Return to Neverland Chapter Thirty-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.

The girls exited out into the street, and immediately bundled up, a timely burst of cold wind greeting them as the heavy gallery door closed behind them. They turned right, and started walking toward Anya's store in silence. Tara felt petulant and sulky, and the mood didn't suit her. She hated feeling this way, hated that Willow taking a 'simple' phone call could have this effect on her, that she could devolve into such pettiness when she was absolutely powerless to control any of the circumstances that were making her so blue. That's not entirely true... Tara thought. Willow could move out, you could date Morgan, you could be a different person if you wanted to... The blonde sighed. Maybe Thursday would be the start of that new person's life... she thought, half heartedly, knowing in the pit of her stomach that a date? with Morgan this Thursday wouldn't instantaneously fix her bruised heart. She tightened her grip around her mid-section, her arms crossed tightly over her chest, her blue eyes concentrated on the concrete in front of her.

Willow looked up at the building across the street, and wondered why it always seemed to be colder downtown. Part of it was the proximity to the water, which she knew meant more fog and more exposure to bad elements, however, it was almost like the tall structures, standing opposite each other stoically, created wind tunnels where the city's increasingly chilly air tortured the tourists, business people and shoppers as they pounded the pavement. I wonder if there's a website online with information about tempature disparities in urban settings...

She dropped her gaze to look at the people walking toward her, and smiled slightly in answer to their bad-weather grimaces. When nobody responded to her thin grin, the redhead sighed slightly and hazarded a quick look out of the corner of her eye at the blonde walking briskly just to her left. Tara's eyes were trained on the sidewalk passing by beneath them, her arms wrapped tightly around her body and her shoulders hunched as they made their way toward the red light up ahead. Willow looked at the bright light, and then back to her right. Something was wrong, something with the blonde and Willow pursed her lips together, concerned. "Are you okay?" the redhead asked timidly. Tension was rolling off the blonde in waves, and the redhead worried that perhaps she had said or done something at the gallery--like taking that phone after all-- that had upset her roommate.

"I'm fine."

Willow raised her eyebrows in surprise at the clipped tone of the blonde's response, and quickly swiveled her wide-eyed gaze forward. Well that was convincing, Willow thought, sarcastically, before resolving to try again. "Are you sure?" She pressed, mindful of keeping her tone gentle and relatively unobtrusive. "You seem a little..."

"I just have a lot on my mind, o-okay?" Tara replied evenly. Willow pushed her lips together contritely and nodded her head, looking away chastened and Tara's anger crumpled as she caught the redhead's lips dip into a frown in her peripheral vision. How do I tell her that I'm mad at her because she's stupid for loving Xander? The blonde thought, conflicted. She looked to the redhead briefly and cursed herself for her inability to just say what was on her mind. "Willow, you're s-stupid for loving Xander." A slight crease appeared on Tara's forehead. What right do I have to say anything about their situation? she thought, confused about exactly how much leeway this new title of 'friend' granted her in confessing her concerns to the redhead. Willow has never asked for my advice about Xander, has barely talked about their relationship at all with me in any way other than just, the odd name drop... it's not my place. She sighed again. It's not my place to tell her what I think about their relationship, about what I think she should do, even though I wish it was...

"Do you, want to talk about it?" Tara looked up in surprise at Willow's hesitant tone, the persistent redhead deciding despite the meek voice in her head advising her to just keep quiet to continue speaking. The two stopped at the red light, and Willow hoped this latest conversation invitation would inspire the blonde to rattle off a list of complaints against Morgan; preferably with Tara's unhappiness about having foolishly commiting to hanging out with the brunette topping the list.

"No," Tara answered, looking up at the big red hand across the street. "I-" She looked over to Willow and shook her head.

