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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated May 3rd)
PostPosted: Fri May 15, 2009 5:32 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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I get so angry with the injustice of someone being abused and being sexually abused just seems so much more degrading (thankfully it is not something I have ever had to live through). You are managing to get across the sheer horror without having to go into details (and I thank you for it).

Part of me would like to see Faith do something, but to be honest it would only change patterns if Tara finally did something about it herself. Something I know is incredibly difficult to do.

Please continue writing this story because your compassion and writing skills are quite exceptional.

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I am my beloved and my beloved is mine
-- King Solomon's Song of Songs


Only reality can escape the limits of our imagination
-- Rivka Galchen, Atmospheric Disturbances


Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself
-- Jean-Paul Sartre


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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 24 Feedback
PostPosted: Sat May 16, 2009 9:13 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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MelCar19: Nice dibs. You're five behind JuJu, by my quick count--still a ways to go!

I've been surprised by Xander. I didn't think I'd enjoy writing for him at all, when I began the story. This was in part why I chose to leave him behind while the others went to school. But in these last few chapters, he's grown on me.

Faith won't be meeting Mr. Maclay during the first visit (that one's for Willow, alone!), but...yeah. That face-to-face might be interesting.
[hr]
Nue: Cutting that spot is way too easy. :/ I always manage to nick just under the knee, as well.

It's wonderful that you're enjoying your classes. Short movie, hm? Something for the Inward Eye forum? :D
[hr]
Owl: Oh, hi. ^_^ I keep reading your name as Wol, from Owl's own spelling in the Winne-the-Pooh books.

"Seriosity" gets 27,800 results and no suggested spelling corrections in a Google search. That's a word by any decent definition. ^_~

Dawn's reasons for joining the track team are in part poking fun at my own; back in high school I ran track for several reasons, none of which were a love of running. I hated running. :/

Thanks very much for the feedback! The story has ended up in a much darker place than I'd originally intended, but I'm glad that readers are sticking with it, regardless.
[hr]
JujuDeRoussie: Ugh, I hate when that happens. I've actually gotten into the habit of select-all+copy-ing textbox form fields before submitting. That way, if the back button can't retrieve what I've typed, I've got a copy on my clipboard.
Quote:
Who wants a sexy shower scene anyway?
*raises hand*
Quote:
No hard hat for him. What do you think?
Hm. Unfortunately, as entertaining as that might be for many of the readers, he's got more to do in this story. :/

I hope I'm not just throwing another character onto an already large pile by bringing Xander to CP. His was one of the first storylines I sketched out, and I've waffled on whether to scrap it or not. On the one hand, Willow's already got the "best friend" role covered by Buffy, but I think W+X is different enough from W+B to add something to the story.

The joke was supposed to be that Willow vomited after eating Dawn's cooking, but I'm not sure if that came across clearly. It could also be read as the food merely leaving a bad taste in her mouth.

I hope that Tara's gift for Willow is liked by the readers (since I already know Willow's going to love it). It had its seed planted many chapters ago.

We've had a Willow shower scene. ^_^ I seem to recall she spent most of it fretting over her relationships with both Tara and Oz. So if we've had a Willow shower scene and a Tara shower scene...maybe the next one will be a Willow+Tara shower scene. o_O Although that could very easily push the story outside of its rating.

I think Willow's really scared to have that conversation with Buffy. Not that she thinks Buffy will disapprove, but more she worries Buffy having that knowledge will alter the relationship that the two girls have in some manner.
[hr]
ekolmus: They were pretty uncomfy to write, too. I plan out a lot of the scenes in this story, especially the dialog, by talking out all the lines as I'm preparing for bed. So I try to see the scene through the eyes of Mr. Maclay, and that's no fun at all.

Yeah, this is definitely a slow story. I think of this one as kind of a sandbox; originally it was supposed to be a much shorter story, to get me used to writing, and to become familiar with the voices of the Buffy characters. And as I added more, and played around with various character arcs, it kind of took off. A lot of that slowness comes from writing chapter-by-chapter; on my next one, I plan to have the whole story planned out before I write even one page. That should help cut out a lot of the unnecessary stuff, and keep the plot more focused.

Could you point out specific examples of stuff (like showing/not telling) as you run across it? I'm sure I do that. Sometimes I'll have some concept in my head, but just can't find the words to convey it. It's just inexperience, probably; with practice, I hope it will become easier.

I've mentioned this over and over in my between-the-chapters comments: I'm really disappointed by Oz's role in this story. Especially having seen him in Season 3 not long ago...I realize that I wrote a very un-Oz character, and gave him Oz's name. It's a tricky balance to have a likable character like Oz (who seems to do just about everything right) on a forum devoted to Willow/Tara, but in a contemporary (so no Wolfy separation) story. Big mistake. :p Most fics end up demonizing him (guilty, despite my intentions) or downplaying Willow's feelings for him, making them a very weak version of what we see in the show's episodes. My solution, for the foreseeable future anyway, is to keep him out of my stories entirely. I don't think I write him particularly well, anyway.
[hr]
JustSkipIt:
Quote:
Very well done conversation
Thanks! In planning where Xander fit into this story, I figured it was only worth including him if his dynamic with Willow was significantly different than Buffy's. So often, in the show, Xander's reaction is hostile to anybody who shows any interest in either of his girls. I can't remember exactly how he reacted to Tara (can anyone help me out here? In which episode was it that he finally learned they were girlfriends?) I think it was different, but more because Tara was so completely out of bounds in his mind than due to understanding.

This aspect of Xander really bugged me, so in my version, while still snarking at Buffy's beaus, Xander's more of a relationship confidante to Willow...which is how I think it should be, for people who have been friends since single-digit ages.
Quote:
I really hope Faith and Xander move in together.

A couple people mentioned this, and I sort of did a *facepalm* because now I realize how contrived that apartment conversation reads. When I thought of Xander asking Willow about helping him find a place to live, it didn't even cross my mind that I'd already put Faith into "looking for a roomie" status. So I'll say this: was it my intention to have Xander and Faith live together? No. Might it happen, anyway? Sure. It's possible.

Re: #3...hard for me to say anything, since, well, I agree with you. ^_^ I guess Tara sees things in a different light. Maybe some part of her feels that her father isn't a lost cause. Mostly I think she hasn't ever realized that her life is her own. And that's probably something that exposure to the college lifestyle will help instill, what with all the students planning their own time outside of parental supervision.
[hr]
DaddyCatALSO: Yeah, I read BD right after posting this update, and...jeez. Talk about a double dose of darkness for the Kitten Board. :/
[hr]
Zampsa1975: See my message to Deb for my stupidity regarding the Xander and Faith apartment situation. *sigh* Boy, between you and Julia...I'm starting to think Kitopians might have some anger management issues. :p
[hr]
sadie: There will be more Xander, definitely. He's going to become one of the gang, a few chapters down the road.

Thanks so much for the feedback. If I could bottle up the glee I feel every time I get an email ("Topic reply notification - Constants") and sell it as a drug, I'd make a fortune.
[hr]
restlessminds: Heh. I'm the other way around: if I don't leave feedback immediately after reading a story, it'll never happen until I reread because my retention of the story events is so terrible.

Reading this feedback made me smile. I mean, any piece of writing that receives the words "juxtaposition," "Tibetan," "schizophrenic," and "fuck-head" in a reply has *got* to be worth its salt, right? ;)

In all seriousness, it really does make me happy to know that you guys are taking something good away from this story, because I had no idea what it would be like when I started this fic. Not only have these conversations helped push me to continue the story, but...well, I know how I felt when I discovered this forum (and related archives). For weeks, I was spending nights immersed in Willow/Tara fic, and it made me feel...well, I can't even describe it (and thankfully, I don't have to!). If I can give even a small fraction of that feeling back to others, it would make me feel wonderful.
[hr]
LittleBit: Warning! There will be details. Not for a little while, and I'll put nice big flashing neon signs atop the chapter when they come...but just so you know ahead of time. I don't want to give away spoilers here, but I'll say this: it is not going to be done to be gratuitous, and I don't intend to wrench the story away from its current "feel".

While the sections are not distinct, the story has entered at this point what I've been calling "book two," which focuses more on Tara's home life.

Thanks always for the feedback. It means a lot.
[hr]
Love you guys!

~ Megan

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated May 3rd)
PostPosted: Sun May 17, 2009 4:13 am 
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32. Kisses and Gay Love
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Quote:
In which episode was it that he finally learned they were girlfriends?) I think it was different, but more because Tara was so completely out of bounds in his mind than due to understanding.


His reaction gets one line in the Yoko Factor. Prior to that he has no understanding at all and just seems to think that Tara is a nice witch. He definitely doesn't see her as gf material. Then in the Yoko Factor the four mains are fighting and Willow says to Buffy (paraphrasing a little here):

"You just can't handle it because Tara's my girlfriend."

Xander "No that's not it. You two left me long before... Tara's your girlfriend?"

Giles: "Oh Bloody Hell."

Something to that effect. When next seen Xander seems either fine with it or gross-out boy curious about it. [/quote]

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated May 3rd)
PostPosted: Tue Jun 02, 2009 8:05 pm 
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*Shakes* Damnit! I need my Constants fix!

*Goes through withdrawals*

Where could Megan be??

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated May 3rd)
PostPosted: Mon Jun 08, 2009 8:58 pm 
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I've been following this story whenever I had a chance since you started it, but until now I haven't had the opportunity to leave any feedback. Now that I've been finished another year at school for a month or so, and settled into a new job, I'm trying to leave some feedback on my favorite new stories.

I really love your writing style, I find with alot of stories I read on here the authors will have a good premise, but due to their unattractive writing style I often skip sections to get to the good, important parts. I really don't find myself doing that in this story, I'm hooked on every word. I can't wait to find out what happens with Tara's family and all the bad stuff thats going on there. Highlighting Tara's troubled background adds so much depth to the character, and I'm sure will add so much more to her relationship with Willow as it develops. I also love the way you portray Cordelia in this fic, as I always enjoyed that character, even if she was a little bit of a bitch in the tv series.

I can't wait to read more! Keep it up!

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated May 3rd)
PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 7:37 am 
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Don't suppose there's an update on the way?
I'm really enjoying this fic, you're an awesome writer. You know how to keep up hanging!

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Wishing Peace, light and love to everyone.
Tara: 'Can we just skip it? Can, can you just be kissing me now?'
Tara: 'I am you know' Willow: 'What?' Tara 'yours'


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated May 3rd)
PostPosted: Sat Jun 13, 2009 2:29 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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JustSkipIt:
Quote:
His reaction gets one line in the Yoko Factor.
Thank you! I'm terrible at remembering what happened in which episode.
[hr]
MelCar19: Yeah. Sorry. >_< This was really bad. This one took waaaay more time than any other update. But you know where I am! Hopefully, this chapter will get the ball rolling for future ones. I definitely don't want an update cycle this slow.
[hr]
Sparks: Thanks so much for taking the time to leave feedback. It's great to know who's reading this thing, and every additional person in the audience is one more reason to tough it out and write on days when the bug's not exactly biting.

