Return to Neverland Chapter Twenty-Nine


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.

So, what do you think Tara...

Tara woke and blinked her eyes, her head resting heavily on her pillow. Her room was lit with a diffused glow, a fuzzy blue that indicated that it was early yet. She blinked her eyes again and turned her head slightly to take in the clock on her nightstand, the material of the pillowcase below her head rustling. 7:13. Still seventeen minutes before the alarm was set to ring... She turned her head again, away from the clock and focused her eyes on the window. Dark, probably going to be overcast. Wonder if the sun will break through over in Oakland...

The blonde sighed and swallowed, her body warm underneath the comforter, her lower body slightly tangled in her long pajama bottoms and flannel sheets. She had had terrible dreams last night, causing her to partially wake several times throughout the night and she knew she was going to feel the lack of sleep all day. Willow had been crying. She was sobbing, and the blonde couldn't find her, despite her most frantic dream-efforts. Tara closed her stinging eyes and tried to fade back into a light sleep, determined not to rise from bed before the alarm sounded.

She had set it for 7:30 for a reason. Anya was to pick her up at ten, which meant she would have a little more than two hours to shower, get to Buffy's to pick up her coat, get to the post office to send it to the petite blonde in Boston and then get back to her apartment in time to meet the bottle blonde. Tara also knew that if she rose at 7:30, she'd probably be able to check on the redhead before she left to meet her uncle. Just, a quick hello as she's out the door, no big conversation, or scene... The blonde pursed her lips and lightly crinkled her brow.

She must be so embarrassed, Tara thought, herself flushing red at the memory of the redhead's tears last night. Humiliated... Officially, the blonde had overheard nothing on the sidewalk. But, unofficially... It had been heartbreaking. The pain in Willow's voice as she pleaded with Xander, the desperation, the overwhelming sense of love and loss... Tara swallowed hard and exhaled slowly. She couldn't start her day angry, and if she thought about the dark haired man now she'd be apoplectic by noon.

The blonde rolled onto her back and opened her eyes, staring at the dark ceiling, her right hand resting softly on her stomach. She thought back to the previous evening, her thumb absently rubbing over the light material of her old, thin t-shirt. She shouldn't have taken Willow to the party. Not when she had been planning on spending time with Morgan. There was a good chance that the shy redhead had probably felt abandoned by her, "forgotten." Tara frowned deeply at that. But... I didn't forget her... the blonde thought, confused. Or abandon her... She hadn't known Michelle would take the redhead away, and when she had thought about going to 'rescue' Willow after her 'abduction', the girl had been having a great time. Or, she was smiling at least... No, prior to Willow disappearing across the room to oversee Michelle's meeting, Tara had had every intention of being at the redhead's side for the majority of the night; that's why she had brought Willow, after all. To be close to her.

Tara sighed heavily, her sleepy brain slowly stumbling through the pro and con arguments springing up in her mind. But even if she was at your side, the blonde thought, you knew you were there to get to know Morgan; that's why you had hoped Willow would get along with Michelle, Marissa... Tara shifted her legs a little, pulling her knees up with a tug to free them from the sheets. You knew there were going to be times when Willow didn't have your full attention... The blonde frowned. But she had. My attention, I mean... Before she left, the redhead had been her sole concern. It wasn't until after Willow started texting Xander that she had pulled away, that she shifted her attention to Morgan. And even then... all night... her eyes sought out her roommate, her stomach twisted as she worried whether the girl was having fun.

"I didn't come here to be forgotten-"

Tara swallowed hard. She should have fetched Willow a few minutes after Michelle had taken her away, or o-or told Michelle no, Willow couldn't chaperone. The blonde closed her eyes. No, she couldn't have. That would have been w-weird, and p-possessive, Tara thought. Something a girlfriend would do. Willow was a grown woman. If she didn't want to go someplace, she could have said no. If she wanted to come back and spend time with the blonde, she would have. Tara thought back again to the numerous times she watched Willow from across the room, how the redhead, when not looking at her phone, was seen smiling at the people framing her. She seemed to be having fun... Tara thought again, confused.

