Buffy was finished. She had done everything, given everything. It would have to be enough. Her sister would live, the world would survive and she would finally be done. Done fighting, done trying. Done winning and failing and being in pain, emotional as much as physical. Her life was the only thing she had left to give. With it she would finally be free.
It only took a moment. She felt the energy of the hell portal short circuit her nerves and then she couldn't feel anything anymore. She wasn't exactly dead. Not yet. As she fell out the other side of the portal she saw the ground grow closer. She remembered thinking how odd it was that something so normal would be her end. Not closing the portal itself but the jump. There was no pain at her impact. She hit the pavement which marked the end of her several story fall and felt nothing. Her every nerve had been damaged irreparably by the unnatural shock. It was a small blessing. With that everything was over. She was finally over. Her family and friends would be okay now, safe.
She was overtaken by the feeling that the people she knew and loved were alright. She had never felt so calm. It felt like she was waking from a dream. The warm comfortable feeling of having slept until the perfect point in her sleep cycle. She opened her eyes gently.
'Welcome! Everything is fine.'
She glanced from side to side. In her line of work nothing was ever fine. Someone saying so was a total jinx. But the place just looked like a waiting room, and it was staying that way. Other than the bright green print on the wall, everything seemed normal, even kind of nice.
"Buffy Summers?" She turned and there was a kind looking white haired man with dark glasses poking out of a roomy looking office.
"We're ready for you now. Come in. Come, come." He herded her in with his hands and she decided there was no harm in going with him. There wasn't anything else to do and he seemed trustworthy enough.
"Well by we I mean me but you understand. Humanity has that way of putting meaning in people's words that doesn't actually fit the meaning of the words."
That was more than a bizarre sentence. "You're a pretty strange guy you know that?"
That was far from the only strange thing. She felt weird. All her nerves were awake again, and hyperactive in being so. They were tingling like the pins and needles that come when you sit cross-legged for too long.
They sat down at the chairs of his desk and she so didn't expect heaven to start with an office either. "Welcome," He gestured around himself. "to the good place."
"And that would be what exactly?"
"Oh right! Of course. I shouldn't start there, you have no idea what I'm talking about." He shuffled around as if looking for something and straightening his suit at the same time. "Where should I start? Yes!" He looked Buffy in the eye, leaning himself over the desk.
"This might alarm you, but you, Buffy Summers are dead."
They sat there for a while while she just took it all in. "I just need to know one thing." She finally said, breaking the silence. "Are my friends okay? Is my sister okay?"
"They are just fine. You saved them Buffy. You're a real hero."
The tour of heaven happened after that. Well of 'The Good Place' It was totally heaven to her. For one thing, there were so many places to shop.
"Frozen yogurt!" She shouted and ran forward like an excited five year old. He caught up to her when she stopped outside the doorstep. "Oh man you know just the way into a Southern Cali girl's heart."
They talked for some time. She asked questions, he answered. He showed her the sites and she followed him with wide eyes.
"Soulmates are a real thing? OMG! I am crazy excited to meet my hunk off a man." Then she suddenly stopped walking. It took Michael a couple more steps to realize and he had to turn around to look back at her. She looked dejected. "After all this time." She said quietly. "Does this mean it was never Angel?" Her eyes were large and questioning. Glistening with the threat of tears.
"No." He responded in a matter of fact tone. "Though I must say your star crossed lovers ordeal was a real tear jerker. Had I not known about your true soulmate I would have really been routing for you."
She looked up at him with a small smile. "Really wasn't that fun from my end."
"I can't imagine so. You two actually have something of a fan club up here." He turned his body to the side and lifted one hand to his mouth with the other in his pocket. "What was the power's neutral fellow's name again?"
Buffy looked at him blankly, not sure what he was talking about until she recalled what she had been considering the worst day of her life for a long time. The night she had to kill Angel.
"Whistler!" Michael snapped his fingers and he pointed at her. She jumped slightly in surprise at his enthusiasm.
"But in answer to your earlier question. No. Your real soulmate was actually a bit of a trick to get here. Luckily Jeremy Berimy was on our side."
She had absolutely no idea who or what that was but she was far too curious about this soulmate of hers to ask about some guy named Jeremy.
They turned the corner and there was... Spike? he was sitting in a garden, one leg crossed over the other and nose in a book. He was dressed, really weirdly, in slacks and a crisp button up that was actually buttoned up, but it was still Spike. Also, were those glasses? Still, even with the weird clothes and without the bleached hair she wouldn't be able to not recognize him. She turned her whole body to glare at Michael.
"He's NOT my soulmate."
"I assure you there are no errors in our system." She was flustered and he could tell. "This, however, is not the man" the stern look from the short blonde made him reconsider his wording. " vampire you know. This," he gestured to the man who was now standing at attention, having noticed them. "is his human counterpart."
Thinking of it that way she looked at Spike again, not Spike, pre Spike, pre William the Bloody. He had stood while the two were talking and was looking at them expectantly. Loose brown curls hung over his face and thin wire frame glasses. He held himself in a way that looked uncomfortable it was so proper. Nothing like the aloof way Spike always was. Still, he looked at her like her Spike. So much so. He looked at her in a way that asked for nothing and everything of her at the same time. Like his entire existence was dependent on what she would say next. It was entrancing, she couldn't look away.
"Buffy, if I may cordially introduce you to your soulmate, William Pratt."
The Spike doppelganger closed the distance between them and reached out for her hand. He surprised her when he didn't go for a shake. Instead he took her limp hand in his and raised it to his mouth. He left a chaste kiss on its back and then looked up into her eyes. "A pleasure." Those eyes were so very blue, she could lose herself staring, and what was she talking about? This was Spike's face! "I have been waiting to meet you for so long. I daresay your beauty alone was worth every lonely moment."
He was staring at her, looking deep into her for something and all she could do was fidget. "Uh, likewise." That was carp and she knew it but god her knees were being all jelly from the old timey romancing and she couldn't think of anything to say.
They stood across from each other for a long time in silence, staring into each other's eyes.
