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Update #1

I went to my nutritionist about a week ago, and we came to the conclusion that there is no way for me to eat healthy from my school's dining hall... particularly after I found a feather in my salad (ick).  Temporary solution is to get salad for lunch every day from either the cafe on campus or a local store, and get chinese for dinner (steamed, white meat, brown rice, sauce on the side.)  Awfully bland, and I've been having trouble staying away from the sweets.  Fortunately (or unfortunately), since I've been eating clean my body hasn't been able to process properly when I put bad food in, so I've been getting sick.... At least it's motivation not to eat it!


After casually mentioning to a friend that I was taking CLA, I looked it up more closely.  It doesn't seem to have any proven bad side effects in normal, healthy individuals, but they have said it's been known to cause indigestion issues, particularly in people with lactose intolerance. The stuff I got was plant-based, but the fact that I feel obligated to keep it from my doctor gave me the wiggins, so I stopped taking it.  I also found an article that linked it to both gain of fat in liver AND loss of fat in liver, which was not comforting.  I think I gained weight after, but I can't tell if it's because of that, the sudden influx of crappy food on a daily basis, or the fact that I'm not drinking enough water.  I'm not tracking the gains because I'm confident I'll be down below 140 in no time once I get back on track with the eating.


Rugby was awesome!  I had no idea what was going on, but I got into the swing of things and it was a great workout.  Unfortunately, the season has ended, but I'm looking into registering for the summer 7's with either the NYRC or Brooklyn rugby.  Soon I'll have to get a gym membership for the summer, as well, since running is not working out.  I tried to run a bit today but my calves kept seizing up.  I don't know why I keep getting charlie horses and burning, shooting pains in my lower legs and it's infuriating.  Maybe I need more water?


I've decided against weight lifting for now, simply because I feel like it gets in the way of my weight loss and cardio.  I tried getting back on the horse, but I nearly didn't have enough time to do cardio and I definitely sacrificed a great deal of my homework time to do both.  I've found that when I lift, I only put on muscle (very quickly I might add) and tend not to lose fat.  So, until I reach my weight and size goals, I'm laying off the weight stack.


2 more weeks until my next check-in with the nutritionist!  Let's hope I trim down in the meantime.

To supplement or not to supplement

To supplement or not to supplement, that is the question. Is it better for me to potentially struggle through weight loss while something might exist to help me, or take supplements that could mess with my biochemistry, cost a fortune, and simply put, might not work.

The supplements I would take would not be any of these "fat burning" stimulant supplements, because those are straight up dangerous. I can feel the heart attack and weight rebound from over here.

I'm considering taking CLA, or Conjugated Linoleic Acid, which claims to help stimulate muscle growth, fat loss, and maintenance of fat loss. It also claims to increase the activity of the immune system and help fight cancer. All good things in my book. One worry is thinking about it like a "diet" pill, and how that will psychologically affect my weight loss process. Another aspect is, what the heck am I putting in my body?! I've never taken vitamins before in my life, and I've never really known the benefit, so the idea of supplementing a fatty acid seems a bit curious to me.

But considering how lacking my diet is in school, I could probably use some vitamins. And hey, might as well throw in that CLA too. And maybe some fish oil for omega-3's. I just don't want to hurt my GI tract in the process.

Fitness game -- how do I do it?

Where I stand right now with my physical fitness is sort of an impasse; my asthma improves when I exercise, but I get these crippling muscle spasms in the outside line of my ankle and in my calves any time I try to do any form of activity.  My father has the same problem, and he's never found a solution.  How am I supposed to go forward with getting active and losing weight when every activity causes me discomfort?  Even low impact (which is no fun anyway) still gives me charley horses.  I'm considering getting CEP compression socks to see if they help at all, but I'm worried it'll just make it worse.

I've decided that this summer I'm going to join Crunch in the city.  The only way to get my ass out of bed is an upbeat cardio class and hopefully this will work.  I don't know if I want to get a trainer; I'm worried it won't be as much pure cardio as I'm looking for.

Right now I'm looking into joining my school's rugby team.  Say what you will about women's rugby, but it's great exercise.  Practice is twice a week for 2.5-3 hours, which will definitely get in my doctor's recommended 3-4 hours of cardio a week.  On top of that, I'm considering giving running a go on one of my off days, or perhaps swimming to balance out the impact.  Just a light half hour, but enough to keep me from getting complacent on my off days.  I'd really like to jump start this weight loss regime before I lose momentum.

My current fitness goals are:
To be able to run 3 miles, no stopping (seems like a silly thing, but combined shin splints and asthma and it seems impossible.)
Chest: 36 (This is very important to me, considering how uncomfortable I currently am with my chest size.  I want to keep my curves but lean down.)

bra size: 32 dd - 32 D
Pant size: 4-6
Waist size: 26-27 inches
Calf size: 12-13 inches
Weight: 125

And for reference, my current stats (that I can remember) are:

Weight: 143.8

Height: 5'1"

Chest: probably around 40

Hips: 41 at least, probably more

Calves: enormous.  No joke.  It's like I play shotput or something.

Starting up... again

So... After starting up a year and a half ago trying (and failing) to lose substantial weight and increase my physical fitness, I'm back.


I'm ready to make the change.  I need to make the change.


Last summer I met with nutritionist who helped me formulate a diet schedule -- I've found that I can't overload with protein or else I will ONLY gain muscle mass and not burn fat -- and ended up losing 10 lbs.  Yay me!  Except I had just put on a bunch of vacation weight, so it ended up being more like 3-5 pounds off of my equilibrium.


Those 3-5 lbs have been gained back since going to college.  The food is absolutely awful, and in the first year dorms there is literally no way to cook for myself.  Basically all we have access to is a microwave and a fridge.  No freezer, blender, or hot plate.  So I've eaten in the dining hall, which does not support somebody who aims to be: dairy free, gluten free, and not eat red meat or egg yolk.  I'm tired, I'm sluggish, I'm irritable, and I'm fat.  And I'm sick of it.


I made another appointment with my nutritionist this Friday after having not seen him since September, so here's to hoping it works out ****ght.  I just need to get through the next four weeks, then I'm back home cooking for myself.  It would just be a shame to see these 4 weeks go to waste and watch myself yoyo between stress-binge eating and then being so ill and disgusted from the food that I'm unable to eat at all.

