Summary: The events of Hesperus in Retrograde weren’t quite memorable.
Prompt #288: Hercules @ tamingthemuse & #001 Nibble @ kinda_gay.
Rating: FRT: Contains Some Mature Themes: Parental Supervision Suggested.
Word Count: 3,032.
Beta: Howard Russell.
Disclaimer: Another day, another…they don’t pay me anything at all. I just do this to amuse myself and you. That’s what allows me and mine to slip under the radar while playing with characters created by those more fortunate than us.
The Two-Body Problem
There’s nothing worse than that pasty-mouthed, ‘why am I here?’ ‘what am I s’posed to do?’ ‘I’m s’posed to say something,’ quivering, quaking, ‘I want to run, but my feet are made of lead and my blood’s been replaced with ice water,’ feeling. Except maybe someone walking in when I’m on the potty. That’s worse ’cause then it’s not just me.
Or really, really worse, I walk in on them. Then it’s my fault. My clumsiness has put someone else in the spotlight. The ice water in my veins heats up. My face flushes. I can’t turn away, can’t talk, can’t run…frozen. Not quite like a deer, ’cause deer don’t get embarrassed. Seconds pass that feel like hours before I find the strength to close the door.
That’s how I feel right now.
There’s a chunk of ice where my belly should be. I need to get up, grab my clothes and skedaddle to the bathroom. Instead, I sit here frozen, but not freezing, not ten feet from the nearly doorless doorway, naked as the day I was born, but a whole lot more grownup. Hot and clammy.
In the absence of a door, daylight pours into the room, pooling on the carpet. I’m not sure if it’s still a doorway with only half a door. More like a rectangular hole through which anyone might enter at any time. Shouts and laughter drift in through the hole. It’s a lovely day, so of course the girls are out in force. Playing, goofing off and having fun. Or at least it sounds like they’re having fun.
I’m waiting to be dished up as the next juicy piece of gossip. Teenage girls get bored. I’m doing my part to keep them entertained. By noon, or sooner, they’ll all be talking about how Kennedy caught me accosting Buffy, or something like that that’s not really right, but not so wrong it’s a complete fabrication.
Not that I remember the accosting or even who accosted who. I remember coming back here. I remember that Buffy liked her boots. I was happy. From there, all that’s left is a big ol’ zilcho, zip, nada, nothing-sized gap. A hole like the door.
But that doesn’t matter. Any blanks I have will get filled in. The story will grow just that much more fantastic with every retelling. By dinnertime—
I’m going to be somewhere else by dinnertime. Anywhere. Not here. Somewhere far, far away from here.
I move my legs. My legs actually move. They move! That’s new. I even manage to stand without falling. I move! I don’t stop moving until I’m almost to the bathroom, then I turn around. I forgot my clothes. I need my clothes. I double back around the bed to get my clothes. My clothes are all over. I stoop to collect my scattered clothes.
Buffy doesn’t move. I streak past her—a little too literally for comfort—and she just lays there curled up on the corner of the bed. Her back’s to the door—the mostly doorless doorway. I think that was Kennedy. She destroyed the door. I just don’t understand why.
I shut the door—the other door—the bathroom door. I’m—
It’s dark in here. I fumble around until I find the switch. Light wasn’t the best idea. I get that when I see my reflection in the mirror. I look, umm…eww.
I mean, I know why. I get why Kenn threw a tizzy. Jealousy isn’t that hard to figure out. I’m practically an expert on the subject. And betrayal—I know way too much about that too. More than I want to know. I just don’t get how.
How would she know to find me here? She’d have to know to break the door like that. She’d have to be sure. Most people knock when they aren’t sure.
Did someone see Buffy and me together last night? Did they tell Kennedy? They had to’ve. That’s the only thing that makes sense. Who did we see last night?
Not naked would be better. I set my clothes on the vanity and grab the first frilly thing I find: my bra. Putting my bra on now.
Xander’s the only one who comes to mind. But he wouldn’t tell. Would he?
He might. How would he know not to? He wouldn’t know that we—
We what? We had a naked sleepover? Naked sleepovers happen, right?
In those videos they have at truck stops.
Oh, and on the Internet. Can’t forget about the Internet.
So my life has deteriorated to the stuff of pervy boy fantasy? That’s comforting.
At least I assume Buffy was naked. She isn’t naked now. Was I the only one who was naked?
My panties. I find my panties. They’re tucked inside my jeans. I pull them out and put—
A thud comes from the other side of the door. I almost land on my tush. My leg—the one that’s up—what with me putting my panties on—it wants to be down. I want both feet on the ground. My foot snags. I grab for the counter and don’t—
My hair falls in my face. Between the gasp and the—
I wasn’t the only one who was naked. I smell like her. Or I guess this is how she smells. I assume. Anyway, I smell like sex. Sex I don’t remember. That’s disturbing. I really need a shower, but without a change of clothes, what’s the point? All of my clothes are in my room—the room I share with Kennedy.
