Joss Whedon owns "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and related characters; Patricia Briggs owns "The Mercedes Thompson Series" and related characters; I own nothing.~*~*~
“The regular?” the usually overly-perky barista at the small cafe asked, the pen in her hand poised over the cup. Buffy nodded curtly, handing over a twenty and waited for her change. It was the middle of midterms, and Buffy was once again running on stress and caffeine. At least she only had this last semester to get through before she was done with her degree; her second in the time that she had been in this new dimension, first history and now comparative lit. It was one of the ways she kept herself from completely losing herself in the life of the Slayer, or really, lack of life as the Slayer now that the fae were out in the open and everybody was staying on relatively good behavior to avoid drawing unwanted attention.
Getting her coffee from the bar, she quickly made her way to the seat that she had claimed as hers back when she first enrolled as a freshman. It was in the back of the cafe, in a corner facing the door with good light and air circulation, the best place in her opinion to get work done. A few steps away, she stopped short. Someone was in her spot. There was a man sitting in her chair. There was never anybody sitting in her chair. Sure, she had to fight off a few people when the school year started, but normally by now everybody knew that this was her seat and warned newcomers.
Ignoring the small voice in her head that told her it was the sleep deprivation and stress doing the thinking and not the rational part of her, Buffy walked over to the intruder.
“Thank you for keeping my spot warm,” she told him, trying to sound as pleasant as she could on three hours of sleep. “I appreciate it.”
The man looked up in an unhurried way that made Buffy suspect that he had been aware of her presence since she had walked in that general direction.
“I wasn’t aware that there was reserved seating here,” he answered, an amused tone coloring his voice. “There must have been a mix-up at the counter and they forgot to tell me.” His mouth, a little too wide for his face, twitched at the edges, like he was trying to hide a smile, and his deep-set blue eyes looked like they were laughing at her. This did nothing to help Buffy’s already bad mood.
“They must have,” Buffy agreed, meeting his gaze head on. They stared at each other for a long moment before he looked back down at the papers spread before him, more of a dismissal than a sign of her dominance over him. She continued to look at him, so hard that she almost missed a hint of movement in her peripheral vision. Looking down, Buffy saw that he had nudged the chair across from him, an invitation to sit if she ever saw one. She studied it for a moment before looking back at the interloper. Any inclination she might have had to taking the offered chair vanished when she saw the not-quite-hidden look of smug satisfaction, like he was so sure that she would give in and take his peace offering.
Without a word, Buffy turned around and left. She wasn’t going to give in that easily, no matter what the man thought.
As she walked out of the cafe and back to campus, Buffy made up her mind. Come Hellmouth or apocalypse, she was getting her seat back.~*~*~
He’s there the next day when she came back, in almost the exact same position he was in when she left him the day before. This time, however, she doesn’t say anything to him, instead going to the table next to his and sitting down. Buffy had decided her plan of attack the night before in a bout of procrastination on a paper. She would go to the cafe, waiting to reclaim what was hers. Yes, it might be silly to think of the chair in such possessive terms, but something about how the man had reacted to her annoyed Buffy to the point where she didn’t want to let this go. Plus, she really liked that spot.
They didn’t speak that day, although Buffy was sure the man was waiting for her to make the first move. He would have to wait a long time for that to happen, though. Buffy had somehow managed to learn a modicum of patience—some of it through not so pleasant things she’d rather forget—and she was a skilled enough hunter to know when she should make a move. Speaking to him now would only acknowledge his superiority and that was the last thing Buffy wanted.
This time, it was the man who left first, checking his watch like he was late for an appointment. Giving Buffy a sly, almost smug look, he pulled the seat back in an exaggerated motion.
"You're seat, miss," he told her, somehow managing to sound serious. Buffy studied him for a moment before looking back at the notes she was reading. She wasn't that easy. She would get her seat back on her terms, not his.
Buffy didn't go to the cafe for the next two days, busy with tests and finalizing a topic for her senior seminar. By the time where she could breathe again, it was Saturday, when she normally spend the entire day at the cafe getting work done and playing solitaire on her computer.Surprise, surprise,
she thought, scanning the room and stopping on the man in her seat. Mentally sighing, she sat down at the table next to him and pulled out the readings she needed for an essay that was due on Monday.
They worked in silence again, although at some point the man got up and came back with two cups of coffee. Absently wondering who he was meeting, Buffy glared at her empty cup, debating whether or not she should get another one. It wasn't like money was an issue--in her time here, she had earned a small fortune that she kept in several small caches--but she didn't need to be full of restless energy when she should be working on this assignment.
Making up her mind, Buffy started getting to her feet when the man finally spoke.
"That coffee's for you, you know," he told her, leaning back in his chair, an almost smug look on his face. Buffy looked at the extra cup before looking back at him.
"Normally I like to know a guy's name before I allow him to buy me coffee," she answered with a disbelieving laugh.
"Well, if that's all you need, Samuel Cornick at your service," he answered with a small incline of his head. Buffy, putting her hands on table, leaned forward so that she could meet his eyes.
"I'm not that easy," she told him. "But thanks for trying."
Walking towards the counter, Buffy wondered what this guy's deal was. Sure, he was definitely salty goodness, but something about his smug assurance bugged her. It was like he was used to getting his way more often than not. Glancing over at him, she studied him for a moment before he looked up and met her eyes with a grin. Blushing, Buffy looked away, determined not to give him any more acknowledgement. She was in no way somewhat attracted to the man who had stolen her spot. In no way whatsoever.~*~*~
"Is that the guy?" Buffy's friend Lucila asked, gesturing with her head. Buffy glanced over and nodded resignedly.
"Yep," she answered, adjusting her bookbag. They were stopping for coffee on their way to a tutoring session at the local library, and Lu had wanted to see the man who had earned the wrath of Buffy.
