Insect Reflections And Other Mistakes
by Netgirl

Tara loves being around Willow's friends, Anya, Buffy and Xander are all so confident and talkative. They easily fill the long silences Tara leaves and allow her to easily blend into the background. Tara tries to avoid bringing attention to herself as much as possible, maybe then people won't notice anything stupid or embarrassing she says or does.

These days she's more confident of herself and her abilities, but her long childhood of having her every verbal stumble, every embarrassing event and every stupid mistake remembered and cruelly mocked has had a lasting effect on her. She keeps a mental list of things she shouldn't have done, she tries not to dwell too much on what's on it. But she does remember these events, things to try not repeat for the sake of her remaining shred of dignity, for the sake of her new life; which she loves


5. The Ellie Phillips Incident.

Even though it was years ago, the memory of it can still make Tara want to hide under her bed with a stuffed animal and a bottle of wine.

When Tara was fourteen she was made lab partners with a girl called Ellie Phillips. Ellie had curly brown hair, blue eyes and freckles. She smiled easily and talked lots, even to Tara, the girl who no one else in the school talked to. Sexuality was not something that was ever discussed in the McClay home; Tara didn't think it was unusual to want to touch Ellie.

One day they were alone in the classroom and Ellie was explaining the experiment they had to do with her usual exuberant gestures and cheerful tones. She had leaned over to scratch an equation down, her brow creasing and her lips quirking, making the freckles that fascinated Tara more noticeable. Tara had lurched forwards and tried to kiss Ellie, the desk was broader than she had anticipated and her lips landed somewhere on Ellie's chin.

The brunette pulled back violently, "Freak!" Ellie's usual light voice was sharp and hard. She hurried from the classroom leaving the mortified Tara half sprawled over the desk.

Tara quickly realised she was not meant to want to touch Ellie Phillips, that one mistake sealed her fate all through high school. It became clear that the age of fourteen in a high school out in the country was not the time or place for people to find out you weren't exactly like them.


4. The Insect Reflection Joke.

' "You learn her source, and, uh, we'll introduce her to her insect reflection" '

Tara doesn't even know why she said that, doesn't know why she thought she could be funny, especially in front of people like the scoobies. The strange looks they gave her were reminiscent of high school, a time Tara would rather never revisit.

Willow was so sweet, giggling about it, pretending she thought it was funny. It was such a Willow thing to do, one of the reasons Tara was falling in love with her.

The night of her birthday was also the first time she spoke properly with Anya; the former demon had asked her to explain the joke.

"It's still not funny," Anya had said later, "but that's okay, Xander and I are funny, we don't need any more funny in the group. You'll have to find another virtue. I know, you can be punctual" Anya grinned broadly at Tara, who smiled back. It was nice to have a friend.


3. Almost Getting Killed.

Patrolling was like group bonding for the scoobies, they were all so good at it. Buffy had her slayer strength, Xander, while maybe not a slayer, was still strong and never seemed to have any trouble dusting his opponents. Willow's powers were amazing, she was dismissive about them, but Tara knew Willow had more power in her little finger than she could ever dream of having.

She had enough trouble keeping up with the others as they raced around the cemeteries keeping the world safe for humanity, even when she could keep up there was very little she could do to help. She didn't know how to fight and her brand of magic was too slow and required too much preperation to be of any real use in a fight. Normally Tara was grateful for the power and insight she'd inherited from her mother, but during patrols she'd give anything to be able to slay vampires with a thought like Willow.

One night they were ambushed by a crowd of vampires, Buffy peeled off, trying to distract them. It sort of worked, most of them followed the slayer but three stayed with the rest of the group. Xander was grappling with two of them; Willow had her eyes closed, working what sounded like a spell to bring forth fire. The redhead was distracted and so didn't see the third vampire sneaking up behind her.

"Willow!" Tara screamed, Willow didn't hear her. Xander did, but could do nothing but struggle more frantically against the two vampires that held him.

The vampire was almost upon Willow. Tara frantically tried to think of a useful spell that she could perform in time without any ingredients, there wasn't one. She rushed forward and tried to grab the back of the vampire's coat, trying to stop him reaching the other witch. The demon reached back easily and wrenched Tara around by the arm, there was an explosion of searing pain in her shoulder, and her eyes started to water, maybe she had only imagined the popping sound.

