"Can you stand?" Zuzie now asked with trepidation.
"I... I think... yes," answered the redhead, "With some help."
Tara instinctively stepped forward to her side and placed a strong arm around her back. "Use me," she offered, suddenly fully aware of her unintentional double entendre and trying not to blush.
Whether Willow noticed the potential secondary meaning of Tara's words or not remained unknown as she was focused intently on leveraging her balance on the foot attached to her uninjured leg until she was in a full standing position and leaning on Tara heavily for support.
"Are you going to be able to continue?" The choreographer questioned, noting discouragingly how much Willow was depending on the stage manager for support, implying that the injury could be a bad one.
"Maybe," offered the dancer, "maybe I could try walking it off for a few minutes? It hurt, and still does, but I think it may have just been a shock."
"You landed very hard," Tara pointed out worriedly.
"She's right," agreed Zuzie, "Are you sure putting weight on it so soon is a good idea?"
"Let me at least try," asked Willow plaintively. "Tara and I can go into the hall and try walking down and back a couple of times."
"Tara, would you mind?" asked Zuzie.
"Um... no..." she agreed hesitantly, "that should be fine." It wasn't that she thought Willow was faking, the redhead had hit the ground very hard and fast, and no one could deny the sickening thud that had reverberated through the rehearsal hall with the impact. Tara did want to help Willow out, she was truly worried about her, but she also wanted to stay and continue to observe the rehearsal. After all, that's what stage managers did in rehearsal, they observed, took notes and kept order. How could Tara keep order if she was outside? The anal-retentive part of her was kicking in with a sudden and annoyingly persuasive force. "Let's go," she said, trying to disguise her disappointment with the situation with a smile and giving Willow a gentle tug on her hip to urge her forward.
Willow nodded and the two of them moved very slowly toward, and ultimately through, the door leading into the hall. The redhead limped and occasionally let out soft exclamations of pain, causing Tara to wince with empathy and offer encouraging words of support.
The redhead held steadfastly to Tara's side, almost is if she was holding on for dear life. Tara really began to feel sorry for the dancer, if the injury was as bad as it seemed, it had the potential of being a career-breaker. She tightened her grip a little, noticing the way the girl's body just seemed to fit right into her hands. Stop it with the naughty thoughts, Tara, she scolded herself, the poor girl is injured and needs your help, not your lusty musings.
In their relative silence, Willow had taken the opportunity, between grimacing in pain, to really take in the girl beside her. She smells nice, she observed happily, kind of like citrus and watermelon. Tart and sweet at the same time.
"How's it feeling?" Tara asked after a long pause.
"A little better," Willow replied. "Thanks for helping me walk it off."
"No problem," said Tara, smilingly sadly, concern evident on her face. "Do you think you'll be okay?"
"I think so. I have a feeling it's not as bad as it seems right now."
"I hope so."
They hobbled on again for a few more minutes and Willow did seem to be leaning less heavily on Tara's side, though she still limped noticeably.
"I'm sorry," Tara said suddenly, breaking the silence.
"What fo- whoa!" Willow's feet had somehow tangled together, causing her to trip over herself unexpectedly. Tara caught her by the arms, which disrupted her own balance and the two tumbled together landing in a heap on the floor with the blonde landing on her back and the redhead firmly on top of her.
"Are you okay?" Willow asked, looking down into the face beneath her.
"Oof," Tara exhaled, "Yeah, I'm okay. Although it's a good thing you don't weigh very much. Landing the way you did... " The blonde shifted a little bit, noting how the dancer's legs had married with her own, the location of Willow's right thigh was causing a very particular and familiar series of sensations to travel up Tara's body. It couldn't help but distract her a little.
"Did you hit your head?"
"Your head, did you hit it?" Willow queried again, her expression filled with concern.
"No, I'm fine," she replied, trying to focus on getting the blood to rush back to her brain from destinations south. "I'm good. How's your knee?"
"It's okay. I didn't land on it," the redhead smiled before adding, "just on you." Tara chuckled a little at the comment. "Are you sure aren't hurt?" Willow inquired for a third time.
