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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 22 Feedback
PostPosted: Sun Mar 22, 2009 9:54 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Joined: Mon Aug 18, 2008 7:44 am
Posts: 425
Location: USA, citizen of Kitopia
Sadie: Congrats on the dibs. ^_^ And, of course, I'm always excited about feedback. So there's some shady dealings going on at Greg's, that's for sure. We'll see Willow's reaction beginning the next chapter, and all will be clear.

I've enjoyed writing Giles, even though I don't feel I've got his voice down, well. But it's a nice change of pace, to write an adult every once in a while; as my own college years grow further distant, it gets more difficult to get into the head of college-aged students.

I'm not sure whether Tara and Faith will live together at any point in this story. Certainly the offer is there, but I've got other plans for them both in the immediate future. They *do* make good roomies.

As for the smooches...stick with me. They're coming. Promise. ^_^

[hr]
JujuDeRoussie: "What the Smurf?" Ha! I like that phrase. Yeah, "pussywillow" seemed to me like a crude, Greg-ish thing to say. I imagine him using it to tease Oz about his girlfriend. Oz probably hates it. Chapter twenty-three *will* be posted tonight, even if it kills me--and it might! I've never cut this close to deadline, before. This is going to be a long, long day.

I've wondered for a while how a Willow/Giles/Tara scene would play out, seeing as how they all know each other individually with very different relationships between each pair. I think that, since they both consider Tara a peer, that the forced teacher/student dynamic between Willow and Giles would soften. But then, Willow is such an enthusiastic student...so I'm not sure. That dialog took a long time to write, and I ended up reading way too much about ancient Egyptian mythology for one single paragraph of this story...

As mentioned, the Tara/Faith rooming isn't an immediate plan, but potentially a long-term option. It's not why I introduced Faith's money issues, though--just an unintended side effect. :p

Thanks! Seeing my name on Buffy-related images is giddifying. And if that's not a word, well...well...uh, I'll pick a different one, I guess.

Those short cut-aways--like Andrew chasing Faith across the party after Willow and Tara decide she's probably eating him alive--are usually last-second add-ins to the story. I think of them happening in the same way that JD's thoughts cut away very briefly in an episode of Scrubs.

[hr]
Nue: Hm, interesting. They have classes for that, specifically, or just film in general? And thanks! I was pretty happy with that chapter. Here's to hoping the next will be worthwhile, as well.

[hr]
Tara the Phoenix: Originally, that quote added "crashed, and sank into the harbor." It got removed. ^_~ Yeah, Willow and Oz are done, soon. No worries. In Willow's head, it was already heading in that direction, before the confrontation at Greg's.

The bit about the wall was from my own thoughts, but ... er, I probably shouldn't say. Never know who reads these things. :p

Willow gets it, I think. I mean, she knows something is Not Right, and that something Needs to Change. She just keeps finding reasons to put it off--such as not talking with Oz because he's sick, or not talking with Xander about Tara because Xander's got family stuff on the mind. Finding Oz at Greg's should be the final push she needs.

[hr]
MelCar19: Hi hi hi! It really has been great hanging out in Kitten Chat (note to other Kittens: stop in! say hi!) I'm pretty sure I'm going to even the score, update-wise, tonight...unless you've been hiding a lot of writing up your sleeve, you devious critter, you. Andrew gets some more screen time, although I'm not sure how much in this chapter (which tells you how much I've written, and it's almost 2pm already...cutting this one too close!)

[hr]
Zampsa1975: Yeah, how 'bout that? They're getting a little bit bolder with the flirting. See comments above for the Faith/Tara living situation. And thanks, as always, for the message!

[hr]
ophelia11: Hah, yeah I know what you mean. When I feedback feedback, I just...type without a lot of thinking, so you get real stream-of-conscious here. Would that I could write the story this quickly! That would be *amazing*. I'd have a chapter done every day. Maybe I'll try a story from first-person at some point. Might be faster updates. We'll see. I miss Scary Movie Nights lots.

Andrew, to me, always seemed to adapt to whomever he was hanging around with. Put him next to a megalomaniac / psycho / jerkwad, and he did a lot of nasty, no-good things. Surround him with people trying to save the world from demon invasion, and he wants to do what he can to pitch in. So I figure...stick him in a college environment, and...well, he's a geeky but personable guy. He'd make some friends, and probably fit in quite well. And that's what you get here.

Hahaha. Gay porn. ^_^ I honestly did not consider that. And yeah, it's no longer a secret, I don't think: Oz and his bandmates are doing drugs. He's only "sick" from that.

[hr]
JustSkipIt: I do know what you mean about Willow/Tara > Willow/Oz. The comparison seems lacking when Willow/Oz is tarnished. I've mentioned in other feedbacks that the one thing I didn't map out in my story notes is the progression of Willow and Tara's relationship, so what happens between the two is made up as I go, and often surprising to me. I don't think, at this point, that either girl is at the point of doing the relationship by default / rebound thing. If anything, they might feel awkward about how things stand between them, with Oz so recently departed. Uh, not like...dead. But you know.

I'm glad you find something in the peripheral characters to care about. Some of their arcs are more woven into Willow's and Tara's than others, but I really wanted every BtVS character who appeared to have some important role in the overall story. Not sure if that'll actually happen (I've already backed out of a few, just because I realized there were too many threads to follow them all through to a conclusion).

[hr]
tacoda13: "Oh, YEAH."

[hr]
mixxie: Hiya. ^_^ Nice to see you here, as well as Kitten Chat. Trust me, any author you feedback for will be absolutely thrilled. I think the comments are the fuel to the creative fire behind many of the stories on this board.

[hr]
restlessminds: Awr. Thanks very much. It's always nice to know there is +1 reader.

[hr]
Mel and M-dog (again): Thank you both for pushing this post to a new page. OCHO!

*peace*

~ Megan

edit: WOO! 100,000 words!

_________________
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 Mar 22, 2009 10:24 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 23
PostPosted: Sun Mar 22, 2009 10:09 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Joined: Mon Aug 18, 2008 7:44 am
Posts: 425
Location: USA, citizen of Kitopia
***
PART 23
***

“Willow.”

Her brisk, determined steps through the overgrown grass did not slow.

“Will, c’mon. Hold up!”

She stepped over a toppled basketball hoop, and began her march down the driveway.

“Would you hang on a sec?” Oz’s voice snapped. “Why are you even here? I told you I was sick—”

Willow spun. “Sick?!” The word oozed bitterness. Her cheeks were flushed, and her mouth remained open as her chin quavered. “What? A cold? How convenient,” she spat, her voice catching on the last syllable.

Oz stepped forward, his hands raised to placate his girlfriend. “Will, I don’t know what—”

“I’m not stupid, Oz!” The force of her rebuttal halted his advance. She continued, “What was it? Are you—are you high right now?”

Oz frowned, trying once more. “What? I—” Mid-sentence, he looked into Willow’s accusing glare. In her eyes, he saw it, albeit masked by the hurtful expression: Willow’s resolve face. His shoulders sank, and he sighed, “No, I’m not.”

“What was it?” she repeated. “What did you take?” Why she needed this particular tidbit of information Willow wasn’t sure. Morbid curiosity, perhaps.

Long seconds passed before Oz quietly admitted, “E.”

Willow absorbed this and nodded, as though internally reaching some conclusion. She swapped the bag she carried to the other hand, pivoted slowly, and resumed her retreat toward the road.

Oz trotted after her. “Will, it wasn’t—we just sat around in a room, played some music—”

“It’s dangerous,” the redhead remarked, not even sparing him a glance.

They were on the road, now. Oz, being barefoot, stepped cautiously around pieces of glass from a shattered bottle. “Okay, yeah, so it was probably pretty stupid,” he pleaded, “but nothing happened.”

“That’s not the point!” Willow’s outright anger shouldered seething aside and took the reins. Oz drew up short as she turned. Backpedaling, he stepped on a sharp pebble and hopped on the other foot, wincing. “How many times have you lied?” Willow yelled. “How many times have you blown off class? What about your commitments?”

“What, you mean the PanUM thing? It wasn’t like—”

Me, Oz!” Willow bellowed. Tears saturated with frustration began to trickle from her eyes. Her voice lowered. “I’m talking about me.”

Oz was not immune to a crying girlfriend; his hand automatically reached out to rest upon Willow’s arm. “Come on, Will. It was just a stupid thing with the guys. You’re overreacting.”

Willow blinked at him, beads of moisture transferring from one set of lashes to the other. “Am I?” she asked quietly. “I’m trying, Oz. I’m trying really hard to see this as something other than you lying to me—you choosing to do drugs with your band mates, backing out of plans with me, and lying to me. Can you make it look like something else?” Her eyes were pleading. “Can you?”

The musician shifted his weight uncomfortably, then back again when it put too much pressure on his still-smarting foot. He couldn’t think of anything to say to that. Willow stepped backward, easing away from him. His fingers slipped from her shoulder, falling to his side. She was going to walk away, he knew. He had to say something. “Why did you come here?” he asked, although he knew it didn’t matter.

“I came to take care of you.” Willow looked down at the bag, and held it out to him. “Here.”

Oz accepted the offering, and when the girl began to walk away, he tried one last entreaty. “Will…”

“No, Oz.” She shook her head. “I’m sorry. I have more important people to take care of, right now.”

~*~

“You have reached the voice mailbox of…Elizabeth Summers…If you would like to leave a recorded message, please begin speaking after the tone…BEEP.”

“Hey, Buffy. It’s me. Uh, so listen…um…some stuff happened this morning with Oz. I don’t really have time to get into it right now, what with this being a recording and all, but I—uh, I just wanted you to know I’m heading home for a bit. I’m not sure if I’ll be back tonight or really early tomorrow—you know, before class. So either way, don’t freak if you get back to the dorm room late and find me missing. So…yeah. Oh, and check the answering machine, too; Xander left a message last night about his uncle. I’ll definitely try to see him while I’m up there, to make sure he’s okay. Um, right, so if you get this, and if it’s not too late, can you give me a call back? Otherwise…well, I guess I’ll see you at some crazy hour before class. Uh…bye.”


~*~

Part of Tara’s mind continued to replay Willow’s departure long after the girl had left the diner. When it had arrived, Willow had bolted her meal quickly. Gathering her jacket and the carry-out soup, she had breezed by Tara on her way out. After a moment of awkward hesitation—was a customer hugging an employee at their place of work unprofessional?—the redhead had simply reached out to touch Tara’s arm briefly. She smiled, and Tara found herself reflexively grinning back.

“So I’ll see you around?” Tara asked, to which Willow nodded.

“Uh huh. I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll be getting a craving for Greek food a lot more often than I have in the past. But, uh, you’ve got my phone number, too, right? So you can call any time you want, you know. Then we can get together and…do whatever. There are always things going on around the campus.”

