Return to Latter Days/Lonely Nights Chapter Forty

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)

Tara closed her eyes for a moment as she felt the gentle contours of Willow's body. She stopped moving her hands and looked down at the girl lying below. "You have the flattest stomach," Tara declared simply.

"Uh huh," Willow barely moved her face to reply.

"Do you workout ... or ... did you before?" Tara moved her hand beside Willow and scooted her legs back against the couch so she could move off the floor and sit next to her. Willow was still sitting with her hands over her head in submission to Tara's voice lesson positioning. Tara looked down to examine more closely what contours she could see through Willow's outfit. Not satisfied she placed her left palm back on her belly and felt the muscling below her ribs.

Willow sensed Tara had decided to pull back the intensity a little, which she wasn't really happy about, but it was probably the right thing to do. "No, not really," She pulled her arms down but couldn't figure out what to do with them. She folded them behind her head.

"Well you are very tone. When you sing, make sure to feel each breath in your diaphragm. That will help you when we start working on your volume control." Tara pressed slightly below Willow's ribs where she had her hand.

"What are you guys doing?" The sudden noise startled the girls and they both jumped. Willow squealed a little.

Smith Shimai was staring at them expectantly. She had observed Willow lying comfortably on the couch, her arms tucked behind her head, and Tara sitting very closely next to her touching Willow's stomach.

Tara and Willow both spoke at the same time.

"Tara's teaching me to sing."
"I'm teaching her how to sing."

They couldn't have planned their timing better.

"Do you two practice your responses or were you really, eh hmm, singing?" Smith Shimai was visibly confused.

Tara stood up, and faced Smith, "No pre-planning this time," she winked at Smith which earned her another puzzled expression. "Come here, I'll show you." Tara turned to Willow, "Schoochy. New pupil coming into the studio," Tara chuckled. "I'll send you the bill."

Willow quickly moved off the couch to make way for Smith. Smith hesitated, clearly bewildered by Tara's willingness to include her in their nighttime activity. Willow pressed on, "Come on, it's actually interesting." Tara nodded to confirm.

Smith furrowed her brow. "I just don't get you two." Tara and Willow looked at each other and then back to Smith.

Smith realized suddenly that she'd said the sentence aloud. "Oh, um, I mean. Oh, never mind."

Tara sensed there was something on Smith's mind. "Smith Shimai, please, come over and sit down." She patted the couch where Willow had been laying. "We don't need to do a lesson, but I think we should talk, don't you?"

Willow bit her lip and looked down to hide her face from Sister Smith. What is she doing? She was screaming inside. Willow absentmindedly stared at her feet and covered one with the other in nervousness.

"No, well, it's nothing really." Smith had backed herself into a corner and she knew it.

Willow took a deep breath. She didn't want to have a conversation with Smith, she wanted to run and hide, or possibly find that spare room and discuss her abs with Tara some more. Better yet, she wanted to feel Tara's abs. Oh get serious Willow; you want to do more than feel her abs. Willow was amazed that the internal admission didn't send a sweeping red blush across her face, but something was different. She suddenly felt confident.

Willow astounded herself even more when she spoke up, "No, come on Smith Shimai. This is important." It is? What is? What am I doing?

Tara looked at Willow. What is she doing?

Just stop it! Willow had no idea what she was thinking. But she felt momentum and words were about to leak out. Oh great! "Smith Shimai, please? Something is on your mind. It's better not to hold these things in."

Tara fought with all her strength to keep her jaw from falling open. Go Willow.

Smith knew she'd done it to herself. She had no other choice then deal with the issue head on, but she didn't want to. And, she could be wrong about them. "Okay," she said before she realized she was moving toward them.

Tara scooted closer to the edge of the couch to make room for Smith Shimai to sit down.

Willow started, "I don't want you to feel like we're ganging up on you." She leaned forward taking a slightly aggressive position. "I feel like you have something to say to us."

