Return to Neverland Chapter Thirty-Two


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. A couple of lines from 'After Life' and lyrics from 'Mad as Snow (Acoustic Version)' by Kitchens of Distinction.

The sky opened up just as they were leaving Trader Joe's, and they were quickly soaked as they darted several times from Willow's car in the open garage to the stairwell to bring in the food they'd bought, the numerous shopping bags tucked neatly in the large, clear containers Willow purchased earlier in the day for storage. Two trips by each girl brought all of the containers up the internal flight of stairs, and they couldn't help but laugh as they looked at each other, faces misty, hair plastered to their cheeks and out of breath as they stood just inside their apartment door.

"Ugh," Willow exclaimed, sloughing off her waterlogged jacked and hanging it on the back of the chair by the secretary table. "I think I need a slicker."

Tara's eyebrows rose as she took off her red raincoat. "A slicker?"

"You know, like Paddington Bear," Willow explained, kicking off her soaked sneakers by the door. "Bright yellow slicker. Little indifferent about the big yellow rain hat, but some galoshes might be cool..." she said, feeling the water seep through her socks and trickle between her toes.

Tara snickered as she removed her own shoes, pushing her hands across her rosy cheeks to try and catch as much wet hair as possible and push it away from her eyes. "I thought, um, Paddington Bear's jacket was blue..."

"Is it?" Willow said, brushing her own hand across her face a couple of times to wipe away the misty moisture. "Who am I thinking of then?"

"I think you're thinking about the Gordon Fisherman," Tara said, following Willow into the kitchen.

"Oh yeah..." Willow said, her look far away as she pictured the fictional fisherman in her mind. She turned to the blonde, her face frowny and asked, "you're sure Paddington Bear didn't wear a yellow slicker and yellow hat?"

Tara chuckled as she hoisted a couple of bags onto the counter. "He might have, I just remember the blue coat and the red hat..."

"Hmm," the redhead said, bending down to the bags at her feet. "And I don't even like fishsticks," she said as she hoisted her own bags onto the counter. "I think this is going to call for some research." She snuck a look over to Tara and frowned when she saw the blonde shake slightly. "Hey," she said, her voice soft and concerned. Tara turned to face the redhead, her wide blue eyes looking at her roommate curiously. "Go take a shower," Willow said. "Change into something warm; I'll put this away."

"I'm f-fine," Tara said, her teeth chattering as she pulled a box of dishwashing soap from one of the bags.

"You're freezing," Willow said, reaching out and rubbing her hand along the blonde's arm to help warm her up. "Go, I'll put this away and start dinner."

Tara shuddered again, but this time from the redhead's insistent touch. Freezing, maybe, but that hand on my arm... so fine... "You're just as soaked," Tara pointed out. "You should go first."

Willow smiled brightly, squeezing Tara's arm before dropping her hand. "Boston blood, I'm not even cold. You on the other hand... I mean, blue is an attractive shade and everything, but-"

"Fine, point taken," Tara said with a wide grin, moving out of the kitchen and shuffling quickly across the room toward the stairs, her arms pressed into her chest, her interlocked fingers pushing into the bottom of her chin. She stopped at the end of the counter and picked up the two boxes of lights, and then continued on. "I'll be right back," she called over her shoulder.

"Take your time," Willow called back as the blonde disappeared up the stairs. The redhead shook her head, a goofy smile on her lips, and she went about unpacking the bags before her at a leisurely pace.

Tara entered the hallway atop the stairs and ducked into the bathroom, turning on the shower and then exiting to her room. She shut the door behind her and then crossed, placing the lights gently on the night stand next to her bed. She smiled slightly at them and then shook, goosebumps rising on her arms as her teeth chattered. "Such a wimp," she mumbled to herself, quickly shucking her clothes and pulling on a robe. It's like I didn't even grow up with snow... she grumbled as she grabbed a towel and rushed into the bathroom, shutting the door behind her. The space was already steamy, and she smiled as she removed her robe and looked over to the mirror, her shape a blob of undefined movement in the foggy reflection. She tied her hair into a bun and climbed into the shower, hissing as the hot water hit her skin and stung.

After a minute of whispered, "ow, ow, ow"s, the blonde's body adjusted to the heat and the warmth from the water began to seep into her bones. She sighed contentedly and breathed in the humid air. Oh this feels good, she thought, her body now rosy from the warmth. She closed her eyes and let the water touch her, smooth down her skin. She turned occasionally to make sure no angle went chilly, and after ten minutes, she realized she was in danger of staying much longer. She quickly turned the nozzles until the water cut out and then reached out for a towel. Willow's probably freezing... Tara thought, chastising herself for her indulgence. She jumped out of the cubicle and pulled on her robe, rushing into her room to get dressed and get downstairs so Willow could take her own hot shower.

