Meet Me at the Fair
Disclaimer: not my characters, and not my universe. I just couldn't resist playing with them for a little bit.
Meet Me at the Fair
I looked through the folder Mary had left on my desk. According to the contents, Theodore and Sabine Delacroix were looking for someone to raise their grandmother. They wanted to interview the lot of us at Animators, Inc. in order to find the 'right' animator for the job, whatever that meant to them, and were offering a big fat retainer check so Bert felt like they could be picky. To me, it indicated that they were probably going to be pains in the asses to work with, so I was going to do everything I could to not so gently nudge them over to picking Larry or Jamison for the job instead. Those guys were a lot more diplomatic with those kinds of difficult clients than I was. So I'd dressed for battle, so to speak, pulling a black coat on that covered my olive green suit, and getting out the Guilty Pleasures souvenir coffee mugs Bert didn't even know I had in my desk. I'd just poured my third cup of the morning when Mary softly knocked at my office door.
"Anita, your 11:30 appointment is here."
"Send them in." A man and a woman entered the office and made their way to my desk. The man looked like a middle aged accountant- slightly rumpled blue suit, slightly balding brownish hair, slightly too much weight around his middle. The woman was around the same age but she had the look of a pr consultant. Her blue suit was immaculate and perfectly tailored, and her face and blond hair were unmoving and overly glossy.
"Hello, I'm Theodore Delacroix, and this is my cousin Sabine." We shook hands. I got a little bit of a shock off of Sabine when our hands touched. She didn't feel like she had the power of a full blown witch; it was more like she was slightly sensitive to magic and either didn't realize it or denied it. Maybe her sensitivity was the reason why they were animator shopping, but just because there was a reason didn't mean that I wanted them as my clients. I made sure the stripper side of my mug was facing outwards as they took seats in front of my desk.
"It's good to meet you. Now how can I help you?" Sabine glanced at Theodore, and he began to talk.
"I hate to have to do this. Grandmother should be able to rest in peace, but Sabine and I, we have to protect our own families in the mess. Grandmother died three years ago, and her will has been in probate ever since."
"Grandma owned a lot of land near Branson, you see." Sabine continued. "Including frontage and acreage on Table Rock Lake. Her will set aside certain percentages of the land to go to her children and grandchildren. But we haven't been able to work out who gets the land on the lake, and who gets the less valuable land inland."
"Add in that some of the cousins want to sell out their share to developers who only want certain parts of the land, and it's a real mess. If we had the chance to get everyone together to talk to Grandmother for a couple of hours, it is our hope that we can resolve the issues and that those who want to sell can sell and fully fund their childrens' college funds. We wanted to talk with different people in your office because the situation requires a certain amount of diplomacy, and we wanted to make sure that whoever we hired could properly tactful."
"Honestly, Mr. and Ms. Delacroix, I'm probably the wrong person for the job. Everyone here will agree that tact is not my strong point." I tapped one fingernail against the contraband coffee mug. "They keep me around because I'm the best at handling the technically difficult animating jobs, not because of my sunny personality. Everyone here is more than capable of raising someone as recently dead as your grandmother, and you'd probably be more comfortable working with one of those people. I think Jamison Clarke would be a good fit. I can walk you over to his office now before he leaves for lunch, if you like." Jamison still owed me big time for effectively dumping the whole Vonetta Fairchild mess on me last month. Four seperate ex-husbands all trying to get their parts of her estate, and two of them had ended up falling into an open grave.
"We appreciate your honesty, Ms. Blake." Theodore said. "And if you could introduce us to Mr. Clarke, we really would like to remedy this unfortunate problem as soon as possible." I got up from my desk, and led the two down the hallway, wishing it was that easy to get rid of potentially annoying clients every time.
I sat in the food court of the main terminal of Lambert-St. Louis Airport waiting for Anya's plane to touch down. As I eyed the arrivals screen, I poked at my hot fudge sundae, thinking about how there were many other things I would much rather be doing with chocolate syrup come the night. Yes, it was going to be very good to see my girlfriend for only the second time in the six months since I'd gotten myself stuck in the Gateway City. I'm doing my best to be faithful to her and hadn't messed up on with yet, but it was going to be good to not feel like a damn monk for a couple of days.
After what seemed like hours of staring, but what was probably closer to twenty minutes, the screen refreshed and announced that flight 2294 from Los Angeles had arrived at some gate in A terminal. I picked up the remains of my ice cream, tossing it in the nearest trash can. Even though the food court was crowded, people seemed to be giving me a little extra space as I walked across the area. I don't know if it was subconscious on their part, or if I still needed to work on camoflaging that whole jumpy-seeming shifter energy yet. I'd have to get some feedback from Jason on that next time we talked. He had said that most people took two years to learn to control their inner puppy as well as I'd learned in six months, but it still wasn't coming quick enough for me. By all accounts, active Hellmouths weren't easy places for lycanthropes to live, but I still wanted to be able to go home some day.
I made it to the exit of A Terminal just in time to see a stream of people walking out past the security checkpoint, and picked a spot just off to the side with the rest of the meeting and greeting crew. The flow continued: business travelers, families with small children who had their own little wheelies, a traveling teenage baseball team from Glendale complete with matching t shirts to tell me who they were, Willow Rosenberg and Buffy Summers.
