Willow ran into Captain Elizabeth 'Buffy' Summers before she even had the chance to find the mystery pilot who had captured her attention. She had been doing the utmost to avoid the Squadron Captain to the point of taking lunch in her cramped cabin just in case Buffy happened to want to eat food... which most people normally did.
Willow was in the hanger bay situated just below the flight deck, the two linked by large plane-sized elevators. Her Draken had seen quite a lot of beating up in their flight from the mainland and its first few days as a carrier based aircraft. Although there were mechanics, crewmen who specialised in keeping the planes in safe, working order Willow preferred to carry out all the work herself. There was just something reassuring in knowing that she had checked and double-checked everything personally. Of course if something went wrong mid-flight... then she only had herself to blame as she was hurtling from the sky.
She was dressed in a pair of well-used crewmen's overalls, the sleeves rolled up and her hair tied back. Willow was struggling with the pistons in the huge turbo-charged engine of her plane. All the while she worked she was amazed that it had not seized up mid-flight. The coolant jacket on the engine was punctured for some strange reason, the fluid continued to seep from it even now.
Although she had only been at it for less than an hour, she had already managed to get herself covered in a liberal amount of grease. Mum always did say I could get dirty standing still, Willow mused with a grin as she wiped grease-covered hands on the front of her overalls. She then used one of her grubby hands to smooth sweat from her brow, no doubt leaving a fine trail of grease in its wake. The hanger was also stiflingly hot and she was uncomfortably aware of sweat trickling everywhere. However, for all her sweaty and grubby discomfort Willow was in her element. Although she could hear other repairs being carried out in the hanger, she felt as though she were alone...
"Just you and me baby," she said to the lifeless hunk of metal she loved.
"Willow Rosenberg," a loud voice interrupted her musings and also succeeded in giving her a fright. Her head snapped up and collided with the engine covering. She knocked out the strut holding it up and it slammed shut on her arm.
"Freakin heck!" Willow spat, withdrawing her arm furiously, her hand had been slashed and a thin trickle of blood was snaking over her knuckles.
Wincing in pain, Willow spun around to see two females standing next to her plane. The shorter blond was a smugly grinning Buffy. Her long blonde hair tied up, a silk scarf around her neck. The dark one, who was also grinning smugly, Willow didn't recognise.
"The old clunker's not holding up too well is it?" Buffy asked, "You know... I always did think that there was something not natural going on between you and your planes, I finally caught you in the act huh?"
Willow rested her bleeding hand on the wing of her plane as a reassuring gesture as though it had heard Buffy and might take offence.
"Captain Summers," Willow nodded briefly in 'greeting.'
"If you ask me..." said the dark-haired girl.
Which I didn't, Willow thought snappily, not quite daring to say it aloud because she didn't even know the other pilot yet. She would at least wait until she knew her name before she snapped at her.
The girl continued, "They should have taken those Drakens out of commission... oh wait, they were scheduled to go out of commission but the nancy boys at British Air Command said no...probably because they knew their pilots couldn't handle something new and improved."
"It's holding up just fine," Willow replied gruffly.
With a last pat on her plane, Willow jumped down, over the wing and her feet landed with a loud thunk of flight boots on metal. Her arm still smarting, she tried to assume a tough posture but just ended up looking as though she were trying to assume a tough posture. Buffy and the newcomer stepped closer, far more successful in their efforts to look tough.
"Willow Rosenberg, this is Faith... my second," Buffy nodded in the direction of the dark-haired girl.
"The infamous Willow Rosenberg," Faith said with a smile and a suggestive wink.
Willow studied Faith as openly as she dared... which meant she snuck glances from the corner of her eye and avoided looking at her directly. Everything about Faith, her posture, the way in which she wore her flight gear... everything reeked of sensuality. The way her lips curled upwards as her eyes drifted over Willow's overall clad body. Willow was uncomfortably aware of the fact that she had undone several of the topmost buttons to combat the stifling heat in the hanger as she worked. A significant portion of sweaty skin was bared... too much Willow was beginning to think now. She is so looking at my boobs! That's not fair, I can't bring myself to look at hers... don't wanna anyway... but look at her... all sexy and hot... Rosenberg! She's skanky and nasty to boot... and damn it would she just stop with the ogling!
"How'd you end up on this floating tin can Rosenberg?" Buffy interrupted Willow's embarrassment just as her cheeks were beginning to burn.
"I... I don't really wanna talk about it," Willow replied sullenly, folding her arms across her chest. Faith grinned as though she knew what Willow had been thinking. Oh you wipe that smug grin off your face... you're not that hot you know... well, yes you are... Rosenberg!
"Yes well, you're not exactly renowned for being the most level headed pilot around," Buffy pointed out, "But all this must be uncomfortable for you surrounded by nothing but water. As far as I can remember, you can't swim. Now that I think about it, this is definitely the best place for you. I could just push you off the side of the deck... easy."
