Disclaimer: I don't own buffy or beautiful girls, though it would be neat.
Chicago wasn't exactly Willow's kind of scene. It was cold and dirty and nothing like Sunnydale. In some ways, it was a good thing. Being in a larger city made it easier to hide some of the things she did on a nightly basis. The citizens of Chicago weren't under the magic of a hell mouth, but it was just as effortless to walk into an alley with a stranger and come out alone. Not one person batted an eyelash.
She and Xander had taken on Chicago after the 'dale had literally sunk into nothing. He'd been able to find a job working construction, and Willow was able to go back to school. Through the grace of the Goddess they'd both been able to set up the same schedule. Late nights hunting vampires and demons had begun to take their toll, so Willow put her foot down. It wasn't exactly hard to convince Xander. He had gone into work on less than an hour of sleep so many times, his co-workers were beginning to wonder if he slept at all.
"Wils, come on! We're going to be late," Xander said as he tried to leave for work.
"Sorry, I just got engrossed," Willow replied as she closed the book she'd been reading and slipped it into a protective cover. She picked up her backpack and coat and walked toward the door. "Am I forgetting anything?" she asked as she patted down her jeans to make sure she had her keys.
"No, now let's go!"
"Don't get pushy with me," she said, closing the door behind her and locking all three deadbolts. "I'm a witch, remember. I'll turn you into something unpleasant... like Spike," she said with a laugh.
"Funny," he said as he tapped repeatedly on the button to call the elevator. "Don't even say it," he warned as Willow prepared to tell him that hitting the button over and over again wasn't going to bring the elevator any faster.
Zipping her lips, she dug into her bag for her phone. Looking at her schedule for the day, she realized she didn't have a late class tonight. "My eight o'clock class is canceled. You want to go out or something?"
"I've got to work late, Wil," he said with a wince. They stepped into the elevator and rode down to the first floor. "I'll meet you somewhere after if you want, though. It's our night off."
"I'll call you after class and tell you where I'm at," she promised, stepping up into his truck.
"You mean you won't be lonely without me?" he kidded.
"I'll try not to weep while you're gone," she deadpanned.
"I think I liked you better when you were in love with me," he said as he drove out of the parking garage.
"You're so special," she said as she read through notes for a midterm.
"It's part of my charm," Xander agreed, pulling onto the freeway.
Xander dropped Willow off at the University of Chicago before leaving for his job in Libertyville, one of the wealthier suburbs of Chicago. It was a little over an hour from the university to work, but Xander was used to it now. He waved as he pulled away from the curb and headed toward the freeway.
Two midterms later, Willow was ready to strangle anyone who dared approach her with a blue book or anything with bubbles to fill in. Halfway from Xander's truck to her first class, she realized what she'd forgotten at home; her gloves. Her fingers were freezing and her hand was cramped like a bird claw. Sitting down on the bus, she rubbed her hands together, blowing on them to try to take away some of the burning cold.
Deciding to go into downtown, Willow knew there had to be somewhere she could sit and defrost while studying for tomorrow's exams. Spying a dark windowed coffee shop, she pressed the call button and gathered her things. With her backpack slung over one shoulder, she hopped off the bus, her hands stuffed into her pockets.
She stepped inside, wiping her feet on the already sodden rug in front of the door. Stepping up to the front counter, she smiled at the woman running the register. She had bright purple hair in untidy braids and her nose was pierced twice through the right nostril. Willow took off her hat and put it in her pocket as she waited to order.
"What can I get for you?" the girl whose name tag read Katie asked her. She looked less like a Katie than anyone Willow had ever seen. In addition to the piercings in her nose, she had ten in her ears, one in her lip, two in her eyebrow, and two sleeve tattoos covering her arms.
"Small mocha with extra whip cream, please," she ordered as she rummaged in her back for her wallet. "Oh, and an extra shot of espresso."
"Bad day?" Katie asked, knowingly.
"Midterms," Willow offered in explanation and handed her cash for the drink.
Katie retreated to the espresso bar to make her drink after handing off the change. Dropping the change and an extra dollar into the tip jar, Willow followed her. Xander and Buffy weren't here to tell her she wasn't allowed to have caffeine, so she was going to enjoy this. She sat at one of the tall bar chairs and dropped her bag on the floor. Digging a paperback out of her large pockets, she took off her jacket and draped it over the back of her chair.
"Ender's Game?" Katie asked from behind the bar.
"Everyone needs a way to rest their brain," Willow justified. "I've never read it, and a guy in my class seemed scandalized so I picked it up at a used book sale."
"It's really good. I wouldn't start it until exams are over," Katie advised, finishing Willow's mocha with a flourish of whip cream. "Sprinkles?" she asked.
"Do I look like the kind of woman who would refuse sprinkles?" Willow answered as she put the book in her bag and took out one of the large text books she'd brought with her.
Katie put two cups in front of her and a spoon. When Willow looked up at her with a bewildered expression, Katie wiped off her hands on a towel and said, "Extra whipped cream," before returning to the register to help the next customer.
Willow smiled, opened the cup filled entirely with whipped cream, and picked at it with her spoon while she read about the positive and negative effects of the Civil War. Nearly and hour later, she surfaced for long enough to notice that the shop had become crowded and noisy. Finally remembering she had yet to call Xander, she wrote out a short text message with the street address and name. It would be too hard to hear him over the phone and there was no way she was going outside in the blowing wind.
