Willow was a geek on a mission.
"I need to charge my cell, do you have a battery or charger?" she charged into a 7-Eleven and asked the bored grunge-type behind the counter.
"Do you have one of our phones?" he asked disinterestedly.
"Huh? No, I have my own phone," she answered, slightly confused.
"We only sell our own phones here," he reported.
"But you're a convenience store! You're supposed to sell everything for an emergency," she whined.
He gave her the look that a Buddhist monk would give to a neophyte who asked for steak. "7-Eleven, not RadioShack, dude," he drawled.
"Oh! RadioShack!" she exclaimed, and ran out again, missing his eye-roll.
She knew there was a RadioShack nearby, but her head was too full of getting batteries and Tara and how annoying Faith was and more Tara that there was no room for geography right then. She finally managed to stumble her way into one.
"Battery for my phone, please give me a battery for my phone," she almost pleaded with the shop assistant.
"How may I help you, Miss?" said the assistant, who was wearing a cheerful name-tag with 'I'm Pete, I'm new, please don't yell at me' scrawled on it.
"Battery. Phone," Willow waved the phone at Pete.
"Aha, you're looking for a battery for your phone?" The lightbulb seemed to have finally flashed in Pete's head.
"Yes," she barely got that out.
"I have to check. Wait here please?" he said as he looked around to find someone to help him.
Willow tried to wait patiently, but couldn't stop fidgeting.
Pete returned a few long minutes later. "Sorry miss, we don't stock batteries for your phone," he explained sadly.
"I'm sorry, I can't find the battery for this model," Pete said as he returned.
"You're kidding me? A phone's a phone, right? The batteries must be fairly universal," she exclaimed.
"I think they have different batteries depending on carrier," he said helpfully. "May be you can try the T-mobile store?"
She felt all the air deflating out of her. "Where?"
"Oh, I'm new in this area. Let me ask someone."
"Forget it." She didn't to wait around any longer, and had no confidence that Pete the newbie could help her anyway.
At the T-Mobile store she dragged herself to the counter and asked for a battery.
"Of course, it's $14.95. Cash or charge?" the assistant efficiently reached behind him and retrieved the battery from a line of them on the shelf.
She paid with her credit card, not really noticing the price or packaging. She took the packet from the hands of the assistant and ripped it apart, single-mindedly focused on getting the battery into the phone.
"Um miss, it won't work," the assistant interjected.
Willow was in the middle of putting the new battery in. "Why?"
"It needs to charged for 12 hours first time, there is no juice inside when it's new."
"No, no, no. I need one that works. I need to make a call."
"Oh, why didn't you say so. You asked for a battery, I didn't know you actually wanted to get the phone to work."
"Same thing! Battery in phone, phone works."
"Not quite. You could have just bought the Cellboost for $9.95. It gives temporary power to your phone."
"I should know all this, damn," Willow sighed. "Give me the Cellboost."
"I can't refund you for the battery, the packaging has already been torn."
"It doesn't matter," Willow said dejectedly.
She handed over her credit card once more, but all was forgotten when she plugged in the temporary battery and the distinctive melody played when she switched the phone back on. 30 seconds later and she was elated to see the battery indicator showing 95%. She punched in Tara's number gleefully.
"Huh?" She almost threw the phone on the counter when it didn't work. Again.
"Reception is bad inside the store, Miss. Try outside," the assistant suggested.
Finally, she had power in her cellphone, she had Tara's number, it was time. Time to meet her destiny.
Destiny placed a hand on her shoulder and made her jump.
"There you are! I've been calling and calling. Why isn't your cell on?" It was her boss.
"Er, battery dead," she squeaked.
"You need to make sure you're reachable at all times. Come, let's go," he instructed.
She had forgotten about the client dinner. With one last desolate look at her cellphone, she walked after him.
The clients were two fifty-something humorless businessmen from Utah, Willow tried to stay quiet throughout the dinner, leaving her boss to do most of the talking and feeling uncomfortable. Her mind being on Tara didn't help, she was sure that the blonde goddess would have given up on hearing from her by now.
Three doors down, another restaurant.
"... but no answer," Tara was explaining to her two friends. "Didn't leave a message either."
"This is the person who saved you on the train?" Anya asked.
Cordy leaned in closer. "Is he good looking?"
"Um, it was a she. And I didn't see very clearly, I was too concerned with staying away from the old drunk," Tara explained.
"Huh, a girl? How droll. Not a hunk you can really sink your teeth into. Or pass to me. Why are you even bothering with sending her a present?" Cordy harrumphed.
"She was very brave, and well ..." Tara hesitated, and exchanged a brief look with Anya. Anya shook her head imperceptibly.
"I think it was polite and decent of Tara to send the present. Can't imagine what would have happened if the girl hadn't done what she did that night," Anya said neutrally.
"I'm not saying don't give thanks when you should, I'm just saying what a waste of expensive branded goods. What's wrong with a book certificate?" Cordy asked.
"I'm hoping it's not a waste--" Tara started.
"Class. Show how classy you are by what you give, not what you take," Anya interrupted, and frowned more obviously at Tara.
"Whatever. I'm going to the bathroom, don't talk about anything that requires my attention while I'm gone." With that Cordy grabbed her handbag and sashayed to the bathroom.
