DISCLAIMER: Poltergeist: the Legacy and Buffy the Vampire Slyaer characters are the property of Showtime, the Sci-fi Channel, Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: When I first saw the various requests coming in, I zeroed in on this one because it had a PtL story in it. I even requested this set of prompts, and was thrilled to see that I did end up getting it. I've always adored Alex and Willow both, and even had written the start of something for that pairing many years ago. So I gave this one some serious thought. I even considered pulling out that older behemoth of a story to revamp and post. But then I realized that it just wasn't going to work that way; there was far too much crap to wade through to make that older story plausible for this. And then NaNo, the holidays, and our power outages happened. Yeah, all of those are hideously good at killing the creative buzz for a story like this. But I did what I could and really pushed on this particular storyline idea. And finally, a week later, I'm posting it up. I sincerely hope my recipient doesn't hate me overmuch for thatů
BETA: Thanks to Jaina for the basic beta. Muchly appreciated!
CHALLENGE: Written for the Dead of Winter ficathon.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By A. Magiluna Stormwriter
The knock at the door startles me. "Just a minute!" I call, hitting save and locking my computer before I get up. Glancing at the clock, I realize just how late it's gotten. I peer out the peephole and smile at who's standing there. "Professor Moreau!" I reply as I open the door. "This is a surprise."
"Hey, Willow," she says, matching my grin. "Are you busy? I tried to call, but you weren't answering your phone."
I can feel the frown gathering between my eyes at her statement. "My phone should be on. I never turn it off, unless " Turning around, I dig into my purse, then my backpack, but don't find my cell phone. This starts me on a search of my entire apartment, grumbling under my breath as I go.
"I think I found it," Alex finally says, startling me into remembering that she's even here. I turn to see she's standing next to the couch I've been using as a bed lately, holding up my phone. I grimace as I remember what's lying so close to where she's standing.
"Damn," I mutter and sheepishly take the phone from her to plug it into its charger. "Sorry, Professor Moreau, I guess I lost track of my phone. Sometimes I get a little caught up in things and forget what's important."
Geez, Willow, babble much? Didn't I outgrow that when I was with Tara? What was that I was just writing about self-confidence?
"Willow, I've told you before, you can call me Alex," she replies with a grin. "It makes me feel so old when students call me Professor Moreau." I've never noticed just how pretty she can be when she smiles. I mean, it's kinda sexy. "So anyway, I was hoping you'd be available to get together for coffee or something. There are a few things I'd like to discuss with you."
"Are there issues with my exams or something? I mean, I know I'm trying to do a lot of coursework and everything, but I thought I was managing okay."
"No, you're doing fine, Willow," she reassures me. "It's not that at all. I actually wanted to discuss some prospective career opportunities for you. I've been watching you this semester and I've seen tremendous potential in you."
I don't bother to hide my surprise, blinking at her words. Wow! The last time I really remember someone saying that to me was Miss Calendar. Well, and Giles, of course. "Um, thank you. I'm available now, if you want me." My face feels like it's on fire, I'm blushing so hard. Why am I such a dundermouth around her? I feel like I'm trying to get to know Tara all over again. Oh "I mean, my schedule's pretty open right now. I've been catching up on some studying and working on ideas for my theses."
"Really? What ideas do you have?" She moves closer to my desk. "If you're willing to share your ideas with me, of course."
I can see the glimmer of the geek in her eyes. It really is kinda sexy. It only takes a couple of steps to get back to my desk and minimize the window with Tara's letter. There's a slight pang of something as I do, but I pull up the outline and schematics I've been working on anyway. As I launch into my ideas, she pulls up a chair and grabs for the nearby notebook and pen to jot down her own notations and suggestions. I haven't felt this energized by a brainstorming session since
I get up suddenly and head into the kitchen. "Um, can I get you something to drink? I've been a bad hostess. My mother would be so disappointed."
"Tea is fine, if you have any," Alex replies with a warm smile. "And if you don't, whatever you have will be fine."
Turning into the kitchen to hide the flush I can feel rising in my cheeks at her smile, I dig out some rosehip tea and fireweed honey. I busy myself with making the tea, just for something to do. "So, Pro -- Alex, do you think my thesis committees will accept these ideas I've got? I mean, I don't want to get all this work set up and then be told it's not right."
"I'm sure both ideas will work," she assures me. "You may need to do a little tweaking here and there, but both are sound options. And all you have to do is ask, and I'll be more than happy to give you some guidance along the way." I can hear her getting up, not exactly surprised that she's coming into the kitchen. "Willow, can I ask you something? Who's Tara? If it's too personal, you don't have to answer it."
I can't speak for a long moment. I haven't shared anything about Tara with anyone at Berkley since I came back from South America. She's been my secret, my treasured memories of a lifetime ago, only shared with the people that knew her. Do I dare do this now? But I trust Alex. Don't I?
"I'm sorry, Willow." Her voice cuts into my thoughts to startle me. "You don't need to answer that."
"No!" I reply, wincing at the sharp neediness in my tone. "I want to. I just wasn't sure what I was gonna say. Tara Tara was my girlfriend. She was the first girl that really made me feel confident about myself and what I'm capable of. She was also the first person I hurt by doing what I thought was best for her."
"She's passed away, hasn't she?" Alex asks, one hand touching my arm when I nod. She gets this weird look on her face, and I notice my arm feeling all tingly where she touched it. "Oh. Oh my. Willow, how could you do that? How did you do it?"
"Hunh? Do what?"
"You skinned him alive?"
I wince and nod, turning back to the now-whistling teapot. "It's nothing I'm proud of, that's for sure," I reply slowly, pouring the water into the cups. "It just I was feeling so angry, so lost without Tara. I just lost it, you know? I wanted revenge. I've spent years trying to atone for that. I hardly ever touch magic anymore. It's too dangerous for me, like an addiction." And then it dawns on me. "Wait! How did you know about that?"
Now it's her turn to grimace sheepishly. "I'm kind of clairvoyant, a little precog, mostly psychometry. Not many people know about it, and it's never really worked with touching another person before." She takes a deep breath and meets my gaze. "I think we need to have a talk. There are some things I need to share with you."
"Okay, sure," I say and hand her a cup of tea. I follow her to the couch and sit down, trying to get myself comfortable.
"I work for a very special organization "
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