Somebody somewhere called her name, and she could see the vampire's lips moving but couldn't hear what he was saying. She was being pulled closer and closer to his fangs, then he was tackled away from her, tugging even more on her dislocated shoulder. She stumbled backwards, her head hitting something solid with a dull thud and everything went black.


When she woke up her arm was in some kind of sling, thudding with dull pain. Willow was stroking her hair, "Are you ok baby? You gave me such a scare. What were you thinking getting involved like that?"

"I'm okay," she tried to sit up on the Summers couch, pain exploding behind her eyes. Her head clearly objected to movement, "Sweetie, could you get me some ice for my head, it's sore."

"Of course," Willow hurried off to the kitchen.

Anya was leaning in the doorway, she raised an eyebrow at Tara, "You never really struck me as the fighting type, when I was a demon I could have killed you without even using my vengeance powers."

"Is that supposed to make me feel better?" Tara said, shifting her legs to make room for Anya to sit next to her.

"No, the fact that I wouldn't have wanted to kill you is supposed to make you feel better. Anyway you're a woman so...hey, you didn't ever scorn any other women did you? Cheating or anything?"

"No, I'm not like that."

"Well that's admirable." She patted Tara on her good shoulder.


2. Kissing Anya Jenkins.

"You don't mind waiting at the magic box, do you?" Willow had asked, "Only Buffy needs my help with this nest..."

"It's okay, I know I only slow you guys up when you're patrolling. I don't mind waiting at the magic box."

Willow paused in her search for spell ingredients, "The only thing is Anya will be there too."

"That's fine, I like Anya."

"You like Anya?"

"I think she's funny."


So Tara found herself sitting at the magic box table with Anya, waiting for Buffy Willow and Xander to return from an early patrol. There was an open box of donuts sitting on the table; Anya was holding a glazed one in the air, using it to illustrate her point.

"...So, we're left sitting here like, like," Anya waved the donut vigorously in the air "like their cheer section. They're the hero's and we get to fetch the pastries." The former demon took a large bite out of the donut, "Oh well, there are some perks."

"I think it's just, y'know, that they're the fighters..." Tara shrugged.

"Yes, we could get hurt if we went with them. We're smooth and pink and attractive and it would be very unfortunate if we were in any way damaged."

Tara giggled, she really didn't understand how some people didn't get how funny Anya was.

"It's just," Anya continued, "that Xander expects me to wait around for him like some sort of minion in a slave girl outfit. I actually have a slave girl outfit, you know." Anya had finished the donut and was using a napkin to wipe her lips. "Tara, are you okay?"

"What? Sorry," Tara had gotten slightly distracted by a tiny bit of sugar left on the corner of Anya's mouth.

"You just looked a little pale. It was the slave girl outfit, wasn't it? Xander keeps telling me not to mention things like that in public."

"No, it was just," Tara leaned over the desk and cupped Anya's chin, using her thumb to wipe the sugar off Anya's lips. She didn't think she'd over noticed how pretty Anya was, with shiny, glossed lips and bright, sparkling eyes. She leaned forward and pressed her lips to the corner of Anya's mouth, she tasted of sugar and cherry flavoured lip-gloss.

Tara froze; she waited for Anya to push her away, yell at her. Ellie Phillips mark II. But Anya's fingertips were pressed into her arm and Anya wasn't moving away, she wasn't moving forward either. Tara wasn't sure how long they stood like that, lips touching, Tara's hand cupping Anya's jaw, Anya's fingers circling Tara's forearm.

"Why did you do that?" Anya asked when they pulled away, she didn't sound cross or ashamed, just miffed.

"Oh God, Anya, I'm s-so sorry. I don't know w-why...Oh, God."

"It was the slave girl thing wasn't it?" Anya commented casually, fussing with her hair.

Tara opened her mouth to reply, then closed it and bolted for the door.


1. Kissing Anya Jenkins...Again.

"Are you sure you won't come to the Scooby meeting?" Willow asked.

Tara looked out from under the duvet, "No, I'm not feeling well, and I've got a lot of studying to do." Tara couldn't face seeing Anya after what she'd done yesterday. By now Anya would probably have told Xander that she'd been practically attacked by Willow's weird girlfriend. And if Xander knew it would only be a matter of time before Willow found out. She groaned and pulled the duvet over her head. Listening to the door shut as Willow left for the magic box.

