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 Post subject: Re: Constants
PostPosted: Thu Oct 23, 2008 2:04 pm 
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Yay for excellent update-y goodness... Liked the Willow/Buffy joking around... Those bus rides were nice... I also fear that something very very bad is going to happen to Tara very soon... I really hope that when it happens Willow is there to take care of Tara and keeping her safe...

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 Post subject: Re: Constants
PostPosted: Thu Oct 23, 2008 6:26 pm 
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Hmm. Well, I'm thinking that something will go very wrong with Tara being out with friends as far as her father getting home. That can't be good. But I like the way Willow is thinking about Tara. Interesting that both Faith and the other guy assume Tara is interested in Buffy. I wonder what gives them that clue?

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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 10 Feedback
PostPosted: Fri Oct 24, 2008 11:22 am 
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JujuDeRoussie: Quite all right, I've been trying to get a lot of these already planned chapters posted, so they've been shorter and more frequent. I am quite willing to lap up any feedback, whenever you have a chance. Yeah, the last few updates have all been day-trip focused, so we haven't seen what kind of repercussions there might be. On the one hand, according to Tara's knowledge of her father's 'cycle', he's in an isolation period. On the other hand, Tara being out late into the evening is an unusual circumstance. Guess we'll find out in the next chapter?

Zampsa1975: I find that unless I'm actively trying not to, my writing leans toward humor, so the Willow/Buffy friendship is always easy to write, since they joke and tease each other. And boy! Everybody seems to think I'm going to get Tara in trouble for keeping her out so late! :) Thanks for the feedback.

JustSkipIt: *smile* Hey. Yeah, I guess that's a good question: why does Faith think that Tara's crush is on Buffy, and not Willow. There's probably some transference there, as Faith finds Buffy the more attractive of the two, and assumes that others would as well. She's never seen Tara with either of them alone. But Faith's a smart girl; I'm sure she'll figure it out. Hahah, any everyone who commented believes Tara's in deep trouble, now.

Everyone: Okay, so this is the last bit of what was originally supposed to be chapter 9, but instead ended up split into three parts. Always, feedback = love. Enjoy!

~ Megan


Last edited by jasmydae on Sun Nov 16, 2008 11:35 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 11
PostPosted: Fri Oct 24, 2008 11:25 am 
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***
Part 11
***

“No way. Absolutely not.”

“Why not?” Buffy argued. “We’ve got three of each; why can’t we just play girls versus boys?”

Andrew disagreed adamantly. “You and Willow have been friends for years, so you can’t be on the same team. Everyone knows that friends have the Taboo equivalent of Vulcan mind melds. It would be too easy for you to communicate extra information by using inside jokes, and so forth.”

“Well, what about Tara?” Willow countered. “She’s our friend, too, and we can’t all be on different teams.”

“You guys have only known each other a few days, though, and she and I have been coworkers just as long.”

“All I know is that you and Willow can’t be on the same team,” Buffy insisted. “That would be too much excess brainpower on one side. And if Will and I can’t be, then I guess you and I have to be.”

“Okay, then. How about you, me, and Carl versus Willow, Tara, and Eddie?” Andrew suggested.

“So how does this game work?” Tara asked, grateful that the teams had been decided.

Carl, a lanky Swede with several weeks worth of beard, held up a brightly colored box of cards in one hand, and a pastel blue and hot pink apparatus in the other. “It’s easy. We go around a circle, alternating teams. When it’s your turn, you have a minute to go through as many cards as possible." He pulled a card out and set the box aside. "Here, the word on this one is ‘pasta,’ so you’ve got to get your teammates to guess that, but you have to do so without saying any of the other words on the card.”

“No derivations, either,” Andrew added.

“Right,” Carl continued. “So here it says ‘Italian,’ but you couldn’t say ‘Italy,’ either. If you say a prohibited word, a member of the other team who is watching over your shoulder will buzz you.” He demonstrated by pushing a button on the oddly shaped device, and a loud, electronic honk made the waitress recoil half a foot. “You get a point for every word you get your team to guess. You lose a point if you get buzzed, or if you skip a card—you can do this at any time.”

“And tell ‘em about the hands thing,” Eddie reminded his roommate.

“Oh, yeah. There are some rules about how you get your team to guess the word. You can’t use your hands or mime in any way. So if the word is ‘hat,’ you can’t point to your head or anything. You can’t use clues like, ‘rhymes with cat’ or ‘has three letters.’ You’ve got to use the word's meaning. You are allowed to say, for example, ‘the cat in the blank.’ You can also sing.”

Willow blanched noticeably at the suggestion, and Eddie grinned at her. “We highly recommend this,” he snickered.

“Do we want to make pairs and do a practice round?” Andrew offered.

The players spent a minute matching up with each other, then arranging themselves in a circle such that everyone was sitting next to two members of the opposite team. One member from each team was picked as a scorekeeper and timekeeper, and they rolled a die—Buffy was amused by the quantity of dice with more than the standard six sides that were present in the room—to determine who would begin. The honor fell to Willow, so she slid the box of cards from the middle of the circle to where she was sitting, seiza-style, while Andrew grabbed the buzzer and hovered over her like a vulture. The minute glass was flipped, and Willow quickly drew the first card: ‘nightgown.’

“Uh, uh,” she reached for words, but they either weren’t there, or they were listed on the card in front of her. “Okay, this is something you’d wear to—“

BUZZZZ!

“What?! I didn’t say bed! I wasn’t going to—“

Andrew pointed at the first prohibited word on the card: ‘sleepwear.’ “You can’t say wear,” he explained.

“Oh, jeez,” Willow muttered. “I didn’t even see that.”

“Hey, there’s one thing I forgot to mention,” Carl remembered, tilting the timer on its side to stop the flow of sand. “If you can get your team to say one of the disallowed words, then you can say it without getting buzzed, while you’re on that card. So, here, if you got Eddie to say ‘negligee,’ then you could use that word in a clue safely.”

“Shouldn’t be too hard,” Eddie pointed out. “I mean, I say that just about every other sentence.”

“Okay, ready?” Carl asked, picking up the timer.

Willow nodded, and the boy placed it back down on its end. She reached for another card: ‘flamingo.’ “Okay! Uh, these are often yard ornaments, they have—“ she paused, scanning the list of words, “—wings. They stand on one, uh, foot, and—and they put their heads in the ground!”

“Ostrich!” Eddie called out.

“Gnomes!” Buffy yelped, then remembered she wasn’t on Willow’s team.

“Flamingos?” Tara guessed.

Willow jumped to her feet. “Yes!” She pointed at Tara. “She got it! She said it!” The redhead did a little dance, spinning in place and wiggling her bottom, and lifting the card over her head from side to side.

“Time’s running,” Carl pointed out.

“Oh! Right.” Willow quickly sat down and grabbed a third card: ‘Las Vegas.’ “Um, this is a place. There’s money—“

“The bank?”

“Vault?”

“Hollywood!”

“No, no. There are, uh, these ma—uh, devices,” Willow hastily corrected herself, and Andrew threatened her with the buzzer, holding it right next to her ear. “With lemons, and you pull on the lever—“

“Watch your hands!” Andrew reminded her, since she was mimicking playing the slots.

“Slot machine!” Eddie shouted.

“Oh! Oh! Uh, Atlantic City!” Tara tried.

“Las Vegas!”

“Time!” Carl called, as the last grain of sand fell to the top of the pile in the lower half of the minute glass.

“We got that one,” Willow insisted.

“Right, so if this wasn’t a practice round, you’d have earned two points for ‘flamingo’ and ‘Las Vegas’ but lost one point for getting buzzed on ‘nightgown.’ So your total score would be one point.”

“Does she get a bonus point for the dance?” Eddie asked, and everybody got a good laugh when the girl’s cheeks darkened to match her hair.

Andrew held out the box of cards. “Buffy, do you want to take a practice round?”

“Sure.” The blonde took the cards and set them on the floor, and Eddie positioned himself with the buzzer behind her.

“Ready—go!”

Buffy drew a card. “Um, you do this…work-out when you want a strong…tummy.”

“Sit-ups!” Carl exclaimed.

Buffy tossed the card aside with a smile and drew another. She thought a second. “This keeps beverages chilly.”

“Refrigerator.”

“Ice.”

Buffy shook her head. “It’s cup shaped.”

“Um, a Thermos?” Andrew guessed.

“Yup!” Buffy gleefully pulled out a third card. “Nasty little bug like things, with p—uh, venomous…butts.”

Andrew and Carl looked at the blonde like she had two heads.

“Well, not butts, but long things that stick out from there, and curl over their heads,” Buffy clarified.

“Tails?”

“Scorpions!” Andrew yelled.

Buffy pointed at the boy, and drew yet another card. “Uh, oh my God.” She stared blankly at the words, then glanced at the timer. “Is it worth skipping, at this point?” she asked.

Carl shook his head. “No, try it.”

“Okay. Um…it hurts. From food—“

“Food poisoning.”

“Indigestion.”

“Stomach ache!”

Buffy frowned. “Like that, yeah, but, uh, higher up.”

“Head ache?”

“Tooth ache!”

“Cavity.”

“Oh, oh!” Carl snapped his fingers. “That thing, where you eat ice cream too fast? What’s that called?”

“No!” Buffy exclaimed. “It’s like—“

“S-Sorry, time’s up,” Tara apologized.

“Heartburn,” Buffy grimaced, throwing the card down in front of her. “How the heck am I supposed to get that?”

“You got three, though,” Andrew consoled her, “and no buzzes or skips. That’s good for your first try.”

This pleased Buffy, and she puffed up. “Hey, yeah! So we’re winning.”

“Well, those were practice rounds,” Carl pointed out. “But yeah, we would be kicking their butts. Tara, you want a trial round, too, since you haven’t played before?”

Tara peered dubiously at the buzzer, which Carl held. “N-no thanks. I’ll, um, I’ll try one f-for real.”

“You sure?” Willow asked. “It’s harder than it looks.”

The blonde retrieved the cards and sat Indian-style. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, then exhaled slowly. When she lifted her lids, she found herself staring into Willow’s intent, fern-green gaze. “I’m ready,” she breathed.

“Go!” Buffy cried, flipping the timer.

Tara casually drew a card. “If you do scary feats that nobody else would try, such as skydiving or jumping lines of cars, you are a—“ she trailed off into silence.

“An extreme athlete?” Eddie guessed.

“A daredevil,” Willow answered.

Tara nodded at the redhead, and pulled out a second card. “When two things come to pass, but one didn’t cause the other, it just seems that way, the second thing is merely a—“

Willow hazarded a guess. “Coincidence?”

A soft smile crept to Tara’s lips as she drew another card. “Sometimes ink is like this, and nobody can read it until you put it under certain light.”

“Invisible ink,” Willow stated. Eddie could only look back and forth between his own teammates.

“Does that count?” Tara asked Carl, who was sitting quietly behind her with the buzzer, looking impressed. He nodded, so she continued with another card. “My works at the diner have this wooden rectangle around them.”

“Paintings,” Willow said, before the blonde had finished.

“Frames,” Eddie filled in.

Tara nodded, and Buffy and Andrew exchanged disgusted looks, seeing their dreams of a resounding victory shattered in the very first round. The waitress reached back into the box of cards. “The guy at the Alamo had one of these on his head.”

“A coonskin cap!” Willow blurted out.

“Yes,” Tara grinned.

“Are you freakin’ kidding me?!” Buffy complained, willing the sand in the timer to fall faster.

Tara pulled out a sixth card, opened her mouth to speak, then hesitated. She found the deep pools of Willow’s eyes, which were filled with admiration, and held her gaze for several seconds, wordlessly. They were lost, and the other players looked on anxiously as the timer neared its last seconds.

“Neither of us have these in,” Tara said quietly.

“Contact lenses,” Willow answered without hesitation.

“Time,” Buffy said. “There’s no way that was right.” She snatched the card out of Tara’s hand. “OH MY GOD. You’ve got to be kidding.”

~*~

“Well, that just about sums up that contest,” Carl said, adding the last round’s count and tallying the results. “The final score is…Team Awesome: thirty-six, and Team Ladies Including Eddie: an astronomically high number that doesn’t bear repeating. Thanks for the severe drubbing, ladies.” He tossed the pad aside and swept all the cards into a neat pile, making sure they were all rotated property before returning them to the box.

“Yeah, really,” Buffy remarked, sarcastically. “Will, I never realized you had psychic powers. That would have been helpful in high school, you know.”

Willow smirked and offered a high-five to Tara. Their hands met and dropped together, fingers barely curling around the sides before separating. “You were amazing, Tara. I can’t believe you’ve never played before.”

“Yeah, I smell a ringer,” Andrew teased.

Tara shrugged. “Willow’s just a good guesser,” she replied, a crooked half-smile lifting one side of her mouth.

“Hey, what about me?” Eddie asked, chuckling. “I got like…three, maybe four points.”

“So, you all want to play something else?” Andrew asked. “We’ve got Balderdash, Apples to Apples—“ He was cut off by Buffy’s cell phone, which began playing the opening bars of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Bad Moon Rising.’ The girl tugged the phone out of her pocket and examined the incoming call’s number questioningly.

Tara straightened her legs and peeked over Buffy’s shoulder. “Is that—oh, I’ve got to go. I’m sorry.” She jumped to her feet and gathered up her shopping bags, making a hasty retreat toward the door.

“Hey, wait!” Willow called, standing. “I’ll walk with you.”

Tara paused at the doorway. “I really have to run—literally,” she insisted.

“We’ll try and keep up,” Buffy grinned, offering to join the entourage.

“Yeah,” Willow agreed. “It’s not a good idea to walk alone at night.”

“I’ll be fine,” Tara asserted forcefully, then added, more gently, “I promise. Thanks for the offer. And thanks, everyone; it was r-really nice to meet you all. Uh, bye!” She eased backward out the door, closing it behind herself, and the others could hear her rapid footsteps as she dashed down the hallway.

Willow had been startled by the blonde’s testy remark. “What—did I say something wrong?” she wondered aloud.

“I think Tara’s wired a little strangely,” Buffy said, shrugging it off.

Andrew suggested, “I think her dad’s kind of a weirdo, too.”

Willow looked concerned. “What do you mean, a weirdo?”

“Well, the first few days Tara started working at the diner, he’d stop by randomly, like he was keeping tabs on her or something. I haven’t seen him in a couple days. I mean, he seems pleasant enough, but I get the feeling, both from talking with Tara and the way she acts in general, that her dad’s one of those, you know, hyper-controlling fellows. Faith says she’s ‘got the signs,’ whatever that is supposed to mean, and I think Faith’s a really good judge of character.”

Willow frowned, looking back at the door, hoping that her new friend would change her mind and return to the room to ask for an escort.

“So…Balderdash?” Andrew asked.

~*~

Tara took a deep, steadying breath and steeled herself, then reached for the apartment door’s handle. It was dark beyond the entryway, and that was probably a good sign; she’d half expected her father to be waiting up for her in the common room. She slipped off her shoes and inched into the apartment, closing the door as silently as possible. The sofa was empty save for the television’s remote control, which was balanced upon one of the arms, and a program listing that had been torn from the newspaper. Tara crept toward the kitchen, jumping when the apartment’s heat kicked in. Guided by the microwave clock’s bright display, she searched the room. From the empty tins that had been tossed into the garbage bin, she surmised that her family had eaten a simple meal of hotdogs and beans. She was hungry, now, but didn’t want to chance waking anybody up by turning on the lights or making too much noise.

