The Kitten, the Witches and the Bad Wardrobe - Willow & Tara Forever

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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 21
PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2009 5:38 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Joined: Mon Aug 18, 2008 7:44 am
Posts: 425
***
PART 21
***

“Aw, come on, Will. It was an honest mistake!” Buffy pleaded, trailing after her best friend.

Willow had wedged herself between Tara and Andrew the moment they’d left the theater, and she refused to budge from the shelter provided by their presence. She shook her head firmly. “No way,” she stated without looking back at her friend. “You are evil, and not to be trusted.”

“I just got the titles mixed up a little. So it turned out to be a little bit different from what you’d expected—there’s no harm in that, right?”

Willow spun around, gaping. “A ‘little bit different?’ Buffy, there is a big difference between Shine and The Shining. A huge difference! One has piano players, and the other has little boys with butcher knives.”

Buffy didn’t really have a response for that, so instead she shrugged meekly.

“I’m going to be having nightmares about those creepy twins for months,” Willow muttered, releasing a shuddering breath. Tara gave her back a comforting rub. The blonde’s forearm sported a ring of dark bruises where Willow’s vice-like grip had clutched during particularly tense scenes in the film.

“Man, Nicholson makes a great lunatic,” Andrew declared, seemingly oblivious to Willow’s fright. “You know that whole ‘here’s Johnny’ line when he’s hacking through the door was totally ad-libbed?” He mimed swinging an axe, causing Willow to cower even more tightly against Tara’s protective frame.

“It’s okay,” Tara reassured her. “No scary hotels, here. We’re going back to a dormitory, see?” She pointed out the high-rise framing the quad at the top of the hill. “Lots of lights and people—students playing loud music, and…uh, goofing around…and…and…” Tara trailed off, and she directed a sidelong glance toward the building. “W-what exactly do people do in a dormitory?”

“Well, we’re in the Honors dorm, which is mostly your geeky, nerdish types,” Carl explained, slowing his pace to fall into step with the others. “So pretty much we revel in the newfound freedom and incredible social atmosphere that is college by, you know, all sitting around on our computers, just like we did back home.”

“Porn,” Eddie clarified, nodding sagely.

“Oh.” Tara considered this for a moment, then asked Willow, “Really?”

The redhead’s eyes widened. “Hey, don’t look at me. The fact that two men of the male gender are freely admitting to excess perviness has no bearing on the goings-on in my dorm room.”

“Three words,” Buffy stated. “Browser, auto-fill, and Literotica.” She frowned, adding, “Or, wait, does that second one count as two words?”

Willow sputtered at her friend. “Buff—I—but—” She narrowed her eyes into dangerous slashes. “As if you weren’t already in deep troub—”

“And here’s my exit,” Buffy interrupted before Willow could finish her threat. With a parting wave of her hand, she veered off from the group and bolted across the street, aiming toward South Campus. “You all have fun in the Porno Dorm!” she called out from a distance.

Willow looked sheepishly at Tara, expecting to find her smirking or, even worse, offended, but if the girl was in any way affected by the conversational tangent, it was not evident in her expression. Instead, she offered Willow a friendly smile and a return to a safer subject. “So, uh, did your roommate not want to come to the movie?”

“Huh? Oh, Cordelia? We invited her along during the PanUM Games, but she had to head back to her sorority right afterward. She said maybe next time.”

“She’s there a lot, isn’t she?” Tara asked.

“Yeah,” Willow agreed. “Although she’s been kind of a surprise, at the same time. I mean, when I first met her, I kind of figured she was going to be the Phantom Roomie, too busy to bother spending any time with us unpledged plebeians. But she has managed to balance it nicely, you know? It’s true that she’s not around a lot of the time, but I do feel like she’s making the effort to allot some time for…just being in the room, I guess, and hanging out with Buffy and me.”

“So you get along? That’s really good. I can’t imagine being assigned somebody to live with by lottery.”

“Oh, I couldn’t, either. I was so scared when I missed the housing request deadline, which would have let me pair up with Buffy in a double. I figured the fates would conspire to give me the worst roommate possible. You know, somebody loud, messy, always wanting to use my laptop…”

Tara chuckled while listening to the redhead. “And what about Buffy? Did she get a good roommate?”

“I guess so,” Willow shrugged. “I haven’t really talked with Beth much. She was on our team, at the PanUM Games. Do you remember?”

“Mm-hm. She was the shorter girl with the fuzzy hat?”

Willow nodded. “That’s right. She’s pretty quiet. Buffy says she’s fine as a roomie, though, so I guess we both kind of lucked out.”

“Cool.” Tara pointed out the three boys, who had continued walking briskly up the hill. “We’re falling behind again. How does that always happen?”

“Shorter legs?” Willow guessed.

They hurried ahead, closing the distance, and arrived at the dormitory at the same time as the boys did. The group of five piled into Ellicott Hall’s ground-floor hallway, where Carl stepped forward to push the button for the elevator. Willow became increasingly anxious as they waited; she wrung her hands together and stared at the elevator doors. Thanks to their midnight movie viewing, her head filled with ghastly images of the cold steel sheets parting to flood the lobby with a surging river of blood.

Willow hated the sight of blood. When she was eleven years old, she had been present while Xander, attempting a daredevil stunt, had fallen off of his bicycle. The impact of the concrete had driven the boy’s front teeth clear through his tongue, and Willow had never seen so much blood. It had spilled from his mouth in a crimson torrent, pooling below the shocked boy and paralyzing Willow where she stood on the sidewalk. It had felt like hours before she was able to move—to run inside, screaming for her mother. As Willow reflected upon the memory, she became convinced that the moment the elevator doors separated, something in the building’s walls would rupture, and a bloody deluge would gush into the…

“Do you want to take the stairs?” Tara asked suddenly.

“That’s a great idea,” Willow hastily agreed, spinning to follow the girl toward the stairwell.

~*~

Andrew looked at Willow suspiciously. He swiveled his chair and scooted it away from the desk so that he could stand, then backed away a step, keeping the chair between himself and the redhead. “I don’t get it,” he said.

“Can I leave them here?” Willow asked again, holding out a handful of cutlery.

“You want me to take your utensils?” the boy questioned, his words laden with distrust. “Is this a trick or something? Are you trying to get back at me for the axe comment?”

Willow shook her head. “I’m serious. Can I just leave these in your room, and maybe pick them up sometime tomorrow?” The girl did not appear to register the bizarreness of her request.

“Um, sure. Yeah, okay. Just put them on there?” Andrew pointed at a dresser that was pushed up against the wall next to Willow.

“Great! Thanks.” Willow deposited the pile of utensils on the dresser after clearing a space amidst several dozen miniature figurines, each one painted with fastidious detail. She picked one up and examined it more closely—a troll with a bazooka was her best guess—before replacing it on the dresser top. “Uh, so that was it.” She turned to leave, but stopped. “Oh, hey, I forgot to mention earlier: Faith said that it would be okay to move the next session to either Tuesday or Wednesday. Tuesdays are better for me, but I could to a late Wednesday meeting if that works for everyone else.”

Andrew’s ears perked up. “Oh? Okay, that’s good. Either day is fine for me; I’ll check with the others.” He picked at a loose flap of one shoe with the toe of the other, and let the action draw his gaze while he asked, “So, uh, out of curiosity, has Faith…you know, has she ever said anything about me?”

“That depends,” the redhead replied archly. “Are you admitting that you have a big ol’ crush on her?”

“I didn’t say that.”

Willow shrugged. “In that case, I can’t seem to recall the details of our conversation. There might have been something, but it’s…it’s kind of fuzzy.”

“Yes, okay?” the boy confessed. “I like Faith. I think she’s incredible. Dreamy, even. Are you happy, now?”

“Oh…” Willow frowned. “Wow, I didn’t think you’d actually fess up.” She shook her head. “Now I feel sort of bad for the teasing, ‘cause really, Faith hasn’t said much of anything to me. She only mentioned the game as she was on her way out the door, and honestly…well, I don’t really know her all that well. So, sorry, but no—she hasn’t brought up anything about you. At least, not to me. Maybe to Tara, though; they’ve been hanging out a lot, recently.”

Andrew grimaced. “Yeah…um, ever since the party at Kappa Alpha, I’ve felt a bit awkward talking with her. Tara, I mean. Like, I half expect her to get frustrated with me and, uh…”

“Suddenly smother you with smooches?” Willow finished for him. ‘I know the feeling.’

“Not exactly. It’s more like…it’s just weird to have kissed somebody you work with.” The boy hesitated, then added, “No, you know what, it’s not even that. It’s that I know she, you know…isn’t attracted to me at all. Like I can’t even think of the kiss as some kind of goofy, playing-around at a party kind of thing, because I’m pretty sure she was just happy to have it be over.”

“I’m not sure I followed all that,” Willow admitted. “You mean because she was uncomfy with the game?”

“Well, that, yeah. But also, she…you know, is really protective of her personal space, I guess. Around most people, anyway. I think she makes exceptions for you, since she…” Andrew motioned toward the girl with his hands, as if to indicate the completion of his thought.

Willow insisted, “Since she what?”

The boy shrugged. “Since she’s got, as you said, a big ol’ crush on you.”

Willow’s eyes widened. “What? Wait, you know that? How can you tell?”

“Uh, well, it’s this neat trick I learned, where I have eyeballs and I can see blatantly obvious stuff.”

~*~

When Willow returned to her room, Tara was studying a poster depicting the periodic table of elements, which adorned the wall beside Willow’s desk. In the white space around the border of the table, lengthy mnemonic devices had been scrawled in a looping penmanship that Tara would recognize anywhere. It was the same handwriting that filled the scrap of paper pinned to the refrigerator door, back at her apartment—Willow’s handwriting. ‘How could I have forgotten to take that with me?’ she asked herself. Of course, she knew the answer: because it was inches from the receipt her father had attached to the door, and she couldn’t look at that, again. The very thought triggered a cascade of related memories, causing her hairs to stand on end and her pulse to elevate.

For a moment, Tara looked to Willow like she was about to bolt through the doorway. “Hey,” the redhead breathed. “Did you miss me?”

Tara blinked, and then she was smiling. “Everything went all right?” she asked.

“Yup,” Willow declared triumphantly. “The mission was a complete success.”

“I still can’t believe you took all the knives out of your room,” the blonde chuckled.

“Are we forgetting the child with the butcher knife, already? Creeping around the room while mom sleeps?”

“But Willow, they were plastic knives from the dining hall.”

“Well, sure, but—but that would be even worse,” Willow declared. “I mean, just think about it: a plastic knife would take much longer to go through—uh, on second thought, actually, you probably shouldn’t think about it.” She shuddered at the notion. “So, you’re going to stay, right?” The redhead’s eyes were hopeful.

Tara glanced apprehensively at the neatly made bed tucked into the corner near the window. “You’re absolutely certain Cordelia won’t mind me using her bed?” she asked for the third time that night.

