Chapter Eighteen—Still Life in Spring
Buffy grinned as she got ready for breakfast. Connie was up early for a change and was grabbing a quick shower. Buffy thought about her class schedule:
Applications of Chemistry II (Chem 142)
Literature & Intermediate Comp (English 211)
Modern World History (History 101)
Calculus II (Math 142)
Mil Theory, Strategy & Officership (MSS 101)
General Physics I (Physics 110)
The only classes Buffy was worried about were Physics and Chem II. They seemed pretty hard already, even this early in the semester. Luckily, she was in the same section of Chem II as Connie, and Connie had also promised to help her with Physics. Buffy was sticking to UA for one of the two intramural sports she was allowing herself. For the other, she was going to try basketball, despite how much she'd enjoyed fencing. Hopefully, taking two team sports would satisfy Colonel O'Neill and make her seem like less of a crazed loner.
Of course, if she wasn't confined to base, Buffy would have tried out for the cheerleading squad, despite how little chance smacks had of making it. She was going for it next year, no matter what! Her gymnastic skills would probably get her on the team, since unlike high school, skill actually mattered more than popularity. At least she hoped it did. Unfortunately, this year, she had to settle for soccer as her PE class. She figured it would be at least as fun as racquetball.
After the first few soccer classes, it looked like it wouldn't be too hard to figure out how to lay low. Buffy figured she'd pass the ball off as much as possible, which should allow her to stay out of the spotlight. It was funny, but Buffy had actually been bothered when she'd been passed over as a potential goalie. She guessed that they were looking for someone tall with good reach, which wouldn't be her. Still, it was probably for the best. I can just see myself making some impossible save, she thought. Then everyone would know that she was not exactly normal.
The door to the room opened and Connie padded in, wrapped in a large robe, fresh from her shower. “Good morning, Cali. How's life?” With that, Connie dropped her robe and quickly got dressed.
Buffy looked away briefly. She'd finally gotten used to that
particular aspect of sharing a room. Getting dressed and undressed in front of someone else all the time had felt weird at first, despite doing it in locker rooms for PE and cheerleading. But she was cool with sharing a room now, at least most of the time. Then her eyes narrowed. Just as long as Connie kept her mitts off Buffy's power bars! Connie, on the other hand, didn't seem to have any issues with sharing a room. Connie had brothers and sisters the entire time she was growing up, all of whom had fought over the one bathroom in the house she'd grown up in. Plus, Connie had shared a room with her sister as well. “Life's good. I'm actually looking forward to today's classes.”
“So, how was your meeting yesterday? You got in so late that I was already asleep.”
“Yeah, you weren't here when I got back, so I hit the library to get a head start on the Colonel's latest opus. This one's about Ancient Egypt.”
Connie's eyes gleamed in amusement. “Sorry. Was the dinner at least good?”
Buffy smiled, starting to salivate as she thought back on the great dinner she'd had. “Hell, yes! The Colonel made BBQ: chicken, sausages, and ribs, all of which were great. He also had spicy potato salad and rolls. And
he made me a birthday cake. Well, bought me one, anyway.”
“That sounds delicious... Wait. Birthday cake? I didn't realize your birthday was coming up. Why didn't you tell me?”
Buffy didn't know how to explain to Connie that her last two birthdays had been so full of gut-wrenching horror, that she'd hoped by ignoring this one, she would be free of that
particular tradition. “Uhh... I didn't want anyone to fuss. Or to feel obligated to buy me anything for my birthday.”
Connie shook her head. “So when is it?”
“What! That's the day after tomorrow! How am I going to arrange a surprise party that quickly?” Connie's eyes gleamed as she took in Buffy's horrified expression. “Relax, roomie, I'm just joking.”
Buffy eyed her doubtfully. “You promise?”
“Cross my heart.”
Buffy checked to make sure that Connie wasn't crossing her fingers behind her back, which led to Connie tossing a pillow at her. Buffy threw it back, laughing.
“Okay, then.” Buffy was reassured that Connie wasn't going to court disaster by trying to throw a party. Then something off-topic occurred to her. “Did you do the homework for Chem?”
“All done. Want to check it against yours?”
“Definitely. I think I got that whole titration thing down, but I want to make sure.” That way, I won't have to wait until it's been graded to find out whether I got it right, Buffy thought gratefully. Connie was pretty good at chemistry and didn't have any problems with helping her more challenged roomie out, which Buffy considered a 'Good Thing.'
“It's cool. I'm just glad we are actually in a couple of the same sections on our classes. And since you're playing intramural basketball, you have to be on my team.” There was a gleam in Connie's eye as she spoke.
Buffy gave her much taller roommate a dubious look. “Uh huh. Why would you want one of the shortest girls here on your team?”
