Return to The Game of Love Chapter Fifty

The Game of Love

Author: Shai
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: Unfortunately neither Tara nor Willow are mine. Neither's anyone else in this fic for that matter!

"Uno!" Willow called out.

Tara looked up at her, then back at the three remaining cards in her hand. She had a red 3, a yellow 4, and a blue 7. Willow had thrown a yellow 7, and now Tara had to decide whether to throw the 4 and keep the colour yellow, or the 7 and hope that her last card wasn't a blue. Looking back up at Willow, she wanted to grin at the hopeful expression on Willow's face, and how the redhead was guarding her last card, holding it close to her chest!

"Her chest..." Tara said, her gaze moving lower, before she realized what she was doing and abruptly looked back at her cards! Focusing once more on the game, Tara took a deep breath, and threw down the blue.

"Ha!" Willow said triumphantly, and threw down her last card. It was a blue 1. Tara looked down at the card, and then looking back up she pretended to yawn. "Yeah... you were just lucky..." she said in a dry tone!

"Hey!!!" Willow frowned and puffed her chest out. "It was a hard fought game ok! Don't be a sore loser!" she said, pouting.

'Ooooh look at her!' Tara's mind yelled, as she took in the sight of the redhead pouting in her overalls. 'She's adorable!'

"Alright, alright" the blonde said aloud. "It was an extremely hard fought game!" she laughed. Picking up her glass, which was by her side, she took a sip of champagne. "So... is there, like, a deadline you have to meet?" she asked, trying to hide the hopeful tone she knew her voice held.

30 minutes later Willow and Tara were seated at Mainland China, as the waiter took down their order. Jotting it all down, he looked at Tara and said "May I repeat your order?" Tara nodded. "Alright. That's 1 Shrimp Fried Rice, 1 American Chopsuey and 1 chicken Manchurian, is that correct?" Tara nodded her head. "Anything to drink with that?" he asked.

"Yeah, I'll have one Peach Iced Tea" Tara said. She looked at Willow. "You?"

"I'll have the same" the redhead answered.

Tara looked back up at the waiter, "That's two Peach Iced Tea's" she said.

Jotting it down, he nodded and left. Tara looked at Willow, "The foods really good here you know.." she said.

"Yeah, I've heard so... you eat here a lot?" Willow asked.

"Well, I eat out a lot actually" Tara said.

"With friends?" Willow asked.

"No, actually most of the time I come myself" Seeing Willow's questioning look she explained "It can get monotonous eating alone... and after a tiring day it's hard to get myself in the frame of mind to cook..." she said.

It was at the moment that things finally clicked in Willow's head. 'Why do I not want this... this woman to have to eat alone? I want to be there to cook her a meal if she's tired... oh my God... I think I like LIKE Tara!' she thought, and then went into panic mode. 'Ok, don't freak out, don't freak out... .' "Umm Tara" she said aloud, "I need to use the restroom... two minutes ok?" she said, and rising, quickly walked to the restroom.

Tara watched her walk away, and couldn't help but notice the gentle sway of the redheads hips as she moved. 'She's got a cute butt...' the blonde thought, and then stopped herself. 'What are you doing Tara Maclay? This is a girl, who's seeing someone else. Are you trying to hit on her? Cause that's a bad, bad thing' the strict side of Tara thought.

'Am I trying to hit on her?' the logical side thought. 'No... I like this girl, but I'm not trying hit on her. A, she has a boyfriend, and I am not shallow enough to try and steal someone else's someone. B, she probably doesn't even like girls, and I think I'm developing a great friendship with Willow. Wait, do I like girls? I dunno...but I definitely like Willow. Ok, focus...I would never jeopardise what I think could be a lifelong friendship wih Willow. I just wanna be around Willow, get to know her. Eventually I'll stop crushing on's just a matter of time. But yeah, I know I always want to have this woman in my life...She makes me feel happier than I've ever been, and I don't want to lose out on that' she thought, knowing she was being honest with herself.

