Part 1 of
Summary: A little tale of Buffy and Willow post "Chosen" (like about 10 years after). Really don't like writing too much about the story in the summary, but it's been a long time since the old best friends have seen each other. What happens? Read on.
Rating: R probably for language, adult themes, and some sex stuff.
Category: It's Willow and Buffy… you gotta ask? Ok, Angst/Romance/Drama.
Disclaimer: Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy own the characters. I get nothing from this except the pure satisfaction of telling a story. Don't blame them if the story sucks.
Warning: Adult themes, suggested violence, sexual situations. Lovemaking between members of the same gender. Not for children… if you're ten, you really shouldn't be reading this!
Author's note: This is somewhat a rewrite of the original story " Encounter". Somewhat, because I kept the parts I liked, and rewrote the other parts. I wasn't pleased with the first posting of this story, so I went back and rewrote what I didn't like in the first one. I think it's better, but it might not be any better. Guess I'll let you judge it. Anyway, If you read this story before, the first part( part 1) is essentially unchanged. Part 2 is totally new. Part 3 has the good parts of that section, and Part 4 is new… and unlike the first time, it's not finished( sigh, Why do I do this to myself? Don't I have enough unfinished stories to finish?). Anyway, hoping you enjoy this one better….. Norwalker.
Willow Rosenberg sat in the New Orleans' caf staring at her food, playing with her fork. She was supposed to be having a good time, that was the whole point of this little jaunt she'd arranged for her staff. They were celebrating a particularly good year at WillNet, and damned if she wasn't trying to do her best to get into the spirit of it. After all, this is New Orleans, baby. The Big Easy. Home of jazz, and parties, and all the mysticism I could want. So, when do the snoopy happy dance feelings kick in? When do I start squealing in geeker joy over some obscure find? Why would I rather be home, looking out over the bay, or reading a good book. Or taking a walk, or doing some spell, or digging into some program looking for flaws? I'm in one of the totally coolest cities in America, home to major mojo central, and I'm almost as happy as a vampire needing a root canal. Vampire? Goddess, why did I think of that? Haven't done the vampire thing in so long… ok, must be the Big Easy. The occult energy coming off this city is phenom. Still… weird. Well, all I can say is I gotta be the Queen of Party poops… I just hope I'm not spoiling it for the rest of the gang.
Willow actually never planned on coming on this trip. She just wanted to reward her senior staff for really going the extra mile, and with the year they had, she could more than afford it. Frankly, her company was well on its way to becoming one of the top network security consulting firms on the West Coast, possibly the country. Since her startup nearly 7 years ago, she's watch her shoestring, seat-of –your-pants startup transform into a major player , opening offices in San Diego, Phoenix, Seattle and Los Angeles in addition to the main office in San Francisco. She'd developed a 512 bit encryption algorithm that was virtually unbreakable(unless you had a million or so years with supercomputers to spare). No one thought it possible, but she'd done it. But then she wasn't your typical computer geek to begin with. The program was proprietary, worked on multiple platforms, and was written so tight as to be virtually crash proof. She'd built an entire security suite around it, and had demonstrated it at various trade shows around the country. The orders had been pouring in, and she was seriously considering branching out offices in the West, South and East. To put a fine point on it, she was getting rich, fast.
But she didn't forget those people who'd stuck by her in the lean years, and they were sharing in the wealth. Her original partners, Chris and Jana both owned 15% shares in the company. Other senior members had lesser stakes, but on all she owned herself about 51%… just enough to keep controlling interest. It was her baby after all. But everyone was doing well, and it made her happy they were. So, to really cap things off, she arranged a trip to New Orleans for her senior staff. This was her family, and she liked them spending time together in social settings. It made for a happier, tighter workplace.
But she herself? So not into the big socializing thing. She preferred a quieter, simpler life. Maybe it was an overreaction to her days with the Scoobies, fighting the forces of darkness. Maybe it was the still sore pain of losing the love of her life, Tara. Though she'd had lovers since, nothing had lasted, and she was now pretty much over that phase in her life(love life? please!). These days she enjoyed her solitude.
Maybe she missed her old buds. After all, it'd been nearly 9 years since she's seen Xander. Last time she'd heard anything about him, he was married, living in Portland, Oregon with kids, still doing construction, and doing ok for himself. She was glad of that. Losing Anya had really, really devastated him. She was glad he was happy.
