Return to Neverland Chapter Forty-Seven


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.
Notes: The week after I started writing Neverland I saw the show described in the next few updates. (Even ate at the same restaurant.) It is positively surreal to look back on that night from this distance. Just about everything in my life has changed since then but that night seems oddly complete in my memory. Hope you enjoy their evening at the Fillmore as much as I enjoyed mine.
Thoughts in italics.

Willow Rosenberg knew she was prone to fits of envy, however, up until she went to present her ticket at The Fillmore, she had never before felt envious of anyone wearing a red security windbreaker. She watched as the short security guard asked Tara to open her jacket before her; watched as the stocky woman slipped her hands along the circumference of the blonde's waist like it was nothing but a chore, and envy swelled inside the redhead. If she were asked to check Tara, for who knows what kind of dangerous weapon or alcoholic beverages they suspected her of having, she knows she'd savor every touch. Maybe linger on the small of the girl's back, take her time sending her fingertips along that space where the blonde's form fitting shirt barely overlapped the top of her pants. She'd-


Willow snapped her head up abruptly when the security guard impatiently repeated, "next!" The redhead caught Tara's eye, the blonde smiling innocently over her shoulder, and Willow stepped forward and opened her own jacket, the security guard's hands briskly carrying out the search.

The redhead caught up to Tara, and they both showed their IDs to a man at the door, their hands stamped with an unreadable word in black ink. With a smile, the greeter said, "welcome to The Fillmore," and the girls smiled in reply as they started up the wide, L-shaped staircase.

Willow found her eyes darting everywhere, wanting to take in as much of the venue and Tara as she could simultaneously. She noted the mirror on the wall at the turn of the staircase, noticed the shabby flooring well-worn from the traffic of who knows how many sets of shoes. The music got louder as they approached the top of the steps, the opening band's set well under way. As they reached the top of the stairs and stepped around a milling couple into the long, narrow lobby, the redhead found herself smiling at something she recognized. Sitting on a waist-high table was a tub of fresh, red apples.

"Hey, the tub o' apples." She smiled, speaking slightly louder than normal to be heard over the muffled music from the next room. "I didn't think they'd really have them. I mean, I read about them online, saw the picture, but I sort of thought it was a joke. Free apples at a concert; kinda odd."

"Do you want one?" Tara asked, and Willow shook her head, the two girls taking their jackets off as the heat of the crowd started to seep in, people spilling around them in every direction.

"I don't think the calzone would like it if I got him a friend," the redhead said, rubbing her belly. "Have you ever had one?" She asked, nodding to the tub as she folded her jacket over her arm.

"Mmm-hmm," Tara confirmed, mimicking the redhead's movement with her own coat. "Though, I felt really funny afterwards," she said with a slight frown. "Kind of... tingly, a-and trippy..."

"Really?" The redhead asked, concerned, her brows shooting to her hairline. "Cause you know they used to be drugg-" The blonde couldn't keep a straight face, giggling softly as a wide smile broke across her lips, and the redhead rolled her eyes. "Ha ha. I am so easy." She caught herself and immediately amended the statement. "Gullible. That's me."

"No, I'm just mean," the blonde replied, the smile still on her lips, zero trace of remorse in her sparkling eyes.

"Not mean," Willow said with a large smile, the sight of the girl grinning at her making her heart skip a beat. "Though, I think it's safe to say that you're especially talented at teasing me."

She couldn't hide the blush that took to her cheeks, and Tara couldn't help but see it, despite the redhead looking to the floor and a man stepped between them momentarily, saying sorry as he reached an arm out and plucked an apple from the tub. As he stepped away, Willow looked back up, her smile turning from the man to Tara, and the blonde tucked away the image of a blushing redhead teasing about being teased into her memory banks. Either she had made Willow blush with her teasing, or the redhead had made herself blush with her own teasing reply. Either option made the blonde's heart beat a little faster.

"Do you want to see the stage?" She asked, raising her hand to thumb behind her, and Willow nodded, admiring how the glass bead bracelet slid enticingly down the girl's arm. The redhead smiled brightly, and followed as Tara turned and walked through a large archway to their right.