“I’m positive,” Willow assured her. “She told me that any night she stayed at Delta, I was welcome to have people sleep over, as long as I washed the sheets for her. Oh, and she asked not to have any boys use it, but that doesn’t factor into the equation, in this case. Trust me, Buffy’s slept over here a bunch of times, already. It’s fine.”

The blonde gave it one final consideration, then nodded. “Okay.”

“You’ll stay?”

“I’ll stay.”

~*~

Willow pressed ‘Play’ on the answering machine, and the message crackled to life.

“Hey, Will. It’s me, Xander. I’m really sorry I’ve been pestering you so much. I think I might be starting to bother Buff with the calls; the last time we talked, she was a little bit, uh…what the word? When you answer everything with one word sentences?”

“Terse? Curt?” Willow guessed.

“Anyway, I know you’re probably caught up in the whole experiencing college thing,” the recording continued, “but I wanted to keep you in the loop with what’s going on here. Uh, I guess that’s my way of saying I don’t know who else to call…”

Frowning, Willow drew her desk chair toward herself, and sat down next to the machine.

“Long story short, my uncle Rory’s back in the hospital, again, and in really bad shape this time, and Mom’s not handling it well at all. She’s yelling at my pop, like it’s his fault, right?” There was a momentary pause in the message. “You know, I’m really starting to hate hospitals,” Xander’s voice sighed. “They’re just so…oh, man, I don’t even know how to say it. I’ve got a lot of respect for the workers there and all, but they all act like robots, or something. It’s like if they realized that the patients here were actually human beings, instead of a bunch of information on a clipboard, it would…well, it’s probably rough for them, too.”

Willow’s attention was pulled to the doorway when Tara eased the door open wider and slipped into the room. She had on a set of pajama bottoms she had borrowed from Willow, which were covered in flowers—pansies, Willow thought, although she wasn’t certain—and a tee shirt that was much too large for either girl and draped well past her waist. Her hair was pulled back in a loose ponytail, still damp from her brief rinse. She was barefoot, and for the first time Willow noticed that the girl had nail polish on her toes; it struck her as being out of place. Tara padded toward her.

“—but Mrs. Summers said I could stay over at Buffy’s house if I needed to, so I’ve been here since yesterday. Mrs. Summers says hi, by the way, and wanted me to ask you to remind Buff that her mom still exists and owns a phone—”

The blonde sat quietly on Cordelia’s bed, reaching a hand out to rub the very top of Willow’s neck through the curtain of hair. Everything was tight. “Guh,” uttered Willow, trying to relax her shoulders, yet finding them taut, regardless. She slumped lower in the chair.

“—don’t want to be any more of a distraction, just passing along the news as I find out. Hope it’s okay if I call tomorrow; I think I should give the Buffster a break for a couple days—”

The answering machine clicked, and an electronic, packaged voice stated, “End of new messages.” The message indicator stopped blinking, instead glowing a solid red. Willow didn’t speak, but gave herself over to the ministrations of her friend. Tara’s thumb pressed into something delightfully sore, and rolled back and forth over the spot. A sound that was half speech and half appreciative groan croaked from Willow’s throat.

“Is everything all right?” Tara asked at last.

“Mm,” the redhead murmured. “Oh.” She straightened, and swiveled the chair to face the other girl. “That was Xander. His uncle’s in the hospital for the second time in two weeks, and his whole family is getting really stressed out.”

“Oh, I’m—I’m sorry to hear that,” Tara said, the side of her mouth twitching at the mediocrity of her own words.

“Yeah, it’s kind of bad timing. Not that there’s ever a good time for somebody to have a stroke, but you know…with his best friends off at college, I think he’s miserable, there, and—and desperate to have people to talk with.”

The blonde nodded. She wanted to say something to help Willow feel better, but all of the words that ran through her head sounded like canned sympathy. Instead, she offered the girl a feeble smile.

“Right,” Willow said, standing suddenly. “So there’s that. But—but we’re having a sleepover, so—so enough with the negative and let’s get with the fun, shall we?”

Inspired by the determined look on the girl’s face, Tara nodded in agreement. “Okay. How do we do that, exactly? What’s on the menu of fun?”

“Well, when Buffy, Xander and I would have sleepovers in high school, we’d have hot cocoa and way too much candy, and we’d watch awful movies and make fun of them the whole time. But, well, we already did the movie thing, tonight, huh?” Willow paced about the room, her eyes darting from object to object, hoping something would trigger an idea. “We could, uh…” Her gaze passed over a brightly colored bag that was tucked under her desk, then snapped back to it. “Oh! Hey, I—when we went to the magic store I, uh, well I bought something for you.” Willow drew the bag out from its resting place and dug through its contents. She picked out a box. “I haven’t wrapped anything yet. Actually, I wasn’t even sure when I should give this to you, but, uh…well, here.” Willow presented the gift to Tara, simultaneously nudging the bag back under her desk with her foot.

“Oh, Willow…” the blonde began. “You got me…oh! Tarot cards.” She looked down at the package wistfully, turning it over in her hands. “Wow, it’s been years since I’ve had—oh.” Tara saw something on the box, and quickly read aloud the description. “‘The Herbal Tarot is a tool for studying the psycho-physical energy of herbs. It follows the general assignments of the Rider-Waite deck, but each card is assigned an individual medicinal herb based upon intuition, astrological and energetic values.’” She blinked. “I’m not sure what that meant, exactly,” she giggled, “but it sounds cool.”

“You like it?” Willow asked, peeking at the box again.

“Willow, I love it. You have no idea h—I mean…” Tara continued to gaze down at the box as memories flooded her mind. “It’s perfect,” she said after a moment, lifting her eyes to Willow’s face. “Thank you.”

Willow beamed. “When I saw it at the store, I just thought, you know, ‘hey, that has pretty pictures.’ Plus, you seemed like you knew a lot about plants and herbs and stuff…so I bought it ‘cause of that, but then later, when you were talking about your garden, I started to get really excited.” Willow was practically hopping in her seat, so happy was she to have found a good gift for Tara.

“It’s perfect,” the blonde repeated. She pulled the flap open, slid a few of the cards out of the box, and spread them in her hands. “Although, I’m going to have to read up on some of them, I’m sure; I’ve forgotten so much of it. But hey, that will be fun in itself—lots of good memories to remember.” She turned one of the cards over and studied the pattern on its back, a border of rosemary circling a subtle sea-green background. Looking closer, she noticed a couple lady bugs crawling among the flowers. “The artwork is beautiful,” Tara observed. Flipping the card back to its front, she read, “Wild ginger. Seven of wands. Huh.”

“What’s it mean?” Willow asked.

“Oh, goodness, so many different things, depending on the context, I guess. The seven of wands usually represents a struggle against adversity, a kind of perseverance, I guess.”

“And the ginger?”

Tara thought about the question. “Well, I’m not really sure how the herbs are supposed to be attuned to the cards,” she replied. “Tarot has a lot of uses, but I learned mostly the divination stuff. You know, questions about what challenges I was going to face, or about situations I was in, I suppose because that’s the sort of thing I wanted to know, back then. Whereas with the herbs, it was more about the medicinal aspects. I mean, there’s so much more to it, but I only picked up the basic ideas while my mom…you know, while I was with my mom.”

“What was wild ginger used for?”

Tara grinned. “I’d probably fail a test on this stuff, now, but…I think it was for fevers, uh…maybe food poisoning?” She shrugged noncommittally. “Or that could be entirely wrong.”

“Well, fighting fever and food poisoning is sort of like overcoming adversity, isn’t it?” Willow was determined to make the connection.

“Sure, there you go,” Tara laughed. “Willow, thanks so much for this. I’m flattered that you got me anything at all, but this is amazing.” She sported a mischievous smile. “It’s much better than what I got for you.”

“You got me something? What’d you get me?” Willow’s interest was instantly piqued.

“It’s a surprise. I—I don’t have it with me, though. It’s back home.”

Willow shook her head. “No, no, no. I’m not good with surprises. My brain will spend three fourths of its energy thinking about it, and I’ll be all kinds of distracted. It’s something from the Magic Box?”

“Mm hm. Well, parts of it, anyway.”

“Parts? This is a thing with parts? What kind of parts? Can you tell me where the other parts came from? How many parts are there, in total?” Willow paused, her brow furrowed. “And why does the word ‘parts’ make me think of zombies? I’m sure Xander is to blame for that; he’s the self-proclaimed king of movies involving reanimated dead bodies.”

Tara suppressed a laugh and shook her head. “Your train of thought is mind-boggling,” she noted, then took a deep breath. “Yes, your gift is a thing with parts. I can’t tell you where the other parts are from, because it would give away what the gift is. There are…” She moved her finger in the air, as if touching a series of invisible objects. “…oh, six or seven parts. And I’m not sure about the zombies, but I’m fine with blaming Xander if you are.”

“Wow, you actually followed all of that? Most people kind of tune out the rambling.”

Tara canted her head to one side and studied the other girl’s face. “I can’t believe anyone would want to do that,” she whispered.

~*~

Light from the street was filtering in through the blinds covering Faith’s bedroom window and painting pale streaks on the ceiling. She lay on her back atop the covers, her toes sweeping restlessly from side to side. Not for the first time, she considered pouring herself a warm bath and soaking for a while, but she kept coming back to the same two problems: the bathtub was in need of a good scrubbing, and it was too small for her to be able to recline comfortably. She groaned inwardly. Faith didn’t feel the least bit tired despite the soothing music flowing from her stereo speakers and the deep breathing she’d been attempting—both had been advice from Tara, who had suggested the methods when Faith had admitted that she didn’t sleep well, during last week’s shift at the diner. Ironically, she hadn’t had any trouble nodding off during Tara’s visit, the past few nights.

Whenever she tried to wipe clear her mental slate, there was a worry willing to step up and occupy her thoughts, forcing her mind into constant focus. Tonight, that worry was caused by a letter that was sitting on the table in the other room. With a final glimpse of the alarm clock—it was 2:21 in the morning, only four minutes after she’d last checked—Faith rolled off of her bed and trudged toward the kitchen. The sofa bed in the living room was folded away, its bedding neatly stacked and tucked up against one of the arms. It was nice of Tara to do that, Faith thought, even though the small oasis of tidiness looked out of place when compared to the general clutter of its surroundings.

She had to admit to herself that she enjoyed Tara’s company. Normally, the thought of having another person invade her private space would rub her the wrong way, but Tara was different. She was a thoughtful guest, for starters; she was neat—‘much neater than me,’ Faith recognized—she was quiet, and she didn’t take Faith’s offered help for granted. But it wasn’t just the fact that Tara was a considerate visitor that made her presence welcome—it was the way she communicated. When they talked, Tara seemed genuinely interested in what she had to say, and had a knack for slipping through her bravado with a gentle respect, which made Faith open up without the usual accompanying feelings of suspicion or antagonism. After so many months of suppressing the need for friendship, and convincing herself she could be happy completely on her own, she was surprised to find in Tara exactly the qualities she would want in a friend.