The blonde shut the door behind her and dropped her robe, moving to her armoire where she pulled on a pair of underwear. She considered briefly putting on jeans, but she was in for the night and well, might as well get cozy... She pulled on a pair of baggy flannel pajama bottoms and a well worn baby blue t-shirt. Bra or no bra... she decided against the garmet and pulled on a fuzzy gray hoodie sweater, zipping it up part way. She pushed her feet into a pair of scuffs and then retied her hair. She started to move to the door and then froze when she saw her previously discarded clothes on the floor next to her bed, her bra sitting on top of the pile, coiled like a sleeping snake. She rushed back to the mound and after scooping it up in her arms, deposited it into the hamper. She then quickly looked around her room... the room Willow would be in later in the evening.

She hastily straightened her comforter, smoothing her hands over the surface, and then fluffed the pillow. She crossed and closed the armoire doors, after making sure to hang her robe up neatly on the hook inside, and then made sure the tops of her furniture weren't too dusty, too disorganized. Satisfied with the quick straightening up, she headed downstairs. She entered the main room and her eyes were drawn to the redhead, shivering in the kitchen as she started the kettle. Tara frowned slightly and again internally chastised herself for her long shower. Willow looked up and smiled. "Enchiladas are in the oven." She shivered again and Tara moved to her side.

"Your turn," Tara said and was surprised when Willow didn't argue, just nodded and rushed past her and up the stairs with a quick, "be right back."

Willow's shower was faster; as soon as she felt the chill recede she cut the water and hightailed it to her room, quickly pulling on her cotton pajama bottoms, a tank top, a sweatshirt with a front pouch and a pair of woolly socks. By the time she returned downstairs, Tara was pulling the pre-made enchiladas from the oven and handing her a cup of tea. Ten minutes later they were eating in silence, both ravenous after missing a more substantial lunch earlier in the day. Twenty minutes after that they were cleaning up and discussing their plans for the evening, the heavy rain beating against the large windows across the room in sheets. Tara mentioned she had a few hours worth of work to do, and that she had to call Marissa about gallery stuff. Willow replied that she too had some work to do, email to check, the server connection to verify. "When you're ready to put up the lights, just come get me," the redhead said with a smile, and Tara nodded.

Three hours later, Tara climbed the stairs to Willow's room. Her conversation with Marissa had gone on longer than she had expected, and she was worried the redhead would be a little miffed at the delay. As she entered the hallway, she noticed Willow's door was slightly ajar, and as she knocked lightly it opened wide. Tara couldn't believe her eyes as she took in the room. It was so different than the one she had seen the night before when she asked Willow to cake. There was, color, personal effects... a large fluffy stuffed animal dog on the bed...

What... when did she have time... Tara stood rooted to her spot, dazed. This is what she had expected Willow's room to look like from the outset. It fit her, the large quilt on the bed, the framed pictures on the night stands... so much more her than the sterile modernism of her previous 'decoration'. The blonde let her eyes wander until they fell on Willow, sat in front of her computer with her headphones on staring at the monitor. Tara frowned slightly and wondered at that. Why is she wearing headphones... the blonde thought, not liking the possibility that Willow might think she would be violating Tara's space or whatever if she listened to her music out loud. Had the redhead been wearing headphones all these months?

Willow saw the blonde out of the corner of her eye and removed the headphones, twisting in her seat to face her roommate. "Hey," she said with a warm smile.

"Hey," Tara replied, looking around the room again before her eyes stopped on Willow. "You decorated."

"Oh, yeah," Willow said sheepishly, her own eyes taking in the room. "More like, finally unpacked."

Unpacked... "I, I guess that means you didn't like the condos..." Tara replied with a slight nod.

"Not really," Willow answered. A short moment of silence settled between them before a nervous Willow looked up and asked, "this is okay, righ-"

"Of course," Tara interrupted. "It's fine..." So... she's settling in... the blonde thought, somewhat uneasily, and again, there was an awkward pause. Tara looked back to Willow and nodded to the headphones in her hand. "What are you listening to?"

"Moose," Willow replied.

Tara's brow furrowed. "Squirrel?"

A huge smile exploded across Willow's face. "No, Moose..." she explained, her voice full of warmth, her cheeks flush at Tara's silliness. "They're a band..."

"Ah, okay," Tara said with a slight smirk, her own smile a result of the redhead's. "Not that there's anything wrong with Rocky and Bullwinkle though..."

"I'm more of a, Spongebob Squarepants girl," Willow said with a nod and a flirty, barely contained smile.

Tara lit up and she pressed her lips together, creating an affectionate grin as the corners of her lips turned up. "Me too."

"Yeah?" Willow asked, surprised.

"Yup," Tara replied, leaning against the doorjamb. "You know, back when I had a TV..." She paused and then explained. "My old one broke, and cable was expensive, so..."

"I download them," Willow said, nodding to the computer to her right. "Watch them on my computer. I have them all on DVD, if you ever, want to you know, watch 'em with me sometime..."

