In the taxi for the Covent Garden Willow's busy brain tried to process the events of the last 24 hours: Was she gay now? Was there an instruction manual for this? Would she have to learn a whole set of new rules? And most importantly: Does Tara want us to be together, or is this just a fling to her?
She was certain of only one thing: She was not in the least bit sorry it had happened. How could she be sorry? Nothing had ever made her feel so good, not even music... How could she be sorry, when her body was humming, as if electrified? When the hole made by Daniel's departure was gone and she could breathe again? She knew she wasn't sorry from the way her system was begging for these sensations not to end. Her attempts at rational thought were intercepted by the images of them together.
Tara's ivory breasts swelling out of her bra as she leant over... Her lips on Willow's earlobes, in that place that made her ticklish and aroused at the same time... Her head between Willow's legs, strands of shiny hair brushing against her thighs... Her clothes suddenly felt a little too tight and her mouth dry.
In Tara's head the notes to Rosenkavalier were floating around like flotsam. Totally at peace, she followed the contour of Willow's ear and thought about kissing it. She looked down on the soprano's hand resting next to her on the upholstery and thought about kissing it. Finally, she put a hand on the knee resting against her own and gave up.
Willow looked anxiously at the driver, who was paying them no attention at all. Then her eyes dropped to Tara's hand, caressing her own ever so lightly. She looked at the driver again and gave up. She scooted closer to Tara, who leant back into the corner and put her arm around her waist. She saw the hesitation on Willow's face and loved her for indulging her anyway. She tucked a strand of red hair behind Willow's ear and sought her lips out...
Not until she realised with a start that they were standing still did Willow have another thought in her head apart from the texture of Tara's lips and the warmth of her tongue. She prayed silently that they hadn't been standing still for long. She avoided eye contact with the taxi driver as she paid the fare.
The music in Tara's head had swelled and increased in volume during their touching and she felt annoyed with the disturbance. She didn't want to let go...
Willow felt confusion as they approached the door hand in hand. There was so much thinking she needed to do. Was she just supposed to walk in, come out to her friends and colleagues and introduce her gay lover in the first fifteen minutes of her morning? She wanted this to be private. She didn't want to have to share what they had or establish the parameters of their potential relationship in public.
Tara wanted nothing in the world as much as walking into the rehearsal room holding Willow's hand and being introduced as her girlfriend. She wanted it so much it hurt. She smiled inwardly and let go of the soprano's hand before entering, sensing her hesitation.
"So, now we have a secret, sweetie", she whispered in her ear.
She stepped a little ahead of Willow so that they entered seemingly independent of each other. When she closed the door to her dressing room, she smiled at her own image in the mirror.
"That was understanding and non-clingy. Good girl!"
She patted herself supportively on the shoulder. It took some getting used to, this feeling of rather liking herself. She had been planning her "not putting any pressure on Willow-move" all morning... She blew a kiss at the promotional photograph of the soprano she had tacked to a corner of the mirror.
"I love you", she whispered, uncertainly rehearsing what she might actually say out loud sometime in the future. It felt so much better than all the times she had said the words silently inside her own head.
She started to warm her voice up to face the morning's music rehearsal. She had some considerable trouble relaxing her jaw in the fashion needed for the vocal exercises because of the huge grin that seemed to have moved in permanently on the corners of her mouth...She felt like she had trouble staying on the ground, like she needed to make herself extra heavy to just stop her self from levitating...
Willow went to her dressing room and shut the door. She sat down heavily on the chair in front of the make-up table and sighed. Her life seemed to have managed to change completely in course of 24 hours. Had she changed? She thought about it and reached the conclusion: Yes, I have. It might just be that the mind blowing orgasms still were making her body sing with satisfaction, but she felt balanced. Right, somehow. But there was so much thinking to be done...What did this mean? It was a little scary that after one night of being touched by Tara she already felt like nothing else mattered that much. Would that wear off, or would it continue to make her tremble? Like they had yesterday when the mezzo had slid her hands down her back and cupped her bottom while she was gently sucking on the soft, sensitive flesh on the inside of Willow's upper arm, rested above her head? Or when Tara kissed her way up from the arch of her foot and further up... and further? Or the feeling of having her pressed against her back, kissing the back of her neck so that the little hairs stood up from the shivers... Willow lost herself in the thoughts of where Tara's hands had been and how her lips had felt. The memory of how it had felt when her thigh had made the first connection with Tara's warm centre... How slow and deliberate all Tara's motions had been... And what a passionate lover she was. Willow's chest got all tight thinking about how insatiable she herself had been while she was being touched by the mezzo and how her body had taken over and made her lose contact with her brain, a rare luxury in the case of Willow Rosenberg...
