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

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated November 21)
PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 9:14 am 
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19. Yummy Face
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Yay for excellent update-y goodness... I really hope that the price Tara has to pay for her adventures outside "Papa's domain" isn't too high...

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated November 21)
PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 9:57 am 
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Need more :wtkiss soon! Update soon ;-)

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated November 21)
PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 5:56 pm 
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Flummoxed. Because the person Willow wanted to stay behind, the person whose company she wanted—no, craved—was Tara. Of this much she was certain. It was Tara, only Tara, who could chase away her waking melancholy. Flustered. Because her heart beat faster when she thought of her new friend: of her scent, a comforting combination of oranges and vanilla; of her cascade of gorgeous honey blonde hair, which tumbled past the soft wisps at the nape of her neck; of her slender, graceful fingers; of the gentle hills and valleys of her curving figure. Addled. Because she wasn’t just excited about having the blonde as a new friend: Tara excited her. Confused. Because Tara Maclay was a girl.
Let's hear it for Willow's self-realization. Cordelia was pretty cool here too.

But Tara's in trouble.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated November 21)
PostPosted: Sat Nov 22, 2008 5:46 am 
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But Willow was alone—the kind of raw loneliness that develops in the space between the heart and the stomach;


That is a beautiful description of that feeling. It was instantly recognisable through your writing skill.

Quote:
And in that instant, her brain latched on to the thread her heart had been dangling
.

Lovely.

Quote:
The apartment was dark and still as death.


That phase really set the tone in terms of Tara's fear - it gave a real sense of foreboding.

The scene where Tara sees the folded piles of laundry took on a more surreal edge when confronted by the reciept on the fridge.

Damn good stuff all round.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated November 21)
PostPosted: Sun Nov 23, 2008 6:10 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Totally understand the trouble with the "hads". I think my fingers type them out before I realize what I'm doing and I have to go back and remove a lot.

I mentioned the transitions before, but the broader transitions between light and dark are equally subtle. In one scene you have this fun teasing between Cordelia and Willow. In another you have the very palpable dread of Tara has she enters the apartment. Though there has been innuendo about what happens within those walls, the suspense makes me believe it's worse than we realize.

Okay, LMAO at your view of Monopoly. While it is never the first board game I pick from the closet, I can't say I have such strong feelings. Did you have a bad experience on Park Place?

Look forward to this too. Can't wait to see what more your reveal in the coming updates. This story is genuinely entertaining, from your humor to the intriguing mysteries you're building.


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated November 21)
PostPosted: Mon Nov 24, 2008 5:21 am 
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oh my!
Hello!

So I guess mister Papa wasn't that much asleep when she got in, and either he has got a vision making him see that his daughter needed a life, either he is up to something. But I'll be optimistic on this, can I? Please?

Grrrr

I would like more, please?

Did i tell you in my last feedback that at the time you were drinking white russians and writing this chapter, I was studying a short story called "My Wife Is A White Russian"? Lol.

Sorry for the short length and for the rushied feedback, but I will soon have class.

Thanks for the update. :-D

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated November 21)
PostPosted: Mon Nov 24, 2008 6:05 am 
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Taking off to drive home for Thanksgiving holiday, so Constants is on hold for the week. Thanks to all the readers who have gotten in touch. ^_^ Wee see you again, soon! ~ Megan


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated November 21)
PostPosted: Mon Nov 24, 2008 1:27 pm 
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Enjoy your holidays! ;-)

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated November 21)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2008 6:24 am 
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Wow girl that was an helluva update!!! I love this story!!!

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated November 21)
PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2008 7:24 pm 
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Update tomorrow, I promise. Now it's in writing.


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated November 21)
PostPosted: Thu Dec 04, 2008 3:30 am 
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32. Kisses and Gay Love
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Awwww.... Here I thought it was it! Hehehe.

;-)

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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 16 Feedback
PostPosted: Thu Dec 04, 2008 9:14 pm 
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LestatDraconus: Thanks so much for delurking to leave a note. It's...the feeling...having readers...words...failing...heart. Thank you. *sniffle* I am not surprised by the use of 'odd' to describe my writing. It would probably be in my top five. ^_^ Is it angsty? Hummmm. Well, I promised no unnecessary Willow/Tara relationship angst; I suppose angst in other areas is fair game! About the stuff that's going on with Tara's father. I'll admit that the scenes I've written...I'm not sure if I could go darker. Those were uncomfortable enough to write. I don't think I'd much enjoy anything more explicit. Uh, 'enjoy' is a bad word there, but hopefully you know what I mean. Besides, I'm not convinced I'm a good enough writer to even attempt anything more, um, visceral? Sorry this update took so darned long. Thanksgiving and all, and general writersblockiness.

Yeah, I was worried the receipt scene might have been confusing. Darn it. Okay, here's what happened. The party was on a Friday. The prior Friday, Faith invited Tara, and Tara went home and told her brother. They agreed that Donny would play lookout, and ring Tara on Faith's cell phone if their dad got home before she did. He'd give Dad the excuse that Tara had to run out to the pharmacy for emergency supplies, which would explain the brief period of her absence (as far as Dad knew). Since Tara didn't have time to *really* stop at the pharmacy, she made her purchases before the date of the party, on Wednesday or something, and stashed them in the mailbox before she left for work on Friday (she had the mailbox key, so wasn't worried about Dad checking it). So Friday, she ran home from the party, grabbed the bag from the box, emptied it in the bathroom and threw out the bad, with the receipt still inside it. Her dad must have actively gone into the trash, looking for the recipt, because apparently he didn't buy the story. He found it, circled the date (Wednesday), and put it up on the fridge where Tara was sure to notice.

Zampsa1975: Hey! Nice seen' you on FB. Hee. "Papa's Domain".

MelCar19: I'll get right on that! Uh, well, several weeks later. But, here. Enjoy! ^_^

JustSkipIt: Yeah. Cheers to that. Who wants characters shrouded with doubt the whole time? ... well, actually, there's probably lots of angst-hungry readers who do. :p But too bad. Nyah nyah nyah my story. ^_~ Naw, really, I just thought it'd be neat to kinda mirror the relationship I saw in the show, which Willow figured out pretty quick, as far as I could tell.

And yes, she is, isn't she? She really, really is.

Paint the Sky: Loved your response to the workshop thread on FB. Oy, I can't tell you how many times I rewrote that first sentence you quoted, so I'm sure glad you liked it. (seriously, like forty times). The second one just came while I was writing the previous paragraph, so I skipped down and added it, then went back. I didn't really like the third one, but I left it in anyway. You know, I thought about that, too, how the laundry-doing takes on a whole new meaning when coupled with the receipt. I mean, at first it's just a weird thing, to do laundry in the middle of the night. But once you figure out that her dad dug through the garbage looking for the receipt, so he clearly didn't buy the "Tara had to dash to the pharmacy" excuse...I wonder what the heck he was looking for in the laundry. o_O; I juggled a few different ideas for the late-night activity, and ultimately went with this one, for the additional creep factor it provided. It makes me so happy that you picked up on that. ;)

ophelia11: I'm always reminded of that sentence:

James, while John had had "had," had had "had had"; "had had" had had a better effect on the teacher.

*head explodes* I wasn't sure whether I was going to like writing Cordelia or not when I introduced her in the first couple chapters. Since, she's grown on me. Granted, I've altered her from canon quite a bit, but still. I like discovering new characters like that. And GAH "palpable"... I was trying to find that word, a few days ago, and my brain was drawing a ... thing ... where you can't remember something. So, I admit I kinda toy with the whole 'it's not explicit' aspect of the Mr. Maclay situation in this next chapter. It's mean and all, but...meh. :)

So Monopoly. Maybe I just played it with cutthroat people, but holy cow did it get bloody. People would broker deals, and other people would get mad, and it got spiteful really quickly. Thank you, once again. Your feedback is omgsowonderfulnuzz. I'd have made that longer, but I don't wanna mess with column width for people who read this thing in ultra-large font. ^_^b

JujuDeRoussie: So I said I'd post this thing "tonight", and it's now 12:09 in the morning, so I fibbed a little. But it's only 'cause it's taking me so long to write all these feedback feedbacks. I'm particularly wordy, tonight, I guess. You can certainly be optimistic on the Mr. Maclay front, but I'm sure it'll do Tara a lick of good. >_<; Ask (for more), and you shall receive (more. But apparently several weeks later). Oh, and now I want another White Russian. But...it's 12:11 on a Friday morning. Thanks for the feedyback, and *waves on FB*

jay/wt4evr: Heyooo. Didn't know you hung around these parts. ;) Your rainbow picture continues to round up all of the ass and then administer a good swift kick to it. Also, I am glad you're enjoying the story. I will go write more of it. :)


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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 17
PostPosted: Thu Dec 04, 2008 9:19 pm 
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***
Part 17
***

Silvia dove for the open doorway. Her lithe form plunged into the inky blackness that challenged the feeble flickering of the corridor’s torchlight, which emanated from sconces set at regular intervals along the hallway’s opposing wall. Thundering footsteps shook the stone under her boots, and she heard huffing, snorting utterances echoing along the hall. Her mind racing, Silvia groped about in the darkness, knowing neither the features nor the function of the room. The pursuit drew nearer. She could hear the rasping cry of metal against stone, and the pungent odor of rot and sweat triggered an acrid taste in her mouth. Her knuckles scraped against something rough and wooden; her fingers quickly mapped the contours, and discovered curving metal bands covered with rust—a barrel?