"Okay," Tara said, nodding slightly. "That'd be fun..." Silence again settled between them.

"So," Willow said, tapping her hand against her thigh. "Lights?"

"Yes," Tara replied, straightening up. Willow stood, placing the headphones gently on her desk and grabbed the hooks she had bought earlier before they they walked down the hallway. Tara entered her room, crossing to pick up the lights resting on the night stand next to her bed. She turned around and was surprised to see Willow standing in the doorway. "You coming in?"

"Sorry," Willow replied as she nervously entered the room and tried to not too obviously inspect it. Her eyes were wide; she wanted to see everything at once, every detail that she knew had been carefully placed by Tara.

Tara watched the redhead out of the corner of her eye, and wondered why Willow had hesitated, then realized that this was the first time the girl had been in her room since the first, grand tour. The blonde blushed slightly at that and glanced up at the redhead, who was straining her eyes to the side to take in something on the far side of her room. It was strange, years before the girl had slept in her room, had obviously remembered the things in her space, and yet here, now, Tara felt nervous about what Willow was thinking. She didn't even want to come in until I asked... Tara thought before frowning, noting with no small irony that she herself had stayed out of Willow's room just mintues before. So many barriers and boundaries... She cleared her throat slightly and looked up.

"Do you want to listen to some music...?" Tara asked, wondering what they would listen to if the redhead said yes.

"I kind of like the rain, if that's okay," Willow replied, using her twisting hand to indicate the windows across the room and the rain beyond.

"Sure," Tara answered. "Do you want to open the window-"

"No, I kind of like the sound of it hitting the glass." Willow said. I like the rain hitting the- she quickly reviewed in her head and frowned. "I'm a dork..."

"No, I- I like it too," Tara said with a nod, Willow looking back at her a little surprised. "I, um, I sometimes stay up at night when it's raining, just to listen..."

"Me too," Willow said, smiling softly. An image of them laying in bed together, holding hands, listening to the rain came to her mind unbidden and she looked down at her feet quickly to contain the blush creeping across her cheeks. "So how's Marissa?" She asked, looking up and hoping Tara didn't notice her red cheeks. "Her and Michelle, they, get over their fighting okay?"

"Yeah, there was some... frostiness, yesterday, but she said things are better," Tara replied, wondering at the tint in Willow's cheeks. The blonde opened the nearest box and pulled the first brick of lights out.

The redhead nodded and tentatively stepped a little further into the room. I wonder what they were fighting about... Willow thought, rotating the boxes of hooks in her hand. Cass, duh, but I wonder why... she seemed nice, her and Michelle seemed like good friends... The redhead looked down at her hands, and her brow furrowed slightly. Michelle wouldn't cheat on Marissa... I mean, I don't know her, or anything, but she lov-

"Hey," Tara said softly, interrupting Willow's thoughts. "You got kinda quiet there all of the sudden..." She looked at her roommate with kind, concerned eyes, and watched closely as the redhead looked up and smiled slightly.

"Sorry, I sometimes do that."

"Do what?" Tara asked, putting the first freed strand of lights and the empty white tray down on the bed. She looked up at Willow curiously as she opened the second box. "Get quiet?"

"Wander off in my head," Willow replied sheepishly. "Sometimes it's, kinda noisy up here," she said, tapping the side of her head slightly.

"Yeah?" Tara replied quietly. "Anything you want to talk about?"

Willow briefly crinkled her brow and then shook her head. It's not my place to ask about her friends like that... she thought. Sharing that stuff... that's a 'partner' thing to do... She smiled at the blonde and said, "it's nothing, really."

"You sure?" Tara replied, pulling on the second coiled strand to free it from the tray, the bulbs popping out of their packaged place on the plastic grid.

"I'm sure, thanks," Willow answered with a genuine smile. Tara returned the smile and then turned, placing the now-empty tray and the second string of lights on the bed.

"Alright," the blonde said surveying the two strands of lights. "A little curly, but nothing that can't be fixed with a slight tug." She turned and gave Willow a lopsided grin before turning back to the lights on her bed. "I guess now I just need to figure out where to plug em in..."

"Do you have an outlet by your bed?" Willow asked. "That way you can turn em off without having to get up at night," she explained.

"Good idea," Tara replied with a nod, and moved to her night stand. She pulled the small table back from the wall a bit and reached down, plugging the string of lights in. She turned the toggle, illuminating the lights and then turned it again, turning the lights off.

"Do you have a ladder?" Willow asked, looking around for how the blonde planned on getting the lights up.

"I thought we'd use that chair," Tara said, pointing to a small wooden chair near her dresser.

Willow arched an eyebrow as she put the packages of hooks in her front pocket, save one. She looked from the chair to Tara and back again. "Looks kinda rickity," she said suspiciously.