Smith was starting to look nervous. "I don't want to assume anything."

Willow seized the opportunity to try to lighten the mood, "Good, because none of us want to be donkeys."

Tara looked at Willow and back to Smith. A little chuckle escaped, "She's quirky, but cute."

Smith had taken a few moments to decipher what Willow had meant before shrugging it off and continuing. "I don't want to assume, or presume or whatever, but you guys, well you seem like you spend a lot of time together for not being companions."

Willow nodded silently. Tara agreed for them, "We do."

"Well, it's probably nothing, but I thought you should know there are rumors on the floor about two sisters getting too close, if you know what I mean, and I don't want you to be associated with that."

Willow wrinkled her brow, "Huh?"

Smith looked right at Willow who appeared to have not understood the statement at all. "There are some sisters making out."

Willow's wheels were turning at high speed. Someone saw US?

Tara turned to Willow, "She doesn't want people to think it's us because we spend so much time together and we're not companions."

Willow looked at Smith; she was actually nodding. She looked back at Tara for some direction.

Willow felt a chill run up her spine when she looked directly into Smith's eyes. She looked sincere but there was something else. "You think it's us."

Tara tried to repress the expression of shock that threatened to come out onto her face. Smith wasn't so careful.

Smith was dumbfounded and it wasn't a good look for her; her face contorted and her lip snarled. After she made a clicking sound with her mouth, she took a short breath. She decided to take the offense, "Well what would you think?"

Willow quietly retorted, "This isn't about me and what I would think."

Good one Willow, Tara silently applauded and mentally projected thoughts of strength.

Smith continued; she was finally getting some courage, "I've seen the way you look at her. And when I came out to check on you today, she was touching you." Smith turned her gaze on Tara.

"Oh you made up your mind long before today." Willow was on a roll too. Her mind wasn't racing as she thought it should be. She didn't understand the sense of calm that had overtaken her. There seemed to be something else, some force at play.

Tara sat quietly observing the exchange. She didn't want to interrupt the flow and Willow's manner seemed out of character. She thought back to her own conversation with the sister and realized Willow's comment was absolutely correct. This wasn't about them.

Tara reached out and placed a hand on Smith's knee with compassion and reverence. Willow watched and realized something profound had taken place in Tara as well.

Tara looked at her hand and back again to Smith's face. "Is that okay?"

Smith looked down at Tara's hand resting on her thigh. "I guess."

Willow got up and went to sit on the other side of Sister Smith. Smith's expression was priceless. She was mortified and confused at the same time. It was a snug fit, but Willow used her hips to wiggle in. The move made Tara chuckle. Smith was surrounded.

"See what I mean?" Tara caught Smith's eye again and nodded toward Willow, "quirky."

Willow chose to ignore the comment. Willow took a hold of Smith's hand. She felt almost as though she could see the bristles forming on the back of Smith's neck. "Smith Shimai," Willow began, "We made a rule." Willow looked to Tara to make sure that Tara understood what she needed. Tara nodded in acquiescence. There was no betrayal.

Willow continued, "We made a rule that anything said here is safe. You are safe here." Willow took her other hand and placed it on top of their clinched hands. "All we have is each other while we're here. And this is really hard and stuff. So I," Willow looked for another affirmation from Tara who had already begun nodding, "we feel very strongly about being open about things."

Tara struggled not to panic. What is she doing?

Willow continued, "Tara and I are very close, I feel like I've known her all my life. Maybe our time as companions just isn't right now." Willow took a breath, "I won't get that with you." She'd not considered this before just that moment. This might be the only time she would ever have to get to know Smith. She shook off the thought and continued. "You've seen," Willow made her token air quotes around pairings, "It doesn't make any sense to have us in threes. There has to be some other reason, some other plan at work."

Tara was listening intently to what Willow had to say. She sensed no deception, nor did she feel Willow was struggling to convey a point. She seemed so calm. There was no hint of her idiosyncratic and endearing babble.

