Dean Riggs cornered the two professors just outside the University cafeteria. Willow and Tara had spent a quick twenty minutes having lunch together inside. The location and duration of the lunch was not exactly what the ladies had in mind, but such is the life of those employed in academia. Both Willow and Tara were waylaid by students in crisis, or as Willow sarcastically vented, "Drama Queens on Parade." With ten minutes left before the start of their next classes, the Dean effectively barred them from moving down the corridor.
"Ahh, Professor Maclay, Professor Rosenberg, just the ladies I need to speak with." Dean Riggs smiled warmly, yet his eyes held more of a frantic, pleading gaze.
"Good afternoon, Dean Riggs. We were just on our way to our 1:00pm classes." Tara responded to the Dean's greeting.
"Good, good. Wonderful! This will just take a minute."
Willow sighed inwardly and glanced quickly at her watch. "Was there something you needed, Dean?"
"As a matter of fact, yes. I hate to ask you this on such short notice, but..." Both women gulped at the start of the Dean's plea. "...I'm desperate for help for tomorrow's Community Kids Day." He looked for a sign of recognition from either of the two professors and saw none. "Community Kids Day... the event given by the University's fraternities and sororities. Kids and families in the community congregate in the quad to play games and do arts and crafts and such."
"What do you need help with?" Tara's confusion showed on her face. "If it's handled by the Greeks, how do we fit in?"
"The event itself is handled by the Greeks, but as with all student-led events, there must be a faculty or staff representative to monitor the events and handle any problems that may arise. Unfortunately, the two people who were supposed to supervise the event just cancelled on me and I'm at my wits end trying to scramble up replacements."
Willow began to interject. "Uh, well, it is short..."
"I would so hate to have to cancel the event. The children would be so disappointed. Last year we had 200 children and families. The people of the community look forward to this every year," the Dean continued, effectively drowning out Willow's response.
"I know it would be a shame, Dean. But..." The redhead began again, frustration etched on her face as this time, Tara interrupted her.
"But we know how important it is. We'd love to help." Tara turned to the Psychology professor. "Isn't that right Willow? We don't want the children to be disappointed."
Willow looked at Tara's face and her protests evaporated. The incandescent smile on the blonde's face could melt a glacier. "Uh, sure. Yeah, absolutely. Count us in."
Unable to contain his excitement and relief, Dean Riggs jovially embraced the two women. "Wonderful! Just splendid! The event runs from 10:00am to 4:00pm in the center quad. You'll need to be there by 9:30am to make sure everything is ready to go."
Both women remarked, "9:30am. Gotcha."
Dean Riggs smiled again and continued, "Thank you so much, ladies. You don't know how much this helps. I'll let the Greek coordinator know the event is still on. You two are lifesavers!" With that, the dean quickly sped down the hallway, intent on the rest of his tasks.
"Unfair." Willow simply stated.
"Will?" Tara turned to the redhead. She flinched briefly when she realized Willow's face was millimeters away from hers. "Uh, Will?"
"Unfair." Tara backed up a bit as Willow moved forward again, effectively trapping her against the wall. Tara gulped.
"Um, I'm sorry Willow... but I'm a sucker for children. I couldn't disappoint them."
Willow leaned forward and with a smile whispered in Tara's ear. "And apparently, I'm a sucker for you. It's so unfair. You flash that smile of yours, my mind turns to mush and all I hear is 'Tara say yes, Willow say yes. Tara say yes, Willow say yes.' Ok, that sounded a bit Neanderthal-ish, but you understand."
"Oh, I understand. My feminine wiles have some sort of hold over you." She quickly turned her head and kissed Willow's cheek. "I'll have to try that again some time." Tara ducked under Willow's arm and came out from between the wall and the redhead. "See you in the mornin', Will." Tara left a dazed and breathy Willow behind, mouth agape watching the blonde walk away.
Willow waited by the steps of the University library at 9:15am, the time Tara said she'd meet her there. The Psychology professor rubbed her still sleep-filled eyes, wondering why the hell she had had to get up at 8:00am on a Saturday morning. Her normal weekend routine usually consisted of maximum sleep acquisition, emerging from her Egyptian cotton cocoon some time around noon when the threat of bladder detonation forces her immediate metamorphosis from coma patient to fully-upright conscious member of society. But, alas, the siren call of a certain blonde Anatomy professor acted as her alarm clock this particular morning. So here she stood. And stood. And continued to stand for a full ten minutes until finally she saw blonde tresses attached to a t-shirt-and-shorts-clad body walking briskly down the brick sidewalk. Her slight expression of annoyance was instantly replaced by giddiness when she saw what Tara was carrying: two Steamed Bean "ChocoMochaLocas."
A bit winded, Tara stopped in front of the redhead. "Hey Will, sorry I'm late." She handed one of the hot beverages over. "I thought as my way of saying 'thanks' I'd spring for some chocolate-y espresso goodness. But, and I should be used to this by now, I ended up behind some lady who was ordering the world's most complicated drink. I think it was something like 'I'll have a low-fat, no-fat, half-n-half, skim milk, soy milk, caramel, white chocolate, raspberry, espresso-y, half-cap, café Americano macchiato mocha...' or something." Willow laughed, having experienced that situation many times. "So, after about 10 minutes I got through the line and rushed my way over here. Forgive me?"
