Disclaimer: BtVS characters, concepts and dialog belong to Mutant Enemy, Fox, The WB, UPN and others. The story, however, came out of my delusional little brain.
Note: This story uses two fonts to represent Willow and Tara's handwriting in sections. These fonts are available for download here: CatholicSchoolGirls BB and Hybi 4. If these fonts are not installed on your PC, sections of this story will be rendered in large text. Fonts sourced from dafont.com.
Buffy sat at her desk looking over the latest advertising mock-ups. Her drive to work that morning was blessedly uneventful - an achievement for which she was supremely grateful. Buffy was familiar with nearly every fire hydrant and light pole within the city limits...at least, the bumper of her car was. Being on a first name basis with half of the SDPD comes in handy sometimes though. Buffy internally snickered. Especially the cute ones.
It wasn't hard to get to know the members of the SDPD. Sunnydale was a decent sized town, but small enough for neighbors to still know each other. Granted, it was no L.A., but the city had all the major conveniences, a large university, a healthy economy, and was growing quickly.
She'd been working for Sunnydale Advertising, Inc. for about two months and was determined to prove herself as a competent employee. But today, her focus was less on being competent and more on being done. Her gaze shifted from the mock-ups to the picture of herself and Willow at the side of her monitor. Buffy couldn't hold in a loud giggle as she thought about her friend's whirlwind activities earlier that morning. Typical Willow - completely wigged when the wiggins aren't needed.
"Hey, Buffy, did you bring enough chuckles for the rest of the class?" The voice brought Buffy out of her brief moment of amusement. She looked up to see Xander Harris propped on the edge of her desk.
Buffy met Xander shortly after she started at SAI. He was the assistant manager in the printing department and heard that the new account rep in client services was "a bona fide hottie." He felt it was his duty to introduce himself and welcome the new employee to the company. And Buffy did not disappoint - she was definitely a "hottie". As soon as Xander spied Buffy for the first time, staring at the company's vending machines with a puzzled expression, he approached the small blonde with his hand extended, intending to suavely introduce himself. Instead of "Hi, I'm Xander," all that came from his mouth was "schpadoinkle!" followed by a furious blush. It was a manly blush, but a blush, nonetheless. Buffy couldn't help but chuckle at the man before her and shook his proffered hand.
"Wow! That's one heck of a name," Buffy teased. "I'll bet you had a hell of a time learning to spell that."
A moment later, Xander regained the use of his brain and, realizing how incredibly goofy he must have looked, broke into a fit of laughter - a fit Buffy quickly joined.
"Xander Harris, actually...much easier to spell, but without the flashy charm," he replied as he let go of Buffy's hand.
"Nice to meet you, Xander. Buffy Summers."
At that moment, each knew it was the beginning of a great friendship.
"Hey, Xan! What's up? You ducking out of working again?" Buffy smiled at the shaggy-haired man at her desk.
"Hey! I resemble that remark," he joked. "Actually, we're all caught up for a change. Just waiting on the finals for the arcade campaign from Denise. Then we'll be all ready for the Espresso Pump stuff next week."
"That's great, Xander!" Buffy was genuinely pleased for her friend. Though she teased him about avoiding work, she knew that Xander took his job seriously...too many people were counting on him and his department getting the work done right.
"So, Buff, what's with the giggles and the 'I'm remembering stuff' face? Anything you want to share?"
"Oh! I was just thinking about Willow. She was a bit on the nervy side this morning and I can't help laughing when I think about it." The smile on Buffy's face told of her affection for her oldest and dearest friend.
"Willow...isn't she your friend who lives in L.A.?"
"Yeah, she's in town for an important meeting...staying with me for a while."
"All nervy, huh? Must be an important meeting. Some big job thing?"
"No, not exactly," Buffy said as she noticed the time on her desk clock. "Tell ya what, Mr. Assistant-Manager-with-too-much-time-on-his-hands, take me to lunch and I'll tell ya all about it."