Lost in her thoughts, Faith entered the kitchen and rummaged through the refrigerator. She found two cartons of juice and sniffed at the older one distrustfully before dropping it into the trash bin and peeling open the other. While she drained her glass, Faith absentmindedly lifted an envelope from the kitchen table. Unfolding the letter, she once again let her eyes wander over the letterhead and the ensuing print.

Dear Ms. Lehane:

Due to the increased cost of insurance and utilities, we must reluctantly inform you that your rent is being increased by $83 per month.

Effective November 01, 1999, your new monthly rent will be eight hundred eighty six dollars ($886).

We have been very happy to have you as a resident and hope you will stay with us. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call.

Sincerely,

Realty Management Services, Inc.


~*~

“Whose turn is it?”

“It’s yours.”

“Okay…um…have you ever had any pets?”

“I had fish, but I’m not sure they count,” Willow shared. “My parents were always coming and going—lots of business trips and social outings—so they thought it would be a bad idea for them to have any pets in the house. I begged them for one—I wanted a kitten, or even a puppy—but they were firm about it. Eventually they let me get some goldfish, but they didn’t last very long, which only further reinforced my parents’ decision to have an animal-free household.” Willow stared off into space, remembering. “I never did figure out what happened to them. I tested the water and everything.”

The girls were lying in their beds in Willow’s room. Despite the light being switched off, the space was illuminated both by streetlight, which the blinds could never manage to keep out, and by lights on the dozens of computer peripherals scattered around the room. Willow could make out Tara’s face, resting above the curve of Cordelia’s pillow. The girl’s eyes were closed, and a content smile graced her lips. “Your turn,” Tara said.

Willow thought for a moment. “What was your favorite subject in school?”

“I liked most of my art classes. There was only one that I didn’t enjoy, mostly because the teacher was…uh, kind of…she felt very strongly about her particularly view of art, and was strict with—with students who didn’t share it. History was all right, too, but again I think it was largely due to the teacher, not the subject.”

“That’s probably true of most classes,” Willow agreed. “I was a fan of math and science, especially kinetics and chemistry. Basically, anything with formulas. I mean, I did all right in all of them, but I kind of felt safer with subjects where…you know, you got asked a question, and you knew that there was a definite answer, which you could deduce, plug back in, and check. Much less open to interpretation and teacher whimsy, that way.”

“You’re talking about English classes, aren’t you?”

“Well, I mean, what if some author didn’t intend for some passage to be deep, meaningful insight into some condition of human existence? What if they jotted something down in the hopes that it would become a best-seller, so they could, you know, eat?”

Tara giggled. “While I want to agree, I’ll admit that I got through high school in large part because of classes like that. I didn’t have much of a mind for math, but I was pretty good at guessing what the teachers wanted me to think.”

“Um, whose question was that?”

“Yours. It’s my turn,” Tara said. She was quiet for a few seconds, while she thought. “What is it like, being an only child?” she asked.

“That’s…hard to say. I don’t know what it’s like to have siblings, so I’m not sure what I’m comparing it to.”

“Was it lonely? I mean, you said your parents were gone a lot of the time.”

“I was left alone often, yeah, but I’m not sure I was lonely. Xander was over all the time—almost every day, I’d say—because his dad was, uh, stern, and because we usually had my house to ourselves. So I don’t think being an only child or having my parents gone a lot of the time was lonely, so much as…well, I kind of wished they were more involved with my life. I always had this pressing need to have them be proud of me, I guess, and—and maybe they would have been, if they were around, and if they had had any clue what was going on with me.”

“Sometimes it’s hard for us to see parents as—as human beings, j-just like us, except older. Especially when we’re younger, and the thought of ever being grown-ups ourselves is so far away. You know, when my mother—w-when she passed away, I wanted to be angry, because…because it seemed so unfair, that she was in my life for such a short length of time. I think the only reason I kept it in check is because Donny was having such a hard time with everything, and P-papa…he…he disconnected…and if somebody didn’t hold it together, the family was going to—to—I don’t know what. B-but now that it’s more distant, it’s easier to let some of the anger go, and to—to be grateful for the time that I had with her.” Tara opened glistening eyes and looked across the narrow span at Willow. “We usually don’t get exactly what we want, w-when it comes to parents,” she acknowledged, her voice quavering, “b-but if you can see through the upsetting things, there’s usually something good beyond it.”

Willow let Tara’s words sink in, and when they were done, a silence hung in the air that she felt the need to sweep away. A dozen replies zipped through her mind—segues to other subjects, jokes she could crack—yet Willow ignored these. “I want to give you a hug,” she stated plainly.

Tara hesitated. “Right now?”

“Uh huh.”

“Y-you’d have to come over h-here, or I’d have to go over there, and the floor’s k-kind of cold,” Tara pointed out.

“I’m wearing socks.”

“Oh.”

Willow slid out from under her covers and stood. She felt lightheaded, and just above her socks her legs tingled with each step she took toward the other bed. Willow wondered, during the trip, whether any blood at all was reaching her extremities. She stopped next to the bed and considered how best to approach the hug. Tara was under the covers and facing her, so lying down and hugging her from the front—the simplest, most typically employed approach—might result in the accidental squashing of an arm or a knee, which were difficult to distinguish underneath the bedding in this light. Crawling to the other side and hugging her from behind—by far the more ergonomic position—would necessitate clambering over the resting girl’s body, since the bed was flush with the wall.

While Willow weighed the relative merits of both options, Tara introduced another. She extended her hand, raising the sheet with it, and invited Willow into the snug hollow created underneath. The redhead lowered herself to the mattress and scooted into the nook below Tara’s elbow, snaking one hand under the girl’s pillow in the process. She eased the other over Tara’s waist, and then the blonde was in her arms, wrapped tightly around her, pulling in moist gulps of air and dampening Willow’s nightshirt with tears.

~*~

The shrill electronic screech of her cell phone ripped Faith violently from a dream. She reached for the shelf next to her bed, but the back of her hand collided with a floor lamp, which wobbled precariously until she righted it. Blinking away her stupor, Faith realized she was stretched out on the sofa, not in her bedroom. She rose unsteadily to her feet and used the sofa back as support to shuffle through the doorway to her room, where she stood stupidly, wondering where her phone had ended up. ‘Jesus, NyQuil really messes you up,’ she mentally noted. When it rang again, Faith located her phone in the pocket of a pair of jeans she had discarded on the floor and snapped it open.

“Yeah,” she said.

“Hello, there,” an unfamiliar, yet amiable voice replied. “I’m trying to reach Tara. Is she there, by any chance?”

“Who’s this?”

“I’m Donald Maclay, Tara’s father.”

Faith snapped her mouth shut and picked her next words carefully. “Hi, Mr. Maclay. I’m sorry, Tara isn’t here.”

“Oh, I see. Listen, Faith…this is Faith, yes?”

“That’s right.”

“Faith, I’m very worried about my daughter. She’s been staying out very late with a new crowd she met at the University, and hasn’t been calling home to let me know where she’ll be. I’m concerned that I wouldn’t be able to get in touch with her, if some kind of emergency came up.”

The line was quiet, so Faith offered, “Uh, huh. I understand.”

“Great. So, if you see Tara—if she stops by your place, or if you hear from her—could you have her give me a call? Her brother and I are both quite troubled that Tara might be off at parties or God knows where else, without giving her family any consideration. Could you let her know, if she contacts you, that she needs to come home?”

“Sure. No problem, Mr. Maclay.”

“Thanks, Faith. I’m sorry for the early call. You have a great day.”

“Yeah, thanks. You, too.” The call ended, and Faith looked down at her cell phone. “…you sonofabitch.”


Last edited by jasmydae on Tue Feb 24, 2009 5:48 am, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Feb 22nd)
PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2009 6:27 pm 
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dibsy doodle?


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Feb 22nd)
PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2009 7:08 pm 
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Great update!

Oh no, what's Faith gonna do now that the rent went up? I hope they don't have to move out because then Tara won't have a place to crash. ( Faith as well, we can't forget about love-able Faith!)

You should lock yourself in your room more often so you can update again soon!

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Last edited by MelCar19 on Sun Feb 22, 2009 8:49 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Feb 22nd)
PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2009 7:23 pm 
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US colleges seems so fun! :party

and I don´t like Donald Maclay, Sr. this man creeps me out!

btw, nice Will/Tara interaction... losing a parent is really hard at this age, I know that...

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Feb 22nd)
PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2009 9:29 pm 
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BIg uh-oh!! Hope Faith just keeps that phone call to herself. I don't want to see Tara upset over a dumb phone call from that jerk.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Feb 22nd)
PostPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2009 1:17 am 
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That has got to be the sweetest hug scene I've ever read.

Thank you, Megan

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Feb 22nd)
PostPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2009 1:47 am 
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Yay for great update-y goodness... The Willow and Tara part was really nice... I liked how in was plain obvious to Andrew that Tara has a big mighty crush on Willow... I like how Faith and Tara get along in their apartment... I hope the rent rise is not going to split them apart... I really really don't like Paopa Maclay and his attempts to control (again) Tara's life...

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Feb 22nd)
PostPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2009 6:42 pm 
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Seeing updates on this story always makes me happy. I was even good alllllllll day today at work and didn't read it. And given the craziness that typically ensues on Mondays that's quite an accomplishment.

I love scary movies, but I must say 'The Shining' is one of the creepier ones. I remember watching it as a kid waaaaaaaaaay before I should've and those twins creeped me out for YEARS. That and the blood in the hallways. I was quite a lot older before I could sit down to watch again.

I love this:

Quote:
“Uh, well, it’s this neat trick I learned, where I have eyeballs and I can see blatantly obvious stuff.”


Aren't crushes the most obvious thing in the world to everyone but the object of affection? I'm sure Willow filed that nugget away for lengthy analysis later, but I really liked that it did not motivate how she acted with Tara the rest of the evening. She treated Tara the same way as if Andrew never said anything which seemed very mature since she's dealing with her own feelings as well. Yay for Willow!

The hug's already been mentioned, but I'll compliment it as well. Such a wonderfully tender moment. I think Tara has needed a break down for some time and considering how much she carries inside, it reflects how much trust she's developed for Willow. You've spun quite the mystery regarding Tara's father because I still have no idea just how evil he really is. He's obviously scarred Tara very deeply, but her big heart still finds good in him. Seriously driving me bonkers. Is he like Lifetime movie evil or like diet coke level, love to pull guilt trips on my daughter 'cause I'm a louse kinda evil? KILLING.ME.

My rant seems like a perfect segue to the phone call. Agree with others. Hope Faith keeps it to herself. Tara is just starting to live again and doesn't need to have his evil claws back in her.

Edited to point out that I seriously talked A LOT this time. My god look how much space I took! Shutting up now.


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Feb 22nd)
PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2009 11:50 am 
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Well, Megan, I actually had several chapters to catch up on; between working on my own projects, working my full-time job, and going to New York, things have been a little crazed. And I'm ashamed that this might be my first actual feedback to your story thread, though I've been following it since December.

