Buffy slept in her room clutching Mr. Gordo. The dream slowly wormed its way into her subconscious...
“Cadet Summers, if you would come down to help demonstrate this principle, please?” Colonel Jameson asked. Obediently, Buffy walked down to the front of class and lay on the desk there.
“Cadet Pierson, if you would also help?” Gator smiled and walked over to where Buffy lay. What was Gator doing in her Chem 141 class?
She stared up at him nervously, aware of the other cadets watching. “Everyone's watching.”
Gator leaned in and smiled. “If you kiss me, the sun will go down.” Confused, Buffy kissed him. Then she was alone, standing in a dark, gloomy hall.
From nearby, she heard a little girl singing. Moving towards the sound, she saw a girl jumping rope and singing,
“Can’t even shout.
Can’t even cry.
The Gentlemen are coming by.
Looking in windows.
Knocking on doors.
They need to take seven,
And they might take yours.
Can’t call to Mom.
Can’t say a word.
You’re gonna die screaming,
But you won’t be heard...”
Then there was suddenly a grinning skull-like face staring at Buffy.
Buffy awoke with a shiver. Okay, she decided, that was too weird for words...
Buffy stared at CNN. She had been in Arnold Hall and decided to catch a few minutes of the news so that she'd have something to say if she were called upon for a news report at lunch. That's when she saw it. The entire town of Sunnydale was under quarantine because everyone had gotten laryngitis. Talk about weird. It worried Buffy, and the creepy dream she'd received the other night had to be about Sunnydale. “Can't even shout, can't even cry...” had to be referencing the laryngitis. Plus the white skull-faced guys? Major creepy.. That had been the oddest dream Buffy had ever received since becoming the Slayer...
She decided to just keep an eye on things for now. If it looked like it could be spreading, then she would decide if there was anything that needed to be done...
“Cadet Summers! Give us the news!”
Buffy stood up from her lunch. “Sir, the news is as follows: The town of Sunnydale, California has been afflicted with an epidemic of laryngitis, with apparently the entire population affected. The CDC has quarantined the entire town until further notice, sir.”
Westerman rolled his eyes. “Summers, you can do better than that. If you're going to make up a story about your home town, at least make it...”
Greeley whispered something into Westerman's ear. He blinked a couple of times, then said, “Cadet Summers, you owe me one mile with your pack on for not specifying this was a CNN story!”
Buffy shouted, “Yes, sir!”
Sitting down, she silently fumed as another smack was called out. Damned if she did and damned if she didn't, Buffy thought. Oh well, hopefully she wouldn't get called upon again for a day or two...
“Cadet Summers! Give us the news!”
Grrrrr. Buffy stood up from her breakfast. “Sir, the news is as follows: CNN states Sunnydale's laryngitis epidemic only lasted one day. Everything is now back to normal. CNN believes it was just a huge hoax, sir.”
Westerman yawned. “Sure, sure. You're from a weird town is all I can say. Cadet Ripley! Give us the news!”
Buffy sat back down and continued eating. Whatever had hit Sunnydale hadn't lasted long. Only one day according to CNN. It had been short enough they were even calling it a hoax. Which was good. Still, Buffy had found out from the Sunnydale Examiner's website that two people had been found with their hearts cut out...
Daniel jogged down the hallway to catch up to Jack. “Hey, Jack.” He appeared deep in thought.
Jack O'Neill gave him a level stare. “Did you need something, Daniel?”
Daniel blushed. Flustered, he stammered out, “Uh... y-yes I did. I wanted to talk about the last assignment you received from Cadet Summers.”
Jack's eyebrows went up. He'd wondered when Daniel would try to track him down after hearing how good he thought the paper was from Carter. Now if Daniel would just get to the point. They had a mission that Jack hoped to be back from before his meeting Saturday night with Summers. Plus, he'd promised to back her up when she told her mom that she was confined to base for the foreseeable future. Technically, she could apply for a pass for a Saturday evening or anytime on a Sunday, but the odds were pretty high against it being granted. Since he was her sponsor, Jack supposed he should get her out of there on a Sunday. Maybe have a BBQ at his house? Or they could always do Jack's favorite and go fishing.
“Sure, Daniel, but get to it. We only have forty-five minutes until we head out.”
Daniel nodded and said, “What I was really wondering was if I could speak to her directly?”
Jack frowned. “Why would you want to do that?”
Excited, Daniel babbled, “Cadet Summers referenced a work that I've never seen before. I've heard of it, but it's pretty rare. I was wondering how she got her hands on a copy. It's called Pax Romana
and was written in the 4th Century A.D. by a powerful Roman senator. Anyway I really wanted to read it if she had a copy.”
Jack sighed. “Daniel, I promise that I'll ask her. But I'd rather you didn't meet with her.”
Daniel gave him a puzzled look. “Jack, if you're worried about her finding out that you're not reading her papers...”
“I read it.” Take that, Jack thought smugly.
Daniel stared in amazement. “You read her paper on the fall of the Roman empire? All of it?”
Jack nodded. “I felt it was the least I could do if she went to all of the trouble to write the damn thing. Besides, Carter made me feel guilty for having you grade it.”
Daniel smiled. “I don't really mind. I mean I did at first, but that was a very well-written paper. She didn't even have any typos. Well, one, but then you don't expect many eighteen-year- olds to know how to spell antidisestablishmentarianism or to even know when to use it. She was making some comparison between ancient Roman and medieval Christian churches and tossed the Church of England in as a third example. ”
Jack shook his head. “Spell it? I don't even know how to say it.” Hopefully, Daniel would leave off asking to see Summers.