More banging accompanies me as I bend down to untangle my foot from my panties and pull them up. Sounds like Buffy’s as impressed by the doorlessness as I was. Only she’s way more proactive about it. She could be chopping the tree down to make another door and it wouldn’t be half as loud.
Maybe it wasn’t Buffy. I might be jumping to conclusions. I could’ve been with someone else, right?
Okay, maybe but how would I have ended up in her bed? Wouldn’t someone else’s bed have made more sense?
My evil, twisted, naughty little brain runs the gamut of voyeurism, threesomes and other elicit machinations that might lead to me waking up naked in Buffy’s bed. That might’ve been the idea worst idea ever. This was complicated before. Add that and—
I give up.
Putting on my jeans now. I pick them up and shake them out. First one leg, then the other, I pull them up and fasten.
It’s not fair. This is like everything I never wanted. No wonder I’m desperate for it not to be true. I sort of hoped—
Buffy turns the TV on and for a brief moment ‘annoying, pushy announcer voice’ blares from the other room.
I’m all flinched out. I sigh instead. I really hoped—not that I had much hope. Wishing for things that will make my life that much weirder isn’t something I typically do.
This was different. There were times when I did think about her. Never much more than in passing. I couldn’t help it. She’d look at me and smile and I’d feel all warm and mushy inside. I thought this could be special. The start of something wonderful. Memorable.
This is like the opposite of memorable, whatever that is. It’s not ‘forgettable.’ That’d normally be the answer, but I won’t be forgetting the forgetting anytime soon.
I pick up my shirt. I need to finish up. I’m almost done. When I pull my shirt over my head, I get another, unneeded reminder. I still smell like her.
My tummy feels icky. The blank spot and question mark are nothing new. This feels all too familiar in an unsettling way. Déjà vu. The past is repeating, but this is no charming walk down memory lane. It’s like someone’s serving up a heaping helping of my own medicine: Lethe’s Bramble.
But who would do that? I wouldn’t. I mean, I couldn’t. I know better. I haven’t done any magic since—
Oh! My heart drops like a rock, taking me long with it. I haven’t done any magic since five minutes ago. Dammit. I promised myself I’d never do that again. All I wanted was to make them stop. That’s not that bad is it? Kenn was so angry. I needed to stop them. And I could’ve stood up like a normal person and physically intervened. Instead I resorted to magic. I used magic against someone who was just defending herself. I—
I stare at my stupid flannel. That’s all that’s left. I don’t want the silly thing. Buffy’s right, it’s ugly. I put it on just because. The less naked I am right now, the better. It’s a little warm, so I roll up the sleeves and pick up her brush. I hope she doesn’t mind me using it.
So who else would do that?
Giles could. And maybe Dawn. I can’t think of another single soul that we know who would have the ability to do magic that advanced. That spell’s actually a little over Dawn’s head, but she might get lucky if she really put her mind to it. That’s the thing about Dawn. Her determination’s a wee bit unnerving.
I stop brushing long enough to turn on the sink. The water needs to heat up before I wash my face.
But why would she? There’d have to be a reason. What would cause Dawn to do that?
Or Giles, for that matter? He’s like Mr. Responsible when it comes to magic. He’d never do that. Not unless the memory was hurtful to the person and there were no other alternatives.
Why would they they leave us in bed together if that was the case? That was actually more hurtful than—
Was this malicious? I don’t want to believe that, but what else is there? Considering our track record, the idea just isn’t that farfetched. But who would want to do that to us? I mean, who else besides every demon on the planet?
But even that doesn’t fit. This is just too personal. You’d think that if they wanted to hurt us a demon would try a more direct approach.
Am I missing something? Umm…
Probably, but nothing comes to mind. There has to be someone else—someone who’s capable of doing this—someone who wants to hurt Buffy or me.
Steam rises from the sink. I set the brush down, pick up a hair tie and put my hair in a ponytail. A nice warm washcloth will feel good. I take one from the stack and place it in the basin to soak. It’s so hot when I pick it up that wringing it out is a joy. A little soap and umm…my chin’s tender. That happens. I should’ve done this before bed. I pat my face dry. Buffy has some moisturizer sitting on the vanity with her makeup. I borrow a little. Not that I intend to give it back, but—uh…
Much better. I don’t have a toothbrush here, so mouthwash will have to do for now.
Maybe Giles will have some ideas. We need to find him. Explaining’s going to be fun. The idea makes my skin crawl, but it has to happen. We need to figure this out.
She’s lying on her tummy, flipping through the cable guide when I leave the bathroom. Her casual posture doesn’t fool me for a minute. She’s been busy. The bed’s made and she blocked the door with a wardrobe that was on the other side of the room. That explains the banging. I wonder if she knocked out the back panel. We could pretend we’re going to Narnia when we leave. That’d be fun…for like ten seconds.
