THREE: Willow, Buffy, Willow
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: Three months after leaving LA, Willow and Tara are settled into their new home in Atlanta. Dawn, Willow's protege, asks her mentor for a favor.+++++
THREE: Willow, Buffy, Willow
"In dreams, we enter a world that's entirely our own." -Steve Kloves, from the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban screenplay
It took almost two weeks to get the paperwork done, but on Monday morning Willow watched from her office as HR brought a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Elizabeth “Buffy” Summers-Martino to the empty desk that had belonged to Ruby for the first two months of Willow’s tenure as CTO. Willow got up from her desk, smoothed out her suit jacket, and went out to meet her new temp.
“‘Morning, Willow,” said Carrie from HR. “This is Elizabeth, but she prefers Buffy. Buffy, this is Willow Rosenberg, our Chief Technology Officer.”
Buffy was dressed in slacks, low-heeled shoes, and a blouse that had been fashionable maybe two years ago. She had blonde hair, though darker than Tara’s, and haggard-looking green eyes. Still, she smiled, and in that smile Willow saw Dawn. She held out her hand. “Good morning, Ms. Rosenberg.”
“Willow, please.” Willow shook Buffy’s hand. She hadn’t remembered Buffy being so short, and with Dawn being so tall Willow had expected to have to look up at her new assistant. Not so much, though
. “Nice to meet you, Buffy.”
“You have my card, Buffy,” Carrie said. “Call me if you need anything. IT will be along this afternoon to get your computer set up and train you on the phone system if you need it.”
Carrie headed back toward the elevator. “Come on,” Willow said. “Let’s talk in my office.”+++++
After an hour and a half of frenzied note-taking, during which Buffy was doing her damnedest to keep up, Willow had left for a meeting, promising to be back in half an hour. Buffy took that opportunity to use the restroom and go through her desk. In the top drawer, under the pen caddy, she found a manila envelope. It wasn’t sealed, so she opened it -- inside was a sheaf of papers with a note on top.Everything you need to know about Willow, by Ruby Kerr
I put this together for whoever takes over for me. I worked for Willow for only two months. In that time I learned she’s very exacting in what she wants. But she’s also very sweet. Do your best, try not to screw up, and she’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. This material should help you.
Buffy grinned and began scanning the pages Ruby had left for her. At 10:25, Buffy put the papers away and went to the break room. This was something Dawn had mentioned to her when they’d talked yesterday. Willow liked cafe mochas, and she’d gotten Facilities to put in one of those programmable coffee machines.
At 10:32, as Willow passed Buffy’s desk, Buffy handed her a mug full of cafe mocha. Willow gave her an odd look, and for a moment Buffy was afraid she’d tried too hard. But then, Buffy had one too -- she wasn’t a huge fan of mochas, but she was smart enough to know that ‘I got you one too’ would go over better than ‘I got you one because I’m sucking up’.
Whatever it was that she was doing, Buffy hoped it worked.
After she finished her coffee, Willow called Buffy back into her office and told her they’d be taking a walk around the floor so she could meet the people she needed to meet. There were a lot of them, and Buffy wasn’t good with names. Faces, yes, but not names. She just hoped that all the notes she was taking would help.
Willow noticed. “Don’t worry too much about it,” she said. “Once you get your computer, the intranet will have pictures of everyone. You can look at them if you want.”
“It’s going to be a laptop,” Willow said as they walked back toward her corner office. “I’m not going to say you have to have it with you 24/7, but if you’re going to a meeting with me, bring it with you. Take it home, but don’t worry about checking e-mail when you’re off the clock. I do want you to put your e-mail on your phone--”
Buffy made a dismayed noise at that.
“What is it?”
Sheepishly, Buffy fished her phone out of her pocket. It was an ancient flip-phone. “I never needed anything more sophisticated than this,” she said. “I don’t think it gets e-mail.”
Willow held out her hand; Buffy gave her the phone, and Willow pecked at the keys. “Well, it does,” she said, “but I don’t think it’s the kind of phone you should be using for that purpose.” She sighed. “You’re a contractor, and we’re really not even supposed to give you a laptop to take home, but that’s just silly. I know they’re not going to approve a phone.”
“I can buy one, if you need me to.”
“No,” Willow said. “You shouldn’t have to do that. Let me see what I can dig up. We’ve got a bunch of old smartphones in the QA department; I’m sure there’s one you can have. Check with me on Wednesday.”
Buffy made a note of that. She glanced at her watch -- 11:45 -- and then at the printed schedule she’d tucked into her notebook. “Got it. Also, you have the Executive Board Weekly Lunch at noon.”
“I know.” Another sigh. “Sorry, not your fault. I just think it’s a waste of time.”