"It's not even 11am, Summers...and you want to leave your desk?" Xander teased the blonde by placing the back of his hand on Buffy's forehead, pretending to check for fever. "You feeling okay?"
Buffy playfully swatted his hand away and giggled. "Give it up, Harris. You've always wanted to take me on a date, so here's your chance."
Xander bounced quickly to his feet and bowed at the waist. Standing upright again, he offered his arm to his friend.
"Let us make haste, fair maiden and...um...make like a tree and leave...or something like that."
Buffy linked her arm with Xander's and grinned. "Lead the way, kind sir."
Thirty minutes later, Buffy and Xander were sitting at an outdoor table at a nearby café. Buffy moved the remains of her Caesar's salad around with her fork while Xander finished off his ketchup-covered fries.
"Wow!" Xander pondered as he chewed his food slowly. "So they haven't seen or talked to each other in EIGHT years? That's unreal."
"Yeah, it's a long time. I mean, they wrote to each other constantly - up until about a year ago - and Willow has written in her 'Tara Diary' every single day since Tara left. But that's it - no phone calls, no visits. They emailed for a little while, but that didn't work out."
"Unreal. I said it before, but it bears repeating." Xander shook his head and looked thoughtfully at the half-eaten pickle on his plate. "No phone calls? I can understand the lack of visits, but no phone?"
Buffy chuckled ruefully. "I know. I totally couldn't imagine not being able to pick up the phone to call my best friend. But, I guess Tara's family didn't have a lot of money and already had a lot of expenses. Willow's parents could afford it, but they said they'd rather buy Willow a computer so they could email each other. Plus, Willow could do her homework on it, maintain her diary and loads of other stuff. They called it 'an investment in her future.'"
"Whoa! Harsh! Makes me feel even more grateful for my folks."
"Oh, Will's parents were really nice, actually. They love Willow a lot. And even though her mom kept forgetting my name, they always welcomed me into their home. They were just busy all the time and Willow got lonely. That just made her miss Tara even more."
"Well, yeah, but she had you, Buff. Best friend to the rescue, right?"
"Sure, Xan...of course I was there for Will, but those two were BEST friends. Willow is the best friend I've ever had, and we'll be friends until we're old and gray; but even I knew I could never hope to have the status that Tara had in that department."
Xander looked compassionately at his friend and reached over to cover her hand with his. "I'm sorry, Buffy. That must be tough for you."
"What?" Buffy furrowed her brow in confusion, wondering what Xander was talking about. The realization suddenly dawned on her. "Oh! No, no! I don't feel neglected in any way! I know Willow loves me; she's never treated me as a 'lesser friend' in all the years I've known her. It's just, the bond she's had with Tara...well, was amazing...still is, I hope. No, Xander, being friends with Willow has never been tough." Buffy placed her free hand over Xander's and gave it a gentle squeeze to let him know she was grateful for his concern.
"That's good, Buff. You deserve to have friends who treat you well."
"Thanks, Xander. You're one of them, you know," Buffy looked pointedly at her friend to make sure he knew she meant what she said.
"Yeah, Buffy, I know." Xander smiled at the blonde and gave her a wink. "Now, tell me, how did you meet Willow, anyway?"
"C'mon, let's do the walk-n-talk thing again. We need to start back toward the office," Buffy said as she stood up.
"Yeah, work awaits," Xander mock-sighed as he stood up and placed $20 on the table.
Buffy walked up to the main entrance of Sunnydale High School with more than just a bit of trepidation. It was her first day at a brand new school and she was nervous. Bad enough being the new kid...now I'm the new kid who didn't start school on time. The school year had started 4 weeks earlier, but she and her mother had just arrived in Sunnydale the previous week.
As she made her way to the main office to pick up her schedule, Buffy made note of the other students bustling through the hall. They seem okay. No one is looking at me funny. There were teenagers everywhere - greeting friends, getting books from their lockers, making out with their girlfriends or boyfriends, generally making their way to class - doing the things one would expect at a typical American high school. Buffy entered the main office and approached the secretary at the main desk. The woman looked up and gave Buffy a rather toothy smile.