"Okay," Willow replied with a nod of her head as she twisted her fingers before her, now firmly convinced that a busy mind was not all that was wrong with her roommate. Tara just nodded in reply, and returned her gaze to the crossing sign across the way. After a few moments of uncomfortable silence, and a few looks at the people standing around them, Willow decided to give in to her own curiosity, hoping as they crossed the street that her new line of questioning wouldn't turn Tara's mood even further sour. "So, Morgan."

Morgan? Tara looked up, surprised by Willow's topic change, and the redhead quickly continued.

"Why was she there?" The redhead internally winced. Possessive much? "I mean, not that she couldn't be there, free country and all," she quickly rambled, stepping around a crowd of people milling in front of an outdoor coffee stand as they stepped up onto the opposite corner. "Although, really the gallery is private property so technically if the didn't want her there they could...ask her to leave." Her brow quirked slightly, not sure what her point was with that ramble. She turned to the blonde and smiled sheepishly.

Tara looked to her left, thinking as they walked down the block, she's asking about Morgan? She took in the slight furrow on the redhead's forehead, and returned her testy gaze forward. "M-Michelle asked her to hang out."

"Oh." Willow said, her tone slightly surprised. "I, I didn't know they were close."

"I don't think they are..." Tara replied absently, wondering at Willow's line of questioning. After the party, and even after cake, she had assumed Willow's interest in her friends was minimal at best. Shaking it off, she looked to Willow and then the ground before them. "They just, decided to hang out, I guess."

Willow paused, noticing once again that they were approaching another red light. "She looked nice." The redhead watched closely as Tara nodded, and Willow deflated a bit. You were supposed to disagree, she mentally grumbled. Or at least, not agree. Willow looked up and summoned all of her courage to continue. "So you guys are going to hang out?"

"T-Thursday," Tara replied, the slight nod of her head punctuating the single word and making it seem more real.

"Oh." Willow said, with a single bob of her head. "That's..." she searched for a neutral word. "...neat."

Tara glanced over to her roommate, and then back to the crowd passing on the street, her arms still wrapped tightly around her middle. "She w-wants me to look at her paintings, to help decide what to send to L.A."

"You'd be good at that," Willow said quickly. "I mean, I'm guessing you would be, because you're like, art... girl." Tara looked over at the redhead curiously, and Willow blushed. 'Art girl'? Ugh. The redhead quickly recovered with another question. "She asked you today?" She arched her eyebrows, expectantly, a hopeful smile on her lips.

Tara nodded, her brow slightly crinkling. Willow sure seemed interested in her conversation with Morgan. Is this just polite conversation? "She um, she called this weekend, but I just, didn't get the message." The girls came to stop behind a group waiting for the crossing signal to change. "I um, I f-forget to check my cell phone sometimes, when I'm home."

"Bummer," Willow said, before looking up, wide-eyed and quickly correcting her slightly peevish tone. "I mean, that sucks that you missed the call." Tara shrugged.

The redhead noticed the unenthusiastic shrug and her heart fluttered. She doesn't seem to in to this dat- meeting, meeting. "Not really looking forward to it?" She asked.

"No," Tara replied, snapping her head around to meeting Willow's hopeful gaze. "I mean, I am, looking forward to it?" She nodded without breaking eye contact, hoping her attempt to convince Willow of her sincere interest would help convince herself. I *am* looking forward to it, right?

"Yeah?" Willow asked, her disappointed voice not quite as robust as she'd like. You just had to ask...

"Do I not seem like I am?" Tara asked self-consciously, slightly annoyed at Willow's half-articulated observations.

"No, I- I, don't know..." Willow trailed off, her heart sinking into her stomach. "I guess."

Tara nodded; the redhead's face was so open, her brow furrowed adorably as she waited for the blonde to continue. Why does she have to be so adorable? Tara thought, frustrated and angered by her swirling emotions. "It should be fun, to have someone around who I can talk about art with."

"Right," Willow said, ducking her head, Tara's words stinging her slightly. Because, that's very much not me...

