"Sue?" Willow squeaked, as she heard a sing-song 'no-o' coming from the bedroom.
Willow bowed her head in embarrassment, a hand automatically rising to cover her eyes. Peeking though her fingers at Tara's face, she saw the horrified look pass back to confusion, as the blonde stared at Willow, then down the hall... Willow... hall. Finally Tara's mouth formed an 'O' and a devilish grin spread over her face.
"Hey Sue, come here."
Upon looking closely at the figure that emerged from the bedroom, Willow couldn't believe her mistake. The masculine cut of the black pinstripe suit aside, it was obviously a woman. Her short black hair was greased back, making it appear even shorter. She was tall and somewhat stocky, but her sparkling brown eyes, high cheekbones, and soft jaw line were clearly feminine. As were her other... attributes.
Huh - how'd I miss those? Willow mused.
"Willow, this is Sue; Sue - Willow." As Tara made the introductions she shot a quick but meaningful glance at the brunette, which went unnoticed by the redhead. "We, um, went to h-high school together. We ran into each other this afternoon and ended up going out. I'm sorry if we um, surprised you."
"No... no surprise. Well, maybe a little surprise... but not like 'Whuaahh! Frogs!' surprise. I'm sorry if I came off a bit like, you know, my mother."
"It's alright, Willow," Tara stated reassuringly, laying a comforting hand on the redhead's arm and filing away the frog remark for future inquiry. "If the situation was reversed I probably would have come to the same conclusion. I did promise you though - no men," she added, one side of her mouth curling into a smile.
Sue, meanwhile, stood leaning against a door-frame, casually spinning her fedora in one hand. She'd spent the entire evening listening to her friend moon over Willow one minute, then bemoan the futility of it all the next.
Before she met Tara, she had never known anyone with such a huge capacity for love, who at the same time believed herself undeserving of it. Despite repeated attempts to convince Tara to throw caution to the wind and take a chance, Sue had never seen the blonde show more than polite half-hearted interest in any woman. She could tell that this one was different, and she secretly praised her friend's taste - or not so secretly, as her eyes roamed over the redhead's body appreciatively. She knew that the problem was the investigation, but she trusted Tara's instincts as well as her own. And her friend's instincts were telling her 'she's innocent.' And 'I want her.' And 'she's yummy.' Okay, so maybe that last one was my instinct, Sue thought. Still, they look like they could use a nudge.
"Well," she started, noticing the jumps from the two women who had seemingly forgotten she was there. "This is fascinating, but the night is still young - aaat heart," she amended off of Tara's raised eyebrow. "And so am I. Sooo, I think I'll go find myself some pretty young nurse to relieve me of my... pains - since all of the women around here appear to be... otherwise occupied."
Tara's eyes shot daggers at her friend, while Willow blushed to her hairline - a fact not lost on the brunette, who took the redhead's hand in her own.
"You are just cutest thing I've ever seen - no offense Tare. Next time we go to the Bronze Vixen we'll have to bring you along. I can dance circles around Fred Astaire, and you look like you're itching for a good... twirl," she said with a rakish grin and a wink as she spun the startled girl around the room.
Tara stood with her arms crossed over her chest, trying to look disapproving, but it was no use. She rolled her eyes and laughed at Sue's flirtatiousness, wishing she were the one to be causing Willow's amazed grin.
"So m'ladies, I'll be off, and you be good," she commanded, wagging her eyebrows and stooping to kiss Willow's hand. She pulled Tara into a tight hug, quietly whispering in her ear "trust yourself, kiddo - trust her too. Call me later, 'k?"
The playful atmosphere departed along with Sue, leaving the housemates in an uncomfortable silence. The minutes ticked by as they stood, shyly glancing at each other but avoiding the conversation that had loomed over them all day. Finally, Willow summoned up her courage and cleared her throat.
"So, she's nice."
"Yeah, she's um, been a good friend," Tara replied.
"That, that's nice. So, has she - I mean is she - does she always dress like that?"
Tara realized that the redhead was stalling, circling the perimeter of what she really wanted to know. Not being in a particular hurry to reach that destination herself, the agent steeled herself for the questions ahead.
"No. She only wears that out to... certain places."
"Ah. And there are other women at these place who err... wear men's clothes?"
"Uh-huh. So... do men - actual men-type men - go there too, or is it just, um... women?"
Willow nodded, looking deeply into Tara's eyes. She dropped her gaze to the floor and her forehead creased in contemplation. She opened and closed her mouth several times before continuing in a hushed voice.
"Do - do you... have you, ever?"
Tara sighed. Here we go. "Once or twice."
Willow's eyes drifted up from the floor, slowly mapping the terrain of Tara's body, barely concealed by her nightgown, trying to picture the blonde in a suit and tie. To her surprise she found the image that formed in her head oddly arousing.
"And there's dancing... with the women... dancing together - you... dancing with other women?"
"Yes." Tara watched Willow's face for a reaction. So many emotions played over the expressive face: curiosity, confusion, fear... desire? She wanted so desperately to pull the other woman to her, stroke her hair, whisper soothing words into her ear. She wanted to tell her that it was alright - that whatever she was feeling, it was going to be okay - but she wouldn't. She couldn't because she wasn't sure herself, and it would just be one more lie. So instead she stood, barely moving, barely breathing, answering in monosyllables, watching sadly when the redhead's face became a blank mask.
"It's really late, and I... have to see a - a... friend tomorrow, so I'm just going to... um, goodnight."
Tara resisted the urge to call after her... to run down the hall and grab Willow and kiss her breathless. She wrapped her arms around herself, feeling suddenly cold and nauseous. Try as she might, she couldn't fight the tears that began to fall.
Sunday morning Willow was up and out of the house early. After an hour of listening to the rambling, confusing exposition of events, Anya had been her usual straight-to-the-point self.
"So she's a lesbian, and now you think you're a lesbian because you're having all sorts of lesbiany thoughts about her?"
"That pretty much sums it up, yeah."
"And you tried to kiss her and you thought she was repelled, but then it turns out that she has some big butch girlfriend who could have ground you into dust but instead danced around the living room with you?"
"Uhhh - yeah - maybe. They might just be friends."
"Let me guess, you got too focused on the clothes thing and completely forgot to ask them if they were doing the horizontal boogie-woogie."
"Anya! I would never ask that!"
"Well why not, for God's sake! You obviously want to know." Anya looked at her friend with exasperation. "Honestly, I don't know why I help you. You come to my home at a ridiculously early hour, take advantage of my hospitality, and then scoff at my very valuable advice."
Willow squirmed in her chair, knowing she'd been asking for this. She had barged in on Anya, having no one else to turn to. When Xander had been shipped off to Europe, he'd asked his best friend to look after his fiancée. Anya took this to mean that the redhead would become her instant talking on the phone, shopping, and gossiping best friend. When that hadn't happened, she'd made no effort to conceal her resentment.
"I know I haven't been a very good friend to you Anya, and I'm sorry. But I'll make it up to you! Why don't we do something fun next weekend - your choice."
Anya's face lit up with glee and she clapped her hands. Oh boy, what have I just agreed to?
"Okay! That's more like it! There's a USO dance on Friday night, and you are going with me - not in a lesbiany way, of course."
Willow rolled her eyes, and forced a smile. "That would be... great."
"Good, then you run on back home and talk to Tara. I'm sure you'll be having orgasms in no time!"
As she left Anya's house and began walking back to her own, Willow did not notice Tara, following behind her at a discrete distance. The blonde agent was so focused on the redhead that she too was unaware of a figure shadowing her.