Giles? Well… Giles was off in England. He was chairman of the Watcher's Council, and had instituted a lot of changes in the council, making it much more slayer friendly. Good thing, too, considering that slayers now outnumbered watchers nearly 100 to 1. The aftereffect of the spell she'd cast at Buffy's behest while fighting the First Evil. Now every potential was a slayer, and the old days of one watcher/ one slayer just didn't cut it. They trained world-wide in academies. It was a whole new world out there… watch out, Big Bads! They still kept in contact, she'd call him, he her, to just see how each other was doing, and catch up. He called her the day she'd been written up about her Encryption program, congratulating her. She'd been surprised, as she knew Giles hated the 'infernal machines'. He also hinted the Council may be interested in her services. Hmmm… WillNet international. Interesting!. So, on that front, she may be seeing Giles a lot more in the coming months.
The loss that troubled her most though, was Buffy. Her best friend for years and years. It wasn't that they lost contact. You grow up, you grow apart, you move, people change. That's normal. It was the way that she lost contact…heck, the way they all lost contact with Buffy.
Because one day, she was gone. Just gone. No note, no word. It was the first year of Dawn's going away to college, and Buffy had moved to Cleveland. She was still a slayer, if not THE Slayer, and Cleveland had an active hellmouth. You go where the business is, so to speak. She had an apartment, and they casually kept contact, calling each other once a week. This went on for a year or more, the two of them switching off, trying to keep abreast of each other's lives. It was during the second year that it happened. One week, Buffy missed her turn, and Willow called her. No answer. She tried again, later, still no answer. At first Willow thought Well, she's just out. I keep missing her, but I'll reach her soon enough. But after the first day, she got really worried. She contacted Giles in England, and he assured her that all was well, that Buffy sometimes did this, and that she'd be back in a few days, good as new. But days turned to weeks, and still no Buffy. Will finally convinced Giles to come to America. They spent months, and thousands of dollars, looking for her. But she was gone. Without a trace. Finally, after nearly a year, they had to give it up. There were just no more places to look. They feared the worst… that Buffy was dead. She'd been killed doing her slayer duties, alone. Both Giles and Willow carried huge guilt over that. Willow still had vestiges of guilt to this day, nearly 10 years later. She couldn't shake the feeling that she should've known earlier, done something. But that didn't bring Buffy back.
So, she'd been quite surprised when she got a loud and insistent rapping on her office door. It was a week before the planned trip, and she was in her office, as usual, working late. Also as was her habit, she was multi-tasking. On one computer screen she had the schematics of a software program she was trying to debug. On the other screen, she was surfing the 'Net looking for a particular spell she'd heard about, and wanted to try. She was answering e-mail personally(an early habit she'd never broken), and was looking over a proposal on her desk. Do one thing at a time? Boring! She looked up, a little annoyed. She hated being disturbed while working, unless it was really, really important. Anyway, everybody should be gone by now!
" Come in, already" She called out, looking down at the proposal on her desk.
Jana Gray, her erstwhile office manager cum COO marched into the office. Her attitude and expression all said" Pissed off". Willow looked up again, and had to desperately hide a grin. She is so cute when she gets pissed. Too bad she's straight. Could almost… knock it off, Will. You so know how workplace romances go…badly! One of the things she loved about Jana was, you always knew exactly where you stood with her. If she was angry, or happy, it rolled off her in waves.
Jana, hand on hip, held out a paper in front of Willow. She almost barked out her question.
"What do you think you're doing?" She said, her tone almost a growl.
" Excuse me?" Willow said, mildly amused. She knew Jana's bark was always worse than her bite.
" This!" She waved the paper at her, " What do you think you're doing?" Jana looked furious, and Willow grew a little concerned. What was the deal, anyway?
She looked closer at the paper, and it
was about the New Orleans trip, listing the participants. She looked up
at Jana, puzzled.
" Ok, I'm all fuzzy. What's the big?" Willow said, resorting to willow-speak.
After taking a second to translate, Jana continues, " What's going on? I don't see your name on this list!" She says, obviously upset.
Willow arches her brow, and takes a look at the list. " Nope, not there. Guess cuz I'm not going huh?"
" Not going?" Jana says, " Don't think so. That's so not happening. You're going, Willow!"
"Excuse me?" Willow repeats, picking up the name plaque off her desk. She reads it and puts it back. " Ok, just checking. Just wanted to be sure things hadn't changed in the last minute or so, and you hadn't been made boss of me!".
"Willow, you're going, " Jana says, as if it's fait accompli.
"Huh?" Willow says, keeping her humor, "ok, let's review. I'm CEO, you're COO. CEO outranks COO. Maybe it's the E. Don't know, don't care. When it's all said and done, it translates " Me , Boss " ."
" You may be the 'boss of me' at work, Willow. But this is different. I'm the COO, and that includes company morale. This trip was organized as a reward for a having a great year. How do you think the troops are gonna take it when the boss doesn't show up for the trip she organized for their benefit?"
Willow looks down at the proposal, mumbling something. Like she's not interested, or doesn't care. Jana knows better.
"Excuse me, 'Boss'," Jana mocks her, " didn't quite catch that!"
" I said, " Willow looks up, " no one'll probably notice, anyway".
"That is such a total load, Willow," Jana replies, " This isn't my first job, you know. I've worked for enough bosses to know a good one from a bad one… and you're probably one of the best. The guys, they know you care about them. You're warm, witty and funny, and rather popular around here… if you'd take the time to notice. You treat people well… some would say you spoil them. But it works, and they like you. They really, really like you , Sally. So, don't go blowing that now. They're gong to expect you to go along, and if you don't, you're gonna set back the camaraderie you've built up around here." She pauses, and her tone softens, "Beside, Will, I worry about you."
" Huh?" Willow exclaims, surprised, " you worry about me? I'm great, Jana".
" You so aren't 'great' , Willow" Jana retorts, " You come to work, and you go home. That's not a life, Willow, that's existing. I never see you with anyone, you hardly ever go out with the gang, and that's only if I shame you into it," Jana says, " You're becoming a regular Howardette Hughes."
"Hey…maybe I like my life, you know?" Willow says, " I'm happy enough."
"Really?" Jana says, " How come there's no one special? I mean, attractive woman like you should have guys dripping of her".
"Uh… gay here, remember?" Willow teases her." Of course, if you ever switch sides, I wouldn't mind if you dripped off me a little". Willow. Bad. Bad! We don't do that. Ever hear of sexual harassment? Geeze!
" Well, girls then" Jana says, blushing, but letting it go, " but your worse than a nun when it comes to dating… or anything like dating!"
" Maybe I'm just waiting for the right girl, " Willow says, looking at Jana pointedly with wide , soft eyes. Willow, stop it, you're being an idiot now! But it sooo fun to tease her! You're bad! Yeah ok, perks of the job. It so isn't a perk. God, I'm babbling in my thoughts!
Jana smiles, and pats Willow's hand…sisterly like, " So not going to happen, Willow. I enjoy playing in boys town. But if I ever switch to the all girls team, I'll let ya know, ok?". Take that, you flirt, Jana thinks to herself.
Did she just flirt with me? Oh god, Busted!
" Uh…what was the point again?" Willow says, obviously thrown.
" The point is, when it comes to dating, or a social life, your worse than a nun!" Jana says.
" Hmmm… don't think they're taking little Jewish nuns, but thanks for the tip." Willow mocks back.
" Ok, Willow. I'm gonna have to play my power card. It's in the company interest that you attend this trip," Jana says, all business like, " If you don't, you're going to seriously affect company morale. I'm afraid I'd have to report you to the chair of the board!"
Willow gulps. Wait a minute, now! , " Hey…I'm the board chair!" She says, a little bewildered.
" Yeah" Jana deadpans, " Just imagine how weird when you have to discipline yourself".
Willow looks at her, Jana winks, and Willow bursts out laughing.
" Ok, ok," She says, gasping between giggles, " If I go, will it get you off my back?"
" Yup," Jana replies, " definitely off your back. Where'd you rather have me?"
Willow blushes, " Ok, now I know you're flirting with me!" She growls, but not too unfriendly like
" Maybe" Jana sing-songs, " Maybe not. But you started it".
" Yeah, well, I'm ending it!" Willow says, emphatically.
" Oooo, so butch!" Jana giggles, getting into it.
" Are you SURE you're straight?" Willow says, bewitched, bothered and bewildered.
" Oh yeah," Jana laughs, turning and waving her hand over her shoulder, " I just love watching you squirm". She leaves the office, her laughter heard after she's gone.
She looks at the office door, a bemused expression on her face.Damn, all the good ones are committed, or straight … or gone.
She sighs, and gets back to work.
" Oh, poop!" Willow says, disgusted with herself. Somehow she managed to knock her water glass, spilling it in her lap. Graceful as usual, huh Will? Willow chides herself, looking at the spreading stain on her dress. It's just water, be glad it's not the wine glass you hit. That woulda ruined it. She notices it's gone quiet, and looks up. The whole table has gone silent, looking at her. She feels a blush coming on. God, back in high school again! So what I'd do. Now All I need is Cordelia Chase to show up and make a rude comment! For a brief moment, she feels like she wants to just sink into the floor and hide. Then, on impulse, she stands up, and takes a bow.