Half an hour later, she realised that she had done no useful thinking what so ever, apart from remembering Tara-hands in nice places... So she decided to post-pone the self-analysis session to go out and get her woman some breakfast, like she promised.
Tara wondered a little why Willow was absent from the first hour of the rehearsal, but nothing could make her disappointed in this day. She brightened up immediately when she felt the scent of fresh coffee and saw the soprano's radiant green eyes sparkle in the light of the rehearsal room. She felt her stomach grumble and realised she hadn't eaten anything in ages.
She went over to sit next to her.
"Hey baby" Willow whispered almost inaudibly. She leant closer to Tara, looking for all the word like she was making a comment about something. Instead, she gently nudged her cheek with her nose and brushed her lips along her jaw. The mezzo shivered and bent her head down so not to show her reaction.
Sipping her coffee, she walked behind the piano with Willow under the pretence of studying the score. Making casual conversation, she put her hand on the soprano's lower back under her top and moved her fingers slowly in tiny circles. Willow looked at her with wide eyes. They were disturbed by the Repetiteur of the Bad Attitude sighing in an exaggerated way and looking at his watch.
"One day, I'm going to give that man a piece of my mind..."
"We'll have Buffy attack him with her spear" Tara whispered in her ear, seizing the opportunity to brush her lips against Willow's earlobe.
"Or we could have Anja annoy him to death" Willow answered with a private smile.
"Breakfast in my dressing room when you've finished? I've got food!" she continued proudly.
"If not, I know something else I wouldn't mind eating..." Tara replied.
"Tara!" Willow pretended chock, but she couldn't stop a delighted smile from breaking out.
"Just joking. I'm starving, actually. We did use up rather a lot of energy last night..." she whispered, very close to Willow's ear.
"I suppose we did... And if you're not hungry, I'm sure I can find something else to do with your lips..."
Willow went to sit down and watch the rehearsal. Seeing Tara move and hear her voice soaring through the room made it seem to her like the hours couldn't move quickly enough until the evening, when she hoped Tara would let her touch her properly again...
The mezzo felt Willow's gaze on her wherever she moved. Her skin tingled in the spots where the soprano rested her eyes. For once, she didn't want to be anyone else than she was. She sang very well, she could even hear it herself. There was something new in the sound. Confidence? Light? Love, even? She didn't know which, but she knew that her moment had come.
Tara's voice was radiant. Willow saw movement in the faces of all her present colleagues and filled up with pride.
I'm going to make people see her like she really is. I'm going to make them see that she's a star, Willow thought with fierce determination.
When she tried to analyze her feelings all she could think of was to stop herself from pumping her fist in the air and shout:
"YES, SHE WANTS ME!!" in the middle of the crowded room.
So, maybe my feelings aren't that complicated after all. Maybe coming out wouldn't be so difficult, she thought with a self deprecating little smile. At the moment, the most important question seemed to her to be:
When is this rehearsal going to end, so I get to kiss her?
She was still a little nervous that Tara might not want the full monty relationship, like she wanted, but she simply refused to worry before time. This morning it certainly seemed like Tara wanted all of her...
Several times... She let out a little contented sigh at the thought of this morning...
Tara came back to sit with her. She pulled a pencil out and started writing something on the top corner of her score. Willow looked down at it.
I can still taste you on my tongue
Willow swallowed audibly and looked up at Tara's face. She was looking straight forward with a neutral expression.
With a slight tremor, she took out a pencil from her back and replied.
