The drive from the market to Tara's apartment was a short one, barely lasting ten minutes. Conversation was sparse during this time as Willow was content to rest her eyes and let the bump on her head settle its merciless throb. Tara passed through the gated entrance of the apartment complex, wound her way past a couple of curves and guided her car into covered spot number S4-10. As she turned off the engine, the blonde looked over at her passenger, smiling softly. During the drive, she'd snuck glances at the redhead, each time catching her with her eyes closed. Tara reached over with her left hand and gently brushed a stray lock of hair away from her face and behind her ear. "H-hey there."
Willow opened her eyes and smiled at the object in her line of sight. "Hey. Are we there yet?"
The blonde laughed softly as her hand trailed down to play with the ear-tucked ends of Willow's hair. "Yes, sleepyhead, we're here."
"Sleepyhead? No, no... no 'sleepyhead.' Only 'resting my eyes and enjoying the ride head.'" The redhead yawned sheepishly, turning her head in a weak attempt to keep Tara from seeing it. She could hear Tara chuckle and emit an exaggerated 'mmhmm' as she yawned. Willow looked back over and grinned. "Ok, fine, a little 'sleepyhead,' but don't you worry, I'm just fine. I mean, finey mcfine fine fine. How much more fine could you get?" Willow quirked her eyebrow as she thought for a second. "Well, I guess you could get finer than finey mcfine fine, but that would be the equivalent of..." Willow was silenced by the feeling of Tara's index finger against her lips.
"Willow, slow down. Y-you're going to run through all the words in the dictionary if you keep that up. Plus, I w-was getting lost in all the 'finey mcfine fines.' Come on." She got out of the car. "Let's get these groceries in my refrigerator so we can go on our coffee date... er, outing, um, excursion, w-well, y-you know." The blonde's face glowed beet red as she chided herself for her presumptuousness.
Willow immediately perked up at the mention of impending java joy. "Mocha-y goodness, full speed ahead." Willow exited the car, walked briskly towards Tara and looped her arm through the other woman's. "Lead the way, Ms. Maclay." She smiled at the blonde and Tara moved them both toward her apartment building. Tara led them up a flight of stairs and down the second floor walkway to the apartment that straddled the corner. As Tara unlocked the door and prepared to usher Willow inside, the redhead stopped her, placing her hand on top of the blonde's which still grasped the key in the lock. "Tara?"
The blonde looked over at Willow, slightly confused. "Yes?"
"It is, you know."
"A date." Willow squeezed Tara's hand, smiled, and walked inside the apartment.
"Make yourself at home, Willow. Feel free to turn on the stereo or the TV or something," Tara called out as she hefted the grocery bags onto the breakfast bar counter.
"Ooh, music? Great." Willow looked around the living room and spotted the stereo. Walking over to the small setup, the psychology professor whistled. "Nice, Tara. A Bose Acoustic Wave. It's amazing how such a little piece of equipment can produce such an awesome sound." Any response Tara had for Willow's comments was drowned out as Willow pressed the stereo's "on" button and female vocals surrounded by a thumping baseline poured out of the speakers.
"I want to undress you
Willow quickly found the volume button and turned the song down to a less deafening level. "Uh, nice song choice there, Tara. 'Get Me Off?'" She quirked an eyebrow at the blonde as Tara peeked her head over the grocery bags, blushing furiously. "Was this apartment cleaning music?"
Tara set down the loaf of bread she was about to put away and walked back into the living room, her face still flushed. "Uh, you're not exactly wrong." She hit the stop button on the stereo on her way to the CD rack. Making her selection, Tara popped the disc out of its jewel box and placed it in the stereo. A few seconds later, a softer, more soothing sound emanated from the speakers. Both women exhaled as each let the music knead away the tension of the day. "When I got home this afternoon, I w-walked on the treadmill for a w-while and did some strength training. I had the Basement Jaxx CD to keep my rhythm steady. I finished up and as I w-was cleaning up my mess, Anya walked in and immediately changed it to her favorite track.