The story's definitely moving more in the direction of Tara's home life, at this point. It will very likely be the focus of the next batch of updates.

It's funny...seems like everybody points out a different character. Cordy, Faith, Giles. Personally, I like writing Andrew, as well as the interactions between Buffy and Willow. Scenes with either of those...the pen just flies over the page. Unfortunately, Willow/Tara scenes cause pen paralysis, and all the ink dries up. :( No, really, they're so slow.
[hr]
Yours:
Quote:
Don't suppose there's an update on the way?
There is a distinct possibility. ^_~b Thanks for chiming in!
[hr]
Everyone: I'm very sorry for how long this chapter took to post. I'd had the thing half-written for almost a month, then I moved, and blahblahblah excuses.

Special thanks to Diane. She's been reading through some of my writing and offering helpful tips, which I've tried to incorporate into this chapter. Diane, I totally owe you an email!

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 Post subject: Constants, Chapter 25
PostPosted: Sat Jun 13, 2009 2:38 pm 
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***
PART 25
***

Willow stifled a yawn while stepping out of a black Jeep Cherokee. She gave the quad a once-over before turning back to the vehicle’s open door. “Thanks again for the ride, Mrs. Summers. I really, really appreciate it.”

“Of course,” Joyce replied with a smile. “Like I said, it’s on the way in to the city, so if you ever need a ride to or from the campus, you just let me know. Mondays and Wednesdays are perfect, at least while the exhibit’s open this month. And you could remind Buffy about that, too, you hear?”

“I will.”

“All right. Have a great day, Willow.” Joyce checked the mirrors as Willow shut the car door, then she cautiously pulled out of the turnaround. Willow gave the vehicle a wave and watched it disappear down the hill before heading toward her building.

‘Okay, day. Let’s see what you’ve got for me.’

Cordelia was awake and recently showered when Willow arrived at their room. She sat at her desk with a mirror tilted toward her face while she applied blush to her cheeks with a large brush, but she paused as Willow entered. “Well, good morning,” she said. “Somebody was gone the entire night. And just what were you up to?” Willow could see in the mirror a playful grin on her lips. “Or should I ask who you were up to?”

“Nothing. Or, nobody—no one. I went home.”

“On a Sunday night?”

“Uh, yeah, one of my friends from high school—well, from way before high school, really—his name’s Xander. His uncle’s in the hospital and doing really badly, and his family’s stress levels are through the roof, so I was doing the best friend thing,” Willow explained. ‘Well, that’s mostly true. That’s three quarters of it, anyway.’

“Oh. I’m sorry to hear that.” Cordelia’s smirk disappeared, and she resumed her primping.

Willow shook the set of overnight clothes out of her backpack, then selected two books from the shelf to replace them. “How come you’re awake so early?”

“Eight o’clock psych lecture. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, remember?”

“Right. With Buffy. Sorry, I’m a little bit tired.”

Cordelia snapped her compact shut and sighed. “Never again am I signing up for early classes. This was such a bad idea. Anyway, I’m going to hurry and grab some breakfast. I’m not sure if I’ll be around tonight.”

“All right. See you later, maybe.”

Once Cordelia left, Willow flopped down on her bed. ‘Oof, not a good move. Darned gravity.’ Her eyelids felt like they weighed half a ton apiece. She stretched her back, causing a series of delightful pops to ripple down her spine, then sank back into the mattress. The tranquility was shattered by a buzzing in her pocket, and Willow reluctantly withdrew her phone to check the name. Oz, again. ‘Ugh. No, not right now.’ She would have to talk to him, she knew, and soon, but it was early, she was tired, and she wasn’t yet sure that she could approach the conversation with an even temper. Willow muted her phone and closed her eyes, against her better judgment. ‘Come on, Rosenberg. Physics. Get up. Get ready.’ Her body had other ideas. ‘Get movin’. Up, up, up. You’ve only got an hour.’ She considered this. ‘Well, you have got an hour…’

Sixty-eight minutes later, Willow hurried down the hill toward her first class. “Excuse me. Sorry. Pardon me,” she squeaked as she weaved her way through the other students. She mentally berated herself; forgetting to set an alarm clock, even for a short nap, was a foolish mistake. Two sheets of her homework were clutched in one hand. Willow had hoped she could skim it on her trip to class, but she had soon realized that she could read or run, but not both. ‘There had better not be any errors on these,’ she warned herself. It wouldn’t do to mar her perfect average on the assignments.

She reined in her pace when she reached the Physics building. Oz was sitting on the steps leading to the main entrance. He had his cell phone in hand and was fiddling with its antenna, alternately extending it and popping it back in against his palm. Willow thought about making a detour and entering the building through one of the other doors, but realized that it would only delay the inevitable. It was lucky she didn’t, for she hadn’t taken two steps when Oz spied her. He shoved in the antenna one last time and watched her approach.

“Hey,” Willow said.

“Hey. Been trying to call you.”

“Yeah. I, uh…I saw.”

“Will, can we—”

“I’ve got a class now,” Willow interrupted, pointing at the building.

“Right, yeah, I know. I just thought maybe—”

“What?” Willow snapped. “That I’d blow off my responsibilities for somebody who made me the least of his?”

The words hung between them, and instantly she regretted unleashing them. Oz was quiet for several seconds, during which his eyes did not stray from her face. Willow felt that he wasn’t even looking at her, but was instead focusing on a point somewhere behind her head. “I thought maybe we could pick a better time to talk,” he finished.

“Oh.” She felt even worse for her retort. “Yeah, we could do that. Uh, I usually eat lunch on South Campus with Buffy before our Mythology class. We could meet up on the Mall beforehand, say at noon? Oh, wait, no. You’ve got class then. Well, what about after my—”

“No, that’d be fine. Noon’s good.”

Willow frowned. “But what about your Ethnomusicology class?”

~*~

“What do you mean, ‘leaving?’” Buffy asked.

“He’s leaving. Withdrawing from all his classes and leaving the University. He’s flunking most of them, already.”

“But Oz is like a genius. How does that happen?”

“’Cause brains only help if you use them,” Willow grumbled.

Buffy shook her head. “Geez. I can’t believe it.” She pulled her book bag closer to her feet to give a passing student easier access to the aisle. “What’s he going to do?”

“He’s not really sure. He said he might fly out to Los Angeles to visit his dad for a while.”

“But what about his band?”

“He quit.”

“What? Get out.” Disbelief was clearly evident on Buffy’s face. “Are you serious?”

Willow nodded. “One hundred percent.”

“God, Will. I don’t even know what to say. I’m so sorry.” She reached out and placed her hand on top of Willow’s. “You must be feeling pretty crummy, huh?”

“Mm.” But she didn’t. She felt something else entirely: relief. With Oz in California, there would be no accidentally running into him in the dining hall. There would be no seeing him carrying his guitar across the quad. There would be no noticing his van parked at the loop. There wouldn’t be the hundred daily reminders that her boyfriend continued to share space on campus with her. ‘Ex-boyfriend.’ Oz hadn’t just left the University.

“You want to do something, tonight?” Buffy offered. “Grab dinner somewhere off campus?”

Willow shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe. Thanks. Can I let you know later?”

“Of course. It’s all of the good. We could just stay in and hang out, too.”

“Yeah.” Willow took the conversation in a different direction. “How is it going with Riley?”

Buffy hesitated. “Um, are you sure you want to hear about that? I don’t want to get all lovey-dovey…”

“Things are good, then?”

“The goodest. I think Cordelia’s driving him up the wall, though.”

“Why? I thought she was over that.”

Buffy shook her head. “Not because of us. It’s this Help Center thing. He’s running the sessions for the new trainees, and he and Cordy are kind of butting heads. There are all kinds of rules for things you’re supposed to do for callers, and other things you’re not supposed to do, and she doesn’t like them.”

“Like what?”

“Well, you’re supposed to be understanding, right? You know, like, ‘So it sounds to me like you’re saying blah blah blah,’ then you rephrase what they said, to let them know you’re listening and caring, and to give them a chance to add to what they already said. But you’re not supposed to reveal too much of yourself, personally. Like if they ask something about you, you’re supposed to turn the conversation back to them. Cordelia thinks that makes the conversations too impersonal.”

“Huh. Yeah, I guess I can kind of see that. I mean, if I was really depressed about something, I’d want to feel like I was having a conversation with a real person, and not a somebody reading a script.” Willow paused. “But, then again, giving out personal information to people who might not be in the best place emotionally probably isn’t such a good idea, either.”

“Yup. That’s exactly it. I figure you probably need to do a bit of both,” Buffy agreed. “But Riley is being Mr. By-the-Book, and Cordelia’s fighting him on it every step of the way. They’re both making good points, and I’m—well, I’m just trying to stay out of the way.” She chuckled.

“Probably a wise decision.” Willow nodded sagely.

“Yeah. So the training is…special. But Riley and I are doing great. We’ve got this unspoken agreement to not talk about the sessions outside of the Center. Kind of separates work and…not work.”

“Well, good. See? I’m really happy for you, Buffy. Oh…we’re talking about Horus, today.”

Buffy furrowed her brow. “Huh? Was that in the reading?”

“No,” Willow said. She pointed at the classroom door, where Professor Giles had just entered, wearing a ridiculous falcon headdress. “Just a hunch.”

~*~

“Jesus, what a bitch.”

Richard frowned. “Faith…”

“Sorry, but it’s true.”

“She’s a paying customer.”

Faith scoffed. “Paying you, maybe. Have you seen how she tips? Anybody who sends their food back twice, then complains to her waiter that the coffee is too hot earns themselves a black mark in my book.”

“She’s just…particular.”

“Yeah. Particular with a capital B.” She ignored her boss’ look of disapproval. “All I’m saying is that it’s a good thing I don’t wait tables here, ‘cause I’d sure snap on people like that. I don’t know how those guys put up with it—acting all cheerful when you know they must want to whack some of those people upside the head.”

Richard scanned the diner floor. “Some less cheerful than others,” he mentioned. “What’s wrong with Tara, today?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, don’t you think she’s a little bit…? Let’s go with ‘gloomy.’”

Faith watched Tara interact with one of her customers. She seemed to be carrying herself in a pleasant, professional manner, but sure enough, as soon as she walked away from the table her expression morphed from cheery to dour. “I’ve seen her happier,” Faith agreed.

“Are you going to talk with her?” Richard asked.

“What? Why?”

“Well, we can’t very well have Little Miss Mopeyface gathering storm clouds over our dining room, can we?”

“Yeah, but why me?” Faith challenged.

“She’s your friend. Isn’t she?”

“Oh, great. So I get to bring her wrath down on me? What about Andrew? He’s her friend.”

“Mm. Well, he’s not here, yet,” Richard pointed out. He glanced at the clock. “Running late, I suppose, although he did say he might be cutting this shift close to the end of one of his classes. So it’s on you.”