Stepping into the large, high-ceiling room, Willow's breath caught. Right away, she recognizing the chandeliers from Tara's painting, as they hung majestically from the ceiling in two rows of four, and the sight was enough to make her sigh contentedly. Much better than the QTVR video on The Fillmore home page. Her eyes quickly adjusted to the semi-darkness and the swirling concert lights, the stage lit up and glowing across the room, the opening band mid-song. Tall red curtains and a long black bench with small, round tables bearing 'reserved' signs lined the right wall. She arched her neck and looked to the second level balcony seats to her left, seeing rows of framed posters on the wall behind them, then let her gaze wander down to the large, parquet dance floor before her. Standing packed together in large pockets throughout the venue, people casually chatted over the music, with only a few diehards clumped up near the stage watching the band perform. It was a larger crowd than she had expected for a Wednesday night, and she wondered how full the venue would get by the time the headliners stepped on the stage.

As the wow of the venue sunk in, the redhead took notice of the band playing. On the stage were five men dressed like they had stepped out of an early-seventies MC5 album cover. The singer's polyester shirt was open to his navel, the keyboardist's black vest rested on top of a white shirt with puffy sleeves. The song they played was jangly glam rock from another era, the singer's over-enunciatiation almost affecting an accent. After a long moment spent silently taking it all in, the girls caught each other's eyes and burst into laugher. As the giggles receded, Tara leaned her in close to Willow's ear to be heard over the noise. "It um, it sort of feels like we're at the prom, in 1975." She felt her face flush at their proximity, thrilling at how close they were as she spoke.

The redhead giggled in reply, and as the blonde started to lean back, Willow asked, "wanna dance?" She held her hands out awkwardly at waist level like a seventh-grade boy, her elbows pinned against her sides, her coat draped over her left forearm. Tara froze, her eyes flicking from the redhead's arms then back up. The redhead quickly dropped her arms, smiling, mortified. She leaned into the blonde, her fidgeting hands now safely clasped beneath her jacket and said, "the keyboardist looks like a blonde Meatloaf." She leaned back, her lips in a tight smile, her face hot with embarrassment.

"He does," Tara agreed loudly with a nod of her head, her fingers similarly intwined beneath the jacket folded over her wrists. Way to freeze there Tara... She looked over to the redhead's profile and sighed. It would have been nice to have felt those freckled hands on her hips, even if it were just a joke...

The two watched in silence as a song ended and another began, a ballad that the keyboardist sang with all the false earnestness he could muster. "This is awful," the redhead said loudly with a bemused smile, shaking her head slowly at the travesty on the stage.

"Completely," Tara concurred. The two made eye contact and giggled again, the song coming to a close, the singer announcing that the next would be their last.

"Thank god," Willow said, the blonde gifting her with a half smile. The new song started, bouncy and exaggerated, and the redhead's eyes went wide.

"What?" Tara asked, leaning over, the look on her roommate's face a cross between shock and disappointment.

"I have this song on my computer," the girl said guiltily. The blonde couldn't help but laugh. Willow put her free hand to her forehead and groaned. "I have too many songs on my computer." She looked up at Tara and just sighed, her shoulders slumping at the thought of the band they had been mocking being a part of her iTunes library.

The song soon over, the lights came up and Tara turned to the redhead, as recorded music piped in through the venue and the din from people chatting amplified. "Want to walk around?" She stepped a little to the right to avoid getting hit by someone walking purposefully toward the back doors. "There are some really cool posters upstairs. I can show you the ones I have."

"I'd like that," Willow said with a nod and sincere smile. She took her coat and slung it over her small purse, freeing her hands, the bag's strap digging slightly into her right collarbone due to the new weight.

Tara flashed a half smile. "Cool." The redhead followed the blonde through double doors set in the right-side of the back wall, noticing as they started up a set of stairs that the merch counter, loaded down with t-shirts, was wedged into what looked like an old closet. At the top of the stairs, the blonde broke left, the redhead noticing what looked like a sparsely-populated restaurant situated to the right.

They entered a long narrow room, with small round tables and cafe style chairs set in a row near the poster-wall, and Willow saw right away that the open areas to the right were where the balcony seats looked down over the venue's main floor. She looked to her left and let her eyes scan the posters, hung end to end, floor to ceiling. The posters were illuminated by track lighting, and mini-chandeliers set a cozy ambience for those standing in clusters nearby chatting and nursing drinks. The redhead saw names printed on the posters that she recognized, Wilco, David Byrne, and it amazed her that each of these posters was for a show, a design to accompany a musical event. She thought of all of the people who had the posters, the memories they could re-live as a result of looking upon them, and it made her smile. She could see why Tara liked The Fillmore so much.

