She invited me. She said, 'always'. Willow smiled widely as she turned off the sidewalk and entered through the apartment's street entrance. She had sported a soft smile all day, occasionally blushing as she remembered the look on Tara's face as she reassuringly said, 'always.'
Her mood shifted a bit as she anxiously ascended the stairs to her home's front door. She shifted her briefcase and keys from one hand to the other so she could wipe her damp hands on her pants, then nervously smoothed her hair with the now-dry free hand. It was five minutes till six, and she had rushed through work and to BART to make sure she was home in time to talk to Tara - should she so desire - before people started to show for the party at 7:30.
Don't say anything about the bracelet; let her bring it up. Willow instructed herself. I mean, she might have held off on opening it so she could open it with you... or you know, she could have already opened it, thought it was totally lame and is horrified that it made you think of her... Willow shook her head. Or, she liked it. She smiled softly at that. Or... she loved it. She smiled widely and then frowned. Okay, don't get carried away... But if she did, she thought, her soft smile returning, she might want to hug. If she does, just you know, follow her lead. Don't maul her, or hold on too long, or smell her hair- She took a deep breath and opened the door.
Her brow furrowed in confusion as she entered the house, closing the door behind her. She had expected a flurry of activity, maybe the caterers Buffy had mentioned in an email earlier in the day, but instead the house was deathly quiet. She noticed a note on the counter and moved over to read it.
Willow frowned. Okay, don't freak; still time to talk... if she gets home, you know, soonish. Willow grabbed a napkin off the counter, walked over to the fridge and pulled out a piece of quizza, then walked up the stairs, munching along the way. Nothing about the bracelet... the redhead thought as she dropped her bag next to her bed and walked to her desk, bringing her laptop to life with a tap of the keys. Maybe she just didn't want to say anything in a note... you didn't want to say anything in a note... She sat down and used her wireless mouse to open her browser.
She had purposefully left the door slightly ajar so that she would be able to hear the girl's return, and quickly set about appearing busy online as she finished her meal. Read a news story, look to the door, look to the clock and repeat. Finally, after twenty minutes, she heard the front door open. She quickly stood and then sat again. I can't rush downstairs. I'd look like a complete spaz. Besides, what if she's busy setting up for the party, talking to the caterers, or- oh my god she's coming up the stairs. Look busy!
Willow quickly turned to her computer and called up the New York Times main page, absently clicking on the first link she saw so she could at least appear otherwise engaged. And quite possibly, well informed and/or cultured. There was a slight knock at the door, and Willow smiled to herself. Relax, don't spaz, let her lead. "Come in."
The door opened and Willow glanced up, immediately frowning at what she saw. "Buffy? What are you doing here?"
"Good to see you too." Buffy deadpanned, entering the room.
"No, glad to see you." Willow said, standing up and crossing to give the petite, well-dressed blonde a hug. Only not really because I wanted to spend time with Tara, alone... "Just surprised. Tara said the party started at 7:30..." Maybe she'll go away for a while, come back after the party starts...?
"It does." Buffy said breaking out of the embrace and dropping her purse on the floor. Willow's eyebrows raised as she looked down at her watch and then back up, and Buffy replied to the silent question with mock indignation. "I'll have you know I am more than just a guest, thank you very much. I'm key, practically a party planner, event, hostess person." Willow looked at her friend skeptically. "I brought stuff and am now going to stay out of the way until the bar is set up." Buffy admitted, moving to Willow's bed.
Okay, not leaving. Damn. Willow thought, watching Buffy lay down on her bed. "What kind of stuff...?" Willow asked cautiously, fearing the 'stuff' was Buffy's infamous bean concoction.
"Not the dip." Buffy replied annoyed, propping herself up on her elbow, and Willow exhaled in relief. "Tara wanted my iPod and some jewelry."
"Jewelry?" Willow asked, her interest piqued.
Buffy chuckled. "'Jewelry'?" She teased. "Willow Rosenberg asked about 'jewelry' instead of the computer?"
"Digital audio player." Willow corrected.
"Whatever, it has a hard drive..." Buffy said, rolling her eyes good naturedly.
"So... what kind of jewelry?" Willow asked, trying to seem nonchalant as she sat on the end of the bed, tracing a seam in the comforter with her finger.
"Just a bracelet; said she didn't have any presentable wrist wear for the show."