My fingers remember how you feel against them
It was true. She felt like she was touching her right here, right now.
Tara leant over and pretended to whisper something. Willow felt her earlobe burn from a light butterfly kiss.
I didn't want to wash your scent off me this morning, the mezzo wrote.
I want your lips on me again, Willow wrote quickly, feeling her pulse beat madly.
Sandro entered through the door, half an hour late. Not an unusual occurrence.
"So what scene are we doing?" he said cheerfully.
Bloodsworth went straight for the throat, as usual.
"This an all time low, Harroni! Just look at Red and Macleod over there! They're actually making notes when I talk, instead of showing up late without even a sodding idea about what we're rehearsing!
Tara desperately tired to cover up their pencilled conversation with her hands as everybody looked in their direction curiously.
"That's right. If everybody in this room did this they way they are doing it, this opera house world would be a much better sodding place, wouldn't it!"
"M-Maclay, actually..." Tara desperately tried to keep a straight face.
"Right, love, whatever. Anyway, my point is..."
"Get off my case, you over-rated poser", Sandro snarled as he found a seat near Willow and Tara. They found it best to abort their correspondence for time being.
"What was that all about?" Tara whispered in her ear. Willow relished the feel of her warm breath on her earlobe for a few moments before answering.
"Sandro and Bloodsworth shared a room together for a few weeks when Sandro was in music college. He and Bloodsworth have hated each other ever since. Something to do with Weetabix or something.... Also, he tends to hate what Buffy and I hate and Buffy really hates Bloodsworth. Dear old Sandro, always the loyal one", Willow said
"Well, I'm glad we're setting such an example for everyone" Tara changed the subject of their whispered conversation and smiled at her.
"Well, he is probably right... The world would be a much better place if everyone did what we've been doing." Willow said with a chuckle.
Half an hour later, they headed towards Willow's dressing room for breakfast.
Tara looked in amazement at the feast Willow had set up.
"And the two shots of espresso as well..." She mumbled to her self, remembering the perfect coffee the soprano had brought her. She walked over and enveloped her in a tight hug.
"Love is knowing how your friends take their coffee" Tara whispered in her ear.
"I-I didn't get it right?"
Though distracted by a pair of full lips on her neck, she couldn't help worrying that she had drawn the wrong conclusion, despite her dedicated research.
"You always get it right..." Tara whispered between kisses. "How did you know that I always have an extra shot of espresso in my morning cappuccino? And that I love avocado? Not to mention that I am allergic to prawns?"
"I noticed that you had sandwiches that involved avocado two days in a row, so I deduced that you like avocado. You always make that horrid machine coffee as strong as it gets and you mentioned that you thought that the American coffee chains have far too weak coffee. I remember you mentioning that you were allergic to prawns when I wanted to get the prawn dumplings at Wagamama." Willow said proudly.
"And the strawberries?"
"Oh, everybody loves strawberries." Willow declared confidently.
"That is such a total turn-on." Tara looked deep into Willow's eyes for emphasis.
"Strawberries?" Willow said in confusion
"That you know how I take my coffee. That you care enough to find out what foods I like. It makes me feel... cherished." She felt a little awkward using such a sugary phrase, but it was exactly how she felt.
"I want to know everything about you. There is this big Tara-file in my head and I've promised to expand it every day. Might I also add that you are a curious person, Tara Maclay. I've never heard anyone refer to my obsessive personality as sexy before..."
"If find every single little thing about you sexy, Willow Rosenberg, and don't forget that." Tara rested her forehead against Willow's for a moment.
"Right then. Food!" Willow said brightly, still high from Tara's passionate response to her ministrations.
They sat down to eat next to each other, very close, trying to hold hands and eat at the same time, with varying success.
When they had finished the rest of their meal, Tara picked a strawberry up and held it in her hand.
"I wonder if this will taste as good as Willow" she said thoughtfully and bit the top off.
Willow made a swift attack and ate the rest of the berry from her fingers.
"Definitely not as good as Tara-flavour", she said between bites.
"I wonder how they mix?" she continued and made another focused attack on the next strawberry, this time when the mezzo has just put it between her lips.
