Chapter Two: The Offer
It was snowing again. That wasn’t anything new when it’s winter in Iowa, but it still doesn’t make it any less annoying. For the third time in less than a week, the gray sky had opened up and small specks of white were dotting the air. Small dunes of snow were getting larger. The patches of ice on the sidewalk were getting wider. The air itself seemed to be getting colder. And, according to the whether service, the snow wouldn’t stop for a few more days still.
Buffy hated winter -- passionately, furiously, heatedly, and with about twenty other adverbs that she could think of off the top her head. Heck, she knew some great adjectives she could throw in there too.
Really, who wouldn’t hate it? The days were short, the nights were long, and everything was constantly covered in a cold layer of ice and white. That put a pretty strict restriction on her wardrobe because there’s not a whole lot out there that looks cute with a parka and snow boots. She could try to go without them, but there was the whole ‘possibly freezing to death’ issue. Luckily, she did know better than that no matter what her family might think.
“Stupid weather,” Buffy muttered under her breath as she laid her head on the counter and watched the snow fall outside the diner window. “Why does it have to be so…winter-y?”
“Because it’s, um…winter?” Lara, her fellow working waitress, said.
“Yeah, but the doesn’t mean it has to be so wet and snowy and stuff,” Buffy said with a small pout.
A bemused look was on Lara face, one that clearly said that she thought Buffy was either an idiot or insane. With a face like hers, it was kind of hard to tell the difference. She had only started working at the Yard Diner earlier that week and was thus still unaccustomed to her coworkers murderous use of the English language. She’d get used to it if she stuck around long enough. Most people did.
Still, if Lara thought this was bad, she should hear try and speak Vulcan. She was pretty sure that her high school xenoliguistic teacher developed that tick above his left eye just for her.
Wiping down the counter, Lara said, “Whatever.”
Since it was the middle of the afternoon and like twelve degrees outside, the Yard was pretty deserted. The late lunch crowd had cleared out about an hour ago, and it would still be another two before the early dinner bunch would show up. The few people that were still there stayed because it was warmer than being outside or because they had nothing better to do. Really, there weren’t enough people to justify having both Lara and Buffy on duty, but Buffy figured that as long as she was getting paid it didn’t really matter.
Sighing, Buffy propped herself onto her elbows and continued to stare out the window.
Some day -- hell, most days -- she wondered why she stayed in Riverside. Spending the rest of her life here never been part of her plan. When she was younger, she had dreamed of the day she would graduate from high school and catch the first shuttle out of town. She hadn’t really cared where too as long it was warm, there was a beach, and the only corn she would have to see would be on someone’s plate. Then graduation day had come and gone. Before Buffy knew it, she was twenty-two and wondering why in the hell she was still working at the same crappy job that Frank had gotten her when she was seventeen.
“Working real hard for those credits, I see.”
Buffy blinked and was half surprised to find Jim now in front of her. She’s been so lost in her own thoughts that she hadn’t heard the door chime go off. In the time that she had been thinking several of the people who had been in the diner had already left, and Lara had disappeared into the back area. It was still snowing outside, but it had let up considerably.
Damn, she needed to be careful about doing that. Never knew what was going to creep up on you if you didn’t.
Case in point, her annoying big brother.
Which, by the way, now she remembered the reason why she was stuck here in Nowhere-ville. It was currently sitting across the counter from her.
Knowing that he had caught his sister off-guard, Jim grinned at Buffy in a way that just begged her to smack him.
“Shouldn’t you be at work?” she asked.
Shrugging a shoulder, Jim said, “Ken and the guys want some coffee. It’s cold out there, you know.”
“Really? I guess I haven’t noticed the two feet of snow outside,” she replied dryly and went to the coffee maker. “So, what? Did you break the coffee machine…again?”
“Me?” he asked as if he were genuinely insulted she would think such a thing. When Buffy raised an eyebrow, he said, “It was Joss this time.”
Still smiling, Jim pulled off his gloves and blew into his cupped hands. Yeah, she was sure it was all Joss’ fault. Just like she was sure that her brother, who had worse culinary skill than her, had absolutely nothing to do with it.
Deciding to take a bit of pity on him, Buffy poured him a cup of coffee before she went to go make the others to-go cups.
While she was doing so, a group of local teenagers came through the diner door. Two of the boys laughed loudly as a third larger one pushed one of his smaller friends. The boy stumbled and caught himself on a nearby chair. This caused a fresh round of laughter among the group.
Buffy had seen them before. They weren’t regulars, but they came in enough for her to know that they didn’t particularly like following social rules that most people followed without thought. Basically that meant they were loud, obnoxious, and horrible tippers. It wasn’t close to closing time, so at least they weren’t drunk this time.
Well, she assumed they weren’t.
