Growing up in a small mountain town equipped with one stoplight, two restaurants and a radio station that's primary job was to broadcast which shifts were to work down at the mill on any given day, Tara had had plenty of opportunities-for lack of anything better to do-to witness swarms of moths congregating around one of the few lights that lit the two-lane highway which ran in front of her parent's lodge. The large-winged bugs flittered and fluttered, bumping into each other, casting spastic shadows on the ground and along the walls of the girl's small room, which was situated just below the light and a large conifer tree several feet away. Sometimes the moths obscured the light's ability to do it's job altogether, such was their intensity of movement, and the girl's room seemed to slip into blackness, occasional flashes of yellow appearing and then disappearing almost before they could be registered by her young eyes. Indeed, the first time Tara saw a strobe light, as a shy teenager attending her first middle school dance, she thought of the moths and the streetlight.
It was this offbeat thought that invaded her mind for the briefest of moments as she left Willow's room and placed a thin hand on her stomach; the place where the mountain moths had suddenly decided to flitter and flutter, the churning making her slightly dizzy as she took her first few steps away from the redhead's room. The blonde walked quickly and purposefully toward her own room, her face lighting up in a bright blush with each step, her head still swimming from the girls' conversation and subsequent plans. Tara didn't need a mirror to know that she was turning a bright shade of fuchsia; the blonde could feel the skin on the back of her neck and the tips of her ears burning red hot. She crossed the threshold of her room, flipped on the lights and quickly shut the door behind her. She then took a couple of steps into her room and froze, a dear in the proverbial headlights as a thought hit her square in the chest, leaving her breathless.
What are you doing?!
She placed a hand on the back of her neck, and felt how warm it was. What about your work? She thought, wide eyed. What about Xander? She continued, her hands moving back to her stomach. What are you doing?!? The girl took a deep breath and moved to sit down in the plush chair she had next to her bedside table, lest she become even more faint and pass out. She pulled her knees to her chest and then settled into stillness as the flurry of thoughts in her mind collided with one another. She had just, for all intents and purposes, walked into Willow's room and asked the girl to spend the evening with her. She had purposefully skipped away from her work commitments, and some may argue her rational sanity, all because a song she heard reminded her of a night that may, or may not, have signaled a connection between the two women three years ago. A song that reminded her of the day that the blonde had clung to as the most perfect day of her life to that point.
What if she was wrong?
A cold chill swept through Tara's bones. What if the song held a meaning for Willow that Tara couldn't, or wouldn't want to comprehend. A night spent with Xander as teenagers, a night with Oz as they lay together in a small Boston apartment? An ideal night spent with an ideal man that the slender redhead had yet to even meet? Or, or maybe the song was a simple reflection of Willow's love of melody and a nice turn of phrase? It certainly was a possibility, a probability in fact that any or all of the four options could be true, considering the very straightness of Willow. What if what Tara hoped, that Willow loved that song because it reminded her of their time together three years earlier, was nothing more than the hopes of a deluded fool trapped in an unrequited love affair? What if she had just made a huge mistake, and opened herself up, yet again, to getting her heart absolutely crushed by the redhead?
The moment of panic was interrupted by a gust of wind against the large window to her left. The blonde's head turned sharply to take in the blustery storm, and the rain pelting the glass seemed to start to take up a rhythm as it assaulted the panes, pitter pats that sparked a sound from the area of her brain right behind her right ear. A soft hum, and a tambourine tsh. Her shoulders dropped, the tension in her face melted away and her tight lips loosened and turned up into a soft, serene smile, as the song came back to her. The twin toms slowed her heartbeat, and she took several large breaths as the melody wrapped around her mind. '...and the curtains sigh, in time, with you... After a moment enjoying its loveliness, the song began to recede, and the anxious thoughts started to come back. What about work, what about Xander, what are you doing?! The blonde shook her head slightly, and simply thought, I don't care.