"Oh." Willow's brow knit together. I guess she didn't like the gift... or she didn't open the gift? "Where is it?" She asked, looking to Buffy's purse. "Downstairs." The petite blonde replied. "Where we will not be going until people have arrived." Willow looked at her friend quizzically, and Buffy explained. "Tara's probably pretty stressed right now, what with the planning, the hosting, the schmoozing... This might be a party for us-or you know, some, alternative, bizarro, pretentious version of us-but it's work for her."
"Shouldn't we offer to help set-"
"Noooo... trust me," Buffy said, "I've been through this many a time and if Tara wants our help, she'll ask for it. Until she does we stay the hell out of her way." Willow's eyebrows arched. "I'm serious. You might think it's okay to go over and socialize, say hello; it's not. All-Business-Tara is going to be in full effect this evening and you do not want to mess with that. It just makes her nervous, and she's already nervous enough as is."
"Okay." Willow said. Good to know... she thought.
"Hey," Buffy said petulantly. "You said on IM today that you bought me a present this weekend; gimme." Buffy stretched an open palm out toward the redhead.
Willow smiled at her friend's enthusiastic pout and stood up, returning to her desk where she pulled a small white box from the top drawer. She tossed it to Buffy, who caught it deftly. "They're not very JLo, or whoever's all fashionable and in style right now, but they were the least hippish thing there." Willow said sheepishly.
Buffy sat up and opened the lid, taking in a pair of simple, engraved silver earrings. "Hey, they're... nice."
"Yeah? Xander and I picked them out." Buffy grimaced and Willow frowned as she moved to sit back on the bed. "What?"
"Nothing..." Buffy said, "just, Xander and you, jewelry shopping."
"Yeah, it's a little weird I guess. Not exactly the most stylish pair. But do you like them, the earrings?"
"Yeah, they're... different, but doable. Thank you."
"We got them at Annabelle's" Willow confessed, knowing of the petite blonde's usual dislike of the store.
Buffy smiled slightly, as if recalling a memory. "Maybe you should give them to Tara. I mean not really, because they're mine." She tacked on quickly, not noticing as Willow's breath caught. "Tara looooves Annabelle's."
"She does?" Willow said hopefully, praying Buffy didn't notice the slight squeak in her voice.
Buffy nodded. "If it wasn't against this states laws she'd marry it. Mrs. Tara Annabelle's."
Willow's face lit up in a broad smile. Okay, okay; chances are now very good that she asked Buffy for her bracelet because hasn't seen the one I bought. I mean, if she'd seen something from Annabelle's, a bracelet something, and she loves Annabelle's, then she wouldn't need Buffy's stupid old borrowed jewelry, right? Whoo hoo!
"What?" Buffy asked, amused by Willow's wide grin.
"Nothing..." Willow said, swallowing her grin. "Just, glad Xander and I picked out something you actually liked."
"Yeah..." Buffy trailed off. "How was that this weekend, I mean, you said you guys talked-"
"It was good." Willow said, standing and moving to her computer, not anxious to get into what they actually talked about. She couldn't help but smile though when she thought of how he had helped her. "Actually, it was great," she amended, turning to look at Buffy. "He's Xander... you know?"
"Yeah." Buffy replied, looking down at the box in her hands.
Willow chalked Buffy's head duck up to sentimentality, and turned her own head to look at her computer. Her brow furrowed as she saw the story she had absently clicked on earlier: 'Miss America competition; less talent, more skin'. She frowned deeply and quit the program. Okay, would have been kind of embarrassing if Tara had seen that...
Buffy watched Willow frown and tentatively asked, "do you want to talk about it?"
"Talk about what?" Willow asked innocently, turning back to face the bed. The Miss America contest? She thought confused. Cause I don't really think I have an opinion-
"Nothing," Buffy grumbled noticing Willow's seemingly evasive response, unwilling to push the redhead on her infatuation with Xander right before the party.
"Okay..." Willow said, raising her eyebrows and moving back to the bed.
Buffy looked up and smiled, an honest effort to lighten a slightly faltering mood. "So, you ready to talk art all night?"
"What?" Willow asked, slightly blanching. I'm going to have to talk about art? I thought I was just going to look at it...
"Art talk." Buffy repeated. "People are going to be coming up to you all night and asking, 'so what do you think about this piece...'."
Willow's eyes widened. "They are?"
"Yup. Total strangers, asking what you think so that they can eventually tell you what they think, usually in a rambling, totally affected, boring way. It's like nails on a chalkboard."
