Return to Latter Days/Lonely Nights Chapter Seventeen

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.

(Day 5 - Monday, November 12, 1984)

Tara was still reeling from her recent "Willow color-coded correlation to her food" discovery. She wondered: was she unconsciously adopting Willow's system and attaching meaning and feelings to the mundane? She took a deep breath trying to dismiss the notion. She felt the girl behind her. Even at this proximity, she sensed a connection to her. It was as if she could feel the warmth course through her. She felt at peace, which unnerved her a little.

Willow was having a similar experience. Even sitting back-to-back as they were, she was aware of Tara. It wasn't something one tried to explain or analyze; she just enjoyed the nearness. There was such affection between them it was almost manifest as a physical connection. They were drawn together. Willow wondered if this was like magic.

Both Willow and Tara knew lunch would be over way too soon. They probably would not get to walk over to the next class together. As one would expect, Conley Shimai was an amazingly fast eater. Colson and Maclay didn't slow them down with any needless chitchat during their meals, so those three were almost always finished before Willow's group. Smith Shimai often took so long eating that they left the dining area well after the other sisters. Willow was learning that "early" for Smith Shimai was to arrive a few minutes after a meeting started.

As far as sitting together during their classes, that was up to chance. For all the various meetings they attended there were usually enough seats, except no one wanted to be in the first few rows. Missionaries had to get there fairly early if they wanted to sit in the middle or back row chairs. They couldn't really hold seats while the room was filling, so odds were by the time both sets of sisters made it to the room there would not be six seats together.

Willow felt something behind her change as Tara and the others prepared to leave. Her heart sank a little. She glanced over to Smith's tray, and sure enough, they would be at least another five minutes before Smith would be ready to go.

As Conley and Colson picked up their trays, Tara turned back to the Willow's table. Thankfully, Smith remained focused on her food.

Tara spoke softly as if to the air, "Next stop: Culture Class." She smiled at Willow conveying without words what she too felt, a little sorrow, but anticipation for the evening together. I'll see you tonight.

As Willow smiled back, she unconsciously winked at Tara, which brought some color to Tara's cheeks. She dipped her head for a moment, but regained her confidence quickly. As she walked past her on the way out, Tara casually dragged her fingertips across Willows shoulders. Willow maintained her composure hoping that the goose bumps that had suddenly appeared on her arms were hidden from the others. She also prayed the blush that started working its way up to her cheeks was not noticeable - especially to Smith.

Willow tried to redirect her focus back to her companions who had started chatting again, but Smith's chatter about the hangnail on her thumb was making her want to scream. Just eat already!

After Smith finally finished eating, Willow, and the other Sisters headed over to one of the larger conference rooms to meet with all the missionaries currently learning Japanese. As she had guessed, there were no places available for them to sit with anyone from her group. They were stuck in the front row. That's just great! Willow hated the front row, she couldn't Tara watch from there.

There were at least one hundred missionaries called to Japan currently residing at the MTC. The only appreciable differences between them were the level of their Japanese abilities and the number of blue dots adorning their nametags. For each week at the MTC, the Elder or Sister earned a dot. When they had eight, ready or not, they would be flown to their destinations.

Culture class was an opportunity to get them all together to discuss social norms and mores, taboos, and common mistakes missionaries might make going into a foreign land. Most people were already aware of some cultural variation, but it's the little things that people do and say that can be the most offensive.

Tara sat quietly musing about her experiences thus far in the MTC and a quirky redhead she was meeting later that night. She wondered what other hidden talents Willow would show her tonight. The color thing was amazing, but she could tell Willow had more to share. She wondered how many colors would end up in Willow's notebook by the end of the day.

Tara looked down at her notes.

Do not wear shoes indoors
Do not leave ohashi (chopsticks) poked into rice = death
Okay to pick up a bowl of soup - use 2 hands
Don't eat with your fingers
Eat anything they put in front of you
Women need to Use honorifics ** find out what that means **
Do not use command form
Shower before you bathe ??
When Accepting gifts, take the item with 2 hands
Kneel - do not sit
Don't put hands in your pockets *Dishonesty*
Maintain personal boundaries - do not touch, hug unless invited
Space is an issue - beds made daily L
Bow often
Bow correctly
Bow last

This is not going to be easy. Tara shook her head a little trying to concentrate on the presentation.