Yet later... later, when she had sought the redhead out before going on the roof with Morgan, Willow had hugged herself. Backed away. The muzzy-headed blonde didn't know what to think about that. Was she mad at me? Were the smiles all for show...? The redhead was so confusing....

Tara turned slightly and looked at the clock. 7:27. She again looked at the ceiling, her mind going back to the party. It wasn't her job to make sure Willow was happy. If Willow had wanted to spend time with her, she could have come back, sought her out. Willow, by choosing to stay away, chose against spending the evening with her. Tara pursed her lips together. I should have gone and gotten her right after Michelle dragged her away... the blonde thought guiltily. She sighed deeply, the entire weight of the sour evening sitting squarely on her chest like a bag of bricks.

The alarm rang, and Tara pulled her arm from beneath the blanket, the cold air of the grim morning chilling the exposed skin. She pressed the off button, and then heavily dropped the limb to the bed. With great effort, she pushed back the covers and rose, shuffling to her armoire and slipping on her pair of scuff slippers and pulling on her warm robe. She strained her senses to try and hear Willow, but the house was quiet. She grabbed a rubber band off of her dresser top, and loosely tied her hair into a haphazard ponytail, opening the door once done and stepping out into the hallway. She heard absolute silence. She bypassed the bathroom, and with a brief look at Willow's open door, made her way down the stairs. She emerged into the dark main room, and knew Willow was already gone. The blonde flicked on the lights and made her way toward the kitchen.

No note.

"I didn't come here to be forgotten, ignored, just dumped because she doesn't have time-"

No, Tara thought, pressing her eyes tight. She wasn't going to indulge, or relive that memory. Not today... Tara opened her eyes and moved to the stove, automatically putting the kettle on and moving then to fetch the coffee from the freezer. She pulled the french press from it's place by the stove, noticing that it hadn't been used that morning, and poured in the grounds. She then returned the coffee to the freezer and waited as the metal kettle creaked, the burner turning red beneath it. I hope she's okay, Tara thought, her mind becoming more alert as she stood in her large kitchen. I just want her to be okay...

Willow listened with little interest as the agent described the loft's different amenities, the exposed cement walls and floor-to-ceiling windows creating a bleek contrast that flooded the long, tall room in gloomy reflected gray. The redhead let her eyes wander up along the iron circular staircase to the second level, the bed barely visible near the pipe railing. So cold... Her uncle asked questions about the neighborhood, about other development nearby and the redhead only nodded when she felt she should to maintain the appearance of listening. But she wasn't there. Her body maybe, but her mind...

"Do you want to talk about pricing now, or would you like to take a packet with you?"

Willow blinked, and then turned her head slowly to regarded the agent, the woman smiling back at her with an anxious, please-buy-now grin.

"I'll take the packet," the redhead replied, her even voice tired and flat.

The day just kept getting worse...

It had started badly with Willow slipping out quietly at dawn... then the ordeal of packaging and mailing Buffy's coat... the terrifying drive across the Bay Bridge with an over-anxious Anya... five hours spent in an old storefront answering questions about whether Tara thought the space was 'attractive enough to make people want to come in and spend money, yet not comforting enough to encourage them to loiter.' And now this.

She had known this was a bad idea. "Do you want to get dinner?" She should have answered 'no, I think I'd like to go home, I'm sort of tired, late know.' Instead she had said 'yes', knowing full well she was using the early meal to put off going home and seeing Willow. The redhead's early exit this morning had left Tara unsettled, and she felt that she needed more time to think about the situation. I should have gone to a bookstore... or the gallery, or-

"What do you mean you didn't sleep with Morgan?" An incredulous Anya asked from her seat across from the blonde. "Why not?"

