Forget and Smile – Chapter Nine

This entry is part 9 of 16 in the series Forget and Smile
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 Forget and Smile

Chapter 9

After a few days, Buffy started to catch the rhythm of life at the school. The girls milled around like students everywhere, wandering from one class to another, some skipping whenever they could get away with it, others painfully industrious, and most somewhere in between the two extremes. She had a few girls for both Martial Arts and Demonology, and she was amused how most preferred fighting to studying while a few almost resented their slayer powers and clung to their books and computers as devotedly as Willow had done at the same age.

Willow always seemed busy, but never too busy to sweep down and deal with the latest emergency, be it a massive quarrel among the freshmen, a burst pipe in the basement, or a group defection from history class that turned out to be an unauthorized expedition to see a movie instead of the feared runaway attempt. Buffy rarely had a chance to talk with her until dinner time at the earliest.

Spike was everywhere when Buffy wasn’t looking for him, and never to be found when she was. She passed his office door a dozen times a day. It was always open or at least ajar, and usually there was at least one girl inside, laughing, crying, or explaining something intently, or else just waiting until he returned so she could pour her heart out to him.

This amused her until she realized she had become one of the slayers who lurked until he had the time to spend with her. When she needed him to talk over her lesson plans or advise her on dealing with a particularly difficult student, she’d sit in his office after her last class, with Princess and sometimes Katie for company, grading papers while sitting cross-legged in the old armchair that faced the TV.

Princess was apparently getting old enough that she was content to spend most of her time lying on a pillow and having her ears scratched, but Katie chatted about everything and nothing while watching reruns and doing her homework. Although Buffy had no illusions that Katie told her everything, she did learn which girls belonged to which cliques, which teachers were disliked for making their classes too hard, which were despised because they made things too easy, and which were hard but admired. She wondered which category she belonged to. That, of course, was one of the bits of information that Katie edited out of her tales.

There could be no doubt most of the students put Spike in the third category, although a few complained bitterly that he gave too much reading and was always calling on girls who hadn’t raised their hands. That was just too bad, Buffy thought, even realizing that she was sounding like Giles. Any girl who whined about studying Demonology needed to realize that not only would she use the things she was learning later in life, but that those things might well ensure she had a later life. On the other hand, she could still sympathize with the ones who didn’t want to study poetry, although she found that these days she didn’t mind listening to Spike talk about it. As long as he doesn’t expect me to understand it.

Katie wasn’t a whiner exactly, but she had learned the fine art of complaining at the feet of a master. Buffy heard the echo of Spike’s voice behind the girl’s cynical evaluations of news anchors and her scathing comments on situation comedies. Buffy dropped her head and grinned as Katie sneered at “Ally McSqueal” before switching to CNN and pointing out the absurdity of a channel that used Hummer as a sponsor for a show about protecting the environment.

Then Spike would come in, and half the time Buffy would forget the reason she’d waited for him as she listened to him talk with Katie and any other students who had followed him through the door.

Of course, that just meant she had to return the next day in hopes of a chance of catching him alone. And spend too much of the time in between wondering if he was spending his evenings with Lauren or another one of “all those girls.”

*****

“Trudy’s still nervous in class,” she told Willow over a dinner of Chinese take-out one night. She’d wanted to discuss this with Spike but she couldn’t talk about one student in front of another, and Katie had been sticking to his side in a more glue-like fashion than usual. Buffy had even tried prying him loose by offering to buy him a cup of coffee, but Katie had blithely invited herself along on the expedition.

“I’m going to take her to the hospital to see Carrie tomorrow,” said Willow. “Maybe if she can make her peace with what she did, she’ll be able to settle down. At least she seems to be confronting the consequences of her anger.”

Buffy picked up a spoon and hovered between the cartons of Mongolian Beef and Cashew Chicken. Decisions, decisions. “She’ll need to channel that anger, not abandon it, if she’s going to use her power effectively.”

Willow speared a mushroom with a chop stick and eyed it suspiciously. “Carrie understands that. One of the reasons she’s so good at her job is she was where Trudy is once.”

“Really?” Buffy had gone with Willow to visit Carrie a couple of times, and she hadn’t seemed to be repressing a lot of anger. Which was pretty remarkable for a woman who had been in traction for a couple of weeks.

“Yeah. Like almost Faith-level really. Even after she stopped trying to run away, she wound up doing three senior years before we’d let her out into the field. We sent her to the community college for academic stuff while we worked on the slayer issues.” Willow popped the mushroom in her mouth and said almost defensively, “By the way, I’ve pulled Katie out of Intermediate Magic and into my Advanced class.”

“Oh.” Buffy wondered what analogy had caused Willow to come up with that sudden change of subject. “Do all the girls study magic? What if they don’t have any aptitude?” I certainly had no aptitude for plenty of things, magic included.

“There’s an introductory class everyone has to pass that’s not about casting spells, but learning to identify the most common types, recognize when someone’s been bewitched, that kind of thing. After that, the ones who show some talent move on to Intermediate and everyone else gets to drop out.” Willow paused. “I only have three other advanced students. I’d have moved Katie on sooner, but–”

Buffy remembered what Spike had said about not wanting her to become dependent on magic. He’d always mistrusted such things, and with good reason. But how many of Willow’s mistakes could have been avoided if she’d had better training earlier on?

At least they started by teaching Katie what not to do. I just hope she listened.

*****

Katie stood on tiptoe, peering over the shoulder of the senior girl in front of her. Willow had finally let her into the advanced magic class, and even if it had only happened because Ms. Brice had kicked her out of the intermediate level, she was thrilled to be able to learn about real magic, not just a few mechanical spells and incantations that anybody could do with a talisman, a grimmoire, and a handful of herbs. Willow was an amazing witch. Katie was trained enough to feel the power that surrounded her, and she wondered why someone so strong was running a school in the middle of nowhere instead out saving the world.

Damn, with all that power, Willow could probably rule the world.

But Willow was going on about control and the dangers of not fully exploring the consequences of magic and why some spells should never, ever be performed no matter how good the reason.

In spite of all her eagerness to get into this class, Katie’s attention began to wander. She began to daydream about what it would be like when she finished her studies and become a really powerful witch and a really powerful slayer. Her eyes strayed to the contents of the bookcases on the curved wall of the tower room, and she wondered what they held.

Chapter Ten

 

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/232057.html

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