"Of course... especially since you brought me this." Willow grinned and took a big sip of her drink. "Ack! Hot! Owww, mah thung." She stuck her tongue out to cool it just as the community coordinator for the University's Greek program ran up to them.
"Professor Maclay, Professor Rosenberg, I'm so glad you were able to help us at such late notice. Thank you!" The exuberant brunette gave each woman quick, yet forceful hugs.
"Er, uh, you're welcome, Cordelia. Glad we could help," Willow responded, trying to breathe through the lung-crushing embrace. "So, what do you need us to do?" Willow asked after being released.
Cordelia gestured for the professors to follow her into the quad. "We've got everything set up. The big sound system, complete with kid-friendly music."
"I think there's a mix of mostly 50s and 60s surf music, a bit of 70s disco, and some sort of bubblegum pop hits of the 80s. Oh, and Owen brought a CD of movie song hits of the 90s. I don't think content should be a problem. The worst song I think we have is "You Sexy Thing." Cordelia continued gesturing toward the equipment on the quad. "Ok. Over here is the carnival food... cotton candy, hot dogs, soda, snow cones, etc. The kiddie games are in the center of the quad. And along the side are other things like the dunk tank, super-Sumo wrestling, a rock-climbing wall and foam party dance area for the teenagers."
"Wow," Tara remarked. "You guys went all out."
"Yeah. We have such a great time putting this together and spending time with all the kids. It's just cool seeing everyone have so much fun. It's kind of our chance to dispel the myth that fraternity and sorority members do nothing but drink and play pranks on potential members. But anyway... enough of that. What the faculty representatives have to do is walk around the event, making sure everything is running smoothly, and observing the Greek brothers and sisters. Not that we need to be supervised, mind you, but occasionally, people lose focus."
"You shouldn't have too much to do, really. It's such a tradition now, that the event practically runs itself. I mean, we've even got the CDs programmed on repeat-shuffle so no one has to be stuck changing the music." Cordelia began walking away from the two professors. "Oh great," Cordelia rolled her eyes as she walked. "Harmony's arm is caught in the cotton candy machine. Ewww, pink floss is spreading up her sleeve! I've gotta run. Talk to you later!" Cordelia ran toward the back of the quad. "Harmony, you moron! How many times do I have to tell you, use a stick, not your hand!"
The next couple of hours went rather quickly. By 11:00am the campus quad was full of children and families playing games, laughing and just generally having a wonderful time. Willow and Tara walked around the different activity booths, visiting each one and commenting on the creativity of the students contributions. The professors met many of their students' younger siblings and family members as they traversed the grounds. "This is nice, isn't it?" Tara waved her hand, directing the meaning of her statement toward the Community Day setup. "You just don't see this very often anymore. College kids taking a genuine interest in the children of the community, it's a rare thing." Willow nodded in agreement.
"It is nice, Tara. The activities are fun, the games are great. The line at the rock-climbing wall, wow. Those kids just love it. Oh, and the music! I haven't heard some of these songs since I was little." She laughed as another song started. "When was the last time you heard Debbie Gibson?" Willow grabbed Tara's hand, raised her arm and spun the blonde around. "C'mon Tara, 'Shake your love!'" Tara squealed as she whirled around, all the while being guided by Willow's hand.
"Willow! Stop! You're going to get me dizzy!" Tara laughed, trying to move her arm enough to grasp Willow and stop the momentum. She reached far enough to block another spin and stopped herself. However, the damage was done and Tara's knees revolted. Willow caught her. She looked down and found a dizzy blonde in her arms.
"Hey," Willow stated, smirking.
"Hey yourself," Tara replied, smiling goofily as she caught her breath and allowed her head to stop spinning. After a beat, Tara smirked and remarked, "You know Will, there are easier ways to get me in your arms."
Willow leaned toward Tara's ear. "Yes, but not all of them are this fun."
The blonde professor craned her neck around and whispered in the redhead's ear, "That's true." In a bold move, she kissed Willow's earlobe. "Some are more fun." With that, she swung around the now stunned redhead, playfully swatted her behind and grabbed a hand. "C'mon Will, let's go get a sno-cone."
The women walked across the quad and over to the sno-cone booth. Both ordered rainbow cones and as they were eating they spent their time helping some of the kids clean up from both the food and the face painting. A good thirty minutes passed before all the kids were spotless and ready to rejoin their families. A few minutes earlier, Cordelia walked over and helped them finish up. "Thank you so much Professors, we got a little shorthanded for a while."
"Is everything all right, Cordelia?"