The slide show was starting and Tara was considering how much she had to learn about the culture and her role as a missionary there in Japan. Returned missionaries had compiled these pictures for them so they could feel the flavor of the country. The first few slides were in park settings. Japan was exquisite. The colors were vibrant. Each of the pictures presented a culture rich in architecture, appreciation for beauty, order, and reverence for their ancestors.

The next group of slides was more specific to the work. Photos of ward buildings, members, and newly baptized converts dressed in white. There were shots of Missionary gatherings, church events, and Japanese holiday celebrations with missionaries occasionally dressed in traditional Japanese clothing or performing traditional activities associated with that holiday.

When the pictures of the missionary housing came up on the large screen, Tara cringed. She saw the elders sitting at the tiniest table eating a meal. Their legs were bent backward as they knelt, their tops of their feet lay flat on the floor; and it looked as though the soles of the feet were a pillow for their behinds. The next shot was a kitchen smaller than the size of her closet. And every appliance looked like it was built in the forties.

Nope, this is not going to be easy.

Willow was having a similar reaction in the front row. But her neck was aching from the proximity to the large screen. When photos of the missionaries and members came up, she started to notice that the Elders all stuck out like sore thumbs. They were tall, white, and their badges set them apart from all the others. Furthermore, the number of Shimai in these photos were few and far between, and red hair - totally non-existent.

After Culture Class, the missionaries split up into smaller district groups for their Devotionals. Willow was a little amused when the topic for her group was "The Armor of God." She had been considering her recent mindset on M*A*S*H and missionary service as it correlated to a soldier's life - without the blood and gore, of course. And the correlation to the armor with the tenants of their faith was inspiring. She couldn't wait the share her thoughts with Tara.

On the other side of the building in Tara's district, they were discussing how to recognize truth. Tara's mind raced back to the words for the songs they had been singing earlier that day, "Line up on Line," and the feelings of peace that would accompany those thoughts if they were right. She was thumbing through her unmarked scriptures looking for a passage she couldn't find. I need Willow. Immediately upon the completion of that thought, a feeling of warmth and love overwhelmed her.

After a quick dinner, the Sisters went to their next classes. Willow was mesmerized in her devotional as the speaker explained how to recognize truth. She was so caught up in the discussion she failed to take any notes. She definitely needed to compare her thoughts with Tara. She was really looking forward to later.

In Tara's class, they were learning how to protect themselves against the things that would deter them from their path. The teacher told an amusing story about a king and his preparations for war. The group was laughing so hard she only heard half of what was said. It was the visualization of the king building up his "armory" by taking the severed arms of his enemies and putting them in his weapons storage area. The group was still laughing long after the class ended. She hoped she could recap it all well enough for Willow.

Five after nine, Willow and Tara were each in their own rooms. As if synchronized, they grabbed their bathroom kits and headed out into the hall on the way for their ritual teeth brushings and preparations for bed. After closing their doors, they both turned and looked down the hall toward the other's door. Willow's infectious smile was mirrored on Tara's face as they caught each other looking down the hall. It was as if the moment was frozen in time.

Tara finally looked down as if embarrassed by her sudden display of emotion. She clutched her kit and proceeded toward her goal, although at the moment she honestly couldn't say what that was. She was walking directly in a line toward Willow. She was under her spell, or at least that's what she thought it would feel like if she believed in such a thing.

Willow and Tara met in the middle at the entrance to the bathrooms and completed their pre-bed activities in relative silence, neither one wanting to break the mood of the earlier moment. Something about reliving the initial sight of the other after a long day was remarkable.

Willow motioned back with her thumb toward her own room and Tara nodded in understanding. They quietly parted. A few moments later they were walking back down the hall with books in hand.

Willow sat down next to Tara on the couch. In just a few seconds she started shifting in her seat. She rolled her head around trying to ease the stiffness that had settled in. Tara recognized the motion and realized immediately the source of her discomfort.

"Front row huh?" Tara moved over closer toward the end of the couch past where the table was. "Here, let me help you." She signaled with her hand that she wanted Willow right in front of her.

"What? No that's okay. It's just a little kink." Willow was still wiggling around trying to get the crick out. She was making tiny crackling noises as her bones tried to align with her movements.

"There's not such thing as a little kink." Tara rejected Willow's argument. "Now sit down here and let me fix it." Tara commanded.

