Origin and Season One (Ch. 31)
Character: Buffy Summers
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Word Count: 2374
A/N: Yep, I'm back. At the time of posting, Witch chapters are mostly done and TP has been outlined, so at the least I can guarantee you several more chapters.
- Velco -
Buffy was still holding the flier she'd taken off the sandwich board outside the gym, still half reading it as she approached her locker and reached for the padlock. She didn't know what had possessed her to take it when she'd first seen it, but the longer she stared at it the more reluctant she felt to throw it away.
She glanced up to enter her combination, then shoved her school stuff inside, laying them haphazardly over her makeup bag and a couple of stakes. The flier went in with the stack, but after a pause she pulled it back out, as if expecting that the answer to her mixed feelings would suddenly appear on the page in big, bold, indelible ink.
But the paper didn't change, and neither did its message or her feelings about it: cheerleading tryouts were next Tuesday.
And she wanted to go.
Grabbing her workout clothes, she shut and relocked her locker, then started off down the hall, flier still in hand, only barely paying attention to passing students.
She'd seen the notice yesterday, but after spending the night and the majority of today's classes considering, the idea was becoming more and more attractive to her. She missed the skirt, the dancing, watching the boys running up the pitch, missed feeling like a girl. By the time Hemery had booted her, half the student body had been too afraid of her to meet her eyes, but when she was a cheerleader they'd been in the stands, cheering her on. She'd been that cute blonde girl, her afternoons filled with shopping and dating, her heart light, airy, unburdened. That girl had never known vampires or seen death in back alleys, and never in her wackiest daydreams would she have thought to burn down the gym.
In Sunnydale it'd only taken a day for her rep to slip, and already she'd seen people with that look, like she was a loaded gun on an unsteady table. Whether it was because news of the circumstances of her expulsion had somehow spread or because Cordelia had recounted her version of their run-in at the Bronze to anyone who would listen, she didn't know, but she did know she couldn't take them looking at her like that anymore.
She just wanted to be normal, or, at the least, to feel normal between the hours of eight and two-thirty five days a week. It didn't seem like too much to ask, but then again she supposed she was lucky enough not to have ended up dead or jailed by now.
The locker room was empty when she reached it, and there she changed from school clothes to sweats. It was time for day two of training with the British librarian, and as she slipped her shirt over her head, she wondered what Giles' reaction to her decision would be.
Despite their heart to heart that night after the Harvest kibosh, animosity still sparked between Buffy and her new Watcher. He'd insisted on starting her at the basics with her training, opening yesterday with a tutorial on how to bandage her fists, as if she was still green. Objections slid off his deaf, British ears, and though he'd given his permission for her to begin nightly patrols – as if she needed it – he trusted her with little else. She'd spent most of yesterday listening to his ramblings about vampyrs and the Council and the latest demonathing he'd read about in some book, and had begun nursing the suspicion that Rubert Giles not only had never dealt with a Slayer in his life, but had never so much as talked to a woman under twenty before. As far as she could tell, Giles had probably been swaddled in tweed and indoctrinated as a Watcher before ever encountering the outside world.
For her part, she had only barely listened to him. Merrick had worshiped books almost as much as Giles did, but nothing they contained had helped him when it counted. Neither had they been of any use to her, with Lothos or anyone else. The Slayer slays, the Watcher reads, and as much as she'd decided to be open with Giles, she wasn't sure if she trusted or respected him yet.
Hell, she wasn't even sure if he liked her.
Sighing, she picked up her clothes and headed for the door. She found the halls already deserted as she made her way to the library, and as she walked she thought about what she'd tell him about the cheerleading, or if she even should tell him, if it was even his business, if she cared what he thought about it. She was still turning it over by the time she reached the double doors, and she paused for a beat before shoving them open, deciding as she crossed the threshold that she might as well tell him. Even if he didn't like it – and he wouldn't – there was nothing he could do about it anyway.
She slammed back to the present with a start. Willow was seated at the big center table, a stack of books at her elbow, and she was waving furiously in Buffy's direction. Buffy smiled at her, “Hey, Wil.”
Xander sprung up from his chair behind Willow, as if only just noticing she'd come in. “Buffy!” he exclaimed. “You're back, from changing. You look, uhm... You wanna sit down? Plenty of chairs.”
“No, thanks,” she said, setting her clothes on the counter to her right. “What're you guys doing here? I thought we were meeting up after training.”
“Xander needed some help with the math,” Willow said. “We decided to just do it here while we wait – if that's okay?”
“Sure,” she shrugged. “Where's Giles?”
Willow glanced right, toward his office, just as Giles himself emerged. “Buffy,” he said in greeting.
“Giles,” she said.
He looked her over for a moment, then glanced in the general direction of Willow and Xander. If he wanted to comment on them being there, he apparently decided to keep it to himself, as when he turned back to her, it was to say, “You're ready to get started?”
She nodded, “Let's rock'n'roll.”
“Right,” he pursed his lips, but said nothing further as he walked past her to the book cage, where she'd found out yesterday he was hiding a cache of exercise equipment, several swords, and something that looked like a short spear with an axe for a head. A halberd, he'd told her. He hadn't really explained why he had it though, or, more specifically, why it was here.
Part of her was almost hoping he was going to bring it out for her to try, but instead he emerged with a wooden dummy, a roll of bandages, two water bottles, and an earnest expression on his face.
“I put it together myself,” he said, wheeling it to a stop a couple feet from where she stood.