Tara sighed, realizing with a pang of guilt what she had said, how it might have sounded, her eyes trained on the stranger's royal blue jacket before her so intently that she didn't notice the redhead's shoulders sag to her left. The blonde didn't really care about talking about art; it wasn't like she sat around wishing that there was someone around she could talk oil paint composition with... instead, Tara realized with clarity that she had said what she said because talking about art was not something she did with Willow; not on a regular basis, and not as equals. Isn't that what she needed, to do things that she and Willow couldn't do? Like talk about art, date, kiss? Tara hazarded another look at Willow, the redhead standing innocently on the corner waiting for the light to change, and her own shoulders sagged. Petty and petulant, Tara...

The blonde sighed again and looked to the cars passing slowly in traffic. Her words were so similar to three years earlier, when stung by Willow's emphatic denigration of their shared day in the park, the blonde had described her ideal woman to the redhead; basically, everything she knew Willow not to be. Olive skin, athletic, artistic... the anti-Willow. It had been so childish, a 'see, i don't need you' moment, a chance to hurt Willow like Willow had hurt her the previous night, and her remembrance of both evenings and her juvenile behavior still made her feel ashamed. The same shame she felt creeping into her bones now. Petty and petulant, Tara...

"I get it," Willow said, trying to sound supportive and not jealous, two emotions that felt completely foreign to her heart at the moment. "It's nice," she continued, around the lump in her throat, as the light changed and they crossed, stopping as they reached the other side so as to cross again on the opposite light. "Sometimes, it's nice to talk to someone who really gets you." Someone unlike, oh, say for instance, me, the redhead tacked on internally, looking up at the building across from them.

Tara frowned slightly at Willow's words. "Get me"? Morgan didn't really get her; sure, she might understand about the paintings, but... The way Willow made it sound, it just, sounded so much more intimate, so much *more* than she wanted from the encounter. I just want to look at some paintings, think about something other than Willow for one afternoon... What Willow was describing sounded so serious, so visceral... so not how I feel when I'm around Morgan... Tara's brow crumpled in confusion. Is that feeling even something that can come with time?

The blonde looked to her right, away from her roommate and took in the sounds around her; the cars passing, music blasting, and people chatting both to each other and into their phones. Compared to the busy din surrounding them, the two girls stood quietly, lost in their own thoughts. Willow looked to her right again, at Tara's closed off form and couldn't help but feel like whatever Tara was feeling-frustration, anger, hurt-was a result of her actions. She wasn't like this before the gallery, before... "I'm sorry, about the phone..."

The blonde looked up at Willow briefly, and then back down. Xander... she thought, wishing she could go one day with Willow without thinking about that name. "It's okay," Tara said, her tone dull. "You had to take it."

Willow opened her mouth to disagree, to point out that it was Tara who had encouraged her to take the call, but quickly thought better of it as the light changed and Tara quickly stepped into the street. Willow took a quick step to catch up, and walked quietly at the blonde's side for a few yards, the redhead wringing her hands the whole time. Okay, something is definitely wrong... she internally confirmed, glancing again at the blonde's profile. She told me to take the call, didn't she? Willow looked down at her hands, and then back up. How do I fix whatever this is?

"Xander got a new job." Tara looked up, and Willow smiled slightly as they stepped up onto the sidewalk, the redhead hoping that a little innocuous conversation might improve the blonde's mood. "I mean, it's the same job, construction, just a new position, more responsibility." Tara paid attention to this new development; Willow never talked about Xander like this, recounting her conversations with the man in detail. Was the redhead opening up? "It's a good promotion, more administrative stuff, less nailing things." Willow's brow furrowed and she looked up at her roommate, an embarrassed smile pulling at her lips. "And by 'things' I mean nails." Tara nodded quietly, and Willow continued. "Kinda, weird," she said, as they walked around a man chatting on a cell. "Hearing about him having this grown up life. But, it's good, you know?"