A lid was wedged between the topmost slats. Producing a heavy knife from a sheath at her waist, Silvia wedged the blade between the pieces of wood and pushed down with all of her weight. The circular disc popped free, and at once her nostrils were assaulted with the stench of mold and decay. With not a second to spare, she returned the knife to her belt and swung a leg over the edge of the cask. The tip of her boot met liquid a third of the way down. She took a deep breath of putrid air, grabbed the underside of the lid—it was coated with ferment and slippery to the touch—and submerged herself.

‘Don’t breathe,’ she commanded her trembling body. ‘Whatever you do, don’t breathe.’ With her body’s volume added to the barrel, the liquid rose nearly to her chin. She tried to keep it elevated, but that left her face pressed uncomfortably close to the barrel’s lid, and she could hardly stand to think about the damp growth that covered the surface. Chunks of something unidentifiable bobbed in the fluid, brushing against the skin of her neck as she shivered.

The sounds scraped to a halt somewhere closeby. Grunts and whines filled her ears, and through the sliver of a gap which separated the barrel’s improperly placed lid from its bed, Silvia could see wavering light. A snorting bark resounded, and though she could not understand the guttural language, the raw hatred conveyed by the snarl made her wince. Retreating footsteps marked the departure of her pursuers, but Silvia dared not move from her hiding place until she could feel her heartbeat pounding directly behind her eyes, and her lungs screamed at her to exhale.

She extracted herself from the barrel, filling her lungs with air—though fetid, it was the most refreshing breath she had ever taken—and spilled out onto the chamber floor. Driven to put the stench as far from herself as possible, she tore her clothing from her body, boots and all, and deposited the sopping bundle into the barrel before repositioning the lid. A cautious peek into the corridor revealed it to be empty, so she darted to the right, doubling back on her original path of flight. She located the stairway and bounded down it, each step jostling droplets of the pungent fluid from her skin.

The hallway below the stairs was not well lit; Silvia considered going back up to retrieve a torch, but she dismissed the idea when her head filled with the heaving growls and indistinct forms of the creatures that lay above. She pressed on, relying upon the pale light filtering down the stairs and her exceptional hearing to guide the way. Halfway along the passageway, she picked up a noise to her left, just beyond an arching doorway. She crept carefully into the room, testing each step with the tip of her bare toes.

A weak light crackled to life, and Silvia found herself nose to nose with a grotesque face. A pair of sickly yellow eyes squinted, pupils contracting. The brutal, misshapen features broke into a sinister grin. “Hello, Silvia,” it growled.

“Holy hell, Rux,” the girl breathed. “You scared the piss out of me.” She allowed her still shaking body to be embraced by the hairy, grizzled arms of the lumbering beast.

“Silvie?” A cloaked woman with a melodious voice stepped forward, extending a graceful hand. “Gods, we thought we had lost you.”

“Me? Nah, it was just a bunch of Prowlers, Miriam. Nothing I couldn’t handle.” Silvia shrugged. “All in a day’s work, right?” The girl’s shivering figure betrayed the casual nonchalance of her words.

Miriam swung her cloak from her shoulders, freeing a long, tightly-coiled braid of platinum blonde hair. She wrapped the garment snugly around the naked girl, her nose scrunching up at the odor. “Goodness, what happened to you? You reek of sewage.”

Rux sniffed curiously, pulling foul air into its wet nostrils. “I thought she smelled lovely,” it grumbled.

“And your clothes?”

“Long story,” Silvia stated. “Well, not long—scary and embarrassing story. One which I’m not nearly drunk enough to tell.” She looked around the room, which was lit only by a faintly glowing stone that hung from Miriam’s necklace. “Where’s Wallace?” she asked.

“I’m here.” A gaunt man with high cheekbones and a tight-lipped mouth that seemed incapable of smiling stepped out of the darkest corner of the room. “There’s a way down, here. Follow me.” Wallace beckoned his companions forward into the shadows, and they trailed behind him cautiously. He moved slowly, aware that he could see the way more clearly than his friends could. As he led them, he whispered instructions, “There is a small flight of steps just ahead. Easy. Watch your step. Careful, Rux, low ceiling. There you go. Ah, here we are. What do you make of this, Miriam?”

A pair of ornate doors blocked the way, each one bearing the ghastly visage of a snarling gargoyle. Spanning both doors, several rows of strangely shaped characters were etched into the stone. Miriam knelt, holding her light closer to the symbols, and Silvia gasped when the eyes of both gargoyles followed her descent. “They’re moving!” she squeaked.

Miriam glanced up at the stone heads. “Yes, I expect they are,” she nodded. “These runes say, ‘Two guards to the rose—one honest, one liar. One question to pose, to sort safety from fire.’”

Wallace scoffed. “A riddle?”

“Yes,” Miriam confirmed. “I suppose we have to ask a question of the gargoyles—”

“—but one lies and the other tells the truth,” finished Silvia. “This is easy; I saw it in ‘Labyrinth.’”


~*~

“Whoa, wait,” Carl interrupted. “You can’t base an action off of that. Separation of player and character knowledge, remember? I mean, I’ve seen the movie, too, but that doesn’t mean Wallace has.”

“But ‘Labyrinth’ kicks ass,” Faith argued. “Silvia would definitely have watched it.”

“It doesn’t even exist in this world, though. There’s no movies or television or anything,” Willow explained. “They don’t have that kind of technology.”

“She’s right,” Andrew declared. “You’ll have to make an intelligence roll to see if you can solve the riddle.”

“Fine,” Faith huffed. Grumbling, she added, “How the heck can people cast magic light spells, but not be able to figure out television?” She picked up an oddly shaped die and rolled it across the table.

~*~

“Well, gee, I certainly am stumped,” Silvia sighed melodramatically. “I sure wish we had a decent video rental store in pseudo-medieval times.”

Miriam observed the gargoyles with a keen eye. “This reminds me of logic puzzles we used to amuse ourselves with at the Order,” she reminisced. “Three Gods—Agramos, Burehl, and Cryvaltis—descend to the lands of Aos as idols, each appearing identical to the others. Agramos, the God of trickery and deceit, tells lies; Burehl, the God of trust and honesty, speaks the truth; and Cryvaltis, the God of chaos and disorder, does either one or the other, at random. They answer only in their own language, and you have one question—no, maybe it was two questions…” The blonde trailed off, frowning at the gargoyles. “To tell you the truth, I was always terrible at figuring those things out. The other adepts at the Order laughed at me.”

“Well, that’s just great,” Silvia muttered. “Maybe we could just kick it down?”

“Couldn’t we try an iterative question?” Rux suggested. “You know, ask one of them what the other would say if we asked them something?”

Miriam’s eyes lit up at once. “Rux! That’s brilliant!”


~*~

“That’s stupid.”

The four students glared at Faith.

“What? It’s stupid,” she repeated. “I’m way smarter than Rux, and Miriam over there is like a hundred times brighter than both of us.” She waved her hand in Willow’s direction. “How come we couldn’t figure it out, but a dumb half-orc could?”

“Hey,” Eddie said defensively. “Maybe I had a rare moment of genius. A very rare moment of genius.” He chuckled. “How much smarter is your character, anyway? I mean, she’s named after a porn starlet.”

“She is not,” Faith denied.

Eddie reached across the table for a sheet of paper, upon which Faith had scribbled some notes about her character. He read from the top line, “Silvia Saint?”

“It’s St. Pierre!”

“I know it’s improbable that Rux would figure it out before us,” Willow admitted, “but sometimes the dice just roll that way. Over time, it will favor the characters with the higher stats.”

“Yeah, and besides, it’s just a story,” Andrew reminded everybody. He was unhappy that the tale kept getting interrupted. “It’s supposed to be fun.”

“Well, it makes no sense,” grumbled Faith. “And ‘just a story,’ my ass! What was with making me strip down, hm?”

“It’s in the rules,” the boy stated. “If you wanted to keep moving around in clothing that smelled like that, you would have had to make a saving throw, or else gotten really sick.”

Faith shook her head. “This game’s for pervs.” She checked the time, then stood, sliding her chair back under the table.

Eddie raised a judging eyebrow. “Is that why you agreed to play?”

That froze Faith in her tracks. She turned slowly and leveled an impressed gaze at the young man. “Touché,” she snickered. “Point to Eddie for the call out. Hey, guys, I’ve gotta take off.”