She listened attentively as Tara started to point out the dozen or so shows she had attended since moving to the city, listened as the blonde described evenings spent with Buffy and funny stories about the performers she'd seen. Tara spoke candidly, meeting Willow's eye whenever the redhead engaged her, hoping as she described the shows she had seen that she wasn't boring the girl following her slowly along as they toured the room.

"You know, we should get a poster for this show, after it's over?"

"Really?" Willow asked, the excitement in her voice evident. "That's so cool."

"They don't give them out for every show, but most." Tara nodded to the stage below. "Seems like a good candidate."

"What did you do with the posters you got, from the other shows?" The redhead asked, wondering if it would be okay if she shimmied over and looked down from one of the empty balcony spots.

"They're in storage. The ones that survived, anyway." The blonde smiled at the redhead warmly. "I used to have them framed and up on the walls, but I gradually put them away as friends started to give me their art work." She stepped to the side to let another concert goer pass and look at the poster's behind her. "Where's your master work on trains?" She said, vocalizing an imagined conversation. "In my supply closet. But did you see this poster of when I saw Patty Griffin at The Fillmore?" Willow giggled and after a long moment, Tara nodded toward the temporarily empty balcony seats, their former occupants at the bar or in the bathroom. "If you want to look over the side, you can. I don't think anyone would mind."

"Yay!" the redhead replied with a little hand clap, the blonde giggling at the goofy action.

Adorable. She watched as Willow squeezed between two chairs and leaned over the railing, the angle offering Tara an unobstructed view of the redhead's curves. The blonde sighed happily, her eyes feasting on the sight.

"It's so cool how close the chandeliers are," the redhead said, and all Tara could do was mumble, "mmm-hmm" in reply, lost in her own thoughts. Thoughts of caressing the redhead's curves, of the feel of her hand on the seam of Willow's jeans. The blonde snapped out of it in time to see the redhead smile and make her way back to Tara's side, and they slowly started to walk back toward the stairs, stopping every now and again to let someone pass, or to get a closer look at one of the framed posters. "So what are you going to get up to tomorrow?" Tara asked casually, enjoying watching Willow take everything in, her skin buzzing at her earlier moment of fantasy.

"Work," the redhead smiled ruefully. "Trying to get through a set of calculations that don't want to seem to work. It's making everyone a little crazy. I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't have another pointless emergency meeting. How about you?" The words slipped out before Willow could stop them, as she already knew what the answer would be, and she didn't want the artist to start worrying about her looming workload now.

"Painting," the blonde answered with a sigh, as expected. "Hopefully," she amended. Tara smiled, almost apologetically. "But, I've said that every day this week, so..."

Willow nodded. In the ensuing moment of silence, both girls realized what had gone unspoken; mention of the new elephant in the venue, Morgan. Tara absently tapped at the phone in her pocket as they made their way to top of the stairs. Morgan's visit wasn't set in stone; it wasn't even written on a slip of paper in pencil. She could mention it, stutter as she tried to convey how unexcited and confused she was about the prospective date, or she could just leave things as they were. Unmentioned, and unimportant. Better to just not mention it... she thought, her foot on the top step. With a reassuring head bob, she turned her attention to the logjam of people below her, and the growing tickle in her throat.

Willow looked to her roommate's profile as she stood a step above the girl, the blonde's mind elsewhere. She wondered if Tara was thinking about Morgan, wondered if the blonde was hesitating saying something because she was embarrassed about discussing her love life with her new friend. After a pregnant pause, and more than a few reservations, the redhead looked down and took a deep breath. "Aren't you hanging out with Morgan tomorrow?" The question was half curiosity, half obligatory, and Willow held her breath as she waited for a reply.

Tara opened her mouth to speak but didn't, surprised that Willow remembered, that Willow had asked. "We haven't, w-we don't have any plans, yet." She looked over her should and caught Willow's eye, the redhead looking at her curiously. The blonde once again turned her attention to the mass of people descending before her, choosing not to mention the earlier phone call.

"Oh," Willow nodded. Is that all, or... She took another deep breath as they followed the turn in the stairway. "But you were going to try to? Meet up?"

The blonde nodded her head shyly. "To look over her portfolio, for the L.A. show." She wasn't sure why she felt the need to explain, to define the meeting as something other than what it might be, a date. "She mentioned stopping by in the afternoon, but... nothing's set." At least, not until I listen to the voicemail on my cell phone and call her back to confirm or flake...

