Willow stood on one side of the room motionless. Her mind raced through several attack plans, though she quickly vetoed each one. She tipped her head to one side, hoping the altered perspective would lead her to victory. A droplet of sweat formed along her hairline and threatened to trail over her forehead at any moment.
Earlier that evening her confidence was far higher, but now defeat seemed evident. Why did I insist I could handle it? Why did they believe I could handle it? Asking for help was always something Willow struggled with. Inn hindsight it now seemed silly to go off on her own. I wish Tara was here.
Several spells came to mind and were quickly dismissed. Being a powerful witch was something she was proud of, but some situations she preferred handling on her own. Finally, she rolled up her sleeves and walked closer to the desk at the other side of the dorm.
Spread out across the surface were the results of an afternoon shopping spree. Though she still enjoyed her Jewish traditions, Christmas shopping remained one of her favorite holiday pastimes. It was this enthusiasm that led to her ultimate misjudgment. While she was more than capable of surviving the mall, even in the holiday rush, gift wrapping was an entirely different battle.
Earlier that afternoon, she responded to her friends' mocking with indignance. With a 'you wait and see' attitude, she walked confidently to the bus stop, strategically planned her shopping, and managed to arrive back in the dorm just as the sun was beginning to set. On her way, Tara called to check on her and she insisted that the blonde enjoy a much earned R&R, assuring her she'd be fine. Stupid ego.
Deciding that it was best to start with a warm-up, she retrieved a rectangular box and carried it over to the bed. For weeks, Buffy walked by the same window, eyeing the same blouse, then insisted that it was just 'okay'. The redhead could barely contain her excitement at being able to buy it for her friend. Willow worked out the paper to box ratio in her head and selected a shimmery red roll. After unrolling a suitable amount, she retrieved her scissors and made a series of crooked cuts.
An hour later, Tara was making her way up the stairs to her dorm floor. At Willow's insistence, she spent a leisurely afternoon on her own and found the time alone did her good. She smiled just thinking of Willow and the determined look she wore before exiting the Magic Box earlier. She loved the woman desperately, faults and all, and wrapping presents was definitely one of Willow's faults.
When she arrived at the door, she concentrated on the sounds coming from the other side. The silence that met her ear awakened more nervousness than if she heard cursing or crashes. Bracing herself for the unexpected, she pushed open the door and gasped when she saw the carnage. The desk chair was flipped over, paper shreds littered the floor and for no explainable reason, a sweater hung across the top of the floor lamp. Willow was nowhere to be found. Before panic could set fully set in, she noticed a pair of feet sticking out from under the bed. "Wil?" she gasped.
The voice startled her, but Willow managed to keep herself from jerking upward and banging her head. Squirming some, she inched her way back out from under the bed and rolled over to face Tara. "Hey," she said with far more cheer than she felt.
Tara cocked her head to the side and stared back in disbelief. The redhead was now barefoot, wearing dusty jeans and an old t-shirt. Her hair was matted in some places and sticking up in others. She noted several pieces of tape stuck to Willow's shirt. "Willow. What in the world happened here? What are you doing down there?"
"Well...I dropped the tape and the sneaky thing rolled under the bed. I couldn't reach it so...there ya go." She shrugged as if that simple explanation would fully satisfy Tara's curiosity and rolled over on to her knees so she could push herself up.
Blue eyes widened further as she took in the rest of Willow's appearance. One of Miss Kitty's twisty ties was now tangled in the back of Willow's hair. Her eyes scanned the rest of her girlfriend and she stifled a giggle. "Are you my present this year, sweetie?"
Under different circumstances, Willow probably would've used the question to her full advantage. However, the last stressful hour took it's toll and she responded with a confused, "Huh?"
Tara moved closer, carefully stepping across the random spots of clear floor. She reached up to caress Willow's cheek, brushing away dust and glitter in the process. Grinning, she reached around and squeezed her butt, returning with a bright purple bow in hand. "I have to say...I like..."
She felt her cheeks redden, but relaxed when she took in Tara's amused expression. "I uh...ran in to some problems."
Still smiling, "I see this. Did you have an unexpected vampire attack in here?"
"Nooooo..." She said with a hint of confusion. A quick glance around the room made her understand Tara's question. "Guess I kinda wrecked the place, huh?"
Rolling her eyes, "You goof. Why don't you go get cleaned up and I'll take care of the wrapping?"
Normally, such an offer would have excited her, but this time it left Willow feeling disappointed. "But everyone is going to laugh. I mean, what adult can't wrap a simple box? A box!"
Tara glanced toward the bed where a mis-shapen package that may have once been a box was now wrapped unevenly with corners overlapping at one end, and box peeking out beneath on the other. A surge of love filled her as she looked between the poor package and her frustrated girlfriend. She approached her and embraced her gently in her arms. "See, that is the good fortune of having me. It can be our little secret."
Green eyes twinkled in surprise. "Really?"
Chuckling, "Oh I think we can manage. Now scoot." Willow nodded and scurried out the door. Tara turned back to the disaster spread across their room. She couldn't help but laugh as she pulled out the trash can from beside the desk and began tossing away paper scraps of all sizes and colors.
