Winner of the I Am You Know award for Best Angst and Best Drama.

Latter Days/Lonely Nights

Author: Willownut
Disclaimer: Blah, blah, blah. Many characters are Joss Whedon's. Yada, yada, yada. No harm intended with the use of these revered characters. Peas and carrots, peas and carrots.
Italics are thoughts. For those who could excommunicate me or send me unwanted literature, I wish you no ill will. My thanks to LVK for the use of her song lyrics, you have my deep respect, and I would have asked first if I knew where you were.

Author's note: Think 1984 (not the book, the Era). Willow and Tara meet in an unusual place, no monsters, or Hellmouth, but they do have demons of their own.

(Day 1-Thursday, November 8, 1984)

The building seemed enormous; actually, at this moment, just the door in front of her appeared too big. She thought to herself: It's like one of the Alice in Wonderland moments where things just feel distorted somehow - like you're looking in a mirror that makes things closer than they appear - only - not. This was an "in your face" large door. She was nervous; her hands were sweating. Come on girl. Get a grip. It's a regular size door.

Eighteen months was such a long time to be away from home, family, friends, and secure surroundings, like the mall and all the sugary goodness one could buy there. Eighteen months, no mochas, it was just unreal.

The excitement though outweighed her weak moment and drowned out the thoughts of the chocolatey sacrifices yet to come. All roads led to this place, a new beginning like so many others. This was a pilgrimage of the soul.

It felt like only yesterday she'd opened the envelope that had led her to this place.

Amy, her sorority friend, had been so supportive. Her sister was going through the same preparations readying for her own adventure. She let out a breath she didn't know she'd been holding, carefully unfolded the flap on the letter, and scanned over the words not really seeing anything until she reached one very small but overwhelming word.



Another breath exhaled and she read it again.

Kobe, Japan.

Her fingers trembled as she read back from the beginning over the words to the next very important piece of information. ... November 8.

She was supposed to arrive on November 8th, then there would be two months of language study, and then she was going to fly off to Japan. It was such a little word.

Oh. My. Gosh! She started to panic. There was just so much to do. November was only about three weeks away. That's when she heard the screaming. She was screaming, Amy was screaming, and there they were all screaming. Ok wait. Breathe. I knew I might go somewhere far. I can do this. But, what if I can't? All of her insecurities were bubbling up. She felt her knees weaken and buckle. Next, she found herself on the floor. The moment blurred as the lack of oxygen started to take its toll.

I'm back she thought to herself as she tried to regulate her breathing... again. She'd been doing that quite a bit since she got that letter. She was here now, feeling the same sense of knee weakness, but this time falling was just not an option. That would attract attention of the bad kind. Putting on her best resolve face, she reached forward to grab hold of the door to enter. She was humbled at this grand place-of-learning. This was a stepping-stone, and important stop along the way.


Okay. Breathe - In. Out. There will be no more screaming in your head, Rosenberg.

The door's not going to open by itself. Oh wait; there are people, 'other' type people - lots of people: hugging people with families. There's hugging. I wish I had hugging. I am alone; I am really all alone.

Boy the air smells different here, crisper and kinda moist and there's steam on the windows - what's that about?

Oh my gosh, snow, it's going to snow. I've never been out of California, how am I gonna do snow? We're talking serious snowage here. And what am I supposed to do if it snows in Japan? I'll have to walk in snow. I can just see me now knocking on doors and shivering, my teeth all chattering and I'll be all trying to talk in Japanese. Yeah, this is gonna be just great. I wonder if I'll babble in Japanese too, 'cause that would really be something.

Okay. Suck it up Will. Pick up your bags and get on with it.

Resolve on.

I'm going in.

She got to the counter after waiting in line for a time and collected her welcome kit:

Room assignment, check;
Little white handbook, check;
Nametag, check.

Hey, look at that. She looked down at the small black and white nameplate in her hand. She recognized her name, but everything else, not so much. It's in Japanese. As she turned to leave the grand entry area, she heard singing:

"Line upon Line....
Each hour... wisdom"

It was the sweetest sound, a voice among the throng of murmuring voices. She caught just bits of the song, but it was enough to grab her attention.

It was only a few stanzas, pieces of the melody but it was as if someone had reached out and plucked a harp string in her heart. She could barely see through the crowd but there seemed to be great joy radiating from the girl.

"...patient, we shall see...
fit together in harmony..."