The redhead nodded. "Well, if you do, that should be fun." Willow smiled widely, her breath eeking out slowly like air through a pinpricked balloon. I can't believe I'm doing this...

"Yeah, she's." Tara struggled for a way to describe Morgan. Gorgeous? Sexy? Charming? Funny? Her mind swirled. "She's a good artist." The blonde caught Willow's gaze and smiled her half smile, feeling that she should do something to reward the redhead for her interest, and they made their way to the final step in silence, Tara eager to move on and leave Morgan on the sidelines for the rest of the evening.

The redhead quietly followed Tara from the stairs back through the double doors and into the main room. She felt surprised by how different she felt after asking about Morgan. She had expected to feel tense and jealous, but instead she felt oddly even-keeled and more than a little proud that she hadn't turned into a green-eyed monster. Huh... she thought, surprised. She felt... she felt like a friend. Like maybe even a burgeoning confidant. I just managed a normal conversation about something that so totally should freak me out, and I didn't freak out. Wow, she sighed with amazement. I can talk about Morgan without becoming a total spazoid freak.

She looked to Tara and felt overwhelmingly happy. This was as close as they had been since that day in the park, she was sure of it, and it was because she was being herself. There were questions to be asked so she asked them, and instead of fearing the answers and blocking them out with a rambling inner monologue, she listened and found herself strangely satisfied with the blonde's response.

She couldn't decipher the small half smile Tara offered as she extended her harmless compliment about Morgan. The blonde could be embarrassed talking about a love affair that she was unsure about, sheepish about not having her plans in order yet, chagrined at having to spend time with the artist on a day when she'd need every spare moment for work or excited about the prospect of time spent with the brunette. It could be any one of those things, or it could be something completely different, and Willow allowed herself any and all possibilities. For now, it was enough that Tara shared with her.

And, after all, Willow thought devilishly, allowing herself a brief moment of glory, Tara didn't say Morgan was great, or pretty or funny or any of the other compliments she could have paid the gorgeous brunette. Just that she's a good artist. The redhead puffed out her chest and sighed happily.

"Are you thirsty?" Tara asked, and brought of her own thoughts, Willow nodded.

"I could go for a little liquid refreshment," she said with a spirited smile. "Do you want me to get some drinks? It looks like there's a bar right over there." She pointed to their left, and Tara followed her gaze.

"Sure," the blonde replied. "Only, the little bar over there is better." She pointed in the opposite direction, and Willow spied what looked like a little lemonade stand stocked with liquor bottles situated between the far left door and a sound board at the back of the room. "It's less crowded," Tara explained. "People tend to mingle at the big bar, makes ordering a little difficult."

"Sounds good," Willow said with a nod. "Cape Cod?" Tara smiled brightly that the redhead remembered, and Willow returned the smile.

"I'll come with you," the blonde said, and they made their way to the back bar, shuffling through the growing crowd. Once to the bar, Willow leaned in and ordered the drinks, Tara standing just to her right. The bartender finished the first drink and handed it over to Willow. She promptly turned and handed it off to Tara, who managed to slip the redhead a five dollar bill with minimal fuss, the blonde's raised eyebrow indicating that she wouldn't take no for an answer. "Thanks," Tara said with a sweet smile when Willow grudgingly pocketed the five. The blonde took a quick sip off the top, so as not to spill, her nose crinkling slightly at the taste. Vodka-y.

It didn't take long before others started to angle for the bar, and Tara found herself standing in the way of the crush. She leaned into Willow's side, the redhead looking up quizzically, but enjoying the contact. "I'm going to go get out of the way," the blonde said, thumbing to the right. She smiled and Willow nodded, before turning her attention back to the bartender and a question about her drink. Tara walked several feet to an open space and stopped, self-consciously looking around as she stood alone with her drink. She bobbed her head to the music playing, and took a deep breath. Things were going well. She took another sip, the cool liquid coating her once-dry throat. She scanned the room, looking for the tallest man in the venue, and nodded knowingly when she found him standing amongst a crowd of much shorter people toward the bar on the left side. Yup, she thought, her eyes narrowing comically. You'll be standing in front of me at some point during the night...