That is so the last straw! I'm done being ogled and insulted! Willow marched up close to Buffy, so close that she could lash out with her hand and shove her to the deck... something she was just itching to do to wipe that condescending look from her face.
"It's in the past Summers, I've lost track of how many times I said I was sorry. I'm not going to spend the rest of my life with you hanging what I did over my head. Using it as an excuse to tear me to shreds every time we see one another."
"Well, sorry doesn't quite cut it," Buffy replied harshly.
"There's nothing else I can do then... see you round," Willow turned and started to walk away, back to her plane.
The last thing she wanted to do was get into an argument with Buffy about what she had done five years ago. Although her guilt would never let her put it fully behind her she could do without Buffy reminding her of it at every opportunity.
"I heard about Teddy... was that your fault too?" Buffy asked quietly.
Willow couldn't stop herself as her anger rose to boiling point in mere seconds. She spun around and ran at Buffy with her fists clenched, fully intending to wipe that condescending grin right off her face...
Willow's head suddenly snapped backwards as it ran into something solid. She stumbled and tripped over her feet to fall crashing to the ground. Her eye instantly smarted painfully and she looked up to see Faith flexing her fingers with a grin on her face. Willow propped herself up with her hands into an awkward sitting position as the two pilots seemed to loom over her even though neither were very tall to start with. Okay ow! Didn't see that one coming... since when has Buffy needed someone to fight her battles for her? I would've thought she'd be happy to plant her fist in my face... again with the ow!
"See you around Rosenberg," Buffy said coldly, she turned and began walking towards the hanger exit.
Faith didn't follow right away, she walked over to Willow's side and knelt slowly.
"We're all stuck in this tin can together Red. One big fucked-up family... so let's all get along shall we? Friends?" she held out her hand with a smile that freaked Willow out.
Willow frowned at Faith as though she had just said the most inappropriate thing in the situation... which she very nearly had. She just stared at the hand as though it was a horrible trick. Faith laughed lightly and sprang back to her feet.
"Go put some ice on that eye Red," she said brightly as though hitting Willow had been a good thing.
She followed Buffy, leaving Willow sitting on the hanger floor. Willow sighed and rested her arm on her knee. She watched blood slowly drip from her cut hand on to the floor in a steady trickle. A sharp pain assaulted her when she clenched her fist. It hurt of course, but at least the pain made her aware that she was still alive.
Willow was sitting her bunk reading by the weak light. Her cut hand had required two stitches and was stinging in an annoying way. Almost as though to match, her eye throbbed steadily with each pulse. She didn't need to look in the mirror to know that she wouldn't be winning any beauty pageants at the moment. Her stomach rumbled because she had skipped dinner, not wanting to face anyone and having to explain the black eye.
There was a knock on the door and Willow sat up, wondering who on earth would be stopping by at this late hour. She set the book on her shelf, there was another knock.
"Come in," Willow said warily.
The door opened slowly, almost hesitantly and Willow gaped when she saw the person on the other side. It was her... although Willow's mystery girl had never removed her flying helmet and goggles, she knew it was her. The flawless skin... lips... Willow hungrily sought out the rest of her face that had been hidden and was rewarded by seeing the most brilliant pair of blue eyes she had ever met. Her dark blond hair fell down over her shoulders.
Willow was so busy staring that she didn't notice the discomfort of the other girl, she flinched beneath Willow's intense stare. Her head ducked, bangs falling forward over her face. Finally, when she could no longer see the beautiful blue eyes that had held her captivated, Willow noticed she was gaping. She searched for something witty and endearing to say, to make a good first impression but she couldn't come up with anything. Instead an awkward silence hung in the air between them for a lot longer than was comfortable. Even though she had suddenly become a mute, Willow still managed to notice that the other woman had a small bag slung over her shoulder and another in her other hand. Willow frowned and finally found some words to say,
"Can I help you with anything?" as soon as the words had left her lips Willow regretted that she hadn't said them in a nicer tone.
"T-they assigned me to you... I-I mean to your quarters," the blond stuttered after being subjected to the tone in Willow's voice.
"Huh?" Willow was reduced to monosyllables now.
"S-sorry Captain Rosenberg. With all the new p-pilots arriving... t-there's a shortage of bunks... Captain Summers told me I-I was to share with you... oh!" the blond blushed bright red and she hurried to clarify, "J-just your room, not your bunk."
Willow jumped to her feet, for a split second she forgot that there was a bunk above her head and she whacked her forehead on it hard.
"Fuck!" Willow hissed angrily, clamping her hand to her head and stamping her foot like a small child as though that would make the pain go away.
After a few moments to clear her head, Willow looked back up at the blond, she had a wide-eyed, panicked look on her face as though she knew she had done something terribly wrong.
