The words were barely out of Tara's mouth when someone bumped into Willow from behind, causing her to fall towards the blonde. Tara instinctively reached out to steady the redhead, and a moment later the two girls were standing face to face with Tara's hands resting on Willow's hips. Before the women had time to process the position they were in, their attention was drawn towards the person who'd caused them to be standing like that in the first place, as he continued his mad dash to the bathroom with one hand over his mouth.
Tara looked back at Willow with amusement written all over her face, "Umm, remember to stay as far away from the drunks looking for a bathroom to puke in as you can!"
Willow grinned back, "I'll keep that in mind ma'am," before both of them seemed to simultaneously realize how close together they were. The redhead glanced down at Tara's lips while thinking, "All I need to do is duck a little bit and I can..."
Willow and Tara looked in the direction the voice came from at the same time, and saw that the word had come from a middle-aged bald man who had his dark glasses on even though they were inside a hotel suite.
"Andrew?" Willow said, turning towards the man with a smile as Tara let her hands drop from the redhead's waist. "How are you?"
"I'm good" Andrew smiled, coming closer. "What are you doing here?"
"Oh, I'm sorry... this is my friend Tara Maclay." After Tara and Andrew shook hands, Willow continued "Tara works with the radio station that was broadcasting the concert live to Sunnydale, and was kind enough to bring me along."
"Aaahhh" Andrew said, nodding in understanding. "Is Oz here as well?"
Willow shook her head, and added "We broke up a few days ago..." Andrew nodded, before turning his attention to Tara, "So, you're with Sunnydale Radio?"
Tara nodded, "Yes sir." Andrew smiled at the girl's politeness, then said "Well, this is an after party so I'll leave you girls to have fun, but," he reached into the inside pocket of his coat and pulled out a card which he handed to Tara, "how about you call me if you ever feel the need to?"
"Sure," Tara said, looking down at the card as Andrew told Willow and her to have a fun night and proceeded to walk towards a makeshift bar. "He's a music producer" she stated more than asked, and Willow nodded, saying "He helped Oz's band polish some of their demo material, which is how I know him".
This time it was Tara's turn to nod, as they started walking further into the suite. "So... you and Oz split up?" the blonde asked, trying to sound nonchalant even as she tried to dig up some information.
"Yeah," Willow said, glancing towards Tara to see if there was a change in the blonde's expression. All she saw was a look encouraging her to continue as they walked into a room that held the suite's real bar, which in turn seemed to be very well stocked. "Wait, drink?" Tara asked, and Willow nodded, then continued her story as they walked towards the alcohol haven. "I just...wasn't in love with him anymore. He's a really good guy..." she said, but stopped when they got to the bar and Tara looked at her with a disbelief written all over her face. "No, it's true. Sure, you've seen him in some of his worst moments, but he's a good guy. We just agreed that we weren't in love with each other anymore, but I know that he'll always be there for me."
"Well, that's good then," Tara smiled, and turned towards the bartender "One Malibu Sunrise please, and..." she turned towards Willow who looked at the bartender and asked for a Long Island Iced Tea. The bartender got down to business as Willow and Tara leaned into the bar and continued their conversation. "I just want to be with someone that totally gets me...and loves me for me. And yeah, I also want to feel that mad passionate love that all of us read about all the time!" she ended with a smile, causing herself and Tara to giggle.
"Your drinks ladies," the bartender said, placing two glasses on the bar-top before going to see what a boy who in Willow's opinion looked too young to be drinking wanted. The girls picked up their drinks and tried them out, before giving one another a nod to show their appreciation of their choice of poison. "So" Willow started, moving towards a pair of seats she saw weren't occupied by sober, drunken or passed-out party-goers, "are after parties always this noisy?"
Tara glanced at her watch before nodding her head and saying "You haven't seen anything yet! Wait till the band and crew from the concert arrives after wrapping things up there...That's when it'll get so loud you won't even be able to hear your own thoughts!" They reached the seats and sat down opposite one another. Willow absent-mindedly wondered when the crew would arrive, and as if reading her mind Tara said "The band usually showers in their rooms before they come to the party suite, because it can get really hot under all the lights on stage, and the crew doesn't care about sweat and grime, so they usually show up right after all the equipments been boxed up." The blonde had had to speak louder so Willow could hear her now that they weren't right next to one another, and she could tell that Willow had strained her hearing to catch every word she said too. Making a split second decision she got up and sat down next to the redhead instead, simply saying "This makes conversation easier."
