"Other World Con?" Willow almost dropped the phone as she exclaimed.
"Yes, did you receive a blue envelope in the mail?" Andrew excited voice was not a surprise to her.
"I haven't looked at the mail, hold on."
She rummaged through the pile of unopened mail and her eyes popped wide open when she saw the blue envelope with "Comic Kingdom" written on it.
"What's the color of the address label?" Andrew seemed to be on the verge of hysteria.
"Blue. Is there some significance?" Willow asked.
"Will, have you been too engrossed in your new girlfriend that you forget your geek-infested roots so quickly? Blue label means you have been chosen!" Andrew said breathlessly.
"Chosen? For OW Con? Oh my god, that's the thing we applied for?" Willow was so delighted with the news that she forgot to admonish Andrew about the 'girlfriend' remark.
"Yes! We'll have our own booth too!" Andrew whooped.
"A booth? A stall to ourselves?" She was jumping up and down like a child on a sugar high.
"And special passes to the midnight screening, Q&A sessions with Karin and invite-only photo opps!" Xander had snatched the phone from Andrew and added his news. "We scored big time, Will!"
"Xander, all these years of applying, and this year we made it. I have to sit down, I can't believe it," Willow sighed happily.
"So, we'll meet at the convention hall? First thing Saturday morning? We want to be the first 100 to get in. They're giving away signed posters for the first 100."
"Sur--" Willow was about to agree when suddenly she realized ... "Saturday! Wait, um ... Xander! Hello? Hello?!"
The boys had rung off before she could say anymore.
Saturday was the date with Tara.
"You're an idiot, Willow," Faith shook her head as she signed off on the terminal at the internet café.
Willow was sitting alone by the fountain with her tuna sandwich. She was feeling extra angsty, the question of convention vs Tara weighing heavily on her mind.
Her cellphone rang, and instead of the elation previously, she was dreading this caller.
"Hi Tara. How was the dinner with your friends?"
"It was good. Cordy was surprisingly restrained about her love-life stories."
"I got the tickets for Wicked. One of the reasons for dinner was to see if Anya's friend came through. The good seats are sold out weeks in advance but she knows someone who knows someone, they got us first dibs on returns. And I have them!" Willow could picture Tara actually dancing around in joy. Her heart sank.
"Oh. About that."
"What's wrong?" Tara said abruptly.
Willow took a deep breath before continuing. "Work. I have to work this Saturday. We, um, we have to install new upgrades during user downtime. It's an important upgrade."
Her heart broke, she looked across the park at Tara's office. How she wanted to run to her and fall at her feet, asking for forgiveness. "I can try to get someone to cover, you got the tickets."
"No, no. Don't do that. Work comes first," Tara's voice didn't hide her obvious disappointment, nor her attempt to be rational.
"What about the tickets?" Willow wasn't sure why she was so obsessed about the tickets.
"I'll give them to Anya or Cordy, don't worry. What about meeting up on Sunday to buy my computer?"
"You still want to?"
"I want to. Call me tonight?"
"Oh Tara. Yes."
Back at her desk Willow took out the blue Comic Kingdom envelope and sighed heavily. Her mind was on the terrible lie she just told Tara. She didn't notice she was idly doodling on the envelope.
"Whatcha doin'?" Faith slapped her on the shoulder and made her jump.
"NOYB, Faith," Willow retorted.
"Ooh, aren't we feisty today," Faith smirked. She snatched the envelope and started inspecting the doodles.
"I made it clear the other day, Faith. I don't want anything to do with you, so buzz off," Willow warned.
"Sunday. Tara. Computer. How many more hearts can you draw on this?" Faith read the words on the envelope and eyed Willow wickedly, waving the envelope so it was just out of Willow's reach.
"Whatever, Faith. Give me my envelope back," Willow hissed.
"I got confirmed today, permanent staff with benefits. What did you do? Lie through your teeth?" Faith handed the letter back to Willow and leaned on the desk in an alluring, but to Willow irritating, manner. She had suddenly turned nice, though her version of nice was still grating.