Michael was standing beside them awkwardly. Eventually he was the one to break the quiet. "Sparks are really flying here huh? I guess I'll just leave you two love birds to it. "He lay a hand on her shoulder. "Whenever you are ready we can finish the tour Buffy."
She couldn't stop thinking of Spike. She was so bewildered that she could ever find herself in a situation with him in front of her and not feel the need to punch his nose in.
She remembered what he'd said once. 'what can I say love. I've always been bad.' He was such a liar. Now that she was with the human he once was she knew that. Spike had been born of a complete dweb and had totally been trying to hide it.
She might laugh at the guy if she hadn't just been told he was her soulmate. The silence was doing nothing for her nerves, which still didn't feel right after her dive through who knows how many hell dimensions. He wasn't saying anything more, he had left the ball solidly in her court. It took her some time to regain her ability to form words.
"So, uh, what are you reading?"
The smile that overtook his face was one she didn't see on Spike unless they were fighting, which meant that lately, it wasn't a lot. Spike really had stopped enjoying life after the chip hadn't he?
"I've had a lot of time you see." Oh shirt, she hadn't been listening to anything he was saying.
"Plenty of time to read." He continued, oblivious to her poor attention. "Every book you could ever want is in the library here. So many that I've actually branched out into later works."
He blushed, actually blushed, and it was another nail in the proverbial coffin that this wasn't Spike.
"I am afraid I was a slight scandalized by the language of contemporary romantic poetry. Which has led me to re-reading an old favorite." He waved the leather bound book around nervously. Too fast for her to catch the title.
It felt like her first date in Sunnydale all over again. Smile and nod as the guy goes on about poetry, which is something she knew nothing about. Was she doomed to pretend for all eternity? Still there was something undeniably charming about it. He had said romantic poetry hadn't he?
William knew he was babbling. He couldn't stop himself. When he had first been told he had a soulmate he was ecstatic. Being here with her was another feeling altogether. He no longer cared that he had to wait to meet her. Well, that was a lie, every day had been torture, excruciating torture. He had tried his hardest to fill them with the things he enjoyed. It was all just so empty knowing that she existed beyond reach. Now that she was here he knew that it had been torture worth enduring.
She was a picture. No, she was a masterpiece. He could spend forever writing verse about the way golden hair fell over her shoulders. He supposed he could actually put that theory to the test with the time that lay ahead of them.
Green eyes were gazing at him with an interest he had never seen beyond the eyes of his own mother. It was all worth it just for this.
And it had been a lot.
Some Time Earlier
"William Pratt. It is a pleasure to finally meet you."
He found himself in a peculiar and scantily furnished room. Last he remembered he was leaving mother to make an appearance at a social gathering.
"It also is a pleasure to make your acquaintance Mr…" He had no idea who this gentleman was in front of him. Nor where he was for that matter. This did not look to be where he had originally been headed.
"Simply Michael is fine."
"Right, Michael." He hesitated but decided it was paramount he understood the situation. "Do you suppose you would be able to enlighten me as to our current location?"
The older gentleman proceeded to explain the details of his predicament. The story only seemed to become more ludicrous as it was shared. They were now seated in a room that appeared to be a study but it was designed in a manner unlike he had ever seen.
"You presume for me to accept, that not only has my time as a mortal on Earth expired, but that everything I have ever been taught of heaven and god is wrong?"
"Not quite everything, but yes I would say that encompasses a large portion of it."
"Well this certainly is a lot to take in. Perhaps there is someone we could ring for tea?"
"Oh what a wonderful idea. You British often discuss matters over tea. That would make this all the more comfortable for you wouldn't it."
William was taken aback. He had assumed this man to be British as well. Perhaps he was of the Americas. Was just about to ask as much when the man shouted.
What was more surprising than the man's uncivilized call for the help was when said help suddenly blinked into existence beside him.
He was standing, completely flabbergasted, by the time she spoke. "Yes Michael?"
"What trickery is this?"
"Janet if you could please conjure William some tea." Michael gave a cursory glance William's way. "Something calming would be best."
The woman had a tea service in her hands faster than he could blink. She was setting it on the table when Michael gently pushed him back down into the chair he had jumped from.
"I've prepared digestive biscuits with a spearmint tea as I know peppermint gives you a headache."
"Exactly what you needed?" He nodded dumbly at the woman. "Thank you, I try my best to exceed expectations."
"William," Micheal started again. "Janet is here for you. Her job is to help you with anything you need."
"That is really quite spectacular. Is there a personal assistant for everyone?"
"I am the personal assistant for everyone." She cut in. She seemed so pleased with herself to say so.
He turned to address the woman this time, rather than her employer. "Must be a difficult job. I applaud your work ethic."
"Thank you!" Her smile was possibly larger than possible for a human. "Oh!" Suddenly her eyes were focused on something that clearly was not in front of her. "I have to go." She again looked at the two men. "Another resident forgot to bring toilet paper into the bathroom."
And she disappeared again still smiling.
"I daresay this experience has exhausted my capacity for disbelief." He said feeling numb. He had yet to turn from staring at the point where Janet had just disappeared.
"Wonderful." Michael said with an exuberance William could not bring himself to share. "Would you like a tour now, or should I give you a run down of our facilities before we head out?"
"If it is no imposition, I would like to go out and explore for myself if I may."
"You are welcome to do anything you want. This is your afterlife after all." He started laughing. "AFTER life, AFTER all. I didn't even mean to do that! Oh man I crack myself up." He made a dramatic motion of wiping tears from his eyes. "Do remember to call Janet if you need help finding your way."
He wandered the town. People were bustling to and fro between buildings of architecture and purpose he had never imagined. Several of the buildings were marked with signs that advertised 'fro-yo.' Simply another forgien concept he had yet to learn.
When night came he requested that Janet show him where he was to stay. He followed her to his dream home, as she called it. It was quite quaint and homely but he had never thought of any home other than his mother's so he couldn't imagine what made it into the home of his dreams. It did have a lovely garden and beautiful study which he conceeded there was nothing about either he would care to change.
