Willow had met a lot of girls in her life, but she had never really wanted to kiss one before. Well, if you didn't count Princess Leia, at least, and the time in kindergarten when she had asked Cordelia to marry her (she tried to forget about that as often as possible), and maybe that really cute exchange student in eighth grade, and, okay, Willow had wanted to kiss lots of girls. But she hadn't noticed it-- she hadn't had the presence of mind.
Well, now she was fifteen, and she knew herself a lot better. She knew what it felt like to want to kiss a girl, because of past experiences, and also because it felt a lot like wanting to kiss a boy, which she knew she had felt before. But there was nothing wrong with wanting to kiss a boy, and there was a lot wrong with wanting to kiss a girl. Or, at least, that's what her mom said when she came home at night; she had to talk to teenagers about their problems, and she talked to girls who kissed girls, and boys who kissed boys, and she came home and told Willow that she was lucky that she had only ever liked boys, because all the girls who kissed girls had terrible lives.
Once, Willow had asked who had caused the terrible lives, and her mom said that it was the girls themselves, but Willow thought maybe it was the parents of the girls. Well-adjusted girls who kissed girls wouldn't go to a therapist, and girls who kissed girls and had good parents definitely wouldn't go to a therapist who didn't like them solely based on who they kissed. Willow couldn't figure out anything bad about kissing girls, except maybe the not getting married thing, but that was okay with Willow.
But she had never admitted to herself that she liked girls. Not until, one day, she looked at Buffy Summers and noticed the way her hair bounced, the way her body moved in a fight, the way she laughed whenever Willow made a joke (and sometimes when Willow was being perfectly serious).
She went home that night and asked her mother why girls who kissed girls were bad. Her mother gave a laundry list: no one likes them, they get abused, et cetera, et cetera.
Willow went to her room and thought that over while lying on her stomach on her bed, doodling. She liked herself just fine, so it couldn't be true that no one liked her. And Buffy liked her, if not in a kissing way, and Xander liked her, with the same footnote. Giles liked her, and she was useful for his research, and Miss Calendar liked her, because she was good with computers. Lots of people liked her. And abuse wasn't the fault of the abusee; Willow thought that was fairly intuitive, actually. So the girls who liked girls weren't bad themselves; other people were bad, and therefore there was nothing wrong with liking girls, just something wrong with being a bad person.
That settled any doubts, and Willow tossed her doodle, which had begun to look quite a bit like Buffy's hair, to the side. She went to her computer. She'd have to be sneaky, so her mom couldn't hack in and see what she was doing, but she knew her mom didn't know that much about computers. She was just paranoid. She checked all of her firewalls anyway before she loaded a search engine and took her time typing, "girls who like girls."
This brought up a chat room titled "gay girls!!!" Willow smiled. Gay meant happy, and she could be happy. She knew what happy felt like.
She clicked it. She set her name to "WillowTree" and her color to lilac, and then she hesitated over the button that would take her to the chat room. Was she ready?
WillowTree: Hi everybody.
RoseBud: hi, willowtree!
beJeweled: Welcome, WillowTree
WillowTree: So... I'm new to this. Gay means girls like girls?
RoseBud: yeah that's the idea.
beJeweled: It can also mean a boy who likes boys
WillowTree: So, if I want to kiss my best friend, that's gay?
beJeweled: Yes that sounds pretty gay to me
WillowTree: That's nifty!
She talked to RoseBud and beJeweled for most of the evening. She learned lots of cool things. Mostly, though, she learned that not all gay girls led terrible lives, and the ones who did just were around bad people. Willow was around good people, and anyway, she wasn't going to tell anybody. Not yet.
The next day in school, she caught herself staring at Buffy for far too long. What would it be like to kiss those lips? Didn't that skirt fit Buffy perfectly? Listen to the adorable way Buffy pronounced her R's!
After a while, Buffy caught on. She was talking, and Willow was staring, and suddenly Buffy stopped and asked, "What? Do I have something in my teeth?"
Willow shook her head. "No. Your teeth are a food free zone."
Buffy gave Willow a hard stare, then shrugged. "Well, as long as I look okay."
"Don't worry," Willow told her. "You look great."
That night found WIllow sitting at a table in the Bronze, watching Buffy and Xander dance. Buffy was dancing on her own, in one place, and Xander was doing his thing where he bounced around, trying to find a girl willing to dance with him. Willow would have danced with him, of course, but he was convinced that it didn't count because they were only friends.
Maybe it didn't.
Buffy didn't even want anyone to dance with her; she had just jettisoned herself to the dance floor, claiming a "serious need to feel the music." Willow would have danced with her, too, if she were brave and actually some semblance of a good dancer. Willow wanted nothing more than to dance with a girl on that floor, feeling the music herself, and maybe feeling something (someone) else. But Buffy was lusting after Angel, and Willow was lusting after Buffy, and she knew she would never have what she wanted. Buffy had a shot at Angel, maybe; but Willow never had a shot at Buffy.
Xander came back and sat with her, following her gaze to Buffy. "She's particularly radiant tonight, don't you think?"
Willow smiled and nudged him. "You think she's particularly radiant every night."
Xander shrugged. "It's true, isn't it?"
Willow shrugged back. "Maybe it is."
Three years later, Willow stood in the same spot in the Bronze, watching her girlfriend open birthday presents. Girlfriend! How nice it had been to finally use that word out loud, for Tara, the most beautiful woman in the world.
She had shown Tara her Sunnydale High yearbook from sophomore year a few days ago, just out of some urge to feel nostalgia for her past. "That's what I looked like," she had said, pointing at her own picture and giggling. "Me with that hair?"
Tara pointed at the girl a few rows down. "Is that Buffy? She's changed."
Willow stared at the picture. "Yeah, I guess she has." She grinned. "You know, I had the biggest crush on Buffy that year. It was embarrassing."
And now they were sitting in the Bronze, and Tara had had a hell of a day, but Willow was going to make sure that her night was perfect. There were streamers everywhere, and Anya and Tara were getting along, and everyone was getting along, actually, and Willow knew what she had to do. She pulled Tara out of her conversation and to the dance floor.
"I believe this is my dance."
And they came together, slowly, perfectly, in the exact spot Willow had seen Buffy dancing years ago, wishing she could have one beautiful dance with a blonde girl who loved her.
How wonderful it was that she had gotten her wish.