Andrew frowned. “Aw, but you all are almost at the Chamber of Tears.”

“Sounds awesome and all, but I’m going to be reduced to real tears when Richard fires my ass for skipping work and I can’t make next month’s rent.” Faith retrieved her coat from one of the lounge’s couches. “Besides, aren’t you supposed to be on shift now, too?”

“Nuh uh. Tara asked if she could cover it,” Andrew replied.

“She asked if she could cover your shift? Did she want you to pick up one of hers, too?”

“Nope.”

Willow jumped in, concerned. “Wait, isn’t she supposed to be working the morning shift, today? She’s taking two shifts, back to back?”

Andrew shrugged. “I guess so; I didn’t ask.”

Faith drew one corner of her mouth taut. “That’s crazy,” she declared. “Somebody’s gonna be gettin’ a talking to when I get to work.”

~*~

“So,” Willow said.

“So?” Buffy echoed.

“So,” Willow repeated. She shoved her gloved hands deeper into her coat pockets and wrapped the fuzzy material more tightly around herself. “Here we are, on a brisk September night. It’s Saturday, you’re going for mochas with your bestest of friends—” Willow amicably nudged Buffy’s arm with her elbow. “—and you’re telling her all about your evening with a certain Mr. Finn.”

Buffy laughed, shaking her head. “Okay, first of all: none of this ‘Mr. Finn’ stuff. He’s not that much older than I am. And secondly, there was no evening with Riley. He dropped me off right after you and Cordy.”

Willow peered at her friend. “Buffy, you wouldn’t be omitting occurences of osculation from me, I hope?” she asked archly. “That’s not allowed by the Best Friend clause, you know.”

The blonde looked lost. “Occurences of oscillation?”

“Osculation. Kisses.”

“There were no kisses.” Hesitating, Buffy added, “Well, not after the ones you were present for, anyway.”

“What? So I can’t have my vicarious smooches?” Willow pouted. “There wasn’t even a goodnight kiss?”

“Sorry,” Buffy shrugged. They walked a minute in shared silence, before she continued. “And what do you need vicarious smooches for, anyway, Miss On-Campus Boyfriend?”

The redhead gingerly navigated a broken glass bottle that lay upon the sidewalk. “Well, it turned out to be false advertising,” she grumbled. “The whole on-campus thing? It is decidedly not on campus, it turns out.”

“Aw, poor Will.” Buffy’s eyes lit up when the Student Union came into view. “Well, at least you got some serious lip loving at the party, right?” she teased.

“I thought these were things of which we did not speak.”

“Oh, I don’t mean me and Cor—” the blonde’s sentence ended abruptly with a sharp look from her friend. “—uh, certain unnamed parties. But what about Andrew, hm?”

Willow made a face. “I felt like I was kissing my brother. Which is weird, since I don’t have a brother. And even if I did, I probably wouldn’t know what kissing him was like. But if I did, and if we did, I’ll bet it would be just like kissing Andrew,” she decided.

“And Tara was like your imaginary sister?”

‘Think fast, Rosenberg!’ Willow’s mental cogs ground to a halt. “Uh,” she said.

Buffy continued, oblivious. “Maybe you’re doing something wrong,” she joked. “I mean, I’d like to think that all of my kisses qualify as at least imaginary second cousins. What did Oz say about it, anyway?” The blonde reached out for the large glass door, and propped it open for Willow.

“About the game?”

“Yeah. You did tell him, right?”

“Sure. Yeah. I mean, yes, I told him.”

“And?”

Willow pulled off her gloves one at a time, and stuffed them into her pockets. She flexed her fingers, letting the heat of the building loosen them. “He got really quiet, at first. I think maybe he was mad, but I couldn’t tell for sure. Not, you know, mad mad. Oz never gets really mad. Just…perturbed.”

“So he was pissed off in an Oz-like fashion?”

“Maybe. But he stayed quiet and let me explain, and I think he relaxed a little when he learned who the other players were. After I told him the only boy I kissed was Andrew, he seemed—well, not content, exactly, but okay with it, I guess.”

“Well, that’s good,” Buffy said. “I’d hate to see relationship tension in Willowberg.”

“Yeah. You know, the weird thing is that after we talked about the game—I mean, right afterward—he kind of…he apologized. For not being around so much. I could almost see the synapses firing. It’s like he thinks I, you know, kissed some people at a party because he’s spending all this time with the band.”

The girls took their place in a short queue of students waiting to place their coffee orders. “That’s actually not such a stretch of the imagination, Will. It does kind of make sense.” Buffy scanned over the menu that hung above the counter, despite knowing it by heart already, and continued distractedly. “How does that saying go? ‘When the boy’s away, neglected lips stray?’”

“I…don’t really think that’s a saying.”

“Well, however it goes. Actually, I guess that’s kind of an awful saying, anyway. The point is, you’re Oz’s girlfriend, and he’s got to be there for you in this scary new environment.” When she caught Willow’s arched eyebrow, Buffy amended, “Okay, it’s scarier for some of us than it is for others.” The blonde sighed. “Look, Will. From the number of times it’s come up in the last week, it’s obvious to me that you’re really unhappy about how things are going with him. So as your best friend and mocha partner, I decree the following: talk to him about it. I’m sure he’ll understand.”

Willow sighed. “I know. You’re right. Honesty is the best policy. We’re going to the blood drive together, tomorrow; I’ll talk with him, then.”

“Good!” Buffy chirped.

They reached the front of the line and placed their orders. A few minutes later, they were sitting at a table in the Student Union’s atrium, holding mochas and watching a young man hand out fliers on the brick patio that separated the Union from the Nyumburu Cultural Center.

“What a strange name for a building,” Buffy commented. “Nyumbruru. What do you think it means?”

“I don’t know. Somebody’s last name, maybe? We could look it up, later.” Willow took a tentative tip of her drink, and felt a drop of searing hot coffee singe her tongue. She pushed the cup away from her and glowered at it. “Hey, how did we get talking about Oz in the first place, anyway?” she asked. “Weren’t we discussing Riley?”

“We were, but I was clever and elusive.”

“So was the lack of an evening and smooches your doing, or his?” Willow probed the back of her top teeth with her tongue, but its tip had already gone numb.

“Uh, I’m not sure exactly. Probably mine,” Buffy conceded. “I wasn’t exactly inviting.”

“You didn’t like him?”

“Of course not,” the blonde said sarcastically. “He was sweet, single, humble, and drop dead sexy. Why would I ever like him?”

Willow looked confused. “You were so overwhelmed by his positive characteristics that you fled?”

“Something like that, yeah. I don’t know, I just…I’d like to have somebody, you know, but…but—”

“No buts,” Willow insisted, shaking her head. Her expression was set in firm resolve. “You’d like to have somebody. Period. That’s the end of the sentence.”

Buffy groaned. “Is this where I’m supposed to be all, ‘Yes, you’re right, Will; I should move on, start trusting men again, open myself up to love?’” The blonde sniffed at her coffee, and, finding it less steamy than expected, took a careful sip. She groaned again, this time in appreciation. “Oh my god, these mochas are good.”

“I couldn’t have said it better. I think it might be that time,” Willow agreed.

“So, what? We make a Friendship Pact, then? You talk with Oz about his disappearance, and I don’t beat Riley away with the baggage stick?”

“It’s a deal.” The girls reached across the table and tapped their mochas together. “Okay,” Willow said, checking off items on her fingers. “What’s next on the agenda?”

Buffy answered immediately. “Xander.”

“Xander?”

“He’s called me almost every day this week,” Buffy groaned. “I love him and all, but he’s driving me crazy.”

“He’s just lonely, Buffy. We’re here, Jesse’s in Pennsylvania—Xander’s kind of short on friends at the moment. Plus, now that his uncle’s in the hospital, there’s even more stress at his—”

“Wait, what? Who’s in the hospital?”

Willow knit her brow. “Xander’s uncle had a stroke last week. Didn’t he tell you?”

“No, I didn’t know,” Buffy said, shaking her head vehemently. “Which uncle? Is he okay?”

“Rory. He’s still—”

“Taxidermy Rory? The one who invented Velcro?”

Willow rolled her eyes. “Buffy, Uncle Rory didn’t really invent Velcro. That’s just something he boasts to people as a joke; Velcro was invented by some Swiss engineer in the forties or fifties.”

Buffy paused for a beat. “Oh.”

“He’s been in the hospital since Thursday,” Willow continued. “He’s still having some trouble swallowing food and talking.”

“Yikes,” said the blonde, frowning. “I can’t believe Xander didn’t say anything about it.”

“Well, the good news is that he’s cleared to come down with your mom and Dawnie for Family Weekend.”

That I heard, and it’s very cool,” Buffy said, stirring the half-inch deep, chocolatey sludge that remained in the bottom of her cup. “This is one of those questions that’s probably not even worth asking, but…I’m assuming your parents aren’t going to be showing up?”