Tara offered a lopsided smile and a quiet chuckle in reply. "It's stronger than it looks..." She pulled the chair over to the wall beside the night stand and climbed up on it, the chair making an ominous creek. "Besides, you'll spot me." Willow nodded nervously, holding her hands out from her sides, ready to catch Tara should she fall as she stepped forward. The blonde took the lights and held them over her head, and then twisted to face Willow. "Hook?"

Willow opened the small plastic box in her hands and pulled out a hook, handing it gently to the blonde so as not to stick her. Tara took it and turned, then reached up and with force, pushed the hooked tack into the wall. She then rested the cord into the hook. She looked up at her handiwork and then descended, stepping onto the ground and then pulling the chair over a few feet. She moved to step back up when Willow's hand on her back stopped her. The blonde looked over her shoulder and Willow nodded to the left. "Need to go another two feet." Tara looked at her quizzically and Willow explained, "the number of hooks, the number of feet of cord... you'll run out of hooks unless there's at least five feet in between hooks."

Tara smiled widely and nodded, moving the chair again. "I'm glad you're here," she said. "I would have gotten half way around the room and been screwed." Willow smiled widely at Tara and handed her another tack. "I also wouldn't have any lights if you weren't here," Tara said matter-of-factly, turning to look at the redhead, "so, double thanks." She flashed the redhead a half smile and turned back to the wall. She reached up, pushing the tack into the plaster, and Willow reached around her and helped her grab the string of lights. Tara pulled the string up and set it gently in the hook, a bit of slack letting the lights droop slightly. "How's it look?" Tara asked, surveying the slack between hooks.

Willow looked at the cord, and then to Tara's profile. Her hair was in a loose bun, and her hands were on her hips, pulling the sweater and hem of her worn shirt up to reveal her shapely behind. Willow took a deep breath and smiled at the blonde. "Perfect."

"Aw, you're just saying that..." Tara said as she climbed down from the chair with a creek and Willow momentarily worried that she'd been caught staring at the wrong thing. "Will we have enough lights to get all the way around the room if there's that much slack?" She asked, innocently looking over her shoulder at Willow after moving the chair the requisite five feet.

"Oh, uh probably," Willow replied, reassured that her ogling had gone unnoticed. "Depends on how much slack, though."

Tara smiled widely, stepping up on the chair. "Darn those variables..." She reached back and Willow handed her another hook. The blonde repeated the earlier process, taking the offered string from Willow and then stepped down. They hung the next two hooks without speaking, just enjoying how easily they worked together, the sound of the rain against the thick glass across the room.

Willow broke the silence as Tara climbed atop the chair for the next hook, her voice quiet and hesitant. "Tara..."

"Willow..." the blonde replied teasingly, and smiled as she caught Willow's blushing grin in her dresser mirror.

The redhead felt her grin fade to a manageable level, and asked, "how come you never got a cat?"

Tara paused in her movements. "What?"

"At the park," Willow said. "I remember you said you wanted to get a cat. How come you never got one."

A huge smile broke across Tara's face. She... The blonde reigned in the smile as she looked over her shoulder and arched a mischievous eyebrow at the girl waiting below. "Nuh-uh," she said warmly, Willow's brow furrowing in confusion. "Don't even think it Tiny Jewish Santa."

"What?" Willow said innocently as she looked at Tara's amused face.

The blonde arched her eyebrows higher and her voice took on a mock disapproving, leading tone. "Last night we talked about fairy lights, today you give me lights... tonight we're talking about kitties..."

"Oh!" Willow said, clueing in and flapping her hands sheepishly. "No, I- don't worry, I'm not going to get you a cat." Tara silently looked at her, eyebrows still arched and Willow rolled her eyes. "I promise. That's, super personal and, I wouldn't."

"Yeah..." Tara said, the disbelief mixing with mirth in her voice. "I'll believe it when I don't see it..."

"I wouldn't," Willow protested. "That's... what if I got the wrong one? I mean, I could get you a yellow one and you wanted a black and white one, or I could get you a boy kitty and you wanted a girl-"

"See, now I think you're just trying to get me to define my perfect cat," Tara said, stepping down from the chair.

"I'm not!" Willow said, her face flushing red with embarrassment.

"You're going to show up tomorrow with a cat carrier and litter," the blonde said as she moved the chair five feet.

"I-" Willow stammered, worry starting to take hold. She doesn't really think- I'm too obvious with the gifts, she- "I promise, Tara, I wouldn't, that's so, personal a- and-"

She was interrupted by a melodic laugh, the blonde turning to face her, a large, happy smile on her full lips, her blue eyes sparkling. Willow's mouth hung open, struck dumb by the lovely sight and Tara stepped toward her, gently tugging on the sleeve of her sweatshirt. "I know you wouldn't," the blonde said, her voice dancing with amusement. "I'm just teasing."

Willow's face transformed into a pout and she grumbled, "meanie," which just set the blonde off on another round of laughter.

"Aww," Tara said, stepping closer to the redhead, who was now looking down at her feet. The blonde put her hands on Willow's arms at her elbows and jiggled her slightly. "No, see it's funny, me with the kidding around, you with the blushing..."

