Chocolate Cherries are not a bar food.
See Chapter 1.--- --- ---[February 14 cont.]
Willow, Kennedy, and Ginny found a table in a quiet corner far enough from the door that they would have some advance warning when Buffy arrived. With Kennedy getting their drinks, leaving her alone with Willow, and feeling energized after a quick dinner, Ginny asked about something she'd been dying to find out about for the past month and hadn't had a chance to until now. "Willow, can I ask you something?"
"Sure, go ahead." Willow smiled at her.
"Whose idea was this quest you are going on? Really?"
Willow raised an eyebrow at her. "What do you mean?"
"Well...", she checked to make sure Kennedy wasn't headed back their way yet. She'd already noticed her opinion of the quest idea. "Miss Greenwoode and the coven believe it is their idea but when I talked with Mr. Giles last month he was under the impression it was his idea. And I was wondering why?"
"Really?" Willow just grinned at her.
"We'll explain the whole thing later, if you really want to know how it happened, but you are correct. It really wasn't their idea. Either of them."
"Yes, we. Buffy and I. This probably isn't the best place to go into it," she leaned closer to Ginny. "but you will need to know why you're really here before I leave anyway. Getting them to think it was their own idea was actually something Buffy came up with, with a little help from her sister." Looking at the returning brunette slayer. "It would probably be a good idea to keep it to yourself."
"Keep what to herself?" asked a curious Kennedy as she sat down facing the dance floor.
"I was giving her tips on Buffy control."
Ginny blushed at the comment but Kennedy just grinned at her and winked. "If you need any real tips I've got a few."
"Not those kind of tips." snorted Willow. "Besides, I don't think she needs our help with that sort of thing." Ginny blushed even redder. "So Ginny, we really need to set Dawn up with someone nice. You have six brothers. Are any of them free?"
Kennedy choked on her drink at Willow's blatant declaration. "Willow..."
"What?" Willow gazed innocently at Kennedy.--- --- ---
Buffy wasn't sure why she'd allowed Dawn to drag her out of her room. She hadn't quite finished using the 'get out of a grump guilt free' card she felt she deserved after the Tokyo trip and if she had to spend any time with this new Wiccan over the next few days without frightening her away she never would. Definitely a waste of a bad mood to cut it short so soon.
Having to inhale her dinner in the form of a sandwich on the way to the club had not helped improve her mood. But, on reflection, it certainly beat sitting in her room, depressed because she hadn't heard from Ginny in three days.
She hadn't realized how much she'd come to depend on Ginny's bright and cheery messages, no matter how trivial, to start her day off in a good mood until she'd spent the previous month with almost no contact from her while Ginny had been out of town training for her mysterious new job. A couple quick messages from Ginny passed along by her flatmate hadn't been much of a substitute. And the few times she'd been able to call her over the past few months had been at the end of an exhausting day.--- --- ---
With Dawn insisting on driving, they arrived at the club fairly quickly. Even though Buffy's driving skills had improved to the point that her friends jokingly claimed she was no longer a menace in heavy traffic, Dawn had refused to let her drive while eating the sandwich she'd managed to grab from the kitchen on their way out the door.
"Cool, looks like Willow saved us a spot." she said, pulling into the last free spot in the crowded parking lot that the other cars seemed to be ignoring.
"Isn't there some Wiccan rule about such things? Especially on a Hellmouth?"
"Nah! That stuff was written long before cars were invented. There's probably some rule about where you park your horse though. Or maybe your cow?" she mumbled. "Or was that 'Bad things happen if you leave your cow with Enkidu'?"
Buffy just stared at her.
"Sorry. One of those days. Stupid Sumerian prophecy of the week. You might want to get rid of those crumbs before we go in." Dawn pointed out, glancing over at her sister as she grabbed her purse and buttoned her coat against the cold. "Let's go find Willow."
After paying the cover for both of them, and with Dawn still grumbling about the 'evil stamp of no drinking' she'd earned at the entrance after they'd handed over their coats, Buffy started searching the crowds for any sign of Willow or Kennedy. She could tell there was a slayer in the room by a slight tingling at the back of her neck but it was too crowded to pinpoint where the feeling was coming from.
"Dawn, do you see them?" Finally a use for a taller sister, Buffy thought with a grin.
"I see a redhead and a brunette" and another redhead she thought to herself. "And maybe someone else over there." She pointed to a far corner. "Why don't you get our drinks and I'll head over there."
Buffy raised an eyebrow at the peremptory order from her sister but given a choice she would rather get the drinks herself than take whatever Dawn would end up with. She shuddered at the thought of the kind of drink experiment her sister was capable of convincing a bartender to make and headed towards the bar.--- --- ---
Spotting Dawn sitting next to Willow and Kennedy, and someone she couldn't quite make out in the shadows, Buffy made her way over to their table.
"Hey guys. Nice table." she said, not really looking at them as she checked out their proximity to the dance floor.
"Um, Buffy?" Willow asked.
"What?" She noticed everyone was looking at her.
"Did you forget something?"
"Not that I know of..." answered a puzzled Buffy. "Though isn't there someone you wanted me to meet? Where is she?"
"We're all here." Willow gestured at everyone sitting at the table.