Willow shrugged. When her boss asked her about Faith's performance, she was guarded in her assessment. It was her boss' decision on whether to convert Faith and she didn't want any of her comments to be the deal-maker or -breaker. "May be it was your 'friends' in high places. Like the head of corporate services or the audit manager. Your lunch hour activities came through for you," she smirked.
"Very good! Rosenberg the Geek gets a backbone and turns snarky, bravo! Anyway, I'm not here to chew the fat with you, we're going out for dinner tonight and I'll even treat," Faith said.
"Thought you won't be seen dead in a restaurant with me," Willow returned the smirk. She had very little interest in going out with Faith, the girl had been a thorn at her side ever since she transferred to her department.
"You seem to have improved. Hey, it's a one time offer. Don't forget, I'm paying," Faith reiterated.
"Yeah, knowing you, we're 'celebrating' at McDonald's," Willow grumbled.
"Ha ha, guess what? You're wrong. I want to try out that new place over by the cowboy gear store, you know the modern fusion one?"
"I haven't said yes, Faith," Willow said.
"And here I am, busting my guts to be humble and nice. What a waste of effort you are," Faith snorted, and jumped off Willow's desk.
"Okay, okay. I'll go. Don't throw a hissyfit," Willow conceded.
"Can you not come here if you're going to sigh non-stop?" Donnie's voice drifted into Tara's consciousness. He was checking the cleanliness of the glassware at the bar while she was seated at one of the corner stools.
"Sorry," Tara apologized distractedly.
"Everyone's sighing," he continued.
"Sorry," Tara said again.
"You're not even listening to me," Donnie mumbled as he put the wineglass he was inspecting back on the shelf and went to greet the newcomers to the restaurant.
"Would you like to start with a drink?" he asked the two young ladies who had just sat down. With practiced ease he registered how the confident brunette was clearly in control of the fumbling redhead; not for the first time in his life, he wondered what attracted people to each other.
"Um, I'll have an iced tea," said the redhead.
"You don't drink iced tea at a place like this," the brunette snapped.
Donnie kept his face neutral. "I recommend the citrus peach cooler with aloe vera, it's one of our specialties. Or if you're looking for something alcoholic, the zinfandel is very good," he suggested.
"Long Island Iced Tea, since she is so intent on iced tea. Make it two," the brunette ordered, then turned to the clearly uncomfortable redhead. "Honestly, I can't take you anywhere."
Donnie took his leave of the bickering couple, but was secretly relishing the opportunity for an amusing show tonight. He handed the drinks order to the bar staff and sidled up to Tara.
"Look at those two women, I don't think I've ever seen two people so not suited for each other," he pointed the two customers out to Tara.
Tara followed Donnie's gaze and her face dropped. She felt a buzzing in her ear, and suddenly she wanted to faint. It was Willow, with a striking brunette who oozed sex appeal and attitude. The way they were talking suggested that they were more than casual acquaintances, more like squabbling ... lovers. She grimaced and sighed.
Over at the table, Faith and Willow had given their food order to another waiter. Faith's attention turned to Donnie, who was talking to Tara at the bar. "I like it when the manager personally greets his customers. This one isn't bad looking either. A bit too short for my taste, but he has potential."
"And I'm interested because?" Willow retorted. She was trying not to draw attention to them, choosing to organize the contents of her backpack instead.
"Oh, that's a cutie he's talking to! Now that's one hot woman, don't you think?" Faith nudged Willow and nodded at Donnie and Tara.
Willow rolled her eyes at Faith and looked toward the bar, irritated at Faith's inappropriate remarks. She saw who Faith was gawking at and literally jumped out of her seat. "Oh, no!" she shrieked, and dropped everything inside her backpack onto the floor.
"What the hell?" even Faith wasn't prepared for Willow's strange reaction.
Willow was trying to maintain her composure while trying not to look at Tara. "It's .. it's ...her!" she stammered as she scrambled for her stuff.
"Don't tell me, that's the girl you're obsessing about?"