"Get Me Off."
"Exactly. Anya's current phrase of choice... or sh-should I say, action of choice." She looked at Willow expecting her to know why she was smirking. She realized with a light smack to her forehead that of course she wouldn't know anything about Anya as Willow had never met the woman, or had even heard of her for that matter. "Oh, Goddess, you have no idea who I'm talking about." Willow shook her head. "Anya is my roommate."
"Y-your roommate?" Willow stammered, her mind automatically racing to every conclusion possible. "Is sh-she your, uh..." Tara looked at Willow and saw the fear in her eyes. At that instant, the blonde realized Willow thought Anya was her girlfriend. Her mind still racing, Willow couldn't look Tara in the eyes, so she lowered her head and stared at the carpet.
Tara immediately cupped her hand and placed it under Willow's chin, put light pressure on it and moved the psychology professor's face back to eye level. "Willow, no. God, no. Anya my girlfriend?" She laughed and Willow smiled in relief. "She is so not my girlfriend. Just my roommate, plain and simple." Realizing how close she was to the redhead, Tara self-consciously removed her hand from Willow's chin, moved over to the credenza and hit the button on the answering machine. "Anya...hmmm. How to describe her. S-she's kind of-." BEEP! The answering machine interrupted the blonde.
"Tara, its Anya. Despite the promise of fresh fish, I am going to have to pass on dinner tonight. Just after you left, Parker and Cordelia came over. Yes, I know you hate them, but I just can't help myself. You know what happens... me, her, him... throw in some interlocking parts and a Prada store and we'll be orgasm friends bumpin' uglies until I feel like I'm 1120 years old. So anyway, sorry, I'll make it up to you somehow. I'll probably be back in a couple of days... at least that's how long it was last time. If by some chance, a man in uniform comes to the door, or a woman for that matter, too... um, just tell them their 'Little Patriot' went out of town and I'll be back. In fact, tell them 'Anya says to start without her and she'll be back in a couple days.' Thanks, Tare! Love ya... well, not in that way, because that would be like loving your sister. And, I may be into lots of things, but not that. Bye!" The machine beeped again and proceeded to announce the date and time of the message at around five minutes before Willow and Tara arrived.
Tara walked back over to where Willow was standing and gently laid her hand on a shoulder. "Willow? You ok there?" The redhead stood still, her brow furrowing, still trying to get her head around that whole answering machine message. "Willow? Sweetie?"
"D-did she just say, uh, 'bumpin' uglies?'" Willow looked at Tara with a mixed expression of humor and horror.
Tara moved her hand off of Willow's shoulder only to cover her mouth as she let out a hearty laugh. A few seconds later, as the blonde calmed down, she grabbed Willow's hand and led her into the kitchen. "Come on, h-help me put the rest of these groceries away and I'll tell you about the unique creature that is Anya Jenkins. At least I think that's what her last name is."
"Huh? You mean you don't know what your roommate's last name is?" Willow wasn't sure if she heard the blonde correctly. The two entered the kitchen and Tara guided Willow to where the pantry closet was for the dry goods.
"Oh, no. I know a last name of hers is Jenkins." Both began grabbing groceries off the counter. "Hmm, how do I explain? You see, Willow, Anya is a, um, very free spirit. I guess I could sum it up by saying that she has a voracious appetite for life and, uh, everyone in it."
Again Willow thought she misunderstood Tara. "Don't you mean 'everyTHING in it?'"
With a deadpan expression, Tara clarified. "Uh, no, I meant, 'everyONE.'"
"Oh," the redhead blushed. "Ok, go on."
"Well, I met Anya a few years ago when I was traveling in other parts of the country, taking some time off from life for a while. She was sitting at the counter of a coffee shop, crying to no one in particular about how much men suck and how they should be eviscerated and met with torturous revenge, among other, even more descriptive acts."
"Goodness," remarked Willow as she set a box of crackers in the pantry.