The thought took root and began to grow, it's expansion pushing out of her brain and spilling warmth throughout her body as a slight smile hooked into the corner of her lips and started to pull wider. I don't care. Not right now, not with the way Willow had just smiled at her floating in her memory. Work, Xander, three-years ago... it just didn't matter right now. All that mattered was how she felt. How she felt as she listened to that song, how she felt as she took the headphones off of her head and looked around her studio, how she felt as she climbed the stairs and then how she felt as she looked the most beautiful girl in the eye as they hashed out plans for the evening. All of it, every second of it had made her heart feel too big for her chest, and flooded her with a giddy passion that was instantly addictive. No, she didn't care about anything other than how she felt when she allowed herself to live in the knowledge that she was desperately in love with Willow Rosenberg. When she allowed herself to be, if only for a moment, unabashedly hopeful that in some small way, Willow Rosenberg felt something for her too.
The girl let out a shuddering breath, the strong tide of love receding; a lump rose into her throat as she let her mind consider Willow's potential feelings for her. Of Willow maybe being capable of loving her. The panic returned, hitting her full on and she struggled to let out a deep breath, her eyes wide at the thought of Willow loving her. Okay, that's a big thought for right now... the girl admitted, shaken by the enormity of it all. How about we just go with, 'Willow might have had fun that night, too?' The lump slowly retreated from her throat, and she took another deep, cleansing breath, dropping her feet to the floor and straightening her shoulders in the process. When the panic failed to immediately reform, she smiled to herself slightly. Much, much more manageable.
But what if Willow could... like me, she allowed, cautiously, careful to avoid anything stronger. She had felt a shade of this way recently. Tara thought back to the week before. How she had felt as Willow had asked her to dinner, when Willow touched her subtly several times as they walked into the restaurant, as the animated redhead described her rat cam. How she had felt as they spent the early evening chatting over their respective meals, pure bliss from bathing in Willow's attention. Thai had been so wonderful. Until, of course, Willow said she loved Xander, and then it had been less wonderful. That night had reset her creeping aspirations, when she had been reminded that Willow was straight, that Willow had an unrequited love of her own. But... but... The song rushed to comfort her, and she let herself feel the melody's warmth. Another smile crept up to her lips as she pictured Willow's smiling face, and she sighed dreamily, a new resolve rising within her.
Tonight she'd just put everything aside. She'd steer clear of Xander-talk, steer clear of anything that might take away what the song had given her, and if the redhead did bring up the dark haired man, Tara would let it roll off of her, let it slide out of her mind so that she could be free for more positive thoughts. The complications of what Xander was to Willow would wait. Tonight was about her and Willow. The blonde's heart was skipping in her chest, skin raised in bumps on her forearms and all she could feel was the warmth that she had felt that night three years before when she fallen in love with the redhead girl. When she had looked into sparkling green eyes, framed by ringlets in red and knew that she had experienced something, someone, profound. Special. Everything. Tonight she'd just enjoy Willow and their maybe-date.
Tara took a deep breath. There was no beating around this truth; dinner, a concert... it certainly felt like a date. Not that I've gone on a date... ever... the blonde thought nervously, but, it definitely felt like a date. Isn't this what you did when you were in love? Dinner out, a concert? Tara shook her head and exhaled deeply. Dating, Willow liking her. It was like last week all over again, when she found herself wondering in Marissa's meeting if Willow liked her liked her as she contemplated dinner plans with the girl. The meeting where Morgan asked her to the party-
The blonde quickly brought her hands to her forehead, her face scrunching up in a grimace. She had plans with Morgan tomorrow. The striking brunette artist was going to come here, to her and Willow's bubble, to discuss her art portfolio on what could seem to some reasonable people to be a date in its own right. Tara sighed and pressed her palms into her eyes. Morgan, Willow, Morgan, Willow... When did my simple life get so complicated? She sighed heavily, hoping the exhale would help sort out her life. When it didn't, she dropped her hands to her lap and rolled her neck, a frown on her lips. One thing at a time. She had just semi-pseudo-discovered that Willow may have some feelings of unknown origin and strength for her; she'd worry about the brunette she was on the verge of dating later.