The following morning he followed breakfast with a walk to the neighboring building. He discovered quickly that it was massive library. It would take him decades to learn all it's corridors and longer yet to read everything it contained. Before he knew it he spent a whole week doing nothing but enjoying what the building had to offer.
"William! There you are." The reading he was doing, disrupted by the rambunctious man of before. He had been tucked away in a corner of the romantic poetry section. It occurred to him then how long he had gone without socializing with anyone beyond asking Janet for basic necessities. It wasn't his intention, just an outcome of being so engrossed.
"I really must apologize." Michael looked distraught. His his strangely tailored suit was unbuttoned while standing. An impropriety in itself but more, the shirt underneath had clearly not been pressed as it was wrought with wrinkles.
"What ever for?" He asked while he set down his book, removed his glasses and gestured for the architect to sit in the chair aside him. "Would you like tea? I could ask Janet to bring a second cup and saucer."
"No, I just have very important information I must share with you."
He was terribly curious at what could be so important that Michael be this out of sorts. "By all means go on."
"You see, I neglected to tell you everything in our last meeting. One of the key points of our neighborhood, is that everyone here in the good place has a soulmate."
"Truly? Well then, that is fantastic news. When would I be able to see her?" The romantic in him was singing. A soulmate, true love. He only wished he could have known the woman in life so that his mother be able to meet her.
"That's just it, everyone is supposed to have a soulmate. I was to introduce you today." He scratched at his chin, presumably thinking of how to go on.
"Not everyone here died at the same point in history. Time on earth, and time here doesn't follow the same path. Simply put, our time loops and intersects with Earth's in ways that wouldn't make sense for a human mind. We built this particular town on a point where the two of you would pass over at close enough intersections that we could bring you in with the passage of only a few days here."
Regardless of calling it simple his explanation made no sense. How could physical location change time? "So I have to wait a few more days, that hardly seems an issue for true love."
"Yes, well. It would have been." William watched as the man's light brows furrowed together. "Only she didn't die."
"She didn't die?" How strange things were that he could be upset while saying such. The words would have been a blessing to hear only a short time ago.
"She did die. Enough for us to mark it in the system and prepare for her. The problem is that she didn't stay dead."
"So I simply wait longer, until she does die." It seemed a simple enough answer, and he was feeling brave.
He would wait for her. It all was rather poetic that he wait for an angel in heaven. His heart had seen the highest high in knowing that his perfect match existed. The situation would be excellent fodder for his muse.
"Shall give me some time to concoct a reasonable piece of poetry before her arrival."
"What a trooper!" Michael's face grew into a spectacular smile. "You certainly have spirit. After all, what's a hundred years in the face of love. I like your attitude William."
Michael slapped him on the back which was highly uncouth and hardly comfortable. "Aa-a hundred years?"
"Well give or take a few. I have faith in you William. If anyone could do it it would be you."
He lost himself. One hundred years was far too long for a man to wait. To have what he always wanted dangled in front of him and snatched away. It was all too much. Michael left without adieu, his mission complete. William took to himself and wandered the library aimlessly. He didn't care to look at the titles or authors. He simply wandered, lost.
“...Wordsworth’s work of The Prelude is a wonderful epic.” William spoke with passion, not able to stand still. Stepping around the hideaway between buildings she had found him in, he was expressing himself with motion as much as he was words. “The first book’s whimsy does much to awaken the child of my heart. That said, I cannot argue it over The Recluse.” He stopped and closed his eyes, losing himself in the moment.
“I and the modest Partners of my days
Making a silent company in death;
Love, knowledge, all my manifold delights,
All buried with me without monument
Or profit unto any but ourselves!
It must not be, if I, divinely taught, 0
Be privileged to speak as I have felt
Of what in man is human or divine.”
At realizing what he had just done he paused. His eyes fluttered open but did not seek out company. He was unsure how the lady would take to spontaneous poetic utterings. Cecily had not been one to appreciate such. If she were to reject him for this he would be devistated.
It was with much strength of will he looked back at her. Standing only a few steps away her awe was palpable. “That was beautiful.” it was said quietly, almost to herself. William almost needed reminding to breath. She spoke with more conviction once she continued. “I don’t understand it but it was beautiful.”
Emerald eyes drew him deep compelling him to hold her gaze again. It took only a moment before he felt himself physically pulled to her as if he were caught in a swift current. He could struggle against it with all his might but he would not be able to stop himself from inching ever closer to her.
He withdrew with a strength that must have been blessed upon him as he knew it was not his own. Impishly, he straightened himself and looked to the side. His hands made to adjust the sack coat over his shoulders only to be reminded it was not there. Quickly they were straightening the cuffs of his shirtsleeves instead.
The reminder of his bizarre state of dress did little to help his state of mind. It had been insisted upon that he wear this deep red shirt without a jacket. As he could see and as he had been told, fashion had changed, relaxed. He wasn’t against it per say, it was simply a change he was unaccustomed to.
Thoroughly straightened he raised his head to her again while inhaling steadily. He hoped it might calm the harsh and rapid beat within his chest.
“Would you permit me to take you to supper this evening Buffy?”
She hadn’t left behind the memory of his poetic words. She was still caught up in the way his voice carried smoothly over the air. It wasn’t damaged by smoke as Spikes was. Instead of having a gravelly undercurrent it was lulling and graceful. The way he had stood, head pointed into the sky, the sun had shone over him. It was enough to wrap her in a fantasy where nothing existed other than this secluded side street.
“I'm going to have to eat, might as well enjoy some company while I'm at it.” She smiled sweetly at William, hopeful that she was starting to see him for who he was, rather than who he wasn’t.
An errant thought came to her then. “Do we? Have to eat that is? We both died so I really don’t know.”
His reflected smile only grew. “I do believe it is entirely optional. I have found myself enraptured more than once and never felt hungry despite losing track of the time.”
“Oh, good.” She nodded before creasing her brow and pursing her lips. “I guess.”
William was taken by her every expression. “That being said, I find myself uninterested in altering my diet." He felt his fingers twitch with a need for activity. "I do hope the new information does nothing to change your answer.”
“It doesn’t” Again he was blessed with her smile.