Faith sighed and waited for Tara’s next trip through the kitchen. She muttered under her breath, “Man, go figure that this having friends gig would come with strings attached…” When Tara stopped to rinse her hands at the sink, Faith sidled up beside her. “So, T, my good friend.”

“Huh?”

“Here’s how this is gonna go down,” she continued. “I’m going to mention that you’re casting enough Gloom Rays to darken the entire town. You, understanding that I’m speaking as a messenger and a friend, are not going to get pissed at me. How’s that sound?”

Tara blinked. “Um. Okay.”

“Good.” Faith wiped her hands on the front of her jeans. “Well, then, consider the message delivered. What’s up with you, today?”

“Can I just, uh…” Tara nodded toward the door, where a young couple had just entered. They were waiting to be seated. A moment later, Andrew hurried through the door, sweat glistening on his forehead.

“Yeah. Right,” Faith agreed. “Better get to it, before Andrew scares ‘em away. Just grab me when you’ve got a minute.” Her eyes followed Tara’s progress toward the door, and again she noticed her shift in demeanor as she neared the customers. Faith congratulated herself on her effective defusing of the situation. ‘So a preemptive strike might not be the most elegant solution, but at least I escaped unharmed. And any crash you can walk away from…’

“Hey,” Andrew said when he walked over.

“Did you ever watch Duck Tales?” she asked.

“What? Yes. What?”

Faith shook her head. “Nothin’. Just thought of it.”

“Okay.” Andrew dragged the word out. “Uh…oh. Hey, I brought your book back.” He slung his book bag from his shoulder, unzipped the middle pocket, and withdrew a soft-cover novel. On its front, a shirtless and virile young man brooded masterfully under the heavy-lidded gaze of a voluptuous siren. In the background, a trio of Buick-sized arachnids effectively conveyed impending dismemberment. “It was pretty good. Thanks.”

Faith slipped the book behind her back when Tara returned, and she managed to tuck it into the closet while Tara and Andrew exchanged pleasantries. “So, I come bearing gifts,” Andrew was saying as she eased into the conversation. “For both of you, actually.”

“What’s the occasion?” Tara asked.

“Uh…Monday?”

Tara smiled weakly. “I guess that’s as good a reason as any. Oh, excuse me…” She hustled back out into the dining room to see a diner out and clear the table.

“Well, I guess yours is first,” Andrew said to Faith. He pulled some papers out of his back pocket and handed them to her, then grabbed an apron from a peg on the wall. Faith examined the pages. There were four, stapled together; each contained a table of data with pictures of buildings and floor plans. “I compiled a list of the most cost-efficient apartments in the area.” Andrew pointed at various figures on the page as he explained. “This number here is the distance from the campus. I added commuting times where I could calculate them, for places where you’d need to take a bus. That’s the price for each one, and the date it opens up. See? Some of them aren’t available yet, but I didn’t know when your lease was up. These pages here are two-bedroom apartments, if…you know, if there’s anyone you’d want to move in with. And those,” he said, indicating notes scribbled in the margins, “are comments from some of the tenants. Obviously, I couldn’t get them for all the places, but I went to a few.”

Faith stared for a long moment at the papers, taking his words in. “Holy Hell,” she said at last. “Andrew, this is…this is wicked awesome. How did you do this? How did you even know I was moving?”

He shrugged. “Overheard you talking with Tara yesterday.”

Faith gaped. “You did this in a day?!”

“Well, it wasn’t all my doing,” Andrew admitted. “I asked some of the guys to help measure the bus times and talk with the tenants. I thought this place was really good.” He pointed at a picture near the top of page one. “It was one of the ones I visited. It had a gated entry and the row of trees—seemed kind of sheltered from the road, you know? Good price, good layout, and the people there seemed really nice. Plus, walking distance from the market, there.”

She nodded. “I can’t believe you did this. Seriously, you kick so much ass, right now.”

“What’s that?” Tara asked as she approached. She handed Faith an order slip, then hovered nearby as she worked.

“Just Andrew, being the Man of the Hour.” Faith chuckled when she noticed Andrew puff up from the compliment. “So now I’ve got to know what you brought for Tara,” she said to him. “It’s going to have to be good to top this.”

“Oh, right,” he said. “Well, it’s not really something I brought, but more like news I happened to hear.”

“Uh huh?” Tara prodded.

“Well, I caught up with Willow and Buffy after my noon class. Usually I see them at lunch, but they were mysteriously absent.” Faith watched Tara’s reaction carefully when he mentioned Willow; her ears perked up at the name, and at once she seemed more interested in Andrew’s story. It was going to be good, Faith realized. She could tell by the way he was making them dig for it.

“Oh…did something happen?” Tara asked.

“You could say that. Apparently, Willow and her boyfriend got into a fight or something, yesterday morning. That musician guy?”

Tara’s eyes widened. “Oz?”

“Yup, right.” Andrew snapped his fingers. “Sooo, I guess Willow yelled at him, and now he’s leaving town, or maybe just the University. I didn’t catch that part. But, yeah. Thought you might like to know.”

Faith watched a wide range of emotions flash across Tara’s face. Surprise. Anger. Hope. Concern. The last one was voiced when Tara asked, “Is she okay?”

Andrew shrugged. “She didn’t seem all that broken up, honestly. When I saw them talking on the Mall, she sounded pretty matter-of-fact, you know? But, I mean, who knows? Maybe you should ask her.” He waggled his eyebrows and nudged Tara’s side with his elbow. “Eh? Eh?”

Tara looked from Andrew to Faith, who couldn’t help grinning as she flipped some sausages on the grill. “You two are terrible,” Tara chuckled.

~*~

A blinking light on the answering machine caught Willow’s attention the moment she entered her dorm room. She shuffled over to her desk and dropped her bag onto it, then sat down on the corner of her bed to listen to the message.

“Hi, W-Willow? It’s me. Um, Tara. Would you like to, uh, to come over for dinner? Tonight, I mean. M-my father said he wanted to meet you, and—and we could, you know, hang out for a while, or something? I know the invitation is on short notice, and Papa can be…intimidating? So if you’re busy, or if you don’t feel like coming over, it’s no problem at all. But could you let me know, either way?”

Willow’s mind was racing as she retrieved her cell phone.

“Oh, and I hope you’re doing okay, uh, after yesterday, w-with the soup and all. Okay, uh, well that’s it. I guess I’ll hear from you, later.”

Tara wanted to have her over for dinner. Tara wanted her to meet her family. ‘Well, no,’ Willow mentally amended, ‘her father wants to meet me. I don’t know if she’s so crazy about the idea of me meeting him, though.’ The thought worried Willow. Was Mr. Maclay really as frightening as Tara’s body language often suggested? Andrew had said the man was strange and possibly overly controlling. Plus, there was fact that Tara had stayed with Faith for a few days, and although Tara hadn’t said so explicitly, Willow had a feeling that Tara’s father was a large part of the reason for that. Going to Tara’s would mean facing her father, however scary he might be. On the other hand, it would mean having dinner with Tara. So really, there wasn’t any decision at all.

“Hello?”

“Hi, this is Willow. Is Tara there?”

“Uh, one sec. Tare! Phone! Hang on a second. I think she might be out on the—oh, never mind, here she is.” Willow heard the phone being passed off.

“Willow?” It was Tara’s voice. ‘I love Tara’s voice.’

“Hey, you.”

“Hey, Sheriff.” Tara laughed at her own joke, and the sound instantly brought a smile to Willow’s face.

“Is the dinner invitation still open?” she asked.

“Open and hopeful. Should we set an extra place at the table?”

“Uh huh. I’d love to come over.”

“Wonderful. Can you make it here by quarter of?”

Willow glanced at her alarm clock. “Uh huh, that should be fine.”

“Cool. I’ll, um…see you then.”

~*~

‘Don’t panic. Don’t panic,’ Tara thought, checking the casserole for the tenth time in as many minutes. ‘He’ll be on his best behavior, she’ll be…well, she’ll be Willow. He’ll like her. He has to like her. What’s there not to like about her?’ Her father was in the shower at the moment—she could hear the water coursing through the plumbing—so she was careful not to run the faucet but in quick bursts.

She checked the freezer to make sure there was enough ice, then peeked into the fridge. ‘Okay. Dessert, check. Dressing, check—oh God, I haven’t made the salad!’ She heard a knock on the door, and her eyes flew to the clock. Six forty-three. ‘Crap.’

“You need me to get that?” Donny yelled from the bedroom, where he was doing his homework.

“I got it,” she called back. Tara rinsed her hands quickly and dried them on a dishtowel as she went to the door. Through the peephole, she saw Willow standing in the hallway. She giggled. The lens warped the girl’s frame; there appeared to be a normal-sized Willow torso atop stumpy little legs. She unlatched the door and welcomed her in.

“Hey, Tara.” Willow moved in close and gave her a hug, momentarily making Tara forget her thousand worries.

“Willow,” Tara breathed back, her voice more sultry than she had intended. She drew back half an arm’s length and forced her gaze to Willow’s face, so that she could gauge her reaction. She was sporting a goofy grin, and color was filling in the space between the freckles on her cheeks. That could only be good. Willow’s eyes flicked to focus behind her, and Tara turned to see Donny watching them from the hallway. Willow took a step to the side, and her hands slipped from Tara to wring together in front of her stomach.

“Um, Willow, this is my brother, Donny,” Tara said, inwardly cursing his timing. She finished the introduction. “Donny, Willow.”

“Hey,” said Donny, with a brief nod of his head. Willow smiled and gave him a timid wave.

She looked uncomfortable, Tara thought, so she offered a lifeline. “Willow, I’m running a little behind with dinner. Would you join me in the kitchen while I finish up?”

“Sure. Need any help?”

“Actually, if you wouldn’t mind chopping up some lettuce for the salad…Donny, could you set the table?”

“Yeah, I guess,” he sighed, as though her request was on par with cleaning the Augean stables.

She escaped to the kitchen with Willow, and between the two of them, they whipped up a garden salad. They decided to make garlic bread, as well, and when Tara opened the fridge to get the butter, Willow let out a surprised gasp. “That’s my note!”

Tara leaned backward and swung the door so she could see the slip of paper that had caught Willow’s attention. She pried off the magnet that held it, and carried the note to Willow’s side. “Mm hm. Andrew gave it to me, after you all left.” She grinned. “You have no idea how many times I’ve read this. Every time I come in here, there’s Mr. Happy Face, ready to make my day a bit brighter. I had to look up ‘paludal,’ though,” she confessed with a blush.

“Oh, don’t worry,” Willow laughed. “I only knew it ‘cause I’d seen it in a crossword puzzle the day before. It’s amazing how many words you learn from those things.”

Tara shook her head. “Maybe you learn new words,” she chuckled, “but I’m terrible at them. All my new words have blank spaces and letters that can’t possibly be next to each other in them.”

