Return to Neverland Chapter Twenty-Five


Author: EasierSaid
Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: Please don't sue me Mutant Enemy.
Feedback: Please leave feedback on the Neverland thread on the Kitten Board.
Note: Thoughts in italics.

Why did I say yes?!?

It was a little bit before four on Friday afternoon and Willow sat on the BART train in a daze. Things had been going so well, and then she opened her mouth and said 'yes'. How could she have made such a big mistake? She had practically blurted it out. 'Yes'. She had been so excited about the request that she didn't even think before she spoke the words, didn't even think about what it would mean for her, for Tara. It had seemed so innocent. All Willow could think when asked was, 'time with Tara, yippee!' But now, now all she could think was... Oh god... Her stomach tightened and she gripped her bag strap tightly. Having her there, hanging around, getting in the way... that was probably the last thing the blonde wanted. Why did I say yes!?! Willow again chastised, her concern growing with each click of the track below.

I'll just say I can't go through with it, Willow thought, wringing her hands. I mean I can do that right? Say I can't? Willow dropped her hands to her leg where she picked at the material of her skirt, looking at her reflection in the window as her stop neared. Maybe I should call Buffy? The redhead thought, looking to the gray carpet. Ask her what she thinks I should do? No, no that's overreacting, Willow decided, pulling her bag to her chest. Just, talk to Tara about it. See what she says... Oh god, oh god. Willow stood up and exited the car as the train stopped and the doors opened. Why in the world did I say yes?!! She repeated as she walked toward the escalator and home.

Tara stood in front of a blank canvas, music flowing out of her small stereo and filling her studio. She shifted her weight from one foot to the other and cocked her head to the side, chewing on her bottom lip as she regarded the white, textured rectangle before her. She tapped a dry brush against the side of her faded, paint-smeared cargo pants, her left hand holding a palette decorated with several blobs of unmixed paint at her hip. The soft track lights in her studio were on, the dark, ominous clouds outside not giving her the light she'd need to create... to create...

Nothing, Tara thought, staring at the blank canvas.

"How's... hope feeling... today..." she quietly sang along with the stereo as she tried to figure out where to start with this new piece. "Tired... and sick of, this place..." She sighed and tapped the brush against the palette in her hand. "Red wine is fast, at the lip of your glass and I'm gonna ruin.... everything..." The blonde frowned at the canvas. "Everything..." she absently repeated. Just let it flow Tara, relax, she thought as she continued to sing. "So it's better my sweet, that we hover like bees, cause there's no... sure footing... no love I believe..."

Tara sighed again as the song faded out and the next began. This just wasn't good. She could always paint to Neko Case. Tara had put the CD on and began singing along as she had done hundreds of times before, but now, now she was three songs into the disc and she still had nothing on the canvas. All she could think about was Neko's red hair, which of course led her to Willow's red hair, Willow's smile, Willow's hips... Beautiful, confusing Willow...

Tara reached into her pocket and pulled out the stereo remote. She hit shuffle and the discs spun, a new, jauntier tune filtering through the small speakers. She put the remote back into her pocket and then pushed her brush into the black paint on the corner of the palette, dragging the bristles down eventually into a white blob to create a light gray. She swirled her wrist to create the mixture and tried to ignore the mix of emotions inside her.

She couldn't see the painting in front of her. Couldn't begin to visualize what she wanted to do, the colors she wanted to use. This is useless... she thought, momentarily dropping the palette and brush to her sides. She couldn't concentrate, her stomach tight, her shoulders knotted. Willow and Morgan.

What had she been thinking?

Tara scrunched up her face as she reviewed yesterday. I wasn't, she concluded after a moment. She had been ruled by her feelings when she asked Morgan if Willow could come to the party, following her heart when she had asked the redhead to accompany her, and now that the event was drawing near... Tara exhaled and went back to mixing the gray paint. I invited the woman I love to a party hosted by a woman I'm thinking about dating... Tara rolled her eyes and sighed. And now I'm f-freaking out... she thought unhappily.

Tara liked Morgan, she really did. The brunette was a great girl, and Tara knew that she'd frankly be lucky to have a girlfriend that beautiful, that talented. And, as an added bonus, Morgan liked her... that much was obvious. So tonight... Tara thought, is a perfect opportunity to spend time with her, see if there's something there. But how to do that with Willow there?

