"Man, I've never been more bored in my entire life."
Willow didn't want to feel that way, but there was no denying that being at the rec center watching the swimming competition was one of the most boring experiences she had ever had to suffer through. She knew, however, that it was one of the few ways in which she could enjoy the company of her friends without having the shadow of their work as Sailor Soldiers hanging over their head, so all she could do was suffer quietly on the inside while giving Fred all of her support on the outside, and hope that her indifference to the situation didn't make her enthusiasm as manufactured as she feared it would be.
At least Buffy appeared to be having fun, though Willow suspected that it had more to due with the fact that there were so many well toned and half nude men also taking part in the competition. Even at an early age, Willow had never liked boys in that way, so it was somewhat funny to see Buffy be as boy crazy as she was, going on and on about how any attractive boy she met resembled, at least in her mind, anyway, her old boyfriend Parker. Buffy had even compared Parker to Riley Finn, who was always at the Bronze whenever Willow and Buffy went there, whether it be for Soldier business or just have fun on their own, and to Buffy's amusement, he had taken more than a passing interest in her
But while Willow found it amusing for Buffy to go on and on about how Riley and other boys she knew reminded her of Parker, she had to admit that it did start to get annoying after a while. She never really told Buffy to stop doing it, though, because Buffy was having so much fun doing it, and to tell her to stop would just be insensitive. And she didn't want to be so insensitive to Buffy, knowing that, with Cordelia apparently going out of her way not to talk to her, the blonde was the only person she really felt comfortable talking to amongst the four remaining members of the group.
That didn't make Fred someone Willow didn't like to be around, though. The fact that she was here was more than enough proof of that. But for the longest time, she had seen the young girl like most of the people she knew did: someone whose math talents and study habits made her appear to be too conceited to either talk to anyone else or attempt to be anyone else's friend, making her the object of jealousy and scorn of pretty much the entire school save her teachers. Willow, who had until recently failed pretty much every single math test she had ever taken, had always resented Fred for the apparent ease with which she did her work, even if she had always taken the awards and accolades in stride, saying that it was no big deal.
Of course, it wasn't until after Willow had gotten to know Fred better that she learned the true reason why she did so well in school: she was so painfully shy when it came to dealing with other people in social situations that she couldn't muster up the courage to talk to others. And the thing that frightened Willow the most was the fact that Fred said that she preferred it that way, because the last thing that she said she wanted was to have her hopes to have a person in her life she could call "friend" dashed in such a painful manner.
"That must be why she stays with me," Willow had thought when Fred has told her this. "She must be so willing to consider me a friend as far as our civilian lives go to look past the fact that, like the others, she can't come to see me as the leader of the Sailor Soldiers." It was this revelation that made Willow decide to try and do everything she could to live up to the image of the friend Fred wanted her to be, even if the redhead knew that she couldn't live up to the image of the leader that Anya wanted the others to see her be.
As she saw Fred emerge from the locker room and head to her place at the starting position, Willow tried to put her thoughts of the situation the five of them were enmeshed in to the side and simply try and enjoy herself as she watched her friend compete. It may not be all that exciting, but it was preferable to thinking about things that made her feel unhappy.
Being bored, at least when compared to being unhappy, seemed more preferable. At least being bored didn't allow the opportunity for overanalyzing a situation you had no control over.
Tara ran her index finger across the surface of the locket briefly before moving to open it, the faint melody it played whenever she did so springing immediately to life and filling every one of her senses with its beautiful harmony and haunting familiarity.
The star shaped locket was surprisingly light for such a large object, and though a beaded chain was attached to it, Tara never considered wearing it in public. It was far too precious an object to her to risk losing it by accident. After all, it was the one thing she had that could possibly help her remember her past.
Kneeling in front of the table on which she had placed it, Tara let out a sigh, the melody the locket was playing bringing to mind feelings and faint traces of memories she knew she had experienced at one point or another in her life, but for some reason could not recall now. It was frustrating how much this really bothered her, especially since there was a long period of time in her life when it did not.
But recently, things like this brought to the surface the memories of the dreams she had when she was younger; dreams which had begun to come back to her in the past two months, more forcefully and more clearly than they ever had before.
And there had also been her nocturnal activities as the mysterious tuxedo garbed figure that assisted Sailor Moon in her fight against the enemy she faced.
Tara found her thoughts turning to the blonde heroine she was helping, and wondered, not for the first time since meeting her, if she, her missing memories and her search for the Mystical Silver Crystal were all connected somehow. It certainly couldn't be a coincidence that the return of her dreams and Sailor Moon's first appearance both occurred at the same time that an enemy appeared from out of nowhere and made its intentions to destroy the Earth clear to both of them.