Willow just nodded her head and smiled, but it would have been a lie to say she wasn't happy with the change of seating positions. Even though Tara had sat down far enough for there to be a little gap between them, in Willow's opinion it was still better than the arrangement from 10 seconds ago. Taking another sip of her drink, she took a deep breath before turning to her companion and asking "So... are you seeing anyone?"
Tara nearly bit down on her glass as she sipped her drink, but managed to recover fast enough for Willow not to have noticed anything. 'What should I say? Obviously I'm not seeing anyone, but she's also the one I want to be dating. So... uhhh???' As her mind searched for an appropriate answer, Tara shook her head and just said "No... I haven't dated in a while now..."
"Oh..." Willow said, looking thoughtful, before wiping some of the sweat off her glass with the index finger of her right hand and asking "Is that because you're like an earthworm lady?" she asked, blinking innocently at the blonde.
Tara looked slightly confused as she stared back at Willow, before understanding dawned on her face and she laughed "No, I'm not asexual, smartass!"
Willow joined in the giggling, and realized that somewhere during their small chat they'd drifted closer to each other, and were now almost thigh-to-thigh. The knowledge made her even happier, and smiling from ear-to-ear she said "Please explain then."
Still smiling Tara took another sip of her drink and looked slightly pensive again, as she thought of what to say to the gorgeous woman beside her. "Well, the last time I went out on a date was 5 months ago, and the only reason I even went was because it was one of Anya's cousins visiting from Florida, and I didn't want to be rude!" she said as she pretended to study the contents of her glass.
Willow laughed, making Tara look up at her with a question mark written all over her face. "Tara, I know you're adorably polite and all that, but sometimes it's ok to be rude!" The redhead laughed again, partly because she was secretly proud of herself for slipping the word 'adorably' into that sentence. Tara on the other hand had gone back to berating herself for not bringing Anya and Cordelia along after all, because she could really use their sign-reading expertise after sentences like that!
The two women sat in comfortable silence for a few moments, looking around at the other party-goers. Willow was staring at a group of men puffing on some fat cigars, when a thought made her quickly look at Tara. "Hey? How come you aren't smoking?"
The blonde looked like that was the last question she was expecting, and took a few seconds to reply "I'm, umm, trying to quit."
Now it was Willow's turn to look like she'd just seen a ghost, and you could hear the curiosity in her voice when she asked "You are? Why?"
"Well," Tara started, not used to people other than her family and Anya and Cordy asking her the "why's" of her life, 'You said it was nicer to kiss non-smokers...' she thought. What she said aloud was "I've been wanting to quit for a while. I mean, it'll be better for my stamina, and I hear it'll make me live longer, and stink less and... you know" she shrugged, meaning everything she said out loud too. "I figured that since I did want to quit, now was a better time than later" she said, taking another sip of her drink.
"So, you've completely quit?" Willow asked, looking impressed. "Not weaning yourself off slowly or something?"
"Nope," the blonde grinned, looking proud of herself, "Cold turkey!"
"Wow," Willow said, still visibly impressed. "When was the last time you smoked then?"
"Uh, Friday," Tara said, drawing another wow from Willow, who added "That's almost 2 days you haven't smoked then. Haven't you craved one?"
"Not really actually," Tara said, before adding with a laugh "When Tara Maclay does something, she does it full throttle!"
'Oh Tara Maclay can do me!' Willow thought, before her eyes went wide! 'Oh my God, did I just think that?' Without realizing that she was still looking in Tara's direction, the redhead continued to be scandalized at the thoughts that were playing in her head, even though she knew them to be true.
Tara in return was wondering what the redhead was staring at so wide-eyed and spaced out, and looked behind her to see other guests chatting, dancing, making out or sitting around. There was even one that seemed to be swaying as he made conversation with a wall-painting. Looking back at Willow, she stayed quiet as she let the redhead find her way back in her own time. 'She's probably just taking in the sights and sounds' Tara said, taking full advantage by staring at the woman whose thigh was now brushing against hers. The blonde really wished she had the right to be touching Willow, even if it meant just resting her hand on the redhead's thigh. She had enjoyed being in close proximity to Willow for those few seconds before Andrew had shown up, and found her fingers itching to touch the other woman again.