To be honest Tara still didn't know why she'd kissed Anya. It was just that lately she and Anya had been spending more time together that with any of the others, especially after Tara had been hurt on patrol. She felt closer to Anya than she did to Willow these days. But that wasn't the point she and Anya were both seeing other people, it had been a mistake.

There was a knock at the door, maybe Willow had come back to see if Tara had changed her mind about the Scooby meeting, Willow could be a little pushy about things that involved the scoobies sometimes.

When she opened the door Anya was standing there smiling, holding a box of donuts. "This was what started the kissing yesterday, I thought we could do it again."

Tara gaped, "I thought you'd hate me after yesterday, I thought you'd tell Xander I'd attacked you."

Anya brushed brusquely past Tara into the dorm room, "Attacked me? You have to do a little more than touch someone briefly with your lips for it to qualify as an attack." She offered Tara the box, "donut?"

Tara took a jelly one and chewed on it thoughtfully, wondering when her life had turned into a scene from Tales of the Unexpected. She was supposed to be happy with Willow until the day she died. She wasn't supposed to become dissatisfied with their relationship, she wasn't supposed to be attracted to Willow's almost-worst enemy, Anya. This was all some sort of horrible mistake, maybe it was the donuts fault. After all this was Sunnydale an evil donut was more than possible.

Tara dropped the remains of the donut in the bin, "l-look, Anya, I like you, but..."

Anya opened her mouth to argue, and then changed her mind, she stepped quickly forwards pressing into Tara, one hand splayed on the small of her back, one around her neck and kissed her.

Tara stumbled backwards into an armchair, arms looped over Anya's shoulders. Anya's mouth was warm and her tongue was in Tara's mouth. Tara wondered why nobody had ever told Anya that you were meant to kiss someone for longer than three seconds before you put your tongue in their mouth. Then Anya's tongue swiped over her lower lip and she was glad no-one had ever educated Anya.

Anya shifted so she was straddling Tara's thighs in the chair, the fabric of her dress slid up out of the way, and suddenly Tara was very aware that she hadn't gotten dressed this morning because she was feigning illness. So while Anya was fully dressed she was wearing a tank top and pyjama shorts with polar bears on them.

"Anya, Anya!" Tara pushed Anya back so she could get some breathing room.

For the first time in their acquaintance Anya looked annoyed with Tara, "What now?" she demanded.

"Xander, Willow..." Tara objected weakly, not wanting to admit that her polar bear shorts embarrassed her.

Anya pointedly looked over her shoulder, "They're not here."

Tara swatted Anya playfully in the arm, "that's not what I meant and you know it."

"I was supposed to fall in love with Xander, he was meant to be my knight in shining armour, but he treats me like a well trained pet, and Willow doesn't treat you much better-" Tara opened her mouth, "Don't interrupt," Anya said sternly, "I was a vengeance demon long enough to know to get out before the bitterness kicks in and the entrails start flying." She moved to let Tara up, and went to sit on the edge of the unmade bed.

"It's weird," Tara agreed, "I was so convinced Willow was The One. I really wanted to be happy with her, but..." she got off the armchair which was uncomfortable and lumpy with piles of laundry and sat next to Anya on the bed.

"But the slaying and Buffy are the important things, we're an afterthought." Anya picked up exactly where Tara had left off.


Anya tipped forward to kiss the witch again, Tara pulled back sharply before Anya's magic tongue could distract her again, "we can't."

"We did before," Anya pointed out in a very manner of fact fashion.

"I've got to talk to Willow, and you've got to talk to Xander. Then maybe we could go for coffee or something."

"Then kissing."

"Yes, Anya, then kissing."

Anya gave Tara an appraising look, "You'd better put some proper clothes on, or Willow will know something's been going on and turn me into a bunny. I don't think I could stand that."

Tara left Anya sitting at her desk, eating donuts and flipping through her history class notes, "I started that war, not the French! I never get credit for my hard work!" and went to get dressed in the bathroom.

She was about to break up with the beautiful, powerful best friend of the slayer in order to go have coffee with a thousand year old capitalist ex demon. This was all some kind of terrible wonderful mistake.


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