Tara just nodded, slightly amazed. Moments ago, her imagination was running wild as she wondered what Willow and Xander discussed, and now, here was the redhead actually telling her. Is she going to talk about Friday? About what happened between them that made her cry? The blonde looked over to the redhead with baited breath.

"It's much better than when he used to sell Boost Bars out of his parent's basement," the redhead continued on, oblivious. "Or, oh! When he worked at the Hot Dog on the Stick." Willow frowned slightly. "Although, I do miss the free hot dogs on sticks." Tara's eyebrows raised in amusement and the redhead continued on, blithely. "There was one weird thing though..."

Here goes? the blonde thought, pursing her lips slightly, bracing for whatever Willow was about to share.

"He said he wanted me to tell Buffy about the promotion." Tara's brow knit, the redhead's statement completely unexpected, and when she looked over to Willow she saw a similar, confused crease in Willow's brow. "I mean, not that I mind," the redhead quickly amended. "It's just weird cause, hello, his great news, you'd think he'd want to brag a little." She shook her head slightly, looking over at the blonde and broaching the next subject carefully. "Buffy hasn't, you know, said anything, has she, about them fighting or anything?"

"Has Buffy--" The blonde's mind quickly cycled through a whole host of unpleasant memories of Buffy fighting with the dark-haired man. She turned to Willow and simply shrugged. I guess she really doesn't know about them, t-their fighting... Tara watched as Willow sighed and nodded slightly, accepting the blonde's silent shrug. Tara sighed slightly at Willow's quiet acquiescence. It wasn't her place to get involved in that drama under any circumstance, just like it wasn't her business to interfer with Willow and Xander unless the redhead asked. She looked back up at her roommate.

"Xander didn't mention anything..." the redhead trailed off quietly, before quickly looking up and smiling. "I'm probably just being overactive imagination girl."

"Maybe you should t-talk to Buffy," Tara offered sympathetically with a slight, encouraging bob of her head.

"Yeah..." Willow said, her brow creasing again. She looked at Tara and then back to the path in front of them. It seemed like maybe the blonde knew more than she was letting on; talk to Buffy... She opened her mouth to ask about the blonde's advice, and then quickly thought better of it. Better to not involve Tara in her friends' business. She smiled quickly at the blonde again, and then trained her eyes on the tall building across the street.

Tara took a deep breath, and looked over to the redhead to her left. The girl was looking around at the buildings, taking in the crowd as it surged in another direction across the street. The blonde noticed the thoughtful look on the redhead's face, and the suspense of what else happened between Willow and Xander on the phone moments earlier finally got to her. They only talked about work stuff? The redhead's relatively serene demeanor certainly suggested that some sort of apology was offered and accepted; I mean, they did fight on Friday, right? The blonde took another deep breath, and asked, "things are o-okay with you, with him, I mean?"

The redhead looked over at the blonde, slightly surprised by the question. "Yeah," she replied simply, no sign of the distress or ritual avoidance Tara expected to see. "I mean, still annoyed that he didn't call me all weekend but it's no big, he had a good, promotion-related reason." Willow smiled brightly, not a care in the world, and only after a long moment did she notice Tara's lack of reply. "Why?"

"N-No reason," Tara replied, trying to rein in her fluctuating emotions. They had fought, Tara was sure of it, and yet here, now, Willow was acting as if nothing had happened at all. When Tara didn't continue speaking, Willow frowned.

"What?" The redhead prodded. Tara looked at Willow and then back forward, shaking her head slightly when she couldn't find the words to reply. The redhead's brow furrowed. "Tara, if--"

"It's just, F-Friday..." The blonde paused as she saw Willow blush brightly, worrying that she was overstepping, invading the redhead's privacy, yet plowing ahead beside herself. "Things seemed... b-bad, Friday."

