Origin and Season One (Ch. 40)
Character: Buffy Summers
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Word Count: 1435
Setting: Teacher's Pet
A/N: One borrowed line...
- Waylaid -
“How are you today, Buffy?”
“Fine, you know. Good.”
That wasn't the right response. She backtracked. “Well, I mean, given the circumstances. I'm good considering.”
He just looked at her with his basset hound eyes, chin couched in his neck, glasses hanging off the edge of his nose. And Buffy looked right back at him, knowing exactly what he was doing. They'd used the silence trick on her half a hundred times at New Horizons, and if he thought he could crack her particular nut with limp-wristed pressure, she was almost tempted to sit here the rest of the day, just to prove something – though whether it would be to him or to herself, she didn't know.
He broke, finally. “So, Buffy, I read your file.”
Who hadn't at this point? She exhaled but continued with the silence. She didn't have time for this. She hadn't managed to get a glimpse of Natalie French today – or Blayne Moll for that matter – and right now those precious minutes that could be spent observing her were being wasted here. She'd never in her life wanted to get to bio more, but, then again, she'd rather be anywhere than sitting across from yet another shrink. The sewer, for example. With Claw Guy. Ten Claw Guys. Or perhaps a dental office, having all her teeth pulled out one by one.
“What made you so angry?” he continued.
“Angry?” she repeated. The word triggered its matching emotion, and she could feel herself flush.
“You missed a lot of school,” he said. “Have gotten into fights. If you don't mind the observation, I'm starting to worry you might be starting a similar pattern here.”
She did mind the observation, actually, but she held her tongue, bristling internally.
“I count six period absences already, and it's only your fourth week here. Should I be worried?”
“Seven,” she snapped. “I'm missing class right now to be here.”
“I'll write you a note.” He paused, shifting forward. “And then there's what happened with the gym.”
She would never live that down. “If you heard about that then you must have read the police report,” she said. “The gym was attacked by gang members.” Or so went the official story, as she recalled. “I saved half my class.”
“And we're all thankful for your bravery and quick-thinking.”
“Are we?” she asked. “It's funny how everyone's thanks feels so much like punishment.”
“Well, you did burn down the gym.”
She just glared at him, fingers tight in Angel's jacket from where it sat smooth on her lap. She didn't know why she'd brought it with her today. She'd just seen it on her chair, and she'd remembered the cops and her sudden, panicked flight, and putting it on had made her feel safer, for whatever reason. The weight. The smell, like cloves, like earth and cinnamon...
“And then there's the story we heard from Mr. Pole a few weeks ago,” Kyser continued, oblivious to her thought stream. “Is it true that you jumped in front of a truck?”
He was baiting her, and she didn't have the slightest desire to take it. “Only in the sense that I jumped into Cordelia, who was standing in front of the truck.” She burrowed her arms into the jacket, seeking the stasis she'd got from it this morning. “Weren't you just talking to her a few minutes ago? Maybe we could get her back in here and ask her her version.” She made as if to get up, then smiled thinly at Kyser's sudden stiffness.
“That won't be necessary.”
She settled back down. Under different circumstances, she may've laughed with him about what she'd overheard of Cordelia's counseling session, if it could even be called that. But she hardly felt in the mood to laugh, between Gregory and the possible demon in the building. She just wanted to go. He was making her sad. Making her think of Merrick and Tisha and New Horizons and Harold and that ugly, little cell they'd left her caged her in for weeks.
“You've experienced a lot of loss, haven't you?”
Her attention snapped to him. How did he know?
Sudden, horrible thought: what if her psych records had made it to the school?
“What makes you think that?” she asked casually, taking care to betray nothing.
“Clearly you know how to compartmentalize.”
“What makes it so clear?” she pressed.
“The way you're sitting there.”
She relaxed a hair, albeit internally. So he didn't know. He was just guessing. She couldn't take it if he started digging, when she'd worked so hard to put her past behind her.
“Yes, I've lost someone,” she allowed. “But I don't want to talk about it.”
“Because I don't.”
He studied her for a long moment, just as Stone had before him. Like she was a broken kaleidoscope, thousands of pieces of broken glass strewn in the dust.
“Is there anything you would like to talk about?” he asked finally.
She sensed a wrap-up impending. “No,” she said.
He settled back. “You know where to find me if you change your mind.”
“I can go?” she said.
“Yes,” he nodded.
She hopped to her feet, not bothering to spare a brain cell to wonder at what he was writing in his clipboard, then quickly opened and walked out the door. Her thoughts had almost transitioned back to problems of more immediacy when she noticed who was occupying the seat she'd so recently vacated.
“Willow,” she said.
“Hey, Buffy,” she said. “I thought I heard your voice in there.”
Suddenly, she was glad she'd thought to shut the door, for whatever reason. “So Mr. Flutie roped you in too?” she asked, hugging Angel's jacket to her chest.
“Yeah, it sucks,” Willow shut her book. “I was on my way to biology. I mean, I guess I can see why they thought it might be appropriate, because of... well, you know, what happened, but...” her voice trailed off. “Was he helpful?”
“Mr. Kyser?” Buffy asked, then shrugged. “Not really.” A gun to her head couldn't force her to admit why though.
“Oh,” something like disappointment flashed through her face, but she looked down to twiddle her pencil before Buffy could catch her eyes.
“Wil,” she said, “I know how hard it is to live with all the dead and all the evil... and all the evil dead,” she added, smiling grimly. “If this is upsetting you, if you want to talk about it, we're in this together.”
Willow didn't say anything for a beat, looking like she was choosing her words, but before she could voice them, the door popped back open, and Kyser appeared. “Willow Rosenburg?” he asked, then saw Buffy standing there. “Buffy,” he said.
“Mr. Kyser,” she replied, nodding, then looked at Willow. “See you in a sec, Wil,” she said.
“Thanks,” Willow said, with a weight that she could only hope Kyser wouldn't pick up on. “Yeah, I'll see you.”
Buffy gave her a smile, then started off down the deserted hallway. A glance at the clock told her she was fifteen minutes late, and that was enough to spur her to a run. Kyser's visit may've been useless, but in retrospect she was somewhat horrified to learn her absence count. The last thing she wanted was for the school to call her mother, to have to attempt to explain the cutting. Again.
She came to a halt outside the door to bio, then glanced in the window to gauge how difficult it would be to sneak in. “Oh, great,” she murmured, taking in the scene before her, “a pop quiz.”
French was standing beside Xander, her hand on his shoulder. Everyone was scribbling away. Then French stiffened and turned to look at her.
But she didn't turn.
Her head turned.
Her head had turned all the way around.
She whirled, slamming back against the door. Her heart had ratcheted up in an instant, and she could feel it pounding in her chest, could feel a sudden flush of adrenaline and heat in her blood.
French was a demon.
She'd suspected that already, but now she knew.
French was hellspawn; full-on, Hollywood freakfest.
Giles. She needed to talk to Giles. Like now.