Willow barked a caustic laugh. “Right. In order to show up for Family Weekend, my parents would first have to admit to themselves that I’m attending a public University—a school that has an undergraduate enrollment of over fifteen thousand students, and less than one strand of ivy per square foot of brick wall.”

“Oh, of course; how silly of me. I mean, really: our motto isn’t even in Latin.”

Sighing, Willow downed the rest of her drink, then peered longingly at the bottom of the paper cup. “I might need another one of these,” she said.

“Good. I thought I was going to have to stand in line by myself!”

~*~

“Are you out of your mind?!”

Tara let out a slow breath. “Faith, can we not do this now? Please? It’s busy.”

Faith trailed behind the blonde as she spun through the kitchen, menus in hand. “You’re working a double shift today and you asked Amy for her Monday evening. What’s going on with you, T? You just randomly got a sudden craving to be around greasy diner food all day long?”

“Look, I’ve got three tables of customers out there, so—”

The chef fixed her with a steely gaze. “They don’t get their meals ‘til you spill,” she said, finality evident in her voice.

Tara groaned in exasperation, then swiveled to go around Faith the other way. The brunette spun with her, continuing to shadow the waitress. “Is it the money?” she guessed. “You strapped for cash and need the hours? ‘Cause if there’s a problem or something, you know you could talk to Richard, and—”

“No! It’s not money!” Tara snapped. Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she added, “Look, I just—there’s some stuff—I r-really don’t want to t-talk about it.” She looked down at her apron and smoothed out a crease.

“Watch behind,” Mark cautioned as he waddled behind the girls, carrying a tray laden with sliced tomatoes and cucumbers. They both pressed themselves up against the counter to make room for his passage through the narrow kitchen. Tara winced painfully just as her midsection came into contact with the surface.

Faith’s face became a stony mask, and she reached out for Tara’s hand. “Mark, cover T’s tables for a minute,” she demanded. “We’ll be right back.” She walked, pulling the waitress with her.

“Wait, but—” Mark’s protest fell short. “Damn it,” he muttered.

Faith shoved the door to the bathroom open, dragging Tara in behind her. The blonde had at first been too startled to resist, but now she made her irritation know. “Faith, what the heck is wrong with you?” she barked.

After a quick check to make sure they were alone in the room, Faith squared up on her friend. Her voice dropped to a hush, but the words were strong and poignant, regardless. “It’s shit at home, right?” she asked. “Your ol’ man wailin’ on you?”

For a moment, Tara was shocked into silence. Then words sputtered out. “W-what?! Faith, h-how—how could you even s-say that?” Her lower lip trembled, and when she blinked, her lashes came away glistening with moisture.

“Hey,” Faith cooed, edging closer to the girl. “Hey, hey. It’s okay, T. Whenever you’re comfortable enough to talk about it, I’m—”

“My father is not hitting me!” Tara spat venomously, roughly shoving the other girl away.

Less than gracefully, Faith managed to recover her balance. She was surprised—she never imagined Tara would lash out at her physically—and, unfortunately, her surprise manifested as cutting bitterness. “Right,” she snapped, waving a hand at Tara’s abdomen. “So I suppose you’re not covered in bruises under there, then.” She knew she had scored when Tara’s eyes widened and her jaw went slack. Color drained from the blonde’s face. “I know how it goes,” Faith continued quietly. “He goes for spots that are easy to cover, yeah? Takes it out on your stomach and back, a shot to the upper arm, maybe a couple nice belts across the ass. Hurts like hell to sit, but won’t get noticed by teachers, coworkers, strangers...” Faith knew on some level the effect her words would have on the blonde, but once she’d started, they flowed from her mouth without pause. She watched a tear roll lazily down Tara’s cheek; it got hung up at the corner of her mouth, and followed the curve of her lip before continuing its trail down her chin.

Wordlessly, Tara loosened the knot of her apron’s strings. She tugged the last several inches of her blouse from her belt and undid the lowest three buttons with shaking fingers. Lifting the garment to her chest, she rotated in a full circle, displaying a wide band of pale, unblemished skin.

Faith stared.

Sniffling, Tara tucked her shirt back in. “Can I go back to work now,” she hissed, “or do you have any more accusations to make about my family?”

At a loss for words, Faith merely shook her head silently. Tara eased by, and let the door swing closed behind her. Faith shuffled over to the sink, and looked at herself in the mirror. The face staring back at her was flat, impassive. She reached out and ran the faucet, collecting a pool of water in her hands and splashing her face with it. She looked up at the image again. Heartless. Her fist impacted the wall inches from the mirror, buckling the knuckles and sending a searing jolt of pain along her arm. It tingled in her elbow and lanced up to her shoulder. Her expressionless reflection contorted into pain and wrath at once.

“Motherfucker!” she gasped.

~*~

Willow shook her head. “No, I think it’s more than simply clicking; I think it’s a serious crush.”

“How can you be so sure, though?” Oz asked, frowning. The two were taking the short cut along the narrow path that ran between Shipley Field and the stadium, on their way to the Student Union.

“Well, I mean I’ve only been around her a couple times, since,” Willow said, thinking back. “But the signs have been there. The nervous fidgeting, the glassy eyed stare, the inability to focus on anything else—oh, sorry, you’re not loving this, are you?”

“It’s just…weird. I can’t say I’m entirely comfortable with the feeling.”

“Well, you can’t really help who you’re attracted to, right?”

“I guess,” Oz admitted. “But…does it have to be Buffy?”

“I still don’t really understand why it’s a big deal. I mean, Riley seems like a really nice guy to me.”

“Yeah, Finn’s cool. That’s not the issue. It’s just, I don’t know, you and I hung with Buffy so much in high school, I practically feel like she’s my sister. And having one of my friends dating my sister? That kind of takes some getting used to.”

Willow nodded. “I get it. Here be dragons.”

“Huh?”

“It’s tricky if they date, because you worry about what happens if they break up, and you’re stuck in the middle, right?”

“Pretty much, yeah.”

“Well, Buffy seems pretty smitten. Or is it ‘smote?’” She paused, considering. “No, ‘smitten’ was right. Anyway, she’s rather taken by young Mr. Finn.” Willow giggled. “It’s so obvious, even when—well, especially when she’s trying not to be.”

They climbed the small hill on the north side of the Union and crossed Fieldhouse Drive. It was Willow’s first time in the building on a Sunday; there were quite a few more people inside than she had expected. They weaved through the bodies, and made their way to the Grand Ballroom Lounge on the first floor. Chairs lined the walls of the room, and a line of students led up to a reception desk just before the massive doorway to the ballroom.

Willow had donated blood a half dozen times since she’d turned sixteen; the sight of needles no longer fazed her, and she liked knowing that she was helping somebody, albeit indirectly. It would be Oz’s first time, she knew. A glance at her boyfriend revealed little at first. Oz wasn’t the type to ever appear uncomfortable, so Willow had learned to gauge his comfort level by secondary actions. He was calmly thumbing through brochures provided for the donors by the Red Cross. Willow nodded to herself. He was nervous, all right.

After registering, the two were separated for a brief period while a member of the staff gave each what Willow liked to think of as ‘the interview.’ Willow’s interviewer was a sweet old lady, who took her temperature, tested her blood pressure, and listened to her heartbeat and breathing. She posed a number of questions about her general health—Willow almost laughed aloud when asked if she had engaged in recreational intravenous drug use—and, lastly, drew a tiny sample of blood from a pinprick at the tip of Willow’s finger.

When she was finally led to an empty chair in the ballroom, Willow looked around for Oz. She didn’t see him in any of the seats, and the staff member who had been talking with him had moved on to the next student in line. Leaning back in her chair, she craned her neck to peer through the door to the lounge. Oz was in one of the seats in the waiting area, sitting patiently and leafing through a magazine. Laughing quietly to herself, Willow rolled her eyes and returned her attention to the task at hand.


Last edited by jasmydae on Fri Feb 20, 2009 8:56 pm, edited 7 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated December 5)
PostPosted: Thu Dec 04, 2008 10:06 pm 
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Dibs?


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated December 5)
PostPosted: Thu Dec 04, 2008 11:45 pm 
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Yay for great update-y goodness... I hope that Tara is able to break free from "Papa's domain" with Faith's help very very soon...

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated December 5)
PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 1:51 am 
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Yay, update!

Poor Tara... and clever Faith!! She can kick daddy's ass while Willow tends to Tara.... :wtkiss ....eventually ;)

I love the Buffy/Willow interaction. Very realistic, and very much fun :)

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated December 5)
PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 4:22 am 
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I haven't read the update yet but I like this
Quote:
Nyah nyah nyah my story.
. The new mantra for all writers. Tee hee.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated December 5)
PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 8:32 am 
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Great update!

