Willow opened the door slowly and peered inside. Although a darkness hung in the dorm room, the dim morning light filtering in through the windows provided just enough illumination for Willow to see that the figure on the bed was still sound asleep. She quietly closed the door behind her, tossing her shower kit onto the desk, finding herself drawn to the foot of the bed.
Running her fingers through dampened hair, Willow simply stood at the end of the bed watching her girlfriend sleep.
The last few days had been rough; well the last few months really, and it was in the stillness of such an early morning, simply watching, that Willow knew how much she adored Tara.
How much she loved her.
Even in slumber the blonde seemed to emanate a peace and calmness that Willow cherished. A balance that she needed in her life. Something to take the edge off of all the horrors she had seen since a girl named Buffy Summers had moved to Sunnydale. When Tara was safe, Willow always felt calm� complete. Because of the events of recent months, Willow felt the only thing she really had any control of in her life was seeing that Tara was safe. Even if she didn�t always show it, it had become the most important thing in her life. The only thing that truly mattered to her. And even when they argued, Willow would always hang around in the background to make sure that Tara was okay. Even if the blonde never knew it.
Willow�s fingers stopped abruptly as they were caught up in a tangle. As she slowly began to work the knot out in pained silence, she was not surprised to feel that her hair was already starting to dry. It had been unusually hot in Sunnydale over the last two months. Even in the early pre-dawn stillness Willow could already feel a bead of sweat forming on her forehead.
Sighing, trying to focus her mind, she seemed to wander into Willowland too much these days, Willow enjoyed the flickering of the early morning light as it danced across Tara�s face. Willow allowed herself what seemed like an indulgence these days, to let her eyes drift longingly over the blonde�s body. Tara was lying on her stomach, her left arm stretched out across the empty side, Willow�s side, of the bed; her other arm tucked underneath the pillow her head rested on. Willow closed her eyes listening to the soft breathing that spilled from Tara�s slightly open lips.
A sudden mumble from the blonde brought Willow�s attention back to the bed. Willow opened her eyes just in time to see Tara dart a foot out from underneath the covers and wiggled her toes. No matter how hot or cold it was, Tara always liked her toes uncovered. When she did it again, Willow had to clamp a hand over her mouth to suppress a giggle.
An unexpected, and welcome, breeze swept into the dorm room through the open windows. The slightly tepid blast rustled across the bed causing Willow to shiver. When the sheet began to flutter against Tara�s pale skin, a second shiver, starting low in her body, cascaded through Willow�s body.
She suppressed another urge to jump onto the blonde and cover her in kisses. She knew Tara needed sleep. Her girlfriend had been working almost every night with a group of classmates on a presentation that they had to give in a few days. Her brow creased as she remembered waking up at three a.m. finding that Tara had still not come home. She had almost gone into panic mode; but quickly remembered where Tara was and that she had promised Willow that she would not walk back to their dorm room alone.
Feeling suddenly mischievous as another pillowy breeze began to stutter across the sheet, wondering if she should chance it, Willow let her hand roam to the edge of the cover. She gently, ever so carefully, began to pull it off. Inch by excruciating slow inch Tara�s nakedness was revealed.
Willow felt a sudden rush of excitement ripple through her� she had never gotten this far before. It was like an unspoken game between the two of them. Tara, who rarely slept in the nude, knew by now to expect some kind of frisky behaviour from her girlfriend when she did. Willow had always talked about her insatiable appetite for naked Tara in the morning.
For Willow�s part; it was the challenge that usually spurred her on. Tara was such a light sleeper.
Driven on by thoughts of an unfettered view of her girlfriend, and realizing that she rarely got the sheet past Tara�s shoulders. As the sheet gently slopped over Tara�s lower back another puff of air swept into the room and across the blonde�s body waking her.
"Willow!" Tara said grumpily as she reached down for the sheet that teetered on the edge of her hips and pulled it back up over her body.
Willow watched with a pout on her face as pale skin was quickly covered. When Tara tucked the sheet underneath her arm, Willow shoulders sagged in defeat.
One of these days� one of these days, Willow promised herself, she would get the damn covers all the way off!
"Meanie." Willow grumbled as she climbed up onto the bed. She crawled her way up Tara�s body, dropping a single kiss on the blonde�s exposed shoulder before settling down onto the figure beneath her.
