Chapter 2: Paper Walls
Disclaimer: Paper Walls is by Marc Cohn.
A/N: I'm adding this chapter for the FFA- pairing # 1785, just in case anyone's keeping count...
Willow wearily slid the magnetic card into the door lock and pulled it out. Red light. She tried again, pulling the card out faster. Red light. Damn. “Okay, do I go complain at the front desk, or do I work the mojo? Manager or magic, manager or magic?” Willow weighed the options in her head, as once again the door light refused to flash green. She was about to jinx the doorknob when she heard a familiar voice from behind her. “Can I help you?”
Willow turned around. “Cherry, right?” The woman in halter top and hot pink floral skirt nodded. “What are you doing here?”
“Um, this is my room.”
“Are you sure? I’m in 502.” Willow answered.
“Hate to break it to you…”
Willow glanced up. “Oh, this is 504. Well, at least I won’t have to go complain to the manager.” With a sigh, she picked her brief case up and shifted to the next door where her card worked perfectly. “Sorry about that. Long day.”
“I hear ya.” Cherry answered as she slid her own hotel room card into the lock. The women stood awkwardly in the hall holding their doors open. “So, have a good night?” Cherry finally spoke as she heard the magnetic lock reset.
“Oh, yeah, you too.” Willow answered ducking into her room. She had wanted to say more, but for the life of her, nothing came to mind.
Once inside her room, Willow dropped her bags and headed to the phone. There was a red light flashing, indicating a message. “Well, that’s a relief.” Willow smiled. She had called Kennedy on her first night in Baltimore and two days later she had yet to hear a peep from her girlfriend. She had talked to Buffy the night before who insisted that none of the watchers had noticed anything odd coming from the Brazilian office, so odds were Kennedy wasn’t dead, but a small part of Willow’s mind had been worrying about her girlfriend through all the symposium talks on preternatural healing abilities.
Willow hit the message retrieval button and set it on speaker phone, as she changed out of her stuffy suit. With the first “Hey there, Willow…” Willow winced at the loud sound. She tried turning it down, but then missed the next few words. It seemed this phone had two volumes- yelling and barely audible. She turned it back to yelling and hoped the guests on either side wouldn’t complain about the noise.
“Hi Kennedy.” Willow answered back, even though she knew it was a recording.
“I hope your conference has been going well. Baltimore can be a rocking town, I guess.” The message continued. “I wish.” Willow mumbled, hanging her suit jacket up on the hanger.
“Anyway, it’s been pretty quiet demon-wise since you left...” Willow grinned. “Lucky you.” She replied to the flashing phone light.
“…Which is good, because I’ve been able to do some thinking, and well, I guess what I want to say is, where are we heading?”
Willow stared at the phone. What was that supposed to mean, where are we heading? “I know we met under stressful situations and man the passion and adrenaline were awesome, but I’ve just been thinking that lately things have been kinda fizzley. I don’t think I can really take being in a relationship that depends on an apocalypse to keep it fresh.”
“Fizzley? What do you mean fizzley?” Willow argued at the phone.
“I guess what I mean is, well, this is the first time we’ve been apart since Sunnydale, and well, I think it would be good for both of us to explore this apartness. I hope you’re not mad, but I think it’s for the best. I love you… but I’m not in love with you. I guess that’s all I have to say. Bye.”
“Oh goddess.” Willow muttered sinking into her chair. “Oh goddess.”
On the other side of the wall, Cherry sat with the remote control frozen in her hand. She had already switched into her comfy sweats and had been about to watch television, but the phone from the next room had interrupted her. Had she heard right? Nobody would be that cruel to dump someone over an answering service. Cursing the fact that cats were naturally curious, Cherry dropped the remote on the bed and moved over to the chair against the wall shared with room 502.
Willow picked up the phone intent on calling Kennedy right back and demanding an explanation. She set the phone down again. Kennedy had called during the day when she knew Willow would be in the sessions. That wasn’t like her. Willow picked up the phone again, and started dialing.
