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 Post subject: Constants - (Updated August 12)
PostPosted: Fri Aug 29, 2008 10:19 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Location: USA, citizen of Kitopia
Title: Constants
Author: Jasmydae (Megan)
Email: jasmydae at jasmydae dot com
Spoilers: This is contemporary AU, so no spoilers, really.
Rating: Intended PG-13, but might end up R.
Pairings: W/T focus, although the rest of the Buffy cast will be making appearances.

Feedback: I’d love any and all; I’m a new writer, so any help you can offer would be appreciated.

Summary: College-aged friends Willow and Buffy attend school together. Their newly found freedom leads to a period of flux for both girls. Willow finds romance where she doesn't expect it. There will be some life angst, but no heavy relationship drama.

Disclaimer: Joss / ME / etc. owns these characters. This story is just for fun and not for profit.

Notes: This is my first attempt at fic, and I’m a total novice; I only recently watched Buffy and began reading fan-written fiction of any sort. I have since become thoroughly addicted, so I’d like to offer my sincerest thanks to all of the writers, webmasters, and moderators who keep communities like this thriving. If you guys hadn’t still been going strong over a decade after the show debuted, I probably never would have found you.

***
PART 1
***

For the fifth time in as many minutes, Willow hung up the phone before she could finish dialing. She glowered at the sheet of paper she held, releasing an irritated sigh over her inability to make a simple phone call. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and visualized her fingers punching the sequence of buttons, then steeled herself for attempt number six. The crackling hum of the dial tone taunted her when she lifted the handset. 3-0-1-6-5-4-9-6—clang! Willow slammed the phone back into its cradle, groaning in frustration.

“Darn it, Rosenberg, just call her already!” she ordered herself. “I’m sure, um—“ she quickly scanned the page again for the name of her soon-to-be college roommate, “—Cordelia Chase is a perfectly nice girl, she will like you just fine, and you’ll get along splendidly as roomies.” Although her brain seemed loyal to this belief, Willow’s stomach twisted uneasily. What if Cordelia didn’t like her? What if she thought she dressed poorly? What if she found her too nerdy? What if it was another four years of teasing, like school had always been?

“Well, you don’t have anyone to blame for that but yourself,” she chastised herself bitterly. It was true; she’d delayed her college decision so long that she’d missed her chance to request a room with her best friend, Buffy. Instead, her name had gone into a pool, and the school’s computer—supposedly based on some intricate matching algorithm, but Willow knew better—had paired her with one Cordelia Chase, non-smoker, from, coincidentally, Chevy Chase.

When she’d heard Willow had missed the rooming request cut-off date, Buffy had been shocked. Her reaction was understandable; she’d known the studious redhead since their sophomore year of high school, and Willow had never missed a deadline. She didn’t know the extent to which the college decision had been eating at her friend. Willow was an exemplary student; she had carried a three point nine five grade point average over her high school career—although she would never admit it, Buffy was certain Willow had gotten a B in a senior year elective to avoid giving the Valedictorian speech during the graduation ceremony—and she’d received early acceptance letters and academic scholarships from dozens of prestigious institutions. The intellectual side of Willow desperately wanted to attend an MIT or a Berkeley; she knew she’d earned the right to a top-notch education, and wanted to make the most of her college years and merit a degree from a prominent university. In the end, however, she chose to matriculate with the University of Maryland class of 2003.

Her parents had been furious at first, but they’d since eased back to hardly-contained disappointment. They had, not surprisingly, high expectations for their brilliant daughter, and assumed that her delay was to pick between several of the very best colleges. Her decision to enroll at the state University had come out of left field and nearly floored them both. They’d argued for hours, begged and pleaded, but Willow would not be swayed from her choice, and in the end they had reluctantly agreed that it would at least be nice to have their only child just an hour away. Still, they thought she was making a foolish decision, and, as usual whenever Willow made a choice with which they disagreed, they blamed Oz.

Daniel Osbourne had been Willow’s boyfriend since her junior year of high school, and he too was attending UMCP. Oz was a musician and, although Willow loved him dearly, he could do no right in the eyes of her parents. They found his laconic, introspective nature off-putting, and couldn’t get over his chameleon-like, spiky hair and often-disheveled appearance. To Sheila and Ira Rosenberg, Oz was a young man with no future, and they despaired over the notion of their daughter choosing him over her education.

The truth was that Willow was terrified of leaving her friends behind and being on her own at college. She was terrible at making friends; whenever she tried, her nerves would get the better of her. She’d blurt out something inappropriate, or make some social faux pas that would invariably evoke embarrassed or angry reactions. In fact, the only reason she had any friends at all in high school was because of Xander Harris.

Willow and Xander had been friends for over a decade. The Harrises lived two houses down from Willow, and Xander had always spent as much time outside of his house as possible. It was impossible for her to miss him; he was always playing in the yard, or riding his bicycle on the street. Willow’s parents, recognizing that the young boy was being left unmonitored for many hours during the day, began to invite him over to play with Willow, and the two had been close ever since. Xander, while socially awkward himself, at least had an outgoing, if somewhat goofy, personality, and it was he that introduced Willow to the handful of people whose friendship she maintained throughout high school. Without Xander, there would have been no Buffy, no Jesse, and no Oz.

And so, faced with the prospect of having to build a new social circle in a new environment without the confidence gained by having extroverted friends, Willow couldn’t make any other choice. She could probably manage a good education anywhere, but there was only one place where she wouldn’t have to struggle with her social anxiety.

“Well, okay, maybe still a little,” she admitted, hanging up the phone for the eighth time. The last two attempts she’d actually made it as far as the first ring before chickening out. Willing to admit defeat for the time being, Willow neatly folded the paper with Cordelia’s phone number, and lifted the phone to tuck the slip carefully underneath. She jumped back when the phone rang in her hand, a high-pitched squeak escaping her lips. Her heart still thumping rapidly, she lifted the receiver.

“Hello? Rosenberg residence.”

“Yeah, hi,” an impatient voice replied, “I got two phone calls from this number within the last couple minutes, so could you either stay on the line or stop calling me?”

“Huh? Oh! Is this, um, Cordelia Chase?”

"Yeah. Who’s asking?”

“Oh, this is Willow. Willow Rosenberg. I’m your roommate! I mean, your future roommate at College Park. I got your name and number in the mail, which probably means you got mine, too, except that it probably doesn’t say Willow exactly, but trust me, nobody actually calls me by my full name, not even my parents. And yet, here I am calling you Cordelia just because the paper said so, but I didn’t mean to be so rude. I mean you could easily be a Cordy, or a Delia, or maybe a Dee Dee! And, okay, talking too much. Sorry about the multiple calls.”

There was a momentary pause. “Right, okay,” Cordelia began, picking her words carefully so as not to launch the other woman into another rambling monologue. “I got your info, too. We should discuss what stuff we can both bring for the room, and maybe come up with some basic ground rules for living together, but I can’t talk right now. My date is getting here in like five minutes, my hair isn’t done, and I still need to find my shoes.”

“Okay,” Willow agreed, “I’ll put together a list of everything I can bring. Maybe you can call me tomorrow, whenever you’re free?” She was already sliding open the side drawer of her desk to retrieve a ruler and pens with three different colors of ink.

“Sure. Calling you at this number is OK?”

Willow divided a sheet of paper into three equally sized columns, writing her name atop the first, then switching colors to write ‘Cordelia’ above the second. While she worked, she cradled the phone against her ear with her shoulder. “Yup!” she chirped in reply. “Oh, but don’t call after nine PM; my parents don’t like anyone calling the house at night. Would you like my email address?”

“No, thanks. I’ll call you. I’ve got to run, though!”

“Okay. Bye!” Willow heard the line disconnect, so she gently set the handset back into its base and returned to her list. Each time she thought of an item she could bring, she’d jot it down, but her gaze kept falling on Cordelia’s name in the middle column. The girl had sounded nice enough, so why did she have this dreadful feeling? Not for the first time, Willow wished she’d made up her mind before the housing deadline.

~*~

“Order up!”

Tara hurried to the counter to retrieve the food for table eleven, deftly depositing her full tray onto the station nearby in exchange for an empty one in a well-practiced maneuver. She reached up to slip a paper containing her scribbled shorthand for another order into a clip at the counter, but it was snatched from her hand en route.

“This place is hoppin’, tonight!” Faith noted as she read over the new order. The small diner was only two blocks from campus, and the college crowd made up the bulk of their business. With the new semester just a week away, students were filtering back onto the campus, back from their vacations, their visits home, their summers abroad. As many of them hadn’t yet stocked their dorm rooms or apartments with food, they were hitting the streets in droves with grumbling stomachs. As a result of the rush, the diner was filled nearly to capacity, so Tara wasted no time on conversation, instead giving Faith a brief nod before loading up the mouthwatering dishes and, with the tray delicately balanced between her hand and shoulder, snaking back out between the tables.

“Hot behind,” warned Richard, the head chef, as he squeezed past Faith while toting a pot of bubbling sauce. The girl smirked at the double-entendre, leaning forward to give her boss extra room. Spotting a confusing scribble on an order, she held it up to Richard.

“Hey, you think she means chicken, here? She used the shorthand for cheese.”

Richard furrowed his brow as he found the item Faith indicated. “I’m sure you’re right; the other’s not on the menu.” He looked out over the diner’s floor where Tara was dashing from table to table, pouring drinks, then turned back to Faith. “How’s Tara been working out? It’s been so busy I haven’t had a moment to check in with her.”

“She’s five by five, chef.” At her boss’ look of total confusion, she clarified, “She’s keeping up, which is more than I can say for Andrew.” Faith nodded her head toward a young blond man who was stammering an apology to a table full of impatient faces. “Impressive for somebody who’s only been here three days. I hate to admit it, but you were right, she was a good hire.”

The older man smiled triumphantly. “In that case, I do seem to remember—“

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Faith muttered, fishing through her pocket to pull out a crumpled wad of singles. She pulled one away and smoothed it out as best as she could on the edge of the counter, then pressed it into Richard’s outstretched hand.

At last, the evening rush died down, and an exhausted Tara was finally able to take a break. She exited through the diner’s back door to the parking lot, happy to be breathing in air that didn’t smell of grease and beer. Tipping her head back, she gazed up at the sky. It was darkening, but she knew the lights from the campus and the city never let it get truly black. It saddened her to see no stars but for a handful of faint pinpoints of light. Instead, the vault of the sky was washed in a hazy red cloud, broken only by the high-rises across the street and the towering crane that marked the construction site on the edge of the campus.

It was the construction project that brought her to College Park. Her family had made the three-hour move from the Eastern Shore when the college had contracted her father’s company to build a new parking garage to handle the increasing student population. They’d offered up off-campus housing to the construction workers for the duration of the project, so Tara found herself, along with her father, Donald, and young Donny, Jr., crammed into a tiny two-bedroom apartment that felt nothing like home. She’d been gone only a week, and already she missed their small house in Snow Hill with its garden and trees—real trees that hadn’t been planted according to a diagram and sidewalk plans.

She couldn’t voice her indignation to her father, but it upset her that he would make the decision to move on such short notice, without discussing it with his children. Her garden would wither and die while she was away, since she hadn’t had time to ask anyone to tend it during her absence. Tara frowned. She had to admit to herself that even if she’d had more time, there wasn’t anyone she could have asked. Shouldering more responsibility than most people her age, she’d only managed to make one friend in high school, Hannah. They had drifted apart over the summer, and Hannah had decided to attend college in Ohio.

University was never an option for Tara. Since her mother’s death six years earlier, she had been expected to help run the family while her father worked: looking after Donny, keeping the house clean, doing laundry, preparing two meals each day during the week, and three on weekends. Tara had struggled academically, not because she didn’t have the brains for it, but because she didn’t have the time. Too many unfinished assignments left her graduating with sub-par grades, and with no extracurricular activities to brag about, the colleges weren’t knocking on her door. She’d briefly considered applying to the Eastern Shore branch of the university, but realized that even if she was accepted, she had too many responsibilities to cast them aside for a degree.

With a huge college so close to her new home, however, the temptation was too great. Secretly, Tara had visited the campus several times in the last week, walking among the student body as though she was one of them. She’d already located the art building and spent hours perusing the students’ exhibits. Tara would have loved to take an art class at the University; she’d always loved painting, and had decorated her home on the Shore with her own works.