"Eww, you�re wet." Tara�s voice began to soften even though it still held a tint of annoyance.
Willow smiled, used to her girlfriends �waking up� moods by now. Tara really did like to sleep. And when she didn�t get enough of it� well, she usually moped around for a while. Well, for all of about five minutes actually. That was another thing Willow loved about Tara; she rarely stayed upset, or angry, or grumpy for very long.
Tara latched onto Willow�s hand, squeezing it tightly in her own. "What time is it?" Her voice finally settled into the soft caring tone Willow was so used to.
"Early." She snuggled further down against Tara and hugged her tightly. "What time did you get in last night?"
"Ugh. Late." Tara frowned. "Or early. I can�t remember."
"How much longer is this going to take?" Willow mumbled in her usual half worried, half annoyed-that-she-hadn�t-had-quality-time-with-her-girlfriend-in-over-a-week tone.
"Just a few more days. The presentation�s on Friday."
"Um, too long." Willow said in childish annoyance before glancing at the clock. If she didn�t hurry she�d be late. Finally detaching herself from Tara, she slowly swung her legs off the bed and headed over to the dresser to grab a few things.
"Go back to sleep." She said softly as she made her way over to the closet, tossing off her robe.
Tara turned over onto her back and watched through slumberous eyes as Willow began to dress. Glancing at the clock, she noticed that it was indeed very early. "What time did Buffy say to be by the house?" Her nose wrinkled in disgust at being awake at such an hour, and for the fact that she only had two and a half hours of sleep.
"Seven. She said Dawn has some early assembly thingy she has to go to today before her first class." Willow foraged into her closet for something cool to wear as her thoughts seemed to unconsciously drift back over the events of the last two months; a sadness overtaking her as she did so.
When Joyce had died everything just fell apart for the Scooby�s. Buffy simply went numb, and seemed incapable of handling anything beyond her slayer duties� which she dove into with unabandoned ferocity. Willow was even beginning to fear for Spikes� life; Buffy was on that much of a slayer-kill kick.
It had been up to the rest of the gang, no matter how tattered and torn they each may have been, to take on �Dawn Duty�. Although they all knew exactly what Dawn was, and the dangers she was in because of it, the girl still had the outward appearance of being a teenager. And after all the struggle Buffy had gone through in fighting her father for custody of her younger sister, it was important to keep up appearances. There always loomed the threat that Dawn could be taken away from Buffy and sent to live with her father. Hank had insisted the court appoint a social worker to make sure everything was okay in his youngest child�s life.
So the gang had split up the duties of watching over the girl. Tuesday�s and Thursday�s were Willow�s days to take Dawn to school and pick her up. Giles took Monday�s; Xander and Anya Wednesdays � because everyone knew that Anya and Dawn �alone� � together - was not a good idea. The last time it had happened� well, Buffy needed to buy a new set of dishes. Enough said.
And of course, Tara took Fridays.
The weekends were for the entire gang. One, or more than likely all of them, usually camped out at the Summers home for a couple of days until the new week started. Each then filtered back to their respective domiciles. Willow glanced back at Tara with a guilty frown. It had been just last weekend when the two of them had had a particularly bad fight. Willow shuddered thinking about the things she had said. She seemed to be more and more cruel these days, and it was Tara who usually took the brunt of her ferocious moods. Willow kicked herself mentally and winced in pain as an image of the devastated look on Tara�s face from two nights ago filtered into her mind.
Sensing Willow�s mood taking a turn for the worse, Tara pushed aside her innate shyness, tossed off the covers and padded over to her girlfriend. Wrapping her arms gingerly around Willow, she was unsure if the embrace would be welcome. It had become increasingly difficult to grasp Willow�s moods over the last few months.
In the past it had been easy enough for Tara to simply embrace the redhead, or run her fingers lovingly down Willow�s pale cheek to comfort the girl. But lately, Tara shook herself from the memories of a few days ago; she was in no frame of mind, from lack of sleep, to be able to deal with the emotions that the argument had produced. She did not want to dwell on how alone she had felt, and how she had spent the evening in the dark, crying. In the days since, neither of them had had the time, nor the energy, to talk about what had happened between them. So Tara waited, holding her breath, unsure of what Willow�s reaction to her offered comfort would be.
