Author: watson (with additional writing by Carleen)
The room wasn't as luxurious as the one at the golf resort, but it didn't matter this time. They needed to do serious planning.
Having come to the conclusion that they would be leaving Sydney, or possibly Australia, very soon, they went to the hotel travel agent and took every single brochure available back to their room. Willow was scanning through the brochures while Tara was studying their already well-thumbed guidebook. She leaned back against the headboard and looked at the amount of literature they managed to procure.
"We're two legs from the final, somehow we have to find our way back to the US, but they usually leave it as late as possible. Where do we go next leg? More Australia, New Zealand, or back north, like Korea or China or something like that? Ooh, may be we go to Alaska or Canada," Willow mused, pulling the armchair up against the side of the bed. Tara motioned for her to stretch her tired legs out on her lap, she let out a sigh of relief as Tara massaged some of the stiffness out.
"Why do they leave returning to the States till so late?" Tara asked.
"Too well known. If people see us running through their streets with a crew following us, they may reveal where we've been before the show airs. You know how quickly rumors can spread over the internet," Willow explained.
"So where should we research?"
"You carry on with Australia, try Tasmania or Western Australia. I'll look into China, I have a feeling about that. Japan too, again, just a feeling," Willow said. "Do you remember much about Japan?"
Tara thought for a moment. "Mostly how alien the language and people were. It was impossible to get by with English, and the words they do spell with English alphabets are meaningless to us. It'll be tough," Tara replied.
"There's a largish chance we'll go to Japan, cos there hasn't been an extensive leg there," Willow reasoned.
"What about Fiji or something like that?" Tara raised.
Willow rummaged through her stack and handed Tara a few brochures on the Pacific Islands. "Oh yeah, that's very possible. Hawaii too."
"Hawaii? Hmmm. That'll be beautiful, I've always imagined hon-, um, vacationing in Hawaii," Tara said wistfully. Did I nearly say honeymooning? I don't know if Willow is ready to hear that.
"Yeah, but if we go to Hawaii, they'll probably make us hang upside-down over an active volcano," Willow joked.
"But may be we'll get to pick pineapples instead, that could be fun," Tara said.
Their thoughts turned as one to the last time they did fruit picking. Another continent, another eon ago.
"Remember the cherry orchard in England?" Willow asked softly.
Tara didn't need to answer in words. She leant across and gave Willow a kiss. A kiss so sweet and tender, but neither women escalated it, both agreeing silently to keep the faint stirrings of desire at bay. They kept their kiss sensual, yet slow, they knew there were things to be done.
They smiled when they parted lips and settled into their research rhythm. The only sound for the next few minutes was that of pages turning, it was nice, and peaceful. They were a good team, Willow with the lateral thinking and vast ability to find resources and Tara with her eye for detail.
"I can't believe you called me hot on primetime TV," Tara said suddenly, her eyes still on her reading.
Willow looked up from her research. "You were. You are," she stated.
"Do you really think so?" Tara asked. She felt onset of a shyness that she thought she had shed, in the company of her lover.
"I know so. Why? You don't think I think so? Baby, I'm so crazy about you I can't think straight," Willow said as she reached out to lift Tara's chin. Her brief kiss chased away Tara's uncertainties.
"Can't think straight? You mean you don't know what you're doing when you're with me?" Tara mock pouted, though her eyes were twinkling.
"Oh no, I mean, I'm ... oh hell I'm not gonna start babbling. I just want to say, you're so damn hot I'll have trouble fending people away when we get home. I love you so much," Willow said.
"You're not so bad yourself. How much fun were you having, Lara?" Tara smiled.
"The best part was running my eyes slowly over every inch of Supergirl's outfit, of course," Willow grinned, remembering her exuberance at dressing up in her favorite comic book heroes. Geek factor Nine and counting.
"Seems like Faith and Robin had fun too, I could see them in Matrix outfits," Tara said.
"Oh yeah, Faith is all cool action girl, and Robin, well, he already said how he liked seeing himself in the leather duster. Shame we didn't get to talk to Adam and Oz, from what Faith said, they were a hoot as Tarzan and Cheetah. Oz in monkey pants, I bet he speaks French, cos all monkeys are French, did you know? And Adam, wowza, Adam in a loincloth," Willow marveled. And took a breath.
"Oh honey, watch that slobbering," Tara teased. "Continue like that and I'll notify the authorities to take your toaster oven away."
It took Willow a second to click. "Huh? Oh no, Baby I'd never ... hey, you're teasing me," she laughed.
It was the easy, open laughter of two people in tune with each other. It was good to laugh. They returned to their research.
An hour later, Tara finished her notes for Australia and picked up a brochure for the Pacific Islands. "Look at this, how beautiful," she oohed and aahed as she admired the cover photo and flipped through the pages.
"We could go back, when we win our million," Willow said.
"What if we don't win the million?" Tara asked.
"Of course we're gonna win! Positive thinking, Baby! Cos we're tough to beat. That money's ours!" Willow enthused.
"Of course I'm going to think positively, Sweetie. There's so much we can do with that kind of money. I mean ... it could really help ... us ..." Tara looked away, not able to maintain eye contact as she hesitated.
Willow snapped out of her 'Winning the Race' dream immediately. "Baby, what is it?" she asked with concern.
Tara looked back up at Willow, her expression downcast. "Will, one way or another, the show is almost over - whether we win or not - what happens next? Where do we go from here?" she asked.
"I haven't thought about it that much since we started the race, I thought we'd just go back to where we were. If the whole 'us' thing worked out, I figured we'd travel more, have more free time and resources to see each other more often," Willow replied, though it didn't feel like it was the right answer anymore.
"A long distance relationship with more frequent visits? I think we both want more than that," Tara said softly. "After our night in Africa, after yesterday, I think we need more. I need more, Willow. I want more."
Willow stopped her brain for a second and called out to her feelings. "I want more too, Baby," she sighed. She slid off the armchair, climbed onto the bed and took Tara's hands in hers. "I was so afraid of pushing you, of saying the wrong thing, cos, you know, not good with the rejection."
"Oh Sweetie, you'll never say the wrong thing. You can never say anything wrong, not about this, not when it's about us."
Willow smiled broadly. "So, does that mean you want to be with me? Be mine?"
"I already am."
Tara brought their joined hands to her lips and kissed Willow's fingers gently. She felt the fingers slowly cup her face and when Willow pulled their bodies together the kiss was long and intense, open mouth to open mouth. All the promises they held in check for each other were communicated in this one kiss.
There were still things to do. They parted reluctantly, but refused to relinquish the feeling of soft lips against the other, the intense kiss turned into slower, lazier ones, which in turn became tiny pecks.
Willow sat up suddenly, so suddenly that Tara almost jumped in shock. "Oh, oh, oh. We'll have to decide where to live, cos ... well, I don't mind moving to Birmingham but is there where the future of the animation industry is? Probably not Oakland either ... may be we should think about LA, or somewhere around there. And what about our furniture? What do we do with 16 sets of cutlery and all the canned food and tea bags that we'll have ... we'll need a big kitchen! And, and ... I've always wanted a house with a garden, where Miss Kitty can run, you do want to get a cat, don't you," an excited Willow was pretty much unstoppable.
Except for one way, and only by one person. Tara put her fingers against that babbling mouth. "Let's finish the Race first, then we'll figure out what we want to do with the rest of our lives," she smiled. "Yes I want us to move in together, but let's not rush into making rash decisions. We'll take our time, okay?"
And they sealed their promise with another kiss. There were other things to do, but there would always be time for kisses.
They picked up their books and brochures and returned to their research.
She's mine. All mine.