Return to Neverland Chapter Thirty-One


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. There are a few lines from 'Embers' by Sandor Marai about halfway through this one.

Willow sat alone at a small table for two in the corner of the empty Starbucks overlooking Yerba Buena Gardens. It was just after one in the afternoon, and she needed a rest. She had spent the morning and early afternoon shopping around Union Square, and while she could have just gone home, she wanted to spend a few more moments alone. Gather her thoughts a bit before she saw her roommate again. Willow had spent a fortune, but was pleased with her purchases: storage bins to replace her moving boxes, the new Airport Express router to replace her Belkin for wireless access, some new CDs and DVDs, some clothes, and a gift for Tara from the hardware store.

The redhead relaxed in the wood chair, leisurely drinking her latte and losing herself in thought about the previous evening, as she took in the dark clouds moving slowly above. About how Tara had come back for her after she had turned her away. How they had had cake, talked. How she had managed to listen to Tara for once instead of imagining how things would be if they get together. "Half Dutch"... Willow smiled at the remembered joke. The blonde was so silly. Willow had to admit that last night felt good. It was nice to spend time with Tara and not be so wound up, nervous. After the bow revelation, she had felt relaxed, happy. They had shared a friendly chat, the sort had by friends and Willow took comfort in that. She felt like Tara was a friend, and that felt good. Although...

There was one thing that bothered her.

Tara had stuttered as they visited. Willow's brow furrowed slightly as she ran her finger along the corrugated cardboard sleeve wrapped around her venti drink. The redhead knew from observation and previous conversations with Buffy that Tara only stuttered when nervous or uncomfortable. Does that mean that I make Tara nervous or uncomfortable? It's not like last night was the first time Tara had stuttered around her recently either. At the party... Willow quirked her eyebrows in thought. Or, or, was Tara nervous or uncomfortable about what we were talking about... Morgan. Had I pushed too hard with all my nosy questions? The redhead couldn't help but wonder. Tara was, after all, a private person, and the redhead was still a new friend; she'd not yet earned the privilege of being the blonde's confidant. Maybe Tara didn't want to get into her feelings for the girl with her... and that had led to the stuttering.

Willow took a sip from her drink and felt the creamy liquid coat her tongue. She tucked the stuttering question aside, and moved onto other, important matters. Tara didn't think Morgan was perfect. The redhead shook her head slightly. Unbelievable... she thought, still not quite sure what to think about that. Tara didn't think Morgan was perfect... But she does like her, Willow reminded herself. But... she's not sure she wanted to date, it sounded like anyone... The redhead thought about Tara's words. She had said Morgan wasn't special enough to date, "yet," which would indicate that Tara was still looking at Morgan as a potential girlfriend. Maybe Tara was the sort that needed to become friends with a potential lover first. Willow certainly couldn't knock that, she had sort of done that with Oz, what with the prolonged, probationary no smoochie period. But Willow had been impatient for more then. Tara didn't seem impatient about Morgan; she seemed cool, calm. Oddly Oz-like... Willow thought with a small frown. She shook her head, still not sure what to think. This behavior on the blonde's part was just the sort of thing that, if Willow told Xander about it, would cause him to say 'yeah, I don't get Tara'. The redhead shook her head, amazed at how his opinion of the blonde had stayed relatively consistent over the years. Not so with her impression of the blonde.

Willow's freshman year of college had been spent feeling jealous of Tara. Well not at first, at first she had been intrigued by Buffy's stories about the girl, but by the end of the year... it was like Faith all over again. Except, without the sluttiness or fist fights, Willow allowed. Tara was definitely stealing Buffy, though. Every time Willow talked to the petite blonde, all the girl would talk about was Tara. It was like some sort of disease, a younger Willow had thought. Like Tourette's... Taraette's. And sure, Tara sounded super nice, and really interesting, but, why did Buffy like her so much? Why did Buffy talk about the blonde like they were best friends? Willow was her best friend. And Xander. The panicked worst-case-scenarios the redhead had envisioned about them drifting apart as they separated geographically were coming true. Thus, she had been prepared to hate Tara in a number of various ways. Didn't quite work out like that, though.

Her eyes.