Connie's grinned. “Because you're incredible when it comes to throwing stuff. Don't think I missed you hitting Westerman squarely in the face with that spoonful of spoiled mayo during his nuking last week. I figure if you can hit a guy in the face from thirty feet away with a spoonful of mayo, you can sink a basketball from at least that far away. Hell, we might just have you dunk
the ball.” This last was obviously said in reference to how 'special' Buffy was.
Momentarily worried, Buffy protested, “Connie, you know I don't dare dunk a basketball. It would...” She stopped at the knowing expression Connie wore. Uh oh, she had just made a mistake.
“Actually, I wasn't sure you could dunk a basketball, but you obviously can jump that high. Pretty amazing for someone your height. I know, I know, you'll tell me when you can. But I did tell you that if I could figure it out, I would. Just a friendly warning from your favorite roomie.”
Buffy gave Connie a dark look. “You're my only roomie.”
Connie breezily replied, “You know you love me.” She grinned at Buffy as she said it.
Buffy's eyes softened. Connie was right. She did really care about the other girl. And Buffy wouldn't want to change her even if she could. No matter how close she came to uncovering Buffy's secret. She walked over and gave the other girl a hug, which was returned fiercely. Then Buffy glanced at the clock. “We need to hurry. Formation's in five minutes.”
Connie's grin slackened. Rolling her eyes, she sarcastically stated, “Yeah, wouldn't want to miss that...”
Buffy and Connie hurried down the steps towards the quad. Once down, they broke into a jog. Then as they arrived at the quad, they both stopped in confusion. There were only a handful of cadets there, all smacks. Buffy turned to Connie and asked, “What the hell's going on?”
Connie looked down at her roommate. She'd wondered briefly when she had read the schedule if there had been a mistake, with today being Martin Luther King Day. There shouldn't be class or drill today. And there apparently wasn't. “Well, I think we've been had. It's a holiday...”
Buffy's eyes started to glow with righteous anger. “Martin Luther King Day.”
Connie nodded and continued, “So there shouldn't be classes or drill or anything.”
Buffy exploded. “Those bastards! I'm going to kill Westerman!”
“Take it easy, Cali. He's just getting us back for nuking him. And we did fall for it.” Connie smiled, trying to calm down her roommate. She watched the slow, involuntary smile creep across Cali's face.
Cali held up her hand palm forward. “Okay, I get that. Maybe Westerman thinks that this was an appropriate revenge.” Her smile grew evil. Cali slowly rubbed her hands together in imitation of an evil scientist and cackled, “We shall have our revenge upon him. He shall regret this.”
Despite the humorous imitation, there was an undertone of seriousness that Connie caught. “Cali, what are you planning?” Cali now wore a thoughtful expression. The same kind that she'd worn when they had planned the demise of Merryman last semester. Connie tried to mask her horror. “Cali, you're not...” Then she was interrupted by a loud, taunting shout from across the quad.
“Hey, smacks! Get lost today?”
A group of Firsties, led by Westerman, were standing at the edge of the quad. They were dressed casually for comfort and continued to taunt Connie and the others.
“Well, you know what smack stands for, don't you? I think this is more a case of lack of aptitude than the sound that shit makes when it hits a wall. Although, maybe not.”
“Hey, Perez! You warm enough out there? Got some good Cuban loving for me?” The Firstie who taunted her thrust his hips back and forth to make his point more strongly.
The taunting from there only got worse. Even Connie was starting to blush. She grabbed Cali's arm and started to drag her away. To her surprise, Cali accompanied her without demur. After they got far enough away, Connie turned to her roommate and in a cold voice stated, “Okay, count me in. Let's get those turd-eating shit-stains. Just tell me you have a plan.”
Cali gave her a beatific smile. “Oh, I do have a plan. It's going to be so much fun...”
Teal'c sat and meditated. He was deep in Kel no'reem. As he focused on his inner self, thoughts of the match yesterday troubled him. Teal'c had not shared his suspicions with O'Neill. His suspicions that Buffy Summers had allowed him to win. The move she had used to attempt to end the match was exactly like the one she'd used against Major Carter. Despite knowing that Teal'c had observed her first match, Buffy Summers had repeated a move that any competent fighter would have been prepared for.
A wise warrior would have known that Teal'c had observed their first match and would have used new and different tactics in their second. Buffy Summers had done exactly that throughout most of the match, fighting with amazing skill for one so young. Throughout the match except at the very end. And to use a move that she must know she didn't possess the strength to make work, was unbelievable. Teal'c couldn't think of any reason she would have to throw the match. Even if Buffy Summers was fatigued, that was no excuse for such a poor choice of moves. So why had she done so? That was what troubled him the most...