Closing the locket, Tara decided that the best way to clear her mind might be to let something else occupy it. Getting to her feet, she went to the closet and opened to, seeing as she did so the top hat, dress shoes, walking cane and white mask sitting on the top shelf, along with the tuxedo ensemble that, though out of sight to anyone else who might have opened it, she knew was hanging off to one side.
"I'm living a double life, and I can't tell Willow about it," she thought. "She could never understand what its like to lead a double life and deceive the one you love that you're doing so. It was bad enough that I told her about my search for the Crystal, but at least she understood everything about that and didn't consider me crazy. But I could never tell her this. Not only would she think I was insane, it would put her into danger. And…I don't want to risk hurting or losing her. Finding the Crystal and regaining my memories is important, but her friendship and the love that we share are more important to me than anything in this world. I'd gladly put Willow ahead of everything else, even if it meant I could never remember my own past."
Withdrawing her shoes and coat, she put them on and walked out of the house, hand reaching into her pocket to retrieve her keys.
After an hour at the mall, Tara had to concede that perhaps coming here hadn't been the best way to make herself feel better. In fact, it appeared to do everything it could to make her feel that much worse.
It wasn't something she could blame on herself, however. With Christmas just a few weeks away, families throughout the town were preparing to spend the holidays together, buying gifts for their loved ones, getting food together to fix a holiday feast certain people would no doubt spend three months exercising off, and generally being nice to one another.
But all of the yuletide cheer she saw simply reminded Tara of what she didn't have: a family of her own to spend Christmas with. Sure, she had Willow in her life, and she would never be ungrateful for that. But there were times and situations that the love of a family was preferable to the time one could spend with a girlfriend. And it was at this time of the year, more than any other, that the thought of having no family to go home to deeply hurt her.
Deciding that the best way to make herself feel better was to buy something for Willow, she walked into the nearest jewelry store and took a moment to look around, seeing if any of the jewels triggered something in the back of her mind that might make her think any of them was the Mystical Silver Crystal. After a moment of fruitless searching, however, she gave up and decided to look for something that would be the best gift to give Willow.
A few moments later, she found it. A small promise ring embedded with a 2 karat diamond. It was nothing fancy, but it made Tara's heart smile. Willow had never been the type to appreciate girlish things like this, but Tara knew that if she gave it to her, Willow would no doubt make a big fuss about it, which was more than enough to make her happy.
Paying for the ring and accepting the box as it was handed back to her, Tara turned to the shop's entrance and began to walk towards it. Halfway there, another person entered. The newcomer had long platinum blond hair that hung loosely around his shoulders, and was clad in a long dark duster over equally dark pants and shirt. As she walked by him, Tara couldn't help but feel that there was something familiar about this person, even though, to the best of her recollection, this was the first time she had ever seen him.
Shaking the feeling off, she walked out of the store and headed to the parking lot, wondering if Willow would come to visit her today, and if she did, whether or not it would be an appropriate time to give her the ring.
Spike took a look back as the blonde woman left the store, thinking for a moment how familiar she looked. Then again, that could mean anything, since he had seen dozens more like her in his time here, some of which were currently held prisoner by him and the others, Angelus' plan apparently working better than he had thought.
At least, it was working as far as it served draining energy to give to Queen Metallia. The plan's other intended desirable effect, the drawing of the Sailor Soldiers into their web, had apparently not worked thus far. It was especially frustrating for them to have accomplished so much in this plan, yet have very little to show for it.
His arm ached at that moment, and he was instantly reminded of the fact that one of them had bested him in battle. This infuriated him as much as the failure of his and his fellow Shitennou, since of the four, he was the first to be directly attacked by the Soldiers. He had vowed ever since then that he would make the one who did this to him suffer, but he had to play by the rules of this plan and not expose themselves until the Soldiers exposed themselves first.
The man on the opposite side of the counter noticed him then, and said, "Hello, sir. Is there anything I can do for you?"
"Yes," Spike replied, resting his hands on the countertop palm downward. "There is something here that you have which I require."
"Oh?" the man asked. "And, what may I ask, is that?"
Spike chuckled and looked down at the countertop. Then, with a quickness that gave the other man little time to react, the blond was over the countertop and behind the clerk, grabbing at his right arm with one hand while clutching the man's neck in the other. Before the clerk could react to this, Spike sent his upper body slamming into the countertop, the glass display case cracking at the sudden impact.
"Your energy," Spike snarled, disappearing, along with the clerk, a few seconds later in a cloud of white rose petals.