I could really use some motivational support!  It's just so hard. :/

March Madness

No, I'm not referring to Basketball, but an all more pertinent madness in my life: for the month of March, I will be modifying my eating habits and going off my perscription medication for GERD.

Now, you may have many questions. What is GERD?  Why are you going off medications?  What does this all mean?

GERD is chronic acid reflux, which has been bothering me since I was 14, and since then I have been on medication to control it.  I developed it right around the time that my adderal began affecting my mood and appetite, which basically meant that I was living on coffee and stimulants and was not talking to anybody.  Not a big surprise that I developed GERD.

Since then, I have stopped taking adderall (yay!) but I've recently developed a more... pressing issue that needs to be dealt with, and I think that taking 4 different prescription medications on the regular is not healthy for an otherwise healthy young adult.  I do believe that medications have a place, which is why I'm not going off my more important ones, but I need to get to a normal place.

I will try to post regularly to keep myself motivated and figure out how to deal with this in the month leading up to my trip to Peru.  Hopefully it will have gone away by then.

My plan is simple, and will hopefully be effective.  I will cut the following foods out of my diet:
• fried foods and high fat foods
• tomato sauces
• juices
• carbonated beverages
• coffee, caffeinated tea, and chocolate ( :( there will be some exceptions for the last one)
• fatty steaks

One notable thing missing from this list is alcohol.  I don't drink much, but it's one thing I won't give up at this time (depending how my stomach feels.)

Any support would be awesome.

The Dry Grass Crown

Authors' Note: This originated as a role play between four people. One played Henry, a ship captain down on his luck; one played Raz, a latina girl dressing as a boy to find work; one played Tana, a manipulative stowaway hooker; one played Klang, the ship's mischievous cook. We love feedback! Each section was obviously written by different authors, so we hope it doesn't get too confusing; individual feedback for each character and author is greatly appreciated. ~~ Wolfie (Raz) and Integer (Henry)

And the Journey Begins

Henry

It was a beautiful day for a healthy round of pillaging.

One of the best things about being in port was that there was absolutely no reason to get up; inns didn't have rigging to attend to or wheels to steer. Henry woke up at seven out of force of habit, and went back to sleep out of obstinacy. It wasn't until three hours later that he finally got up; he stumbled out of bed, batting ineffectively at the gnarled mess of his dark gold hair, and struggled into a loose white shirt.

What time had he told the rest of the crew? Oh, right. Ten-thirty. So it was time to hurry.

It always took far too long to brush his hair. When he cut it too short it frizzed offensively; left halfway to shoulder-length as it was, it spent every night plotting against him. Henry spent a good ten minutes- which he didn't have, not with call in a mere half an hour- struggling with it until his curls were relatively neat, and tied it back with a dark green ribbon. He spent a second surveying himself in the mirror; his hair was out of his face, his stubble was long enough to look rakish but short enough to be neat, and his green eyes were flashing appealingly. Satisfied, he headed downstairs.

He stepped out into the street, wrinkling his nose a little at the overbearing scent of shit and garbage. Not that ships were much cleaner, but at least then the sea air could do something to counteract the overpowering stench. Stepping neatly over a gutter, Henry started on his way to the docks. Activity was already buzzing; Henry lost count of the numbers of offers made to him by screaming natives holding out good-luck trinkets, funny-looking hats and strange overgarments. He had better things to deal with.

Halfway to the dock, Henry caught sight of a wanted poster. A smirking, twisted visage was drawn on it in stark black ink; beneath was written a simple message. Henry glanced over it quickly: "Wanted: Nicholas Saint-Pierrot. Notorious Pirate in Violation of the Crown. Reward: 20,000 Gold Pieces."

Henry frowned, and rummaged around in his satchel for his ink pen.

A few seconds later, he left the poster whistling, ignoring the strange looks directed at him. The twisted face behind him now sported a comically large moustache, a pair of crossed eyes and a set of ears the same size and shape as jug handles. Henry's heart swelled with the pride of the just.

He reached The Gold Jennifer a little before 10:30. There was no one else around; he concluded that the rest of the crew was still recovering from hangovers, or perhaps spending a few last, loving moments with an especially excellent prostitute.

Henry frowned, perched himself on a mooring-pole, crossed his legs and prepared for a long wait.

Raz

Raz had woken with the sun, along with the rest of the city, the loud gobbling of the pompous turkey and street vendors stirring him from his typically impenetrable slumber. She had packed her hammock, freshened up in the small back shed, and fetched the eggs and milk for the dueña before placing a kiss on the old woman's dark skin and softly thanking her for the place to stay. She had chuckled in response and, clasping her cheek in her hand, thanked her for the company of a handsome young man - to which she flushed and looked bashfully at the ground. She had mumbled her thanks again, slung her bag across her chest (wincing painfully all the while) and strode out into the bright mid-morning bustle.

While she once considered walking down the street a painful experience, Raz found the experience to be enjoyable in her most recent journey. She was tall for the men of her village but short for the men of the port - the white men - and though her looks were boyish enough, manly would never be an apt way to describe her face, with a strong jaw that was as smooth as a slice of her sword. She began to enjoy the gawks of the passersby, who, in their confusion, decided hate would be the best reaction to Raz; on her walk to the pub, she had already caught two men walk into barrels trying to comprehend the tall native, an old lady spit at her, and three women wink and giggle at her as she nervously pulled at the collar of her shirt, adjusted the bag on her shoulder, and shoved her way into the pub, the heavy door catching her on the way inside.

Her face darkened and she looked around furtively. Nodding assuredly, she clambered up the stool at the bar which she was certain would soon possess a perfectly contoured imprint of her rear. She hooked her ankles, then, as if struck by memory, unhooked them, and spread her legs as though a cannon ball sat between her thighs. A deep, chuckling voice broke through her nerves.

"Just like clockwork!"

A short, thick man slammed a pint in front of the grinning "boy" and clasped their dark hands roughly.

"Diego! Did you get home alright last night, mai?" Raz smirked, nudging the barkeep with her elbow.

"Ay, hombre, don't remind me. The headache this morning was enough. I don't need you and the rooster reminding me first thing in the morning."

Raz simply raised her eyebrows, taking a long drought from the mug before her and wiping her mouth on large, soiled sleeve.

"So," she began, stopping to clear the waver and high pitch of her voice. "So, have you heard any news? Any gringos looking for a laborer?"