Geepers, Look at her. She is so graceful. It looks like she's just floating. She took stock of her surroundings. No one else seemed to notice the blonde. I swear I can feel her. And what's that song? It seems ... so ... familiar. Okay. I am so not gonna stalk some stranger. She continued walking in the direction behind the other girl though. It's just a coincidence.

I wonder where she's going. Wouldn't that be weird if she was going to Japan too? She could be my companion. That would be cool. Right, like that would happen. "Pffft," the sound escaped her lips before she could stop it. She smirked and laughed at herself.

She continued walking, following the little map in her hand. She lost sight of the girl for a time, so she dismissed her earlier musings and continued toward her future dorm room.

"It's just two months for heaven's sake." She whispered to the walls. Like of all the people here she would be paired up with me and I'd pick her out of a crowd of two hundred people sight (well face) unseen.

Riiiiight. She rolled her eyes at herself again.

She climbed up the stairs and headed down the hall, taking notice of the couches and bathroom areas in the middle of all the line of rooms. Laundry room was downstairs; some vending machines sat in the corner. After traveling down the wrong hallway, she finally located her dorm room at the end of the hall. Okay, make a note; don't turn left again when you come up the stairs, right and then straight. I've gotta remember that.

'Choose the right...' the children's church song filled her mind: Oh, the irony.

As she passed by the doors along the hallway, it was clear where others were headed.

There were signs on all the doors to welcome the new arrivals - Hermana Bryce. Hermana Sanders - red, green, and white stripes - colors of Mexico. Sorella Johnson, Sorella Campbell - more red, green and white stripes. Sorella, huh. Like Cruella? I'm thinking ... not. Some of the words she didn't even want to try to pronounce. Schwester - that must be German. This is so cool. Oh, now that's just funny - look at that one: Schwester Sanchez and Schwester Wall. Maybe I'm warped, but I just think that's funny.

Oh, just red and white: Sister Jones and Sister Couch. They're going to Canada. C. eh. N. eh. D. eh. She laughed to herself as she remembered the old joke of how Canadians came up with the name for their country by pulling out the three letters from a hat.

Those headed to Japan were obvious - red round circle cutouts against a white background each with names on them. She read the names silently until she finally came to the end of the hall: Smith Shimai, Kitchen Shimai, and Rosenberg Shimai.

Oh, here it is, yeah me!

I wonder why that's at the end.


"Okay, now I really don't know the language yet, what with the so not being able to study in the three weeks prior to this moment, but even I know that they won't be able to pronounce Rosenberg.

And "Willow" that's gonna sound like the Jetson's dog, Astro, or Scooby Doo or something. She chuckled at the thought sounding it out in her head: "Ri-roh" or would it be Reeroh? Rie rowt roh. A giggle escaped.

Gosh, stop it Rosenberg, as she tried out the sound of formality of her last name in her head. You're supposed to be all grown up, why can't you be a grown up? You're supposed to be all serious and spiritual here. They'll probably call me Sister Little Tree or Red or something - I should have at least looked that up.

She opened the door, and walked in taking a quick look around. There were four bunks in the room; it was smaller than she thought it was going to be. Two of the bunks were already claimed. There were two other girls in the room chit chatting - a tall brunette with wild but sculptured hair-sprayed hair and a frumpy blonde in flats and a skirt and plain blouse. She gave a little waive shy smile and a nod: "Hey."

"Hi," 'Frumpy' said. "I'm Smith Shimai and this is Kitchen Shimai.

"Hey" she repeated.

"So (a pause) where are you from?" Smith Shimai continued.

"California" Yup, Sunnydale, SunnyD that's where I'm from, never been anywhere else," she cursed herself for babbling already. Shut up and smile.

The shorter girl held her hand out in greeting which Willow accepted. Kitchen stood behind and gracefully nodded her own hello; she smiled in sympathy or possibly amusement.

"Where are you going?" Oh, so many questions. "Frumpy" is a Chatty Cathy. Maybe Kitchen is a mute. Okay stop that! Happy thoughts, Will. Happy, loving Godly, thoughts.

"Kobe" she answered nodding back to question theirs. The internal babble was starting to distract her so she tried to focus a bit more.

Kitchen was going to Kobe too and Smith was headed for Sapporo. Sapporo was really cold and Willow counted her blessings that her snow would only be seasonal if she was stationed near Kobe.

She learned Smith Shimai was from California as well, Sacramento or Oakland or somewhere north of Sunnydale. She just couldn't seem to pay too much attention being all excited, nervous and overwhelmed from it all.

Kitchen Shimai was from Utah. She found it odd that she remembered so many more details about the taller girl, but her demeanor seemed so much more..."pleasant" ... than the blonde's.