Anya turned immediately to Tara. "Are you out of your mind? A stranger you met on the train, and by your description no one special. No good will come out of this, Tara," she admonished.
"How do you know? Willow sounds like a honest person. It's been so long since I've had someone in my life who doesn't see me as some prize or trophy," Tara said.
"Honest? She leaves a garbled voice message like she's hopped up on acid and doesn't return your calls? And, a dork called 'Willow'? Her parents so stoned they named her after the first thing they saw when they woke up and came out of their tent?"
"Don't jump to conclusions, she may be busy. And I like 'Willow' as a name," Tara tried to explain.
"Taking about jumping to conclusions, you need to stop dropping so many hints to Cordy," Anya broached.
"Why? I don't want to hide."
"It's not for your sake, it's for hers. Don't think that she can handle the fact that you have no interest in men, she doesn't have the brain cells to comprehend it."
"It's the truth, and I'd rather be the one to tell her than for her to accidentally find out."
"She is too self-centered to notice. But it's up to you."
"We'll talk about this tonight."
Cordy returned to their table and they spent the rest of the evening talking about relationships and courtships. More specifically, Cordy's relationships and courtships.
Anya was staying over at Tara's, so they returned to Tara's apartment afterwards and chatted for a while. Anya had an early start the next day, so she turned in early.
Tara was about to take a shower when her phone rang.
"Hello," she answered.
"NICE TO MEET YOU!" the voice at the other end of the phone shouted. "Uh, I'm sorry, that's not right. Er, this is Willow Rosenberg. From the train."
"Willow," she repeated. "I'm so glad you called, finally we get to talk."
"I'm sorry," Willow apologized.
"It's fine," Tara assured.
"The cups. I'm calling to thank you for the cups. They're far too nice, I'm so sorry," Willow stammered.
"I'm sorry I didn't answer your call today, I was on the other line. And then my cellphone ran out of battery. I'm so sorry," Willow apologized again.
"It's nothing," Tara repeated.
"And I'm sorry for calling so late," Willow couldn't seem to stop apologizing.
"Did I say something wrong?" Willow sounded immediately worried.
"No, it's just that you keep apologizing and I keep saying 'it's nothing,'" Tara couldn't help laughing.
"I'm sor--" Willow stopped herself, and laughed a little nervously.
"You don't need to keep apologizing. I'm the one who should be sorry, you hurt yourself saving me, you were so brave," Tara said sincerely.
"No, no, not at all. It's nothing," Willow said.
"Even the ladies on the train told me you were very brave."
"Really, it's nothing. Anyone would have done the same."
Knock knock knock.
Tara opened her bedroom door to find a worried-looking Anya in her dressing gown.
"I can't find my passport. I'm sure I packed it but now I don't know where it is." She seemed almost in tears.
"Willow, could you hold on one minute." Tara nodded and turned to Anya, "Don't worry, I'll help you look."
"I'm sorry, you're on the phone?" Anya said. And mouthed 'Willow?'
Tara nodded again. "Willow, my friend Anya is staying with me and she needs me to help her with something."
"Oh, you should help her."
"I'll call you afterwards, is that okay?"
"Okay? You still want to talk to me?"
"Yes of course. But now Anya is looking anxious, let me help her first."
"Alright. I'll be waiting."
"The cups are really ... really are too nice," she said self-consciously. "No, not good."
"The cups really are too nice, I want to say thank you in person. ARGH!! Try again. The cups really are too nice, I'd like to say thank you in person."
"I'll never get this right!"
"How about dinner sometime? Dinner sometime? Dinnersometime? Dinner, sometime?"
"Oh my god."
"Hi," Willow answered. And instantly regretted the overly familiar tone.
"I'm sorry," Tara's voice was so gentle. "Did you wait long?"
"Oh no, not at all," Willow quickly reassured. "Is your friend okay?"
"Yes, she thought she lost something important but we found it."
"It's nothing. We get them at work," Tara explained. "I'm sorry for making you uncomfortable."
"Soyouwannagotodinner?" Willow blurted out.
"Um, what I mean is," she paused to take a deep breath. "Dinner. How about dinner sometime? I-i-i want to treat you to dinner."
"You don't have to go to all that trouble, they weren't that expensive."
"It's to thank you in person."
"I can't let you treat me."
Willow was disappointed. It felt like her world was falling apart. Did it mean Tara didn't want to go out with her? Should she beg? She had no idea what to say next. "I see."
After a few seconds of uncertain silence, she heard Tara's voice again. "How about if we split the check?"
Willow sat up. Did it mean ...? "You mean?"
"I'll feel more comfortable if we split the check, you're not offended?"
"Really?! No! Not offended. You sure?" Willow almost fell off her chair, she suddenly felt weak.
"Yes. So when should we meet?" Tara asked.
"I'm free anytime," Willow said.
"Okay, how about Saturday?"
"Oh, I should be ... wait, I can't, my friend Buffy will be in town. Sorry, I guess the 'I'm free anytime' isn't exactly true."
"No worries," Tara chuckled. "How about Sunday?"
"That'll be good."
"Sunday it is then. Where shall we go?"