Return to Sodas and Snack Machines Chapter Four

Sodas and Snack Machines

Author: Onyxsundrops
Rating: PG-13 and up.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters, other characters are my own.

Tara miscalculated her step and stumbled, nearly losing contact with Willow's hand. Although she had been walking for the majority of her life, watching the redhead made her legs feel like jelly. The hint of vulnerability on Willow's face mixed with a splash of confidence made the short journey across the room seem incredibly long. Or maybe it was just that Tara had slowed to a snail's pace while leading the blindfolded girl.

Along with her jumbled thoughts, the blonde's concentration was thin as she focused on their joined fingers. Soft, blunt nails covered the tips of the two long fingers that slid easily against her skin. Tara never believed that a person's hands could reveal so much about them until now. She sensed the hesitance, intelligence and strength hidden within inches of the shallow surface, and felt that she had always known this person.

Her eyes traveled upward to the beautifully sculpted face. Something within her ached, crowding amongst the loneliness wrapped around her heart. Yes, it was true that she had family and people who loved her, but she had never really had something that was just hers. The blonde shook her head, dismissing the thought that someone she'd barely known a day could possibly want to fill that void. But she couldn't dismiss the fact that Willow's touch made her feel alive. It sparked something she'd only read in books or chanced as an outsider looking in.

Luckily, Willow eyes were covered or she would've caught a glimpse of the sadness veiling the blue of Tara's eyes. The redhead's lip curled up slightly when the cloth slipped down a little and brushed against the bridge of her nose. Eyes still covered, her nose twitched and she scrunched her eyebrows, obviously trying to ignore the itching sensation the material caused.

Tara managed a smile, storing away the momentary bout of self-induced gloom. Clearing her head, the blonde continued leading until the coordinator informed them that the assignment was over.

Removing the blindfold, Willow smiled when she caught blue staring back at her. "Hey," she said in awe as if she'd never seen a lovelier sight.

Tara bashfully smiled back, once again warming to the familiarity of Willow's green eyes. Her previous thoughts completely vanished under the calm intensity of the redhead's gaze. "Hi," the blonde finally responded as a blush colored her pale cheeks.

"D-Did you like the exercise?" Tara asked, nibbling on her bottom lip and enjoying the lingering warmth left by Willow's touch.

"Yeah," the redhead nodded, "I feel good... and kinda tingly. I guess you've just got that magic touch." Her eyes dreamily lit up. Suddenly realizing what she'd said, Willow reddened but didn't try to backpedal. It was true. The brief connection she experienced with Tara left her yearning for... something. It was exciting and frightening all at once.

Tara, noticing the slip, grinned inwardly. "I know... I feel it too." Whether intentional or not, the blond's words came through clearly. After an awkward pause, during which eyes remained glued, the girls shuffled to catch up with the assembling group.

Forty minutes later, the seminar had ended as people began wandering off. Walking side by side, Willow and Tara followed the others as they hurried through the doors.

"So, um, d-do," Tara paused, cursing her stammer. To Willow, it seemed like Tara wasn't going to finish but the blonde's hesitant voice continued. "Do y-you want to g-go for a walk? The n-next, um, seminar isn't until two, b-but-." Stop it, Tara inwardly chastised herself. She willed the frustrated tears behind her eyes to stay.

Willow frowned, catching the glimmer of wetness barely visible in the corner of Tara's eyes. She didn't recognize the knot in her stomach, but knew she didn't like seeing the blonde so flustered. "Yes," her fingers lightly curled around Tara's wrist. "It's beautiful...," green eyes searched blues, "...outside. I think it's supposed to rain sometime this week, so we should take advantage of it." She smiled, aware that her hand had wandered down to Tara's.

Conscious of the hand resting against hers, Tara drew a shaky breath, stilling the butterflies in her stomach. She cleared her dry throat, but didn't trust her voice and nodded instead.

The hotel, smaller than most, was secluded from the city and was surrounded by brightly colored trees. A sign near the jogging trail located behind the main entrance, indicated the location of a small creek further down the path. People laughed in groups, while others stretched out along the grass, simply enjoying the sun.

Although birds chirped and voiced carried across the complex, silence filled Tara's mind. Every so often she could hear the rustling of their clothes as they walked, but beyond that, it was quiet.

"What made you decide to come on the trip?" Willow's soothing voice broke through the silence. The redhead stared ahead as they walked.

"It, um, was my brother's idea," Tara smiled at the memory, "but I-I've always sort of wanted to get a-away. Experience new things." Her arms were wrapped around her abdomen, partly to stop her from reaching out and grasping Willow's hand. "You?" The blonde turned briefly, transfixed as a stray thread of red blew against Willow's cheek.

"I guess it would be the same for me," Willow shrugged. "I've always wanted to see the world." She chuckled, "Although it's not exactly like studying abroad, it's better than four walls and a computer. There's only so much you can really learn from the internet." The redhead grinned when Tara's lips worked their way into a lopsided smile.

By now they had reached the creek. The sound of flowing water eased the nervousness between them as they relaxed in each other's presence.

"I'm a little technology c-challenged, but I know what you mean." Winding a thin stem around her finger, Tara continued. "What about your f-friends?"

A flash of sadness crossed Willow's face, but she quickly hid it. Or so she thought. Although short, Tara recognized the emotion and looked away, immediately knowing. "I don't really have many of those," Willow stepped closer to the stream with Tara only inches behind her.

"Me neither," the blonde responded truthfully. Willow glanced back, a moment of understanding passing between them.

"What's that?" Tara noticed, dimly aware of the relief on Willow's face as she pointed to something beyond the redhead.

Crouching down, Willow frowned, reaching toward the object laying beneath the water. Her arm strained as she moved closer, aware of the water rushing downstream.

"W-Willow, I don't think-." Before Tara could finish, the redhead lost her footing.

Continue to Sodas and Snack Machines Chapter Six

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