She padded softly down the hallway, reassured by the even waves of her father’s heavy breathing as he slept. The door to her bedroom was slightly ajar, and she eased it open, grateful that the hinges didn’t squeak and that the bottom cleared the carpet by a good half inch. The blinds were drawn, but enough light squeezed through the seams to see by. Tara could see her brother’s form under the covers of his bed, and she carefully navigated around a desk chair to the foot of her own bed.

“Tare?” Donny whispered.

Tara sat gingerly on her bed. “Hey, Donny. Thanks for calling; is—is Papa angry?” She kept the quaver from her own voice.

“I don’t think so,” her brother replied. “I told him you had to cover a shift at work, to make up for the one you missed while sick.”

“Oh.” A wave of relief washed through the girl, but it was followed by one of unease; her brother had lied to her father on her behalf. It wasn’t right that he should have to do that. Tara was keenly aware of the fact that she would be asking him to do so again for the party Faith had invited her to, three days hence. “That was—thanks,” she sighed. “I—I wish I wasn’t asking you to—“

“It’s okay,” Donny interrupted. “I get it. You deserve to have a little fun every now and then, you know? I mean, you work harder than pretty much everyone I know.”

Tara tiptoed to her brother’s bed and pulled the younger boy into a tight hug. “I love you, you know,” she confessed, on the verge of tears.

Donny squirmed. “Yeah, yeah,” he dismissed, chuckling. “Love you, too. Now go to bed before you suffocate me.”


Last edited by jasmydae on Sun Nov 16, 2008 11:35 am, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: (Updated October 24th) Constants
PostPosted: Fri Oct 24, 2008 12:34 pm 
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:-D

I loved the game! Well as soon as Tara started playing anyway... And especially the contact part. :-D

I love how her relationship with Donnie is.

This is nice after a long day!

Thanks

Julia.

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 Post subject: Re: (Updated October 24th) Constants
PostPosted: Fri Oct 24, 2008 12:40 pm 
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Yay to the update! It's like bunches of awesome!

I loved the play between Willow and Tara. Seems like they're headed for something realy awesome.

And it totally sucks about Tara's dad. What's gonna happen when everyone finds out?


Can't wait to read the next chapter!!!!

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 Post subject: Re: (Updated October 24th) Constants
PostPosted: Fri Oct 24, 2008 2:46 pm 
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Yay for great update-y goodness... Willow and Tara sure make a great team... Good that Donny covered for Tara... I hope their dad doesn't found out that Tara wasn't working but hanging out with friends... I hope Tara very starts to paint her special painting for Willow...

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 Post subject: Re: (Updated October 24th) Constants
PostPosted: Sun Oct 26, 2008 9:04 am 
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Balderdash! I love that game - I'm really bad at it, I get carried away with making up the most ridiculously improbable lies I can think of... Anyway, I just got a big chuckle out of it being mentioned.

This being the first time I've left feedback here (very remiss of me), let me open by saying SO DAMNED GOOD. Forget 'for a first story', this is terrific by any standard - put a cover on it and it'd sell like hotcakes at the bookshop. (Well, it should, but you have to wonder about book-buyers when you see the top ten lists sometimes...) There's so much going on, so many characters with their own unique facets and quirks, so many relationships, established and newly-forming, so many little subtleties to pick up on - and yet it's remarkably easy to read, even the big descriptive paragraphs just fly by. And another thing, while there's so much going on, it doesn't feel like there's a lot of plot, in the sense that it's something an author is constructing towards a certain goal - the story's so natural-feeling, it just seems like it's a bunch of people living their lives, however they turn out.

Favourite parts... it's tough to choose. Andrew is great - I never saw many of his episodes so I normally don't pay much attention to him, but you've got this balance working in him between geeky humour and having a personality, beyond just making jokes (or being the butt of them), that makes him really easy to read. I even caught myself wondering if it might work out between him and Faith, just because he's so likeable. Cordy is a great mix of Buffy-Cordy and Angel-Cordy - like you, I prefer the latter, but I did feel that there was a bit of a disconnect between the two, a change in her character between the two shows that was never really fluid (although the basis for it was sound), and here I feel you've integrated both Cordies together really well. Faith is always great, and I like how you handle her and write her. Buffy - who sometimes gets on my nerves a bit - is likewise really fun, and there's depth to her as well, so it's easy to understand why Willow's so close to her.

Tara's magnificent (but I always think that) - you make her so dignified and admirable, yet also human and approachable. I love that she's genuinely upset that Donny lied to their father, in spite of what he does - that she's got that innate sense of decency about her no matter what, it gives her a real sense of depth. Her relationship with Donny is lovely work, very multi-faceted, changeable depending on circumstances but with a constant current in it. Their father... ick. And yet, he doesn't seem shallow, or one-dimensional or a 'villain' for the story's purposes - the scene where Tara thought about his 'routine', of isolating himself from his family, then slowly coming back, then relapsing, and repeating the whole terrible cycle - without absolving him of any well-deserved guilt, that made him seem just human as well.

And yet (probably because I'm weird) the thing I keep coming back to is the bit where Andrew makes a little accordian out of his straw wrapper while he's talking to Willow and Buffy. It's such a meaningless, throwaway detail, yet it fits so well and seems so real - I've noticed little bits of business like that throughout, and they're really little drops of genius. Tara poking her sunburned skin, and it fading from white back to red, that's another one that comes to mind. They're nothing really to do with anything, yet those tiny moments seem to come so naturally, they make the whole story seem to much realer and more alive.

So, to sum up... um, I'm really bad at finding a final note to finish feedback on. May there be many, many more chapters to come :party

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 Post subject: Re: (Updated October 24th) Constants
PostPosted: Mon Oct 27, 2008 8:22 am 
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My apologies for not leaving feedback for a few chapters – I’ve been avidly following and lapping up every word.

You know how much I love the detail you go into, and it never fails to pull me entirely into the new world you have created for familiar characters, and all the chapters I've read since last commenting have affected me in the same way. It's like visiting friends and hanging out with them.

The walk around the Magic Box almost had me reach out and handle the merchandise except I feared that Anya would have something to say about that.

The longing that came from Tara when invited to spend more time with Willow coupled with that undercurrent of worry and doubt that came to head with her short but very touching and loving interaction with Donny was understated but very powerful.

There is almost too much to comment on, Artemis summed up everything that is just so excellent about your fic, but I promise to back on the ball for the next chapter.

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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 11 Feedback
PostPosted: Sat Nov 01, 2008 8:59 pm 
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JujuDeRoussie: I absolutely love Taboo, and it makes a wonderful drinking game, as well; the more you drink, the harder it becomes to avoid saying those prohibited words! Yeah, so maybe it's me, but the analytical part of me always checks for contacts when I'm staring into somebody's eyes. I like writing scenes between Tara and Donny, as well. I guess he's been in a pretty good mood; the last few have been lighter than the first couple. Thank you so much for the regular feedback; it is truly the lifeblood of this story.

rowanstar: Oooh, new feedbacker? *loves* Of course Willow and Tara are headed for magical, soul-entwining awesomeness; I wouldn't have it any other way! Yeah, the situation with Tara's father is likely to be one of the longer-running story arcs, although I'll admit that it would be a heck of a lot easier to get the girls in the same place at the same time if it weren't for his character. I'm really glad you're enjoying the story, and I wish I could post more regular updates. Every reply you and the other readers post is like...uh...good gravy, the first thing that came to mind was 'blood and chocolate'...that can't be good. o_O;

Zampsa1975: They really do make a lovely team, don't they? See above comments about the situation with Mr. Maclay. It is, unfortunately, likely to be a theme in the story for a while. And I will get back to Tara's painting at some point. Thanks so much for the feedback.

Paint the Sky: You never need to apologize for missing a feedback; what you've given to me already has been above and beyond what I'd ever expected. I love that you put the extra effort into your responses to tell me what you like, what you hope for, and how it makes you feel. It is feedback like yours that will ultimately make me a better writer, and will drive this story to a (hopefully) thrilling conclusion. :) I think I've gotten a little bit quicker at writing the descriptive paragraphs, which have always been the bane of my writing. The shop that's been mentioned in the story, 'Down to Earth,' was actually a New Age gift shop near the town where I grew up, and it was one of my favorite stores. Much of the description used in the Magic Box scene comes from my memories of that store. I hope you enjoy the next chapter, and I'm sure we'll have continuing discussions. ^_^ *hugs*

Artemis: I had to reply to you last. Firstly, thank you so much for 'Through the Looking Glass.' I've spent countless hours on the stories you've collected at your site, and feel honored to have my story listed there among writers whom I hold in such high esteem. You'll be happy to know, I just read your story 'Princess Tara and the Dragon,' and it gave me dreams that were both delightfully charming and uncomfortably naughty and arousing. ;) Bravo! So, just the fact that you feedbacked me at all sets my heart aflutter, but HOLY HELL that's a lot of paragraphs. o_O

You know, I actually waffled between Taboo and Balderdash for the game of choice, but when I realized that Balderdash was, by definition, a game of lies, whereas Taboo was a game of unspoken connection, the choice became obvious. But, yeah, I love them both. :)

It's so cool that you're enjoying the characters. When I started planning it out, I tried to make sure that any character I was writing into the story from the show had at least some focus--a minor arc, an interesting trait, *something*. I may have failed in some cases (I don't know for certain that Anya will be a recurring character, or that the mention of Wesley's studio art class will ever come back around), but the characters we've met more than once should all become more fleshed out as the story progresses.

You're right: I haven't planned that many major story arcs. Just a handful, and I'm sprinkling them along over many chapters of...well, basically my own memories of college, a few things from the show, and of course the blossoming relationship between our favorite girls.

I've always liked Andrew, but felt the few fics I've seen him in kind of sidelined him in the same way that the show did. When I was planning the story out, I realized that I didn't have all that many male characters. Since I'd already written Xander out of the college scene, and had no interest in adding Spike to the fray, my pickings from the show were slim. So I figured pretty early on that Andrew was going to get the nod, and once that was decided, I knew I'd need to really spend some time on the character to avoid the trap of making him only present for comic relief.

My focus on Faith is born of a deep dissatisfaction with how Faith's character was handled on the show. I feel like they had the potential for a truly interesting character, but that so many of her actions and decisions were flat out unjustified. My muse for Faith is Jet Wolf and co.'s 'The Chosen'. I don't think I've read a better Faith anywhere.

I felt like Donny had to be younger. I mean, his character is pretty redundant on the show, and providing a younger sibling for Tara opens up so many doors to sides of her personality that we only see through her interactions with the Scoobies in their struggles with demons. In a contemporary setting, and given her family circumstances, it's more difficult to show that genuine, mothering aspect of her. Therefore, younger brother to the rescue. And, yeah, I kinda want to make her dad not seem like a wholly detestable being. That might be beyond my writing capabilities. :p

And, finally, your mention of the straw wrapper accordion, and the color-shifting sunburn. I usually don't even think about writing stuff like that in. It's not in my notes (before I sit at the computer for each chapter, I write out large blocks of the story on paper in a play-like format). Those things are kind of finishing touches that I don't even realize I put in. It's just wacky stuff I do, myself, usually. Go, weirdos!

So, there's multi-paragraph feedback feedback for your multi-paragraph feedback! Ha! *tbthtbthtbthtbbtbbbbbbth!*

Everybody: Enjoy chapter 12. *mwah*


Last edited by jasmydae on Sun Nov 16, 2008 11:35 am, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 12
PostPosted: Sat Nov 01, 2008 9:04 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Joined: Mon Aug 18, 2008 7:44 am
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***
Part 12
***

“Hullo?” a low, harsh voice asked.

“Hi, Mr. Harris. Is Xander there?” Willow spoke into the phone, forcing a cheerful tone into a greeting for a man she truly disliked. Over the many years she had been friends with Xander, his father had never been anything but surly, crass, and neglectful. The man seemed to care more for drinking beer and watching television than he did for his own child. Willow had always been uncomfortable visiting Xander’s house; although it was similar to her own in form, she believed it had a decidedly unwelcome atmosphere. Maybe it was due to the constant, couch-bound presence of his father, who had sustained a back injury at his packaging plant, and was living on worker’s compensation benefits and his wife’s wages. Perhaps it was the boy’s mother, Jessica, whose toothpaste smile never quite reached her eyes, and whose cheerful hostess act, according to her son, drowned at the bottom of a glass of wine the moment any company departed. Whatever Willow’s discomfort with the home, however, it was eclipsed by Xander’s, and therefore it had never been an issue between them. They had spent a majority of their time at Willow’s, where they often had the entire house to themselves, since both of her parents worked late hours.

“Hey. I got it, Pop.” Xander’s voice was followed by the clattering sound of his father hanging up, and suddenly the line was quiet, its background noise—a television show involving helicopters and machine guns, from what Willow could identify—vanishing along with Mr. Harris.

“Xander?” Willow asked, believing for a moment that she’d been disconnected.

“Willster! Hi. How’s it going? Long time, no see. How’s the college life treating you?” Xander sounded as enthusiastic as a puppy.

“It’s only been five days, you know.”

“Will, believe me when I tell you this: five days at home without my two favorite girls feels like a lifetime. I don’t know how I’m going to make it another week, let alone all the way to the holidays.”

“We’re less than an hour away,” Willow reminded her oldest friend. “We’ll definitely see each other before the holidays. But speaking of the holidays, what are the plans, anyway? I mean, you know my family: Thanksgiving isn’t considered a tradition worth celebrating, what with the wanton slaughter, spreading of disease, pillaging of villages, and plundering of graves. Uh, and, you know, Christmas isn’t exactly up our alley, either.”

“Have you talked to Buffy about it? I mean, there’s always that big to-do at Chez Summers on Thanksgiving, to which we have standing invites,” Xander pointed out. “I know you’re not big with the sacrilege of Native American culture, but on the other hand: really tasty food and excellent company. As far as Christmas…well, you know I’d jump at any chance to see you, plus we can’t let a little thing like college get in the way of our Secular Christmas tradition, now can we?”

Willow smiled at the reference. “I hope Mom didn’t throw out my sleeping bag.” When she was twelve years old, Willow had walked out to the mailbox at the end of her short driveway one Christmas Eve—her parents never remembered to check the post, and it would often sit in the box for days before anyone discovered it. While returning to the house she had noticed Xander unrolling a sleeping bag on the grass two lawns over. She had trotted over to say hello, recognizing immediately that the boy was sorely lacking the cheery Christmas spirit she expected. It hadn’t taken long to determine why: the muffled voices of his squabbling family members inside the house had been detectable from the yard. Seeing her usually upbeat friend so down had upset Willow, so, not having holiday obligations of her own, she had taken it upon herself to lighten the boy’s mood. Ultimately, they had camped out at Willow’s, setting up her father’s old tent in the yard, eating S’mores—her parents either didn’t realize or didn’t care that the children had swiped the propane torch from the basement—making up silly stories, and playing Go Fish by flashlight. Every Christmas since, they had scheduled the campout, and while the activities had changed over the years, it had always remained a night that they both looked forward to.

“So have you heard about my stellar initiation into the work force?” Xander asked.

“Uh huh. Buffy’s mom mentioned that you were working at a video store?”

