Willow picked at the hem of her shirt, occasionally eyeing the package in her bag. Tara bit her lower lip and played with the cuffs of her hoodie.
Both girls spoke at once. When Tara gave Willow that crooked little grin, Willow couldn't resist relaxing just a bit. She returned the smile and glanced down at her shirt.
"Sorry. What were you going to say?" she asked.
"No, no, it's okay, g-go ahead." Tara offered.
"Okay." Willow smiled at the blonde and took a deep breath. You can do this, it's easy as pie. "Where's Jo?" ... not.
Surprised by the question, Tara's brow furrowed.
I can't do this! Get it together Rosenberg. Or you could... Stall, Willow, stall!
"I just realized you were here by yourself, I thought she was coming back with you, sorry."
"Oh." Tara was confused. She finally noticed that the redhead was nervous about something, and that whatever it was she was about to say was more serious than asking about Tara's roommate.
"Oh, well, we were running a little late this morning and she needed to get some stuff done before... I-is that what you wanted to say before?"
Willow grinned sheepishly and shook her head.
"I have something for you." That's what you call stalling!?!
"You do? W-why?" Tara asked as Willow pulled a brown parcel out of her bag.
"Well, I wanted to thank you for everything." Willow said handing the package to Tara. Here goes... something.
"You didn't have to." Tara said as she held the package.
"Yeah, I mean, no, I mean I know, but after yesterday... you didn't have to do all that, you didn't have to stay as long as you did. Not that I'm not glad that you did, I mean, I am, glad that is. And this isn't just for yesterday either, it's for the airport too. With your pencils I mean. I really appreciated it and I never thought I'd get the chance to say thanks because I thought I'd never you again, but then yesterday there you were!"
When Willow finally stopped to take a breath Tara let out a long sigh.
"Willow, I, I don't know what say."
"Don't, yet, please. I wanted to ask you something and if I don't do it soon I might lose my resolve."
Tara's eyes were trained on her right hand, which she had been running over the surface of the package held in her left hand. Without looking up, she nodded for the redhead to continue.
"I thought I'd never see you again and then there you were. And well, I know I'm leaving in a couple of weeks but I was hoping maybe... maybe we could meet up again, maybe on purpose this time? For coffee? Food? Um, something else?"
Willow's question was met with a long silence, and as Tara continued to stare at the package in her hand Willow began to panic. Oh no oh no oh no, she... it... this was a bad idea! She was just being nice, nonono... Deciding to spare Tara from having to let her down Willow broke the silence.
"You don't have to, it's okay, just... just forget I asked."
Tara sighed again, she seemed to be doing a lot of that lately. She shook her head and let her eyes drift up to Willow's face for a few moments before settling back down to her hands.
"No, it's o-okay." She bit her bottom lip before continuing. "It's just, I c-can't."
"I-it's not that... It's just ... you and F-Faith... you're g-going..." You're going to stay with her. She couldn't say it. The thought of Willow and Faith together was hard enough for Tara to deal with, and saying it out loud... Tara just couldn't do it. And Willow saved her from having to.
The redhead did not need to hear anything else. She had her confirmation. Tara knew that she and Faith were leaving for New York, and it had been too much to ask of the blonde.
"No, I get it, it's okay."
"Do you?" Tara finally looked up at Willow, but the redhead's eyes were firmly fixed on the wall in front of her.
"Yeah, I do." She whispered.
Tara was torn. The redhead looked so hurt, but as much as Tara wanted to say yes, she couldn't. Though she was fairly sure that Willow was feeling something for her, Tara was not willing to take advantage of what she believed to be a difficult time in the relationship between Willow and Faith.
"Hey? Willow?" Tara placed her hand on Willow's arm, and waited until the redhead turned to face her before continuing. "I do want to, and I do like you, but this is just too complicated."
Willow didn't know whether to do her internal happy dance or pout. On the one hand the blonde had admitted that she wanted to accept Willow's invitation, and that she liked Willow. On the other hand, Tara had admitted she thought the whole thing was complicated. Suck it up and take it? Or take a risk?
"It doesn't have to be you know?" She decided to take the risk.
"Doesn't have to be what?"
