Return to Constants Chapter Thirteen


Author: Jasmydae
Rating: Intended PG-13, but might end up R
Feedback: I'd love any and all; I'm a new writer, so any help you can offer would be appreciated. Please leave feedback on the Constants thread on the Kitten Board.
Disclaimer: Joss / ME / etc. owns these characters. This story is just for fun and not for profit.

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', 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'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.

Continue to Constants Chapter Fifteen

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