When she felt Willow run her hands over her own, Tara sighed letting the tension release from her body. She placed a kiss on Willow�s neck before resting her head on the redheads shoulder.
"Do you want me to come with you?"
Willow wrapped her arms tightly around Tara. She didn�t realize how much she had missed the simplest of contact with her girlfriend. Tara began to rub her tummy, which Willow instinctively knew meant the blonde was particularly worried about her. Trying to calm and reassure them both, Willow rubbed her hand back and forth against Tara�s arm.
"Nope." She said with authority. Turning in Tara�s grip to face her, she added, "I�m okay Tara." Willow ran her fingers feathery light down Tara�s face, kissing her cheek as her words gently caressed across Tara�s ear. "You don�t have to worry so much."
Tara quivered slightly as the tension and worry of the last few days, suddenly drained completely away. She gripped onto Willow�s petite frame and hugged the redhead possessively.
Tara felt Willow�s fingers gently caress down her back. When the redhead�s hands lingered on her hips, Tara finally began to pull away. Before they parted completely, Willow deposited a quick kiss on Tara�s cheek trying to convey in that one small gesture that things would be okay.
They both looked towards the clock.
Realizing that Willow should be leaving, and her sudden consciousness about being naked flashing suddenly into her mind; Tara scurried back into bed. Willow watched with a soft smile on her face before turning to finish getting ready.
Willow began to quicken her actions as she hurried to gather the books she would need for the day. Cursing under her breath when she could not find a particular book, the sudden whisper of her name brought her attention to Tara�s pointing finger. She rushed over to the night table, a quick smile of gratitude in Tara�s direction, before grabbing for the book. Just as she had the book in hand, Tara chose that moment to stretch fully in bed. The cover slipped down her body.
Willow fumbled with the book before finally dropping it on the floor. She knelt down and blindly groped for the book. Her eyes languished over her girlfriend�s form. When Tara relaxed from her stretch she realized why Willow�s hungry gaze was directed at her and she quickly grabbed the sheet to pull it back up. As she did this Willow suddenly darted her hand out as well and latched onto the same bit of sheet that Tara did. The two began to wrestle. Tara trying to pull the sheet up, while Willow tried her best to pull it down.
They erupted into a fit of laughter.
"Willow!" Tara said at a complete loss. Sometimes her girlfriend was just too much.
Suddenly giving in, knowing that when Willow was in one of her frisky moods, it was best just to indulge her, Tara loosened her grip on the sheet. Willow did not hesitate and slid the material down past Tara�s breasts. Leaning over, the redhead placed a soft kiss on Tara�s chest before resting her head where her lips had just been. Willow nestled against the blonde�s body and Tara let her fingers indulge in the softness of Willow�s hair, running silky threads slowly through her fingers.
They both simply enjoyed the closeness. Something that they did not seem to have much time for in any more.
"Willow?" Tara questioned gently.
Willow wrapped an arm around Tara�s neck and buried her head into the crook on the blonde�s shoulder. "No wanna." Her voice was muffled and her lips tickled across Tara�s flesh.
"You�ll be late." Tara tried to nudge Willow away but it only made the redhead hug her tighter.
"Can�t I just stay here?"
The tone in Willow�s voice sent a hiccup of sadness through Tara�s body. It was so sincere and full of need. But Tara knew she had to be firm. Neither of them had the luxury to simply stay where they were. She wrapped her fingers in Willow�s hair and guided the redhead�s face up towards her own. "I�ll always be here Willow." She whispered as she brought Willow�s lips to her own, "� forever."
The kiss was delicate, loving and all too quickly over. Willow sighed in resignation and got up off the bed. She headed over to the chair in the corner to grab her favourite sweater.
"Do you really think you�ll need that?" Tara murmured as she turned onto her side. Her eyelids heavy with sleep.
Willow looked at the sweater in her hand, "Maybe�" she turned back to address Tara only to see that her girlfriend was already sleeping.
Tossing the sweater back on the chair, Willow grabbed her books and keys and gently opened the door. She stole one last look at Tara before quietly sliding the door firmly shut.
Tara sighed heavily with worry. Pulling the sheet up to her chin, she hugged her legs close to her body and simply slept.
~ fin ~