"Stupid program." Willow muttered as she pushed back from her desk, leaning her head against the chair's plush head rest. She sighed and closed her eyes, taking a momentary break from this line of code that threatened her emotional and mental stability. She turned her head and opened her eyes, looking at the only picture sat on her desk, one of her, Buffy and Xander taken last year at their friend Amy's wedding. Willow smiled and looked at the three smiling images. So grown up. Xander, in a suit, his boyish grin gracing a chisled, handsome face. Buffy, her hair drawn up and looking classy in a demur beige chiffon dress. And her.
Willow thought she looked okay. Okay, maybe a little better than okay, if she allowed herself a moment's vanity. It was a good picture, probably the only one in existence where all three of them looked ideal. Xander, the handsome lady killer, Buffy the classic beauty and... her.
Willow didn't know what she was. She analyzed her smiling image, let her eyes really look at herself. The green eyes, framed by red hair brushing against freckled shoulders, her thin frame covered in a slim fitting, sleeveless green bridesmaid dress. It was a good dress, as far as bridesmaid's dresses went. Not that I'm ever gonna wear it again... Willow thought, but a nice dress all the same.
She rolled her head back to look at the screen, the jumbled symbols covering the page, and sighed. What am I... she asked herself. M.I.T. grad. Pretty on special occasions. Computer programmer. New San Francisco resident. Inappropriately in love with my beautiful roommate. Willow shook her head at herself and leaned back in toward the keyboard. She cracked her neck and rested her fingers on the keyboard, ready to dive back in.
Tara smiled into the phone. "Buuuuuffy." There was a giggle on the other end and Tara's smile grew wider.
"What are you doing tonight?" Buffy asked, idly eyeing the stacks of paper on her desk.
"Just getting dinner started now, but no plans after that."
"What are you making Willow tonight?" Buffy teased, not seeing Tara roll her eyes on the other end.
"I'm making chicken." Tara replied evenly, choosing not to acknowledge the teasing tone in Buffy's voice.
"Just chicken?" Buffy pressed.
"Mango chicken with rice pilaf and mint pears." Tara sheepishly elaborated.
Buffy made an inaudible noise into the phone and whined. "I wish I still lived with you. Tara perks are the best."
"Well come over." Tara said, moving the mangoes to the cutting board. "I'm making enough."
"As good as that sounds, I can't. I have this mixer to go to and then - the reason I'm calling - a new club opening."
"New club, huh..." Tara replied doubtfully.
"Don't use that tone of voice Ms. Maclay. It's going to be fun, and you're going to go with me. Besides, it's one of your clubs."
"One of my clubs?" Tara teased. "I own nightclubs now?"
"Gay club smarty. Plenty of beautiful, hot, young lesbians for you to shoot down."
"Buffy..." Tara frowned into the phone.
"Hey, you like to be single, mysterious unattainable girl. That's cool. Just be my date, in a no-benefits way."
"Did you just 'ew' me?" Buffy replied, mock offended. She heard Tara's throaty chuckle and she smiled. "Come with me."
"Come with you? I thought there were no bene-"
"Accompany me to the club opening. Sheesh." She shifted her approach, adopting a more sincere tone. "Please, I have to go for work and I really don't want to go alone." Buffy said, laying her metaphorical cards on the table.
Tara sighed and shifted her weight. "Buffy I don't know, I'm not a big fan of those places-"
"What?" Tara stopped everything and looked ahead, surprised.
"We'll bring Willow. It'll be fun, I don't think she's ever been to a kitten club."
"I don't know if that's such a good idea-" Tara said, frowning.
"Oh! So much fun. Tara you don't understand, back home Willow and I would Bronze almost every night. Willow loves clubs, the people watching, the dancing. This one summer, the one when I was home before senior year-"
The door opened and Tara turned to see Willow enter. She momentarily lost track of Buffy speaking and just stared at the beautiful redhead, pivoting into the house, shifting her keys and briefcase between her two hands.
"...And that's how I ended up hating rum."
"W-What?" Tara said, brought very suddenly back to her conversation with Buffy. Willow looked up and saw Tara standing in the kitchen, her hair pulled back in a loose bun, a thin cotton peasant top and loose cotton pants covering her voluptuous frame. Willow gulped as she quickly raked her eyes over the blonde's full figure. No bra, Willow thought, her mouth suddenly dry. She looked down at her feet and shook her head. Pervert.
Tara looked up just then, seeing Willow shake her head. Her brow furrowed and she felt herself ache for the awkward look on Willow's face. Willow looked up and Tara smiled when their eyes locked. Willow smiled back, hesitantly at first, their smiles growing the longer they looked at each other.