Willow looked deeply into Smith's eyes. "Does that make any sense?"

Smith considered for a moment what Willow was saying. She looked back and forth between Willow and Tara. Willow thought for a moment that Smith looked like she was watching a tennis match.

Willow said quietly mostly to herself, "That's no good." She got up again, and knelt on the floor in front of Smith and next to Tara. "So the point is, you are safe here, with us. You can say what's on your mind." Willow let the words settle before adding, "Do we make you feel uncomfortable?"

Oh, now that's a bold move, Tara looked at Willow and back to Smith.

"I didn't, um, no, um, well, I don't know." Smith was clearly troubled.

Tara felt it was a good time to speak. "It's okay, you can be honest. What is it?"

Willow wriggled a little to get more comfortable kneeling in front of Smith. Her legs silently hollered for a change in position, which she denied. I might was well get used to this.

Sister Smith cleared her throat but said nothing.

After an uncomfortable silence, Willow shifted again. "Let's have it. My knees are getting stiff here, but I refuse to move until you spit it out. Oh, and I prefer brutal honesty to sugar coated garbage." Willow put on her resolve face.

Smith glanced at Tara and she seemed to exude a feeling of warmth. Tara was looking over at Willow and seemed amused by the redhead's commitment. Tara glimpsed Smith looking at her out of the corner of her eye and turned to face her. The silent exchanged between the three seemed to go on for several minutes.

"I know we're all busy looking at each other and stuff, but I believe there is still a question on the floor." Willow did a toothy fake grin which transformed into a genuine heart felt smile. "And I've kinda committed now to kneeling here, so if you could just say something pretty soon that would be good." Willow squirmed on the floor in discomfort. Her feet were falling asleep.

Tara laughed, "Maybe you could just make something up this time and come back if you can figure out what you need to say." Tara caught Smith's eye and giggled. She then simply mouthed "quirky."

Tara's amusement and calm demeanor seemed to placate Smith. "No, no I don't think you make me uncomfortable."

Willow shifted a little bit again on the floor, "Are we safe with you here, Smith Shimai?" Willow looked for confirmation from Sister Smith; she needed to know if Smith understood their agreement in the lounge.

When Smith saw the look on Willow's face, she understood immediately what Willow wanted to know. A million thoughts seemed to rush through her head. She finally replied, "I'm not sure; I guess it depends on what you say."

"If we have no trust, we can't move on past this I guess." Willow seemed deflated. Smith had answered her question, so she was at least relieved that she could move again. "I'm taking a break." Willow rolled over and pushed herself back up onto her feet. The tingle of pain made her wince. Tara watched as she hobbled over to the bathroom area and was out of sight.

Smith stood to leave.

Tara turned back and faced her, "If you change your mind, we'll still be here if you want to talk." Tara tucked her hands together on her lap, "Or you're welcome to stay if you don't mind a little study and song."

"No thanks," Smith breathed a sigh of relief. She felt as though she'd dodged a bullet, "I think I'll head back in."

When Smith was out of sight, Willow toddled out from across the hall. Tara guessed she had been waiting for Smith to leave. "You okay?" Tara was concerned about what Smith had said and how Willow would react to it.

"Yeah, entirely, which is surprising, ya know?" Willow sat down on the couch. She checked the area before speaking again. "Do you think it's us?"

"No, not us," Tara seemed overly certain.

Willow was confused by Tara's confidence in the statement, "How can you be sure?"

"Because, my little redheaded worrier, the rumors are about some girls seen on the third floor." Tara giggled and continued in more muted tones, "Apparently," she paused for effect, "we're not alone."

Willow's eyes went wide in surprise and quickly furrowed and a range of other emotions danced across her face. Tara was amused and could almost hear Willow's thoughts as they progressed.