Doggedly, Daniel went back to his question. “Why don't you want me to meet with Cadet Summers?”
“Danny-boy, cut the girl some slack. She's just gotten hammered by an Honor Board after accidentally being involved with the most horrific stain on the Academy's honor in its entire history. The last thing she needs is to be hounded by you.” Jack knew his answer was weak. The real reason was so much simpler. He didn't want Cali to meet all of his team because he found that he rather enjoyed having something that was just his. In a lot of ways, Cadet Summers was exactly what a certain Cadet O'Neill had been many years ago. And he felt oddly possessive of her.
It was funny, Jack thought. He'd only known Summers for a couple of months. He'd only met her a handful of times. Yet, he worried about her more than he did people he'd known for years. Jack tended to shy away from examining his deeper motivations for sponsoring Summers. Those lay too close to many other emotions he'd buried years ago. Yet anytime Jack thought about Summers, he got a warm feeling. Even now, picturing her face as she'd earnestly tried to explain how she felt about the fallout from the investigation, he smiled. Somehow, Summers had wormed her way into his heart, a feat that only one other person had managed in the last few years. That had been Skaara. After what happened to him, Jack had been doubly careful to guard himself. Still, he felt closer to Summers than anyone since Skaara or... Charlie. Jack felt a sinking feeling in his gut as he thought about why that was.
He knew he needed to come clean with himself, if no one else. Jack felt like Cadet Summers was the daughter he'd never had. There, he said it. From what little he'd been able to find out about Summers' father, Hank Summers was a real shit. He'd dumped her mom when Summers was a freshman in high school. Then he missed various birthdays and other holidays because of 'business,' a flimsy excuse at best. Somehow, Summers had turned out okay. She was what was described as one tough cookie, her martial arts just being the tip of the iceberg. And Jack wished that he had a kid just like her. Deep down, Jack knew he wasn't ever going to have any more kids, and not just because of his relationship with Carter. He might as well enjoy the single pseudo one that he had.
Jack became aware that Daniel had said something else that he'd missed. Raising his eyebrows quizzically, Daniel said, “Wow, Jack. I'm usually the one who's drifting in a daze. What's her name?”
Jack shook his head. “No one, Daniel.”
“Well... okay, if you say so. Look, I understand if you want to keep your relationship with Cadet Summers private. I know it would embarrass you if it got out. So, I won't bother you anymore about...”
Jack interrupted. “There's no relationship with Summers, Daniel. I resent your implication.”
Daniel looked taken aback. “Oh, you thought... NO. No, I meant that it's obvious you consider her one of your team. I didn't mean you were involved. Good lord, Jack, I've come to know you well enough to know you wouldn't let personal feelings get involved with your command.”
Mollified, Jack muttered, “Okay, then. Just watch what you're saying. Rumors can be an ugly thing...” And worse, when they're true. Jack was uncomfortably aware that he was pinning too many of his hopes on the fragile shoulders of one young woman. For God's sake, am I really that pathetic? Jack wondered.
Daniel continued, “It's just that Sam got to meet her and I haven't. I am one of your best friends after all. And...”
Jack tuned out the rest. It was going to be a long forty minutes until they gated out....The Air Force Academy...
Again, Buffy dreamed...
Buffy watched the young dark-haired girl say something rude to the older man. At least it looked rude from the way he reacted. He apparently gave as good he got, Buffy thought, watching the girl stomp off. Wow, she was immature, but then she only looked thirteen or fourteen, making it allowed.
Without transition, Buffy was watching the same girl from earlier make a huge mess of her opulently furnished room. She threw stuff around for quite a while as Buffy stood there wondering exactly what she was supposed to be learning. Buffy wanted to throw something at her, but quickly found she couldn't pick anything up. After a while, a black-uniformed maid came in and started to clean up the mess. A look of regret on her face, the girl appeared to say something apologetic and left.
Again they were somewhere else. This time, Buffy stood watching the dark-haired girl as she went through seemingly endless katas, while the older man supervised. There was something familiar about what they were doing. It was odd, but that last combination looked like something she should remember...
Buffy slowly opened her eyes. On the other side of the room, Connie snored softly. Buffy turned an eye ceiling-ward and griped, “Why can't you just tell me what you want me to know? I was only joking about ripping out Whistler's ribcage and wearing it as a hat...”
Buffy waited, freezing her butt off, for the Colonel to arrive. Finally, after a few minutes, she saw his car. That's what you get for getting here so early, she told herself sternly. Then she spoiled it by smiling at him as she got in.
“Well, Cadet, how have you been?”
“Good, sir. I hope you have been as well, sir?”
Jack grinned as he carefully pressed down on the gas. “Not bad, Cadet. Especially since I've been able to get some sleep without getting any calls about nefarious doings at the Academy.”
Buffy knew she was blushing. He was deliberately making fun of her. Which should have pissed her off. Oddly, though, it didn't, instead engendering a warm feeling in the pit of her stomach. “Sorry, sir.”
“Don't be. At least I wasn't bored. By the way, I have some news for you on that front.”
“About our friends Lloyd Merryman and John Sheridan. You'll be happy to know that both are sitting in jail in Colorado Springs waiting to get to get out on bail. Seems that seven different women have come forward pressing charges of sexual assault. I'm not sure that all of them will stick, but certainly something should.”
Buffy felt slightly ill. “Yes, sir.”
