Willow drifted slowly back to consciousness by the feeling of something soft moving against her. Her body felt heavy and hot. The memory of an incredibly erotic dream lingered fragmented in her brain, but she couldn't quite make out what it had been about. If the remaining fire in her body was anything to go by, it had been seriously exciting stuff, though. With a drowsy start she realised that Tara was spooning her, and that they obviously had spent the night like that, considering the slight stiffness in her joints. The white arm resting on her stomach flexed its fingers.
Had Tara done this voluntarily or subconsciously? Willow wondered. Would she be embarrassed when she woke up? She knew that she ought to feel awkward herself, with her back and her bottom pressed into Tara like this. The other times she had shared a bed with her girlfriends, like she and Buffy had done a few times, she obviously hadn't used her as a teddy bear, the way she had done with Tara during the night. Just as the thought had entered her head, Tara woke up.
"Willow?" She said with a hint of panic in her voice and sat straight up.
"Great, she's freaked..."
Willow's good morning spirits sank. Her back was cold, missing the contact with Tara's warm body.
"Yes...?" She answered warily.
"We are going to be SO late! We forgot the alarm; we have to be there in half an hour!"
Now Willow was the one who sat straight up.
"Oh no!" She said, panic voice in place. "Actually, scratch that! OH CRAP!"
She jumped out of bed like lightning had struck. She turned to Tara. Yup, panic face there too... The she just stopped in the middle of the floor.
'But what a lovely panic face,' she thought as she took in Tara's tousled hair and rosy cheeks.
"What?" The mezzo looked at her quizzically.
"It's not really fair that you should be so pretty first thing in the morning," Willow said in mock disgruntlement.
She felt a little self conscious right after the words left her mouth.
'Was that a weird thing to say?'
Tara looked up at her with a strange smile on her face. Her eyes had an expression in them Willow couldn't quite interpret. She had to look away. Her stomach felt funny all of a sudden and her chest too tight for her expanding lungs.
"Right! Clothes!" She tried to regain focus.
Her clothes were piled on top of Tara's in one of the armchairs. They started to messily try to divide the garments between them. Willow didn't really want to take her borrowed T-shirt off. It smelt nice, like Tara did.
"Willow-size," Tara said, holding Willow's top in her hand.
Willow arched an eyebrow.
"This is certainly not mine," she said, holding Tara's white lace bra, with its more generous cup size, in her hand.
"Hey!" Tara snatched it out of her hand in mock indignation and shoved her playfully.
Willow tickled Tara until she almost fell over laughing. Tara tried to answer with the same. They ended up in a sloppy embrace and stopped moving. For a few seconds, they stood absolutely still.
"This won't do," Willow finally concluded and let go. She felt flushed and hot.
"The superstars of the next generation need to maintain a professional façade at all times," she continued cheerfully and started to climb out of Tara's boxer shorts.
The mezzo politely turned her back and started to undress as well.
"I hardly think I'm a superstar of the next generation," Tara said in a doubtful voice over her shoulder.
"You just totally will be, on the account of being complete awesome," Willow said happily, hopping on one leg, trying to put her trousers on.
"You do an excellent job as chairwoman of the Tara Maclay fan club," Tara said softly as she was putting her shirt back on.
"That I do!"
"I hate it when I don't get to be sung up properly in the morning," the mezzo said with a shudder.
Willow caught her face in the mirror and realised that a wide smile belied the statement.
"What vocal exercises do you do?" The soprano said curiously.
Tara gave an example and soon their voices mingled beautifully in the room, still filled with the gentle scent of sleep warm bodies.
As they left the hotel, a weary George was finishing the night shift.
"Way to go, girlfriend!" He whispered with a suggestive leer as the two singers walked past him shoulder to shoulder, still humming together.
"George! " Willow blushed and threw him an offended look.
His suggestive smile just grew wider. Tara gave Willow a puzzled look.
"Eh, an old acquaintance of mine," Willow answered her silent question, hoping that she hadn't heard what he said, and then quickly changed the subject.