Tara stood, rolled her shoulders slightly and made her way to her closet, opening the armoire doors and peering at the clothes it contained. It was sure to rain all evening, just as it had rained all day, and the days before, so she'd want to be sure to layer, as the numerous people at the show would no doubt make a cozy heavy sweater uncomfortably warm. She smiled wryly when she realized that she had never asked Willow who they would be seeing. She had no idea what would be appropriate for the evening; a blouse, a t-shirt, skirt, pants...? She shook her head. What to wear to spend yet more time with Willow. It was quickly becoming a standard concern, as it was starting to seem that they were always together. Since Sunday, it was eat, sleep, shower, paint, spend time with Willow. Or at least, that's how it seemed when compared to the barren first month of their shared living arrangement, and while this new arrangement was fabulous, miraculous even, it was awfully confusing. But then, Tara allowed, when during the last three years hadn't she been confused about her relationship with Willow? The blonde shook her head to clear the thought, and concentrated on the image in her mind of Willow's smiling face.
Things were precious when they were in their bubble, together, alone; the party, visting Anya's-things could get weird when they ventured into the real world. She hoped things wouldn't be weird tonight. The blonde's brow quirked in thought. But there was that moment at the gallery... and the other moment at cake... so maybe, maybe their bubble would extend to the Fillmore. The blonde sighed, and looked around her room. This room that held the night with her and Willow stringing lights. It was after that night that her room began to feel different to her. Before it had been hers alone, and now it held memories. Willow said this here, the blonde had caught sight of a smile there. It was amazing. Tara remembered that when it was time to move out of her place three years ago, she took pictures of every inch of her room so she could always remember how it looked the night she spent with Willow. Despite all that had happened after, the room had remained special.
Tara took a shaky breath and realized that the panic she had earlier managed to subdue was starting to rise in her throat again. Oh my god, I'm freaking out in waves. She closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. Once done, she opened her eyes and looked back into her armoire, seeing nothing but a blur of colors on hangers. Figuring out what to wear... how to appear... she couldn't think about that yet. Later, later after she stopped hyperventilating. After her heart returned to what could reasonably immitate normal functionality. She quickly stripped, put her dirty clothes in the hamper and slid on her robe and slippers. After a shower, everything would be clearer. She took another deep breath, grabbed a clean towel, and headed for the door. She'd worry about what to wear when she returned.
The plans came together so fast that Willow almost didn't have a chance to freak out. Almost, as the freak out set upon her with a vengeance as she was laying her clothes on her bed. It was like a shot of adrenaline to her heart, and she realized with a start that this newly planned outing felt decidedly date-y. They had gone out before together, dinner, the party, but this definitely had date overtones. Dinner, drinks, a concert. She was going on a date with Tara.
After a long, wide-eyed moment spent not breathing, her heart hammering away within her chest and her brow starting to sweat, the redhead frowned and shook her head, allowing herself to take in a shaky breath. Get over yourself, Willow, the girl internally chastised with an exaggerated eye roll, the physical reproach reinforcing her thought. How many times have you gone out to dinner, drinks and a concert over the years with friends? "Millions," she muttered to herself before admitting that this wasn't just a friend going with her to a concert, it was Tara, and that simple fact changed everything.
Recognizing that she was holding her breath again, she exhaled and thought, for you, dummy, not her. The tone was mantra-like and well-practiced, as this was not the first time that she had had to remind herself that her affection for Tara was not only unrequited, but completely off-the-charts unknown to the blonde. Mantra recited, she moved on to the core of her current game plan, the one she had worked out with Xander earlier: Operation Be Tara's Friend. Just, don't act like a spaz, the redhead thought, pushing her hands down in front of her in the universal sign of playing-it-cool. Just, act like a friend. The girl nodded her head resolutely. A good friend, actually, she allowed. A very, good friend, with, more than friend aspirations, of snuggles and kisses and gay love.... The weight of that reality pressed in on the redhead's slim frame and she quickly flapped her hands to erase the pressure. No, no, just friends, she amended. Just good friends, for now. Good friends she could do... unrealistic, totally secret romantic relationship expectations, didn't really work out too great at Morgan's... so friends it would be.