“Isn’t that Zed Travis’ little brother?” Jim asked, nudging his head towards the boy who had pushed the smaller one.
“Yep,” Buffy agreed, popping her ‘p’. “Kristoph or Kriso or something that starts with a ‘K’.”
Glancing over his shoulder, Jim sneered slightly as the Travis kid reared back and punched another one of the boys in the shoulder when he said something that he obviously didn’t like. The boy rubbed his shoulder and rotated it as the others laughed and shook their heads.
Out of the corner of her eyes, Buffy saw Lara come out from the back. She paused for a moment at the edge of the counter when she saw the boys but still grabbed her pad and headed towards them. They were customers, after all. Buffy still decided that it would be a good idea to keep half an eye on them. Just in case.
“Looks like he takes after big brother,” Jim said as he turned back and finished his coffee.
“Yeah,” Buffy agreed as she placed the to-go cups in front of him. “Are you going to be home for dinner?”
“No,” Jim replied as he pulled back on his gloves and grabbed the tray. That same stupid smile pulled on his lips as he stood up from his seat. “I’ve got a date.”
“So you’ll be home by ten then?” she asked with a mocking smile.
“With any luck, that’ll be in the morning,” he said. “Thanks for the coffee.”
Jim balanced the tray carefully as he reached to open the door but was saved the trouble by another man coming in.
“Excuse me,” the man said as he stepped back and let him through.
Of course Jim didn’t say anything. He just disappeared out into the cold and snow.
Buffy watched the new customer as he brushed the snow and ice from his crisp uniform. He was middle aged with graying hair. Guys like that weren’t all that uncommon in the Yard, but his Starfleet uniform did make him stand out a bit. Most people who worked for Starfleet around here worked in the shipyard building starships. Their uniforms were usually dirty and torn and spoke of a long days labor. This guy’s was neat and proper. He was obviously an officer of some sort. Their kind wasn’t so common here. The Yard wasn’t exactly high quality. Guys like him went for places like that; not like this.
He took a seat at the end of the counter and glanced at Buffy. “Could I get some coffee, please?”
Buffy was about to agree to the order when a loud shriek and crash distracted her. Lara had been in the middle of delivering the teen’s order when Zed’s brother had decided that he’d rather have her than the food he ordered. The boy’s order was currently dumped all over the floor as Lara struggled to get out of the boy’s tight grip. He, of course, seemed to find the whole thing entirely too funny. His friends, at least, tried to urge him to let Lara go, but it was apparent that wasn’t going to be happen any time soon.
The few people who were still there watched the scene with shock. Even Starfleet guy was slow to move.
“Hold that thought,” Buffy said to him before she jumped over the counter and headed straight for the boys.
“Let me go,” Lara hissed and kicked.
The boy pulled her closer. “Where would be the fun in that, huh?”
“Is there a problem here?” Buffy asked in a level tone.
If she felt like smacking that grin off Jim’s face, the way the kid was leering at her made her want to disembowel him. Or at least make it where he would only be singing soprano from now on.
“Not from where I’m sitting,” he replied lightly.
“Yeah, well, we have a strict ‘no manhandling the waitresses’ rule here, so I think it’s time you let her go,” Buffy said. “Come back tonight, though. I’m pretty sure Chuck won’t mind if you grab him.”
Reaching out for Lara, Buffy had mostly pulled her free from him when his hand latched onto Buffy’s wrist. Her eyes flashed in a way that would have sent Jim scurrying for shelter and probably would have vaporized anyone else stupid enough to be caught in its path. This kid, however, just grinned even more.
Seeing an opening, Lara scrambled out of large teenager’s grip and stumbled past Buffy. He didn’t seem to care that he had lost her now that he was latched onto Buffy.
Of course, Buffy wasn’t sharing his enjoyment. “You want to let me go.”
“What if I don’t?” he asked.
“Come on, Krish,” one of the other boys pleaded. “Just do as she says.”
“Yes, Krish,” a deeper male’s voice echoed. “Do as the lady says.”
Buffy glanced over her shoulder and was somewhat annoyed to find that Starfleet Guy had decided to join them. Lara was cowering just being him as if he were the one who had actually gotten her away from Idiot Boy. It annoyed Buffy even more that the stupid kid decided that, even though he was still holding onto her wrist, that he should instead speak to him.
“And what if I don’t?” Krish asked with a laugh.
“Trust me. You will,” Buffy said. “You’ve got until the count of three.”
Every instinct Buffy had was telling her to kick his ass, but at the same time something was warning her not too. If he really was Zed’s little brother, that meant he was only about eighteen or nineteen years old; so he was still just a kid. However, he was so asking for a beating. She wasn’t sure exactly what she should do.
The smile turned almost feral as he pulled her closer to him. “Okay. One. Two. Three. Now what are you going to do, hum?”