"This is Buffy's doing isn't it?" Willow asked, angry that the other Captain was finding time in the middle of all this to play practical jokes on her, "You stay right here, don't touch anything... and when I get back I'm going to have this all straightened out."
Tara stood awkwardly in the doorway after the volatile redhead had stormed out and down the corridor, her boots echoing on the metal as she stamped her feet. She looked around at the tiny quarters and saw exactly why the Captain was reluctant to share. On one side there was a set of narrow bunks, each with a small shelf set into the wall. The other side was taken up wholly by two lockers, obviously meant for the personal possessions of the occupants. There were very few signs that anyone even stayed in the cabin. The bed was neatly made, only a slight impression showed where a body had been lying moments ago. A single book sat on the shelf and that was it... no photos taped to the bulkheads as with most servicemen. Over head, the tiny light swayed with the motion of the boat and Tara had to quickly look away as its movement made her feel queasy.
Her bags were reasonably light, but her arms were beginning to ache a little. She dared to put them down on the floor, hoping that it didn't look too much as though she had made herself at home. It was clear the redhead had set off to do anything in her power to avoid having to share her quarters so Tara didn't expect to be staying. Tara winced just remembering her brief encounter with the Captain of the Red Devils. Buffy had warned her that Willow Rosenberg was a little difficult to get along with... but that temper! She wondered if it was safer to make a run for it now, before she came back.
The redhead returned a few minutes later, moving past Tara into the cabin and sitting back down on the bunk. When she looked up, she had a very apologetic look on her face. Although still half-expecting her to burst into a furious tirade, Tara managed to find the backbone to meet her gaze. Her brilliant red hair fell straight down over her shoulders and framed a pale face. Green eyes stared up at Tara, revealing very little as she still had her guard up. Freckles flitted across the bridge of her nose, making her look no older than a teenager although Tara knew full well they were the same age. Her lips were... Tara had been so busy staring, she didn't notice that her own lips had parted ever so slightly in admiration for the young woman sitting in front of her. Inwardly chastising herself, she ducked her head and kept her eyes fixed on the floor. If Captain Rosenberg had noticed, she didn't mention it...
"Flight Officer Maclay right?" Willow spoke up and received a quick nod from Tara, "I'm terribly sorry for my behaviour, I just spoke with my commanding officer and he backed up exactly what you said... except that he did mention it was either share with you... or with Buffy."
Willow winced when she remembered Boone's exact words and knew that she would never complain about sleeping arrangements ever again.
"I think I'll take the far more attractive option that's in front of me," Willow announced before she took the time to think that sentence through.
Tara's ears pricked up, did the Captain really just say what she thought she'd said?
"Attractive as in better than Buffy!" Willow realised what she had said and moved quickly to cover her tracks, her tongue ran way ahead of her thoughts though, "Although I don't mean attractive as in better looking... although you are far more attractive," Hello? earth to Rosenberg? are you even looking at this woman. Comparing her to Buffy is like comparing a rose to a skunk cabbage! Sexy... not Faith-type skanky sexy but hot, sensual sexy... and she's one of Buffy's pilots which probably means that she hates me already so I should just wind up this conversation now, "I mean, you're a far more attractive prospective cabin mate because Buffy and I we don't get along well... it's a long story but suffice to say I... I am a complete imbecile."
Tara smiled, relaxing somewhat in the face of the other woman's babbling, it was adorable... even if she was a superior officer.
"Let's try this again," she said extending her hand, "Captain Willow Rosenberg, commanding officer of the Red Devils fighter squadron, formerly of Sussex, England and currently of the middle of nowhere."
"Tara Maclay," Tara reached out to take the proffered hand and grasped it firmly, "Flight Officer, Slayer Squadron, formerly of Sunnydale, California and... currently in the middle of nowhere."
"That's more like it," Willow said with a grin, reluctantly letting go of Tara's hand, "So... roommates then, this should be interesting." Cabin mates... I can live with that... especially if it means a peek at her boobs...
Tara saw a look of horror pass over Willow's face and she quickly covered her mouth with her hand as though she were stopping herself from saying something. The blonde frowned for a few moments but she hardly had time to think before the redhead launched into another one of her awkward speeches.
"I took the bottom bunk because, well I was the only one here... but you can have it if you want because I don't mind, top or bottom... it's just as good for me..." Willow continued, explaining to Tara where she could stow her kit, oblivious to her inadvertent innuendo.
Although Tara was still listening, she had to suppress a nervous giggle. This was going to be interesting.
I wonder what she'll say if I tell her she is welcome to keep the bottom bunk... on the condition that I get it too... stop it Maclay, you remember what Buffy said... keep your distance...
Although staring at the redhead's firm arse as she bent over to explain the storage space under the bunks, Tara wasn't so sure she could...