Lullaby On Six Strings
by daneorange

It was an old high school theory -- that band members were good at sex. Tara had often kidded Willow that was why she and Oz hooked up in the first place -- something about rhythm and passion and beats, and the chances of those skills on stage being transferable to the bedroom being extremely high.

Tara remembers how Willow had laughed, who then lowered her head to plant a chaste kiss on Tara's shoulder. Then Willow kidded Tara back, reminding her how she had always wanted a pianist for herself.

It was Tara's turn to laugh.


Tara wishes he had come back at a different time, under different circumstances. The coffee scalds her slightly as she stirs a little harder -- caffeine dripping down the side of her cup, reaching her fingertips with a small scream.

Instinct tells her to suck lightly on her thumb for relief, muttering a soft, "Ow," as she looks up, then straight ahead -- to Oz, who had been standing across the Espresso Pump for a while now.

Tara wishes harder he had come back at a different time, really - just not now.


Buffy calls her whenever Willow's screams became somewhat alarming -- which alarms Tara more, actually, for anything that can make alarms go off inside a Slayer's head must indeed be big.

Through the receiver, Tara tells Buffy not to mind her whispering, and she doesn't -- Buffy couldn't understand all that Latin, anyway.

All that mattered to her was Willow's screams eventually dying down, along with Tara's sighs on the other end of the line.


Tara bumped into Oz eventually -- Sunnydale is a small town, and she regrets not taking the time to think about a meeting such as this, all that while.

"I know you," he just mutters as he fixes his eyes on her. "I do."

Tara lowers her head a little, letting her hair fall in, as if seeking for cover. "Been a while, hasn't it," she just says, absently tucking her hair behind her ear. For the lack of anything else more awkward to do.

Oz takes a moment. "Hey," he says three seconds after. Tara looks up. "Can I get you a cup of coffee?"


"What b-b-brings you here?" Tara breaks in. They've been stirring into their cups for what felt like already half a century, somebody had to do it.

"Band practice," Oz grins slightly, a friendly gesture which relieved Tara indescribably. "In a sense."

"In a sense?" Tara asks, tentatively bringing her steaming cup to her lips, blowing lightly.

Oz watches her intently, making her stop in mid-sip, five solid seconds. "Just a sort of reunion," he explains. "No gigs of any sort, no future commitments..." he pauses. His stare makes it difficult for her to swallow, Tara notes. "Nothing. Just now. Tonight. And tomorrow morning perhaps. Or Friday morning."

Tara puts her cup down, slightly shaky. It was a Wednesday. "You're not s-staying..." she just says, slipping slightly on the last word. "Does she..."

"Not yet," he interrupts. "Sorry." Then a pause. "Can I... can I see her?"

She grips the cup tighter. Oz was asking her. He was. She stirs into her coffee, quite unnecessary and nervous, actually. Tara was really bad at pretending she was fine.


He remembers my name, Tara was taken aback, just hearing Oz say it out loud -- and was his hair really black, or was it really brown, from what she last remembered? Oz, that grin, and those nimble fingers drumming lightly on the table, fingernails clean... Tara forces her eyes to shift back up, gliding onto his arms, lean, maintained; to his shoulders and neck, and to that slight frown on his face. And does he always stare that way? Does he?

"It's okay if you said no," he says, tone flat. And was he always that... stoic?

Tara blinks. Even if she wanted to say no... No, she shakes her head lightly, shaking the thoughts away. She couldn't say no, they weren't together now. We're not together now, she repeats to herself.

"You didn't..." she breaks her silence, finally. "You didn't have to ask."


Tara didn't want to explain -- all that magic, the addiction, the crave for control, all that. Felt like too much too soon.

So she just sighs as she looks at Oz at the other end of the street, as he waves and goes on his way -- he said something about needing to find a Devon she didn't really know, or perhaps, had already forgotten.


Tara waited all night for Buffy's routine phone call -- she had been repeating the spell in her head, that which she uses to calm Willow down from a distance, over and over, as if she was doing it the first time. Everything felt like first time for her, everything -- as if the whole truth of Willow's misery hadn't had enough time to sink into her.

But there was no phone call.

Tara didn't know whether to smile because finally Willow got lucky, or to cry because she thinks she actually knows why.


Her steps are light and careful; it has been a long time, it seems, since she last stepped on these stairs. She doesn't want to wake Dawn up, despite her intense wanting to see the young woman, and she is sure Buffy is out on patrol.