"I'm not, blushing," Willow said, snapping her head up. "This is the color of, you know, anger, missy."

Tara rolled her eyes, "oh, okay," she said, squeezing Willow's arms, shaking her head. "Adorable..." As soon as the word escaped her lips, Tara froze. She immediately dropped her hands from Willow's arms and turned, panic gripping her insides. Oh my god I said it out loud...

Willow snapped her head up from her feet just in time to catch Tara's turn, and the redhead watched as the girl before her immediately set back to work, stepping up on the groaning chair. "Adorable..."? Willow thought. She thinks I'm "adorable"?

"H-Hook?" Tara asked, not looking back but holding her hand behind her. "Adorable"... Tara thought, her face burning red. W-Why didn't you just say, 'I love you', too? Stupid... Willow only stared, until the she saw the blonde's hand reach a little further. The redhead fumbled for a hook in the package. She finally grabbed one and put it into the blonde's hand a little too forcefully, and the sharp tack punctured Tara's skin.

"Ow," the blonde said, jerking her hand away, the hook falling to the floor with a tinny bounce. Tara immediately brought her wounded finger to her mouth, and sucked on the small cut.

"Oh my god," Willow said, as she saw the blonde bring her hand to her mouth, saw the tack bounce across the hard wood floor. "Tara- Are you okay? Oh god, I'm so sorry, I-"

"I'm fine," Tara said, removing her finger from her mouth and inspecting the prick. "Adorable"... I can't believe I s-said that out loud... she thought as she saw the small bit of blood form on her skin.

"I'll go get a band-aid," Willow said, taking a few rushed steps toward the door. She stopped and turned back to Tara, hurrying back to her side. "Only, you have to come down from there first because, I don't trust that chair and if I leave, and you fall-"

"I'm fine," Tara said again, chuckling as she stepped down from the chair. She felt Willow's concerned eyes on her and she held out her pointer finger sheepishly, a small red dot forming on the white skin. "It's n-nothing."

"Oh god, I'm so sorry," Willow said, as she saw the little dob of blood. She bent down and put the box of hooks on the floor and then stood again, inspecting Tara's hand closely, holding it gently in her own. "I should have been more careful. I'm so sorry, does it hurt? I bet it hurts, it probably stings, like a bee, when you get stung it, you know, stings, and-"

Tara chuckled and gripped Willow's hands with her own. "I'm fine," she said again, ducking down to catch the redhead's gaze. "It just, surprised me."

"Well yeah," Willow said guiltily, "I mean, hello, weren't expecting to get stuck-"

"I'm fine," the blonde said again, squeezing Willow's hands tightly. Reassured that the redhead was calmed, the blonde looked down at the ground and scanned until she found the fallen gold hook. She reached down and picked it up, and made her way back to the chair.

"No, let me," Willow interjected, stepping forward and offering her hand out to take the tack. Tara raised an eyebrow and Willow sighed. "Please?"

"No," Tara said, squeezing Willow's arm before she stepped back on the chair. "I need you on the ground telling me how it looks."

Willow sighed as she was again given the opportunity to openly stare at the blonde. "Still perfect."

Tara smiled and stuck the tack into the wall, reaching over and taking the offered string of lights from Willow. She rested the cord onto the hook and smiled. "Sweet talker... I hadn't even put this part up..." She looked over her shoulder and winked at the redhead, who smiled softly back. The blonde stepped down from the chair and moved it to the left. Again, they let the sound of the rain settle between them as they placed the next two hooks. Willow looked down at the remaining five hooks in her hand. "So how's this working from home thing going to work...?" Tara asked, the redhead looking up from her palm as the blonde moved the chair.

"Work?" Willow asked, not quite understanding the girl's question.

"Yeah," Tara asked, stepping up on the chair and holding her hand out for the hook. Willow gently placed the tack on her palm and the blonde smiled at her care. "Do you need to like, check in in the morning, check out at night-"

"Oh, well, no. Just tomorrow, we're having a conference call at 8 to make sure everyone's systems work... after that, it's just... work whenever." Tara hung the strand and stepped down.

"That's pretty nice of them," the blonde said. "Don't most jobs have a, strict, 9 to 5 thing?"

"Not us," Willow said smiling brightly. "They don't really care, as long as you get your work done. One of the perks of working there..."

"Cool," Tara said with a smile. She moved the chair and stepped up on it, the cold from the large window chilling her front as she faced it.

"How about you?" Willow asked, looking beyond the blonde at the heavy rain slapping against the large windows. "What are you doing this week?"

"Painting," Tara said as she pushed the tack into the wall. "At least, I hope..." she said to herself as she took the offered lights from Willow and hung it on the hook, stepping down and moving the chair.

"You hope...?" Willow asked, confused. "Something gonna stop you?" She asked, worried momentarily that her presence at home would somehow inhibit Tara from working.

