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Counting to Ten with Crows

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I suppose he is the hardest lot that wears feathers. Yes, and the cheerfulest, and the best satisfied with himself. He never arrived at what he is by any careless process, or any sudden one; he is a work of art, and "art is long"; he is the product of immemorial ages, and deep calculation; one can't make a bird like that in a day.

He has been reincarnated more times than Shiva; and he has kept a sample of each incarnation, and fused it into his constitution. In the course of his evolutionary promotions, his sublime march toward ultimate perfection, he has been a gambler, a low comedian, a dissolute priest, a fussy woman, a blackguard, a scoffer, a liar, a thief, a spy, an informer, a trading politician, a swindler, a professional hypocrite, a patriot for cash, a reformer, a lecturer, a lawyer, a conspirator, a rebel, a royalist, a democrat, a practicer and propagator of irreverence, a meddler, an intruder, a busybody, an infidel, and a wallower in sin for the mere love if it.        

Following the Equator , Mark Twain


 

The Raven's house is built with reeds,-- Sing woe, and alas is me! And the Raven's couch is spread with weeds, High on the hollow tree; And the Raven himself, telling his beads in penance for his past misdeeds, Upon the top I see. - Thomas D'Arcy McGee

 

One for sorrow

If you could be ... you know, plain old Willow or super Willow, who would you be?

She skipped classes on Wednesday. She’d gotten up and ready even though she hadn’t done the reading in advance. But two steps down the stairs she heard Dawn piling her breakfast dishes in the sink and the guilt came rushing back, like a murder of crows, oily and black, rushing to her stomach. Quickly she turned and retreated back to her room. She didn’t know what to say to Dawn.

She waited until she heard the front door slam before tiptoeing downstairs. Buffy was gone already; Willow glanced at the schedule hung on the refrigerator. The Slayer was pulling a double. A post-it was stuck on the counter beside a puddle of spilled milk. Xander is bringing Italian @ 7. Please bring in the mail and eat some salad, in Buffy’s slanted cursive. Willow wasn’t sure who the note was a reminder for.

Someone— her— had forgotten to add coffee to this week’s shopping list, and the tea in the cupboard reminded her of Tara and Giles so she ducked her head and snagged a water bottle from the ‘fridge, settling on the couch, a blanket over her feet. Her laptop booted quickly; her media player loaded her study music and for a few hours she let herself wander though lecture slides and emails and pretended that she wasn’t cutting class even as she watched the time, the raven in her belly ruffling its feathers, uneasy.

 

“When you have come to the edge of all light that you know and are about to drop off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly."
– Patrick Overton


 

Two for joy

Things fall apart, they fall apart so hard. You can't ever put them back the way they were.

She tried not to notice.

Wednesday she’d been remorseful and ashamed, Xander had brought dinner over and she’d slipped away before they ate, mumbling that she wasn’t hungry. Dawn was hurting, tired and embarrassed at having to wear her sling to school, unable to tell her concerned friends and teachers what had actually happened. Xander had thoughtfully come alone, but Willow didn’t want to see the confusion in his face. Xander was Xander; lovable, goofy, caring, Xander shaped, normal male type guy. He liked football and porn, although she shared that interest, and he was happy. He skirted the knife’s edge of popularity in high school, unpopular and dorky but outgoing and gregarious enough to aim high. He took the ego bruising in stride and learned to laugh at those who wouldn’t laugh with him.

She loved him so much it hurt. And selfishly she didn’t want to hurt anymore. Seeing the disappointment and worry in his soft puppy dog eyes turned her mouth sour. She sat alone in her room as he and Dawn finished dinner, soft sounds of cups and forks clinking, a handful of giggles, the low whoosh of the dishwasher seeped though the walls and up to her room. A half hour and all her cuticles chewed off later, there was a soft knock. She dropped her hands in her lap as Xander let himself in, a bowl of pasta in hand.

“Awfully clever hiding spot you’ve got here, Will. I never thought of looking in your room,” he smiled, settling himself on the bed, facing her perch at the vanity. “I saved you the wagon wheels,” He handed her the bowl.

“Thank you,” she accepted, “I wasn’t, I couldn’t…” Wincing, she poked at the pasta.

“Yeah, Buffy told me what happened. Dawn too,” he leaned forward, “They’re worried about you.”

Willow snorted, “Everyone is,” She studied the bowl in her lap for a moment, “It was bad, Xander. I let it get bad and Dawn got hurt.”

“Buffy said you’re off the juju though. She said you’re gonna go cold turkey,” His voice wasn’t a question.

“I have to. I thought I could control it. I thought things would just work themselves out, that I could find a way to push through it. But that wasn’t what happened. And now Tara’s gone and probably hates me, Giles thinks I’m reckless and he’s right, Dawn’s alternating between being terrified of me and never wanting to see me again.”

“Well, I’m not any of those things. Neither is Buffy. You can do this, you’re strong.”

“Sometimes I don’t believe that.”

“Sometimes you’re a dummy,” Xander stood, and dropped a kiss to her head. “Eat your circles and come down. I smuggled a slice of tiramisu away from the teenage and half of its yours.”

 

 

 

“Come, seeling night, Scarf up the tender eye of pitiful day, And with thy bloody and invisible hand Cancel and tear to pieces that great bond Which keeps me pale. Light thickens, and the crow Makes wing to th' rooky wood. Good things of day begin to droop and drowse, While night's black agents to their prey do rouse.” - Macbeth act III


 

Three for a girl

The only thing I had going for me... were the moments, just moments, when Tara would look at me and I was wonderful.

 

She skipped classes on Friday too. She’d slept fitfully; too warm under the blankets, flinging them off made her cold and clammy. It felt like she was floating above sleep, dipping her feet into dreams, ripples of memory  but still aware of her surroundings. Time seemed to drag, heavy wingstrokes cutting through the dull air, shoulders weary, each time she shifted to see the clock it was only minutes from the last time. Her head ached like she had a winter cold. She eventually fell into a dreamless but deep sleep after her alarm had chimed at eight, daylight streaming in feathered patterns across the bed.

 

Buffy peeked in, blond hair damp from her post work, pre slayage shower. “Will? You feeling any better?”

The pillows groaned, a slim hand followed by an arm emerging from the nest of blankets. “No, not really. The UCS football team is still practicing tackles with my brain.”

Buffy chuckled sympathetically, “Poor Willow brain. I’m about to head out; Dawn is doing homework with Shelly downstairs… can you just keep an ear out for them?”

“Yeah, sure,” she reached for the bottle of aspirin on the bedside table, her trembling hands making the pills cackle as they fell into her palm in a row, birds on a wire.

 

 

 

“He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.” – Psalms 147:9


 

Four for a boy


Let me tell you something about Willow. She's a loser, and she always has been. People picked on Willow in junior high school, high school, up until college with her stupid mousy ways. And now... Willow's a junkie.

She pressed her head to the cool ceramic of the tub, stomach still rolling. Her mouth burned from the bile and black filth she’d vomited. She’d hacked and choked, unbearable ache hugging her close, sliding darkness in her gut, bleeding through her veins. It was worse than too much nog, worse than the bender she’d ridden for a week after invoking Osiris. Worse than all the headaches and nosebleeds put together. The energy throbbed inside her, humming through bone and sinew, lightening bursts and her vision sparkled as magick crested across her brain, tripping neurons. Whimpering, she drew her knees to her chest and wept.

Hours later, trembling hands twisted the tub, filling the bath with tepid water. Willow fumbled with the button on her shirt, fingers cold and uncooperative. She slid damp slacks off and grabbed the side of tub with both hands, easing her body into the water. Slowly she sponged sweat and sticky resin off herself, the bubbles gradually graying.

She fell into bed, naked and tangled in a wet towel and sheets, exhaustion quieting the clamor of magick inside her.

 

And still the Raven, never flitting, Still is sitting, still is sitting on the pallid bust of Pallas Just above my chamber door; And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming, and the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor, and my soul from out that shadow, that lies floating on the floor, shall be lifted--nevermore. - Edgar Allan Poe