“Tara?” Her thoughts were interrupted when Faith queried, half leaning out the diner’s door, an apologetic grimace on her face. “Hey, T. You ready for the next wave?” She held the door open for Tara as the blonde ducked under her arm and grabbed an apron off of a peg on the wall.

While Tara returned to the front of the diner, Faith took one last opportunity to enjoy the warm breeze that wafted through the lot, then she too swiveled on her feet to go back to work, letting the door close behind her.

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


Last edited by jasmydae on Sun Sep 20, 2009 5:26 am, edited 35 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants (Contemporary AU)
PostPosted: Fri Aug 29, 2008 11:04 pm 
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3. Flaming O
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Heyyy.
Looks like me and you are on the same boat. Same exact situation, here. But the W and the T are trippin' aren't they? It took me a while to find the KB, but there's some excellent porn on here.
JUST KIDDING, hahah.
I can recommend a couple really good stories if you want, though; I know when I first started I was dying to find some good stuff. I'm assuming you're pretty new, of course... that I know more than you... both of which are unlikely. But hey, I can try.

Anyhow, your story. Yay for college lesbian romance! Just starting college myself, and I'm studiously avoiding making eye contact with pretty girls. Don't ask me why. I have no valid explanation.
Also, you're a very good writer. Got your stuff down.
Two things to say:
1. Willow = aww lame-o. I guess there's got to be a reason to keep Willow with the gang, and nicely in a smallish college, but a STATE college? It turns my stomach. Poor girl.
2. Tara = aww sweetie. It's good her family isn't as abusive as canon, but in a lot of ways they're worse as well, because she didn't even get to go to University.

Anyhow, it'll be interesting to see how you put these girls together. Especially with Oz still in the picture. I foresee angst x10, and major REJECTION! How exciting.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants (Contemporary AU)
PostPosted: Sat Aug 30, 2008 1:09 am 
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Hello, it seems like an interesting beginning.
I like AU fics. Willow is really Willow-y here, good job, as for Tara, well since it was more in her head, I can say for sure now, but she has the spirit we all give her, keep going.

Friendly,

Julia.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants (Contemporary AU)
PostPosted: Sat Aug 30, 2008 1:15 am 
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Good beginning... I hope there soon is a meeting between W&T.... maybe even Buffy could get Faith loving down the line... I wonder how you are going to get Oz out of the picture...

Sami

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 Post subject: Re: Constants (Contemporary AU)
PostPosted: Sat Aug 30, 2008 5:38 am 
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Hello!

Now I don't usually go for AU fics, I'm a firm believer of linear following of the original story in a fanfiction. but I must say your writing style and frankly brilliant descriptive skills have sucked me in.

I shall be keeping an eye on this story, and look forward to some angst when Oz is forced to step out of the picture. . .

Keep it up!

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 Post subject: Re: Constants (Contemporary AU)
PostPosted: Sat Aug 30, 2008 6:36 am 
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Welcome to the wonderful world of Pens, and what an excellent start - I'm already wondering how Willow and Cordelia will get along, how Faith and Tara know each other, and most of all, how you will move Oz of to other pastures so our girls can get together.

I also liked the detail you go into, already we get a sense of who Willow is, and you have brought her canon character in quite nicely with the indecision and the babble.

I'm looking forward to reading more of this one.

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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 1 Feedback
PostPosted: Sat Aug 30, 2008 12:43 pm 
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All: Thank you for the kind words. I have never considered myself a good writer. I could come up with interesting plots, and dialog wasn't a problem, but those darned descriptive and narrative passages...I had trouble with them; when I could generate them, it was at an excruciatingly slow pace. But so far, with this story, the creative faucet has been flowing unobstructed, so I hope to ride that out to completion. And, of course, having an audience other than myself makes a huge difference. So thank you all for the feedback.

synthwrr: Yes, oh my goodness. I was floored by the sheer volume of fan fiction available. I've been gobbling it up like an addict ever since I discovered it. At this point, I've probably read most of the completed ones (some more than once!) but I'm always on the lookout for more. But, yes, my friends all think I'm a little weird, with this new obsession of mine. I can't explain why I'm so drawn to these characters, but it's nice to know I'm far from the only one. As to why Willow ended up at UMCP? Not surprisingly, it's because that's where I went to school and I figured it'd make a more believable backdrop if I was writing things from experience instead of searching for college facts on Google. :) Oh, and truthfully? I have no idea how Willow is ending up with Tara instead of Oz, but rest assured our girls will find each other. My plan is to let the characters be themselves, and see what comes of it.

JujuDeRoussie: I like AU fics, too, although I admit I put off reading them for the longest time, and only tried a few once I'd run through all the Buffyverse stories I could find. I love that the writers here and on other boards can maintain the spirit of the W/T bond regardless of setting. There've been some fantastic stories, but I felt like a contemporary one would be the easiest for my first attempt. I'm happy you think I'm staying true to the characters. I admit I've only watched the show through once, so I expect I won't have all of their idiosyncrasies down, but I'll do my best.

Zampsa1975: Thank you so much. I was kind of amazed to find five responses to the story, already. I can't tell you how much it motivates me, to know that people are reading and enjoying the small piece I've written. I'm about to post the second part, which will have W and T meeting, albeit briefly, at the diner. I have loose plans for what I'd like to do with all the characters, but I never really know how it will pan out; maybe they'll surprise me!

Lecter: Hah! Thanks. I find your flattery amusing, because it has always been my descriptive skills that kept me from writing. I can fill eight pages with dialog in as many minutes, but ask me to describe somebody's room in one paragraph and it will take me all night. I don't know how the Oz situation will work itself out, but I'm going into this story promising that I won't break too harshly from his early character in the show. When he was introduced, I really liked Oz, and I was so happy that Willow finally had somebody that saw admired her for who she was. Of course, now that I've seen the whole thing and read all the stores, I'm a die-hard Tara fan, but one thing I'd really like to avoid in this story is demonizing Oz. Will there be angst? I'm as eager to find out as you. :)

Paint the Sky: Thank you! You guys have already made me feel more welcome than I could have expected. I'm curious how the Cordelia / Willow rooming situation will turn out; I figured they'd be an interesting combination to throw together. As far as Faith and Tara, they don't actually know each other, except as coworkers. Tara has only been at the diner a few days, and they weren't acquaintances before that. Regarding Willow, I want to stick to the earlier seasons of Willow. I could take her impatience as a believable character flaw, but it always kind of got under my skin when Joss & co. wrote arrogance into her character in later seasons, because it was such a dissonant quality from the girl we all fell in love with in season one.

And now, without further ado, part 2 of Constants.

~ Megan


Last edited by jasmydae on Sun Nov 16, 2008 11:30 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 2
PostPosted: Sat Aug 30, 2008 12:45 pm 
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***
PART 2
***

“It’s…cozy,” Buffy declared, flopping down on the lower of two stacked bunk beds and wiping the back of her hand across her damp forehead. The room was cramped; most of the available floor space was currently buried under meticulously labeled cardboard boxes and plastic totes. With the clutter making the double look even less spacious than it had previously, the blonde questioned her friend, “They do expect two of you to live here, right?”

Willow stepped through the doorway, her balance teetering dangerously as she struggled to see around a box full of linens. Joyce Summers, just a step behind, reached out a hand to her shoulder, steadying her. With an appreciative nod to the woman, Willow dumped the box atop another labeled ‘Clothes, Cold Weather,’ before addressing Buffy.

“Well, it’s certainly a double, being with the two beds and all, but it does seem like the rooms may have shrunk since orientation, doesn’t it?” She frowned at the tight quarters, knowing that the others were lugging up furniture while they talked, and that they’d have to navigate through a maze of boxes. “Maybe we should put some of these on the bed for now, until we get the larger items in their proper places?”

Joyce meanwhile was peering out through the yellowed window, squinting in mid-afternoon sun. Their group of six had arrived in two cars and one moving van very early that morning, been joined by Oz, and had already unloaded all of Buffy’s things into her dormitory on South Campus. Willow’s building, Ellicott Hall, bounded one side of a quad on a hill at the northern edge of the school. What should have been a glorious panoramic view of the campus, however, was being obscured by a massive stadium looming across the street. “I wonder if it gets very loud?” Joyce asked. “During the games, I mean. The stadium’s awfully close. What’s your mascot, anyway?”

Buffy scoffed. “We’re turtles.”

“Terrapins, actually,” Willow clarified. “Diamondback terrapins. It’s the state reptile.” She lifted a tote from the ground to the bed as she recited some things she’d looked up online. “They used to be an endangered species here, because of hunting—“

“Because they are tasty,” Buffy added, helpfully. She’d gleaned that piece of information from one of the college’s many guided tours for prospective students.

“Right, because turtle soup was kind of a delicacy,” the redhead shuddered at the thought. “Anyway, the mascot used to be the Old Liners, but they changed it because, hello? Student body largely under the age of fifty.” Willow’s face paled as she suddenly remembered to whom she spoke, and her mind automatically churned out the calculation of Joyce’s age. When ‘x’ came out less than fifty, she released an inaudible breath and allowed her heart to resume its normal pattern.

“Who’s under the age of fifty?” wheezed a sweaty Ira Rosenberg as he stumbled into the room, struggling with the weight of a box full of Willow’s books. Buffy leapt to his aid, and the two of them eased the heavy load to the ground, tucking it into a corner where it wouldn’t be an obstacle.

“I believe our daughters were making veiled remarks that as we age, we become old farts stuck in our conservative ways,” Joyce teased.

“Nyah!” Buffy protested. “Daughters, plural? I had no part in this conversation!” She pointed a finger accusingly at her friend. “She’s the one you want.”

Willow stared blankly at the adults—Joyce sporting impish grin and Ira looking utterly confused, as though he’d walked into a theater in the middle of a picture—then fell over her own words as she verbally backpedaled. Luckily, the boys chose just that moment to turn the corner of the doorway. Xander backed up to the threshold, peering over his shoulder awkwardly and testing each step backward with the heel of one foot, while Oz swung the far end of the bookshelf around in the hallway to line it up with the door.

“Where’s it going, Willster?” the dark haired young man asked, his voice strained under the weight he carried, “and choose fast, or else it’s going to be permanently embedded in the floor right here in the doorway.”

“Oh, um,” Willow fumbled with a paper that she drew from her pocket, rotating it so that it lined up with the room’s layout. “The bookshelf goes on the wall there, right next to the closet. There should be several inches to spare.”

Xander merely grunted his acknowledgement, hunching his shoulders as he hefted the piece of furniture into the cleared space. Noting the snug lodging, he swung open the closet door, expecting the other half of the room to lay beyond. Finding only a shallow closet, he whistled in mock appreciation. “Wowsers, Will. They really spared no expense with this place.” He closed the door with a gentle click. “I wonder what the suites look like?”

With Oz free of his burden, Willow sidled into his arms. The musician planted a gentle kiss in her hair just above her ear. “Have you met your roommate, yet?”

Willow shook her head. “No, we spoke on the phone yesterday, and she said she was going to some function at one of the sororities—“

“Tri Delta,” Buffy filled in.

“—and she said she’d be moving in tomorrow.” Oz nodded as Willow finished her explanation, and for a moment everyone stood still, taking in the room and gathering their breath for another trip down to the moving van.

“Say, where’s Dawnie?” Willow asked suddenly, breaking the comfortable silence that had settled over the group. Buffy’s younger sister wouldn’t be denied coming with them, that morning, and she’d been bubbling over all day about how cool she thought it was that the older girls were going to college and getting to live outside the restrictions of parental supervision.

“She’s down with the van,” Xander explained. “We didn’t want to leave it open and unguarded with the number of people moving in down there. She should come up with the next run; she’s practically hopping to see where you’ll be living.”

“All right, let’s head down,” Joyce directed. “We’ve got maybe two more trips, then Ira has kindly offered to return the van while I take you all out for lunch.” At the mere mention of food, the group remembered just how hungry they were. Joyce noticed an increased jump in their steps as the six of them filed out through the narrow doorway.

~*~

“No, no, I like them,” Richard stated, cocking his head to one side to see the paintings from a different angle. He leaned forward to adjust one of the frames a smidgen to the left, then stepped back to judge whether it was level. Satisfied, he smiled at Tara. “They’re very good, but why did you want to bring them here? Wouldn’t you rather them be at your apartment?”