Tara agreed. “Sure. Yeah, I could do that—oh, do you have mine?” A look of confusion crossed Willow’s face, so she clarified, “I know I don’t have a cell phone, but…I mean, there’s the land line at the apartment. At m-my apartment.”

Willow furrowed her brow and opened her mouth to say something—
‘What did she want to ask?’ Tara wondered—then seemed to reconsider. Finally, she said, “Yeah, I do have it.”

Tara jotted some digits down on her order pad and passed the slip of paper to the other girl. “Here’s Faith’s too, in case—you know, if I’m there.”

Handling the note as if it were the most precious artifact in the world, Willow tucked it securely into an empty slot in her keychain wallet. After one more round of goodbyes, she pushed open the restaurant’s door and headed outside into the early morning.


It was now half an hour later, yet still Tara kept stealing glances at the door, in hopes that she would catch sight of Willow’s fiery red hair appearing in the entryway. This fact didn’t surprise her; ever since she met Willow, Tara had had been doing a lot of thinking about her new friend, and she had reached several conclusions, the first of which being that she would undoubtedly spend every Willowless moment hoping for the girl to suddenly appear.

There was another idea upon which her thoughts converged: that she almost certainly was gay. This was not a particularly striking revelation for Tara; instead, it confirmed a nagging suspicion she had been carrying for years. She had found, when the notion took hold—and take hold it did, the very moment Willow’s lips had brushed up against her own, when the girl’s arms had circled her and drawn Tara into her lap—that it did not frighten her. More than anything, she had felt relieved. Not only did the pieces fit—her utter lack of interest in the boys at school, her tendency to mentally swap the sex of the hero in books she read, her occasional off-color musing while swimming with Hannah—but the picture they formed depicted something more liberating than she had initially feared. For years, she had worried that she was broken, stunted by her father’s treatment, and that all men would forever bear his face. But now, she was certain. It wasn’t a fear of men: it was a desire for women.

‘A woman,’ she corrected herself, her gaze lingering at the door one second longer. ‘Willow…’

~*~

Releasing a pent-up sigh, Willow closed her cell phone with her thumb. Buffy’s number went to voice mail, and of course neither of her parents were at the house. How natural that they’d both be gone; the fact that other humans often habited their homes during weekends had little bearing on the whims of the Rosenbergs. She briefly considered calling Mrs. Summers, before realizing that she would be arriving at the street in a few minutes, and that it would be just as easy to check Xander’s house first.

She shoved the phone back into her pocket and commenced staring out the taxi’s window. The yards whipped by on the other side of the glass. ‘Huh,’ she thought, ‘I’ve only been gone a month, and my neighborhood is already starting to feel like somebody else’s home.’ Her fingers fidgeted with the metal loops on her keychain, and without any real conscious thought, withdrew the folded slip of paper with Faith’s number. ‘Tara gave me her number. Well, somebody else’s number, I suppose. But still.’ Figuring it would be a good idea to save the number in her phone, she reached into her pocket once again.

The phone vibrated loudly the moment her fingers touched it, startling her. In its recoil, her elbow smacked the taxi door sharply, causing the cabbie to give her a dark glance in the rear view mirror. Shamefaced, the girl tugged out her phone. ‘Tara?’ she hoped. ‘No, it’s probably Buffy.’ A quick check of the display revealed the actual caller: Ozzy Osbourne. She had thought the entry was clever at the time; now, it aggravated her. ‘Oz…’ Frowning, she pressed the button that would send the call through to voicemail.

~*~

“So, can I get you anything else?” Tara asked the professor. She’d finally managed to pull herself away from the entryway, once she remembered she had actual, tangible customers to help.

Mr. Giles held up a plastic stand that sat upon the table. “One of these would be divine, thank you,” he said. A card in the stand showed several desserts in a mouthwatering display. The man’s finger rested underneath a picture of a sinful chocolate fudge brownie, topped with ice cream, chopped walnuts, and drizzled raspberry sauce.

“Oh my goodness,” Tara practically drooled, “doesn’t that look delicious? I think that every time I see that picture, which is—you know, quite a few times per day.”

“You’ve sampled it?”

The waitress shook her head. “Not yet, actually. I keep meaning to, but every time I remember it’s on the menu, I’m already too stuffed to even attempt it.”

“Couldn’t you sneak one in, now?” Mr. Giles asked.

The image that flashed through Tara’s mind, that of a tiny Rupert Giles perched upon her shoulder, wearing a red suit—Tweed, of course—and wielding a pitchfork, left her unsure whether to laugh or be very frightened. ‘Why did I give him a goatee?’ she asked herself. Shaking the thought away, Tara replied, “Um, it’s probably not a good idea, while I’m on shift.”

“Well, know that I’ll feel some measure of guilt,” the professor offered, “indulging my sweet tooth while you have to miss out.”

Tara chuckled. “I promise I’ll look the other way.”

~*~

“Here we go,” the cabbie announced, as he pulled the taxi over to the side of the road and eased on the break. “Seventeen twenty Ollever Drive.” He swung open his door and stepped out onto the street, stretching his legs, then walked around to help Willow out of the vehicle.

“Thanks,” she said. “What’s the fare?”

The driver peered through the window at the meter. “Fifty two and a quarter.”

After a quick mental calculation, Willow withdrew a trio of twenties from her wallet and passed them to the man. “Here you go. Please keep the change.”

“Thank you very much,” he cordially replied. “And here you go. In case you need a ride back, there’s the number for my dispatcher. Just give a call if you need anything.” He presented Willow with an embossed business card, which she accepted and pocketed.

As the driver returned to his seat and pulled away from the curb, Willow turned toward the house. “Good thing I stopped at an ATM,” she breathed, unsure whether the cabbie would have been able to accept payment by credit card. The fact that she had remembered to do so felt significant to her. Part of her wondered at the presence of thought she had shown in preparing for the trip; after walking away from Greg’s, she had wanted to let anger and despair take over—to have it cloud her mind and numb her capacity for responsible action. It would have been easy enough to do. Hadn’t her boyfriend of nearly two years been blowing her off for god knows how long in favor of smoking up and popping pills with his band mates? Didn’t she have every right to want to throw a tantrum, then curl up into a ball in bed and sleep until tomorrow? And yet, once Oz was out of sight, she found herself viewing the whole affair with a cool detachment. Maybe it hadn’t yet had time to sink in—maybe her system was still processing the events. ‘Maybe,’ she thought, ‘I’ve got other people to think about.’ Her brain automatically filled in, ‘Like Xander,’ but her heart cried a different name.

~*~

Tara slid the dish with the brownie sundae onto the table with a flourish. “Tada!”

Mr. Giles slowly rotated the plate in order to admire the dessert from many different angles. He nodded, clearly impressed, but when he spoke, it was on a different topic. “Before I forget,” he began, “Miss Rosenberg had mentioned to me some time ago that that artwork there is your own?” He used his spoon to point out first one painting, then the other.

Despite knowing her paintings were the only objects in the diner that could be considered artwork, Tara nonetheless traced the line of the utensil to the frames hanging on the wall. “Y-yes, that’s right.”

“Tara, they’re fantastic. I’m very impressed.” His gaze traveled from the paintings back to the waitress’ face. “You’ve never taken classes?”

“Well, sure, I—I mean, the normal art class in high school.”

The professor scooped up a luscious spoonful of brownie, yet didn’t bring it to his mouth. “You’ve got quite a talent,” he stated.

Tara continued to look at the paintings, and her expression transformed into one of longing. “They’re pretty old. I mean I—I haven’t really painted anything since…well, it’s been about four years, I think.”

“You lost interest?” Mr. Giles asked, lowering the uneaten bite back to the plate.

The corner of Tara’s mouth twitched as she studied the images. “I don’t know. It’s—it’s not that I don’t want to. When I try I just…” she trailed off and closed her eyes. When they opened, she focused on the professor, instead. “It’s like I can’t think of anything. When I painted those ones it was like…” A part of Tara was startled to realize she was about to share this part of herself with an adult. “It was personal. I could—I could see exactly what the painting was supposed to look like, even when it was just a blank canvas stretched over a frame. All I had to do was fill in what I already knew was there, if that makes any sense.” While she spoke, Tara busied herself gathering glasses and plates from an adjacent table onto her tray. “Now a blank canvas is just a blank canvas.”

Mr. Giles nodded understandingly and turned his attention back to one of the paintings, a well-lit portrait on the near wall. “Is it a self-portrait?”

Tara answered without looking. “Hm? Oh, n-no. My mother. Uh, in her garden.”

“I see. You look remarkably similar to your mother, then.”

Tara froze.

‘Please, Helen…just a quick one. You don’t know how lonely it is…’

A crash of shattering glass tore into the vacuum of sound surrounding her, and all at once the world lurched into motion, and background noises filtered through her senses—whispers from the diners, who pointed at the waitress and giggled amongst themselves; the rush of steady traffic from the road outside, scraping silverware against dishes, a sink running somewhere in the kitchen. Mr. Giles was standing, looking concerned. Tara blinked, staring down at the glass which had slipped from her fingers. It was ruined, existing now as five large pieces and dozens of tiny ones. A puddle of water spread outward from the shards, carrying with it several nearly-melted ice cubes. One spun lazily as it inched across the floor.

“Tara? Hey. Tara Maclay.” Fingers snapped before her eyes, breaking her trance. She jolted, staring wide-eyed at Andrew, who had approached from behind. “You okay?” he asked.

“I dropped a glass,” she said unnecessarily. “Um, t-towels.” She practically fled toward the kitchen.

Andrew watched her disappear, then, with a placating smile for the nearby customers, he knelt to clean up the larger bits of glass, cradling them in his apron.

~*~

“Will!”

Before she could respond, Willow found herself wrapped in a bear hug. This one was particularly bear-like, in fact, due to the week of growth on Xander’s face. His whiskers prickled her neck, and she squirmed from his grasp as tactfully as she could. “Hey, Xander.” she greeted.

A goofy grin remained plastered on his face. “So what’s a thriving academic such as yourself doing round these parts?” he asked.

Willow’s only answer was an amused expression and a question of her own. “How are you holding up?”

“Peachy. Got the house to myself for a few hours, since the folks—both of whom, might I point out, are completely insane—decided to spend the afternoon at the hospital. And I can’t even begin to tell you how happy that makes me.” Xander stood aside. “But come in, come in. Make yourself at home.” He followed Willow when she entered, and grabbed an open bag of pretzels as he passed by the couch. “How’s school? How’s life? Tell me everything, Will.”

Willow shrugged off her jacket and hung it up at the foot of the banister. “Hey, now. I came all the way out here for you,” she insisted. “This is supposed to be Xander-time.”