“Buon giorno?” A very sleepy voice answered.
“Yeah. Is this a bad time?”
“Probably not in Baltimore, but it is a bit on the early side for Rome.” The slayer muttered into the phone.
“Oh goddess, I’m sorry.”
“No, that’s okay.” Buffy said, although clearly she hadn’t enjoyed being woken up. “So will the world end in fire or ice this week?”
“Neither?” Willow sniffled. “I just needed to talk to someone.”
“Oh.” Buffy paused a second before continuing. “Why didn’t you call Kennedy? Aren’t you on Brazil standard time?”
“It’s about Kennedy.”
“Oh.” Buffy’s voice got considerably darker.
“I think she broke up with me.”
“She left a message on the hotel answering machine.”
“Well, she said that she thought we should explore apartness, and that she loved me, but wasn’t in love with me.”
“Ouch.” Buffy yawned. “Oh well.”
“Oh well?” Willow’s voice squeaked.
“What do you want me to say? That anyone could see this coming from a mile away? That you’re too good for her? That maybe she’s got a point? It’s freaking septimo o’clock in the morning. Is that a septimo? Cinco? Whatever.” Buffy muttered. “Anyway, can we talk about this after I’ve had an espresso or something? I know it probably is sucking right now, but honestly Wills, I know you. You’ll be fine in a little while, and maybe you’ll see in a few days what Xander and I have been telling you for months now.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right.” Willow said, thoroughly unconvinced.
“See, you’ll be fine.” Buffy yawned again. “Have fun in Baltimore. You’re on vacation after all.”
“Vacation, right.” Willow snorted.
“Hey, when in doubt, just remember, you could be scrubbing demon goo off of the ceiling. Compared to that, this isn’t that bad.”
“Okay. Well, you sound tired, so I’ll let you get back to bed.”
“Good night. Love ya!” Buffy said as she hung up. A very dejected Willow peeled off the rest of her suit, hanging it up as she went.
Cheery didn’t breathe a sigh of relief until she heard the shower turn on in the next room. She went back to her bed and picked up her phone and dialed.
“Hello, you have reached the Blake residence.”
Cherry smiled. Only Nathaniel answered the phone like that. Normally Anita would just bark her name into the phone, and the rest of the cats generally stuck to a nondescript greeting like, ‘whazzup?’. “Hey Nathaniel. It’s me.”
“Cherry! How’s life in the big city?”
“Last I checked Baltimore wasn’t really that much bigger than St. Louis.” Cherry replied. “Is Zane there?”
“Oh, no, I’m sorry, you just missed him. He picked up an extra shift at the Circus tonight, so that he could surprise you when you got home, and I shouldn’t have said that.” She could hear Nathaniel blushing on the other end of the phone.
“Don’t worry, I’ll still act surprised. Is Anita there?”
“Nope, she’s got a case going right now. Sorry.”
“Oh.” Well, there went Cherry’s chance of getting a female’s opinion on what to do. Of course, considering their personalities, Nathaniel might be the better person to ask for advice from anyway. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Of course.” Nathaniel replied. “Unless it involves what Zane’s plans are, because I’m sworn to secrecy about it.”
“No, it’s more about this girl I met.”
“Actually, she’s going to the same conference and she’s in the hotel room next to mine. We got to talking during the coffee break, and she’s really cool.”
“So you’ve made a friend. That’s excellent!”
“Well, except, I think I just did something wrong.”
“Well, she had a phone message, and you know how thin these walls are.”
“And preternatural hearing, I know! Hotels are kind of creepy.” Of course, in Nathaniel’s experience, hotels were creepy for all sorts of other reasons, but being supernaturally able to hear through the sketchy motel walls had certainly factored into his loathing of them.
“Anyway, her girlfriend broke up with her… by a phone message.”
“What did you do?”
“Well, she then tried to call her friend.”