He straightened his form with newfound confidence. “Then it is settled. I will meet you back here at five. I am sure you have preparations you need to attend to.”
“Right. Preparations.” She looked around as if searching for a clutch she had misplaced. “Where would I go for that?”
“Did Micheal not show you to your home? I passed on the tour myself but imagine that would have been one of the more important destinations.” His puzzled expression changed before Buffy could say a word. “I can take care of this.”
Buffy watched as he twisted his body away and raised his voice without letting it grow harsh. “Janet?”
“That would be me.”
When suddenly there was a third person in the alley she moved on slayer instinct. Her feet had already put distance between her and the stranger when her right hand met empty air instead of a trusty waistband stake.
The materialized woman provided an answer without being asked. “You won't need any weapons in the Good place Buffy. Everything here is completely harmless.” She spoke with an airy bounce to her words and an ever present smile.
Buffy looked over at William with an expression that clearly told him to explain himself. He looked confused by the exchange but righted himself quickly to speak. “You have yet to meet Janet as well? What were you doing with Micheal?”
Her eyes flashed away from him and turned downward. “Nothing.”
“Buffy tried thirty seven flavors of frozen yogurt, visited five clothing shops, a makeup parlour and two stores that only sell boots.”
And there it was. “It’s heaven, or the equivalent of anyway. What do you expect from me?” Then faced her whole body towards the new girl. “How did you know all that?”
“I’m Janet, I know everything.”
Buffy switched the focus of her non-believing eyes to William. He responded to the unvoiced question. “It’s true.”
“Okay,” Unable to take things at face value after years of conditioning, Buffy took it as a challenge. Not having a question in mind she said the first to pop in her head. “What color are my socks right now?”
“Blue.” The answer came quicker than Buffy was actually able to remember herself, so she lifted one leg of her pants.
Light blue socks peeked out from underneath her hell god kicking approved shoes.
“That’s too easy. Umm…” She tried to think of something harder to guess. Oh! “Who’s the first boy I ever went on a date with?”
Janet wasted no time in answering. “For your third birthday your parents took you and one friend to a live performance of Sesame Street’s ‘Save Our Street.’ The boy you wanted to go with you was Daniel Santos from preschool.”
“Okaaaay.” She did have vague memories of seeing Big Bird on stage when she was little. “I don’t think that actually counts but let's just say I believe you.”
“Sure! I believe you.”
“Oh Janet I don’t think she actually meant for you to say that.”
“Oops.” She didn’t look flustered at the mistake in the least.
Earlier embarrassment forgotten Buffy leaned in towards Janet. “Do you know if those black boots with the red trim are still at BootHüt?”
“They not only are but would look amazing paired with the shirt you tried on. The one that had the lace neckline.” Janet gestured over the bodice on her own dress.
“Oh my god you’re so right.”
“Would you like me to have them sent to your home?”
That’s when William jumped into the conversation again. “That’s actually why I called you. Buffy hasn’t seen her Good Place home yet. Could you show her the way?”
As they started walking away Buffy whispered to Janet. “Please send the clothes too.”
Janet smiled. “Already done.”
Buffy admired the buildings as they walked. The center of town had been colorful and quaint but slightly over the top. Where they were now had a much calmer color scheme. They hadn't travelled very far when Janet stopped outside one of the buildings. white stone covered the lower half of the building except where dark trimmed windows poked out from behind. The sidewalk continued to steps which lead to the deep drown door. A narrow, full length window ran down the side of it. She barely noticed Janet's words as they stepped closer to the entryway. "Welcome home."
Whatever she expected to see when she opened the door this was not it. The very first room of this place was, in simple terms, a gym. It reminded her much more of the back room of the magic box than the one she burnt down at Hemry but it was no doubt designed to be multipurpose. There was gymnastics equipment foam mats and quarterstaves. There was even a section that looked like it was made for target practice, complete with throwing knives.
"What happened to you nothing here is harmful?"
"The weapons you have here are designed only to work on location. Should you try to take any out of this room they will disappear with a whispered poof." She walked over to the wall where several were displayed and gestured for Buffy to join her. "See for yourself."
Curious Buffy agreed and took one of the throwing knives. It was heavier than it looked but far from too heavy for someone of her strength. She gave one last look to Janet before walking back to the front door and stepping outside.
The weight that had balanced between her fingers was gone in an instant. Replaced by the simple sound of someone literally whispering the word poof. When Buffy stepped back inside Janet was standing in the same place. Beside her was the knife Buffy had just experimented with bringing outside.
"Would you like to see your room and closets now?"
Sorry, I know these updates are tiny and they are probably going to stay that way. I really want to keep writing Broken Pieces but it is crazy depressing a lot of the time so this is what I write when I can't write that.
More Good Place characters are coming soon so get excited!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
When William stepped into his house he made for the study immediately. He withdrew pen and paper from his desk, on which he quickly composed a letter. Correspondence had many forms here but he found it hard to break old habits. Knowing the letter would reach its intended within seconds he kept the message brief.
I find that I am in need of your services again this evening. Please arrive post haste.
Finished, he folded the parchment in thirds, sealed it within an envelope and slipped it through the mail slot in his door.
Two Days Ago
He had developed a simple pattern over the century. Wake with the sun and place the kettle on the stove. Sit out in the garden to read until the steam built enough to whistle. Then he would return inside to make tea and porridge. After completing breakfast, he would package a small lunch and move to the library. Michael, years ago, gifted him a contraption he called a 'thermos'. Using the clever device he could keep the morning's beverage hot for tea time within the library. In the evenings he would retire to his comfortable study, eat food prepared in town, and attempt to write something worthy of his beloved to be.
He very rarely actually ventured into town. People here were so unlike what he was used to. As a simple solution he avoided them, minimized interactions, denied invitations to functions and other social gatherings. He had never been very good with parties anyway. It had most everything to do with people not caring for his company.
He was a radical thinker. There were in fact a few who had called him a rebel. He believed education should be a right rather than a privilege. Argued that children of any background should be gifted a secular education rather than toiling in factories. England was behind the times. Most civilized countries had moved to a centralized education system already. He was far from the only to think this way but it was not a popular opinion among those of his social class. As a result it often left him an outcast.