"Oh," Willow answered, panic and confusion surging up from her stomach. What does she mean, "things seemed bad". Okay, she saw me crying but... is that all she's talking about? The redhead looked up, quickly, and proceeded cautiously as they started to cross another street. "Things weren't really, bad, with him on Friday." Tara's eyebrows arched up. Willow saw the incredulous look and stopped in the street, the blood running from her face. Okay, *what* did she hear?! When Tara stopped, a step ahead, Willow just spit out, "Tara, what did you hear?"

Tara looked over her shoulder to find Willow standing still steps from the corner in the street. The blonde stepped back to her roommate and grabbed her jacket, pulling her to the corner and out of the intersection as the light changed and cars started to stream by. Willow's feet seemed to sink into the concrete as her roommate pulled her out of the crowd of people negotiating the cramped sidewalk, and Tara sighed at the palpable look of panic and humiliation on Willow's face. The redhead did nothing other than stare at the blonde in confusion as they stopped a foot way from the building on the corner. "I, I d-didn't hear anything," Tara stammered. Wasn't that what I said Friday? And again Saturday at cake? "I, j-just. You, you g-guys sounded like... you were fighting. You s-sounded angry, and, hurt."

"Didn't hear anything..." Willow took a deep breath, her mind spinning, barely reassured by the blonde's words. She looked up at the girl before her, the redhead opening her mouth and then closing it again, as she willed her mind to organize her words. She took a calming breath, looked up and spoke carefully. "I was, angry," she replied. "And hurt, from something... earlier. We, he and I just, we disagree on some things, and I sort, brought one of those things up, and just, I had a lot on my mind and when we started to disagree things sort of... spiraled... but, I wasn't mad at him, I just... I guess, sounded that way." Tara thought back to how raw Willow's voice sounded the night of the party, how desperate and angry, how fragile and crushed she sounded on the phone and her heart sunk at Willow's careful denial of the obvious truth. "I was mad about other things, not him."

Tara's brow quirked. She looked up, confused. The redhead had been mad at him, the blonde was sure of it, she had heard Willow's side of the conversation, "This isn't some high school crush Xander... This is, love, real, true love and and I can't just pretend that I don't feel it" But what if that was just the end of a really bad disagreement, bonus words tacked on to hurt him because she was frustrated and angry about something else entirely. What if Willow... Tara caught the redhead's eye. "Were you mad at me?" Willow's face went blank, and the blonde plowed on, her cheeks burning as the new thought took root. "Because I left you alone?" Tara swallowed hard. Oh god, oh god, oh god... "Because I didn't spend all of my time with you at the party, b-because I ignored you?"

"Ignored" me... "No," Willow said meekly. Tara's eyebrows launched to her hairline and Willow stammered as Tara's disbelief registered across her face, the redhead letting out a long breath as her words spilled out of her mouth. "No, I- I told you earlier, it was just a different night than I expected." Seeing the look on Tara's face, she continued, trying to reassure the girl. "But I wasn't mad at you. I- I know you had, other, things to do that night."

Other things. Tara thought confused. "So you were mad..." she asked again, her brow furrowed.

"No, not mad. I just..." Willow shook her head, frustrated and surprised that they were having this conversation on the street as random people passed, her denials appearing as puffs of steam in the cold air filling the space between them. "I," she struggled, unable to fully explain. "The party was hard for me," she admitted, sheepishly. Before Tara could ask, Willow quickly continued. "I was, I don't know, frustrated? I, I just... I didn't fit in, don't, usually, fit in, at parties and there I was, the only engineer with all those artists and PR people, and I," she took a deep breath. "I didn't really, get, why you invited me."

"Why I invited you?" Tara felt faint from confusion, the blood in her body rushing to her over-active mind.

"I just mean, it was sort of obvious that you were there, for Morgan," Willow said, her eyes quirking as she twisted her fingers before her. "That you were on a date."

"A--" A *date*?! "I wasn't--" Tara replied, shocked. "I- I w-wasn't--"

"I just, felt like you wanted me to be, like, Willow the wingwoman?" Willow quickly explained. "Or, you know, your fallback if things with Morgan didn't work out?"

