Title: Willow Rosenberg, Child Psychologist

Author: mistymidnight

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: I own the plot, as well as Taylor, Maxwell, Carly, Erin, Noah, and Aimee. Gidgetgirl owns Zane, Thayer, Sophie, Lola, as well as the plot to the companion fic to this one, "Fully Qualified". Joss Whedon owns the canon and all the characters not mentioned in this disclaimer. (Excluding Lola's mother, who I also own and haven't bothered to name.)

Spoilers/Timeline: Post-Chosen, after my other fic "Fully Qualified".

Summary: Sequel to "Fully Qualified". Willow's life has quieted down. But do things ever stay quiet when you're a Scooby?

Author's Notes: If you haven't read "Fully Qualified", stop. Click on over to my user profile and find it. Read it. Then come back. Okay.

A quick refresher: Willow lives in Toronto. She's a psychologist specializing in "strange" cases. A woman named Carly Hill brings her six-year-old daughter, Taylor, to WIllow, worried her daughter is some kind of schizophrenic. The little girl switches personalities at the drop of a hat. Willow finally discovers the problem--and it hits a lot closer to home than she expected.

The Basics: Willow's secretary is named Erin. Her replacement (in case of sickness, etc.) is a klutzy college student named Aimee. Willow's cat is a little kitten named Maxwell. Willow lives in an upscale apartment overlooking the SkyDome (the Toronto Blue Jays' playing field) and still keeps in touch with all the Scoobies. She and Kennedy are no longer dating, but they remain close friends. Willow's patients, besides Taylor, include an angry thirteen-year-old girl named Thayer; Zane, an eight-year-old son of two Watchers, that makes up elaborate conspiracy theories about Slayers and Watchers; Lola, a four-year-old that masks her unhappiness by completely shutting down her feelings to herself and acting overly-happy towards everyone; and Sophie, a ten-year-old girl who has not spoken a word since her parents' murders two years before.

Tidbit: The title of this story is the name of the original gidgetgirl challnge that started it all. (Didn't that sound dramatic...). You can read the original challenge at Chocolate Covered Strawberries.

Okey doke. I actually started this chapter a week ago, but we kept having power surges on my side of town and I was stupid and didn't save what I had before the power went out. Boo, me.

Just Another Day

Willow regarded the packages on her desk with skepticism. Why? she thought to herself. Why didn't I just get a salad, like normal?

But Willow Rosenberg had ordered Chinese takeout, and that was that.

She'd been trying to shake things up ever since the incident with Taylor. She'd even said it herself: "Change is not bad." But looking at the cartons of noodles and chicken laid out before her, WIllow found herself missing her usual salad, Italian bread and all.

"Okay," she muttered quietly. "I can do this. I will eat my lunch." She slid the chopsticks out of their plastic sleeve and positioned them carefully between her fingers. She opened a carton of noodles with her other hand and dumped them onto a plate. "Here goes nothing," she remarked, before taking careful aim with the chopsticks. One landed sucessfully in the heap of noodles, but the other missed its mark and clatter to the desktop. Willow sighed. "Okay," she mumbled. "Time for Plan B."

"Willow?" Erin called, opening the door to Willow's office. "Mrs. Alden just called. Thayer's getting out of the hospital tomorrow and she was wondering if you could visit Thay--" Erin stopped short. "Now that," she remarked, "is a sight I never thought I'd see."

Willow's head was tilted back, and she was dangling a handful of noodles high above her mouth. As Erin watched, Willow dropped the noodles. Most landed in her mouth, though some missed and instead plastered themselves to her nose and chin. She shoved them in before grabbing a napkin and wiping her face.

"I was hungry," Willow offered.

"I think Hell just froze over," Erin remarked dryly. "And, oh, look! Pigs can fly."

"Not in that rain, they can't," Willow replied, glancing at the late November rain that was pouring in sheets outside.

Erin nodded her agreement. "That's gonna be killer to drive home in," she remarked. "Why can't it just snow? At least snow is pretty."

"And," Willow added, "the office is closed when it snows. It wouldn't have anything to do with that, would it?"

