"Are you sure I look alright?" Tara stood, surveying herself in the hallway mirror, smoothing her outfit all over with the palms of her hands, straightening her skirt several times, "I'm not so sure... "
Willow appeared in the mirror behind her, arms sneaking around to circle Tara's waist as she peered over her shoulder. Tara lent her head against Willow's, for a moment both girls forgot they were standing in the hallway just outside the main dining room. Breathing in the scent of Willow's hair, Tara let a warm smile cross her features. Just the warmth of Willow's body pressed against hers was enough to make her realise that Willow loved her. Something she had never expected to feel. Tara had never felt so safe as she did when she was in Willow's arms.
"You look absolutely delicious," Willow whispered in Tara's ear.
Tara made a noise of exasperation but the smouldering look in her eyes betrayed her as something other than exasperated, "Willow, I'm not going for 'delicious', I'm going for presentable and well-mannered."
"I know... and you've achieved it perfectly, I just can't help but find you delicious in everything you wear."
"Vixen," Tara muttered, kissing the top of Willow's head.
Hand in had, the two girls made their way to the dining room entrance, where they stopped dead in their tracks before they entered. Willow glanced at Tara and the two of them peered around the corner to see into the dining room. They saw that everyone bar them was seated already. Aunt Elizabeth, at the head of the table... Willow's cousins, Claude and Jean-Pierre to her left. As well as an assorted collection of important family associates who appeared altogether frightening to Tara. These were the type of people who took shrimp pastries from trays, all the while never looking at the person who held the tray. People she had no clue how to deal with.
"Into the lion's den," Tara whispered, clutching the door frame for support.
Willow reached down and placed a familiar hand on Tara's hip, letting it rest there lightly for a few moments before she spoke, "We can do this."
"We can," Tara whispered in reply.
Willow lead the way into the dining room, all eyes turned towards them. Tara following at a close distance behind her. Willow lent down and placed a light kiss on Aunt Elizabeth's cheek and Tara hesitated briefly, wondering if she was expected to do so as well. She elected against it... much to her relief... and sat beside Willow, crossing her hands in her lap and staring intently at them.
The meal started with an entrée and Tara stared in horror when she saw it was shrimp salad. Willow had noticed too and she was now looking at Tara out of the corner of her eye. Tara shrugged questioningly. She had no idea whether it would be impolite to leave the salad completely untouched on her plate... or if she ought to eat it and risk the nasty, life-threatening consequences. Willow solved the problem simply. Looking to see that no one was paying them much mind, she discreetly ate most of Tara's salad. All the while her little nose was wrinkled at the disgusting taste of shrimp.
"I once learnt my lesson when I announced I wouldn't eat the boiled sprouts... she takes it's personally... even though it's not like she cooked it herself or anything!" Willow leant over and said quietly to Tara as she swallowed down another mouthful of lettuce and shrimp.
"All with the not offending here," Tara smiled back, "Thanks."
"How's the salad Tara?" Aunt Elizabeth asked the blonde, who immediately wiped the smile off her face.
"Um, it's interesting," Tara replied, shifting more salad around on her plate with her fork.
"Well, all I can say is I'm glad Willow has started spending time with a more well-behaved young lady. The last time I visited there was that rude little girl, what's her name? Betty!"
"It's Buffy... and she is not rude, it was just that you insulted her mother!" Willow protested... but in a polite tone.
"Well, her mother is an artist, I mean... an artist of all things!"
"Her mother owns an art gallery... and is one of the most prestigious art dealers in New York," Willow tried her best to keep her temper, she stabbed a shrimp violently.
"She's divorced, that's what she is... it's simply unnatural," Aunt Elizabeth 'hmpfed' and went back to eating as Willow sat smouldering in her chair.
The main course started and Willow was feeling more than a little antsy. Having had a double helping of shrimp salad, she was full already and not interested in eating. Well, actually the salad had nothing to do with her lack of interest in eating. It was just that her interests lay elsewhere... Being so close to Tara and not being able to touch her was a torment in itself. Even more so than having to sit listening to the mindless dribble coming from the mouth's of the other people at the table.
Tara had spent most of the evening staring at her food, just concentrating on getting it all into her mouth without making a fuss.
Willow had spent most of her time watching Tara's mouth move, her throat swallow. She wanted to lean over and bathe Tara's throat with her tongue.