Both girls were shaken from their own private musings by loud voices and clapping from the other room. "The band's here" Tara said, and a minute later Michelle Branch and her drummer walked into the room to the sounds of guests shouting out their approval of that night's concert and cheering on the performers. The singer swept her gaze across the room as she walked towards the bar, gracing some people with a smile. When she got there, she stopped and raised one hand to ask for silence. The guests did as signaled, and Willow was amazed at how quickly it went from being deafeningly loud to pin-drop silent. All eyes were trained on the singer, who took another look around before saying "Everyone that enjoyed the concert has to come here and join me for a tequila shot. If you don't, then I will believe that the concert wasn't good for you."
The bartender behind her smiled at that, and then put out two shot glasses on the bar-top, filled them with the transparent alcohol and placed a plate with slices of lemon and salt on it. Michelle and the drummer picked up their drinks, and just held on to them as they once again turned to look at the guests. Within seconds the suite had gone back to a noise-fest as people made their way to the bar to get their shot. Willow looked at Tara and just shrugged with a smile, as both women joined the mad rush to the bar. About a minute later each and every person in that room was standing with tequila shots waiting to be drowned, when Michelle's manager raised his glass and said "To the band!"
"To the band," everyone echoed, and shot their drinks.
Tara dropped Faith and her friend off to her hotel and continued the drive back home, reviewing the night in her head. As soon as the band and crew had arrived, she had been caught up in conversations with people that had been backstage at the concert. It also seemed like servers had magically appeared with trays, and were instructed to make sure that every guest always had a drink in hand! Tara and Willow had been sipping some orange cocktails that Andrew had come and given them, when she heard someone say her name and turned to see Faith walking in with a group of people.
"Hey!" Tara had smiled, happy to see her friend. "Fancy seeing you here!"
Faith had laughed and pulled the blonde into a hug, before pointing to the group behind her and saying "My uncle's company provided the sound equipment tonight."
"Aaah," Tara had nodded her understanding before turning to introduce Willow "Faith, Willow. Willow, Faith" she said, and the two women shook hands. "Hey, weren't you at the handball games?" Faith asked, her brow crinkling as she tried to remember exactly where she'd seen the redhead.
Willow nodded and blushed slightly as she remembered the knowing look Faith had given her when she caught her staring at Tara. Luckily for her the brunette didn't seem to recall the incident as well as she did, and turned her attention back to Tara, asking how her ankle was.
As the two handball aces discussed Tara's injury, Willow found herself observing the shorter woman's mannerisms, and thought that Faith was standing a little too close to her Tara as they spoke! "Ok, so she's hot...but I'm not too bad either!" she huffed internally, once again recalling the conversation at Tara's about how Faith told the blonde that she'd tell people she was her girlfriend. When a server appeared next to the trio a few moments later, the redhead realized that she'd finished her cocktail. "Hadn't I just started drinking this one?" she wondered, as she placed the empty glass on the tray.
Tara and Faith laughed at something, and the brunette placed her hand on the small of Tara's back as the server asked "Orgasms anyone?", nodding towards the tray of shot glasses.
"Hell yeah!" Faith said, reaching out her free hand for a glass as Tara shook her head. A now-frowning Willow said "I'll have one too" and picked one up, downed it immediately and placed the now empty glass on back on the tray. Faith merely arched her eyebrows in amusement at Tara's companion before she finished her drink and did the same. The server was about to walk away when Willow said "Wait!" and picked up another one. This time even the server arched his eyebrows as the strange redhead, and walked away before she decided to down the remaining shots on his tray!
Willow turned to see both Tara and Faith staring at her with question marks written all over their faces, and just shrugged "They're good" before downing the drink. She refused to look at the two women as they continued their conversation, and instead turned her attention to Andrew, who was standing near the bar.
"So, Willow...you in UC Sunnydale too?" Faith asked, trying to involve Willow in the conversation. "I'll be right back" Willow said, walking away to Andrew, leaving a very surprised looking Tara and totally-ignored-but-still-amused looking Faith behind.
"That girl has the hots for you!" Faith laughed, making Tara blush. "She seems pretty upset that I'm stealing her one-on-one time with you!"
"No she doesn't...this is just all new for her" the blonde said gesturing towards the party all around her, even though she couldn't deny the fact that Faith's words had made her heart beat a little faster.
"Tell it to the judge!" Faith laughed, before one of the people from the group she entered with came over and tugged at her arm. "Anyway, I have to go T. See you at training Tuesday?"