There are others, oh, there are "Others", hmm we should go and see if we can find them, no, then we might all get caught, but maybe they need someone to talk to. If we went up to the third floor, then maybe we might be seen, and then we could be caught. No, that's bad, can't do that, better to be discrete. At last, a smile emerged on Willows face. And we have a room.

Tara watched as the smile shown brightly and Willow's eyes twinkled in delight. Then, just as quickly, Willow fixed her gaze on Tara. In an instant, her eyes became seductive pools of sparkling green. Tara felt like she was on an airplane and the cabin pressure had dropped. If she had been standing, she knew her knees would have buckled. She is so hot! Tara took a deep breath. "We need..." she exhaled, "a diversion."

"I'll take Chance, you have Community Chest?" Willow smiled a toothy grin.

Tara shot a warning glance, "Willow!"

Willow wasn't certain if she should take Tara seriously or not, "What?" she took a beat and then voiced another higher pitched, "Whaaat?"

"Maybe we should do properties instead - just so we're clear," Tara let out a pre-emptive chuckle, "about the meaning of diversion."

"Fine," Willow let out her breath. "One diversion, check." She took another measured breath. "Community chest saved for later." With that, Willow hopped off the couch and took her work position on the floor behind the table. She pulled out her Monopoly notes.

She tapped her pencil for a few seconds while she considered her layout. Tara looked over her shoulder trying to see what she was doing before she selected a position next to Willow on the floor. Then Willow mumbled under her breath, "To heck with that."

Tara was startled when Willow got back up off the floor leaving her organized pencils and pens lying on the table. All she brought up was her note pad and one pen. She gently swatted Tara's leg, "up" and sat across from her on the couch Indian style. One leg was up against the back cushion, but she was comfortable. Tara mirrored Willow's position.

"Okay," Willow put the notebook between them so Tara could see. "Two purple, three light blue, then three more different purple, the other's were kinda plumy these are more violet, then orange, red, yellow, green and the last two blue. We have four railroads, and then some utilities and tax spots. We've named our first two purple: Hickville and Plainview." Willow squirmed a little and stifled back a giggle and blush. Diversion Willow!

Willow wanted the naming conventions to be fair and she had thought this through, "Okay there are twenty more properties to name of assorted colors. This is our board. I think I should get two of the three colors for yellow and blue, and you should get two of the three for green and red. We split orange, purple and the last two blues."

Willow drew a line and labeled her sheet with their names. She jotted down the colors and numbers for reference.

"Willow?" Tara started with a tentative question.

"Yeah." Willow didn't look up from her notebook.

"Why do you do that?"

Willow stopped. "Do what?" She looked up at Tara.

"Well, um, don't take this wrong, but you are so concerned with fair that you're making a chart." Tara tucked her hair behind her ear. "What's that coming from?"

"What do you mean?" Willow furrowed her brow trying to figure out what was wrong with having a chart.

"This is a game. Why is it so important that we name the exact number of squares, what if you have three better ideas than any of mine?" Tara looked deeply into Willow's eyes. "What is it?"

Willow shrugged, "I just want it to be fair, you know."

Tara covered Willow's hand with her own and took the pen. "Let's let go of the rule of fair, and just enjoy free flowing ideas with each other for a while. There's no pressure or competition. I'm not going to judge your names." Tara squeezed Willow's hand gently, "Okay?"

Willow simply nodded. Tara continued. "I'll take notes. Just say whatever comes to mind."

"This isn't part of a psychological profile, is it?" Willow asked half-heartedly.

"Hmm, no I don't think so; it's not part of some evil scheme." Tara was grinning again and Willow was having trouble concentrating. "Here let's do this instead." Tara folded the paper in half lengthwise and creased just the edges for a marker, then two times more the other way. With her grid, she then used Willows scriptures to guide her hand in drawing the line.

"Okay, for this one, I'm steering the boat," Tara stuck her tongue between her lips as Willow often did and gave her best toothy grin in appreciation of the redhead. Willow acknowledged the gesture. She thought quickly for a moment, and then Willow did her best Tara half grin in response.