Tara laughed. "Oh, there's more." She continued, "well, I can't stand to see anyone upset, so I sat next to her, and tried to calm her down. I found out that a few days prior, Anya's fiancÚ ran out on her in the middle of their wedding ceremony. The poor thing was crushed, but the anger she had, I couldn't believe it. She ranted on about trying to find someone who hated her fiancÚ and wanting to curse him for all eternity. She even went so far as to announce that she wanted Riley to live the rest of his life with genitals the size of ten cent gumballs." At that, Willow let out a laugh. "To make a long story short, I stayed with her for several hours as she poured out her heart and anger. I let her stay in my motel and we talked more. During that time, she told me that she's kind of a wanderer, not really calling any place home, she's gone by many aliases because she doesn't quite know what she wants to be, and through this conversation I realized she was probably the most blunt and forward person I've ever talked to. Something just intrigued me about her and I asked if she wanted to accompany me on the rest of my sabbatical. She said yes and we've been friends ever since.
"Ok, so how did you find out about, uh, her 'voracious appetite for life and everyone in it?'" Willow laughed lightly, again relieved that Anya was just a friend and roommate.
Tara shook her head a little, remembering that fateful evening. "Um, well, I had spent most of the day at the Salvadore Dali museum in Tampa, Florida while Anya stayed at the motel. I came back late in the evening and uh, well, I kind of walked into um..."
Tara's story had Willow captivated. "What? What? What did you walk in on?"
The blonde gulped and stammered. "Uh, well, hmm... have you ever seen the movie 'Eyes Wide Shut?'" Willow's eyes grew wide as she realized what Tara was inferring.
"You don't mean..."
"Ok, maybe not on that grand of a scale, but yes, what I walked in on was quite similar to that, uh, scene in the movie, um, including masks." Tara blushed just thinking about what she walked in on.
"My goodness, Tara...what did you say?"
"Uh, well, I kind of just walked backwards right out the door, closed it, and sat in a nearby coffee shop until finally Anya came by to check on me. Needless to say, I was a little shocked. But, by that time, I shouldn't have been THAT surprised. I just asked her to be careful and to get a separate room when she was going to have, uh, visitors. She couldn't believe my understanding. Then she hugged me and thanked me for not turning my back on her." She smiled at the picture of the two of them pinned by a magnet to the refrigerator. "She called me her stabilizing influence, and the only person to stand by her, no matter what."
Willow walked up to Tara and grabbed her hand. "That's because you've got a huge heart, Tara. I can tell just from the time I've spent with you tonight." She looked up at the blonde and saw the most beautiful smile gracing her vision. Willow slowly rubbed her thumb over the top Tara's hand and simply stared for a moment.
Tara stood still for a moment, unsure of what to do, then tried placing her other hand atop Willow's. Of course, then she realized she had the can of whipped cream she was going to put away still in her hand. Not meaning to break the moment, but doing so nonetheless, an idea spilled forth from the blonde's lips. "Hey, Willow. Is your heart set on going to the Steamed Bean tonight?"
"Why?" Willow looked grief-stricken. The anatomy professor wanted to cancel, she just knew it. She dropped Tara's hand. "You want to cancel, don't you."
Tara immediately picked up Willow's hand to reassure the woman. "No, Willow. Goddess, no. This has been the best night I've had in a long, long time. I don't want to cancel for anything."
"Then why did you ask?" Willow broached, still not entirely convinced of the blonde's words.
"Well, it was the can of whipped cream, actually."
Willow blinked. "Huh?"
Tara laughed. "I remembered why I bought it. I was going to curl up on the couch with a book, some coffee, and a Karamel Sutra ice cream sundae."
"Ok, well, what's that got to do with me and our coffee?" Willow asked, not getting the hint.
"Well, I was wondering how'd you like to curl up on the couch, have some coffee, eat a delightfully sinful sundae and get to know each other better?"
"Oh." She thought about it. "OH!" Willow's face lit up with a 1000-watt smile. "Yes! That sounds great." She calmed down a bit. "Honestly, anything sounds great as long as it doesn't call an end to this evening." She began unconsciously rubbing her thumb on Tara's hand, this time over the palm.