Tara nodded as she watched the girl walk away, and then started to walk over to the bar where Andrew and Willow were shooting some green drink. She'd only taken one step when from the corner of her eye she saw that Michelle Branch was free from guests congratulating her or gushing about the concert, and knew that she should grab the opportunity to have a quick chat while she could. Taking a quick look in Willow direction, she grudgingly changed tracks, forcing herself to remember that she was there in LA for work purposes!
Ten minutes later she hugged the singer and turned to walk to the bar, and as she got closer heard Willow say something about how "...alcohol is just a good way to get my mind off it". 'What's she talking about?' Tara wondered, as she reached the duo. "You ok Will?" she asked, her concern evident as she looked at the redhead.
"A-ok!" Willow said, stretching out the 'A' and then lightly slamming her fist on the bar-top for added emphasis. "Hey, why do they say 'A-ok' anyway?" she asked, frowning at her drinking buddy as Tara thought 'How much has she had to drink???'
Andrew shrugged, indicating that he didn't know the answer to this mystery of life, and turned to look at Tara. "You're a v...very lucky la- *hic* lady..."
"Huh"? Tara asked, when she heard a loud thud and realized that Willow had passed out head-first on the bar-top. Tara looked horrified when she realized that the sound had come from the redhead's forehead connecting with the wood of the bar 'Ooh, that had to have hurt!' she thought, and immediately moved closer to see if the redhead was ok. The bartender had come around as well, and helped Tara pull the very-drunk-and-almost-passed-out redhead up off the bar so she could look at her forehead.
"Not too bad," the bartender said to the worried looking blonde that had one arm around Willow's back, making sure she didn't fall backwards off the barstool. "Not bad enough for a concussion, but I think it would be a good thing to put this one to sleep for the night" he smiled. When Tara nodded he continued "You staying at the hotel?" Tara shook her head in the negative, so he said "Let me get one of the guys to help you to a cab?"
"I have my car," Tara said, "but yeah, I could use some help getting her to the lobby and into the car." This time it was the bartender that nodded, and gestured towards one of the servers to help Tara take Willow down to the car. The blonde had kept her arm around the other woman's waist and now draped the redheads arm around her own neck, while a server did the same from the other side, and both of them had helped a mumbling Willow to the elevator. As they waited there, they saw Faith doing the same for one of the guys she'd entered with just a short while ago. Both women smirked at one another, and Faith said "Fun company we have, eh?" Tara just laughed when Faith pointed with her free hand at her ward for the night, saying "Apparently this one was drinking even before the concert, so all it took was 2 shots to send him to la la land!"
Tara had laughed and asked Faith if they had a car, and when the handballer had said no, she insisted that she'd drop them back to wherever they were staying. When the car arrived both girls buckled up their charges inside, tipped the servers that helped them downstairs well, and took off.
Now Tara looked at the redhead passed-out beside her in the passenger seat, as she waited for a red light to change. She noticed that a few red strands of hair had fallen onto her forehead, and reached out to tuck them behind her ear. The lights changed and Tara continued on, glancing at the redhead every so often. 25 minutes later she was opening the door to the room Willow was occupying at home, and half-dragged, half-carried the redhead towards the bed. Bringing her into the house and up the stairs had been much harder a task to do by herself, but she'd somehow managed. Laying the still mumbling redhead on the bed, Tara moved towards the foot of the bed to pull off her shoes and socks. After doing so, she pulled the blanket over Willow, made sure she was tucked in properly and was about to walk away from the temptation of staring openly, when she heard a soft "Owwie"
Tara looked straight at Willow's face and realized that the redhead's eyes were half-open, and she was pointing towards the small bump on her forehead. "It'll be ok in the morning sweetie" she whispered without even realizing that the term of endearment had slipped out. That made the semi-conscious redhead give a half-smile, but before Tara could even wonder what that was about Willow had stopped and repeated "Owwie," this time with a pout for added emphasis. "Kiss it better?" she asked, pout still in place.
Tara froze at the words, even as she marveled at how cute Willow's pout was. Taking a deep breath, she leaned over and placed a gentle kiss on the bump. Willow closed her eyes and sighed happily as Tara stood back up, and then mumbled "Better now". Tara stood there for a few more moments, watching over Willow who had fallen into a deep sleep in a matter of seconds.
'You're in deep trouble Maclay' she thought, as she finally shook herself out of her reverie and made her way to her own room. 'Deep trouble!'