's what it felt like as Willow sat there, looking at her computer teacher.

"You won the contest at Pylea," Jenny said, smiling. "I guess I should congratulate you on your resourcefulness and ability to create a great program in a short time. But somehow," Jenny's dark eyes were sympathetic as she gazed at Willow. "I don't think that would help make you any happier right now, would it?"

"You're right," Willow gave a wan smile.

"I have to say," began Jenny as she leaned back in her chair. "I was surprised to see you there at prom. And in a tuxedo at that. I pretty much figured out what was going on after hearing you talk with Katie. I admire what you did, Willow," Jenny smiled. "Not giving up, having that persistence. You'll be a great computer programmer for any company."

"Thank you," said Willow, blushing a bit.

"Your program seems very personal," Jenny murmured. "It's touching... I don't think I've ever seen an art program that lends such involvement to the creative details or such variety in the patterns or choices for the artist."

"I made it for her," Willow revealed softly, positive Jenny would know who she was talking about. "She paints."

"Has she seen it yet?" asked Jenny.

"No," Willow shook her head. "I still have a few things I want to fix and change... maybe improve on. Soon as I do that, I'll send her a copy. Maybe she'll see it and..."

Watching Willow trail off sadly, Jenny said, "Give it time." When Willow looked up at her, she smiled. "If you truly love someone, sometimes you have to wait for them. And that wait is worthwhile in the end. Believe me, it is."

"Kate?" asked Willow hesitantly.

"She's a pain in the ass," Jenny said, smiling fondly as she thought of the other teacher. "But one I love very much. If you love Tara too, then all you can do is wait."

"That's the hardest part," said Willow in wry tones.

Jenny chucked appreciatively and leaned back in her chair as she said, "Too true."

---

On walking out of Walsh Enterprises, Willow was met with the sight of Anya draped all over her sports car, looking like something out of a hair metal video. Mostly thanks to her vinyl pants and sheer top. Not to mention her tacky orange lens sunglasses and boots.

"Anya," Willow said in her usual commanding tones. "What are you trying to do? Wax your car with your butt? You know that doesn't work out very well."

"Ha," said Anya in droll tones, pushing her sunglasses down to peer at Willow. "Don't start the insulting brigade with me, cuz. I'm doing your delectable self a favor by picking you up at work each day. And it's summer too. I should be at the nude beach with Cordy right now, trying to entice some lovelies to join our harem."

"Thanks for the visual," Willow remarked, watching Anya hop down from her car.

"Not a problem," Anya said, giving her trademark lascivious grin. "But next time I might have to charge you for the entertainment that is imagining my sex life."

"Get over yourself," said Willow, rolling her eyes.

Anya was about to reply when she froze, leaving her mouth wide open and Willow rather stunned about this reaction. Turning around, the redhead reacted quite the same when she saw Tara standing there.

Tara, clad in a pair of dark gray pants and a white v-neck shirt. Looking even more beautiful than Willow had remembered.

"Hi," Tara murmured quietly.

"Hi," Willow echoed, feeling shocked.

Moving her eyes from one girl to the next, Anya announced to no one in particular, "I'm going to stand over there now. Which is far, far, away from here."

With that, Anya dashed towards a local ice cream stand to buy some treats and watch the scene play out subvertly.

Willow remained still as she observed Tara's blue eyes smoothly tracing her form, going over the long green skirt she wore and the light tan shirt with a swooping collar that showed off her female curves exquisitely.

"You look nice as a girl," Tara complimented finally. Her eyes traced up to Willow's hair which was slightly longer and less spiky than before. "Growing it out?"

"Yeah," Willow nodded. "I only cut it because..." She trailed off as she watched Tara wince. "I missed you," she said after a long moment. "It's good to see you, Tara."

"I got your program," said Tara, her eyes solemn.

"Did you like it?" Willow asked nervously.

"It's almost like painting on a real canvas," said Tara. She then smiled wryly. "Not that I'd know. But I did like it."

"I'm glad," said Willow, smiling happily.

They were quiet for a long and endless moment then Tara ducked her head and said in soft, pained, tones, "I missed you too. I really did."

"Tara," Willow moved forward, stopping in front of the other girl, leaving them only a breath apart. "I'm sorry for what I did. I never meant to hurt you, I swear. I just--"

"Do you still feel the same?" Tara interrupted softly, locking an earnest and unrelenting gaze on Willow.

"I love you," said Willow in honest confession.

Instead of replying, Tara formed the most radiant, beautiful, smile Willow had ever seen then moved forward to capture the redhead's lips with her own.

Lips met lips over and over again as tongues entwined and they tasted the sweetness of each other. Only aware of the other's presence and the love they felt. That and the faint sounds of soft moaning one of them was producing. Or was that both of them? They weren't really sure.

The only thing they were sure of was that this was right. That this was where they belonged. That this was where they were happiest.

And watching the couple from across the street, Anya smirked and took a slow lick of her chocolate mint ice cream and murmured, "I'd like some of that."

End