"Well, hello! You must be Buffy Summers. We've been expecting you."
Buffy instinctively returned the effervescent woman's smile and reached out to shake her hand.
"Yes, Buffy, that's me."
"Oh! Isn't that darling?! Buffy Summers...very nice ring to it." The woman then placed an index finger to each temple, stared intently at Buffy, and repeatedly murmured under her breath. After 20 seconds of this, she smiled widely once again and continued. "There! You are now a permanent fixture in my memory. I'm Mrs. Sloan, by the way."
Buffy giggled and said a quick, "Nice to meet you." Oh, I like her.
"Ah! Your schedule!" Mrs. Sloan quickly continued with her bubbly welcome. "You'll have six classes and one study period. Let's see..." The older woman lifted her reading glasses, which were hanging by a decorative chain around her neck, and looked at the schedule card in her hand. "Well, looks like your first class is Sophomore History. That's in room 117 - go down the main hall and turn left just before you reach the stairs. Room 117 will be on your left."
"Down the hall, left at stairs, room on left...got it. Thank you so much, Mrs. Sloan."
"Now, your teachers are expecting you and will have prepared a bit of extra work for you so you can catch up on what you've missed. Just chat with each of them after class." Mrs. Sloan noticed Buffy's shoulders slump and heard the girl's small whimper. "Oh, it shouldn't be too hard, dear. But if you need help, you just bring yourself back here and see me. I'm sure I can help you find someone to assist your studies. I know every student in this school." Mrs. Sloan beamed with pride.
"Thank you, again, Mrs. Sloan. I'll definitely come to you if I have any trouble."
"That's good, dear." At that moment, the bell rang. "Oh! That's the warning bell. You have two minutes to get to your class...off you go!" And with that, the woman nudged Buffy out the door.
The door to room 117 closed behind Buffy just as the final bell rang. All eyes turned toward her. Of course. So much for being discrete. The teacher stood up from behind his desk and walked toward Buffy. "Can I help you?"
"Um, yeah...yes...I'm sorry. This is my first day."
The balding man looked at the roster in his hand and then looked at Buffy. "Miss Summers, I presume." He raised one eyebrow and looked at her over the rim of his glasses.
"Yes, sir. Buffy. Buffy Summers."
"Very well, Miss Summers. Welcome. Please take an empty seat and see me briefly after class."
With a nod and a small grin, Buffy made her way through the rows of students taking a seat near the back of the room. Okay. Pretty painless so far. She turned her attention to the teacher as he began to speak.
"Okay, everyone...Chapter 3...Battle of Antietam."
Buffy watched as everyone around her pulled out their books and began to open them to chapter 3. She was just about to raise her hand when she felt a tap on her shoulder. Buffy turned around to see a petite redhead one row to her right and one seat back handing her a textbook.
"Here, you can use mine until you get your own." The redhead gave Buffy a small smile.
"Um, thanks. Wanna share?"
"That's okay. Go ahead. I don't need it."
Buffy looked perplexed. "Don't you need to look at the chapter, too?"
The redhead tapped her head with an index finger and explained. "Photographic memory. I've already read ahead through chapter 6. It's okay."
"Wow!" Buffy was impressed. "Well, thanks!"
Buffy wanted to say more but the other girl had already turned her attention back to her notebook. Buffy blinked once then turned back to listen to the day's lesson. A few minutes later, Buffy glanced back at the owner of the book. She seems nice. But...but there's something in her eyes...
When the bell rang indicating the end of class, Buffy gathered her things and returned the book to the redhead.
"Thanks again. I really appreciate the loaner." Buffy smiled at the other girl.
"Like I said, not problem, really. Do you want to keep it overnight?"
"Oh, no, that's okay. I'll get all of my books today after school." Buffy smiled sheepishly and asked, "Um, do you know where I go to do that?"
