"Do we have to?" Asked Dawn, a slight whining edge to her voice. "I hate going to the supermarket. It's so lame."
"Tough, we don't have enough food to feed everyone who's coming, so unless you have a better suggestion we're going," said Tara, climbing into her car.
"So Holly's coming too?" Asked Dawn from the passenger seat.
"If you mean is Jack coming? Yes, he is." Said Tara, sneaking a look at her sister to watch the blush spread across her face, guaranteeing herself a quiet drive and just to make sure... "And I think that Nicky has a thing for you?" Tara bit her lip to stop the giggles threatening her as her sister turned beet red.
The supermarket was quiet for an early Sunday morning. Tara moved quickly down the aisle, picking up essentials for the day's festivities, Dawn trailed listlessly behind her, pushing the cart. She was so lost in her own thoughts, mostly about Willow, that it took her totally by surprise when someone bumped into her catching her hard on the shoulder, spinning her to the floor and sending her purse flying, spilling its contents.
"Oh god I'm so sorry," said the woman, sounding deeply apologetic while she scrambled around the floor collecting Tara's things together.
"T-that's okay," said Tara, starting to gather up a few items herself.
The woman handed back the things she had picked up. "I'm so clumsy; let me buy you a cup of coffee, to say sorry."
"That's v-very kind of you but my s-sister and I are in a hurry this morning," said Tara. Normally she would have been cursing her inability to talk to a beautiful woman without stammering all over the place, but somehow it no longer felt important.
"Shame, it could've been fun," said the woman, grinning and winking, she shot her hand out to Tara. "I'm Penny."
Penny let go of Tara's hand, trying to give an air of regret. "Well, Tara you and your sister have fun today."
"Woo hoo big sis," teased Dawn after Penny was well out of earshot. "You have the power."
Tara shook her head at Dawn and rubbed her hand; Penny had gripped it a bit harder than she would have expected and there was something off about the woman. She couldn't explain it; she had given off a different vibe from the one she was trying to give off.
"Hey Tar, do we need some beer, with all those guys coming?" Dawn called over to her.
All thoughts of Penny were pushed to the back of Tara's mind as she snapped back to the chores she had to do to make the day go as well as she hoped.
"She can't even fucking talk," snarled Penny, slamming her hands against the steering column of her car. A little triumphant smile played across her face and she fished a little bit of the white card from her pocket.
It was better than she had expected, Penny was just hoping to find out the woman's name but when she was gathering up the things that had fallen from her purse there it was, her business card. She now knew she worked for Richmond Design and where it was based, something she couldn't wait to check out. Her mind was racing, what to do today? The answer, of course was obvious, go find Willow and see what she was doing.
"So do you think I look better in the white or my blue t-shirt?" Shouted Xander, through the door of Willow and Fred's room.
"We're decent, so you might as well come in," Willow shouted back, smiling at him as he opened the door. "What's got into you Xan? Being polite, worried about your appearance? Are you ill, oh, oh, I know you're in love..."
"Willow, shut-up, can't a guy take an interest in his appearance?" Asked Xander, putting on an air of hurt indignity.
"Guys can. You can't. Remember, I've known you since first grade and the only time you ever care is when there is a girl or..."
"It's Buffy isn't it?" Chipped in Fred, watching Xander squirm. "You want to dress to impress... her."
The young man started to back out of the room, his hands held up in mock surrender. "You two are like animals; why don't you just rip a man apart when he is at his most vulnerable."
Willow laughed and the called after her friend. "You always look good in the blue tee."
He grinned as he walked down the hall. "Thanks Will." He heard footsteps coming behind him and turned expecting to see Willow, so it took him by surprise when it was Fred.
"Xander," she said softly. "You're a nice guy and all, but Buffy's fragile."
"I know," agreed Xander. "I won't hurt her and she is way out of my league anyway and probably won't even look at me twice. I thought maybe I could be the fun guy who made her laugh and she might end up thinking I'm okay and even a little cute."
Fred stood up on her tip-toes and kissed him fondly on the cheek. "No-one is out of your league. You are a good man Xander."
Xander blushed and cleared his throat, touched by her unexpected action. "Don't let anyone else know that, you will ruin my rep as a tough guy."
"Your secret's safe with me," said Fred winking. "Anyway I better go back to Willow, she's tried nearly everything in her closet; she seems even more nervous than she was before their first date."
"She seems to really like Tara," stated Xander, but the way he said it made it sound more like a question.
"You don't have to worry Xander. I think this is good for her, she's happy and Tara is nice. We should keep out of it and let them develop on their own," said Fred.
Xander nodded but seemed about to ask something else.
"And before you say anything, Tara isn't Penny and never will be. Xander we can't keep comparing Willow's girlfriends to her. I know it was a nightmare but it's over," said Fred firmly.
"I wasn't going to..." Xander caught Fred's look. "Okay you're right and I promise no more mention of the P word. Actually today should be fun. I better go and change."
Fred went back into the room she shared with Willow and looked at her friend, who had changed her clothes for what seemed like the 20th time that morning. "Will, you look great. She wants you to be there, if you turned up in a burlap bag she'd be happy."
"But I don't think I could pull it off," answered Willow. "But seriously, I think this is a big deal, her sister and friends are there and I want to make a good impression."
"Be yourself," said Fred. "It'll be good, you'll see."
Willow tried to smile, but couldn't quite manage it, she had butterflies churning in her stomach. Everything seemed so different with Tara. She had never experienced these feelings before, not this mixture of excitement and dread, as if her world was coming together and falling apart at the same time. She took a deep breath; she was thinking and analyzing far too much about a relationship that had barely started. "So what do you think, the maroon pants with my grey tee with the maroon arms?"
"You'll look beautiful whatever you wear, but how ‘bout you leave a few of the buttons open? Insurance." Fred said with a grin and a shrug. Then glancing at her watch, "Okay, now we better get a move on it or we won't be ready for Charles when he comes to pick us up."
"And we can't be late for Gunn, can we," said Willow, winking at her friend. "Do you think the three of us will ever be able to act cool around people we like?"
"Stranger things have happened," said Fred with a shrug.
"Not much though," said Willow, after pulling her t-shirt over her head and popping open a few buttons. "Well I'm ready."