Friday, August 26, 2011

Hell Frozen Over: Chapter One (Part 2) [Buffy]

Rupert Giles hunched over a table in the library, peering closely at a chessboard. Although it was the middle of the school day, the library was quiet. It was distressing to think about how few Sunnydale students ever actually used the library, but at the same time, Giles was relieved that it allowed him time for more important things, such as helping Buffy slay vampires. And for playing chess, for example.
Giles reached out for the White bishop, but pulled his hand back at the last moment. He grinned. “I’ve got you now,” he said, and instead moved the White rook to the seventh rank. Then he stood straight up, walked around the table, and sat down at the opposite end of the table. “Oh, I don’t think it’s over yet,” he said.
“What’s not over?” Buffy asked, suddenly entering the room.
Giles jumped slightly, knocking over the Black chess piece he was just about to move. “Buffy. I didn’t notice you come in.” He pulled off his glasses and rubbed his eyes before replacing them. “What were you saying?”
“I thought you said something,” she said, “about not being over?”
“Did I? Well. You’re here early, Buffy. Is there something I can help you with?”
“Just came by to chat. What are you doing?”
“Playing um, chess,” he replied, discomfited.
Buffy looked around. The library was empty except for herself and Giles.
“By yourself?” “
Well, yes. I find that a good game of chess helps me relax after time spent cataloguing and researching. It’s intellectually stimulating. When I move White, I play as Kasparov—but when I switch to Black, I play as Fischer.”
“Who?” said Buffy, with a confused look on her face.
“Well you see . . .” Giles went on, but Buffy completely tuned him out. Much like she did with her teacher in History class. Or in Algebra, for that matter. Moments passed, and when she looked up again, she realized that Giles was again completely engrossed in the chess set.
This was her opportunity, and she seized the chance.
“Anyway, I’m going to go ahead and take the weekend off.”
“Right,” he said distractedly, as Kasparov narrowly eluded Fischer’s brilliant pinning maneuver.
Buffy backed away slowly, knowing that if she could just make it out the door she would be home free. She tiptoed quietly and had just placed a hand on the latch when Giles turned and looked in her direction and thought to himself for a moment.
“Yes,” she turned around with an innocent look on her face.
“What was that you said? Did you say something about leaving for the weekend?” His eyes narrowed ever so slightly in her direction.
Buffy slowly walked forward, like a puppy that had been yelled at for chewing one too many socks. She explained to him about Arctic Ridge, about how it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, about how the Scooby Gang might be split up after graduation, and even how it was as if Fate were calling since school was canceled on Monday and part of Friday. In short, everything that worked on her mom.
Of course, none of it worked on Giles. He went on and on about how important it was for the Slayer to be ever alert, about how dangerous the Hellmouth was, and that even though things had been quiet for the last few weeks, in Sunnydale it was always just the calm before the storm.
Time for Plan B.
“Angel,” she said.
“Angel? What about him?”
“Well, he can be the substitute Slayer for a weekend. He knows everything there is to know about vamps and has informants all over town. He’ll hold down the fort, a quiet weekend will pass, and before you know it, I’ll be right back slaying demons left and right.”
“Buffy, I know this trip is important to you,” Giles said in his mentor voice. “However, being a Slayer is a grave responsibility.”
Buffy gave a wry smile.
“No pun intended,” Giles continued. “Although Angel has certainly been very helpful to us, he is not the Slayer. He has neither your training nor your knowledge.”
“I think Kendra mentioned something about periodic rests being recommended in the Slayer’s Handbook,” Buffy said. A white lie, admittedly. But a very small one.
Giles’ face lit up with a thoughtful look and he rubbed the back of his neck. “Yes, I suppose that is true. However—“
“Great,” Buffy interrupted. “Then it’s settled. I’ll talk to Angel and make sure you have a number to contact me if anything happens.” She turned and jogged towards the door.
Giles was about to call her back again, but he remembered the look on her face when she thought she had persuaded him. He simply couldn’t bear to have to disappoint her again. As she kept reminding him, she was just a teenager. And she was right—how many more opportunities would she have to enjoy being with her friends? Historically, the average lifespan of Slayers was rather short and—
Giles shook his head and decided not to follow that line of thought.
Within moments, Fischer was back on the advance.
Buffy rejoined Willow and Xander at lunch. Around them, freshmen and sophomores grumbled about cafeteria food or sack lunches. Almost all of the upperclassmen left campus for lunch, driving off in sporty red convertibles or beat-up pick-up trucks.
Xander chewed on a candy bar between swipes at a can of soda. “I did it,” he said. “I almost became a martyr for the cause, but I convinced Cordelia that we should all go together.”
“Awesome,” said Buffy, impressed. “So did you have to make googly-eyes at her or swear undying affection?”
“Not funny,” said Xander, even though everyone knew it was. “No, I simply explained to her the risks involved in a single, attractive girl driving hundreds of miles up remote icy mountain roads in the middle of probable blizzards. I think I might have even mentioned Stephen King’s Misery. Persuasion through fear,” he continued. “I think it’s the only reason girls ever go out with me.”
Willow patted his arm. “You just need to meet different girls. Girls who are kind, thoughtful, intelligent.” Like me, for example.
“In Sunnydale?” he retorted. “Right.”
Willow looked hurt, so Buffy decided to change the subject and told them of her success with Giles.
“Then we’re good to go,” said Xander. “Arctic Ridge Ski Resort, here we come.”
“You’re not going anywhere Harris!” said a voice from behind the group. The voice was like the jagged whine from a low-pitched buzz saw—but without the charm. They turned to see Principal Snyder standing there, arms crossed, head bald, and mouth curled into a smirk.
Xander silently wished groups of wild hyena-people could eat principals more often. Normally, he would have been intimidated by Principal Snyder’s presence. But this was the weekend they were talking about here, and it was clearly out of Snyder’s jurisdiction.
“Actually, sir, we were just discussing our plans for this weekend. You know, the small portion of each week when school’s not in operation?”
“Don’t get smart Harris,” Snyder said flatly. “Learning to work well with others is the key to a successful education. Plus it keeps troublemakers like you under wraps. That’s why I’ve volunteered you as a stagehand for the school play. Monday through Thursday, 6 p.m.”
From the corner of his eye, Snyder saw a freshman trying to mock him. “Be there Harris, or be expelled,” he said, turning to go after the disobedient student.
“Man, freshmen don’t know anything,” Buffy said, as they all breathed a sigh of relief that Snyder was gone. “That kid is totally dead.”
“I’m sorry, Xander,” Willow said in a comforting voice. “The Bronze just won’t be the same tonight without you.”
“So you’ll skip it and come help me out at the play instead?”
“Can’t. Oz is going to be there.”
“And I’m supposed to meet Angel,” Buffy added.
“Great,” Xander sighed, clearly disappointed. But then he shrugged and added “That’s okay—I hate disco anyway.”

1 comment:

Jeremy Patrick said...

In the Compliment or Insult? Department, an exact quote from The Wife last week:

"So. I see you've been posting your Buffy novel on your blog. You're a much better writer now than you were back then."