I walk around the bed to sit on the floor at the end between her and the television. “We need to talk.”
She leans to the side to try and peek around me. “Or…” she says, pressing a button on the remote. “There’s a Hercules marathon on Sci-fi.”
I let out a sigh—a sigh that turns to a groan and a grumble, “Buffy.” Funny, I sound like I’m at my wit’s end and we’re just getting started. My wits could use more end.
She’s amused, but that doesn’t last. She switches off the TV, rises to her hands and knees, turns and stretches to put the remote on the nightstand. As she turns and comes to rest lying across the foot of the bed, she says, “We should just forget it, Will. It was a mistake.” She props her head up with her hand.
No. No way are you getting by with that, Missy. Not gonna happen. I pull my left index finger down with my right, ticking off a point. “First off,” I say, “you made me sit through When Harry Met Sally too times for that line to work on me.” I trap my middle finger too as I move on to the next point. “Secondly, it seems to me we already have.” A beat passes, and reacting to her cluelessness, I add, “Forgotten that is.” Her expression remains inscrutable. “That doesn’t bother you? ’Cause it bothers me. I need to know why.”
“What’s to know?” she says with a vague over-the-shoulder, pointy gesture. “We got drunk. It happens.” The apathy in her voice translates to a shrug that’s so halfhearted it only makes it to her hands. “Or so I hear. It’s a first for me, but—”
I sit up on my knees and look. I think she meant the kitchenette. Yeah, there’s an empty wine bottle in the sink. That hadn’t even occurred to me. I did bring wine. An empty plastic cup sits on her nightstand and a half full one on mine…or what would’ve been mine last night. I woke up on that side of the bed.
So she thinks this was an alcohol-induced oops? A night of drunken debauchery. The possibility leaves me cold.
“No, I’m sorry,” I reply. “I can’t believe this happened on a whim. I don’t think that either one of us would be that careless. It wouldn’t matter how drunk we got. What we have is just too complicated to throw caution to the wind.” And fragile. But I leave that out because neither one of us needs the reminder. We’ve been walking on pins and needles around each other for too long.
Her brow furrows. She opens her mouth, just a little, like she wants to say something.
I stop to give her room to do that, but she just takes a breath. That’s it. So after a moment or two, I pick up my thought, “You mean too much to me. I wouldn’t do that.” She nibbles at her lip as I get carried away. Her nervousness rubs off. “There has to be another answer and I need to find it because I want to remember. I need to. I care too much not to. I need to think that if this happened—and it certainly seems like it did—it came from someplace deeper—something beautiful. I have to believe that there was something else.” I wish I knew what she was thinking. “Forgetting that just seems wrong.”
All that and she didn’t move a muscle. The only thing that changed was that she quit nibbling, which is good ’cause it dries out your lips.
I haven’t changed much either. I’m still a mess. The niggling feeling hasn’t gone away. That’s one of the things the sisters in Westbury stressed: ignoring my instincts is bad. I knew that, but hearing it over-and-over from them finally made it sink in.
They were right. I’d just been doing so much for so long and all of it scared me. Everything I did felt weird. Ignoring that became second nature. I think this is magical. It feels too funny not to be.
Besides, it seems to me that drunkenness has symptoms. I don’t feel yucky, other than the obvious. At the very least you’d think there’d be a sour aftertaste. That’s an awful lot of wine. Not that I can taste anything now. I killed the evidence with minty freshness. Did I taste anything nasty when I woke up?
I don’t think so. Just the usual morning breath. I force a little air down my throat, swallow and burp. A little one. Anything else would be rude. Still, I say, “Excuse me.” I can’t do that and not. Even for the sake of science, or deduction, or whatever this is. I can’t tell. All I taste is mint. That’s it.
“Do me a favor?”
I grin. This is might be the strangest thing I’ve ever asked her to do, and that’s really saying something. “Burp,” l reply, “I know it sounds weird, but just indulge me. Please?”
She gives me a look. I start to think she won’t, but then she does. Same story. Same “Excuse me.” It’s hopelessly cute.
“Do you taste anything funny?”
I get up to get my cup and have a sip. My stomach rolls. I want to spit it back, but I don’t. The mouthwash really doesn’t help. This is the most awful, vile, nasty, stuff I’ve ever tasted. It’s like fermented grape jelly. I screw up my face up to stop the cringe and take the cup to her. I hate to do this, but—
“Here, try this.”
I feel awful when she does. Awful and amused, which makes me feel even more awful. But the look on her face is just too funny. I wish I had a camera. Before she’s done grimacing, I ask, “Can you see us drinking that?”
She tenses up to stop the shuddering. “Okay, point taken,” she admits.
About the only thing this stuff might be good for is staining the carpet. “So?” she says as I go to head that off before it happens.
So, I don’t know. So, we figure it out. So, I stall by dumping my cup and clearing away the trash. “So.”