Her nerves calmed, she quickly changed and then worked to tame her hair, all the while consciously trying to keep her mind from lingering on the thought of Tara in the shower. The redhead was still nervous, undeniably nervous, but in a much more giddy way. She had fun when she was alone with Tara, felt oddly calm despite the storm in her heart and soul, and she looked forward to sort of basking in that for a while, drinking it in, sharing something the both of them loved; her the band, Tara the venue. How lucky that it had worked out. If Tara hadn't come into her room, asking to share the evening together, the tickets would have gone unused, and Willow would have likely spent the evening alone in front of her computer. Attending a concert with the girl she loved was a much, much better alternative to killing time before sleep checking out music blogs. It was like getting the big, grand gesture results without having to make a complete fool of herself in the process.
Willow looked herself over once more in the mirror, and smoothed her hands down the front of her pants. She had wanted to wear a skirt that fell just above the knee, until she realized that if she did, Tara might see the fading remnants of a silver dollar sized bruise on her knee. A bruise, she thought ruefully, that she had acquired from walking into the sharp edge of the coffee table two weeks before as she ogled Tara wearing the glass bead bracelet from Annabelle's. The night of the blonde's gallery opening, the mark a result of the smooth move that sparked her hatred of Anya. Not really wanting to lie abut the origins of the semi-conspicuous contusion... pants it is. She looked herself over yet again, making sure the newly applied lipstick wasn't on her teeth, and that her hair featured no prominent fly-aways. That done, she smiled at what she saw. She looked good. Felt good, despite the giddy nerves bouncing around inside every fiber of her being. With a deep breath, she grabbed her phone, a small purse and a burned CD in a clear case, and exited her room.
She headed downstairs, slowing slightly at the top of the stairs for a moment to look to Tara's closed door, the sounds of the blonde shuffling behind the white pane making her heart skip. After briefly wondering what Tara would wear for an evening at The Fillmore, the redhead descended the stairs. She entered the dark great room and flipped on the lights, noting with some chagrin as her eyes landed on the window across the way that it was still raining outside. Something that wasn't about to change according to her weather widget, though she hoped that weather.com's prediction of a slight break around midnight, when she assumed the concert would be letting out, would hold true and the girls would get a respite.
She thought about sitting on the couch and thumbing through a book as she waited for the blonde, but Tara's art books from the afternoon were still stacked on the floor and coffee table around the area, and she didn't want to disturb them. With nowhere else to go, Willow moved to the kitchen counter and slid up onto a bar stool. She placed the phone, purse and CD on the bar and looked up to the ceiling, hearing Tara move about some. She checked the watch on her wrist, then checked the time against the microwave clock and then the time on the face of her phone. She tapped her fingers, then picked up her phone, and started to navigate the main menu.
She thought about playing a round of poker, or perhaps reading a chapter from one of the several eBooks she had stored on her Treo, when a color caught the corner of her eye; it was the coffee mug she had used this morning. It sat upside down in the dish drainer, and the sight of it took Willow back to her morning conversation with the blonde. The conversation when she had told Tara she would call Buffy.
The redhead grimaced. Naturally she had not called Buffy, nor emailed or IM'd her either, unsure of exactly what she should say. The thought that the petite blonde might be angry with Xander still bounced around the redhead's head, though she doubted anything was really wrong; one of them would surely have told her if there was a problem, right? That's not why you didn't call though, the redhead acknowledged, spinning the phone on the counter with a lazy tap of her finger. No, she didn't call for the other, more pressing thought that lingered from earlier in the day; the worry, irrational as it was, she easily admitted, that any conversation with Buffy, even the most benign, would reveal her gayness before she was ready. How could she casually chat about hanging out with Tara without her feelings showing? Willow had felt she had hidden her feelings for so long that she was a pro at downplaying her affection for the blonde... but what if all of this recent exposure to Tara had cracked that facade without her knowledge? Xander had told her numerous times that it was obvious, but that's just because he knew the truth she had told herself. Now, though, she wasn't so sure. What if Buffy figured it out over the phone while 3,000 miles away? Wasn't that what she had been trying to avoid for the last two years?