“Right. It’s not the best of jobs, but it’s local, and until I can afford a car—and believe me, I’m pinching pennies to clear that obstacle as quickly as possible—it’s the best I’m going to do. At least it’s something I can be really good at. I mean, movies?”

Willow giggled. “Yeah, I can see that. Your customers must be really surprised when they ask for a scary movie and you reel off a list of your top fifty, sorted descending by number of reanimated corpses.”

“So that’s me,” Xander summed up. “How about you? College, eh? Is it everything you dreamed it would be? Is it more ‘PCU’ or ‘Real Genius?’ How’s the Loch Ness Roommate?”

“It’s going really well, for the most part. I mean, the classes seem pretty neat, so far. Buffy and I have a class together that’s really interesting, although we can’t yet tell whether the professor is an out-of-touch genius or a homicidal sociopath; I’ve heard rumors of both. I’ve met a few people on campus, including some of the people in my dorm, and they’ve been friendly. And Cordelia, my roommate, yeah, she’s not around a whole lot, and I was scared at first because of the whole sorority thing, and…well, okay, so this is really stereotypical and awful of me to say, but…she kind of looks like she’d be, you know, sort of snobby? But it turns out she’s actually nice, and she and Buffy have been hanging out a lot.”

Xander, who had long ago learned the art of communicating with the babbling redhead, jumped in when she paused for breath. “And of course, there’s Oz, right?”

There was a pause. “Right,” Willow said. “There’s Oz. He says his band is doing well. They had auditions for a new lead singer, you know, with Devon going to California and all? So I guess they got this girl who Oz says ‘brings the band to a whole new level,’ but I haven’t met her yet. They haven’t done any shows, ‘cause they’re practicing so many hours a day. I’ll get to hear them this weekend, though; they’re playing at a party I’m going to.”

“A party? You’re braving a college party after your first week on campus? Who are you, and what have you done with my Willow?”

Willow grimaced. “Believe me, I’m scared to death. If I didn’t know Oz and Buffy would both be there, holding my hand…Really, the only reason I can even talk about it without breaking into a cold sweat is because my brain is in complete Denial Mode, I think.”

She could hear Xander chuckling at the other end of the line. “That sounds more like the Willow I know. Man, what I’d do to have a car, so I could come visit all the time—or, for that matter, my own apartment. And while I’m at it, I’d like a fifty-five inch plasma HDTV and a luxury yacht,” he added wistfully.

“You know, the campus is having their annual Family Weekend event, the first weekend of October. It sounds really entertaining; they have a big ol’ barbecue, a bunch of performances, and a silent auction—‘cause I guess parents aren’t paying enough money to the University already. Oh, and they open up the recreation center, where there’s a climbing wall, and they set up some kind of adventure course, plus there are all sorts of games that weekend, if you’re into the sports thing.”

“Will, I love you, and go you for getting involved and being excited, but this isn’t exactly helping my ‘stranded at my parents’ house’ blues.”

“No, you doofus,” Willow rolled her eyes, a habit she sometimes couldn’t avoid with her friend, despite the fact that he couldn’t see her. “Buffy’s mom and Dawnie are driving down that weekend; you could come with them.”

“Oh.” A momentary silence marked Xander’s consideration. “Yeah, maybe I could trade shifts with somebody and hitch a ride. Barbecue, you say?” Willow could practically hear the boy drooling on the receiver. “This is tempting.”

Willow sighed. “And there will be thousands of college girls,” she pointed out.

“You present a compelling argument, Will. I’m sold.”

Taking a deep breath, Willow prepared herself for a drastic shift in conversation. “So actually, Xander, I did kind of have something I wanted to ask you, but it’s not an easy topic to broach.”

“Oh, okay,” the boy replied, his voice automatically dropping into hushed, conspiratorial tones in the way that only a true confidante’s can. “You’re off to a good start,” he urged.

Willow ran the question through her mind a hundred times in the span of a second, ultimately deciding on the simplest wording. “Do you think Oz and I are a good couple?”

“…Wow,” Xander said. “Uh, I mean, I guess this is one of those ‘tell me how you really feel’ questions, right? I like Oz. He’s a pleasant guy, seems to have a lot of respect for everybody, and sticks up for his friends. I’ve got to admit, I was surprised when he asked you out—not that you’re not a catch, of course,” he hastily added, “but just that the two of you have such drastically different personalities. I mean, I think you’ve spoken more words in this phone call than Oz has said in his entire life.” Xander paused, and Willow was unsure whether he was waiting for her to respond.

“Uh huh?”

“Right, uh, so then the whole thing with his classes, and being held back senior year; you really stepped it up for him, and I never got the feeling that he was, you know, grateful, or really appreciated what you’d done for him. But then, it’s always been hard for me to read Oz. He doesn’t exactly show his feeling on the surface, you know?”

“Yeah…I know what you mean,” Willow agreed.

“I guess I always felt like…” Xander picked his words carefully. “I feel like you kind of idolized him, a bit. Because he was this cool, silent, stoic guy who showed you some affection, and you were so eager for it that you never, uh—never saw that he didn’t treat you all that well, really.”

Willow frowned. “What do you mean?”

“I just mean that you’ve always put a whole lot more into your relationship than he has, but you’re so happy for what he does do that you don’t recognize how much he doesn’t. I mean, I’m no relationship expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I do feel like a guy should be, I don’t know, excited? About being with his girlfriend. I know you’ve got a tendency to sell yourself short, and be happy with whatever you get, but you shouldn’t; you’re a truly amazing girl, Will, and you deserve a guy who realizes you’re something to be really thrilled and passionate about. Now, how’s that for sappy?”

“Xander,” Willow sniffled, nearly on the verge of tears, “that’s—that’s just about the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Well, you know,” the boy replied, “that’s what I’m here for. I mean, I’m here for my total lack of academic success and my dire financial straits, but you get the idea. I’ve got to inquire out of curiosity, though…why are you asking me about Oz?”

“Yeah, I guess that’s the question, isn’t it?” Willow winced. “See, the thing is, I kind of…I don’t know, I get the feeling we’re not doing so well. And I know I should talk to Oz about it, but he’s never around, and doesn’t seem at all concerned. Part of me thinks that it’s just my insecurities taking over, you know: new location, all this freedom, knowing how much his college friends influenced him while we were still in high school. But, what if it’s more than that, Xander? What if he’s really not interested, anymore? What if we can’t reconcile the feelings from when we first met?”

“Will, all relationships lose the—I’m tempted to say ‘new car smell,’ but that sounds wrong. But you know what I mean, at first they’re new and shiny, right? I guess, though, when that wears off, there’s got to be something left over that holds the good ones together. So I present you with a very important question: are you happy? With Oz, I mean.”

The redhead released a slow breath. “I think so, yes. When we’re together, anyway. That’s the thing: when we hang out together, I feel like I must be seeing things that aren’t there, the rest of the time.”

“Well then, that’s what matters, right?”

“But we’re not always together. We’re hardly ever together. I know, I know: it’s been a week, and we’re all adjusting to the college thing, but I feel almost like he’s being avoidant. Plus, he stood me up last weekend!” Willow’s voice took on an indignant tone. “I told myself it wasn’t something to get worked up about, but darn it, it made me angry! The whole point was that he was supposed to take time off from the band, which he’s been putting twenty-five hours a day into, to celebrate being away at college together, and he ends up a no-show. And where was he? That’s right: with the band.”

Xander was quiet a moment, before commenting, “I wish my phone had a ‘give hugs’ button, but I don’t see one, anywhere.”

Willow, her energy spent on the last burst of ranting, sank down into her swivel chair. “I don’t know what I should do…”

~*~

Clear blue eyes flicked open and stared up at an inoperative dome light, which protruded from the gentle curve on the underside of the car’s roof. The young girl blinked away her sleep and brought a hand to her mouth for what she thought was going to be a mighty yawn, although it ended up being hardly more than a squeak. She was nestled in a makeshift bed, which had been created by piling pillows and blankets over a pair of plywood squares that fit snugly across the span between the front and back seats, leaving a small gap between the boards and the floor. Hidden in this space was a gift for the girl: a bright yellow Funshine Bear plush doll. She knew it was there because she had only been pretending to sleep when her father had carried her out to the car to begin their trip in the wee hours of the morning, and had spied her mother sneaking it underneath the slats before she was lowered into the bedding.

The car, a rusty silver Citroën DS wagon, was humming north along I-87 just outside of Sloatsburg, New York. While the girl eased herself out of slumber in the back seat, her parents sat up front—her mother napping, her father driving and watching the scenery whiz by on either side of the vehicle. Their destination was New Paltz, a quiet rural community at the foot of the Shawangunk Mountain escarpment in the heart of the Hudson Valley. Every summer since their daughter was old enough to enjoy the experience, they would endure the five-hour drive to spend a long weekend on the Mohonk Preserve. There, they would rent a room in the hotel, a massive Victorian castle; take leisurely horse-drawn carriage rides along the ridge overlooking the cerulean lake; get lost in the sprawling hedge-maze; and bask in the breathtaking, panoramic beauty of the mountains. When they grew weary of gardens and paddleboats, and yearned instead for something more adventurous, they would tackle the Labyrinth, a three quarters of a mile long rock scramble—complete with ladders, tunnels, and rope bridges—that curled around the base of the cliff face and squeezed up through a rock chimney onto the top of the bluff. From the peak, they would have an unobstructed view of nature in its full splendor for miles in every direction.

“How much longer?” the blonde child yawned from the back of the car, while stretching her arms as wide as the seats would allow. She rubbed her eyes and climbed onto the seat so she could look out the window, but quickly looked away when the rushing scenery addled her recently woken brain and caused her vision to spin.

Her father checked the clock on the dashboard. “One and a half Muppet Shows,” he announced.

“Oh, good,” his wife remarked, stirring from her own rest. “I can’t wait to get there. It’ll be nice to be able to stretch my legs.” She reached over and patted the man’s thigh, and his hand found hers, their fingers linking together. The couple shared a quiet smile, which went unnoticed by their daughter, who had by now figured out that peering out the back windshield didn’t make her carsick.

“Daddy, there’s a limousine coming fast,” she stated.

The man sneaked a peek at the rear view mirror, but saw only an empty road. He smiled at his daughter’s imagination. “Oh? It must be for something important,” he said, playing along. “Who is riding in it?”

“It’s full of dead people,” the girl replied, as simply as if being asked her name. “Their skin is melted off.”

The man nearly choked on a cough as his daughter’s words sank in. His wife gasped and spun around to face the girl in the back seat. “Honey! Why would you make up something like that?” she demanded. The woman’s face fell. “Oh…”

A long, dark funeral coach pulled up silently along side the family’s car. A vinyl roof stretched between landau bars covered blind rear quarters, and jet-black curtains hung behind the front windows, obscuring the vehicle’s inhabitants. The man found it disconcerting that the hearse matched his own speed, and he unconsciously slowed, then pressed harder on the accelerator when the other car did the same. A crack appeared at the top of the passenger-side window, and a sickly chartreuse smoke wafted out. The man was horrified to realize that despite the speed—they were creeping up on eighty miles per hour—the fog was drifting vertically, as though immune to the currents of air he could hear whistling past the Citroën’s antenna and blasting the windshield.

Spine-chilling dread wrapped itself around the man’s veins. The coach’s window was open, now, its sable curtains billowing as the eerie fog continued to pour out. The rancid odor of charred and decomposing flesh filled his nostrils, and he twisted a dial on the dashboard to stop the circulation of air. With panic overtaking reason, the man watched the speedometer over his knuckles, clenched and white on the steering wheel—eighty-five miles per hour, ninety, ninety-five. The car shook unsteadily whenever the wind changed, and the engine whined at the extra effort he was demanding. He hardly felt his wife’s nails digging into his upper arm as she tensed in the seat beside him.

“Daddy, I’m scared…”

A misshapen profile appeared through the haze, filling first the hearse’s window, then expanding in an instant to fill his own.


Rupert Giles woke up screaming.

~*~

A hot, cleansing shower, a refreshing cup of English Breakfast tea, and a forty-minute drive later, Professor Giles strode into Marie Mount Hall. He carried his briefcase in one hand, and a bag containing a half-eaten bagel in the other. Under one arm, he clutched a folded newspaper. The path to his office took him by the classroom, where a bolt of fiery red hair caught his attention through the doorway.

“Good heavens, you’re here awfully early, aren’t you?” he inquired, stepping into the room.

Willow snapped out of her reverie and focused on the gentleman. “Oh! Uh, yeah, sorry. Normally this is my lunch break, but I wasn’t much with the hunger, today, so I figured I’d sit here for a while before class. I hope that’s okay.”

Mr. Giles nodded once—a crisp, concise motion. “Of course. The room looks a bit different without all the students, doesn’t it?” The girl smiled weakly in agreement. “It’s Willow, isn’t it?”

“That’s right,” she replied, “Willow Rosenberg.”

“Ah, yes. How are you finding the class?” The professor advanced to the front of the room and deposited his things on the desk, then faced the girl.

“Oh, it’s terrific!” she gushed. “I thought it sounded really interesting when I read the description in the course catalog, but I had no idea. I’m really looking forward to the section on Chinese mythology—you know, from the Tang Dynasty?”

Mr. Giles arched his eyebrows, clearly impressed. “Well! It’s always a pleasant surprise to have students who are enthusiastic about the material. Sadly, in recent semesters I’ve found this course has become a gathering ground for students who are only looking to fulfill core requirements.”

“Mm,” Willow agreed, Buffy springing immediately to mind. “That’s unfortunate.”

The professor hesitated a moment, before opening his mouth to speak. “Say…while I’ve got you here alone, there’s something important I must bring up.” His tone indicated a touchy subject.

“Uh oh. Did I do something bad? I did, didn’t I? I let Buffy copy some of my notes, and I shouldn’t have! I wasn’t supposed to—“

Mr. Giles silenced her with a wave of his hand. “No, no, you didn’t do anything wrong,” he assured the girl. “I’m afraid I may have. You see, on Monday afternoon, a young woman came to me and asked whether I might be able to locate your contact information for her—to provide her with an address or a phone number where you might be reached. Please know that it is strictly against the University’s policy to divulge this information; I do not have direct access to it myself, in fact, and had to call in a favor to a friend in the admissions office. However, the girl seemed genuinely concerned, and I did later pass along your phone number. I realized shortly thereafter how dangerous my actions had been, and I could not in good conscience keep it from you. I hope nothing bad came of it; if you intend to file a complaint, I would understand completely.”

Willow had listened slack-jawed to the professor’s confession up until this point, when she hastily jumped in, “Oh, no—that’s okay. It was good. Great, even! But I don’t understand; how did Tara know to ask you? I mean, she doesn’t even attend the University, so she couldn’t possibly have known that I was in your class, could she?”

“No, I don’t believe she did,” Mr. Giles replied thoughtfully, shaking his head. “That seems to be a coincidence, albeit a strange one, at that. We first met just a few days ago at the art gallery, in fact. She seems to be a true admirer,” he added wistfully.

“I can imagine,” Willow agreed. “I’ve seen two of her paintings. They’re amazing!”

The professor smiled. “Really? You two are old friends then?”

“Heh, no, we actually just met last week, too.”

“Ah. She had mentioned to me that she had not painted in quite some time.”