His death was terribly similarly to his life, only much more lonely. He missed spending time with his mother. With her declining health he mostly set aside the advocacy works and catered to her whims. He humored the occasional soiree at his mother's behest. Near the end there were a handful he attended of his own volition. Hopes of catching the heart of the fair Cecily Williams did tempt him outside his comforts. His mother had this silly notion that he be married with children of his own before she passed. Never in his wildest dreams did he expect his time to come before hers.
A knock on his door drew him from the melancholic thoughts on an otherwise unremarkable morning. He didn't take in visitors. This would be the first time since arriving that anyone appear on his doorstep. He swiftly checked that he was presentable and stood to greet the unprecedented company.
He pulled the door open. "Hello, to what do I owe the plea...?"
A short woman with lapis lazuli hair bounded into his home the moment the door was open enough to do so. "You're William Pratt right?" She circled him inspecting his form with deep brown eyes far more closely than he would like. He noticed that her accent was clearly that of a Yankee's in spite of an appearance he had right away labeled as oriental.
"Yes, that would be me. What pray tell are you doing?"
She stopped in front of him and stuck out her right hand. It was laden with rings. "Samantha Isa."
Modern etiquette, as he read of Emily Post’s revised work, dictated that he could shake a woman's hand as long as she proffer it. So, he accepted her hand in his own and found it quite aggressively clasped and shaken in return.
"We have a lot of work to do to get you ready for your big day." She continued as if he knew exactly what she was going on about. "As you know, first impressions are everything. You really should learn to give more assertive handshakes Will."
He was beyond confused. "What in God's name are you talking about?"
"Your date of course!” her hands popped up parallel to her face in a dramatic expression of exasperation. “It's only the talk of the town. William the librarian is finally meeting his soulmate."
"Has it been so long already?" He couldn't believe it. She's here at long last. Without recognizing having moved he found himself dropping into the sitting room armchair closest to the door. "Oh heavens, I never managed to perfect a poem for her." It certainly would not do. He swore internally to dedicate the rest of his time to it. He started scrounging around for paper. "Wait." Having stopped, he took in what she said in it's entirely. "Since when am I a librarian?"
"Jeez you can't spend that long secluded in a library and wool suits without getting a nickname or two."
He made to retort but she spoke too fast for him. "And that is exactly why I'm here. No way Jose are you going to sweep this woman off her feet with your outdated style."
"Is there something amiss with my manner of dress?"
"Are you kidding? Listen, take this as an act of charity. If I didn't agree to do this Tahani would have and there would be far worse commentary coming out of her painted lips than mine."
As she spoke he was manhandled by the woman. She pulled off his jacket and lifted his arms in strange positions making mental notes.
"Now shirt up and let me do my job. I only have 48 hours to work my magic on you so don't argue with me."
When the knock came on his door he ran for it. Behind it was the same woman he had met only days before. Her blue hair was pulled back off her face and complemented by beads of the same color draping halfway down her black and white polka dotted sundress.
“Finally admit you needed my help huh?” She pointed a small screen his direction. On it he could see the letter he wrote her just moments before.
The best thing about this place had to be the shower. Instead of having a shower-head, water came down direct from the ceiling soft as rain. Bathing had rocketed to the top of her list of things to try in heaven as soon as she had seen the bathroom. Hot water had fogged up the glass door too much to see outside but she could remember it. It was nicer than any bathroom she had ever seen, let alone used.
She quickly forgot about the way her nerves had continuously been misfiring since she arrived. Under the relaxing flow of the water she felt good as new. Nothing like a shower to fix the Slayer up after a difficult battle. That much wouldn't change about her with something as trivial as dying. She should know after all. There probably wasn't anyone else here that had died more than once.
After a long rinse she wrapped herself in one of the plush towels and stepped out into her room. Water dripped from her hair onto the soft carpet under her feet. On the other side of the room was a massive walk-in closet that she had no idea the content of. The clothes she wore to fight Glory were in a pile on the bathroom floor, while the boots and shirt she picked out earlier were packaged at the foot of the bed.
She knew next to nothing about this place or places to eat here let alone places to take a date. Was this a 'let's have coffee sometime' kind of thing or a five star dining sort of event? maybe he didn't even mean it as a date. Was she reading in to this? Probably not, Micheal had said they were supposed to be soulmates.
She thought back to the way he was dressed. It looked like things Spike might keep in his closet. In fact that button up looked suspiciously like the one that used to poke out from under his duster back when she seriously thought the vamp was danger. Wow, things really had changed. Hard to believe she could have ever seen him as a threat.
Well, thought train over, William seemed to dress the look up. Maybe it was the way he held himself. He didn't look more confident, in fact, it was almost the opposite. He looked less cocky and more refined.
Something on the fancy side then.
The irony was not lost on her that she be going on a fancy date with a person who shared the same visage as Spike. Minus the electro blonde look anyway. She was laughing at herself as she used one hand to shop through dresses and the other to hold up her towel.
It hadn't been that long ago that Spike thought a stake out and warehouse of fledglings was her idea of a good time. Well he wasn't terribly far off. She did enjoy a good staking but he just took all the fun out of patrol. Stealing her kills, taking her on wild vamp/demon chases, talking, just being there. Wow, she really didn't like anything the guy did. It was still throwing her for a loop that the Spike doppelganger was her soulmate. Maybe that was why Spike believed so intensely that he loved her. Some residual left of the man who came before. It was the best theory she had come up with yet. Not that it mattered, Spike was back on earth with Dawn and the others.
Her fingers graced over a fabric and sparked with static. She had the hand back against her chest in a flash. "Ow, what the heck was that?" Cautiously she reached back to the hanging dress. There was no shock this time, just the feel of soft satin. Actually it was crazy soft. Buffy pulled the whole garment out and took a look.
This was it. This was definitely the one she was going to wear.
! ! Season Two and Three Good Place Spoiler Warning ! !