Tara sighed, and satisfied with the grim light gray she'd concocted, began to evenly cover the canvas with it with broad, horizontal brush strokes. Marissa and Michelle will be there, Willow likes them, Tara thought, moving her wrist fluidly back and forth at eye level. And who knows, maybe she won't even want to spend the whole night with me... She seemed to do alright at the kitten bar when Buffy and I weren't around... the blonde rationalized, remembering Willow deftly turning disappointed potential suitors away as she sat on the couch. The blonde suddenly frowned, as an uninvited memory of an earlier time barged through her mind. "I didn't come here to be forgotten." Tara stilled her movements, the clarity of the memory surprising her. She took a deep, shuddering breath and shook her head, resuming her movements with a shaky hand.

Her thoughts were interrupted when she heard the front door open and close. She frowned and looked to the cheap plastic watch on her wrist: 4:15. What... She's home already? Tara thought as she leaned down and rested the palette and brush against the easel on the canvas tarp covering the floor. Willow was never home before five, even on Fridays. The blonde stood and wiped her hands on her pants, turning with a deep breath and exiting out into the main room, curious as to why her roommate was home so early.

As the blonde entered the large room from the narrow, short hallway, she saw a wide-eyed and nervous Willow standing next to the kitchen counter. "Hi," the redhead said, wringing her hands together anxiously, distress pouring off of her in waves.

"Hey," Tara replied slowly, looking at her roommate closely. O...kay, something definitely wrong. "Are you okay?" Tara asked, noticing how Willow shifted her weight again, her posture ramrod straight, her green eyes wide. "You're home a little earl-"

"I made a big mistake," Willow let slip, her face immediately painted with doubt at her words. "I mean-" The redhead swallowed hard, her brow furrowing and then smoothing quickly, the rapid change indicative of the battle raging in her busy mind. She looked at Tara pleadingly, her eyes asking the blonde to understand as she continued. "I kinda, said 'yes' to something that I shouldn't have, and now, I'm not sure if I know how to take that 'yes' back." Her forehead again furrowed as she paused momentarily for Tara's initial reaction.

Tara's brow knit in confusion. She didn't mean to say 'yes' to something and now she wants to take the 'yes' back... the blonde thought, trying to figure out what in the world Willow was talking about. The party? Her breath caught and she waited for the redhead to explain.

"See, I should have thought about it first," Willow continued, twisting her fingers at her waist. "But the 'yes', it just kinda came out before I could and now that I've had time to think about it I just don't think the 'yes' is a good idea-"

"Willow," Tara said, her mind spinning. Willow regrets saying she'd go to the party, she doesn't want to go-? The blonde tried to read Willow's face but all she could see was worry. She regrets saying 'yes' to me?

"I should have talked to you about it first," Willow said as she shifted her weight yet again, watching Tara's confused features as she continued. "But I didn't and now I just feel so guilty and-"


"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to I just-"

"Willow," Tara repeated a little more forcefully as she stepped toward the redhead, snapping her roommate out of her babble with her forward movement. "It's o-okay," Tara said gently, her calm exterior a sharp contrast to her churning insides. If she doesn't want to go to the party-

"I told my boss I'd work from home for the next two weeks," Willow blurted out, immediately pressing her lips together in a panic as if that action might take the words back, make the situation less real.

What?! Tara's mind lurched to a full and complete stop at the redhead's admission. "What?" The blonde asked, the surprise on her face evident.

Oh god, Willow thought as she took in the shocked look on Tara's face. "I-" The redhead grimaced. "We were all sitting there in the conference room and he was going around the table asking if we could work at home and everyone said 'yes' and I should have said 'no', or 'I have to talk to my roommate first', but I didn't because they were all looking at me, and I know that's not an excuse and I didn't have to agree, but I did, I just said 'yes' like everyone else, like a sheep; I'm a sheep, I'm a furry, woolly farm animal. Oh! Or a lemming, I'm a lemming-"

Tara barely listened as Willow continued sputtering, her babble running through a litany of animals known for their instinctual mob-mentality. The astonished blonde couldn't interrupt the redhead if she wanted to now, her mind stuck on the look on Willow's face. What? She repeated, her mind unwilling to work.