For the first time that week, the question brought a twinkle to the barkeep's dark eyes.

"You know what, mai? You just might be in luck. A ship just got in."

Henry

It was ten forty-five, and Henry's crew was still missing. The mild irritation knotting in his gut had turned into a full-blown ball of burning rage in his stomach, and he was now muttering ferocious things under his breath. At ten fifty he pulled out a small notebook and began slashing ferociously through the numbers he'd intended as bonuses for his staff. This was simply unacceptable. What had happened to everyone?

He struggled to remember where his first mate had wandered off to, after the ship had been properly moored and the journey's pay had been meted out. Antonio had mentioned a pub, hadn't he? But Antonio never drank to excess- or if he did, he had the balls to show up with a broad-brimmed hat and a miserable squint. Perhaps he would have to head into the unfortunate side of town, to try to find some of his lost crew members-

Henry looked up at the sound of a woman's scream. Hopping off of the mooring post, he began to run.

It was a short, dark haired woman with a large hooked nose that made him wonder if there was a Kamari somewhere in her ancestry. She was staring down at the dark, oily waters under the pier, covering her mouth with the back of her hand. There was a small crowd gathering around, peering in after her at whatever it was that had attracted her attention; people who had already caught a glimpse were stumbling back, their faces masks of utter shock.

Henry stumbled to the edge of the pier and glanced in, and the entire world stopped.

The worst part, he thought perversely, was that they were all tied together, like paper lanterns on a string. Ten of them, ten dead bodies, bloated and pale-blue and sickly white under their tans. Some were strangled, he could see the marks along their necks; Felipe had a gaping hole in his chest which was too mangled to pinpoint as either a gunshot or a stab wound, while Bar had obviously been shot at close range.

Antonio was the farthest from the shore, bobbing toward sea as if drawn toward Davy Jones' locker. Henry could just make out his hazel eyes staring sightless at the empty sky.

He suppressed the urge to vomit, and soon after the urge to cry. It wasn't becoming of a ship's captain to cry. The crowd around him was still gasping and murmuring, by turns impressed and horrified by the spectacle that greeted them in the early morning. Henry whirled around.

"You think this is funny!" he snapped. The crowd stopped and stared. They were a mixed group, some sailors and some townspeople, drawn together by the grisly sight. Henry bucked his chin up, smiling thinly. "You think this is just entertainment? The deaths of ten men? Hmf. And Governor Islington wonders why he can't keep you lot under control."

A small, dark man near the front stepped forward, his eyes narrowed. "Who do you think you are, foreigner? Haven't seen you 'round these parts-"

"I saw him messing with one of the Governor's wanted signs earlier-"

"I," Henry said with all the dignity he could muster, "am the pirate captain Henry Villeneuve Saint-Pierrot. My crew has just been murdered, and I intend to find out exactly whose throat I need to slit. If any of you-" he gestured at the crowd before him, all of whom were watching him with some degree of bemusement and fear- "find yourselves in need of employment, I would invite you to report to The Gold Jennifer in an hour. In the mean time, I have, er, important business to attend to." He turned around and began to walk briskly in the direction of the city, not daring to look back at the string of bodies he left behind him.

He did have important business to attend to, though it was hard to walk so fast when his insides seemed to have folded in half over the course of what must have been a few minutes. It was a relief when he saw the pub, small and squat and dirty in the middle of a busy street, even more of a relief when he felt at his side and realized that he still had his coin-purse on him.

There was a boy sitting on one of the stools, ready for a drink even this early in the day- mixed-race, sitting like a prize fighter but with a face like a proper landlubber. Ah well, any company was better than nothing, and Henry still hadn't attended to his important business. He sank miserably onto one of the bar stools and held up a single slim finger. "Your strongest, please," he said to the barkeep hoarsely. "As fast as you can manage."

Raz

Raz' eyes followed the barkeep's arm as it set the glass of amber liquid in front of a pale, pinched-faced man. Behind the nausea, she found the man to exude a haughty air - and behind that, perhaps, genuine sadness.

She swiveled on the stool, cleared her throat until she sounded suitably gruff, and addressed him.

"Rough start to your day, sir?"

Henry

Henry's stomach wasn't getting any better with time, but the harsh, burning liquid the barkeep set in front of him helped. He took a deep swig, using it to calm his nerves, and turned to address the speaker.

The boy's voice had a hint of an accent, and blue eyes were watching Henry with some curiosity. Henry wondered vaguely how old he was; he couldn't be too old, not trying so obviously to make himself sound gruffer than he was, but his muscles and demeanor suggested otherwise.

"You have no idea," Henry said, sighing, trying to keep the tremble from his voice. "When I went to bed last night, I had a crew."

Raz

Her delicate eyebrows furrowed in response. It couldn't be... Out of the corner of her eye she caught her friend pausing to clean the filthy tankards with an even filthier rag, his ear turned in their direction.

"May I ask what happened?"

Henry

"I wish I could tell you." The corner of Henry's mouth twitched. "If you want to see for yourself, they're floating in the harbor. God..." He took another drink, adding to the pleasant fire in his belly.

He could say, of course. But even if he was happily on his way to an inebriated state and in the mood for sharing, there were some suspicions which he'd prefer to keep to himself. Instead, he changed the subject. "So, ah, boy... You looking for a job?"

Raz

Suspicions confirmed, Raz turned away from the man, swallowing her beer for the second time. Her eyes fixed on a notch in the wooden bar top and she pinched on the bridge of her nose; she would not cry, she was a man now. To cry in front of her boss -

Her boss. Job.

"Job!" Raz turned brightly to face him, and in the excitement, a feminine voice escaped - while low for a woman, it certainly didn't sound like a man. She coughed heavily to one side, hopefully covering up the panic in her azure eyes.

"Actually, yes. I've been looking for some work. Believe me, whatever you need, I'm your man."

Henry

"Well, I would love to have you aboard the Gold Jennifer, considering the circumstances..." he made an ineffective gesture with his free hand. "Oh- forgot to mention- we leave today, in an hour. The illustrious governor-" Henry let a touch of sarcasm slip into his tone- "wishes me to transport something he assures me-" more sarcasm, there was no such thing as too much sarcasm- "is not several large cases of illegal Rosamundi wine to the satrap of Pavitra."

