Return to Latter Days/Lonely Nights Chapter Thirty-Eight

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.

Day 9 -Friday, November 16, 1984)

Willow's mind was racing.

She said I...was hot? She said I was... hot. Hot. Me, Willow Rosenberg, geek to the ninth power am hot. I think, not. She must be on drugs. Yeah, that's it; she's high. Maybe it's a morning thing, temporary insanity of the pre-breakfast kind. Maybe she needs special anti... 'Anti-what' medicine? Anti-delusion?

Oh gosh, what if there is something wrong with her? What if she has a growth? And it's pressing on her brain and making her think she likes me; and in the morning, it's overactive cause she hasn't taken her medicine yet. Oh no! But there's nighttime too, maybe it's like a 12 hour drug and she takes it for her waking hours, and I've kept her awake past the threshold and that's why she wants to kiss me when it's late at night and before she takes it in the morning.

"Rosenberg Shimai?" Smith waved her hand in front of Willow's eyes. "Hey!" Smith looked at Kitchen, "What's wrong with her?"

No, there just can't be anything wrong with her.

"Maybe she has a condition or something." Kitchen offered. She had also returned to where Willow remained standing in an apparent trance. She shook her head and dismissed the notion.

She could have some sort of hypothalamutic condition. Maybe she doesn't know about it yet.

"Well, I wouldn't be surprised if there was something wrong with her, the way she sleeps is just not normal." Smith seemed aggravated.

Maybe I'm making it worse by keeping her up at night; she might not be getting enough sleep to replenish her natural defenses.

Kitchen furrowed her brow and glared at her other companion. "There is nothing wrong with Rosenberg; she's just tired I bet." She reached a hand out and tenderly touched Willow's shoulder. Kitchen spoke in a soft and soothing tone, "Hey, you okay?"

Yeah maybe she's just... Willow felt the touch on her shoulder and finished her thought aloud, "Tired."

Kitchen continued in her motherly tone, "Okay, let's get you something to eat; I'm sure that will help get you started for the day."

Smith chimed in, "Yeah, you know breakfast is the most important meal of the day." She gave Willow the once over, "Hey, where's your badge?"

Willow put her hand up and confirmed to herself that she had indeed forgotten the important piece of her outfit. Well, that is just - interesting.

Breakfast seemed to fly by for both Willow and Tara. Willow had begun a new mission to monitor Tara's behaviors and habits. If there was any apparent illness that would explain Tara's attraction to her, she was determined to discover it. She wanted to believe that Tara felt the same way for her that she did, but the odds of that seemed astronomical.

Willow didn't feel that hungry and forced herself to have some cereal. She noticed Tara barely touched her food. She opened her notebook to the third to last page and began her log. Tara seemed relaxed, but a little bit distracted as she talked back and forth with her companions and the elders who sat near them at breakfast.

At lunch, she updated her log again. She was further away from Tara so it was more difficult to rate her interactions with the others, but she did notice Tara only picking at her salad. Tara seemed to glance her way occasionally but turned away quickly when Willow caught her gaze. More than once Willow caught herself doing the same thing, but she didn't want to assume anything - she was research girl. This was an important assignment.

The two districts let out of language class almost at the same time, so the girls went over to dinner together. Willow loved it when they could go over to the cafeteria together, because that usually meant not only did she get to walk with Tara, and stand in line with Tara, but also they sat with the other girls at dinner.

Willow had been trying hard to focus on her Japanese, so she hadn't really said much by the time they reached the counter. Tara went ahead and started picking out items for dinner. Willow watched with anticipation: fruit salady ambrosia, veggie medley, a piece of fried chicken and some mashed potatoes. That seems like a healthy size meal. Willow grabbed some macaroni and cheese and a piece of chicken as well. They do have good chicken here, she thought to herself. Tara picked up some little Jell-O squares in a bowl for dessert. Willow perused the desserts. She couldn't decide between chocolate cake and a pretty piece of lemon meringue pie.

Tara watched as Willow looked over the desserts; she seemed stupefied. Tara leaned into Willow in a loving bump. Then she reached across Willow with her left hand. She grazed her softly as she went for the piece of the chocolate cake to Willow's right. She whispered quietly, "We'll share it, go ahead and grab the pie; I know you want it too."

Willow looked down where she felt the light touch on her arm. A shiver of excitement ran through her and her mouth watered when she realized what part of Tara was touching her. With all the strength she could muster, she responded softly, "Oh, I'd love that."

They walked over together to beverage area, selected their drinks, and joined Conley and Colson who were already looking for a place that would accommodate the six of them. Tara pointed to an area that could take them with four on one side and two - offset a bit - on the other. They headed over to sit down.

Willow's mind was racing. Four and two, do we take the two, no. Do I sit next to her or across from her and share the cake over the table. She quickly realized she needed to position herself next to Tara so one of them could sit across from her companions. However, Conley and Colson were ahead of them. If they split the table... Willow panicked.