They finished making the garlic bread, then toasted it in the oven for in a few minutes, filled a water pitcher, and finally brought all the food to the table. “Okay, that just about does it,” Tara said, wiping down the countertop with the dishtowel. She turned and leaned back against it. “Thanks for the help.”

“No problem. That was fun,” Willow admitted. “Well, maybe not so much for you, what with working in a diner all day. And—and I guess I don’t even mean the whole making dinner thing, specifically. Just…you know, being all domestic. With you.”

“Well, any time you want to come over and help make dinner, you’re more than welcome to,” Tara joked. She knew what Willow meant, though. While preparing the meal with Willow, she had been able to ignore the fact that not thirty feet away, her father was getting dressed. For a moment, it had been just the two of them, spending an evening together in their own cozy little apartment. Her heart fluttered lazily in the updraft created by her fantasy, then just as quickly plummeted.

“Why, hello there,” said Mr. Maclay from the doorway.

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Last edited by jasmydae on Sat Jun 13, 2009 7:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated June 13)
PostPosted: Sat Jun 13, 2009 3:41 pm 
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Dibs.

How I have longed for this update.

Will feedback when I have digested.

Thanks in advance
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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated June 13)
PostPosted: Sat Jun 13, 2009 7:21 pm 
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Yay! Update! What a great way to end a day^^

Ok first thing, how dare you leave it off like that! I want more Willow and Tara time even if it is with that cursed man! :( I want my Willow and Tara snuggles soon or I might cry.

And did I mention how much I love your Andrew? He's so awesome :) Getting that apartment info for Faith like that, what a sweetie!

And that Willow and Oz scene... not exactly dramatic but I'm sure that will happen later ;)

Yay! Can't wait for the next update! Better not make us wait this time o-o

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated June 13)
PostPosted: Sun Jun 14, 2009 4:22 am 
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Yay for great update-y goodness... I really like what Andrew did for Faith... I really really hope that Papa is on his best behavior and that Willow and Tara manage to get some needed alone time...

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated June 13)
PostPosted: Sun Jun 14, 2009 6:29 am 
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ha, I don´t think so... I still don´t have any idea for my movie, and the semester is ending! *panicking*

Btw, thanks for the update, I´m glad Oz realized he should go away, for his own sake... I´m not saying this just to give space to Will and Tara become girlfriend and girlfriend, but I think Oz is pretty mess up, he needs to put his life in the right place... and sometimes, leaving means the best...

and kinda scaried about dinner at Maclay´s... Tara´s father is kinda unpredictable...

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated June 13)
PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2009 4:51 pm 
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Hmmm. Kind of a transitional chapter but nice to see the movement. I like the fact that the Willow/Oz relationship is officially over and that he won't be around to be confusing. It's also nice to see that (from Oz's side) the breakup isn't over Tara. I mean sure it probably influences Willow's unwillingness to listen to his excuses but she's not leaving him for Tara. And I'm glad Tara has Faith and Andrew even if Faith is kind of "cheer up and say I said so!" I'm kind of worried about a Willow/Mr. Maclay meeting though.

Great to see an update.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated June 13)
PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2009 4:12 am 
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I really thought I’d left feedback for this already, but evidently not. I’ve gotta remember that reading updates and thinking about all the stuff I wanna respond to whilst I read does not feedback make.

Anyway, for starters that last line pretty much made me ‘gyyuuagghhh!!’ out loud; it was just so sudden and creepy. The girls were all kitchen domesticy and then bam! enter badness! Nicely done. Oz’s leaving was pretty sudden too, but understandable and definitely best for all parties involved. Hopefully the awayness will do him some good and help him sort stuff out. I’ve totally got to agree with Faith’s sentiments regarding certain customers and their ability to make life hell for the poor people who have to wait on them and also, Andrew is actually amazing. It was so wonderful of him to get that information for Faith and passing on the news about Oz and Willow to Tara was great; he is a very helpful and dedicated friend which is definitely something both Faith and Tara need. I’m very interested to see how the dinner is going to go and of course to watch the girls grow closer now that they both seem to have time in which to do so. Thanks so much for the update.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated June 13)
PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 8:00 pm 
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Hello there!
I created an account on the forums for the purpose of leaving feedback for this story. I don't have any constructive criticism or thought-provoking things to say; I just wanted to let you know that this story has been something incredible for me to connect with on a personal level. Thank you so much for sharing this. :) It gave me some much-needed comfort and brought me out of the forum-closet. :kgeek
I look forward to the upcoming chapters, and know that you'll have me as a reader for all your future stories.
~Rayn


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated June 13)
PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 11:37 am 
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Lots of nice interaction between the cafe kids in this one. I really love your Faith/Andrew relationship and the camaraderie of all three of them together. There's a real warmth and affection that shines through all of the smartarse comments and attempted nonchalance.

Very pleased that things seem to be falling into place for our lovely lasses as well.

And then, of course, comes the sucker-punch. Brows are knitted, fists are clenched and all manner of diabolical acts to inflict on that pitiful piece of dried piss, Maclay, are being conjured.

Thanks for sharing
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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated June 13)
PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 8:05 am 
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Hey, Megan - it's been a while:) sorry for the lack of feedback, but I'm still here, still reading, and still loving your fic.

I really liked the last chapter - I sensed a change in style - the depth and the storytelling are still very much intact, but it seemed tighter - I think the care you took establishing the characterisation and backstory have allowed you to let events unfold now at a slightly quicker pace.

I liked how you dealt with Oz's departure - it leaves the way clear for Tara and Willow's relationship to progress without guilt falling on either party. I'm wondering, though, will Oz return ala New Moon Rising, all cured and hoping to pick things up again?

I also loved how you painted that little scene of domesticity and then left us with the chill of Mr. Maclay being polite and pleasant - the way it unbalances the previous scene is delightfully clever - just like the folded laundry.

I can't wait to read the next chapter - how will Tara behave at dinner? Will Willow pick up on anything? Will Mr Maclay try to be too clever, too confident of his daughter's loyality?

I'm really intrigued by how the dinner will go, so, please, an update soon!

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated June 13)
PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2009 10:15 am 
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restlessminds: Hehe, I longed for an update, too. >< So I wrote another one! Grats on the dibs. "pitiful piece of dried piss" Oh, my! Kittens have claws! o_O;

Mel: Here you go. A W/T-laden chapter. Yup, I felt like Andrew was long overdue for something more than comic relief. And of course, I made you all wait. Blargh. It's taking me too long to write these chapters.

Zampsa: Papa's kind of bearable in this one, actually. Kind of.

Nue: I think Oz is going away more for my sake. ^_^ I really disliked writing his scenes, and I'm happy to have him be gone.

Deb: Yup, definitely. With Diane's help, I've been trying to tighten up my writing, so these last few chapters have been a lot slower to write. Hopefully I can pick up the pace. Lots of W/Tness next.

Owl: Andrew is a dear, isn't he? ^_^ Next up: dinner time! Thanks always for feedback, in thoughts and in writing.

Rayn: Woo! Delurking feedback! Bonus points! Wow...I just...you...*warm fuzzies* Learning that something I've written offers any kind of comfort at all is mind-boggling. Thank you for sharing.

Paint the Sky: Mmm, thanks! Any change in style you can thank DL for; she read through a chapter of this and my short story and riddled them with suggestions, so I tried to incorporate her recommendations into the last couple chapters. I do not intend to have Oz return. Mr. Maclay's just a...he's a total creep. I don't enjoy writing him one bit, but unfortunately he's kind of pivotal to the story. And...here's your update, dinner included. :)

All: Sorry for brief feedbackfeedback; I'm nodding off in the middle of the day...

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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 26
PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2009 10:52 am 
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***
PART 26
***

“So Tara’s been spending an awful lot of time with you all,” Mr. Maclay remarked. He stared at Willow over his glass of ice water, and she felt her last bite of garlic bread get stuck in her throat. She forced it down.

“I…uh…I suppose so?” Willow replied, hoping it was the right response. She glanced toward Tara, who was pushing her salad around in its bowl. ‘Poor thing,’ Willow thought. ‘She must be a nervous wreck.’ Seeing Tara so uncomfortable bolstered her own confidence. She could be strong for the both of them. “Yes, we have. Tara’s great.”

Mr. Maclay smiled. “I think so, too. And you’re a student at the University?”

‘That’s right. Ask about school. Good topic.’ Willow nodded. “Uh huh. I’m double-majoring in chemistry and computer science.”

He raised his eyebrows. “Really? That must open a lot of career opportunities.”

“I hope so. There are lots of people in my computer classes, so there’s probably going to be lots of competition for jobs.” Willow liked the way the conversation was going. If it stayed on college and work, she was sure to shine.

“You’ll probably beat them all out,” Tara said. To her father, she added, “She’s really smart.”

“Well, that’s good,” he said to Willow. “Sounds like you’ve got a good head on your shoulders.”

“Thanks for saying so. Tara mentioned that you all moved here because your company was contracted for all the new construction on the campus?”

“The parking garage, mainly,” he corrected. “The University is used to hiring from certain other companies, but mine has worked with the firm that designed the garage, so we got the recommendation. It’s a good job. Solid, tough work.” Mr. Maclay looked like he was impressed by her show of interest, and Willow gave herself a mental high-five for thinking to ask.

“Well, congratulations for getting the contract, and…uh…welcome to College Park!” She smiled.

From the quiet side of the table, Donny asked, “Papa, may I be excused?”

“Donny, we have a guest…”

“I know. I’m sorry. I’ve got a lot of homework to do, though.”

Mr. Maclay looked at him for a full five seconds before deciding, “All right, but I don’t want to see you sitting in front of the television, later. You hear me?”

“I won’t.”

“Good. You may be excused.” After Donny left the table, Mr. Maclay returned his attention to Willow and flashed a sheepish smile. Willow wondered whether it was due to her presence; Tara had mentioned they did not often have company, and it must be an awkward situation, to be strict with your child in front of a guest. Whatever discomfort he felt, he seemed to recover quickly. “Tara and I talked yesterday about the time she’s been spending with you and your college friends,” he said.

‘Uh oh. Red flag! Red flag!’ She looked at Tara, who picked that moment to glance back. She tried to send comfort across the table to her, in that brief connection, but Tara just as promptly looked away.

“We’ve set up a few reasonable ground rules,” Mr. Maclay continued. “She’s got a ten o’clock curfew.” He looked at Tara and added, “Ten o’clock means ten o’clock, too. Not ten fifteen.” He chuckled. “I remember how tempting it was to test a curfew by pushing it back little by little…” Back to Willow. “Ten o’clock. If Tara can’t be the responsible one, I want you to be.”

She nodded. “Ten o’clock. Got it.”

“The other thing I ask is that she tells me where she is. Especially if plans change, and you all want to move to a different location. I know how it can be with kids; you sit around until you’re bored, then somebody suggests doing something irresponsible or dangerous, and you feel pressured into going along with it. I won’t have any of that for Tara. I want to know where she is, who she’s with, and what she’s getting herself into.”