She tentatively reached out for Tara's hand. It immediately snuck into hers. She stole a glance at the mezzo, who had turned her face up into the radiant morning sun.
Before they entered the opera house, Tara tugged at the sleeve of Willow's jacket and made her stop.
"You look wonderful in the morning..." she whispered quietly under her breath, so that no one else would hear them.
The strange feeling returned to Willow's stomach when they went through the door together. She wasn't sure if her skin felt hot or cold. But mostly, she was just happy...
She and Tara had separate rehearsals all morning and Willow found it difficult to concentrate. The mezzo come up to her at lunchtime and Willow was just about to suggest that the go somewhere outside for lunch, when Tara shattered those plans with a
"So, I'll see you Friday then?"
She leant in for a hug, but Willow stepped away in confusion.
"What do you mean? Are you... Are you going somewhere?"
She realised that she sounded disproportionately upset, but she was just so surprised by the statement.
"Y-Yes, I'm going back to Scotland. Didn't I tell you? We have a recital with the Young Artists program in Edinburgh. It has been scheduled for months, so Sir Giles agreed that I could come back to do the concert when they asked me to do Suzuki."
"You so totally didn't tell me! I would have remembered... I'm going to be so bored at rehearsals now..." Willow realised that she sounded like a whiny child, but she just didn't want Tara to go.
"I'm sorry; I really thought I had told you..."
Willow heard the apologetic tone of her voice and felt guilty about her childishness. Why was she acting like Tara had offended her in some way?
"So what are you singing?" She said, trying to sound cheerful.
"Old faithful. Cherubino, the staple of any mezzos repertoire," she smiled.
"I could come with you and be the Countess," Willow said wistfully.
"Or I could just make notes. I am the chairwoman of the Fan club after all..."
Tara leant in to hug her and Willow stepped into the embrace. They just stood there for a few seconds, and then Willow hugged her closer. The palm of Tara's hand moved slowly along her back. When they let go, Willow felt cold and disgruntled.
When the mezzo turned and walked out of the opera house Willow decided that this day had officially turned to crap. Four days without her... But she couldn't stop a silly grin returning at the thought of the night spent in Tara's bed and the long hours of talking that had come before it.
Going back to the rehearsal room she saw Tara's cardigan forgotten on the back of a chair. With a vague feeling of guilt, she knelt down next to it and inhaled its scent. Breathing in with long, deep breaths she felt the essence of Tara filling up her mind and her senses. Tara had a distinctive scent that you could feel lingering in a room for minutes after she had left.
Willow slipped both her arms into the soft sweater and hugged herself, again inhaling. The scent of Tara was strongest just around the neckline, where the soft lamb's wool usually rested directly on her skin. It made her feel slightly intoxicated, like she had just had a few glasses of champagne. She realised that her behaviour was a little weird, but she made a deal with her mind not to think about it. She took the material in her hands and buried her face in it. Then she walked out of the room still wearing it, deciding that she wouldn't take it off until the mezzo came back. She would simply refuse to.
"It that new?"
Her fashion conscious friend never missed as much as a new pair of socks.
"Mmhmmh." Willow shook her head.
"Tara? Is that the mezzo from Scottish Opera who's in Butterfly with you?" Buffy said with a slight frown.
"Mmmh..." Willow nodded and smiled to herself.
"Why are you wearing her clothes?"
"It's comfy. I like it," Willow answered defensively.
"It doesn't go with the outfit though. Here, I'll lend you my red fuzzy one instead".
Willow crossed her arms over her chest.
"Thanks Buffy, but I'm going to wear this".
"Honestly Will, I really like your quirky outfits, but that colour with bright red? That's sort of beyond quirky..."
"I can dress myself, actually, Buff. I'm not always in need of your infinite wisdom," Willow snapped and left the room.