She wanted to hit him. Badly. Super badly. However, she still felt hesitant about actually doing it. Hitting customers was, in general, looked down upon even when they were colossal jackasses; and she liked her job. Sort of, anyway.
Sensing her hesitation, Krish laughed.
“I thought so,” he said.
He then pulled her forward against him and then did the stupidest thing he could have possibly done. He grabbed her ass.
Okay, she had no problems hitting him now.
Sweetly, Buffy smiled at him and said, “Thanks.”
He was obviously thrown off by this, but Buffy didn’t give him a chance to react. Striking quickly with the palm of her free hand, she knocked him none-to-gently in his stomach. It really wasn’t much of a strike, but it was enough to make him cough. It also made him loosen his grip on her wrist, which was really what Buffy was aiming for.
Using a move she had perfected on Jim, Buffy grabbed onto his wrist, lifted it into the air, and then twisted his arm to where it was pinned behind his back. She needed to be sure that he learned his lesson, so she grabbed the back of his neck and slammed him against the table. He yelped in pain as Buffy pulled up slightly. She just kept herself from rolling her eyes. Jim could handle that, and he was the biggest baby she knew.
“I think now would be a good time to be making with the apologies,” Buffy said.
“I’m sorry,” he muttered against the table.
“Sorry, didn’t catch that,” Buffy replied and lifted his arm slightly.
Okay, so maybe she pulled a little harder on his twisted arm than she should, but it wasn’t like he didn’t deserve it for acting like a total jerk.
She loosened her grip on his neck so that he could lift his head and speak more clearly.
“I said I’m sorry,” he said.
Buffy released him quickly, which caused him to loose his balance. He would have hit the floor had one his buddies not steadied him.
With that fake smile that Jim feared, Buffy said, “Thank you, sir, for coming. Be sure to never come back.”
Turning away from him, Buffy placed her attention back on Starfleet Guy and Lara.
Lara’s mouth hung open slightly as she blinked at Buffy several times, but Buffy could still see how uneasy the girl felt. Not that she blamed her. Being grabbed and groped on the third day of the job wasn’t really in the job description. She was pretty sure watching your co-worker take down the jerk, who outweighed her by at least fifty pounds and had a good foot on her, probably wasn’t in there either.
If Starfleet Guy was surprised, he hid his reaction a lot better than Lara.
Ignoring him for the time being, Buffy asked, “You okay?”
Before she could answer, a look passed over Lara’s face. A warning sounded in Buffy’s mind that told her she needed to duck. Sliding her foot behind her to steady herself, Buffy leaned backwards as far as she could. As she did so, she saw an object sweep right over her face. Had she not moved, it would have knocked her right in the side of the head.
Sitting up as quickly as she ducked, Buffy spun on the balls of her feet and raised her fists. Krish had grabbed Lara’s tray and swung it at Buffy. Anger mixed with embarrassment colored his face as he brought the tray back around to try and hit her again. Buffy thought she heard Starfleet Guy say something, but she had other things to worry about.
Easily blocking his secondary attack, Buffy again grabbed his arm and spun around. This time, she had her back facing him with his arm draped over her shoulder. Before she even thought about what she was doing, Buffy pulled hard on his arm and leaned forward. The table next to them rattled slightly as she flipped him over her, and he landed with a rather resounding thud. Keeping hold of his wrist, Buffy placed her foot on his shoulder.
“Now, are you going to leave, or am I going to have get violent?” she asked flatly.
Krish companions jumped into action and didn’t give their friend a chance to answer. As soon as Buffy let go of him, they grabbed him and pulled him out of the diner. Buffy watched coolly as they sprinted out into the cold afternoon and past the frosty window. One stopped to look back as if to make sure she wasn’t following. He caught sight of her stare, ‘eeped’, and took off after his friends.
At least now she didn’t have to worry about them coming back anytime soon.
Unfortunately, judging by the looks of most of the people present, neither were most of them.
Brushing some imaginary dust off of her uniform, Buffy turned back to Starfleet Guy.
It had been years since Christopher Pike had been in Riverside, but it in all that time it hadn’t changed that much. The shipyard, which was actually located outside of town in the middle of nowhere, was a little larger. There were more Starfleet personnel around because of it, but they were still outnumbered by the local farmers. It was colder, too, but that was to be expected since the last time he was there it was the middle of spring.
The town, however, was still the same. The Starfleet recruiting center was still in the same tiny building on Main Street. The beds in the local hotel were still just as uncomfortable. The Yard still served the worst cup of coffee he had ever had the displeasure to drink.
Not that he had come back to the diner for the coffee.
Pouring him a cup, the young woman watched as another group of customers ‘discreetly’ left the Yard. A semi-scold that was partly a pout pulled at her lips as they, but she didn’t say anything to them. Instead she sighed lightly to herself as she finished filling his cup.
