"You cannot know how glad I am you called. You saved me from a picnic in the park with my cousins... the day could have very well become an eternity," Willow was saying as they strolled along the streets of Montmartre the next day. Now I do wish this day would last for all eternity...
Tara just smiled, remembering the near-nightmare she had experienced that morning trying to work up the courage to call Willow. She had stood in the phone booth in their hotel lobby for the better part of fifteen minutes feeling her palms grow sweatier by the minute.
"I do feel a little bad about getting you to do the calling, I mean, were you nervous... I sure would have been!"
"Not too much," Tara recalled the half-dozen times she had started dialling the number and then hung up.
Willow was in her element, there was so much scope for the imagination here. The artists, the shopping, the cafes... it seemed as if culture itself came alive. They wandered the narrow, steep streets contentedly. Both happy in the knowledge that they were not only in Paris, but in the company of the one person they had come to enjoy spending time with more than any other. The sidewalk stalls were the perfect place to browse, Willow purchased a small painting to take back to her parents as a gift. A very, small painting... she fully expected to arrive back in New York to find her parents oblivious to the fact that she had been away for two months.
"This is adorable!" Willow was saying as she fingered a delicate silk scarf at one of the stalls. It was hand painted with blue irises... the exact shade of Tara's eyes. Why do I enjoy looking at her eyes so much?
She held it up against Tara, it was perfect. Tara grinned a little reluctantly, it was much to expensive for her to afford... not to mention frivolous. They continued to browse the stall, Willow brought a scarf for Buffy. However, as they were walking away, Willow caused Tara's eyes to bulge in horror when she pulled the scarf from her small bag of purchases.
"Willow!" Tara scolded as the redhead set her bag down at her feet.
She walked closer to Tara and gently laid the scarf around her neck. They were as close as they had been after Willow had pulled Tara from the crate the day before. Willow's hands reached up to tie the scarf around Tara's neck. She kept stealing little glances upwards at Tara as she did so. It was with a little reluctance that she found she had to step away when he scarf was tied. She had been so right... it was beautiful... she was beautiful.
"Willow, I can't accept this... it's much too much... " Tara's sweet voice interrupted her gawking.
"Oh phooey! You can too. Besides, I'm sure I missed your birthday. Come to think of it... I've missed all your birthdays and all Christmases... so in actual fact, this is quite a small gift... and most appropriate." Appropriate indeed, maybe I should treat us to ice creams... no, an ice cream so she has to lick mine..., Willow blushed at her inappropriate thoughts. My god!... Tara-tongue... Rosenberg!
"Ooh, cute little café, you up for an iced tea?" she said quickly. Willow pointed it out, glad to have something else to think about.
"Or two," Tara replied, her feet were well and truly worn out.
They ordered iced teas and sat at one of the tables on the sidewalk, an umbrella shading them from the hot sun. Willow sat on the opposite side of the table and propped her elbows up on it, resting her chin in her hands. She stared blatantly at Tara, enjoying watching the blonde's eyes rove around the street, drinking in all the sights.
Tara tried to look at the interesting mix of people walking past, the architecture... anything besides the redhead who was currently staring all too intently at her. Tara felt a hot blush rising up her neck as if the day weren't hot enough already. You know you want to... just do it... it's only looking after all. Looking not touching... it's so not fair, I want to touch... Tara finally allowed herself to meet Willow's gaze. She was so cute, sitting with her chin neatly resting in her hands wearing a small grin that spoke volumes. Her green eyes sparkled with a sense of mischief. A small breath escaped Tara's throat... god, I could stare at her all day... such pleasant torture. Torture it was indeed, being forced to be so close to someone she wanted so badly only served to highlight the fact that Willow could never be hers. Willow said something and Tara was so caught up in those green eyes that she completely didn't hear her.
"Pardon?" she blushed.
"Cat got your tongue?" Willow asked, her grin broadening.
Tara found herself smiling, a little sadly perhaps, "No... I was just thinking... I didn't think I'd make any friends in Paris and then you fell into my path..."
"Splashed into your path more like!" Willow laughed, she noticed Tara still had a sad look on her face, "Your mother probably warned you about meeting people like me... I'm nothing but trouble. What, with the mummy hand yesterday!"
"No, she would have liked you very much," Tara ducked her head, staring at her white knuckled fingers.
Willow looked at Tara quizzically before comprehension dawned and she bit her lip. Stupid... tactless, always putting your foot in your mouth...
"I-I'm so sorry," Willow wanted to reach out and place her hands over Tara's.
Tara shook her head softly, her blonde hair swinging across her face momentarily. When she reached up to brush it away from her face, Willow saw unshed tears glistening in her eyes.
"Tara... I... "
Tara quickly dashed her hand over her eyes and looked back up at Willow with a small smile, "Sorry, the way you said 'cat got your tongue', she used to say it to me all the time. She died last year, it was just that you just reminded me of her a little." In the fact that you're warm, caring... absolutely gorgeous... and I l-l... no... Tara couldn't even let herself think it, In that way lies a nasty death in pain and rejection Tara Maclay.
"So, there's just your father and older brother at home?" Willow asked, she didn't want to probe and at the same time she wanted to comfort... unsure as to how to do it though.
