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Fic: Test

Title: Test
Creator: drizzlydaze
Rating: PG
Setting: Post series
Word count: 3582
Prompt: chalk burst
A/N: Continuation of Student, which was an alternate scenario to the original Professor.



Day 18

“It’s a nice day.”

He looks a bit like a deer in headlights, hastily packing away the last of his stuff. “Y-yes, it is.”

She almost feels sorry for him. Almost. “And would you look at the time,” she remarks, glancing at her bare wrist. “It’s almost noon.”

“I suppose so.” There’s a slight crease in his brow, a shrug to his shoulders. Resigned.

She leans forward, placing her hand on one of his papers. “You know what noon’s a good time for?”

“Marking papers?”

“Lunch.”

He’s looking at his briefcase now, absorbed by its silver clasps. Click. Click. He sure was fidgety for a professor. “Indeed.”

She lifts her hand from the stack of papers, watches as he puts them into his briefcase. “Would you like to have lunch with me?” The confident tone has receded, leaving sincerity like rain-wet pavement, plain and slightly slippery.

Now he looks at her. “Aside from the impropriety of it…”

“We’re only like five years apart.”

“You’re my student.” She shrugs, giving him a sign to go on. He does, a bit reluctantly. “… I am otherwise engaged.”

“And this wouldn’t happen to be an excuse now, would it?”

“I, um, already have a lunch appointment.”

His hesitation doesn’t sound like an attempted lie. It sounds like an unfortunate truth, and Buffy’s stomach drops. She never expected him to accept—that would break their routine, really, and his character—but she really never expected him to… To what? Move on from something he doesn’t even remember? He’s a hot, single, smart twenty nine year old with a stable job and killer accent. Of course he’s gonna have some offers. That he’d accept. Because he’s interested. In other people, other women. She wonders what she looks like now, tries to rearrange her features so the disappointment doesn’t shine through so much. He definitely doesn’t need to feel bad about having a date. “Uh…” she says. “…yeah, I get it. I guess I’ll, um, see you tomorrow.” She walks away.

So back to her rented apartment, get her coursework done (she found herself taking Psych again. Maybe to read up on memory loss, muddle about figuring out this new William), unpack the last of her few boxes…

Instead, she finds herself waiting surreptitiously at a corner bench and following William out of the college.

Petit Fours is a little eatery just a stone’s throw away from the university. It’s dressed in pink with tiny potted plants decorating the front. Umbridge-esque, Dawn said when Buffy sent her a picture. It’s the kind of restaurant that serves single drinks with two straws and single meals with two forks. It’s tacky and proud of it, and every Wednesday night they have a string quartet playing sappy tunes in the corner.

Not that Buffy did extensive research into potential date spots or anything.

Anyway, it’s sickeningly sweet, which accounts for that twist in her gut when she seats herself in an inconspicuous table (there are raised eyebrows when she says, “Table for one.”) behind a low partition.

William doesn’t seem terribly perturbed by the gaudy decoration or eye-gouging pink, simply glancing through the menu the moment he sits down. A few minutes later, a tall woman enters and greets him with a smile. He stands up and reciprocates warmly. And then he pulls out the other chair for her and reseats himself.

The woman has doe eyes and dark tresses (they are far more than simple hair or even locks; they are tresses) that fall past her shoulder. Her skin is creamy, not pale, and she wears a stylish, loose blouse and peasant skirt. Random fact that is totally not significant: From afar, she could be a human Drusilla.

Buffy’s gut feels a lot like a pretzel. Probably in anticipation of some indigestion.

She does actually find her stomach upset later that day with a few close calls with the puke-y thing, but nothing substantial comes of it. Good thing too, because Willow calls that night. Buffy admits what she did. “I’m not proud of it! I mean, following people isn’t usually my thing.”

Stalking, you mean?

“Following,” she says firmly. “And anyway, it was just to make sure… We have experience with lots of demon temptresses! Just look at Xander, temptee. Maybe William’s a demon magnet too. We don’t know that.”

Somehow I doubt the PTB would put him in danger…

“Because they’re known for being so accommodating.”