Willow watched as the lights dimmed in the back of the shop. An average looking man sat down a the piano in the corner and began to play simple, quiet jazz. It was beautiful in the way that only impromptu music could be. Willow smiled and buried her nose in her book, coming up for air every few minutes to listen to what he was playing. She'd always been attracted to musicians, but there was a sadness about this man. Tucking the information away, Willow shivered as the door to the shop opened, bringing a blustering cold wind in with her best friend.
"Hey Xan," she said as he spotted her. "Glad you found the place."
"How did you?" he asked, dropping his coat on the floor by her bag before heading over to the line for drinks.
"Magic," she said with a superior smile. At his raised eyebrow she amended, "I saw it from the bus."
"Ah," he said before ordering a triple chocolate blended froofy drink. Willow could never understand how people could order frozen drinks in the winter in Chicago.
"You're insane," she said as he sat down with his enormous coffee smoothie.
"I know," Xander agreed. "It's why the women love me so much."
"I'm going to save my comment for a later date," Willow promised as she chuckled and closed her book. "My head hurts," she whined, rubbing her temples.
"If you study anymore, your head's gonna explode, Wils," Xander said dramatically. "I'm sure these fine people don't want bits of Willow's brains all over them. You know how hard it is to clean up body parts."
"True," Katie said from behind the bar.
Xander chuckled before looking at Willow. "Oh, we're old friends. She gave me extra, extra whipped cream," Willow said with wiggly eyebrows and a grin.
"It doesn't take a lot, does it?" he said.
"Nope," she said, shaking her head. "How was work?"
"Positively stimulating," he answered, sticking out his tongue and choking himself.
"Still slow," she assumed.
"They've got me presenting offers to companies for the spring and if I have to talk to one more board of directors, I'm going to claw my eye out," he promised.
"Well, you've only got the one left, so it wouldn't be much work," she offered brightly.
"Thank you," he said sarcastically. "Who's the guy on the piano?" Xander asked, changing the subject.
"Dunno," Willow answered, turning her attention back to the musician she'd been admiring. "He's good though, no?"
"Yup," he agreed. "Hey coffee lady?" he called over the bar. She presented her name tag and waited expectantly. "All right, Katie, who is this guy?"
"That's Willie," she said, rinsing a pitcher. "He plays here a few nights a week."
Xander nudged Willow and said, "Another musician? Do you have some sort of radar?"
"Yes," she said, a blush rising to her cheeks. "I have Musician-dar."
"You're the worst gay woman I've ever seen," Xander accused, and took a big sip of his drink.
"Hey, I'm bi, mister," she corrected. "I'm not planning on having babies with him, he's just good."
"Right," he said sanctimoniously.
"You're going to get it when we go home," she threatened.
"I'm scared. Really," he said calmly, before staring off into space.
The night flew by rather quickly. Xander flipped through paperwork for his job while Willow read through notes for her exams. They'd stop every so often to talk about this, that, or the other thing, Xander making sure to poke at her for her new crush.
"Will you stop calling it that?" she demanded. "I'm not twelve Xander."
"Willow and Willie? I kind of like that. It has a very sing-song quality to it," he said.
Willow growled and turned back to her book. A moment later, the piano stopped and was replaced by sporadic applause. Willow turned to the watch musician she'd been watching for nearly two hours, nod his head politely and then walk over to where she was sitting.
"Katie," he said from next to her. "Can I get just a plain old cup of coffee?"
"Sure," she said. "Regular?"
"Yeah," he answered. He smiled when she brought the cup with cream already in it, sugar, and a stir stick in the saucer. "You're a dear woman."
"I know," she said, before returning to her paying customers.
"You're good," Xander said, breaking the ice for his speechless friend.
"Thanks," Willie said.
"I'm Xander," he said, offering his hand.
Willie shook it and said, "Willie."
"This is my friend Willow," Xander said nudging her.
"Hi," she said. Though long out of high school, Willow still couldn't seem to get beyond it. The situation reminded her of how'd she'd felt when Oz had first wanted to date her. Insecure and sporting some severe self esteem issues, she'd not believed she was good enough for him. Looking at Willie who was handsome and talented, made her brain react in quite the same way.
"We really enjoyed your set," Xander continued. "How long have you been playing?"
"God," Willie said with a sigh. "Something like twenty-five years."
"Wow," Xander said, laughing. "The only thing I've been able to do for twenty-five years is..."
"Spell your own name?" Willow offered helpfully. She may not be able to talk to someone she was attracted to, but she could make fun of Xander with no difficulty.
Willie chuckled at that and guessed, "Brother and sister?"
"Basically," Xander answered. "The sister I never wanted."
"But always seem to follow around," Willow inserted.
"Understood," Willie said. "I've got to get back, but it was nice to talk to you both. I play on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. You should come back."
"Oh, we will," Xander said. "It's a promise."
Willow smiled and waved at Willie. When he'd sat back at the piano, she turned to Xander and said, "It's a promise? Do you want to date him?"
"Nope," he said, unfazed. "You do and it's so cute. I must call Buffy," he said, pulling out his cell phone and hitting speed dial.
Willow groaned as she heard Buffy's voice come in through the phone. She tried not to listen as Xander said, "Willow's got a booooy-friend."
"You were Cordelia in a past life," Willow said in exasperation.