I love the characters you have going on here. It is so cool to see Andrew again! And this Andrew rocks. I absolutely looooved the part where Faith was playing that role-playing game with them - that's something I never pictured her doing, but you captured it really well! Faith's unique brand of friendship is also something I'm really enjoying; she seemed almost surprised when Tara said that they were friends, as if she were only used to rejection. Which is probably the case with her.

I certainly cannot leave feedback without mentioning the absolutely fabulous party scene, and their first kiss! As you built up to it, I kept wondering if you actually were gonna, were you gonna, and then you did! And how! I must've read that part half a dozen times before finding the strength to keep scrolling down.

I must admit I felt the same when it came time for the hug in this last update. It was so special and magical that Willow didn't say anything funny or do anything silly, that she knew exactly what Tara needed. The hug itself, the way Tara just welcomed her in to that snug little hollow... Beautiful. Thank you for that.

I think I wanna hug.

I'm glad you found your way to us, Megan. Please keep the updates coming! We need our Constants, too.

Jen


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Feb 22nd)
PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2009 2:54 pm 
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I feel like everyone has probably quoted Andrew's line about having eyeballs and seeing obvious stuff. How cute that Willow was so intrigued and attracted to that revelation. She just needs a few gentle pushes doesn't she? I feel like the situations with Tara and her Dad and Faith's rent kind of go together with an obvious solution. It just worries me about Donnie still being at home though.

And I, like Xander, put my teeth through my tongue. I didn't fall on the sidewalk but hit my head while climbing sideways onto the playscape. Yes, there is a lot of blood and the emergency room was relatively freaked about it. They stitched it up with green stitches for fun. Then months later my oldest sister told me that the doctor has to take out the stitches (no, they were the kind that melt) or they will grow through and out of my tongue. I know, there's some sort of lesbian joke just waiting around here isn't there?

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Feb 22nd)
PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2009 5:45 pm 
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Great update! More, please! :pray


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Feb 22nd)
PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2009 9:14 am 
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MelCar19: Thanks. I'm glad you liked this one. As the story heads toward the end of "Book One," I expect the chapters to get more interesting (and, hopefully, they'll get posted a lot faster).

Faith's money troubles were a recent addition to my notes, so I hope that little story fits in seamlessly with the bigger one. As Willow and Tara share more "screen time" together, it's harder to jump from scene to scene, and I find a series of shorter scenes much easier to churn out than one long one. Having stuff going with peripheral characters provides an option to cut away to them for a brief period, then return to Willow/Tara at a later point. I didn't really have anything going on with Faith sans Tara, so now I do. I hope it works for the readers.

I will be writing this weekend. Hope to get a large chunk of Chapter 22 done. I'll also be hanging out in the Kitten Chat most of the time, if you want to stop in and say hi. ^_^

[hr]

Nue: Yeah, I had a blast at college, even though it was during a period of my life where I was on an impressive emotional rollercoaster. The classes were...you know, classes. *shrug* A few were exceptional, because of the teachers. Most were la-dee-dah, again because of the teachers. But the atmosphere of public University...a teeming sea of youth, free from the constant monitoring of their parents, allowed to--for the most part--manage their own time and schedules...there will never be another phase of life like it. I suppose writing this story is, in a sense, reminiscing. Most of the background activities that the W/T romance is set against are pieces of my own college experience. For the record, my team kicked butt at the PanUM games, and we had no ringers.

Mr. Maclay is going to get a whole lot of focus in "Book Two," as the story swings more toward Tara's family situation. I'm happy that he's provoking feelings of any sort (except, perhaps, groans?) in the readers. The struggle is to try to get inside his head, while writing his voice; although the man does many things that we, the readers, think are not justifiable, it's important to me that his actions make sense in his own warped mind.

Really glad you like the W/T interaction. I'll admit that when I started the story, it was a fun writing exercise, but the closer I got to having Willow and Tara meet, and start to develop feelings for each other, the more worried I got. This is the first novel-length work I've attempted; I'm very new to writing. And it occurred to me that this is a forum bursting with Willow/Tara fans...and I've only seen the later seasons of the show once. I'm sure that I don't have the girls' voices down nearly as well as other authors, and I began to fret--what if the readers don't think the W/T interactions are good enough? So it's a relief to know that at least one reader is enjoying their interactions.

I've promised myself that between finishing Constants and starting my next story, I'm going to watch through all of the Willow/Tara episodes again, taking notes.

Losing a parent is hard. Part of my reason for writing this story in three parts (again, they're not specified, but the story has three books, the first of which is coming to a close) is because each part focuses on one (or more) of my personal demons. My mom passed away in early 2007 after a year-long struggle with cancer that was diagnosed very late, and although the first Book of Contants focuses more on Willow's acceptance that she's falling for a woman, the later books delve a bit deeper into family matters, including Tara's loss.

[hr]

tacoda13: I have plans for a conversation between Faith and Tara in the next chapter, and I have a feeling the phone call will come up, even though it's not determined in my notes.

Tara's stay with Faith, while a needed respite from the situation at home, was not intended (by Tara) to be permanent. As she said, she's 'taking a vacation'. But with 13-year-old Donny at home, and traveling to and from school, and with Tara not even having a cell phone, she would not be comfortable with that situation for long. She took time out because she really needed to feel as close to free as she could for a couple days, but she intended to return home shortly thereafter.

[hr]

masterjendu: Awr. Really? I had a great time writing the paragraph where Willow over-analyzed the mechanics of hugging (it might be the first time in the story I've been satisfied with the character voice, when I read back through it). So, uh, you're welcome!

And, hey! You're here! Where've you been, all sneaker-ly and invisible? I miss you in Kitten Chats. If you're around at all this weekend, I'll probably be leaving myself logged in there most of the time, while writing.

[hr]

Zampsa1975: Yeah, Andrew's no dummy. And isn't it always so obvious to us when Willow and Tara are crushing on each other, each one going bonkers over whether the feelings are reciprocated? 'Yes...I think she does...but what if I'm reading the signs wrong?...but it seems like...well, maybe she's just...' aaaargh. So an outside character whapping them over the head with the 'duh' mallet can be a nice push in the right direction. That said, while I like the humor in Andrew's last line, it *really* didn't sound like Andrew's voice to me. That's me, all the way; it's a clear instance of crushing the characters' speech under my own style of communication, and this bothers me to no end.

Yeah, you know...it's funny how Faith and Tara are friends in so many fanfics. I didn't really set about to have this happen when I initially sketched the story out. In fact, very little about Faith's character was planned. I originally intended to have her story arc include her boss, Richard (who is only *very* loosely based the character from the show), but over the chapters she has continually surprised me. I guess I just like "nice Faith" better. Her story on the show always bothered me, so I'm writing her how I like the character best, and hopefully she's close enough that I don't lose the original character entirely.

See my comments to tacoda, above, for a discussion of Faith's apartment and Tara's plans to return home. It will happen, because Tara didn't intend to be gone long, and also because...well, there would be no Book Two, otherwise.

[hr]

ophelia11: Seeing updates on this story makes *me* feel happy, as well. ^_~ And I admit, I do a little dance (including a wiggle of the bottom) every time my email pops up to notify me that a new message has been posted on the thread. I love me my feedback...I eats it up...nom nom nom. I probably read the chapters three or four times in the days following posting, looking for errors, and I *still* miss a few.

At my old apartment, before I moved further away from my friends and became something of a hermit, we used to have "scary movie night" once every week or so. I spend a long while picking which movie I'd use for that chapter, and finally settled on The Shining because a) it is uniquely eerie, and b) Kittens are from many countries, and I wanted a movie that was likely to be known world-wide. I'm one of those people who hates "cheap scare" movies, where the most frightening thing seems to be that nobody can see anything off the edge of the screen until it's right next to them. The movie that frightened me the most (not counting the flesh-eating cockroach movie I saw when I was seven that had me sleeping entirely under the sheets for a year) was Misery.

That Andrew quote...I love it and I hate it. See my response to Sami, above. It made me laugh (my own jokes tend not to do this), but it's just not the kind of thing Andrew would say. It's more in line with Xander's humor. Most of the humor of Andrew comes from the fact that he's not ever trying to be funny.

I think at this point in the story, Willow's fairly certain that Tara is into her. Like in the show, Tara hasn't been too hesitant to let her know in little ways, but unlike the show...there's Oz. Which means, to Tara, that there is a line that can't be crossed. Where exactly is that line? Heck if I know. I'm hoping she'll tell me.

The mystery of the situation with Tara's father comes mainly from the fact that I've only written around the edges of it. Most readers, judging by comments, are on board with the what, but the extent is unknown. It'll be a focus in book two, and I expect I'll write it more explicitly, although I'm not looking forward to it; that man is even creepy to write.

Part of what makes Willow special to Tara is that she *can* let loose the tears and be the child for a moment.

I love you talking a lot, of course. ^_~ These feedbacks are wonderful. Thank you so much.

[hr]

Tara the Phoenix: Firstly, congratulations on the dibs. I posted this a while ago, but not sure who saw it: this dibs contest has a reward!

Whoever racks up the most dibs by the story's end gets my story notes, a whole notebook full of ideas, character arcs, chapter plans, doodles, research, frustrated remarks about writer's block, and rough drafts of character dialog.

So, it's wonderful to see you here. I've started reading The Apothecary, and so far it's great--definitely has me hooked, moreso than The Lamb, even. I'll be posting chapter-by-chapter feedback over there as I go. And no, I've had no spoilers. ^_~

Faith's particular brand of friendship hasn't resulted in many friends. She tends to keep people at "acquaintance" level. She justifies this by having an "I can do it all on my own" mentality, but I'm sure we'll see her waffling on this, during the story.

The party offered a way to have that first kiss well before the development of a deeper relationship. Why? 'Cause I was fifty thousand words into a story, and darnit, I wanted some smooches. The party scenes were all really fun to write.

If you want hugs, trust me, there are plenty to spare, over here. I've got 'em piling up, since there aren't many people to dole them out to.

Quote:
I'm glad you found your way to us, Megan.


I can't express how thrilled I was to find this community, tucked away on the Internet. I mean, it's not like Buffy is a recent show. Just *look* at those hairstyles from season 1. I turned to the Internet looking for the S8 comics, actually (I did find them, but I couldn't even get through the first one. Being unfamiliar with the format, I had too much trouble following the flow of the story). I found instead a thriving fanfiction community. You guys rock. Seriously. Thanks for being here!

[hr]

JustSkipIt: As mentioned above, Andrew's line left me with mixed feelings. Willow's reaction to it...sure. ^_^ I think of the warm fuzzies that get swirled up when I find out that somebody likes me. It's a singular feeling.

The Tara / Faith's Apartment / Donny sitch is layed out, above, although plans for a discussion are in the works for chapter 22. But ultimately, Tara's gotta go home. She would be too uncomfortable leaving Donny at home alone all the time, especially without having a reliable means for communication.

That sounds...horrifying. I've never had such an accident, but I witnessed one. When I was in high school, during winters there was a hill that was a great sledding location. I was present when a boy went down the hill on a snowboard and hit a bump at the bottom which sent him flying. He landed poorly, and bit through his tongue, and...good gods, the blood. He was on his back, and one of my friends rolled him over so he wouldn't choke, and it was just pouring out like a faucet, all over the snow. I remember it being a lot darker than I tended to think blood was.

The incident stuck with me for a while, and actually...a kind of cool aside...this accident was what I wrote my very first short story about, back in a creative writing class I took in high school. I'm curious whether I've still got that on my old computer. Might have to rummage around for it.

[hr]

mixxie: Hey! New face. ^_^ Thanks very much for the feedback; it's terrific to hear from you. I'm working on the next chapter. Hopefully it won't take as long as the last few.

*peace*

~ Megan


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Feb 22nd)
PostPosted: Sun Mar 01, 2009 12:39 pm 
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I´m really sorry about your mom, I lost mine when I was a kid and I didn´t had time to grieve, little brother and lost dad to take care of... So, I kinda get Tara´s feelings... It´s really hard, and until today, even after my father remarried to a really nice woman, I can´t understand this hole in my soul...

and brazilian colleges aren´t this fun ¬¬.. I mean, they are nice, and my major was really fun and my new one is amazing, but I had to work too and I don´t have time to 'bond' with my classmates...

I´m really exciting to read all the three books! hope to see more W/T, you made a beautiful interaction (and I LOVE Faith/Tara friendship o/ I wrote they being friends too ^^)

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Feb 22nd)
PostPosted: Sun Mar 01, 2009 1:10 pm 
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Dear fellow Kitopian,

I am delighted by this new chapter! It has many openings for solutions.

I mean, the rent? Faith could propose Tara to become her roommate, even though at first they would have only one bedroom... They could look for another place together. Isn't $886 sinfully expensive for a one bedroom flat? O__o Although it's true that in some cities this is the price.
I truly hope that my assumption of Faith suggesting to Tara to be her roommate is the good one though.
It would solve two problems: Faith's, and more importantly: Tara's.
I mean... Tara has a job, she could get away from her father. Now I know she feels she has a responsibility. Responsibility toward her brother, toward her mother. Heck even toward her father. But I'm hopeful for her because now she has Willow. She doesn't know it yet, but she has her. She was able to open to her and cry. Mourn. That's so good.

Frankly Megan I thank you for this wonderful chapter.

I truly hope to be able to read more soon.

:)

Viva Kitopia! :)

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Feb 22nd)
PostPosted: Sun Mar 01, 2009 2:04 pm 
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If it was your intention for me to imagination Tara's Father with an axe in his hands battering down Willow's door with a gleeful cry of "Here's Donny," then you have succeeded - lol.

The opening to the chapter highlighting Willow's discomfort at watching a scary movie was fun. I have to agree with every word she said about The Shining. The little girls in it gave me the wiggins the first time I saw it.

Interesting choice of movie though - a father's descent into psychosis and alcoholism resulting in homicidal tendencies - you're not foreshadowing here, are you?

The scenes in Willow's dorm with the girls was lovely. A little bubble of happiness that was untimely burst by Donald's conversation with Faith.

Thankfully Faith was savvy enough to say just the right things thanks to her knowledge of Tara's abuse.

His friendly and concerned demeanour does not bode well. It reminded me of the folded laundry a few chapters back and leaves me with chills.

Megan, I hope the writing went well this weekend, and we have an update soon, as I'm looking forward to seeing how you handle the relationship aspects of Tara and her father.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Feb 22nd)
PostPosted: Sun Mar 08, 2009 11:50 am 
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Nue: I've learned that I'm terrible with words for sentiments such as this, so I offer hugs, instead. *hug*

What was your major, in college? Very few of my college friends were made through the classes; they all came from dormitory life.

I can't wait to get further into the story. I'll admit that writing Faith/Tara scenes takes me a while longer than many of the other interactions do. Similarly, Willow/Tara scenes are slow. I'm not sure exactly why this happens. Maybe it's because so many of the other dialogs are driven by the words themselves--banter, so to speak. But when I write those two pairings, I tend to think a lot more about what is going on inside their heads, almost like a second conversation is taking place behind the obvious one.

[hr]

JujuDeRoussie: That does seem to be the sensible solution, doesn't it? Luckily, Faith can figure this out. $886 for an apartment near campus in CP, Maryland is not unusual. I'm sure there are cheaper places, though. Many of the apartments in the area are bought up by the University for student housing, as the student body expands each year.

You're right--the fact that Tara feels comfortable crying with Willow after such a brief time together is a unique experience for her, and Tara's not the kind of person who shove that knowledge onto a back burner.

I thank you, Julia, this time and all others, for the feedback. It's kept me going through some rather difficult bouts of writer's block.

Viva Kitopia!

[hr]

Paint the Sky: Ahaha, I'd actually considered The Amityville Horror as the movie, until I realized many had probably not seen it. Some of the backstory in Shine, the movie she *thought* they were going to see, might have been troubling for her, as well.

I can watch The Shining now without much trouble, but when I saw it years ago for the first time, I didn't sleep well for weeks afterward. The again, this was true for The Nest, too, so I'm not sure frightening me is the best yardstick for scary movie greatness.

Those dorm room scenes took *so long* to write. Grr. Luckily, the ones in this chapter were quite a bit faster, so I'm counting that as a victory.

Also, not to toot my own horn or anything, but I think I deserve some kind of award for going an entire feedback feedback without once mentioning the fact that your penguin resembles an egg, in shape.

[hr]

Speaking of awards...I wouldn't be much of a fanfic author without upholding the long-standing tradition of shameless self-promotion, would I? *cricket, cricket*...*cricket* ...Okay, maybe it's just me. ^_~

Image
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And I know it's a different, story, but I thought this one was funny:

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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 22
PostPosted: Sun Mar 08, 2009 12:12 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Joined: Mon Aug 18, 2008 7:44 am
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***
PART 22
***

In the groggy moments immediately following sleep, Willow tried to pick Tara’s scent out of the others. Mostly, she could smell her own grapefruit scented conditioner, which both she and the blonde had used during their nighttime showers. She could feel Tara’s weight resting against her front, nestled snugly in the curve of her body. Willow’s arm was draped across the girl’s still form, her fingers splayed over Tara’s stomach. Idly, she moved her palm in a circular caress, then curled her fingers underneath, brushing their tips against the fabric.

‘Something is wrong, here…’

Clawing her way through the last stubborn layer of slumber, Willow blinked open her eyes. She was alone. ‘Wait…I’m on my left side, but facing a wall?’ She held the thought until the rest of her senses could boot up to process it. ‘Oh, of course.’ She still lay in Cordelia’s bed, her head resting upon the corner of her roommate’s pillow. There was a lump in the bedding beside her, too small to be a person. ‘So what is this?’ Willow drew back the covers to discover her own pillow, which was tucked up against her, and which had until now been serving as a support for her arm. ‘But I didn’t bring my pillow over…and where’s Tara? Did she—she didn’t go back to Faith’s, did she?’

A quick scan of the room offered some answers. The blonde was curled up on Willow’s bed, sound asleep. She had bunched up part of the comforter into a makeshift pillow, although during the night her head had slid most of the way off of it and now rested upon the mattress at a strange angle. Tara’s knees were tucked nearly to her chin, and the toes from one foot—nail polish and all—stuck out from under the covers and dangled in mid-air. Had the girl not been breathing so deeply, and had her expression not been one of serenity, Willow would have thought the position to be dreadfully uncomfortable.

Looking back and forth between Tara’s sleeping form and the pillow that had been a poor substitute for it, Willow chuckled to herself. ‘As if I didn’t have it bad enough, already…’ She considered trying to sneak Cordelia’s pillow into the other bed, thereby completing the switch, but she didn’t want to risk disturbing Tara’s slumber. She looked so peaceful. Willow wondered whether Tara felt the same way after a good cry; for her, letting go and sobbing was cathartic, almost as though pieces of her troubles were flushed out with the tears. Afterward, she could always fall fast asleep.

‘Why did she move to the other bed?’ she mused. ‘We were being all…together and…and cozy. She seemed content. Maybe she was worried that Cordelia would come in? Or maybe I was moving around too much in my sleep? Or…oh, no…was I talking in my sleep? Please tell me I wasn’t talking in my sleep.’ Willow’s chest tightened. ‘Please tell me I wasn’t talking about her in my sleep!’ She closed her eyes and tried to remember her dream, but the memory remained elusive. ‘I was, wasn’t I? I probably spouted out something weird in the middle of the night, and it woke her up, just like Oz is always saying I—’ The thought came to an abrupt halt, and her eyelids flew open, her gaze immediately shooting to Tara. ‘Oz…of course. Tara won’t stay because of—oh, gods! I’m…I’m a terrible girlfriend! I wanted snuggles with somebody else! I didn’t even think about Oz!’ Willow was by now sitting upright, her mind pacing back and forth in her head. ‘I have to tell him. He is going to feel awful, too…and then he’ll remember the kiss at the party, and—and it’ll seem different, and then he’ll going to think I only brought the soup because I felt guilty, and—I must be the worst girlfriend in the world!’

She collapsed back into the pillows and forced her thoughts to quiet down, yet her tummy churned uneasily. ‘Okay, okay. Let’s think about this rationally. Oz is sick, and the soup is supposed to be for the sickness. And being sick is really not the best state to have relationship problems dumped all over you, so it’s best not to get into that tomorrow. Continuing to put it off is bad, though, so maybe I should bring up the fact that there is something we need to talk about, but that it can wait until he’s not feeling sick; that way, it’s at least out there on the table, and I can’t be a big ol’ scaredy cat and never bring it up. So, there: we have a plan.’

With that, Willow allowed herself to relax, and set her mind adrift. At once, it sailed toward Tara.

‘After she cried…and she didn’t let go…and I kind of rubbed that spot between her shoulder blades…and she made that little whimpering noise...’ Willow groaned. ‘Oh, man, I’m in trouble…’

~*~

“BWEEE! BWEEE! BWEEE! BWE…”

Willow jolted out of slumber, grumbled, and pulled her pillow over her head. ‘Guh. Alarm clocks make the worst noise in the entire history of noises.’

“…EE! BWEEE! BWEEE! BWEEE! BW…”

‘Darn it, Cordelia, turn off your—wait, I’m Cordelia,’ Willow realized. She tossed the pillow aside and reached for the button on Cordelia’s clock, only to have her fingers collide with Tara’s, who had lunged across the room to do the same.

“Sorry! I—I’m sorry,” the blonde hastily apologized, drawing her arm back. She noticed the bruises below her wrist, which had faded since the previous night, and turned her arm in a circle, inspecting them. “I didn’t know how to, uh…how to use your…um…your cow,” she said, nodding across the room toward the contraption on the floor near Willow’s bed. “So I left Cordelia’s alarm set. Sorry it went off next to your head.” Tara frowned. “And so early, too.”

Willow blinked at the alarm clock. It was six thirty in the morning. ‘On a Sunday? There is nothing right about that,’ she decided. “You have to go to work already?” she asked, the words coming out scratchy.

Tara began moving around the room, making sure all of her belongings were gathered together. “Not quite yet, but I do need to stop at Faith’s first—have a shower, put on work clothes…” She picked up the pack of Herbal Tarot cards from Willow’s desk and ran her fingertips lovingly over the designs on the box. Kneeling, she carefully placed them atop the other items in her overnight bag. “I can’t very well show up wearing pajamas, can I?”

“I don’t know, I think all jobs should consider pajamas suitable work attire,” Willow stated with an authoritative nod. “Besides, pajamas would be a step up formality-wise from some of the shirts I’ve seen Faith wearing.”

“Mm. Richard keeps saying he needs to have a talk with her about that. But these are yours, anyway,” Tara pointed out, tugging at the fabric.

“I wouldn’t mind, if it was all in the name of comfort at work.” Willow grinned over her pillow. “That is, unless you have a problem wearing pansies all day.” She paused. “Uh, they are pansies, right?”

“Hm?” Tara looked closer at the purple and yellow floral print of the pajama bottoms. “Oh. Yes. Probably heartsease. Johnny Jump Ups. I always liked that name,” she said, smiling at the memory. “These, pansies, violets...all sort of the same flower family.” Tara stood. “Okay, am I forgetting anything?” she asked, giving the room a visual once-over.

“If you give me a couple minutes to throw on some clothes, I’ll walk down with you.”

Tara considered Willow’s posture, bundled under the covers as she was. “You look comfy under there,” she pointed out. “There’s no reason to get up.”

“But, I don’t mind getting up if I get to—” A yawn cut off the rest of Willow’s argument, which she meekly covered with her hand.

“You see?” Tara arched an eyebrow. “You stay put.”

Willow burrowed a bit deeper under the covers. “Yes, ma’am.”

After looking over the room one last time to be sure she wasn’t missing anything, Tara sat down on Willow’s empty bed and waited. Willow watched her curiously while the blonde fidgeted for a minute, then peered at her expectantly. “Willow—”

“Mm?”

“I, uh…I k-kind of need to…you know…p-put on clothes?”

“Right,” Willow nodded. A second passed before the request sank in. “Oh! Right. Sorry.” The redhead rolled to her other side, and examined the wall as though fascinated by it. ‘Okay, wall. How’s it going? Still holding up that ceiling, I see. Funny running into you like this. Heh, running into a wall. Get it? Yup, yup. Just you and me, here. You and me, yooou and meee…and oh gods, Tara’s probably standing behind me right now in her—Oh! Hey, would you look at that; you’ve got a little chip missing, there, in your paint…’

“Okay,” Tara mumbled, and Willow looked over just as the girl placed the borrowed pants, neatly folded, on Willow’s chair. Tara had already put on her jacket, and her bag dangled from her hand. “So, um, I’m going to head out. Thanks for inviting me to stay, and, um…you get some sleep. Have some nice dreams.” She edged toward the door, but hesitated as she passed the bed Willow was occupying. Blue eyes rose to meet the redhead’s gaze, then just as quickly glanced away.

Thinking fast, Willow dug her arms out of the blankets and opened them wide in invitation. Tara hovered uncertainly at the bedside for a moment before setting her bag on the floor and sitting down on the mattress beside Willow, who shimmied closer and propped herself up just enough for Tara to circle her arms around the girl’s back. As they swayed in tiny movements from side to side, Tara breathed into the embrace, “Willow…”

“Hm?” The redhead’s fingers found their way between Tara’s shirt and the heavier material of her jacket, and she slid her hands along Tara’s back, relishing the warmth radiating through the fabric.

“Thanks for…you know, everything,” Tara whispered. “The movie, the present, the PJs…um, and the shoulder to cry on. I really…I—I sort of needed that.”

Willow nodded her head, her chin nudging Tara’s shoulder. “Of course. It’s—well, I hope stuff will be okay, you know?”

“It’ll be okay.” Reluctantly, the girl released her hold and stood. “All right, time to go. I’m not sure when—uh, when we might bump into each other again.”

“You mean after I stop by the diner to get breakfast in a few hours?” Willow asked, absolutely straight-faced.

“I can’t tell if—really? You’re going to come by?”

Willow nodded. “Mm hm. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, after all.”

~*~

It tore through the meadow, its passage marked by a ripple in the tall stalks of pine bluegrass, which were illuminated by a pale glow from a series of roadside light posts. In its wake, three sinister shapes closed in. They were quickly converging on their prey with uncanny accuracy, their razor-sharp spines barely visible above the grass. It could hear the grunts and snuffling of the beasts’ labored breathing through wet nostrils, and the sounds of aggressive pursuit spurred it to an even more frantic pace.

If it could only make it across the road, it might have a chance. On the other side the ground rose to an incline, and it knew it could travel uphill faster than the hunters. Whatever lead it could open up on the slope would have to be enough to cover the short run to the tree line and the safety of the forest. There, it had the advantage; it could scamper up a tree and leap from limb to limb or disappear into the thick undergrowth.

The hunters were right on top of it; at any moment, it expected their weight to bear it to the ground. Then their jaws would clamp down, and death would inevitably follow. The hunters possessed teeth appropriate for the killing machines that they were—long, piercing canines to grip and hold, and keen-edged carnassials to saw through flesh and bone, rending strips of dripping meat from the rest of the body.

A final curtain of grass parted, and suddenly it was running across packed earth, pebbles, and sand. Half a moment later, it reached the road, just as it heard the hunters break into the open as well, trampling the ground in their relentless charge. So full were its thoughts of the hunters’ dental hardware that it didn’t register the oncoming vehicle until the very last second.

Traveling too rapidly, it skittered under the car, avoiding the deadly tires by the narrowest of margins. A searing pain zigzagged through its hind quarters, but it retained control of its legs, so it kept running. The first of the hunters, focused solely on its meal, impacted the passenger-side door of the vehicle with crushing force, shaking the car’s frame; the second, given an extra fraction of a second to react, attempted to leap the obstacle and collided with a window, leaving a blood-smeared spider web of cracks in the glass.

The car’s tires squealed and slid on the pavement. It swerved over the divider and back again, but the driver was unable to regain control, and the automobile veered off the edge of the road. Glass sprayed into the meadow as the front of the vehicle wrapped around the solid base of a light, and suddenly everything was quiet. Only the mild hiss of steam issuing from the car’s engine could be heard.

When it reached the top of the hill, it finally spared a brief glance backward. Its tail was gone, almost certainly snagged and ripped clean off; it was probably lodged somewhere in the machinery beneath the vehicle. The hunters had given up pursuit; one lay motionless on the road, a second limped dazedly back toward the meadow. The final beast sat quietly at the bottom of the hill, glowering up at it—a venomous glare that promised the creature would one day have its revenge.


~*~

Valerie tapped quietly at Professor Giles’ office door. She could see the man through the panel of reinforced glass; he lay on his roll-out air mattress, and his feet protruded from behind his desk. He didn’t respond to the sound, so she turned the knob and leaned into the room.

The professor was asleep and snoring loudly. He seemed to be in the middle of a dream, for his eyes fidgeted wildly under their lids, and between congested snores he would twitch and whimper. Occasionally his lips would move as if to speak, but no coherent words came out. Valerie crept into the room and peered around the desk.

“Professor?”

The man’s fingers clenched, grasping at open air.

“Professor Giles?” the young woman asked again, louder.

His eyes snapped open, and he lurched halfway off of the mattress. Struggling to a sitting position, he placed one hand over his chest and rasped, “Goodness. Valerie, hello. I’m sorry, I must have dozed off.”

The girl looked over the mattress and bedding. A pillow lay a foot away, under the desk. “Uh huh. I can see that. You were here…grading papers?”

“Yes, yes. That’s right.”

“And in the middle of your work you nodded off?”

“Absolutely. It happened just like that.”

“And luckily you landed on this mattress, which somebody had thoughtfully brought out, blankets and all.”

The professor grimaced. “Well, I suppose that last bit requires a certain suspension of disbelief,” he admitted. Rubbing an uncomfortable soreness out of his neck, he rose to his feet and nudged the pillow over toward the rest of the pile. The action unbalanced him, and Valerie reached out to stabilize the tall man’s teetering frame. “Thank you. Perhaps it would be best to, ah, not bring this up to the others?”

Valerie chuckled good-naturedly. “Don’t worry, Professor; your secret’s safe with me.” She watched the man kneel and begin deflating the mattress. “What are you doing here, though? Didn’t you leave early, yesterday evening? You didn’t come right back to spend the night, did you?”

“No, no,” Professor Giles replied. He reached out for his wristwatch, which lay on the desk chair next to his tie. “I’ve only been here for the last—er, hour and a half, or so.”

“Why the early morning?”

“To be honest, I didn’t sleep particularly well, last night,” the man confessed, “so I thought, being awake, that I might at least use the time to catch up on some work.” He eyed the mattress critically. “Of course, as soon as I arrived, perhaps due to the change of scenery, I found that I could fall right asleep.”

“Funny how that happens. I’m the same way; whenever I can’t fall asleep in my own bed, I go to my brother’s old room, and it’s lights out in five minutes.” Valerie handed the professor his pillow, which was the final piece of bedding he shoved into the cabinet. “Can I get you anything? Coffee?”

Professor Giles shook his head. “No, thank you, Valerie. I’ll just fix myself some tea.” Yawning, he shuffled out to the main office, and slumped down into one of the chairs. He reached for the basket of teas, and picked through them. None of the packets looked the least bit appealing. A memory of a conversation with Tara, days earlier, flashed through his head. Oddly enough, they’d been discussing sleep, or rather lack thereof. The girl had mentioned using chamomile tea for a relaxing night’s sleep, and the topic had shifted to tea. In the course of their discussion, Tara had recommended that he try the tea they served at her workplace; she promised it was more than tasty.

Frowning down at the basket, the professor said, “On second thought, maybe I’ll run out and have some breakfast, as well.” He glanced at Valerie, who was tugging a notebook out of her backpack. “Would you care to join me, or perhaps I could bring something back for you?”

“Oh, no thanks,” the girl replied. “I had breakfast before I came in. Besides, I’m chaining myself to this chair until I finish my paper. It’s due Wednesday, and I’m still waiting for the last-minute panic to kick in.”

“Very well, then. Good luck with it.” He patted his pockets to ensure his keys and wallet were present, and adjusted his glasses to rest higher upon his nose. “I’ll see you in an hour or so.”

“See you later, Professor.”

~*~

Tara leaned back against the counter, setting her glass down shakily upon the surface. She did her best to put forth a calm, collected image, but her trembling fingers betrayed her. “Oh,” she said. “D-did he sound angry?”

Beside her, Faith spooned batter onto a piping hot griddle. “No, he sounded like he was trying really hard not to sound angry.” Disgustedly, she slammed the bowl onto the counter harder than was necessary, and threw the spoon into it. “I hate that false cheerful front bullshit,” she seethed. “It’s like he thought if he said my name another ten times, I’d mail him a Father of the Year award or some crap.”

The blonde frowned at her friend’s reaction, but let it pass. “So he said to call him?”