“No, no, no. If that’s true, then trust me: there is nothing I’d rather do than listen to you. You have no idea how starved I’ve been for anything resembling…well, I hesitate to say normality. Come on, I’m sure you’ve got tales of college hijinks.” Now in the kitchen, Xander rooted through the fridge and pulled out two cans of grape soda. He tossed one to Willow, who bobbled it once before securing it. She peered at the top skeptically, then placed the can on the counter.

“You don’t want to talk about Uncle Rory?” she asked.

The young man shook his head with certainty. “That’s all anyone has been talking about. I need a break, Will. Tell me something…you know, something good.” Popping the top of his soda, Xander brought it quickly to his lips, sucking up the fizz that bubbled out of the hole. He sank down into one of the chairs surrounding the kitchen table, and pushed the opposing seat out with his foot.

“Well, good, hm?” Willow sat daintily, pushing the Sunday comics away and drumming her fingertips on the tabletop. “Oh, well, our team took second place at the PanUM games, yesterday. Buffy’s and mine. That was pretty neat. And I did it! Athletics! Not that I was really any good, but I was part of a team, and—and—and hey! I know enough people to field a team. Well, half of a team anyway; I guess there were a few people I didn’t know that well.”

“You see?” Xander commented. “There you go. You can’t help but love the Willster. I knew you wouldn’t have any problems making friends on campus.” He thumped his chest to clear a bubble of carbonation. “And Buffy? What’s this I hear about a tall, dark, and handsome?”

“Riley’s not really that dark…”

“Ah ha! So he does have a name. I was starting to wonder. Buff’s been all with the tight lips about the new beau. What’s your take on him?” Xander asked eagerly. “Any incriminating evidence?”

“Ummm, I don’t really think I can answer that. I mean, they’ve been dating a week, and I’ve only seen him a couple times. They spend most of their time together…elsewhere. At the fraternity, I suppose, or else around campus somewhere.”

“The fraternity?”

‘Uh oh,’ thought Willow, ‘I walked right into that one.’ She never understood exactly why Xander felt the need to frown upon every potential partner any of his friends had. Perhaps it was bitterness due to his long-standing record of being single; misery loves company, after all. Or maybe he worried that when his friends began dating, they’d take off and leave him behind. At first, Willow thought it was just Buffy; for a brief period when they’d met, Xander had coveted the girl, and had pestered Willow endlessly for inside information on their new friend. When Buffy had turned a blind eye to his advances, then spun around and dated Liam, Xander had swallowed a sour pill. But it turned out it wasn’t only the blonde’s romantic life that made Xander’s jealous streak apparent; he had reacted similarly when Oz had made his affections known to Willow. Ultimately, they had ended up on friendlier terms, but there had been several weeks where Willow had been forced to bite her tongue every time Xander had made a snide remark about the musician.

“What do you mean, the fraternity? Is Buffy dating a frat-boy? Riley of Betta Tappa Kegga?”

‘Ugh. There it is.’ She sighed. “You know, I don’t really—you should ask her, if it’s questions about Riley. He seems pretty nice, and Buffy says he’s a gentleman. That’s all I know.”

“Well, you know what they say. It’s always the nice ones, right?” Xander looked for Willow to agree with him, but she merely shrugged noncommittally.

‘I’m not even sure what that means,’ she thought to herself.

“Well, speaking of gentlemen with my favorite ladies, what’s the news with Oz? Last time we talked you didn’t exactly make it sound like the best of times.”

She had seen the question coming from far away. Groaning, Willow laid her head in her hands on the tabletop. “That,” she answered, “is a long story.”

~*~

The setting sun had long since dropped below the tops of the campus buildings, and the sky was growing darker with each passing minute. Tara’s heavy bag swung awkwardly against her legs as she crossed the parking lot of her apartment complex. She shifted the strap that dug uncomfortably into her neck, making her feel all the more like a criminal about to be hanged. She peered up at the windows, uncertain which was her own. ‘Maybe I’ll hang something pretty out one of the windows,’ she thought. ‘Assuming I live through the night.’ She had been dreading this moment, and had been letting it simmer for hours. When her shift had ended at four o’clock, Tara had hurried over to Faith’s to pack up her things. The she sat on the sofa for over two hours, drowning in her own anxiety. ‘The longer you wait, the worse it will get.’ She had finally driven this point deep enough into her brain to spur her body into action.

Never had a building been so dreadfully unwelcoming. ‘Breathe in.’ She took a tentative step forward. ‘Breathe out.’ Another. ‘Pull here.’ Tara opened the building door and inched into the stairwell, tugging her bag through as the door tried to pinch it. She eyed the stairs. ‘Now up to the gallows.’ Interesting. She hadn’t realized the building could generate stairs overnight; there seemed to be twice as many as she remembered.

She stared at the apartment door, wondering whether she should knock or simply let herself in. Imagining the heart-pounding moments that would surely follow knocking, she shuddered. ‘No, best to get it over with.’ First, she tested the handle for heat. Then, she turned it and shuffled inside.

The scene was nothing out of the ordinary for an evening. Donald Maclay, Sr. and son occupied two chairs at the dining room table. They were sharing a pizza, which was still in the box in the middle of the table. Both men looked up when Tara entered. Donny’s eyed widened, and immediately shot to his father. Mr. Maclay blinked once, expressionless, then returned his attention to the meal. “Donny, would you please pass the parmesan?” he asked.

~*~

It had taken the better part of the day for Willow to spill everything to Xander. She had been reluctant to get started on the topic of Oz, but Xander had pulled out all the stops—begging and pleading, playing the “poor Xander was left behind while his friends gallivant at college” and “best friends can tell each other anything” cards masterfully at precisely the right moments, and even at times resorting to bribery. Many puppy-dog eyes, deep, heartfelt sighs, and one gleeful Snoopy Dance later, Willow had finally started at the beginning. The conversation happened in bits and pieces; at one point, they’d even taken a break to watch a movie together. When Xander’s parents returned home from the hospital, the two of them had decided to continue their talk outside, put on their jackets, and gone for a walk.

“Wow, I don’t know what to say,” Xander admitted as they circled the unimpressive playground at the end of the street for the fifth time. “That…really sucks, Will.”

“It wasn’t the best pampering ever, no,” Willow agreed.

“So…what do you think would have happened if he hadn’t…you know, if you didn’t end up walking into…uh, that?”

“You mean with the soup?” Willow asked, confused.

“I mean the whole thing. The Talk. The way he’d been acting.”

“Well, I probably wouldn’t have gone into it, if he was really sick. I told myself I’d mention needing to talk with him about something, but—you know, when he was feeling better.”

“So, you would have chickened out?”

Willow narrowed her eyes. “We chickens prefer, ‘choosing the right moment.’”

“Mm. I hear what you’re saying, Will, but…well, from what you told me, that’s not the kind of thing you should be waiting for a window of opportunity to bring up, you know? You were unhappy, he was being a shitty boyfriend—” At the shocked looked from Willow, Xander raised his hands. “Hey, I’m sorry, but he was. Putting you last in things is not going to win him any awards in my book. It was upsetting you, and stuff like that you can’t just sit on. It’ll rot the whole thing from the inside out. You’ve got to deliver that ultimatum, right? Shape up or ship out.”

Willow stared blankly at her friend.

“Yeah, I know, the guy who’s never had a girlfriend dishing out relationship advice. Well, I’ve listened to enough people griping about theirs to be able to piece together what works and what doesn’t. Plus those magazines in all the bathrooms at Buffy’s house have some pretty good articles.”

He didn’t even get a smile for the joke. Willow was lost in thought, and after several moments, she said, “Xander, I…” A full ten seconds passed while she found the second half of her sentence. Xander waited. “…the way Oz was acting…I mean, before this morning…” Willow seemed frustrated with the difficulty she was having with the thought, so they slowed their pace near a set of swings and took a seat next to each other. “The reason I needed to talk with Oz wasn’t just because of Oz.”

“Okay,” Xander said.

“It was…it was my own stuff, too.” Willow rocked backward in her seat, her legs much too long to get a real swing going.

“What kind of stuff?”

Again, Willow’s answer was slow in coming. “I don’t think I’m in love with him.”

Xander considered this. “You thought that this morning?”

Willow shook her head. “Before that.”

“Well, when did you first realize it?”

Willow stilled her swing and stared up the empty street. She took a deep breath. “When I met this girl, and felt more strongly toward her than I did toward Oz.”

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 08th)
PostPosted: Sun Mar 22, 2009 10:10 pm 
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Dibs! (Why do you think I stayed up this late?)

First of all, why won't you do macarena? That makes me really sad :( I wanted to see that...

Anyway....

*Screams like a school girl* Tara went back home, oh no! I'd hate to see what happens to her. She needs to just grab Donny and run out of there, but I don't think that is how this story will go.

And Willow, poor Willow. I felt like giving her a hug, Oz is a poop head! (Excuse my immaturity) Lying to Willow like that... But good for Willow on finally saying it out loud..... now if only she can say it to a certain blond, and no I'm not talking Buffy.

Thanks for the update Megan, keep 'em coming! (looks like you beat me too)

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 23rd)
PostPosted: Sun Mar 22, 2009 11:12 pm 
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Yay for great update-y goodness... Good that Willow finally found out what was "bothering" Oz and dumped him and extra big yay for her figuring out that it's Tara who she loves... I have a nagging fear that something terrible is going to happen to Tara now that she returned to Papa's domain...

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 23rd)
PostPosted: Mon Mar 23, 2009 12:22 am 
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Yay!!!!!!!! GREAT UPDATE!!!!!!!! Need more updates soon please.

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 Post subject: Nice!
PostPosted: Mon Mar 23, 2009 4:54 am 
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Very nice Megan! I'm not even complaining that there was barely any interaction between Willow and Tara in this update. It's very rare that a story is bigger than it's two leading ladies, and that's exactly what you've managed to create here. I like that the story's moving in the right direction, and at a good pace at that!

The way you write, well, it's easy for me to picture the story in my head, which I enjoy tremendously. I know you work hard on your updates, which is why I'm not going to throw a tantrum and demand one immediately. I will be keeping my eye out for the next chapter though ;)

Cheers!


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 23rd)
PostPosted: Mon Mar 23, 2009 8:31 am 
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Yay, a Sunday update as promised! :)

Wow, talk about a cliff hanger! Great update, but now I'm desperate for some resolution. How much longer til Tara decides to leave for good? I can't imagine anything happening with Willow before she addresses what a bastard her father is.


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 23rd)
PostPosted: Mon Mar 23, 2009 5:34 pm 
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Hi Megan,

Firstly, congrats on the 100,000 words. I'm not sure if you know that the average novel is 75,000 words in length, so you're doing great! Thanks for the update; finally some answers to the Oz questions. I felt that Willow's reaction was completely in character, both with Oz himself and later with Xander. When you hit the last sentence, I really wanted more!