"That is n-not--" Tara stumbled, flabberghasted. "I, I-" the blonde stopped speaking abruptly, looking down at the space between them. Is that what Willow thinks of me, that I'm-- "Buffy." Willow looked surprised. "I mean, B-Buffy, does that, not- I- I invited you b-because I thought w-we'd have fun, that you'd, have fun. I told you, Friday, Saturday..." The blonde shook her head, her face the picture of abject abashment. "I, I w-wouldn't have spent so much time with her if you hadn't have been on the phone."

"I know-" Willow said contritely. So she was mad about the phone Friday, even though she said it had been no big deal.

"And the rest of the time, you looked happy, so I didn't..."

"And, I should have, been having fun-- that's what Xander was trying to tell me on the phone--" Willow shook her head, Tara's face still creased with confusion. "I should have tried to fit in, and I didn't--"

"You and X-Xander were fighting about that?" Tara asked, not quite believing the redhead's words.

"Yes-- No," Willow sighed in frustration, defeated. This wasn't how she saw things today going; how did they even get on this topic? "Tara, we were supposed to have fun today," the redhead pleaded. "You know, two roomies, out on the town, playing hooky, getting paint. We should be happy, I mean, look at all of these happy people." The girls looked around, noticing the scowls on the passerbyer's faces. "Well, except, for the people who are going to work..." Willow amended, sheepishly looking around, "or, the ones that are cold." She looked back up at Tara. "Can't we just have fun? No more bad talk? Friday was... stupid, and embarrassing, and I'd really, really like to forget it and just... have fun." When Tara didn't reply, Willow sighed and continued. "I'm a spaz." The blonde's brow furrowed, and the redhead continued. "I just, I overthink things sometimes and I get all worked up and combined with the spaziness that is me I just, it's just, bad and I'm sorry."

Tara swallowed before saying, softly. "You're not a spaz."

"Yes, I am," Willow said with a nod of her head and nervous chuckle.


"I wasn't mad, at you, Friday," the redhead quickly confessed. "Just confused, and stupid. I'm sorry."

"You don't have to apologize," Tara said defensively, deflating slightly. "I w-was the one that--"

"No, you didn't do anything but have fun with your friends and I'm sorry that I ruined your night."

"You didn't ruin my night," the blonde reassured quietly. She quirked her brow and evaluated the girl shifting nervously across from her. She looked so vulnerable, embarrassed and wounded. Tara shook her head slightly. "A-Are," she sighed, not sure about the question she was about to ask. "A-Are y-you sure--?"

"I'm positive," Willow interrupted, sure that Tara was asking if she was sure she wasn't mad.

"You d-don't even know what I was going to ask..." the blonde smiled slightly, gently reproaching her roommate for interrupting.

"I'm sorry," the redhead said softly, her total focus on the woman she loved.

"A-Are you sure you're not mad?" The blonde's brow wrinkled, her eyes asking for an honest answer.

"Positive," Willow said with a knowing smile. Tara nodded her head slightly in reply and the redhead's brow quirked slightly. Willow-comforter... "I've sort of, had a lot on my mind lately, been a little overwhelmed, by some things..." Tara looked up, and met Willow's open gaze. "Sort of making me act a little insane."

"What sort of things?" The blonde asked, watching as the green eyes met her gaze and quickly dart away.

"Life things," Willow replied ruefully with a slight, self-deprecating chuckle as she kicked at the sidewalk before her. Tara nodded, noticing again how exposed and small the redhead looked. Willow looked up in surprise as Tara reached out and pulled the redhead toward her with a tug on her jacket, a pack of gabbing girls narrowly missing running Willow over. The redhead smiled appreciatively, and noticed with a soft smile how much warmer she felt standing so close to Tara. "I don't think this is what you had in mind when you said yes to me tagging along last night..."

"No," Tara replied, ducking her head slightly. "But I'm g-glad we talked."

