It was a good forty minutes before Tara was able to catch sight of Willow after the bathroom encounter. The blonde had been hijacked by a woman who ran one of the art guilds Tara was a passive member in as she swung the stall door open, and that had evolved into a long walk around the bar meeting and greeting with various women who also knew her from the art scene. She emerged from the backside of the bar relatively unscathed to see Willow sitting on the couch alone. Well not alone, there was that woman crouching down and chatting with her. Flirting with her. Tara felt her jealousy flare again and she started to head toward the couch, to save Willow from this unwanted advance, when she stopped short. The woman who was speaking to Willow stood, her eyebrows raised in what could only be described as the universal sign of 'you're sure?' Willow smiled politely, nodded, and the woman walked away.
Tara watched as Willow smiled to herself slightly before quickly glancing around the room and dug into her pocket for her phone. Tara smiled slightly and felt her chest swell with pride. Here she thought she had to save Willow, when Willow was perfectly capable of stomping on those poor women's dreams all on her own. That's my girl. Tara thought before sighing, shaking her head at the slip. Well, she was my girl for two, whole, glorious minutes in the bathroom. Her brow furrowed deeply and she stood confused. Wait, that sounds kinda naughty... Her eyes glazed over at a new image filling her mind of her pinning the panting redhead against the bathroom wall.
Tara was pulled from her thoughts when Buffy tapped her on the shoulder. She turned, blushing, to see the petite blonde standing behind her, holding two sweating bottles of water in her hands. "Did you see Willow shoot down that chick?" Tara nodded in the affirmative and Buffy smiled proudly. "That's like the fourth one that's tried her luck since Will got back from the bathroom. That little vixen is a 'no go' pro. Hey!" Buffy exclaimed, as if just struck with a thought. "Maybe she learned it from watching you!"
Tara frowned slightly at Buffy's good-natured dig. "You just left her over there to be accosted?"
"I had my own accosting to do." Buffy replied, nodding at the bartender. "Straight."
Tara laughed a little beside herself and shook her head, before her eyes went wide. "Oh! You will never believe what happened in the bathroom." Tara said.
"You'd be surprised," Buffy replied evenly. "I have a pretty open mind."
"Remember that brunette that would not take no for an answer from you at the Landslide a couple of months ago?" Tara related.
Buffy groaned and rolled her eyes. "You mean, Ms., Hands-In-New-Places?"
Tara nodded. "She had Willow pressed up against the paper towel dispenser."
Buffy's draw dropped. "What! That woman is shameless! Well I mean I don't know, she might have some shame tucked away somewhere, but on the whole, I think she's pretty shameless! Poor Will, what happened?"
"I pulled a butch and did the 'she's with me' thing." Tara said sheepishly.
"Really?" Buffy smiled wide. "What did gropes-alot do?"
"Just apologized and left."
"Wow, you got an apology even. How about Willow?"
Tara thought back to the redhead's stunned face, how she had wiped her hand on her pants the second her hand was free. Tara put on a false smile and just shrugged. "Just said thanks. I think I got there before any groping could occur."
"Well I'm sure Willow is eternally grateful. As am I, thanks for looking after her." Buffy said sincerely.
"Of course." Tara replied, equally sincere. Like I need thanks for doing something that feels so natural, so right.
"Wanna go sit?" Tara nodded and waited for Buffy to lead the way. They made it halfway to Willow when a slim woman with big, curly, Carole King hair touched Tara's arm. "Tara." Tara turned and smiled.
"Hey!" She leaned over and gave the woman a warm hug. She righted herself and caught Buffy turning, a questioningly look on her face. "Buffy, you remember Marissa, she's hosting the gallery show next week."
"Oh right, hi." Buffy shifted the water in her arms and extended a hand, shaking the slight woman's thin hand.
"Marissa, you remember my friend Buffy."
"Of course, you work for SF Magazine." Marissa replied smiling.
"I do." Buffy replied, smiling
Marissa turned to Tara, taking her hands. "Do you have a minute to go over some gallery stuff? I promise I'll make it seem less work like by buying you a drink."
"Of course." Tara replied, squeezing the woman's hands and nodding. "Buffy-"
"Right, you know where we are." Buffy smiled and looked at Marissa. "It was nice to see you again."
"Same." Tara and Marissa headed back to the bar while Buffy continued forward. She approached the couch to see Willow quickly look down to her phone.
Willow was reasonably certain Buffy hadn't caught her staring at Tara as they moved toward her. She quickly sorted through the phone's menu, fighting not to awkwardly demand who that woman was Tara had just disappeared with. She looked up only when Buffy put a bottle of water in front of her. "Thanks."
Willow rested the phone on her leg and reached for the bottle. She tried to sound nonchalant when she asked, "so who was the woman with Tara?" She flashed a quick sideways look at Buffy as she twisted the bottle cap.
"Marissa. She owns the gallery Tara's showing at next week."
"Oh." Willow replied before taking a quick sip of water. "They're friends? I mean, just friends?" She looked down at her lap, and dug her thumb into the paper label on the bottle.
