Origin and Season One (Ch. 42)
Character: Buffy Summers
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Word Count: 1651
Setting: Never Kill a Boy on the First Date
- Room Change -
They announced the room change in home room, in the first period of the morning. Buffy hadn't really given it much thought until just this moment, when she'd walked by the science room's door to find it covered by warning tape, a skull and crossbones stuck to the window – the same window where, just a week and a half ago, she'd watched Natalie French pull a Regan McNeil.
Now she was stopped there, reading the notice. There were several words which contained things like “-prolene” and “-phate” and “-oxy,” and she skipped those to stop at the only one that really mattered: pesticides.
She repeated it to herself.
They had never found out where Dr. Gregory had died, at least no more specifically than “on school grounds.” But they knew he'd died just as that nameless boy in the basement had, his head torn off and eaten. For the first time, Buffy found herself wondering if they had shared circumstance as well as cause, and she shivered involuntarily, remembering the pile of slimy eggs.
And then she froze.
She stared at the door, her mouth going dry.
They had found at least twenty or thirty eggs in that basement. They had all been ostrich-sized, or as large as she'd always imagined an ostrich egg would be. If they'd been allowed to hatch, the things that crawled out would've been as large as chihuahuas. On their own, she barely would've cared long enough to squash them under one of her cheaper boots, but all together, swarming like locusts... It was enough to make her heart quicken— her old, girlish fear of insects besides.
She touched the door, reached for the tape.
She didn't know why they'd never bothered to think there might be other nests, other eggs.
“Hey,” she said automatically, fakely innocent. Her fingers slid off the handle, and she looked up and to the right, toward the voice. Any excuse she might've been formulating slid from her brain.
Owen Thurman was standing there, just looking at her.
“Hey,” she said again.
“We don't have bio in there today,” he said. “It's in 211.”
“Yeah, I know— I mean, I already had bio.” She stared at him, wondering why the swarm of chihuahua-sized locusts seemed so much less important all of a sudden. “I just... I forgot where I was going.”
He smiled at her. She'd never seen him smile. He always seemed to be brooding in the corner, staring moodily at a paper or out the window. She'd never noticed his lips before. “I do that sometimes,” he said.
She found herself smiling back at him, gaze caught somewhere between his lips and his eyes. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she thought about Angel, but she shoved that particular image away in a second, crushed it down. She hadn't seen him in over a week, since that night in the Bronze after she'd slayed the mantis.
“We have next period together, right?” Owen asked.
“Um, I think so,” she said, not really knowing.
“Yeah,” she agreed, still not really knowing.
“Want to walk with me?”
She looked at his lips, at his eyes, at his backpack as it hung off his shoulder on a single strap. She did. More than anything at that particular moment, she did.
And just as she realized that, a force hit the door, and she jumped forward at the push, glancing back. The “toxic” notice covered the window, and she couldn't see anything, but she knew in some deep, inside-y place what was awaiting her on the other side.
She felt something like resignation flood her soul.
“What was that?” Owen asked, all sweet innocence.
She looked at him. “I, uh...” she grasped desperately, “I slipped. Listen,” she said without pause, before he could question that. “Owen, I'd love to walk with you, but, I, uh... I just remembered I have this thing, and I have to go,” she gestured weakly in a random direction, “over there.” She offered him another smile, and he smiled back, but she could see him studying her, like she something bizarre you'd find crawling around inside a glass case. “I'm sorry. I'll see you at math.”
She half ran away, clamping down on every ounce of self-control not to turn back, to check to see if he was watching her, and how. Embarrassment burned her cheeks. She felt like a freak. What moron would turn down an offer from Owen Thurman? He never talked to anyone, yet he'd approached her. And she'd walked away.
She was almost jogging by the time she reached the library, and she pushed open both doors with an angry flourish. The place looked deserted, but she found Giles quick enough, tucked away in his office with what smelled like a tuna salad sandwich in hand.
“Buffy,” he said with a mild sort of surprise, like it had never occurred to him that he might see her before training. “Good afternoon.”
“Is it?” she asked, not entirely sure why she was angry.
“Yes,” he said, not catching her tone, or perhaps just ignoring it. “You hungry? I have another half a sandwich.”
She just looked at him from her position in the doorway, and gradually she felt the heat ebb away. “No, thank you,” she said after a few seconds, more calmly, then continued, “You know that 149 is being fumigated.” She didn't phrase it as a question.
“Yes,” he nodded, took another bite of sandwich.
“Just 149.” She stopped. Let it hang there.
He stopped chewing after a beat, catching her gaze with that look of understanding that only they seemed to share.
“What if Dr. Gregory never even made it out of the room?” she asked.
“We didn't see any blood.”
“We never looked,” she pointed out. “Not really.”
He put down his sandwich.
“I'm going to grab the axe,” she said, already turning. She heard Giles move to follow her as she walked toward the book cage, where they kept all the weapons.
“You can't walk through the school with an axe,” he pointed out.
“I'll shove it in my bag,” she replied. But then she remembered she didn't even have her bag. “One of your bags,” she amended, swinging open the book cage, then reaching for the weapons cabinet.
She could feel Giles looked at her, and when she took the axe down and turned to him he was blocking the exit, looking at her in a way that was vaguely reminiscent of Owen's expression minutes before.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
“I'm fine,” she said.
He just looked at her, and she knew he wasn't buying. But when he opened his mouth again, it wasn't to pry, “Need any help?”
She felt the defensive impulse slip. “I can handle it.”
He didn't move for a moment, but when he did it was to walk around to the library counter, where he bent from sight. She had reached him by the time he came up again with a brown, canvas bag, and she took it from him and slid the axe inside. It was barely a concealment, but it would have to do. She turned for the door.
“Buffy,” he said, stopping her.
She looked back at him.
“You know this could wait?” he pointed toward the clock. “Classes end in a few hours.”
“A few hours too many,” she said. “I felt one hit the door. If they escape, who knows where they'll go, what they'll do.” She flashed back to that basement, to the decomposing, headless corpse, to Dr. Gregory's body in the fridge. Closed her eyes in a hard blink. “It won't take long.”
“Just don't be reckless.”
She exhaled, forced a little smile to her lips. “Come on, Giles, they're just a couple baby demons.”
She smiled at him again, then turned on her heel and strode out. The smile was gone before she'd reached the hall again, and she swept toward her targets with no small amount of naked irritation. She thought of Owen and his lips, of Angel and the way her blood tingled at his presence, and she thought of bodies and a dozen different demons. Everything was always complicated, nothing was ever simple. A room switch was just never just a room switch, and she could never just talk to a boy.
God, but she wished she just could've walked to class with him.
She stopped outside the door, and this time she didn't hesitate before pulling down the tape. The handle was locked, but she gave it a sharp yank and felt it break. Just on the other side, she heard something tap and skitter, and she smiled grimly. Letting the axe slip free of the bag, she pushed open the door and slipped inside.
Nine pairs of bulbous, shiny eyes met hers as she shut it behind her. If the room had been bombed, they looked none the worse for it. Everything stank of chemicals.
A helpless sort of laugh spilled out of her at the sight, erupting from somewhere in her chest.
“I'm sorry,” she apologized, not entirely sure why, if the things could even understand her, “You're just so ugly, and this is just so ridiculous.”
They stared at her, blank as white sheets.
When she hefted her axe, they took to the air, swirling in a cyclone of bodies and limbs and papery wings. She strode right into the center of it, thinking distantly about boys and demons and dead people.
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