Poor Faith, she was on the right track but she guessed wrong and now she probably thinks Tara hates her for it. :aww

And Tara, poor Tara. Knowing something is happening but either to ashamed of it, or she just can't seem to tell on a family member.

And what about Oz not being able to give blood? :hmm

Anyway, update soon!

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated December 5)
PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 12:28 pm 
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Okay, I get the sales slip bit, finally; abusive types do tend to do that sort of searching thing.

Okay, is Faith cursing herself out, or has she figured out what I haven't quite grasped yet? Tara did wince at a simple contact, but no amkrs...but does the stomach really show marks? (I'm recalling _Full Metal Jacket_ and also _Sobibor_ here.)

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated December 5)
PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:27 pm 
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Hello here :)

I loved the role game, really at first I was wondering "huh? it could be a Giles' nightmare but when demons appeared in the story?"
Then of course it became clear.

Now you got me all worried about Tara. Really worried. Is it one awful consequence of her father's acts? Maybe he does not hit her, but what he does is not better. I am sure your Tara will be like almost all Taras, still understanding that he is suffering and not quite himself, but... It makes me want to hug the girl you know?

I love how Willow is being worried for her, but you got me! I really thought at first she was explaining how she felt to Oz... You tricky kitten!
He is afraid of a needle? Or did he use drugs? Made a new tattoo or piercing? I love those "interviews" before to donate my blood... I don't know if it is everywhere the same, in France we're asked "have you traveled in a foreign country (outside the EU) during the past 3 months? Have you changed sexual partner? Have you had unprotected sex? Have you got a tattoo or a piercing in the last 6 months? Have you been sick? Have you lived in the Britain Isles before I don't remember when (because of the huh disease with the cow? I don't know the english name sorry)..." Anyway, I'm getting out of topic, just made me smile. I actually was supposed to go next week, but being sick now I won't.

Anyway, I truly hope she'll talk to Oz, if at least to ask him why he is not more boyfriendly... so she could realise that indeed, it is ok 'cause she doesn't love him that way, and that instead she is all for the gay lovin' with Tara. Lol

I so want to know why Tara's midsection hurt and to get some smoochies...

Thank you for the update. :)

*serves you a White Russian, which is also a specie of weed by the way, we learn a lot of stuff in Litterature...*

Friendly,

Julia.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated December 5)
PostPosted: Sat Dec 06, 2008 9:35 am 
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Ok. And why was Oz deferred? Disclosed sexual history? Drug use? Trips to Mexico and Nigeria? Very interesting.

Faith's a good person. Tara may be pissed at her but I think Faith's instincts are good and she cares about Tara.

So there.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated December 5)
PostPosted: Sun Dec 07, 2008 8:13 pm 
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Great job with this story first of all.

Now while I think its great that tara doesnt have any bruises it sort of opens up other possibilities. I mean something has to be happening for her to avoid home like that. And that unknown could be pretty bad. :hmm

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated December 5)
PostPosted: Mon Dec 08, 2008 6:53 am 
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Hey there! I've been swamped the last couple days and finally got a chance to sit down and read this update. Certainly a lot of mysteries swirling around in this chapter. You certainly enjoy scattering these breadcrumbs about.

Loved the opening to the story even though, at first, I had no idea how it fit. When I realized what was happening I enjoyed a hardy chuckle. Love, love, love that Faith was involved in the game. You've continued to add new dimension to the character that still totally fits Faith.

You weren't kidding about the teasers on Tara's home life. The confrontation in the bathroom was revealing on some fronts and more mysterious on others. Obviously something is going on at home. Hopefully Tara can get beyond her initial shock by Faith's words and confide in her whatever is happening.

And of course the final enigma at the blood drive. I suspect Oz's pass is less to do with a fear of needles and more to do with something else. Would this be the Veruca part of the story?

Still cracking up over the whole Monopoly hostility. Our ruthless game was always Sorry! and it sparked several fights growing up. Totally dating myself by asking this question, but have you ever watched the Carol Burnett show? They had these skits around playing Sorry! which was TOTALLY my family.

Take care!


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated December 5)
PostPosted: Mon Dec 08, 2008 7:50 am 
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Hee, Faith roleplaying! It's just such a great fish-out-of-water concept, Miss Cleavagey Slut Bomb sitting down geeking it up with dice and stat tables and making initiative rolls and all that (even if she's still herself a bit - it wouldn't be fun if she wasn't still Faith). And y'know, that cold opening, going straight into the game's story with no explanation of what it was or how it related to the story so far - that really worked, and showed how well-written this is. For about the first paragraph I was wondering whether it was a nightmare or something, but then I just got caught up in it, and stopped wondering until we switched back to reality. Bravo!

(I'd have let Faith have the Labyrinth reference, myself - she could just claim that she saw it in a play called 'Thee Labyrinthe of Jareth' put on down at the local playhouse by Master Henson and his wandering troupe of Performers and Astonishing Puppets Of Mystery. Faith just needs to learn some on-the-fly rules-lawyering and lateral thinking.)

Moving off matters D20-based, the conversation between Faith and Tara was incredibly powerful. Faith really wanting to reach out to Tara, sensing something's wrong, recognising the signs, but not quite sure how to go about breaking down Tara's resistance, and blaming herself in the end for mucking it up. And Tara hit so close to home, so to speak, by what Faith was saying, yet because she was that little bit off-target, able to retreat into denial. It's going to be such a struggle for her to confront what's happening to her - it must be so frightening to deal with it head-on that it's understandable that, purely as a defensive mechanism, she's simply trying not to acknowledge it. I'm curious to see if something will happen at home to precipitate her taking a stand, or if it'll be through her friends that she eventually finds the courage to face it.

I'm sorry I haven't left feedback more often - this is a wonderful story, with so many facets, and it seems like whatever you turn your attention to with each scene, whichever characters get the spotlight at that moment and whatever they're up to, it never fails to be must-read material.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated December 5)
PostPosted: Sun Dec 14, 2008 2:06 pm 
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I just love how the mood of this fic changes over a few paragraphs.

The scene with Faith and Tara was tense - I thought that Tara was going to let her friend in, but, that would have been too neat and easy. After this, I can imagine Faith's own walls being put back up again. In her own way she has let Tara know something about herself in the hope that that knowledge would allow Tara's own truth to come out, but now, depending on how Faith interprets the results of her questioning she is either going to feel extremely foolish, or extremely defensive. I'm sort of hoping she doesn't let it go, though, cos she is so close to the truth whether she realises it yet or not, and Tara really does need to find a way out of her nightmare home life.

I'm curious about Oz and the blood donation. What has he been up to that he couldn't donate? Drugs? A nice STD from playing away?

Is this the beginning of the end for him and Willow?

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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 17 Feedback
PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 9:08 pm 
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Everyone: Not an update, just feedbacking. But I promise I'll have the next chapter up this weekend! Sorry this one took so long; spent a while working on the 'Tis the Season entry.

Taraslove: Hee. ^_^ Hi, there. Nice to know you're in the audience!

Zampsa1975: This next chapter includes some stuff in that general direction...

sadie: Yeah, Faith was so flippin' close :/ I've said it lots, but once more: Willow/Buffy scenes are just way too much fun. Which is kind of funny to find out, since Buffy in the show? Meh. Could take her or leave her.

MelCar19: Thanks so much for the feedback. I love it when people bring up thoughts and questions on specific scenes. Plus, it gives me more to write here. ^_^ Yeah, Faith took a chance, and was *so close*, and now...*sigh* Who knows? Hopefully that bridge didn't burn too badly. What *about* Oz not being able to give blood...hrmmmmmm. Update is coming this weekend, promise!

DaddyCatALSO: Faith was certain that Tara's dad was hitting her. From early on, when Tara first started working at the diner, Faith picked up on mannerisms that she attributed to Tara coming from an abusive household. So she confronted her--meaning well, but seriously lacking in tact--and got upset when Tara defended her father. So she called her out, claiming that she knew Tara was covered in bruises. And Tara wasn't.

JujuDeRoussie: Yeah, so I admit that my including Giles' demon dream earlier...well, it *did* have relevence to the Giles story arc, but it was also to be able to write the role playing scene later. We like being tricksy hobbitses. Yeah, what's going on with Oz? Willow seems to think he's just being nervous about getting poked with a needle, but the Kittens are wondering if there is something more. *muahaha* Tara's middle being sore will be explained in the next chapter. Also, there will be Giles! And oooooh thanks for the drink. And now that you mention it...I do have all the ingredients in the fridge...guh, but it's almost midnight. :/ I think I missed my window.