I am continuing to love the interaction between Giles and Tara. It was very clever of you to write in another of Tara's bad father-memories there in the diner; amping the suspense to the inevitable return home. All of us are afraid for her there, so I'm hoping that she won't keep herself in a bad situation for long. We do things for family that aren't always the best things to do, but measuring consequences in family setting is always tough. The ripples can go farther than we can imagine.

As always, I'm looking forward to more. Thanks for sharing.

Jen


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 23rd)
PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2009 8:31 am 
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no macarena? that´s sucks... :party

oh, I do a bunch of weird classes, like photography, cast director, writing, editing.. I hope I become a good director some day, a girl can dream, right?


and my ex-fiancee had a real bad drug problem few years ago.. I always thought she was really stupid and had sadistic, idiotic friends who 'help' her in this lame addiction... But then I realize: no one can tell you what to do... I´m kinda angry at Oz right now ¬¬

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 23rd)
PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2009 8:51 am 
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Simply great. I really like the way you're weaving all of the different threads in this story. There's a lot going on but you're managing to hold the reader's attention regardless of who's in the scene.

The writing is very tight and it's a sign of just how good it is that one never feels in the least disappointed by minimal W/T interaction.

Was so pleased about Willow's admission in the last line as well. I hate hate hate the thought of Tara being second best but that line clears that up.
I've always felt that Oz wolfing out in NMR devalued Willow's choice to an extent.

Anyway, as ever, thanks for writing, can't wait for more.

Cheers
restlessminds


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 23rd)
PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2009 8:47 pm 
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Great update. Willow just needs to realize that Oz is no good for her. Happy to see that she is going to tell Xander how she feels about Tara. I also hope that Tara does end up leaving her house to move in with Faith.
Keep updating.


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 23rd)
PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2009 9:18 pm 
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Just wanted to say that I’ve just caught up with this entire fic and it is awesome! I love the interaction you have created between all the different characters.

Once again awesome story and I hope to be reading more soon.


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 23rd)
PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 4:10 pm 
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Wow >$50 for a cab home? Ok, I guess she was upset and needed to get over there. I've always figured they just walked nearly everywhere including from the college to their houses, etc. But ok. I love the interactions with Xander. He's supportive and you can just feel the closeness and sympathy between the two friends. I love Willow's confession at the end.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 23rd)
PostPosted: Sat Mar 28, 2009 2:48 am 
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Awww, I like the Xander chat. He's written so Xander-like, which I like :D (that's a lot of Xander + like lol!) ;) Also like how Willow's direct/honest with him about Tara -- at least, seems that way. She's not putting everything on Oz.

I actually got nervous reading the bit about Tara going home... brr... For some reason I assumed Tara already knew she was gay, I probably missed something :$

Anyway, always love seeing updates so looking forward to the next one!! :D

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 23rd)
PostPosted: Sat Mar 28, 2009 12:31 pm 
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Oops. Haven't feedbacked before now.

What the Smurf.... I love it too! I love Smurf people. All blue. I love blue.

Now let's talk about this update.

I don't know. I want more. That's all I know. You're a meanie to let us hang on this last sentence. Meanie Meanie! I take back my cookies! ;-)

I'm happy Willow went to see Xander. Not even because it meas she can talk about Tara, but also because I love the relationship Xander/Willow when he's not being an ass... :)

As for Tara... Meanie to let us hang there.

I can't wait for more. I need more. Please?

Pretty please?

Okay you win... *gives you back the plate of cookies*

There?

Julia :)

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 23rd)
PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 6:31 pm 
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Hey there!

I've been very behind lately in pretty much everything not directly related to work. Bah to work I say.

Anyway...on to the feedback. This chapter certainly is building to many a climax. So much activity happening around town. I'm not sorry that Oz and Willow's relationship met it's inevitable end (after all...it was inevitable). The way it happened was unfortunate. In a way Oz has betrayed her for some time and that realization was a heartbreaking slap in the face.

Can't blame her for the trip home. I think Xander needed to see her as much as she needed him. He often ends up the confidant for the women in his life and he seems to carry the responsibility well. Glad Willow didn't chicken out telling him the truth leading up to her confrontation with Oz.

On to Tara...Once again, I enjoy the relationship you've built between Giles and Tara. It's unique and fitting, both of them wise and knowledgeable and they compliment each other well. They both come across quite in tune to others yet they view their own pain and needs as burdens. Tara's starting to open up to Willow. I hope Giles finds someone to share his load as well.

I really, REALLY don't like Mr. Maclay. (Perhaps at this point I am ranting, because I've surely mentioned this dislike before) :) I hated him for Tara's reaction in the diner and the injustices he's inflicted upon her in the past for her to have such a visceral response. Still, it was his cold indifference at her return that had me just wanting to slap the crap out of him.

Looking forward to the next installment.


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 23rd)
PostPosted: Wed Apr 15, 2009 5:54 am 
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Tara's dad gives me the wiggins : (
but pretty story, more please? :)

Read the whole (I mean from chapter one) last week.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 23rd)
PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 7:54 am 
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*slinks in furtively, hoping everyone will just assume I've been here all along*

Okay, so, wow, a lot's happened. Willow and Tara are closer than ever, but they've each got their individual demons to battle. Willow and Oz's break-up had been coming for a long time, but it still hurt - what gets me most, actually, is the bit earlier on, when Willow's waking up, and she has one of her patent babble/panic attacks about how she's being a bad girlfriend. That she, of all people, would genuinely worry to herself about that, when Oz was absolutely neglecting her - technically that, at least, isn't Oz's doing, but it makes it worse in a way. If he'd only been around to see the kind of person she is...

I like how you write Xander - a good friend, but more complex than just a generic 'good friend' guest character, such as in his blind spot about Buffy and anyone she's interested in. It makes his presence seem a lot more real than if he just appeared in the story to dispense quippy-yet-wise advice to Willow - like all sorts of elements of this story, it really feels like everyone has their own lives that they're living, whether or not the plot details them or not.

I'm really worried about Tara. On the positive side, she's got a friend in Faith, and has confided in her - if not completely, at least to the point where she knows that if she absolutely has to, she can go to Faith. Hopefully Faith's own financial troubles won't shake that faith (pardon the pun) that Tara has - Tara's considerate of others to a fault quite a lot. And there's Giles as well. But of course, there's her father, which... ick. He really scares me - not because he's scary, in the menacing sense, but more because I get the sense that he's really not acknowledging what he's done. That disconnect between reality and what he chooses to acknowledge is what frightens me, because for him to be able to put that out of his mind - well, who knows what could happen next? The workings of his mind are a complete unknown, and thus a completely unpredictable danger, and it's impossible to tell what effect Tara's absence may have had on him. Even if he seems normal now, in five minutes or the next day or the next week, there's just no way to tell. Quite apart from all the harm he's done to Tara - and that moment when she froze up at Giles saying she looked like her mother was horrible, that realisation of what her father's done to her, not just physically but in terms of making her similarity to her mother, that she should treasure, a thing of dread - he seems to be destroying himself on the inside too. Who can tell how much rationality's left in him, or what lines he might not cross? Very scary.

I'm worried about Donnie too - his relationship with Tara always seemed to brittle, and even though Tara needed to get away, I'm worried that he'll feel abandoned.

And of course, yay for Faith continuing to roleplay - her hanging around with Andrew (whether it's going the way Andrew wants or not) has quickly become my favourite bizarre you'd-never-guess-it friendship/relationship.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated Mar 23rd)
PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2009 9:05 am 
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Hey, Kittens!

I took some time off for realworldy things, and now I've lost my Internet connection for a few days (posting this from a wireless connection), but I promise I'm working on the next chapter, and you'll get an update to Constants really soon.

[hr]
MelCar19: Congrats on the dibs. Sorry for disappearing from the chat room this last month. Hope it's still in use. Sooo...yeah, Tara's back home. Which makes this chapter less fun to write. Oz's head has been rather poopful, hasn't it? I think I've failed at making his character...uh...not a complete loser, which is sad 'cause it wasn't what I had set out to do.

Now, speaking of updates--I can't help but notice that I'm opening up a lead here. ^_~
[hr]
Zampsa1975: I guess Willow hasn't technically dumped Oz, although it does seem to be heading in that direction.
[hr]
tacoda13: Hah! Thanks. ^_^v I'm glad you liked it; these last few haven't been...uh...there's a word I'm looking for, here. I haven't felt as excited about the recent chapters like I did about previous ones. They'll get more interesting, I hope, as Willow and Tara spend more time together.
[hr]
Shai: Yeah, it's kinda sad how little time the girls have had together compared to the total word count of the story. The good news is that, with Oz fading from the picture and our girls becoming closer, I expect shared screen time will be more regular in future chapters. Willow's in Baltimore for this next one, but her return should mark a new book and a...well, a more determined Willow.
[hr]
mixxie: That one was close--*really* close. Almost missed a deadline. Speaking of which, I'm setting one for this weekend. Chapter 24 will be posted no later than Sunday, come rain or shine.
[hr]
Tara the Phoenix: Thanks! Now I've got my sights set on 150k. That'd be like...two novels (did I math that right?)

Giles is a funny case. In my original notes, he was written more to be connected with Buffy, and the role that he's filling now was going to be Richard, Tara's new boss. But Buffy's part got a lot smaller (I *love* writing Willow/Buffy interaction, but wasn't terribly interested in her character outside of that), so Giles got the nod to be Tara's "Oh my goodness, adults can be something other than complete a$$holes" proof.
[hr]
Nue: Trust me, I'm doing you all a favor. Those classes sound pretty cool. I've always been fascinated by casting; I think that would be the most interesting part of, uh, movie planning.

Sorry about Oz. It's tough writing a boyfriend into a gay love kind of story...I loved early Oz on the show (he was one of my favorite characters), and I've always been curious how it would have gone had Seth Green seen the show through to the end. (Of course, I'm thrilled that we got Tara!).

In fics where Willow and Oz start out together, it's rough to generate reasons for their parting, and in this case I feel like I had to break from Oz's character quite a bit. The end result is something I feel is too artificial and forced. Lesson learned. I don't think my next story will include Oz at all.
[hr]
restlessminds: Firstly, thank you so much both for the thread feedback and the wonderful letter. It really made my week. I'll reply to each in its own location, so check that mailbox. ^_^

Constants started out as a list of names, all characters from the show, with a story arc or two sketched next to each name. These have changed (and some have been scrapped entirely) over time, because I began to realize, somewhere in the chapters numbered in the early teens, how monstrous a story it could turn into, if I continued with every planned arc. But it's important to me that the ones I've kept remain interesting to the readers, because at the end of the day this story is for you guys.

