"Tara?" Willow was staring at the person at her door with disbelief and astonishment.
"I really should have called first, I'm so sorry," Tara apologized.
From somewhere, Willow found her composure. "Where are my manners? Come in." She stepped aside and let Tara in.
"Did I interrupt you?" Tara finally noticed Willow's wet hair, the robe and how she seemed to be still dripping. Not unlike Tuesday night at the fountainside, she thought wryly.
"Oh, I was in the shower," Willow said sheepishly. As if suddenly shy, she wrapped the robe tighter around her body. "Make yourself at home, I'll be back in a minute."
Tara didn't have to wait long, Willow was back quickly, dressed in a frayed sweatshirt and green cargo pants that clashed with the sweatshirt. Her hair was still wet, and in her hurry she had only towel dried it and forgotten to brush it. Tara resisted the urge to reach out and smooth out the knots sticking out from the back of her head.
"I don't normally show up on people's doorsteps uninvited," Tara started.
"Don't make a habit of it unless it's my doorstep," Willow said. "Um, well, that is, I'm being possessive ... oh heck, you must be here for a reason."
"I've been thinking."
"We think we know each other, but we don't."
"Way to go, Einstein! You know what? I've been thinking too. In the shower especially, cuz I seem to come up with my best thoughts in the shower. Come with me," Willow didn't wait for Tara to respond before marching upstairs.
The fall on my head must have moved my brain around. It's the whole Take-Charge Willow coming out.
She paused outside her bedroom and placed her hand on the knob. This was it, within the few minutes of inviting Tara into her house she decided that she would show Tara everything.
"I want you to see something, okay? This is my room, and no it's not some pick-up line, there's something I want you to see, and something very important I want to tell you," Willow looked at Tara with a grave expression on her face.
"Is this the something important you were going to tell me a few weeks ago?" Tara's seriousness matched Willow's.
"This is more," Willow said simply, and opened the door to let Tara inside.
Tara was greeted by a room that was a mixture of a science fiction movie and a toy shop (at least to her mind). It was filled with toys, figures and books. Posters adorned wall space that wasn't taken up by shelves. Three laptops of different colors (metallic, white and black) sat side by side on a desk.
Willow closed the door softly and allowed Tara a few moments to take in the atmosphere and contents of the room. "When I was in high school, Xander introduced me to anime cartoons," she began slowly. "We started collecting games and toys, especially of our favorite character, a sort of superhero with a cute voice called Mina. We went to every event and convention we could afford. To get limited posters, I've camped outside a store for 3 nights straight. We count the days till the next edition of our favorite comic comes out.
"I spend all of my waking hours in front of a computer, either at work or at home. I have more friends online than in real life; I've only met a handful of them in person but we share so much in common, they feel like they are my family sometimes. There have been days and weekends when I don't leave the house and the only people I interact with is by typing at them.
"I've never been to a trendy restaurant until that time I met you, I know nothing about fashion or dinner parties or expensive brand names. I hate shopping."
Willow stopped her narration. Tara had turned around when she started, and her expression grew stony, then dazed, before settling on curious. Willow took a deep breath before continuing. "This is the type of person I am, Tara. If you find me lame and want nothing to do with me anymore, I won't blame you. I'm telling you this because I don't want to lie to you anymore. I did it once and it hurt both of us. I want us to be on good terms, may be acquaintances or good friends, but I'd rather it be more, you know?"
Tara stood rock-still throughout Willow's declaration, words and emotions were racing through her mind in a thousand directions yet she was able to focus on what Willow's was saying. This was a side of Willow she hadn't seen before. The same sincerely and earnestness was there, but there was conviction too. And ... a promise.
It was a long minute before Tara let out a long breath. Willow had not moved either, her expression quiet yet intense.
"This isn't fair. You said what I wanted to say before I could say it," Tara said softly. "I think you are the most sincere and genuine person I've ever met. You know so much about computers, you think it's a disadvantage? It isn't. I've never read a comic, or played a computer game, or watched an anime cartoon. I have two best friends in real life, one is so self-involved that I can't even come out to her. I come from a small town in Alabama and for the first year I moved to California I had to take voice lessons to get rid of my southern accent."
Tara watched as a trace of comprehension, and a margin of hope, slowly spread across Willow's features. "This is the type of person I am, Willow. I was afraid you find my life empty and want nothing to do with me anymore, and that scared me. I definitely want us to be on good terms, acquaintances or good friends is fine. But I'd rather it be more too, and can we sit down so I can kiss you now?"
Later they couldn't recall who tackled who first, or who ended up on top on whom, or how they managed to get their arms and legs so tangled up. Lips and tongues and kisses were all they could remember. Soft and sensual. Tender and tight. And very important.
"You're so cute when you're stating the obvious."
"Ooops, I'm obvious girl. What are you doing?"
"I'm just re-arranging my bedside table so I can put my birthday present nearest to my bed."
"Are you sure this is what you want?"
Tara settled down on her bed and smiled at the new arrangement on her bedside table. "It's cute. I've never owned an action figure before. I didn't even have a Barbie."
Willow almost sat up. "You didn't have a Barbie? That simply won't do. We're going to ToysRUs."
Tara's laughter was silvery. "Hmm, cute."
"Hey, you should know that Barbies are the reason I, um, stopped dating boys."
"I thought you never dated anyone. Well, not until me."
"I dated Xander until I was five. He stole my Barbie and it traumatized me so much that I swore I'd never date men again."
"You're making this up."
"You can ask Xander, he'll back me up. No, scrap that, he'll deny it. Ask my mom, she'll verify that he stole my Barbie."
"We're at 'meet the parents' already?"
"Oh. We should talk about this first, shouldn't we?"
"At some point, yes. Um, do they know?"
"Know? Oh. Not really, it hasn't come up before. Can we talk about something else?"
"Sweetie, you can't avoid--"
"I'm not being avoidy, I just ... I just want to talk about something else. Please?"
"Okay, how about your promise?"
"You forgot, didn't you?"
"Um, various signs of hesitation ..."
"Hey, I've been pre-occupied! Hospitalized even."
"Fine. You realize you'll have to be punished?"
"As punishment, you'll have to take me to the computer store tomorrow. I don't care if you had other plans, because I can't wait to see you again."
"As if I had any other plans."
"And then afterwards, you take me to your usual hang-outs."
"No, you don't want to go to those places!"
"I want to see. You promised to show me everything."
"Well, when I said everything ..."
"What's wrong with going to the computer store or comic store or to the video arcade?"
"You might find them bewildering that's all."
"You'll be there to show me round, that's enough for me."
"Oh Willow, kiss me again. Oh. Oh. Oh."
"Not fair! I do not sound like that. And I thought you liked it."
"I did! I do! Now I don't want to change the sheets because they smell and feel of you."
"Will, eventually you'll have to wash them, because if you don't they'll start smelling of something else."
"Yeah, it's kinda gross, the more I think about it."
"Talking about sheets, I'm going to bed, I can't keep my eyes open. Sleep well and dream of me."
"I will. Night Tara."