"A fish," Willow said shaking her head, a look of total disappointment on her face. "Like those schools they always show on the nature channel, swirling around divers out in the middle of the ocean? Just like one of those."

"What?" Tara finally repeated, genuinely confused by Willow's latest analogy.

"I'm sorry," Willow said quickly, her face holding the same expression as a kid owning up to breaking a neighbor's window. Her eyes were as large as saucers and she held her interlaced fingers against her stomach. I broke her, the redhead thought sadly as she took in Tara's overwhelmed visage.

"Why are you sorry?" Tara finally asked, just now registering the content of Willow's admission. She's going to be working from home... for two weeks...

"I should have asked first," Willow said apologetically, her frame tense, her eyes downcast. "You know, asked if it was okay-"

"Willow-" Tara interrupted and stopped, sighing as she shook her head a bit, looking to her own shoes as she tried to collect her thoughts. The blonde could feel Willow's gaze on her face, and she raised her own eyes from the floor to meet the girl's green eyes. "This is your home..." Tara said simply.

"I know," Willow replied softly. "But-"

"If you need to work from home, do anything, from home, you can," Tara said, her mind racing at a speed completely inverse to her measured phrasing. "You don't have to ask me."

"Okay," Willow said sheepishly.

Tara frowned at Willow's unconvincing reply. "But...?" The blonde said gently, taking another step toward Willow, stopping a little more than a foot away from the girl.

Willow looked up at her roommate and then back down. She paused for a moment and then met Tara's steady gaze. "I know you have a lot of work to do this next week for the L.A. show," Willow began, and Tara dipped her head, nodding slightly as she understood now why Willow was so flummoxed. "You said you'd be doing a lot of work at home, and you seemed kind of, stressed out about it, last night," Willow shrugged her shoulders. "I figured the last thing you'd want was me hanging around, getting in your way..."

"Are you going to be setting your computers up in my studio?" The blonde asked softly.

"No..." Willow answered slowly, confused.

"Then you don't have to worry," Tara reassured. "You won't be in my way. You'll probably be upstairs, I'll be downstairs..." The blonde smiled slightly. "It'll be fine," she added, not at all believing her own words. Willow, at home all day long, for two weeks... oh god...

Willow nodded her head slightly. She let herself relax a bit and looked at the goofy oversized plastic watch on Tara's wrist, a few splotches of dried paint on the band. I'll just hole up in my room, wear my headphones, Willow thought, her eyes moving to take in Tara's paint splattered blue Converse. Maybe I can go to the library or the Internet cafe for a few hours everyday... The redhead looked up and met Tara's gaze when the blonde spoke.

"So why did he ask you to work at home?" Tara asked, both curious about the situation and hoping talking about it would help the still obviously tense redhead relax.

"The rats," Willow replied. "They're going to tent the building, bring an exterminator in..." Willow trailed off, noticing the different colors of paint smudged across Tara's baggy cargo pants. "It's a problem I guess with some of the converted warehouses down there; they spend all this money refurbishing and reclaiming the structure for offices, and then once it gets cold, out come the pests. Or is it in?" Willow looked momentarily perplexed and Tara couldn't help but smile slightly. "Anyway," the redhead resumed, "the guys that are going to do the exterminating were in the office this morning. Apparently, rats weren't the only thing they found..." she shuddered involuntarily and Tara chuckled a bit. Willow looked up and smiled slightly at the blonde's light laugh.

"They have some empty offices, conference rooms, in the corporate office up on Market," Willow further explained, "but they thought it'd be best if those were used by the displaced administrative assistants, liason execs, etc; all of the programmers are going to work at home." Willow frowned, and then quickly added, "except for Tim." Tara raised an eyebrow and Willow explained, "his wife is eight months pregnant-she's 'nesting' and he said he was afraid that if he had to work at home... well let's just say his wife sounds like a peach." Tara chuckled again and Willow smiled again, brightly.

"So w-what happens now?" Tara asked, her nerves starting to grow. Willow, working from home for two weeks...