There has been/is a lot of setup work to get both Willow and Tara on screen at the same time, and even in this next chapter they're apart...I keep saying, "stick with it, it's coming, I promise." And it is, but...like you said, there's a lot going on, so it's difficult to skip over large blocks of time. From the moment they arrived at college, I think the largest span of time that's been jumped between scenes has been a day and a half.

I spent a long time thinking about how the developing relationship between our girls would conflict with the strain of Willow's failing one with Oz. Luckily, this is the kind of thing Willow considers, as well. The next chapter contains extended conversation between Willow and Xander, and I think (I hope) it will go a long ways toward showing Tara is not merely a replacement for Oz, in Willow's view.
[hr]
love_2003: I think Willow finally got the memo. ^_~ I'm still not sure whether Tara and Faith end up as permanent roomies. It wasn't in my notes, but the way they landed together...it did kind of work. I'd be interested to see where that goes. Donny complicates things.
[hr]
SmileyCC: Welcome! I'm always thrilled to hear from new readers. That's a lot of catching up; I'm sorry for keeping you waiting so long for the next installment.
[hr]
JustSkipIt: It does seem terribly expensive, doesn't it? The campus is in College Park, and Willow et al. live in Baltimore. I've never taken a cab that far, but I found a few websites and plugged in two addresses, and averaged the results. It's very likely there's other public transportation that would have been cheaper, or that the rates for taxis wouldn't really be that high. It's not been specified in the fic, but I always assumed that Willow (this Willow) had money...kind of a way for her parents to feel like they're not being awful parents. But yeah, they're not walking distance from home (a fact that Xander rues).
[hr]
sadie: Glad you like it. ^_^ I worry that Xander might be one of my weakest characters. Not in terms of story, but in terms of voice...I have a hard time writing in his voice, mostly because he and I have *drastically* different personalities. The good news: Willow and Xander continue their talk in the next chapter. The bad news: It means that Willow and Tara aren't making sweet, sweet love. :p

Whether Tara had a solid grasp on her own sexuality hadn't been addressed in the story. I think (unless I'm forgetting something) that this was the first instance. But it's not like she was in the dark about it, or anything--as written, she wasn't really surprised by the fact that she had feelings for Willow. It was more relief than shock.
[hr]
JujuDeRoussie: Cookies! No! Wait! Come back! I'll provide resolution to terrible cliffhangers! They're in the next chapter! Aw. *pines for her lost cookies*

I'm with you on the Willow/Xander relationship. Other than Tara, the thing I love the most about Buffy is the bond between these two as shown during the first couple seasons. The cut to / cut away scenes that show us snippets of their conversations reveal a timeless, innocent relationship that I've lost with all of my childhood friends.

Quote:
*gives you back the plate of cookies*
OMNOMNOMNOM...
[hr]
ophelia11:
Quote:
I've been very behind lately in pretty much everything not directly related to work.
I feel your pain. This chapter is taking longer to write than any two previous ones combined. Too many offline time sinks are hitting in quick succession: I'm moving to a new apartment, had my father visit last week, saw two of my best friends get married...and now my Internet's gone haywire. So yeah, it's nice to be getting back to writing.

See above for funny note about Giles and Tara. Richard was originally Tara's Giles, and Buffy was originally Giles' Tara. But to condense the story, I decided instead to pair them up, and cut back on both Richard's and Buffy's screen time. Luckily, I found an unexpected bond, there. I really do like the way these two characters work together. We get to see the mature/adult side of Tara, and we get to see the fatherly and intellectual aspects of Giles in a more personal setting than the classroom. (Also, I don't like writing classroom scenes, because it means I have to make up material that would be taught...)

Quote:
just wanting to slap the crap out of him
This wording made me laugh. I was very uncomfortable writing his character at first, but it's gotten easier, and that kind of scares me. It's not a voice I want to identify with at all.
[hr]
Dorothy:
Quote:
Read the whole (I mean from chapter one) last week
Wow, that's a lot of reading. I'm glad you've joined us. ^_^ Sorry for keeping you waiting like a month for the next chapter!
[hr]
Artemis: Chris, you get a serious "get out of jail free" card on feedback. ^_~ First of all, when you write me, it's always fantastic (which reminds me...I have had an email for you sitting in my "Drafts" folder for like two months...), and secondly I've come to realize how much work goes into updating / maintaining a fic website. Oh. My. Goodness. Tons of respect. ^_^b

Oz in this story is fundamentally different than Oz on the television series, and that fact really irks me as a writer, because one of my goals when I set out to write this story was to avoid demonizing Oz, and at this I feel that I've failed miserably. You're right: this Oz doesn't seem to understand or appreciate Willow's value, which is something that separated Oz from the rest of the high school student body on Buffy. "Who *is* that girl?"

The reason Xander is written the way he is in my story is because of how I felt about his character on the show. For all that I *loved* the Willow/Xander bond, his character really annoyed me throughout the first few seasons. It was tolerable because he had scenes that I enjoyed as well, and once Anya showed up, I started to enjoy his screen time immensely. But his possessive streak toward Buffy and Willow really got to me (in all likelihood because it highlighted something in myself I am not proud of...) So I decided to keep that. :p But the concept for this Xander was primarily based on the early season 4 episodes, post-graduation, when he makes plans to drive across the country, and doesn't follow through, then proceeds to just...wallow a bit. I've got a friend who always springs to mind when I think of that Xander, and he was great character fodder. ^_~

I'm glad you get the feeling that Mr. Maclay had a forced break from ... something. Yeah, reality? It's important that the audience can see something in the character that is...well, not redeeming, but at least an indication that he's not willfully cruel or malicious. I don't think Tara's father wants to be, or enjoys being, a demon, and while the things he does are not excusable, Tara wants desperately to find something in the man worth forgiving. She has known a Donald Maclay that the audience has never seen.

Quote:
my favourite bizarre you'd-never-guess-it friendship/relationship
This was worth quoting. ^_^ I aim to please!
[hr]
Love all you guys! Not to worry: another chapter is coming!

~ Megan

_________________
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 May 03, 2009 8:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 24
PostPosted: Sun May 03, 2009 6:29 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Joined: Mon Aug 18, 2008 7:44 am
Posts: 425
Location: USA, citizen of Kitopia
***
PART 24
***

To Willow, it felt like a full minute had passed, yet Xander was silent. He had on what Willow referred to as his Poker face, an expressionless façade that masked the grinding gears of his thoughts; never had she wished more fervently for the power to read minds! At last, Xander’s head swiveled away from her, and he stared at the playground. His mouth opened once, stilled, then snapped shut again, lips twisting at the hesitation. ‘Oh, crud. I broke him,’ Willow chastised herself. ‘Okay, come on. Help him out. Say something to break the silence. Uh…’ She took a breath. “So—”

Xander picked that exact moment to speak, which was just as well, since Willow hadn’t had the faintest idea where her sentence was heading. “Can you…I just want to be absolutely clear, here. You met a…who did you meet?”

“Her name is Tara.”

Her oldest friend nodded. “Okay. So…you’re comparing her—uh, Tara—to…to Oz. In the area of feeling strongly.”

“And she’s winning,” Willow confirmed.

“It sounded like…I mean, just from what you’ve been saying every time we talk...”

Each time he trailed off, Willow could see a flicker of—‘what? Worry?’—cross Xander’s face. Usually, he didn’t have trouble with words; Willow knew the only reason for stalled sentences was nerves. ‘He’s scared that he’ll say something that’ll make me mad…This won’t do.’ She stood. “Okay, hang on. Time out.” Willow scanned the edge of the playground. “Do you remember ‘Secrets?’”

“Huh? Which secret?”

Willow shook her head. “No, ‘Secrets.’ The game. Remember? We used to—”

“Right.” Xander chuckled nervously. “With the magic geode stone?”

“Exactly.” She found what she was looking for: a rock roughly the size of a golf ball. “Here we go.” She retrieved the stone and wiped it clean on her already stained shirt. Passing it to her friend, she explained, “Now you can say whatever you want—whatever you’re really thinking—and the magic stone will prevent anything bad from happening.”

Xander eyed the chunk of rock dubiously. “Uh, you know, Will…they have special places for people like you,” he teased. He didn’t, Willow noticed, get rid of the stone. This was good, since she fully planned on using it during her own revelations, which, admittedly, no longer seemed so tightly bound. In a way, dealing with Xander’s nervousness was making her own more manageable. “Where were we?” Xander asked, while Willow returned to her swing.

She thought a moment. “It sounded like something, every time we talked.”

“Mm. Right.” The young man juggled the stone from one hand to the other as he spoke. “So every time we’ve talked over this last month or so, you’ve…well, you’ve griped about Oz a lot. And I’m with you on that. But I guess I’m thinking…it kind of sounds like Oz is losing, instead of the other way around, you know?”

“Losing?”

“Let’s back up a step,” Xander suggested. “This girl—”

“Tara.”

“Tara. This Tara. How are you…I mean, we’re comparing feelings…but Oz is your boyfriend. And Tara is…you know what I mean? It’s different…scales, or something. How exactly are we comparing the two?”

Willow searched thoroughly for a clear explanation. “Well, first of all—uh, whether Oz is my boyfriend is kind of up in the air, after this morning,” she began. “And Tara….I guess I, um…well, I like her.”

“And we’re not talking the ‘hey, new friend, we click’ type of liking, I take it?”

“Not just that, no. But that, too. Uh, can I…?” The redhead extended her hand expectantly, and Xander placed the stone into her palm. She liked the weight of it, and let her eyes fall to it as she asked, “You remember when Oz first started…you know, talking with me?”

“After computer class?”

“Yup. And we—you and I—talked about it at length over the next few weeks. About him liking me. And I knew. I could tell he wasn’t just being New Friend friendly.”

“You were terrified,” Xander remembered.

“Well, yeah,” Willow said defensively. “It’s not like I had a long line of people thinking romantic thoughts about me, you know? I didn’t know how I was supposed to act. But that’s not the point.”

Xander waited, listening.

Wedging the magic stone between her fingers, Willow continued. “It’s the same way with Tara. She likes me. I can tell. There are lots of little things.”

“Okay. I can get that.” He opted not to share the conflicting emotions that welled in him at the thought of another girl lusting after his best friend. At once, he felt both possessive and curious. “But…but what about your side of things? I mean, you’ve never mentioned, uh…well, you said feeling strongly. So…explain?”

“I have a crush on her. Or did, at first, and now maybe something else.”

“We’re still talking Oz-like feelings? Not to keep bringing him up while you two are, uh, struggling, but…you know, just so I know we’re on the same page, here.”

Willow squeezed the stone. “I—I want her.” She peeked at Xander, who was succeeding at showing nothing but concern. The corner of his mouth twitched. “It’s not the same, no. I mean, I doubt it will ever be exactly the same, given two different people, you know? And it’s not like I’m still the same person that I was when Oz first showed interest, either.”