JustSkipIt: Willow thinks he just chickened out. Maybe he didn't meet the minimum weight requirement? o_O; I agree about Faith. She...probably could have gone about that conversation in a different manner, but she definitely means well. Guess she's got low tolerance for that kinda thing. :/

BentBrokenTheory: Hiya! Love the avatar. ^_^b Thanks so much for the feedback. Yeah, there's definitely stuff goin' on at home, but...no need to wonder. I've tried to be be pretty specific about what's going on at home in earlier chapters (and if not, damn, 'cause...I think I'd have trouble writing a more blatant scene >_<; ) Although I guess there could be even more stuff I haven't even thought of...I mean...that I have thought of...and am keeping secret. e_e;

ophelia11: Well, I've never been a fan of bread. The crumbly kind, not the amazing story by Tulipp. That Bread I am a fan of. And actually, the other kind sort of wins, too. >_< On second though, I might be a breadaholic! Ohnoes. Every scene I write Faith into, I enjoy her character a little more. The only thing that bugs me (and probably a good many of the readers) is how LITTLE screen time our favorite girls are getting! It's coming, don't give up on 'em! Hee hee. Okay, so the secret's getting leaked: there is no Veruca in this story. Oz does have a new lead singer for the band, but there's no extracuricular lovin' goin on. I just...I don't think Oz would do that. It's *way* out of character for him. The only reason it happened on the show was 'cause of Wolfiness; Oz never would have slept with another girl as Oz. That was one thing I promised myself when I started this story. I missed the Carol Burnett show. :( ...but seriously, about that bread thing. I wonder what the Bread Anonymous meetings would be like?

Artemis: I'm glad people bought the chapter lead-in. I always get worried when I try something like that...that people will just skip it entirely, because it's confusing...or that (yikes!) they'll just move on to a different story. Yeah, the conversation between Faith and Tara was...I actually didn't have it written into my notes when I planned out the chapter, but I added it during a very boring Metro ride, and kinda liked it. But there will be some resolution, good or bad, to that situation in the next chapter. Your last paragraph totally made my week. One of the things that I worry about is the sheer length of the story, thus far, compared to the amount of scenes that Willow and Tara have shared. It's...very low. :/ It probably wouldn't bug me if I could write faster. I have the story kind of planned out a good ways in advance, though, so I know they're gettin' together, but all I can give the readers right now is the promise that if they stick through it, there's lots of happy W/T moments on the way. My next story will be more structured (and hopefully beta-d, if I can find anyone up for the task).

Paint the Sky: I'm always love feedback like this. So often, I feel like I've failed at conveying some important point in a scene, and left readers confused. So it's really comforting to get a response like yours. You're right, the confrontation at the diner might have done more harm than good, but Faith inadvertently revealed an important aspect of herself that Tara of all people should be able to pick up on. Plus, like three or four Kittens have questioned Oz's not giving blood. Maybe I'm losing my sneakiness D: You all are smarter than Willow! Or, well...maybe she just hasn't visited the forum, and realized that all stories point to her being destined for Tara, so she doesn't *know* that something's got to happen with Oz. :p

Everyone: Again, sorry for the long break between chapters. Next one will be up this weekend, and then...well, then there's Christmas. But I'll be back on a normal posting pattern soon enough!

~ Megan


Last edited by jasmydae on Sat Dec 20, 2008 9:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated December 5)
PostPosted: Fri Dec 19, 2008 12:38 pm 
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Love it, can't wait until there is more. Definitely wondering what is going on at Tara's house.


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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated December 5)
PostPosted: Sat Dec 20, 2008 9:04 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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sdvny620: Nothing good, I promise you that. >_<; Thanks for the feedback, and enjoy the next chapter!


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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 18
PostPosted: Sat Dec 20, 2008 9:10 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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***
Part 18
***

Her gaze traveled over a patch of subdued hunter green. The pleasant expanse ended abruptly at a jagged slash of roughly textured orange. It upset her. The confinement felt forced, unnatural, and stifling. But then, possibly the feeling was a result of her fever, and not the painting. Tara lifted the fingers of one hand to the back of her neck, and found her skin to be warm. She rolled her head in a gentle circle, prodding at various points along her neckline before moving down to her shoulders. She seemed to ache all over, and her awkward sitting position was exacerbating the soreness in her sides and lower back. Wriggling her feet out from underneath herself, she stretched her legs, and felt the tingling rush of blood returning to her toes.

The gallery was quiet. Tara realized that from her bench she could see not a single other person—a rare occurrence for such a frequently visited location. Behind one of the doors she knew there was a class in session—she had witnessed the students trickling into the room half an hour earlier—but the light visible through the door’s crisscrossed glass panel was dim. ‘They’re probably watching a video,’ Tara thought. ‘That’s what I could use. A nice dark room, the monotonous drone of a disinterested professor—I could put my head and doze off.’ She paused, mid-thought. ‘No, that’s not fair. I’m sure most of the teachers are excited about their classes. I know Mr. Giles would be.’

Tara glanced up at the staircase, half expecting her thought to make him appear at the top. He usually showed up about this time; the two had taken to meeting up on days when Tara worked early shifts. She enjoyed Mr. Giles’ company; she knew he was both knowledgeable and passionate, but he presented himself in a way that was comfortable and reachable, and he always seemed genuinely interested in the opinions Tara shared. They discussed artwork in the exhibit, mostly, but Mr. Giles would sometimes tell stories of his classes, and Tara would speak of work at the diner, or of her own dabbling in painting.

Perhaps he wouldn’t stop by, today. Their meetings were not formally scheduled, after all. ‘And it’s probably better that he not show up,’ Tara decided. ‘I wouldn’t want to get him sick.’ She grimaced when the thought triggered a bodily reaction; she’d been trying to ignore it, but she had to pee. She muttered an oath under her breath, and stood. For the third time since arriving at the building, Tara anxiously made her way to the ladies’ room.

Professor Giles was there when she returned. He had his back to her, and was gazing intently at a series of oval shaped canvases depicting a single male subject at various life stages. Tara shuffled gingerly toward him, until they stood side by side. If he recognized her presence, he gave no sign of it. “Hi, Mr. Giles,” Tara greeted.

A quick intake of breath marked his surprise, but he looked at her calmly. “Ah. Hello, Miss Maclay,” he smiled. “I didn’t hear you sneaking up on me.”

“Sorry to startle you,” she replied. “You don’t have to call me Miss Maclay—I’m just Tara.”

“Yes, well, the same holds true for you. Rupert, please. Mr. Giles is for my students,” the professor remarked. “Not that they all take to it. Your friends, for example—Miss Rosenberg and that…that Miss Summers.” Mr. Giles paused long enough to check the pocket at the breast of his jacket, and frowned when he found it empty. He rummaged through the rest of them, at last pulling a neatly folded handkerchief from one. Removing his spectacles, he squinted at the lenses before attacking a few spots with the cloth. “She’s a handful,” he finished mildly.

“Oh? What do they call y—” Tara’s body picked that moment to erupt into a fit of hacking coughs. She felt as though her lungs were turning inside out.

“Good heavens, are you quite well?” Mr. Giles inquired.

Tara shook her head feebly. “I’m pretty sick,” she confessed. She was sore from her racked lungs to her legs, and didn’t feel like putting on a stoic front any longer.

“You’ve got the flu?”

“No, I—I think it’s something else. I’ve been pretty sore most of the day, and…” Tara lowered her gaze, embarrassed. “And some—some other stuff, too,” she mumbled.

The professor looked concerned. “Have you been to a doctor?” he asked.

“N-no, I haven’t been.” Tara bit at her lower lip. “We don’t—I mean, we just moved here two week ago, s-so I don’t have a doctor, yet.”

Mr. Giles had been teaching long enough to recognize when he wasn’t being told the full story. He studied the girl for a long moment, deep in thought. “Tara,” he said slowly, “if you are feeling unwell, it would behoove you to schedule an appointment as early as possible. I could give you the name of a woman. She was Mar—she was my wife’s doctor; I can assure you she is a terrific physician. In fact, if you happen to have the evening free, I would offer to drive you to the office.”

“Thank you for offering, b-but you don’t have to do that,” Tara declined.

“Perhaps not,” Mr. Giles replied, “but I’d feel much better for it. Would you do it to ease an old man’s heart?” A droll smile lifted the man’s cheeks as he emoted, covering his chest with one hand.

“It’s very generous of you, Mr. Gil—um, Rupert, but I can’t—I don’t have the m-money for it, right now; I’ve only been working for—”

“Of course you wouldn’t be asked to pay,” the professor interrupted.

Tara shook her head. “No, I couldn’t let you do that.”

Mr. Giles sighed, his mouth flattening to a thin line. “Tara, the University pays me a rather obscene amount of money to write papers, and to stand before classrooms full of mostly indifferent students to lecture about the art, artifacts, and cultures of civilizations that haven’t existed for hundreds of years. Please, would you let me do this small thing for you? Then I could go to sleep tonight feeling as though I’d done something genuinely helpful with my day.”

“I—well, w-when you put it that way, how can I say no?” Tara giggled. “Sure, spend your hard earned dollars on me.”