Tara nodded, a cloud falling over her face at the mention of the two people in the world she would rather not be reminded of while sitting in Paris.
Willow saw the look that passed over the blonde's face, not only was she annoyed at herself for bringing up the worst subjects in the world... she was saddened at the thought of what the beautiful blonde might have been through. She kept her eyes on Tara's white knuckles as though they represented all the pain she felt. Gathering her courage, Willow reached out to lay her hand over the blonde's...
"Your teas mademoiselles," at that moment the waiter deposited their iced teas on the table. Willow quickly snatched her hand back. As she did so she knocked her glass and almost sent it flying. It wobbled alarmingly before she grabbed it with only minimum spillage.
Tara laughed lightly, Willow looked back at her to find a smile fixed on her face and her eyes bright again. Willow couldn't help but grin as well, feeling she should let her glass fall completely to hear Tara laugh again.
"I told you I'm trouble," Willow took a refreshing sip after wiping her wet fingers on a napkin.
"You're not trouble... just a hazard to anything that you come in contact with," Tara watched Willow tilt her head back to take another sip of her drink... revealing her long, pale neck... Tara tore her gaze away following an image of herself trailing little kisses along its length.
"Yes, I'm beginning to realise why my parents never let me keep pets as a small child," Willow was saying, oblivious to Tara's daydreaming, "I always wanted a dog though."
"Double trouble," Tara imagined cute-Willow holding a cute puppy.
Willow grinned, swirling her tea to hear the ice clink on the sides of the glass, "It's sweltering today isn't it? It's a good thing we sat down... you were looking a little hot and flushed..."
Tara flushed some more, I'm not the only one who's hot...
"So, I'm figuring that after spending so much time with me, the fact that you're still in one piece and you haven't been driven crazy by my babbling means that we have the beginnings of a long and fruitful relationship," Willow was saying at the end of the day. They were standing outside Tara's hotel after a most fantastic day, waiting for one of her aunt's chauffeurs to collect Willow as she had arranged.
Willow was chattering away happily while Tara saw an entirely different side to those words and she tried not to look wistful...
"Tara, are you listening..."
"Wha... ah, sorry, what were you saying?"
"There's this play I've been told I should go to Monday night, apparently it's excellent and I was wondering if you'd be up for a little theatre?"
Darkened theatre... do I get to sit next to you?... Hello, do I even need to be asked?! "Y-yes, that should be fine. I'll check with Giles but I don't think there's anything planned."
"Good," Willow beamed, "I'll stop by and meet you here at about six?"
"Sounds great... so, until Monday now is it?"
"Monday it is!" Willow bounced happily on her toes, looking for all the world like a small child the day before Christmas.
It came to parting again and Willow found it was no easier that it had been the day before. If anything, it was made even more difficult by the regret she had felt after running off in a flash. Tara stood, scuffing her feet on the ground awkwardly.
"I have to thank you again, for saving me from spending time with my cousins...," Willow stopped and thought about how bad that sounded, she added quickly," but I hope you don't think I'm spending time with you just to avoid them... because I've really enjoyed the last few days... with you."
Willow surprised both herself and Tara by reaching out to take the blonde's hands in her own. She held them lightly, cradling them as though they would crush beneath too much pressure.
Not half as much as I have, "Likewise," Tara said softly.
It's now or never... and I hate having regrets... Willow seized her chance and leaned forward to place a small kiss on Tara's cheek. It was a single action which was all over in a mere second and yet for both of them it seemed to last an eternity.
Despite how much she wanted it, Tara had to fight to keep from stepping backwards in fright as Willow moved towards her. Then everything changed as the redhead's lips touched her skin for the barest of moments. They were so soft.
Willow felt the delicate skin of Tara's cheek brush beneath her lips. If she thought Tara had smelt good from a distance then it was ever better this close, her skin... her hair... Willow reluctantly stepped back with a warm smile which was really a cover for an ecstatically overjoyed smile. If that's what it feels like to kiss her cheek... how on earth is it going to feel to kiss her lips? Willow! When are you ever going to be able to kiss her on the lips? Not ever... never! Willow bit her lip, she knew she couldn't but that didn't lessen the feeling of wanting to do it.
"Play... tomorrow night," Willow let out a breath, Tara's hands still in hers.
"Yeah," Tara replied, "Until then... "
Willow let Tara's hands slide from hers. When the contact had disappeared, she wanted to reach out and snatch them back up again... her hands felt so empty.
Tara waved as Willow walked to her aunt's waiting car. The chauffeur opened the door for her to climb in. With a last glance over her shoulder, she was gone as the door closed. As she watched the car pull away from the curb, Tara realised at that moment the gulf that separated them... she could never imagine anyone holding the door open for her like that. It was out of another world altogether.
She's so far out of your reach Maclay... why do you keep torturing yourself? Tara thought sadly as she turned to go back into her hotel, Because I can...
Tara couldn't get the thought of Willow's lips on her cheek out of her mind. She felt them there still... a tingling sensation like an afterglow. Willow-lips on my cheek! Tara was so busy dwelling on the lips of a certain redhead that she walked straight into the doorframe of the main door. She smiled ruefully as she rubbed her forehead... I'm going to forget my name next...