“No,” Willow said. Then she gave Buffy a strange look. “Oh, no, don’t worry, I don’t mean you shouldn’t take lunch breaks. In fact, I encourage it -- and don’t just eat at your desk if you can help it. I want you to make friends around here. Just, you know, keep an eye on the schedule. Try not to come back late. Except Fridays -- I have a ‘meeting’ every Friday from noon to two. Me time. You understand.”
Willow smiled at her. “Okay, Buffy, here’s the thing, right? You need to relax. I promise not to bite your head off or anything. I’m really nice. Didn’t Dawn tell you about me?”
Buffy didn’t say anything. She didn’t know what to say, for starters. She just nodded.
“Well, Dawn is right. I am nice. Or, at least, I try to be. I’m kind to animals, I donate to charity, I made sure that TechnoPagan gave grants to college students, and I don’t yell at my employees.” She leaned forward in her chair, folding her hands on her desk, and Buffy tried not to shrink away. Willow was perhaps the strangest person Buffy had ever met. “Don’t just sit there, okay? I’m a little self-conscious, and if you don’t say something soon...”
Then Willow made a hilarious face, biting her lip and making her bright green eyes extra-wide, and Buffy couldn’t help it. She laughed.
“There you go,” Willow said. “Now, I have to get down to the fourth floor and figure out where I’m being dragged this week. I’ll see you at two, okay?”+
Rather than go out to eat, Buffy decided to brave the company cafeteria. She didn’t realize until she got there that just about everyone went to lunch at noon, and it was just now noon, and the line was growing too quickly for her to check out the different options. She ended up with a turkey club, a bowl of chicken noodle soup, and a large cup of unsweetened tea -- even after all these years in Georgia, she just couldn’t stomach the sweet stuff.
Buffy was halfway through her sandwich when someone stopped at her table. “Hi.” She looked up and gave him a half-smile. “Sorry to bother you, but can I sit here? It’s really crowded in here.”
She swallowed and nodded. “Go ahead.”
“Thanks.” The guy set down his tray -- he must have waited in line for the special of the day, which appeared to be an approximation of pad thai, except that it had spaghetti noodles. “I’m Chris Frost.”
His eyebrows went up at that, but he didn’t make any jokes or reference Buffy Sainte-Marie, which for some reason her mother had decided would be a good famous person to name her after. And as for her last name... well, after she’d left Tony, introducing herself with his last name attached to hers just didn’t seem worth the extra syllables. “What do you do here, Buffy?”
“It’s actually my first day,” she said.
“Well, welcome. I’ve been here for three years now -- art department, up on the seventh floor.”
“I’m on eight.”
“No.” She tried not to blush. “I’m the CTO’s new assistant.”
“That’s cool.” He tried a bite of the special, made a face, and swallowed. “Hope springs eternal.”
“This,” he said, pointing to the pad thai with his fork. “I’ve been getting it for three years, and it never gets any better. How’s that?”
“Okay,” she said. “Better than I expected.”
“Hm.” He shrugged and went back to his food. Buffy decided he seemed nice enough so far. “So how did you find the job here?”
“Cool. That’s how I started too.” He dropped a couple of names from the agency, but she didn’t recognize them. “Where’d you go to school?”
“Cal State LA. I’m from Los Angeles.”
“I’m from Miami,” he said. “Went to Georgia, ended up here. What about family?”
“Just a sister, but she’s still in LA. I have a daughter -- Joy. She’s five.”
Chris nodded. “My daughter is too. What school does she go to?” Buffy told him, and he shrugged. “I don’t live anywhere near there.” He took out an iPhone and showed her a picture of a pretty blond girl with intense blue eyes and a missing tooth. “This is Amanda.”
“She’s adorable. I left my purse in my desk, or I’d show you a picture of Joy.”
“It’s okay.” He ate a little more of his food, but seemed to be avoiding the noodles. Buffy made a mental note not to try the pad thai when it came up again on the menu. “What does your husband do?”
“Oh, hell, I’m sorry,” he said. “I just assumed--”
“Not your fault.” Buffy sipped her tea. “Are you married?”
Chris shook his head. “Not for a year now. I don’t think we ever really got along once Amanda was born.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
Chris smiled. He had a nice smile. “Not your fault.”
“Touché.” Buffy grinned.
They chatted about their pasts for the rest of the lunch hour. Chris had a self-deprecating sense of humor that Buffy didn’t want to laugh at all the time, but she couldn’t help herself. Besides, it was nice to meet someone; she hadn’t had time to make new friends in a long while, not with Tony always off banging his latest conquest -- the girl he’d gotten pregnant hadn’t been the first, and Buffy swore she’d dislocated a finger punching him in the face after that little revelation -- and Joy being almost as needy as Dawn had been after her mother had died and--
No. That was a horrible thing to think. Buffy knew she’d been a bitch to her little sister when she needed her the most, and it had taken years for the two of them to fully reconcile. Plus, Dawn had been helping her out for the past three months, first with money and now with this job, and if that didn’t mean she’d forgiven her sister, then Buffy didn’t know what else she could do.
