"Wiping out? Look Al-Willow, I'm don't know if you read Entertainment Weekly, but Buffy numbers went up 19% this season,"
"And that could mean a lot of things," said Willow, with encouragement, "That could mean that everybody likes the new character twists and plot...whatever. Or, it could mean word of mouth. A lot of people are just catching on to the show, so that's probably part of the number increase you're seeing," She pulled up a chair beside him and took the mouse in her hand.
"Well," Joss began to felt a small chill, "Of course, that's always a factor. But the characters are solid, that's an important part of the following,"
"Absolutely!" she said. It began to bother him that she was trying so hard to reassure him. He didn't need reassurance.
"TV Guide reader's polls indicate strong following, and Sarah and David-" he said.
"Are both sex symbols. It's a very good thing,"
Joss was trying to shake the feeling that Willow was patronizing him.
"The Neilsen's ratings-"
"Strong again. It's true! And people who are just tuning in are seeing...two gorgeous people who can't touch each other...hey, that can be very erotic, in some ways, you know, the NOT touching...except for around every fifth episode....and then, I get lots of great lines that are all about Oz now, and the occasional witchcraft thing, which, by the way, I do love. It's totally me. But the whole Willow-and-Buffy-are-best-girlfriends thing kind of went on the back burner, didn't it? Those were some of my best moments. Those, and just being Willow. Not too much pure Willow any more,"
"But-but Willow's growing up-"
"So girls who are growing up just ditch their girlfriends for boys? Yeah, sometimes. Not every time. Not me and Buffy, do you think?"
"But, hey! It's not for me to tell you, is it? And of course, none of us would say anything to you about Angel leaving....well, he might, but you're the creator!"
"Hold on a minute-"
"Let's take a look at the web sites that people have created around the characters on the show," Willow's voice sank to a conspiratorial whisper, "You know what's really cool?"
"No....what?" Joss asked apprehensively.
"When someone creates a place for a character, that character can go there. Or not. It's totally up to us. We're not trapped in your idea of us,"
"Trapped? But I-"
"You know...stuck in everything you see for us. We can spend time where we choose, so..." Willow bit her lower lip and turned a brilliant pink.
"...So...?" said Joss, only half-wanting to hear it.
"Well, there's this writer named Laure,"
"Yeah," Willow giggled richly, "And there's one thing I can tell you, Joss. There's lots of fun things you can do with Spike, lots better things than having him shove a broken bottle in my face and threaten to shove it into my brain. UGH! I mean, the things you can do with Spike," she sighed and turned an even deeper pink, squirming a little in the chair, "It's wonderful. And she's just one writer, there are others, although she's definitely among the very, very best,"
"Oh, it's just fan fiction, Joss, you don't have to worry about it. It's all legit and these people don't mean any harm. But I'll tell you one thing," Willow made a fluttery sound that ended in a squeak, "They have incredible imaginations,"
"Not as good as yours, of course," she said, eyes wide, and Joss was beginning to feel more beat up than he had by Buffy.
"Now, about this fan-"
"Oh!" said Willow suddenly, nodding at the computer screen, "Check out all the site URLs you can find through just this one search. Here's 92 Buffy sites, and let's see how many of those are Buffy/Angel sites....wow! And that's just one search, Joss, and that doesn't include the mailing lists or the posting boards or just the private stories that people e-mail to each other-"
"That's a good thing,"
"Sure it is! Especially the fan fic," she said, under her breath.
"I heard that!"
"Be nice!" she warned, "I can show you all kinds of things, and some you might not want to see, like the JMB site, so just behave yourself,"
"I don't see how this is relevant. I don't understand what you're showing me,"
"Well, Buffy took you through your past, because she represents your high school trauma,"
"Yeah, I got that,"
"Are you sore, by the way?"
"Uh....no..." Joss groped his face for a moment. He was fine.
"It was more of a symbolic beating than a real one, although the pain was real, right?"
"Yes. It certainly was,"
"So she could get through to you. Now me, I'm web girl, and also I understand the principals of magic. Plus, you trust me. Implicitly. Everyone does and everyone should,"
"Yeah. Basic alchemy,"
"And why do you need alchemy to get through to me?"
"Because, by accident, or by fate, or whatever, you have created some real magic,"
"Will you please tell me what you're getting at?"
"You need to stop being so impatient. The next character is going to be here and he's not as nice as me and he's a LOT tougher and he's hearing every word you're saying to me,"
"Oh my God...." said Joss.
"Yeah. HIM. So you'd better chill. You've been pretty rushed lately, anyway, haven't you? You had me in some pretty limiting scenarios earlier in the season. Oz, though...well, it depends on the writer," she blushed again.
Joss sighed. "OK, what is it I'm supposed to be getting?"
"Well, Buffy showed you that you have issues and that they affect your work,"
"And I'm showing you-something much nicer, really! Magic. Very basic elemental alchemy,"
"A great love story, Joss. Not just good chemistry or a nice romance. Buffy and Angel are up there with Romeo And Juliet and West Side Story. It's the greatest romance to hit popular culture, much less TV, in years. It has an eternity about it, a resonance that transcends the work that it sprang from. Don't you get it, Joss? You put it on the paper, and then Sarah and David breathed life into it, and then it bounced off millions of hearts and zipped around the net and got fed by hundreds of imaginations, and now it's REAL. You've sparked a love that became REAL. It exists independently of you, and you have to respect that!"
Joss stared open-mouthed at Willow, speechless.
"Hey!" she jumped up from her chair, "We're done early! Do you have any