Normally not given to preening herself excessively. It had taken Willow a good hour to dress herself that Friday morning. She had spread the entire contents of her suitcase out on her bed and agonised over every single item. Skirt, shirt... right down to her shade of stockings. And the scarf! She had tried all her scarfs on at least three times each... tying them to the left, the right, the front...
Okay, we want stylish without looking like everything you're wearing cost the earth... .Hmmm, well dressed without appearing like you're trying too hard... dammit, this is so hard...
She finally settled on a light blue skirt and white shirt with a Hermes scarf that Buffy had given her last Christmas. Willow stood in front of the mirror and regarded herself critically. Presentable... hint of style and yet still decidedly plain... perfect!
Tara was already standing on the steps when Willow jumped off the street car. Arms folded across her chest, leaning in a casual manner against one of the massive pillars. She waved with a nervous grin and Willow smiled warmly in return. She thought back to their conversation of a few days ago when Tara had told her that Notre Dame was her favourite sight so far. Willow realised with a funny little jolt in her stomach that if she had to choose her favourite sight, it would undoubtedly be the blue-eyed blonde with the cute stutter.
Tara had to employ every restraint she knew to keep herself from gaping stupidly at Willow as she approached. Could she be anymore beautiful if she tried? She involuntarily hugged herself more firmly, as if the pressure would wake her from her dream... either that or stop her heart from beating right out of her chest.
"No cowboy books, shrimp pastries... and best of all, no fountains!" Willow said with humour in her voice after she had bounded up the steps, "And you know what else is weird... I knew you'd be here!"
"And I was waiting for you," Tara said breaking into a smile of her own, she was beginning to think that the redhead's smile was the most infectious thing on the planet, "Funny that."
"It's kind of a shame," Willow was saying as Tara lead the way inside the museum, "In a way I miss just bumping into you... but this is better, I don't run any risk of having a heart attack."
Before they began their tour of the museum, Tara introduced Willow to Giles. After listening to Tara's inexhaustible chatter all morning about how wonderful the redhead was he had insisted on meeting her. He at least wanted to be able to put a face to the person Tara described as 'absolutely adorable in every way.' He knew Tara better than anyone, and coming from her, that was very high praise indeed.
He glanced up when the two girls entered the basement in which he was working on some of the museums archival materials. It was dark, as such rooms happened to be but as soon as they entered he noticed it became conspicuously brighter. Something made him grin happily before a word was said. Tara had a broad smile on her face of the type he rarely saw... in fact, he couldn't actually recall a time where she had ever smiled quite like that.
"Giles, this is Willow Rosenberg," Tara was still beaming, all the more so now.
Giles extended his hand to the young woman, "I feel like I know you already, Tara has told me so much about you... I'm very pleased to meet you Willow."
"Thanks, Mr Giles, likewise," Willow shook his hand firmly, glancing sideways at Tara who was shuffling her feet awkwardly. Willow guessed Giles wasn't supposed to let on that Tara had been talking so much about her. She talks about me, woohoo!
At that moment Giles must have realised too because he had removed his glasses and was cleaning them as though his life depended on it. Once finished, he put them back on and looked nervously towards the exit.
"Well, you girls can feel free to have a look around... down here if you want, there's quite a few pieces from the ancient Egyptian exhibition they couldn't fit in the main gallery, some of the more fascinating objects I think... just be very careful," Giles didn't waste too much time with the warnings, Tara was a very sensible young lady, "I look forward to seeing you again Willow."
"Me too!" Willow said brightly, she liked the English professor very much already.
Giles left them alone and Willow peered around happily. There was so much stuff in here! For someone who had always been fascinated with history it was like stumbling into a gold mine. Willow usually managed to hide her intellectual side from friends quite successfully, however, with Tara she felt for some reason she didn't need to. Not just because she obviously felt the same way about learning... but because Willow was so very comfortable around her.
"Look at all this stuff!" Willow crossed to an opened crate which held a large fragment covered in hieroglyphs.
There were none of the ropes and crowds which were the drawbacks of any museum, she could almost reach out and touch it. Willow reached out before thinking better of it and tucking her hand behind her back. She grinned guiltily as she looked across to Tara who had crossed the room to stand next to her.
"Can't help it, reaching out to touch stuff... " Willow was saying.
Tara smiled at the cute redhead, I know exactly what you mean... Tara wanted to reach out and touch something herself...
"...I was always touching stuff when I was little, you should have seen the relatives scuttle to pack away their most expensive china and antiques whenever my parents took me anywhere for a visit," Willow held out her finger to Tara to show her a long scar running the length of it, "Remnant of a zoo visit gone horribly wrong."
"I'll keep you on the straight and narrow... I guarantee complete safety, although I doubt we'll find any zoo animals down here."
They walked amongst the partially unpacked exhibits, both exclaiming every so often when they found something particularly interesting. Willow had taken to keeping her hands behind her back, she really didn't trust herself. She glanced across at the blonde and realised she was doing the same!