"One of the IT guys is going to bring my work machines over tomorrow afternoon," Willow said. "Set up my access to the remote server, some other stuff, but other than that, that's it." Willow smiled a little. "I get to sleep in a little." Tara smiled at that and the two stood quietly for a long moment, each lost in their own thoughts.

Two whole weeks with Tara... Willow thought happily, nervously.

Two whole weeks with Willow... Tara thought nervously, warily.

The two looked up and caught each other's eye. They both smiled slightly before Tara looked down at her goofy watch. Willow wiped her hands on her skirt and reached down, picking up her bag. "I better, go upstairs," the redhead said, not wanting to take up any more of Tara's time. "Maybe start moving my room around, make space for the gear the IT guy is bringing over."

"How much stuff is he bringing over?" Tara asked, wondering if Willow's room would look like NASA's Mission Control by sundown tomorrow.

"Just a computer and a monitor," Willow replied breezily. "But I already have the G5 and the cinema display, not to mention the laptop, router, external drive-" Willow caught the befuddled look on Tara's face and promptly nipped her 'nerd-speak' in the bud. "Probably going to take a few hours to get my room IT guy ready," she summed up sheepishly.

"Oh," Tara said nodding, not quite understanding what all was involved with the set up, but impressed all the same. She took a quick breath and her brow furrowed, her mind switching gears. "You can still go to the party tonight though, right?"

"Oh yeah, totally," Willow said, pulling the strap of her bag over her shoulder. "I even went and bought new lipstick this afternoon," she added, bouncing on the balls of her feet a little and grinning widely, her tongue poking forward against her teeth.

"L-Lipstick?" Tara asked, pulling her gaze with great effort from Willow's mouth.

"Uh huh," Willow said, missing Tara's lusty look as she fished in the front pocket of her jacket for the makeup. She pulled the purchase free and read the bottom of the tube. "Vixen." She smiled brightly at Tara. "It's red," she added with a child-like grin.

"G-Great," Tara replied weakly. Vixen? The blonde thought, her heart fluttering. "The party's going to be c-casual, you don't have to d-dress up..."

"I figured," Willow said, her smile still bright. "But that doesn't mean my lips can't be fancy."

Fancy Willowlips... Tara thought, melting at the idea of the redhead's lips covered in a shiny, sumptuous gloss... Willow at the party, Willow working from home... oh god, I'm in trouble... Willow's forehead furrowed as she noticed Tara get lost in thought, and she looked closely at the blonde.

"Tara," Willow began gently, the blonde looking up, wide-eyed. "Are you sure this is okay?" The redhead paused slightly before continuing. "Me working at home I mean. I can always tell my boss no, share a conference room with Ti-"

"No, it's fine," Tara said reassuringly, reaching out and squeezing Willow's elbow. To her surprise, Willow reached up and squeezed her back.

"Okay," Willow said, as they simultaneously dropped their hands, both slightly blushing at the mutual squeeze. The redhead cleared her throat and internally congratulated herself on the slight touch. Yay! "So... are we still leaving at 8?"

"Yes," Tara nodded, taking a step backward to give both of them room to move. She swallowed hard, still feeling that return touch tingling on her elbow.

"Have you already eaten?" Willow asked hopefully. "Cause, if not-"

"I did, just a little bit ago," Tara said, wondering if noon really could be qualified as 'a little bit ago'. "I really should get back to my work..." she said apologetically.

"Oh, okay," Willow said, momentarily disappointed that they couldn't have dinner together but waving her hand in acceptance all the same. Relax, she told herself, you'll have all night with her... "So, I'll meet you here at 8?"

"Yup," Tara said, backing up toward her studio.

"Great," Willow said, following the blonde and then turning to take her first step up the stairs. "See you at 8 then."

Tara nodded and watched as the redhead disappeared up the stairs. The blonde turned to her studio and thought, sexy, red, fancy- oh god... She sighed and closed the door behind her, immediately turning on the stereo and trying to forget how complicated her life was.

Hours later, a showered and made-up Tara pulled a red leather coat onto her body as she looked herself over in the mirror. She exhaled nervously and smoothed her hands down the front of her long skirt. She looked... nice, Tara thought. Really nice? She amended without confidence. Her hair was up in a loose bun, earrings dangling from her lobes, and a simple leather necklace with a silver pendant gracing the hollow of her neck. She brushed her hands over her stomach and quirked her lips, wondering if she should really go through with wearing this shirt. Sure it was pretty, and soft, but she knew that wasn't why she was wearing it. She was wearing it for Willow.