"And just because my crew is dead..." Henry bit his lip. "Well, can't let that get in the way of a good business proposition. We leave in an hour; a strapping young lad like you, well, I'm sure we can find a position that needs filling, hm?" Henry surveyed the boy out of the side of his eye. He was obviously quite young, to have his voice slip up like that; a runaway, perhaps? His heart warmed in sympathy. His disguise was quite good; but the voice, and the uncomfortable way he sat...

No, he was obviously quite young, and quite unexperienced. And Henry? Henry was fine with that.

"So," he said carefully, "How old did you say you were again? And I don't think I caught your name."

If the boy couldn't bullshit his way through that one, it wasn't worth his time and effort to put up a pretense. Henry took another sip.

Raz

Raz's heart rammed in her chest, with every beat screaming at the man across from her, "Liar. I'm lying. Can't you see?"

But the only acknowledgment of this was a rough beat to the chest. Gripping one knee tightly, she locked eyes with the green eyed man, set her jaw, and stated, "Seventeen in a month. And the name is Raz."

She extended her right hand to the man before her; the hand, while petite, was encrusted with years of dirt and labor-born callouses, and managed to retain its natural softness.

Diego had dropped all pretenses and stood leaning with his hands on the bar, regarding the gringo warily.

Henry

Henry regarded Raz curiously, then grinned, his eyes crinkling at the edges. "Henry Saint-Pierrot at your service. Captain of The Gold Jennifer." He took Raz's hand with his own; despite its slim, aristocratic appearance, the palm was covered with the calluses gained through ship's work, a strange contrast to the perfectly clean nails.

He shook Raz's hand once, firmly, impressed by the boy's grip. He was definitely exaggerating his age; fourteen, perhaps? Old enough to be experienced with hard labor, but young enough to have a cracking voice and to be nervous around those who might find him out. Oh, well. Henry had a soft spot for young runaways; it wouldn't do anyone harm to take Raz on.

Feeling Diego's gaze on him, he nodded courteously to the man and placed a gold piece on the table. "I assume this will cover the tab?"

 

Writer's Block: Time for a reboot

Which phrase would you choose to replace the ubiquitous "Have a nice day" phrase?

May life exceed your expectations.

Halfway Home -- Chapter 2

Title: Halfway Home
Author: wolfsbane
Rating: PG-13 to R for language, violent themes, and (possibly) some kisses and gay love. (Not R because of the gay part, just the lovin’)
Disclaimer: Contains themes of abuse! Please, if you are not comfortable with this, don't read. Set at the beginning of season 2. The characters and story lines belong to Joss Whedon. No profit is being made off of this fic.
Feedback: Yes please! Reviews pet my ego, and encourage me to write. More reviews = more writing.
Summary: After her mother's death, Tara confides in someone about her abuse. Her life is changed when authorities move her to a home in Sunnydale....
A/N: Thanks for the reviews! That, Belle and Sebastian, and Grizzly Bear should be credited with this chapter. Self-edited (along with spellcheck.)



Tara sat mutely in the car, rubbing the plush interior with the edges of her fingers. She dimly registered that through the humid layers of cleaning spray she could still smell the nicotine embedded in the fabric.

Holy fuck. She inhaled as if to stretch her lungs to bursting and released without a sound, her eyes darting to the woman in the driver’s seat. Is this what nicotine feels like? Her placid skin beguiled the tingles ebbing and flowing down her nerves. Is this the rush of addiction? Her body felt tranquil for the first time since... god knows when, but the vacuum nestled in her gut raced, knocking at her innards, buzzing like a fly in her ear, begging her breathlessly to run a marathon or lift a bus above her head.

Those emerald eyes lingered on her skin.

Her shoulders jerked as she struggled to fight the shiver trickling through her spinal cord like a drop of sweat.

“Tara? Tara, are you listening?” Joanne asked with a smile, her eyes glancing from the road for an instant to check on her charge. She doesn’t deserve those worry lines. What god would place all that pain on one child?

“S-sorry ma’am.” Tara looked down at her hands fighting each other in her lap. She rubbed the flesh on either side of her middle fingernail and seemed to find some comfort in it.

“Hey, you don’t have to do that. Please, I’m just Joanne.” As she paused at the red light, she turned to see Tara nod imperceptibly, her eyes never leaving her fingers.

The social worker sighed and wet her lips with the tip of her tongue. “As has been explained to you before, due to your age it would be impossible to find you an adoptive family and... really, nobody deserves to be shuffled through foster care,” Joanne scoffed. “Not many people know about this acclimation program, but it’s effective at getting older teens in your situation used to caring for themselves, while still under government care. I know you heard this already, but I need to make sure you understand the full implications of this.” She adjusted her grip on the steering wheel.

“There will be a supervisor there for emergencies. If a fight breaks out, if there are drug or alcohol problems, or... or if an uninvited family member decides to visit, he or she will be there to help out. Other than that, the check you receive in the mail is yours to do with what you wish. You’ll have to budget the rent, utilities, et cetera, but if you want to live on Hot Pockets and Mountain Dew for a month you can.” She winked at Tara. “You are responsible for your schoolwork, and getting to school on time. There will be no one around to keep you from skipping school -- not that I’m condoning it. There probably won’t be much room for extra spending money, but there is no rule against getting a job. There is a rule against cars--”

“N-no getting in, even if I know the person, right?” the blonde piped up.

“Exactly. They’ll have to go through an application process with us. I know it sounds like a pain in the ass,” she smirked, seeing Tara’s eyes widen in surprise. “But it’s all for your safety. We want you guys to grow up without being in that situation, and this really is the only way we can go about it. Any questions?”

Tara took a steadying breath. “Um, about the checks? Wh-when I get them in the mail, what do I do?”

“Shit. Wasn’t James supposed to explain that to you? He was supposed to be waiting with you, too, until I got there. The nerve of him. What if something had happened to you?” Ms. Jenkins ranted, more to herself than to her companion. “I’ll have to report him when I get back. Anyway, what was I saying again?”

Tara huffed softly in laughter. “Money?”

“Oh! Right! There’s a bank account set up in your name. In that bag at your feet is all the information you need about cashing checks, withdrawing money, and managing your funds. If you’re having any trouble, the bankers there are pretty helpful.” She paused and rubbed her lips together, like her mouth was struggling to properly form the words. “It also includes a copy of your mother’s will. There being only one beneficiary made it rather simple for the accountant to sort everything out. For safety reasons, since the Personal Representative was so closely linked to your family, the DFPS collected the items for you.”

