Forget and Smile – Chapter Six

This entry is part 6 of 16 in the series Forget and Smile
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Title: Forget and Smile

Rating: R, eventually

Disclaimer: All characters are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, etc. Only the lame plots and dialogue herein are mine.

Notes: This is a sequel to Sweet Lethe, a short story I wrote just after Chosen aired. At the time, I called it my Silly!Sappy!Amnesiac!Shanshued!Spike tale, and that still strikes me as a pretty good summary. I started writing the follow-up then, but never finished, although I kept adding bits from time to time. I suppose the delay makes sense, because the story picks up years later, when Buffy goes to visit Willow and Spike. She hasn’t seen him since the events in Sweet Lethe, and he still has no memory of his past and no idea he was once a vampire.

Word Count: Still editing, but this got away from me. It’s going to be a long one, folks, at least 25,000 words.

Thanks: To keswindhover and revdorothyl for betaing, and enigmaticblues for reopening the comm and running this season in spite of having an incredibly busy life.

The story begins here.

 

“Don’t blame Trudy.” The woman lying in the hospital bed looked up at Willow. Her eyes were slightly unfocused and her voice slightly slurred.

Which is a lot better than being so filled with pain she could barely talk. Willow winced in sympathy at the sight of her Martial Arts teacher bruised, in traction, and doped up. “You know, Carrie, I’m thinking that’s the morphine talking because this looks really blameable.”

Carrie shook her head. “She was angry and upset, but not with me. And she didn’t realize she was pushing me back towards the stairs. Hell, I was trying so hard to block her kicks without hurting her, I didn’t realize it. Stupid.”

“No!” Willow saw a nurse glaring at her and lowered her voice. “You were taking care of your student. Too much care, maybe. Maybe if you’d hit her back–” Her voice trailed off.

Carrie said what they both knew. “That’s what made her angry in the first place. Getting hit.”

Willow wished she could say that they’d fix Trudy, but she knew that Carrie’s bones would knit before that happened. And it may not happen at all. We’ve had a lot of successes, but I remember every single failure. Every girl who ran away or otherwise went out into the world carrying that weight of anger and terror. Like Faith.

But Faith had learned to get past the pain, eventually. Maybe Trudy and the other girls would too. At least, maybe the ones that hadn’t already taken their pain with them into a fatal fight would.

Willow straightened her shoulders. She had learned that you had to give up on the dead and concentrate on the living.

With a few notable exceptions.

*****

“How long until Carrie’s back in the gym?” Spike asked.

Buffy had been surprised to see him arrive at the coffee shop where Willow had promised to meet her when she’d called from the hospital. Willow had sounded annoyed but not desperate, and Buffy was beginning to think that life at the Boudicca Academy was a series of emergencies. Not unlike life had been in Sunnydale, perhaps, except here slayers rather than demons seemed to be the cause of most of the disasters.

The morning had begun with a leisurely breakfast at Willow’s followed by an urgent call from the school, followed by Willow’s request that Buffy enjoy herself wandering around town until the principal could get things “settled down a little.”

So Buffy had walked down the small town’s shabby main street, with its VFW hall, decaying Carnegie library, gas station-cum-grocery, and a bar called “Ray’s Place.” That had taken about five minutes, so she’d found a small park and sat in a swing, watching some children play tag and thinking too much until her cell phone had buzzed and she’d been given directions to the coffee shop a couple of blocks away.

Now, Willow was saying, “The doctor is saying at least six weeks, but Carrie’s a slayer, so I’m sure she’ll have one of those miraculously fast recoveries they’re always so surprised to see. But even with slayer healing powers, we’re going to have to cancel all the Martial Arts classes for a while, and when she comes back, she’ll probably only be able to supervise at first.”

Spike shifted in his chair, played with a sugar packet, raised an eyebrow, and scowled. After all that, Buffy considered his response redundant. “Not comfortable having the girls, especially the new arrivals, sparring without someone stronger and wiser ready to jump in and stop any disasters.”

Buffy caught Willow’s glance and shrank back in her chair. She saw Spike caught her movement as well, and he sighed.

They want me to volunteer. But how can I?

“So, ladies,” Spike asked. “Have you decided what you want?” Buffy stared at him blankly, and he flicked a finger towards the counter. “To drink?” he asked impatiently. “They have strange customs in these places. They expect you to order beverages.”

“Oh,” said Buffy. She remembered that what-the-hell-is-the-matter-with-you look of his well. It mesmerized her so much she couldn’t stop looking stupid long enough to make it go away.

“Mocha,” said Willow. “Remember how we used to get all sugared up on them, Buff? Come on, have a mocha for old times sake.”

“Okay,” said Buffy, still distracted. “Mocha. Sounds good. Chocolate. Can’t go wrong with that.”

“Great,” said Spike, standing up. “I’ll get it while you girls chat. Whipped cream?”

“Huh?” said Buffy, her stomach sinking. He seemed depressingly eager to get away from her.

“Yeah,” said Willow. “Whipped cream on the mocha.” She said the words slowly and clearly, as if Buffy were suddenly mentally deficient and needed the clue. “I want that.”