"I-" Tara stopped, sighing. See. "I'm n-not getting into this with you." Especially you, Tara thought warily, afraid of exactly where this conversation would go if she tried to explain what happened on the roof last night. She turned her attention to the plate of half eaten butternut squash ravioli in front of her, the small neighborhood restaurant buzzing around them as the early crowd made their way to their seats.

"It's too bad you didn't," the bottle blonde said, not acknowledging Tara's evasive answer as she brought a forkful of food to her lips. "She's really great in bed."

What? Tara's face twisted in confusion as she looked up and watched the bottle blonde chew. "How-?"

"Oh not me," the bottle blonde said, assuming Tara was implying with her question that she had herself bedded the artist. The woman swallowed and took a quick drink of water. "Janene, the assistant manager at my store; she slept with her earlier this year. Said Morgan was fantastic, very energetic with quite the robust stamina." Anya smiled pleasantly at Tara, who could only stare back in blank wonder at the shop owner's detached review of the brunette's sexual prowess. "Usually I don't put a lot of stock in those sort of things," Anya continued with a flip wave of her hand, "but I asked around and it seemed to be a consensus."

Consensus... Tara thought. Wait... Janene, Janene, Janene- "I thought Janene had a boyfriend," Tara inquired, perplexed.

"Oh, she does," the bottle blonde confirmed. "But this was before him." Tara looked at Anya baffled and the bottle blonde explained with matter-of-fact cheer, "she's bi."

"Oh," Tara replied, looking down to her own meal. So, Morgan's great in bed... the blonde thought, a little shakily, her cheeks warm. That's um, o-okay...

"Did you sleep with Willow?"

"What? No!" Tara said somewhat aghast, her head snapping up to take the bottle blonde in with an exasperated look. What? Why would she-

"Why not?" Anya asked innocently, seemingly oblivious to the contorted expression on Tara's face.. "I mean, you didn't sleep with Morgan-"

"Willow's straight," Tara said strongly, her face going red at the reminder.

"Right, because she was on the phone with that Xander and she said she loved him," the bottle blonde replied, nodding her head sympathetically.

"Exactly," Tara answered, bobbing her head. Willow, Willow and Xander-

"That doesn't mean anything," Anya said, interrupting Tara's thoughts dismissively. "She definitely wants you sexually."

"Anya..." Tara sighed, putting her fork down. One track mind... can't she for once talk about the w-weather like normal people?

"Just because she loves this Xander doesn't mean she doesn't want to get naked with you," the bottle blonde continued, taking another bite of her alfredo, watching Tara's reaction closely as she chewed.

"Actually," Tara replied with a tired, tight smile, "I t-think that's exactly w-what it means."

"You are so Pollyanna," Anya replied, a little impatiently. "How do you get by in this world being that naive? People must take advantage of you all the time."

Tara frowned at the woman sitting across from her. "I'm not-"

"If she kissed you, you wouldn't kiss her back?" The bottle blonde asked, an innocent curiosity tinging her words.

Tara's mind looped, her jaw slack at the hypothetical question. Willow's lips, Willow's lips on my lips. Willow's vixen- "No..." the blonde replied unconvincingly.

"You're lying," Anya proclaimed objectively. "I can tell because your skin's getting red and you won't look me in the eye."

"I am n-not," Tara said defensively, staring at Anya for a second before darting her eyes to the checkered tablecloth, her cold right hand placed protectively over her flushed chest.

"Have you ever considered that perhaps Willow is bi-curious?" Anya asked. "That sure she's in love with this Xander, and is probably straight, but is still entirely interested in sweatin' up the sheets with you?"

"Willow's not like that," Tara replied hotly, an innate desire to protect Willow's virtue rushing to the surface. Anya stared back at her completely devoid of emotion.

"You should kiss her and see what happens-"

"No!" Tara cried. God, it's like she's b-broken-

"What's the worst thing that happens?" The bottle blonde challenged. "She pushes you away and you're slightly embarrassed."