Tara stared intently out the window and widened her eyes to keep the tears seated precariously on her lower lids from spilling out onto her cheeks. “I--” she choked out. “I-I, I’m sorry, b-b-b-b-but what does this mean? I’m j-just so c... confused.”

Maneuvering the vehicle to the curb, she put it in park and unbuckled her seatbelt. Joanne turned to Tara and said in a low, even tone, “Tara? Tara, please look at me.” Her lower lip trembled as she faced the woman. “From what I’ve heard, your mother loved you very much. She made this will separate from any legal influence your father may have had due to their marriage, and deposited a box along with it. It’s in the trunk, next to your duffel bag.”

Tara’s hands shook as they were brought up to delicately swipe the tears from beneath her eyes. “Can I j-just have a minute?” she hiccuped.

The older woman nodded and climbed out of the car. “I’ll be on that bench right over there if you need me,” she said with one last consoling glance, and shut the door.

She cried, a low keening sound crescendoing into a raw yell, the back of her throat rattling with phlegm from the exertion. Maybe if she screamed enough, she could scream out the full ache that settled in her chest. Her heart felt like a tight muscle, sore from overuse and abuse; why couldn’t it expand anymore and pump out the bad blood stagnant in the ventricles? She reached the end of her lungs and gasped, the fire in her lungs matching her rent heart. Maybe if she inhaled enough, the air could fill the gaping hole in her stomach? It rested where she assumed her heart should be, but as that was busy being broken in another place, it was full of Nothing. The Nothing that her mother should have occupied, with her corny jokes, consolation, lullabies, and tears of her own, fears of her own. Why couldn’t I have helped her? She always told you not to, such an obedient little girl, weren’t you? I should have seen the signs, should have known how much he hurt her, how much she thought she couldn’t live without him. She bit her lip and drew her nails across her scalp, bending hairs at the follicles.

I wish I could hug her once more. Tell her how amazing she is. How she deserves so much more. She was my best friend, when nobody at school would be.

I wish I told her that I’m gay.

She deserved to know.


She struggled to imprint it all in her mind before she forgot: the late night gossip sessions, the cooking lessons, being tucked to bed at night and sung to sleep, her perpetual aroma of vanilla and flour.... The times she’s picked me up and told me I’m worth the world after he punished me. I should have done the same.

And already the memories were beginning to fade, swallowed up in the amorphous memories of her past. Had it always been that hard to remember?

I love you Mama. I’m so sorry.

******************

Tara stayed in the car for a while, allowing her mind asylum. Eventually, a ferocious thought popped into her mind? What if I can’t do this? How can I be an adult?

What are you talking about Tara? You’ve practically been an adult your whole life.
I can do this. I can live the way Mama always wanted me to. I must. For her.


Tara flipped down the visor and looked in the mirror attached to it. She certainly had never thought anything of her appearance, especially not after she cried, but as she looked, she couldn’t help but feel pretty. Her red-rimmed eyes were a watery shade of blue, sorrowful but with a ebullience hiding within. Her skin was pale and smooth, her cheeks rosy, punctuated by small dark birthmarks here and there. As she looked closer at her hairline, she noticed the thin blonde hair of her childhood was gradually being replaced with a thick, honeyed brown at the roots.

Sniffing once more, she stepped out of the car, and leaning with her arms crossed atop the roof, she called out to the child protection agent. “H-hey. Sorry about th-that. I’m r-reeaaady,” she hiccuped a sob. “I’m ready to go.”

Joanne raised herself from the sagging wooden bench and, after straightening the pinstripes of her skirt, climbed in the car and put the keys back in the ignition. She turned to the teen, pursing her dark lips.

“Tara, would you like to listen to music?”

Tara blushed and nervously swatted at the heated flesh. “I’m okay with w-whatever--”

“No, I’m asking you what do you want?

She gulped and graced the older woman with a lopsided smile. “I w-want to listen to m-m-music, please.”

“Sure thing. Let me see,” she said, shuffling through a stack of CD’s. “How do you feel about Belle and Sebastian?”

“I love them!” she gasped gleefully. She quickly ducked her head.

Make me dance, I want to surrender
Your familiar arms, I remember


*************


The silver sedan coasted to a stop in front of a red brick apartment complex which sported a rusted, white chipped paint sign declaring it to be “SunnySide Living.” The building was square, lego block-like in architecture. Much like Tara herself, the building seemed to have been through the ringer several times and had come out a little worse for wear. Pipes hung off the side of the building, exposing decomposing bits and the yard was austere; it’s square pavement boarders and no-nonsense, evenly cut grass brought no images of summer barbecues to her mind.

But in the staid windows of the third floor, character blossomed. In the boxes of one window, purple pansies peaked down at Tara. Out of the one to the left, a spiraling wind chime swirled in the breeze like a modern dancer, inventing new elegance in it’s journey. Posted to the glass of yet another window were posters of various celebrities and bands that she had heard the girls at her school squeal about.

And on the lawn next to the decrepit edifice towered a weeping willow tree, it’s white buds wafting towards Tara.

She sniffed the lush air and pivoted to pick up the light duffel and the box, jostling the bag of files hanging from her wrist as she did so.

“Here, let me take something for you,” Joanne suggested as she trotted from the front of the car. With a surprisingly wrinkled hand she grasped the strap of the duffel bag and slung it over her shoulder. Her stilettos tattooed tick-tacking noises onto the pavement as she approached the oak door.

She ran her finger over the names on the buzzer, and, tapping upon finding the right name, pressed the grimy, beige button firmly.

“Hello?” a crackly voice called over the intercom.

“Hey, Dan? It’s me, Joanne, with Tara Maclay,” she responded, leaning into the speaker.

“I’ll be right there.”

Joanne turned to face Tara once more, rocking on her heels and moving the strap of the duffel higher up on her shoulder.

“Once I get you settled in with Dan I’ll be heading back to the office. He’s a very nice man, and guarantee you, he’s been excited for your arrival.”

Tara quirked her eyebrow in question.

“The other nine kids got here two weeks ago, just in time for the Fourth of July, and he’s been really excited to get you settled with your roommate.”

Her head snapped up to view the woman, her eyes wide.

