Glass House
by s.a.

Tara walked Anya home after dinner. It was one of their little rituals, like Buffy, Willow, and Xander's Oreo-and-popcorn movie night, or Dawn reshelving books every Saturday from the unsteady towering piles they ended up in throughout the week. Unspoken, but necessary for the stability of their world. Tara and Anya began it shortly after they'd both been left to twiddle their thumbs for the umpteenth time while the others took care of some crazy thing.

They'd spent the evening eating bruchetta and delicate clam linguini, talking about the summer and how things had changed the past three months. More and more they found themselves talking about Willow and Xander, how invested they were in this plan and the possibility of ruining the delicate balance they'd all achieved over the summer.

As they walked, they overheard a loud couple talking about their sex life, and the irate boyfriend yelling, "Sex is like Chinese food! An hour later you can always do with more!" They both burst into giggles and had to sit down to hold their sides.

Later Tara would think about how great it was that Anya finally got the jokes, was beginning to understand humanity again after being so detached from it for thousands of years, but at the time they just leaned against each other to hold up their weight and looked out on the peaceful Sunnydale night.

For some reason Sunnydale was always easy in the summer, less strained with the burden of its destiny. It was as though it knew, come fall there would be an overflow of craziness and evil, and took some measure to just calm down.

The result was that people were friendly and open, willing to share hellos and help strangers on the street. Even those lucky few in ever-constant denial seemed touched by the feeling as well, and smiles were brighter and shoe sales more frequent.

The heat was clear and dry, and their fingers brushed as they ambled home. They were unlikely friends, made less so by the positions they were put into by their lovers. Bonds were easily formed and strengthened in Sunnydale, where the collective terror of just living hung over the town like a shroud, and they both knew what they had, even if they never spoke of it.

When they walked past the Espresso Pump the smell was too tempting to avoid, so they slipped onto the high stools in a corner of the open area and listened to the live musicians weave violin and guitar together, perfectly complementing the night. They ordered frosted mochas and talked about the small things that had happened throughout the week: a new shipment of books from England, a guy slipping while playing hackysack at the college, the new secular bookstore that opened down the street.

Tara saw a guy from her women's studies class and spent a few minutes talking to him while Anya watched on, sipping her mocha and tracing the pattern of the tile on the table. He made some joke about the Lord of the Rings movie, and Tara laughed, high and sweet, when Anya's head shot up at the mention of Legolas.

The guy left, and they finished their mochas in companionable silence, listening to the music and commenting lowly on occasion about passerbys or the new movie at the theater.

When they left, it was late, and Anya offered to walk Tara back to Revello first, taking a cab home, but Tara declined, saying she wanted to enjoy the evening before they all disappeared.

The walk was easy--Xander's apartment building was close to town, and the subdivisions not much further from it.

They got to the door and hugged warmly, Tara pressing a soft kiss to Anya's lips. She waited on the stairs until Anya was safely inside, turning to go back down.

Loose thoughts flowed through Tara's head as she walked home. Three months made such a difference. How strange was it that she could not pinpoint a happier time in her life than after the loss of Buffy? It was almost macabre, she knew, but she saw more and more how her death had served to pull the rest of them together, move past their annoyances and troubled relationships to be a family.

Tara felt that, now, she had a family--though she'd considered the Summers and Xander so for a long time. She had Willow, too, the love of her life. What they had was forever, she knew it in her bones. But even more than that, she had a friend. Anya filled that last part of her dream, and there were times when she felt so overcome with joy she would sit curled in a chair for hours, staring at nothing but reveling at the amazing turn her life had taken.

Where she was now was because of Buffy, in more ways than one, and every day she thought of her and wished her peace--she found it hard to believe that Buffy's sacrifice would be rewarded with torment, despite Willow's insistence and Xander's blind belief.

The whole plan disturbed Tara more and more, and though she knew it was deeply selfish, she feared that any attempts at changing the outcome of the events of last May would destroy them all, destroy what she had so stumblingly acquired.

When she came home, she found Willow's things strewn across the kitchen table in a quiet house. Her computer was still on, parts of the translated spell littering the screen. Tara's fingers danced across the screen, following the words, and her hand fell to lie on the keyboard.

Before she quite realized what she was doing, she felt heat on her hand and a crackling strength pulling through her body from her toes to her forehead. A quiet, powerful ball of energy hit the computer, shorting it out.

She stepped back, looking at her hand with surprise. Then she carefully stepped over the cords on the floor to reach into the kitchen and turn off the light, going up the stairs to sleep at Willow's side.


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