Willow took her drink from the bartender, left a dollar tip and made her way over to the blonde. Tara was so beautiful, standing alone people-watching, the glass bead bracelet sliding along her slim wrist every time she brought her cup to her lips for a sip. The redhead felt proud to be with such an attractive "date," even if the "date" didn't know her role. Willow closed the distance between them, smiling, and gently touched her roommate on the elbow to announce her arrival.

Tara turned at the touch with a smile, just in time to see Willow pop a martini olive into her mouth, and something about the action caused something inside the blonde's brain to click. The night she learned Willow liked martini olives. The night they went to the kitten club. The night she said, 'my Tara'.

Oh, my god...

Just like the scent of gardenias reminded her of her mother, and the taste of mayonnaise made her think of deviled ham, seeing Willow pop that green olive between her beautiful lips brought Tara right back to that night at the kitten club, and the way the redhead had lovingly described her very platonic relationship with Bryan using the simple phrase, 'my Tara'. The tone, and the affection Willow used that night; didn't the redhead use a near facsimile of it the other day on the street when describing Xander?

"My Xander." That phrase, spoken by the redhead yesterday on the sidewalk, had been sloshing around since inside Tara's head like a lonely tennis shoe in a washing machine. It wasn't the 'my Xander' from their Thai dinner, when Willow clearly expressed adoration for the dark-haired man, it was like something else, it was like how she might describe a friend, a- Bryan.

The blonde snuck a look at Willow and her eyeballs stuck, her mind not allowing her to look away. Had the redhead inadvertantly, with her tone and phrasing, lumped Xander squarely into just-a-friend territory, the earlier Thai mention a fluke, or was this just her love-sick brain reaching for a sign, any sign, that Willow might not be in love with him? If Xander was like Bryan, and Bryan was just a friend...

"What?" Willow asked, her broad smile fading as she became self-conscious under Tara's wide-eyed gaze. "Do I have something in my teeth?" She brought a hand up to cover her mouth.

"What?" The blonde asked, surprised at hearing the girl she was staring at speak, her own mind racing as her brain rapidly reviewed years of assumptions and hard-truths. "N-No," Tara managed, and Willow dropped her hand to her side, relieved. The blonde searched desperately for words to speak, words that weren't 'Xander's your friend,' or 'I love you' or the phrase currently dominating her thoughts, 'oh my god'. She looked to the plastic cup in Willow's hand and then back up. "M-Martini?"

"Yeah, thought, what the heck," the redhead replied, still not sure about the look on Tara's face. "Are you okay?"

"Fine," the blonde replied nodding fervently, 'oh my god' quickly giving way to 'whoo-hoo!' in her mind. "I'm fine. All f-fine." She swirled the drink in her hand a little, the ice cubes knocking against the side of the cup, a crink in her forehead as she searched for her tongue. Finding it, she asked, "so w-what did Buffy think about Bryan's n-new job?"

"Bryan?" Willow asked, a little confused by the abrupt change in the topic and Tara mentioning her friend from college.

"X-Xander. I meant Xander," Tara corrected, abruptly snapping out her thoughts comparing references the redhead had recently made about Xander and Bryan over the last few weeks. She took a quick, deep breath, her heart racing like a thoroughbred. She looked up, willing her mind to concentrate on the girl standing next to her. "You um, you mentioned that you were going to tell Buffy he w-was promoted, earlier."

"Oh," the redhead said, wondering from the look on the blonde's face if Tara saw someone she didn't want to speak to, or if the girl was starting to panic about her unfinished work at home. "I don't know," she shrugged. "I mean, I just texted her before we left. Literally pressed send and then you came downstairs, so, guess I'll just see when we get home."

"That's cool," the blonde nodded distractedly, taking a sip of her drink. If Xander is Bryan and Bryan is a friend-

Willow took a sip of her own, and coughed a little, Tara looking up to meet her gaze as the redhead swallowed with some difficulty, wide-eyed. "Ginny," she croaked out with a slight smile, the alcohol's burn momentarily rasping her vocal chords. The blonde smiled and time seemed to momentarily slow. Xander, Bryan; they weren't here, Willow was. Willow, the girl she adored with every ounce of her being was standing a mere foot away being adorable and sexy and Tara realized that no matter how badly she wanted to devote every single brain cell into figuring out why 'my Xander' resonated the way it did, she'd have to let it go for now. That line of thinking... that was the kind of madness that stole moments, and she wanted these moments with Willow as memories. "Wow," the redhead said, oblivious to the blonde's mental shift, as she eyed her drink a little suspiciously.