Willow felt refreshed as she pushed open the door to the room. She blinked several times, amazed at what Tara accomplished in the short time she was gone. The mess of the room was gone and she was seated on the bed, putting a final piece of tape on the package in front of her. Willow closed the door behind her and leaned against it. "You're amazing. You know that?"
Tara looked up and gave Willow a quirky smile. "Nah."
"Really. How did you manage to clean up this wreck and still getting everything wrapped in like a one hundredth of the time it took me to wrap Buffy's?"
Smirking, "I don't know that what you did to Buffy's present could be called wrapping," she teased.
"Hey, hey, hey," she protested as she walked closer to the blonde. "Didn't you used to be more docile?"
"Complaining?" Tara's voice held a deeper tone than usual, though her expression remained light.
"Definitely not." She walked to one side of the bed and scooted behind Tara, wrapping one leg around each side. Her lips grazed the back of Tara's ear and she felt the woman stiffen then relax in to her. "Have I ever told you how lucky I am?"
"Have I ever told you that's very distracting?" She leaned back against Willow and felt strong arms wrap around her waist. "I'm never gonna finish if you keep doing that."
"Hmm..." she pouted. "What's left?"
Tara leaned forward and picked up a heavy brass object off the foot of the bed. "Just this. Speaking of which...what is it?"
"It's a gold armadillo," she answered as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
"Um...okay? And it's going to?"
"Anya." Willow refrained from leaving more kisses along Tara's neck but struggled to make her hands behave.
"Sweetie, I know that Anya isn't your favorite person, but...an armadillo?" She turned back to look at Willow, curious what prompted such an odd gift.
"No...see...that's where you're wrong. A few weeks ago we were watching re-runs of Friends and it was the episode where no one could find a Santa suit. So then Ross came dressed as the holiday armadillo and..." She paused when she noticed Tara's baffled expression. "..uh...anyway...she thought it was really funny and she wondered why there weren't actually holiday armadillos and so..."
"You bought her an armadillo," Tara concluded. "That's actually sweet in a really weird, Hellmouth-y kinda way." She swung her legs over the side of the bed and stood, missing Willow's pout. "I think I have a box in the closet that would fit."
Willow leaned back and enjoyed the view of Tara bent over in the closet. When the blonde stood and turned abruptly, she knew she'd been caught. "You're beautiful."
Shaking her head, "Don't think that smooth talking covers up the fact that you were checking me out just then."
"But...you're my girl, so that makes it okay...in fact, I think it's my sacred duty." She smiled sweetly.
Tara brought the box back to the bed. "You think you can tuck in your friend?" Without waiting for a response, she turned and walked to the bookshelves and pulled out a stick of incense. It took several flicks of her lighter before she maintained a flame and heated the end of the stick. Cool gray smoke swirled upwards, filling the room with fragrance.
"Hmph." Willow grabbed the box and some tissue paper and began stuffing it in to the bottom. She carefully placed the armadillo inside and pulled the lid over to seal it. "Mmm...what's that scent?"
"What?" Willow pushed the box forward so Tara could return to her seat.
"Myrrh. You know? Frankincense and myrrh?" She maneuvered back between Willow's legs and eyed the different rolls of wrapping paper.
"Huh. How very Christmas-y of you." Once Tara was settled, she scooted closer and rested her chin on Tara's shoulder.
"So how was the mall?" Tara queried as she unrolled the paper and cut a perfectly straight line all the way across.
"Busy. All dressed in holiday style." She sighed happily, "In the air there's a feeling of Christmas."
"Children laughing, people passing?" she asked as she folded the edges together and secured them with tape.
"Yep. And smile after smile. Though on every corner you'd hear silver bells." She paused, considering her last statement. "Do you think silver bells sound different than sleigh bells or brass bells?"
"I don't know sweetie." She placed one more piece of tape and held out the finished product. "All done."
"You're the best!" Willow squeezed her and kissed her cheek. She loosened her hold when Tara leaned forward. "What are you doing now?"
"Just getting this stuff out of the way." She stood again and took the miscellaneous wrappings and presents back to the desk. When she turned around Willow was already stretched out across the bed and rolled on to her left side watching. "Have you given any thought to how you'd like to spend Christmas Eve?"
Without hesitating, "I'm thinking in the style of the Grinch?"
Tara's brow furrowed. "You want to steal all the presents in Sunnydale? I'm not sure why you had me bother to wrap any then."
Giggling, "I was more in line with a pantsless Santa." She waggled her eyebrows for emphasis.
"You're terrible." Her eyes betrayed her though, twinkling with merriment. She returned to the bed and stretched out in front of Willow so they were face to face.
"If you'd like...I could help you practice you're unwrapping?"
Tara was about to lean in for a kiss and paused. "Oh?" Ever so often, Willow caught her off guard and the last offering puzzled her. Blue eyes rose slowly to meet green ones that were looking back expectantly. Realization crept in, "Oh!" Before she could ponder any further, Willow's mouth was on her neck, licking and biting. "Ohhh...."