I happily bounced through the crowd, at the moment not particularly caring if I was moving too fast to pass for human or not. Family was in town, and that was an unexpected treat.
"Wills and Buffy, bestest buddies." I said as I got close to the two women. They stopped walking and started grinning when they saw me, and I briefly wondered which one of us had the biggest smile on their face. As the crowd continued moving around us, I grabbed Willow in a giant hug, sweeping her around in a circle. I think her feet even briefly left the ground.
"Xander. Good to see you too. But need to breathe." Willow said. I eased up on my grip a little, but still held onto her, my chin resting on her shoulder and my nose near her ear. Even with all the other fuss around us, I was inhaling essence of Willow- a mix of body wash, avacado shampoo, strange witchy herbs,a hint of Sunnydale grave dirt, and hormones and phermones. The inner puppy cataloged her scent. From that point on, I could find her anywhere, even if I was blind and deaf.
"Sorry there. Breathing is a very good thing to do." I gave her one last squeeze before letting go and turning to Buffy. More hugs from her. Buffy hugged back hard, letting out the Slayer strength just a little bit.
"Been lifting weights, Xander?"
"Yeah, something like that."
Those strong arms around me felt good as I started to sniff her. Somewhat similar to Willow, and yet so very different. I leaned a little bit closer to get the scent from her hair. My cheekbone bumped her ear. Suddenly, it felt like a half dozen wasps had divebombed my face.
"Youch!" We let go of each other.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah." I took a look at Buffy's face and the light bulb went on. "I think you've got some silver in those earrings."
"Shit, Xander. I'm sorry. I forgot they were real," she said.
"Looks like they scraped your face there." Willow said, lightly running her fingers across that part of my face as we started to move toward baggage claim. After we collected Anya, they could both do that all day long.
"Is Anya in the bathroom or something?"
"We need to talk about that." Buffy said. I stopped on the spot, suddenly fearing just why the two women had come to St. Louis.
"Anya, she's hurt or in trouble and that's why you're here?" My heart dropped.
"She's not hurt. She says that as soon as Buffy and I make it back to Sunnydale, she'll be on a plane to St. Louis because she misses you and the orgasms too. But we needed her, Tara, and Giles to babysit the Hellmouth while we came east to deal with another problem." We started walking again.
"So it's a business trip for you two."
"Unfortunately, business before pleasure and all that. And since you probably at least kind of know the lay of the land here, and this is our first time east of about Colorado, we need your help for this one."
"Scoobies reunited. I'm definitely in. Believe it or not, I've been missing the whole Sunnydale death, despair, and destruction scene. It's just not the same out here. Too many politics, too many laws protecting the dead guys, and too many people who keep trying to tell me the head dead guys here are just teddy bears with fangs. Do you want to give me some clues now about what's going on, or should it wait until we're in the car away from strangers' ears?"
"Definitely in the car." Buffy said. "Look, I've got to go find the AA counter. They let us bring all the toys as checked luggage, but they aren't just going to put that particular box on the carousel. I've got to claim it in person, and with proper id and all that."
"We'll be waiting for you here at the carousel." I said and she headed through the crowd. "Why do they call it a carousel when it's really just a big conveyor belt?"
"I think they wanted people to have some sort of warm fuzzy feelings about it. Because if you have warm fuzzies, maybe you won't notice if it takes forever for them to actually get your bags from the plane back into your hands. At least Tara and I managed to figure out a couple of charms that should guarantee that out luggage got onto the same plane we did."
"Hurray for practical applications of witchy girl stuff."
"Yeah. More useful than being able to light candles with your mind because, hey, there's usually a perfectly nice matchbook or lighter close by anyways so why would you bother wasting the mental energy lighting candles that way?" The people around us were definitely giving us more room as they overheard our talk. Magic just wasn't talked about much in polite company in St. Louis.
"So how are you and Tara?"
"Wonderful." The redhead grinned again. "But I feel like I can't share the joy because here I am all aflush with the giddy, and Buffy broke up with Riley last week." She quietly snared one black suitcase off the carousel.
"Crap, she broke up with Mr. Iowa? I didn't always like him, but he was one of the few dudes out there who just might have been good enough for her." Willow pulled another black suitcase from a line of similar black suitcases. "Well if she feels the need to go off on one of her rebound relationships with someone totally inappropriate, I could probably set her up with one of the guys here short term. Get that out of her system before she does something dumb for love again."
"That's okay. I think I'm going to take a break from relationships for a little while." Buffy said from behind us. We spun around with the bags. She was leaning against a largish trunk with a half dozen security inspection stickers pasted up and down the sides.
"Open mouth, insert foot." I groaned. "Sorry you heard that. It's just that, well," I could feel myself turning bright red.
"Yeah, yeah. lousy track record when it comes to my love life. So I was planning on stepping away from the dating game for just a little bit. And this whole road trip thing Giles sent us on came at the right time. Let me step away from Sunnyhell and clear my head in a strange and dangerous town, maybe chase down a bad guy or two. That always does make me feel better. I'm ready to head out of here and get started."
"In that case, ladies, your chariot awaits in short term parking." I said, doing my best bad bow in front of them. We wrangled the mix of trunk, suitcases, and carry on bags between us, and made our way toward the parking lots.