"The bartender must have thought you were cute," Tara blurted, before tacking on self-consciously. "Most drinks are pretty w-watered down."

"Is yours?" Willow asked concerned, her heart nearly exploding in her chest at being called a 'cute girl', and Tara just shook her head.

"No, but um, a cute girl ordered it for me, so..." She blushed fiercely and Willow beamed before flapping her hand with an elaborate, 'pfft'. So now suddenly because of one little martini olive you're the Big Flirting Woman? the blonde thought with shaky amusement. Her face still hot, she hazarded a glance at Willow and was rewarded with a toothy grin.

I'm a cute girlI'm a cute girlI'm a cute girl! Willow's mind screamed, her heart fluttering at the blush on the blonde's cheeks. "I think she just didn't mix it right," the redhead said, and the blonde nodded, a little flair of jealousy popping up at hearing the feminine pronoun. "I bet the thimble of alcohol is just sitting on the top layer like an oil slick." Willow smiled, picked up the little plastic straw half-floating in her drink and started stirring. I'm a cute girl!

"Mmm, ginny oil slick," Tara teased, and Willow rolled her eyes, the blush creeping up her throat a bit. Both girls took sips of their drinks through monster smiles.

The blonde had just opened her mouth to speak when the lights went down, the stage turned pink, and two lanky men walked onto the stage, a guitar slung around the shoulders of one man, a pair of drumsticks in the other's right hand. The crowd's mood changed from buzzing to electric. People whooped and it seemed like the whole building transformed, the girls looking at each other excitedly as the amassed people started to compact toward the stage, their interest turning from each other to the band. The swell carried people forward despite their urge to stand still, and Willow took a pinch of Tara's shirt so they wouldn't be separated as they moved forward and to the right about ten feet.

As soon as they were once again stationary, the redhead let go of her roommate's shirt and Tara missed the touch immediately. They both turned their attention to the stage, and the bareness of it. A lone, simple drummer's kit sat on a little raised platform to the left, and the guitarist's mic stand was placed a few away to the right. Pedals lined the front of the stage, and large speakers bookended the space. A single black curtain was the backdrop. Both men wore t-shirts and jeans, and both men acknowledged the screaming crowd with a nod of the head.

Once in place, the guitarist didn't say anything into the microphone before him, no hello, no pleasantry; he just stepped forward, pressed a pedal with his right foot and put a pick to the strings.

The sound that emanated from the speakers was thick and dirty, and upon hearing it, Tara felt like she had been slapped in the face with lust. The riff was a full-body experience; it raised the hair on the top of her head and made her toes reflexively curl in her shoes. She felt like she could feel air from the speakers pressing against her form as the drums kicked in, felt herself sway slightly as the crowd around her reacted and moved. It was unlike anything she had felt at the start of a show before, and when she looked over at Willow's beaming face, every other thought but the redhead and the music disappeared.

Willow leaned in to speak, but found herself off-balance as someone brushed past her. She put her hand out and steadied herself using Tara's arm, her heart flipping when the blonde turned to her and smiled, her lips curling up in an almost seductive turn. The redhead caught her breath, and slightly flexed her fingers, leaning close so that her lips almost touched the fine hairs on the blonde's ear. "I love this song."

Tara nodded as Willow leaned away and dropped her hand, the redhead turning her eyes back to the stage as the singer's heartfelt wail joined the beat and strum. The blonde took a steadying breath, her skin humming, her head swimming. After a long moment, she transferred her cup to her jacket hand, leaned over, and placed her own free hand on the small of Willow's back, the bracelet sliding forward to her wrist. She pressed lightly, and ducked her lips to Willow's jawline. "They sound r-really cool."

Willow turned slightly toward Tara and nodded her head, licking her lips involuntarily. Her knees nearly buckled when the blonde's half smile emerged to complement a sexy twinkle in her blue eyes. The redhead turned her attention back to the stage with difficulty, and swore she could feel every hair on her neck standing at attention.

If they had been girlfriends, Willow thought, she would have pressed her palm more fully into the blonde's back, rubbed tiny circles, or flexed her fingers with need, but as it was, with what they were... fingertips danced lightly over the fabric, teasing touches that though intended to be friendly, were actually turning her on. She found her fingers grazing over the seam of the blonde's jeans, hooking into a belt buckle loop, tickling at her roommate's elbow every time she felt the need to share even the most inconsequential thought about the band or venue. It was maddening, and intoxicating, and she felt like she could go on forever this way if only she could continue touching the curvy girl.