“I have a--”

The door opened to reveal a handsome blond man with a slight gut that was accentuated by the button-up shirt tucked into his jeans. His kind face, unshaven and covered with laugh lines, was offset by a panicked expression that brought his brow low over his small, blue eyes.

“Sorry we’re late, Dan. It took a little while for me to get Tara sorted out; apparently James decide there was something more important than work--”

“Jo--” He cut himself off and turned to Tara. “I’m sorry, but could you excuse us for just a second? If it weren’t as important, I wouldn’t...” he trailed off desperately.

“It’s f-fine,” Tara stammered; her insides churned with curiosity.

Dan’s expression barely registered the comment as he ushered them inside from the concrete stoop, glancing around furtively before shutting the door solidly behind him. She gracefully lifted the off her shoulder and set it on the floor next to Tara with a soft “plop.” With a gentle hand on her elbow, Dan pulled Joanne around the corner of the hall. Tara strained her ears to hear the hushed conversation, as if her ears could reach out and grasp the words from their mouths if she stretched them far enough.

“Dan, what on earth--”

“Sh! Do you want her to get worried? She’s been through enough already.”

Tara unconsciously rubbed her fingers across her hip and winced.

“You’re right. I’m sorry, but what the hell is going on?” The voices had gotten even quieter; Tara went to peak her head around the corner, but pulled back at the last minute. Tara heard a heavy sigh.

“James wasn’t skipping out on us. He’s dead. They found him this morning at his house, said it was another neck rupture.

“Oh my god.”

The sound of fabric rubbing together permeated the air.

“I’m glad you’re okay Jo.”

There was a long pause, during which Tara could scarcely breathe. No.... One of them cleared their throat.

“Well, we’d better get back to Tara. The office is saying that once everybody’s done, they should go straight home. No extra work today,” he murmured pointedly.

Tara straightened up and attempted to look enrapt in the mailboxes across from her.

“Hey there! Sorry about that, just some boring work stuff,” the man said cheerily. “I’m Dan Bernstein. I live right up the hall from you guys. Don’t worry, I’m not here to be your babysitter; I’ll go to the office every weekday, but if there’s ever a safety problem, do not hesitate to come to me.” He smiled but his brow was still set low.

Tara nodded in understanding.

“Well, that’s my cue to leave,” Joanne piped in. “If you ever need anything -- even just a person to talk to -- call me.” She tucked a card into Tara’s palm. “Good luck, Tara.”

Just as the woman turned to leave, the teen resolved herself and enveloped the woman in a hug.

“Th-thank you. For everything,” she said as they separated. Joanne nodded, her mouth quirked in a tight-lipped smile.

“See you tomorrow,” Dan called out to her, just beating the slam of the door. “Alright, where were we?” He bent down, picked up the bag with a grunt, and hefted it atop his shoulder, bypassing the strap altogether. “We’ll all be living on the same floor, the third, no elevator,” he explained as they began climbing up the stairs. “There aren’t really any rules; pay your bills on time, go to school, and keep everything legal are some good rules to follow, but we won’t be here to make you. However, legal authorities will intervene if you decide to misbehave.”

“Th-that won’t be an issue,” she quickly assured him.

“I’m sure it won’t,” he said through a smile. “Unless you get a bike, you’ll be hoofing it to school. If a friend’s parents wants to drive you, they’ll have to fill out some forms. You’re welcome to invite friends you make at school over....” He hesitated. “This isn’t a rule per se, but it’s strongly recommended here in Sunnydale: make sure you know who you let in the building and in your room after dark. I know it sounds weird, but always check before you open the door or invite someone in. It’s an extra safety precaution we like to take.”

It can’t be....

As they rounded the curve of the second floor’s stairwell, Tara caught Dan checking his watch and glancing out the window nervously.

“Hopefully there all in by now. It’s also best that you don’t stay out too late after dark; I don’t want to freak you out, but weird stuff tends to happen around here, and we may act like it doesn’t, well, just be prepared.” He shifted the bag to his other shoulder when they reached the third floor landing.

Hellmouth. I’m on the Hellmouth. Mom always said... but I never imagined...

Tara shook the thought from her head, if only temporarily.
“Mi-- Joanne s-said s-s-something about a roommate?”

“Yeah! She’s a really cool girl. I was hoping that you two would get along. The others haven’t really meshed that well with her; she’s a bit... out there. Charming, but I think she’s intimidated some of the other girls, and I thought each of you would like to have somebody to hang out with. Ah, here we are,” he sighed, pulling them to a halt in front of a door labeled 3h.

“I have a set of keys for you, but I’m gonna knock first, just in case she’s... indisposed.” He lifted his hand to rap against the soft, grainy wood, but before his knuckles had the chance to knock, the door swung open to reveal a dark haired teen, too busy rubbing the sleep from her eyes to notice that her dark tank top had fallen dangerously low.

“Shit, Dan, you wanna wake the whole floor with those hooves of yours? Heard you coming since the third floor.”

“It’s nice to see you to. I’d like to introduce you to your new roommate, Tara Maclay.”

The brunette grinned, crossing her arms over her chest. “Roommate? And here I was thinking that you brought me an early birthday present; you know how much I love blondes,” she said, winking at Tara. Tara, for her part, had the tact to turn as red as a tomato, and in the process of trying to avoid eye contact somehow got her gaze stuck in the girl’s cleavage. Realizing this, the girl smiled a bit more earnestly, and stuck out her hand.

“How’s it hangin’, T? I’m Faith.”

******************

Halfway Home -- Chapter 1

Title: Halfway Home
Author: wolfsbane
Rating: PG-13 to R for potty mouth and my dirty mind.
Disclaimer:  Contains themes of abuse!  Please, if you are not comfortable with this, don't read.  Set at the beginning of season 2
Feedback:  Yes please!  I'll make you pancakes in the shape of starwars characters!  :D  Constructive stuff is VERY welcome.
Summary:  After her mother's death, Tara confides in someone about her abuse.  Her life is changed when authorities move her to a home in Sunnydale....
A/N: I've been itching to write this for a while now.  Thank you to alienyouthct and sirius 4-ever and a day (from ff.net) for helping me sort out my ideas!  This is my first W/T fic, but not my first fic.  If there is anybody who is willing to be a nudge and nag me to update, that would be welcome as well.