"Well we have about a half an hour before we have to leave, so we should probably get settled, figure out where we're supposed to go, and get our bearings." OKAY...I've been here like five minutes and this chick is starting to bug me. This is like my first test, right? She asked internally. Get along with "Frumpy?"

"Okay" takes charge girl she silently added.

"That's fine" I'm all with the finey McFine fine. I can be 'follow along and don't make waves' girl. "I'll be ready in a few."

Okay Will, get with the program. I need to stop being unkind: no "Frumpy," "Sister Frumpy" or "Chatty Cathy-speak in your head. Willow berated herself for her negative feelings towards Sister Smith, but she couldn't seem to help herself. I have to focus here. Help me focus. These are servants of God. They deserve my respect; I have to earn their respect and I can't do it if I'm all "evil girl, Dark Willow."

She went to the far right bunk in the back, threw her huge suitcase on the bed, and looked around to place getting situated. There was a tiny desk for her books, which she pulled out of her bag and placed on the top. In the drawer, she placed her multicolored highlighters and pencils, and started unpacking her smooshed clothing. She hung up her conservative looking skirts and blouses. That's what the letter said, that's what she bought: gray, black, and dark colored coordinates.

As she looked at the clothing hanging in the small closet, she took a moment to reflect - they represented how much she'd changed. Two years ago, she didn't even own a dress or skirt. Then she joined The Church and that changed too.

Although these new outfits certainly didn't fit her former wardrobe, she pretty much only had a few skirts and dresses she alternated over the month of Sunday services and other weekend or special events she attended. She tended toward the brighter colors, which were fine at social gatherings, like the Stake Dances for the young adults or Sunday evening devotionals.

Dances were so not her thing, but The Church had them and it was important that the young adults attended so they could mingle with other church members. She figured out early on that these functions promoted interfaith dating. Faith and family were the two most important aspects of her new life, and she intended to embrace the teachings and join the faithful - it just was too bad that dances were the way the Church leaders thought they should do that.

She went to a few of them trying to put off the inevitable awkwardness of never being asked to dance. If she did dance then it was all with the getting hot and uncomfortable in heat of the gym. It was just like high school dances; only the boys seemed more polite when they ignored her. Good thing comfy shoes were okay. She figured the lack of attention meant Heavenly Father had another task for her to do, so she prepared - for this.

As she was finishing up with the whole organization thing, Smith Shimai spoke up announcing their schedule: Orientation, dinner, language class, a quick branch meeting, personal study, and then bedtime. Then tomorrow starting six am, gym, breakfast, language, lunch, language, dinner, language, personal study and bed. Rinse and repeat for fifty-nine more days.

Kitchen Shimai finally spoke: "I guess we're really doing this." It was a simple statement of fact, but Willow wondered if behind the perfect peaceful exterior she was just as nervous too.

They headed out to the main hall for orientation. Willow glanced around at the wall of dark pants, white shirts, and ties. She chuckled at how much easier the wardrobe was for the guys. Three or five white shirts, two or three pair of pants and four ties and you're set for the week - as long as you don't sweat too much - a bunch of black socks, and a good sturdy pair of shoes.

They didn't have to worry about runs in nylons, tights for cold weather or difficulty finding the perfect coat to wear to worry about. That had been a huge challenge. It wasn't cold enough in Sunnydale, California to find an all-purpose coat for snow - especially in such a short time. All she had was mom's ugly coat. And, did it go with those conservative coordinates? Heck no. It was brown. At least it looked ok with her flaming red hair.

The three walked outside, across the concrete walkway back over toward the main hall where the large meeting rooms were located. People from all over the world gathered here in preparation for their assignments. Young boys were nineteen years old and the girls had to be at least twenty-one. As they walked, Willow thought back to her first day in high school. It was a lot like this. She had hated high school. Well, not the school part, mostly the people part. She sighed and continued walking in silence. This was not like high school, though; these kids had purpose.

Whoa - deja vu. Willow shook her head and shuttered. That's just weird. She took a deep breath and turned around feeling as if she had just done the same thing not too long before. The moment seemed so familiar. Willow thought. She heard. Yeah. It was almost in a whisper but she definitely heard it: that song again. She searched among the strangers toward the voice.

"Line upon line..."

That's when she saw her. Green eyes met sparkling blue. The electricity in the air was palpable. She felt as though her heart fell out of her shoes.

Then there it was the panic.

Holy cow, why now?

Continue to Latter Days/Lonely Nights Chapter Two

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