“That or scamper right on home,” Faith grumbled, grabbing a spatula from a hook on the wall. She fixed her gaze on Tara. “If you’re not ready to hear that message, then I never said anything about it,” she offered. “The call could have just…conveniently slipped from my mind, if you know what I mean. I do have other things to worry about, after all.”

Tara looked down at her hands and shook her head. “N-no, I should—I should r-really go back, today. When I left, I didn’t really, uh, think everything through. It was just supposed to be for a day, but—but it was nice to…to g-get away for a bit. I can’t just crash on friends’ sofas forever, though,” she sighed, flashing the other girl a smile she didn’t really feel.

“Actually, that’s something I wanted to ask you about,” Faith segued effectively. “I’ve been thinkin’ about maybe moving to a different place. Might be nice. You know, more space, better view…somebody to help cover rent—all the stuff I seem to be lacking in my current living situation.” She turned away from the heat of the griddle and wiped her hands on her apron, then ran a towel across her forehead. “Seems you might be able to benefit from a change in scenery just as much as me,” she pointed out.

Tara looked surprised. “Faith, are you asking me to move in with you?”

“That’s the general idea, yeah.”

“But, w-what happened to, ‘I’d go crazy if I had to share my space with anyone?’”

“I’m pretty sure I said, ‘I’d go bat-shit insane,’” Faith corrected her.

“Still,” Tara said, indicating her point remained valid.

“I dunno,” Faith shrugged, “maybe it wouldn’t be so terrible. I mean, you seem tolerable.” Tara figured that admission was the highest praise possible from the girl. “Besides, I don’t think I can keep up with rent at my current place, and you seem to be…well, havin’ a blast away from the homestead, right?”

“Faith, I appreciate the offer. I really do. But there’s no way I c-could…I can’t move out. I’ve—I’ve got responsibilities. Who would look after Donny?”

“It’s not like I’d be moving that far away,” Faith persisted. “I mean, I’ve got to stay close enough to work, ‘cause hell if I’m leaving this place; this is the best job I’ve had in a while.”

Tara shook her head. “I’m—I’m sorry, b-but I just can’t.”

The chef sighed and shoveled the pancakes onto a plate. “If I keep pestering you about it, am I more likely to convince you to move in, or to piss you off again?”

“Please don’t do that…”

“All right, T. Well, the offer still stands in the short term, ‘til I find a cheaper place, or find myself another roomie.”

~*~

“Hey,” Andrew greeted when Willow dragged herself through the diner’s entrance. “Huh. Geez, you look even more tired than I am. Did you sleep at all?”

“Need…coffee…” the girl mumbled. Andrew lead her over to a table. Once seated, she answered wearily, “And yeah, we stayed up way too late, and then I kept waking up during the night. I don’t think I got much uninterrupted sleep.”

“We?”

Willow blinked tiredly. “What?”

“Who’s ‘we?’ Who did you stay up late with?”

“Oh, uh…it was Tara. She stayed over.”

“What?! Really? Man, how come nobody ever tells me anything?” Andrew pouted. “I’m like…I’m outside of the gossip circle, or something.”

“It’s not really gossip-worthy,” Willow pointed out.

“What do you mean? Of course it’s gossip-worthy. It’s practically scandalous,” the waiter grinned. He leaned closer and asked in a hushed voice, “Were there lips involved in the interrupting?”

A second passed. “Andrew! No, how can you even—it’s not like we—why do you—”

“Ha!” the boy declared triumphantly, pointing an accusing finger at the redhead. “You had to think about it. You hesitated. Never hesitate!”

“Andrew, are you badgering the clientele?” Tara asked, approaching the table. “And why did you seat her in my—oh. H-hi, Willow.”

Smugly, Andrew turned on his heel and strode away, breathing a soft, ‘You’re welcome,’ to Tara as he passed.

Tara, still caught off guard, smile sheepishly at the girl. “Hi,” she repeated.

“Long time, no see,” Willow joked, tucking her jacket into the corner. “How have, uh…the last couple hours been?”

“Quiet, actually. And Willowless, s-so nowhere near as pleasant as the ones before them. Did you have a nice nap?”

“I wish. Just as I was about to fall back asleep, the alarm in the room directly under mine went off. I could hear it through the floor. It just beeped and beeped for ages. I guess whoever set it must have forgotten about it and left, or something.”

“Oh. That sounds awful…”

“Mm. So I went down there and left a strongly worded note on their door,” Willow concluded.

Tara giggled. “Sheriff Rosenberg.”

Willow nodded authoritatively. “Darn tootin’.”

The waitress raised an eyebrow. “Can I get you anything to eat, Sheriff?”

“Definitely. Coffee.” ‘Was that flirting? Is Tara flirting with me?’ Willow quickly scanned the menu. “And, uh, a bagel? With cream cheese?” ‘It was. That was definitely flirting!’

“Anything else?”

“I’ll probably have more coffee, after the first coffee is finished,” Willow admitted. “Oh, and do you have any soup? Anything brothy? As opposed to creamy, I mean. It’s to go—just the soup, that is, unless you don’t have any. The rest is staying put. Or, well, going with me, I guess, but in my tummy.”

“Uh huh. We’ve got fakes—that’s with lentils, but it’s kind of thick—and your basic vegetable pasta soup.” Tara pointed to the entries on the menu. “Onions, zucchini, celery, and so forth.”

“Hm. Do you have anything like that, but with less veggies and more…chicken, or something?”

“How about the avgolemono with chicken and rice?”

Willow read over the description. “Yeah, that looks great. To go,” she repeated.

Tara nodded, jotting the order down on her pad. “You’re going to bring it to your—?”

“To Oz, yeah,” Willow finished for her.

“How’s he doing?”

“I don’t know; I haven’t talked with him this morning. I thought I’d just, you know, show up and do the whole surprise pampering thing. ‘Cause really, who doesn’t love a good pampering when they’re sick?”

Tara could only bob her head in agreement, while a reflexive longing bubbled to the surface. ‘It must be nice, having somebody to care for you when you’re sick…’

As if on cue, Mr. Giles picked that exact moment to stride through the door, an effective counterpunch to her self-pitying thoughts. ‘Right,’ she corrected herself resignedly, ‘my mistake.’ After verifying that there was nothing to add to Willow’s order, Tara excused herself to greet the professor at the entrance. He looked tired, as well—‘This does seem to be the morning for it,’ the waitress decided. ‘I wonder if he saw a midnight movie, as well.’—his eyes had puffy rings underneath, and his hair was unkempt.

“Good morning, Rupert,” she said. Tara still winced internally every time she called the man by his first name.

“It is improving,” the professor agreed. “What would make it truly ‘good’ is a decent cup of tea. Would you be able to help?”

The waitress lead him toward a table in her section, flashing a smile at Willow as she passed. “Have you tried Yorkshire Gold?”

Mr. Giles thought a moment. “No, I don’t believe so, but I’d be willing to try a—Miss Rosenberg.” He spotted his student, and spared her a nod of his head.

“Hey, Professor Giles.” Willow gave the man a wave, despite being only a couple feet away from him. “How’s it going?”

“The sun continues to rise,” he replied simply. “And yourself? I’d ask how you were finding the readings, but I understand that talk of homework is strictly forbidden on the weekends.”

“No, no, they’re fascinating!” Willow gushed. “I was wondering—do you think they believed that Osiris lived on the Earth, as a human, I mean, before becoming all afterlife-y and green skinned? And that part with Thoth was great; he seems like a pretty handy friend to have around. I didn’t really get the bit with the cursed fish, though…”

Creases appeared in the professor’s brow as he listened to the girl rattle off several more points. “Ah, Miss Rosenberg,” he interjected when she paused for breath. “All this doesn’t happen for a good many more chapters. You do understand the assignment was only for first section—three generations?”

“Uh huh. I know, but I wanted to know what happened next,” Willow explained. “And when I skimmed ahead and saw Thoth’s name there, I just had to keep reading.”

“You know, I used to have a Tarot deck called ‘The Book of Thoth,’” Tara volunteered, not exactly following the conversation, but hoping her comment was relevant.

“Fascinating. I’d never heard of that,” Mr. Giles said. “Although, I suppose the link is not terribly surprising. During the Hellenistic period, when Greek language, culture, and mythology was spreading over a remarkably large region—ah, including Egypt, many worshipped Thoth and the Greek god Hermes as though they were the same deity. They credit him with the invention of mystical as well as Hermetic arts, and, and—and one could argue that the use of Tarot imagery for purposes of divination is, well, rather in line with Hermetic concepts, and certainly within the realm of mysticism.”

Tara looked at Willow, who was beaming. “See?” the redhead said. “That’s why his class is so interesting.”

“Oh, yes, well, I’m glad you believe so.” Professor Giles removed his spectacles and rubbed at the bridge of his nose, a nervous habit which Tara had noticed a week earlier. “With any luck, your enthusiasm might catch on with some of the other students. Perhaps you could convince Miss Summers to finish the readings on time, as well.”

“Oh, I’m sure she will,” Willow quickly assured him, leaping to her friend’s defense. “She’s probably working on that right now, in fact!”

~*~

“Whrt trme’s it?” mumbled an utterly disheveled Buffy, lifting her head from beneath layers of blankets and at least two pillows.

Riley slid a bare arm under the bed and retrieved the alarm clock, which had been knocked off of the bedside table during the night. While there, his fingers brushed up against something else, and when he withdrew it he recognized Buffy’s brassiere. “It’s almost nine thirty,” he informed the girl.

“Mrr.” The blonde thwumped her head back into the pillows, and nuzzled closer to her boyfriend.

~*~

“Mm, yes, I’m sure she is,” the professor replied. Judging by his expression, he was clearly not convinced.

“So, uh, Mr. Gi—um, Rupert,” Tara began. “If you’d like to try the Yorkshire, I’ll get you a cup as soon as I—oh, and I need to get you a menu, too.”

“He can use this one,” Willow offered, waving the menu that Tara had never collected. “Unless that goes against diner etiquette, that is.”

“Oh my gosh, your order. I didn’t—”

“That would be fine, thanks,” the professor said, gratefully accepting the menu Willow handed to him.

“I’m just going to go to the kitchen, and put up your order, and get your tea, and…and generally try to reestablish some sense of w-workplace professionalism,” Tara promised, shaking her head at herself. The action that was cut short by a yawn, which she unsuccessfully tried to hide with the back of her hand. “Okay, then,” she added meekly. “Be right back.”

~*~

Clutched tightly to her chest, Willow held the plastic bag containing the now-cold soup as well as some medicine she’d picked up at a convenience store. Oz hadn’t been specific about his ailment, so she’d bought a bit of everything, ready to combat whichever symptoms presented themselves. She felt uneasy as she approached the house. She didn’t actually know Oz’s band members all that well; she had, of course, attended many of their gigs, and had met them all at one point or another, but they weren’t exactly her best friends. In fact, it seemed quite the opposite was true; sometimes Willow felt like they viewed her as a distraction for Oz—competition for his attention and a challenge to his commitment to the band. Yet here she was, uninvited, standing in the driveway after taking the bus as close as she could, which was three quarters of a mile away, then walking the rest.

