Return to Latter Days/Lonely Nights Chapter Twenty-Six

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 7 - Wednesday, November 14, 1984)

Willow was on lookout duty with the others close by. They had dressed in their nightwear in no time at all, and had a quick chat about what they should cover in their companion inventory. Willow appointed herself secretary for the upcoming event. Topic number one was P-day.

There wasn't a lot of traffic coming in or out of the MTC at this hour and when Willow spotted headlights; she motioned the others that they needed to make their way out through the corridor and through the breezeway to the sidewalk.

I guess I thought you'd be here forever
Another illusion I chose to create
You don't know what ya got until it's gone
And I found out just a little too late

The music was blaring when he drove up in his beat up Gremlin, blue with snazzy racing stripe. No doubt, he was one of the many struggling students working while trying to obtain a degree at the campus next door, Brigham Young University.

I was acting as if you were lucky to have me
Doin' you a favor, I hardly knew you were there
But then you were gone and it was all wrong
Had no idea how much I cared

He left the radio on, got out of the car, and grabbed the red foil lined container with pizzas inside. He probably didn't even realize that his music was off the plan for the young missionaries. When the chorus started, he bobbed his head to the beat of Chicago and made his way up to the entrance. He was singing at half voice, and making the appropriate rock star grimaces with each stanza. He probably didn't realize the young redhead was observing him as he made his way through the parking lot.

Now being without you
Takes a lot of getting used to
Should learn to live with it
But I don't want to
Living without you
Is all a big mistake
Instead of getting easier
It's the hardest thing to take
I'm addicted to ya babe
You're a hard habit to break

Willow was fiddling nervously with the buttons on her mom's brown coat, cursing herself again that they hadn't made it to the mall to look at possible replacements for it and for the needed shoes. It was clearly not a warm enough jacket for snow especially when she'd chosen to put on her actual pajamas for their gathering. She was also starting to feel guilty for the whole pizza thing. They hadn't finished their inventory; they'd only started.

You found someone else you had every reason
You know I can't blame you for runnin' to him
Two people together but living alone
I was spreading my love too thin

The delivery guy hummed through the parts he didn't know and ended the verse with a flourish. Willow heard him coming before she saw him in the darkness and she rushed toward the access area to accept the pizza. He was still hum/singing as he made his way over to the designated drop point. This was not his first delivery to the Training Center. The music continued playing as background noise.

After all of these years
I'm still tryin' to shake it
Doin' much better, they say that it just takes time
But deep in the night it's an endless flight
I can't get ya out of my mind

While the final verse played softly in the background, Willow pulled their money out of her pocket to pay for the pizza. She quickly figured out the tip and rounded it to the nearest devisable of four. She handed it over. He nodded, and accepted the money. Willow finally recognized the song that was playing.

Now being without you
Takes a lot of getting used to
Should learn to live with it
But I don't want to
Living without you
Is all a big mistake
Instead of getting easier
It's the hardest thing to take
I'm addicted to ya babe
You're a hard habit to break

She watched him turn and walk away, his head still bobbing to the beat. He picked up his singing in the middle of the chorus. She thought it was funny she hadn't been able to go a week without a pizza. She panicked a little when she realized that pizza might not even be available in Japan. As he got further away, his confidence increased and he belted out the words.

Being without you
Takes a lot of getting used to
Should learn to live with it
I don't want to
Being without you
Is all a big mistake
Instead of getting any easier
It's the hardest thing to take
I'm addicted to you
You're a hard habit to break

The music faded into the distance as he drove off to do his next delivery. Willow suddenly felt mixed emotions. She was excited about the pizza. She knew pizza was a huge sacrifice, just the mention of a few toppings and they had all moved mountains to get one. Well Tara had moved mountains. And Mr. Delivery had put that song in her head. The words replayed in her mind. I'm addicted to you, you're a hard habit to break. She realized there was something that would be harder for her to give up than pizza. A shiver of sadness touched her. She put on a superficial smile. And after just a moment, she turned and walked to rejoin her companions who stood at the door.

When Willow and the others got to the sister's door, they knocked quietly. When they heard a soft invitation, they entered. The mood in the room was much different then when they had left. Willow glanced around to each of the girls trying to decide what the best icebreaker would be. Sister Kitchen spoke first. She had such grace and great vocal quality. No matter what she said, it seemed to flower the room.

"Okay everyone, we will proceed to said pizzas in an orderly fashion, there will be no pushing or shoving." When Kitchen said "said pizza" her face glowed with affection toward all the others in the room. She looked around at each girl in the room. Dare no inote imasu ka? [Who is going to pray?] Then she added, "Nihongo de" [In Japanese].

Willow smirked. Good call, ask the question; then you don't have to do the invocation. I should have thought of that.