“Oh, definitely,” Willow agreed. “You don’t need to wor—well, I mean, it’s good that you worry, ‘cause, uh, daughter…and—and strangers in college. I just mean, well, our group—the people Tara’s been hanging out with—we’re all mostly in one building. In, uh, in the honors dorm, actually. Not a whole lot of irresponsibility or danger, there, I can assure you. And if we go anywhere, like to the dining hall or to see a movie—which play in the Plant Sciences building while they’re working on the real theater—we’re always in a pretty big group.”

“Do you hang out with boys?” The question was directed at Willow, and she noticed Tara frown. She thought it was kind of rude that Mr. Maclay was turned away from his daughter, asking her all the questions, when he could have been including them both. But maybe he’d already given Tara the third degree, and now he was looking for her to verify his daughter’s answers.

“Yes, a few. There’s Andrew, Carl, and Eddie. They live in my dorm, three floors down. All three are honors students; they’re smart, responsible, and basically harmless.” Willow tried to imagine Tara and herself fending off the boys, and it made her chuckle. She was pretty sure they could take Andrew and Eddie. Carl was big, though… Suddenly, she found herself very uncomfortable with the thought.

“And alcohol? Is there drinking?”

She spared a glance at Tara, who was looking at her father’s profile distastefully. Willow nodded. “Yes, we had some drinks one time. Tara didn’t have much at all.” When Mr. Maclay turned to Tara, she automatically lowered her gaze. Willow hurriedly added, “We looked out for each other, and nothing got out of hand. Honestly, the whole drinking thing was not all that great, and I doubt we’ll do it again.”

Mr. Maclay snorted, his lips flattening to a grim slash on his face. Willow hoped her answer was the right one. She looked to Tara, who gave a tiny bob of her head. “I appreciate the honesty,” Mr. Maclay said. “It’s a refreshing change. And it’s good that you girls learned that lesson without getting hurt, which you easily could have been.”

Willow checked everyone’s plates and was relieved to see the food dwindling on each one. She had caught Mr. Maclay’s remark as well as Tara’s reaction to it. When they spent time together, Willow treasured seeing Tara caught up in the moment and able to set aside her worries. Relaxed and carefree, Tara’s laughter would bubble to the surface; her smile could really shine. But her demeanor plunged toward darker places when she was around her father. It masked the deep love of life Willow knew she possessed. Willow didn’t like seeing her distressed. Tara deserved to shine.

“C-can I take your plate, Papa?” Tara asked.

Willow pushed back her chair. “Oh, I can help.”

“Don’t be silly,” Mr. Maclay insisted. “You’re a guest, and you two did all the work preparing dinner. I’ll clean up.”

Tara thanked her father. He began shuttling dishes into the kitchen while Tara led Willow toward the living room. “I guess I should give you the grand tour, seeing as how I grabbed you and put you to work the moment you stepped through the door.” Tara swept her hand in a wide arc. “The living room slash family room. For television viewing and general loafing. That’s just a little entry closet, there. Um, this way to the bedrooms. That’s the bathroom. Washer and dryer. The door on the end is Papa’s room. Donny and I share this one.” She nudged the partly-open door and leaned around it. Willow hung in the doorway as Tara entered the room and approached her brother, who was sitting at a desk with an open textbook beside him. “Hey, Donny. How’s it going?”

He glanced up from his work and grunted a greeting. Then his eyes flicked to Willow. “Hey.”

Tara looked at his stack of papers. “Lots of homework?”

“Uh huh.”

“How’s it going?”

He grimaced. “Not good. I just can’t get this crap into my head.”

“Donny…”

“Sorry.”

Tara examined one of the papers more closely. “Math?”

He shook his head. “Naw, that’s done. Math’s pretty easy. It’s science that kicks my butt.”

Tara looked confused. “Isn’t that basically like math?”

From the doorway, Willow said, “Not always. Eighth grade, right? What is it, biology?” She stepped into the room. “Ah, yes. Good ol’ bio. Um, I might be able to explain some of that stuff more clearly than your book, if you, uh…if you need any help.” Tara bumped her hip and offered her a sideways smile of gratitude.

“Thanks,” Donny said, “but I’ll figure it out, eventually.”

“Sure.” Willow nodded. “Well, the offer stands.” She looked to Tara, who threaded a hand under her arm and drew her into the hallway, then swung the door to its former position.

“So this concludes our tour,” said Tara. She shrugged. “I guess there isn’t much to see.”

“What’s out there?” Willow asked when they returned to the living room. She nodded at a heavy glass door. “Some kind of porch thing?”

“Mm hm, the balcony. It’s kind of small.”

Willow headed toward the doors. “Do you have a nice view, at least?”

I think so.” There was an odd cadence to her voice, and Willow turned to see Tara lift her gaze quickly to her eyes. She hurried past Willow and fiddled with the latch on the door. “Oh, it’s just…you know. Route One.” Willow grinned. Had Tara been making a saucy remark? About her? The thought made her giddy. Tara slid open the door and stepped onto the balcony, then beckoned Willow to follow. When she did, Tara pushed the door shut behind them, cutting them off from the warmth of the apartment. “Sorry for the mess,” she apologized. “I keep all my painting supplies out here.” She futilely tried to shove an easel into the corner.

“It’s not so bad,” Willow said. She leaned over the railing and panned her vision from left to right. “The view’s not terrible, either, I guess. It’s got that whole…traffic and liquor store motif going for it.” She chuckled.

“Mm. Yeah, that was a real selling point.” Tara moved beside her. “You know, it’s—it’s kind of strange, having somebody over here.”

“Oh? Not a lot of guests to your apartment, right?”

“Mm hm. Faith stopped by once, for an hour or so. Otherwise, it’s been pretty quiet.”

The conversation lapsed, and they stood in comfortable silence. They huddled closer together when a breeze whipped through the brisk air. As the sky grew darker, Willow watched the view change. The road became a flowing river of lights; the storefront faded to neon lettering against a black backdrop. People walking along the sidewalk became shades between the oases of light that dotted the street, each crowned by the glowing halo of a streetlight.

Willow shivered, and Tara rubbed her arm. “I’m glad you came over,” she whispered. “Sorry for—for putting you through that dinner, though. Papa can be…you know.”

“Intimidating?” Willow grinned. “It wasn’t so bad, actually. I didn’t know what to expect, but…I mean, he seems…uh, he seems like he’s trying to look out for you, you know? A concerned father.”

A frown flickered across Tara’s face, but she nodded. “Yeah.”

“Was it bad that I admitted to having had drinks? I—I wasn’t sure how to answer.”

“No, no. It’s w-worse to be caught in a lie than to be up front. Trust me.”

It was Willow’s turn to frown. “Are you going to get in trouble?”

Tara shook her head. “I already got in trouble for the party.” She made sure she had Willow’s attention. “Don’t worry. You did the right thing. Now he knows you’re nice and honest, and he’ll be okay with us spending time together.” She turned back to the view. “Well, that’s the hope, anyway.”

“I hope so, too.” Willow leaned sideways toward Tara and slipped an arm around her back, but she quickly drew it back when Tara stiffened. A hundred thoughts crowded her head at once. It had felt like a hug-worthy moment. Tara had always seemed to welcome her touch. Had something changed? Had she said something bad? Willow traced the conversation back several lines and replayed it in her mind. Was it the dinner conversation, after all? Maybe Tara actually was upset that she had confessed their drinking to her father—‘Oh! Duh. Her father…’ Tara had automatically checked behind her when she tensed up. Willow looked through the glass, half expecting Mr. Maclay to be peering back. He wasn’t, but she could tell from the play of shadows that he was just around the corner in the kitchen.

“I—uh…I didn’t mind,” Tara said, clearly picking up on her distress. “It’s just, um…”

“An unsettling audience?”

Tara nodded guiltily.

Willow offered her a reassuring smile. “Well, you can take a rain check if you want.”

“Yes, please.”

They stood in companionable silence for a minute longer, before Willow asked, “So, uh, should I take off soon? I don’t want to keep you up or anything.”

“You don’t have to. I mean, I shouldn’t be up really late, but it’s not even nine o’clock, so…you could stay a while longer if you wanted to.” She looked so hopeful that Willow had to chuckle.

“Okay. On one condition: we have to go inside. I’m freezing!”

~*~

“How is that possible?” Willow asked.

Tara stilled her hand on the remote. “What?”

“There’s like fifteen million channels, but not a single thing worth watching.”

“I think you might be exaggerating a little bit,” Tara chuckled. “We’ve got some videos in the cabinet, there.”

“This one?”

“Mm hm.” Tara set the controller down and moved next to Willow, who had crawled over to the cabinet and swung open the door. “What kind of movie do you feel like watching?”

Willow thought a moment. “Something light,” she decided. “Not too serious. We could use something fun. Don’t you think?”

Tara nodded and scanned the shelf of videos. “A Fish Called Wanda?

“Mm, I don’t know.” Willow shrugged. “Hey, you’ve got Flight of the Navigator. I’ve seen that way too many times. Oh, what about Goonies?”

“I actually watched that a few weeks ago,” Tara said. She shifted some videos to see those behind them, then read the titles aloud. “Big, The Breakfast Club, Clue—”

“You have Clue?!” Willow practically crawled across Tara’s lap to search the other side of the cabinet, and when she located the video, she pulled it off the shelf and began reading the back of the box. “I love this movie.”

“Well, put it in. I’m always up for watching that one.” Tara retrieved a second remote from the top the VCR and scooted back toward the sofa. She began humming the theme music as Willow found a comfy spot beside her. While they waited for the menu to appear, Tara asked, “Should I make popcorn?”

Willow’s stomach, still stuffed from one too many servings of Tara’s delicious casserole, issued a stern warning against the idea. “No, thanks,” she said. She wished she’d saved room; popcorn and movies were supposed to go together, after all. She let her mind wander, and it built a classic scene…

She was sitting dead center in a crowded movie theater as the opening credits ran. Tara squeezed past the other moviegoers to reach her, then handed her a soda before easing into her own seat and positioning a huge carton of popcorn between them. Their hands dipped into the container, at first waiting patiently for the other to vacate, then accidentally nudging against each other, and finally timing each reach purposefully to brush against skin. The touches grew more daring. Her fingers slid across Tara’s palm, then grazed her wrist, then lingered. Tara dropped the kernel she held back into the carton when Willow’s thumb began tracing the faint lines of her veins. Their fingers found each other and intertwined, and together their hands slipped under the armrest. Tara drew Willow’s hand toward her lap, then folded over the back of it, spreading Willow’s palm over the curve of her thigh…

“You know, on second thought, I think popcorn would be great,” Willow decided.

~*~

“All right, look. Pay attention, everybody.” Willow peered at Tara while continuing in a gruff voice. “Wadsworth, am I right in thinking there is nobody else in this house?”

“Mm, no,” Tara replied.

“Then there is someone else in the house?”