"Complicated. I mean, it's just coffee, right? What's so complicated about that? Oh, but in your case it'll probably be tea. And last time I checked there was nothing complicated about tea either. Well, maybe if you used tealeaves or had to use one of those little strainer things that could get really messy. But other than that... well, again I say, it doesn't have to be, complicated, that is."
"But it could be... wait, what do you mean in my case it would be tea?" Tara didn't really know what to say to Willow's ramble, but she couldn't help but wonder why the redhead was talking about tea.
"Oh, well, I um, you were, that is... a-at the airport, you were drinking tea. I remember 'cuz I saw the tea bag. Actually I saw the little string that's attached to the tea bag and hangs over the side of the cup."
Tara couldn't believe it. In the few minutes they had spoken at the airport in Chicago, the redhead had managed to notice such a small thing like the fact that Tara had been drinking tea. And not only had Willow noticed it, but here they were a year and half later...
"Y-you remember that?"
Willow dropped her eyes to stare at her hands, blushing as she responded.
"I remember all of it."
With those five words, Tara almost gave in.
"I... that's... wow."
"I... not really." The redhead shrugged, though the blonde could not see her do so. Tara removed her hand from Willow's arm and was staring at it as she ran it over Willow's gift.
She wondered what else the redhead remembered. What was the 'all of it' that Willow was talking about? There was only one way to find out, and that way was too ask. Maybe over a cup of coffee, or tea... But a little voice in the back of her head stopped her. No, Tara refused to be that person.
"I... I'm sorry Willow, I'd really like to, but I can't. I just d-don't want to interfere."
Interfere? Interfere with what?
But before Willow could ask these questions out loud, the hospital room door swung open.
Both girls turned to find Dawn and Buffy coming out of the hospital room. It was Dawn who had spoken, and she immediately came up and gave Tara a hug.
To say that Tara was surprised would not be an exaggeration, but as the youngster hugged her Tara could sense that the younger girl was genuinely glad to see her, so she stood to properly return the hug before pulling away.
"H-hey Dawnie." She smiled, brushing a lock of dark hair behind the teenager's ear. "How are you?"
"Great! Mom's doing better, she woke up and everything! Oh but it's too bad I didn't know you were out here; you could've met her! But she went back to sleep. That's why we left. But oh! You can meet her later, or tomorrow!" Dawn lost her train of thought when she noticed her sister and her sister's best friend giggling at her, and even Tara was biting her lower lip to keep herself from laughing.
"What?" Dawn asked, not understanding what was so funny.
"Nothing squirt. You've just been spending too much time with Red is all." Faith answered the indignant teen as she came up from behind Tara.
Tara immediately tensed at the sound of the brunette's voice. Just because she did not want to interfere did not mean she didn't feel some hostility toward Faith. She snuck a brief look at Willow to see that the redhead had also tensed up.
The minute she saw Faith, Willow's internal panic came back, pushing aside her disappointment and confusion at the blonde's earlier refusal. Knowing Faith, Willow had no doubt that the brunette would not refrain from giving her a hard time about asking Tara out. Nevermind that Tara, Dawn, Buffy, and Tara were standing right there.
"So, what'd I miss?" Faith asked as she sauntered over to stand between Buffy and Willow.
As they listened to Dawn recount their conversation with Mrs. Summers, Willow and Tara could not help but steal occasional glances at each other. The blonde was still torn, and the redhead couldn't decide whether to be disappointed, nervous, embarrassed, or a combination of all three at once.
The non-interaction interaction between Tara and Willow was not lost on either Buffy or Faith. Faith gave Buffy a curious look, tilting her head first at Willow then at Tara, and then raising her eyebrow at the older Summers sister. Buffy shrugged as she glanced at Willow and Tara. It was then that she noticed the package that the blonde was clutching tightly to her chest, and recognized the neatly gift-wrapped handy-work of her best friend. Every piece of tape showing was exactly the same length as every other piece of tape. Buffy could see the side of the package, where the ends of the wrapping paper met so that the folded edges formed a perfect triangle. And the Scooby-Doo pattern practically screamed Willow.
Dawn noticed the gift at the same time, but unlike her sister, she was not going to not mention it.
"Hey, you got a present! What's the occasion?"