“No, sure, that’s true,” Xander agreed. “I just wonder…uh…” He sighed and reached out, deftly removing the stone from Willow’s hands. “Do you think, maybe…that you like this new person because stuff with Oz is…not so good?”

“What? No! That’s not what I’m saying at all.” Willow looked miffed.

“Hey. Hey.” Xander held the rock between them defensively. “I’m just saying …the timing is there. And you said she likes you, so maybe, uh, you know…”

The redhead took a deep breath. “Okay. Sure, there is some part of me that is excited that somebody likes me, and that piques my interest. Curious, right? And maybe now…with Oz and all…it’s nice to meet somebody who does seem excited to be around me, since Oz most definitely does not. But it’s not like that’s the whole of why I like her, Xander. It couldn’t just be anybody; it’s her, specifically.”

“Mm.” Thin lines appeared on Xander’s brow. “So here’s where I state the obvious: she’s…well, she’s a she.”

Willow sighed and looked down at her lap. “You noticed that too, hm?”

“So.” Xander picked his words carefully. “You’re telling me that you like a girl.” When his friend didn’t deny this, he asked, “What does it mean?”

“It doesn’t mean any—well, I guess…I don’t know what it means. It means I like Tara. And it means that…that I’m not really at the point where I’m thinking about what else it means. Except that the not thinking about what thinking about a girl means doesn’t mean that I’m not thinking about…what thinking about Tara means. Do you know what I mean?”

Xander blinked confusedly and shook his head. “Will, I couldn’t have any less idea what you mean.”

She tried again. “I like Tara. I really like her.” Willow looked to Xander for confirmation that he understood the gravity of her words. He nodded, so she continued. “Right now, I’m trying to focus less on the ‘she’s a girl’ stuff, and more on the fact that…I don’t think—no, I’ve never been…well, attracted to somebody like this. I mean, when Oz first…when we met, and I realized he liked me, it was new and exciting and…okay, yes, kind of frightening at first. But I thought about sitting with him at lunch, and walking around school together, and talking on the phone in the evening…”

“You think about that stuff with Tara?” Xander guessed.

“I—I do, and that’s…that’s a whole ‘nother thing. But then my mind kind of turns a sharp corner, and—and then…and then all I can think about is kissing her again.” Her words came out in a torrent, and she suddenly realized she wasn’t holding the magic stone, any longer.

“Uh, I take that to mean that…there was kissing in—did I miss something earlier in the conversation?”

“We were at a party,” Willow explained. “Remember the party I went to? There were a bunch of people playing a game, and kissing, and we were supposed to kiss. Or, well, she was supposed to pick somebody to kiss, and she picked me, and then we kissed. And yes, I told Oz about the game,” she said hurriedly, cutting off Xander’s question. He nodded and let her continue. “It was…it was amazing, Xander. I can’t even describe it…it was…wow. And—and now I think about it all the time. Like…all the time.”

“So you spend nearly every waking moment thinking about kissing a girl,” Xander said with a smirk. “Now there’s something I can relate to. But seriously…wow, Will. That’s—this is a new conversation, for us. How are you doing?”

The redhead twisted side to side in her swing, causing the chains to creak and groan. “Okay, I guess. Confused. But giddy, too. A little overloaded, you know? I keep thinking my brain needs a vacation, but then every time I think that I just get this mental image of flopping into a hammock or something…and Tara’s always there.”

“That’s a pretty big thing, Will. I don’t know…I’m not sure what exactly I’m supposed to say here. Not in the bad silence way or anything. It sounds really good, you know…that you have somebody you can think about that with who, from what you’ve said, seems to like you back.” He shifted his weight on the swing to a more comfortable position. “I’d restate my concern about the overlap with the Oz situation, but I’m sure you’ve covered that pretty thoroughly in that brain of yours. What about—have you said anything to Buffy?”

Willow looked shamefaced. “Not yet,” she confessed. “I haven’t figured out how to, uh, best approach that, yet.”

“Oof,” Xander winced. “As much pride as I feel for being your go-to guy, here, I don’t think the Buff is going to like being passed over for the position.”

“Yeah,” Willow sighed miserably. “That’s a spiky pit of a conversation, and the bridge across it needs to be built just so.” She underlined her last word by reaching out an open palm, and Xander grinned as he dropped the stone into it. “Thank you, Xander.”

“For the rock?” he joked.

“For being so much easier to talk to.”

~*~

Donald Maclay, Sr. took another slice of pizza and coated it liberally with grated cheese and crushed red pepper flakes. While chewing a bite, he refilled his water glass from a pitcher. His casual grace made even more glaring the obvious discomfort of his children; Tara stood just inside the shelter of the doorway, having moved only to shift her bag to the other shoulder, and Donny sat ramrod straight in his chair. Tara’s chest began to tighten; it hurt when she swallowed.

“Tare. Hey!” Donny finally broke the silence. He pushed his chair away from the table to stand. “Have you had anything to eat? I could get you a—”

Sit!” his father snapped. The boy’s face paled and he quickly returned to his seat. Mr. Maclay brought a napkin from his lap to his mouth, dabbed at his lips, then carefully folded the material and placed it on the table beside his place. “Your sister can eat with the family,” he decreed, “when she decides to act like a member of it.” His voice was even and crystal clear despite the hushed tones he had shifted into. ‘Maybe it’s because nothing else on Earth is making any sound at the moment,’ Tara thought.

“Being a part of this family,” her father continued, “means doing her part to pitch in. To help support us. It doesn’t mean leaving a twelve-year-old child at home alone for hours every day.” Tara’s mind protested, ‘He’s thirteen!’ Donny stared at his plate. “It doesn’t mean staying out all night without permission, without even leaving an emergency contact number. It doesn’t mean shrugging off the household chores, leaving them for her father, who has been working all day to keep a roof over our heads, and her brother, who should be spending his time studying instead of cleaning the bathroom or folding laundry.”

Her father had always assumed Donny would have his shot at college, speaking of it with the same nonchalance that had dismissed Tara’s own academic future. ‘I can’t fault that,’ Tara figured. ‘His grades have always been better than mine; maybe he could get a scholarship.’

Tara froze, mid-thought, when her father’s eyes finally lifted to study her, beginning well south of her face. “It’s not enough that she expects me to support the family and look after both children.” At that, he locked gazes with his daughter. “Now I’m supposed to worry about one child, who’s left at home alone after school, and the other, who’s God knows where. I’m expected to make the meals, do the laundry, and keep the apartment from falling apart. And why must I do this, Donny?” With his eyes no longer paralyzing her, Tara could breathe again.

Donny’s face turned three shades paler when his father’s focus shifted. “Um, because she was gone?”

“Because this is my family,” Mr. Maclay said. “Because your sister would rather be off gallivanting with her new college friends than doing her part to help us.” He pushed away from the table and stood, taking his plate and glass with him. “Please excuse me; I’ve gone and lost my appetite.”

He carried his dishes into kitchen, and the children heard the faucet being run and the dishwasher being loaded. Moments later, the sound of ice tumbling into a glass was a prelude to the distinct creak of the liquor cabinet door.

‘This is going to be a long night,’ Tara realized, finally lowering her bag to the floor.

~*~

Twisting and tugging the swings to get them close enough to hug made for an awkward position, yet Willow and Xander managed. Willow’s head rested on his shoulder, and together they watched the lights in the yards lining the street flicker on, one by one, as the glow on the horizon dimmed. Xander continued idly stroking his fingers through the copper strands of her hair even as the neighborhood succumbed to night.

“So will I get to meet her?” he asked at length.

Willow blinked out of her comfortable daze. “Hm?”

“Your mystery woman.”

“Tara? She’s not a mystery.”

“She is to me, at the moment,” Xander pointed out. “When I come down with the Summers gang for Family Week or whatever it’s called, do you think she’ll be around?”

“Think who’ll be around?” a voice asked.

The two friends hadn’t been paying much attention to the jogger who was making a circuit of the playground, so her approach from the side caught them by surprise. Even more surprising was the jogger’s identity.

“Hey, Dawnie!” Willow exclaimed.

Seeing Buffy’s younger sister—it was hard for Willow to think of her as Buffy’s little sister anymore, since she now towered over the older girl—dressed in track pants and a long sleeved tee shirt felt like a jarring contrast; for the past few years, the teenager had been going through a fashion phase, suddenly caring which stores provided her wardrobe and which brands adorned her body. She had begun using the word ‘accessorize’ routinely. Willow had heard Mrs. Summers complain about how picky her youngest child had become, a choosiness exacerbated by her rapid growth, which necessitated frequent trips to the outlets.

A younger Dawn had looked up to Willow; while Buffy always had demanded her sister make herself scarce when friends came over, Willow and Xander made it a point to offer Dawn the attention she craved, so the teenager thought the world of them. But the shift in attitude that accompanied Dawn’s newfound sense of style altered the dynamic between her and Willow; suddenly, she had too many of her own concerns to care what her boring older sister and company were up to.

But now, standing with her hands on her hips and drawing deep, oxygen replenishing breaths, Dawn looked curious. “Who’s going to be around?” she repeated.

Xander leaned back in his swing, reclaiming his shoulder from Willow, and inclined his head away from her, clearly offering her the first chance to respond.

“Oh. Uh, just somebody at college. A friend of mine,” she explained.

The teen’s lips formed a small circle, and her hands became more animated. “Oh my god! Are you playing matchmaker?”

“Huh?”

Xander jumped in. “No, no. She’s not trying to find me a good college woman. Although, Will…”

Finally catching the girl’s meaning, Willow shook her head quickly. “Oh, uh uh. Nothing like that.”

“Mm. Well, it’s good to see you, anyway.” With arms outstretched, Dawn inched toward Willow, who stood and gave her a hug of greeting. “What’re you doing home on a—” She paused a second to do a quick mental check. “—yeah, on a Sunday evening? Don’t you have class tomorrow?”

Xander patted Willow’s back. “She’s just looking out for her bestest bud. Plus, you know how it goes: putting up with the rigors of academia for days on end—she must have missed this place something fierce.” His tone was teasing.

“Well, kind of,” Willow chuckled, playing along. “After all, there’s no place like home.” She directed her next question to Dawn. “What are you doing out here?”

The teen shrugged. “Just jogging.”

“Ah, yes,” Xander said. “Doing her part to fulfill of the Summers women’s long-standing life goals: making the Xand-man feel like a fat and lazy schlub. And what a fine job you’re doing, at that.”

“I joined the school’s track team,” Dawn clarified.

Willow perked up. “Dawnie, that’s terrific! It’s always a good idea to get involved with your school, one way or another, be it taking part in one of the sports teams or—or—well, supplemental instruction courses, for those of us without the coordination or the lung capacity.” She smiled wryly.