The house is quiet -- quiet, except for the faint strumming from a room she could only know so well.

Tara feels her lungs, her kidneys coming in closer to each other -- it was as if every little inch of her needed to be held, needed to be anything but alone. She grips the balustrade tighter with one hand, as her legs wobble slightly, knees magnetized inexplicably.

But the heart -- right from the start -- is one and alone, and they say, biology is destiny. Tara frowns softly to herself, wondering why, despite all the other times she spent staring up at the ceiling of her cold little rented room, she could make such a realization at that specific moment.

The strumming becomes louder, distinct -- it was as if her ears were picking it up on purpose and amplifying it. One regular melody, one standard tune -- repetitive, yes, but don't people usually equate redundancy with consistency and reliability? With safety. With security.

Tara finally moves slowly toward the room -- she doesn't want to see, but she realized she couldn't just stand there and hold the balustrade forever -- and when she reaches the door, it isn't really closed, but it really isn't open either.

But then, it is open enough. Open enough for her to see how Oz sat there and played through Willow's shivering.


She didn't know how long, she wasn't really herself. She knew it was her fault anyway, and that it wasn't within her control, not anymore, because Willow wasn't hers, not technically, not anymore.

Not anymore, not anymore, not anymore. Tara wondered if she does regret having walked away. In fact, she wondered, over and over, as she sat there just outside the room, her back to the wall, listening to Oz strum away and mend Willow with his guitar and his six-stringed lullaby.


"What was it?"

Tara was jolted slightly from her stupor, standing up abruptly from where she sat outside the door. "W-what?" she blinked. She must have fallen asleep.

"You didn't tell me she was..." Oz trailed off. "What was it?"

Tara wanted to tell him it had been drugs; she didn't want to hear herself say it -- Magic. In her mind, it stood for a lot of things -- a lot of things so beautiful. From doll's eye crystals to floating slow dances.

No, she didn't want to hear herself say it. "Too much of a good thing," she just said instead.

Oz nodded, slinging his guitar onto his shoulder. "She doesn't look that good," he said.

"I know."

"But you left her anyway."

Tara turned her head, if only to catch Oz staring sharply back. She could not tell if he were angry -- Oz was so good at the pretending, in ways she could never be. "I..." she tried to find another term, another word, another phrase, to make it sound less hurtful and more... more the way she wanted it to sound.

Painful, but good. "It was for the b-better," she finally managed. Yes, painful, but well-meaning. Always.

"She needed you, and you gave up on her," but Oz continued anyway, though the look on his face, so serene, it gave away nothing. "And you shouldn't have."

"You weren't here," Tara just shook her head. She didn't want to fight, she didn't have the strength to argue. "You can't possibly know how it was like. How she was like."

How she was like. How she was like? Tara asked herself, quite surprised she had taken the conversation here. How she was like?

But Tara knew so well how Willow had been like -- wonderful, beautiful, through and through, and forever through... She hadn't been anything less, she hadn't been anything else.

Tara wondered harder what it was exactly again that made her let all that beauty go.

Was all that re-arranging of old photographs in her head worth everything after all?

"You're right," Oz breathed. "I wasn't here. Cause if I were -- it would have never gone this far." With that, he walked past her and left, his bootsteps echoing through the staircase.


Tara thought twice about entering the room after Oz had left -- and when she decided against entering it altogether, she had to fight extra hard that urge to just barge in and hold Willow's shivering body against hers.


She looked up; in her preoccupation, she had not noticed Buffy come in. "Hey," she whispered in reply, forcing a smile.

"You okay?"

She forced herself to nod. "Oh yes, I was just..." she paused. Buffy didn't know Oz was here, she couldn't have. "I was just worried, you know... you didn't call, I just thought... I needed to check if..."

Buffy looked over her shoulder, seeing the door to Willow's room ajar. "It's okay," she just said. "Looks like she's sleeping better now, thank you."

And Tara forced herself to smile, again, wider this time, trying harder this time to look more genuine. "Really, Buffy... it was..." Not me, she considered saying. No, too many things to explain, she didn't want that. "The least I could do," she said instead.

"Thank you, anyway," Buffy insisted. She put a hand over Tara's squeezing it softly in her gratitude.

And Tara hated feeling like this - hated how it felt like, how she knew for sure -- that the lullaby that put Willow to sleep tonight was somebody else's, not hers.


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