"Okay, light blue what do you think of: go!" Tara prepared her pencil waiting for Willow.

"Your eyes."

Tara ducked her head in embarrassment. "I can't make that a property... think bigger."

"Well its blue it reminds me of you, that's bigger than anything I can think of."

"Come on, smarty, I know you can do better than that," Tara pushed a little.

"Okay, um, sky, is that big enough? Or Sea?"

"Sure, actually huge, huger than huge, it's enormous even," Tara smiled; she loved doing Willowspeak. Tara started writing, "And I'm adding Ocean."

Willow stared blankly at Tara, but nothing was coming to mind except Tara's eyes and other attributes which she dared not say. Diversion Willow.

"Okay, we're stalling, let's move on. What about violet?"

"Purple reminds me of us." Willow ducked her head as Tara had just done.

"Okay clearly you have issues," Tara laughed. "What does purple have to do with us?"

Willow looked shocked, "Tara, purple is us, blue and red, the color for gay; it is you and me."

"I thought orange was us?" Tara scratched an itch on her arm.

"It is: red and yellow."

Tara tucked in her lips and took a breath, "We're never gonna get this done. Okay I'm putting in Hershey here, ‘cause that reminds me of us. Your turn."

Willow scratched an imaginary itch near her collarbone. She couldn't help but look in the area where she had left her mark on Tara. Her mouth watered a little, "Oh, okay, there is a city in near San Diego called Hillcrest."

Tara jotted it down and added a word under the light blue column. "What else?" She hadn't realized she'd just sent Willow's mind on a roll.

"Terra Haught, that's in Indiana for light blue, and how about Happy Valley for orange." Willow started playing with an imaginary piece of lint when she realized that Tara hadn't followed along with her line of thought, "What does purple mean?"

Tara was starring at the chart and making notations on the grid. "Royal, I think it means royal, like royalty."

"Okay, Canyon Royale for purple then and Pleasant View for light blue." Willow decided to be sneaky to see how long she could elude Tara with the topic. "And to have a valley you need mountains, how about Twin Peaks."

Tara added it to the list.

Willow realized she was doing more naming than she should. "How about red, what does that mean to you?"

Tara looked up, "First words that come to mind are love and fire or heat."

"Oh, I already took hot," Willow said before she could catch herself.

Tara looked back down at the paper, "No, you didn't."

"Oh, well, that's your fault actually. That one there," she pointed to Terra Haught: "Tara hot."

"Willow, that's pronounced hote."

"Yeah, but it's spelled like aught which sounds like hot, so I'm keeping it." Willow wrinkled her nose at Tara.

Tara looked over the other choices that Willow had requested. She closed her eyes and shook her head. "Willow, you are hopeless." Tara looked at her innocuous suggestions. "Fine." She jotted down several more words under some of the colors and scratched more out. Then she concentrated on green. She filled in four new possibilities. "And what about the darker blue. Fill in the blank, blue -----."

"Lagoon." Willow volunteered.

"Ha, ha! You mean like the movie?" Tara wrote down two names and moved on. "Oh, and didn't we decide to bring the railroads into this century, maybe name them after Airlines?" She wrote down four that she could think of off hand. "Okay, we're not done, but we have a good start."

Willow glanced over the list, very pleased with her suggestions. She giggled at the few notes that Tara made. Then she fixed her eyes on green. Her eyes widen in realization and she looked back to red. Tara had caught on. "Sunkissed?" Willow was a bit confused.

"Like your freckles." Tara looked around the lounge area again. Satisfied that they were alone, she reached her hand out and gently touched Willow's check bone with her thumb.

Willow melted into her touch using her face to nuzzle gently against Tara's hand. Her voice was husky with emotion, "Only if you are the sun."

Tara closed her eyes and let the emotion of the moment take her.

Continue to Latter Days/Lonely Nights Chapter Forty-Two

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