Willow sighed, guiltily. Tara had said Buffy was lonely, and needed a friend, and despite her selfish concerns, the redhead found herself relating to that feeling of loneliness in a way that superceded her other fears. She knew what it was like to feel all alone 3,000 miles from home, and she hated the thought of Buffy feeling that way right now. Willow picked up her phone and quickly thumbed to the text message app. She might not be up for a phone conversation, despite her feeling of solidarity, but she definitely could offer a few friendly words via text. After all, hadn't that been what she had initially thought of doing this morning? She rapidly typed, 'Great news - Xander got promoted. Heading to concert w/ Tara now. Talk more later.' She selected Buffy's name once done typing her message, hit send and then nodded to herself. It was light and breezy and hopefully would put a smile on the petite blonde's face. Everyone here was happy, and Buffy was in the loop. Talking to the petite blonde, dealing with the complexity of their relationship... Willow would deal with everything else later. Light and breezy now, deep and heavy on Sunday.
The redhead turned her head when she heard Tara descending the stairs-their eyes met as the blonde turned to enter the great room, and both smiled warmly; Willow's on the giddy end of the spectrum, Tara's relieved that she had managed to make her way to this point without collapsing from anxiety. Willow put down her phone, and stood.
The first thing Tara noticed, aside from the redhead's gorgeousness, were Willow's lips, and the shade of red gracing them. Vixen... she thought with a shuddering breath, remembering the effect those lips had on her last Friday when the redhead had worn the same shade to Morgan's party. The shade was striking and sensual, and though Tara knew it was probably just a case of Willow wanting to wear her new lipstick, she couldn't help but secretly hope the shade was selected for her benefit. Oh, it's going to be a long night... Her eyes quickly took in the sight of Willow's hips in the pants the redhead had selected for the evening's events, and the blonde again subtly sighed. Yup, gong to be a long night...
Willow smiled as the blonde walked toward her. She tried to subtly take in Tara's whole appearance, without appearing to stare, stopping with a huge smile when her eyes travelled over the girl's right wrist. There, wrapped around where the blonde's teal long-sleeve shirt met her creamy hand, sat the glass blue bead bracelet. "Hey, the bracelet," Willow blurted out, immediately kicking herself for the over-eager tone. "I mean, that's so cool that you're wearing it." Tara blushed and self-consciously fingered the bauble.
"I t-thought it would be nice to wear tonight," she said, breezing past Willow with her head slightly down, heading with purpose to the coats and her wallet by the door and hoping the blush on her cheeks went unnoticed. "I um, I haven't worn it, lately, because I didn't want to get paint on it, but since there's no chance of that tonight..." She flashed an embarrassed smile over her shoulder and started to busy herself getting ready, the redhead's eyes on her causing her heart to flutter and palms to sweat. She had thought the redhead would noticed the bracelet, but not so quickly. The girl flushed red again at the thought.
Willow's brow quirked a little at the words, and she stepped around the counter toward the blonde. When the girl didn't look up immediately, the redhead chose her words carefully. "Tara," the blonde looked up, still self-conscious about the flush in her cheeks. "Are you still okay about tonight? I mean, I know you have a lot of work, to do, still, and it would be totally okay if--"
"I'm looking forward to the concert." The blonde said surely; she realized immediately how she must have sounded, and looked by ducking her head, and she wanted to reassure Willow that she wasn't going to be distracted by her work (or lack thereof) all night. She instinctively reached out and squeezed Willow's hand, and was happy to feel the redhead squeeze back, a large smile on the girl's face.
"Great," Willow replied, letting go of Tara's hand and rocking slightly on the balls of her feet. After a split second staring, she turned back to the counter. "Oh! I made something for you." She walked over and slid the CD toward the blonde. "It's a CD of the band we're seeing tonight. It should be the same songs and order as what they play tonight, so if you like the show, you already have the music." Tara shook her head in amazement; anticipating a question, Willow quickly explained, "I went online and found their most recent set list, from a show in Phoenix..." She paused momentarily. "I'm a dork."