"Slightly?" Tara replied, almost nonplussed at Anya's brashness.

"You could always blame the behavior on a bad chemical reaction; prescription medication and old orange juice, for instance."

"I-" Tara's mouth hung open, words failing to come to her. 'Old orange juice?' she thought, shaking her head, speechless. Great, now I'm b-broken...

"You could be having hot naked sex right no-"

"No, no, Anya. No," Tara said, dropping her head and shaking it side-to-side vigorously, her grip on her fork tight. I should have just told her about the roof, the blonde thought regretfully. That would have definitely been better than this...

"But if she wanted to have sex-"

"She doesn't-"



"If-" Tara groaned and rolled her eyes, knowing that she wasn't going to be able to stop whatever appalling words were going to flow out of Anya's mouth next. "If Willow wanted to have comfort sex to make her feel better about Xander rejecting her," Anya proposed, "you would turn her down?"

Tara's brow furrowed deeply as the scenario sunk in. If Willow wanted to have comfort sex... "Yes," she replied simply, Anya looking back at her confused. Tara shook her head, sighing as she tried to figure out how to explain her decision to the blunt nympho sitting across from her. "If... if, that, ever happened between us... and it won't," the blonde tacked on, her eyebrows arched. "Never. But if..." she trailed off, her face changing to show her sincerity. "If... I'd, I'd w-want it to be m-more." The blonde paused, before continuing softly. "I don't w-want to have sex with Willow..." Tara explained. "I'd w-want to make love."

Anya took a deep breath. "That is so romantic," she said after a moment of silence, taking in Tara's vulnerable face with an appraising eye. "And so incredibly stupid- You'd be naked and writhing in five minute or less." Tara rolled her eyes dramatically, and bowed her head, turning her attention to the suddenly unappetizing food before her.

You could have asked to be dropped off at Buffy's; you have her keys, she has cable...

"So you didn't you sleep with anyone last night?"

"Oh my god..." Tara groaned as she slapped her free hand against her forehead, her eyes closed tightly and a slight throb starting in her temples.

"Well did you?"

Willow hated her room. She looked around the four white walls of her bedroom, the blue glow of the computer screen illuminating her drawn face, her large green eyes sitting underneath a dubious, furrowed brow. The room was so sterile. Emotionless. It's like a robot's room... Willow internally grumbled, her eyes returning to the screen in front of her. It certainly wasn't 'amazing', the redhead glumly thought, not like Morgan's vibrant home. Her room was... boring. Plain Jane. Me, Willow thought sadly.

Her rooms in Sunnydale, and then later in Boston, hadn't been like this. She had actually had color in her living spaces then. Her bed had always been covered in a quilt, and pillows, lots of funky throw pillows. She had had posters on the walls, framed pictures of her friends on the furniture tops, little fairy lights strung up along the ceiling... Willow frowned. She had boxed all of that stuff up when she had moved out and then... left it in the boxes. Moving to San Francisco was to be a new start, only, she had somehow forgotten to get started. She had meant to start filling her space with little mementos from her new town, posters for local bands, knick-knacks from local shops. But... that would actually mean going out in search of mementos, and she rarely left the house to go anywhere, other than work or to meet Buffy for food at a restaurant or her place. She had of course heard of the Haight, Union Street and Fillmore shopping areas, but she still hadn't ventured out and explored them. It was like she was frozen.

The girl sighed, and clicked on her menu bar to access a small, pull-down calendar. One more week... Willow sighed and released the mouse button, the calendar immediately snapping up and disappearing. She had woke up this morning at 5:00, startled from her slumber by a particularly bad dream that she couldn't for the life of her remember, and after an uneasy attempt to fall back to sleep, had gotten out of bed at 5:30, showered, and eaten breakfast. By the time the sun rose, she was antsy, and not eager to run into Tara, left early for her breakfast meeting downtown.