“Or cracking wise in the back of the classroom,” Xander added. “You know, wherever your talents happen to lie. Although, in this case I think the motivation is one part school spirit and nine parts Clint Sullivan, hurdler extraordinaire.”

At this, the teenager’s eyes flew to Willow’s friend. “Xander! You promised you wouldn’t tell!”

“I said I wouldn’t tell Buffy,” Xander pointed out.

“Who’s Clint Sullivan?” Willow asked.

“Nobody,” Dawn answered. Her face, already flushed from her run, darkened a shade.

“Well, that’s not what I hear,” Xander countered. “According to one anonymous source, our Mr. Sullivan has, and I quote, ‘Dawn drooling over him like a lovesick puppy.’”

The teenager balled her hands into fists. “Oh. My. God. Sarah is so going to get her butt kicked, tomorrow.” She shook her head and assumed a haughty expression. “Well, I was going to invite you guys over for dinner, if you hadn’t already eaten, but now I think I’ll just ask Willow.” At Xander’s crestfallen expression, she added, “I’m kidding, I’m kidding; you’re welcome to come, too.”

“Thank God. I don’t think I could handle another night of Chinese takeout. No, you don’t understand,” he insisted when Willow raised an eyebrow. “Dinner with the parental units as company is bad enough on its own, but if I have to eat even one more carton of pork fried rice, I’m going to pork fried puke.”

“Ugh, thanks for that visual,” Willow said, her nose scrunching up. She looked at Dawn. “You’re sure your mom won’t mind? Will there be enough for us, too?”

“Oh, don’t worry about that. I’m cooking.”

Willow’s stomach turned over fitfully. “Oh. Uh. Great. Thanks, Dawnie. Have I got time to swing by my house, first? I should check in, there.” She mentally added, ‘—and maybe get some Pepto-Bismol.’

“Sure thing. Maybe like one hour?” Dawn included Xander in the question.

They both nodded, and Xander asked, “Um, what’s on the menu?”

Dawn stood proudly. “I call it Stroganoff Surprise!”

~*~

While sitting Indian-style on her bed, Tara drew another card off the top of the deck and examined it. A pair of coneflower blossoms topped a thin stem in the foreground of the picture. Behind this, a woman in a simple white dress, her hair caught by a breeze, dipped her right foot into a shallow pool of water. She carried another of the flowers; its purple bloom matched the sash at her waist. In the distance, verdant mountains rose to meet the sun. Tara could not tell whether it was rising or setting. The card, Temperance, belonged to the Major Arcana, and, according to the writing at its top, its herbal association was Echinacea. Tara closed her eyes and thought back to what she had learned, so many years ago. ‘Temperance. Moderation. Synthesis. Recovery. And Echinacea is an antibiotic. I guess that last one kind of makes sense.’ She flipped through the packet that had accompanied the deck of cards, seeking more information on the relationship. It saddened her, how much she had forgotten; she felt that all the information must still be in her head somewhere, but that she was using an outdated filing system.

‘This was a gift from Willow.’ Even the hundredth time the thought crossed her mind, her heart swelled. ‘How could she have known me this well, so shortly after we met?’ She ran her finger lovingly over the edge of the card before replacing it atop the pile. It was the perfect present; Tara could only hope that the gift she had planned for Willow—she had stored the boxes in her closet, and planned to prepare it after tomorrow’s work shift—would mean half as much in return.

Carefully, she squared the pack of cards and slipped them back into the box. She placed the package on her pillow, stretching with her arms so as not to disturb the book in her lap. She had been leafing through a book of famous pieces of art, and had chanced upon Collier’s painting of Lady Godiva riding through Coventry on her white horse, clothed only in her long tresses of rich auburn hair. The image had pulled up thoughts of Willow, which were never far from the surface—‘And what thoughts, indeed…’ Tara remembered, drawing in a deep breath—and that had reminded her of the gift.

“Tara.”

Her hands snapped the book closed. Tara cast a startled glance toward the door, where her father stood, leaning into the room with his hand on the doorknob. ‘Without knocking.’ She slipped her thumb out from between the pages. “Papa. Hi.”

Mr. Maclay stepped across the entryway, invading her sanctuary. She watched his eyes do a slow circuit of the room, sweeping across the walls first. Finally, they settled on her. “What’ve you got there?” he inquired.

“J-just an art book.” She turned the volume so that he could see the cover.

“Mm.” He nodded. “Haven’t seen you paint in a while.” He spared a glance over his shoulder to check the wall behind him. “I figured you might have given it up.”

‘What is he doing in here?’ Tara’s mind screamed. His face was unreadable. “I—I haven’t,” she verified. “I might try it, again.”

Her father slid his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “Make sure it’s outside,” he said. “That paint stuff stinks to high heaven, and we’ve got a lot less space here.”

“Okay, Papa.”

There was a long pause, during which Tara’s chest alternately tightened and unclenched. “We need to set some rules,” he stated at last. Tara did not speak, but nodded in quiet acquiescence. “First of all, when you leave this building, except to go to work, I need to know where you are. That means names and phone numbers where you’ll be, written down and left on the kitchen counter, if I’m not here. Understood?”

“Yes.”

“Number two: I want you here for supper. When I work late, I need to know that Donny’s not going to be left to fend for himself. It is your responsibility to prepare the meals; I don’t always have time to do this after work, and it is too expensive to order out.” Mr. Maclay watched his daughter for signs that she acknowledged his instructions. Satisfied, he continued. “Three: You sleep here, in this apartment. There is no discussion about this. Do you understand?”

Gods, how she hated the way he talked to her. ‘Where did you go, Papa?’ “Y-yes, I understand.”

“Good.” Her father withdrew his hands and crossed them at his chest, shifting on his feet. He approached the bed and sat on the edge, releasing an agitated sigh. “I don’t like being a disciplinarian, Tara. I hate having to raise my voice, especially around Donny. You should know this.” It was true—her father hardly ever yelled. He never needed to.

She was uncomfortable with the look he was giving her, now. He started to say one thing, then seemed to change his mind. “I don’t like what’s going on, here. I know it’s been…hard. You, me, Donny—it’s been hard on all of us since your mother died.” Tara’s fingers curled into the comforter. “We’ve all had to make sacrifices things. Don’t think I don’t see that. You have more responsibilities, now. We all do. I know you work hard. I know we depend on you for a lot. And I know you never had a chance to make many friends. But now, here you are spending time with these college kids…and I don’t like the way they’re influencing you. You’ve always been a good girl, Tara. Since we’ve moved it’s like you’re—it’s like you’re trying to be a different person. Trying to fit in, maybe.” Her father scratched at the stubble on his jaw. “I’m not trying to keep you chained up, but I don’t know what to do with you, anymore. Sneaking out? Lying to your brother and me? You’re smarter than this, Tara.”

Tara kept her gaze lowered, and forced her lip to keep from trembling. ‘I will not cry in front of him.’ Her eyes sought out and found the box of Tarot cards, which was still resting on the pillow. She found strength in it.

“We’re going to have to work together,” her father said. “I won’t tolerate any more lies, Tara. Understood?” She nodded silently. “Okay,” he continued, “here’s how we’ll do this. I will allow you to continue seeing your friends if—” Tara looked up quickly, surprised. “—if,” he stressed, “you follow the rules.” He held up one hand, and counted off the points on his fingers. “When you go out, like I said, I want to know where you are and who you’re with. If you switch locations, I expect you to call me first. You can go out after we eat supper, and you must be home before ten o’clock.”

His words fluttered past her ears, but they faded into the background as her brain drove home one single thought: ‘I can keep seeing Willow and her friends!’

“And finally,” Mr. Maclay declared, extending his thumb to represent the final rule, “before anything else, I want to meet these friends of yours.”

~*~

“How are you feeling?” Xander asked Willow as they stood side by side in front of the sink in the Summers’ kitchen. Xander was washing dishes, then passing them to Willow to dry.

Willow dabbed at her forehead with a dry corner of the dish towel. “Better. I hope Dawn doesn’t feel too bad.”

“Well, you give it a solid effort, right? That’s got to count for something.”

“I hope so.” Willow took another large gulp from a gigantic mug of ice water. An acrid taste still lingered on her tongue. “I’ll feel better when I can brush my teeth.”

Xander grinned amiably and passed her a dripping wine glass, then fished around in the sudsy water for another. “Hey, Will, there actually was something I was hoping to get your thoughts on. I was going to talk to you about it when I got down to your campus, but since you’re here and all…” Finding no more dishes in the sink, Xander pulled the plug, and water began rushing down the drain.

“Uh huh?”

He turned and hopped up on the countertop. “You know that Nissan Jesse’s dad drives?”

“Mr. McNally? Sure.”

“Well, he’s getting a new car, and since Jesse’s already got his mom’s old car, he’s looking to get rid of the Nissan. He made me a really great offer.”

“That’s great! Wow. If you had a car, you could visit all the time!”

Xander shook his head. “Actually, I was kind of considering something a bit more extreme than that. If I spend another few months saving up some more money from the store...maybe around the time you guys are headed back for your second semester, I could spend some time looking around for a job and an apartment down there. Near the campus. But hopefully not too near; the ones right next door get pretty pricey.”

Willow was stunned. “Really? Oh my god, Xander. That’s…wow, that’s really great.” She smiled. “A new, independent you? I like it.”

“Well, maybe not entirely independent…” He wiped his hands on his cargo pants. “That’s where you come in. See, it would be cheaper if I could find a roommate to split the costs of a two bedroom place, rather than looking at singles. No, don’t worry,” he intercepted her thought, “I know your folks would flip if you asked to move your own place so soon. But I thought maybe you could ask around. You know, see whether anyone’s planning on moving off campus next semester, and who might be interested in going in on a place? I’d at least prefer somebody you knew, rather than having to deal with the whole strangers thing. Three people in a three bedroom would be fine, too, although there are fewer of those, from what I’ve seen in the listings.”

“Okay. I don’t know that many people, but I could definitely ask around. And hey, maybe somebody will know somebody else!”

“Two degrees of Willow separation is still a good start,” Xander decided. “Thanks, Will. You’re the best. And just think: we’ll get to see each other all the time!”

~*~

‘We’ll get to see each other all the time!’ Tara told herself. Since the conversation with her father, this thought had been sailing around inside her head, ruthlessly boarding and commandeering all other thoughts. ‘With a window of…let’s say three hours each day…times five days…that’s a potential fifteen hours of Willow each week. Not counting weekends!’ Distracted by her musings, Tara accidentally knocked the bottle of shampoo off of its narrow shelf while reaching for the shower poof. She cringed as it tumbled to the floor of the shower, and she bent down to retrieve it and set it back in its place.