"No, I-" Tara stopped herself and frowned, unsure how to explain her dilemma. "I just, I'm blocked."

"Blocked?" Willow asked innocently and Tara nodded, sighing as she took the next hook from the redhead. "Like writer's block, only for painters?"

Tara smiled at that and nodded. "I just... I'm not feeling very creative right now." She pushed the tack into the wall with a huff and reached for Willow's hand and the string of lights it held. "I, I usually use music to get over it, but... it feels like I've listened to everything a million times... all seems really stale, you know?" She hung the strand and stepped down, noticing with a little sadness that they were almost done. She pulled the chair five feet and stepped up on it. "I was thinking about going to Buffy's tomorrow, borrowing some of her CDs..."

"In this weather?" Willow asked, handing over the second to last hook. "You don't have to, I have all of Buffy's music on my computer, I could just burn you a CD or, seven, whatever you wanted."

Tara turned and looked over her shoulder. "Really?"

"Yeah," Willow said. "I'm kind of a, music dork. I went over a few weeks ago and ripped everything she had that I didn't already have. It's on my laptop, I could burn you the CDs tonight."

Tara didn't know what to say, just turned and pressed the hook into the wall. She smiled as she took the string of lights from Willow's hand. "That would be very cool, thanks."

"No problem," Willow said. She watched Tara step down from the chair and pull it near her bed. "When we're done I'll get my computer and some blank CDs and you can pick what you want."

"Thanks," Tara said, stepping up and pushing the last tack into the wall. She hung the lights up and stepped down. She looked at her work, and then turned to Willow. "Shut the door?" Willow nodded and moved to the shut the door, Tara crawling over her bed and standing next to her night stand. The blonde turned to the redhead. "Turn off the lights?" Willow nodded and flicked the light switch and they momentarily stood in almost total darkness. With a click, Tara turned the toggle, and the room was immediately lit in a soft glow.

"Wow..." Willow breathed out quietly, and Tara just smiled. Willow's eyes were drawn to the blonde, and she watched as the girl looked at her room in literally, a new light. The redhead's chest swelled in pride as the blonde's smile grew wider and wider.

"Oh wow," Tara sighed happily, her hands on her stomach. Her stomach was fluttering at the beauty of it all. The lights created the warmest glow, and the shadows they threw, the little things they illuminated, like the small crystal ball on her dresser... "so beautiful..." She turned to smile at Willow, and her breath caught when she saw what the lights did to her. The lights created a golden halo on the crown of Willow's fiery head, and sparkled off of the lip gloss on her lower lip.

"You like?" Willow asked, knowing from the smile on Tara's face earlier that she did, but wanting to hear it all the same.

"I love," Tara said softly, knowing full well that she was talking about more than just the lights. "Beautiful."

Willow smiled brightly and nodded. She looked up and around, and then back to Tara. "I'll go-"

"You- You don't have to go, we could still hang out," Tara said, taking a step closer. Please, don't go... she thought. Not yet...

Willow smiled brightly at Tara's invitation. "I'm just gonna go get my laptop," she chuckled. "I'll be right back. Promise to shut the door behind me and everything." She opened the door a sliver and slipped out, shutting the door behind her and leaving Tara in the cocoon that was her room. The blonde turned and followed the string of lights until they ended, the only 'black' space the area directly above her bed's headboard. She took a deep breath, and after removing the empty box and light trays from her bed, sat on the edge of the mattress.

Willow did this... She looked up and her gaze connected with the lights again. Willow gave me... this, she thought as she appreciated the artistry of the lights gentle brilliance. The door opened, and Tara turned her head to see Willow re-enter, her laptop tucked beneath her arm, a small case of CDs in her left hand. She shut the door behind her and then looked around, presumably for a place to sit. Tara's brow quirked, and when she met Willow's gaze, she smiled and scooted to the side some, indicating that the redhead could sit next to her on the bed. Willow swallowed hard, and smiling, moved to sit next to the blonde.

The redhead sat down carefully, very aware that she was sitting on Tara's bed, next to Tara, underneath a very romantic glow. She smiled at the blonde slightly, nervously, and then put her laptop on her thighs. Tara tucked her legs up and crossed them beneath her, and then reached out for the CDs Willow was holding awkwardly. "Here..."

"Thanks," Willow replied, handing them over to the blonde. She cast another quick look at Tara and then opened her laptop. She's so close... She opened iTunes and waited. "So, you know what kind of music you want?" She asked, hoping the small talk would distract her from how her tummy fluttered at the blonde's proximity.

"Anything that I don't already have," Tara replied. "What do you have?"

"Everything," Willow snickered. Tara arched her eyebrows and the redhead explained, "I have 40 gigabytes of music on my machine."

"Is... that a lot?" Tara asked, not familiar with the computerese.

Willow smiled brightly, and when the iTunes window appeared, she looked at the bottom bar and said, "that's 9,298 songs."