Willow caught on. “Oh, no, that’s right. These weren’t new; I’m pretty sure she brought them from home. I mean, from her last home, a few hours east of here, somewhere. They’re up on the wall at Plato’s Diner, if you ever eat there.”

This piqued the man’s interest. “You don’t say? That’s quite fascinating. I might have to stop by for a bite, some day.”

~*~

“So how was it?” Faith pried. The evening rush had died down, and for the first time in several hours, she wasn’t in the process of preparing a meal.

Tara, who had stepped into the kitchen for a drink of water, replied, “The trip? It was really nice. The shop was perfect! Thanks so much for the recommendation. Oh, hey, I got you something.” The waitress moved to the coat closet that was tucked into the narrow entryway at the back of the restaurant and dug through her knapsack.

“For me? You’re serious?” Faith asked incredulously.

“It was very you,” Tara shrugged. “I couldn’t resist.” She produced a slender box, gift-wrapped in light pastels, and handed it to her friend. Faith tore the paper asunder and examined the present: an Indonesian keris dagger with a cranked bone handle and a tapered obsidian blade. She lifted the gift delicately from its box.

“Whoa, T, really? That’s totally badassed!” She tested the blade’s edge on the pad of her thumb. “Could use some sharpening, but still, that’s awesome.”

Tara blinked. “Faith, it’s a letter opener.”

“Hm?” Faith inspected it again, more closely this time. “Oh. Yeah, of course. I know that. Just jokin’, you know? Well, I can feel really good about stabbing my bills, now, right?” She paused for thought. “Guess I’d better start writing some people, huh?”

“I’ll admit I, uh, bought it more for form than for function,” Tara confessed.

“Naw, it’s really cool,” Faith insisted. “Thanks, T. Best present I’ve gotten all day,” she joked.

Tara smiled and grabbed a plastic cup from the windowsill, where she’d left it earlier in the day. She ran water in the sink, testing it every few seconds until it was cold.

“Now, back to this shopping trip,” Faith began, a mischievous grin stretching her lips.

“Mm?” Tara responded through a mouthful of water.

“You like her?”

It was all Tara could do not to spew her drink across the kitchen counter. She swallowed the gulp painfully, and stared at her friend, sputtering. “W-what? Who? You m-mean Willow?”

“That blonde—Buffy.” Faith’s brow furled. “Wait, Willow?”

“I like them b-both, of course.”

“You like them?” Faith stressed.

Tara’s cheeks were beet-red as she struggled through her response. “Yeah, I—wait, no—I d-don’t like any—hold on, why would I like—do you think—wait, why did you think Buffy?” The flustered waitress finally managed a complete thought.

Faith smirked at the blonde’s agitated state. “Oh, I don’t know. You know what they say: ‘opposites attract.’”

“They also s-say, ‘birds of a feather flock together,’” Tara countered.

Faith hadn’t considered this. “Huh. Yeah, they do.”

“I’m not so sure that they know what they’re talking about.”

“So you like Willow, then.”

Tara threw her hands up into the air. “Faith! Willow and Buffy are both really nice, and I’m excited about making new friends, okay?”

“Okay, okay. That’s cool,” Faith acquiesced.

“And even if I did like her—either of them,” the waitress continued, “there’s n-nothing wrong with that! And—and anyway, this is not an appropriate conversation for coworkers to have.”

Faith winced. “Wow. Okay, really, sorry I brought it up,” she muttered. Dour-faced, she stomped over to the closet and fished a packet of cigarettes from her jacket pocket.

“Wait, Faith,” Tara called, but was cut off by the door slamming shut behind the chef, as she exited to the parking lot. The blonde balled her fists and took a deep breath, looking up at the ceiling as though the answers to her social ineptitude were scrawled on the tiles above. Releasing a pent-up sigh, she followed the other girl outside.

“Faith, I d-didn’t mean that to sound so—so businesslike,” she admitted. “You’re not just a coworker; you’re my friend. I’m sorry.”

The brunette took a long drag of her cigarette. She didn’t look at Tara, but instead stared out across the half-empty lot. “It’s okay. I know I push buttons; it’s kind of my thing. I’m not the best at knowing when to quit.” She took another puff and leaned back against the building. “That’s probably why I’ve got so many good friends,” she remarked bitterly.

Tara moved next to the girl, easing her body back against the wall, as well. They looked up at the starless, copper tinged sky. “It’s pretty,” the waitress said in a hushed tone.

Faith shrugged. “It’s light pollution,” she grunted. “You get used to it.”

The girls stood in silence for a few minutes while Faith worked her cigarette down to a stub. Finally, Tara summoned up the courage for her confession. She closed her eyes and rested her head back against the diner’s exterior. “I—I really like her a lot,” she whispered. “Willow, I mean.”

Faith looked down at her feet, then at her smoke, then finally at Tara, who was also doing her best to avoid eye contact. “Yeah?”

Color crept back into Tara’s face. “It’s silly,” she admitted, “I just met her the other day. We’ve hung out only once. She—she has a b-boyfriend. I don’t even think—I mean, we hardly know a thing about each other.” The blonde kicked at a pebble, and it skittered under a Sedan. “But I think we—I think we kind of click.”

Richard’s head suddenly popped out through the doorway. “Hey, if there’s clicking going on, do you think you two could maybe do it inside? It’s getting busy in here.”

“Oh! S-sorry,” Tara started, rubbing her hands on her apron. Their boss disappeared back into the building, and Tara gave Faith one last reassuring look before following the man inside. Faith nodded thoughtfully and dropped the remnants of her cigarette to the pavement, extinguishing it with the heel of her boot.

~*~

“And that,” Willow said to herself, “takes care of that.” She set her pen down on her desk with a satisfied smile and neatened the three sheets of paper that comprised her physics homework. She’d had little trouble with the problems, and was certain she would receive perfect marks for the assignment. Willow liked that about physics: every question had a definite answer that could be deduced, and whenever she arrived at it, she could plug it back into the equation to verify its accuracy. Plus, she thought the diagrams looked kind of neat. She munched on a bag of pretzels she had bought from a vending machine on the ground floor lounge as she gave her homework one last look, then tucked the sheets securely into the inside pocket of her notebook. Assuring herself that she had applied her academic prowess to its full extent, Willow allowed herself to relax and slip out of Study Mode.

A bag bearing a picture of a sun and moon rendered in bold, primary colors lay on the floor beside the desk—her purchases from the Magic Box, which she had not yet sorted through. She took it and sat on her bed, using the surface to arrange the items as she removed them from the bag: a miniature butterfly pendant fashioned from a rainbow jasper gemstone for Joyce, a beautiful boxwood carving of a hyena for Xander—the animal represented a long-running inside joke between the two old friends—and, for Dawn, a leather-wrapped dreamcatcher with metal beads and hackle feathers dangling underneath. Finally, she withdrew the last item: a deck of cards labeled ‘Herbal Tarot.’ While the girls were shopping, Willow had been impressed by Tara’s knowledge of the many herbs that were available in the store; the blonde’s later confession that she had once done Tarot readings was enough to set Willow’s mental gears whirling. When she saw the elegantly illustrated cards, each one featuring an herb and identifying its healing properties as well as the standard Tarot symbols, she knew it would make the perfect gift for her new friend. She had asked Buffy to distract the girl for a minute while she paid for the item, and Anya, the cashier, had been kindly willing to hold the deck at the counter and slip it into her bag as they were ringing up their purchases.

‘She’ll definitely like it,’ Willow told herself for the hundredth time since leaving the store. ‘But, why did I buy her a present? I didn’t buy Buffy anything, and she’s my friend, too.’ The need to justify her decision was pulling strongly on her. ‘She did recommend the store, so it could be a gift of thanks. Although, that’s what the invitation was supposed to be. Maybe I should wait until Christmas? Maybe we’ll be better friends by then, and it will make more sense. Then again, I’m not so much with the giving of Christmas presents.’ Willow frowned at the box of cards, unsure of how it had caused such mixed feelings within her. ‘You’re being silly, Rosenberg. It’s just a gift. She’s a new friend, and you’re being nice. People sometimes go out of their way for new friends. I mean, Tara asked Mr. Giles to break school policy so that she could get my telephone number…’ She reflected upon that last thought. ‘Well, okay, maybe that’s not the best example, but it was above and beyond typical effort levels for friendship, right? And that’s what you’re doing, right? Right.’

Although she wasn’t happy with that answer, it was the best she was going to do for the moment.


Last edited by jasmydae on Sun Nov 16, 2008 11:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: (Updated November 2nd) Constants
PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2008 4:23 am 
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Yay for great update-y goodness.... It's good that Willow started to evaluate her relationship to Oz and Tara... I think Tara would love those Herb Tarot cards... Good that Tara confessed to Faith that she is interested in Willow... maybe now Faith could concentrate on trying to get into Buffy's panties...

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 Post subject: Re: (Updated November 2nd) Constants
PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2008 6:54 pm 
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Lovely update. I' m glad that Tara was able to admit her feelings to Faith. I like the friendship pairing between those two because they compliment and temper each other very well. I think Faith will end up being a good ally in future chapters.

It also seems like Will is scraping the surface of a massive realization. Of course I tend to be a favor of the 'sooner rather than later' approach, but reality always takes a bit longer. ;-)

I'm looking forward to more Willow and Tara moments and am also interested to see how Giles will factor in to this story. His dream was very eerie and I haven't quite figured out how it factors in. (Very sneaky of you!) I sense he may have an important role later on, perhaps in recognizing Tara's artistic talents.

I really like the twist you've made with Donny as the younger brother because it opens up a very different sibling relationship. You've created quite the struggle, though, because while I want her away from her overbearing father, I recognize that she can't just leave her little brother. Should make for more drama later on.

Anyway...I've rambled enough. Great update!


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 Post subject: Re: (Updated November 2nd) Constants
PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2008 5:09 am 
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Hello! I was not able to read it whole yet, only the first part, but I wanted to send a little feedback, 'cause I love (once agaon) Willow's conversation with Xander; I remember her thinking she may have a crush on a Tara, maybe it appears later, I should read but I don't have the time i fear, but I hope Willow will talk about it with Xander. :)

And you're really welcome for my feedback, it is really an entertaining fic, and it is a lovely read. :)

I'll send a longer feedback later. :)

Friendly,

julia

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 Post subject: Re: (Updated November 2nd) Constants
PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2008 7:07 am 
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Quote:
sadie: Hi! Thanks so much for dropping me a line. :) Yeah, Willow and Tara will be getting to know each other soon. I wanted it to be in this chapter (8), but unfortunately, it's getting pushed to 9 or else it'll be another week before I post this one. *sigh* I wish I could write faster. I can't fathom these authors that post several times a day. I wish the words came that easily to me! I have to do the 'in my head copy' --> 'rough draft on paper' --> 'play script on paper' --> 'rough draft on computer' --> 'revised draft on computer' --> 'final draft on computer' full process for each chapter. :/ I agree with you about the pace: one of the best things about stories that build slowly? They tend to be much longer. ;) Unfortunately, this also means they tend to get abandoned more often than not. I want to finish this fic!


Hey! I'm a bit late in replying again but see -- already missed like 3 updates. And you say you don't write fast enough! I think you're doing great regarding the process of writing. Revisions are important -- I can't stress that enough as a translator, lol. Besides, no need to post every day anyway... where's the fun in that hey! ;) You gotta leave us wanting more!

Thanks for these great updates. I like how Giles is entering the picture now... and Anya is a hoot!

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 Post subject: Re: (Updated November 2nd) Constants
PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2008 1:01 pm 
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Mmm ... I was kinda curious why Willow didn't mention Tara in her conversation with Xander, but then when I got to the end and all that internal babble about the gift she had bought Tara spoke volumes. Denial - ah, Willow, you know you know - just admit it and get it over with. You'll feel much better :)

I liked that you gave Xander the opportunity to confirm Willow's own doubts, it was reminiscent of the conversation in season 4 when Willow was worried about Oz not wanting to make love - damn, can't remember the name of the episode and I''m too lazy to walk 7ft to check the dvds.

I also liked the nod to season 3 when Faith recieves Tara's present. Ok, so this Faith isn't a psychotic slayer, but her comment about the lack of sharpness was priceless. I like how you are writing Faith - on the surface she is confident, outgoing, sassy etc, but just throwing in that comment about 'good friends' gives her more depth and piques my curiosity about her even more.

Giles' dream was very interesting. I actually thought it was another Tara dream - but that was your intention, I reckon.

I can't wait to find out his story.

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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 12 Feedback
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 10:27 pm 
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Woo! Over 50,000 words!

Zampsa1975: Yay for great feedback-y goodness.... yay for posting while nude. Yeah, I think the Tarot cards sounded neat, too. My older sister had an interest in Tarot readings, and always had a few decks floating around the house. I loved the artwork on those things. Hahaha, yes, I've noticed that many fics favor the Faith/Buffy relationship. I didn't start out my story with that intention, although you never know quite where your characters will lead you; discovering this is one of the most fun parts of writing! Tara does seem to be a bit more aware of her feelings, doesn't she?

ophelia11: Thank you so much for the thoughtful feedback. It's always responses like this that I look for after writing a chapter. I agree: I've always thought Tara and Faith made a great pairing for friends, due in part to their drastically different personalities, and from what I've read, many others seem to feel this way, as well! I definitely plan on keeping Faith a major player in the story. Willow does seem to be waffling a little...does she really get that she's into Tara, or not? Frustrating. But I felt like I had to write it this way, or else Chapter 14 will lose some of its impact. Whoops! Did I just type that? :sh I'm glad you liked Giles' introduction to the story. He's involved in a few different story arcs, so expect much more from the haunted professor in future chapters. There's always room for more rambling; I appreciate the comments you've left, and am always desperate for more!

JujuDeRoussie: Aside from Tara (*flutter*), I think my favorite thing of all about the show was the relationship between Xander and Willow. It's something I'm pretty darned envious of, to be honest. I've actually got a guy friend whom I've known since we were six, but we haven't been tremendously close for the last decade or so. There's just something magical about having a friend that's known you since childhood. Somebody who knows your deepest roots, you know? I did consider Willow brining up Tara in her talk with Xander, but I purposefully left it out; if anything, I think it would be a conversation more fun to write while they were talking in person, instead of over the phone. As to your feedback: thank you thank you thank you. These little conversations between the chapters are what make writing them so much fun!

sadie: Oh, hi there. ^_^/ Yes! I've been getting faster. Part of this is better planning. Part of it is having a chapter coming up that I've really been excited about writing, so I've been kind of flying through the preceding ones. And, okay, partly it's because I've been really antisocial, and not going out as frequently. About Anya: Yeah! I really loved her character on the show. I have a feeling she won't appear in my story too often, not because I'm disinterested, but because I don't believe I could do her justice with my writing. I have a feeling I'd fall into the easy trap of making her too one-dimensional. But, then, I keep ending up surprised when I look back over my 'throw anything in a hat' notes, so...I guess you never know for certain.