Anyway, did you figure out if she really were a demon or not?

“Um. Inconclusive.” Buffy shrugs to herself. “I guess it demands further research.”

Anyway, this ‘following’ thing… So he just, ah, randomly told the class that he was going out on a date that day?

“Not exactly.” But Willow’s fishing always strikes gold eventually, so Buffy decides to come clean. “I’ve kinda sorta been… askinghimouteveryday.”

Out out? Like lunch out? Like… date out?” Willow takes her silence as an affirmation. “Funny how your first plan was to glimpse and run, and now you’re... Well, I can’t say I didn’t see this coming.

“You saw this coming? I didn’t see this coming! I was planning to stick to the plan, then my carefully planned plan just… didn’t go as planned.”

And speaking of plans and careful planning, what exactly was your plan once you changed your mind? It’s kinda obvious William’s not gonna date one of his students.

“I had to get into the class, didn’t I?”

It’s not exactly strict, you could walk in and sit in. Even for the entire term.” A sigh. Buffy imagines Willow with that half smile and knowing gaze, phone pressed between her ear and shoulder as she slides a book from her packed shelf. “That’s just something to think about.

Huh.

After some boring official Slayer discussion, they say their goodbyes and Buffy goes to bed. She lies in the dark, staring at the ceiling. It’s not like she didn’t realise the flaw in her plan; she just never really thought about it. Now she can’t stop.

The answer’s pretty obvious, but her mind circles round it and never quite touches. A quick glance at her phone tells her she’s been lying there for nearly two hours and she has to face up to it: she was never serious about it in the first place.

She couldn’t be. She can’t be. Just the fact that she enrolled shows that her plan doomed to fail from the start. She was never serious about it because she can’t let herself be. Denial’s passed now, but her self-sabotage is ever constant. She might be competing with Spike for a prize on that, she thinks. Then she remembers Spike is gone.

Sure, his essence isn’t. He’s not dead. His consciousness, his soul is there. That’s what counts for him.

But her? His memories make him who he is. And it’s not real without them, not after everything they’ve been through. But then she thinks of Dawn and how real her sister is with constructed memories and form, and realises—this new human is real. Just not to her. She can’t talk to him without remembering someone else, won’t ever be able to.

Maybe she doesn’t want to.

There’s the self-sabotage again. She closes her eyes and goes to sleep.

Day 22

Buffy is sitting in the front row again. From the corner of his eye, he sees her tracking his every movement as per normal, but with a slight frown. He sees her tap her pencil against her detailed notes, scribble his words down on paper. This is still a class.

He remembers the shutters on her eyes when he mentioned his date, the thoughts whirling behind her careful poise. He remembers, inexplicably, We’re only like five years apart—and reminds himself that the impropriety is not in age but in authority. He doesn’t even date co-workers; it is ridiculous to think of students.

Buffy is looking distracted even as her eyes follow him. He calls on her with a question, expecting that she’s been in a complete reverie, but she responds immediately and with insight. Nothing changes about her strange gaze, and he supposes he’s simply rather bad at reading her. Not that he’s had much practise.

When class ends, she goes up to him. He sighs. “Yes, Miss Summers?”

Unexpectedly: “I have a problem with the coursework.”

He looks up sharply, and manages, “You’ve seemed to be coping well thus far.” He has a feeling he knows where this is going.

She ignores that. “So I was hoping you could help me. Is… now a good time?”

“Of course.”

“And hey, I’m actually pretty hungry. I can just go grab a bite while you explain all those thingamabobs… and maybe you’re pretty hungry too?” She pauses, taking in his carefully arranged features. “I get that it’s inconvenient to multitask with the picking up of forks and the drinking of drinks, but I really need you to proofread my essay just a bit. In person.”

William has to give her credit. The essay is due tomorrow, and he does have a reputation of being the helpful professor. (Nice, of course, is a different matter. To put it mildly, he is not known for being an easy marker.) He snaps the clasps of his briefcase shut and inclines his head. “Alright, then.”