By the end of the second song, Tara was as turned on as she had ever been. She was not immune to the redhead's touches, and returned the caresses as often as possible, indulging in the feel of Willow beneath clothes. The way the lithe girl's breath felt on the sensitive hair on her ears when the redhead leaned in to whisper an observation or band fact, the way her fingertips seemed to linger on her body as she spoke. She found herself mirroring Willow's movements, and for the better part of the show they traded lean-ins, hands indicating they needed the other's attention with a tantalizing rub on the back, or mostly-chaste caress of the hip. To the untrained eye, those not looking for a same sex love connection, they looked like any other pair of straight girlfriends enjoying the show with smiles, secrets and giggles. Only, one of them wasn't straight, and despite all commonly held beliefs, neither was the other one.

The show ended a little after 10, much to Willow's surprise. The set seemed short, but with the intensity the two men had put into the music, and their limited between-song chatter, it was almost a surprise that they had lasted as long as they did. The drummer in particular looked sweat through, and as he rose from his stool he slumped forward achingly, like he had left half of his blood on the skins and was nearly too woozy to make his way to the wings. The last song long finished, and the thunderous applause petering out, the crowd began to disperse and the two girls awkwardly pulled on their jackets. They slowly turned to move toward the back of the venue, and Tara wondered, dazed, if she had ever seen a more passionate performance.

"Do you need to use the bathroom?" The blonde asked as she caught the redhead's eye, her awestruck thoughts turning to more practical matters. She adjusted her coat on her frame, and hoped she hadn't yelled, as her ears were slightly ringing.

"Nope," Willow replied, slinging her purse back over her shoulders, her jacket on and half-buttoned. "You?" The blonde smiled and shook her head, watching as the redhead's slim fingers quickly did up the last few buttons. "Did you like the show?" Willow asked hopefully, and Tara nodded enthusiastically.

"It was great," the blonde said, barely able to contain her smile. The music was great, the touching was great... "Very, very cool."

"Yay," the redhead said proudly. "I'm really glad." She twisted her fingers together. "That you liked them. I was nervous."

Tara nodded, understanding. "You?"

"Oh yeah," Willow said, pressing into the blonde's side as the crowd started to bottleneck. She swallowed hard, remembering their touches in the dark. "They were even better than the last time I saw them."

"Cool," Tara said with a smile, her hands barely resisting the urge to wrap around Willow's waist as they walked to the exit.

They exited the main room through the left-side archway, their pace slow and shuffled as they were herded out among the masses leaving. Willow found herself behind the blonde, who moved confidently ahead as they stepped into the lobby. The redhead took a fistful of the back of Tara's jacket, and Tara turned and flashed a smile, which Willow returned. The crowd moved them to the stairs, and they slowly made their way down each step, Willow a step behind Tara the whole way.

Four steps down, the crowd ebbed, and the redhead put her hands on the blonde's shoulders to steady herself. She looked straight ahead and saw their reflection in the full-length mirror at the turn in the stairs. She smiled widely, and catching Tara's eye in the mirror, smiled even larger. The blonde's breath was taken away from the sight, the redhead beaming at her, Willow's freckled hands gently resting on her shoulders. Tara grinned widely. Adorable.

As they made their way to the bottom of the stairs, they patiently waited for their posters, as two people on either side of the exiting crowd quickly handed them out. Willow craned her neck to look beyond the mass of people in front of her to the street, and frowned when she saw the weather. "Stupid rain," she said, leaning into Tara. "The posters are going to get ruined." She took her poster with a polite smile and then turned her worried face to Tara, who looked over her shoulder from the weather to the redhead as she continued to move forward.

"I have a trick," Tara said reassuringly with a smile, as she stepped to the far wall just before the awning, pulling Willow along with her, people swelling past them into the night. The blonde took the posters and opened her jacket wide, then expertly and smoothly laid the rectangular pictures against her side with accomplished speed. The posters curved slightly, one end stopping along her belly, the other alongside the middle of her back. She closed her coat, and gently rested her left arm against the posters, holding them tight, yet maintaining their newness by not crushing them.

Willow admired the trick, as well as the body beneath the jacket. She smiled at the blonde, then harrumphed as she looked back to the rain. Tara smiled at the adorable pout. When she caught Willow's eye, she asked "ready?" The redhead nodded, and they stepped away from the venue and onto the puddled sidewalk.

