Author: Closetromantic19 aka Katie
"I can't believe you let him talk you into this." Cordelia was seething.
Willow shrugged. "I'm his best friend, Cordy. Somebody had to be here to keep the bloodshed to a minimum."
Cordelia rounded on Willow. "I'm your boss, I outrank him!"
"Oh please," Anya was quick to throw her hat into the ring, "Without Willow, you'd never be able to keep the company afloat, you're hardly her superior."
"And already the evening is off to a great start." Xander let out a deflated breath.
"I'm really glad you decided to call me back, Tara," Riley began conversationally. "I was beginning to think I was losing my touch."
Tara felt for the man but she couldn't let her "date" go on under false pretenses. "Riley, I think there's something I should tell you."
"Cordelia," Willow approached the brunette cautiously, "Don't you think it's a little bit childish to pull someone's hair?"
"She...started...it," Cordelia managed through gritted teeth, refusing to loosen her hold on Anya's coppery locks.
Xander was covering his eyes. "Tell me when it's over Will."
"Alexander Lavelle Harris!" Cordelia and Anya practically shouted in unison, before turning to regard one another in contempt once again. "Shut up." "No, you shut up!"
Willow took a sip of her wine and shook her head. "It's funny, but whenever the two of you are around me I can actually feel my IQ dropping."
"Wait, run that by me one more time," Riley was thoroughly lost. "You're what now?"
"Riley, just give it a few minutes, it'll come to you, I promise." Tara smiled obligingly at the handsome young man. "I'm going to the ladies' room. I won't be long. That should give you some time to figure it out."
Riley watched Tara disappear from view, and ambled towards the bar. He needed a drink. It was then he spotted a familiar redhead. "Willow?" he called out through the crowd. "Willow Rosenberg is that you?"
Willow turned at the sound of someone calling her name. "Riley?"
Riley managed to avoid the rush of oncoming waiters from the kitchen and was at Willow's side in no more than a minute. "Hey Willow, what're you doing here?" He noticed her friends. "Hello Anya, Anya's friend..." Xander stood up and extended his hand.
"Xander Harris, nice to meet you." Riley shook his hand politely and his gaze fell on Cordelia.
"Oh, Miss Chase, I didn't even see you there!" he offered her his hand. "It's a real honor to..."
Cordelia regarded the broad-shouldered man with imminent disdain. "Do I know you?"
Willow was furiously trying to elbow her in the shoulder when Anya said loudly, "That's Riley, the security guard in our building. We see him every day."
Riley retracted his proffered hand, and pretended not to notice the slight. "So..." he began nervously, "What's the occasion?"
"Xander and I are-" a hand immediately clamped firmly over Anya's mouth and Xander laughed nervously. "I think what An means to say is, that she and I are big fans of the French cuisine, right, dear?" Anya, mouth still firmly covered, shot Xander a death glare.
"Hey Riley, I got back to the table and you were gone, is everything okay?" Tara appeared at Riley's right.
"Riley, my man," Xander removed his hand from Anya's mouth, "Aren't you going to introduce us to your date?"
"Oh I'm not his..." Tara began quickly but was cut off.
"Yeah, this is..." but Riley was also cut off.
"Tara?" Willow stared between Riley and the blonde in abject horror. "You two know each other?"
"Well it's nice to meet you Tar-" Xander extended a hand to the blonde, unaware of the mounting tension around him.
"Wait," Riley was staring at Willow, "How do you know Tara?"
"She interviewed for a position at..." Willow rattled off angrily and stopped, "I don't have to tell you this!"
Anya had been watching the proceedings in silence up until now. She cleared her throat and shouted over Riley and Willow's mounting argument. "Xander and I are engaged!"
Everyone in attendance wore matching looks of shock, except for Cordelia. She looked furious. "You're engaged?!" She shrieked and ran out of the restaurant.
Xander shot Anya a dirty look and took off after Cordelia. "Cordy...wait..."
Willow spared one last spiteful glance at Riley before following her best friend. "Xander...I'm not so sure that's a good idea..."
Anya, Tara and Riley were left alone at the table. "Wow..." said Anya finally, "This is awkward."
Willow was surprised to find Cordelia standing on the sidewalk. "Where's Xander?" She eyed the angry brunette suspiciously. "You didn't kill him, did you?"
Cordelia rolled her eyes. "He went to get the car. Their car. The car that's jointly theirs."
Willow wondered for a moment if Cordelia had lost her mind. "Cordelia...not that I mind but...why the sudden interest in semantics?"
Cordelia spared Willow a mournful glance. "Because they share everything now...they're getting married." She turned and went back inside.
She found Tara sitting at the now abandoned table. "Where did they go?"
Tara looked lost in thought. "Who?"
Cordelia pressed on, "You know, that guy and...her."
Tara looked up, "Oh...I guess she went to go find her boyfriend. Or was it fiancÚ? I had a hard time following the whole thing, honestly."
Cordelia took a deep gulp of scotch. "That's because Anya's certifiable."
Tara gave a noncommittal murmur which Cordelia took to be one of wholehearted agreement. "She's a bit...abrupt, I guess."
"Exactly!" Cordelia jumped in, "I mean who does she think she is, announcing their engagement, and interrupting everybody else's conversation. I mean that's totally rude."
Tara shrugged, "I...she was just excited I guess."
Cordelia nodded emphatically. "Oh, you're right, she could not wait to share that bit of late breaking news with everyone. It's so like her to take an evening like this and make it all about her."
Tara regarded Cordelia kindly. "So you uh, you love him, huh?"
Cordelia slapped her empty glass back onto the table. "Exactly! I love him! What does that skank know about love anyways?!"
Tara shook her head. "I really wouldn't know..."
Rejuvenated by another gulp of scotch Cordelia was on a roll. "Nothing, exactly! She doesn't know anything about love!" She paused for a moment and looked at Tara. "I like you, you know...you get it."
Tara was just trying to keep up. "I do?"
Cordy was now gesturing with her empty glass. "Yes, you definitely do. What's your name again, Tami?" Tara started to correct her but decided not to bother. "Tami, you definitely get it! That's the kind of people you are!"
Tara raised an eyebrow but said nothing and Cordelia continued. "Tami, Tami, what do you do for a living?"
"I manage a-" Tara began but was again cut off.
"Tami, I want you to come and work for me, how does that sound?"
"Great! So you start Monday." Cordelia slumped forward onto the table, fast asleep.
"Hey Cordy, I've been looking all over for you!" Willow rushed in to find Cordy face down on the table. She gave Tara a questioning look.
"She fell asleep about two minutes ago," Tara said quietly, "I haven't had the heart to wake her."
Cordelia sat straight up and regarded Willow intently for a moment. "Willow, I want you to meet Tami. Tami's going to be my new assistant." With that, she slumped forward again.
Tara and Willow exchanged amused glances. Well if that wasn't a sign, they both thought, I don't know what is.