They walk to the college café together, Buffy darting glances at him like he has something on his face (he checks surreptitiously several times. He doesn’t.). Buffy grabs a sandwich and soft drink from the counter, he a bowl of macaroni and iced tea, and they seat themselves on a small table at the fringe of the coffee shop. He looks at her essay, hears her running commentary on her process, her questions, and says, “This is due tomorrow. You should have approached me earlier.”

She looks contemplative. “Yeah, I guess I…” She frowns.

He can’t even begin to guess what’s going through her mind. It’s like a piece of the puzzle is missing. He raises an eyebrow, prompting her to continue.

For some reason, that makes her eyes widen and the oddest expression to flood her face. “No, this isn’t right at all, is it?” she says.

“If you’re referring to your misattributed quotes, then yes.”

She looks more alert now, looking over her paper again with a frown. “Sorry, I guess I was a little… distracted from the citations.” Her eyes turn distant again (he feels a negative, strangely visceral reaction to that faraway look). “Thanks for… everything.”

“I’m not half done yet,” he says, drawing a squiggly red line under an awkwardly phrased sentence. He’s either been doing something right or something wrong this whole time; again that strange look returns.

“I sure hope not,” she says, and, inexplicably, laughs to herself.

Between his critiques and lunch, she makes conversation. Asks about his earlier life, mostly, with a genuine curiosity. Sometimes it seems like she’s actively looking for something in his tales. When he tries to turn the conversation to her, it somehow ends up back with his own answers. “Well, that’s it,” he says. “Should be all up there,” he points at her head, “and some down on this paper. If you need any help in future…”

“I know where to find you.” She takes her paper from him. “Really, thanks a bunch. I just… I hope I won’t need as much next time.”

“Next time?” he says by reflex.

She actually contemplates that. That strange look finally finds definition, crystallising into uncertainty and disquiet. “Perhaps not.”

But she does come back for coursework help three times after that, each longer and less topical than the last. He finds himself looking forward to those times—purely because he enjoys helping his students, of course.

Day 42

When she reverts back to only asking him for social dates, he can’t help but wonder what precipitated the change.

He wonders if the novelty has already worn off. But if it had, she wouldn’t continue asking, would she? But, he reminds himself, the coursework help had nothing to do with social engagements—oh, who’s he kidding? Himself, and not very well at that. He’ll leave the thought incomplete, dangerous as it is.

But in some errant musings, he thinks on the attraction of something forbidden. That some people only want something out of reach, even dangerous; some women are attracted to the ‘bad’, the… illegal. (This is getting a little too close a little too fast, but sacrificing the train of thought also means he is acknowledging the correlation.) If a potential, a possibility becomes too accessible, perhaps the novelty wears off. The desirability, the determination.

He is a forward thinker by nature, but he shouldn’t be thinking of this future. The future of that last day of term, after the last second of class when his students are no longer students and Buffy (no longer Miss Summers) walks up to his desk for the last time, and they’re both smiling when she asks—

He’s already started to smile when they go through their little ritual, like a mock practice.

As he drops off to sleep one night, he allows a thought he will forget all too willingly in the morning slip free: When the term is over, when his students are no longer his students after that last class, would Buffy Summers still ask him out on a date?

Day 55

New Springs is the kind of place Sunnydale could have been without the Hellmouthy badness. It’s a small town with the suburban perfection of lawns and barbeque cookers, sunny skies all year round, minus the unfortunate deaths. The unspoken rules that governed Sunnydale (mostly concerning night time activities and careful ignorance of unusual happenings) are replaced by more usual, more conservative codes of small town life.

It has been five weeks since William’s date with Miss Clara McKinney. Since then, he has gone out with two other women, none of whom have lasted for more than a date.

Buffy continues to ask him out after every day. Today is a non-English, so she goes to his office. She goes there serenely, securely. His refusal is a certainty she at once rejects and clings to. She knocks on the door.

His back is to her when she enters, snapping his briefcase shut as he prepares to leave. “Buffy,” he says without turning around. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”

She wonders if this is going to be one of the days he already has a date, or just the usual rejection. “Go out with me,” she says. She wonders what she’d do if he says yes, but then she reminds herself that he will never say yes. Something in her thinks that’s a comfort.