"Yes. I think Marissa has a partner and Tara - well, she's a nun. A gay nun, but a nun nevertheless."
Willow chuckled softly. Yay! Her mind screamed.
"Hey, I heard about your adventure in the bathroom." Buffy said, settling into the couch.
"You did?" Willow asked nervously.
"Same girl tried to get me a few months ago. Was not familiar with the dictionary definition of 'no'."
"Oh. Well she wasn't that bad, just a little... bold."
Buffy smiled, opening her bottle of water and taking a drink. "So diplomatic." She scanned the crowd and looked back to Willow. "Saw you shoot down a couple of ladies."
"Oh, yeah." Willow blushed. "They were really nice."
"Yeah?" Buffy asked.
"Yeah, just saw me sitting here alone and came over to chat. One asked to dance. Kinda sweet, brave. I know I'd never have the guts to approach some stranger I thought was attractive." Willow internally grumbled, or you know, a roommate...
"Sorry I left you here all alone."
"You had to get water." Willow said fiddling with her bottle. "And the bartender's phone number." She tacked on mischeivously.
"I'm so transparent." Buffy said taking another sip, chuckling. Willow giggled and the girls sat quiet for a moment enjoying the music and each other's company. Willow's phone beeped and she looked down at the screen, smiling.
"Phone call?" Buffy asked.
"Text message." Willow said shaking her head. "Bryan."
"Ah, and how is Bry-Bry?"
"Good good." Willow replied, smiling goofily and shimmying in her seat. She noticed Tara approaching out of the corner of her eye, a drink in hand. She looked away, but felt her eyes being pulled back by the blonde's swaying form.
"Still living in New York?" Buffy asked, not noticing Willow looking past her.
God she's beautiful. Willow thought, watching Tara effortlessly maneuver through the crowd. "Uh huh." Willow answered Buffy absently.
"Anything new with him?"
Willow looked down at the table as Tara made her way into the area. Tara and Buffy shared a warm smile and Tara sat down in a chair next to the couch.
"New boyfriend." Willow responded, keeping her eyes away from Tara. Tara placed her drink on the table and joined the conversation.
"Bryan." Buffy said, nodding at Willow.
The air rushed from Tara's chest. Willow has a new boyfriend? When- When did this happen? She struggled not to let the panic and disappointment show on her face. She looked over at Willow, who was idly toying with the phone, her eyes downward cast. Is that why she's been upset tonight? Did he do something to her? What kind of jerk would-
"You have a boyfriend named Bryan?" She stammered out. Buffy burst into laughter and Willow looked up confused. She replayed Tara's question and shook her head. "No, my friend Bryan has a new boyfriend. Adam."
"Oh." Tara said, feeling foolish as Buffy kept laughing.
"I'm sorry," Buffy said trying to speak through the laughter. "Just, the thought of Willow and Bryan together is too funny."
Tara looked down at her drink embarrassed at the faux pas and Willow frowned at Buffy. She looked over at Tara, the blonde picking absently at her skirt. Stupid Buffy. The phone rang and Willow looked away from her roommate and answered. "Hello? Hey, ears burning?" She frowned at Buffy, who just laughed harder. "What? Bryan I can barely hear you, hold on." Willow stood. "I'm gonna take his outside." Buffy nodded and wound down her laughs with a contented sigh. Willow squeezed between Buffy and Tara on her way out. Tara bit her lip and tried not too look, as Willow's exposed waist passed close to her face. Don't even think about inhaling right now Tara. As soon as the redhead passed, she reached down and picked up her drink.
"Willow and Bryan..." Buffy said to herself, shaking her head. Tara took a hearty swig of her drink, and looked to the side just in time to see a woman approaching.
The woman stopped inches from Tara, a large, predatory smile on her face. Tara's mouth was still full of vodka and cranberry juice, and she looked up at the woman with her cheeks full, eyes wide. "Hey gorgeous, wanna dance?" The new woman asked.
Tara swallowed with an audible gulp and Buffy burst into laughter again. The woman looked at Buffy like she was addled and then back to Tara. Tara blushed apologetically. "Um..."
An hour later, Willow was back on the couch, alone. Several empty drinks sat on the table before her, and she absently wished she had something to sip, so she wouldn't look so awkwardly alone and out of place. She tapped the phone on her leg and thought about firing up a game. At least she wouldn't look so pathetic. She glanced over to the bar and saw Buffy laughing at something the bartender had just said. She smiled slightly.
"Hope you like martinis." Willow looked up to see Tara standing before her, holding a martini out toward her in her left hand. Willow blinked. "I mean, technically it's just the one martini that I'm hoping you like." Willow didn't speak, yet took the drink from the smiling blonde's hand. "For the cab ride." Tara explained.
Willow smiled slightly. "Thanks, you really didn't need to-"
"I know." Tara said, a half smile gracing her features.
I love that smile. Willow thought, melting.
"It's gin, I hope that's okay."
"It is." Willow said, taking a sip. "Thank you."
"I didn't know if you liked olives..." Tara trailed off almost apologetically.
"I actually do." Willow admitted apprehensively, her nose crinkling.