"We're sharing the cake!" Willow blurted out much louder than she had intended.

Conley turned to face the red-faced girl. "You know I think even your freckles just blushed." Conley's comment earned her a second wave of pink that moved past Willow's face down her neck.

Colson was a little bewildered by the outburst. Watching the exchange between Conley and Rosenberg didn't help clear that up any. She leaned over toward Tara, "Did that make any sense to you?"

Tara considered for a moment before she offered an explanation. "Willow's always thinking."

Colson stopped walking and looked at Tara, "That doesn't clarify anything." Conley nodded in agreement. Willow stood quietly wishing she could hide under a table.

"We're sharing the cake." She began tentatively, "She figured out how we're supposed to sit, calculated it down to the person, and in her way she's letting you know where to sit only it didn't all come out of her mouth." Tara got a smile on her face and looked directly at Willow, "She's cute that way."

A fresh wave of red enveloped Willow. She thought for a moment that even her feet might be blushing. She debated covering her face with her food tray.

By now, Kitchen and Smith had joined them and were looking at the girls in confusion. Smith was about to ask why they were stopped when Colson continued, "O k a y." It was obvious that Colson was unsure about Tara's interpretation and her voice betrayed her disbelief.

Tara looked around at all the faces and realized by Colson's response and the silence that followed that she alone understood what Willow was trying to convey. The thought made her feel proud. Tara turned to face Willow. "Where do we need to sit?"

She made a circle with her finger to include herself with Tara and her companions. Willow's voice actually squeaked, "Me first." She lowered her face and grinned sheepishly.

"Okay, Dozo," Tara motioned in polite gesture for Willow to lead the way. Willow moved one foot behind the other and feigned a curtsey. Tara laughed and tipped an imaginary hat and followed behind.

Conley and Colson looked at each other in shared amusement and followed behind Tara. Smith looked at Kitchen. She had her lip raised so high several teeth were showing on the one side. Her reaction betrayed her; she thought Willow and Tara were very strange. Kitchen was concerned with the display.

"My mom always said that if you do that thing with your lip there," she made a movement with her hand toward her face and did the crooked lip, "that it might get stuck that way."

Smith joined the procession toward the table. "I think your mom got that confused with something else."

Kitchen bit her lip. She didn't dare say anything more to Smith on the subject. Her mom used to say not to cross your eyes or they would get stuck. Doing that with your face, that really just led to wrinkles. And wrinkles weren't necessarily bad if they were in good places. Laugh lines, that's what she called them, the wrinkles at your mouth and cheeks by your eyes.

Sister Kitchen settled in at the table across from Willow. She examined her food selection and as she sat in place, she inconspicuously looked up without raising her head. She felt a little as if she was eavesdropping, but she wasn't really paying attention to their conversation, only observing the two of them. They were quite the duo. She wondered again, why they had not been paired up together.

Tara and Willow were talking quietly about their food something about color scheme. Willow simply looked enchanted by the girl on her left. Kitchen suddenly imagined Willow twenty-five years older, a little grey in her hair, soft laugh lines near her eyes and deeper creases at her dimples. She looked at Maclay. She was smirking at Willow. Kitchen wondered if she would have the smile lines only on the one side of her face and a few lines above her left eye.

Kitchen looked over at Smith who was busy looking like she was carrying on a silent interrogation of her food. The edges of her mouth turned down, and when she concentrated or relaxed, the expression on her face was a natural frown. She stabbed a vegetable as if it had personally offended her. Kitchen began her own quiet reflection about how life has a way of imprinting itself on you.

Tara thought the evening meal went by far too quickly. She knew that was because she was sharing her meal with Willow and the others. They only had one more class before they could rest for the day, and she was certain the conversation with Willow tonight would be interesting. She ignored her companions as they walked back toward their next class. Willow and the others had taken some sort of detour. The air was chilly and Tara instinctively clung to her books.

Tara thought about her morning with Willow. She knew she had left Willow in a precarious condition when she left that morning. She had seen Willow's face; and knew that her mind was running on over-drive trying to figure out what she had meant by her comment.

Tara laughed to herself. I can't believe I said that aloud. Poor Willow. Ha, it almost serves her right though, she was teasing me all morning. A smile slowly crept across Tara's face.

"You're right, she does look like we said something funny," Colson mentioned to Conley. They were observing Tara as they crossed the breezeway.

That was pretty funny though. Actually, it serves me right. Tara was lost in her own reflections and did not hear the discussion going on around her.

"How about it? Care to share what you're thinking about with the rest of the group?" Conley requested.

I don't know how she does that. It's not as if I think about that kind of stuff all the time, it's just when we're together...

"It's kind of funny how she get's that faraway look on her face." Conley continued.