“No, sorry. I said no, meaning yes.”

“No meaning yes?” Willow tried again. “Look, I want a straight answer. Is there someone or isn’t there? Yes or no?”

“Um, no.” Tara looked unsure of her answer.

Willow pressed on with her questioning. “No there is or no there isn’t?”

“Yes.”

Willow made a throwing motion with her cup of soda, but managed to keep herself from actually hurling the drink against the wall. The soda sloshed to the lip of the cup, and some of it splattered her hand. She stopped to suck the errant droplets into her mouth, then rushed her next line to catch up. “Please! Don’t you think we should get that man out of the house before he finds out what’s been going on here?”

Tara bobbed her head from side to side while on the television screen the camera followed Professor Plum’s progress across the room. “How can we throw him outside in this weather?”

“What are you guys doing?” Donny asked. His voice caused Willow to jump back a few inches; she hadn’t noticed him entering the room.

“Oh, um…nothing,” Tara said.

Donny looked from them to the screen, then back again. “You’re watching Clue muted and doing all the dialog yourselves?”

“Okay, so maybe, uh, something,” Tara admitted.

Willow chipped in, “We both said we practically knew the whole movie by heart, so we thought we’d see if it was true.” She pursed her lips in thought. “It wasn’t, exactly.”

Tara giggled, and the color in her cheeks darkened. “I kind of liked our version better.”

Donny shook his head in disbelief. “You guys are strange.” He watched a few seconds of the muted movie, then sat down on the floor in front of the sofa with a sigh.

“Donny, Papa said not to watch any—”

“I finished my homework, and he’s asleep already.”

Tara looked at Willow and shrugged. On screen, Colonel Mustard was growing increasingly agitated.

“…Would you just give me a clear answer?” Willow began.

“Certainly,” Tara replied. She cleared her throat. “What was the question?”

“Is there anybody else in the house?!”

No!” Tara and Donny roundly denied.

~*~

“They all did it,” Willow said, “but if you want to know who killed Mr. Boddy, I did—in the hall, with the revolver. Take ‘em away, Chief.” She gently curled her fingers into Tara’s hair as Mr. Green mouthed the final line. “I’m going to go home and sleep with my wife.”

Tara had stopped responding to the touches several minutes ago. While Donny had been providing dialog for Wadsworth’s lengthy monologue—he had done a remarkable job of it, Willow thought—Tara had sprawled sideways onto the couch, leaving her head irresistibly close to Willow. Tara’s next few sentences had been muttered sleepily, and when she had begun missing lines Willow and Donny had taken over all the parts. Willow’s fingers had found their way to Tara’s scalp during the second ending and caused a series of content whimpers to burble from her lips. By the third ending Tara had been asleep, yet Willow had continued the loving strokes.

Donny punched a button on the remote so he could listen to the music. Whether from the upbeat Shake, Rattle and Roll or from Willow’s jostling chuckle at the name of Lee Ving, the actor who played Mr. Boddy, Tara’s eyelashes fluttered apart. She focused on Willow’s face and breathed a happy sigh, then let her head loll to the side, giving in to Willow’s ministrations. Willow caressed the sandy blonde strands once more, then brought her fingertips to Tara’s hairline and massaged tiny circles near her roots.

When she finally tore her gaze away from the parted lips on Tara’s serene face, Willow realized that the credits had finished and the VCR had been shut off. The television screen was now black, and in it she could see Donny’s reflection looking back at her. He stood and turned. Willow caught for the briefest moment a strange look on his face—she could almost see the gears churning behind his eyes—and it was enough to cause her fingers to still, then retreat. “I’m gonna go to bed,” he said. “It was nice to meet you.”

She nodded. “You, too.”

~*~

Tara was so comfortable that she was practically in a trance, and she sank deeper with each stroke Willow feathered through her hair. She processed the brief conversation between the two as though she were replaying a fuzzy memory. A ring of warmth pressed to her forehead. Then there was silence. She wanted to reach up, to take Willow’s fingers and bring their tips to her mouth. She had them as far as her lips when the sofa dropped out from underneath her. Her body spasmed once, shedding sleep, and her eyes flew open. She sat up and took a few seconds to reorient herself. She was alone in the living room. Had Willow gone?

She groggily rose to her feet and wobbled toward the kitchen. Her father had even emptied the dish rack. She checked the time—ten thirty-nine. Willow must have seen herself out. Tara sighed. She would have liked to have said goodnight to her, maybe even gotten another hug while she was at it. Falling asleep on the sofa didn’t feel like something a good hostess should do.

Her father was coming out of the bathroom when Tara entered the hallway. She was glad he had donned underwear, this time. “You still up?” he grunted.

“I, uh—I was just going to bed.”

“Your friend…”

She glanced up. “Willow?”

“Mm.” He nodded. “I liked her.”

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated June 13)
PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2009 10:52 am 
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Dibs! :)

Duh! Of course he likes Willow. How can someone not like Willow?

I love that it was so Willara focused. And even though there were some serious moments, the whole chapter was light and it was really nice to read.

I wonder what Donny thinks of Willow, what he thinks about what he saw... How does he understand it...

And I want the rain check now. :-D

Thank you Megan!

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated June 13)
PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2009 1:38 pm 
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Argh! I had to find this moments before I leave for work! Grrr! I don't have time to read it!!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Alright! I loved it! The meeting with Mr. Maclay seemed to go well and Tara and Willow's relationship is going smoothly :)

I liked the whole Clue movie repeating of the lines things... When I watch a movie and turn it down, it's usually to stick different words in the characters mouths.

Donny seems to be a smart boy and I hope him and Tara can get out of Daddy Maclay's house soon!

Hmmmmm.... I also just plain love your story :)

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated June 13)
PostPosted: Sun Jul 19, 2009 1:06 am 
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I'm freaking out-I can't believe you mentioned my favorite movie! I've actually gone through it on mute, too. You are every kind of fantastic!

Sorry I haven't commented before. I love this fic, so I'm a little scared that what I say will be the worst kind of awkward and you'll stop writing. Not that I think I have much power, or at least not in a positive way. Gah. I don't know what I'm trying to say, except that your writing is always a thrill for me. Even the most depressing parts keep my interest. There are very few fanfics I eagerly check for updates, but this has been one from the start. Thank you for posting it.

I can't wait for the next chapter!

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated June 13)
PostPosted: Sun Jul 19, 2009 12:21 pm 
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Well, that seemed to go relatively well. Or as well as it could. But the situation is just plain untenable IMHO. I mean Tara has no room of her own, no privacy, no freedom, and she'a apparently being quite regularly abused by her father. I've said before that I can understand wanting to stay there for Donnie but this is just a terrible situation for her. And the fact that now Willow likes her and Tara clearly likes her is ... I mean how/where/when will they even manage to get together.

I'm fascinated to see what you have in store for us.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated June 13)
PostPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2009 4:08 am 
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Heyhey! I'd been looking forward to an update and yay I'm in luck!

I'm glad the meeting between Willow and Mr Maclay went well... I was all nervous just reading it! So far so good, they can still see each other even though it's under conditions... It'll be hard to get some proper alone time. The couch scene was so cute, though Donny seems to have some reservations... Or is that just me?

Now, off to wait for the next one! Thanks for sharing your story :D

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated June 13)
PostPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2009 3:12 pm 
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Hopefully since Tara's dad likes Willow he doesn't have a problem if Tara wants to stay over at Willows one night.
Like the story. Keep updating.


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated June 13)
PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2009 8:09 am 
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Yay for great update-y goodness... I hope that now that Papa likes Willow there will be more freedom in Tara activities with her... I kinda hope that they very soon have a nice snuggle date in Willow's room without Cordelia being around...

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated June 13)
PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 7:42 pm 
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(Feedback feedback got bumped to the next page.)

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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 27
PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 7:48 pm 
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***
PART 27
***

“I don’t know, I just thought he was a really weird guy.” Eddie shrugged. He was sitting with Andrew, Carl, and Faith in a circle on the floor of Andrew’s dorm room. In the center lay a pile of dice, and he picked through them for a matching set. “You didn’t think so?”

“No, he seemed nice enough to me,” Carl said.

Faith scoffed. “The guy’s a total whack job.” She peered at Andrew’s dice. “Hey, you took the lucky green d8. Give it here.”

“Who’s a whack job?” asked Buffy as she entered the doorway with Cordelia in tow. “Hey, guys. Willow here yet?”

“Tara’s dad,” Eddie said. “And no, she’s late.”

“You met her dad?”

Andrew interrupted. “We all did, at the diner yesterday. You were invited, too. Didn’t you get the invitation?”

Buffy frowned. “Invitation? Nuh uh. Where’d you call?”

“I didn’t; Tara did. Your dorm room, I assume.”

“Ah. Can’t do that.” She waved her cell phone about. “All communication goes through …” She trailed off when an incoming text message drew her attention. “Hang on a sec.” She excused herself from the room.

Cordelia rolled her eyes and flopped down into the chair beside Andrew’s desk. “God. Those two never stop talking. It’s nauseating.” She spun lazily in the chair. “So Tara’s that girl Willow’s always hanging out with, right?”

Andrew nodded. “Yup. She works with Faith and me.”

“Why’s her dad a whack job?”

“Bad breeding?” Eddie offered.

“I mean, why do you think he is one? What did he do?”

“Personally, I thought he was a nice guy,” Carl insisted.

“Yeah, too nice,” Eddie said. “Like that cheerful geezer who lives next door and builds lots of model ships and crap, and always waves at you when you go out to check your mail? And then one day the police raid his house, and you read in the newspaper that they found three dozen bodies buried in the guy’s backyard.”

“He didn’t seem very sincere,” Andrew agreed. “I kind of feel like his meeting us was part of this weird thing, like he’s trying to control every aspect of her life.”

Faith nodded. “I can’t tell you how bad I wanted to scream on him.”

“Why didn’t you?” Cordelia asked.

“’Cause he’d probably turn around and take it out on T.”

“Take what out?” Buffy asked as she wandered back into the room, still rapidly tapping the buttons on her cell phone. Jumping into the middle of conversations never seemed to phase her.

“Willow’s not here,” Cordelia pointed out. “Can we go now?”

“What did you guys stop by for, anyway?” asked Andrew.

“I wanted to check whether Willow was here to see if I could get class notes from her,” Buffy answered. She turned back to Faith. “Take what out?”

“We think Tara’s dad is a psycho,” Eddie told her.

“Yeah, you said so. What’s he taking out on Tara, though?”

“Psychosis? I don’t know. Faith was saying if we yelled at him, he’d turn around and yell at her.”

“Worse,” Faith said darkly.

Buffy scowled. “You mean he’s abusive.”

“Probably. T’s real close-lipped about it, though.”

“It’s really hard to do anything about domestic violence unless the individual who’s being abused steps forward,” Cordelia offered.

“No shit,” Faith snapped. “That’s what I’m saying. She doesn’t admit it’s going on.”