“Oh. That’s good; friends are good. What did her friend do?”
“It sounded like her friend blew her off, saying it was doomed to fail, and that she’ll get over it.”
“Ouch.” Nathaniel winced.
“So what did you do?”
“She’s in the shower now.” Cherry tilted her head to listen and make sure the water was still running. “Doh.” She moaned.
“She’s crying in the shower. It sounds awful, and I know she wouldn’t want me to be listening in.”
“Oh.” Nathaniel sympathetically whimpered. “You’ve got to do something.”
“But what? I can’t go tell her I heard her get dumped.”
“Take her out for dinner?”
“I can’t leave the hotel.”
“Order in room service?”
“I don’t know. That’s very expensive.” Cherry chipped at her nail polish.
“So what? Jean Claude is paying for your trip.” Nathaniel answered resolutely. “Get something lavishly ridiculous and then offer to watch cheesy movies with her all night long.”
“Is that an order?” Cherry grinned.
“Well…” Nathaniel hedged his tone, not used to issuing commands. “It’s better than listening to her cry all night, isn’t it? And you’re always saying how you want girl friends to do girly things with. Here’s your chance.”
“Okay. I’ll try. Thanks.”
“Any time. Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?”
“Not really. You’ve been a great help.”
“That’s what pards are for.” Nathaniel answered. “So, I’ll let Zane and Anita know you called?”
“Sure, and let Zane know that I’ll call back tomorrow.” Once they’d said goodbye, Cherry picked up the room service menu. By the time she had placed her order, the shower had switched off. Taking a deep breath, she grabbed her room key and headed out, only to knock on the next door over.
Cherry could hear some shuffling and the chain slide aside before the door opened. “Can I help you?” Willow answered, wiping her eyes. “Oh, hi Cherry.”
“Hi. I was just wondering, well, I was in a weird mood and ordered the s’mores special from room service, but after I ordered I realized that the platter is supposed to be for four people. I was wondering if you wanted to come over and, um, have a s’mores party?”
“S’mores?” Willow blinked, causing the towel turban on her head to slip down a bit.
“Is that a regional term? They’re graham cracker sandwiches with marshmallows and chocolate.” Cherry blushed.
“We had s’mores in California. I just hadn’t really planned on going out.” Cherry couldn’t help but think Willow looked much younger dressed in kitty pajamas, than she had this afternoon in a business suit.
“Oh.” Cherry frowned. “It’s not really going out. It’s just one room over and I was going to wear pajamas too. We could watch Teen Wolf. I think it’s on tonight.” She tried to sweeten the pot.
“Just a minute.” Cherry heard Willow sneak back into the bathroom and blow her nose. She then caught the tail end of Willow’s self pep-talk. “Carpe diem, carpe diem.”
The redhead peaked her head back out just as the room service attendant arrived. “Did either of you two ladies order s’mores?” Cherry nodded, and signed the slip to charge it to her room. The waiter handed her the large tray, requiring both her hands to balance it.
“Goddess, that’s a lot of marshmallows.” Willow eyed the tray.
“It would be a shame to have to throw so many away for just me.” Cherry tsked.
“Yeah, it would, wouldn’t it?” Willow agreed. “Do you need help with your door?”
“If you don’t mind. My card’s in my pocket.” Willow fished the card out and quickly opened Cherry’s door, holding it for both of them to pass through. “So you’re staying?” Cherry smiled.
“Sure.” Willow replied, deciding that anything was better than being alone in her own room. The girls set down the tray and each stuck a marshmallow on the end of their fondue fork. As the marshmallows turned nice golden colors in the small sterno flame, Cherry raised her fork in a toast. “Just as my old girl scout troop used to sing, ‘Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other is gold.”
“Here’s to silver friends.”
"You know, that's sort of ironic." Willow thought, as she remembered all the talks about silver allergies she had attended that morning.
"No, it's not. It's a marshmallow."