Jana, always on top of it, starts to clap. Everybody, including Willow, laughs. The rest of the table starts to clap and cheer, Willow doing a semi- graceful curtsey and excusing herself. " Nice trick, Willow" Jana calls out, "What's the encore?"
" Dumping your wineglass over your head" Willow retorts, and retreats. She leaves the table laughing. She heads for the ladies room, hoping they have one of those hand dryers in it, so she can half dry her skirt. Well, at least I'm good for a laugh, she muses as she walks towards the restrooms. Jana can't say I didn't liven the table up today. She smiles, figuring the worst of her embarrassments are over for the day.
But it just seems luck is not on her side today. Just as she's passing the bar in front of where the bathrooms are located, a waitress turns suddenly, with a full tray of drinks. Without looking, she runs right into Willow.
"Oh, my god, oh my god!" The waitress, a small woman with jet black hair says, "I'm so sorry, god, I'm sorry!"
Willow just looks down at the ruin which used to be her dress, and for a second is deadly quiet. Then the giggles kick in, and she starts to laugh. Goddess, I just had to tempt fate, didn't I? She laughs, as she figures her day is complete. And didn't even require Cordy to come insult her! She feels someone trying to wipe off the various liquors on her dress.
" I'm ok, don't worry" Willow says, trying to stop the woman, but she seems insistent. She just starts to laugh again, it's just too funny.
"I… I'll pay for the cleaning. I'll get you a new dress. Please, don't be mad, ok?" The woman, sounding a little scared, keeps trying to wipe off her dress. " It's just that I just got this job, and I really need it. Please?" She sounds fretful.
" Don't be silly. It's just an accident. No big" Willow says, grabbing the woman's hand to stop her frenetic wiping, " It's not like you ran me over or…." Willow looks at the woman… she really looks at her for the first time, and nearly faints.
BUFFY! No, it can't be! Willow looks more closely, and the woman has blue eyes. But except for the hair and eyes, she looks exactly like Buffy Summers. She could be her twin sister, the resemblance is so startling. She reaches out, grabbing the woman by the shoulders to stop her.
" Buffy?" Willow says, her voice puzzled. God, she looks just like Buffy!
"Ma'am" The woman looks up, and there seems to be a brief flicker in her eyes. But she continues right on, " No, ma'am. I don't know who you mean. My name's Elizabeth. Ma'am, if you'll give me your hotel and room number, I promise I'll send you money for a new dress". The woman's expression looks a mixture of anxiety and anguish
"Sorry, " Willow apologizes, " it's just that you look so much like my friend…well, except for the hair and eyes, … anyway, don't worry about it. Like I said, just an accident… no harm no foul." She smiles at the woman.
" Please, ma'am, at least let me pay for the cleaning" The waitress says, " I was raised to take care of my mistakes". Willow notes now the drawl the woman has, and looking at her again, she thinks she doesn't really look like Buffy after all. Just wishful thinking, I guess.
"Ok, if you insist," Willow says, " though it's really silly. The hotel can take care of this, at no charge".
" Please, ma'am" The woman says, " I'd feel better if you let me pay something". Willow has to admit she's touched by the woman's sense of honor. She reaches over to the bar, grabs a cocktail napkin.
" Do you have a pen?" She asks the waitress, who hands her one. " I'm staying at the Sheraton on St. Croix. That's my room number. But I really feel…." But at that moment, an officious looking man walks up.
"Elizabeth, what's going on here? Oh…goodness, ma'am? Are you ok? Did she …?" The man, looking severe, turns to Elizabeth. " What happened?" He doesn't sound like he's thinking of puppy dogs and roses.
" Oh, I'm such a klutz" Willow interjects, " The poor girl here was just doing her job, delivering some drinks to a table, and I rammed right into her" Willow turns to the nervous looking woman, " Are you sure your ok, Miss?" She asks, solicitously.
" Is that what happened, Elizabeth?" The man asks, sounding none to sure he believes it. Elizabeth nods.
" Are you saying you don't believe me?" Willow says, sounding offended. " That's not very gentlemanly, sir!" Willow gives the man a bit of a glare.
" Oh, Ma'am, I'm very sorry, " the man replies, obsequiously. " Of course I believe you! Elizabeth, get the nice woman a towel, please" His tone is kinder now.
" No need, " Willow says, "I'm on my way to the restrooms. I'll take care of it there. But, I insist on paying for the drinks I spilled."
" Ma'am, I assure you there's no need" The man, obviously the manager by his manner, " It's not a problem".
