TWO: Willow, Tara
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or worlds used in this story, including (but not limited to) Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse, Firefly, Supernatural, and Twilight. No harm is intended toward any of the copyright owners. This story is intended for entertainment purposes only.+++++PREVIOUSLY: Willow and Tara said goodbye to their friends in LA, including Dawn Summers (who took over Willow's company as the new CEO) as well as Fred and Charles Gunn.+++++TWO: Willow, Tara
"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined." -Henry David Thoreau
Three months had passed since the long cross-country drive from California to Georgia, and Willow and Tara had settled into a routine. Tara had been hired on at a veterinary hospital near their house, and Willow was enjoying the hell out of her job as CTO. She hadn’t thought she’d take to being demoted -- being CEO, being the be-all-end-all of a corporation, was a lot of power -- but, as chief technology officer, she was able to put all her knowledge to good use and she’d already made changes that had company veterans lauding her despite her relatively young age and quirky personality.
In fact, things would be perfect all around if Willow’s assistant hadn’t just quit. Apparently Ruby’s husband was getting a transfer to Cleveland. She’d offered to stay on until Willow had hired someone new, but Willow would hear nothing of it -- after all, hadn’t Tara moved across the country to be with her? So now Ruby was gone, and Ruby had been almost as good as Darryl, the middle-aged man who’d been her assistant in California, and Willow was going to have to find someone new.
After this next meeting.
Willow stood up, adjusted her suit jacket, and slipped her phone into her pocket. Time to go.+
Willow’s phone buzzed while she was replying to an e-mail -- a text from Dawn. Hi Will! Can you call me when you get a min? Thx!Oh, thank God!
Willow gave the head of Application Development an apologetic smile as she stood up. “Sorry, Janet. I have to take this.”
Janet nodded -- I’m her boss; is she really going to tell me no?
-- and continued her presentation as Willow escaped from the conference room. She went up to her office and put on her headset, then punched in the direct line to her old office -- Dawn’s office now.
“Hey, Dawnie, it’s me.”
“Willow!” She could hear the smile in Dawn’s voice, and it made her smile too. “You didn’t have to call right away, you know. It’s not an emergency or anything.”
“I know.” Willow went to her window. She wished she had a better view, but the only thing visible was the insurance company building to the north. “You saved me from a really boring meeting.”
“Yeah, about that,” Dawn said. “You didn’t tell me that ninety percent of my day would be spent in meetings that I don’t even need to be there for. How did you do it?”
“Mostly I just declined the invites, and who’s going to tell the CEO--”
“And founder,” Dawn put in.
“Right. CEO and founder. Who’s going to tell me that I have to attend a meeting I don’t want to attend?”
Dawn was silent a moment. “Can I... can I do
“You’re the boss, Dawnie. You can do whatever you want.”
“Sweet.” Dawn chuckled. “What about you?”
“I can get out of meetings, but I’m not the boss. I’m actually pretty much at the bottom of the executive board -- CEO, CFO, VP of Content, VP of Sales, and then me. The only person below me is the VP of HR.”
“Eh. I make do.” Through that part of the discussion, Willow had been making a slow circuit of her office: desk, conference table, shelves, window, other window, and back to her desk again. She sat down and considered checking her e-mail, but this was Dawnie; she wasn’t going to multitask with someone she cared so much about. “So, what’s up?”
“Dawnie, come on. You know you can tell me anything.”
“You know you’re the only one I let call me that anymore.”
“I know.” She grinned, even though Dawn couldn’t see it. “All right, Summers: spill.”
Dawn let out a small laugh, but to Willow’s ears it sounded forced. “It’s about Buffy.”
“‘Oh’ is right.”