Willow was surprised when Tara offered and even more amazed when she took hold of Conley's hand as a signal that they would kneel for this offering. It was such a simple thing, but the action left Willow feeling humbled and renewed. Each sister joined Tara in forming a circle. They each crossed their arms in preparation for her prayer. Willow held her breath. She wasn't sure if she wanted to send her thoughts of courage, clarity or love to the girl who now would lead them in this moment. She also knew that the sound of Tara's voice leading them would impact her and she was afraid to let any emotions show. She bit her lip and held her arms firmly in place.

Tara spoke the words with feeling. Willow could tell it was hard for Tara. Her lack of vocabulary was limiting her ability to communicate her thoughts. She was slow and careful and Willow could tell that if Tara had said a prayer in English she would be eloquent and humble. She realized this was the first time she had heard Tara say a prayer and she was ashamed. In their attempts to be strong, they had forgotten a crucial piece. They had forgotten to ask for help.

Willow whispered quiet supplications for help and forgiveness. She felt as though there was something else, something that was nagging at her. A chorus of "amen's" signaled the end of the prayer and Willow realized she'd missed the end of Tara's prayer. Everyone stood and went for their pizza and Willow hung back. As was often the case, she continued the dialog in her head as the others stood and started eating the pizza even before they sat down. She quietly contemplated her situation in an intense internal dialog of thoughts, feelings and words. This was how she connected to the higher power. Rote words without feeling were trite she had decided long ago.

Tara noticed Willow seemed deep in thought. She was afraid to approach her for a few reasons, but decided that all her reasons were about what others thought of her and Willow's relationship. Tara knew they had things to work through, but she also sensed a need. She decided to approach Willow as she would anyone else. She went to where Willow was sitting on the corner of the bed.

Willow was startled when Tara knelt before her and touched her knees to get her attention. Willow glanced around to see if anyone was observing them. She was definitely starting to feel paranoid about everyone sensing their relationship. After the boob oogling earlier she didn't want to run the risk of being a topic of discussion or anyone's over active imagination. No one really seemed to be paying much attention, so Willow looked down at Tara.

She had a hard time figuring out where to look at Tara though. Everywhere she looked seemed to provoke strong emotions. Her eyes. Her smile. Her cheek bones and ears. Her hair - so soft and silky. Willow was quickly loosing her ability to focus and her eyes began the journey to now look down her neck to her. Stop it Willow I said no boob oogling. But they are so yummy, deliciously incredible, perfect and today so unconstrained. Oh gosh! This is just so awful. I'm so going to hell. Willow let out a sigh and closed her eyes. Why can't I be normal?

Willow could have sworn she heard someone say, "You are." But it wasn't from anyone in the room.

Tara took a few moments to gather her thoughts. She knew the girl was deep in thought and didn't want to disturb her meditation, but the pizza was getting cold. She was so proud of Willow for helping them figure out all the toppings, she would never have thought to do that. It was so logical, just the kind of thing that Willow would do. She prepared herself so she wouldn't let on to the other's her true feelings and then began.

"Rosenberg Shimai," Tara began, "Do you want a piece of Hawaiian?" She recognized the conflicting emotions that were showing on Willow's face. She ducked her head and looked up to recapture Willow's gaze. "You worked so hard to help us get it."

Willow realized Tara was actually helping her - in front of everyone. How is she so brave and able to be like that? Isn't this hard for her too? It must have been a fluke. She ducked her head in shame. "Okay." Her voice sounded small and wounded. She didn't move. She was still wrapped up in what she thought she'd heard and the feelings of shame for her desires.

Tara realized immediately what Willow must have thought but there really wasn't anything she could do about it. She got up from where she was and got Willow a piece of pizza. She came back across the room, sat next to her on the bed and handed her the slice. She said quietly, "You okay?"

"Yeah, I guess." She saw Tara had brought her over the Hawaiian and she blushed. "I guess you got my number, huh." She said as she took the pizza slice from Tara.

"Well I looked at the selections and knew you'd want the yellow." Tara did a slow half grin so only Willow could see it.

Willow thought for a moment that she'd misjudged Tara just a few moments before. She looked to see what type slice Tara had and realized she too had a piece with the pineapple on it. "You like Hawaiian too?"

Tara chuckled a little. "Well I never had this kind before, but I liked the color scheme. I seem to be doing a lot of that lately." Tara took a bite and raised her eyebrows at Willow almost unconsciously.

"Well what kind do you normally eat?" Willow was truly interested.

"Well, it kind of depends on my mood," Tara took another bite and a little cheese stretched out from the slice. She took a quick swoop with her finger and replaced the cheese back to its rightful place - on top of the piece ready for her next bite.

"So mood pizza huh, does that mean that you're in an adventurous mood, trying something new?" Willow now relaxed a little in their normal playful banter. "Or are you just decorating the color scheme of your belly?" She took a bite of her own.

Tara furrowed her brow in question, "decorating, what huh?" Tara inadvertently patterned Willow's phraseology.

"Well, you said you liked the color scheme, and since it's going in..." Willow nodded toward Tara's belly.