 

Tara sighed and reached into the pocket of her long, denim skirt, pulling out a tarnished gold pocket watch and flicking it open. Caressing the faded picture in it with her thumb, she bit back a sob, shook her head, and placed it in her pocket, returning to her state of waiting on the bench at the bus station.

Quarter to five. The afternoon sun warmed the blonde's face through her veil of hair. It was so much warmer here than the last place, she considered. Or maybe it just felt that way, because they weren't there anymore. Thank Goddess. Tara didn't dare call the last place she lived a "home"; it was the farthest thing from it.

************************

Her fingers found their way to the hospital band wrapped tightly around her wrist. The words MACLAY, TARA - ALLERGIC TO PENICILLIN were stamped on the plastic, as well as the date from two weeks ago. Ever since that day - the day they buried her mother, the day she told her teacher, the day her father found out - she winced - everything had changed so quickly.

That morning, she had gone straight from her mother's funeral to school, as were her father's orders. Although it was an unusually warm day for the small town high up in the mountains of California, she wore her sleeves pulled down over her arms, sitting in the back of the English classroom, out of the path of any wandering eyes. The window was propped open with a large, collector's edition of the Norton Anthology of Poems, whose only signs of wear and tear were the gouges on the top and bottom edges, where the book met the windowsill. Tara sighed, and tilted her backpack so she could see her own dog-eared and bent copy in her bag. She returned her eyes back to the bumbling man at the head of the classroom, who was lecturing into the book held close to his face, making Tara squint her eyes and wiggle her slightly protruding ears in an attempt to hear him. The droning was shocked out of the class's ear drums by the harsh ring of the bell, marking the beginning of lunch. Tara softly slung her bag over one shoulder and drifted against the current of students.

Rounding the corner of the now empty, teen-scented hallways, she opened the door to the library, giving a perfunctory nod to the woman at the checkout counter before continuing into the stacks. She lightly traced the spines of the tomes as she wandered to her nook in the fiction section. Cradled in ancient bookcases was a bay window with a ledge sticking out into the library, equipped with cushions and blankets. Instead of pulling a volume off one of the shelves as she usually would have done, Tara just curled up into a ball on her ledge and leaned her head against the windowsill. After having bitten back her tears through her classes and through the funeral - her father had said that she didn't deserve to cry; that bitch deserved what she got - she let loose. Tears flowed steadily down from her already watery blue eyes and collected in the ditch where her chin became her throat. The glass of the window cooled her cheeks as they heated with the pain she felt from her loss. Loud, hiccuping sniffles filled the otherwise silent section of the library, and a few seconds later a frizzy head poked out from behind the stacks. The careworn face of the head librarian appeared, soon followed by her body, clad in a beige pencil skirt and white, collared blouse. Cautiously, she approached the visibly broken teen and cleared her throat.

"Tara... dear," the librarian sighed.

"W-w-why?" was all she could choke out in response.

"Oh, my dear," the librarian sighed again, reaching out to the girl. "I wish I could say. Unfortunately, there isn't really a book in here about this kind of thing."

"W-we sh-sh," Tara choked. "Sh-shooould... find one. Write one. D-d-do something."

The middle aged librarian reached out to stroke the girl's arm; the girl violently flinched and curled closer to the window, causing the librarian's frown lines to deepen.

"Tara... How was... did something, er, happen, at the funeral?"

The blonde to a deep, shuddering breath.

"As an adult, th-there are s-some things I can tell you, right?"

"Of course. You know you can tell me anyth-"

"N-no, but, wh-what I mean is that if I tell you, you can do something, you can fix something, that couldn't be fixed unless I said something."

The librarian's brow furrowed. "I'm not entirely sure what you're trying to say, Tara."

Tara licked her lips and tasted the salty tang of her tears. "I've been doing some reading..." The older woman laughed lightly.

"Whu - what I m-mean to say is that I've been researching something, outside of the fiction section. And, I read that, according to the State law of Calif-fornia, there has to be evidence f-for a child to be taken a-away from her family. Not much, th-though. The child j-just needs to t-ttell an adult that she... or he... is being a-a-ab... Whu-uh, wha... Anne," she said, looking the librarian directly in the eyes.

"M-m-my father, and Donny, they've been," she choked. They've been h-hu-hurting me. And Momma. For years. A-and saying things." Things that make my skin crawl.

"We were g-going to leave, but after Mom got sick, I knew that she couldn't go anywhere. And she kept saying that I should go, that," her voice went up an octave in an attempt to keep the tears at bay. "That she was dying anyway, and I should just leave her, but I couldn't. I couldn't. And they kept saying that if I went to anybody, they'd, they'd..."

At that point, Tara could no longer string her words together without returning to tears, so instead she settled on clamping her lower lip between her teeth and shaking violently. Anne slid the hand resting on Tara's arm up to her back and eased the girl into a gentle hug. The woman rubbed delicate circles on the girl's back, and whispered into her ear, "I promise you, I'll fight with everything I have to get you away from that monster." Tara stiffened slightly in Anne's arms, and then relaxed again as the woman continued to soothe her. They stayed that way for several minutes before the sounds of heavy work boots thudding on the carpeted floors and a young man's snarling voice broke them apart.

"I'm sure you're having a grand ol' time teaching my sister how to be a dyke like you, but Daddy wants me to take her home now."

"No." It was a simple word, only two letters, which Donny had learned to say when he was little and had used it quite well ever since, but coming out if his little sister's mouth, he didn't understand it.

"Whaddya mean 'no'?"

"She means," Anne said while rising to her feet, "No, she won't go back to that... that monster. I will not allow it."

A shit-eating grin slid onto Donny's face as he cornered the two women.

"You really think you can keep me from my own sister?" He grabbed Tara tightly by the wrist and tugged her sharply from her seat, eliciting a soft groan of pain as his fingers dug into identical bruises hiding beneath her sleeve.

"You will not take her from here without going through me first," the petite woman stated, and set herself in front of Donny.

"Alright," he shrugged, and slammed the librarian against the shelves. As she slid down the bookcase, she left in her wake a faint trail of blood.

"N-no... Donny..." she murmured as she was pulled out of the library and towards the exit of the school.

"Dad said that he wanted to... talk to you."

"They'll f-find out, you know. I have f-f-four more classes, they'll notice," Tara almost begged him.

"Oh, I'm sure your teachers will forgive a girl who just lost her mother for w-w-wanting to spend quality time with her family," he mocked. All Tara could do was shut her eyes as Donny led her to the car and drove her to her father's house.