Stepping out from under the awning, the girls immediately felt the effects of the steady rain, giant drops of cold water splashing against their cheeks, their lips. They squinted their eyes to shield their vision from the rain, and moved forward through the quickly dispersing crowd toward the crosswalk. Tara spied their bus pulling to a stop across the street, concert goers impatiently waiting their turn to file up the steps and out of the downpour, some using their new posters as shields from the onslaught, the thin poster board drooping as it took the brunt of the rain.

Tara held her jacket closed with her left hand, the posters safely curved against her side, and she reached behind her and grabbed Willow's hand with her right. Her fingers instinctively intertwined with Willow's, and once their grasp was tight and Tara confirmed that no cars were coming toward them down the one way street to their left, she pulled the redhead across the street and toward the 22.

The redhead gasped at the sensation, the strong fingers wrapped around her own causing her palms to lightly sweat. The blonde's grasp was gentle, yet firm, protective yet respectful. Tara continued to hold Willow's hand as they made it to the stop and filed in with the bus-going crowd. She told herself that it was so that they wouldn't get separated in the inevitable crush, so that they would both make it onto this bus and avoid being left behind, but she knew in her heart that now that she had experienced holding the girl's hand, she simply didn't want to rush and let go.

They made their way to the bus's doors, and begrudgingly letting go of each other's hand, quickly climbed the stairs, two of the last to board before the doors shut and the driver indicated that he intended to pulled away from the beseechingly wet stragglers yet to make their way across the street. The girls showed their slightly wet ticket stubs and then moved toward the back of the bus, stopping to grab ahold of an empty pole near the halfway doors. Every seat was taken, and they quickly found themselves standing mere inches apart on either side of the thin pole, the crush of slightly wet riders swaying into them as the bus pulled away from the curb and headed toward home.

Tara smiled at Willow, and the redhead returned the gesture, her teeth shining white beneath the bus's fluorescent lights. The blonde held the pole with her right hand, her left arm still lightly wrapped around her middle to keep the posters from slipping free and landing on the wet, muddy floor. Willow gripped the pole with both hands, her body pulled close to the metal to avoid swaying too much as they moved.

It wasn't long before they went over a bump, or into a pothole, and the standing riders were jarred unexpectedly. Willow quickly let her right hand drop from its baseball bat grasp of the poll to grab the front of Tara's coat, the handful of fabric bunched in her thin hand, belly-level. The action saved the blonde from stumbling backward into another passenger, and Tara smiled appreciatively, her pulse quickening when she felt Willow pull her close, the only thing separating them from a full body hug being the pole they grasped onto tightly and the redhead's fistful of jacket.

They rode home without speaking, enjoying catching snippets of the other rider's conversations, as the bus made the route's numerous required stops. Some of their fellow riders spoke breathlessly about their favorite parts of the concert, others wearily about the jobs they worked that prevented them from such mid-week entertainment. Some spoke into cell phones with loved ones, others spoke to complete strangers sitting next to them about the weather. Those stepping onto the bus bore various stages of soaked clothes; those getting off visibly prepared themselves for the rain as the bus slowed to halt at each stop's curb. Those exiting tightened jackets around them, prepared to open umbrellas as their feet transitioned from step to stone. Some even muttered curses, in at least three languages by the redhead's count.

As the girls rolled up on their own stop, Willow and Tara shared a warm smile. Seats had opened up by the time they were two stops from home, but neither had maneuvered, or even suggested, taking the open seats, too comfortable instead were they with their current position around the pole. They recognized their upcoming stop by both the voiced announcement, and Tara slightly bending down and looking out the window to confirm the familiarity of the neon signs passing through the blurry glass windows with a slight head nod.

The bus stopped slowly, and Willow reluctantly let go of Tara's coat. It had felt nice holding her close, even if it had been by way of fabric-clutching. They waited patiently for a couple to step out of the bus before them, before following, and quickly walked away from the stop thankful that the earlier steady rain had given way to a slight drizzle.

It was a brisk walk up the hill toward their home, their arms locked together as they had been the previous Monday night when they had seen Radioactive Oddity, when Willow had doodled up the laundromat window. They couldn't help but laugh as the redhead fumbled with the keys in front of their door, the rain starting to pick up, and as they briskly climbed the stairs and entered their apartment, they began their first conversation since stepping out from underneath The Fillmore's awning.

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