Return to The Game of Love Chapter Seventy-Three

The Game of Love

Author: Shai
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Unfortunately neither Tara nor Willow are mine. Neither's anyone else in this fic for that matter!

Willow woke up feeling extremely groggy the next morning. "Where am I?" she wondered, not recognizing the feel of the mattress or the décor of the room, and sitting up rather quickly as a wake of panic hit her. "Ugh, bad idea" she thought when the room seemed to spin around her. All of a sudden the redhead remembered exactly where she was, and let herself fall back onto the bed as memories from the previous night came flooding back. 'Oh God, oh God, oh God...I acted like such a dork! Tara probably thinks I'm some kind of freeloader that saw free booze and couldn't much did I drink anyway...?' she wondered, her brow scrunching up as she tried to remember, '...and how the hell did I get here?!'

Without looking down Willow allowed her hands to roam over her body, and was half-relieved to realize that she was still wearing the clothes she'd worn to the concert yesterday. Truth be told, the other half of her was a tad disappointed that Tara had chosen not to get her out of her clothes, "If it was Tara that brought me up here in the first place. Wait, Tara did bring me up here, right?' she thought as her brow furrowed up again. Willow did not like the idea that someone else, 'especially that skanky Faith!' could have possibly brought her up to bed, and began worrying about that before her eyes went wide again as an even more troubling thought entered her mind. 'Is Faith here?! ... Did she spend the night at Tara's Mom's house?...In Tara's room??' Willow vaguely remembered that Faith had entered the after-party with a group of her own, but still wondered... 'Well, there's only one way to find out' she thought with finality, and sat up again.

Once again, Willow was faced with a dizzy spell, but instead of lying backing down again, the redhead chose to stay put and focus on the clock in front of her whose hands pointed to 10:23 a.m till the room stopped spinning. About a minute and a half later she was ready to stand up, and as she put her feet on the ground she realized that a small bucket had been placed beside her bed. Willow smiled, and was sure that it was only Tara who could have done something as thoughtful as that. The redhead also noticed that the bucket had not been "used", and as she made her way to the bathroom to shower, she said a silent prayer to the powers that be for what she was sure was divine intervention!

20 minutes later a much more aware redhead walked towards the smell of coffee, and found Tara sitting at the dining table holding a pen in one hand and staring down at a newspaper that had been spread out on the table top. The blonde was not yet aware of Willow's presence, so the redhead took full advantage of the situation and watched Tara in yet another unguarded moment. She was obviously doing the crossword, and seemed to be chewing on her lip as she concentrated. Willow watched her brow scrunch up as she concentrated, and her fingers moved as she counted off letters on her free hand without looking at it. A few moments later, Willow figured that not only was she torturing herself watching Tara bite her own lip, but her current behaviour was bordering on stalker-like, so she subtly cleared her throat to alert Tara to her presence. The blonde immediately looked up and smiled at the redhead who was pushing herself off the doors frame and was about to start walking towards the coffee pot. "Wait!" Tara said suddenly, and Willow froze right where she was, looking at Tara with confusion written all over her face.

A glint entered Tara's eyes even as her face held a serious expression, and she held up three fingers, "How many are these?" she asked, her voice bearing a hint of mirth.

"Oh hardy har har" Willow said dryly, and she rolled her eyes and continued to move towards the coffee pot. Pouring herself a steaming cup of dark liquid, she added milk and sugar, walked back to the dining table and sat down next to Tara, who'd folded up her newspaper by then. "Breakfast?" the blonde asked, and Willow shook her head and blew on the liquid to cool it a bit before taking a much needed sip. She closed her eyes and let out a soft moan as the coffee slid down her throat, and opened it to see Tara quickly looking away. 'Was she staring at me?' she wondered, and a shiver of unexpected joy went down her spine at the idea. "Not such a good idea after last night" she said matter-of-factly, and mentally praised herself for drawing another smile from Tara.

"That's understandable", the blonde smiled, and without thinking reached out to run her fingers over the small angry looking red bump on Willow's forehead. "Still hurt?" she asked, allowing her fingers to linger there as she waited for the answer. The redhead has to resist the urge to close her eyes as she felt Tara's fingers caress her forehead, and just managed to shake her head in the negative. Tare pulled her hand away as she saw confusion evident on Willow's face, and asked "What?"

Willow took another sip of her coffee and then said "Umm...I was wondering how that happened? And how did we get home? And how'd I get all the way upstairs to the guest room?"

Tara smiled at all the questions quickly coming out one after the other, and started talking as she got up to pour herself a fresh cup of tea, "Well, I got caught up with a few friends and colleagues, so you went to chitchat with that Andrew friend of yours. By the time I got to you, you'd had a bit too much to drink, and...", at this point it was her turn to look at Willow with confusion written all over her face.