I guess Tara doesn't trust herself with not touching all this cool stuff either, Willow was glad she wasn't the only fidgety one.
God, I want to touch her more than anything... Tara kept making little sidelong glances at the redhead. She was so cute staring enraptured at the artefacts and making little exclamations of delight which made Tara smile every time. Tara found herself clenching her fingers until she was sure they were white.
"Hey," Tara noticed something particularly interesting, "Look at this... it's from the nineteenth dynasty, statue of a high priest, it's exquisite... Willow?"
Tara turned around but Willow wasn't standing where she left her. All she saw in every direction was crates, packing straw and much too many dark shadows for her liking.
"Willow?" Tara called, a little plaintively, she had never been all that good in the dark.
She leapt as she heard a small sound behind a crate, it was probably just a rat or something... Nothing to worry about at all... a rat! Tara looked nervously at her feet, rats were right up there with gawking at girls arses and naked breasts on the scale of things to be avoided. Rats, however, didn't offer any of the guilty pleasure that staring at the other two provided.
Taking a deep breath she moved towards the sound, moving around a crate she came to find a very grizzled skeleton lying on a table. She wrinkled her nose in disgust, it was icky... but so fascinating. As curious as a cat, Tara bent down to examine it more closely, momentarily forgetting that she had lost Willow. Why on earth would this be sitting down here... it's fantastic, it should be in the main exhibition! Suddenly the hand on the opposite side of the table jumped, then it seemed to lift as though the skeleton had suddenly come to life... Tara screamed as only someone coming face to face with moving dead things could.
She was about to turn and sprint away when Willow peeked up guiltily from the other side of the table. Tara clutched at her all too rapidly beating heart. As breathless as she was she managed a very effective glare at the redhead but it quickly turned to a smile.
"You could've killed me!" Tara protested, "My god, I was so scared." Luckily for me I didn't wet my pants... now that would have been embarrassing!
"Sorry, I just couldn't resist, all this ancient stuff was lying about and I thought wouldn't it be cool if something came to life... which I know full well they don't... and... " Willow paused and grinned apologetically, "... and then I was a complete idiot... sorry... "
Tara actually struggling not to laugh, letting out small giggles every now and then, the look on Willow's face was priceless. Willow found herself laughing too. It had been a very funny idea that could have gone horribly wrong... but Tara saw the funny side and Willow liked her even more for it.
"Mr Dead guy here thinks it's funny too I think... look at his grin," Willow gave the mummy's hand a little shake and her grin turned to a mask of horror when the hand fell off.
Willow stood with the mummy's hand in her own, looking at it and then to Tara, her grin fading instantly, "I don't think it's supposed to come off like that..."
"Oh my god!" Tara whispered, her eyes bulging, "I am going to get in so much trouble... and poor Giles too!"
The door to the basement creaked open and a flashlight started peering through the darkness.
"Hey, anyone down here... I heard noises?" it was a man's voice, the flashlight continued probing.
Willow and Tara shared a combined moment of panic, looking first to each other, then to the mummy hand in Willow's fist and then back to each other. Both were frozen in their tracks until Willow grabbed Tara's hand in her free one and dragged her further into the darkness. Willow could hear her heart beating in her ears as they scrambled as quietly as they could but at the same time trying to avoid being caught by the flashlight. Her palm was sweaty as it held Tara's. She scanned their surroundings, Okay Rosenberg... this is all your fault... if Tara and Mr Giles get in trouble it's your fault... you so should've kept your hands to yourself! Hide, gotta hide somewhere... self-punishment comes later.
"In here, quick!" Willow whispered, she pulled Tara inside an empty storage crate after her.
Tara and Willow scrambled inside the empty storage crate and pulled the door shut just as the two guards came in. Through the cracks in the crate they could clearly see the guard searching. While they were already hot and flushed from all the running, it was even worse inside the crate. The air was stuffy in the close confines. Both girls were practically sitting in each other's laps, it was so cramped.
In the manner they had scrambled in, neither had stopped to think about body positioning and now, neither could ignore it. Their heads were so close together if they turned their heads, their lips would be almost touching. Tara felt her breath coming hot and fast and she kept stealing little glances out the corner of her eye at Willow.
Willow was fully aware of the fact that Tara was so close. She felt Tara's breath on her cheek and it was the most delightful and arousing sensation she had ever experienced. If she just turned her head...
After what seemed like an eternity but at the same time, not nearly long enough... the guard left. Both girls thanked their lucky stars he hadn't seen the handless mummy. The crate door opened with an audible squeak but after no one came running, Willow scrambled out first. She then reached back into the crate with both hands to help Tara to her feet. Holding both the blonde's hands she drew her up and they found themselves standing eye to eye, hands clasped together.
When holding hands while they had been running, Tara had been much too terrified to give any thought to it. Now however, she was fully aware of both of Willow's sweaty palms pressed to her own. She stared into the green eyes which were bright and excited from the adventure...