Tara shook her head. “I’ll spend more time with them, here; I’m not in the apartment all that often. And—and besides, this way I can share them with more people. We don’t, um, get many visitors at our place.” She hung her head, embarrassed. The Maclays had never had much in the way of company; even back at their home in Snow Hill they rarely had anyone over to the house. While her mother, Helen, had been alive, sometimes the woman would invite friends over to play Pinochle, but as far as Tara knew her father had no friends, just business associates, and the extent of his social life after Helen’s death was the occasional trip to a bar after work.

“Well, I think they’re lovely,” Richard’s voice pulled the girl back to the present. “And you’re welcome to hang more if the creative bug ever bites you. We’ve got plenty of wall.”

The diner, while small, did have lots of empty space on its whitewashed walls, and she admitted that her paintings—the only two she’d brought from the Shore—added a pleasant personal touch to the otherwise Spartan décor of the restaurant. Her heart sank as the remembered the real reason she’d asked Richard about hanging the paintings at work: she knew her father would not let her put them up at the apartment. At their house, she’d kept them on the walls in her room, a sanctuary that Tara’s father rarely entered. But now, her room was a shared space, and her father—while not stating so explicitly—had hinted that her artwork might find a better home elsewhere. His excuse was that the school was generous to offer the workers and their families housing close to the project site, and that the least they could do was leave the walls undamaged, but Tara knew his true motives: he couldn’t bear to look upon the paintings.

One of the pieces, a rich oil on canvas, bore the spitting image of Helen Maclay as a pre-teenaged Tara would have remembered her. She’d painted it only three years ago, but her memory of the graceful lines of her mother’s face hadn’t faded through the passage of time. The woman in the portrait’s eyes danced with barely concealed mirth, and the corner of her mouth quirked up in a curious half-smile that Tara had captured perfectly. She had always believed her mother was a beautiful woman, and wanted to remember how she had been before she got sick: joyous and vibrant, while tending the small garden in the back yard of their home in Snow Hill, which she had loved so dearly. Now that memory was living on the canvas, catching the light from one of the diner’s large windows.

In stark contrast, the second work, hanging in a spot of shade on a side wall, was a still life, painted in dark watercolors. The subject was a single pink daylily blossom, which took up the majority of the framed space. The flower rested on a jarring break between neatly trimmed grass and what could have been white marble, although the background was given less detail than the lily itself. Its white-tipped petals furled symmetrically away from the flower, their hues shifting through pinks and deeper purples as they neared the center. Six pale green stamens protruded from the throat of the lily, each capped with a rusty, pollen-heavy anther. The entire image was washed in shadow, and Richard wondered whether the painting had been created on a cloudy day.

Tara turned to her boss, and smiled as his offer. “Thank you so much,” she began, “I—maybe I will, w-with the college so close.” Richard didn’t seem to make the logical jump with her, so she clarified, “Because of the gallery. Have you seen it? They hang students’ artwork all over the building. It’s—it’s really something.”

The man nodded in understanding. “Ah. No, I haven’t seen it, but maybe I will, now.” Richard and Tara both glanced at the door when the jingle of the bell, hanging overhead, heralded the arrival of a group of six: five fatigued college-aged people, and one older, blonde woman. At a second glimpse, Tara adjusted her evaluation; one of the girls was younger than the rest, but her height made her appear older. The group waited just inside the entryway, huddled close together to avoid blocking the door. Tara wondered which of them were students, and which were family members helping them move in. The older woman bore a striking resemblance to the blonde girl, so Tara pegged the girl as a student, but she wasn’t sure about the others. Two of them were redheads, and although they were standing together, Tara noted that their postures hinted at a relationship that was outside the normal familial bond. One was a short boy with spiky hair and a plaid overshirt wrapped around his midsection and knotted in the front. He leaned almost protectively into one of the girls as a couple of diner patrons making their exit squeezed past the group.

When Tara flicked her eyes to the other side of the obvious couple, her breathing hitched in her throat. The girl was undeniably adorable, dressed in mix-matched green denim and pink long-sleeved top, despite the heat. She capped the look off with a pair of worn sneakers, from which protruded the most garish checkered socks Tara had ever had the good fortune to see. Her long, ruddy hair was tucked behind the cutest ears, and cascaded well down her back, but it was the girl’s eyes that captured her. She had the largest, most expressive green eyes Tara had encountered, and she found herself lost in them. She knew, within a single heartbeat, that the girl was special.

It wasn’t until Andrew approached the group and asked them to follow him to a table that Tara realized she’d been standing in the center of the room, staring at the group for two full minutes while they had been waiting patiently for service. Her cheeks glowing with embarrassment, and more than a little disappointed that she’d missed the chance to guide the girl and her companions to a table in her own section, she spun and nearly ran directly into Faith, who had walked up behind her.

Faith shrugged off Tara’s stuttered apology, instead nodding toward the crowded booth and commenting, “that’s quite a tip you missed.” An amused grin spread across her face as the color of Tara’s blush deepened; in the short time they’d worked together, Faith had known the blonde to space out on occasion, and she never tired of the reaction she got when she teased her about it.

Shifting subjects after getting her fill of Tara’s embarrassment, Faith regarded the new additions to the diner’s walls. “Those yours?” she asked, lifting her chin in the general direction of the paintings.

“Yes; I brought them f-from home. Richard said that it was okay to hang them here.” Tara watched uneasily as Faith peered at the works, hoping the girl didn’t find them off-putting. She wanted the paintings to have a welcome home, and she would of course remove them if Faith didn’t like them.

“They’re nice,” Faith determined after a minute. “Very…artsy.” She nodded at her helpful descriptive review, certain that Tara would take it as the highest praise. “Who’s the picture of?”

“M-my mother,” Tara stammered, “Helen Maclay.”

Recognizing that the conversation was covering uncomfortable ground for her coworker, Faith quickly shifted tracks. “Did you take classes? Or are you, now? At the University?”

Tara shook her head. “No, it’s always just been a—a hobby, I guess. I liked being able to—to save things I thought about on the canvas, where they have some kind of permanence.” She glanced over at Faith, unsure of how the girl would take what she felt was an important admission, but found that her attention had been pulled elsewhere. Following her gaze, both girls watched in horror as Andrew, in a flustered state while trying to jot down orders for the table and pour water at the same time, tipped over one of the glasses. Seemingly in slow motion, the glass toppled, its contents issuing out over waiter’s hands and the tabletop, and cascading over the edge in a miniature waterfall. In a flurry of shoving and flailing limbs, the three customers on that side of the table bolted from the booth. The taller girl appeared to be relatively unscathed, but both the blonde girl and the larger of the two boys sported dark, wet stains on their laps. Tara was surprised when the first thing through her mind after the accident was that she was glad the redhead had been unaffected. Pushing the thought aside, she grabbed two towels and a handful of napkins and rushed to Andrew’s aid.

As she neared, the waiter slipped on the wet floor and tumbled into her. Tara braced herself against his weight, bumping into the next table and shaking its silverware. Several tables full of customers looked up simultaneously at the spectacle, but when nothing further fell over, they returned to their meals and conversations. Tara regained her balance and helped Andrew right himself. While the two damp customers wore looks of outright indignation, the younger girl snorted out laughter at them both. When Andrew had slipped, the redhead had risen to her feet. Now, she graced the two diner employees with an understanding smile, offering a napkin to Andrew so he could dry his hands. “Are you alright?” she asked them both.

“I’m so sorry!” Andrew squeaked, taking a towel from Tara and kneeling to mop up the floor. Tara nodded and began soaking up the water from the table. “We—we’re fine, thanks. Would you like to move to another booth?” She was touched that, in the face of her two angry friends, the girl had shown concern first for their waiters.

“No, no, we’ll be fine here,” the older woman spoke for the first time. “It’s just water after all. And Dawn, knock that off; leave your sister and Xander alone.”

Despite the episode with their waiter, the group had an otherwise pleasant lunch. They filled their empty stomachs with quesadillas and burgers, tuna melts and—in Joyce’s case—a healthy Dijon chicken salad wrap, and when they were done they eased back into their seats, stuffed to gills. Tara continued to keep an eye on the table while she handled her own section, until it became too busy to spare even the occasional glance in the redhead’s direction.

When the lunch rush died down, she noticed Andrew was clearing the dishes they’d left off of the table; they had already departed. The boy reached down and snatched up a scrap of paper, then smiled as he stared at its contents. When he next passed Tara, he slipped the note into her hands.

As she read the paper, a lopsided grin spread across her face that matched the one in the portrait perfectly. Underneath a carefully rendered smiley face, a message had been printed in looping penmanship: “Proper poise prevents paludal patrons. Thanks for the tasty meal! ~ Willow.”

Tara mouthed the name softly. “Willow…” She had no doubt who had left the note.


Last edited by jasmydae on Mon Dec 01, 2008 9:33 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants (Contemporary AU)
PostPosted: Sat Aug 30, 2008 1:40 pm 
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Hello,

Well it is still very good and close to each character's mind. :)

I am curious now as to how things are goin gtogo. Willow's room seems really small and I can imagine she'll be in a hell-ish Cordelia Chase universe, but maybe I'm wrong and that she is more like the Cordelia we could see sometimes, and especially in Angel. Although you say you've seen the show only once? So we'll see. :)

Richard seems nice, and so does Faith. I like when Faith is not a bad guy in fics. Even though she does the bad guy very well.

Well, keep up with the good work.

Thanks for sharing.

Friendly,

Julia.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants (Contemporary AU)
PostPosted: Sat Aug 30, 2008 1:59 pm 
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Yay for good update-y goodness... I'm wondering how Willow-world and Cordelia-world are going to clash in their room... Nice to see pieces of Tara's artistic side...

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 Post subject: Re: Constants (Contemporary AU)
PostPosted: Sat Aug 30, 2008 11:58 pm 
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Wow. Yeah, you got the writingsness of goodness. J'aime beaucoup!

And about the school they go to, I totally totally get your angle on that. I was gonna do a Tara fic of when she moves in and stuff, basing it on my experience, but it wasn't flowing. I mean, it worked when it came to writing down my life experiences, but it wasn't good, so yeah.
But putting them together right as Willow moves in is a great idea, gets all that college info in, while keeping the main idea of these fics.

So you've read a lot, huh? You know, there's a secondary KB with all kinds of stories in archive, and many of them are really good. You've read Neverland and Unexpected Consequences (which is off-board, Lisa Countryman's site)? Those I most highly recommend, but they're not up on the updates page so much so you might have missed them

Anyway, love to you.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants (Contemporary AU)
PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 2:17 am 
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The moving in scene was great. The interaction and the banter between all the characters gave a real sense of camaraderie.

How will Cordelia cope with the lack of closet space? I suppose it depends on which version of her you go for. Either way, I'm looking forward to her introduction.

I'm still loving all the detail you put in - particularly with Tara's paintings. The day-lily one interested me. You described it so well that I almost wanted to reach out and touch it. In contrast to the one of her Mother, I felt a great sadness behind it. The white marble made me think of a gravestone.

I liked the first meeting between Willow and Tara. You have Willow's dress sense down to a tee. The green and the pink aren't so bad, but the checkered socks - my god, what was she thinking - lol.

I'm really looking forward to see how you develop their relationship.

Quote:
Underneath a carefully rendered smiley face, a message had been printed in looping penmanship: “Proper poise prevents paludal patrons. Thanks for the tasty meal! ~ Willow.”


The note was very cute, and very much like the Willow we came to adore in the early days.

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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 2 Feedback
PostPosted: Tue Sep 02, 2008 2:54 pm 
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JujuDeRoussie: I've followed Cordelia through the entirety of Buffy and the first two seasons of Angel, thus far. While she initially added a necessary element of bluntness to the group--a role Anya eagerly took up in later episodes--I've got to admit that I like her later character so much more, so expect I'll be writing her somewhere in the middle. I like when Faith isn't a bad guy, too. Actually, I was kind of disappointed with Faith's arc in Buffy, and I hope that the later episodes of Angel show me what I really want to see. But, yeah, it's not my intention to turn any of the Buffy regulars--including Oz--into jack@$$es in this story; the real world can generate enough conflict on its own! As always, thanks for the feedback; I can tell it's the notes from the readers that will help keep my drive alive.