Connie laughed at loud at the antics of Jim Carrey in Liar Liar
. The movie just happened to be playing in one of the TV rooms at Arnold Hall, so they had decided to sit down and watch it. They'd arrived at Arnold Hall after changing out of their dress blues into more comfortable fatigues.
Beside Connie, Cali laughed out loud as Jim Carrey's character told the busty girl on the elevator that people were nice to her because she had big jugs. They were alone in the room and could be a loud and rambunctious as they wanted, which was nice. There weren't any Firsties there to tell them to keep it down.
Cali shouted at the screen, “That's exactly why they're nice to you! You have huge boobs which you show everyone!”
Connie giggled and told her roommate. “You're getting too into the movie, me thinks.”
Connie sprang to her feet as the shouted command rang through the room, Cali accompanying her. She stood rigidly at attention despite knowing that Arnold Hall was an 'at rest' area. She and Cali weren't supposed to be rousted here. However, Connie figured it was better to be safe than sorry.
A figure entered her view. It was Gator. He was grinning widely at them and said, “At ease, cadets. I just...”
That was all he got out before Cali tackled him, knocking him into the other couch. She sat astride him pinning him down. Ominously, she said, “Say you're sorry.”
Gator's face wore a stern expression. “Are you threatening me, smack?”
Cali rolled her eyes. “Darn tootin'.”
Connie grabbed her roomie and hauled her off of Gator. “Quit it, you two. What if someone sees?”
Cali shrugged. “So? We're just friends.”
Connie gave her a skeptical look. With as much sarcasm as she could muster, Connie drawled back, “Riiiiigghhtt.” At that, Cali had the grace to blush. Gator just lay on his back on the couch wearing a shit-eating grin.
Then he spoke, “Seriously, Connie, we're just friends. That's all we can be, until Recognition. But friends can hang out together, you know?”
Connie decided to stay out of their business. “Okay, if you say so.”
“So, what are you both watching?”
Cali gave him a mock glare. “We were
watching Liar Liar
, before some egotistical first-class cadet rousted us.”
“Cool.” Gator sat up so that he could see the movie. “Oh, I really like this part.” He transferred to their couch for a better view and leaned forward to watch the movie.
Connie exchanged a “Boys!” look with Cali before joining him on the couch. Cali sat on his other side, leaning in a little closer than Connie liked. She really hoped those two stayed out of trouble. In the meantime, she was going to enjoy the movie...
Jack leaned against the wall of his house, wiping sweat from his eyes. Despite the cold weather, he was hot from the hard work of fixing the fence that Cali and Teal'c had all but destroyed yesterday. Luckily, Home Depot was open even on Martin Luther King Day, and he was able to buy fencing, nails, and Thompson's Water Seal.
“You want me to get you a beer?” The soft, contralto voice of his companion carried to him from the nearby kitchen door. Looking up, Jack smiled at Joyce and nodded his assent. She emerged a moment later with a cold Budweiser, from which he promptly took a swig.
“That hits the spot. Thanks again for coming over and keeping me company today.”
She smiled mischievously. “It was the least I could do for the man who bought my daughter a birthday cake.”
Jack smiled, then shook his head. “Yeah, but I'm also the same guy who nearly got her head taken off when I let her spar with Murray...”
Joyce put her hand on his arm to stop him. “Please, Jack. As good as Murray is, I'm sure that Buffy held her own. Plus, I'm certain that she enjoyed it.”
Jack smiled. “That's definitely true. She was just so... fierce.” Jack almost said more, but stopped, arrested by the expression on Joyce's face. She wore an expression that was equal parts immense sadness and intense pride. Jack was puzzled by the dichotomy of emotions she exhibited.
Joyce really was a wonderful woman. She was unlike anyone who he'd ever met before, although she shared many of the same qualities that Jack admired in a woman, including a certain Air Force officer. Jack shook his head, not wanting to go there. Deciding to both lighten things up and distract himself, he casually mentioned, “Well, the fence is nearly done. What are we going to do with the rest of our holiday?”
Joyce took his hand and casually led him into the house. “I'm sure that between the two of us, we can come up with something...”Four days later...
Buffy grilled her officers. “Cadet Perez, how many smacks have you recruited?”
Connie grinned and began, “Ma'am, this cadet has recruited nineteen smacks for tomorrow night's festivities.”
Buffy regally nodded her head. Then, “Cadet Burnett, how many smacks have your recruited?”
Billy came to attention and stated, “Ma'am, this cadet has recruited twenty-two smacks for the 'party'.” He gave all and sundry a look of such recklessness that Buffy feared for him.
Buffy nodded. “And I recruited thirty-one smacks, including one collaborator who will be used to communicate misdirection to our enemies.” She shared conspiratorial smiles with the others. “That gives us seventy-two smacks against twenty-one Firsties. I somehow don't think we will have any problems in showing them tonight that messing with us is not a good thing...”