"Me too," Willow said with a definitive head nod. "I just want to have fun with you." She looked up and met Tara's patient gaze. "The things that I'm overthinking, sometimes they sort of, disappear when we're together, and I like that."

"Me too," Tara said softly. "I mean, glad that they disappear for you." She tugged on Willow's arm again, and they started walking. After a few steps, Tara stepped closer to the redhead, the two girl's arms brushed together lightly as they walked. "Do you, d-do you want to talk, about it? The 'life things'?" The blonde asked hopefully.

Willow looked up at her roommate, and then away. "Not really." Tara nodded, a little disappointed, but respecting the redhead's reticence. "I just... I have a lot on my mind, things are sort of busy up here," she said, tapping her temple. "My mom's visit, Buffy coming home... just adds up. Kind of overwhelming, actually."

Buffy? Tara frowned slightly. "You um, you're overwhelmed by Buffy?"

"No," Willow said, blushing. "Just... it's complicated," the redhead sighed. Can't really go there...not yet. "Sort of why I asked Xander to come up this weekend. Need a little, moral, support."

"Xander's coming here this weekend?" Tara asked, surprised, her step faltering slightly at the news.

"I hope," Willow said, wondering if the blonde's slight misstep was on account of a particularly uneven patch of sidewalk. "Probably not though..." she added, her voice carrying the full weight of her pessimism. "He didn't want to, even though I told him he didn't have to sleep on our couch or anything." Tara's first thought was Willow's bed, before the redhead continued. "I mean, he could stay at Buffy's house, hang out..." Willow paused. "It would be really nice to have him here. I really miss him, you know?"

Tara could only nod. What the hell is going on... she thought. Willow needs Xander for moral support because she's going to see her mom and Buffy? As far as Tara knew, Willow's relationship with her mom was great, and Buffy... sure, they had their difficulties, but why on earth would Willow feel overwhelmed by Buffy, her best friend? Because Buffy disapproved of her relationship with Xander? Was her relationship with Xander less one-sided than Buffy and her and thought? But then, if that was the case, wouldn't Xander want to come up for the weekend? Instead, it seemed like he was leaving her to deal with whatever was overwhelming her on her own... which was definitely in keeping with Tara's original opinion of him, that he was a supreme jerk and not at all supportive... but Willow was acting as if his absence was medicine; not at all tasty but very necessary and ultimately the best for her. "Are things um, are things okay, with your mom?" Tara finally asked, curiosity and confusion getting the best of her.

"Yeah," Willow replied with a nod of her head, hoping her voice seemed strong, unconflicted. "She just.... She's hard to please, sometimes."

"She'd be crazy to not be pleased with you."

The redhead turned and shot a beaming smile at her roommate. "Thanks," Willow said, her heart fluttering at Tara's confidence in her.

"N-No problem," Tara replied, her own heart wildly beating in her chest at Willow's sparkling smile.

A drop of rain hit Willow's face, and she looked up at the dark sky with a slight frown. "I can't believe I forgot the umbrella in the car..."

Tara looked up at the sky in response, and then to her roommate. "Do you need to go get it?"

Willow looked up again, her lips curling slightly into a frown, and after a short evaluative check, turned to the blonde. "Are we going to be at Anya's long?"

"No," Tara said with a shake of her head. Definitely not; she needed to go home as soon as possible, retreat to the sanctuary of her studio and think back on everything that had happened since leaving the apartment almost an hour earlier.

Willow nodded, and again looked back to the sky. After another evaluative glance, she looked to the girl who held her heart. With a slight smile, she said "we should be okay."

Tara smiled, and stopped, Willow looking up, realizing with a surge of nervousness and anxiety that they had reached their destination. "Remember," Tara said softly, "you don't have to talk to her." The blonde's brow arched, and the redhead nodded.

"Okay," Willow said with a deep breath.



Tara smiled, and the two girls entered the store.

Continue to Neverland Chapter Forty-One

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