She had almost driven to Sunnydale instead of to her uncle's place in Pacific Heights this morning, surprised her mother by coming out seconds after walking through the front door. She had fantasized about calling Buffy as she drove down 101, of interrupting the petite blonde's much needed time with Dawn to come out over the phone. But what would that accomplish, besides finally freeing her from the lies? Coming out sooner wouldn't make her a brunette (although she could always dye her hair), and it wouldn't give her a healthy outdoor tan (although she had heard sunless suntan products were a lot less orange these days...). It certainly wouldn't make her any more artistic, and if Tara had enjoyed herself up on the roof last night... it wouldn't make her Morgan.

Willow clicked on her iTunes application, and randomly selected a song, the low-fi blues of the The Black Keys filtering out through her small speakers. She had acted like an idiot last night. Stupid, selfish, over-optimistic... She had acted like Tara had owed her something for bringing her to that party... like Tara had been hers. Far from it, Willow grumbled, sinking down and slumping in her chair a bit. The redhead had handled Tara and Morgan's rooftop visit badly, she knew that, and the thought that killed her, was not that Morgan had in all likelihood kissed Tara, touched Tara- Okay, Willow interrupted herself. That's a lie, that definitely kills me... the girl thought, swallowing hard around the pronounced lump in her throat. The thought that really killed her, she allowed, was the one that she knew would sit in her subconscious, overseeing the manufacture of bad dreams like some evil Sandman foreman for the foreseeable future. The thought that Morgan had kissed Tara, touched Tara, and that Tara had liked it. That Tara liked Morgan, and that the blonde might be falling in love with the brunette.

Willow closed her eyes and took a deep, steadying breath. She couldn't cry, not now, if for no other reason than she was pretty sure she was all cried out. The thought of Tara falling in love with someone else destroyed her. She couldn't even pretend to be happy for the blonde; Willow felt petty, and she didn't care. She wanted Tara, and she wanted Tara to want her back. The redhead had felt she was so close, only a week away from coming out to her mother, to Buffy, and yet... yet, her overactive imagination told her that with what happened last night... with Morgan in the picture as a lot more than 'just a friend'... that she might have already lost the one thing she wanted most of all.

The redhead shook her head ruefully, thinking about how excited she had felt when they had first arrived at the party. The slight touches. The slight smiles. The whole time she had been thinking about Tara, and Tara had probably been thinking about Morgan. And why wouldn't she? Willow thought harshly, she's perfect... She's everything Willow wasn't.

She's even great in bed, the redhead thought, her stomach clenching at the thought of Morgan putting that skill to use with Tara. 'Great in bed'... Probably means she's experienced. That she knows what women like because she's been with enough to know. Willow took a deep, shaky breath, her own uninspiring hetero experience no comfort to her now. How could she possibly compete with 'great in bed'? Even if Tara decided to overlook the red hair, the pale freckled skin, the nerdy disposition... if they ever became intimate... how could she possibly expect to give the much more experienced Tara what she'd need? I'm not even sure I know what that is... Willow thought hesitantly. I mean... theoretically I know... She'd read enough about it, seen the Hollywood/Indie film versions... she knew what she herself liked, but... the whole idea of pleasing Tara. Of disappointing Tara. If Tara slept with Morgan she'd get earth-shattering sex... the redhead thought. If she slept with me, she'd probably get... I don't know, clumsy apologies and promises to 'do better next time'. Willow sighed heavily.

The slight rap on the door surprised her, and she turned, wide-eyed, to face the door. Tara... The redhead took a panicked look around her room, her desk covered with computers, the rest of her room spartan. I don't know if I can face her right-


The redhead swallowed hard and reached up to her keyboard with a shaky hand, muting the volume with one key stroke. "Come in," she said, her voice faltering and her heart in her stomach. The door opened slowly, and Willow darted her eyes over, to see the blonde standing still just outside in the hallway. "Hey," Willow said nervously, returning her eyes quickly to the monitor in front of her. "How was Oakland?"