It was almost like a dare.

A dare for her to wear it, to pretend she hadn't selected it specifically in the hopes that Willow would continue with the recent slight touches on her arm, on her back. The velvet top begged for fingertips to brush over the material, and Tara was not-so-secretly hoping the redhead would be unable to resist its allure. Tara sighed again, remembering for the first time since she put the shirt on that she was hoping to spend time with Morgan tonight. Right. Morgan. She caught the frown on her face in the mirror and shook her head, giving her full reflection one more up and down. "Ready," she whispered to herself and nodded in reply. She opened the door, turned off the lights and exited toward the stairs.

She could hear Willow in the kitchen before she saw her, and she held her breath as she descended that last step. She turned the corner, and her held breath caught. Oh my god, Tara thought, her eyes practically dialated as she took in Willow's profile. Willow was gorgeous.

"Hey," Willow said smiling, her eyes trained on the remainder of the cut pear in front of her. "I'm just having a quick bi-" Willow looked up and the words dried up in her mouth. "Te," she finally croaked out. Standing before her was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. She's gorgeous.

The two stood frozen for a long moment until Tara stammered out, "you look great."

Warmth spread through Willow's body and a blissful smile graced her lips. "Thanks," she replied, appreciating fully how the simplest compliment from the blonde could make her feel simultaneously at peace and on fire.

"The lipstick's um, a really nice shade," Tara said, quickly crossing the room, her head down.

"Thanks," Willow said again, noticing the silver ankle bracelet on the blonde's leg as she crossed toward the secretary table. Tara picked up her keys and after a silent, cleansing breath, turned back to the redhead.

"Ready?" She asked cheerily, noticing as she saw her roommate's full form for the first time since coming down the stairs that the redhead was wearing a pair of the most flattering, form-fitting dark jeans she had ever seen. Tara's eyes briefly took in Willow's red clogs and moved up her lithe form, appreciating the way the jeans' accentuated the curve of Willow's hips, the fabric cupping the girl's rear enticingly. The blonde's eyes continued upward quickly, noticing how the sheer red three-quarters length sleeve top covered a red spaghetti strapped tank. The redhead's lips glistened 'Vixen' red in the kitchen light and Tara swallowed hard. Oh god... she thought as she looked down, frantically wondering how in the hell she was supposed to concentrate on getting to know Morgan with Willow standing nearby looking like that...

"Sure," Willow said, pulling her own wandering, ardent thoughts away from the red, gold-inlaid sarong wrapped around Tara's curves, the shimmering material of the blonde's red top peaking out from beneath the lush red leather jacket. The redhead popped the last slice of pear in her mouth and placed the empty dish in the sink. "Let me just get my jacket," she said after she swallowed, crossing over to Tara's side to fetch her coat from the back of the secretary desk chair. "I really like your outfit," Willow said, her eyes immediately drawn to the blonde's top. "Your shirt-"

"It's velvet," Tara said, quickly looking down and then back up. "I got it in the Haight last year."

"It looks really soft," Willow said, using every ounce of her self-control to keep from reaching out and immediately caressing the fabric covering Tara's stomach. She looked up and met Tara's gaze.

"It is," Tara replied, hoping the redhead would ask to feel it. Maybe I should offer...?

The buzzer next to the door sounded and both girls jumped slightly, the tension between them seemingly paused instead of being disrupted, and Tara smiled sheepishly and moved to the box above the light switch.

"Yes?" The somewhat flustered blonde said into the speaker as she pressed the button.

"Luxor cab," came the heavily accented reply.

"Coming," Tara said, wincing slightly at her word choice before she turned and smiled at Willow, who was fiddling with her coat zipper. "Ready?" Tara asked again as she opened the door.

"Yup," Willow replied, walking out of the apartment, excited at the prospect of a Tara-filled evening. Tara took a deep breath, nervous about what the evening had in store for her and exited after the redhead, closing the door behind them and locking it with a resounding click.

Continue to Neverland Chapter Twenty-Seven

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