Buffy felt as if her IQ were dropping steadily every moment she was in Spike’s presence. “Whipped cream?” she asked. She stared up at him. Come on, Buffy. You make battle plans to assault the armies of Hell. You can come up with a rational response to this question, without making an obviously thirsty man wait forever. “Uh, no,” she said in a sudden rush. “No whipped cream.”

“No whipped cream for Miss America, then,” he responded in a flat tone, one eyebrow flying up in a way that made her think she had definitely made the Wrong Decision.

Spike turned and made his way towards the counter. Buffy banged her head on the table once before looking up at her friend. “Willow,” she hissed. “You shouldn’t be doing this.”

“Doing what?” asked Willow, sliding her eyes towards the ceiling and trying to look innocent.

“Expecting me to help out. He and I would have to be together too much if I did that. Besides, did you hear me? No whipped cream! That was so wrong. Or would be if I was going to do this, which I’m so not.”

Willow blinked in confusion at the sudden turn of the conversation. “Buffy, how could that be wrong? You either want whipped cream or you don’t. It’s not a moral imperative.”

“No, the whipped cream is, is significant, Willow. I mean, if I were ready for spending time with Spike, I would have wanted all that thick, sweet, lickable goodness, wouldn’t I? But I said ‘no,’ without thinking. Because, you know, thinking was certainly not part of the process there. Which just shows that I’m not ready for anything to happen.” She forced herself to speak more firmly. “And nothing should happen. Hence, the lack of whipped cream. I take it back. No whipped cream—that was the right choice.”

Willow rolled her eyes. “Come on, Buffy. You can’t convince me you don’t want to spend time with him. Best friends since high school, remember? I know you. You’re still in love with Spike.”

“No!” Buffy’s words echoed across the room, and she lowered her voice, leaning across the table to say, “I am not still in love with him, Willow. I’ve had a full life that’s had nothing to do with him for–for, like almost a decade, and I’ve come to terms with lots of, of stuff, and Spike and I are different people now, especially considering he wasn’t even a person, or at any rate, not a human, the first time.”

Willow was staring at her, not arguing, but her wide, steady gaze said she didn’t believe a word.

“So I can’t be in love with him any more,” insisted Buffy. She let her eyes slide towards the line of people waiting by the counter. Spike was lounging in a very familiar spineless manner, hands in the pockets of his jeans, idly people-watching, his gaze flicking over Buffy and Willow from time to time.

“Are you sure?” asked Willow.

“About that, yes,” said Buffy. She swallowed hard, and her voice dropped to a whisper. “What I’m not sure of is, whether I can fall in love with him again.”

There was a long pause while all the amusement drained from Willow’s face. “Do you want to?” she asked at last.

“The last time hurt a lot, Willow. It hurt me, and it hurt him worse. I don’t want it to always have to hurt.”

“Oh,” said Willow in a small voice. She looked at Spike. “I don’t want him to be hurt either. It’s just—”

“Just what?”

“Well, all those girls he dates, none of them seem to be able to make him really happy.”

“All those girls?” Buffy realized with horror that the volume and pitch of her voice had risen involuntarily.

“Yeah,” said Willow, looking towards the counter again. “Like Lauren over there.”

“Lauren—” Buffy somehow managed to keep her voice under control as she watched a tall brunette cut into the line and sidle up to Spike. “Who, exactly is Lauren? Besides a slut who wears her jeans way too tight, I mean?”

“She teaches at the regular high school. Language Arts.” Willow rolled her eyes at the term, even in the absence of Spike’s usual retort. “Knows lots of poetry. Always runs after Spike during the school year, then disappears all summer. She goes to other countries to give English classes, tour the sights, that kind of stuff. Rumor is, she sleeps around while she’s gone, but a month or so into the fall semester she’s usually horny again and making a play for Spike. I thought it was about time for her to come sniffing around.”

And indeed she had come around. Lauren was leaning so close to Spike she would probably fall over if he moved away suddenly. He was smiling down at her, looking, if not exactly enchanted, at least amused. He certainly wasn’t looking disgusted.

“Excuse me, Willow,” said Buffy, standing up. Suddenly, she didn’t feel ill-at-ease and uncertain. All at once, she was Buffy again, the Slayer, the girl who had fought a hell god and stopped countless apocalypses. She was a woman with a Mission.

Buffy marched up to the counter, smirked up at Spike, and with a twirl of her hair and a swivel of her hips, deftly inserted herself between him and Lauren. Her back to the brunette menace, she gave him a dazzling smile. “Sorry,” she purred. “I changed my mind.”

“Oh?” The eyebrows quirked again, and her gut reacted, but this time in a good way. Oh, yeah.

“Yeah,” said Buffy aloud. She did the hair flip thing again, and knew without needing to turn and look that Lauren had taken another involuntary step backwards. “I want the whipped cream after all.”

“Do you?” His lips were twitching now. He was laughing at Buffy, but his attention was entirely focused on her.

“Uh, huh. And I thought I should hang around until the order comes. Because, with the whipped cream and all, it could be tricky. You might need some help with it.”

“And you’re good at helping?” he asked.

“Oh, very,” said Buffy. She ignored an unladylike snort from just behind her. “I’m amazingly handy. You’ll be surprised.” She pulled out her best smile. “Especially when I start helping with those Martial Arts and Demonology classes.”

Chapter Seven

 

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/231217.html

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