The Reception Deception Dilemma
A/N: Disclaimer, crossover, spoilers, etc. are all given in chapter 1.
Penny rushed into the office building. She was SO late. This was so not good. What was she going to tell Buffy? What was she going to tell Lorraine? This wasn’t like lying to Sheldon, who was never even going to notice unless it involved something in his own little insular world.
Wait a minute. When did she start using words like ‘insular’? She was really hanging around geniuses too much.
There was a Slayer sitting in the receptionist spot. Oh god, was this her fault? Was she supposed to be sitting there? Was she making a Slayer do receptionist things? And was a Slayer going to get mad at her for having to do receptionist things? She sort of had an idea about what a Slayer could do, even if it was only from hearing about the sorts of things they fought, but if she got beat up, how was she going to explain it to Leonard? Or Bernadette? Because she couldn’t tell them the truth.
If she showed up at her apartment in a cast, she didn’t think Sheldon would realize he was supposed to be concerned, unless Amy explained first.
She said to the girl, “I’m really sorry I’m late. You’re Molly, right?” The girl just nodded. “You’re not stuck here because I’m late, are you?”
Molly said in a really thick Irish accent, “No, I’ve got receptionist duty two days a week this month. You’re supposed to be meeting Lorraine back in her office.” Molly checked a clipboard Penny couldn’t see. “Umm, looks like you were supposed to be there about thirty minutes ago.”
“Ugh,” Penny groaned.
She was doomed. This was like one of those videogame escort missions. They set you up, they got you trying to do your job, and then they threw some impossible roadblock in your way.
Oh god, she was turning into Leonard. She was actually comparing her life to a video game. If she ever started acting like Sheldon and comparing her life to quantum mechanics, she was going to throw herself under a bus.
Oh god, at what point did her life go so weird that she actually had ‘quantum mechanics’ in her working vocabulary?
And what was she going to tell Lorraine? And Buffy? Should she tell them the truth about taking Sheldon to the podiatrist? Buffy had met Sheldon, after all. But would she be in more trouble if she told the truth, or if she made up something more believable?
Molly pointed toward the door and said, “Room 7.” And she handed Penny a clip-on badge.
Oddly, the badge tingled when she took it and clipped it on the waistband of her skirt. She walked over to the door, which had scribbles painted all around the doorframe. She wondered if this was just random graffiti she was going to have to scrub off as part of her job. Was the place available because the last tenants scribbled on things and marked up the walls and stuff? Jeez, that would be worse than having Sheldon walking around writing physics formulas all over the walls.
Penny got a small shock when she touched the doorknob, which seemed weird, since it wasn’t metal. She’d never seen an ivory doorknob before, but that was what it looked like. She walked through the door and headed down the hallway toward room 7.
The door into room 7 was open, but she figured she’d better treat this like an interview. An interview with Sheldon. After all, she was incredibly late, and her new boss wasn’t the one who hired her, and might even be really ticked off that she was stuck with Penny for a secretary. She knocked on the doorframe.
The fiftyish woman in the tweed suit turned and stared at her. Penny was suddenly reminded of Leonard’s mother, and she had to make an effort not to cringe. The woman spoke in plummy English tones. “May I assume from the time of day that you are the proverbial bad Penny?”
“Umm, I’m really sorry about that, ma’am, but I had to fill in for a friend and take Sheldon to the podiatrist.” Dammit, there went the chance to make up something that would get her some sympathy. “Someone else is picking him up afterward.”
“And just how old is this Sheldon? Twelve?
Penny admitted, “He’s around forty, but he doesn’t drive, and he hates the bus.”
“Why doesn’t he drive? This is Los Angeles. Has he lost his license?”
Penny stepped into the room. “He’s the smartest physicist at Cal Tech. He has an IQ of 187. And he’s the last person I know who should be operating a car. Which is really saying something, because my brother’s a meth addict.”
The woman snorted inelegantly. “I take it you have yet to ride with Buffy. Or Faith.”
The woman made a gesture toward a chair, and Penny quickly sat down. “Please, just call me Lorraine.”
Penny said, “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather I called you something a little more formal?”
Lorraine grimaced slightly. “No, a couple of Buffy’s fellow directors have made that quite
Penny recognized the facial expression. It was rather like Amy trying to get her to ask for more details, only Amy would stop and say ‘this is the point where you are supposed to be cognizant that I want you to ask for more details’. “How did they do that?”
Lorraine said, “Buffy and her fellow Scoobies are less than… formal. I thought it was amusing that they pestered Rupert Giles, our international director, by calling him ‘G-Man’.”
Scoobies? Buffy had explained about the monster hunting part, so was this a Scooby-Doo in-joke? She figured she’d ask Buffy sometime. She said, “I take it you overlooked the whole ‘hubris’ deal.”
Lorraine smiled for the first time. “Buffy didn’t tell me you had intelligence or vocabulary. Good. Yes, I overlooked my own hubris. My last name is ‘Goodbody’. A strong family name that has been associated with Council researchers for centuries. After Xander and Faith turned it into a veritable series of rude comedy routines, I had little choice other than answering to my first name only.”
“I’m sorry about that,” Penny said. It wasn’t as if many of her friends had normal last names. And the two with the most normal names – Cooper and Fowler – were the two weirdest friends she had.
“Now then,” Lorraine said, looking through several pages of notes. “Buffy neglected to provide me with a resume for you, or a curriculum vitae, or even a list of recommendations. That makes the process rather cumbersome.”
Penny said, “I can give you some names right now, if it will help. Dr. Leonard Hofstadter of the Cal Tech physics department. Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler, neurobiologist. And Dr. Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz, microbiologist. I have all their phone numbers.”
“Are these employers?”
Penny admitted, “No, they’re friends. My only long-term employer since I’ve been in L.A. is the Cheesecake Factory in Pasadena, where I’ve waitressed, and there’s a bar where I’ve bartended. I don’t think either job is exactly ‘executive secretary’ material. And I haven’t been able to get work as an actress.”
Lorraine nodded. “That part makes you quite normal for the area. Now then. I see that… the girls like you, you get along well with Buffy, and you know about what goes bump in the night. Those three points make you already as qualified as anyone I have interviewed over the past year. But let me ask you a few questions.”
“Go right ahead,” Penny smiled. She figured she couldn’t do too badly, after all the times when she had been grilled at casting calls.
“How well do you handle sarcasm?”
Penny grinned, “I’ve been accused of dishing out too much, being too subtle with my sarcasm, and also enjoying it a bit too much, but I haven’t been accused of not being able to handle it.”
“Good, because you’ll need that ability as soon as either Xander or Faith visits. Or Dawn, come to think of it.” Lorraine glanced at her papers. “How well do you handle obsessive behaviors? We have a number of girls who are unable to go anywhere without a sword or axe.”
She nearly giggled. “You are asking someone who just drove an obsessive-compulsive hypochondriac to a podiatrist’s appointment because he has a driver’s license and won’t drive. All the guys are obsessive about science and gaming, and they all have their own little compulsive behaviors, except Sheldon, who only has massive compulsive behaviors.”
“All right… How well do you handle extremely… annoying young men who are entirely over-focused on science fiction?”
She laughed out loud. “I live across the hall from science nerds who do nothing but
focus too much on science fiction and comic books and videogaming.”
Lorraine said, “I think you may be underestimating how annoying Andrew can be.”
She leaned forward. “Does he wear a custom bowling shirt just to play Wii bowling? Does he have his own Flash costume? Has he ever ‘punished’ someone by refusing to let them be on his Halo team? Does he correct everyone and everything constantly? Is he a hypochondriac who needs the people around him to drive him to and from his assorted medical and dental appointments? I really doubt your Andrew is anywhere near the level of nerdity that Sheldon Cooper has. Sheldon doesn’t just have nerdity. He has full frontal nerdity.”
Lorraine laughed at that and said, “A sense of humor. That answers one of my later questions. Now then. What about computer literacy?”
Penny shrugged. “I don’t work with the usual kinds of things you probably have around here. I can do email or Facebook or Skype or any of half a dozen other social networking programs, because my friends are into them. And videogames.”
Lorraine’s eyebrows rose. “Hmm. Videogames… Could you cover the L.A. office for a spot in a Warcraft guild?”
Penny grinned, “Sure. I do lots of stuff like that already. If I can import my own Warcraft character, it’d be even better.”
Lorraine breathed a sigh of relief. “You’re hired. You just saved us a massive hassle. So your first assignment is to Skype Andrew Wells and tell him you’re our Warcraft guild member, and then check with him about a ritual he’s supposed to be working on for us.”
Penny asked, “Don’t you want me to get you coffee or tea or something first?”
Lorraine sighed, “No one out here knows how to make a proper cup of tea.”
Penny said, “I can find out.” She pulled out her phone and texted Raj. need howto on making tea for a brit
About twenty seconds, a text came back. good for you! bottled water. steel pot. bone china. loose tea.
Penny looked at her phone and asked, “Do you have a stainless steel pot, bone china, and loose tea?”
Lorraine looked shocked. “Good lord, who did you phone to get this?”
Penny said, “Raj. He’s from India. He’s another of my physicists. I couldn’t list him as a recommendation, because he can’t talk to women. At all.”
“But he can text?” Lorraine smiled. She led Penny down the hall to a break room, where there was an electric kettle tucked back near the wall on the counter. Lorraine slid the kettle to the front of the counter. She said, “Slayers can be lovely people, but they can break anything
. Don’t let them use your laptop or your phone or anything you treasure. Rumor says that Buffy still goes through a couple alarm clocks a month.”
Penny opened her mouth to ask how that was possible, and then she had a mental image of one of Sheldon’s superheroes crushing an alarm clock while still sleepy. “Oh.”