Yes, Samantha IS one of the demons. Remember Jessica played by Amy Okuda? Well I'm giving her a bigger acting role in this reboot.
If you didn't catch on before, William having to wait 100 years for Buffy would put us a little less than halfway through that horrid time in Micheal's career where he just couldn't make things work. BUT before he hits total rock bottom and Vicky unionizes the demons. (They say at some point in season three that its been about 300 years that the soul squad has been there)
Kinda veered off the plan with this chapter. I think it came out good though so I hope you enjoy.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
He arrived almost an hour early practically hyperventilating. He was in a state of near panic. Samantha had not only chosen his attire but schooled him in hundreds of ways courting a woman had changed between their times. Starting with not even calling it courting anymore.
"You use that word Will and she'll laugh you right out of the room."
He tried to recount all the other things to remember.
"First date is simple, lots of talking and getting to know each other." He remembered the way she schooled him while matching fabrics to his complexion. "Don't overshare. In fact, don't volunteer anything about yourself. Let her ask you questions. Girls like more independence than they used to."
That might end up being a problem point for him. His nervousness usually presented itself in an inability to keep quiet. Or still he mentally added, noting how he was currently pacing from wall to wall in the alley garden. His tutor's voice continued on in his mind.
"Keep the poetics under wraps until at least date two. You might scare her off with your wordy declarations." He had been startled by her knowledge of his drabbling and made as such clear to the woman. "So I did some snooping while you changed." She admitted unabashed. "Sue me."
More conversations from the last couple hours filled his head. Just how was one supposed to remember all these secret rules and guidelines?
Buffy cautiously turned the corner into the sitting area between buildings where she had been introduced to William. Her muscles were tight with apprehension. The last time she had been on a date was long before her mother died. With Glory and mom and taking care of Dawn she had no time left for Riley. Then before she knew it he was gone. Gone like every other man in her life. Well, Giles and Xander had stuck around in the end but had they really been there for her? Xander had encouraged her to put her heart on the line only to be broken. And Giles, Giles had wanted to let Dawn die. She wasn't sure she could ever forgive him for that.
At the sight of Spike before her, her mouth grew dry. William. William is here, not Spike. She absorbed his figure in its entirety. He was wearing a suit but it was simple. There was no vest or tie nor was there any pinstripe or pattern. The jacket and pants matched seamlessly all the way down to his shoes in a solid deep burgundy. Beneath the jacket, which was clasped together by the top button and left undone on the lower, was a fitted and sleek black shirt. The way it was put together accented the perfect angle from his shoulders to waist. She hadn’t let herself appreciate the adonis proportions in a mortal enemy. Now she had the perfect opportunity to enjoy. Not only was it not a problem to think of him as a man, it was downright encouraged. If she deserved anything she deserved to have warm tingly feelings when looking at her soulmate. It just wasn’t fair that she had to be continually reminded of the pain in her ash back on earth.
When he noticed her his face froze. The only thing that looked alive were his eyes. They drank in her presence with everything he had. Gradually he melted from whatever he was expressing before into awe. His eyebrows which had been slightly furrowed relaxed. His lips which had been pursed, slowly parted as his jaw grew slack. So ensnared was she in his eyes, that she didn’t register the way his head tilted gently to the side. It was a perfect example of the mannerisms shared by his vampire twin. Perhaps if she had noticed it she wouldn’t have mirrored the action as she did.
Eventually she smiled and spoke. "You clean up really nice." Understatement of the year.
"Clean?" He blinked away his gobsmacked expression.
"I was clean previously." It was clear to her in his demeanor the moment he realized that he had misunderstood. His eyes dropped down and disappointment in himself tightened the lines of his face. It was an expression she had seen much of with Spike but never did it pull on her heartstrings the way it did now.
"That was a comment about my state of dress wasn't it? My apologies." Almost as quickly as she would watch Spike do, he put up a brave facade burying the expression of weakness .
"It is quite hard to think of anything but verse with a lady of such grace in front of me." Quickly he thought back to the advice he was given and turned the conversation away from his hobby. “I must be making a fool of myself, staring for so long. My apologies again. I seem to have found myself in a fluster.” He tilted his head down so that he would look up at her to say his next words. “I do hope your comment on my appearance means it passes muster.”
“It looks good." Almost too good. She gulped unintentionally. It was much harder to see him and only him than she had originally hoped. All it would take is one unfortunate dye job and she might not be able to tell the two apart. Bizarrely it wasn’t turning her off the way she expected it would. Punk reject or GQ man of the year she was undeniably attracted to him. She would still vehemently deny recognizing Spike hot if it ever came up. "It's just all a bit strange.”
“I found it quite strange myself at first. I grow more accustomed to it as time passes. With all the changes to fashion I must say I feel underdressed."
She hadn't been talking about the clothes but let the conversation veer that way regardless. “You feel underdressed? You look like you’re going to a wedding. You make me feel underdressed.”
He appraised her again. She wore a black dress which sparkled when caught in the light. The fabric was as breathtaking as the Milky Way on a cloudless night. Still it was nowhere near as bright as even dying candlelight against her natural beauty. The dress left so much skin exposed he had been avoiding looking at her directly. Her arms were bare from shoulder to fingertips and a large portion of her lower body was also on display. Her seemingly endless legs were capped off with heels held together by nothing but straps.
His roaming eyes drew back to her face. It was the most captivating piece of her. Somehow over the course of only a few hours she had built up an exuberance for life, or afterlife, that illuminated her.
“Nothing you could have worn would have distracted me from your beauty. You look delightful.”
A flush came up to her cheeks with a dramatic intensity. She was flattered of course but she was also terribly embarrassed at the same time.
Wow you would think I've never been complemented before.
With effort she fashioned herself an aloof but confident mien and shrugged with a light laugh. “You should have seen me in highschool. The short skirts I wore then were for sure distracting.”
"Shorter than this?" His eyes were huge but one eyebrow was raised higher than the other. An image flashed in her mind of the scar that would mar this pretty face between his death and their first meeting.
“I imagine revealing attire must be typical of your time."