"F-Fine," Tara stammered out from her place in the doorway. Great... she thought nervously, noting her stutter was in full effect. "How was, how was your day?"

"Great," Willow said, moving the mouse to click on a few unnecessary items in front of her. Just look busy, keep your answers short...

When the redhead didn't elaborate, or look at me, Tara asked, "so, w-what are you doing?"

"Working," Willow replied. "I got my work computer this afternoon, so I thought..."

"Oh," Tara said, somewhat stunned by the reply.

"Oh?" Willow replied, casting a quick look at the blonde. "Oh"...?

"Nothing, it's just. It's a Saturday night..." Tara said, the surprise at Willow spending the free evening working evident in her voice. She wasn't kidding when she said she was a workaholic... she thought concerned. Has she even eaten today...?

Willow was momentarily taken aback by the blonde's surprise, and immediately started in on herself as she pushed her lips together tightly. Outstanding. Working on a Saturday night, that won't make her think you're a nerd, lonely, pathetic-

"I um, I thought maybe w-we could go to the movies," the blonde said, and Willow's brow furrowed, the stream of put-downs in her head coming to an abrupt stop. "I mean, I know it's already 8, but m-maybe we can catch a 9 o'clock show at t-the Metreon-"

What? Why... the redhead thought uncomfortably. "I don't think so," Willow replied quietly, her busy mind spinning to try and figure out what was going on. Tara had never invited her to the movies. She feels bad for me...?

Tara nodded at Willow's verbal reply, her blue eyes moving around the room that she had previous to now, only seen from the hallway. Sparse, she thought, noticing that aside from the calendar hanging next to her desk, the redhead had decided against decorating. Tara returned her eyes to her roommate, the girl's tense frame angled ramrod straight in the chair. This movie idea had seemed much more solid on the harrowing car ride across the Bay Bridge... "A-Are you sure?" The blonde asked. "I thought that one with Jude La-"

"You don't have to do this Tara," Willow said as she ducked her head, her cheeks flushing red with embarrassment.

"Do w-what?" Tara asked innocently, her eyes trained on the girl in front of her.

"Try and cheer me up. Because of last night." Silence settled between them. "I know you know I was crying, after, we got home..." Willow said, and Tara nodded quietly. "I'm, I'm really sorry I ruined your night," the redhead apologized, her voice thick, her eyes downcast.

"You didn't ruin anything..." Tara replied softly, her hand squeezing the door frame tightly. "If anyone r-ruined anything it w-was me. I'm sorry I was off w-with Morgan all night."

Willow nodded. "Yeah, well..."

Neither woman knew what to say next, and they both let the awkward moment stretch. Tara finally swallowed hard and took a slight step backward, her eyes again darting around the room and landing on the redhead's profile. "I'll be downstairs..."

"Okay," Willow said quickly, nodding her head and turning back to her computer. Tara nodded her head in reply and exited, pulling the door closed behind her. As soon as the blonde was gone, Willow's chin trembled. What had she just done? Tara had invited her out, wanted to spend time with her and she had turned her away. Morgan... The redhead shook her head. The roof, I can't...

The girl sighed and raised her head, setting her jaw and looking at the screen in front of her. Just great Willow, she thought, her hand furiously moving the mouse around the desk. She tries to do something nice, and what do you do? You shoot her down and then make a fool out of yourself by staying home to work on a Saturday night. Oh no, I'm not pathetic at all. Stupid, stupid, dorky a-and nerdy- The slight rap on the door snapped Willow from her thoughts, and she turned her head to see the door opening. Tara once again was standing in the doorway, only now she was holding... is that my jacket? A bewildered, puzzled Willow looked from the jacket to Tara's open, hopeful face.


Continue to Neverland Chapter Thirty-One

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