"Of course not!" Willow denied, too quickly and too vehemently.
Faith sat back at her seat with a smug look on her face. "I see. She seems quite occupied and taken. I wonder if that's her boyfriend," she said slowly.
Willow stopped abruptly and stared at Tara and the manager. Her face turned from disbelief to despair in a few seconds. The files and papers still scattered underneath the table were all but forgotten.
Tara had heard the commotion and was watching Willow and the brunette. Willow was being her cute spazzy self again, but the brunette seemed to be ribbing her. With a whimper and a pitying look for herself, Tara turned her back to them.
"Who's that? Do you know them?" Donnie asked.
"T-t-the redhead," Tara frowned, and surprised herself by feeling tears well up in her eyes.
"Is that her?" he noticed Tara's change in demeanor, her shoulders slumped and she seemed to be closing in on herself. "So what's she doing with that other chick? Is that her girlfriend?" he asked slowly.
Tara turned back to look at Willow and Faith, seeing them whispering together, and turned her back again. How could she be so stupid.
"Time to make with the jealousy," Donnie put his arm around Tara and his eyes twinkled in mischief.
"Donnie!" Tara whispered urgently.
Willow watched forlornly as Tara turned around, gazed coldly at her before turning back to the manager. She almost screamed when he put his arms around her and there was so much familiarity in that gesture. How could she be so stupid. Suddenly, she found Faith's arm around her.
"Look at them with the snuggly. Hmmm, let them might think we're together. Wouldn't it be fun?" Faith purred.
"Faith!" Willow whispered, while trying to shake Faith's arm off her shoulders. Faith, however, had an iron grip.
"Okay, let me check it out Something's bugging me." Faith jumped up from her seat and walked purposefully toward the bar.
Donnie was doing the same with Tara. "Let me take care of this." And he walked toward a confrontation with Faith.
They met in the middle, and asked the burning question, "Can I ask you something?"
"I should have known you'd come to my rescue again," Tara said.
"Faith has a lot more bark than bite, she's mostly harmless," Willow reassured.
Willow was walking Tara home after dinner. It felt good.
"You know, I really thought she was your girlfriend," Tara admitted. "And I was jealous."
"No reason to. I mean, I don't ... I don't have a girlfriend. Or anyone. I've never gone out with anyone," Willow admitted.
Tara stopped. "How come? You're attractive," her whisper was like honey to Willow's ears, causing her to blush furiously. Immediately embarrassed at her declaration, she turned and hurried swiftly away.
"Wait, Tara, wait!" Willow ran to catch up with Tara. "Don't go. That's the nicest thing anyone has said to me."
"I mean it, Willow. I'm not saying it for the sake of saying it," Tara's voice had grown very small and soft.
"I know," Willow ached to reach out and cup Tara's face, but her hands refused to co-operate. "Tara, I need to talk to you. But not today. I hadn't planned on seeing you and I'm not ready just yet. Next time we meet, I have something important to tell you. At least, they're important to me. I have these ... feelings, and I want to tell you properly." The voice was hers, the courage seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere at once.
Tara's face was very soft in the streetlight. "Next time," she promised.
"I know I just sprang this on you, and now I'm not playing fair, with the not saying and not telling. You must think I'm a dummy," Willow felt like she was about to explode into thousands of pieces, so hard was her heart pounding as she struggled to get the words out.
"Shhh. I know," Tara placed her hand on Willow's arm and ran her fingers slowly downwards until she reached Willow's hand. She could feel the tingle of the tiny hairs on Willow's arm. "I think I know what you want to tell me. But I'll wait. I want to hear it from you."
"I--" Willow had run out of words.
Tara leaned in and softly brushed her lips against Willow's. It was a tiny butterfly touch, but her eyes were closed as if she needed to fully channel her emotions through that one brief contact. Willow felt like she could hear and smell and taste all of Tara, and it was only one gentle peck.
No further words were needed. Their hands gravitated together and they walked hand-in-hand down the street to Tara's apartment.