"Good." Tara smiled widely, bringing her right hand forward. Held in her fingers was a fancy pink toothpick and two olives. Willow felt the smile explode across her face as she looked from the olives to Tara's face. "I'm not really sure what I would have done with them if you had said you didn't." Willow chuckled slightly and took the offered gift. Their fingers brushed and both girls blushed. "Mind if I sit?" Tara asked, indicating the empty spot on the couch.
"No, please." Willow said. Please, please, please! Tara sat a good foot and a half from Willow, carefully arranging her skirt, glancing around the club as she settled into the soft seat. Willow looked at the gap between them and sighed inwardly. She put the olives in the glass and then rested the drink on the table. Tara looked over in time to see the action.
Probably should have asked Buffy what Willow's favorite drink was instead of just showing up with a martini... Doesn't look like she likes it.
Willow turned and their eyes caught. They smiled nervously. "Having fun?" She asked, bringing her fingers together in her lap, slightly fidgeting.
"Yeah, more or less." Tara said, smiling. Willow felt herself melting again. And staring. Oh, staring not good. She turned suddenly and picked up the drink.
Tara's smile faltered and she looked away from the redhead. She looked back as Willow swallowed. Okay, so maybe she does like the drink. Or, she just needs to be drunk to find conversation with me interesting. Maybe I should think about serving wine at our dinners... Tara lost her train of thought as she found herself staring at Willow's neck. She only just brought her eyes up in time to meet Willow's returning gaze, as she placed the drink back on the table. "How about you?" Tara stammered out. "Fun?"
"Yeah." Willow replied, nodding slightly. "More or less." She smiled mischievously and Tara smiled back, hearing her own words echoed. They sat for a moment silently, not looking directly at each other but hyper aware of the other's presence.
"So how do you know Bryan? From work?"
Willow shook her head, leaning back into the couch as the music switched from something relaxed to something louder with a driving beat. "From school."
Tara frowned and leaned toward Willow. "What?"
Willow leaned toward Tara and repeated. "School."
Tara shook her head and leaned back. She stood a little and moved closer to Willow. Willow sucked in her breath, then sighed as Tara sat back down. She was sitting close enough for the redhead to feel her warmth, and she swore she could smell her shampoo. "Sorry, the music changed and I couldn't hear." Tara explained, blushing at their close proximity.
"S'okay." Willow choked out, picking up her drink. She took a deep gulp, finishing the martini and settled back into the couch, facing forward. Tara looked over at her roommate and then moved her eyes forward.
Okay, so sitting close, bad idea. "H-He w-went to M.I.T.?" She asked.
"Yeah." Willow said, noticing Tara's stutter. The blonde didn't do it much, only, it seemed, when she was uncomfortable or surprised. Bryan going to M.I.T. wasn't all that surprising, hello, went to school with me, so the blonde must be uncomfortable. "He lives in New York." She tacked on, her shoulders sagging a bit at the thought of making the blonde uncomfortable.
"Calling kinda late for him."
"He's Mr. Outgoing. And kinda needy. Not really a big surprise to be hearing from him at all hours. Was slightly more annoying for him to call me after midnight when we were in the same time zone." She smiled at the thought of her friend.
"Midnight phone calls, good friend." Tara said.
"He is. He's... my Tara." Willow said simply, smiling to herself. She looked up and caught Tara perplexed look, so she elaborated. "Like if I was Buffy...? Because you're Buffy's Tara. I mean, you are Tara, and it's not like Buffy posseses you or whatever, you're Tara-on-your-own, independent of Buffy, but, you're her best friend from college and Bryan's my best friend from college so... he's kinda, my Tara."
My Tara. Tara gulped and nodded, not daring to speak right away. She almost begged ignorance so Willow would explain some more. So she would say it again. My Tara. "He's a really lucky guy then." She finally said, softly. Willow's face twisted in confusion and Tara elaborated. "Cause, if he's me, and I'm lucky to have Buffy..." she trailed off, nodding her head hopping Willow would follow. "He's a really lucky guy." She again stated sincerely.
Willow thought about it for a split second before a warm, glowing smile broke across her face. Tara's breath caught at the sight of it. They looked into each other's eyes, both of their chests filling with warmth. "Thanks." Willow said softly.
"Okay, who's ready to take off?" Buffy stood to the side, a weary look on her face. Both Willow and Tara turned to her and nodded, silently standing up, not acknowledging the moment they had both shared. Willow leaned forward, picked up the olives on the toothpick and popped them in her mouth. Tara smiled, seeing the action out of the corner of her eye. The group turned, and filed toward the door.
The cab ride was less quiet than the first, both girls exchanging their impressions of the club's ambiance as they snaked back emptying streets to Tara's place. Willow again paid the tab, and they climbed the stairs and entered the apartment quietly. Tara tossed her keys on the small table near the door and looked over at the microwave clock: 12:24. Both girls moved to the stairs to their rooms without preamble. They emerged into the hallway at the top of the stairs and split off from each other, each heading to their own rooms on opposite ends of the long hallway.
The entered their own rooms, and closed the doors.