"Oh, what's that on the canvas, a beautiful, stunning, moving work of art?" Nope - just paint.
Willow silently berated herself on the cab ride to the club, sitting as close to the door and as far from Tara as she could manage without actually hanging out of the speeding vehicle. She watched as the streets passed, shaking her head in embarassment and humiliation at her earlier words. Her throat was tight, and she was trying to keep the tears that were threatening to fill her eyes at bay.
"Just paint." Right, cause that computer program? Just 0s and 1s. She shook her head ruefully, the tone in her head sharp, sarcastic. What? It looks interesting, with its rounded edges and flashy yet subtle animations, like it probably took someone with a lot of skill and imagination a lot of blood, sweat and tears to create? Nope, just 0s and 1s. Stupid.
Tara sat still on the opposite side of the backseat. She stared straight ahead, absently watching the cab driver navigate the numerous one way streets. She could see the tense redhead out of the corner of her eye, and Willow's obvious discomfort made her in turn, tense. She obviously doesn't want to be going out tonight. Why did she say yes if she's this unhappy about it? Is it me? Did I do something? Please Tara, not everything is about you... maybe she had a bad day at work and just didn't want to get into it at dinner. Tara twitched her lips into a wry smile. Cause you have that kind of relationship where she would share something like that with you. She thought, sarcastically. The cab pulled up and both girls went to pay the driver.
"I've got it." Willow said quietly, offering up a ready $20.
"We can split-"
"No, please." Willow looked at Tara, before dropping her head and then looking up at the driver. "It's not a big deal."
"I'll get you a drink inside then." Tara said as Willow dealt with the cabbie. Willow just nodded, not daring to look at the blonde. They slid out of the same side of the car and once on the sidewalk, looked around.
"Giiiiiiirls." Willow and Tara both turned to see Buffy approaching, smiling widely. She wore a sleeveless top and ivory silk skirt. Tara smiled widely, happy to see someone who wasn't wound tight as a drum. Willow noticed the shift in Tara's demeanor and sighed inwardly.
Bet she'll be relieved to get away from you...
"Very nice, both of you look stunning, and you're on time." Buffy complimented. "Just what I look for in best friends." Buffy noticed Willow's tense demeanor and cast a quick look at Tara, eyebrows raised. Tara quirked an eyebrow in response while continuing with her demure smile. Buffy frowned and looked at Willow. "What's wrong with you?"
Tact, Buffy, tact. Tara inwardly winced.
"What?" Willow asked looking at her old friend with a mixture of hurt and annoyance.
"You seem all... uptight."
"I'm not uptight, Buffy."
"Fine." Buffy said, obviously not believing her words. "Just want to make sure you're going to be able to have a good time tonight."
"Can we just go in?" Willow replied, her face hot.
Buffy nodded her head once and looked at Tara, who was looking rather embarrassed. Willow wrapped her arms around her middle and followed the two women as they walked toward the club. The entrance was framed by soft lights and a short line of chatting women snaked down the left wall. Loud R&B flooded from the open door. Buffy approached the bouncer and smiled, handing over a finely printed invitation. IDs were checked, hands were stamped, and they entered.
The club itself was amazing, lush, decorated in deep reds and purples, soft lights giving enough light for evaluative gazes from across the room. There were numerous plush couches along the walls, mauslin curtains were bunched along the wall while some hung from protruding iron rods, giving the appearance of division. Tables and chairs took up an area near the bar, and a small dance area was off to the back. Buffy leaned back and spoke loudly to the women who followed her so that she could be heard over the music. "We have a table to the back, a couch." Willow and Tara nodded. Tara looked around and immediately recognized a few faces. Women who had approached her over the last year, women who she had gently turned down. They smiled at her now, and she returned the look politely.
Willow glanced over and saw Tara smiling at a blonde woman as they passed the bar. The woman was attractive, and made no secret of her appreciation for Tara's form. Her eyes went slowly down to Tara's ankles and back up. Willow flushed red at the open rubbernecking of her... roommate. She sighed and looked away, mindful that that woman's perusal of Tara wasn't going to be the last ogle of the evening. "What do you think?" Buffy said, leaning over.
"It's nice." Willow replied evenly.
"Little swankier than the Bronze." Willow nodded and snuck a quick look at Tara. She was now looking across the room at yet another woman. Willow dropped her eyes and leaned over to Buffy.
"I'm gonna head to the restroom."
"Okay, we'll be right back here." Buffy pointed to a couch just off from the main area. Willow nodded and ducked away.
Tara turned to watch the redhead go in the opposite direction from where Buffy was headed, threading through the now thickening crowd. "Where-"
"Bathroom." Buffy said. They settled down on the couch and Buffy turned to Tara. "So what's up with Willow... you didn't have a fight or anything-"
"No." Tara said quickly, shaking her head softly. "At least I don't think so. I think... I think she's just tired, from work?"
"Well she was worried about it being 'a school night.'" Buffy said, rolling her eyes.
Tara's lips quirked up in a warm smile. Adorable...
"Eventually she'll loosen up. I'm giving her... one more month."
Tara mock frowned and turned to Buffy. "And then...?"
"I'm calling in the big guns."
"Oh, okay." Tara said, exaggerating both words. She turned and absently scanned the crowd, shaking her head at Buffy's non-threat.
"See any hotties?" Buffy teased.