Zampsa1975: Willow and Cordelia meet in person for the first time in this next update, which, you'll be happy to know, I am posting while in the nude. I always like it when Tara has an analog to her magic in contemporary stories. Often, this takes an artistic form: writing, music, drawing. I chose painting because I could find lots of interesting plot hooks, and because I always wanted to be a better painter than I am.

synthwrr: *gets her French dictionary* Jamming Buttercup to you, too! One thing I really love is when a story's setting can work itself into the writing in such a way that it feels like it exists as more than a cutting board (Chris Cook's Hellebore was jaw-dropping in this respect). Since this is my first piece, I felt that in order to come even close, I'd have to set the story in a place I knew intimately, and in doing do, I got the added bonus of fun little story ideas which are generated from the backdrop itself. I've read both Unexpected Consequences and Neverland (*hophophop*...*checks it again for an update*); the latter has me practically tearing my hair out, but I love every second. *loves back*

Paint the Sky: The daylily painting was a personally comforting image for me, although in my case it was sketched in black and white; I've no talent at all when it comes to colors. Consider Willow's attire an homage to the Kitten Board. I liked the note, as well, and I learned a new word!

Thanks all, for the feedback. *mwah!*


Last edited by jasmydae on Sun Nov 16, 2008 11:31 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 3
PostPosted: Tue Sep 02, 2008 2:57 pm 
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***
Part 3
***

On the seventh floor of Ellicott Hall, three boys tiptoed quietly past the elevators. Easing open the door separating the girls’ half from the rest of the floor, they collectively winced at the protesting groan of the barrier. After a whispered discussion, one of them, a shaggy, bespectacled youth, who bristled with excitement like a child on Christmas morning, remained at the entrance, propping the door open with his foot. The other two boys crept gingerly past a series of doors: Jessica, the RA’s room; the southern stairwell; the bathroom. As they neared the window at the end of the corridor, their target grew closer with each step: a stuffed version of the school’s mascot, Testudo, the diamondback terrapin, which had been duct taped to the window’s safety bar. The last two doors in the hallway had been left open purposefully, the light sleepers contained within being the last line of defense in the ongoing game of Turtle Theft. The scene before them dredged up images in one boy’s head of The Neverending Story; he imagined that one wrong step in the stuffed animal’s direction would result in laser beams firing from the doorways, bringing a swift end to his short but glorious life. When a quick glance into both rooms confirmed that the girls were indeed sleeping, or at least pretending to sleep convincingly enough, the boys approached the prize warily. A short length of fishing wire had been tied snugly around the figure’s neck, the other end of which looped through a series of bells, which had been stripped from cats’ collars. The entire alarm system was balanced precariously on the curved surface of the bar.

One boy nervously drew a Swiss army knife from his pocket and folded out the scissors. Examining the wire for the best point of attack, he eased one of the blades underneath, and, with a simple snip, freed the terrapin from captivity. The boy’s heart thudded erratically when he saw the bells shift a smidgen, then lazily slide off of the far side of the bar. He lunged out his free hand, but the string of bells merely jangled off of his knuckles and tumbled to the hallway floor in a cacophonous crescendo. The boys stood frozen, cringing at the racket, then turned slowly to see four young, pajama-clad women in the hallway with them, grins plastered across their faces, and expertly-wielded Super Soaker water cannons in their hands.

Nestled in the warm cocoon of her blanket, Willow slumbered, oblivious to the shrieks, heavy footsteps, and splattering sounds filtering under her door from the hallway. Her porcelain skin was illuminated by a faint red glow from the display of a digital alarm clock shaped like a cartoon cow’s head, which rested on the floor nearby. The bovine stared impassively straight ahead as the readout flicked to 4:27. A quiet whimper escaped the girl’s lips, and thin worry lines creased her forehead as her brow bunched up; moments later, her eyes snapped open.

“But it’s broken!”

For a second after her outburst, Willow didn’t move, but just gazed up at the ceiling at the diagonal orange strips of light, which had slipped through the blinds. She knew she’d woken from a troubling dream, but already its details were blurring. Willow had always been fascinated by the mechanics of dreaming; she was certain that they were processed and stored differently than other memories, and she wished she could somehow record the quickly fading thoughts, without any conscious motion. Maybe a pen that she could dictate to, like that one in the purple lunchbox—no! She caught herself sliding into another dream and clawed her way back through the haze. Before the last remnants of the previous dream unraveled completely, Willow’s hand glided out from beneath the blanket to unclip her cell phone from its charger, then pulled the device into bed. Her thumbs flew over the buttons and punched ‘Send.’ Confident that a record of her dream would survive, Willow surrendered again to sleep.

~*~

“What on Earth is wrong with you?” Tara asked herself, as she watched the clock under the television set change to four thirty. She’d tried everything—deep breathing, counting backwards, lavender oil on her pillow, a glass of warm milk, and, finally, changing locations altogether—but sleep remained elusive. Now, splayed out across a beige, reupholstered sofa, which crowded the other furniture in the common room, Tara yawned, over-tired yet wide awake. She recognized the severity of the situation: a long day lay ahead, and she needed to be well rested. In just under an hour, her father would wake up, and she would make breakfast for three, setting aside a portion for Donny, while he showered. After her father left for work, she had an hour to herself. Back home in Snow Hill, this was her favorite time of the day; with her father out of the house and her little brother still sleeping peacefully, Tara would use the rare moments to pamper herself. Sometimes she’d find herself in the garden, breathing in the sweet scents of the jasmine, and the honeysuckle shrubs that surrounded the plot on three sides. Sometimes she’d pour a warm bath with her favorite raspberry and vanilla bubbles, then sink down under the soothing heat until just her nose and toes poked above the frothy surface, and she’d listen to the water as it rushed against her ears. Often, however, Tara would spend the hour painting.

Today, she decided, she would use it to take a nap, provided her overactive mind would allow her the opportunity. It was a whirlwind of thought at the moment; in fact, it had been ever since she left the diner, a full twelve hours earlier. She idly thumbed a scrap of paper while she replayed the day’s scenes in her head: Richard allowing her to hang her paintings at the diner, and their subsequent conversation; Andrew’s accident with a water glass at table four; the late lunch rush; her bus ride to Buck Lodge Middle School, where her brother was waiting; and their evening trip to the University’s ice cream shop, about which she made Donny promise not to tell their father. Tara realized that she was still fiddling with a slip of paper, and brought it close to her eyes in the dim light. Although the words were barely readable, she could easily make out the large smiling face. She’d discovered the note in her pocket while searching for change for the bus fare, that afternoon, and must have held onto it for the remainder of the day. “Well,” she remarked to the note, “it’s good to know we had at least one satisfied customer, today.”

Tara couldn’t help but smile as she recalled the redhead’s ghastly choices of apparel, the way her wide eyes made her appear both eager and vulnerable, and how, at times, she got really excited and waved her hands about while talking with the others. The group seemed to have a strong rapport, an outward friendliness, and an innate silliness, all of which appealed deeply to Tara, perhaps the last most of all. When, she wondered, was the last time she had laughed?

When sleep finally came, its tendrils only gave her the lightest of touches. She awoke to the gurgling of water in the pipes, and sat bolt upright when she realized her father was already in the shower; she had completely missed the blaring of his alarm clock! She stood too quickly, and had to lean over and brace herself on the arm of the sofa while her vision swirled. Her sleep deprivation made the bones in her wrists and fingers feel hollow. With ginger steps, Tara ambled into the kitchen and narrowed her eyes so she could flip on the light. She rummaged through the refrigerator and selected a few sausage links, eggs, mushrooms, and half of a green onion, then set a pan on the stovetop and reached for a cutting board.

Her father entered the kitchen just as the first omelet came out of the pan. He appeared worn out, as well, unshaved and with dark circles hanging under his eyes; Tara realized that she must look a fright, herself, after her nearly sleepless night. Wordlessly, she skewered two sausages onto his plate and poured a glass of orange juice for him, then another for herself. Her father grunted his thanks and began eating, and for a few minutes the only sounds in the room were the eggs sizzling in the pan, and the scraping of his fork on the plate.

“Working today?” he finally asked between bites, although his gaze never lifted from his meal.

“Yes, Papa. Everyday this week and weekend, while Mr. Wilkins finds more help.”

Tara’s father nodded, and he reached for his juice. “And Donny’s school? Everything is okay?”

“He says it’s going well,” Tara replied. She didn’t need to bother her father with the details: Donny had said that the classes weren’t too difficult, but he hadn’t yet made any new friends in his first four days at Buck Lodge. The news had worried Tara; she didn’t want her brother to become the social pariah that she had been at his young age. Donny had been a clever, imaginative child, who was always eager to talk the ears off of anyone he met, so Tara was certain he’d have no trouble finding a circle of friends when he entered school. After their mother’s death, however, he’d become taciturn, and would spend hours alone in his room. Once, when Tara was fifteen, she’d walked past his slightly open door, and seen him sitting motionless on the edge of his bed in his pajamas, simply staring out the window. Tara had watched him for twenty minutes, and he’d hardly shifted at all, but he had snapped out of it when she rapped lightly upon the door.

Mr. Maclay was looking at her expectantly. His plate was empty, and he dabbed his napkin at the corner of his mouth.

“I—I’m sorry, Papa. What did you say?” Tara asked, chagrinned. She reached across the counter for the plate and fork, and ran them under the tap, all the while watching her father over her shoulder.

“The bus fare,” he repeated in an even tone. “Do you have enough money for the bus?”

“Oh. Yes, I should have e—“ Tara covered her mouth with the back of her hand as an uninvited yawn surprised her. “—enough,” she finished, meekly.

Her father opened his mouth to speak, then seemed to reconsider. After the briefest pause, he declared, “Well, then, off to work.” He patted his pockets, and, finding his wallet and keys, spun around once to make sure he wasn’t forgetting anything else. “Make sure you stop by the grocery store and pick up Donny’s prescription?”

“I will, Papa,” Tara assured him.

Satisfied, Mr. Maclay padded out of the room in stockinged feet, but he reappeared a moment later, carrying a pair of heavy workman’s boots. “I’ll be home late,” he uttered as he stooped to shove his feet inside, and tied up the laces. “Bill and I are going out for a few hours after work.” Bill was one of her father’s coworkers, and if the last several days were any indication, Tara expected their outing would result in her father stumbling off a bus shortly after midnight, staggering into the apartment, and collapsing, still fully clothed, into bed. She made a mental note not to wait on him for dinner. Seeing her father drinking to forget his unhappiness scared her, but Tara had learned many years ago that voicing her worries would only make the situation worse. The best she could do was to divert as many stressors away from her father as possible, while providing at least one instance of a caring, responsible adult in Donny’s life.

Straightening, Mr. Maclay approached his daughter, stopping mere inches away. Tara unconsciously moved backward, realizing it only when her backside connected with the kitchen counter. Her father hesitated a moment, before reaching out and wrapping his arms around the girl. Tara’s eyes shot wide open, and she froze, moving only to steady herself against the counter. Her unvoiced protest caught in her throat when he pressed a light kiss into the hair atop her head. Without a word, her father backed away, turned and left the kitchen. Minutes after the slamming of the front door indicated his departure, Tara still stood motionless in the kitchen, her breathing coming in shallow, erratic gulps, and her knuckles white as she gripped the counter behind her.

~*~

“Hello? Um, hello?”

“Hnuh?” Willow blinked, and her sleep began fading into the background as she lay on her back, staring up at the tallest girl she had ever seen. She was wearing a snug yellow bikini top and flip-flops, and had a beach towel wrapped around her waist. Sunglasses, pushed high upon her head and resting in her dark, perfectly styled hair, completed the look. She was pretty, Willow thought, for a giant.

“Yeah, hi. What are you doing down there?” the giant asked.

Willow’s mind reeled, trying to filter dreams from reality. The pieces fell into place when a nearby cow caught her eye, and when she rolled onto her stomach, the last of the haze vanished. The girl in the bikini was human sized, but Willow was several feet lower than she’d realized. She was also, Willow observed, peering down at her with a look that easily conveyed her doubt concerning her roommate’s sanity.