Come on, Maclay, stop staring... she's going to think you're gay or something... hold on a minute, I am gay!
Tara was breathing heavily and Willow noticed every rise and fall of her chest as well as how delightfully smooth her hands were. She had to fight the urge to stroke the blonde's skin with her thumb..
Rosenberg, what are you playing at here? Let go dammit... or she's going to think you're gay or something... wait a sec here... am I gay?
Both girls let go at the same time and took a small, reluctant step backwards. Tara felt a thin line of sweat beading across her forehead but not from the heat. A sudden noise broke the silence and they both jumped. Tara put her hand over her chest to try and quiet her rapidly beating heart.
I wish that were my hand, Willow thought wistfully before she collected her scattered thoughts together, "We should get out of here, in case they come back this way."
"R-right," Tara nodded, if she was caught Mr Giles would be in a lot of trouble.
Willow found the table with the handless mummy on it and ever so carefully placed it back so it appeared to join with the wrist. She shrugged, "I feel kinda bad... "
"That's because you are bad," Tara replied with a laugh, then she realised how much innuendo had been intended in that small sentence and she had to fight not to blush, "I-I think maybe we should go look at the main exhibits... you know, the ones with the display cases and ropes and stuff."
"Brilliant idea!" Willow nodded firmly, red hair bouncing charmingly.
After the handless mummy mishap, Tara and Willow had spent the most marvellous afternoon exploring the actual museum. Willow was very glad for the display cases and restraining guide ropes around the larger exhibits. Both girls knew full well that the museum exhibits were not the reason they were enjoying themselves so much... but neither wanted to let on. It was with a lot of reluctance that they went their separate ways late that afternoon.
"So, what are you doing tomorrow?" Willow asked casually as they wandered down the front steps of the museum, some of the last patrons to leave.
Tara tried to suppress a smile and a surge of hope, She wants to know what I'm doing... oh dammit..., "Giles has a lecture tomorrow which probably means I'll be working all day."
"Oh," Willow put on her best 'not-disappointed' face but it didn't quite stick, "Um, that's alright, because you have to work and stuff and that's good..." No, it's not good at all... says me who has never had to work once in her entire life... what do you know Rosenberg?
Tara ducked her head, wondering how to set a future date without looking much too keen. Willow solved the problem for her... or made it more difficult, Tara wasn't sure which...
Willow had grabbed a slip of paper from her purse and scribbled something down on it, "Here's my aunt's number, call me... if you want to, I mean, it's not an order or anything... just if you want to. You can call me if you want to... you know, do something?"
Tara took the slip of paper with a smile and made sure it was very carefully stowed away in her purse where it wouldn't fall out or get lost.
"I had a really good time today... well, there was the whole thing where we broke a thousand year old mummy... but apart from that, best time I've had in Paris so far!" Willow said cheerily.
"Me too, I-I had fun too," Tara was fairly bursting with happiness, it was all she could do to keep from dancing a silly little dance right there in front of the museum.
Then there was an awkward moment when it came time to say goodbye. They both stood there staring at their feet, unsure of exactly what to do. Hug... shake hands...
God I want to kiss her!, Tara was thinking as she clenched her fingers together.
Come on Rosenberg... it's just a hug... oh, it would be wonderful to be able to touch her like that... Willow had a mental image of the blonde taking her in her arms and holding her tight, she felt warm just thinking about it, Make a move already!
Willow did make a move but she spent the rest of the day agonizing over the fact that it was clearly the wrong move to make...
"See you later then Tara... thanks for a great day," Willow smiled quickly, turned and ran down the steps to where the street car was passing.
"B-bye," was all Tara had time to get out.
Tara watched as she jumped on and with a cute little wave... she was gone, just like that.
"Thanks... for everything," she whispered to no none, she sighed and returned to the museum, Giles would be waiting for her.
"So, you had fun today with Willow?" Giles asked Tara as they ate dinner at the hotel restaurant that night.
"Much fun," Tara nodded, it had been fun... apart from the whole hand incident. No... even the hand incident had been fun! She looked up from her dinner to Giles, "What did you get up to for the rest of the day?"
"Oh, not much, had to fix one of the exhibits that was broken somehow..."
Tara looked at Giles in horror...
"...it wasn't much. Just this replica of a mummy that they museum is going to use in a diorama, only took a bit of glue and it was as good as new," Tara could have sworn Giles winked at her.
"G-good..." Tara nodded and stared intently at her dinner, trying not to let a smirk creep onto her face.
"Plans for tomorrow then?"
"Isn't there a lecture at the university?"
Giles set his fork down on his plate and gave her a 'look', "I'm giving a lecture yes... but what are you doing?"
Tara frowned, "Don't you need help?"
Giles shook his head, "It's Saturday, professor's assistants always get Saturday off... so, as I was asking, what are you doing tomorrow?"
Tara grinned and felt a hot blush sweeping across her face, "Well, I-I guess I'll call Willow and see what she's doing."
"That's more like it," Giles said as he resumed eating, and this time he did wink.