Paint the Sky: *penguin hugs* Yeah, like I mentioned above, I thought about Willow bringing up Tara in her conversation, then dropped the idea. I thought I might save it for Parents' Weekend. ^_^ Plus, a little more set up was needed, which will make more sense in the next couple chapters. If there's one thing Xander has always been good at (other than boarding up windows and repairing coffee tables), it's reducing complex emotions to their most basic pieces, and for that I always thought he was great at the whole confidante during difficult times role. Oh, definitely, just had to include knives in there, somewhere! Faith is one of my favorite characters to write. Oddly, despite being my favorite character on the show, Tara is one of the most difficult for me. So this is good practice. Yes, I was being sneaky with dreams. :p

********************************
********************************
NOTE TO EVERYBODY
********************************
********************************
I admit that this is a shameless plug, and that I am like many writers a total feedback whore, but I thought of a fun contest that I hope might garner interest in the story, and, uh, be fun? I guess I said that already. Anyway, in writing this story I've amassed a notebook full of story ideas, character notes, plot arcs, scripted scenes, doodles, and other inanity. I figure, to whomever has scored the most dibs posts by the time the story ends (this might take a while): I will send all of these story notes as a special thank you. Let the games begin. ^_^b

Thanks to all, and enjoy the next chapter.

~ Megan


Last edited by jasmydae on Sun Nov 16, 2008 11:36 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 13
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 10:34 pm 
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***
Part 13
***

“It was a car accident!” Willow exclaimed, the moment she heard Buffy enter the room.

The blonde, who had become familiar over the years with her friend’s seemingly random outbursts, took this in stride. “Will, if you keep using that as your greeting, people are going to start questioning your sanity.” She walked up behind Willow and waved a quick hello to Cordelia, who was examining herself in the full-length mirror on the back of the closet door.

“Mr. Giles,” Willow clarified, without once looking away from the computer. “It was a car accident, three years ago. That’s how he lost his family.” She flicked her scroll button a few times, and paragraphs flew up the screen.

Buffy had always marveled at her best friend’s ability to process information at six times the speed of nerd. She inched closer to the computer, peering at the screen whenever it ceased its motion. The website, loaded into a window in the center of the screen, was unfamiliar and covered with photographs, scanned forms, and diagrams. Half obscured in the background, she saw a series of smaller windows scrolling text and numbers at an alarming rate. “Uh, do I even want to know what you’re doing?”

“Oh…they were hit by a drunk driver,” Willow read on, wisely leaving the question unanswered, “It says here he had fallen asleep at the wheel, and veered into Professor Giles’ lane. It forced his car off the road.”

“Awful Maryland drivers strike again,” Buffy joked hesitantly, uncertain how best to react to her friend’s intent focus on the topic.

The redhead looked at her for the first time since she’d entered the room, and frowned. “It wasn’t in Maryland,” she corrected, “It was in New York.” She returned her attention to the screen and clicked a button, causing a new window to pop up, this one containing a scanned document with nearly illegible handwriting scribbled all over it. “Near some place called Tuxedo Park. Huh, that’s a weird name. Oh…” Her hand stilled on the mouse. “He had a daughter in the car. She was seven.”

“Who’s Mr. Giles?” Cordelia asked. She had two dresses, one in each hand, and was alternating between them, holding each up against her front while she posed before the mirror.

“He’s our Mythology professor,” Willow explained. “Buffy’s and mine. Oh, Buffy, I didn’t tell you: I talked with him before class on Wednesday, just for a few minutes. He knows Tara; can you believe that?”

“What? How? From the diner?”

“I guess he ran into her at the gallery. The one in the art building, I mean.”

“Really? Huh. It’s a small world, I guess,” Buffy shrugged.

“So, not to butt into the weirdness that is looking up your professors on the Internet, but are you two ready?” Cordelia inquired while digging through the closet for a pair of heels she remembered burying earlier. “Or am I going to end up waiting for you? ‘Cause if so, chop chop, hm?”

“I’m all set,” Buffy assured her.

“Yeah, me, too,” Willow agreed.

Cordelia glanced at Willow’s reflection in the mirror, and her eyebrows rose high on her forehead. “Are you serious? You’re wearing that?” she asked.

“Uh huh,” the redhead nodded.

Her roommate turned around slowly, and glanced at Buffy. The two shared a look and nodded, while Willow looked down uncertainly at her own outfit—a pair of drab, ocher corduroy trousers and a lightweight, lavender top. When she looked up again, a mischievous, predatory gleam sparkled in the eyes of the other girls. “What?” she asked nervously.

~*~

“And you’re sure your cell phone is on?” Tara asked for the third time since they’d left the diner.

“For crying out loud, T.” Faith rolled her eyes at her friend. “Yes. It’s on. Still. Your brother can reach you if he lights the apartment on fire, or accidentally drops your goldfish into the trash compactor, or gets sick from eating an entire package of Fig Newtons in one sitting, or whatever the heck else little brothers get up to when they’re left home alone. It’ll be fine. Relax.”

The two girls walked side by side along the paved path that ran between Route One and its many storefronts. Faith hadn’t asked pressed with any questions when Tara had asked if she could shower at Faith’s apartment, instead of stopping by her own. “We don’t even have any goldfish,” Tara pointed out.

“Well, see, then? No problems at all,” Faith flashed an extra-wide, toothy grin. “Oh, hey, you’ll probably want this.” She slipped a lacquered, plastic card into the blonde’s hand.

The waitress examined the card. It was a student ID bearing a picture of a girl whose face bore a striking similarity to Tara’s, although her name and date of birth did not match. “Who is it?” Tara asked, confused.

“You.”

“What? Uh, Faith, that’s not me.”

The brunette faked surprise. “Really? Let me see.” She took the card back from Tara and inspected the image closely, looking back and forth several times between it and Tara’s face. “Well, it sure looks like you to me. Don’t you think so, Miss, uh—“ She checked the card one more time. “Miss Cassandra Mitchell?”

“Faith!” Tara gasped. “I can’t use a fake ID to g-get into a party. That would be—I mean, I don’t even w-want to drink,” she insisted.

“Oh, come on, Cassie,” Faith grinned. “Live a little. You can’t be walking around without one of those stupid stamps, right?”

Tara frowned. “Hey, I’m going to the party, right? I don’t want to get into trouble; I’d be fine without a stamp.” She paused, thinking. “What’s the point of a stamp, anyway? Couldn’t somebody without one just get alcohol from somebody with one?”

Faith shrugged. “I didn’t make the rules. I guess it’s the fraternity’s loose interpretation of responsibility. Look, just flash the ID for my sake, will you? At least yours looks like you; mine, not so much. I don’t even know if they’ll buy it, and it’ll seem even fishier if we show up together and you don’t have one.

“Fine,” Tara grumbled. “Wait, I thought you told me you were twenty-one.”

“Well, yeah, basically,” Faith said. “You know, uh, in another…sixteen months.”

~*~

“No way,” Willow stated adamantly, staring at herself in the mirror with wide eyes and shaking her head from side to side. “Absolutely no way.”

On either side of her, Buffy and Cordelia admired their handiwork. “It’s amazing what effect a serious defrumping can have on a person,” Cordelia remarked. Buffy just stared, slack-jawed, and nodded dumbly, unable to believe that the stunning creature in the ruddy long-sleeved top and black miniskirt was her bashful friend. Cordelia leaned over and carefully dabbed a spot of mascara off of Willow’s cheek with a damp cotton swab. “My work here is done,” she proclaimed proudly.

Willow continued to fidget in front of the mirror, wringing her hands together nervously. She tugged weakly at the skirt’s fabric, as though she could extend it by her will alone, and played with the tie at the back of her choker. “I—I don’t know about this,” she said timidly. “I mean, this look isn’t—well, it isn’t really me.”

“You look amazing,” Buffy assured her. “I can’t wait to see the guys drooling over you.”

“I don’t want drooling boys,” Willow pointed out, grabbing for her coat as soon as the other girls took a step back, so that she would had something to cover herself with. “I’ve got Oz.”

“Well, you’re going to totally knock his socks off,” Buffy insisted, getting her own coat. “Now come on, girls. Let’s go party!”

~*~

The skies had darkened and a light drizzle had begun by the time the three girls reached Kappa Alpha house, the first building on the north end of Fraternity Row. A few strands of Willow’s hair, originally pinned up by Cordelia, had come loose and were plastered to her neck. The girls huddled under the narrow stone awning that jutted out above the entryway, waiting for a small group of students to file past one of the brothers into the building.

“That’s a really ugly flag,” Buffy declared, indicating the banner that hung over the doorway, which was whipping around with the changing winds. The center of flag bore the symbol of the Red Cross, but it was bordered on either side by wide bands of crimson and yellow. It reminded Willow of ketchup and mustard.

“Can I see your IDs, please?” the brother asked when they stepped up to the door. Cordelia and Buffy started rifling through their purses, and Willow reached into one of her pea coat’s massive pockets.

“Oh, hey! They’re cool, Dougie; they’re with the band.” Oz appeared in the doorway behind the other man, his spiky hair matted down from several runs out to the van. He ushered the girls inside, getting the bouncer to stamp each of their hands in the process—the brother didn’t seem terribly concerned with who got a stamp and who didn’t—and gave Willow a gentle hug. “Hey, Will. Buffy. And, uh…” he nodded at Cordelia politely.

“Oh! Oz, this is Cordelia, my roommate. Cordelia: Oz, my boyfriend. His band is playing at the party, tonight, and—whoa, what’s with the, um, tangle?” Willow completed the thought with a wave of her hand in the general direction of the staircase. Tied to the banister on either side of the stairs were nearly a hundred long, colorful strands of twine. From their anchor points on the railing, they disappeared into various doorways, some running up the stairs, and some farther down the hallway. There were even a dozen or so which ran along the floor and sneaked out the lower corner of the front door.

“They’re supposed to be some kind of icebreaker,” Oz explained. “You’ve got to untangle them, so you end up going over, under, and around everybody else at the party who’s doing the same thing. The brothers have been unrolling spools all day long. I saw some of them setting it up, earlier. It’s pretty involved; those strings are wrapped around everything.” He reached out to take Willow’s coat, but the redhead took an instinctive step back, and wrapped it even more tightly around herself.

“Uh, no, no. Still a little cold,” she said hastily.

“That sounds cool,” Buffy decided. “Sign me up for stringy icebreakers.”

“What’s with the signs?” Cordelia asked. She pointed at two cardboard squares that hung from the posts at the end of the handrails, which sported the astronomical symbols for Venus and Mars.

“Girls take strings from the left-hand side, and boys from the right,” Oz instructed.

Buffy studied the signs. “What’s the difference?” she asked.

The musician shrugged. “Who will be on the other end, probably.”

The blonde grinned. “So, you taking one, Oz? Gonna see if Team Rained-Upon Redheads can stand up to the test of the Strings of Fate?”

“I have actually got to go help Greg unload the last of the equipment, then we’ll be warming up shortly afterward,” Oz admitted.

“Do you need any help unloading?” Willow offered.

“Nah, I got it.” Oz shook his head with a smile. “Thanks.”

“Well, okay,” Buffy teased the boy good-humoredly. “Hey Will, let’s all go reel in a few college hotties!”

Oz smirked at the blonde. “You ladies enjoy the party.” He pulled Willow into one final hug, before heading out the door, reaching out a hand to test the water that was cascading from the awning, then hopping down the steps and dashing across the lawn to the road.

Cordelia had a self-satisfied look of amusement on her face. “I get it, now.”

“Hm?” Willow asked.

“I understand why he’s called Oz. It’s because he’s a munchkin, right?”

The redhead gasped in disbelief. “Osbourne!” she exclaimed. “His last name’s Osbourne!”

~*~

Faith balanced with one foot on top of a dresser and the other on a windowsill. She stretched her arms as far as they could go, and fed her strand of twine through the shade cover. Foot by foot, she tugged it over and through, but the string seemed endless. Quickly growing impatient, she gave a wary glance at the handful of others in the room, then reached into her back pocket for a penknife and deftly severed the strand. Once free of the shade, she immediately began tying the ends back together.

“Faith,” Tara chided with a wry grin as she entered the room. “That’s cheating.”

“Can’t prove nothing,” Faith chuckled.

“Have you resorted to weaponry, already? Don’t shortcuts take all the fun out of it?” Tara delivered the questions with a smile, to let her friend know she was only teasing.

“Hey, this thing’s supposed to be an icebreaker, right? Takin’ a shortcut is fine with me; I don’t need any help breakin’ ice.” Faith finished her knot and hopped down from the furniture.

“No,” Tara giggled, “I’m sure you don’t.”

“Speakin’ of icebreakers, you should see the bar they’ve got set up downstairs, T. If you want anything, just say the word, and I’ll grab it for you. Or I’ll walk you over there, if you wanna see it for yourself. We can put that hard-earned stamp of yours to good use.”

Tara shook her head. “I’m really not interested in drinking. But thanks for the offer.”

“Okay, suit yourself. How’s your untangling going?” Faith picked up her own drink from where she had left it on the bureau, and took a gulp of the honey-colored concoction.

Tara held up her coil of twine helplessly. “I’m not making much headway. In fact, I’m pretty much hopeless; I think I’m only making it worse. Oh, but at least mine wasn’t the one going out the window.” At her friend’s dubious look, Tara insisted, “No, r-really, the last room I went through, there were a few strands going out the window and into the next one over.”

“Huh, no kiddin’. I guess they take their icebreakers pretty seriously, around here. Can’t wait to see some drunken frat boy tumble two stories out of a window.”

~*~

Her growing ball of twine in hand, Willow gingerly navigated the dimly lit steps leading down to the fraternity’s basement level. Her thread was difficult to distinguish from two dozen others that ran along the wall, twisting around each other and looping through heavy-duty staples that had been hammered halfway into the wall at irregularly spaced intervals. The lower level was warm, and Willow’s arms itched from both the heat and the heavy wool fabric of her coat. She pushed a frazzled lock of hair away from her face, ineffectually draping it over one of her pins, and returned to the chore of unwinding her thread.

A squat pool table was centered in the room. It was in a dire state of disrepair; the felt was torn in several places, revealing hard, grey slate underneath. Dark amber stains spotted the fabric, and the colonial maple sported many scratches and cigarette burns. The table appeared to be a hub for the strands of twine, which radiated outward from its legs like the spokes of a bicycle wheel. Following her own string, Willow knit her brow when she realized it disappeared into the occupied socket of a lit lamp. She supposed it must be wrapped around the base of the light bulb itself. ‘Well, that’s kind of dangerous,’ she thought. ‘It’s probably a fire hazard or something.’ The situation was problematic: in order to free the thread, she would have to extract the light bulb, and the bulb was almost certainly too hot to handle bare handed. Plus, it was the only obvious light source she could locate in the room. There was a ceiling fan with a light on it, but no pull-cord, and the fan had too many lines wrapped around it; she didn’t want to chance accidentally turning on the fan instead of its light.

Willow ducked and weaved her way to an armchair that was set next to the lamp. On its cushion, she found a small oasis in the middle of the room full of webbing. She dug through her pockets and produced a handkerchief, which she folded back on itself twice—enough to provide adequate padding against the light bulb’s heat. Gripping her roll of thread between her teeth, Willow flicked the lamp’s switch with one hand, and began twisting the bulb with the other, using her handkerchief as a buffer.

“Hey!” a voice squealed in the darkness. “Don’t turn that off!” The yelp startled Willow, and she almost dropped her bundle of string.

“Sorry! Sorry!” She fumbled for the switch, and a moment later the room was once again flooded with light. “My string’s running through the lamp,” she apologized. “I didn’t see you down there.”

A set of shoes stuck out from underneath the pool table. They slowly shimmied toward her, followed by jeans. “Willow?” Andrew asked.

“Andrew?” Willow ducked her head lower, and saw the boy tangled in a colorful web of twine. “Hey! I didn’t know you were coming to this party. Are you—are you all right, under there?”

“Uh huh. Uh, hang on, I lost my—oh, here it is. It’s a real mess under here. I’ve been trying to get my strand free for about fifteen minutes. Don’t worry about the light; you’re the third person who’s done that.”

Willow nodded. “So, um, don’t take this the wrong way, but aren’t you—I mean, you don’t strike me as—aren’t you a little young? For a fraternity party, I mean?”

“Heh. So which one are you: the kettle, or the pot?” the boy teased.

Willow stuck out her tongue. “Okay, you’re right, but Buffy and Cordelia dragged me here. What’s your excuse?”

“Tucker told me I had to go to KA’s first party,” Andrew explained with a scowl. “He said he was holding my copy of ‘Turok: Son of Stone’ for ransom until I upheld my ‘brotherly duty,’ as he calls it.”

“Wasn’t he only here for less than a month?”

“Technically, yes. As a student, anyway. But his ties with the Kappa Alpha Order are life lasting; he became an honorary member because during his first few weeks, he bred these—“

“Hold it,” Willow raised her hand, halting the boy’s narrative. “If this is going to be something incriminating, I’d rather not hear it.”

“Right. Good point. So did Tara and Faith come with you and Buffy?” Andrew wriggled a bit to his left, and managed to weave his wad of string through a particularly nasty tangle.

“They’re not students; you know that.”

“Well, I saw them both a little while ago, so they’re here with somebody,” the boy countered, his voice strained from the awkward position into which he had twisted his body.

Willow’s mouth was suddenly much drier. “Oh. Tara is here?” She unconsciously tightened her coat around her body, and cast a nervous glance toward the stairway.

“Yup. Last time I saw her, she was in one of the upstairs bedrooms, trying to get her string free from a bunch of coat hangers.” There was a pause, then the boy sang triumphantly, “Yes! Got it!” He liberated himself from the webbing, and scooched out from under the pool table. Streaks of dust smeared his clothing and face, but his smile was wide and proud.

~*~

Cordelia grimaced as she unwound her string from the inside handle of a walk-in closet. “I’ve got to be honest: when I thought college fraternity party, I kind of imagined keg stands and beer pong, not a half hour of unraveling—oh,” she flattened herself up against the wall as a young man squeezed past her, presenting her with a cordial smile. Her eyes followed him into the closet, coming to rest on his perfectly sculpted backside. “Then again,” she mused, “I suppose it does have its perks.”

“I dunno, I think it’s kind of neat,” Buffy replied from underneath a bed, where she had spent the last few minutes untangling her strand from a set of free weights. “It’s something to do for the first hour or so while the party picks up. And I’m sure those things will come later; I’m pretty certain I saw the table in the kitchen, actually.”

Her friend, however, was too busy imagining her virile closetmate shirtless for the blonde’s words to register. “Hi,” she said, offering her free hand to the young man. “I’m Cordelia. Are you one of the KA brothers?”

Due to her position, Buffy was oblivious to losing the brunette as an audience, so she continued rambling away. “I hope Will’s handling herself well, being separated and all. I have this awful yet rather amusing picture of her managing to get herself completely entangled in a pantry or someplace. She seemed pretty intent on being the first one to unravel hers, though. Hey, thanks for—oof!—inviting us, by the way; I’m sure we wouldn’t have landed party invites on our own, our first week on campus.” She snickered. “Mom would be so proud. But, yeah, it’s nice to have—oh, for crying out loud!” She nearly spat the last few words, bitter and venomous.

That caught Cordelia’s attention. She reluctantly broke off her flirtatious introduction and excused herself, stomping over to the bed and peering underneath. “What did you do now? Did you hurt yourself?”

Buffy did her best to maneuver her body around the tangle of threads. “Guess one of us won’t be finding a college hottie at the end of their rope,” she remarked.

“Why is that?” Cordelia asked, frowning as her man of interest extricated himself from the closet and slipped out of the room, gathering up his twine as he went. She sighed.

“Because the end is under here.”

Cordelia knit her brow. “It snapped? Maybe you can find the other piece and tie them together?” she suggested helpfully.

“No, I’m pretty sure this isn’t accidental. This is the end of the line.” Buffy began wriggling backward on her stomach, inching out from under the bed.

“Well, how do you know—“

Buffy freed herself from the net of strings and held up the last foot and a half of her own. Dangling from the thread, secured with several staples and a wide band of cellophane tape, was a single jumbo playing card: the Old Maid herself.

“—oh.”

~*~

By the time Willow finally managed to unwrap her line from the basement furniture, Andrew had headed back upstairs, and a dozen other students had come and gone. Several had tried to strike up a conversation with her, but each had quickly reined in the attempt. Possibly, this was due the fact that the girl continued to wear a heavy wool coat, despite the sweltering heat of the basement; or maybe it was the terse, nervous responses she would give them, while focusing intently on unknotting her twine. She didn’t realize that the tiny pink tip of her tongue stuck out of the corner of her mouth as she worked on a particularly troublesome snarl.

When Faith sauntered down the stairs, Willow was pulling the last few feet of her string through a Nerf basketball hoop, which hung over the back of a heavily-postered door. She watched the redhead for a few seconds, wondering whether or not she knew the significance of her thread’s color, before deciding to announce her presence. “Hey, Red, you coming or going?”

Willow looked over at the newcomer, her eyes as wide and expressive as a doe’s. “I’m sorry, what? Oh, hey. Faith, right?”

Faith bobbed her chin once in the girl’s direction. “What’s with the winter wear? It’s hot as hell down here.”

Color seeped into Willow’s cheeks. “Oh, um, I kind of—” She shifted uncomfortably and looked down at her attire, reluctantly undoing the buttons of her pea coat. “My friends thought I should—I mean, they said I couldn’t wear what I had on before, and—and this isn’t really me, and I’m not too sure I—I—” She sighed and parted the coat, exposing her outfit in all its glory. “It’s a little, uh, embarrassing,” she meekly finished.

After whistling appreciatively, Faith commented, “Damn. Ain’t that somethin’? You’ve got nothin’ to be embarrassed about; a body like that is just screamin’ to be seen.” She chuckled. “You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff I’ve got in my closet. Trust me: you’re gonna have the boys panting like dogs.” Willow wasn’t sure which idea sat more uncomfortably in her stomach: her existing fear that people would stare at her in amusement, or her new, budding fear that they would stare—might stare—possibly—because they lusted after her.

“Come on, pass it here,” Faith instructed, beckoning for Willow to hand over her coat. ‘God, do I want to be nearby when T sees this for the first time!’

~*~

For the next half-hour, Buffy and Cordelia took turns reeling in Cordelia’s string. Buffy had long since deposited hers, card and all, into a handy trash receptacle, which nearly had been filled with beer bottles and red plastic cups. They navigated the hallways more easily now that the majority of the strands had been collected, although the number of partygoers was steadily increasing and threatening to fill the space that had been freed. Rounding a corner, Buffy walked headlong into a tall young man with sandy blond hair. She barely managed to hold in a startled yelp. The crash jarred the bundles of twine from both of their grasps, and they almost collided again when they knelt at the same moment to retrieve them.

“Whoa, whoa,” the boy laughed, merriment evident in his hazel eyes. “Okay, no sudden movements.” He stood carefully and offered a hand to help Buffy up, inconspicuously noting the lion she had stamped on the soft underside of her wrist.

“Sorry,” she apologized, “I guess I should watch where I’m going.”

“I didn’t mind,” the boy grinned, then followed it hastily with, “I mean, a few surprises here and there help to keep a fellow on his toes, right?”

Buffy tried to neaten the mess of string she now held, with several loops dangling all the way to the floor. She collected them, and when the last of the strands lifted off of the floor, she realized it formed a hanging arch, sweeping right up to the heap in the young man’s hands. “Oh…”

Cordelia, who couldn’t bear to stand aside while her friend made a total fool of herself in front of such a deliciously fashioned specimen, shouldered into the conversation. “Well, hello. I’m Cordelia. It seems you’re the one I’ve—we’ve,” she corrected herself, “been drawing closer to, this whole time.” She gave him a winning smile.

The affable young man studied her for a moment, then confusedly looked back and forth between the two, and finally resorted to his boyish grin. “I’m Riley. It’s nice to run into you—um, literally, I guess. Also, nice to meet you.”

~*~

“Oh, son of a—you’ve got to be kiddin’ me,” Faith uttered, upon realizing her strand of twine was pinched in the window, and descended to the ground outside. She hoisted the window up and thrust her head outside, examining the string, which ran down to, and seemed to be wrapped around, a rather popular tree; a handful of students were already unwrapping their own lines from the trunk, and looping them up and over the lowest branches. Faith considered, just for a moment, climbing out of the window and jumping, but then she figured that was probably Jack Daniels’ idea. Instead, she resigned herself to going back downstairs and out into the yard. When she turned to leave the room, however, the line she carried went slack. She thought for a moment it had been severed, and doubled back to check.

“Hey!” a voice called up to her. Faith squinted her eyes to make out the dark figure below. “Faith, is that you?” She thought he sounded familiar.

“Oh, God. Andrew?”

“It is you! How’s the view up there?”

Faith realized that the bundles they held were connected by a final span of string, which was waving in the wind. “Kind of unusual,” she replied, “and not exactly what I was expecting.”

Andrew, unfazed by her offhanded remark, took advantage of the opportunity. “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!” he boldly called.

“Wherefore art thou a total dork?” Faith muttered under her breath.

~*~

“Finally,” Tara said to herself as the last loop unraveled from the bedpost. She sat on the edge of the bed and straightened her back, then twisted, feeling a series of pops crackle up her spine. Reclining backward onto the mattress, she extended her arms high over her head and enjoyed a glorious stretch.

“Tara?” A hushed query barely carried over the raucous background chatter. ‘Such a sweet voice,’ Tara thought. Her lips curled into a content smile before she even sat up.

“That sounds like a Willow,” she breathed. Tara lifted herself to her elbows, her honey blonde hair sweeping over the mattress to hang loosely at her back.

Willow took a tentative step into the room. “Hi,” she gave her friend a tiny, self-conscious wave, unable to keep her hands still. She wondered why they were whispering, given the volume of the party; despite the congregation in the hallway just outside the door, the room strangely felt like an intimate haven.

“…Wow.” She was a vision to Tara. Her eyes rebelled against her brain’s insistence for tact, and ran the full length of the redhead, from her boots and stockings to her figure flattering carmine top. An aura of discomfort and vulnerability surrounded the girl, easily readable in her wide eyes and trembling hands, which clutched like a lifeline the string that ran between Tara’s pile and her own. She reminded Tara of an angel. ‘No, not an angel,’ Tara mentally corrected, her gaze sweeping back down Willow’s outfit. ‘Far, far from an angel.’ So accustomed was she to the flutters of adoration and puppy love, which often accompanied the arrival of her new friend, that it came as a surprise to Tara when this new feeling blossomed: a tightening of her stomach, a surge of blood through her veins, a pooling warmth. There was no mistaking her body’s response: she wanted Willow Rosenberg.


Last edited by jasmydae on Sun Nov 16, 2008 11:36 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: (Updated November 7) Constants
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2008 12:06 am 
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Hi! I guess Dibs, But I don't know if they'll count since I can't read right now, I hope pretty soon I'll be able.

Anyway, I'm curious about your notes now! :-D

And yeah, it would definitely be great to have a friend like Xander.

;-)

Friendly

Julia

ETA: Ok I could read it, and goody goody :-D
Andrew is so funny, I love him! lol.
And Buffy as an Old Maid? Lol.

But yeah, want more more more :-D

;-)

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 Post subject: Re: (Updated November 7) Constants
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2008 1:46 am 
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Yay for great update-y goodness... Good that Willow definately got Tara's attention... I hope they are very soon able to get snuggly... maybe even :wtkiss ... I kinda hope that Oz's interest to the new lead singer is plainly seen by everybody and Willow decide to dump him and Tara is able to ease Willow pain...

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 Post subject: Re: (Updated November 7) Constants
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2008 5:29 am 
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You left us alone with Tara and Willow in a room... wait... that's a good thing!! ;)

Loved this update, you've got a great sense of humor ;D So looking forward to more!! Yay for planning!! :D

Quote:
six times the speed of nerd


I have to remember that one, haha!

Quote:
“I understand why he’s called Oz. It’s because he’s a munchkin, right?”


Classic!

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 Post subject: Re: (Updated November 7) Constants
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2008 9:54 am 
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Okay, how did Willow and Tara...they did get the same thread, or did theirs jsut corss int hat room? Who cheated *grin?

And props to Faith for using "wherefore" correctly.

That twine thing has the sound of a you-can't amkek-this-stuff-up incident to it; is there an itnerestign story behind ho you heard of it?

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 Post subject: Re: (Updated November 7) Constants
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2008 1:10 pm 
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Finally caught up...

First off, it's really nice to see Tara with at least one loving/supportive family member.

I also enjoyed the exchange over the fake IDs. Although it's still nice to get carded at 25, I do miss those days when a fake ID was needed.


Quote:
I understand why he’s called Oz. It’s because he’s a munchkin, right?


HA!

Great update. Looking forward to more.


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 Post subject: Re: (Updated November 7) Constants
PostPosted: Sat Nov 08, 2008 11:39 pm 
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Hola!

Another great update. Your way of making me miss college is just classic. I don't remember having quite as much fun, due in part to the lack of frat houses. Loved how Faith and Andrew ended up connected and the fun ribbing that came from it.

As you've planted more seeds, I'm starting to form some theories about Giles, though I have to say in the grand scheme of things I'm still in the dark.

Loved this line:

Quote:
“I understand why he’s called Oz. It’s because he’s a munchkin, right?”


A classic for sure. And what a delicious ending.

Quote:
There was no mistaking her body’s response: she wanted Willow Rosenberg.


With this realization, I think some interesting things are about to happen.

Now I've always been a fan of Oz, so I like that you haven't made him a total butthead in this story. Essentially he's just an unaware college guy (aren't they all?) and the drifting apart that he and Willow have been experiencing feels very natural. You've also created this sort of "changing of the guards" thing with Oz not even noticing Willow's unusual attire, yet Tara notices not only the clothing, but also her vulnerability.

Both Willow and Tara have this cute innocence about them that is very enjoyable to read. Their slow discovery of these new and sometimes naughty feelings is so fun.

Love it! ;-)


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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 13 Feedback
PostPosted: Sun Nov 09, 2008 11:47 pm 
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JujuDeRoussie: Yeah, in my notes I have only the phrase: "LAWL Old Maid." I also have some fun seating diagrams for the upcoming chapter. I suppose the dibs counts, although I think I should probably make the contest more subjective. Something like...the feedbacker that provides the most useful comments over the life of the story. 'Cause that way it's incentive not just for the first person. Anyway, I can't express how thankful I am to have people willing to write a little something after each chapter. It's kind of embarrassing how many times a day I check this thread to see whether anyone's mentioned it. *sigh*

Zampsa1975: You'll probably like this next chapter. :) How do you know Oz is going to be interested in the lead singer?

sadie: I thought the same thing! When I was reading back over my own chapter, and I hit the ending, I was all, "GRAH. IN ROOM TOGETHER." Only...well, probably less coherent than that. I actually have noticed that when I don't really think about it...I mean, when I'm not actively trying to set a mood with my writing, that I always default to humor. I think that comes from reading too many Calvin and Hobbes strips. So, that will probably be a constant throughout the story.

DaddyCatALSO: Thanks to much for the feedback! Hee. All will be explained, about the strings. And quickly! Yeah, I guess Faith really knows her antiquated expressions. Believe it or not, the string party it's actually not something from my college experience, unlike most of the other stuff in this tale. It's either a design of my really strange imagination, or else I read about it years ago when I was looking for interesting party ideas. But it does sound like fun, doesn't it?

onyxsundrops: Oh, hi! Fancy meeting you, here. Have I mentioned that I'm dying for a continuation of "Food for Thought"? *beams* That quote you picked out seemed to be a favorite. I snickered when I thought of it, too. I meant to play the Cassie Mitchell joke out at least once more, but I ...kind of forgot. And I'm about to post the next chapter at almost 3 in the morning, so there's no way I'm going back to edit it, now. Drat. And, yes, I can't wait to write more Donny scenes. Thank you very much for the feedback. Always very (very) appreciated.

ophelia11: Yeah, oh my gosh do I love writing the stuff between Faith and Andrew. I'm curious what you're thinking about Giles. Verrrrry curious. e_e; I always felt that 'want' was a pretty darned powerful word. And yeah, I liked Oz, too! He was one of my favorite characters in the earlier seasons. Just the fact that he saw in Willow what made her so special, while so many others remained oblivious to it. "Who *is* that girl?" As much as I *loooove* and prefer the Tara / Willow relationship, it really bugs me how many stories demonize Oz. He was a really good, loyal guy, and he never did anything bad while not wolfing out. (except hiding it, at first, and even Tara did that). This story will have its parallel arc to Oz's wofiness, though. It will just be more, you know...possible. :)

I really appreciate the feedback, and any you can offer for future chapters will make me all warm and bubbly. Like champagne. .... wait, is that warm? *wikipedia*

~ Megan


Last edited by jasmydae on Sun Nov 16, 2008 11:37 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Constants - Chapter 14
PostPosted: Sun Nov 09, 2008 11:55 pm 
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***
Part 14
***

The party was raging. Students packed into the lower levels; small groups of friends stood together, forming clots around which the more social partygoers flowed. The hallways were by now nearly devoid of the colored strands of string that had crisscrossed them for the better part of the day; most of these had been collected, bundled up, and tossed into plastic garbage bags already brimming with aluminum cans, pretzel crumbs, and bottle caps. The fraternity’s inhabitants were drifting toward sweaty inebriation. Alcohol flowed freely, while the roasting, musky air did not. The more clear-headed students eventually found their way upstairs, where open windows on either end of the long hallway provided a refreshingly chilly current, and the muted volume offered relief for their pounding ears.

One room remained apart from the party. As though heeding some unconscious persuasion, the multitude of partygoers avoided the upstairs bedroom, third door on the right. Just beyond the shelter of its doorway, two women gazed at each other in meaningful silence, their hearts calling to each other, but their brains not yet honed enough to listen.

“So,” Willow began hesitantly, her hands wringing her fingers together to maximize surface contact. The string she was holding was carried along, and ended up coiled around her knuckles. “Uh, are you enjoying the party?” She grimaced as the words left her mouth. ‘That’s it? That’s the best conversation starter you could think of? Come on, intellect! Help me out!’

“It’s…no, not really,” Tara admitted, picking a hair off of her outfit, then finding another, much too short to be her own. She examined the bed she had lain upon a minute earlier with a frown, then regarded Willow again. “I—I wasn’t, before. Faith dragged me along. I m-mean, it wasn’t malicious, or anything; really, it was very nice of her to invite me. I just think I’m a little bit out of place at a big party. And—and it’s okay, I guess. I d-didn’t know you were here.”

Willow barked a short, sardonic laugh. “Yup, that’s me. A real party animal, as I’m sure you can see.”

“You look like you’re about to crawl out of your skin,” Tara observed. In her mind, she was sliding off of the mattress and advancing toward Willow, wrapping her arms around the redhead, who was shaking like a leaf, and murmuring sweet words of comfort into her ear. And while the thought of the girl folding into her embrace, breathing out distress and in relief, was savory, the deeply rooted worry that she would instead squirm out of her grasp kept Tara pinned to the bed.

“Yeah, I’m not used to so much of it being on display,” Willow confessed, looking down at her body detachedly, as if it were a photograph instead of her own flesh. It helped a little. “Buffy and Cordelia decreed that I needed a full party makeover. Actually, the whole party was their idea; I had nothing to do with it. It’s—it’s bad, huh?”

Tara hesitated. ‘What’s bad? That your friends thought you weren’t perfect just exactly as you were? That they pulled you into a house full of people you didn’t know, in an unfamiliar but…kind of wow outfit? That they then wandered off and abandoned you? Whoa, easy. Rein it in, Tara.’ She managed what she hoped was a soothing smile. “No, it’s—well, the second skin of discomfort does kind of clash, but otherwise, uh, no. You look…” ‘Alluring? Ravishing? Luscious? Enticing? Tantalizing? Succulent?’ “…uh, b-beautiful.” Tara’s cheeks burned.

“I’d kill for my corduroys right now,” Willow said, only half joking. She approached the bed and flopped down across it, lying on her back, three feet away from the blonde. She was keenly aware of the angle anybody passing by the doorway would have, so she tugged down at the hem of her skirt.

Tara watched, fascinated by the play of muscles along the girl’s taut, newly exposed abdomen. “I’d kill for your flat tummy,” she echoed without thinking. The redhead’s hands moved to hover self-consciously above her stomach. “For me, I mean,” Tara clarified. “To have one like that. Too much diner food.” She poked a finger at her belly. ‘Please, please don’t be so nervous,’ her mind pleaded. ‘Move the topic away from tummies, you dummy!’ “I wonder what kind of trouble Faith is getting into right now,” she tried.

“Oh, I saw her down in the basement,” Willow shared, “maybe fifteen minutes ago. She was just untangling her line like everybody else.” She remembered the dark haired girl using a knife to quickly cut her way through the more difficult obstacles. “Well, maybe not quite like everybody else,” she added.

Tara laughed—a nervous titter. “I can only imagine the poor young man she must have reeled in. She’s probably got him running for the hills, by now.”

~*~

“Aw, come on, Faith!” Andrew called, trailing the fleeing girl across the room, their heavily knotted string dangling behind him. “You’d have so much fun! You’d make an awesome assassin!”

“No, no, no!” Faith insisted, dodging partygoers and dashing around tables. “Get your geek-infested thoughts away from me!”

~*~

“Hey, yeah. About that,” Willow wondered aloud. She propped herself up on her elbows. “I mean, hey, I’m not complaining, because hello? New friend beats unfamiliar, drunken frat boy, hands down. But I was kind of expecting the latter, you know?” She held up her pile of twine.

Tara had noticed, but hadn’t been sure how to bring it up. “Uh, pleasant surprise?” The other girl didn’t bite. “Magic?” Willow raised a dubious eyebrow at this, so Tara tried again. “Did you take your string from the right side of the stairs?” Maybe Willow wouldn’t remember, and this answer would suffice.

Willow shook her head. “From the left side. Well, the correct side, yes,” she amended, recognizing the dual meaning of the word. “There were signs. I took one from the Venus side.”

‘Well, so much for that idea.’ “Um, d-did you notice the, uh, c-color?”

“Uh huh. I took one of the purple ones,” Willow recalled, “because there were only a few of them. All the others were blue, which I thought was kind of funny because almost all of the ones on the guys’ side were pink, and that seemed rather backward, you know? Uh, in a stereotypical, hospital nursery blanket kind of way, I mean. Oh, unless they…” An expression of clarity flickered on Willow’s face. “Oh.” It solidified. “Oh!” She looked down at the string. “Okay, so I’m sort of a dummy.” ‘Wait, does that mean she…’

Tara chuckled. “Don’t worry, Faith had to explain it to me, too.”

‘But when did she explain? Was it before you chose, or afterward? Could you have gone back and taken a different one? Would I have?’ Formulas sprang into Willow’s head for calculating just how far along the string she would have had to travel before an explanation of its color would have caused her to shrug and continue instead of doubling back for a blue strand. What if she plugged the knowledge that it was Tara at the other end into the equation?

The girls shared a silence that would have seemed awkward to an observer, but they were both too lost in their own thoughts to notice. Once again, it was Willow that spoke first, and when she did it was a dam bursting. “So how’s—uh…oh my gosh, I was really about to ask about work,” she admitted timidly, “on a Friday, at a party. Um, not that Friday means as much, since I know you work on weekends and all, but the party part’s still relevant, and asking about work on your day off is akin to asking about the weather when you’re a meteorologist.” She furled her brow. “Or maybe that analogy is way off. Sorry, I don’t usually fail at conversation so badly. I don’t want you to think that I can’t, you know, talk, because usually I can manage talking all too easily. I guess maybe it’s the party, but not in an alcohol-related way at all; just nervousness, because I haven’t had anything to drink except soda.”

A smile stayed on Tara’s lips for the entire duration of Willow’s babbling, and she neither jumped in not tried to halt the redhead’s torrent of words. Instead, she listened patiently, and when the girl’s train of thought finally eased into its final station, Tara replied, “Work is going well. The diner…it’s hard work, I mean, it’s pretty busy most of the time, but the people—my boss and coworkers, and usually the customers—they’re all really nice. And becoming friends with Faith is nice, too, even though we’ve got dissimilar personalities.”

“Faith kind of scares me,” Willow giggled.

Tara laughed. “Me, too! But she’s a good friend. Uh, I hope,” she said. “I haven’t known her that long. Well, obviously I haven’t known anybody here that long.”

“And yet look how many friends you have already. You must have good Friend Sense.”

“Is that like spider-sense?”

“Exactly!” Willow smiled. “Only friendlier.”

“You goof,” Tara chuckled. It felt terrific. For a moment, the girls forgot that they were at a rowdy frat party. They forgot that just outside the doorway began a sea of people they had never met. Willow stopped fretting about her outfit, and Tara slipped into a comfort zone large enough that she even lost her stutter. Instead, they delighted in each other’s company, trusting that the other would not snub, would not jeer, and would not judge.

~*~

When Cordelia poked her head into the room twenty minutes, she saw the girls sitting side by side on the bed, with their backs against the headboard and pillows on their laps. They were laughing and playing cat’s cradle with a section of their purple string; Willow had hooked her pinky fingers through the Candles pattern, and was extending her hands to form the Manger. Tara considered the figure briefly, then pinched the string between her fingers.

“Uh, I don’t think that’s the right move,” Willow instructed. “You need to start with those crosses underneath.”

“This is a new pattern,” Tara explained. She rotated her hands and pulled them apart, but the tiny knot caught, then slipped, and the end result was the string wrapped tightly around her fingers with a large span of open space in the middle.

Willow’s eyes sparkled mischievously, but her tone was innocent. “What’s that one called?”

Tara giggled. “Oh, it’s a very rare design. It’s called, um…” She looked at the patternless rectangle from several angles. “‘Friend at the Door.’”

Willow regarded the blonde uncomprehendingly. “I don’t—oh! Hey, Cordelia.” She finally noticed her roommate standing quietly by the entryway.

Cordelia leaned into the hallway and called out, “Found them! They’re in here.” She beckoned people into the room, and moments later Buffy, Faith, and Andrew had joined her, along with three others who neither of the girls knew.

“Great!” Faith exclaimed, holding out an empty longneck beer bottle. “Oh, and a nice empty room. Now we can play! Everyone sit in a circle.”

“Uh, Faith? W-what are we playing?” Tara asked hesitantly.

“Spin the bottle, of course.”

The blonde swallowed a difficult gulp. “As in, um, k-kissing?”

“Yup! And see, we don’t even need to go over the rules,” Faith nudged Buffy. Clearly the two had bonded. “Hey, can you two pass those pillows down here? We need a couple more.”

“Who are they?” Willow asked, reluctantly handing her pillow to Faith, which left her uncovered once again.

Buffy spoke up. “Oh. Everyone, this is my friend and Cordy’s roommate, Willow. Will, you’ve met Faith. Andrew, of course you know. This is Riley,” she pointed out an athletic young man in faded jeans and a camouflage green tee shirt, who smiled in welcome. “And those two are James and Julie.” They were a matching pair—he was short and stocky, with a shaved head and lots of tattoos; she was too skinny, with cropped, blue hair and more piercings than Willow could count. Both wore black. Although they stood out from the others, they seemed entirely at ease with the situation. They added their greetings to the pile.

Tara and Willow shared a look that conveyed the same sentiment: ‘If this idea makes you uncomfortable, I’ll sit out with you.’ Neither girl spoke up. Wheels churned in their minds; Tara wondered at the chances, while Willow calculated the cold, hard odds. They seemed to reach an agreement together. A slight nod. “Okay, we’re in.”

Willow slid down from the mattress, assuming a position next to Buffy, with her back propped against the bed’s frame. Tara was about to claim the spot next to her—there were only two cushions remaining in the circle—but Faith shook her head and instructed vehemently, “Oh, no. Andrew, sorry, you’re over there. Tara, you can sit here, next to me.”

“Aw,” Andrew pouted. “I liked that seat.” When Faith narrowed her eyes at him, he defended his remark, saying, “What? It was comfier. But that’s okay; Willow’s cool. We’re on the cool side of the circle, now.”

“So who starts?” Riley asked, indicating the bottle in the center of the circle, which was standing on its end. Nobody volunteered, so he shrugged. “Spin for it?” He reached into the circle and placed the bottle on its side, holding it upside down over his palm first, to make sure it was totally empty. Then, with a flick of his wrist, he set the container into a dizzying spiral.

“I guess that would be me,” Cordelia said, when the bottle slowed to a stop with its top aimed just to her right. She reached out and gave it another whirl. With less force behind it, the bottle spun in a lopsided circle while the players all waited anxiously to see who Cordelia’s kissing partner would be. When the glass wobbled into a roll, and finally to a stop, it was clearly pointing at Julie. The blue haired pixie grinned and beckoned Cordelia to her with a wiggle of her finger.

“Wait, do we have to kiss?” the brunette asked.

“Of course,” Faith stated. “That’s the rules.” The others in the circle heartily agreed.

“Okay,” Cordelia frowned. “But just so we’re clear on this, the guys have to make out, too, right? I mean, if the bottle lands on them? Fair’s fair.”

“Sure,” Andrew readily agreed. Riley and James looked at each other briefly, then scanned the circle. Each one mentally tallied the players and came up with six girls versus two other boys; the odds were in their favor. “Yeah, okay,” they conceded.

“All right, then,” Cordelia decided. She crawled across Riley’s lap and planted a rather chaste kiss on Julie’s lips.

“Pssh. Did that even count?” Julie asked, when they parted.

“Eh, we’ll allow it for the first time around,” Faith chuckled. “But after that, I wanna see real kisses. None of this pecking business. Buffy, you’re up.”

“Okay, here goes.” She gave the bottle a mighty twirl that gave no indication of slowing down any time soon.

“So, can I get anyone drinks while that thing’s spinning?” Faith joked. Eventually its motion did halt, its tip pointing partly between Faith and James, but slightly more in James’ direction.

