- Forget and Smile – Chapter One
- Forget and Smile – Chapter Two
- Forget and Smile – Chapter Three
- Forget and Smile – Chapter Four
- Forget and Smile – Chapter Five
- Forget and Smile – Chapter Six
- Forget and Smile – Chapter Seven
- Forget and Smile – Chapter Eight
- Forget and Smile – Chapter Nine
- Forget and Smile – Chapter 10
- Forget and Smile – Chapter Eleven
- Forget and Smile – Chapter Twelve
- Forget and Smile – Chapter Thirteen
- Forget and Smile – Chapter Fourteen
- Forget and Smile – Chapter Fifteen
- Forget and Smile – Two Epilogues
Forget and Smile
Buffy was passing the gym. It was a legitimate shortcut, but she also wanted to see how Carrie was managing on her first day back at work. She wasn’t all that surprised to see Trudy working diligently on her forms and keeping her eyes on Carrie almost worshipfully. She thought Carrie would be angry, and instead she was accepting. Trudy’s learned to trust someone. That is definitely of the good.
Most of the other girls were working out fairly diligently, and a few slackers who Carrie hadn’t noticed started putting some effort into their kicks and punches when they saw Buffy.
It was surprisingly hard to watch the class and know she wasn’t in charge any more, but everything looked okay, except Katie was sparring with a girl who was nowhere up to her skill level. Buffy stopped to watch as Katie scored blow after blow, until the other girl threw up a hand and went to a corner, panting. She pulled off her chest protector and dropped down with her head on her knees for a few moments before swigging down some water.
Katie was sipping from her own water bottle. She wasn’t even breathing very hard. Buffy smiled, thinking she understood the girl’s annoyed look.
“Want to spar with me later?” she asked. “I need to go see Spike about something, but we could break out the blindfold and–”
“No, thanks.” Katie turned and walked away, her back stiff.
Buffy shrugged. She’d noticed that Katie had become more distant lately, and she had no idea why. Maybe it was because Buffy had handed the class over to someone else. Maybe it was because she was having a hard time in Bio. Maybe it was because she was a teenager.
I didn’t understand the teenage mind when I was a teenager. I didn’t understand it when I had a teenage sister to raise. Why should I understand it now?
She considered asking Willow about it, and then remembered her friend had flown to Chicago for the day for some kind of important trustee meeting. She’d have to talk to Spike about Katie. But it would have to wait until after they dealt with the latest supernatural menace to invade boring old Iowa. And this demon wasn’t one she was looking forward to adding to her collection.
“What’s the matter, Miss America, our poor Midwestern demons not posh enough for you?”
“Of course not.” Buffy rolled her eyes. “I mean, well, you know what I mean. But come on, Spike — Bigfoot?”
Spike leaned over his desk, blue eyes sparkling. Buffy realized that there was no way he was passing up this opportunity to tease her. “Yeah, I understand perfectly.” His voice moved into a grating falsetto. “I’ll have you know I’m a sophisticated, cosmopolitan-type slayer. I’m accustomed to killing aristocratic demons, preferably titled vampires with snooty foreign accents who wear capes to the opera. I turn my absurdly adorable little nose up at these trashy Sasquatches and animated scarecrows tromping around in nasty, dirty corn fields.” He pulled back in mock fear. “For one thing, you never know when you might be attacked by a vicious llama.”
She stared him down, biting her lip so as not to encourage him by laughing. “Got it out of your system?” she asked as steadily as she could.
‘Yeah.” He slouched back in his chair, but his eyes were still gleaming with mischief, so she was prepared when he jumped up, pointing behind her and yelling, “Llama!”
When she didn’t react at all, he sat down again and said reluctantly, “You win. I owe you a mocha.”
“And a slice of cheesecake, for the lack of flinchage.”
Buffy let herself smile then. It was wonderful to be teased about silly things that didn’t trigger fears and doubts, and that instead just made her try to think of some equally silly way to get back at him. Maybe it had been worth it to stick around Iowa a lot longer than she’d ever intended, just for the simple pleasure of spending time with him that didn’t include any stomach clenchings due to horror or guilt. Maybe she could just take these memories as a gift and leave in a few weeks, letting him get on with a life he obviously enjoyed. Maybe she shouldn’t let herself want any more than that.
Maybe I shouldn’t. But I do.
“But are you sure it’s Bigfoot?” she asked. “Not because of the snob factor. Because I never heard of one that looks like what I saw last night.”
“I’m sure.” He started pawing through a pile of books again. Honestly, the man was turning into Giles, only with a worse filing system. And as far as Buffy could tell, almost the only thing he used his computer for was playing video games. “There’s no single demon that has been called Bigfoot or Sasquatch. People have given that name to several that live throughout North America, but this one is easy to identify. You said the eyes and mouth of this one are in the chest instead of the face. That’s a dead giveaway. They’re pretty rare.”
“I hope so. They don’t just eat livestock.” He laid a book open on the desk so that she could see a picture and read a brief description.
“Okay, so there’s enough ick factor to throw them firmly into the Slay-on-Sight category. What kills them?”