After washing and rinsing, Tara allowed herself for a minute to simple stand below the cascade of water, letting the heat relax the tension in her neck and shoulders. She lolled her head from side to side, enjoying the sensation of her swinging hair, which was weighed down by the water. ‘What is it with Willow thoughts in the shower?’ she wondered. Her cheeks burned as she remembered her shower that morning, the one she had taken at Faith’s after spending the night in Willow’s dorm room. Those were Willow thoughts…’ She also remembered, just as vividly, the look Faith had given her when she stepped out of the bathroom. (“Thought you might’ve drowned in there,” Faith had said, and at once Tara had felt utterly transparent.)

But not now. Already, she’d been there for ten minutes, and her father complained about wasting water whenever she or Donny took too long in the shower. Besides, she wanted to shave her legs—a deed she’d been undertaking much more frequently since meeting the redhead, she realized—so that she could fully enjoy the bed sheets that were tumbling about in the dryer while she showered. Warm, crisp sheets and smooth legs was a heavenly combination.

She nicked the tricky area near her Achilles tendon when the bathroom door swung inward. It stung, and blood beaded at the cut, tinting the surrounding water a rosy pink. Tara slowly lowered the razor, a flake of her skin still wedged between the blades, to the lip of the tub. She couldn’t make out his footsteps over the sound of the water, but his shadow darkened the shower curtain, and the click of the door’s catch as it closed was as loud as a scream.

‘Mama, help me…’

The shadow grew, and then she could hear everything: the horrible whisper of sliding cloth, the metallic jangle of a belt buckle striking the tile floor, the snap of an elastic waistband. As the curtain’s rings glided across the rod, all Tara could think was, ‘Fifteen hours. Fifteen hours.’

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Last edited by jasmydae on Thu May 07, 2009 11:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated May 3rd)
PostPosted: Sun May 03, 2009 8:12 pm 
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Dibs again? ^^

First off, Juju is gonna kill you when she finds out about the shower scene she had her mind so set on. You gave it to use, just not what we were hoping for.

Did I mention how much I love Xander? He's such an awesome friend to Willow <3

And a meeting with Papa Maclay? I know Willow doesn't know but what will Faith do? I hope there is murder involved ^^

great update, can't wait for the next one!

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated May 3rd)
PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2009 5:05 am 
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I was thinking about how cute Tara is, thinking about her potentially Willow-hours, shaving her legs and cutting her ankle (been there, done that XD)

then the shower scene... ok, now I fear for her...

And Will coming out to Xander? really cute! I think coming out to a friend is even hard than coming out to your parents (I got a pile of ex-friends after mine ¬¬, but my father is really cool about it..)

and I´m still doing some freshman classes at college, I just love writing and photography!!! producing seems nice too and I have to make a short movie until the end of the semester...

thanks fot the update ^^

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated May 3rd)
PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2009 5:16 am 
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Oh no.

I've taken to reading this story with my hands sort of over my eyes, which of course is silly and defeats the purpose of reading so then I have to get all Lady Macbeth about it and screw my courage to the sticking place. Updates like this one definitely test my courage though.

First of all the Willow and Xander-ness was awesome, a great mix of humour and the seriosity of the situation. Is that a word? Hmmm. I hope Willow manages the correct construction of the Buffy-bridge though. Ha, and Dawn being sportly. There really is no other viable reason than that to do running of any kind IMO. The most noble of pursuits.

But oh man, the minute Tara walked in that door at home, she shoulda just turned around and left again. For reals. The very last part with her doing the Willow-time math and being all excited and then the badness....absolutely horrible. Which of course you should take as a compliment to your writing....somehow...? coz that's what I meant by it, I promise. Also, I second the call for murder upon the meeting of Mr. Maclay. It can be like a Cluedo party, but with actual murder.

Anyway, over all, a horrible update that I read with my hands over my eyes. Or, alternatively, a really wonderful update containing horrible happenings that I read despite my courage being eager to abandon me. Thanks for the update and I'm muchly looking forward to the next.


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated May 3rd)
PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2009 10:07 am 
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*enters the thread looking left then right*

*no meanies in there?*

Alright I can come in. I came by earlier and a meanie made me crash when I submitted, and I lost my nice and long (very long) feedback. Meanie meanie.

*pouts*

Ok let's get on with the actual feedback.

I KNEW IT!!!! I think I hinted at it, or maybe I thought it very loudly. This is so what I would have done too.
Who wants a sexy shower scene anyway? pfft. Ok I do love sexy shower scene, but I kinda knew it would be bad. It may not be BD but it is still Constants.

Now it doesn't mean I like it, don't think that. I hate Bastard Maclay. Actually I think...
Bastard Maclay meet Sheila Bitch. Sheila Bitch meet Bastard Maclay.

I really think they would be a good match. You know.. in Hell?

Actually I just had a brillant idea! Bastard Maclay's head should meet something hard and heavy at work. You know, his uncovered head. No hard hat for him. What do you think?

About Xander... At first I was kind of worried, and quite surprised, that he was going to freak out. It would have been kind of "off-character" of him. I mean he is surprised and who wouldn't be? But I'm glad to see that what at first appeared to be some sort of "are you sure you like a girl" speech was actully a "are you sure you're not transferring" speech. Totally Xander-like. :)
And I'm delighted by the idea of him moving closer to the girls. This would be really good. He could work with Faith, Andrew and the lovable Tara at the dinner (OT: I miss dinners since I came back home). He could even rooming with Faith! And possibly Tara! He is such a sweet and observant guy, I'm sure he would be a great help for Tara. I know she has Faith she can count on already, but in Tara's case you never have too many shoulders to lay on, don't you agree? :)

Willow is cute as ever, babbling and not making much sense sometimes. Poor sweetie, what did Dawn do to her? :s lol. It was very nice to read. A nice break from the tension in the Maclay Home.

I wonder what Tara will make her. And how Willow will react to the idea of meeting Tara's dad. I truly hope she'll manage to help Tara through it. Maybe she could be a real spaz... You know drop something on the floor, making it slippery, then Bastard Maclay would slip and fall hard on his head and sadly (not) die quick and fast. No time to save him. Too bad huh?

So where was I at? Oh I remember writing a sentence and wondering "out loud" why it was wrong to end with a preposition, and more importantly how to not end with a preposition? Sometimes it seems impossible. But it was just ol'Juju rambling to herself. :)

Ok next chapter we get a Willow shower scene? LOL

Ooooh I remember what I wanted to say too. I can't wait to see how Willow will bring the topic of Tara with Buffy and how she'll go through it. Oh and will we have some more Oz trying to sort things out?

Anyway, I can't wait for the next update... Thankfully I don't have long to wait! ;-)
I would have loved to take the same deadline but alas I have exams to prepare for. *hugs for luck.

Thanks for the update Megan! I loved it!

Juju :)

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated May 3rd)
PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2009 3:43 pm 
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Those scenes when Tara went home were very, very uncomfortable for me to read. I come from an abusive home (no sexual abuse, thankfully! so I can't relate to that part) so I know all too well the feeling of dreading going home and the way it feels to be intimidated into accepting things that aren't acceptable. I think you also tapped into the fact that most abusive parents are not abusive because they're mean or evil people, but because they're concerned - and that concern comes out as being excessively controlling.

Tara really needs to move out. Donny will be fine without her.

You write Whedon-style dialogue very well and it's fun to read, but it would be nice if the plot moved just a bit faster. I've never been much of a fan of pastiche-style fiction, because I think it can turn into extreme navel-gazing. I also noticed a couple instances of telling and not showing (saying directly what someone is thinking or feeling, rather than demonstrating it indirectly through actions or internal monologues).

It's a shame that Oz is on drugs. I was hoping for mono, but he IS a college musician.

When are we going to get together again to watch the last two-and-a-half seasons, eh? :party


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated May 3rd)
PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2009 11:12 am 
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Well I see three main issues here to comment on.

#1 - I love the conversation with X and W. He's not all fake, "hey, great for you Wills!" He's sort of cautiously curious. He wants to know if it's a real thing or just a phase or rebound thing but he's not insulting about it: just supportive. Very well done conversation.

#2 - I really hope Faith and Xander move in together. Not in a romantic way, just as hard-working folks who can kind of be each other's families.

#3 - Maclay SR is just ... It's hard to find words and hard to understand why Tara sticks around. I know that she doesn't want to lose Donnie but in cases like this, I almost think it would be worth it. Boo hiss.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated May 3rd)
PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2009 12:42 pm 
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Must have been something in the air. (yeah, I just read "BD" too)

Is Tara maybe too much *in* the situation to really "know-know" what's happening? I'm hoping her out of it ASAP.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated May 3rd)
PostPosted: Thu May 07, 2009 10:02 am 
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Yay for great update-y goodness... I'm with Julia that Papa Maclay shoud have a messy appointment with a very large and heavy construction equipment... I really liked how Xander reacted to Willow's news about her liking Tara... I hope that Zander and Faith become roomies, maybe Tara could join them...

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated May 3rd)
PostPosted: Thu May 07, 2009 11:14 am 
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Loving the Xander-Willow chat, again! I really like your Xander, I hope we'll see more of him :D

As for Tara... I just want to grab her out of your story and give her loads of hugs...! She's exactly the Tara I imagined she was on the show, really just sweet. I wonder what will happen when papa Maclay meets "those friends"... Maybe something Family-style... with a big dollop of "serves you right, bastard"...? ;)

Looking forward to read where it's all going! :D Thank you thank you!

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated May 3rd)
PostPosted: Wed May 13, 2009 3:23 am 
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You know, it’s a funny thing this feedback lark. I find I rarely leave it immediately after reading the update. I tend to have to stew on it for a while and then what I want to write will just come to me (often in the middle of the night, which is nice). Usually it’s just two or three fairly succinct (I hope) lines.

This fic though, has me running through such a gamut of emotions that two or three lines simply never suffice. It’s not that the other fics are not worthy of greater effort – the other two I currently feedback on are truly wonderful too – I think it’s more the complexity of everything that’s going on with this one and the themes that you’re dealing with. They are difficult and challenging, and in this update, as usual, you carry them off with elegance and compassion.

The juxtaposition of the closeness of Xander and Willow and the quiet support he lends her, with that of the brutality of fuck-head Maclay and the damage he inflicts left my head in a schizophrenic turmoil of emotion.

I felt real warmth for Xander and joy that Willow has such a friend. Yet I weep for Tara, I mourn her loss of safety and just want to make the bad stuff go away. I’d like Willow to transport her to a world of buttercups and sunshine, sledding and snow-days. As for what I would like her to do to fuck-head Maclay..... let’s just say there are lots and lots of beefy gay boys around that have spent the last six months in a Tibetan monastery.

As ever, this update blew me away and I tremulously await the next with equal measures of glee and anxiety.

Thanks for sharing
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