The vampire exploded into dust, and Martha very carefully didn’t inhale. It was the kind of rookie mistake most people only make once – nothing like gasping in surprise and then choking on a mouthful of vamp dust to make the lesson stick – but she had an audience tonight, and everything had gone so well that she couldn’t help but think it was only a matter of time before the other shoe dropped. The universe, in her experience, had a nasty sense of humour.
“What, no quipage? Back in my day, we knew it wasn’t real slaying without a witty quip.”
Martha couldn’t help it – she snorted. “Yeah. Back in your day, when you had to slay uphill both ways, in a raging snowstorm?”
Buffy Summers, Slayer-with-a-capital-S, grinned. “Life on a Hellmouth did funny things to the local hills. And snow? Why, one year I remember we got, oh, flakes and flakes of snow. Dozens of them. Hundreds, even.”
Matha laughed, and wedged her stake in her belt for safekeeping. “So. How’d I do?”
“Two thumbs up for quality slayage. Although...” Buffy hesitated. “It’s just, once they get over the whole thing with the gut-wrenching terror, most of the girls seems to... enjoy it more. I mean. It’s kind of a high, for most of us. Hence the quipage. But you? No jokes, no grins – you’re all, just doing my job, ma’am. And I mean, you do it very well, but it’s... strange.”
Martha paused. There was the other shoe. “You know I’m a doctor, yeah?” she asked, eventually.
“Yup.” Buffy noded. “Doctor Jones, patcher-up of our bumps and scrapes. Xander says you saved a lot of lives, when that grimslaw demon attacked some of the new girls.”
“Yeah, well.” Martha waved off the praise. “Like you say, I was just doing my job. And that’s kind of the point, see. All this stuff, vampires and demons and whatnot, that’s my job. Being a doctor? That’s my life. I saved lives every day at the hospital – and then I wake up one morning and find I’ve been called to this great grand destiny where the way I get to save some people’s lives if by ending other people’s, er, unlives? So I’ll do it, yeah, because I still want to save lives, but it’s not really fun for me.” She shrugged, somewhat sheepishly. “I can’t even make myself slay demons, not since I met Clem. Just the vampires.” She couldn’t quite meet Buffy’s eyes. She liked the Slayer. She liked Buffy’s sense of humour, the way she moved, her easy bond with Dawn and the Scoobies. And... she felt like Buffy was someone who would understand, if Martha ever told the story of her life. After all, Buffy was the One Girl in All The World. If anyone could understand how it had felt to walk to the world alone, it would be Buffy. “It doesn’t – I mean, I don’t judge the rest of you or anything, it’s just, for me, I can’t –”
“No,” Buffy interrupted “No, I think that’s kind of... sweet.” When Martha looked up, Buffy had a rueful sort of smile on her face. “And it explains a few things, too. Like why you tried to negotiate with that sathari demon rather than slaying it.”
“It worked, didn’t it?” said Martha, feeling a bit defensive. “I mean, the girls had to slay it in the end, but it bought us enough time to get the wounded to safety, yeah?”
“Oh, no, it worked!” Buffy said hastily, taking a few quick steps forward. “It worked, and it was smart, and brave, and, uh...”
Those few quick steps had brought Buffy well within Martha’s personal space. If she were to just lean down a bit, then she’d be...
“Uh,” said Buffy, sounding dazed, “I think... that is...”
Before she could talk herself out of it, Martha leaned forward, and they were kissing.
“Right,” said Buffy, a minute later. “That was... look, I have to go make sure the other girls are doing okay, put the fear of god into the ones who still aren’t holding their stakes right.” But before Martha’s heart could sink too much, the Slayer glanced sideways at her, almost shy, and asked, “But you’re coming back to base tonight, right? And maybe we can... hang out? Watch, I don’t know, a movie or something, or just, you know, more with the kissing, because – am I babbling? I’m babbling, aren’t I. Sorry. I can be... I can be a bit of a babbler. Person who babbles. Um.”
Sometimes, thought Martha, slowly beginning to grin, the universe had an absolutely brilliant sense of humour.