Meanwhile, Willow stood in the restroom, staring at her reflection in the mirror above the wash basin. 'Am I crushing on Tara??? What do I do???' she wondered. The mirror didn't seem to be giving Willow any advice, so she closed her eyes and thought of Tara. 'What do I feel when I think of Tara? I feel calm... peaceful... happy... and yeah, I'm definitely crushing! But I have a boyfriend!' she panicked. 'Yeah, Oz, boyfriend... ok, Willow, don't worry, this is just a passing phase! You're attracted to Tara because she's lovely, beautiful, kind... she's also funny, sensitive... ok, ok so you know WHY you're attracted to Tara, but the question is, is she attracted to you? Ok, why am I thinking about whether Tara's attracted to me??? I have a boyfriend! Oz! But does Tara like girls? Does she like me? Stop, stop, stop Willow! What if she doesn't like me?' Willow's heart sank at the idea. 'Ok, seriously Willow, don't do this. You've got a great thing going with Tara, don't jeopardize that! I mean what if she finds out and never wants to talk to you again? What'll you do then? And this crush will pass... you have Oz, your boyfriend... concentrate on him!'

Willow nodded at her reflection, and made her way back out to the dining area. She spotted Tara sitting at the table, seemingly lost in thought herself. 'God, she's beautiful' Willow thought, as her breath caught.

Tara felt herself being looked at, and looking up she saw Willow walking her way. Their eyes met, and Tara found herself smiling at the redhead.

'Aww... she's got the cutest smile... it's a shy smile...' Willow thought, as she reached the table, and sat down.

"The Iced Tea's arrived" Tara said, indicating towards the two tall glasses with umbrella's in them.

"And so has the food!" Willow said, nodding her head to a place behind Tara, where two waiters had appeared with trays carrying the food.

They sat in silence as the waiters served them, and then began to eat, talking about everything from politics to the weather. Suddenly Willow remembered "Ooh Tara! I forgot! Buffy said to tell you that Dawn had a great test! Dawnie's gonna call you later herself, but Buffy just wanted you to know anyway!"

"That's great!" Tara smiled. "She's a really sweet kid."

"Yeah, that she is. It's amazing how she's turned out... I mean it's probably really hard for her, with no parents, and Buffy working a lot of the time to be able to pay the bills. Buff really regrets that she doesn't get to spend enough time with Dawn. We've all offered to help out with the bills and stuff, but Buff doesn't want that..." Willow said.

"What exactly does Buffy do?" Tara asked, taking a bite.

Willow swallowed her own bite, and said, "She waitresses, and flips burgers at a small diner."

Tara looked thoughtful, and nodded her head. "Hmm, and if you don't mind me asking, how much does she get paid?"

Willow thought for a second, before saying "I think it's about 12 dollars an hour. On most days she does 6 hour shifts, but whenever she's free, or finds the strength, she tries to make that 9 hours..."

"And she works everyday?" Tara asked.

"6 days a week" Willow answered.

Taking another bite, Tara chewed and swallowed before saying "So that's..." she calculated, "about..." Willow watched as she frowned slightly while calculating in her head "432 dollars a week if she works 6 hours a day. And that's..." she calculated again "about 1,728 dollars a month..." she said.

Willow nodded, as Tara asked again "Is that enough to get by for her and Dawn?"

"They manage to make ends meet... but I know it's really hard... I just wish there was something I could do, but Buffy doesn't let anyone help..." Willow said, her frustration evident.

"Willow???" an incredulous voice said, breaking Willow's and Tara's chain of thought.

Looking up, the two girls saw z standing there, with a bunch of his friends.

"Oz?" Willow said, "You're here?"

"Yeah" Oz said, looking at her. He looked at Tara and nodded his head, without so much as a smile. Looking back at Willow he said, "I was here meeting a producer... what are you doing here?"

"Tara and I came out to get something to eat..." Willow said.

"I thought you guys were at her place..." he replied.

"We WERE Oz... but we got hungry... you know, like normal people get hungry... so we came out to eat..." Willow said, getting angry at Oz's behavior.

"You two here alone?" the musician asked.

"Yeah we are" Willow answered. sure? Are you sure you're not meeting any guys here?" Oz pestered.