Tara lifted her fork to her mouth, popping a piece of marinaded chicken in and chewing slowly, careful to kept her mouth closed. She noticed Willow staring at her and turned to regard the redhead. The food on her plate was barely touched, Tara raised her eyebrows and Willow grinned suspiciously. Tara was about to frown until she felt Willow's hand on her knee, beneath the table. She jumped slightly, the barest of movements, Willow's Aunt gave them both a hawklike stare over her forkful of roast potato. Willow and Tara smiled sweetly in unison as they resumed eating, Willow's hand remaining on Tara's knee. As Elizabeth went back to eating, Willow moved her hand upwards, inching up the hem of Tara's dress. Tara quickly shoved another piece of chicken in her mouth but the task of eating couldn't take her mind from the feel of Willow's hand on her thigh.
Willow watched Tara's eyes, they were half-lidded, her mouth parted ever so slightly. Her heart was beating a little fast in her boldness but she continued moving upwards in light, feathery touches.
Tara had to set her knife and fork down on her plate lest she drop them completely. She felt acutely aware of her breathing and discreetly looked around to see if anyone was giving her weird looks. No one was paying them any mind, she uncrossed her ankles as Willow's hand slid to her inner thigh. Sharp sensations were shooting up her legs... Tara clenched her fist, leaning her chin on it.
Willow saw the feelings etched on Tara's features and wished they could escape from the dinner to be alone. Almost accidentally, her hand brushed ever so lightly over the mound between Tara's legs. Tara clenched fist slammed down on the table, unluckily landing on the fork which rested on the side of her plate.
Both Willow and Tara watched in horror as the fork went sailing through the air and landed with a dull thud on Aunt Elizabeth's plate. Its landing sent splashes of marinade all down her bosom. If looks could have killed, Willow would have been drawn and quartered. Tara went bright red, her mouth working soundlessly as though she wanted to apologise quickly... or make her excuses to leave in a hurry.
Aunt Elizabeth set her knife and fork down on her plate all too calmly. She examined the damage wrought before regarding Willow and Tara carefully, "Since you two obviously would rather fling your food around the room than eat... "
"You're right Aunt Elizabeth," Willow said quickly, setting her utensils down and sliding her chair back, "Tara, are you done?"
"Full t-to the b-brim," Tara stuttered, still unable to look up at anyone.
Willow grabbed her hand and the two girls made a quick and hasty exit from the dining room. Once outside they broke into a quick run, up the stairs, not stopping until they reached Willow's room where they shut the door. Willow immediately broke into a fit of giggles as she sank to the floor with legs like jelly.
Tara lent against the door as though she were expecting people to try and break it down at any moment. As her heart threatened to burst from her chest she reflected on the fact that spending time with Willow was anything but boring. It was more like being in the middle of a miniature storm, things flying at you from all angles. Up until the point where Willow had flown into her life, everything had been so mundane, so unbearably predictable. Now everything was just the opposite... and Tara felt as though she were the happiest person alive.
When no one came to pound on the door, she allowed herself a small grin, sliding to the floor next to Willow. Willow placed an arm around Tara's shoulders and pulled her close, stroking her hair softly.
"Sorry baby, I guess that whole incident was kinda my fault... hands," Willow waved the offending hand quickly before tucking it under her arm, she managed to look a little bit guilty about touching her girlfriend.
"I was terrified... " Tara admitted.
"Tell me about it!" Willow added.
"Petrified, I couldn't move!"
"But did you see the look on her face!"
Tara finally burst into her own fit of giggles and she collapsed against Willow. It had indeed been incredibly amusing. The splatter of marinade down the most unfortunate cracks, the bug eyes and the barely perceptible steam coming from her ears. If it wasn't such a disaster it would have gone down as one of the greatest triumphs in history. Willow kissed Tara on the top of her head before getting to her feet.
"I think I had better go and smooth things over. They say you should never go to bed angry so I think that theory might work in my favour when I try and convince her not to be boiling mad at us," Willow said reluctantly.
"I-I should come with you."
"I'll be fine... just wait for me and if I don't come back in an hour, then you can send out the search party."
Tara nodded and watched Willow go with some gratitude. She was quite sure that if she had joined Willow in her peace mission she would have come across as a dumb idiot, incapable of normal speech.
Willow returned some quarter of an hour later, looking much too pleased with herself to have just returned from a verbal lashing. Tara looked at her questioningly, Willow just continued to grin happily. She held out her hand to Tara.
"There's something I want you to see."
"Come on!" Willow said a little more insistently.