The first time Willow saw Tara, she was struck by the blonde's eyes. They were so blue, and kind... overwhelmingly kind. The girl looked right at her, like she mattered. Willow didn't even remember if they talked during that initial meeting, she had been such a wreck from other... stuff... but the girl's kind eyes... they stayed with her. After she returned home, Willow listened a little differently when Buffy talked about the blonde. The redhead was suddenly interested in this Tara person, asked questions about her, wanted to know more about what the blonde had thought about things, events. Buffy's descriptions... the girl was unlike anyone Willow had ever heard about before. Strong. Smart. Compassionate. Funny, in an admittedly unique way... By the time Willow had showed up at Buffy and Tara's place for Halloween a year after their initial meeting, she was kind of excited about seeing Tara again.

Willow remembered exactly the moment she saw the blonde for the first time at the party. The girl had entered the room and crossed to where the stereo was located along the far wall, immediately greeting a couple of friends with a bright smile and slight hug. She was so beautiful. How hadn't she noticed that before... Willow had admonished herself at the time. It wasn't like the girl was pretty, she was beautiful. Stunning. Every time Willow saw Tara throughout the evening, she would stare. She had never seen anyone that lovely before.

It had taken a drink or two, but eventually Willow worked up enough courage to approach the girl she had admired from afar, but, the encounter had gone badly and she didn't try again that evening. As she laid awake the next evening in Tara's room, surrounded by Tara's things, tucked into Tara's bed, Willow had put her logical mind to work explaining away the thoughts she was having about the blonde. Her notice of the girl's beauty was chalked up to simple admiration. After all, it was perfectly normal to think another girl was pretty. She had thought this girl Sarah in her bio class was pretty the year before (although nothing like with Tara) and besides, why should she worry about this. She had Oz again, and it's not like thinking Tara was the most beautiful thing in the world was a sign or anything. She wasn't gay.

A week after Willow had returned home to Boston, after she had completed her midterms and said goodbye to Oz as he left on a short tour with his band, she had bought two strings of white lights and strung them around her room. It didn't look as good as Tara's room (the blonde's room was inimitable, to be sure), but it was close. The new lights made Willow's room feel like a little sanctuary. Cozy. Comforting. She had been amazed at how easily she could relax with those little fairy lights dancing along the edge of the ceiling, and how for the first time in years, she hadn't wanted to escape to the library to study all the time. Her home felt like home.

By the time Willow came to visit Buffy three years ago, the redhead's admiration for Tara was at what she thought was an all-time high. Willow was intrigued about seeing the woman again. How would the image of the blonde that she had constructed in her mind compare to the real deal? In her mind, Tara was a great person, a great friend to Buffy and Willow knew she wanted to sort of, bask in that glow. And Tara was beautiful. Although, the younger Willow had thought, that wasn't important... even if it was all she could do to keep from staring at the girl when they were together. Then that day at the park.... The image she had built up in her mind of who Tara was had been shattered during that day, and had been replaced by something so much more infinitely special and wonderful. The real Tara made the Tara she had formulated in her mind seem like a shell. The real Tara, was amazing.

That day, and then that night, had completely rocked Willow's world. There was no more explaining away her attraction to Tara as simple admiration; she was simply attracted to Tara. She thought Tara was beautiful in a romantic way. She admired Tara because she loved her. And that thought, that admission, had completely freaked her out.

Willow had gone back to Boston and Oz several days later, unglued. She had immediately torn down the fairy lights from her walls, thrown them away and cried bitterly for what seemed like days. What followed was a year of bouncing back and forth. 'It was a phase, a blip', she'd tell herself, but then Buffy would mention Tara and Willow's heart would race and... it was real. It was the realest thing she had ever felt and she'd be back to square one. Afraid of what this meant, what it would mean for her going forward. Her family. Her romantic life. Would she come out? Would she pursue Tara? If Tara wasn't interested would she pursue other women? What about Oz? It was all so scary.

Willow had missed seeing Tara at Joyce's funeral mid-way through that up and down year, because she had missed the funeral. Snow had prevented her from flying out, and by the time she had gotten to Sunnydale two days later, Tara had already left to tend to her ill father. It was six months after Joyce's death that Willow had tried to come out to her mother, and when she had finally revealed to Xander how torn apart she was dealing with what was increasingly feeling like the lie that was her life.