"You want me to try?" Colson offered.

She doesn't even have to try. She just looks at me... all freckly, cute, and adorable. Tara's thoughts drifted as she recreated recent moments with Willow in her mind. Their nights together were enchanting, and she was soon swept away in sensations. She closed her eyes for a few seconds and in her mind she was looking down, watching Willow as she concentrated on marking her skin. She loved watching Willow. And imagining her gentle yet persistent attention as she applied her efforts, Tara felt her body respond to the memory of getting her keepsake.


Tara was startled and embarrassed when she bumped into a pole. Conley and Colson erupted into a fit of laughter. They stopped walking to experience the moment.

"How did you make her do that?" Conley said between breaths.

Colson just chuckled, "I just reduced the amount of space between us until she subconsciously started moving over. She was definitely not all here."

Tara looked at the giggling girls. She quickly realized they had been planning something for a little bit of time, she didn't remembered leaving the cafeteria, let alone making the walk nearly all the way to their classroom before the dreadful pole moment. Tara looked left and right to see who might have seen her. Okay good, minimal fallout she glanced around toward the back and there were just a few elders in the area. Good, no one I know. She looked over her shoulder, and Sister SMITH! Would it be wrong to say "crap?"

Tara felt her heart sink and she hung her head. Her hair fell over her face and she wanted to retreat to a tiny space out of view from the others. She knew Smith was already behaving oddly toward her, and now she had walked into a pole. No sooner had her hair hit her face, than she felt a warm hand on her arm. She looked up to see Sister Kitchen looking at her with concern.

"Are you okay?"

Tara shook her head as if to clear her thoughts. "I'm just a klutz I guess." She replied for only Kitchen to hear.

"Well, it wasn't entirely your fault." Kitchen whispered back. "I think that Colson is a sly one. She took advantage of a weakness," Kitchen looked quickly back toward Smith. "But we'll go with klutz for now." Kitchen winked at Tara. "But you need to be careful who you trust to set your path."

Tara considered Kitchen's statement for a moment. That was what she had done. She was walking beside Colson and did not notice the Sister's gentle drift to the right. Hitting the pole was the consequence for Tara moving off course. Tara clutched her books tighter when she realized the implications of what Kitchen had just revealed to her. You need to be careful who you trust to set your path.

Tara looked back again toward Willow and Sister Smith who had both stopped a few feet away to give her some space. She couldn't quite place the look that she was reading from Smith: suspicion, judgment, superiority. Willow was clutching her books tightly to her chest. Tara absentmindedly shifted her right arm up a little and moved her thumb slowly across the area just below her clavicle. Willow's eyes followed the movement. Tara felt her thumb, she glanced at Willow and when their eyes met, they both blushed. Tara hung her head quickly and Willow looked away. Smith saw the exchange and smiled in self-satisfaction.

When Willow saw Tara hide behind the curtain of her hair, Willow closed the gap between them and softly touched her arm. Smith was right behind her, as if she was curious to witness the exchange between them.

"I fell down here once." Willow started in her normal voice. "You remember that day that I smacked Smith in the nose?" Willow tilted her head back toward Smith.

Tara realized quickly what Willow was attempting to do. "Oh, that's true. That was a very bad day for you. It looked like it hurt when you fell."

Willow crooked her head to the side. "You saw me?"

Tara raised her eyebrows almost to the top of her forehead. "Me?" She shook her head in mock denial, squinted her eyes a little and wrinkled up her nose, "No, of course not." A smirk slowly emerged.

Willow feigned mock embarrassment, "I can't believe you didn't tell me you saw that." Smith was watching the two of them, now very confused.

Tara continued, "I guess it could have been worse, I could have dropped my books."

"Or flung spaghetti sauce at your companion trying to emphasize a point," Willow pointed out.

"Oh, well there is that. And there are no pictures." Tara was digging in now.

Willow smirked, "Well, there may be pictures of me, but I believe there are some of you too." Willow chucked, "Sister Squirrel cheeks."

Tara laughed, "Did we get some of the food art we made on Smith Shimai?" Tara and Willow both turned to face Smith who had been observing the exchange.

"I don't recall, but even if we didn't, we all will remember her holding up her crust like she was some kind of Jedi Knight." Willow mocked the movement Smith made when she attempted to defend herself against the pizza topping war.

"Hey!" Smith could not believe she was being pulled into the discussion.

Conley and Colson were watching the exchange with amusement. "Well, that was pretty funny." Colson offered. "And when you asked for help, that was classic."

"Well, when you're in trouble, you should ask for help," Smith responded and with comment that looked lovingly toward Tara and Willow in turn. "You'd be surprised where you find allies."

With that comment, Smith started the group moving again toward their class. Tara wondered what all these events meant for her, especially if insignificant moments in life have larger implications.

Continue to Latter Days/Lonely Nights Chapter Forty

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