The Colonel raised his eyebrows. “I thought you would be happy about this, Cadet.”
“Yes, sir. It is just... I thought I would be happy, too, sir. I wanted to see that happen, after all. But now...”
Shrewdly, he finished, “Now you find that it wasn't what you wanted after all.”
Buffy nodded. “That is exactly it, sir. I want them to be punished. I just hate that for them to be punished, I have to find out for sure what happened to those women.”
The Colonel nodded. “I wish I could tell you it will get easier. I won't lie to you, though. It never gets easier finding out just how poorly human beings treat one another. Enough about that, Cadet. How close are we to your house?”
Buffy thought briefly. “Take the highway another six miles. Then take a left at that next stop light, then a right at the first stop sign. It is the second house on your left.”
They sat in companionable silence for the remainder of the trip. Then they were pulling up in front of Buffy's house. Buffy got out of the car and straightened her uniform jacket. Well, she thought, I hope Mom's in a good mood...
Jack walked beside his smack up the walk of the house. It had been shoveled recently and wasn't too slippery. The house was a relatively modest two story home. There were already Christmas lights up, blinking in a merry display of red, green, and blue. They nicely complimented the light spilling out from the large picture window centered in the front of the house. All in all, it felt warm and cheery.
From next to him, Summers produced a key which she used on the door. Walking in, she called, “Mom, it's me. I've got company with me.”
She probably was trying to keep her mother from coming out in a mu mu or her nightgown, Jack thought in amusement. The she appeared and Jack almost choked.
When he had first heard about Summers' mother, he'd envisioned a matronly woman, perhaps a little short, with wide hips. She would be very... chubby. Jack didn't know why he saw her that way; he just did. The woman who stood in the hallway looking at them was almost exactly the opposite of what he'd imagined.
First off, she was tall, at least 5' 8”. Instead of matronly, she was slender and willowy. Her hair was surprisingly long, and fell loosely around her shoulders. It was a medium brown in color with lighter highlights. Her eyes were a light brown that was almost amber. She was wearing a black, knee-length cocktail dress, that dipped just low enough to show the faintest hint of cleavage. Understated cosmetics emphasized an excellent bone structure. In short, she looked amazing.
She was glad to see her daughter, but unsurprisingly looked a little puzzled. “Buffy! And...”
From next to him, Jack heard Summers say, “Yep, it's me. Wow, Mom, you look great. What's the occasion?” Of course, she forgot to introduce him, a fact that her mother seemed to take in stride, based on the amused look she gave them both.
The woman smiled and spoke, “I have a small function at with the local Chamber of Commerce tonight. Nothing too fancy. Actually, you almost missed me. I was just on my way out. What are you doing here, Buffy? And who's that with you?”
Jack decided to jump in. “Colonel Jack O'Neill, ma'am. Cadet Summers and I were having dinner tonight to discuss the paper she wrote as well as her career. She had some news she wanted to share with you, so I agreed to stop by here first.”
Joyce looked puzzled. “Well, it's nice to meet you, Colonel O'Neill. I'm Joyce Summers, Buffy's mother. So, Buffy, what's this news that couldn't wait until tomorrow?”
Jack watched as his smack started a couple of times, then stopped. Finally, she said, “Mom, I won't be able to come home for Christmas break. I...”
Joyce nodded. “So you finally decided for sure to go to Miami with Connie?”
Buffy shook her head. “No, it's not that. I'm confined to base, actually.” Jack listened as Summers explained to Joyce what had happened. He could feel the tension ratchet up as Joyce became more and more angry. Finally, with blazing eyes, she turned to him.
“How could you let this happen, Colonel O'Neill?” Her gaze was fierce as she said it, making her even more attractive.
Jack started to reply, but she continued without missing a beat, “How dare the Air Force punish my daughter for exposing its dirty laundry. This is the biggest travesty I've ever heard of. Give me one good reason I shouldn't call my congressman and bring this up to him?”
“Because it wouldn't be right, Mom.”
Both adults turned and looked at the girl who had just spoken. Jack watched as Summers met her mother's eyes unflinchingly. Then she spoke again. “What I did was wrong. The Powers That Be had every right to punish me for it. Otherwise, they did what they could by keeping my name out of it. I didn't have to testify. The Colonel saw to that. Otherwise, the other cadets would probably make my life pure hell. I'm not complaining about what happened. A lot of the people who cheated or were involved with the scandal are gone. I just found out from Colonel O'Neill that Merryman and Sheridan are finally in jail. Everything turned out fine.”
Joyce shook her head. “Buffy, when I first found out that you were going into the Air Force, I had my doubts. But at least I thought you would be safe there. Now I find out there was a group that participated in sexual assaults of girls there. At least when you were sl... patrolling, I knew where you were and when you'd be home. Now I just...”
Buffy moved up and hugged her mom. “I am safe. I'm better than safe. I'm learning so much. Even this was a lesson learned. And I don't regret learning them. Any of them. Try not to worry too much, 'kay?”
Joyce smiled and touched her daughter's hair. “I make no promises, but I'll try.” Turning back to Jack, she said, “I'm sorry for what I said, Colonel O'Neill. I...”
Jack waved a casual hand. “Please, call me Jack. I completely understand. She's your daughter and you want to protect her. I promise I'm keeping an eye on her. I don't know if I can keep her out of trouble; she seems to have a knack for it, but I'll do my best, Mrs. Summers.”