After she had come out to Xander, Willow went back to Boston and Oz, and ended things with him. Xander moved out shortly after, and spent the next few months propping her up as she was tossed about by her swirling emotions like a disabled ship at sea. She eventually reached a plateau, he left, and she just was. Gay. Closeted. Single. She noticed other women, but none caused flutters like Tara. She had thought about dating all the same though, just to see how that would work out, but whenever she moved the thought from the 'completely ridiculous fantasyland' column to 'okay, gonna do it', she backed out. How could she do that, be with another woman, when she wasn't out? When her heart was with Tara?

When SutterSoft had come calling six months ago, Willow flinched. Moving to San Francisco would mean seeing Tara again, and oh god that was terrifying. She was afraid if she said yes to the recruiter, she'd be saying yes to being near Tara, not the job, and considering how she was still closeted... she couldn't make her life about the blonde. Not at this point in her life. It was still too scary.

It was a mixed bag when the job offer had turned out to be so enticing. Great salary, comprehensive benefits, freedom to work on projects the way she saw fit. Yet, still... moving to San Francisco, being around Tara... It had been a frightening decision, but after she said yes she felt a little weight fall off her shoulders. It was like she was putting her hand on the closet's handle. She wasn't turning it yet, but it felt good to have the metaphorical doorknob in her clammy grasp.

To say Buffy had been anything other than persistent about Willow moving in with Tara would be a boldfaced lie. The redhead remembered their lunch when she had come out to price apartments, how Buffy had given her the 'please, you're kidding me right' look every time she attempted to explain why living with Tara would be a very, very bad idea. But eventually... like that poor moth to the flame, Willow realized she was powerless to say no and agreed to take over the extra bedroom. Live with Tara. Spend every day around the woman she loved, unrequited.

It had led to a month of never leaving her room. She was so wigged out, a complete spaz, about sharing space with the blonde. What if Tara could tell how lovesick she was? Worse, what if Tara didn't care? Didn't notice her or think about her at all? Just because she was some freak, completely obsessed with the blonde didn't mean the girl cared one way or the other about her...

After that awkward month, at the insistence of both Buffy and Tara, she had started to join the blonde for dinner. They would talk, but it was awkward. Willow couldn't tell Tara about her work for fear of bringing up memories the blonde didn't want to relive, and the redhead couldn't explain why she was such a hermit. Even with all of that... the dinners were still great. Every moment with Tara was just amazing. How the reality of Tara, the real Tara shadowed, dwarfed, anything Willow could imagine. The girl wasn't perfect, she had faults, but they were endearing. When they spent time... it's when Willow would feel like she wasn't an obsessed stalker, just a girl in love. The realness of Tara made her feel... everything. It was so weird... Willow could see Tara in her mind, always. Idealized. Beautiful with perfect hair, smooth skin, bright blue eyes.... But that girl was nothing compared to the real Tara. Tara with bags under eyes, a pillow crease on her cheek, her hair done up in the messiest pony tail as she struggled to make coffee in the morning. That girl was gorgeous, and so, so precious to Willow.

When they had had that chat in the kitten club about martinis and Bryan... it seemed to Willow to be... more. Not a lot more, just a glimmer, but still. More. Then the bracelet, and the handshake at the gallery opening. Fillmore. The dinner where she revealed what she did for work and Tara called her noble, the Thai food where Tara had invited her to a party, the party... Willow frowned, and looked down at the half empty cup in her hands. She had gotten so excited in the last week with their 'together' dinner, the small touches... and then Morgan. Willow sighed. Her mind just kept coming back to the brunette, the words Cass had spoken. That the brunette, even if not perfect, was great in bed.

Couldn't she be great at making sandcastles or something... Willow grumbled as she took a sip, the sound of Ray Charles' voice flittering around her.

The reality of having sex with Tara, pleasing her, was suddenly upon the redhead, and Willow was freaked. Okay, so it isn't my reality, it's Morgan's, but still... It was funny how it took the prospect of Tara having sex with the lady-lothario to make the redhead question her own amorous aptitude. In her dreams, her fantasies, Willow could make Tara feel good. But she could do anything in her dreams, the impossible, like flying if she jumped high enough and fantasies were just that, fantastical. Just because she was badass between the sheets in her thoughts didn't mean she'd be able to perform if given the opportunity. Oz hadn't complained, Willow thought tentatively, but, different equipment, and he did sleep with that slut Veruca, which, wasn't exactly a confidence booster...

The redhead sighed quietly. Willow had never been sure of herself when she had been with Oz. In some ways she felt like despite her years of experience with the man, she was still a sexual neophyte. Definitely no Morgan... the girl thought. In the beginning with Oz, she thought her awkwardness was because she was new to the physical stuff, that she wasn't letting go because she wasn't sure it was what she should do, but as time went on, and their intimate time together became more routine... He had always treated her like she was some, pure, fragile doll, and if their lovemaking ever took a turn toward something passionate, something not sweet and slow, he would pull away. "This isn't you," he'd say to her. "You don't need to try and impress me, or be something that you're not."

She had always been confused by that. 'Not me....?' Trying new things, letting herself go, being, in-the-moment... that wasn't her? It seemed like every time she even tried to suggest being more passionate, more spontaneous, he would accuse her of being... dirty? Wrong? Maybe not those exact words, but it had felt like that. Like his words had been a condemnation. Slightly more than a firm rebuff. But... what if wanting something different than just... what they had, was her? Not saying I wanted to be all, big with the kink, Willow thought, but what's wrong with rushing back to the dorm for an afternoon quickie? Or maybe some heavy petting in the library? Going down in the secluded wings of the Bronze's stage after a set?

Okay, maybe that last one was too much... Willow thought. Or was it? She had no frame of reference out of the safe, staid confines of her relationship with Oz. And not to say it hadn't been satisfying, because it was, it was usually very nice indeed in the beginning, but it wasn't... it wasn't what she had heard sex was from other people. What she envisioned it being in her dreams. What she had, in the last few years, hoped, naively, to eventually share with Tara.

The redhead admitted that the vanilla sex with Oz only got worse after he slept with Veruca. Willow knew he had done things with the singer that he wouldn't do with her. The look on his face when she found them together was enough to tell her that, and then of course, there was the whole thing where the singer/slut actually stood up buck naked from the floor and spelled it out for her. After that, when he returned from his time away and they decided to give things another try... the sex was stilted, and Willow felt less like she was participating, and more like she was... serving a duty. Like her sexuality was divorced from the act she shared with Oz on a semi-frequent, and increasingly less-regular basis. She rarely came, even with his devoted attention and she rarely, if never, initiated. It was why, she thought, she had freaked out so badly the first time she had dreamt about Tara that way. It had been the first time in her life that she had ever woken up soaked through her underwear and trembling. It was the first time she had seen what she wanted-no, needed, in her life. Tara, loving her and bringing her previously unimaginable joy. It had been erotic, sensual and life-changing.

The few times the high school sweethearts had slept together after Willow realized she was in love with Tara had been... horrible, she thought honestly. She had felt so guilty being with Oz when her heart was with Tara, and she'd been completely unable to relax as her boyfriend touched her. He picked up on her reluctance immediately, and spent the following year either touring heavily or just pretending that it didn't bother him that she needed time, that she couldn't be with him "that way, not right now." He had chalked it up to lingering pain regarding his betrayal, her busy schedule... everything and anything, until one night when Willow went to him and said she didn't love him anymore, couldn't love him the way she knew he wanted him to. He had nodded, and it was over.

Willow took another sip of her coffee. She liked to think that she was sexual. That she could be led by passion, let her urges take her to places her conscious mind might be afraid or at least, tentative about going. She certainly responded to her own explorations with intensity, and the fantasies she'd had... the things she had done with Tara in her mind... Willow frowned. There it was again. 'In her mind'. She could do anything in her mind... but in reality....

Willow knew the basics. She had read how-tos online but... they were so confusing. Twice, if not three times as long as the manuals for guys. Some women liked to be penetrated, others didn't, some women find direct clitoral stimulation to be painful while others can't come from anything else. It didn't help that the instructions included such unhelpful and daunting passages as, "every woman is different, so what works for one, might not work for another. Be patient, it might take up to an hour of continued attention to coax your lover to orgasm." Willow subconsciously flexed her jaw. An hour...? What if it was an hour to nowhere? She didn't want to frustrate Tara like that. Granted, she could just ask what to do if ever in the, ahem, position, and Tara would probably tell her, but Willow didn't want to be some bumbling idiot. 'How about now. Now? Now. Okay how bout this. This? No, this.'

Real sexy. What are the chances that Morgan would just know...

Willow shook her head and took a long pull from the paper cup, nearly finishing the drink. No more Morgan... The redhead bumped her leg against the bags at her feet and took a shaky breath as she remembered her gift for Tara. Was she going too far with this? Was it too intimate? The girl sighed and looked at her watch; she'd know soon enough. She took a look out the window again and noticed that clouds looked even darker. I should get home, she thought. She wanted to see if the blonde wanted to go grocery shopping before the sky opened up. Willow stood and threw her cup away, then returned to the table, gathered her things, and exited into the cold.

"'Sometimes the details are extremely important. They link everything together into a whole, and bind all the ingredients of memory. I used to think about that in the tropics, when it rained. That rain!'"

Tara sighed and rested the open paperback on her chest, staring at the ceiling and noting with incredulity as she cast a quick look at her watch that is was only 2. She had read those same lines four times now. She frowned and righted the book slightly, turning the corner of the page over to mark her place before she closed the book and put it on the coffee table to her left. She lay on the large couch in the living room, snuggled under a throw blanket, her head resting on one of the numerous throw pillows, it's brethren strew across the floor. She knew it was useless to try and read, just as it was useless to try and paint.

Her mind was stuck on last night. Two separate things, from last night, actually.

The first was Willow and the fairy lights. She hadn't exactly, forgotten, that the girl had slept in her bed (after all, how do you forget something like that), but to hear the redhead's thoughts on the experience. That she had been as enchanted by the little lights as she herself had been... it was, strange. Tara remembered her room from that year. The black walls, chalk drawings, mismatched furniture... She had created a kind of, nest, and the lights had been the best part. They had made her feel cozy, comfortable. Homey. She pictured Willow lying on her back in the center of her bed, her head resting on a pillow, her large green eyes trained upward at the lights... Tara could almost feel what it would have been like to be there with her. Snuggled into Willow's side, her head resting on the girl's shoulder, the soft lights causing Willow's red hair to shine like a winter fire. The blonde closed her eyes and sighed. It was a nice image.

She opened her eyes and rolled her head back to look out the window. It was so dark. Maybe her watch was broken and it was really 4. She scooted up onto her elbows and squinted her eyes to read the microwave clock across the large space. 2:13. The blonde puffed out some air and flopped back onto the couch. This storm was going to be a doozy, for sure. Better make sure she had candles, and that the flashlights had batteries...

Her mind returned to the second thought she had been stuck on for most of the day. Morgan. More specifically, the redhead's thoughts on the brunette. Willow had not only, surprisingly and openly, asked about Tara's feelings for Morgan, but had shared that she thought the brunette was perfect. And the reasons she had listed for why she thought the girl was perfect... they sounded remarkably like the ones Tara had used three years earlier when describing her 'ideal' woman to the redhead. "Brunette, olive complexion, artistic..." The blonde swallowed hard and rubbed her hand across her stomach. She was slightly worried; if Willow remembered that... well, it wasn't one of her more shining moments, and Tara felt her stomach ball into a knot at the rememberance.

"Brunette, olive complexion, artistic... That had been her ideal... in high school. By the time she had said the words to Willow, it was no longer true. Willow was her ideal, but... she had been so angry, so hurt and she knew she had said the words in spite. If the redhead took that to heart, if she had remembered those words, and others spoken that night, and that's why she had been so standoffish when she moved in...

What else did Willow remember?

For months Tara had been sure Willow didn't like her. Months, try years... The redhead had made one effort with her prior to this last week: the day in the park, a day that Tara cherished and held apart from the ugliness that followed. From the words that could have soured the best day of her life, the overheard conversation that could have tainted the favored day she knew in her heart they had shared. The blonde took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. She didn't want to think about that right now.... But how could she not? Willow remembered. She remembered so much, and what she remembered, how she remembered... it was starting to seem to Tara that it wasn't what she had expected Willow to remember, to think, to feel. Who was this girl?

The redhead was an enigma of the highest order. Hot, then cold then lukewarm again. A mess of contradictions that Tara was unable to stay away from, even if she wanted to (and now that she knew she could cheer Willow up, could make her feel happy and relaxed, she most decidedly didn't want to). Tara sighed, remembering the warm feeling in her chest as they walked along the street last night and talked about fairy lights. About the smile she had fallen asleep with on her lips after the redhead had come to her and thanked her for making her feel better. Willow. Confusing, mysterious, beautiful Willow.

The phone rang and Tara was roused from her thoughts. She stood, crossed to the kitchen counter and answered on the second ring. "Hello?"

"Tara," came the reply, and the blonde smiled brightly.

"Hey Buffy, how's Dawn?"

"Good, good. Very... Dawn."

"Uh huh," Tara replied with a half smile. "And..."

"And... so that means we're bickering, slightly," Buffy admitted. "But only slightly. It could be worse."

"Cool," the blonde chuckled as she slid onto one of the tall kitchen counter chairs. "How's Boston?"

"It's weird," the petite blonde answered honestly. "Dawn took me around on a little tour today and everything was, 'oh and Willow loved this place', and 'oh,Willow loved that place.'" Buffy paused for a moment before continuing. "Six years Willow lived here and I couldn't find the time to visit once."

"You had a lot going on..." Tara said softly, recognizing the petite blonde's admonishing tone.

"Right," Buffy replied, with what Tara could only imagine was an authoritative head nod and sarcastic smile. "With my mom sick, and Dawn... I could probably come up with a whole list of really good excuses if I took the time, it's just... I should have made time." The blonde again paused, her voice turning guilty and quiet. "I'm just feeling like not-the-best friend right now. I mean, Xander even moved out here..."

"You did the best you could Buffy, I'm sure Willow understands..."

"Yeah..." the petite blonde said, the simple word ending that part of the conversation. Tara could hear the girl on the other end of the line take a quick breath and ask perkily, "so how about you? Good weekend?"

"Yeah, it's been, okay," Tara replied vaguely.

"Oh!" Buffy exclaimed, kicking off what the blonde knew would be a non-sequitur. "The party."

Tara inaudibly groaned. No, no, no...

"I almost forgot, how did that go? It was at Morgan's right? Did things get all, hot with the hottie?" Buffy asked bouncily.

"No," Tara replied hesitantly. "I mean, we spent time, together, but it was just, visiting, mainly. I actually ended up leaving a little early, so-"

"You left early?" Buffy interjected. "Why?"

Tara opened her mouth, but nothing came out. Should she tell Buffy about Willow and Xander's conversation, falling out... she didn't even know what to call it. Or, should she just leave it out. If she told the petite blonde, Buffy would probably call Xander and truthfully, that just might make things worse. No, I'll just... "I think W-Willow wasn't feeling well," Tara fibbed, wondering if she was doing the right thing.

"So... you left because Willow wasn't feeling good?" Buffy asked. "You left together?"

"Yeah," Tara replied.

"Tara, that's... so cool of you. Thanks."

Tara exhaled evenly. Again, when is she going to- "Buffy," she started patiently, "you don't need to thank me-"

"I know, it's just you looking out for her for me-"

"No, Buffy..." Tara interrupted. "I- I'm not looking out for her for you... I'm looking out for her for her. For me." Oh god, I can't believe I just said that... "Willow's my friend too," she added, amazed by how good it felt to say out loud. Willow's my friend.

"Oh," Buffy answered, her voice obviously showing that she wasn't expecting Tara's words. "Well, that's cool then Tare. I mean, that's kinda what I was hoping would happen when she moved in with you..."


"Yeah," Buffy replied, pausing for a long moment. "Just..." she paused again. "Nevermind."

"What," Tara asked, her brow knitting.

"Nothing, I think I'm just tired," Buffy said with false cheer. "So how's the painting coming?"

"It's not," the blonde replied, wondering what Buffy had stopped herself from saying, yet allowing the change in subject to occur all the same.


"Nope," Tara said, her finger rubbing across the cool marble of the kitchen countertop. "I'm kind of... blocked."

"Music not helping?" Buffy asked helpfully.

"No," Tara answered with a shake of the head. "It feels like I've listened to everything a million times already."

"Well if you want to go over and raid my CD collection, you totally can," Buffy offered.

"Thanks," the blonde nodded. "I might do that."