“Hi! Good morning!” Willow exclaimed, a bit louder than necessary. “Uh, I’m Willow, which you might have already guessed, but it’s probably good to reassure you that I’m not a random vagrant who broke into the room, especially with the whole mattress on the floor bit—“

“Right,” Cordelia interrupted. “You’re not one of those crazy people, who can only sleep when they’re somewhere uncomfortable, are you? Because the middle of the floor thing is kind of not going to work for me.”

“No, no craziness, here,” Willow guaranteed. “At least, not of the clinical variety. I thought, you know, since we hadn’t actually met yet, and discussed the whole bunking situation, that it would be rude to just go and pick which bed was mine like I owned the place.” She craned her neck to the side and rubbed at a sore spot. “But, we should probably decide that, ‘cause the floor? Kinda disorienting.”

“Huh. That was actually kind of thoughtful, I guess,” Cordelia conceded, “in an entirely unnecessary kind of way.” She looked over at the unmade bunk beds, frowning. “I guess I’d rather have the lower one. I thought maybe we could separate them, but with the space in here—“

“Oh! No, wait!” Willow threw off her covers, and, clad in a set of purple pajamas with teddy bear appliqués, grabbed a stack of papers from one of the desks. “See, here I’ve made diagrams of the most likely furniture arrangements, maximizing both floor space and privacy,” she explained, “and here’s a few with two beds, ‘cause I though maybe you’d want to do that, too.”

Cordelia looked over the colorful floor plans incredulously. “You made these?”

“Well, I guess the computer made, them, really,” Willow clarified. “It wasn’t a very difficult program. I just copied them onto paper. Oh, and that reminds me: I need to get ink for the printer. Anyway, I also wasn’t sure what other stuff you might be bringing, so those ones—“ she pointed at three other piles on the desk, each one fastened with a paper clip “—allow for different shaped additions. But we can put the furniture, anywhere. I mean, it doesn’t have to be like one of those, if you had something else in mind.”

Her roommate leafed through the pages, shaking her head slowly. “How long did all of this take you?” she finally asked.

“A couple hours, I guess. My friend Buffy and I thought we’d celebrate our first night of freedom by taking a trip to this coffee shop on Route One, and drinking ourselves sick on mochas. I had six of them, so I wasn’t exactly going to sleep anytime soon, and it seemed as good a way to pass the time as any other.”

“Is that why you slept ‘til after ten?”

“Yeah, I kinda crashed after the—wait, it’s after ten?!”

“Well, just about. Five more minutes,” said Cordelia, raising an inquisitive eyebrow.

When Willow’s alarm clock verified the time, she bolted into action, rushing to her bureau and grabbing whatever happened to be on top of each drawer. “Buffy’s going to be here any minute!” she exclaimed, trying to find a partner for her sock. “We made plans to go book shopping, and lunch, and—oh, you could come, if you wanted to. I sort of assumed you were, uh, going to the beach?” She paused, considering her question. “Wait, is there even a beach around here, anywhere?”

Cordelia shook her head. “The sisters at Delta are doing a fundraiser car wash, today, and asked some of the pledges to help out. You guys could stop by, if you wanted to, or better yet, drive by! It’s in that parking lot next to the bookstore.”

Willow finally found her other sock, and grabbed her basket of toiletries. “Thanks! Maybe we’ll do that. Uh, gotta run!” She flew out the door, but reappeared seconds later. “Oh, and it was very nice to meet you!” And with that, she was dashing down the hallway.

Cordelia looked between the bundle of furniture diagrams she still held, the mattress on the floor, and the open doorway. “This is going to be an interesting semester,” she said to nobody in particular.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants (Contemporary AU) Updated: Sep 02, 2008
PostPosted: Tue Sep 02, 2008 3:17 pm 
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Hahha.
Ahh quirky Willow. So Cordy's not so bad. Poor Tara... But nice that her dad was, well, nice to her.

I'm confused about the mechanics of being asleep at 4:30, but needing to sleep in till 12... Also, the fact that Willow's alarm clock went off at 12ish, but she was surprised that it was that time?

Just little things, though. Your writing is very organic and such, and the antics of the dorm-people were hilarious and very cool. Did you witness such an incident yourself?

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 Post subject: Re: Constants (Contemporary AU) Updated: Sep 02, 2008
PostPosted: Tue Sep 02, 2008 3:33 pm 
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Ah, thanks for the QC. I made some changes that should help cover up the inconsistencies, and which might add a fun scene. As far as Turtle Tag...*polishes her halo and nudges a water gun under the bed* I haven't the faintest idea what you're talking about...

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 Post subject: Re: Constants (Contemporary AU) Updated: Sep 02, 2008
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Yay for great update-y goodness.... Good that Cordelia wasn't such a "evil bitch monster"... I hope Cordelia gets used to a very quirky Willow... I hope Tara's dad's drinking cause problems...

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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 3 Feedback
PostPosted: Sun Sep 07, 2008 8:47 pm 
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synthwrr: Yeah, there's more Cordy in this upcoming chapter, and I guess she's really not so bad. It's actually been a while since I've seen early-Buffy Cordelia, so I'm a lot more familiar with mid-Angel Cordelia. Thanks again for the consistency-checking; it's actually really hard to keep your facts straight between chapters, and, obviously, sometimes even within single chapters. Several times while working on Part 4, I had to edit something because it conflicted with bits in the previous chapters. I've now got a time line drawn out, which will hopefully at least keep me from making major mistakes with the characters' pasts.

Zampsa1975: You hope Tara's dad's drinking *does* 'cause problems, or is that a typo? :) Cordelia's gonna have to get used to a quirky Willow, because I sure wouldn't want to write her any other way! Thanks again for the feedback, and enjoy the next chapter.

All: There will be actual interactions at some point in this story, I promise. :p

~ Megan

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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 4
PostPosted: Sun Sep 07, 2008 8:48 pm 
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***
PART 4
***

“Sweetie, it’s time to wake up.” Tara perched on the edge of her brother’s bed, one hand resting lightly on the boy’s shoulder, shaking him. A part of her recognized that Donny, now thirteen and already as tall as she was, might be too old for such terms of endearment. She knew that eventually he would bring it up and ask her stop, but her heart hoped that day was a long way off. Underneath her hand, she felt Donny’s body twitch violently as he shed a layer of sleep.

“Momma?” the word bubbled to Donny’s lips seconds before his eyes opened, and he blinked several times to adjust to the light, which was by this hour streaming in through the Venetian blinds. Tara watched her brother rub the last vestiges of sleep from his eyes and groan when he realized it was already morning.

“Were you dreaming of her?” Tara asked. “In the hospital again?”

Donny shoved his pillows behind him so that he could prop himself up against the headboard. “No, it wasn’t at Hospice.” His lips made a tight slant as he thought. “It was back at the old house, I think.”

“In Snow Hill?”

“Uh uh. Before that: the one in Laurel.”

“You remember the Laurel house?” Tara asked, amazed.

“Not really; not the house. I think I might have made the inside parts up. But I remember the yard in back, with the shed and that tall fence on one side.”

Tara thought back, still impressed that her brother could remember anything at all; she hadn’t yet begun middle school when her family had lived in Delaware, so Donny couldn’t have been more than five or six. “I remember the yard, too,” she admitted. “There was a sandbox, I’m pretty sure.”

“Yeah. There were flowers on the side opposite the fence, too,” Donny continued, “I remember because Gram hid maple sugar candies in there when I broke my arm.”

A memory of Donny in a clunky, off-white cast percolated up to the surface of Tara’s thoughts. He’d fallen from a tree while trying to imitate a stunt he’d seen in a cartoon, and he’d come to her for help when he wanted to draw, because he couldn’t hold anything with his dominant hand due to the cast. She remembered how distressed he’d been when it had come time for the doctor to remove the cast with a special saw, and then again when he’d realized that he couldn’t yet move his arm once the cast had come off.

“I remember that, too,” she said. Tara smiled, both at the memory, and at the fact that Donny was sharing it. He’d become so closed off since their mother’s death that Tara now cherished rare moments like these, when Donny willingly engaged her in conversation. Every word seemed precious, so it was with great reluctance that she continued, “but you’ve got to get up, now. Hop in the shower, and I’ll go get some breakfast heated up, okay?” She patted his shoulder twice, then stood so he could get out of bed.

Tara plodded out to the common room, stooping to gather up the afghan she’d used as a blanket, folding it neatly into quarters, and draping it over the back of the sofa. When she heard Donny start the shower, she went to the kitchen and spun the dial on the oven to reheat the bacon and sausage left over from the earlier meal, then grabbed the frying pan from the dish rack. While waiting for a pad of butter to melt, she opened the fridge to take out a carton of orange juice, and smiled at Willow’s note, which was stuck to the door with a magnet. There was something about the goofy smiley face that filled Tara with a comforting warmth whenever she saw it, so she’d decided to hang it up where she would see it every time she entered the room.

Not for the first time, Tara thought about the pretty redhead she’d singled out from the group, the previous day. Willow. It was a strange name, yet somehow fitting. Before she could censor the thought, an image of the girl there in the kitchen with her flickered across Tara’s mind. Willow would stand right behind her, peeking around her shoulder while Tara flipped pancakes in the pan. With her hands resting on Tara’s hips, she would nuzzle up against the soft hairs on the back of her neck; Tara could almost feel the movement of the girl’s lips, teasing her about the funny shapes of the deformed pancakes, which Tara could never get to come out circular. Frowning down at the misshapen cakes, Tara sighed. At least one part of the image was accurate.

It was a different Donny who entered the kitchen minutes later. The tips of his hair still glistening from his shower, the boy wore a pair of black jeans and a black tee shirt with what Tara thought might be the name of a band emblazoned across the front. He’d thrown on a dark red overshirt, the one concession he was willing to make for colors to enter his wardrobe. His clothing hung loosely on his frame; Tara thought he’d lost a fair bit of weight over the last several years, due in part to decreased appetite, but also because he’d taken to jogging the trails that had run through the woods behind the house in Snow Hill. Donny was no longer the chubby, smiling child Tara recalled from all those years ago.

He accepted the plate Tara offered with a muttered, “Thanks,” and dug in, his body language conveying what words did not: Donny was not interested in continuing their earlier conversation. Tara no longer questioned the reasons behind his sudden mood shifts; she just wished she could do something to see him happy more often.

“I’m working until three, today, then stopping by the grocery store,” she mentioned. “Papa’s going to be late tonight, so we’re on our own for supper. Is there anything you’d like to do, this evening?”

Donny hardly looked up from his plate. “Nah, not really,” he answered.

“I’m kind of itching to get out of the apartment,” Tara admitted. “We could go to the movies? Or walk around campus?”

Her brother shrugged, noncommittally. “Yeah, maybe.”

“Want me to walk you to the bus stop?”

“Uh, no thanks. I’m fine.”

Seeing that the conversation wasn’t getting off the ground, Tara figured it was best to stop pushing. “I’m going to go get ready for work, then. Have a good day at school, and I’ll see you this evening,” she said, stepping out of the kitchen, and leaving Donny to finish his breakfast in the silence he desired.

Alone in the bathroom, Tara examined herself in the mirror. She didn’t look as bad as she felt; a little tired, perhaps, but not quite the walking dead she had imagined. Her hair was mildly frazzled from the constant tossing and turning, so she worked a brush through the tangles while she waited for the water to heat up. It didn’t take but a few seconds; a minute later she was undressed and standing motionless beneath the spray, luxuriating in the recuperating feelings of the hot water washing the restless night from her aching body. Maybe she’d go swimming, she thought, if Donny didn’t want to do anything in the evening; the apartment complex had a pool, she was fairly sure they were open until Labor Day, which was a couple days away, and the evenings were still very warm.

Donny had left by the time Tara was done in the bathroom, and a quick check of the clock indicated she had twenty minutes before she needed to leave for the short walk to the diner. She took her time dressing, and even bothered to put on a little makeup; this was something she normally wouldn’t have bothered with, but she was worried she might look more tired than she realized. And besides, today was different. Today, Tara decided, she was going to do her best to make a friend.

~*~

“Okay, so you understand I have absolutely no idea what this means,” Buffy said, cell phone in hand, as the two girls walked down the paved path that cut across a large expanse of grass to meet up with the sidewalk of the main strip. She slowed to a halt, and turned to show Willow the phone.

Willow, who had long since stopped following Buffy’s idle chatter about the infuriating quirkiness of her new roommate, and had instead been determining the best route between the diner and the two remaining bookstores the girls needed to visit, walked directly into her friend’s outstretched hand, jarring the phone loose. It clattered to the pavement.