But Joy was definitely a clingy kid -- much more clingy than Buffy remembered being when she was five.
Chris and Buffy got into the elevator, and he hit the buttons for seven and eight. “Any time you need a break,” he said, “feel free to drop by. I know what it’s like to be the new kid.”
“I’ll try, but Willow’s schedule is pretty packed. I need to find out what I do and don’t need to go to with her. But I’ll e-mail you.”
The doors opened onto the seventh floor. “Nice meeting you, Buffy. See you around.”
Back at her desk, Buffy unlocked the drawer with her purse in it and put away her wallet. IT had been by and dropped off her computer, so she booted it up and read the directions they’d left. The only thing on her desk so far was a photo of herself with Joy -- Dawn’s friend Janice had taken it when she and Joy had gone back to California for Thanksgiving; Tony had said he had to work, but Buffy was pretty sure that had been a lie. Buffy was on her stomach on the grass, chin in her hands, grinning; Joy was leaning over her, as if she was pushing her way into the picture; Dawn was kind of hovering over Buffy’s right shoulder.
Dawn had the same picture in her apartment, except that it was their mother with the two of them.
Buffy felt a pang -- two families now that had been broken, two families that she’d been a part of. First her father’s unceremonious abandonment; then her mother’s death; and finally, Tony.
But she had Joy. And that was of the good.
Buffy logged into Outlook and saw that she had access to both her own e-mails and Willow’s. “Holy cow,” she whispered.
Her boss got a lot
of messages.Well, no time like the present
. Buffy began making folders and started sorting the old messages. It would give her something to do until Willow got back.+++++
“I almost forgot to ask,” Tara said. “How’s Dawn’s sister?”
Tara had had to work late; only now were the two of them getting any time together. They were preparing for bed: Willow in silk pajamas, setting out her clothes for tomorrow; Tara at the vanity, brushing out her long hair.
“She seems nice,” Willow said. She decided on a navy-blue suit with matching pumps and a cream-colored blouse. “Takes a lot of notes.”
“That’s good, right?”
“I guess. She’s a little jumpy, though.”
“Huh.” Tara chuckled. “You sure you didn’t come on too strong for her?”
Willow went into the dressing area and took the brush from Tara’s hand. She loved doing this for her partner; since she’d become CEO of TechnoPagan, Willow had kept her hair at a short, so-called ‘professional’ length, but she missed how it had been in high school and college. At least Tara didn’t have to do that -- people liked their veterinarians to look friendly, and nothing said friendly like a big smile and long, unbound hair. Or maybe that was just her own bias.
“I don’t think I did,” Willow said, running the brush through Tara’s hair. “I mean, I didn’t babble too much, and I tried not to overwhelm her. That’s something, right?”
“Sure is, sweetie. But you told me that Dawn said this is Buffy’s first office job.”
“And you’re high up in a big company. Maybe she’s intimidated by you.”
“Intimidated? By moi
?” Willow put down the brush and took Tara’s hand, drawing her to her feet. When they’d first met, Tara had worn high-heeled boots under long, flowing skirts, and it wasn’t until almost a year into their relationship that Willow had realized she was actually a touch taller. Now she used that extra height, such as it was, putting her hands on Tara’s shoulders and walking her backward until Tara was against the closed bathroom door. “Am I intimidating?”
Tara looked down and away as Willow slid down the shoulder of her partner’s nightgown. They didn’t role-play often, but she knew Tara liked this particular scenario -- liked the thrill of remembering how shy she’d been in college, how long it had taken for the two of them to stop dancing around.
It had happened, Willow knew, kind of like this. With nowhere to run, in Tara’s dorm room, Willow had gently walked Tara backward until she was against the door, and then she’d leaned in and kissed her.
Which she was doing right now.
A couple of minutes later, Tara put her hand on Willow’s cheek and gently pushed her away. “Baby? You okay?”
“I’m fine,” Tara said. Actually, she’d said, “I-I’m f-f-fine,” the stutter she’d had when they’d first met. Willow knew from hearing that that Tara was definitely into it. “Can we just... um...” She inclined her head toward the bedroom proper.
Once they got to the bed, though, that was where the re-enactment stopped. Because as much fun as it was to play, Willow and Tara had been lovers for a long time. There really was no point in pretending they’d never slept together before.
That wouldn’t have been fun at all.+++++
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Next time: Buffy goes out, but Willow stays in.