The blonde smiled widely. Infinitely adorable. "You're not a dork, you're just..."
"A nerd?" Willow finished, her brow raised.
"Passionate," Tara corrected. And thoughtful, wonderful, sexy... The blonde lightly cleared her throat. "Thank you, I'm sure I'll be happy to have the CD to listen to." She stepped back to the secretary table and picked up her wallet. "You know, I still don't know who we're seeing."
"Oh," the redhead said, her brow quirking at the oversight. She stepped closer to the blonde, and took her own jacket from the coat hanger by the door. "We're seeing The Black Keys. I didn't mention that earlier, did I?"
"Nope," Tara replied with a smile, happy by the redhead's proximity. "What um, what kind of music do they play?" She looked up and met Willow's eye, determined to try and get over her nerves. The green sparkled back at her, and the blonde felt herself relaxing a little.
"The blues," Willow replied. "Well, blues-rock, I guess. It's just two guys; one plays the drums and the other one a guitar. Kind of a dirtier, bluesier version of the White Stripes."
"Sounds cool," the blonde said, honestly intrigued by the sound of the band. "Have you ever seen them play before?" She slid on her own jacket and grabbed a nearby scarf.
"Yes," the redhead answered as she watched Tara tie the scarf around her neck. "In Boston a couple of years ago with Xander." The blonde let the information hit her, and consciously willed herself to not start to freak out again. "They opened for Beck," Willow continued, blithely. "It was such a great concert, one of the best I've ever seen. We had such a great time." The redhead smiled widely. "I think you'll like them."
Tara smiled back, making sure her smile was loose and kind in response to Willow name-dropping the dark-haired man. See, that wasn't so bad, the blonde told herself with a deep, internal sigh. Just a mention, simple, friendly... friendly. An earlier thought spun through her head quickly. My Xander. Tara quickly tried to place it again. Where had she heard that before this week? Unwilling to let herself get sidetracked, the blonde abandoned the thought and looked to the redhead. "Are you ready to go?"
"Yup." Willow slid into her jacket, and grabbed her own scarf from a nearby hook. She quickly busied herself with wrapping it around her slender neck. As she put her purse over her shoulder, Tara looked back to see Willow's phone on the counter.
"Don't forget your phone," the blonde said, with a nod to the counter as she buttoned up her own jacket.
"I think I'm going to leave it," the redhead replied nonchalantly as she went about buttoning her own coat.
Tara's eyebrows arched and she couldn't help but look at Willow sideways. "Leave your phone?" She thought of the only time she'd seen Willow do that, on their walk to the coffee shop. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah," the redhead replied with a nod. "I mean, I thought it would be fun to be kind of, distraction-free tonight, and besides it won't even be on when the show is going, so... what's the point." She tried to seem casual, though she hoped that Tara knew without a doubt that this was her way of saying, 'time with you is more important than my stupid phone.'
Tara smiled, understanding the gesture perfectly, her heart beating fast not from panic, but love. She turned to the secretary desk and picked up her own phone, putting it into one of her coat pockets. "I'll bring mine then. Safety first, you know."
"Good idea," Willow replied with a smile. "Do you think we'll be okay without an umbrella? I don't mind holding it if during the show if you think we need it."
"Um, I think we'll be okay," the blonde replied, looking over the redhead's shoulder to the window beyond, and the now-drizzle pressing against the glass. "We'll just walk really fast if it starts to pour." She winked, and Willow smiled brightly in response, her heart melting in the presence of the enchanting blonde. "Do you have money for the bus?"
"Dollar fifty," the redhead replied, patting her pocket. "Also have the tickets," she said, patting her small purse.
"Cool," the blonde replied, sliding her own wallet into her pocket. "Ready?"
"Yup," Willow replied with a bounce. After a brief smile confirming that yes, their evening adventure had begun, the girls exited the apartment, the blonde snapping off the lights behind them, and, after locking the respective doors, headed out toward the bus stop and the night ahead of them.