Joyce smiled at him. Wow, Jack thought as he smiled back. “All right, Jack. Please call me Joyce.” To Buffy, “Sweetheart, I really need to go. I will be able to visit you tomorrow, won't I?”
Buffy nodded vigorously. “Yes, you can. I can still have visitors, I just lost Christmas break and spring break privileges. So no beachy action for Buffy.” Then she seemed to realize that Jack was standing right next to her and almost came to attention. Amused, Jack decided to tease her about it later.
Joyce sighed. “Well, that's not necessarily a bad thing.” She ignored Buffy's outraged look. “I remember the things I got up to on spring break and they aren't things that a nineteen-year-old girl should be doing.”
Jack thought Buffy was going to say something, but she managed to hold her tongue. Amused, he thought if he weren't here, she would have probably whined a little. Which in the grand scheme of things, could be forgiven.
“Well, then, Joyce, we won't take up any more of your time. I'm taking your daughter over to a pub called O'Malley's for dinner. They make a mean steak and she certainly needs all the food she can get.” Smiling inward, Jack ignored the choked sound from next to him.
Joyce's eyes gleamed. “O'Malley's? Is that nearby, Jack?”
Jack smiled back. “Not far. Just off Berkman. You should try it sometime. It's very low key.”
Buffy jumped back into the conversation. “Okay, then, Mom, I'll see you tomorrow. Have a good time at the party.” She was halfway to the door before Jack said his goodbyes and followed her. He held the door open for Joyce, then waited while she got into her Grand Cherokee and drove off with a wave.
Getting into his car, Jack was aware of Summers' silence. She didn't speak the rest of the way to O'Malley's. Finally, he decided to find out what was going on. “Spill, Cadet. What's going on?”
Her face a study of contrasting emotions, Summers sat in her seat. Finally, she said, “Permission to speak freely, sir?”
Jack nodded impatiently. “Of course. Go ahead.”
“Were you just flirting with my mom, sir?”
Jack started to answer, then stopped, considering. Had he been flirting? Joyce was certainly an amazingly attractive woman. He'd definitely found her so. Thinking about it, Jack had to admit that he had flirted. Even better, she'd flirted back. “Yes, Cadet, I think I was.”
“That is all I wanted to know, sir.”
Jack, suddenly uncertain, asked, “Does that bother you, Summers?”
She shook her head. “No, sir. I thought it might, but it just does not. I only want the best for my mom. I do not mind that... the two of you enjoyed talking to each other.”
With that, she sat back with a faint smile. So she'd noticed Joyce flirt back. Considering what she'd just said, Jack realized that she had just given him her endorsement as well as permission. He kept his expression neutral, but inwardly he was smiling as he got out of the car and headed into the restaurant...
Buffy stared at Colonel O'Neill. He loved her paper? Seriously? And he'd shown it to one of the scientists that worked there and he
liked it, too? Enough to ask the Colonel about one of the source books. “Wow... err... sorry, sir. I mean that I am very glad you enjoyed the paper.”
Colonel O'Neill casually waved towards the bread. “Finish it off, Summers. I know you still have room for it in that bottomless pit you call a stomach.”
Buffy's face burned as the truth of what he'd just said hit home. She could still eat a bit more, which was good because she still had desert coming. Basically, she had just duplicated the order from the first time she'd been there a month ago. It was just as good the second time. Including the bread, of which there was still half a loaf left, just begging to be buttered and devoured.
While Buffy ate, the colonel expanded on what he'd just said. “It was an excellent paper, Cadet. It was a little light on the military causes behind the fall of the Roman Empire, but then I think that's what Dr. Jackson liked best about it. Let's just say we tend to disagree about what the most important things in life are.”
Buffy swallowed the last of the bread and washed it down a deep sip of sweetened tea. Ahh, that hit the spot, she thought. Just in case the Colonel expected a response, Buffy decided to speak. “I do appreciate it, sir.”
“Well, you won't after you get your next assignment. Because now that I see what kind of work you can do, I'm not going to settle for anything less. Got that?”
Buffy knew her eyes were getting huge. “Yes, sir!” Shit, she thought, I'm going to have to top what I did this last time. That's going to suck.
“If you continue to do this quality work, I'm going to see about getting you some bonus credit for it, possibly in your history classes.” The Colonel held up his hand. “Don't thank me until after you've actually done all of the work. Speaking of which, before I get to your next assignment, I wanted to ask you for a favor. Dr. Jackson was hoping to be able to see one of the books from which your drew a reference. Pax Romana
, I think it was? He has an interest in that sort of thing, which is why I showed him the paper to begin with. I told him I would ask if it would be possible.”
Buffy thought quickly. Was there anything in the book that could betray her? There was a brief mention of the Slayer, but it was disguised by flowery language that made it almost impossible to figure out. It was also the official reason that Giles had had it in his library. Buffy knew the unofficial reason was that he just loved old books.
“Yes, sir, I can do that. However, sir, I do need to let you know something.”
The colonel raised on eyebrow in question. “And what's that, Cadet?”
“It is written in Latin, sir.”
“That's okay, I'm pretty sure Dan... Dr. Jackson reads Latin. Wait, you
read Latin, Summers?” He stared at her as if she'd grown a second head.
Buffy flushed at the amazement in his voice. “A little. I am not super-fluent or anything, sir. But I can get by. We needed something to do when we were waiting for those pesky gangs back in Sunnydale, sir.”
Colonel O'Neill nodded, still looking bemused by what Buffy had said. Finally, he spoke, “So when can I give Dr. Jackson the book?”