It’s the usual rejection, the spiel on unprofessionalism and time. Once that’s done, he turns to face her. There may be a slight smile still hanging on his lips. “Not that I am surprised at your appearance, but you are strangely blunt today.”

She shrugs. “No point beating around the bush, you know.”

“Certainly,” he says slowly. His brow is lowered.  “Let me show you out.”

Show her out of his seven-pace office. Honestly. He does anyway, locking the door behind him. Wednesdays are short for him, she knows. He looks at her, opens and closes his mouth as though he thinks better of speaking, and leaves for his car. She supposes she is acting pretty odd today, and it’s probably because Willow has called again this morning and brought up inconvenient thoughts. That’s kind of Will’s modus operandi nowadays, Messenger of Things Best Left Un-thought. Like why she went back to fruitless date asking (get it? Fruitless, dates?) instead of going the smart way with coursework excuses. Excuses, she might add, that William is only too happy to buy.

“But things are going well,” she tells herself. He’s been looking happy to see her—well, amused is probably closer to the mark. Each day brings a faint smile to his face even as he refuses; he’s happy to see her. It’s become a routine. Rarely is it weighed down by her thoughts as today. The same negativity pushes itself to the forefront of her mind again, reminding her that William’s acquaintance with her (she thinks tentatively, friendship?) is all the worse for him; associations with the original Slayer are not particularly safe. Not to mention, she’s not actually going to ask for a date once term is over, right? Right?

She’s not sure whether which would be the right choice. If there is a right choice in the hole she’s dug herself into.

And if he refuses that last time? What then? She doesn’t know what she’d…

Day 56

But when those days, those post-Willow calls days, pass, everything seems so much simpler. Once she thinks those Willow days out with the overthinking she is sometimes prone to, the next is complication free. Again, she goes to his office. “I hear Two Doors is getting a new menu.”

He smiles at her from behind his desk. “Interesting. I must go try it sometime.”

“Me too.” She walks closer. “Do you want to go?”

“Together?” They’re like puppets playing out their parts.

“Like a date.”

And there’s something in his eyes, just a flash of something in his eyes… Buffy so desperately tries to make sense of it—she can read him, can’t she? Is it hope? Boredom? Disappointment? Amusement?

“I’m afraid I’ll have to decline, Miss Summers. It simply isn’t, ah, appropriate.”

“I understand,” she says. But she doesn’t leave, and he doesn’t ask. She sits on his desk. He still looks like there’s sunshine in her presence. “Maybe next time, right?”

He’s caught by surprise again. “When it is appropriate, perhaps,” he says.

She smiles.

Day 89

Buffy is not in class today. He tries not to look at that empty seat in the front row. When he does the attendance, he chances asking if anyone knows where she is; there is a general shrug.

It’s odd when he actually thinks about it. She’s friendly all around, but doesn’t have many friends. Her background and sudden enrolment in the college is a mystery, as are her personal and working (she’s vaguely mentioned a job before) life. William is curious. In a sideways kind of way, of course; he has no reason for his curiosity other than the fact that he is by nature a curious person. Yes.

And after class he packs up in silence as students run off for lunch. He tries not to think about what’s missing.

Day 90

Buffy is back with dark circles under her eyes and a weight to her. “Responsibilities,” she says. “Work stuff. I had to fly out.”

“Did it go well?”

She thinks it over. “As well as it always does. It’s always busy around this time. Not peak period yet, but…”

“And, ah, what exactly is your line of work?” William says.

“Security.” The answer sounds readymade. Thought out.

It’s also a surprise. He imagines buff security guards in blue suits and tries to shake the image from his mind. “Interesting.” He has noticed Buffy’s well-built and more than toned, but she doesn’t seem like the security type. She’s too… interesting? Hm. Not that he thought working in security made you an uninteresting person. He doesn’t know what he’s thinking, that Buffy’s too full of sunlight to be working in security. She does have that air of responsibility, that veil, that weight that seems befitting of a protector. “I must admit, I didn’t expect that.”

“Missed me, did you?”

He tilts his head. “Don’t flatter yourself,” he says with a smile.

She grins. “Well, I missed you.”