"I think he's a doctor at the hospital my mom works at," Lu said, studying him for a moment.
"That explains why I don't like him, then." For all the years that Buffy had been stuck in this dimension, the one thing that hadn't changed was her dislike of doctors and hospitals. Lu shook her head and rolled her eyes.
"One day, we're going to find a way to get you to believe that not everybody in the medical practice is a spawn of Satan."
"The day that happens is the day I decide to dance up and down the quad in a hula skirt," Buffy replied with a shrug. "And it's not all of them. Just most of them. Your mom is the exception that proves the rule."
"Proves what rule?" Clamping down on her urge to jump, Buffy turned around to see the object of their conversation standing behind them in line. Buffy frowned, wondering how he managed to sneak up behind them.
"That doctors and nurses are evil," she answered, looking way up there to meet his eyes. She hadn't realized he was so tall before.
"You’re quick to judge,” he answered, eyes crinkling slightly at the edges.
“What can I say, it’s part of my charm.” Reaching the counter, she and Lu quickly placed their orders. Buffy was about to pay for both of them, since she had lost a bet with Lu earlier that week, when Samuel Cornick cut in.
“Please, let me. It’s the least I can do to show that I’m not the evil doctor you think I am.” Buffy opened her mouth to respond before Lucila answered for her.
“That would be fine. Buffy can pay me back another time.” Buffy felt her ears redden slightly, but didn’t say anything. She’d get her revenge on Lu at a later date. Samuel Cornick, to his benefit, didn’t initially comment on her name, only getting an amused, satisfied look on his face. He paid for their drinks, and while they waited, he and Lu made small talk about people both of them knew at the hospital. By the time their drinks arrived, Buffy was more than ready to escape.
“See you tomorrow,” Samuel called out, much to Buffy’s consternation.
“He likes you,” Lu teased in a sing-song voice. “He so likes you.”
“Oh, be quiet,” Buffy muttered, hiding her face behind her cup. ~*~*~
The battle for the chair continued into the next week. Despite Buffy’s attempts to vary her arrival times around her schedule, he was always there before she was. According to Lu, he mainly worked the night shifts, but didn’t that mean he had to sleep and not just keep haunting this place and stealing her spot?
Somehow, over the next few days, despite Buffy’s attempts to ignore him, she and Samuel struck up an odd sort of friendship that partially involved her quest to reclaim her seat, partially involved him constantly trying to get her to accept a cup of coffee from him, and partially involved her curiosity getting the better of her. She had a feeling, like most times she let that happen, it would come back and bite her in the ass. She learned that he liked his coffee black, all foods spicy, and had a sly sense of humor that would blindside her if she wasn’t careful. There were times during their conversations when it seemed like he was carrying some sort of burden, not unlike all the years she secretly carried. Part of her wondered if he had some fae blood in him, but she ignored it. He was just a guy in a coffee shop, nothing more.
“Why comparative lit?” he asked the next Saturday. Buffy looked up from the copy of “Lazarillo de Tormes” she was highlighting and shrugged.
“Why not?” she replied. Actually, she wasn’t exactly sure herself. She had no interest in science or any type of poli-sci, and while going back and actually completing a degree in psychology had sounded interesting at first, in the end there were too many memories of Maggie Walsh coloring that choice. “I just kinda stumbled into it by accident and decided to stay and see where the ride takes me.”
“There are worse ways to find a major.”
“My thoughts exactly,” Buffy agreed, going back to her reading.
That Monday, Samuel wasn’t there when Buffy arrived at the café. Buffy reclaimed her seat, but there was something hollow in her victory. It didn’t feel like she had earned it after those two weeks of near misses and Samuel trying to win her over with coffee and the occasional pastry he would buy. She purposefully ignored the little corner in her mind that whispered she was disappointed because she actually somewhat liked having him around.
Two days later, when she had a chance to swing by again, he was there, sitting in her spot like nothing had changed.
“And here I was thinking I had finally run you out of this place,” she commented, sitting down next to him.
“You missed me, didn’t you?” he asked, a teasing look in his eye. Buffy snorted and shook her head.
“Miss you? Please. I was planning on getting a banner and renting one of those bands for a victory march.”
“Right,” Samuel commented in a pointed voice, which Buffy ignored. “You know, it’s OK to say that you missed me. I won’t tell anybody. It will be our secret.”
“In your dreams, Samuel,” came Buffy’s reply as she did her best to control her urge to blush. She ignored his self-satisfied laugh and did her best to focus on her work. Later in the day, as he was getting ready to leave, Buffy looked over at him for the first time since she sat down.
“Just for the record, Dr. Cornick, the only reason I would have missed you is because I liked having a challenge,” she told him.
“So do I,” he replied with a wink, getting to his feet. “See you tomorrow, Buffy.”~*~*~
Buffy couldn’t believe her luck. She had come in a little earlier than expected, due to class getting out early, and had found a pleasant surprise: her seat was empty. She shouldn’t celebrate too early, however. Samuel could be a no-show today, like Monday. She had just sat down and pulled out her laptop when the door opened and he stepped through. Doing her best not to look at him, because she probably would have burst out laughing or something equally of the dignity-destroying variety, she kept her eyes firmly on her laptop until a shadow fell over her. Looking up, she met Samuel’s amused blue eyes.
“It’s my seat,” Buffy told him, trying very, very hard to keep her face straight. Samuel’s mouth quirked and he leaned down so he could look her in the eye.
“I was taught never to argue with a lady,” he told her in a low voice that sent shivers down Buffy’s spine.
“Then what would you call these last few weeks?” Buffy asked, leaning forward on her elbows and tilting her head to the side.
“Flirting,” he told her, a roguish grin on his face. "Now, how about I buy you a cup of coffee?"