Buffy quickly thought about it, then casually mentioned. “It is at home right now, sir. I used it at Thanksgiving for research. The easiest way to get it would be to contact my mom directly. I can give you her phone number if you would like, sir.”
The Colonel froze for a moment, then casually nodded in agreement. “That would be fine, Cadet. Now about that new assignment...”
Buffy smiled as she walked down the hall towards her room. She had just set up mom up with Colonel O'Neill. Well, kinda, anyway. The ball was in his court. He had Joyce's home and work numbers and a reason to call her. Buffy wondered if she should give her mom a heads up tomorrow when she came to visit, but decided it would be better not to, just in case Colonel O'Neill didn't call her.
The other thing the Colonel had done was to give her permission to use contractions in his presence. He'd basically said something about Mickey Mouse crap and to just talk like a normal person. Which was a relief. While not using them at the Zoo kinda made sense to Buffy, since it did teach you to think carefully about what you were saying, it didn't make sense to do so everywhere else. Especially somewhere you were relaxing. Colonel O'Neill had also said that since she was stuck on base for the foreseeable future, he'd drag her out to his place at some point for a BBQ some Sunday. That way she would have at least some kind of normality. Buffy had smiled and thanked him. He really was a great guy. She wondered how she'd gotten lucky enough to have him pick her to sponsor?
Buffy had learned a great deal about how to be an officer by watching how the Colonel dealt with the various things that had come up. From making sure she was okay himself, to not wasting even an hour when she'd finally told him about the Merryman situation, Colonel O'Neill had taught her that an officer went to bat for his people. You still roasted them over the coals a bit when they did something iffy, but you then defended them from everyone else. Buffy just hoped she was worthy of all of his support.
Buffy got her key out and was just about to unlock her door, when she caught sight of a familiar face heading down the hallway towards her. She froze for a long moment, then started to turn the key, stopping as a large male arm blocked the doorway. Looking up, she met Gator's dark, blue eyes.
“Yes, sir!” Buffy stood to attention, difficult with him looming over her. She could smell the faint scent of aftershave and another smell that was just him, musky and male.
He looked at her carefully, then put his hand over hers and turned the key. Turning the knob, Gator opened her door, pulled her inside with him, then closed it behind them. He stood there staring down at her. Buffy wondered if there was something on her face, like maybe some butter or possibly some A-1 sauce, so intent was his stare.
Neutrally, he asked, “How have you been, Cali?”
So that was how he wanted to play it. “Fine, sir!”
Gator winced, then visibly calmed himself. “I've been wanting to talk to you.”
Buffy was cool in her response. “Yes, sir?”
“Can the seven, Cali. I...” Gator stopped, and ran rough fingers through his short hair. “I've been doing a lot of thinking. I've been thinking about what happened last week.”
“Sir, I do not understand!”
“Goddammit, Cali, can that crap. Shit. This is not how I wanted to talk to you. I wanted to say I was sorry I ever doubted you. That I should have trusted you.”
Buffy was dumbfounded. Staring into his eyes, she asked softly, “So, you believe me?”
Gator nodded. “Yes, I do. I'm sorry it took so long for me to come talk to you. That's partially because it took me a while to think things over. Also, partly because I was worried.”
Buffy started to enjoy herself. In an innocent voice, she asked, “Worried, sir?”
Gator gave her a sharp glance, then snorted. “Yes, dammit, worried. I was worried you wouldn't accept my apology. That I'd burned my bridges with you.”
“I see, sir.”
“I see, Gator.”
Buffy smiled. “I see, Gator.”
He smiled back. “So I thought I'd come by and talk to you. I know I shouldn't. The last thing you need is to get involved with someone like me. But I like you, Cali. You're special.” With that, he leaned in and kissed her. It was as good or better than any of his previous kisses, and Buffy could feel her toes curl. She put her arms around Gator's neck, feeling the thick muscles there bunch as his hands slid around her waist. He stayed a complete gentleman, though and didn't touch her any further, though his tongue plundered her mouth. After a few minutes of playing tonsil-hockey, Buffy wanted more and allowed her hands to move from around his neck to touch his butt. Deliberately, she squeezed his firm buttocks, feeling the shock race through him at her boldness.
He nearly growled as he literally picked her up around the waist and carried her over to her bunk. Laying her down, he covered her with his body, pressing her into the mattress. Buffy could feel how aroused he was as he ground his erection against her thigh. Breaking their kiss, he slid his mouth down the delicate line of her jaw. Nuzzling her there, his right hand made short shrift of the buttons of Buffy's jacket. His big hand cupped the mound of her breast through her blouse and bra.
Buffy's breath came in sharp pants as she arched into his hand. Her nipples were hard as rocks and she felt a dampness soaking into her panties as she became more and more aroused. Letting her own hands roam over Gator's chest and back, they finally came to rest on his chest. Buffy tentatively unbuttoned his shirt, then let her hands grip his undershirt, feeling the thick muscles beneath.
At the same time she was opening his shirt, he'd returned the favor. Buffy was conscious of his hand on her breast again with just the thin material of her bra between it and her skin. Then as he pushed her bra up, there was just his skin and hers. Thick fingers skillfully teased her nipple, making her gasp. She pulled his face back to hers for a searing kiss, her tongue pushing out to meet his.