“Oh! Sorry,” she gushed, kneeling to pick up and phone and examining it for any signs of permanent damage, “kind of spaced out there for a minute.”

“Willow Rosenberg!” Buffy exclaimed in mock amazement, her attention focused on something off to the side of the path. “Were you gawking at hot college boys?!”

“Wh-what?”

Buffy gasped, spinning on her friend. “You were! You were checking out the hotties! Go, Will!”

Willow finally spotted what had set Buffy off: a trio of tanned and shirtless young men were tossing a Frisbee around on the grass, displaying their athletic prowess to the entirety of the Route One traffic.

“N-no. It was gawkless!” she sputtered. “Entirely gawk-free, here. Ew. This was a no gawking zone.”

“Ew? You did not just ‘ew’ that.” Buffy whistled appreciatively at the chiseled bodies of the students who, realizing they had a captive audience, began attempting increasingly spectacular catches—around the back, no-look, between the legs—although Willow noticed these failed more often than not.

“Uh, here,” Willow offered the phone back to Buffy, and the blonde tore her gaze away from the boys. “I think it’s fine.”

“Oh, right. So what is this all about? Some kind of secret code?” Buffy asked, pulling up a text message on the display. Willow squinted at the screen, and held her hand above the phone to block out the light. It read: ‘spill frog reed oboe.’

“I had this crazy dream, last night,” Willow explained. “It started out at the diner. Oz and I were eating breakfast, and it was raining really hard outside.” The girls continued walking as Willow tried to fill in the gaps between the pieces of her dream represented in the message. “I think maybe there was flooding. I accidentally knocked over my glass, just like that waiter did; it poured all over Oz’s lap, and I could tell he was really angry, but he wouldn’t say anything about it when I apologized. So then that waitress came over, you know, Tara?”

Buffy shook her head. “Who?”

“There was a waitress who came over to help clean up the spill. Not in the dream. Well, in the dream, too, but I meant for real. Her nametag said Tara. She was really nice. You don’t remember?”

“Uh, yeah, I guess not. Sorry, I mostly just remember wanting to strangle Dawn.”

“So, anyway, in the dream, she came over with a towel, but not one of those little white ones, it was more like a big ol’ fluffy blue one. She was very apologetic, which seems weird now, since I was the one who knocked over the water, but it made sense in the dream, somehow. Then she started toweling off my hair, and Oz was saying something, but I couldn’t hear it exactly through the towel, but I think maybe he was ordering food, or asking about the menu, because when the towel was pulled away, Tara said something about frogs’ legs being available only in the diners in northwest Greece.”

“Okaaaayy,” Buffy chuckled, when Willow paused to take another breath. “How does the oboe fit into all of this?”

“Well, see, the rain outside had reached the windows. Um, because I guess it couldn’t just come in the door. It was spilling in through a couple open ones, and suddenly the pressure burst them all, and the room started filling up with water really fast. Oz grabbed my hand and started swimming, but he’s not such a great swimmer. Really, but in the dream too. I tried to tell him that we had to bring Tara, because she had the towel, and knew where to go in Greece, which of course is silly since the diner’s not in Greece. But anyway, the whole talking underwater thing didn’t really work. Oz started sinking, and was pulling me deeper with him, and I couldn’t swim well with my shoes on, but I couldn’t unlace them with just the one hand. I tried to kick up toward the surface, but couldn’t with the extra weight.”

“Yuck. Water dreams can be really freaky,” Buffy commented. The girls had reached the road, but neither moved toward the crosswalk. Buffy rolled back on her heels, waiting for Willow to continue her story.

“Oz’s hand started to slip. I remember being so scared, and thinking that I was going to drown, too, if I didn’t get air soon. I could see under the water, but it was kind of slimy and green, and got much darker below. I tried to wrench my hand free, and when his grip weakened he plunged down into the darker water, then there were these air bubbles from where he’d disappeared, and then there were lots of tadpoles.”

“Tadpoles?” Buffy echoed, her expression shifting from concern to confusion.

“Thousands of them, all swimming up from underneath in this underwater cyclone. I guess I must have swum to the surface, because I remember pulling myself out of the water with these reeds, which looked kind of like bamboo. The tadpoles had become frogs, and they were all over the surface, like one solid sheet of frog. I started to panic—“

“Because of Oz?”

“—because of the frogs. I started to panic, and dragged myself out of the water, but my feet wouldn’t work too well, so I sort of crawled away from the marsh a ways. I was watching this line of reeds, expecting the frogs to start pouring out any second, but they didn’t come. A breeze picked up and started whistling through the reeds.”

“Like an oboe?” Buffy nudged, still curious about the last word of the message.

“I guess so,” Willow concluded. “Next thing I knew, I was in a woodwind ensemble, and the director was singling me out for a solo, but the reed in my oboe was split, and it sounded horrible. Luckily, that’s when Cordelia decided to show up.”

Totally baffled by this point, Buffy hazarded a guess. “She was in the audience?”

“Oh, no, I mean she actually showed up at the dorm room. Maybe for a second in the dream, because she seemed really tall, but it’s just because I was on the floor, and she had a towel, too, which was sort of eerie. And look, there she is, now.” Willow pointed out her roommate, who stood among a small group of bikini-clad girls in the parking lot off to the side of the Book Exchange. Cordelia was holding up a sign that read ‘Car Wash! $10’ underneath a drawing of what looked like a croissant with three triangles printed upon it. She spotted Willow across the street and waved her over. The girls waited for a break in traffic, then darted across the road.

“Hey, Cordelia,” Willow greeted the brunette, before formally introducing the two. “This is my best friend, Buffy Summers. Buffy, Cordelia Chase, my roommate.”

“Nice to meet you,” Buffy smiled, extending her hand, which Cordelia shook briefly.

Cordelia passed the sign off to one of the other sisters, so that she could step aside with her visitors. “How’s the book shopping?” she asked, leaning down to wipe some suds off of her sandaled feet.

“Oh, it’s great!” Willow replied a bit too excitedly. “We went to the Book Center first, and got some of the obscure ones out of the way. I got this book on graph theory—“

“—which she’s not even taking,” Buffy commented.

“But it looks so neat!” Willow fished the book out of a yellow plastic bag eagerly, and flipped through the pages. “We’re going to the Exchange now, then trying Bookholders for anything we can’t find here. And we’re stopping by Plato’s for lunch, afterward, if you’d like to join us. Uh, but you’d probably need, um,” Willow took in Cordelia’s skimpy yellow two-piece, “uh, shoes. I don’t think they allow flip-flops.”

“Thanks, I’m going to stay here, though; the car wash is going really well, and I want to make a good impression on the sisters. I don’t even know when I’m going to get my book shopping done; I still haven’t brought my stuff from home for the dorm room,” Cordelia explained for Buffy’s sake, “there’s just so much going on. I didn’t realize college would be so busy before the classes even started.”

“I know!” Willow piped in. “Isn’t it exciting? Back in High School, it being interested and informed about things was like this black mark on your reputation. But here, it’s inescapable. Look, I’ve got twelve different fliers, already!” She spread the papers out in front of her, forming a colorful fan. “Huh. ‘Female Mud Wrestling?’ How’d that get in there?” She shifted one of the fliers to the bottom of the stack.

“You know,” Buffy offered, “if you’re worried about book shopping, maybe Will and I could pick some of your books up for you? I mean, we’re already bookward.”

“Wow, really? That would actually be really nice—oh, shoot, no. I don’t have my purse down here.”

“That’s okay,” Willow said hastily, “we can cover it, and you can just pay us back when we get back to the room. Just, uh, here,” she handed Cordelia the mud wrestling flier and produced a mechanical pencil from one of the bags. “If you write down your classes, we can look up the textbooks at the store.”

“This is really cool of you guys. Thanks so much.” Cordelia jotted down a few class codes on the page. “I’m not sure what the code is for this Education class, but it’s something like the development of social institutions.”

“Oh, EDHD230: Human Development and Societal Institutions,” Willow nodded. Both of the girls stared at her, dumbfounded.

“Will,” Buffy said slowly, “tell me you didn’t memorize the course catalog.”

Willow rolled her eyes. “Buffy, that’s one of your classes.” She jabbed a finger at the class schedule Buffy had printed out. “See? Tuesdays and Thursdays, eleven to twelve fifteen.”

“I think that’s my section, too,” Cordelia said. “Boy, that’ll be nice, actually knowing somebody in one of my classes. I went to this tiny little high school where everyone knew everyone; it seems way too easy to get lost in the crowd, here. And, well, lost on the campus, too.”

“Tell me about it,” Buffy agreed. “If Willow wasn’t leading me around, being her planned and organized self, I’d probably still be standing in the wrong line at the Book Center.”

“That line was for the coffee bar, and I don’t believe you were there by accident,” Willow grumbled at the memory.

“Well, you seemed to have everything under control,” Buffy defended herself. “But you have been a total life saver?” She withered under Willow’s dissatisfied glower. “Um, I’ll carry your books?”

“Deal!” Willow brightened, handing off her bags. The two girls bade farewell to Cordelia and headed across the lot to the Book Exchange, and Cordelia returned to the Tri Delta sisters, who were snickering at the departing redhead.

“Cordy, is your friend colorblind? Her outfit is a disaster,” teased Harmony.

Cordelia glanced back at Willow’s horribly clashing attire. “Yeah,” she admitted, then shrugged and turned to look the girl square in the eye. “But she’s really nice. So what’s it matter?”

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 Post subject: Re: Constants (Contemporary AU) Updated: Sep 08, 2008
PostPosted: Mon Sep 08, 2008 1:16 am 
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Yay for great update-y goodness... Good that Willow and Cordelia are getting along just fine... Nice to see that Tara is already having some nice Willow thoughts....

PS: the Tara's drinking was a typo... I really really hope that it doesn't cause problems for Tara and Donny...

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 Post subject: Re: Constants (Contemporary AU) Updated: Sep 08, 2008
PostPosted: Mon Sep 08, 2008 8:20 am 
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This is a very entertaining story. I love the little details like turtle tag and carwashes that make the whole college setting feel authentic. I'm bummed I had no turtle stealing experiences of my own. But there was once jousting with these giant foam 'things' that looked like q-tips. Good fun.

Looking forward to reading more.


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 Post subject: Re: Constants (Contemporary AU) Updated: Sep 08, 2008
PostPosted: Mon Sep 08, 2008 9:38 am 
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Hey, I forgot to leave feedback for the last chapter. I thought I had, but that's what happens when you're old - lol.

I just love the way you are establishing the backstory for Tara, and building Willow's world of college. The detail you include makes both girl's stories and environments very real.

Tara's maternal role and Willow's carefree existance come over so brilliantly.

Tara's interaction with her Father and then her brother, brought all of that home. There are a lot of young women out there like this Tara, whose own hopes and dreams are pushed aside for the sake of holding a family together, and I really felt her comittment to that come through with just enough of her own needs (daydreams of Willow, for instance) on the surface to add to the realism you have instilled.

It was just lovely to see Willow's first interaction with Cordy with her quirkiness in full flow. And the second, really showed the nice side of Miss Chase. I can see them being firm friends, and a little fashion advice going Willow's way couldn't hurt.

Willow's dream was certainly a strange one, and I'm pretty limited in dream analysis, but the the obvious foreshadowing of letting go of Oz and needing Tara came through strongly.

I really can't wait to see how Willow and Tara get along on their second meeting. Which should be soon considering Buffy and Will are heading to the diner.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants (Contemporary AU) Updated: Sep 08, 2008
PostPosted: Mon Sep 08, 2008 11:29 am 
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I'm a bit curious as to why Tara stiffened when her father was showing what seemed to be just normal affection.

The limtiations of my familiarity with U of MD start and end with being on the Penn State campus doing grad work when MAryland was the visiting football team. so I was curious about a couple things. Students at the diner because they haven't stocked their rooms; don't most students eat ina dining ahll? (Of coruse a lot of these would be family groups with parents and friends helping, as in this example.) And it's the beginning of 1st semester freshman year and Cordy's already a pledge? (And is Harmony older in this veersion?)