Willow had only met Dawn’s older sister once, in passing, but from the few times she’d come up in conversation, Willow had the impression that Dawn saw Buffy as having wasted her potential. She always sounded kind of sad when she talked about her sister; sad and disappointed. She knew Buffy was about five years older than Dawn, and that she’d been a cheerleader throughout high school and college -- and had even won some big cheerleading competition -- but, according to Dawn, that had been the highlight of Buffy’s life until she’d gotten married and had a kid.
“So, what about Buffy? Is she okay?”
“Dawnie, come on. Talk to me. You wouldn’t have called me if you didn’t want to.”
“I know. It’s just hard, y’know?” Willow could tell Dawn was on the verge of tears. “She and her husband moved to Atlanta about seven years ago, when he got a job there.”
“What does he do?”
“I don’t know; something in manufacturing, I think?”
“Stay-at-home mom. I think she worked part-time at a gymnastics and cheer program in... Roswell? Does that sound right?”
“Dawnie, I’ve been here for three months. You’d know better than me; you probably visited her a bunch of times.”
“Yeah, about that.” Dawn sighed. “I never liked Tony -- that’s her husband. Something was always off about him. And he was always flirting with me.”
“‘Uh-oh’ for sure. Buffy left him about two months ago when he got some woman pregnant. Some woman who isn’t her, I mean.”
Willow leaned back in her chair. Poor Dawnie, to be so far away, unable to be there for her sister. She felt a pang for Xander, who she hadn’t seen in years, who hadn’t sent her a letter since she’d moved to Atlanta; he’d been her best friend -- close enough that she considered him a brother -- since kindergarten, back in Sunnydale. She hoped he was okay, wherever he was. “So what happened?”
“Buffy and Joy -- that’s my niece; she’s five now -- got an apartment, and she changed Joy’s school. I’ve been helping her with money and stuff, but she’s proud. The fact that she can’t support herself and Joy without my help is really hurting her. I was wondering if maybe...” Dawn took a deep breath and finished quickly: “maybe you had something she could do over there?”
Willow sighed. “Oh, Dawnie...”
“Will, you know I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important. I know you value your integrity; I know how hard it was for you when people came after you for making me your protege.”
“Yeah, but Dawn, this is different--”
“Willow, please.” Dawn’s voice was breaking Willow’s heart; she loved her sister so much, and Willow knew Dawn hated being powerless to help someone she loved. “Buffy will do whatever you can find -- cafeteria worker, data entry, even secretarial--”
Willow had a thought. “Secretary? Has she ever done anything like that?”
“Let me send you her resume.” Willow heard Dawn typing, and then her e-mail pinged. She opened the attachment and skimmed it. “Well?”
“I don’t know, Dawnie,” Willow said. “I can tell you this: she’d never make it through HR if we went the usual way.” She imagined Dawn’s glum expression. “But I do have an idea...”
“I thought you might.”+
“So what did you do?” Tara asked.
“We use this one recruiting agency a lot,” Willow said as she served herself some salad. She passed the bowl to Tara. “I got Dawn to have her sister update her resume a little, gave her some tips that would get her past some of the tougher folks down in recruiting, and tomorrow I’m going to have HR send me some applications for a new assistant.”
“Can Buffy do that?”
“I don’t know.” Willow took the plate of grilled chicken from Tara and placed a few strips on her dish. Then she grinned at Tara’s horrified expression as she practically drenched everything in sesame ginger dressing. Tara took great pride in her cooking, and Willow wasn’t too proud to admit to herself that she liked needling her partner just a little. They just had different tastes when it came to food. “According to her resume -- her new one, that is -- she was the assistant to the director at Roswell Parks and Recreation.”
“And what does that really mean?” Tara asked as she cut off a tiny piece of chicken and ate it.
Willow had the decency to blush. “I don’t think you want to know.”
“Probably not.” Tara smiled at Willow. “It’s good of you to help her out, sweetie.”
“I just hope she has the potential to be half as good as Dawnie.”
“Well, in her defense, Dawn is something special.” Tara ate another tiny bit of chicken, this time along with a piece of that purple lettuce Willow could never remember the name of. “She always was.”