"Really, I insist" She says, firmly, " and a tip for the nice woman for being so helpful". Willow digs in her purse and pulls out a 100 dollar bill. " That should cover it, don't you think?" She smiles. The girl gawks, as does the manager.
" Oh, more than cover it, " The manager says, " I'll get you your change" He gets the hundred, and starts for the bar.
" No need, the rest is for the waitress here" Willow smiles at the girl.
"Ma'am, please, I can't accept that!" The waitress says, firmly, " I simply can't".
" Don't be silly, of course you can" Willow says, " I know how lousy some tippers are." She smiles at the woman, and without waiting for any more argument, she heads towards the bathrooms.
Well, this day can't get any weirder. I spill all over myself, get spilled all over, and meet some woman who could be Buffy's clone. What more could happen?
Willow, every superstitious, looks around nervously.
She's still afraid Cordelia Chase is going to pop out at her from somewhere.
Willow stretches out her arms, yawning deeply. It's nearly midnight., and she's just getting ready for bed. It's been a long day, but for the most part, fun. She has to admit, except for a glitch or two, it's been pretty enjoyable day. Once she got back to the hotel and changed out of the ruin that was once her dress, she and her group had a pretty uneventful, at least spillage wise, day after that. They toured the French quarter, oooing and ahhing over the old mansions, checking out the above ground graveyards( of course, that brought back thoughts of Buffy) and took in the local shops. After an excellent dinner in a little restaurant off the beaten track, they toured the night spots, finally settling in on a jazz club on Bourbon St. Pretty obviously a tourist trap, but they still had fun. After that they came back to the hotel, and after a night cap in the bar downstairs, everyone pretty much headed for their rooms(except Jana, who was so flirting with the bartender).
Tomorrow I figure I'll strike out on my own. Check out the magic shops. I mean, be a real waste to come down here and not check them out. See if I can't locate some ingredients I have trouble finding around home. Boy, I know Tara would love it down here. She feels a little wistfulness thinking of Tara. And a little ache. She still misses her after all this time. Mostly now, though, the memories are sweet, but it's times like this, when she's having such a good time , she wishes she had Tara to share it with. Or someone. Buffy. That'd be nice too.
She can't seem to get her mind off Buffy today. That waitress at the café really was freaking her, more than she admitted. She looked so much like Buffy. Like Yogi Berra would say, it's déjà vu all over again Willow chuckles She was a dead ringer for Buffy. But of course, that's silly. Buffy's.. gone. Just so freaky, though. I swear for a second there I thought I saw a look…but I was imagining it. Poor girl, I hope I didn't freak her out… staring like that. But … Willow shakes her head. C'mon, Will, it's just a coincidence. But then there's the weird feeling she's been being followed. She doesn't know why, but every so often she'd just get a feeling someone was watching her. The times she could look without looking like she was a nut case, no one was there. But it was persistent… lasted all night. Just keep that up, Will me girl. They'll be fitting you up for a custom tailored straight jacket soon. She giggles, I hope they make 'em in leather. Canvas is so tres un-chic. Still giggling a little, she gets up to turn on the room's TV.
Sometimes, when she's missing Buffy, she likes to do this. It reminds her of the sleepovers they used to have when they were still in high school. Ok, pathetic much, Will? But it's cool… call it a celebration of fun we used to have together. No, Will, call it by it's real name … lame-o. This is sad, girl. You gotta get a real life someday. Right. Gotcha. She turns down the volume, cuz they used to sit and make up their own silly dialogue. Damn, need popcorn! To throw at the mushy/silly parts. Aw well. She's just heading back for the bed to get comfy when she hears a knock at the door.
Oh, man, who's that? Probably one of the guys, locked themselves out. Damn. Just getting comfortable too. Sighing, she walks to the door, ready to let a partially drunk employee in to get ahold of room service to open their door. Drag! She opens the door, saying " What happened? Forgot you key?".
It's the woman from the café. She's standing there, looking a little lost and bereft. Willow looks at her, and still can't believe how much she looks like Buffy.
" Hey… Elizabeth, right? What're you doing here, girl? I thought we settled it at the café. I don't need your money. It was just an accident". Willow is looking at her, and she's more than a little weirded out. Something's different about her. Weren't her eyes blue at the café? But… they look hazel now! Willow feels her knees getting a little wobbly.
" Hey, Will, sorry, " The woman says, in a very familiar voice. She pulls off the black wig, shaking out her blonde hair." I just couldn't keep your money!"
"Bu… Bu…. Buffy?" Willow stutters out, before the room goes dark.
Continued in Part 2