“Well, excuse me for trying to help.”

“Guys, chill,” Buffy ordered. She looked at Faith. “Do you know for sure?”

Faith sighed and ran a hand through her hair while giving the question some thought. “Yeah,” she said at last. “I’m positive. It’s got to be her dad.”

When he saw she was distracted, Andrew nabbed his lucky die back from Faith and left another in its place. “Maybe we should have Willow talk with her?” he suggested. “I mean, Tara seems to have, uh, warmed up to her.”

As if on cue, Willow appeared in the doorway and chirped a greeting. “Hey guys!” She waltzed into the room. Her good mood was obvious; she was practically glowing.

“Hey, Wills,” Buffy greeted her. “What’s with the yay-rays?”

“It’s been a long day; I’m just happy to have a second to relax.” She sat down in a space in the circle the others cleared for her. “What are you two doing here?”

“They’re here to join the game,” Faith said. “B’s going to be a badass demon hunter, and Cordelia’s going to be a – ” she eyed the girl up and down “ – something else.”

Willow looked even more excited. “Really?”

“No,” Buffy said. “Actually, I was looking for you. You didn’t happen to maybe take really excellent notes during Monday’s lecture?”

“In my binder, in my book bag, upstairs,” Willow sighed. “You shouldn’t skip class.”

“Won’t happen again!” Buffy promised. She beckoned to Cordelia. “Okay, now we can go eat.” The two girls headed out the door.

Andrew began handing out the players’ character sheets. “So,” he said without looking at Willow, “Tara invited you over again?”

“What? … Yeah.” She looked surprised. “She asked if I could come over to help her brother with his biology homework. Did she tell you?”

“Lucky guess,” he chuckled. The others in the circle had varied success at covering their smiles.

Willow harrumphed. “That’s fine. Insinuate all you like,” she said loftily.

~*~

Tara’s heart clenched when she heard the knock at her apartment door, and she hurried from the bathroom to answer it. She tugged the towel from around her hair, which fell in damp tendrils to her shoulders, and used a corner of it to dab at her forehead. Go figure—not fifteen minutes out of the shower, and already she felt overheated. She swung the door inward and watched a smile form on Willow’s lips. Tara opened her arms and welcomed her with a hug, although it required awkward positioning to keep her towel away from the book bag slung over Willow’s shoulder.

“Long time, no see,” Willow joked.

“Mm. Miss me?”

“Oh, dreadfully.” They parted, and Tara held the door and stood aside so Willow could enter. She had scrambled to tidy up and vacuum the apartment before Willow arrived, and now she was happy to show off the living room, which she felt looked significantly nicer than it had during the last visit. Willow’s attention, however, did not stray to the room, but remained fixed on Tara. “Are you wearing makeup?” she asked.

“Uh … ” Caught. “W-well, I mean, from work …” No, Willow would know she had just showered. “Uh, yeah, a little.”

Willow grinned. “So!” She strode into the room, slung the book bag to her font and unzipped the largest pocket. “Let’s see … Bio. Here we are.” Several notebooks and a heavy textbook materialized from the depths of the bag. Colored tabs stuck out of the top of the book. Tara guessed that they served as chapter markers. Willow thumbed through the pages. “Do you know what section Donny is on?”

“Mm. About that—while I’m making embarrassing confessions, I should admit that, uh … D-Donny didn’t ask me to invite you over.” She blushed. “It was—it was my idea. Donny didn’t say he needed any help. Although, between you and me, he really hasn’t been doing well in the class. He thinks it’s boring, I guess.”

“Boring? Biology?” Willow gaped. “Preposterous! It’s … it’s … well, it’s the study of life itself! How can that be boring? You get to learn about the very pieces of you. What you’re made of. Where you came from. How you function in surrounding environments. It’s fascinating!” Her words slowed, and she frowned. “You’re laughing at me.”

Tara shook her head and tried to suppress her smile. “No, no. Not laughing. Just … it’s … you—you get so – ” she shook a clenched fist in the air “ – RAWR, and you’re …” She swallowed. “You’re very cute when you’re all worked up like that.”

“Oh.” Willow’s expression relaxed. “Well, that’s okay, then. Uh, so should we … ?” She hefted the biology textbook and nodded in the direction of the hallway.

They approached the bedroom, and Tara knocked before peeking around the door that had been left ajar. When Donny grunted a greeting, she shuffled in and beckoned Willow to enter. Donny saw the two of them and groaned. “Tare …”

“I know, I know,” she said, “you don’t need any help. Just—just humor me, okay? Willow’s got – ” she glanced at Willow and grinned “ – well, sort of a boundless enthusiasm for science, and it might make it seem, you know, a bit more interesting.”

Donny threw his pencil down on the desk, and it rolled to a stop at the edge of his notebook. “Fine,” he sighed.

~*~

An hour later the girls stepped out of the room together, and at once Tara enveloped Willow in a hug. “Thank you so much, Willow! I’ve never seen him take an interest like that!”

Willow puffed up proudly. “My tutoring skills might be getting rusty, but they haven’t disappeared entirely.”

“You were great.” Tara reluctantly let her go. “Do you have any interest in teaching?”

“Some. I’ve been thinking about signing up to do the SI program in statistics next semester. That’s Supplemental Instruction—it’s like a weekly session for students who are having trouble keeping up with the pace of the class, and need a little extra review for each chapter. It’s opt-in, too, which I like because it means the people who are there probably want to do better in the class. As far as teaching for a career, though, I don’t know. It’s a lot more likely that I’ll end up doing something with computers.”

Tara chuckled. “I’m not so computer-savvy.”

“No?”

“Well, we’ve never owned one. I mean, I used them in high school a little. Typing classes and stuff, but I’ve forgotten most of it. I remember that F7 spell checks. That’s about it. Oh, and there was this game where letters fell down from the top of the screen, and you had to type each one before it reached the bottom.”

“I loved that game!” Willow gushed. She made a face when her stomach gurgled. “Have you eaten, yet?”

“Mm hm. Donny and I had dinner earlier. You?”

She shook her head. “Not really. I’ve been snacking all day. You want to go to Late Night at the dining hall? They have milkshakes and stuff. I’ve got so many points I need to use up.”

“Oh, uh, I don’t know if—well, let me call my father. Hang on.” She used the phone in the kitchen, and Willow paced around the living room while waiting. She caught pieces of the conversation. “Yes, he did it all … Just Willow and I … It’s on the campus … I will … Thanks so much! … Okay, I’ll see you tonight.” When she reappeared, Tara looked giddy. “Let’s go!”

~*~

Willow rubbed her tummy and sighed contently as they made their way back across the campus toward the apartment. “Oof. I’ll never get tired of milkshakes,” she mumbled.

“I can’t believe you snarfed that whole thing down already!” Tara said. “It was huge!” She was still working on her own shake, which was in a much smaller cup than Willow’s had been. It was a thick shake, and she’d given up on the straw several minutes ago. It was hard to walk and drink at the same time, so she kept slowing while taking sips, which caused Willow to trot back several steps to keep apace.

Willow hopped down a curb and turned to see Tara with her drink raised to her lips. “Oh! Watch your – ” she grimaced as Tara took a misstep and flailed to regain her balance “ – step.” Tara managed to stay upright, but strawberry shake dotted her nose and dripped from her chin. She wiped at it bashfully. Willow categorized the moment in her mental Tara file. ‘Precious.’

Time always seemed to pass too quickly and nights always seemed to end too early when she was with Tara. Already the day was drawing to a close, yet Willow felt their time together was only just starting to blossom. It didn’t seem fair. She stopped walking, and Tara turned around to see why. “When do you think your father will get home?” Willow asked.

“I’m not really sure. Midnight? Twelve-thirty?”

“Do you want to do something? I know it’s getting kind of late, but—”

“Definitely,” Tara assured her. “Ten o’clock, though …”

Willow nodded. “Right. So we’ll be at your apartment. But we could still …”

“Watch another movie?”

“Will you be able to stay awake for it?” she teased.

Tara smiled. “I promise.”

“Then, sure. Anything, really.”

“Anything in particular you want to see?”

“Well, I picked last time. It should be your turn.”

“All right,” Tara chuckled. “But remember that letting me choose was your idea!”

~*~

Tara punched a button on the remote, and the television screen went black. “So? What did you think?”

“That was really bad,” Willow admitted.

“I told you it was goofy. It’s funny, though, and the characters really grow on you.” She ejected the video from the player and slipped it back into its plastic case, then returned it to its place on the shelf—right next to the rest of the Xena tapes. She set the remote down atop the television and looked over at the sofa. Willow reclined across the majority of it, her head resting upon a faded brown throw pillow. Donny hadn’t joined them; he’d taken one look at their viewing fare, declared, “Oh, heck no,” and retreated to the bedroom. Tara began scanning the other videos. “We can watch something else.”

“Oh, no, it’s okay,” Willow said. “It’s silly, but enjoyable. Plus, I mean, it ran all those seasons, so it must get better. Right?”

Tara reached for the tape. “No promises,” she chuckled.

Willow watched the opening warnings and disclaimers while Tara excused herself to the kitchen for a glass of water. When she returned, Willow asked, “You know that whole subtext thing … ? About this show?”

“Yeah, I don’t know if I’d call it subtext. It’s pretty much … well, text. It gets pretty blatant.” Tara nudged the pillow, and Willow scooted down enough for her to sit. Tara positioned the pillow against her leg so that Willow’s head would be propped up.

Willow nestled against it. “That’s sort of what I heard.” There was an awkward silence, but it was soon broken by the show’s blaring theme music. Tara hastily lowered the volume. Willow took a steady breath, then asked, “What do you … what do you think about it? I mean … with the characters … ?”

Tara was quiet, and for a moment Willow thought she wasn’t going to answer. Finally, she said, “In a lot of the episodes, I like it. But sometimes it makes some of the darker bits of the show all the more aggravating to watch. Like, they kind of whack you over the head with ‘these women are in love,’ but then they do some really horrible things to each other.” Tara glanced at Willow, and realized the girl wasn’t looking at the show at all, but was instead watching her. “The show would be totally different without it, though,” she admitted. “Uh, between you and me, it’s … it’s sort of the reason I started taping it in the first place.”

Willow’s nod was barely perceptible. Tara gave her a nervous smile, and Willow’s warm one answered it. Their attention was snapped away by Gabrielle’s voice as the episode started, and soon they were both engrossed in the show. A few minutes in, Willow shifted onto her side so that her head was no longer twisted at such a sharp angle. Moments later, Tara’s fingers found their way to the side of her neck and searched for sore spots. They were easy to find by listening to the groans and sighs that escaped Willow’s lips.

When the episode ended and the screen filled with grey snow, Tara reached for the remote with her free hand and muted the television. With the other, she stroked Willow’s hair. Willow had gorgeous hair, full and fiery, and Tara desperately wanted to see what it would look like tousled and tangled from a night of urgent lovemaking. She knew it wasn’t good to think such things; Willow was in the middle of a breakup, and the last thing Tara wanted to do was to further complicate things. But her fingers threaded through Willow’s hair, and she watched Willow’s body respond—lashes fluttered, breaths became quick and shallow, plaintive mewls tumbled from parted lips to match each stroke—and Tara knew. She knew Willow wanted her just as badly.