She wasn't sure why she couldn't bring herself to take Tara's sweater off. Buffy was right, it did clash awfully with her outfit. But for some reason Willow felt really good about herself wearing it. She felt... well, sexy, almost. It made her think of when Tara compared her to the Fairy Queen and the way her hair had smelt when it had tickled Willow's nose in bed. But mostly it made her think of how Tara had looked wearing it on the way to the opera house that morning. How the different shades of sea greens in the sweater had brought out her eyes as she smilingly squinted at the overly bright sunlight and gently snuck her hand into Willow's when she had reached out for her.
She compromised by changing the rest of her clothes, but keeping the sweater on. The rest of the evening was spent being kind to Buffy to make up for snapping at her earlier.
They went back to the opera house to listen to Händel's endless and wonderful opera Julius Caesar. Willow was learning the role of Cleopatra herself and hoped to sing it soon on stage. Normally, she was an attentive, overly critical listener, who would get a concerned frown on her brow whenever her perfect pitch would be offended by the odd off note. Buffy used to joke that had it been allowed, Willow would have taken her lap top to the theatre to record the sound so that she could analyze it in 3D graphics. Tonight, however she seemed unable to even concentrate on the plot. She just sat there and let the beautiful sound wash over her and Tara's scent fill her senses. For once, her inner critic remained silent.
After the performance, she and Buffy went to the Crusting Pipe and shared a ridiculously expensive and fattening chocolate truffle torte and had red port to go with it. Willow thought as they ate, that next week she would take Tara out to dinner with Buffy and Sandro. Maybe... Or just take her to dinner on her own...
As they were walking home, slightly tipsy from the port, they laughed and joked like they used too. Willow was relieved at Buffy's good humour, since she had seen the pained looks that Buffy had given her ex-lover Liam Brody for the last few days. It really wasn't good for Buffy to work in the same house as him, she thought.
"But Blondie-Bear, I still love you! And I know you love me too...I'm still your big tartufo of love!" They heard Harmonia Biondi's voice from far down the street. In front of her walked a looming figure with long strides, smoking agitatedly.
"In was just sodding SEX, Harmonia!! When are you going to get that into your head!? Now, gerrof me!!"
"You used to say that kissing my lips were like eating tiramisu with a soup spoon! And what about that time when I wore the Brünnhilde costume and you made me call you the demon producer? And Brünnhilde's not even in my repertoire! Isn't that love? I could do that thing with the leek and the rain coat that you like, baby?"
"For the last time Harm, we're through, so sod off before I get a restraining order!"
The bizarre procession continued down the street while Willow and Buffy hid in a small alley. Buffy was laughing silently, tears of mirth running down her cheeks.
"I'm going to call Bloodsworth Blondie-Bear until the day he dies!" She whimpered into Willow's ear.
They talked about the incident all the way home, laughing and re-living it, over and over. Willow was very happy to see her friend so care free, since that hadn't happened in a long time. Although it did disturb her in some way that she couldn't quite define, that Bloodsworth made Biondi dress up as Brünnhilde...
"Here's hoping she didn't borrow my costume," Buffy giggled. They both fell silent as some disturbing images entered their heads and then quickly changed the subject.
When they got home, Willow spent a while looking at the moon leaning out of her window. She thought about how it had filled Tara's hotel room with its silvery light and smiled.
As she went to bed, she put Tara's cardigan next to her own head on the pillow and rested her cheek in the place where Tara's shoulder would have been if she had actually been in the sweater instead of in Edinburgh...
She woke up in exactly the same position the following morning thinking for a brief moment that she was back in Tara's hotel room.
The rest of the weekend was spent learning the music of the love duet from Rosenkavalier. It was a little more difficult than she had expected, but she felt happy rehearsing it, imagining how great their voices would sound as they blended. She wore Tara's sweater all Sunday, when she visited her singing teacher in Lewes, and again to bed on the Sunday evening. By Monday morning, there was just the slightest hint of Tara's scent left. It was replaced by something else that Willow supposed was her own scent. She couldn't quite understand why she would miss Tara so much, having known her for only a few weeks.
'Well, it doesn't matter, because she'll be back tomorrow and I can give it to her to be recharged with Tara scent...' she thought happily.