“Metal. That’s why the tire iron slowed it down even though it probably hit with a lot less force than your big stick.” He smirked a little.
“Okay, so we get some nice big weapons made out of metal. I’m always partial to axes. Maybe we can drive it out into the open, trap it between us, and hack it to death.”
He started to laugh, that mocking incredulous laugh that she knew meant he’d seen a fatal flaw in her argument. That laughter had always been aggravating, but the comments that followed it had had a depressing tendency to be on-target.
“What?” she snapped, too busy trying to find where she’d gone wrong to think of a witty remark.
“You’ve forgotten one thing, pet,” he said, more kindly than her memory had led her to expect. “I’m just a bloke, remember? Not a slayer. The witch has upped my strength a bit now and then when the occasion seemed to call for it, but that’s only ever been temporary — and I could never pull off a stunt like you’re suggesting, even then. You practically had to carry me back to the car last night.”
“Oh,” she said blankly. “I’m sorry.”
“I mean, if you want the top off a peanut butter jar, I’m your man,” he said. “But there’s no way I can wrestle a Sasquatch demon.”
The words “peanut butter” temporarily derailed Buffy’s thoughts, but she got them back on track. “What should we do, then?” she asked at last, watching him carefully.
“Call in another fully-trained slayer who’s been out of the hospital for more than a week—which we don’t have time for—or use a different plan,” he said. “I’d like an idea that doesn’t involve taking a hormonal kid with us, although if we really need help we can draft a few of the seniors. By the way, don’t tell Katie what we’re up to or she’ll find a way to come along. Lie if necessary –”
“It doesn’t bother you?” asked Buffy suddenly. “That most of the girls you teach are stronger than you are?”
He looked up, his eyebrow quirking in surprise. “Doesn’t keep me from doing my job,” he said.
“No,” she agreed. She leaned her elbows on his desk and her chin on her hands. “It doesn’t. They all respect you too much to give you real trouble.”
He snorted with laughter at that. “Probably because they know I don’t mind a bit of the more harmless sort of trouble.”
“You’re kind of like a watcher,” she said slowly. “For these girls.”
“Bloody hell, no!” He looked up at that, almost horrified.
“You don’t like watchers?”
“No. Wait –” He corrected himself almost immediately. “I like the only real watcher I ever met, and that Wesley friend of Angel’s who’d been kicked out of the Council wasn’t too bad when he was fighting instead of yapping. But I’m not surprised Rupert Giles is almost the only watcher who survived. Not even sure it was all a bad thing. The Council as a whole struck me as a bunch of wankers, and the more I study them the less I like them.”
Buffy bit her lip to stop herself from endorsing this statement. She desperately wanted to know why he thought that. She watched him move aside a pile of papers to get at a file folder underneath. “Why?”
“Seems to me they were more interested in controlling the slayers than letting them do their jobs. Kept the number down to one at a time, too, making sure the girls couldn’t band together, take over from the Council. Stupid, and there’s no way to explain it unless hanging onto power was more important than helping the girls and destroying as many demons as possible.”
“Giles didn’t think that way,” said Buffy.
“No,” said Spike absently, still looking for something in the mess on his desk. “Don’t imagine he did. I understand he helped the witch and the slayers of the time share the power with all the potentials.”
“He did,” said Buffy quietly.
Something in her tone seemed to strike him. He looked up. “You were there? When Willow did it? You were one of the first batch?”
“You might say that,” she replied.
He frowned. “When we met in LA, you weren’t acting like a slayer at first.”
“I thought that after we — after they destroyed the hellmouth in Sunnydale, and Faith agreed to take on the one in Cleveland, I thought I could go back to being just a normal girl.”
For a moment, his gaze went unfocused in a way that was becoming very familiar to her. Then he stopped trying to sort out memories, snorted, and bent over to yank open the drawers to the desk. “Like the unicorn in the garden?” His voice was keen as a knife’s stroke.
“Huh?” She blinked at him. “Is this a virgin joke or something?”
His bark of laughter came from somewhere under the desk. She peeked around and saw there was another huge stack of files on the floor there. “Hardly. A Thurber joke. Twentieth century lit.” He sat up, his hair more mussed than usual. “The unicorn is a mythical beast. Just like the normal girl. There’s no such thing.” He waved a folder triumphantly, sending the dust bunnies attached to it flying through the air. “Knew I had this somewhere. Additional information on the eating habits of the Endo-Facial Sasquatchensis Northamericanensis.”
She was sure he’d just made up that idiotic name, but she ignored that for the moment. “So there are no normal girls,” she said, “but you told me a few minutes ago that you’re just a normal bloke.”
He looked up from the contents of the folder, one eyebrow flying up wickedly. “Said I was just a bloke. Didn’t say anything about normal.”
Buffy watched him reach for a pad of paper and start to take notes, his left hand moving rapidly across the sheet as his right turned over the pages in the file. She was glad he wasn’t looking at her. Because I’ve just realized that even if I’d never met him before I came to this place, even if I had no idea who he once was or what he’d done to become what he is, I’d still be in love with him at this moment.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/233015.html