She could hear the deep, resonant bass line of a song as she inched closer to the door. She wondered whether the band was practicing, even without Oz. Or maybe Oz was already feeling better, and he was practicing with them; wanting to make her visit a surprise, Willow hadn’t called the house to see how her boyfriend was doing before catching the bus. ‘He did sound terrible on the phone, though, when I rang him yesterday,’ she reminded herself. ‘Plus, I’ve already got the soup and everything; it would be a shame to let it go to waste.’ Nervously, she reached out and pushed the doorbell.

For several minutes, nothing happened other than Willow’s heart doing calisthenics in her chest.

Frowning, she pressed the button again. There was a window next to the front door, so Willow placed her bag on the step, then leaned over the railing to check whether she could see anything inside. Cupping her hand over her eyes to block the glare from the sun, she pressed her face close to the glass, but saw only an empty kitchen with too many drained bottles and dirty dishes. When she pulled away from the rail, Willow realized it had left a rusty brown streak across her top. “Oh, just great,” she grumbled. She wiped futilely at it, but managed only to stain her fingers, as well.

‘Maybe the doorbell is broken?’ she guessed. She tried it one last time while pressing her ear to the door, but couldn’t hear anything over the din of the music. ‘Or maybe they’re downstairs practicing, and can’t even hear it?’ Willow had been to the house twice before, and she was familiar enough with the layout to know there was a pair of patio doors around back that were one level down, which they used to come and go more often than the front entrance; in fact, on both trips Oz hadn’t even bothered knocking at the front, instead opting to go around for direct basement access. ‘I guess it’s worth a shot…’

She felt more than awkward, creeping through the side yard of a house she hadn’t been invited to. It didn’t help that the grass was wild and overgrown, giving the yard an unwelcoming look. A deflated basketball, some cinder blocks, and a white plastic bucket full of—‘who knows what?’ Willow concluded—were but a few of the discarded items she encountered. Around back, a wide concrete slab served as a simple patio. A set of once-white chairs circling a similarly stained table claimed the center, while a squat grill sat nearby. Its top had been left open, and a pool of murky rainwater had collected in the basin.

The music was louder at the back of the house, yet Willow could see now that it wasn’t Oz’s band playing. Through the glass doors, she had a clear view of the practice room, and the instruments remained untouched. She noticed Oz’s guitar, leaning against an amplifier near the wall. An impressive drum set took up the majority of one half of the room, but the seat was empty, and a pair of sticks lay unused atop the snare drum.

Willow edged closer to the doors, trying to identify where the music was coming from, if not the music room, when a young man came into view. He was shirtless and tattooed, a pair of pajama bottoms being the only article of clothing she could discern, and he was carrying a massive plastic cup with a 7-Eleven logo emblazoned on its side. He spotted Willow through the patio doors, and a wide grin appeared on his face as he bounced toward her, sloshing water from his cup in the process.

“Oh, man, everything got so wet,” he observed needlessly as the doors swung open, subjecting Willow’s ears to the pounding music. “Hey, you’re here—that’s so cool!”

Willow blinked confusedly, and curled her nose at the pungent, skunky odor that wafted from the room. “Uh, hi, Greg,” she said hesitantly. The young man looked entirely too excited to see her; it was an atypical greeting, compared to their earlier encounters. “Is Oz he—”

“Man, what happened to your—to you—” Greg reached out and rubbed his fingers over the rust stain on her shirt. “Oh, wow, that’s soft…”

“Hey. Hey! Do you mind—” Willow swatted at his groping fingers with her free hand and backed off several feet. She thrust her bag between them with both hands, using it as a shield.

“Yeah, Oz isn’t feeling too—oh, hey Oz, check it out! Your, uh, Will—uh…”

Willow spotted her boyfriend behind Greg. Oz had shuffled into the room from the hallway. His hair was matted, and the skin on his forehead and neck looked pale and glistened with a layer of sweat. Oz’s shirt clung to him damply. He squinted against the light as he looked toward the door, and his mouth hung open when he saw Willow standing outside, holding a shopping bag in front of herself protectively.

“Pussywillow.” Greg finally found the word he was searching for, and smiled a toothy, triumphant smile.

“Ah, shit,” said Oz.


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 08th)
PostPosted: Sun Mar 08, 2009 12:54 pm 
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My first feedback in a while... but I loved this update. What's up at Oz's?

Also liking Giles' character more and more, and of course I'm hoping Tara and Faith will be roomies soon so she can get away from her dad (but still somehow take care of Donny) and feel good and be happy and make with smoochies with Willow and and and and... ;) ;)

Thanks for the update :applause

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 08th)
PostPosted: Sun Mar 08, 2009 1:27 pm 
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His... His "pussywillow"? What the Smurf? But he's on drugs alright.
I really don't like that, poor Willow.
I really can't wait for chapter 23.. When is it coming? Tomorrow? Good! :p

Now, dear fellow Kitopian, I loved the encounter Giles/Willow with Tara in the middle. It was lovely.

I truly hope Tara will accept Faith's offer. She should try to talk about it to either Giles either Willow. Or even to her little brother. One of those will convince her to accept. It's not as if she was going to be far away, she can still check on Donnie.
I guess we'll see.

Congratulations on the awards! :)

Oh and I loved the small Buffy scene, lol.

Once again I really can't wait to see more with Oz...

Thanks for this update!

Friendly,

Julia. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 08th)
PostPosted: Sun Mar 08, 2009 3:08 pm 
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ow, thanks for the hugs, believe me I´m better with actions than words too, so hugs for you too ^^

my major was Philosophy, got my degree and now I´m doing college again, but this time, I´m studying to become a movie director... it´s kinda hard, specially in my country, but I like hard XDDDD

btw, really nice chapter!

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 08th)
PostPosted: Sun Mar 08, 2009 6:41 pm 
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Hi Megan!

I was glad to see another update up. Ready for a quotathon?

Quote:
With that, Willow allowed herself to relax, and set her mind adrift. At once, it sailed toward Tara.
I loved this because it is such an accurate barometer of the way she feels. I just hope she and Oz can make their parting soon before we kittens are put completely through the wringer!

Quote:
Okay, wall. How’s it going? Still holding up that ceiling, I see
Megan, I love your sense of humour. I could instantly see Willow saying something exactly like that, desperately trying not to even think about peeking, but in the spaces of those words we know that's what she wanted to do...

Quote:
“Long time, no see,” Willow joked, tucking her jacket into the corner. “How have, uh…the last couple hours been?”

“Quiet, actually. And Willowless, s-so nowhere near as pleasant as the ones before them. Did you have a nice nap?”
I absolutely LOVED these lines. LOVED them, I say.

Okay, as I mentioned earlier, Willow and Oz need to sit and have a serious chat. When in a state of relaxation Willow immediately thinks of Tara, that's a clue that something needs to change. It's funny when we can't see ourselves what is so obvious to others.

This slow buildup of their relationship is torturous but sweet. I can hardly wait for the next update!

Jen


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 08th)
PostPosted: Sun Mar 08, 2009 8:00 pm 
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Hi Megan!!! *Waves enthusiastically*

Great chapter! Now that Oz is out of the picture, I need my :wtkiss soon! It's been nice talking to you in the chat as well and I look forward to The Great Update Race. But I don't find it very fare to you seeing as my updates are generally shorter :paranoid

Anyway, I loved Willow's talk with the wall, made me laugh. Andrew was really good in this chapter too! Always love him in your story.

So I need another fix soon and I have to agree with JuJu on tomorrow! So get to work! :whip

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 08th)
PostPosted: Sun Mar 08, 2009 11:45 pm 
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Yay for great update-y goodness my dear fellow Kitonian... I liked how Tara flirted with Willow in the coffee shop... I hope Willow very very soon change loser boyfriend Oz to yummy girlfriend Tara... I also hope that Tara accepts Faith's offer to live with her rather than stay in Papa's domain...

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 08th)
PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2009 11:49 am 
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I find with you I leave double comments partially for the feedback and partially for the story. First off, the feedback.

Nom, nom, nom? LMAO. That actually made me snortle. Freakin' love scary movie night. I've done that since high school. I have a great story about Texas Chainsaw Massacre. ;-) There was this small group of friends and we would rent a stack of VHS tapes (that totally dates me right) and run a marathon. Which was often followed by the Oujia board. I saw The Shining when I was like 9 and it totally freaked me out for years. Have you seen The Strangers? That's the freakiest one I've seen in awhile because it was just so darn disturbing.

I understand what you mean about Andrew. It was almost a Spike-style comment. But he did make interesting observations from time to time, so it didn't stick out at all. I like that you've kept his basic geekiness alive, but overall I like your version much better. He was always this naive little boy on the show and was mostly motivated by his insecurities. In all that, he never had much humanity. While he recognized actions as being wrong technically, he distanced himself and never really came to terms with himself. You've made him more real. Okay, so rambling on that done now.

We've chatted about Mr Maclay so we'll move on to other poopyheads. What's up with Oz? Honest to god, the first thought that popped in my head when he walked out was gay porn. I can't explain how my mind works. I'm gonna guess that he's sick not so much from the flu and more from say...drugs? Kick his butt Willow!

Till next time chica!


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 08th)
PostPosted: Thu Mar 12, 2009 3:01 pm 
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Well we knew that there was something going on with Oz and I think that I guessed drugs earlier. I hate to think that I'm right though. I guess it makes it easier for Willow to dump him but honestly, I tend to prefer to have her realize that she loves Tara more rather than loving Tara by default. You know what I mean? I'm just talking about my personal preference: not saying that your story isn't good or isn't as good. I guess I just like Oz plus which love the idea of Willow choosing Tara (al la NMR).

The Willow/Tara parts are lovely and flirtatious. How nice that Willow's so clear about how she's feeling about Tara. And Giles... interesting. And Faith... You've woven a lot of characters to let us care about into oone story. Boy, that last sentence of mine was a trainwreck.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 08th)
PostPosted: Fri Mar 13, 2009 11:19 pm 
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Kool update.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 08th)
PostPosted: Sat Mar 14, 2009 4:26 pm 
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I've been lurking for a while, and I've decided it's time to finally start showing my appreciation to the authors. :)

Thanks for another great update, I can't wait for more! :peace


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 08th)
PostPosted: Tue Mar 17, 2009 3:17 pm 
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Have de-lurked in order to leave feedback on a few fics. Not sure where to start with this one so just telling you that I think it's great will have to suffice for now.

Thanks for sharing.


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 08th)
PostPosted: Thu Mar 19, 2009 7:00 pm 
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Wow, I love this story so much I thought I'd bump in hopes to get you to post again soon... how about Sunday? Glad I thought of it, huh?

Great work, Megan! Keep it up!

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 08th)
PostPosted: Thu Mar 19, 2009 7:01 pm 
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Okay, I'm holding you to an update this Sunday! Eagerly awaiting more of your writing genius... :)

:pinky


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