The redhead chuckled as she retrieved the book from Buffy and slipped it into her bag. "Yep. The one place no one ever wants to go - the library. It's all the way at the other end of this hall - past the stairs."
"Wow! Thanks...again...you've been very helpful. I'm Buffy Summers."
"Willow Rosenberg. Nice to meet you." Willow looked at the clock. "We should probably get going - don't want to be late next period. Want me to walk you to your next class so you don't get lost?"
"Oh, that's okay. I have to go see the teacher, anyway. They all have extra work for me so I can play 'catch-up'. But, maybe I'll see you around?" Buffy gave Willow a hopeful look. I could really use a new friend...I think you can too.
"Well, you'll definitely see me in here tomorrow morning. But, yeah, we'll probably bump into each other. The place isn't that big. See ya later." Willow smiled once more at Buffy, and then turned to walk to her next class.
It was another two weeks before Buffy found Willow alone. She saw the quiet redhead every day in history class, but there wasn't an opportune time to chat. Willow always seemed to be tutoring someone in something during lunchtime and after school. One day, Buffy finally saw Willow sitting alone under a tree in the school courtyard. Since her first day at SHS, when Willow was so nice to her, Buffy was determined to become friends with her. She just hadn't had the opportunity to talk with Willow more than a quick greeting every morning in class. It's now or never, Summers. Get over there and make a friend.
Buffy walked toward the tree where Willow sat. She noticed that her potential friend was bent over what looked like a journal, writing furiously. Every once in a while, Willow would pause and her brow would crinkle in thought. Then she would return to her writing. Buffy stopped for a moment and reconsidered her plan. Maybe she doesn't want to be bothered...No. No! I'm going to go over there and talk to her, darn it. She resumed her walk and when she reached a reasonable distance - not too close in case she was intruding, but not so far away so that she had to yell - she made her presence known.
"Um, Willow?" The redhead snapped her head around quickly with a frown, as if wondering who dared to interrupt her quiet time. Buffy took a hesitant step backward and quickly began her apologies. "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bother you. I'll just go...away...we can talk another time."
"No! I'm the one who should be sorry, Buffy." The redhead looked embarrassed, yet pleased to have company. "You don't have to leave. I was just so lost in my own world that hearing my name startled me. Um, you can sit down if you want to. It's okay." Willow smiled at the blonde and moved some of her things out of the way.
Buffy let out a small sigh of relief and sat down across from Willow. "Thanks. You know, trying to catch up with you when you're not talking to someone else is almost impossible. You're like Little-Miss-Popularity."
"Not quite," Willow laughed as she replied. "More like 'The-Only-Person-Gullible-Enough-To-Tutor-Everyone.' I'm definitely not popular."
Buffy noticed that Willow didn't seem bothered by a lack of popularity. She was comfortable with her social position at the school. "Well, popularity isn't everything, anyway. As long as you're happy with yourself, that's all that's important," Buffy stated and gave a quick nod to reify her assertion.
Willow giggled and then with an air of conviction said, "I couldn't agree more."
The girls spent a few moments in comfortable laughter. She can laugh! I guess she needs a friend more than I thought. Once the laughter subsided, Willow continued their conversation.
"So how are you doing with that extra reading and homework, Buffy?"
The smile left the blonde's face. "Er...um...various sounds of hesitation..."
"Buffy, you really need to get caught up, you know. Midterms are coming up in a few weeks."
"I know, but, I've just never been one for doing extra work. It's hard to get motivated." Buffy knew she could get caught up if she just put in the time and effort. But she found that she got bored easily. Sitting around for hours, doing nothing but reading, wasn't exactly her definition of a good time. Buffy liked having fun.
"I could help you if you want." Willow's eyes suddenly got very wide. "Oh...not that I think you're stupid and can't do it by yourself or anything...I'm not being all 'tralala I'm so smart so I should be helping you'...I mean...if you don't want my help you just have to say so...but I'd be willing to help you...get motivated...if you want."
