They made their decision without needing to consult each other, pick the cherries. The fruits look so enticing, so black, plump and juicy. It was right for them. They were in sync that way.
"Does the clue say anything about picking them off the trees or can we grab the ones already on the ground?" asked Willow.
"Nothing specific. I think we're allowed, it just says gather the fruit," Tara reasoned.
They worked together to pick the fallen cherries from the ground. This filled up at least 20% of the container they were given.
"Not bad," Willow grinned.
"Yeah," Tara concurred.
"Wanna split up with the trees? I'll start that end," Willow said.
"We only have one container, better if we work in the same vicinity so we can both reach it," Tara reasoned.
"How'd you get so smart?" Willow grinned.
Tara was about to say something, probably more spicy than was appropriate, but she thought better. She grinned back.
They worked quickly and efficiently, picking the ripe cherries off the trees. In the process getting purple juice all over their shirts, faces and hands.
"I'm grateful I didn't wear a plain white T-shirt today," Tara joked.
"I like you in plain white T-shirts," Willow breathed, her eyes strayed to Tara's blue, and stubbornly loose-fitting, T-shirt.
"Will, behave, we're Racing," Tara mock-admonished.
"I can think about you and do the challenge, I'm multi-task girl, you know that," Willow smiled.
Tara blushed and dipped her head, returning to work.
After a while Willow tried to check her watch but realized she left it in her backpack.
"How long do you think we've been doing this?"
"I don't know, may be 20 minutes? But we're nearly finished."
They paused, checked their progress, noted that their container was almost full, and blurted out at the same time, "Wonder how they taste?"
They started giggling, giggles which turned into more throaty laughs. Willow looked pensive for a second and said matter-of-factly, "There's nothing stopping us from trying them."
"Yeah, but we need to think about the task and not waste our effort," Tara answered.
"Just one, please honey," Willow pleaded, accompanied by the cutest pout Tara had ever seen. Nothing could resist cute Willow pout.
All thoughts of Racing vacated her mind all of a sudden. Tara smiled, reached into their container and fed one to Willow, making sure her fingers softly caressed Willow's lips in the process.
Willow accepted the offering, grinned impishly, took another cherry from the container and offered it to Tara.
It was an innocent gesture. Well, the intentions were innocent, at first.
Innocence went out of the window as Tara licked Willow's fingers before wrapping her lips round the fat cherry and biting down, the juices oozing out into Willow's palm and down her arm. Before she was able to wipe it off, Tara had taken her hand and was cleaning the inside of her wrist, lapping the stray juice up.
They felt the heat flare up between them. For months they had been building up to increased closeness, the more time they spent together the more certain in their separate minds this was it, the real thing. Only the sparseness of their visits prevented them from fully admitting and acting on it.
"Hmmm. Mutual fruit feeding. You know what it means, what they say it leads to," Willow whispered.
"No, tell me," Tara purred into Willow's wrist.
Willow's brain, body and other parts were going wild at Tara's sultry tone and her lips still on her wrist.
"I could show you instead," Willow said softly.
Tara stopped the touches she was placing on Willow's wrist and looked up to catch her girlfriend's eye. Eyes that were speaking to her right now in a language that did not require words.
"Yes," she said, even more softly.
They had kissed before, of course. Many pleasurable times. Sometimes a little more than just kissing as hands and lips searched and strayed near places that needed more.
But this one. This particular kiss. The flavor of the cherries still lingered with other tastes, of Tara, of Willow, of a united being. TarWil. WilTar. Rosenberg-Maclay. But at the end it was a coming together that needed no words, no names. It was just them.
And still the kiss continued to consume them, not hurried, it was just ... words were not necessary, but the feelings and the knowledge manifested inside them. Words and feelings like soft, warm and mine echoed clearly in the parts of their minds still able to discern words.
"Do you want another cherry?" Willow hummed into Tara's cheeks. After they came back to the physical plane she was barely able to speak, the question popped out before she knew it.
"I want something better, and I have it," Tara turned, cupped Willow's face in her hands and they blended seamlessly into each other again.
Seconds. Minutes. Moments passed.
A tentative hand reached inside a juice-splattered T-shirt, fingers and palms tracing more warmth up the already warm flesh, this was territory relatively new to them, though not totally unchartered. Another hand reaching round to the small of the back to bring them impossibly closer.
A moan. A shiver. Bodies sliding slightly against each other.
I have you.
A rustle of leaves and the sound of movement in the near distance. Reality stuck its foot inside the private garden of heaven they just created, bringing them down to earth.
The kissing slowed down, but didn't stop.
"Don't stop," Willow implored.
"We have to get the fruit to the judges and, oh god," Tara's sensible words were swallowed by the force of another Willowkiss.
"We should, um, go back to the task," Willow agreed, but she didn't stop, or let her hold on Tara recede.
They were on the verge of forgetting about the task again.
Until Tara took a deep breath and reluctantly pulled herself out of Willow's grip, resting her head on Willow's shoulder, slowing down. Cooling down.
Rational thoughts made their come-back and she suddenly remembered, "Oh god, Will, the camera."
"What of it?" Willow was still in the hazy heaven they just created.
"We didn't check. They could have been here the whole time!" Tara exclaimed, turning her head in her attempt to spot the crew.
"Didn't we agree we won't act differently cos we're on camera? That's one of the first lessons the producers drummed into us," Willow said.
"But, but... we just gave them an eyeful, more than a whole eyeful," Tara fretted.
"Lucky them, now the whole world can see how lucky I am," Willow smiled. In those split seconds she made up her mind, Tara was hers and from now on, no more hiding, denying, pretending. She wasn't afraid of people knowing about them. Not anymore.
But what about Tara? With a start she realized to take that step in their relationship needed both of them to agree. And Tara hadn't, in fact Tara wasn't reacting well to her rash declaration that bordered on glib. How much more inconsiderate was she going to get?
She made a decision about their relationship, a big decision, without Tara's consent. That wasn't right. She can't do that again, if she wanted to be with Tara for the eternity she wanted.
She froze and frowned.
"Sweetie?" asked Tara, who had immediately detected Willow's change in demeanor. She had an inkling it was her reaction, or rather, her non-reaction to Willow's comment about how lucky she was, and how she wanted the world to know. And she reacted just like the girl pre-conditioned to think of romance as somewhat superfluous and frivolous; and where coming out of the closet meant a virtual social death and becoming persona ex communicata.
But she had to get out of that frame of mind. Coming on the Race with Willow, opening herself to the world at large, confronting her own deepest fears and reservations, that was her aim.
"I'm sorry, Tara, I spoke out of turn," Willow apologized. "We should have been more careful, but... but there was you with the fruit feeding and the licking and I can't help myself..." she trailed off.
Tara smiled a half-smile.
"You're right, Will. We shouldn't censor what we do, we're not doing anything wrong," she re-assured. "But we really need to get back to the task."
"Do we have to? Now?"
"Yes honey, we're here to win the Race, aren't we?"
They retrieved their full container and exited the cherry orchard hand in hand, but not before placing another kiss solidly on each other's swollen cherry lips.
What of the cameras? Let them see.