“Is that me?” he asked. Buffy nodded and scrambled across the circle to him. She draped her arms around his neck and plastered her lips against his. For good measure, she gave the top of his hairless head a little rub, which caused chuckles from around the circle. Satisfied with her handiwork, Buffy returned to her seat, sitting demurely and affecting an air of stateliness.

“Your spin, Red,” Faith declared.

‘What have you gotten yourself into, Rosenberg?’ Willow’s brain demanded. ‘You do understand that playing a game means actually participating in it, right?’ “Um…okay,” she said, then hiccoughed loudly. “Excuse me.” She reached her hand out tentatively for the bottle, and set it into a slow spin. It rotated exactly three times, and ended up pointing directly back at her. She hiccoughed again. “Uh, what’s that mean? Can’t very well kiss myself, right? Do I get skipped, or spin again?”

“I think if it lands on you, you get to pick who you kiss,” Riley suggested.

Faith nodded in agreement. “Sounds about right to me.”

All eyes focused on Willow, eager for her decision. She refused to return the gazes; instead, she studied the label on the bottle as if it were the most fascinating scrap of paper on the planet. ‘Hm. Brewed in Boston, Massachusetts.’ She rolled her lower lip between her teeth, then opened her mouth to speak, but once again her diaphragm spasmed, and all that came out was a squeaky, “hic!” Her face flushed a deep scarlet. “Can I kiss, um…” Her eyes darted frantically about, and she nearly whispered, “Buffy?”

“Aw, Will. I never knew you cared,” Buffy giggled. She figured joking about it would relieve some of her best friend’s obvious discomfort, so she sucked in her cheeks and puckered up into a fish face, smacking her lips together exaggeratedly. Willow scrunched up her nose and moved in for a quick smooch. Their lips brushed against each other briefly, then it was over. The redhead returned to her seat, her hyperactive brain already compiling data. ‘Okay, so now I guess I can check off “kissed a girl.” It didn’t seem all that different really. I mean, lips are lips, right?’

Across the circle, Tara’s heart resumed beating, and her lips parted to release a slow, even rush of air. Adrenaline still coursed through her body, leaving her feeling tingly and kind of lightheaded. Turning to Faith, she uttered, “I’ll take you up on that drink, now.”

Her friend grinned and hopped up. “Comin’ right up!” Noting that Andrew was next to spin, she added hastily. “Uh, no need to stop the game. Go on, I’ll be back in a minute.”

The boy reached for the bottle and gave it a lazy whirl as Faith departed. It rolled to a stop pointing at the corner of the cushion the girl had recently vacated. With her absence, the bottle was aimed closer to James than anybody else. “Aw, man. Critical miss,” Andrew whined. “Can we wait for her to get back?”

“Uh uh,” Cordelia said. “I want to see this.”

James arched an eyebrow at Andrew and opened his arms wide. “Come here, little man,” he grinned. Grumbling, Andrew scooted into the center of the circle, accidentally kneeing the bottle into a wobbling roll. He closed his eyes and extended his face. James grabbed his shoulders and kissed him soundly on the lips, pulling away with an audible pop. Riley burst out into laughter, and Buffy and Cordelia clapped, giggling gleefully. “I knew I should have brought a camera,” Buffy observed.

“S-so, it’s m-my turn?” Tara’s voice quavered, and she cast a hopeful glance at the doorway, but Faith didn’t appear. “Well, h-here goes.” She grabbed the bottle and set it into motion. After several rotations it stopped, pointing directly at Riley. ‘Crap.’ She looked at him, and he returned the gaze; she thought he looked almost apologetic. Tara didn’t move from her spot like the players before her had, so Riley crossed the distance and lifted her chin with his cupped hand. He didn’t like the detached expression he saw on her face, or the resigned, far-away look in her eyes. Acting quickly, Riley ducked his head and pressed a gentle kiss at the very corner of her mouth, then scooted back across the circle, watching the blonde’s reaction. When she brought her eyes to his, they were relieved and grateful.

Willow unclenched her fists. ‘What the frilly heck was that?’ she wondered. ‘It’s a game. People kiss people; that’s the whole point. Besides, it wasn’t even that deep of a kiss. Just a peck, really—an innocent, platonic, just-between-friends smooch.’ But her chest still ached with—‘what, jealousy? What have I got to feel jealous about? I certainly don’t want Riley kisses. Sure, he’s handsome and all, but he’s so not my type. And there’s Oz, right? Isn’t Oz my type?’ Her gaze fell upon Tara, who was absently picking at the tag of her cushion. As if on cue, her azure eyes lifted and stared back at Willow questioningly. The redhead offered her a warm smile, and it came back as an adorable, lopsided one. ‘Who are you kidding, Rosenberg? You want Tara kisses as though you were starving for them.’

Tara’s attention was stolen by Faith’s return. The leather-clad woman teetered into the room balancing two drinks in each hand, and had the rim of a fifth cup gripped tightly between her teeth. “Li’l helf ‘eer?’ she requested. Julie and Riley, the closest to the door, leapt up to assist her. “Figured you guys could probably use some refills,” she explained, rubbing her sore jaw. She examined the drinks her helpers had taken from her, and stole one of them back from Julie, handing it over to Tara, instead. She held onto her own, and left the others to be distributed among the group. “Who’s up?” she asked, returning to her seat.

“You are,” Buffy informed her.

“Wicked.” Faith gave the bottle a wild spin, which rattled out of control. James lifted his cup to prevent it from being knocked over, and it caromed off of his boot and rolled to a stop in the middle of the circle, pointing at Andrew. “There was interference,” Faith insisted, “that’s a do-over.”

“Uh uh,” Cordelia laughed. “There’s no do-overs. We’re playing by the rules, remember?”

Faith glowered at her, but scooted over to the boy, who was almost bouncing in anticipation. Sighing, she grabbed the back of his head and smooshed their lips together, figuring if she was going to kiss somebody, she might as well make it worth her time. When she finally crawled back to her cushion, Andrew rocked back and forth gently, his cheeks a rosy pink.

Being next in the circle, James pulled the bottle to him and flicked his wrist, sending the container off in a tightening spiral. It landed on Cordelia, who wiggled her bottom. “Come and get it,” she taunted. James closed the distance on his hands and knees, stopping just short of her and performing a comical kowtow.

“Arise,” Cordelia laughed, falling into the role. “State your purpose.”

“I bear an offering,” James declared. “A simple gift from a humble servant.”

“And what might this gift be?”

“A kiss, your highness. I have carried it long and far.”

“I see. You may present your offering,” Cordelia decreed. James swept her off her feet, literally; he picked the slender girl up and spun her around once, their lips locked together. When he set her back down on her pillow, the entire group applauded. Julie was laughing so hard she was nearly in tears. James offered the circle a bow and returned to his seat.

When Julie emerged from her fit of giggles, she took her turn. The bottle bounced off of a plastic cup—luckily, the contents were not spilled—and stopped, pointing at Faith. The brunette grinned wickedly at her. They met halfway and showed the other players what a real kiss was like. Willow was almost certain she saw tongues twisting together, and her pulse elevated. When the show was over, she cast a glance at Tara, and was surprised to see the blonde staring back at her. ‘Is she breathing heavily?’ Tara quickly averted her eyes and took a deep gulp from her drink, coughing slightly when the alcohol burned away one of her breaths.

Riley, the only player who hadn’t yet taken a turn, reached out for the glass bottle and gave it a whirl. It skittered across the floor and eased to a stop in the space between Cordelia and Buffy. The rest of the group drew an imaginary line between the two, trying to determine which girl was closer. It seemed to be dead center. Riley looked at Faith. “Is there a rule for this?”

“Tie goes to the spinner?” she shrugged, making up a rule on the spot.

The young man glanced between the two women, frowning. He knew this was one of those choices where no matter what he decided, somebody would be upset. Knowing he had to choose, he said, “Well, Cordelia just got the royal treatment, so I’ll pick Buffy.” Cordelia narrowed her eyes. Yup, there it was. Buffy clapped her hands together happily and leaned forward, meeting Riley’s mouth just a foot in front of Cordelia’s tight-lipped scowl. Knowing they had a non-appreciative audience, they kept the kiss short and tasteful.

“Uh, I know this is a cliché, but you smell like peaches,” Riley pointed out, after returning to his spot.

“Oh, it’s apricot,” Buffy said, waving her hand. “One of those spritzy things.”

“So, round two?” Faith asked. “Shall we up the ante a bit?”

Julie’s eyes lit up impishly, but Tara looked up from her drink, distressed. Willow hastily jumped in, “No, no. I think it’s fine like this. You know, with all of us young innocents and all.”

Buffy lent her support to her friend. “Yeah, let’s try and keep it light and fluffy.”

“Okay,” Faith conceded. “But real kisses only, okay? Some of the ones in that last round were seriously lacking.”

“Fine by me,” Cordelia shrugged. She pushed the bottle into a spin, and it ended up pointing at her roommate. “Heh, okay, well, this shouldn’t be too awkward,” she joked.

Willow stared disbelievingly at the bottle. Wide-eyed, she looked at Cordelia. “I promise I will never speak of this again,” she said. Cordelia nodded her agreement and inched closer. Their mouths touched together and held, each girl knowing that a simple brush of the lips would be judged inadequate by Faith. A mental timer ticked down to zero, and they parted. The steely look that passed between them solidified their vow that the kiss would never leave the room; when they returned to their roles as roommates, it would never have happened.

Silently, Buffy reached for the bottle and sent it spinning, this time with less force. As if magnetized it slid past Riley, then rolled back two inches to point precisely at him. He smiled broadly. The blonde launched herself across the circle at the boy, practically landing in his lap, and the two shared a kiss that put their earlier attempt to shame. In her increasingly tipsy state, Tara wondered if it hurt, having your tongue almost sucked right out of your mouth like that.

Her train of thought derailed when she saw Willow’s slender arm snake out and clutch the bottle. The redhead gave it a gentle nudge, and it rotated a few times, coming to rest aimed at Andrew, who was sitting right next to her. The two considered each other briefly, then shrugged and locked lips. “That kiss right there has the highest combined IQ in history,” Buffy quipped. Willow broke off the kiss and stuck her tongue out at her friend.

“Hey, save that for Andrew,” Julie snickered.

“Nuh uh, we’re done,” Willow stated.

“Yup, my turn.” Andrew snatched the glass container and whirled it around. He thought for a moment it was going to land on him, but instead it barely glided past him and pointed at Tara, whose face paled. “Woo, I don’t have to move, again,” he cheered. He leaned in toward the girl, then hesitated. “Wait, Faith, we don’t mention this at work, right?”

Faith raised a single eyebrow. “I promise nothing,” she said flatly.

The boy gawked at her. “No, no, no. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, remember?” When his coworker didn’t reply, he muttered under his breath and turned back to Tara. Again he edged closer to the anxious girl. “But, wait,” Andrew veered off to the side again. “You wouldn’t say anything to Richard, right? I mean, he could—”

“Oh come on already,” Tara snapped, her nerves at their end. She grabbed the boy’s face and pressed her lips firmly against his. He squeaked, and his arms flailed wildly until the waitress released him. The scene was so hilarious that even Willow cracked a smile, unable to revert to jealousy. James and Julie were leaning against each other, shuddering with barely restrained laughter, and Cordelia was giggling so hard she had to excuse herself to go pee. Her admission set off another round of laughter.

The hilarity faded into the background of her mental landscape when Tara realized it was her turn to spin. She extended her hand for the bottle hesitantly—her fingers seemed so far away, she thought—and pushed it into a tight spiral. While it spun, the group quieted, awaiting the next victim with eagerness. Tara lowered her eyelids and threw her entire will at the bottle. ‘Come on, come on, come on…’ When she opened her eyes, she thought for a moment the container was pointing at the space across from her that Cordelia had just vacated. Then it registered that she was seeing the other side of the glass, and that the bottle was in fact aimed directly back at her.

“Oo, who’s it’s gonna be?” Julie wondered aloud.

Tara scanned the ring of expectant faces: Andrew’s mortified stare, Faith’s smug expression, James’ pearly white grin, Julie’s drawn features, Riley’s impassive look—he knew she wasn’t going to pick him, Tara realized—Buffy’s curious gaze, and Willow. ‘Sweet, sweet Willow.’ Her tunnel vision locked with the redhead’s; her stomach clenched when the girl’s tongue darted out, unconsciously wetting her lips. Tara eased off of her cushion, onto her knees. Andrew scampered back, out of her path. Tara inched closer to Willow, their eyes never breaking contact, hers pleading with the redhead to come and meet her, to reflect her desire back at her. She did. Willow closed the last few inches, and their lips grazed each other lightly. Tara heard the girl’s rapid flutter of breath, and then she was kissing her back. Willow’s fingertips brushed her sides; her lips slid warmly over Tara’s lower lip just before they broke apart. When Tara gazed into the girl’s wide, expressive eyes, she saw her own hunger echoed there.

Willow was panting. No longer concerned about having an audience, she wrapped her arms around the blonde and drew her down to her lips once more. She relaxed into the side of the mattress, craning her head back so that Tara nearly had to climb into her lap to continue kissing her, which she did without hesitation. Their kisses were fiery and urgent, but they softened as they descended back down to Earth. ‘Now that was different,’ Willow thought. ‘That was definitely different.’

“I think they win,” Faith uttered.

Julie stared at the girls, slack-jawed, and shifted her legs unsteadily. Titillating thoughts tumbled through her head. She turned to James. “We should be leaving,” she stated. He started to protest, but she stopped him with a pointed look. “Now,” she insisted. Grabbing the boy by the hand, she dragged him to his feet and pulled him from the room. Chuckling, he gave the group a final friendly wave, before being tugged into the hallway.

“I think that might be game over,” Buffy suggested.


Last edited by jasmydae on Sun Nov 16, 2008 11:37 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: (Updated November 10) Constants
PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 1:08 am 
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19. Yummy Face
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Yay for great update-y goodness... Very big yay for :wtkiss ...

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 Post subject: Re: (Updated November 10) Constants
PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 5:31 am 
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Holy Goody!

:-D

I am starting to not know what to say but" more?" lol.

Although I am sure I'll find something to say.

The whole Faith / Andrew thing, the "kiss" lol. Faith shoul dagree with the "it won't exit this room" thing... She's in line too! Lol

And it was really nice of Riley. I have some issues with Riley, but never with our girls. (No big issues, he is just not bad ass enough sometimes you know what I mean?)

I think Tara's discomfort offered to those who noticed a glimpse of what is happening to her, and I can only hope that they will be there for her.

God the willow and Tara kiss was just great.

I saw on the kitten you were kinda blocked to write this last chapter? I hope newt will be easier. I'll be waiting for it for sure.

I get out of the wonest though, I am not good at constructive feedback :)

Now *i have to go back to class, but instead of having the texts we're studying in mind, I have a nice scene of a first kiss at first tentative and then heated. I mean Tara climibing into Willow's lap? Yum.

Thank you for it.

Friendly,

Julia :)

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 Post subject: Re: (Updated November 10) Constants
PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 6:57 am 
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YAY UPDATE!!!!!!!!!!!!! I really love this story and am glad that there was finally some :wtkiss goodneess. Can't wait for more.


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 Post subject: Re: (Updated November 10) Constants
PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 6:58 am 
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Very good! I loved it. Update soon :pinky

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