She placed a kiss on Tara's lips in the same motion as biting the plump berry in half.
"Alright, berry thief, that was the strawberries. Now I want the real dessert." Tara smiled and drew nearer to the soprano.
Infinitely slowly and sensually, she nibbled Willow's lower lip, still pink from strawberry juice.
Still surprised at how the lightest touch from the mezzo could make her body react, Willow leant back and Tara followed, as they kissed deeply. Willow let out a breathy sound as Tara came even closer, pressing their warm bodies together. She let her hand stray in under Tara's borrowed t-shirt and touch naked skin. Tara put her hand lovingly on Willow's cheek and let her hand slide back to play with the soft strands of hair at her nape. The sensation made the soprano let out a delighted sigh.
"I need you closer" Tara whispered and held Willow tighter with a moan.
"Will? Are you ok?"
Buffy's voice rudely interrupted the duet on the sofa.
"Don't answer," Tara whispered in Willow's ear.
But Buffy wouldn't go away.
"Will? Are you in there?"
With a groan, Willow let go of Tara.
"It's ok, I'll be quiet as a mouse," the mezzo whispered.
"Hi Buff!" Willow suspected she was failing miserably to look relaxed and normal as she opened the door.
"Your face is... pink." Buffy looked at her with wide eyes.
"Oh, well, you know, it's a little hot in here." Willow said breezily, thinking her face was flushed from the make out session her friend had interrupted so disappointingly.
"No, I mean it's literally pink. You've smudged something pink all over your cheek."
"Oh, right..." Willow realised that Tara must have had strawberry juice on her hands when she cupped her face.
"I've had strawberries, so I must have smudged myself by mistake."
"You've eaten strawberries with your whole face? Ok, then... Do you still have some? Give, give!"
"Nope, sorry, I've been a greedy bunny and eaten them all", she said intensely grateful that the almost full carton of strawberries was concealed behind her back.
"Why are we standing in the doorway like this? Aren't you going to let me in? I want to talk to you about tomorrow. I thought we might do the thing... Sandro is up for it as well."
"Well, eh, I've spilled coffee all over the floor, so better just stay here", she fibbed nervously.
"Strawberries on your face and coffee on the floor. Poor Will, this is just not your day, huh?"
"Actually, Buffy, it is... Oh, look, it that the time? Got to run, got to be prepared!"
"Always a sucker for punctuality, my Will..." Buffy pecked her on the cheek lightly before walking away to her own dressing room.
Willow let out a sigh of relief and closed the door. She turned to face a Tara with a frown on her forehead and a harder look in her eyes.
"Tara..." she started pleadingly. "It's not that I'm ashamed of what's happened... Of us..." She looked pensive as she shaped that phrase for the first time. "It's just that, you know, I just have to adjust myself to the idea of, well, "
"My Will?" Tara echoed a little sharper than she intended.
"What?" The soprano looked at her with an utterly confused look on her face.
"My best friend who I call 'My Will' and kiss goodbye..."
Tara stood suddenly from her relaxed position and looked into Willow's eyes.
"Willow, have you and Buffy...?
"What?" The soprano scrunched her face up with incomprehension until someone screwed the light bulb back into its socket.
"Oh, god, no! Buffy and me?, Oooh noo, we're really large with the friendship and she's you know, number one in the friendshippy part of my life, but me and Buffy, making with the smoochies, that's funny... Or, actually, eh, a little disturbing and slightly gross, when I analyze it more closely."
"So you've never been romantically interested in Buffy?"
"Not while being conscious, or in any way, you know, sane..."
The mezzo relaxed visibly.
"Ah, baby, were you really jealous of Buffy?"
Tara looked slightly embarrassed as she leant into Willow's embrace.
That was nice and clingy-smothery. Well done! she congratulated herself ironically.
"You're the only woman I've ever wanted, you know..." Willow said softly as she stroked the mezzo's shiny hair.
Tara looked at her in amazement.
"Really." Willow said reassuringly.
When Tara returned to her own dressing room, there was a spectacular red rose standing in an empty coke bottle on her dressing table.