Buffy couldn't contain her laughter. "That's the most I've heard you say since I met you, Willow. How do you do that without breathing?"
The redhead chuckled; she seemed glad that she hadn't offended Buffy. "It's a gift. Though, I will admit, that's the first time I've babbled in a long time."
"Well, you do it well. And thanks for the offer, but I don't want to impose. You are already helping enough people, I don't want to ask you to add me to your already large burden."
"You didn't ask, did you? I offered. Besides, I never said I would be tutoring you. I said I would help you get motivated. We could study together if you want. Do you have your schedule with you?"
Buffy dug into the bottom of her bag and pulled out the crumpled piece of paper. She flattened the sheet out on her thigh before handing it to Willow.
"Oh, cool. I can definitely help you with these. I've taken these classes already," Willow said as she eyed the schedule.
"You mean, you're a junior? Why are you in Sophomore History then?" Buffy asked in confusion.
"Oh, no. I'm a sophomore, too. I, um, I took these classes in summer school." Willow shrugged and continued. "People say I'm an over achiever, but I just get bored during the summer so I go to school. Next summer I'm going to take some courses at the community college, too...that way I can get college credit before I even get to college...and I can graduate early. So if I want to go to graduate school, it won't seem like I've been in school forever and I can get to my career faster...and you must think I'm the biggest geek alive..."
Buffy fell over onto her side, laughing uncontrollably.
"See? I'm right. You're laughing at me." Willow crossed her arms over her chest and mock glared at Buffy.
"No...no...I'm...not." Buffy struggled to contain her laughter, wiping away the tears from her eyes. A few moments later, Buffy gained enough control over herself to sit up and look at her new friend. "Honest, I'm not laughing at you. It's just, well, I like talking to you. You do make me laugh, but in a good way, not in a 'laughing-at-you' way. You're fun."
Willow blushed at the compliment and returned the blonde's smile. "Thanks, Buffy. I like talking to you, too."
"So, when do we study?"
"We were pretty much inseparable after that." Buffy said with a smile as she and Xander continued their walk back to the office. "Thanks to Willow, I studied more than I ever did before. Not because she forced me to or had to tutor me, but because it was just fun hanging out with her. So, I didn't mind studying. It was nice to have her around when I was stuck on a math problem though." Buffy shuddered slightly at the thought.
"So, how did, er, does Tara fit into all of this?"
"Well, eventually, Will told me all about Tara...about them being best friends for so long, about their letters, about the diary they were each keeping - that was what she was writing in when I went up to her that day. I heard so much about Tara; it felt like I knew her. Sometimes Willow would read Tara's letters to me. And other times she would let me read her letters to Tara."
When Buffy started to giggle, Xander raised one eyebrow and looked at her. "What's so funny?"
"Well, a few times, Willow would let me write stuff in the margins of the letters she wrote to Tara - just for fun. I guess it was her way of introducing me to Tara - letting one best friend say hello to the other."
"Sounds like you two had a lot of fun together."
"Definitely. We still do. You see? Tara was already a force in her life when I showed up. There was no way for me to compete with that and I didn't want to...I didn't need to. There's enough room in Willow's life for me AND Tara." Buffy smiled as she thought about the size of her friend's heart and Willow's capacity to love.
Xander smiled, too, knowing that Buffy had a friend she could rely on. "That's great, Buff. I can't wait to meet her."
"Oh you will, Xan...you will," Buffy chuckled as the two entered their office building.
Xander walked Buffy back to her desk. "Thanks for the chat, Buffy. I had a good time. I'll catch up with you tomorrow, okay? You've gotta let me know how their meeting went." Xander grinned widely and bounced on his toes in excitement.
"You got it, Harris. Thanks for lunch. Now get going and go try to do some work." Buffy gave her friend a good-natured wink as he walked through the door, heading back to his office. Buffy settled down to work, glancing at her watch.
I wonder what Willow is doing now?