Willow, amused by the tone in Tara's voice, replied, "Is that and order, Captain?"

Tara looked at Willow. Suddenly without warning Tara burst out laughing. The more she tried to control it, the harder she laughed. She kept thinking of the talk - the king with his severed arms in his armory. She considered telling the story, but realized she just wouldn't do it justice. She called me Captain. She's the Captain - Captain Contagious or Captain Distraction.

After she regained some decorum, Tara said, "I'm no Captain, my dear, I'm a General. Remember? General States the Obvious, or did I just have that conversation in my head?" Willow just looked at Tara blankly.

Tara, after seeing Willow's expression, seemed to have confused herself. She pursed her lips and shifted her glance trying to remember. When Willow saw Tara furrow her brow in concentration, she was amused.

"Okay, now I don't even know where to start with that." Willow smirked a little. "Number One, what on earth is so funny? Number two, when did you get a promotion, or enlist, or whatever? Number three, when did you start not remember our conversations?"

Tara was a caught off guard by the barrage of questions and mumbled a little as she gathered her thoughts, "Since I hooked up with you, Captain Contagious."

She paused again before proceeding in full voice but Willow jumped in a head of her.

"Just hold on a minute," Willow's mind was racing, "You have a nickname for me now?"

Tara's mouth hung open for a moment as the redhead studied her. "And you out rank me? Well that's just wrong on so many levels." In mock disgust, Willow got up and repositioned herself in front of Tara. She'd earned this now.

Willow continued with her playful chastising, "I can't believe you didn't make us both Captains. You know, like Hunnicut and Hawkeye or Majors like Hotlips and Burns. I'm simply aghast."

Tara absentmindedly started working on Willow's kink. "Well actually, you have many names, and Captain was the rank that sounded the best with most of them. Although..." Tara trailed off as she concentrated on a spot on Willow's neck where she'd found a knot. Willow groaned a little at the pressure.

Willow's moan tapped something in Tara's sub-consciousness. I'm touching Willow.

Tara suddenly felt, really felt, the skin against her fingertips and thumbs as she massaged the tense muscles. It was soft like silk. Tara moved her hands up to the base of Willow's hairline relaxing with the warmth. Willow's hair was fine and as soft as anything she'd ever felt. She couldn't help but move her hands higher feeling the red locks falling lazily between her fingers.

She leaned down and whispered in Willow's ear, "My little soldier." Tara replicated Major Burn's inflection from the memorable moment in the show.

Willow had lost herself in Tara's touch. She marveled at the feel of Tara Hands. She felt as if she might fall asleep, but just for a moment. The whispered words were warm and inviting and the Burn's/Hotlips reference not lost on her. She remembered the episode and Major Burns had such affection for Margaret "Hotlips" Hullahan. She may only be a captain, but Tara's meaning was major. She knew it now with certainty. Tara felt it too, the power of their connection.

Tara's hands had moved back down to work out the tension in Willow's shoulders. She felt Tara's fingers just below her clavicle and thumbs rhythmically kneading on the pressure points behind her shoulder blades. All Willow could think of was the feel of Tara's fingers caressing her, pressing down, feeling her, loving her. She was overwhelmed with the sensations. She wanted to cry she felt so safe, warm and happy.

Unfortunately, Willow knew she wasn't going to feel the sensations for long. She was losing the battle with her eyelids. She scooted down, backing herself into Tara's legs and let her head drop and rest on Tara's thigh. "Your little soldier," she repeated almost inaudibly. She melted into Tara's touch - Tara's burning touch - and closed her eyes.

Tara continued to work on Willow's neck and shoulders. She felt Willow totally relax into her. She knew Willow would fall asleep if she continued, but she didn't want to stop. She loved the feel of the fiery redhead against her skin. She was lost in the passion building inside her as she caressed and kneaded her.

After quite some time, she finally had to stop. She felt like her thumbs were cramping. She looked down at the sleeping Willow. Well, I guess thumb wrestling has been preempted again. Tara leaned back on the couch, careful not to disturb the sleeping beauty. Sleep started to take her as well. Her eyes were heavy and she was falling too. She reached out and gently stoked the flowing mane.

"Mm, my Tara," murmured a quiet little voice.

She stroked Willow's hair again and mumbled her reply, "My Willow." In moments they were both sound asleep.

Continue to Latter Days/Lonely Nights Chapter Nineteen

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