Tara laughed when she realized what Willow was saying and didn't let her finish, "No silly." I mean sometimes I feel like something new and different, sometimes I like the old reliable, sometimes I go for healthy, sometimes I go Spartan - cheese only - you know like if I feel fat and just want the tomatoey taste." She took another bite and so did Willow. This pizza was disappearing too fast.

"You know," Willow swallowed her bite, "You're starting to make me think I should try something different. I've never had veggie." She was almost done with her piece.

"There's never any harm trying something new, plus, if you don't like it you could let me eat it for you." Tara took another bite and tried not to smile. Food swapping, AKA germ exchanges, were a big step, unless you were already locking lips with someone. And she was thinking about that very thing. Tara chuckled again and shoved the remaining few bites into her mouth at once. The action earned a laugh from Willow who had just finished her piece as well.

"I'll get you that, you just sit there and ..." Willow smiled again at the puffy cheeks, "chew." Willow turned to the group who were busy scarfing up their own pieces. "Anyone want to get a picture of Sister Squirrel cheeks?"

Colson looked up immediately and laughed as well. "Oh, that's too good, hold on there Squirrel Shimai." The camera was out in an instant and the picture taken.

Tara's cheeks were not only full of pizza, but now they were blushing red. She shot Willow a warning look. Willow just grinned with delight. On her way back with the two-veggie slices, she walked over near where Colson was eating. "I need a copy of that." Colson nodded in understanding.

Willow had grabbed a couple "napkins" from the pile the other three sisters had taken from the bathrooms in preparation for their meal. She had rested the pieces upon them. She handed the pizza to Tara on the flimsy "plate." This was about the best roughing it she'd done since arriving at the MTC. She took her place back on the bed next to Tara. "There sure are a lot of things on this, how do you taste the sauce?"

"Well these type pizzas are not so much about the sauce as they are about the combination of all the flavors." Tara explained. She was determined to eat this piece much slower. Not only did she want to savor the flavor, and she knew she might need extra room for any toppings Willow didn't want.

Willow took a tentative bite of her piece. She closed her eyes trying to determine if she liked all those flavors coming at her or not. She was just a simple girl. She liked things uncomplicated and organized. This pizza was absolute chaos. She quickly determined that the mushrooms had to go. She picked off the five that were visible and placed them in a tiny heap in the middle of Tara's piece. Tara smirked and spread the little pile over her piece.

Willow took another bite. This time she got a bite of zucchini. Something about the texture didn't sit right with her. She picked off three pieces and made a little stack for Tara. Tara grinned at the added toppings on her slice and again placed them strategically around on her triangle. She was no longer eating, now she was just waiting for more food placements from Willow.

Willow caught the grin out of the corner of her eye and realized that giving Tara toppings was much more fun for her than eating the piece. She looked down. Onions, red onions, green and red peppers and olives were left.

Willow started picking at her piece slowly, first a red then a green item and placed them one at a time on Tara's piece. Her gentle placement quickly gave way to light tossing. A tiny green pepper skipped of the top and landed in Tara's lap. She picked it up quickly and popped it into her mouth. Willow shot her a quick look.

"What?" She looked surprised by the look, "Five second rule."

Willow grabbed a red pepper and repeated the maneuver. This time the pepper made more of a straight trajectory and hit Tara's nightshirt before falling to her lap. Again she picked up the item and tossed it her mouth.

Tara looked down at her pizza. She gleamed with delight. She picked up a mushroom and gently tossed it in the direction of Willow. Willow had been looking for her next piece of ammo and didn't see the flying vegetable sailing toward her v-neck flannel shirt. When it hit her chest, it stuck for a moment before falling down through the valley below. "Eww," she almost slipped and called her Tara again, "that felt like a snail."

"You have snails leave trails there often?" Tara smirked with pleasure. This was the most fun with pizza she'd ever had.

Willow looked aghast, "No!" She looked down for more ammo and before she had a chance to select the perfect piece she felt another bull's eye hit on her sternum and a second mushroom sliding down, under her garments to the pocket between her mounds.

This time Willow wasn't taking chances. She picked up several tiny peppers and attempted to toss them toward Tara. Tara was ready though and caught one in her mouth like a circus seal. She grinned with delight. She was not ready for the rapid fire from Willow so the careful aim by the redhead toward Tara's chest backfired when it hit Tara in the cheek.

Tara gave Willow the most intoxicating look she thought she had ever seen. Tara glanced at Willow's now balding pizza and then back at her own overly stocked pile of toss-able goodies. Willow squealed when she saw the look in Tara's eyes. Willow thought for sure she was going to be pummeled with a barrage of veggies. Instead, Tara just grinned at her. She took a large bite of her pizza, never taking her gaze from Willow eyes. Willow didn't want to look away, for fear of retaliation, but with the way Tara was looking at her she was afraid she wouldn't be able to keep up appearances. She at least had to look like she was on the plan.

"What are you guys doing over there?" Sister Smith inquired.

Continue to Latter Days/Lonely Nights Chapter Twenty-Eight

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