Tara chuckled and relaxed, turning to look at Buffy. "No. Just a few women I've turned down. Kinda hoping they took the hint and don't try again tonight."
"Right, god forbid an attractive lesbian hits on you."
Tara allowed a smile to tug at her lips and her eyes sparkled. She sighed. "Oh, Buffy..."
"When I go to straight bars I always hope the men stay away. 'Stay away!' I say."
"I'm not gonna meet the love of my life in some bar." Tara said and Buffy pulled a face.
"'I'm not gonna meet the love of my life in some bar, or some gallery opening, or some grocery store aisle.'" Buffy imitated and Tara shook her head, the smile still on her lips. "I think you think someone's gonna drop her off on your doorstep tied up with a bow."
Close... Tara thought, remembering Buffy dropping Willow off a few months prior. No bow... but close enough... She swiveled her head and looked to where the redhead had disappeared to minutes ago.
"Do you think the bartender is straight?"
Tara let lose a deep laugh and turned back to Buffy. "Oh, Buffy..."
Willow emerged from the stall and took a quick look at the women standing next to her washing their hands. One gave her a large grin and Willow offered a slight smile before she turned and pulled a few paper towels from the wall. She gave herself a quick look in the mirror. Okay, no red puffy eyes, good.
She looked back to the paper towel dispenser and took a deep breath. Okay, so it's going to be a long night. A lot of women are going to be coming on to Tara, looking at her, some might even dance with her, and hold her and touch her and why the hell am I here torturing myself like this!? She threw the towels away and turned to exit. The woman who she had innocently grinned at blocked her way.
"Hey there." The brunette purred.
Willow's eyebrows stitched together. In the bathroom, really?
"I couldn't help but notice that you looked like you have a lot on your mind. Maybe you'd let me buy you a drink and we could talk a little.
"Uh..." Willow said, leaning back into the dispenser as the woman leaned into her, reaching up and stroking her arm once before finally resting her hand at Willow's elbow. The door opened and Willow looked up to see an individual entering. She smiled, relieved, when she saw it was Tara.
Tara walked into the bathroom and at a quick glance saw two women talking near the paper towel dispenser. She stopped dead in her tracks when she saw that one of them was Willow. The redhead was looking at her with a mixture of relief and desperation. Tara turned her attention to the woman who was very obviously hitting on her roommate and she felt herself flare with jealousy. Who was this bitch and why was she touching Willow?!
Willow watched the emotions rip across Tara's face and her brow furrowed. What's that look? Tara looked back up at Willow and Willow flashed a quick, sheepish, uncomfortable smile. The woman who was looking at Willow turned to see Tara staring at them. She looked back to Willow. "Is that your girlfriend?"
Time stopped for Willow. She looked over at the brunette hitting on her like she had spoken seven different languages at once. Girlfriend... Only in my numerous and very vidid dreams! She tried to answer but no sound came out. She just stared at the expectant face in front of her, shocked into silence.
"Hey..." Tara said, spurning herself into action as she crossed to Willow's side. "There you are sweetie." She reached over and took Willow's right hand with her left, careful to interlace their fingers. The brunette looked down at the interlocked hands and backed up a step, dropping her hand from Willow's arm. The brunette squinted a bit, trying to figure out Willow and Tara's relationship. Tara sensed she was being tested, so she turned to face Willow's profile, pressing herself close to the redhead. She reached her right hand out and lightly touched Willow's hip, stroking her thumb at the point where the material of the redhead's pants met her exposed skin.
Willow sucked in a deep breath when she felt Tara's fingers on her hip, touching her skin, her right hand on fire wrapped in Tara's strong, yet gentle grasp. "Buffy thought you might have gotten lost, baby." Willow turned her head to look at Tara, their faces inches apart. Tara arched her eyebrows, 'play along?' Willow just stared.
"Hey, I'm sorry, I didn't know..." The brunette said to Tara, backing up toward the door. More people were milling around, snatching quick glances at the almost scene as they freshened up.
"No big deal." Tara said, turning to face the woman, her steely eyes saying something completely different. "She's beautiful." Tara turned and looked at Willow. "If she wasn't mine I'd be doing the same thing." Willow stopped breathing. The look in Tara's eyes was so kind, so loving and so hot.
"Yeah, well again, sorry." The brunette turned and exited the room. Willow and Tara continued to stare at each other, until Tara offered a slight smile, took a step backward and freed Willow's hand with a squeeze.
"You okay?" She asked, clasping her hands behind her back. Willow finally released her breath and nodded. She wiped the hand Tara had just grasped on her pants, mindful of how damp it had gotten, how nervous she had been to feel the blonde's touch. Tara subtly caught the move but continued to smile. "You know, you can just tell them you're straight and here with a friend." She spoke softly, as if imparting a secret. "They'll understand. Well most of them will understand. And the ones that don't... Buffy or I will step in and play 'girlfriend'."
Willow nodded dumbly. "Okay. Thanks, for what you-"
"Not a problem. You obviously weren't interested." Willow chuckled softly at that, Tara's eyes smiling to see that she had helped Willow to relax, even for a second.
"You said um, Buffy was waiting?" Tara nodded and Willow nodded in return. Tara smiled, Willow nodded again and ducked her head shyly. She crossed to the exit after another brief head nod, and Tara entered a stall.