"And?" Willow prompted, as Tara mechanically added sugar to her tea. "And he said something about how I'm a lucky woman or something..." If Tara had continued looking at Willow, she would have seen the colour drain from the redhead's face. However, since she was looking down at her cup and stirring her tea, she missed it, and continued on, "I was about to ask him what he meant, but right then is when you decided to pass out forehead first on the bar-top! I drove us home right after that, and only stopped to drop Faith and one of her friends, who happened to be in the same state as you, back to their hotel."

'So she isn't here!' Willow thought happily, taking another sip as Tara continued, "And I took you upstairs too. Sorry I didn't get you into PJ's or something...I just wasn't sure how comfortable you'd be with someone who very recently used to be a stranger to you getting you out of your clothes!"

Willow waited till Tara made her way back with a full cup of tea, before looking her straight in the eye and saying "I might not know you for too long, but believe me, you're not a stranger." She could have sworn she saw the blonde blush, and once again gave herself mental brownie points. This time it was Tara who started to take a sip of her drink, so Willow continued talking, "I'm really sorry I ruined your night though. I usually don't drink that much at all...I...I don't know what got into me last night..." Of course, Willow knew exactly what had gotten into her, but couldn't find the courage to share it with the blonde, partly because her jealous-fit sounded stupid even in her own head.

"Don't worry about it" Tara smiled. "Honestly, even if you hadn't been as hammered as you were", she smiled at Willow's embarrassed look, "I would've wanted to go home pretty soon. After party's can get a little too out of control sometimes, and I was honestly tired after the running around at the concert". 'Besides, I wouldn't have been able to kiss you goodnight if you were in your senses either...' Tara thought, thinking there was no way Willow would have asked her for the kiss if she had been sober. The two women sat sipping their beverages in amicable silence for a few seconds, before Willow spoke up again and asked "Where's your Mom?"

Tara gulped down her tea, "Oh, she left for the final meeting before today's recording, but left you this". Tara set her cup down on the table and bent down to lift up a pretty big box that Willow hadn't noticed near her feet. Handing it to Willow, she watched as the redhead opened a card that had been placed in an envelope on top of the white box.

Darling Willow,

I'm sorry I had to rush off without saying goodbye this morning. It was pleasure to have you here, and I look forward to seeing much more of you in the future. I've added my personal business card in this envelope, so please feel free to ring me anytime you wish. If you don't, I've taken your number off Tara, and will definitely be calling YOU!

Inside the box there is a little something that you've spoilt for everyone else. Don't be silly and make a fuss about taking it. It can truly only be yours.

With much love,

Susana White.

Willow checked for the business card inside the envelope, before refolding the card and putting it back in too. She set the envelope on the table, and opened the box to find the dress she'd worn at the weekend party neatly folded and wrapped in delicate looking crepe paper. "Oh my God!" she said, her eyes widening as she looked up at Tara, "I can't!" The blonde just shrugged, "Taking it would be easier than facing the wrath of my mother for not! Seriously, if you don't take it now, she'll just have it sent over to you in Sunnydale". With that, she took another sip of her tea, and watched the conflict of emotions play over Willow's features. After enjoying the range of looks that crossed the redhead's face for a few moments, Tara reached out and laid her hand on Willow's arms, snapping her out of her internal conflict.

"Take it" she said simply, and in that moment Willow was so lost in the feel of Tara's skin against her own that she would have even agreed to skydive without a parachute. She nodded dumbly, causing Tara to grace her with one of her gorgeous crooked smiles, and for a few seconds the two women just stayed looking at one another in their own private moment.

Tara was the first one to break the look, and glanced down at her watch. "Well, we're leaving for the airport in about 40 minutes. You all packed?"

Willow replaced the lid on top of the box, "Yup, just need to go add this to the lot".

"Cool" Tara said, and she rose to join Willow as they made their way to the stairs and up to their rooms. "I'll just make sure I have everything too, and we'll bring our bags down. Faith should be here in half an hour."

Willow stopped. "Faith?" she squeaked out, turning to look at Tara.

"Yup. She was going to take the bus back to Sunnydale, but I rang her this morning after asking Mom if it was ok for her to come with us. No sense her taking double the time when we have room for more in the plane right?" Tara asked, not seeming to notice the shift in Willow's behavior.

"Uh huh" the redhead squeaked out, and continued to follow the still oblivious Tara up the stairs. She could swear the room had started to spin again.

Continue to The Game of Love Chapter Seventy-Five

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