Dawn noticed that Buffy's eyes seemed to slide right past Ginny without any sign of recognition. "Hey! It worked."
"Hush Dawn! Don't ruin it." Willow muttered and then a little louder "Buffy, why don't you say hello? I'm sure she doesn't bite."
"Not in public anyway." said a voice Buffy hadn't heard since leaving for her Tokyo trip. She turned towards it, her jaw dropping in astonishment. "Ginny?"
"Hey!" Ginny grinned at her nervously.
"What are you doing in Cleveland?"
"My new job is here."
"New job?" A thought occurred to Buffy. "Uh, Willow...? Something you forget to tell me? About the person you wanted me to meet?"
"No. No forgetting going on here." Willow grinned. "Kennedy? Dawn? Why don't we dance?"
"Willow, I don't feel like dancing." Dawn whined.
Kennedy allowed Willow to pull her from her seat with a muttered "Yeah, this is just getting good."
"Dawn!" Willow said a little louder.
"Okay!" she grumbled and joined them.
"So..." Buffy shook off her surprise, putting two and two together. "How long do you plan on being in Cleveland?" she asked.
"As long as you want me... here." Ginny hoped Buffy couldn't see her blush.
"And the whole 'witch' thing? You were going to tell me when?" Buffy asked quietly. She was surprised she hadn't figured it out herself. And she really needed to have a chat with Willow about keeping secrets like this from her.
"Eventually." Ginny shrugged, trying to not make a big deal about it. "Before introducing you to my family. They don't exactly hide it."
"Oh. Your family does magic also? And you want me to meet them?" Buffy wasn't quite sure what to make of that.
"Yes. And yes, the next time we're both in London." She shifted nervously in her seat. "If you don't mind. They aren't exactly normal."
"Uh Ginny, slayer here. Not exactly normal myself." She looked at Ginny closely. "How long have you known about slayers?"
"Not very long. Mr. Giles told me when the Coven sent me to see him about the job. And he gave me a couple books." She reached over and patted Buffy's hand reassuringly. "You were doing a good job of not telling me. I was very surprised when I found out."
"Sorry. I would have told you soon. Probably during my next trip to London." She cleared her throat, trying not to show how Ginny's touch was affecting her. "Every time I've tried to keep it a secret it eventually blows up in my face. You aren't angry are you?"
"No. I understand keeping secrets like that." Ginny stood up and held her hand out to Buffy. "And enough about secrets for now. I'm sure we both still have plenty to share but I think you owe me a dance first."
"Wasn't that dinner I promised you if you came to Cleveland?"
"Possibly." Ginny grinned, pulling Buffy out onto the dance floor.--- --- ---[February 15]
Standing in front of Ginny's door, Buffy had to gather her nerve for a minute before knocking. They'd had fun the night before dancing and talking but that didn't necessarily mean that Ginny would be willing to get up so early to have breakfast with her.
"Yes?" came a distant voice.
"It's Buffy. I was wondering if you wanted to go down to breakfast in an hour or so. Before it gets crowded."
Ginny opened her door to find Buffy standing there in brightly colored sweats. "I would love to. Where are you off to now?"
"Morning exercise. Need to burn off some extra energy. One of those slayer perks the books don't talk about. You can come along if you want to." she said hopefully.
"I would love to. Give me a minute." Ginny smiled at her before closing her door and rummaging in her sparse possessions for something appropriate to wear. Quickly changing, she rejoined Buffy in the hallway. "What kinds of exercises do you do to start your day?"
"It really depends. Some things, like Tai Chi, are an everyday thing, long runs if the weather is appropriate, and some light weight training on non-running days. A slayer doesn't really need any strength training. That's already taken care of. But anything that helps with endurance and control helps."
"Control?" Ginny asked.
"Yes. We went through a lot of door knobs until Willow came up with those ID cards. I'm not too thrilled with such things myself but some slayers find it harder to control their strength than others when they first start out so everything we can do helps."
"Oh." Ginny followed her out into a small courtyard being warmed by the sun. "This is nice. A lot warmer than I would expect for this time of year."
"One of the useful perks of being a slayer here. Something Willow did so we wouldn't go stir crazy in the winter if we can't go outside." Buffy smiled, thinking about her first reaction to a Cleveland winter. "Training in the snow isn't as much fun as you might think and restless slayers can be hard on the furniture."
"Could you show me what you do on a day like this?"
"Sure. I'm not sure if you are familiar with Tai Chi?"
"The older coven members do something they claim is similar but I haven't had a chance to learn it yet."
"Why don't I show you some of the basic moves? And then you can watch the rest?"
"I would like that very much." she said smiling at Buffy.--- --- ---
Willow watched them from the window in her office for a few minutes before turning to Dawn. "You know, there are worse reasons than love to want to fight evil."
"She reminds you of Tara doesn't she?" Dawn asked quietly.
"Only a little. Mostly in the way she was willing to join us to be with the person she loves. It really isn't her fight, but she's here anyway."
"Hopefully Buffy doesn't blow this one. She really needs someone like that." Dawn said wistfully.
"Yes. And we'll help her realize it." Willow looked through the papers on her desk. "Now where were we..."--- --- ---Continued in The Other Girl