"You have over 9,000 songs on your computer?" Tara asked surprised, looking to the slim, small machine and then back to Willow. "When do you have the time to listen to them all?"

Willow laughed, and said, "I listen to music all day; helps me work." Tara nodded, still not believing the number and Willow clicked the button below her machine's touch pad. "See," she said pointing to the list of playlists on the left of her screen. "'Buffy', that's all of her music."

Tara looked at where Willow was pointing, and then down. Her brow furrowed and she looked up at the redhead. "You um, you have a playlist named 'Tara'?"

"What?" Willow asked, looking up alarmed, her eyes wide. Oh god, she thought as she looked back to her computer, her eyes immediately locating the offending playlist. Why didn't you delete that before you came in here?! "Uh, I..." Explantion, need an explanation... "I was going to make you a CD," she said with a shaky smile, hoping beyond hope that the blonde didn't ask her to burn it for her.

"You were?" Tara said, looking down to her name on Willow's machine and then back up. "What kind of music?"

Love songs, Willow thought guiltily. "You know," she shrugged, trying to play cool. "Just stuff."

"Lemme see?" The blonde asked with a smile, scooting closer to her roommate to get a better look at the screen.

Damn. "Uh, no," Willow said, before carefully amending, "it's, uh, it's not really, ready yet."

"I don't mind," Tara said, curious as to what kind of music Willow would put together for her. "It's been a long time since someone's made me a mix CD..." she said, trailing off. "I actually think it was a mix tape, now that I think about it..."

"No, really..." Willow squirmed, knowing that the playlist only contained dreamy love songs she listened to when thinking about the blonde. Definitely not appropriate sharing with Tara music...

"Please..." Tara said, leaning in toward the redhead. "Figure you kinda, owe me, since you stuck me with that tack and all..."

Willow twisted and looked at the blonde, momentarily guilty, and then frowned. "So not fair," she said as a wide, wicked smile overtook Tara's lips.

"I'm sorry..." Tara giggled, sporting a smile that Willow knew wasn't in the least bit remorseful. The redhead shook her head and rolled her eyes. "Please," Tara again tried, inching even closer to the redhead as she begged.

Willow turned back to her computer and then back at Tara. Mere inches separated their faces, Tara's shoulder lightly brushing against Willow's and the redhead inwardly groaned. Oh god, so close... "Next week?" Willow croaked, using all of her will power to keep her eyes from darting down and taking in Tara's lips. "I um, I want to work on it some more..."

"Next week," Tara said, leaning back as she realized with some embarrassment how close she had been to the redhead. Close enough to kiss her... She looked up with a sweet smile as soon as she put a respectable amount of distance between them, and said, "promise?"

"I swear," Willow said sincerely. One week... They stared for a long moment, only pulling their eyes away from each other after a momentary gust of wind blew a heavy sheet of rain against the window behind them. "How about this one," the redhead asked, clicking on a new playlist.

"'Real Me'?" Tara asked, leaning in to read the words on the screen.

"Yeah, they're all songs that kind of..."

"Speak to you?"

"Yeah," Willow said, happy that she hadn't need explain. That seems to happen a lot with Tara... "The songs, they all, make me giddy or fluttery inside."


"Yeah, like belly flutters. They make me all happy, like, my heart's gonna explode. Only, in a good, not dying cause a major organ's blown up sort of way."

"I get you..." Tara said chuckling. "Sounds good..." she said, reaching out and pinching Willow's arm lightly.

"K," Willow said. "CD?" Tara handed the girl a disc and Willow put it into her computer, pressing 'burn'. "Should only take a couple of minutes..." she said, breifly pausing before asking, "do you want another one? Got a lot of playlists..."

"I see that..." Tara said, reading through the list, still marveling at seeing her name amongst them. "Can I, maybe just listen to this one, and I don't know, ask for more as the week goes on?"

"Of course," Willow said, tapping her sock covered feet together. The sound of the rain hitting the glass and the slight whir of the burning CD filled the air between them, and the two girls lost themselves in looking at the lights.

"Thank you, again, for this..." Tara said softly. She looked over and Willow quirked her brow. "The lights, your help, the CD... thanks."

"You're welcome," the redhead replied softly. The machine dinged and Willow looked down. She verified that the CD burned correctly, and then pressed eject, gingerly handing it over to the blonde. "Do you need a playlist? I could print one up on my computer-"

"I think I'll be okay..." Tara said. "I'll just, ask, if something sparks my interest," she finished with a half smile and Willow nodded. After a brief pause, Tara turned to Willow and said, "although... can I ask a favor?"

"Of course," Willow replied.

"I have no idea what kind of music you just put on here. Could you, maybe, play one of the songs now? Give me an idea of what I just got myself into..."

"Sure," Willow said, turning to call up the playlist on her monitor. "It's not going to sound great, the speaker's tiny..."