"Hey, look, I'm not going to complain about your California Girl ways. If you can't take a centimeter of snow and you cancel work because of it, it's one big long day of me being paid for doing nothing. I don't see any negative side to that."

Willow smiled. "I've yet to cancel work because of rain."

"That's what sucks about working on the fifth floor of a building," Erin teased. "Slim chances of flooding."

"Tell you what," Willow teased back. "If it ever rains enough to flood up to this floor--knock on wood--I'll give you a year off and put in a call for a guy named Noah. Not the one Carly's dating," she added hastily.

"'Dating'--loose term in Carly's case," Erin remarked lightly. "They've been out, what, twice?"

"She likes him," Willow said easily. "Oh!" She reached into the bag from the takeout restaurant. "Fortune cookie," she said, tossing it to Erin, who caught it, removed it from its plastic wrapper, and broke it open, expertly extracting the fortune from inside. She read the paper silently, snorted, and then read to Willow, "'The sun shines upon you today.'" She glanced out the window again at the downpour. "I think my fortune is a little late. Or early." She paused. "Or completely wrong."

Willow, in the meantime, had been going about finding her own fortune. "'Fate helps those who help themselves,'" she read.

Erin turned her fortune over. "My lucky numbers are 25, 31, and 17." She twisted up her face in thought. "I think that was my high school locker combination."

Willow examined her fortune. "9, 54, 28." She grinned. "I'm playing these in the lottery."

"Yeah, right," Erin said. "Like you need extra money."

"It's in memory of Anya."

"The late, great, red-blooded capitalist?"

"She'd be proud."

There was a knock on the door. "Uh, hello?"

Willow and Erin turned to see who it was. There were no appointments scheduled for that afternoon.

"Oh, hi, Aimee."

Aimee stood in the doorway, drenched. "My car stalled down the street," she said miserably. "And my cell phone isn't working. I think it's 'cause of the rain."

Willow raised an eyebrow.

"Oh, not because of the rain itself," Aimee explained. "I just think we're gonna get one of those late-fall thunderstorms. My phone never works when it's thundering and lightning."

"Lovely," Willow remarked. "Nothing like electricity combined with rain."

Aimee's head bobbed in agreement, and Erin crossed over to her.

"Why don't you use the office phone?" she suggested, changing her course toward the waiting room. "And we'll go to the bathroom down the hall. We can try drying your shirt under the hand dryer or something."

"Thanks," Aimee sniffled. She pulled a soggy tissue from her sweater pocket. "And this stupid cold on top of it all," she groaned. Willow grabbed a box of tissues from her desk drawer and reached across the desk to hand it to Aimee, who took it gratefully. "Thanks," she said, taking a tissue and handing the box back.

"No problem," Willow replied, replacing the box in the drawer.

Erin stuck her head back in through the door. "Guests!" she announced, stepping aside to reveal Lola and her mother.

Aimee managed a weak smile. "It's a regular reunion."
Lola raced up to Willow. "Hi, Mom--I mean, Dr. Rosenberg!"

"Hi, Lola," Willow said, smiling at the little girl. She was pleased at the progress Lola was making. She no longer greeted every woman she met as "Mommy". Willow suspected this had something to do with the marriage counseling Lola's parents were apparently getting. Lola's a good girl, Willow thought. She's just having a hard time.

Lola contented herslf by playing with the chopsticks on Willow's desk while Lola's mother talked to Willow.

"I was in the neighborhood," she remarked, "and I just thought I'd stop in and make an appointment."

"Sure, no problem," Willow said, slightly puzzled that Lola's mother hadn't just made an appointment with Erin.

"Lola," Lola's mother called, "put those back. They aren't yours."

Lola guiltily fished a pair of chopsticks from her coat pocket and set them back on the desk.

"I think there may be a slight problem with Lola," Lola's mother said quietly.

"I see," Willow said.

Maybe Lola's not making so much progress after all.

Kind of a depressing note to end on, no?

Sorry if this chapter doesn't read very well. It was written over the course of three days, through various levels of hunger, exhaustion, and boredom. And it took TWO DAYS to upload...the site was running really slowly, so I kind of gave up and came back to finish uploading the next day.

mistymidnight