It was a short walk from the gallery to the parking lot where Mr. Giles had parked his car. The professor slowed his long strides so that the two could walk side by side. He did not comment on the girl’s movement—a tentative gait that made apparent her discomfort. Instead, he spoke about the woman they were going to see. “Her name is Dr. Nancy Chandling. She works at an office on Berwyn House Road, just a short drive from here. Nancy is a wonderful general practitioner, as well as an old friend of the family; I’m sure you’ll warm to her immediately. My wife always said she was the best doctor she’d ever had.”

“I—I don’t mean to pry, but…that’s twice you’ve referred to your wife in the p-past tense,” Tara noted. “You aren’t married, any longer?”

Mr. Giles unconsciously twisted the golden band on his finger while they walked. “Ah, yes,” he said quietly. “My wife—Mary, her name is—her name was Mary. She passed away, three summers ago.”

Tara stopped walking, and Mr. Giles had to double back several paces. “I’m s-so sorry,” she apologized, “I d-didn’t know. I didn’t mean to—”

“It’s all right, Tara. I’ve had a lot of time to dwell on it, and most of the—well, of the negative thoughts, I suppose—they’ve passed. The subject isn’t off-limits,” he said with a sad smile.

“Still, I feel like that w-wasn’t the most tactful way to ask a question like that.”

Mr. Giles shrugged. “I’m not sure. There is a certain relief in direct questions, much of the time. I can appreciate them.” He dug through his pockets, at last pulling out a keychain, which he wrung between his fingers as they resumed walking. “So much of conversation seems to be superfluous, almost like—almost like people are filling in the silence while they’re trying to figure out how to say what they really mean. And then, how to wrap it with the proper disclaimers and diplomatic padding.”

Tara laughed at the professor’s words. “Not everybody,” she challenged. “Haven’t you heard Willow talk? The words all seem to tumble out before her mind has half a chance to censor anything.”

“Yes, it’s a breath of fresh air—although sometimes it’s a rather long breath. That one can go on,” Mr. Giles chuckled. “She’s a wonderful student to have in class, though; she’s started some interesting discussions, and she actually reads the assignments, which, sadly, is remarkable. Ah, here we are.” He stopped in front of a line of vehicles, and pressed a button on a device that was attached to his keychain. The lights on a pristine, sporty red BMW convertible flickered, and its door locks popped open.

“This is your car?” Tara asked, barely suppressing a giggle.

“Yes—why?” The professor’s eyes narrowed suspiciously.

“Oh, no reason,” the girl replied innocently as they climbed in. “…You really do need help spending those hard-earned dollars, don’t you?” she laughed.

Grateful to be able to, Mr. Giles joined in the laughter.

~*~

Professor Giles was right: Dr. Chandling quickly made Tara feel right at home. She had a tender, caring manner about her, which stood in stark contrast to the cold professionalism of the Maclays’ old family doctor. She opened the meeting with genial conversation, asking Tara how she’d met Rupert—the name still sounded foreign on the girl’s tongue—and she showed genuine interest when Tara mentioned the student art gallery.

“So, you’re not feeling so great, hm? Fever?” the physician finally broached the subject, her tone remaining light.

Tara nodded. “And I’ve been really sore, and…” She trailed off, her eyes darting about the office. Dr. Chandling inclined her head, waiting patiently for the girl to complete her thought. “And I—um, I have to use the b-bathroom a lot,” Tara mumbled.

“The soreness—is it centered around the pelvis?”

Tara glanced warily at the office door, which was closed. “Y-yes, mostly. There, and—and my b-back and sides.”

Dr. Chandling bobbed her head. “When you urinate, is it painful?”

Tara let out a rush of breath. “Goddess, yes. Is it—is it s-something bad?”

“Everything you’ve described so far sounds like nothing more than a urinary tract infection; it’s very common, and easily treatable,” the physician explained soothingly, smiling when she saw the look of total relief wash over Tara’s features. “The infection has probably spread to your bladder, which is what’s causing your soreness and fever. A round of antibiotics will probably knock it right out of your system.”

“It’s just p-pills?”

“That’s right,” Dr. Chandling nodded. “We’ll send a urine culture to the lab, to make sure that the infection hasn’t made it to your kidneys, but judging by your condition, I doubt very much that is the case.”

Tara gulped. “A urine c-culture? What’s, um, what’s involved with t-that?”

The doctor held back a laugh. “Don’t worry, Tara. We’ll just send you to the bathroom down the hall with a plastic cup. No poking or prodding or crazy, invasive technology, today.”

“Sorry.” The girl gave a tentative chuckle. “I guess I’m a little bit nervous.”

~*~

An hour later, Tara sat in the passenger seat of Mr. Giles’ convertible, clutching a white paper bag containing a full course of antibiotics and a note from Dr. Chandling detailing the proper dosage to take. The doctor had assured her that she would have the lab results back within three days, but that there was nothing to worry about. Tara watched Mr. Giles drive. His hands gripped the steering wheel tightly, and his eyes flicked constantly between the road and all three of the mirrors. He noticed Tara, and smiled.

“Glad to have that be over and done with?” he asked.

“Definitely,” Tara agreed. “Mr. Giles, I—”

“Rupert.”

“R-right. Rupert. I, uh—I wanted to say—thank you so much. For everything today, I mean. For giving me a ride, and covering the—um, p-paying for the visit. Dr. Chandling was really great, and the whole thing was just—I know you d-didn’t have to do any of that for me, so it was very nice of you. Thank you.”

The professor’s smile grew wider as Tara rambled. When she was done, he said simply, “You’re welcome, Tara.” They drove in silence for a minute before Mr. Giles asked, “Ah, before we get too far along, here, where are we headed? I should return to the University, but shall I drop you off at home beforehand?”

“Oh, could you maybe, uh, t-take me back to the gallery?”

Mr. Giles frowned, but didn’t take his eyes off of the road. “Well, I could, certainly—that’s where I’m headed, anyway—but don’t you think it would be a better idea to go home and get some rest? Honestly, I was quite startled to see you at the art building in the first place, considering your fever; I’m not so sure you should be up and about.”

“I don’t—” Tara paused in the middle of her thought, then continued slowly, picking her words carefully. “I’d rather you b-brought me to the gallery. I’ve been thinking about, um, maybe starting to paint again, and there are some really good pieces in the exhibit, now, and, and—”

“Tara,” the professor said quietly, “you’re pushing your body too far. I know it’s not my place to pry, but…is there some reason you’re reluctant to be at home, right now?”

The girl shrank back into the bucket seat, unsure how to answer the question.

Mr. Giles cast a quick glance in her direction, and continued, “I can’t imagine that feeling the way you do, you’d want to be doing much else but sleeping, and the art building isn’t terribly conducive to that, as nice as the scenery might be. Are you absolutely certain I can’t bring you home?”

“No, thank you. Y-you’re right,” Tara murmured. “I’d like t-to stay away from my apartment for a while, if—if that’s okay.”

“All right, then. The gallery, it is.”

~*~

Ten minutes later, they walked into the artificial warmth of the art building. Mr. Giles said he had to check for messages in his office, and Tara excused herself quickly to use the bathroom. They reconvened in the lobby.

“Do you know what time it is?” Tara asked, looking around for a clock.

“Almost ten past six.”

“Really?” The blonde appeared startled. “I’ve got to—is there a phone? A payphone in the building?”

“There’s a phone in my office,” Mr. Giles offered. “Is it a local call?”

“Uh huh.”

Mr. Giles led the way to the room, and slid a clunky-looking phone across the desk. “Just dial a nine first to get outside of the campus, then the number,” he explained, then he stepped from the room, leaving the door only slightly ajar to afford the girl more privacy.

Like many of the temporary offices in the building, his was merely a division off of the main office. While he waited for Tara to make her call, the professor poured himself a cup of hot water from the coffee machine, then lifted a packet of Earl Grey from a wicker basket on the counter. He left the bag to steep, and eased his lanky frame into a cushioned chair. He let out an earnest sigh.

“Long day, Professor?” a young, chestnut-skinned woman asked, looking up from her laptop computer screen.

“You have no idea,” Mr. Giles replied. “Valerie, enjoy your youth; as you age, you’ll find that the days contain fewer and fewer hours.”

“Oh, I’ve got a bit of an idea,” she chuckled. “The first few weeks of each semester are pretty hectic in here. Everyone’s always wanting to force their way into classes that are full, or trying to readjust their entire schedule in a last-minute panic.” Valerie nodded in the direction of the professor’s office. “Is that your daughter?”

Mr. Giles reached out for his tea and carefully brought it to his face, sniffing dubiously at the beverage. “No, she isn’t my daughter,” he replied. “She’s a stu—well, no, a—a friend, I suppose.” He tested the drink, then made a face and set it back down on the counter. “Actually, I’ve got a six-thirty Classics section over in Marie Mount I must dash off to; I was hoping I could leave her here for an hour and a half or so. Will you be around?”