"It's fine, Professor Rosenberg. I think we underestimated the number of helpers we needed. We didn't expect this many people. We've probably already had a hundred more people than last year and the day is only two-thirds over!" The brunette sighed and shook her head slowly. "Of course, we would have three more people helping if Harmony hadn't gotten her hair caught in the taffy-pulling machine. Larry and Scott had to carry the machine with Harmony still stuck to it over to the maintenance department in hopes they might have something to remove her with.
"Ouch. That sounds horrible. I hope she's ok." Tara winced at the visual Cordelia's words produced. The blonde waited for Cordelia to respond and noticed another song ending as the music drifted across the quad.
"Yeah, she'll be fine. She's always doing stupid things like that. I swear, if I know better, I would think she only had two brain ce..." Cordelia's words were lost on Tara as she heard a new song begin. A small hi-hat sound lead into a swirling crescendo of drum and guitars. The familiar combination of sounds prickled the base of Tara's neck. 'Dear Goddess... It can't be,' she thought.
The snare and cymbal shots that introduced the first verse snapped Tara to full awareness. "Oh no. Ohhhh, no." Tara eyes grew wide, her body tensed and she started quickly moving away. Willow sensed the change in the blonde.
"Tara? What's wrong?" Willow went to put her hand on Tara's shoulder, but she wasn't there.
"I love myself," the woman cooed. "I want you to love me." The blonde heard the singer's declaration and her fears were confirmed.
"W-W-Willow, the song. The song. I have to get to the stereo." Tara stammered but kept moving as she searched for the stereo. 'Oh Goddess, it's all the way across the quad.' She broke into a full run.
The song continued. "When I feel down, I want you above me."
"Song? What song? Tara? Where are you going?" Willow took off after the blonde. "Tara! Wait!"
Tara ignored the redhead's protest. 'Gotta get to the stereo. The kids! Oh gods, the parents!' The professor discounted the odd stares she received as she rushed across the campus lawn. The direct route she took, though, was not without peril. Her pursuit toward the stereo sent her careening through a battle so intense, the casualties will take hours to dry out. 'Water balloons!' She tried to dodge them but the numbers were too great. Tara took five direct hits, soaking her from top to bottom. But, she pressed on, wearing the rubber shrapnel like a badge of honor.
"I search myself, I want you to find me."
Tara was in full fight or flight mode. She had never run so fast in all her life. The adrenaline spurred her on as she continued to race through the quad. Her agility, as she dodged child after child, stroller after stroller, would make an NFL wide receiver wrought with envy. She even weaved her way around a returning Larry, Scott and Harmony, who, by the way, now was sporting the latest in mullet couture, thanks to her makeshift rescue by hedge clippers.
"I forget myself, I want you to remind me."
'I'm almost there. Dear Goddess, please let me make it,' the blonde silently prayed. Only a few yards separated Tara from the stereo. She willed her soaked form to run just a little bit harder. 'Oh get out of my way!' A man knelt down to tie his shoe just in front of Tara's path. 'There's no time!' With no other option, Tara bore down on the man, placed her hands on his rounded back and thrust herself over him. The finest display of leapfrog ever in the history of the University's quad. Three steps away, she was three steps from the forward button. Tara leaned forward and stretched her arm for dear life.
"I don't want anybody else, when I think about you I tou-" The music cut off and a new song began.
"Here we come, walkin' down the street..."
As she heard the nice, innocent tune through the speakers, Tara bent over, braced her hands against her legs and gulped breaths of air. A few seconds later, Willow caught up with her. Winded, she tried to speak. "Tara, are you all right?"
"The song," she gasped. "I heard the song and realized what it was." The blonde stood up and again forced air through her lungs. "I didn't know if anyone else did." She put her hand to her chest. "I couldn't let the kids here it. What would the parents think?"
"Oh gods, Tara. I didn't even realize what song it was until you were already halfway across the quad." Willow shook her head as she contemplated the consequences had that song finished playing.
"That's what I was afraid of, Will. That no one would've recognized it until it was too late." Tara's breathing began to even out, as did Willow's.
The redhead began to smile ever so slightly, as she thought of something. "One question, though, Tara. How did YOU know the song so quickly?"
"Anya," the blonde stated simply. "She plays it daily. Usually in the shower."
Willow laughed. "Why am I not surprised?" She took hold of Tara's hand and began to guide her to a picnic table. "Let's rest for a bit. If anyone asks, we're the music patrol. We can just sit and be sure nothing else gets by. I don't wanna be across the quad if 'How Many Licks' starts playing." The two professors sat across from each other at the table.
"Good plan. Besides, I need some time to dry off," the blonde stated as she began to pick bits of rubber from her body.
"Well, we've only got an hour left. Thank the Goddess. What a day." Willow reached across, plucked a balloon bit out of Tara's hair, than began playing with the ends. A silent minute passed and Willow spoke again. "Hey, Tara?"
"Hey, Willow?" The other professor teased.
"Would you wanna, say, come over for dinner after we're done? I'll cook." The blonde looked up to find a silent plea etched across the redhead's face. Tara lifted her hand and cupped Willow's jaw.
"Neither water balloon fights, nor The Divinyls could keep me away." She lightly kissed Willow as they listened for the next song to begin.