“Willow …” The word was half spoken, half pleaded. Willow’s eyelashes swept upward, and her eyes found Tara’s. “Sweetie …” She almost died when Willow’s tongue darted out to moisten her lips. “I want to kiss you so badly right now …” she breathed. Willow’s eyes widened at the admission. “I know I shouldn’t. I—I shouldn’t even be saying it. B-but I want to …” It took all of Tara’s willpower to hold her gaze on Willow, when every instinct told her to look away.

“Wow,” Willow whispered. For once, Willow Rosenberg was at a loss for words. Tara gauged her expression; it seemed at once both hopeful and cautious, a mixture she understood too well. She could almost see the gears churning behind those beautiful eyes. At last Willow asked, “What would … what would happen if you did?”

Good question. Tara sighed and slumped against the sofa back. “Honestly? It would probably be utterly scorching, and I’d need to kiss you again … and again …” She grimaced. “And then my father would be due home any moment, and you’d have to go back to your dorm, and I’d stay up all night worrying about it, and by tomorrow morning I’d feel horribly guilty about the whole thing, and I’d be a total zombie at work.”

Willow frowned. “Oh. I don’t like that ending.” She struggled to sit up, scooted closer to Tara, and snaked an arm around her back. “It had such a promising start, too.” Tara leaned into the half-hug and rested her forehead against Willow’s shoulder. “Tara, about Oz …”

“Andrew told me there was a fight, and that he left,” Tara let her know. “Please don’t be mad at him. He knew I liked you.”

“You already know?”

“N-not the whole story. Just—just the fight, and that you seemed really unhappy beforehand.”

“He … had some issues—outside of our relationship—and he withdrew from the University over the weekend. I knew we weren’t going to make it; I guess I was being stubborn about it. Oz wasn’t … his heart wasn’t in it, any longer.”

“He was awful to you,” Tara said pointedly. “Every time he upset you, I wanted to scream.”

A sad smile crossed Willow’s lips. “The truth is, my heart wasn’t in it, either. It hadn’t been for a long time. I just … I hated the idea of failing at a relationship. I wanted to believe I could get it right the first time.” She shook her head. “But it wasn’t going to happen with Oz. We didn’t fit together in too many ways. At one point I started to picture the relationship like was this huge scale, with all the good things on one side, and all the bad things on the other, and I felt like it was taking more and more energy to bail out stuff from the bad side. It was draining.”

“I’m sorry,” Tara said. She didn’t feel like it was enough.

Willow nodded. “Yeah. It’s better that it happened. Maybe it’s mean to say this, but … I’m sort of relieved that he withdrew from school. I mean, if it helps him collect himself and stuff, that’s obviously great, but just … I think it will be easier to deal with him being totally gone than it would be to deal with the awkwardness of bumping into him all the time.”

“I can understand that.”

“Why would … I mean, if you already knew about the breakup, why would you feel guilty about … ?”

Tara frowned. “Because of the breakup. It was only a few days ago. I didn’t really know what had happened, or what you might be feeling about it, and—and I didn’t think telling you, ‘hey, your new friend wants to kiss you senseless, and oh yeah she’s a girl, too,’ would make that process any easier.” She sighed. “Even though that’s exactly what I ended up doing. It’s—it’s kind of ugly to come onto somebody right after they’ve had a breakup. I’m sorry.”

“No, I’m glad you said it,” Willow assured her. “I’ve wanted to, for a while. Since the party.” She paused. “Since before the party.”

And there it was. The admission sat between them heavily, both awkward and exciting. Tara didn’t know how to follow up. In her mind, she was closing the gap between them as much as possible, fastening her lips to Willow’s until oxygen became a serious problem, and tasting every freckle on her skin. But to say so—to do so—would fly in the face of good taste. No, she would wait. She would be infinitely patient while Willow … did whatever it was a person had to do after a relationship failed. Did that every really work? She took a slow, steadying breath and pulled her gaze away from Willow’s mouth to her eyes. Willow’s stare was melting her. A knowing smile turned the corners of Willow’s lips, and when she stretched a band of milky skin peeked through the narrow gap between her jeans and top. Oh hell, Tara thought, this wasn’t going to be easy.

~*~

“So … I’ll see you again soon?” Willow asked.

Ninety agonizing minutes. That’s how long Tara had sat with Willow after her confession. Ninety minutes of pretending to watch Xena outmaneuver various thugs and warlords. Ninety minutes of trying to keep her hands to herself—and failing miserably. They seemed to be sentient, and rather single-minded at that, automatically drifting to Willow whenever her focus ebbed.

Now that the torture was nearing an end, Tara wanted to prolong it. Only the thought of her father stumbling home at any minute prevented her from drawing out the goodbye. She twisted the door handle unconsciously and nodded. “Definitely.”

Tara watched her turn and retreat. She eased the door closed and immediately slumped against it. A frustrated groan passed her lips. Tomorrow, she knew, she’d be able to tell herself that she’d done the right thing. Tomorrow she’d be proud of herself. Right now, however, she had a heated, curled knot low in her stomach, and she’d just let Willow escape unsmothered by kisses.

“Tara Maclay, why do you do this to yourself?” she asked rhetorically. She shook her head, straightened and stretched her back, then reached out to hit the light switch. Sleep was the answer. Just get to sleep, and she’d feel better in the morning. She paused near the sofa to retrieve the glass she’d left on the end table, when she heard a tapping. Curious, she set the glass back down and shuffled back to the door. She had just enough time to open it and blink once at Willow’s wide eyes before the girl lifted herself up on tiptoes, laid a hand on Tara’s cheek, and kissed her soundly.

By the time Tara’s mind caught on to what was happening, Willow had backed away, breathing heavily. She nodded definitively, as though affirming her own thought. “Goodnight, Tara,” she said.

Tara’s fingers strayed to her lips, which were still parted in surprise. They seemed to tingle, and her cheeks felt very warm. “G-goodnight, Willow.”

~*~

Willow hovered over her, propped up on her elbows. She was studying Tara’s face intently. She inched lower and pressed her lips to the underside of Tara’s chin. Another kiss fell at the edge of the first, and another in line, each gently nudging her jaw upward. Tara sucked in a searing breath and arched her head back, exposing her throat. She felt Willow’s finger trace a line down the center; it rose and fell over the wave as she instinctively swallowed, then it circled the shallow dip above her collarbone. Every place Willow’s fingers touched, her lips soon followed; each moist contact sent heated charges in arcs through Tara’s body.

Wisps of Willow’s hair grazed Tara’s neck and shoulders while she continued her exploration. Tara needed to move. She wriggled and bucked until some part of Willow—she didn’t care which—rested heavily between her thighs. She gripped with her heels, lifted, and shuddered as she dragged downward. Again. Willow pressed a hand to one of her hips, stilling her motion, and Tara voiced her need for relief with a low, insistent growl. “Willow, please …”


Somewhere in the building a door slammed loudly enough to penetrate the layers of her sleep, and Tara’s eyes blinked open. She rolled over, buried her face in the pillow, and groaned woefully. Oh, what a blessing it would be to not have any neighbors. Not to mention her own room … Usually Tara could overlook the many ways that sharing space with a younger brother interfered with her day to day life, but moments like this really drove the point home. She sat up in bed and drew in several slow, even breaths. It didn’t help much; her dream had left her thoroughly aroused, and still her body hummed with pent-up energy. “Oh, to hell with this,” she muttered. She slid out of bed, gathered up one of the heavier blankets, and trudged out into the hallway.

It was cold on the porch, even with fuzzy slippers and a comforter for a coat. The tips of her ears were the first to register the chill, and her teeth chattered. She dragged one of the plastic chairs into the center of the porch and sat after making sure it hadn’t collected any water. She pulled her knees up under the blanket so that her feet perched on the front edge of the chair and her bare legs were protected from the air. Already the details of her dream were receding into the grey nothing of lost memories. She desperately tried to reclaim them, to let them act as fuel, but all she knew now was the chill and the snug cocoon of her blanket. She craned her neck and looked up at the starless sky. Against the ruddy backdrop she watched her breath turning to mist.

They were holding hands, standing before a marble headstone. A brisk wind whipped through the cemetery, tugging at their hair and rustling their clothes. It was chilly, and Tara nestled up against Willow to share her warmth, resting her head on the girl’s shoulder. She sighed, tucking her cold fingers into the pockets of Willow’s heavy pea coat. Willow reached an arm around Tara’s waist and gave her a comforting squeeze.

“You’re not alone.”


Tara twitched out of her reverie. Where had that memory come from? It had been a phantom thought—appearing from out of nowhere, strikingly vivid and familiar, but already flitting away. No, not this time. She could capture it. She could hold on to it. Tara let the blanket slide from her shoulders as she stood, braving the cold, and reached for the paint-spattered canvas tarp that covered her folded easel.

_________________
My fics: (Constants, How the Witch Stole Christmas, Short Stories, Bedtime Stories)
My archive: (Willow/Tara Fiction Archive) ~ 954 stories and counting!
The WTTP: (Willow/Tara Tagging Project)


Last edited by jasmydae on Wed Aug 12, 2009 8:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated June 13)
PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 7:48 pm 
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32. Kisses and Gay Love
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Joined: Sun Dec 03, 2006 10:36 am
Posts: 6222
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Location: Kitopia
Sleepy DIBS!! :)

This was really an enjoyable update! You promised steamy, well it is moderately steamy. Just enough to be really pleasant without changin the characters you've been protraying so far. I mean I didn't see your Willow and Tara skipping directly to hot steamy sex. However pleasant that image is. But I don't see neither Tara nor Willow immune to sexual attraction and horniness. So, it's all of the good in this update. Perfectly balanced.

And YaY for Willow and Tara admitting their mutual attraction! :)

Say, do you think Mr Maclay will let Tara have a sleep over at Willow's? For a video night or something... while Cordelia's away?

And as I said last night, I loved Biology. I think I can safely say it was the class I was the best at, and had the best grades in. This sentence is wrong, sorry. :/
(I participated to a national Biology competition when I was 14, I am rpoud to say I was ranked 93rd)

I'm so glad that Tara's gonna paint again. She is going to, right?

Thank you so much!!! :)

Julia

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"Joie est mon caractère, C'est la faute à Voltaire; Misère est mon trousseau, C'est la faute à Rousseau." Gavroche. Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (chap. XV)


Last edited by JujuDeRoussie on Thu Aug 13, 2009 3:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated August 12)
PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 10:43 pm 
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19. Yummy Face
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Yay for great update-y goodness... I truly hope that Faith and the other manage to convince Tara with Willow's help to leave Papa's domain and start to live her own life... I hope Tara starts to paint again...

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