She glanced at her phone. Raj had a new text for her. 20C H2O. full boil. 1 rounded tsp loose tea in cup. pour boiling H2O over tea leaves, stir well, cover cup w lid, brew 4 min
It took her a few seconds to figure out what Raj meant. But finally she remembered a big argument Sheldon and Raj once had about ‘room temperature’ and whether 20 degrees Centigrade was really ‘room temperature’ for a real room. So 20C H2O was room temperature water. Really, why couldn’t they just say normal words?
And what on earth had happened to her brain that she could even figure out things like ‘20C H2O’ now?
When she had the tea brewed, Lorraine showed her where she had some real cream hidden in the fridge, and some turbinado sugar hidden in a cupboard. Apparently, Slayers went through food like starving frat boys.
Lorraine took a sip and sighed with pleasure. “Penny, you’re a life saver. I would like a cup of tea each morning, and again around three each afternoon. I’ll supply the sugar, the cream, and the tea, and you’ll need to hide each of them again when you’re done. And thank your friend Raj for me.”Hey Raj, Lorraine says thanks, you want to talk to her?
About thirty seconds later, there was a reply that was nothing but periods. Maybe she needed to stop teasing him about that.
She found that she had her own little room, instead of just a desk in front of Lorraine’s office. Lorraine said it was because Penny was going to end up doing secretarial stuff for pretty much everyone, sooner or later. She sat down at her nice, clean desk that was so sterile it looked like Sheldon had been in there. She needed to bring some stuff in and humanize the room. She got some notepads and post-it notes and pens from Molly. At least Molly let her have some cute post-its, instead of the plain yellow ones Lorraine liked.
She so needed some pictures. And maybe a couple small plants for the windowsill. And an organizer. And some stuff so it looked like a room. But not a whiteboard. No way.
She turned on the computer and checked what the NSAWC had on it. Their own private international network, apparently. She wondered if someone in the Council was a big IT brain. Email, Skype, word processing and spreadsheet stuff she’d need to figure out how to use, calendar software, to-do list software, meeting organizer, online meeting software… She tried the Skype icon and found ‘Andrew Wells’. click
“You have reached the lair of Andrew The Wise
! Speak now, mortal, or be prepared to face your DOOM!”
Okay, big problem.
Suddenly, there was a nerdy blond guy nervously looking into a webcam. “Uh-oh. You’re not one of the L.A. people. Umm, sorry about that. I… umm… thought it was maybe Lorraine. Please, don’t tell Buffy.”
she knew how to deal with. “It’s okay. I’m Penny. I’m Buffy’s new secretary.”
“Oh goddesses, why couldn’t it be Lorraine?”
She vividly remembered when Sheldon set up a mammoth prank on Kripke, and it went disastrously wrong, with glop pouring on the university president and images getting uploading to the internet before the guys could stop it. She was already feeling oddly at home with Andrew. She said, “It’s okay. It’ll just be our little secret.”
“Ohh, thank you thank you thank you! What do you need? My firstborn male child? An attack of flying monkey demons on your enemies? Just tell me.”
She managed not to smile. But she sort of suspected that Andrew was less likely to ever have a ‘firstborn male child’ than Raj. She said, “Lorraine wanted an update on a ritual you’re working on? And I’m going to be the L.A. Warcraft guild member.”
Andrew winced at that. “Okay, first, we’ve figured out we’re going to need five simultaneous rituals to crack that building, and we have two prepared and two under way, but the fifth may be a problem. Tell Lorraine it may require a willow-level spell. She’ll know what that means.”
Penny carefully took notes on a pad. She didn’t know why they had levels based on trees, but she’d seen way weirder stuff in Sheldon’s apartment. Like the rankings on that bizarre ‘which species would you prefer to be crossed with’ argument. She still thought Sheldon’s idea was incredibly stupid, even if the guys all let him pick it as the best answer. She could think of twenty animals that would be way better than ‘lichen’. She just said, “Got it.”
“Okay, second. It’s not World of Warcraft. We have a solid guild here already. It’s Age of Conan.”
“That’s even better!” Penny squealed. “I love Age of Conan. Can I bring my character over to your guild?”
“Who’s your character?” Andrew asked.
“I’m known as Lady Penelope, and-”
“YOU’RE Lady Penelope? THE Lady Penelope?” This time it was Andrew who was squealing. Wow, and she thought Raj was girly sometimes.
“Yep, live and in the flesh.”
He bowed at his desk and said, “Your Highness, you hereby have right of first choice on raid times. I, Andrew the Wise, so say it.”
He grinned, “I can’t believe Buffy hired Lady Penelope! This is almost as awesome as the time I got to fight alongside Sheldor, hero of the Eastern Kingdoms, on his mighty battle ostrich-”
“Glenn,” she interrupted. “His battle ostrich is named Glenn.”
Andrew dropped his pen. “You know the mighty Sheldor too? WE’RE NOT WORTHY!”
She couldn’t stop smiling. This was going to be the best job ever.