"Great," Tara beamed, "Karamel Sutra, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce it is." She let go of Willow's hands to start gathering the ingredients.
"Hey Tara?" Willow asked abruptly.
"I just noticed. You lost your stutter." She smiled at the blonde.
She gave a half-grin to the redhead as she reached into the freezer for the ice cream pint. "Must mean I'm comfortable with you."
Willow grinned at Tara as she lowered two bowls. "I'm glad you feel comfortable around me. I want to be, you know, Tara-friendly."
"Oh you are... very much so." Tara closed the freezer door, grabbed the chocolate and the whipped cream and headed for the coffee table. "Come on, I got everything else. Grab some spoons in the top drawer. Time for some sundae fun."
"I'm all about the sundae fun," Willow responded, trailing right behind.
"Got the spoons, Will?" Tara thought for a moment. "You don't m-mind if I call you that, do you?" The blonde hoped she hadn't overstepped her bounds.
"Nope, don't mind at all," Willow remarked as she sat down on the couch, tucking her left leg under her in the process.
"Cool." Tara plopped down in a similar fashion at the other end of the loveseat. It didn't go unnoticed by either woman that the size of the furniture piece left little space between them. The two smiled at each other, neither sharing why, but content nonetheless. Tara broke the brief silence by reaching for a spoon and the carton of Karamel Sutra. "Ok. Sundae time. We can each make our own. Like I said, there's ice cream, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and I even managed to scrounge up some rainbow sprinkles."
"Ooh, sprinkles! Yay!" Willow beamed like a five-year-old. "I love those things. Absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever, but what they lack in vitamins they make up in sprinkle-y color-y fun." Tara handed the spoon and carton over to the redhead so she could start first. She spooned a generous amount into her bowl and then did the same for Tara.
"Thanks. Now for some chocolate sauce." With the flair of a professional, Tara spooned a glob of chocolate sauce and proceeded to drizzle an elaborate weave across top of Willow's ice cream. "I once worked at an ice cream parlor as a teenager. We pretty much learned how to turn sundae-making into performance art. Let's just say with my coordination, I didn't stay too long in that job."
"What do you mean? You seem to be doing a great job with the sauce."
"Oh, drizzling sauce was the easy part. It was the ice cream, cans of whipped cream and bottles of sauce that weren't so easy." Tara glanced at Willow and laughed at the grin the redhead sported, indicating she wanted to hear the rest of the story. "Ok. This one time we were practicing trick scooping."
"Trick scooping? You're kidding."
"No, no. I'm most definitely NOT kidding. The owner of the parlor used to be a bartender at one of those wild resort clubs in Tijuana. He thought it would be cool if his employees did the same tricks with ice cream that he used to do with liquor bottles. Anyway, we were practicing trick scooping. We were supposed to flip the ice cream out of the scoop, twirl once and let the scoop land in the dish. Well, I managed to do the first two parts all right... or so I thought. After I twirled, I went to catch my scoop and well, it didn't land. Then I heard the scream."
Willow's eyes went wide. "The scream?" "Yep. I kind of 'overflipped' the ice cream and well, it k-kind of, landed on top of Janine's hair."
"Hence the scream."
"Yes, the scream, the intense dirty looks, and me being shunted off to whipped cream and sauce duty."
"Was that easier then?"
"No, not in the least. I'd have to say I was shocked I lasted the two weeks I did. I think Michael, the owner, paid more for the customers' cleaning bills than he made in profit. I ended up splattering butterscotch sauce all over a man's suit when I twirled the bottle in the air. Oh and I can't forget the little crying girl with whipped cream in her eye when I tried to write her name on her sundae."
Willow held her hand to her mouth to stop herself from laughing. Tara, however, would not allow it. She removed the redhead's hand as she smiled. "Go right ahead, Willow. Laugh as hard as you want. The day I quit, I sat outside and laughed myself silly. People passing by probably thought I was crazy, but I didn't care. With that the redhead allowed herself to laugh heartily as she grabbed the canister of whipped cream.