“That was quiet a display back there,” Pike said. “Does that happen a lot?”
She grinned in a way that didn’t hold any sort of humor to it. Pike had seen that grin before years ago on another blond woman when he had asked her about the death of her husband.
“To me or just in general?” she asked.
Pike picked up his cup in a noncommittal way.
“Lets just say that with my brother’s way with women, it pays to know how to take down very large, very angry big brother types as quick as possible,” she replied. “And drunk teenage types. And homicidal father types. And offended girl types. Basically any type that you can think of.”
She seemed lost in her thoughts for a moment before she said, “Jimmy really doesn’t play well with others.”
“Apparently particularly when females are involved,” Pike said as he finally chanced a sip of the coffee. He was rather proud of himself for keeping the grimace off his face. “So you’re James T. Kirk sister.”
She blinked at him. “You know Jim?”
Placing his cup back onto the counter, Pike said, “Only from what I’ve read in his file. And yours.”
The entirety of Buffy Kirk’s body stiffened at his words. He couldn’t tell if it was from alarm or not, but she was definitely put off by the fact that he seemed to know who she was. After reading her file and the run-ins she and her brother had had with the local officials, he could understand why.
“You’re not in any sort of trouble, if that’s what you’re worried about,” Pike said. For a moment he thought about chancing another sip of the coffee before deciding against it. “Not from myself or Starfleet anyhow.”
“So what did Jim do?” she deadpanned.
Pike held in a grin. He liked this girl.
“Jim neither.” Holding up his PADD, he said, “I looked your files up while you were getting my coffee.”
“Oh,” she said.
Another customer hurried past her and exited out into the snowy afternoon. That left the diner now completely deserted except for him, Buffy, and the other waitress who had disappeared somewhere in the back.
“I want to ask you something,” he said. “What are you doing here?”
“What?” she asked.
Sitting back on the stool, Pike said, “Here. Working as a waitress. I saw your aptitude scores. Yeah, they’re not as high as your brother, but they’re still high enough to do a lot of things.”
“What do you care?” Buffy asked.
“I’m curious,” Pike replied. “So, what? Did you just wakeup one morning with a burning urge to sever bad coffee to snot-nose teenager and old men for the rest of your life?”
“There’s nothing wrong with what I do,” she said.
“No, there’s not,” he agreed. “But you could be doing so much more. Join Starfleet.”
Later, when someone would ask him why he did this -- and there were quite a few people who did ask -- Pike wouldn’t be able to give a fully satisfactory answer. Not for him, at least. He would say it was because they could use someone like her. She was smart, resourceful, and was obviously not afraid of confrontation. Why wouldn’t they want someone like that?
Pike wasn’t a fool, however. He knew she would be trouble. She was to comfortable with violence and was fast to act. She did have control, though. If she wanted, he had no doubt that she could have really hurt the kid, but Starfleet was always weary of people like her. Still, with the right guidance, he knew she could be a great officer. Protective, decisive, and able to lead.
Of course, her response made him seriously question his offer.
Buffy blinked and asked, “Are you stupid?”
It was only a little after twelve when Jim came stumbling home from his date with Deana. It probably would have gone on longer if he hadn’t mistakenly called her Diana. Girls were kind of funny about that sort of thing, particularly when you were in the middle of having a bit of fun. Hey, was it his fault that she had a name those two names sounded so much alike. You’d think she’d would be use to people making that mistake but apparently not.
Jim was partially surprised when he opened the door to his and Buffy’s apartment and found her still sitting up. Buffy was kind of night owl, but she usually didn’t wait up for him.
“Hey,” he said as he dropped his jacket onto the counter.
“Hey,” she replied.
Heading into the kitchen, Jim opened the door and pulled out another beer. “You waiting up for me?”
“Yeah, kind of,” she said. “I wanted to tell you about my day.”
Jim sat down next to her on their small couch and pulled a bit of the blanket she had wrapped around her legs over his lap.
“Really?” he asked as he took a sip of his beer. “It must have been a fun one.”
“It was,” she agreed. “I got into a fight with that Travis kid.”
“You did?” He laughed. “I beat you kicked his ass.”
“I did. I also kind of got fired because of it.”
Jim paused mid-drink.
“Oh,” he said. Placing his arm around her shoulders, he added, “Don’t worry. I’m sure we can find you something to do.”
Jim was only slightly alarmed when she tensed under his arm.
“We don’t have too,” she said.
“And why is that?”
“Cause I kind of joined Starfleet today,” she replied. At his blank stare, Buffy added, “Um…surprise?”
Disclaimer and summary found with the prologue.
Wow, been awhile hasn't it. Sorry for the wait, but this chapter just refused to be written. Thank you for the reviews and I hope you guys are still enjoying the story.