“Definitely.” Willow had first met Dawn when she was at UCLA and Dawn was in pre-college courses. Willow had taken the young woman under her wing, especially after finding out Dawn’s mother had died and she was pretty much on her own -- her sister had been her guardian, but Willow had quickly learned that Buffy would rather have been out with her friends than home taking care of a little sister who needed her desperately, especially after their father had fallen out of the picture and pretty much off the face of the planet. The one time she’d met Buffy, Willow had been reminded very much of Cordelia Chase, one of her high school’s ‘mean girls’. Of course, now Cordelia was a famous actress -- her recurring roles in Firefly
had seen to that -- but when Willow and Tara had shown up at the class of ‘99 ten-year reunion, it had been clear that, despite Cordelia’s fame, Willow was definitely more respected. Either that, or her contemporaries had been so flabbergasted by the beautiful blonde on her arm that they couldn’t be bothered to think about the actress they could see on Fox every Thursday night.
Willow gently shook her head and applied herself to her dinner. She hoped that she’d be able to help Buffy -- or, as her resume now said, Elizabeth Anne Summers-Martino. She chuckled at that -- according to Dawn, Buffy’s first name really was Buffy, but she’d changed it when she’d gotten married. Good thing, too; HR really wouldn’t go for someone called Buffy being the assistant to the CTO.+++++
Tara cleared the table and poured two glasses of wine. She carried them out to the solarium; it was warm under the glass, even though an unexpected cold snap had forced them to turn on the upstairs heat over the weekend. Given where Willow worked, Tara tried to avoid making weather-related jokes, but she’d said something on Saturday that had made Willow give her a cross look.
She handed one of the glasses to Willow and sat beside her on the small bench. “You okay, sweetie?”
Willow shrugged, then leaned into Tara; Tara put her arm around her partner. “Just thinking.”
“Oh.” Tara sipped her wine, then set the glass aside. “I know you miss him, sweetie, but we can’t get in touch with him if he doesn’t tell us how.”
“That’s just it.” Willow was playing with her glass; when Tara took it out of her hand and put it beside the other one, Willow didn’t resist. “I offered him a cell phone; I told him I’d put him on a global plan. I don’t care where he is; I just want to talk to him. To know he’s okay.”
“Willow, what brought this on?”
“Just thinking,” Willow said again. “Mostly about Dawn and Buffy.”
Tara kissed Willow’s hair, the dark-red strands silky against her lips. She knew Willow colored her hair -- naturally, it was a much paler shade of red -- but as long as the color didn’t make her hair unpleasant to touch, she didn’t care. Besides, she liked the way it contrasted with Willow’s peaches-and-cream skin. “Siblings are tough,” Tara said. “But Xander’s a better brother than mine.”
“Oh, baby,” Willow said, looking up into Tara’s eyes. “Baby, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have... but I wasn’t thinking, and--”
“It’s okay, Willow. Don’t worry about it.” She kissed Willow softly, first her lips and then her forehead. “You, Xander, and Oz stood up for me when Donny and my father showed up at UCLA to try and make me leave. Even though Xander is out of contact, he still cares about us, and he’d never hurt us on purpose. And Dawn really cares about Buffy. She wants to help her, and you want to help Dawn.”
Willow nodded and snuggled back up against Tara. Tara rubbed Willow’s arm with one hand, and with the other picked up her wineglass. She sipped, content to watch the sky grow darker with the woman she loved.
“Hey, Tara?” Willow said when the sky was almost dark.
“What is it, sweetie?”
“I love you.”
“Love you too.”+++++
+++++Your reviews and/or e-mails are greatly appreciated.Just in case you missed it in the first sentence... three months passed between Chapter One and Chapter Two.The Firefly musical episode has been written. Curse you, plot bunnies! It will be posted, pending some checking into TTH rules, after this story is done.Next time: Buffy makes a new friend.