He broke the kiss again, this time moving his mouth lower. He licked her neck, then continued down. Still fondling and squeezing her breast, he sucked on the underside of her breast. Moving his hand aside, he took her nipple into his mouth, pulling hard. There seemed to be a line connecting her breast to her groin as Buffy felt every pull of Gator's mouth there. Thinking about how his mouth would feel between her legs almost put Buffy over the edge. She started to grind her body against his hardness.
Then he pulled back from her, sitting up, his breathing ragged. Buffy sat up as well, pulling her blouse closed, and pushing her skirt, which was almost hiked up to her waist, down. She wondered how he was going to explain this...
Gator could hardly sit, he was so aroused. It was actually painful as his uniform slacks compressed him. You didn't feel that way a few minutes ago when you were grinding yourself against Cali, he reminded himself, so don't think about it. Unfortunately, the admonishment only made him more aware of the girl who occupied the bed with him.
He turned to stared at Cali. Her eyes were huge pools of green as she stared back. Her lips were swollen. She'd pulled her blouse mostly closed, but she was breathing as raggedy as he was and every deep breath made things move there. Very interesting things.
Stop it, he told himself. You've seen a woman's tits before. But those hadn't been Cali's. Seeing her, touching her, had been arousing beyond belief. Her mouth tasted of chocolate, while the skin of her neck and breasts tasted clean and smelled faintly of vanilla. Even now, he wanted to go back and touch her breasts, taste her skin and peel the rest of her uniform off.
Which would be a disaster if they were caught, especially with Cali already assigned punishment detail. Who knows how much more drill they'd assign her if that happened. She might even get kicked out. The last thing he wanted was to do that to her. After a moment, he said, “Button up your blouse, Cali, or I won't be responsible for what I do.” His voice came out harsher and more rasping that he had wanted and he wondered if he had offended her. Somehow he doubted it though, seeing the mysterious smile that graced her lips.
Great, he thought, I've amused her again. But at least he knew one thing for sure now. Cali hadn't slept with that fuckcrack Sher. She was one hell of a kisser, but otherwise, she was one of the most inexperienced girls he'd ever made out with. She made up for it by just how passionately she responded to him, though. Feeling her lithe little body writhing under him as he sucked on her hard nipples turned him on even more. The little moans and groans that had sounded as if they were being torn from her hadn't hurt either. Dear God, Gator thought, Cali was one hell of a sexy girl. And he had to stop thinking about it or he be all over her again.
“So, was that what you wanted to talk about?” Cali's tone was innocent, but Gator could hear the irony in her words. Coloring, he scowled at her. Unfortunately, it was hard to intimidate someone who had just had their tongue down your throat.
“I... I didn't come here intending to do this. I'm sor... screw that. I'm not sorry for what we did, I enjoyed it. But I didn't come here to make out with you, Cali. I actually came to apologize and to say we needed to be careful about what we did...” Gator trailed off, mesmerized by the gamine grin she wore. A grin that grew into a laugh.
“Okay, let me get this straight. Please excuse me if I'm a little slow, I am a smack after all. You came here to apologize and warn me that we needed to be careful, but ended up sucking my... ah... getting to second base with me? Does that about sum it up?”
Gator could feel his face reddening at Cali's ironic tone. Despite her tone, she was smiling though. And it brought an answering smile to his lips. “Pretty much.”
She'd finished up putting everything back in place and doing up all her buttons. Only her swollen lips and mussed hair gave evidence that anything had happened. She jumped off of the bed. “So what now? Where do we go from here?”
Buffy stared at Gator as she asked her questions. “So what now? Where do we go from here?”
She'd gotten up because the last thing she wanted was to be sitting so close to him when he still looked so good. Eyes so dark they were almost black stared up at her. He sat on his elbows, which showed off his chiseled physique to good advantage. He was in amazing shape, as Buffy could attest, having just touched most of his body, even though she'd done so through his clothes, not having the nerve to strip him as he'd done her. All she'd done was unbutton his uniform shirt. Even then she'd kept her hands outside his undershirt. Buffy was just glad he'd called a stop to it because she wasn't sure she would have, not at least short of actually having sex.
Gator finally answered. “I don't know. I want to be with you. I want to date you. But you know the rules. Smacks aren't allowed to date anyone but other smacks, so that means dating me is a no-no.”
Buffy frowned. Gator was right. She wasn't allowed to date him. “So I guess we don't date. We can be friends though.”
His eyes were dark with frustation. “After what happened, do you think I want to be friends with you, Cali?”
She shook her head. “Maybe not. But as you just said, we can't date. It violates the regs and is the wrong thing to do. And it's the last thing either of us needs. We can always date after you graduate.”
He sighed heavily and gave her a long look. “Would either of us want to wait that long?”
Buffy hesitated, then finally said, “Look, Gator, the only suggestion I have is this: We give the friends thing a try. If nothing else, at least we'll know if it's worth trying to maintain a relationship after you're done with the Zoo. The thing is, I liked you as a person long before I considered dating you. You're one of the most interesting guys I've met since entering the Zoo. But if you don't want to be friends...”
“I want to.” The very emphaticness of Gator's statement seemed to surprise even him. He smiled as if coming to a realization. “I want to be your friend, Cali. Hell, I feel the same way. I like you a lot. What you did to that damn Jarhead back in October was one of the coolest things I've ever seen. But I noticed you before that. How patient you were with everyone in UC. How calm and centered you always were. How cute you looked in a gi. So let's be friends.”
“Okay.” Buffy smiled, the frowned as something occurred to her. “I need to warn you though.”