"So, was that your way of asking if I would spray the whipped cream?" Willow grinned as she teased the blonde.
"Actually, that's not a bad idea. You mentioned something about drawing earlier, didn't you?" The redhead blushed and nodded, realizing the blonde actually had heard what she'd said in the store. "All right then. Why don't you do the honor of drawing a little smiley face on our sundaes, and I'll put the sprinkles on the top."
"O-o-kay." Willow shook the canister and flipped off the lid. After inverting the can, she depressed the nozzle and drew a smiley face on Tara's sundae. She shook it again and started on her own. Tara watched the redhead's face and giggled slightly at the look of determination. Her brow furrowed and her tongue poking out, which led to altogether different thoughts, Tara surmised that everything Willow did she did intensely.
Tara grabbed the sprinkles as Willow finished her smiley face. "Hey Will, you want a lot of sprinkles or a little?" Tara's words broke her concentration and turned her body around in mid spray.
"Hey! Willow! Stop!" Tara thrust her arms forward knocking the can out of Willow's hands.
"What?" She looked at Tara and gasped. "Oh Goddess, Tara! I'm so sorry!" So intent on what she was doing, when Willow turned around at Tara's question, she never stopped depressing the spray can nozzle. The consequences of that action left Tara's neck and face awash in a sea of white, foamy, whipped cream. As the substance started to drip from Tara's chin, Willow jumped off the couch and ran for the dishtowel. "Hold on! I'm getting a towel."
"Uh, Will? Hurry? It's kind of drippy over here." Tara tried catching the drips off her chin, but only managed to make a mess of it on her hands. A moment later, Willow arrived, towel in hand.
"Tara, oh geez. I'm soo sorry. Guess I concentrated a little too hard." She gently began wiping the whipped cream from Tara's face. The blonde giggled as Willow set out on her task.
"So, do you concentrate this hard on everything you do?" Tara asked as she locked eyes with Willow, smirking.
Willow stilled her towel-clad hand on Tara's cheek and without missing a beat replied, "Well, when I get involved with something, I never go in without my whole heart and mind." She moved her hand again, continuing to wipe the cream off, yet not moving her gaze.
"Everything?" Tara's heartbeat sped up slightly as Willow's hand passed under her chin and over to her other cheek.
"Everything," Willow repeated. Willow stopped and put the towel on the coffee table. "There, I think I got all of it." She looked again and saw a couple spots. "No wait. I missed a couple spots." Willow leaned forward.
"Aren't you going to get the towel?" Tara asked as her heartbeat steadily increased its pace.
"Nope. I don't think I need it for this." She breathed and moved her hand up to cup Tara's face.
"Oh, ok." Tara leaned into the redhead's palm. "Where are these spots you missed?" She closed her eyes, her body knowing what was coming. She could feel Willow's breath brushing over her skin.
"Right here." Willow finished closing the gap and lightly kissed the left corner of Tara's mouth. "Right here." She kissed the right corner of her mouth. "Oh, and can't forget the little tiny drop... here." Tara shuddered lightly as Willow's mouth grazed the center of hers ever-so-slightly. She opened her eyes only to see Willow's looking back, silently asking permission before going any further. Tara's answer was as silent as Willow's question as she moved her hand under the redhead's chin, demonstrating her approval to continue by moving her lips to the ones that so lightly brushed against hers. The two pressed themselves closer together as the hands that cupped each other's chins slowly moved their way back to grasp behind their heads, locking them in place. Tara moved her other hand to Willow's back, massaging in circles as Willow placed hers on Tara's leg, softly moving up and down her knee.
After a few minutes Tara broke away. "Oh Goddess. Wow." She leaned against the backrest, trying to catch her breath. Willow did the same meanwhile glancing at the coffee table.
"Most definitely wow, Tara. Uh, Tara?"
"Uh, where's that towel?"
"What? The towel?"