Something sarcastic bubbled to her lips. She swallowed it. “What do you want me to do with it?” she asked instead, all innocence.
Her brow lifted. A real blow from her would probably break his handiwork in half, but she decided not to point that out as she took the bandages from him and began wrapping her knuckles. Somewhere in the background, she could hear Willow chastising Xander for his functions. It seemed almost surreal to her that they could even think about something as mundane as math a few scant yards from a small medieval armory, a Watcher, and a Slayer. She certainly barely could.
The bandages tied, Buffy began stretching lightly. She noticed as she rolled her shoulders that there was a face drawn on the wooden head of the dummy, with shark teeth and thick, angry eyebrows. Giles was leaning against the book cage, watching her critically, and he looked so serious that it was almost hard for her to believe he'd drawn the dumb little doodle. She wondered if she asked if he'd even admit to doing it, but she kept the question to herself as she raised her arms.
Taking her cue, Giles began instructing her on her drill. It was similar to Merrick's, so she fell into pattern easily, though she cut back on the power, just barely glancing Giles' stick man to spare both it and the Watcher's feelings.
Giles noticed on his second slow circle around her. “You're not hitting hard enough,” he said.
“You don't want me to,” she replied automatically.
He looked so annoyed for a moment she stopped tapping the dummy and dropped her arms.
“I thought you were serious about this, Buffy,” he said.
Several indignant responses flashed through her head, but all she said was, “Fine.” Falling back into center position, she suspended her thoughts and let instinct take over. Her fists flashed forward, and with the first strike she felt the slightest nip of pain in her knuckles, with the second she felt less, and by the third she felt nothing. The wood cracked on her fourth hit, and without thinking she performed a heavy roundhouse kick, landing it right in the center of that stupid, little face.
The makeshift torso split off and slammed back into the book cage with a clang!, and she lowered her fists, looking at Giles. Heat was coursing through her blood, and it felt so good she almost ached. She'd forgotten how much she missed this. She'd forgotten how much she wanted to hit something, how damned angry she was.
She stood there looking at him, but neither of them said anything. The room had gone silent. She realized after a beat that Willow and Xander had stopped talking, and they were both staring at her with expressions she didn't want to identify. Suddenly, she felt embarrassed, and the anger drained away as quickly as it had sparked.
“Sorry,” she murmured.
Giles looked embarrassed too. “No,” he said. He rubbed the back of his neck, then walked over to the sad remains of the dummy. He picked it up and looked at it for a second, then looked back at her. “I, uh, have some padding, I'll just get that and we can...” his voice trailed off as he disappeared behind the book cage.
Part of her wanted to apologize when he came back out holding a pile of large pads, but the rest of her didn't. He'd asked her to hit it, and she'd hit it. It wasn't her fault it hadn't been strong enough. So she kept silent, and, instead, offered to relieve him of his burden.
It took her a moment to realize what the pads were for. “You want me to hit you?” she asked incredulously, shifting the load in her arms. After what she'd done to the dummy?
“Yes,” he said, grabbing a pad from her. “Help me, would you?”
Brave, old, British bastard – she'd give him that much.
She helped velcro him up, all the while uncomfortably aware that Willow and Xander had both stopped what they'd come to do to watch them. Then again, she realized as she tightened a pad over Giles' tweed-covered arm, this may have been what they'd actually come to watch from the start.
She pushed the thought away as she stepped away from Giles. He looked like a hockey player. Like a really old, really British hockey player who didn't know what he was doing.
She wished she hadn't broken the dummy.
“You're sure about this?” she asked.
He shifted, with what looked like slight difficulty. “Yes.”
She took up center position again, eying him grimly.
“Not so hard,” he said suddenly.
“Yeah,” she nodded.
When she hit him, it was at half power, but she could still see him wince. To her surprise, when he opened his mouth to talk it was to give her instruction, not to tell her to stop. And so she hit him again, and again, again, again, keeping a heavy damper over that internal fire that she'd allowed to flare so briefly before.
And she kept on hitting him.
A thought popped into her head as he blocked her cross with a heavily padded arm. “Giles?” she said.
“What?” he grunted. He was sweating.
“What would you say if I were to try out for the cheerleading squad?”
“I'd say you should...” he inhaled, “give it more thought. Knees, Buffy.”
She adjusted her stance, brows knitting. She wanted to ask him why. But then, she knew why: she'd lived why.
She just didn't care.
Giles took six more hits before he finally held up his hands in an “I can't take anymore” sort of way. He was red as Hawaiian Punch, and she hastily moved to help him out of his pads.
“Very good, Buffy,” he breathed after she'd helped him peel the chest piece off. He reached for his water bottle, then took a long, gasping drink. Buffy couldn't help but smile as she watched him – just a bit. She was barely warm, barely even tepid. “Want to take a few laps around the track, or the, uh...” he took another drink, “the pool?”
“Sure,” she nodded, watching as he dropped into the seat across from Willow and Xander, who were both looking between Buffy, the Watcher, and the stack of discarded body pads almost bewilderedly.
It was silent for a beat.
“We'll, uh, wait here,” Willow said, breaking it. “No hurry, 'cause, you know, we're not in any hurry.”
“We've got math,” Xander said.
“And stuff,” Willow added.
Buffy snorted, then turned to go. “I'll be back,” she said, and by the time she'd reached the door she'd broken into a slow jog. As she crossed the threshold she decided she'd given the cheerleading enough thought, that she was trying out, that she'd make it work, that she'd make all of it work, because she'd survived her first week, and she felt strong and young and alive.