Buffy sighed. “I don't plan to be little miss play nice while I'm here. I patrolled my home town hunting gangs. Lots and lots of gangs. I won't keep my head in the sand when I see problems. Especially with the damn culture here. I've heard too many stories since I've been here about women being raped and not to trust any upperclassmen. That's fucking bullshit. If I catch someone doing something illegal, I'm going to bust their ass. If I don't think I can do that through Admin, I'm going to do it myself. So, I might not be the most comfortable friend to have.”
Gator shook his head. “Damn, Cali. You're pretty ambitious.” He appeared to think it over for all of five seconds. “Screw it. You're exactly the kind of friend I want to have. I've always hated when those sick fucks, who someday are going to be officers, joke around about screwing some drunk smack. But it's so hard to do anything about it...” He lowered his head, looking down.
Buffy touched his arm, getting him to look up. “You're not alone, okay? I'm with you. And I know I can't change the world. I just want to leave this a better place than I found it. The Powers are going to be making some changes. I'm not sure how many of them are going to work, but at least things are going in the right direction.”
Gator grinned. “I'm not so sure about that. Did you hear that you can't even yell at the smacks as they're getting off the bus next year? You have to be nice and polite to them.”
Buffy grinned back. “Like that bothered any of us. Hell, we were looking forward to it all during BCT. I guess the Powers are trying though.”
“Maybe. Tell you what, Cali. For our first friend's thing, let's get together tomorrow after Chapel and watch TV at Arnold Hall.”
Buffy smiled. “Okay, that sounds cool. I'll bring the popcorn. What's on?”
“Miami-Broncos game. It's the last game of the season... I take it you don't want to watch it?” He apparently saw her frown.
Buffy shrugged. “It's cool. There's just this really interesting figure skating competition going on. It's a major qualifier for the Winter Games next year...”
“Tell you what. We'll flip back and forth. How's that sound?” His slow, lazy grin made Buffy want to jump him again. Bad Buffy.
Instead, Buffy put out her hand. “Gator, you've got yourself a deal...”A week and a half later...
Buffy stared at the page in front of her. She had barely slept the past two nights as she studied her ass off. All in the name of trying to keep her grades up. The same grades which had a small chance of being all A's, provided she aced her chemistry and calculus finals. Well, not aced exactly, but she had to make a 96 and a 94 respectively, to get A's in both classes. Buffy had actually taken the time to figure out what she needed despite knowing she had a snowball's chance in hell of getting it. These classes were hard
Her other classes were a bit easier. As long as she got medium to high B's in those finals, she would keep her A's in all of them. Of course, it was one thing to know that, it was another to actually do it. Buffy thought that she'd managed to keep her A's in those classes, but she hadn't had time to actually go by and check her grades with her instructors on those finals.
Currently she was taking her Chem 141 final. It wasn't that it was so hard as much as how long it was. How was anyone expected to solve forty problems in an hour and fifty minutes? That was less than three minutes a problem, which was not cool. Already she had two pieces of scratch paper completely covered in calculations. And she'd only answered fourteen questions!
If somehow she got through this one, she just had Math 141 left. Thank God she'd waited to take physics until next semester. The general engineering class she'd taken instead hadn't been that bad, despite Buffy never having had any real exposure to engineering. The small class size had let her ask a lot of questions, as well as get a lot of help from her professor. Connie had also filled in some gaps that had helped Buffy a lot.
Military Theory hadn't even been hard. It was mostly just talking about what was expected of them as Air Force officers. It was funny, but when Lieutenant Colonel Richards had asked her a supposedly difficult ethics question about what she'd do as an Air Force officer, all Buffy could think of was how would Colonel O'Neill handle it? When she'd answered it that way, she gotten one of Decker's rare smiles and a nod of approval.
English hadn't been bad at all. Relatively simple, and with the least homework of any of her classes. Well, outside of P.E., which oddly enough, also had homework. Go figure.
Computer Science had been the class that had most intimidated Buffy going in. Apparently, though, Willow had rubbed off on more than she'd ever imagined. Buffy had actually found it, not easy, but not hard. You just needed to do the work and it wasn't too bad. And now Buffy could program a series of calculus equations in C++, which she would never have imagined doing before.
Buffy answered the question and moved onto the next. Now, what was the dielectric constant of water...
Buffy looked for Connie. Finals were over and she'd just gotten her grades. She wanted to catch Connie before she took off for Christmas break. But she was nowhere to be found. Buffy knew where she was getting a ride from, but didn't see her out front of the Student Union. Finally, Buffy decided to check inside on the off chance Connie was using a phone.
Bingo. Buffy watched Connie talk, one of her hands waving excitedly. She had a piece of paper clutched in that hand. Buffy didn't need Slayer vision to know that Connie was holding her grades and was probably telling her dad all about them. Smiling, Buffy watched, knowing that in a little while, she'd be doing the same. After all, her mom had threatened to not cook her famous Christmas ham if Buffy didn't share.
After a few minutes, Connie wound down. Buffy caught her eye as she walked up. “Hey, Connie. Who were you talking to?”
Connie bubbled, “My dad. He's so proud of me.”
Buffy smiled. “Let me see.” She took the piece of paper Connie handed her. She quickly perused it:
“That's great, Connie! You kicked ass!”
“I know. I was so afraid I was going to get a C plus in Chem instead of that B minus. God, I studied so hard. It was completely worth it. How about you? Let me see your grades.”
Buffy held them out to Connie. Diffidently, she said, “I did okay.”