Willow let out what seemed to be a sigh of relief, yet she seemed perfectly content to stay where she was, not even attempting to move off of the blonde.
Tara found herself starting to get a little uncomfortable with how comfortable she was feeling. "Uh, Willow?"
"Join me for coffee sometime?" The redhead smiled, repeating the invitation that had been rebuffed earlier that day.
The stage manager let out a sigh, "I don't drink coffee."
"Oh," frowned Willow, "Sorry." She started to push up from her horizontal position, seemingly embarrassed, almost as if she had just realized where she was.
"But I do like tea," Tara found herself blurting out suddenly.
"Oh," the dancer now smiled and relaxed back down to her original position. "Well then, join me for tea?"
Unbeknownst to Willow, a quiet war was being waged inside of Tara's brain. What are you doing?, thought Tara's "Ego", You hardly know this girl. Tara's "Id" chose that moment to make itself known. Want. Take. Have. Oh, you be quiet, answered the Ego. Want. Take. Have. The Id repeated impatiently. It isn't that simple and you know it, argued Ego. Actually, me no know that. Me only function based on biological need and desire, explained Id. You be quiet, snapped Ego, and stop speaking in polysyllables, it's unnerving. Say yes to tea. No! Say yes to girl. Stop it, I have to think this over. What there to think? We like tea. Say yes to tea. Girl pretty. We like girl. SAY YES TO GIRL! Alright!
"Alright," Tara said aloud.
"Cool," stated Willow, a pleasant smile gracing her face.
"So, um, are you going to get up now?" the blonde asked, eyebrow raised.
"But it's so nice down here," the dancer grinned, biting her lower lip playfully.
"Okay," she sighed, pushing up and to her feet in one fluid motion.
"Careful, your kn-", Tara stopped mid-sentence as she realized that the dancer was standing over her, perfectly fine. She quickly grappled to her feet. "You're not hurt," she stated, a hint of anger in her voice.
"You were faking!"
"No... no, I wasn't-"
"Yes you were! I thought... I mean... we all thought you were really hurt!" Tara was near-fuming mad now. "It was all just an act to... to what? Get me out here and make me feel sorry for you so that I'd... I'd... join you for coffee? Is that it?"
Willow shifted a little in her jazz shoes. "I... may have... played it up a little..."
"You admit it!"
"But I really did fall," the redhead added hastily. "I really did hit my knee... and hard too. Just... not as hard as I may have... implied."
"I'm going back into rehearsal," Tara sniped huffily, starting to walk past her, "and you can forget about tea."
"Tara, wait," Willow said, stepping in to her path. "At least let me explain."
The blonde halted in her tracks and crossed her arms in front of her chest. "This should be good."
"I fell because you looked away," the dancer began.
"Oh, so now you're blaming me?"
"No! Nothing like that at all!"
"It's my fault that I fell. I shouldn't have allowed myself to be so easily distracted," Willow tried to explain. "When you looked away from me... I got scared."
"Scared?" Tara's tone was dubious.
"Like... like I didn't know what I would do if you never looked back." The redhead paused a moment before continuing, grateful that the stage manager hadn't interrupted her again. "It scared me somehow, that thought that you didn't care. It scared me enough that I lost my balance."
Tara merely raised an eyebrow and shifted her weight onto her left foot.
"I really did fall. And I really did hit my knee. And it really did hurt. But it wasn't bad." Willow went on, "I needed to talk to you, so I played it up a little. I got you into the hallway didn't I."
"I don't appreciate being taken advantage of." Tara said evenly.
"I'm sorry." The statement was heartfelt, even Tara could tell that she meant it.
The blonde sighed, "I'm going back inside." She moved past the redhead to the rehearsal room door.
"Please join me for tea," Willow asked again, softly. Tara halted in her tracks, but kept her back turned. "Tomorrow morning? Before rehearsal? There's a little place down on the corner."
The stage manager stood silently for a moment before answering with a gruff, "one cup," and disappearing inside the door.
"Yes!" Willow smiled happily to herself before following quickly after.