Caught by his words her mind returned to the present. She hadn’t actually considered this dress revealing. It was a mid-length layered skirt bottom after all. She was glad she didn’t pick anything with a scoop neck. She might have scared his innocent mind. His Adam's apple bobbed followed by a quick lick of his lips. Was it possible he was more nervous for tonight than she was? His eyes left her figure to look up at the sky.
"Until seeing you tonight I was under the impression that dresses may have gone by the wayside. I do occasionally see simplified versions. Janet for one, wears a garment with a simplistic beauty to it." He brought his attention back to her.
"But you in this moment," He looked not at her body or her dress. He gazed right into her eyes. "Breathtaking."
She was speechless. Apparently he had always been a smooth talker. This however was a huge improvement to the leers and sexual commentary of 'the Bloody' version.
She watched him as the things he said sunk into his psyche. His stature drifted from assured to hesitant in no time at all. “Um” He faltered momentarily as he attempted to speak again. “Shall I, uh, escort you to our reservations?" He turned to face the same direction beside her and offered her the crook of his arm.
"Please." She smiled sweetly and looped her own arms around his. The action was met by a beaming expression that took up his entire face and returned his confidence. Again she felt the telling rush of heat to her cheeks.
"Allow me a quandary as we walk?"
"Ask away." Her mind raced through the kinds of things he might question her about. She was a bit surprised by what crossed his tongue.
"The apparel of ladies today seems to encompass menswear as well as woman’s." He stated it as fact but she felt compelled to answer anyway.
"Uh huh, I guess it looks that way for you as an old timer. Pants are just easier. What was the question?"
"Well," She may have imagined it but she thought a blush rosed his cheeks. "Would this be true in the reverse as well?"
She burst out into laughter. The instant the sentence met her ears she imagined Xander in a gown and couldn't hold it in. Dark whisps of chest hair were poking out from under a pastel prom dress. She sputtered out a ‘no’ while trying to control herself but the more details her imagination added the harder it was not to laugh.
"I suppose that is still a few years out then." He was a little relived that Samantha had no grounds to subject him to something so alien as a frock.
Buffy stumbled over her feet and the two of them stopped in the street. William looked at her. Concern evident in his extremely expressive eyes.
"Wait you were serious about that?"
"Of course. Society is meant to progress. Logically it would evolve through the desires that drive us. Everyone wants to be treated fairly. I believe humankind will one day reach the pinicle of equality."
He looked ahead as they started walking again. This time he let his hand rest over her arm. Almost as if he were concerned she would trip again.
"I hadn't considered the changing concept of clothing" he continued. "but there are likely very many instances of inequality that I have never acknowledged."
Okay… She hadn't really thought about what landed him in the Good Place. This was probably it. It made her feel like a terrible person though.
"I never thought about it that way." Suddenly the picture she had of Xander dressed to the nines was sad. She didn't think it would ever happen but if Xander one day wanted to start wearing dresses who was she to judge? It would probably be heartbreaking if she laughed at him. Her body filled itself with the lead weight of guilt.
"Here we are." She blinked. Her and her date were standing in front of a door with the words Comfort & Food placarded on it in a fancy script. He lowered her arm and pulled open the door. With an eloquent gesture he encouraged her to step inside.
The interior was warm. Not only in temperature but a full body feeling. Stepping inside felt like being enveloped in a hug from her mother. It was safe and gentle and everything right with the world. Only inches between herself and the door she closed her eyes and breathed in deep. It even smelled like home. Not just home, it smelt like home before everything went wrong. It smelt like home when Dawn was young and her parents were happy about their growing family. Before the fighting started, before she was called, before her father started the trend of abandonment that shadowed her through life.
William stepped in beside Buffy and let the door close behind him. He had only been here once before but the impact the second time was no less profound. The place felt like a warm fire in the hearth while he lay at the foot of his mother's chair and read. He could picture it in exhaustive detail. She worked on her embroidery and occasionally spoke to him or ran a soft hand through his curls. It was nothing short of perfect.
He had known quite quickly that this was where he was going to have his first date with his soulmate. He breathed in the comforting smell of woodfire and looked to his side where she stood. A small intake of breath was his reaction to the tears that streaked down her face. He started reaching to wipe them away but thought the better of it.
She sniffled and wiped at her eyes with her palms and arms. "Sorry, I'm sorry."
"Buffy what is wrong?"
"I'm sorry I just… I'm a little overwhelmed at the moment." She looked so disheveled. She didn't even look at him as she spoke. "I need to go to the bathroom."
William was left standing alone at the door while she ran to the closest employee. He numbly watched the mimed conversation. The busboy pointed down a hallway after which she thanked him and hurried away. He was still staring at the place she disappeared from his sight when the maitre d' came over to escort him to their table.
What had just happened?
I thought this was going to be fluffly. Apparently I can't write fluff.
She gripped the sides of the cold porcelain sink and dropped all her weight onto it. Tears fell from her cheeks and nose into the basin.
She was running at her father as he came in the door home from work. He acted playfully wounded before swooping her up in his arms. “Buffy! When did you get so strong? You’re gonna knock me right over one of these days.”
Breath Buffy, breath.
“Tag you’re it!” Dawn hit her shoulder and dashed away. She had slowed down on purpose so that her little sister had a chance. It was more fun for both of them this way. They giggled as their feet danced over the grass.
“Buffy! Dawn! Come over here and eat something!” Mom waved from the picnic table. She was sitting with Dad who smiled at the two of them sweetly, while snacking on a half sandwich.
She opened her mouth and as steadily as possible took in a fresh stream of air. She tried to focus on the sensation of her chest expanding and deflating in consistent rhythm.
After who knows how many repetitions she opened her eyes again and raised her drooping head.
In the mirror she could see what a mess she had become. Black eyeliner was smudged across her cheek from where she wiped at the tears earlier. It was over the back of her hand as well. The sight of it made her sigh. Reaching to her right and fumbling slightly she took a paper towel from the dispenser. She wet it under the faucet then started work on removing the mark.
Behind her the bathroom door opened and closed as another woman entered the room.
"Oof that's a mess I wouldn't want to clean up."