Connie's eyes bulged as she read Buffy's grades. “Holy shit, Cali! You pulled a 4.0. You got an A in everything
. That is sooo the shit, girl.” Connie held up her hand and Buffy gave her a high-five. The two girls grinned at one other.
Part of Buffy's smile was relief. She should have known that Connie wouldn't be jealous because she'd done well in her classes. Connie was actually as excited as Willow had been all those months ago at Buffy's SAT scores. Buffy felt a faint sadness as she thought about Willow and how much she would have enjoyed college. Then she responded to Connie's congratulations. “Thanks, Connie. I have to admit I nearly had a heart attack when I saw them. I was sitting on the cusp in Calculus and Chemistry. I needed nearly perfect scores on both finals. Mom is going to freak. In high school, the highest grades I ever got were all B's on one report card.”
Connie shook her head. “Well, you're not making B's now. Still planning to write that report during break?”
Buffy grimaced. “Unfortunately, yes. The Incas, how fascinating. They made mummies, you know.”
Connie laughed. “Cali, you know the strangest things. Well my ride's here. I'll see you soon, okay?”
Buffy hugged her, then grabbed one of Connie's bags. She slung them into the trunk of the dark blue Mustang. Gator was driving. As Connie got in, Buffy walked around to the driver's side. “Thanks again, Gator.”
He shrugged and gave her a sly sidelong glance. “What are friends for? Cali, you take care of yourself. Have a good break.” He held his right hand out the window to Buffy. She took it, squeezing it lightly, while looking him in the eye. After a moment, she released it and moved off. She gave their car a final wave as she watched them drive off. Well, she'd better call her mom about her grades. Buffy so wanted to hear her flip out...
As Cali's figure receded behind them, Connie turned to Cadet Pierson. “Thank you for the ride, sir.”
He smiled distractedly at her. “No problem, cad... Connie. We don't need to stand on ceremony. We've escaped from the Zoo at least for a couple of weeks. Call me Gator.”
“All right... Gator.” Connie thought about asking if she could flip on the radio, but decided he was being nice enough just giving her a ride. Catching a taxi would have cost $40 at least. Waiting for one of the shuttle buses would have made Connie miss her flight.
Sitting there, she wondered if she dared ask him about his relationship with her roommate. It was odd. One day they'd been going hot and heavy, the next they'd been super casual. Just friends. Like Connie had bought that. Still, their relationship was against regs and while Cali might have flaunted it before getting Boarded, she was unlikely to do so now.
“So, Connie, how was your first semester?”
“It was fine si... Gator. Sorry, I tend to automatically sir everything male. My dad's going to be so happy.”
Gator waggled his eyebrows and grinned. “Mine certainly was.”
“Gator, can I ask you a question?”
He shrugged. “It depends. Personal or professional?”
“Ask. If I don't want to answer, I won't.”
Better than she'd expected. Connie asked, “What's up with you and Cali.”
He looked thoughtful for a moment. Finally, he said, “It's complicated. And not something I want to talk about. Let's just say we're friends and leave it at that.”
Connie slowly nodded. She'd been right. “That's cool. So you going to see any movies over break? Cause I'm thinking The Sixth Sense
. I missed it when they had that showing at Arnold Hall back in October...”The Initiative, Sunnydale, California...
Walsh looked at Colonel McNamara in dislike. “You're sure about your facts, Colonel?”
He shrugged. “As certain as I can be under the circumstances. I don't have any actual proof, however. Nothing that I can take to our superiors in the NID. That's why I came to you.”
Walsh gave her analysis of the situation. “So, we have one human-appearing girl, who not only passed her Air Force physical without any flags being raised, but who has been at the Academy for over five months now without an incident. A girl, who you are convinced is a demon of some kind. That about sum it up?” Walsh decided not to mention the Slayer to McNamara. She didn't want to waste time on something she barely believed in despite recent evidence to the contrary. Besides, there was only supposed to be one of them at a time.
McNamara looked offended. “There was
an incident. What else do you call a hundred-pound girl beating a Marine more than twice her size? Dr. Walsh, I know you believe I'm overreacting about this, however I disagree. I think we should get her here and at least find out what's going on with her.”
Walsh nodded. She agreed. If the girl turned out to be what Walsh now thought she was, she would be very interested in “finding out what's going on with her.” “All right, Colonel. How do you suggest we go about it?”
McNamara appeared thoughtful. “It can't be immediate. She's buttoned up at the Academy right now and will be until summer break. Then she gets three weeks leave before starting Third Class summer studies. She's supposed to get three weeks seasoning at a base at the beginning of her Third Class Summer. I think we can move that up to so that she goes straight from the Academy to her assigned base, which will be here. I can cut orders to that effect, saying that's the only time slot we have open and that she can take her summer leave after that. She'll consider it a privilege. When she gets here, we won't process her in. She'll just disappear. As far as the Academy is concerned, she never made it out here. When she doesn't show back up for the rest of her summer term, they'll consider her AWOL. It's not as if the Academy doesn't have this sort of thing happen. They won't devote much time or effort to looking for her.”
“And if she does turn out to be completely human?” Walsh already knew the right answer, but she wanted to see if Colonel McNamara had what it took to see this through to the end.
He gave her a cold look. “Then we get to finally see the siring process all the way from the beginning through to its end.”
Walsh gave a grim nod. “That sounds like a workable plan, Colonel. I'll leave it in your capable hands.” She doubted the girl was human, somehow. Even if she was, Walsh wasn't sure she wanted to waste her time monitoring a dead-end process. Adam, she thought, how would you like a sister?