"That's okay", Tara said, her eyes following a shadow cast by the lights near her dresser.

"You pick," Willow said, pointing the computer at Tara.

The blonde leaned over and squinted, quickly reading over the list. I don't know any of these bands... "Um that one, number 17." Willow turned the computer back to her and smiled, ruefully.

She had to pick one of the songs that's also on the Tara list... The redhead double clicked on the song and hit the volume button until the acoustic guitar could be heard filtering between them. She was surprised when Tara laid back on the mattress and pulled at the back of her sweatshirt, indicating that she wanted the redhead to join her in repose. Willow leaned back slowly, reaching up and resting the computer behind their heads as she got comfortable next to the blonde. She brought her arms forward, abandoning the laptop behind her, and noticed that their shoulders touched as they laid side-by-side on the bed, looking up at the lights. Tara rested her hands on her stomach and sighed contentedly as the singer's voice drifted in, the words sung slowly, softly.

'It's okay, it's okay, I promise I'll stay, turn down the lights... I'll sit with you, we'll talk like we're friends, tell me where this troubled love began... We can count the flakes, as it snows and snows... We can't get hurt, it melts and fades...'

Willow tried to keep her eyes busy watching the lights, but with each second that passed, the harder it became to not turn her head to the right, and look at Tara. She swallowed hard and twisted her fingers, anything to keep from reaching over and holding the girl laying next to her. She closed her eyes and imagined how good it would feel to wrap her arms around the blonde, stroke the soft sweater she wore... Why did she have to pick this song... Willow thought with no small amount of frustration, as she reopened her eyes and looked up at the lights with a soft sigh.

Tara listened to the song, the words from the second verse bouncing around in her mind. She could see why the redhead liked it... it was comforting, soft... romantic... She took a quiet, shuddering breath and lightly bit her lip. She let her eyes drift to the left, to look at the girl she'd give anything to reach over and touch. Oh this was a stupid idea... she thought, swallowing hard and turning her eyes back to the lights.

Forty-eight more seconds, Willow thought as she recognized the increased strumming as the marker for the song winding down. Forty-six, forty-five, forty-four...

At ten, she rolled over onto her stomach to cut the song off before the next started, and her eyes caught with Tara's. The blonde was looking at her, intently, and Willow just stared. "P-Pretty song..." Tara whispered as it faded out, and Willow nodded.

Kiss her... Willow thought, her eyes flicking down to look at Tara's lips briefly before she looked back up to her blue eyes. I could just lean down, and kiss her... Willow smiled slightly and turned her attention to the computer as the next song started, breaking the connection as she focused on quitting the application. "I'm glad you liked it..."

Tara pushed herself up into a sitting position, flushing crimson when she realized just how badly she had wanted Willow to lean down and claim her lips. "V-Very much," she said, closing her eyes tightly at the stutter. Willow's brow furrowed at the stammer and she gently closed her computer, pulling it onto her lap as she shifted into a sitting position next to the blonde. Tara looked at the clock next to her bed and said, "it's getting kind of late, if you need to get up early tomorrow..."

"Yeah..." Willow said. She stood, and leaned into the bed to pick up the CDs. Tara wasn't expecting the move and leaned back, her questioning eyes reaching up to Willow's gaze. "My, CDs," Willow explained, noticing how Tara had moved out of her way. Did she, did she think I was going to... kiss her? The redhead thought, disappointed that the blonde had pulled away from her, regardless.

Tara blushed and picked up the CDs, offering them to the standing girl. "Sorry," she said, looking away. Smooth Tara... you had to lean away...

"No, its... thanks." Willow said as she righted herself, tucking the CDs into her. "I better..."

"Okay," Tara said, nodding. Willow nodded in reply and moved to the door. She paused as she juggled her holdings some, and was surprised when she felt Tara behind her. The blonde opened the door, and before Willow could say thank you, Tara pulled the redhead into a warm hug. "Thank you, for everything," she whispered, and Willow's knees almost buckled. She awkwardly hugged the blonde back, the CDs in one hand, the laptop in the other. Tara pulled back, and stepped to the side so Willow could exit. "Good night," she said as Willow nodded and shuffled down the hallway.

"Night," Willow said over her shoulder in a daze, the feeling of the blonde pressing against her clouding her mind. She heard the blonde's door close behind her and she quickly moved into her own room on autopilot, kicking the door closed behind her and putting her computer and CDs down on her desk. She slowly wrapped her arms around her middle and closed her eyes for a minute, remembering the feel of Tara in her arms. She crossed her room to turn off the lights, then climbed into her bed, a goofy, dreamy smile on her lips. She turned, set her alarm clock and then settled down beneath her quilt, pulling the soft, fluffy stuffed dog to her chest. She sighed, thinking about the evening, and surmised after a moments thought that it was going to be a very, very long week...

Continue to Neverland Chapter Thirty-Four

Return to Story Archive
Return to Main Page