But those are quibbles. I like how this is building.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants (Contemporary AU) Updated: Sep 08, 2008
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hahaha
CUTIE!!!
I loved this chapter. Especially the joshing with Buffy and the Cordy stuff, and the DREAM!.. the Tara stuff was a bit depressing.
But the dream was the best. Freudian, even. I'm in awe.

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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 4 Feedback
PostPosted: Sat Sep 13, 2008 8:41 am 
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Zampsa1975: Yup! I guess Cordelia can be nice, after all. And I have all kindsa of fun ideas about working her, well, Angel side into the story. Yes, Tara is definitely having Willow thoughts, and in this next bit, we see them reciprocated...well, in one fashion. :) I expect we'll see more of Mr Maclay's habit.

ophelia11: I'm so glad you're enjoying it, and thanks very much for the feedback. All of these comments keep me going; on days when I'm not really feeling the writing bug, I find myself thinking, "But...but...but if you finish this section, you can hear what people think about it! Gogogo!" ^_^ Enjoy the next part!

Paint the Sky: I meant to mention...I *love* the avatar. That's one mean-looking penguin. Most of the detail in this story comes from my life, not surprisingly. It's easy to write what you know. I'm also happy that you feel I'm sticking to the characters; aside from keeping the drive to finish the story alive, my biggest concern about writing Buffy fanfic was that I wasn't familiar enough with the characters to do them justice on the page. I have the hugest crush on Tara--yeah, I know, get in line, right? Hee! Willow could use some fashion tips, no? The dream--believe it or not, I didn't write it intending to foreshadow...I actually had a dream very similar to that a couple weeks ago. Instead of tadpoles, though, it was leeches. *shudder* And yes! Second meeting coming up in the next post. Enjoy, and thanks always for the thought-out reply. I love reading what you all think about the story.

DaddyCatALSO: Tara's reaction to her father's hug is...well, it'll make more sense as you read on. I hope, anyway. :) So the dining hall thing ~ it's been a while since I was in college *cough*alongwhile*cough* but there was this period of time where you could move into the dorms before classes started, and the dining halls weren't yet in full swing. Maybe the one on South Campus was better, but I spend half a week or so living off of the restaurants on the Route and stuff I picked up at the grocery store. Could be shoddy memory, too, but hey ~ whatever brings the girls together. :) There actually is a Plato's diner just up the street from the campus; I used to love going there in the wee hours of the night with friends. More places should be open at night! I guess it's unusual that a new student is already associating with a sorority? I don't actually know. I'm a total dork, so my entire knowledge of how that works comes from a friend whose older brother was already in a frat, so he got involved in it right away. At least, it seems like a very Cordelia thing to do. Maybe she's got family ties, or friends who are Tri Deltas. Glad you're liking the story, and always thanks for feedback and QC. :)

synthwrr: Awe! Or awwwwwww? ^_^ Thanks for all the comments; I've gotten used to seeing that surprised 'Oh noes! You caught me reading lesbian erotica' face after each of my chapters. I noticed you've got a story, too. I'll have to check that out when I've got a lull.

p.s. come onnnnn page 2!

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Last edited by jasmydae on Sun Nov 16, 2008 11:32 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 5
PostPosted: Sat Sep 13, 2008 8:46 am 
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***
PART 5
***

“Okay, check off ‘Criminology.’ What’s next?” Buffy dumped a heavy textbook into the red plastic carrier she was toting around.

“Classics,” Willow replied, matching her schedule up against a list of required books. “Ooh, Mythology of Ancient World Civilizations.” She held the paper up so that her friend could see it.

Doing her best to decipher the maze of colored lines and boxes that covered the page, Buffy finally found the entry for the class. “What’s orange, again?”

“Huh?” Willow, half-listening, pulled her nose out of the graph theory book. “Oh, orange means you and I both have the class. See?” She pointed at three roughly drawn stick figures at the bottom of the page. A short blue boy with vertical hair was holding hands with a slightly taller red girl, who was holding a laptop. The detail that had gone into the computer put both figures to shame. On the other side of the girl was another, drawn in yellow and holding…something.

Buffy squinted. “Am I walking a dog?” she asked, puzzled.

“What? No,” Willow frowned, “that’s a field hockey stick.”

“Oh, of course. Uh, sorry, I must be looking at it from a weird angle.”

Willow gave her friend a doubtful look, before continuing her explanation. “Anyway, we’re the primary colors—well, the traditional primary colors, anyway—which just happen to match our hair colors. See? I’m red, you’re yellow, and Oz is blue. His hair used to be blue, in any case. But, orange? That’s red and yellow.”

“And purple is red and blue, so you and Oz?”

“You got it!” Willow nodded emphatically.

Buffy looked at the schedule with new understanding. There was only the one orange class, but she noticed that there were nearly twice as many red boxes as there were yellow or blue ones. “What color would it be if all three of us had the same class?” she pondered aloud.

Willow gave this some thought. “Well, technically, I guess it should be white. But in practice it would probably be, um—“ She considered the mixture. “—kind of ugly.”

As the girls reached the next aisle, Buffy announced, “Here we are. CLAS: your one-stop shopping haven for all course materials both dry and sleep inducing, yet with surprising staying power.” She sighed melodramatically. “Whatever would we do without core requirements?”

“I think it sounds neat,” Willow countered. “Just think, we’ll get to learn about the artifacts and beliefs of civilizations that existed hundreds, even thousands of years before ours.”

Buffy shook her head. “Boring and stuffy; you can count on it. I mean, just check out the professor.” She scrolled down the list. “Here. Professor R…Giles? Are you serious? That sounds like…like some kind of butler in an old movie.” Buffy feigned a British accent, “Right this way, then. Jolly good. Might I interest you in some tea and crumpets? All right, then. Cheerio.”

Willow tried to maintain a look of haughty disapproval, but burst out laughing at the blonde’s terrible accent. “He’s supposed to be very good,” she managed between giggles. “I looked him up on ratemyprofessors.com. He had five of five for overall quality and helpfulness, and four of five for clarity and, uh…well, hotness.”

“Hotness? We have a hot professor?” Buffy’s interest had been piqued, and Willow suddenly found herself with her friend’s undivided attention. “The Internet can tell you these things? Why didn’t you tell me this when we were picking my classes?”

“A critical oversight on my part,” Willow deadpanned. “Ah! Here we go,” she said, pulling two volumes off of the shelf and handing one to her friend.

Buffy gave the book a cursory glance, then stuffed it into her tote. “Great! Can we eat, yet?”

~*~

Tara hid in the walk-in freezer. Her feet hurt; while there hadn’t been the mad rush of the last several days, a steady stream of business had kept her on her feet all morning, and by noon her lack of sleep was catching up to her. Despite her earlier declaration that she would do her best to be friendly and personable, and possibly to make some friends, her determination had faltered when her first customer had snapped at her for not putting toothpicks through her sandwich, a service clearly shown in the picture on the menu.

With a rush of air, the freezer door opened and Richard stepped inside. At first, he looked right past her, and instead grabbed a package of sausage patties, but then his eyes doubled back. “Hey, kiddo. You okay?”

“Yeah,” Tara nodded, “just a—a little overheated. S-sorry, I’ll be right out.”

Richard nodded. “Two at table five are new,” he mentioned, then left quickly, too busy to spare another moment. Tara smoothed her apron with her hands, and followed him out. She weaved around the cooks, lifted a pair of menus from the station and tucked them under her arm, then grabbed two glasses and a water pitcher before heading to the restaurant’s floor. When she saw who the new arrivals were, Tara’s stomach did an unexpected loop-de-loop. ‘It’s Willow!’ she thought, suddenly fully awake. ‘Oh my goodness, she’s at my table. Tara, don’t you dare stutter! And watch your hands; there must be no fidgeting or tipping over of water glasses.’ With each step toward the redhead and her friend, Tara’s mind lobbed a new volley of demands to the rest of her body. ‘Try to hold eye contact. Lean down when you’re talking; it’s less awkward when you’re at the same eye level. Oh, and remember to smile!’ Too quickly, she was at their table.

“Welcome to Plato’s,” she said, passing them each a menu and filling their glasses. “How are y-you doing, this afternoon?” she asked, internally cringing when she very nearly fumbled mid-sentence.

Buffy nodded a brief, “good,” and Willow beamed at the waitress in recognition. “Hey!” she piped. “I’m well, thanks. It’s Tara, right?”

“Y-yes,” Tara replied, while looking down at her nametag to hide the color that crept into her cheeks. Finding the pin missing, she confusedly scanned the floor between the table and the back counter. “Well, I was. I—I mean, I am, yes, but my, um, my tag has wandered off.”

“Oh, well I’m sure it’s here somewhere.” Willow leaned back in the cushioned booth to check under the table, and when that didn’t produce results, she actually ducked underneath entirely, to check whether it could have skittered under the seat. Tara began to protest when she saw the girl easing to the floor, but by the time she found her voice Willow was already on her hands and knees, peering under the bench.

Buffy chose this moment to enter the conversation. “So, was this the Tara from your dream?” Her question was answered with a walloping thump as Willow started and slammed her head into the table’s underside, shifting the carefully laid-out silverware all askew. Tara crouched down next to her, offering a hand, which Willow took, crawling out with a pained expression on her face and her other hand holding the top of her head. She helped the dazed girl back into her seat.

“Are you—are you okay?” Tara asked, reluctantly releasing her hand. “You didn’t have to do that; really, I’m sure it’ll turn up somewhere. Please, don’t w-worry about it.”

“This place is kind of accident prone, isn’t it?” Buffy observed, once she was sure Willow wasn’t hurt badly.

“I’m really s-sorry,” Tara replied, her attention firmly centered on Willow. “Can I bring you anything? An ice pack, or a compress?”

“No, thanks, I’ll live. Hard head and all,” Willow quipped, checking her fingers and, finding them free of blood, returning them to the quickly forming lump atop her head. “On second thought,” she added, as embarrassment sank in, “do you have a dark hole or anything I could crawl into?”

Tara said the first thing that leapt into her mind. “N-no, but we have r-really good lemonade.” Immediately, she chastised herself for blurting out something so stupid. But her words weren’t met with the blank stares she feared—well, one of them, maybe. Willow, however, was looking at Tara with wonder, her head tilted slightly, and laughter starting to dance at the edges of her lips.

Buffy, oblivious, chimed in, “I’d take an iced tea, actually.” Tara scribbled it down in shorthand on her pad, never taking her eyes off of the redhead.

“Lemonade sounds just about perfect,” Willow said, her eyes still sparkling with mirth. Tara smiled and left to retrieve the drinks, giving the girls a minute to pore over their menus. Willow watched her depart, then turned, chuckling, to her friend. She sensed from Buffy’s inquiring expression that she had missed the joke. “Lemonade? ’Cause life, with the throwing of lemons?” she mimicked a throwing motion. “And the lemonade?” Buffy just blinked. “It was very funny,” Willow muttered, her shoulders slumping in defeat.

In the kitchen, Tara let out a slow, calming breath. ‘She knew my name!’ she thought, ‘I didn’t even have my nametag on, but Willow knew my name!’

“Going behind,” Faith said, her voice strained from the heavy bucket of tomato sauce she was lugging. Tara flattened against the counter and barely kept the drink she was holding from sloshing over the side of the cup. “Oh, and T, if you guys keep dousing and giving concussions to your customers, they’ll probably stop giving you their business.” With a grunt, she hefted the sauce up onto the counter and, for the first time that day, considered Tara’s appearance. “What’s got you all dolled up?”

“Oh, uh, I—I don’t know. Is it—I mean, I thought, maybe—“

Faith raised her hand to silence the blonde, snickering. “Easy, T. You don’t need a reason to look nice. Just don’t normally see you with makeup, is all; it looks good.”

“Th-thanks. It felt—you know, like a good change of pace, I guess.”

“Heh. Grind of the diner already gettin’ to you, huh?”

“Oh, n-no, work’s not bad.” Tara filled a second glass with iced tea while she spoke. “It’s, well, we just moved here, into an apartment that doesn’t feel like home, and I haven’t really met anybody, yet. You know, m-made any friends?”

“Hell, I can introduce you to tons of people!” Faith stated, swirling a long handled spoon through the tomato sauce. She poured half of it into a casserole pan over a thick layer of sliced eggplant, and wrinkled her nose at the pungent aroma of the concoction. “There’s a party over on Frat Row next weekend, in fact. You, me, big ol’ party: problem solved!”

