AN: So this idea hit me while I was on the bus today and I had to write it down. It's probably the happiest thing I've written. It takes place almost six years after NFA and almost seven years after Chosen, but no real spoilers for either show. And before anyone asks I do realize that unteachable isn't a word. It just seemed like something Buffy would say.
Disclaimer: I do not own BtVS or AtS. But I do own all of the DVDs.
You had to work the night shift again. So now you're climbing aboard the bus at one in the morning, cursing your boss, the economy, and your aching feet. You missed dinner again. Bath time. Bedtime. You haven't put your children to bed in over a week, and it's been several days since your husband was still awake to greet you.
You aren't really surprised when you find that there are only two other people on the bus this time on a Wednesday night. A man and a woman sit in the middle of the side facing seats. She is leaning against him and his arm is wrapped loosely around her shoulders. You continue past them and settle into the first row of seats facing the front.
If you were anyone else you might not spare them a second thought, but people- watching is one of your favorite hobbies. So you study the couple before you.
At first glance they seem like a typical young couple in love. Nothing special there. But you're bored and you forgot to bring a book, so you look closer. The girl looks tired. Her blonde hair is starting to tangle, and there's mud on her jacket. Her pants are ripped, and her shoes are caked in mud and something else that, if you didn't know any better, you would say was blood. Her bag is lying on the seat next to her, but you can't see into it. There is a large silver cross hanging around her neck.
If you were to look closer you might see the outline of something long and pointy strapped to her calf and covered by her boot. You might see a crescent shaped scar on her neck. You might see the way she winces when a bump jostles her left leg. But these are not things you would expect to see when looking at a young woman on a bus, so you do not see them.
You turn your attention instead to the man with his arm around her. He too has shoes caked in mud, but his clothes seem to be clean. You take a moment to take in his appearance. Black combat boots, black jeans, red shirt, long black duster, platinum curls. Under different circumstances you might find him intimidating. The scar on his eyebrow certainly looks wicked enough. But this is a bus, in the middle of the night, not a dark alley in, well, the middle of the night. And he is doing nothing more threatening than holding his girl.
You do not see the outline of an ax beneath his coat. You do not see the dagger sheathed on his belt. You do not see the fresh bruise on the strip of skin exposed between his pants and his shirt. You do not see them, because you do not expect to.
What you do see is a nice looking couple on their way home. You wonder if they have children. You can't see any rings but that doesn't mean they don't have children. You're not sure why, but something is telling you they aren't a new couple. Something about them screams of a relationship that is long past the honeymoon phase, and well into forever.
You wish they would speak. Eavesdropping is another of your favorite pass times. Your husband is always teasing you about being nosy, but you love to listen to the conversations of others. You view it as a looking glass into human nature. A snapshot of someone's life. The bus hits a particularly harsh bump, and you get your wish. The man grumbles, and oh hey, he's British. Interesting.
"You've got to learn to drive."
"I can drive! Not well, or y'know legally, per se, but I can drive!"
The man chuckles. "No you can't love. You could jerk your mum's jeep around Sunnydale, if you had to, but that's not driving." Sunnydale. Wasn't that the town in California that collapsed into a sinkhole a few years ago?
She glares up at him. "Fine. I can't drive. But it's not my fault we have to take the bus. If you'd just stop speeding we could take your car. But you insist on going ninety wherever you are, and we so cannot risk having a cop ask you for a license!" She is twisting out from under his arm, her voice rising, looking a few miles past perturbed. He's regarding her with a mixture of defensiveness and amusement.
"It's just- I never had to stop before! And if, for some reason, I did stop it was usually so I could-"
"What? Have a quick snack? I'm so sorry that option was taken away from you!"
He looks her dead in the eyes. "I'm not."
You aren't entirely sure why, but all of the fight goes out of her at his words. A hint of a smile crinkles his eyes and he pulls her back against him, brushing his lips across her forehead. "Still," he says his voice teasing "twenty-nine and can't drive? That's embarrassing Slayer. Can't believe no one ever bothered to teach you."
"Riley tried, once. Well, he was going to teach me, but we never really got around to it."
Their voices have lowered again and you have to strain to hear their words, but you do because this is easily the oddest and most entertaining conversation you've heard in a long while.
"Really?" the man is saying, "what happened?"
"Adam happened. And then Glory. And then he was gone."
"Didn't you have some long glorious summer together? I seem to remember the two of you running around the cemeteries being obnoxious." Cemeteries?
"I don't think he ever taught me that summer. But I remember that I had to watch Dawn a bunch, so I guess it's possible that he did teach me and I just don't remember. I mean what else was I doing for all those hours that never happened? Twiddling my thumbs? Anyway, if all those hours at Driver's Ed, plus the time mom spent with me are any indication, I'm unteachable."
"No you're not."
" Oh really? Then how come you haven't tried to teach me?"
"Got used to the boy driving you around all the time. Keep forgetting he's gone to Merry Old."
"He's coming back soon."
"Yeah, I know. But if you want to learn, I can teach you."
"After we save the world again?" her voice sounds small. It's a strange way to deliver a strange joke.
He chuckles but it sounds anything but happy. His arm tightens a little and she curls closer.
"Yeah pet. After that." His voice is soft and he almost sounds regretful. Perhaps it's a joke from a less peaceful time in their lives.
Moments pass in silence, until a smile spreads across the woman's face and her fingers begin to tap a steady beat against his leg. Tap-tap, tap-tap, tap-tap. The action seems strange to you but to the two of them it appears to make perfect sense. She is whispering now, making it nearly impossible to decipher what's being said but you are almost positive that you hear the exchange correctly.
"I still don't believe it. Not completely."
"Been almost six years."
"I know. But sometimes I still have to check. Just listen for minute to make sure. Make absolutely sure its still beating."
"Yeah. Sometimes I have to check too. That stethoscope of Dawnie's can come in right handy."
She laughs. "Spike! Is that where that went? She's been tearing the house apart looking for that!"
He appears only slightly apologetic. "I'll get it back to her, soon as we get home."
Huh. Maybe something happened to him six years ago and he almost died. Maybe that's where the scar came from.
At any rate these people are fascinating and you want to listen to the rest of their conversation, but the bus is approaching your stop. You entertain the idea of staying on for a little longer, but it's late, and what with all the strange things that have been happening around here lately, you decide to get off the bus and go home to your husband and your children. As you pass them you glance down and get a good look at their faces for the first time. What you see in them nearly knocks you over.
Haunted. They both look incredibly haunted. And so, so old. Like they've seen and done things way beyond their years. You remember the man (Spike?) saying that she was only twenty-nine. He can't be much older. Thirty-three, thirty-four maybe. Close to your own age. You stand in front of them, waiting for the bus to come to a complete stop. Right before you step off, you throw them one last look. He saying something you can't hear and then they are exchanging a glance that seems, for a moment, to quiet the ghosts dancing behind their eyes.
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