"Are you even listening to me?" Buffy barked into the phone.
"Yes." Tara replied guiltily, turning away from Willow. Willow's smile faltered a bit and she started to walk past the kitchen to the stairs leading to her bedroom. "Willow just walked in-" Tara said, her eyes trying desperately not to follow the redhead as she passed.
"Ooo! Put her on!" Buffy bounced in her seat.
Tara nodded to nobody in particular and held the phone to her chest. "Willow." She softly called. Willow turned around, surprised to hear Tara address her. "Hi." Tara smiled.
"Hi." Willow tentatively smiled back.
"Buffy'd like to speak to you." Tara brought the phone from her chest, holding it out toward Willow over the bar.
"Oh. Okay." Willow put her things down and walked toward the bar, her eyes inadvertently looking past the phone, down the blonde's arm and to her chest, where the blonde's nipples pushed at the flimsy fabric. She quickly pulled her eyes up, making eye contact with the blonde. "Thanks," she said blushing.
"No problem." Tara replied, not noticing the way Willow's eyes had travelled over her breasts. Both women's breath caught however, when their fingers touched as they exchanged the cordless. "Do you like magoes?" Tara suddenly asked, her hand now empty, yet still extended.
"Mangoes?" Willow replied, confused. Tara nodded and used her extended hand to point to the cutting board. "Oh. Yeah. Mangoes are yum."
"Okay, good." Tara smiled, relieved, before turning to get a knife. Willow watched and then remembered she should be speaking into the phone.
"9 pm, you and Tara, dressed in your best meow outfits, meeting me at this new club."
Willow winced. "No, Buffy, I can't-"
"Yes, you can. In fact, you will."
"Buffy..." Willow said, moving away from the bar a bit. "It's a school night." She said, her voice dropping to a near whisper, embarrassed by what she was saying.
Tara could hear her though, and smiled down at the fruit she was slicing. School night... the blonde thought. Adorable.
"School night? Will, you're not a teacher, you're not even a student, and since when have you been unable to go out during the week?"
"I was just hoping to stay in tonight, get some wor-"
"No, no work. Besides, I need you."
"Need me?" Willow replied, confused and a little curious.
"Yeah. The club we're going to definitely gay, as in girl-on-girl gay, and I'm pretty sure Tara's going to be hit on all night. I need a straight girl to keep me company in case our favorite non-practicing lesbian finally decides to drop the shy act and hook up with a hot honey."
Willow's face fell and she looked down at the floor. Tara briefly looked over and noticed the redhead's slumping shoulders. She stopped cutting for a moment and watched. Oh Willow... The blonde tried to imagine what Buffy could say to make the redhead's body language shift so suddenly. She watched as Willow wrapped her free hand around her midsection. "Yeah, okay." Willow said into the phone, evenly. "I guess."
"Perfect." Buffy said happily, failing to notice Willow's empty tone. "I've got to go, but 9pm, look sharp."
Willow numbly nodded and hung up the phone. She stood that way for a while, the phone resting loosely in her grasp, before turning back to the kitchen. Tara quickly looked away, returning to her food preparation. "So you coming with us tonight?" Tara asked, looking up quickly before looking back down, trying not to sound too interested, too eager.
"I guess so." Willow weakly replied, hanging up the phone. She allowed her eyes to roam over Tara's profile, filing small details away into the gigantic mental file she had devoted to the blonde.
"Should be fun." Tara said hopefully, looking up at Willow. The look in the redhead's eyes made her smile fade. Willow looked so... what? Empty? Unenthused? ...Sad?
"I'm gonna go, freshen up." Willow said, dragging her eyes away from her roommate, leaning over and picking up her things. Tara nodded, turning back to her food, a little disturbed by the look in Willow's eyes.
"Dinner should be ready in about an hour or so." The blonde said without looking up.
Willow nodded. "Tara..." Tara looked up; their eyes locked and for a moment they were lost. Willow swallowed and looked down to Tara's lips, slightly parted, waiting. "Thanks." She said, drawing her eyes back up. She saw Tara's brow furrow, so she continued. "For making dinner all the time, letting me live here-"
"It's my pleasure, Willow." Tara replied, heartfelt. Willow looked down and nodded. "Besides, the recipe is for two." A half smile pulled at her lips and Willow looked up, smiling brightly, shyly. Willow nodded and ducked her head again, turning toward the stairs. Tara watched her leave and sighed. Willow the enigma. She turned back to her mango and resumed slicing.