"Yeah. Um, we, uh, kinda lost track of time. And, uh, well, the ice cream kind of well, uh, lost it's frozen-ness." Willow pointed at the melted ice cream, chocolate sauce and whipped cream stream that pooled on the surface of the coffee table.
"Oh no! Crap. Where is that towel?" Tara felt around the couch, but couldn't find it. Willow saw the corner of the towel poking out from under her seat.
"Ooh. Here it is! It uh, must've gotten lost during the rest of our, um, clean-up." She blushed a bit as she launched a thousand-watt grin. Willow pulled the towel out and immediately began sopping up the melted concoction as Tara ran to get a couple more towels and some cleaner. Within a few minutes, the table was clean and the stickiness gone. After the clean-up, the two decided to abort their efforts at making sundaes and settled for brewing a pot of coffee. Once Tara filled their mugs, she gave Willow the tour of her apartment. It wasn't huge, yet wasn't tiny. The two-bed room homestead allowed plenty of room for both Tara and Anya, giving each woman privacy since their bedrooms were on opposite ends of the house.
"You've got a great apartment, Tara." Willow stated as she placed her mug on the kitchen counter.
"Thanks. I was lucky to find it when I did." She glanced at Willow's mug and saw that it was empty. "Did you want more coffee, Willow?"
Willow frowned at the question as she looked at Tara and shook her head. "As much as I'd love some more and as much as I'd love to stay and talk for hours, unfortunately I have an early morning appointment."
Tara glanced at the clock. "Oh! I didn't realize it was past midnight. You probably should get home if you have early plans. Let me grab my keys and I'll drive you back to the supermarket." Willow brushed her hand against Tara's as the blonde walked past her to get her purse.
Ten minutes later, Tara arrived at the supermarket parking lot and pulled into the spot next to Willow's car. "We're here, Will." Mimicking her earlier movements, she brushed her hand against Willow's face, gently stirring the redhead from her dozing.
"Huh?" Willow opened her eyes and rubbed them. "Oh gods, Tara, I must've been more tired than I thought. I'm sorry for falling asleep on you... again." She blushed slightly as she stretched her arms out.
"Nothing to be sorry about, Willow. You had a long day. It's not every day that you fall into a meat refrigerator case, get elbowed in the stomach, hit your head on the car and created melted ice cream sundaes."
"You forgot to add 'kiss a beautiful woman.'" Willow took Tara's hand and smiled.
Tara turned beet red. "Uh, well, there's that too."
"And all that was worth it, Tara... because it all ended up at that last part. I got to talk to you, get to know you, spend time with you... ok, all that meant the same thing, but well, you know what I mean." Tara nodded and the redhead continued. "I had a great time, Tara and I want to more of that."
Tara laced her fingers with Willow's. "So do I."
"Can I see you again?"
"Really?" The redhead beamed.
"Yes, really. I was about to ask you the same thing." Tara grinned and squeezed Willow's hand.
"Great! Wonderful! Yes! I'm so happy! Oh this is just so great, and I'm rambling again. Sorry."
"It's ok, Willow. It's cute." She blushed. Willow leaned over and hugged her. Tara moved back slightly and kissed Willow's cheek. Willow held her close and proceeded to gently kiss her lips.
"I'd better go." She brushed her lips against Tara's forehead. "Can I call you tomorrow?" Willow looked at the blonde with so much hope in her eyes.
"I'll do you one better. How about lunch?"
"You're on!" Willow gathered her things, getting ready to leave Tara's car. "Tara. I really did have a wonderful time. I hope you did, too."
"I did. And I can't wait to get to know you more, Willow Rosenberg." She gave one last kiss to Willow's cheek. "Call me when you're finished with your appointment and we'll meet wherever."
"Ok." She opened the door. "Good night, Tara." She stepped out of the car.
"Good night, Willow. See you tomorrow." Tara smiled as Willow closed the door. She waited until the redhead had safely started her car and locked her door. As they exited the parking lot and waited at the traffic light, they took one final look at each other and smiled. It seemed that there are such things as happy accidents.