"Cool," Buffy replied. "Hey, I have to go, I just wanted to call and check in and you know-"

"You'll get the jacket tomorrow," Tara said with a slight smile, suspecting that had been the reason for the call all along. "They didn't do Sunday delivery."

"Thank you!" Buffy replied happily. "It's super cold here; why Dawn wanted to go to Boston University I'll never know..."

"Good school, good town, near Willow."

"Oh yeah," Buffy answered. "Still, there's a lot to be said about fun in the sun."

"Tell Dawnie I said hello," Tara replied with a smile and she could hear Buffy chuckle.

"Will do, tell Will I said hello too."

"Kay," Tara replied. "Bye."


The girls hung up and Tara frowned. What had Buffy wanted to say? She wanted for her and Willow to be friends, just... nevermind? The blonde looked up when she heard the door turn, and a slight smile pulled at her lips as Willow entered. Tara's eyebrows arched as she took in the numerous bags in the girl's hands, and she immediately jumped up and moved to her side. "Need help?"

"Oh, no, it's-" Willow dropped the bags to the floor and sighed, wiping her wind-swept hair from her face. I probably look like a mess, she thought, smoothing her hair down again with both hands. "I've got it."

"Windy?" The blonde asked with a slight smile and Willow smiled sheepishly.

"Just a little bit," Willow replied. "It's really looking rough out there," she said, the concern wrinkling her brow

"Yeah, I think it's going to start pouring in an hour or so," the blonde said with a quick look to the window. "It's felt like it's been 4 since about noon."

"Totally. I thought we could go grocery shopping this afternoon before it really opens up and gets messy."

"Sounds like a good idea," Tara replied with a nod. "Do you want to go now?"

"Yeah, that would be cool," Willow replied with a nod.

"Okay," Tara said before looking down at the bags at their feet and then back up at Willow with an amused, raised eyebrow. "Do you... need help getting all this stuff up the stairs? Kinda, looks like you broke the bank..."

"Oh, yeah," the girl said sheepishly. "I mean, no, I don't need help, but yeah, kinda... went nuts." Willow swallowed hard. Do it, do it, do it- "I uh, I got you something."

"You did?" Tara replied, surprised. What...

"Yeah," Willow said, bending over at the waist and rummaging through the bags. Tara watched her closely. "It's not a big deal, just, you know..."

She got me something...? Tara thought. "Willow, you don't have to-"

"I know," the redhead said smiling as she stood. She held her arms out, two boxes in her hands. "Here."

Tara dropped her eyes and her breath caught. She looked back up at the redhead, her expectant, wide green eyes watching for her reaction. Oh my god... "Willow..." the blonde looked back down at the boxes, and reached up and took them in a gentle exchange. "Thank you."

"They're not exactly like your old lights," Willow said. "But they're pretty close. Still white; I got two boxes, that's about 300 so you can either just string one or both, and I got the kind with the little twist on and off toggle so you can leave them plugged in all the time and oh!" She reached down and rummaged through the bags again, standing up with a small package in her hand. "I bought these little hooks too. The guy at the hardware store said they were stronger then pins, but just as near-invisible. You can hang the lights all loose like before without putting big huge holes in your walls. I, I thought," Willow swallowed hard. "I thought, maybe, I could, you know, maybe, help you put em up later. Or something."

Tara nodded quietly. She bought me fairy lights. "That..." The blonde looked up, an emotional smile on her face. "That w-would be nice."

Willow nodded. She stuttered. "It's, you know, okay if you don't want-"

"I do want," Tara interjected. "So much." Willow smiled brightly and Tara nodded, looking back down at the boxes in her hands. "We should, I mean the rain-"

"Yeah," Willow replied. She leaned down and with great effort grabbed and hefted the bags.

Tara looked up to Willow's heavy load and asked, "you're sure you don't need-"

"Nope, just, gotta walk fast," Willow said with a smile, shuffling quickly to the stairs. "I'll put these away and then meet you down here."

"Okay," Tara said, watching as the girl disappeared up the stairs, the bags banging against the walls as she ascended. The blonde looked down at the boxes in her hands and took a shuddering breath. Confusing. Mysterious. Beautiful Willow.

Continue to Neverland Chapter Thirty-Three

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