Willow lead Tara through the house, up another floor to the servants quarters. Tara could only follow wordlessly, wondering where her girlfriend was leading her. The only answers she got were secretive little smiles from Willow. She finally came to a halt beside an large, open window.
"Out here," Willow motioned out the window.
"We can't climb out the window!" Tara said in alarm, "What if we slide right off the roof?"
"It's as safe as anything," Willow clambered out, once outside she held her hand out for Tara to follow.
With trepidation in her glance, Tara took Willow's hand. Once outside she found this part of the roof to be quite flat and she laughed in delight when she saw what Willow had done.
Tara realised Willow had not gone to smooth things over with Aunt Elizabeth at all, instead she had been busying herself in a far more pleasant chore. A picnic blanket was spread out, complete with pillows. Also, there were two wine glasses and an ice bucket containing a bottle of something. Tara grinned broadly when she saw a small platter of strawberries. Willow returned the grin and lead Tara to the blanket. They sat down facing one another, knees touching. Willow handed a glass to Tara and drew out the bottle with a flourish. The look on her face was somewhat apologetic.
"Grape juice... no one in the kitchens would let me have wine."
"It's perfect," Tara's eyes twinkled as she held out her glass for Willow to fill it.
Willow filled her own glass and held it up towards Tara in salute.
"So what are we toasting to?" Tara asked, lifting her own glass.
"To flying forks!" Willow laughed and their glasses clinked together.
"And a very well made marinade!" Tara added, glasses clinked again.
Willow's grin faded to a very warm smile as she watched Tara swallow a sip of grape juice. Tara saw Willow staring at her and tilted her head to one side adorably as she tried to fathom what Willow was thinking.
Willow held up her glass again and whispered, "To Tara, the purest soul I could ever have hoped to meet... to her beauty, her courage... to the love of my life."
Tara smiled and lent forward as Willow pressed her lips to her cheek softly.
"Willow," Tara said her name as though it were the most beautiful word capable of being said, "To all that she has shown me... for helping me realise that there is love in the world and that it can find me. To the way she makes me feel... "
Willow set her glass down and then leaned forward to take Tara's from her. As soon as both glasses were a safe distance away she pounced. Pressing a hand on Tara's chest she gently motioned her to lie down. Once Tara was nestled safely into the pillows she popped a strawberry into her mouth. Chewing it a few times she then lay along Tara's length and lowered her lips. Tara grinned just before Willow started kissing her. When their lips were finally pressed together, juicy strawberry filled her mouth. It was coupled with the taste of Willow-lips, the two flavours complementing each other perfectly. Tara easily lost herself in the taste, nothing else mattered in those moments. Not gargoyle-like aunts... or parents who made no effort to understand... it was just her and Willow. It was so right.
When Willow finally stopped, she had to smooth back Tara's hair from her sweaty forehead, the limp strands clung stubbornly to the sides of her face. Her eyes were glazed slightly, filled with passion... and love.
"Baby, I love you," Willow whispered, her hands on either side of Tara's head, cradling it, "Being with you is like watching Fred and Ginger dance... it's perfect."
"Complete with orchestral music in the background," Tara whispered, licking her lips as Willow nestled comfortably onto her chest, chin propped up on her hands.
"Really... cos I didn't hear... wait..." Willow looked into Tara's eyes, she grinned, "There it is."
Tara ran her fingertips up and down Willow's spine. They were content to gaze at each other for a few moments before Willow rolled over and nestled her head into the pillow next to Tara. Lying in silence with Willow in her arms, Tara couldn't stop all the thoughts from flying straight back into her head. Willow deserved to know...
"About what Giles was saying yesterday..." Tara began.
"We have the rest of our lives to talk about that..." Willow cut Tara short... before a huge yawn prevented her from saying anything for a few moments, "Tonight it's just us and snuggles under the stars... but only if that's alright with you...?"
Willow yawned again and her eyes closed for a few moments before snapping back open as though she suddenly realised she was falling asleep. The stars twinkled down at them, winking familiarly.
"You're one tired little kitty cat," Tara stroked Willow's hair, deciding to leave important revelations for a time when Willow wouldn't fall asleep half way through the exposition, "You're right... snuggles and the stars."
"There's so many... I can never remember the names," Willow whispered into Tara's shoulder, fists tucked beneath her chin.
"Me either... but they're very pretty."
"Yeah, very pretty... and... sparkly..." Willow replied in a vague voice.
Tara glanced at Willow to see she was not looking at the stars at all, she was still staring at her with a silly look on her tired face... besotted was probably the word of choice.