"Oh." Willow said. Don't panic, you did the research, shouldn't be too tough, and besides, it's not Tara you're going to be embarrassing yourself in front of...
"If you get stuck, just do what I do." Buffy said. Willow looked up, hoping that the petite blonde had the key to breaking the 'art talk' code. "Say it's bold, something about the colors and brushstrokes, and then finish with how it reminds you of your mother."
"Okay." Willow said, chuckling. Good ol' Buffy; faking insightful and getting away with it. "Oh!" She exclaimed, remembering what it was she had meant to ask her friend earlier online. "How was your date with the bartender?"
Buffy took a deep breath and smiled. "Oh, it was..." she trailed off, unsure how best to describe the experience. "He's a nice guy, open minded. In fact, very open minded. Like, for instance, he loves lesbians. And he liked that I had lesbian friends. And he was curious if I wanted to you know, engage in certain lesbian acts with said friends. Preferably with him present, and possibly with a video camera recording." Willow's face contorted in disgust. Buffy shrugged. "Eh. I met a fireman when I was waiting for my cab, so it wasn't a total wash."
"Wash- I actually need to take a shower-" Willow remembered distractedly, standing up.
"Right, cause I wasn't leading up to anything important." Buffy chided. Willow frowned and turned back to the girl.
"I'm sorry. Fireman."
"Yes. His name is Jim, and he's go-or-geous. All muscle, 6'3"-"
"6'3"." Willow interrupted. "Buffy, that's like a whole foot taller than you."
"...And?" Buffy asked, her eyebrows arched, not quite recognizing Willow's point.
"Nothing." Willow said. "I guess, I just like my kissing partners to be within kissing distance all the time. You know, my same height."
"Oz..." Buffy said.
Tara... Willow thought.
"Xander, though." Buffy countered.
"Ah yes, the exception to the rule." Willow said, moving to the closet and pulling out a towel and robe. She turned back to the petite blonde. "May I shower now?"
"No." Buffy said, and Willow groaned. Okay, the longer she talks, the less time I have pre-party in case, you know, Tara wants to talk, or hug, or-
"So Jim is coming tonight."
"Oh." Willow said, frowning slightly. Great, art show where people are going to ask me to talk about art, no alone time with Tara, Buffy's going to be fawning all over this guy-
"And he's bringing a friend for you."
Willow's head snapped up, her eyes wide. "What? No, Buffy-"
"His name is Kevin, I met him last night, very nice, very cute, Xander height-
"Stock Broker, graduated from UCLA-"
"No, Buffy-" Willow shook her head, pleading with her friend. "What happened to, 'tonight being a work night'?"
"For... Tara." Buffy said. "Look, I know you haven't been all that excited about dating since you know, forever, and with things being 'great' with Xander-"
What? Willow thought, her mind spinning.
"But this'll be fun. You don't have to like him, just give him a chance."
Not going to happen in the very very least. Willow thought. Her head turned toward the the stairs when she heard the front door open. There was a flurry of activity downstairs, and Willow frowned, looking down at her watch. 6:40...
"Buffy, are you upstairs?" Tara's voice carried throughout the house.
"Yes." Buffy yelled, standing up off the bed.
"Can you come down and set up the iPod, I'm swamped." The blonde yelled again.
"Yes." Buffy yelled again. She moved over to Willow's side, opened the door, and pushed the redhead toward the shower. "Go, bathe, I'll be waiting to help you pick out an outfit when you get back."
"I already picked something out." Willow said, her voice a little distant as she was pushed to the bathroom door.
"And I'm sure it's really Willowy." Buffy said, patting the redhead's shoulder.
"Willowy?" Willow asked dryly, her annoyance with Buffy's ambush matchmaking beginning to bubble to the surface.
"As in, an outfit fit for Willow." Buffy said, diplomatically.
Willow shook her head. Thanks.
"Buffy!" Tara yelled again from downstairs.
She sounds so stressed... Willow thought, her annoyance with Buffy taking a backseat to her concern for the blonde scurrying around downstairs. She shouldn't be, things are going to go great-
"I'm coming!" Buffy yelled, her shout interrupting Willow's thoughts. The petite blonde turned back to Willow and rolled her eyes. "Artists..." She shook her head and disappeared down the stairs.
Willow watched her friend walk down the stairs and then shook her own head, walking into the bathroom. Buffy...