“I’m only on shift until seven, but I’ll probably be here a while longer, doing some other work.” The girl indicated her laptop. “Want me to keep an eye on her?”

“That would be splendid, thank you. Just check on her every so often, maybe show her where the Nurofen is if she asks—”

“I’m sorry, the what?”

“The—the painkillers,” Mr. Giles explained, unable to recall the actual brand name. “I expect she’ll spend most of the time asleep.”

He saw his office door move, and Tara poked her head out of the room. Standing, he approached her, asking, “Is everything all right?” Tara nodded, and Mr. Giles sneaked around her into the office. He unlocked a cabinet and withdrew a tightly wrapped bundle of polyester and nylon.

“Thanks for letting me use your phone,” Tara said gratefully. “I wanted to check in with my brother, and—and…w-what is that?” She watched the professor kneel down and unbutton the ties, then unroll the spiral of material onto the floor.

“It’s an inflatable mattress,” the man explained. “I’ve got to leave for a class right away, but please feel free to use my office while I’m gone. I should return by eight o’clock.” He checked his watch, and stood hastily. “Oh, there is some bedding in the cabinet. But I’ve got to run!” The professor quickly gathered up his briefcase and a stack of papers. “If you need anything, ask Valerie, and—and if you’ve left by the time I return, then I suppose I’ll see you another day.” With that, the man darted out of the room, with Tara trailing slowly behind.

For several seconds after he departed, she stood dumbfounded, looking back and forth between the half-inflated mattress on the office floor, the nearly untouched cup of tea on the countertop, and the grinning receptionist. “You’d be surprised how often he takes off like that,” Valerie laughed.

“Why—why does Mr. Giles have an air mattress in his office?” Tara asked, failing to put the pieces together.

“Heh. He’d tell you it was to catch a short nap every now and then, during long breaks in the middle of his days.” Valerie clicked something, and her screen went black. She snapped the laptop closed. “But every once in a while when I work an early shift, I can hear him snoring loud as a fog horn in there when I first come in. But you didn’t hear that from me.”

~*~

Tara didn’t think it would be easy to fall asleep in an unfamiliar location like the office, but she was wrong. Perhaps it was her body being too sick and exhausted to care. Maybe it was the typing; after a short break, Valerie had gone back to work on her paper, and the soft tap, tap, tap of the keys lulled Tara toward a state of blissful relaxation. It was a safe sound, comforting in its foreignness; there hadn’t ever been a computer in the Maclay household, and the jittering response of the laptop’s internal parts served as a constant reminder that Tara was away.

Her shower was taking too long. The water felt so relaxing, though, like it was trickling into her pores and soothing the deepest aches of her body. Besides, she wasn’t prepared to face the day. Only when the hot water began to fade did she reluctantly step out. Moments later, Papa burst into the bathroom without knocking, causing Tara to grab for a towel and quickly wrap herself with it.

“You’re still not ready?” he gawked. “Hurry up! You’re going to miss the bus!”

Tara blinked, confused. “But Papa, it’s Saturday; there’s no school, today.”

The answer seemed to placate the man, and he backed out of the room, not bothering to shut the door behind him. Tara’s mother hovered in the hallway, watching her husband depart. She turned to look at Tara, and flashed her a dazzling smile. She looked healthy; the significance of this fact brushed against Tara’s conscience, but it drifted by before she could get a firm grasp. Mama eased the door closed with a gentle click.

Tara patted the water from her skin. Already, she was beginning to fret. It was Saturday, wasn’t it? Didn’t the school bus come on Saturdays, anyway? Had she lied to her father? She darted across the hallway and peered nervously out her bedroom window, just in time to see the big yellow bus lumbering up the road. Tara panicked. She would never make it out to the bus stop in time! She hadn’t even put on her shoes, and her bookbag wasn’t yet packed.

It was okay. She could still run to school, and arrive just before the first class; she’d done it before. Her parents wouldn’t even need to know, just as long as they didn’t look out a window and happen to see the bus drive by. Please, don’t let them look out the window. Tara watched the bus slow as it neared her mailbox; then, it actually turned into the driveway itself.
Beep, beep, beep! It signaled backing up, and Papa, who was backing out of the garage to head to work, had to swerve to the side, narrowly avoiding a collision. Tara groaned and fell back onto her bed, pulling a pillow over her head.

“I think one of my friends has a crush on you,” Willow said.

“What? Who?” Tara shoved the hotel pillow aside, and looked at the redhead, who was lying on the other bed. Willow’s lower body was lit by lines of thin orange light, which spilled into the room through a set of mangled blinds, but her face was covered by shadows. Tara knew the girl was blushing.

“One of the ones who’re visiting us…”

The dreamscape lurched, and Tara was running.

“This way!” Hannah cried, turning to bolt up a flight of stairs. Tara, Willow, and Buffy climbed after her. Not far behind, the Campus Police were in pursuit. The stairs crisscrossed like an Escher painting, becoming increasingly more difficult to navigate at each floor. Sometimes the flights of steps would skip floors entirely; other times, they would leave you stranded on a landing, with no option but to double back. After a minute, the four girls were scattered on the stairs, each on a different floor. Tara worked her way methodically up toward the top, arriving at the foot of a long flight of steps at the same time as Buffy did.

“This is it!” Buffy exclaimed. “These will take us to the top!”

Tara peeked over the railing at the precipitous depths below. Many floors down, Willow was struggling to find the right path, and becoming more frustrated with each wrong choice. Hannah was nowhere to be seen. “I’ve got to go back for Willow,” Tara stated. Buffy shrugged and continued up the final flight, while Tara began picking her way back down the stairs.

They met each other halfway, and tried unsuccessfully to retrace the path Tara had taken from the top. After finding themselves three times at the same dead-end, they finally climbed over one of the railings and lowered themselves down to a new flight. Tara went first, and was delighted when Willow asked her for help down. She reached up and held the redhead around the waist as she gingerly brought her feet down to the railing, then hopped to the landing.

The new path brought her to a ritzy furniture store. The ceiling was so high Tara could hardly make it out through the clouds, and the prices, printed on gold-trimmed tags, weren’t much lower. She walked with Marni, Willow’s friend—the one who had a crush on her, she remembered. She wanted to talk with her, to keep a fluid dialog, but she kept stuttering and saying the wrong name. Mina, she’d say, and Marni would raise an eyebrow dubiously. Why couldn’t she get her name right? Was she really that conversationally inept? Mina—no, Marni!—was stunningly gorgeous, but the awkward communication and her detached personality didn’t make Tara particularly attracted to her. Not like Mina: five minutes of talking with Mina made Tara feel like she’d known the girl her whole life.

A massive pair of double doors in the back of the store opened out to a rooftop patio. More of the store’s furniture was on display; it was divided into sections, each grouping set up to show how the matching pieces might be arranged in an actual room. Tara wondered what happened to the furniture when it rained. She imagined the meticulously placed pillows dark and sagging under the weight of the water. A wave of overwhelming sadness swept through her, and it was all she could do to keep from bursting out in tears. She couldn’t do that—she couldn’t cry in front of Marni; the girl would think she was a complete loon.

The phone call was for Mina. She couldn’t recall if she’d reached over and picked up the hotel phone or if the storeowner had handed it to her. The redhead was curled up next to her on the bare mattress. It was comfortable, which surprised Tara; she usually had trouble sleeping without a blanket. But with her body curved around Marni’s smaller form, Tara experienced a profound sense of security—warmth that pooled in her belly and spread outward to the rest of her. She snuggled closer.

“Honey? You there?” A voice crackled through the line.

Tara lifted the receiver to her ear. “P-papa?”

“Tara, I’ve got wonderful news,” her father said happily. “I’m gettin’ married!”

Mama eased the door closed with a gentle click.


Tara’s eyes flickered open. She had dreamed of Willow. That was all she could remember.

~*~

Tara hesitated, her fingers inches from the door. She felt pathetic, descending upon a new friend with all of her problems like this, but then again it did seem to be the day for being carried. She couldn’t stay at the art building overnight, and she was too frightened to go home, so here she was. Tara let her knuckles rap against the surface. ‘Anyway,’ she thought, ‘there are things we need to talk about.’

A yawning Faith opened the door. She rubbed her eyes and looked Tara over as the blonde shivered in the hallway. Tara, in turn, looked anywhere but at Faith, who had answered the door in a loose tee shirt and underwear, not bothering to don a pair of pants. She stood aside, a silent invitation for Tara to enter, and the blonde slunk shamefully into the apartment. Wordlessly, Faith let the door swing closed behind her.


Last edited by jasmydae on Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:34 am, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Constants - (Updated December 21st)
PostPosted: Sat Dec 20, 2008 9:44 pm 
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2. Floating Rose
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DIBS! :party
Wow I loved Tara's dream, it was so amazingly, excruciatingly metaphorical. Im also glad that Tara is going to someone for help. CAnt wait for the next update :wtkiss

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