Two days later, Tara woke up in a hospital bed; Anne was standing next to her, her head swathed in bandages, and introduced Tara to a woman named Julie who was from the Child Protective Agency, and that she'd make sure Tara went someplace where she wouldn't have to worry about them anymore.

It was the same hospital where her mother had died. The doctors had been so caring to her; the minute they heard about her mother, they were so... compassionate. But when she returned - that time as a patient - her doctor had been irate on her behalf. Tara could barely understand why. Why hadn't he believed all of her father's smooth talk about how she was just depressed, how she had done all those things to herself? Why had he stayed by her bedside even after it was determined that his surgical expertise would not be needed? He had helped Anne call the Child Protective Agents to give her a new life, one outside of rural California, outside of the dingy hospital room where she had watched her mother die and saw herself be born anew.

****************************

But Sunnydale was different. The ground beneath her thrummed with an ancient energy. That hospital room was a terrible end, she thought to herself. But this - this place is full of promise. A small smile began to form on Tara's pink lips.

The setting sun patterned bursts of light in the shadows on the pavement as it passed through the branches of the trees. The splotches of light drew her gaze from the sidewalk, across the road, to three teens exiting the Ben & Jerry's with ice cream cones.

"Ooh! My turn!" the petite blonde piped up. "'It puts the lotion on the skin or else it gets the hose again.'"

"I know this. Xander made me watch when it came out. We had to sneak in through the back, all ninja-y. 'Cuz, ya know, we were only twelve, and neither of our parents would let us see it, so we got tickets to some other movie and snuck in. We were pretty bad-ass preteens," the redhead nostalgically babbled. "Of course, after seeing it, I couldn't sleep for a month, so Mom and Dad found out. They said that I was exhibiting "symptoms of guilt and trauma" and didn't let me go to people's houses for a month, saying something about "outside influences disrupting my development." It didn't really change anything, as I've only ever had Xander, and he always just snuck in when they were at work, anyway."

The large boy turned to the babbler, seemingly affronted. "Hey, the way I remember it, you were just as eager to see it as me."

The giggling blonde stepped between her two friends and teased, "Guys, you still haven't told me the name. I can't end this tie without the name, Will."

The dark-haired boy and corduroy-clad girl began: "It's-" Stopping to glare at her companion, the redhead practically leapt out of her brick red overalls like an eager four-year-old and clasped her hand firmly over his mouth. "The Silence of the Lambs," she squealed like a straight-A student racing to answer a teacher's question.

"Ding-ding-ding! And the winner is... WILLOW ROSENBERG!" the lithe blonde declared in her best announcer voice. The redhead did a jig and removed her hand from the boy's face to give her a sonorous high five that resounded across the street.

Tara gazed at the trio, a feeling gnawing at her. It was voracious. Overpowering. Permeating her entire being. Making her, dare she say it, hopeful.

Something about the redhead's infectious laughter and ebullience that brought a small, but ever so beautiful smile to Tara's face.

"Tara?"

Flinching, the startled blonde turned to look at the woman who approached her. Her bright blue eyes contrasted with the dark café color of her skin, so piercing they took her breath away for a moment. The woman awkwardly adjusted her pinstripe skirt and extended a thin hand. "I'm Joanne Jenkins, from DCPS?" she said, trying to encourage a response from the frozen teen. She swung her purse around, and, after shuffling through the contents of her bag, gently handed Tara her badge.

"N-n-nice picture," she softly stuttered.

"Thanks. I say it's the exception that proves the rule: all ID photos are awful." Tara chuckled softly. "So, got your things? Alright, let me show you where you'll be living."

Tara bent over and delicately swung the canvas duffle bag over her shoulder. She followed her contact to the silver sedan and plopped her bag in the back, making it bounce slightly on the rear tires. She looked one last time at the girl across the street.

Something drove Willow Rosenberg to look up. It stirred her, and she raised her sparkling green eyes to meet a pair of intense blue. Her heart forgot to beat, her stomach clenched, and a vacuum of longing settled in her viscera. The girl ducked behind shimmering, dark blonde hair, and slid into the car. Willow gazed curiously as it rolled away.

 
 I don't really seem like an anxious person when you meet me in person, but I suppose that's because I bottle it all up.   Recently, this has led to some rather crazy nightmares every night.   Last night's was rather traumatizing on a psychological level for me, but at the same time rather hilarious, so I thought I'd share (if anybody actually reads this, by the way.)  Background info on this: Sara Ramirez was my first crush that I was really aware of, and even on a non-crush level I've always respected her as a performer and purportedly kind hearted woman.

Last night, I drifted asleep, swathed in my giant comforter.  I was on a boat with my mother and her best friend, Doris, and we were going Whale Watching/Giant Squid fishing.  I got onto the main deck, and low and behold I see Sara Ramirez sitting at one of the tables.  Naturally, I fearlessly went over and told her how amazing I think she is and how big an impact she has had on my life.  In response, she just looked at me like I'm gum on the bottom of her shoe and told me I'm disgusting.  She told me I was a freak, that she wanted nothing to do with me, that my attempts at singing (which she inspired me to take up) were awful.  For the rest of the dream, whenever I looked over at her, she would just glare.  Now that I'm writing it, it sounds rather ridiculous, but considering I view her as somebody who is encouraging me to be who I am, and be proud of that, this dream has been bugging me all day.

The funnier part of the dream:  After the interaction with Sara, Doris suggested we switch decks to get a better view of the giant squid being fished.  We end up being the only ones on that deck, but while we were struggling to hold on through the massive waves, we saw squid about 100 feet long leaping out of the water, tugged by giant fishing lines.  The people on the boat helped the crew release the bait, and in the pell-mell, Chloe, a fencing friend, fell in, turning her into a giant squid.  Our ship managed to catch Chloe-squid, and we brought her back to shore with the other fishing ships that had caught giant squid.  They flung the squid into a warehouse, but Brad, another fencing friend, told us (my group of friends from my fencing club) that we couldn't just abandon her.  "She may be a squid now, but she's our squid, god damn it!   She's our family, and we look after each other.  No member of this team will be turned into calamari!"  Just as he finished his speech, Chloe walks in, fully human, and waves at him, saying, "Uh, Brad?  I'm over here."

And then I woke up.  Oh, subconscious, why do you hate myself?