“What’s not to miss?” he says cockily, feeling outside of himself.

She likes it, evidently. “Go out with me for lunch. A welcome back lunch. A social lunch. A date.”

“You were gone for a day, Bu—Miss Summers.” Close one. “I hardly think your return warrants celebration. As for the others, you know my reply.”

It’s only a few minutes after she’s left that he notices something’s fallen out of her bag and onto the floor. He picks it up, feeling rough wood grain under his fingers. He frowns in puzzlement. It’s like a picket or a sharpened post or—

A stake?

Day 140

The term is nearing its end. There’s been an undercurrent building through their ritual as time goes on, now approaching its peak. This is the day of the final exam, but not the last class and not the final test.

The final test is in seven days after the last minute of the last class of the last day. She doesn’t know how to pass or fail. She doesn’t know the rules, how it’ll be marked and by whom. But it’s crucial, the culmination of her days here—or an anticlimactic, quiet exit. William doesn’t need the danger. He shouldn’t so much as lay eyes on a stake. Then again, who’s she to decide? Who’re the Powers to decide?

Class ends and she approaches him. They go through their routine with an underlying uncertainty. She wonders how to subtly broach the subject of the last day but discards the idea; she doesn’t want to think about it. Whatever happens will happen.

But that understanding doesn’t stop those sleepless nights.

Day 147

Class ends. Their eyes meet.

“Buffy,” William says. Buffy.

She walks to the front of the classroom.

Comments

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
3hours
Apr. 1st, 2013 01:28 pm (UTC)
*claps hands* YAY! You took the cute and sweet idea and inserted just enough worry and angst ♥ It turned out great, I love it :D

More, more!

(PS, loved the subtle Day 147)

Edited at 2013-04-01 01:29 pm (UTC)
drizzlydaze
Apr. 7th, 2013 01:39 pm (UTC)
Yay, glad you liked it! Heh, couldn't resist the 147 days.
quinara
Apr. 1st, 2013 02:02 pm (UTC)
Oooooh!! I love all that potential in the last scene! All round this is just great. I'm going to pretend thus is the moment Spike remembers. :D
drizzlydaze
Apr. 7th, 2013 01:40 pm (UTC)
Thanks! That moment or not, he would remember eventually, I think.
spuffy_luvr
Apr. 1st, 2013 10:32 pm (UTC)
So very cute!
drizzlydaze
Apr. 7th, 2013 01:40 pm (UTC)
Thanks!
slaymesoftly
Apr. 2nd, 2013 01:49 am (UTC)
My heart was beating so fast as the days were counting down.... I'm just loving this.
drizzlydaze
Apr. 7th, 2013 01:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
seapealsh
Apr. 2nd, 2013 02:48 am (UTC)
You sure have a way with a story. Always well thought out and executed. A pleasure to read.
drizzlydaze
Apr. 7th, 2013 01:41 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much.
delta_dawn_rose
Apr. 2nd, 2013 12:38 pm (UTC)
That went surprisingly well, for them. I wonder how he's going to cope with the whole supernatural/slayer thing when he finds out. Mind you, given his initial reaction to Drusilla, I think he'd probably be delighted - and at least this revelation (probably) won't lead to his death.
drizzlydaze
Apr. 7th, 2013 01:44 pm (UTC)
In my perfect happy world, he would remember his past eventually and be the actual Spike. If he doesn't, then yup, pretty much your scenario. Thanks for reading!
treadingthedark
Apr. 2nd, 2013 02:21 pm (UTC)
This was great!
drizzlydaze
Apr. 7th, 2013 01:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
gingerwall
Apr. 3rd, 2013 12:49 am (UTC)
Awww, this was awesome!

You took such a simple idea, and made it into a really wonderful story.
drizzlydaze
Apr. 7th, 2013 01:42 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'm happy it worked.
rihannon52
Apr. 26th, 2013 03:11 am (UTC)
I'm so happy to see you did this. It was an idea worthy of being explored. And can't tell you how much I enjoyed this, my heart jumped several times, beating faster as the days passed.
Wonderfully bittersweet, thanks a lot for sharing it.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )