Funnier in Latin

Title: Calculations
Author: Ari
Rating: G
Spoilers: Post-"Orpheus"
Summary: Fred counts the cost.
Disclaimer: Characters and situations belong to ME, Joss Whedon, and the WB. This story is not written for profit.
Archive: Ari's Livejournal
Author's Note: For the contrelamontre challenge: You have 30 minutes to tell us why someone has a broken heart. Please include a box in your fic. I took the full half hour.

Fred had gotten used to being the one who did the heart-breaking. It was an odd role for her to be in, since all through high school, she never even got up enough nerve even to fall in love with the kind of person who could break hearts, never got up the energy required for genuine, sappy-movie-watching, ice-cream-eating heartbreak. She'd considered it, but then someone would pass her a joint, and she'd change her mind, fall back into her familiar patterns of schoolwork and idleness, of lethargy and sudden fits of energy when something in the lab demanded her attention.

She looked up from the stack of papers in front of her and pinched the bridge of her nose. She wanted glasses, or better, lab goggles. Anything to protect her eyes from the glare of the sun they'd brought back, to keep dust particles out and tears in. She glanced up, but no one was coming through the door, not today. It was one of those lonesome days in the Hyperion when everyone else got to have adventures and she, well... didn't.

It wasn't because Charles was out. It wasn't because Wesley had disappeared into the demon world and would probably emerge with a bedraggled informant in about five hours. Those, she could deal with. Aloneness, even, she could deal with. She'd done that all summer.

What Fred couldn't manage, not today, was being without Willow. Which was funny, because she'd been without Willow for most of her life, and she'd never felt the ache so acutely. It felt like there was a hole in her stomach, like hunger, but not for tacos or ice cream. It dug deeper, cut sharper.

Hypothesis: she was in love with Willow.

It wasn't the kind of hypothesis you could actually test; quantification would be a bitch, and setting up a control group would pose peculiar difficulties. She wondered how other people figured out they were in love, and then laughed, because of course she'd been in love before, herself. Just last summer, she'd been head over heels with Charles, and she hadn't doubted that, not ever. Her laugh sounded hollow in the lobby of the Hyperion, and she stopped abruptly.

Charles liked -- or had liked, before Professor Sidell -- to tickle her under her chin and make her giggle. She recalled loving it, loving the sounds Charles could force out of her with his fingers, the high-pitched squeal that didn't seem to come from anyone who'd ever seen Pylea.

Yesterday, Willow had made her laugh by smiling and inverting the clauses in a compound statement.

The way Willow made her laugh wasn't like tickling, but Fred was willing to allow, for the purposes of argumentation, that it was physical. Laughter was a physical response to a physical stimulus. Kaycee in college had said, "I tickle myself," and chuckled under her breath when she said something amusing. Willow could tickle the underside of Fred's chin verbally.

Verbal caresses, Fred thought, and she took the words and stored them in a box in her mind, the one that she'd already decided was probably going to be named Willowy Things and hidden far, far away where it couldn't distract her from the important business at hand, which was, she reminded herself, saving the world.

In a timed trial, she thought, could one reasonably intelligent young woman, aged twenty-five give or take a few months due to time dilation from being sucked into a hell dimension, fall in love with another woman, equally intelligent if slightly shorter and less inclined to babble?

The instrumentation would need to be precise, of course. The time involved was miniscule, and the distances were difficult to calculate. Between one heart and another. Between Sunnydale and Los Angeles. She was halfway to an atlas before she remembered. That distances was one that had already been measured a dozen times, by everyone who'd ever come to Los Angeles to escape from Sunnydale, by everyone who'd ever missed someone who'd run away to LA.

In her case, of course, Willow had run away back to Sunnydale. This well might be the first time it had happened. That kind of discovery would be worth a lot of money in certain scientific communities. Kind of like the calculations on inter-dimensional travel that she'd written on the walls of her room, two years ago already. The price of that knowledge was too high to pay.

Comparatively, learning what made Willow's heart beat just so, what made Willow's breath quicken, was cheap. In this hotel, broken hearts were a dime a dozen.