“At—at a fraternity?” Tara gawked.

Faith smirked. “Yeah, it turns out these brotherly bands of social servants occasionally kick back and host a ragin’ kegger.”

“I don’t think that would be a good—I’m sure I couldn’t—I probably have stuff—“

Tara was cut short by Faith’s hand on her shoulder. “Relax, T. What could possibly go wrong?”

At table five, Buffy tapped a text message into her cell phone, while Willow sat captivated by two paintings, which were hanging on the diner’s walls. She’d noticed them the previous day, but with the constant chatter of the group lunch, she hadn’t really paid them much attention. The sunlight flooding the room lit the woman’s portrait beautifully, and the painting was so carefully rendered that Willow was certain its subject must have been real. Willow found her lovely despite the streaks of dirt that marred her face, and the casual half-smile that curled her lips filled Willow with comfortable warmth she couldn’t quite explain away.

It was the other painting, however, upon which she fixed her gaze. It was a simple lily, its colors muted, yet the work exuded such waves of sadness that Willow’s heart ached in her chest. The dissonance troubled her; her logical brain registered only a washed-out flower, but her body’s response was anguish. When she swallowed, it stuck in her throat, and her distress grew gradually until she had to tear her eyes away.

“I’d like to get a painting, for my dorm room,” she said, suddenly.

Buffy glanced up from her phone. “A painting of what?”

“I’m not sure. Something comforting; something that reminds me of home.”

“Willow, you hate your home. You spent all summer telling me how happy you were that you were getting away from your home.”

“Oh, not my house home. I mean more like my—“ she paused, and her eyebrows knotted as she realized she wasn’t certain what she was trying to say. “—my, uh, my constant. You know, something familiar, which you can look at and feel like you’re—like you’re home. But it doesn’t have to be the actual place. More like a—a symbol, I guess.”

“Huh. Where would you get paintings?” Buffy wondered aloud. “Is there a gallery on campus? Or, can you get them on the Internet?”

“Probably both,” Willow guessed, “although I’m not sure that any of the ones at school would be for sale; they’re probably just student exhibits. I guess I could check the website.”

“Why don’t you just ask the manager where they got those ones?” Buffy asked, nodding toward the nearer of the two paintings. “And speaking of where to get things, I have absolutely no idea where to even start looking for something for Dawn’s birthday.”

“I know! Me, too,” Willow admitted. “I guess she’s gotten too old for any more Care Bears stuff, and at the rate she’s growing, I hesitate to get her clothes of any kind—“

“One lemonade,” Tara said, approaching the table with two drinks in hand. She placed the first in front of Willow, and slid the other across to Buffy. “And one iced tea. Would you all like to order any appetizers?”

Buffy nodded. “Yeah, could we get one of the chicken quesadillas? And I’d like a—“

“Oh!” Willow blurted out, waving her hands excitedly. “I know!” She swiveled in her seat to face Tara. “Do you know any stores around here that sell, uh, New Age-y stuff? You know, tarot cards, dreamcatchers, incense, comfort stones, those kind of things?"

“I—N-no, sorry,” Tara stammered. “I, um, just moved here, actually. A week ago.”

“Me, too,” Willow shared. “Buffy and I both. Well, not moved, exactly. More like temporarily boarded. We’re students. Or will be, as of Monday. I’m so excited!”

“She really is,” Buffy concurred, amusement in her voice.

“Oh, I’m Willow, by the way.”

“I remember,” Tara replied, “f-from the note you left, yesterday.” Her mind screamed, ‘Tell her it’s a pretty name. Tell her!’ “It’s a pretty, uh, nice name.”

Buffy chimed in, “Short for—“

“—don’t you dare,” Willow interrupted.

“Oh, but sorry, what were you ordering?” Tara asked the blonde, who was holding her hands up defensively at Willow’s dangerous glare.

“I’ll have a BLT. No pickles, please,” Buffy said, handing the waitress her menu.

“Spanikopita for me, please. And, um, a chocolate milkshake.”

“Ooh, put me down for one of those, too,” Buffy added.

Tara jotted down their order and tucked both menus under her arm. “Okay, wonderful. I’ll bring the appetizer and shakes right out in a moment.” She gave the two girls a dazzling smile and headed for the kitchen, but she was kicking herself mentally. ‘You dummy. She was being nice, talkative. She even asked you for help, and all you could do was stutter and be entirely unhelpful.’

“So was she the one in your dream?” Buffy asked her friend a second time, once the waitress had left.

“Tara? Yeah,” Willow thought back to her dream, automatically zooming to her memory of the blonde girl approaching her with a thick, cotton towel to dry off her hair and, well, the rest of her. While recounting the dream to Buffy, she’d neglected to include one significant detail: when the waitress had wrapped her in the cozy, blue towel, Willow hadn’t been wearing a stitch of clothing. And, for whatever reason, Willow hadn’t been embarrassed by the way Tara had folded the cloth around her, and tenderly dabbed at each drop of water that had spattered her skin.

“That’s kind of freaky, though. Oz drowning?”

“I think the tadpoles got him,” Willow shuddered.

“Speaking of Oz drowning, is he joining us at that pool thing tonight?”

“Pool thing?”

“Yeah, there aren’t fliers all over your dorm? The quad is doing some kind of ‘Welcome to UM’ kind of thing at the pool, with ice cream, I guess. You’re totally going, right? You’ve got to come with me.”

“Of course I’ll go,” Willow assured her friend. “I don’t think Oz will, though; he said something about holding auditions for a new lead singer for Dingoes, tonight.”

“Hm. I guess Devon going to school in California does kind of make that a necessity, huh?”

“He’s really taking the band thing seriously,” Willow said. “He’s been talking about it all summer—gigs at the Java Grande and the Perk, practice sessions at this studio they set up in Greg’s basement. He says they want to make a real go at it.”

“You sound less than thrilled.”

“It’s just—well, he’s hardly said a word about his classes. I have a feeling that academic pursuits are going to be taking a back seat to the band, and—“ Willow hesitated.

“—and you wonder what else might?” Buffy guessed.

“I guess so. I mean, I want to be all supportive and happy for him, a-and I am, but, well, in school I saw him every day. He made himself so scarce over the summer; if it wasn’t for Terrible Movie Nights, I might not have seen him at all! I—I miss him, Buffy.”

“But now you’re in school together, again, right? On-campus boyfriend, Will; there’s nothing to worry about. Actually, I should pick one of those up. Maybe we should ask about that store…”

Balancing a small tray, Tara eased up to the table and situated two serving napkins next to the girls’ place settings, then carefully set a massive chocolate milkshake upon each one. Willow cleared room in the middle of the table for the quesadilla and its accompanying bowls of salsa and sour cream.

“Oh, man, that looks good,” Buffy drooled, digging in while their waitress was still at the table.

“I, um, I asked some of the others about the New Age gift shop,” Tara informed Willow, who was swirling a wide drinking straw through her shake, “a-and they said there’s a little store up Route One toward DC, just before East/West Highway. It’s called the Magic Box, I think, or maybe Uncle Bob’s Magic Cabinet; there was some disagreement over the name. B-but it should have the kind of things you were looking for.”

“Thanks so much,” Willow smiled. “That sounds perfect!”

“Yeah, it sounded r-really neat, I thought. There was a place like that back home, called Down to Earth. I could spend hours there,” Tara remembered wistfully.

“I thought it would be a good place to look for look for a present for Buffy’s little sister. Although, I guess not so much with the little, anymore.”

“She’s like a bean sprout,” Buffy agreed.

“Was she here, yesterday?” Tara asked, recalling the tall youth that had accompanied the girls the previous day—the one whom had laughed gleefully at Buffy’s dousing.

“Right! I guess you would have seen her.”

“That was your sister? I—I wouldn’t have guessed,” Tara clamped her hand over her mouth, realizing a moment too late that her statement might be inappropriate. Buffy however, lit up as though the waitress had paid her the deepest compliment.

Willow noticed Tara’s hesitation, and reached a hand out to reassure her. “Buffy told me she used to say the same thing,” she shared. “When Dawnie was bothering her, she’d tell her that she wasn’t really her sister; she said that a group of monks dropped her on the doorstep when she was a baby, and their mom didn’t have the heart to turn her away.” Willow gave Buffy a look of mock reproval. “Which was awful, by the way.”

Tara, however, only heard half of what Willow was saying. The majority of her brainpower was devoted solely to the touch of the redhead’s fingers, which were brushing her skin just north of her wrist. When Buffy shrugged good-naturedly at Willow’s admonishment, the conversation settled, and the girl still hadn’t retracted her hand, Tara felt her cheeks getting hot. She inched back, out of range, and stammered, “I’ll, uh, b-be right b-back with your meals.”

“She seems kind of flustered,” Buffy observed when the waitress disappeared into the kitchen.

Willow didn’t deny this. “She’s sweet,” she added. “That was nice, to follow up on the store like that. It does sound like the perfect place, though, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah, Dawn could get lost in those kind of stores. We’d have to keep an eye on her whenever we went into one, or else we’d never see her again.”

Willow smirked, sipping her milkshake.

Buffy gave her words careful consideration. “Which, actually, you know—“

“—Buffy!”

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Last edited by jasmydae on Mon Dec 01, 2008 10:06 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants (Contemporary AU) Updated: Sep 13, 2008
PostPosted: Sat Sep 13, 2008 9:46 am 
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jasmydae wrote:
Paint the Sky: I meant to mention...I *love* the avatar. That's one mean-looking penguin.


He just looks mean, underneath he's a real softie - lol.

I'm claiming dibs, unless someone else nips in while i'm feedbacking

Things are progressing very nicely. I like the emphasis on Oz and his committment to the band. It's a nice set-up for where he and Willow will eventually drift apart leaving the lovely Tara to offer comfort and kisses.

Willow and Buffy are just so good together, I love their interaction, and that little nod to dawn's origins was just excellent. It fitted in so well without pulling us in the 'Buffyverse'. The timetable, with the colours and the stick people, was just another example of capturing Willow's quirkiness.

I love fic's that build up slowly and pull me in to liking the characters, independant of the upcoming romance, and, this is certainly one of them.

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Last edited by Paint the Sky on Mon Jul 16, 2012 8:23 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants (Contemporary AU) Updated: Sep 13, 2008
PostPosted: Sat Sep 13, 2008 11:27 am 
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Yay for great update-y goodness... Yay for Tara to follow on Willow's and Buffy's question about the store... I hope Willow asks Tara about the paintings in the walls and Tara tells that they are her paintings...

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 Post subject: Re: Constants (Contemporary AU) Updated: Sep 13, 2008
PostPosted: Sat Sep 13, 2008 11:56 pm 
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Hello :)

I really liked Cordelia's answer in the previous chapter!

And the interaction between Willow and Tara was really nice, now I just hope Willow and Oz will just let go of each other pretty fast and that Willow will find the truth in herself... I love her dream by the way, very Willow-y and totally clear for us who know what Tara is for her. :)

Thanks.

Friendly

Julia.

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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 5 Feedback
PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 10:08 pm 
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Paint the Sky: Yeah, so I've been working like crazy, which means not a lot of time in front of my computer, but it's actually been nice because I'm using the Metro ride to plan out a lot of scenes in advance, which makes the writing so much easier. I think I know what I'm doing with Willow/Oz, now. As you've no doubt figured out, I'm planning for this to be an awfully long story, which means there'll be a good bit of set up. But fear not! Tara-and-Willow-y goodness awaits! I do like throwing in bits and pieces of the Buffyverse into a contemporary settings. Thanks always for feedback. It's...kind of amazing how much of a difference it makes.

Zampsa1975: Yay for great feedback-y goodness... Your wish is my command! Okay, well, maybe Willow doesn't ask Tara about the paintings, but the subject does come up. Read on!

JujuDeRoussie: Hello! ^_^ Yeah, I guess Cordy's not so bad in this one, huh? It's been a while since I've seen her in her high school glory days (I've been watching Angel, so she's quite different by that point). I can't say at this point how quickly the Oz situation is going to go through flux, but at least I have a plan, now, which feels so much better than...uh...not having a plan, I guess. Thanks for the feedback, always. <3 you guys.

Next up, Constants part 6: the longest bit, yet. (and now I'm back to the writing board!) Feedback = Love.

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