"What kind of question is that???" Willow asked, her vice rising slightly in anger.

Ignoring her, Oz looked at Tara. "Are you meeting any guys here?" he asked the blonde this time.

"No Oz... we're not seeing any guys here" she answered calmly.

Nodding his head, he looked back at Willow. "Alright... are you done eating?"

"Almost... why?" Willow asked.

"I'm going to The Bronze... come with me..." he said.

"Oz, I told you earlier, I don't wanna go out tonight." Willow said, trying to stay calm.

"Look, I'll drop her home ok?" Oz said, ignoring Willow again and speaking to Tara.

The blonde didn't respond, and simply looked at Willow, who said "Oz, did you not hear me? I said I don't wanna go!"

"Willow, just for a little while... I'll drop you home. C'mon, chill with the band and me" Oz said.

Taking a deep breath, Willow said "Have you been drinking?"

"No... ok maybe a little bit..." Oz said "But what does that have to do with coming to The Bronze?"

"Oz..." Willow said, her voice even, "Go to The Bronze... I'm not coming... but call me tomorrow... we need to talk..."

"But..." Oz started, only to be cut off by his girlfriend.

"You heard me Oz" she said.

"Fine!" and with that Oz stomped off, followed by his friends.

Willow closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. Opening them, she saw herself staring into concerned blue eyes. "Hey... .you ok?" Tara asked.

Willow nodded her head, feeling peaceful as she stared at the girl before her. I'm fine" she said. "Tara, about yesterday, when I left with Oz..."

"Shh, it's ok" Tara said, silencing the apology. Willow smiled gratefully at the blonde, and they sat in silence or a few seconds, before Tara said "Lost your appetite haven't you?"

Willow nodded mutely, and watched as Tara called for the bill. When it arrived, Willow was silenced even before she had the chance to ask whether she could pay. She stared at Tara's hand, which was raised to end any protests, and sat back, knowing there was no way she could win.

"So..."Tara said, as they walked out the doors, back onto the street. "Coffee?"

"Under one condition" Willow said, and Tara knew what she meant.

"Fine... you can pay!" she grinned.

Walking to the nearest Starbucks, the girls ordered Mocha's, and settled down into comfortable conversation again. Neither raised the subject about Oz, and they stuck to talking about their friends.

"Zak's a great guy. I know Buffy will be really happy with him" Tara said.

"And hey, don't worry about your friend Anya! Xander's a sweetie too..." Willow smiled.

"It's nice that they have something good going huh?" Tara said, taking a sip of her second Mocha.

Willow nodded, remembering how happy the four looked when she'd met them earlier that day. Once again she felt a pang when she thought of her relationship with Oz. 'We definitely need to talk tomorrow...' she thought.

Twenty minutes later the two were in Tara's car as it pulled up outside Willow's parents' house, where the redhead was spending the night.

"Well, this is my stop" Willow said, turning to look at Tara.

"Yeah..." Tara said, and tried not to look too sad as she realized that this was the end of the evening. "I had a great time... thanks for..."

"Hey! Stop it right there missy! I had an equally great time, so lets you and I not be thanking each other, alright? Friends don't have to thank one another, ok?"

Tara smiled her lopsided grin, and Willow thought her heart would either burst or melt... or probably burst then melt!

'I better get out of here...' she thought, and said "K... so I'll see you at college tomorrow, ok?"

Tara nodded her head, and watched as Willow leaned over, to give her a quick hug. Pulling back, Willow said, "Good night Maclay!" and opened the passengers door, and got out of the car.

Tara watched her as she crossed to the other side of the car, and began to walk up the driveway to her house. "G' night Rosenberg" she called, laughing.

Willow heard the cars engine come back to life, and getting to her front door, she turned to wave at Tara one last time, and watched as the blonde waved back, put her car into gear, and drove off.

Opening the front door, Willow walked into her house, and try as she might, she couldn't wipe the silly smile off her face, even when she was lying in bed... little did she know that a few miles away, a blonde hair, blue eyed girl was facing the same predicament!

Continue to The Game of Love Chapter Fifty-Two

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