Buffy stopped working to stare at the blonde in the bathroom with her. She was leaning against the opposite wall watching through the mirror.
"Can I help you?" Buffy said, really not appreciating an audience.
"Just trying to use the bathroom." Her eyes followed the intruder walking up to the sink beside her.
Buffy tired not to focus on the person too much but couldn’t help it when she felt so exposed. She wasn’t crying anymore but her makeup and blotchy complexion was a huge tell. Through the corner of her eye she kept an uneasy watch. She started noticing things, like the fact that this woman really needed a touch up on her roots. That paired with the red lipstick and heavily mascaraed eyelashes? It was like she wanted to look like a barbie.
"That guy out there mess with you?" The other woman didn't turn from the mirror where she was fixing her own makeup casually.
"No." Buffy was alternating rubbing the mark and wetting the paper towel to no avail. What she wouldn't give for her own makeup and remover right now. "He didn't do anything." She internally kicked herself for not just ignoring the nosey stanger.
“Fork, I was kinda hoping he did so I could bang him.”
She dropped the towel from her face into the sink. “What did you say?” Buffy wasn't sure she had heard right. It was barely louder than a whisper but she could have sworn-
"Nothing.” She was cut off mid thought.
The blonde looked away and started messing with her hair. Buffy really didn’t like the vibe she was getting.
“You know," The lady started up again. "You seem a little young for him.” She kept looking at herself in the mirror but Buffy looked right at her. “Well actually you seem a little young to be here at all."
"Yeah" and she couldn't continue looking. “Life isn’t always fair.” It was probably a fluke to feel this way. The girl couldn’t be that bad if this was the Good Place right? Still, she really wanted to leave this conversation.
Relief flooded her when the woman backed away from her sink and headed for the door. Now she might actually be able to focus on the task.
“Try olive oil.”
Buffy stopped to turn and look. “Huh?”
“For the makeup.” She made a gesture around her eyes. “Try using some olive oil. Might get it off easier.” Then there was a pause paired with a slight grimace. “You look like a bruised tomato after all that rubbing.”
“Um, thanks.” Buffy returned to the mirror and appraised herself. She felt like a tomato. She wasn't even sure what that meant but it definitely was her right now. The water wasn’t doing any good and the paper towel was abnormally rough. Scrubbing had just added little red lines to the mess. Maybe she should try the different method.
Eleanor left the bathroom to the sound of the unfortunate girl asking for the front desk lady. The door swung shut behind her with the telltale chime of Jasmine's arrival, or Jessica or whatever her name was. It didn't really matter. Her thoughts were on more interesting things. Maybe she could go for the hottie while his date was busy powdering her nose.
Unfortunately, her own date had already noticed the man sitting alone.
“Eleanor come join us!” Her 'soulmate' called to her from the man’s table. She sighed but slipped on a cheery mask and walked over to the two of them. This whole situation was completely unfair. She was living in someone else's idea of paradise. Currently, she was pretending to be that someone else to avoid whatever the Bad Place is. It didn't help matters that everyone she’d met here had a stick up their butt. Why did her afterlife have to get all messed up? Where was her happy place for medium people?
She plopped unceremoniously in the open chair opposite the person called her soulmate and next to the boytoy.
“William here was just telling me about his life. He’s lived the actual 1800's. Can you believe it?”
Sizing this William up for more than just a good orgasm she noticed that he held himself as rigid as a cardboard cutout. “Is that right?”
“Well, I was born in 1853. It's not as if I was about for the entire century.” The guy looked more nervous than a nerd she once dared to skip class in highschool.
“I’ll buy it.” She wasn't interested anyway. “So here with your girl huh?” She looked across the table at the impossible but stupidly gorgeous woman she was here with. “Me too.”
“William,” Tahani started without looking at him. Their eyes had met at the glance Eleanor gave her. Though kind the brown gaze held her own slightly longer than comfortable. She looked away first but out of embarrassment or frustration she wasn't sure. “This may come as a bit of a culture shock." She said, focus back on the man. "But Eleanor and I are soulmates.” Her stupidly perfect and blindingly white teeth were on display again. “Isn’t that so exciting?”
William’s very blue eyes grew wide. He looked back and forth between the two. Eleanor watched the way his curls bounced on his forehead with each turn of his head. Why were there so many attractive yet unavailable people here? Next chance she had she was asking Janet for a vibrator. That was her name! Janet.
Finally his look started to soften. When he spoke he at least seemed to be perfectly composed. “I’m glad you have been blessed with the chance to meet each other.”
She was impressed. For a guy almost two centuries in the past he adjusted quick. She had kinda hoped for more of a fluster out of him.
“It certainly came as quite a shock for the both of us.” Tahani was talking for her again. She debated saying something but it wasn’t worth mentioning. She was just going to keep doing it anyway.
“It isn’t as if Eleanor is the first woman I have ever been with.” Oh man, Eleanor wanted to roll her eyes but instead did her best to offer a smile. This was definitely the start of another of the giraffe’s many name dropping stories.
"My first experience kissing a girl led to a very embarrassing several months. Katy was an absolute sweetheart but she simply was horrid about keeping quiet.” As she spoke her hands were making these pompous gestures. It made Eleanor want to hold them down at her sides and see if she would still be able to speak.
“To think I finally had a song written about me and was too bashful to enjoy it."
Eleanor had to stifle a laugh. Tahani and bashful in the same sentence? Please.
“I mean, just imagine my parents horror at learning that I was using flavored chapstick over Guerlain. It certainly was a strange time in my life."
William stood from the table abruptly.
"I was completely incapable of listening to music without blushing for over a..." The story died off when Tahani noticed and followed his line of sight.
William was so relieved to see Buffy again. He had been terribly worried about her running off the way she had. He completely forgot about the two women at the table with him the instant he saw Buffy reemerge. His eyes were on her for the entire walk she made across the restaurant.
When she was almost in front of him he remembered himself and rushed to the other side of the table in order to pull out her chair. He was rewarded with a small smile. “Thank you.”
Instead of sitting she spoke to him while looking at the table. “Are these friends of yours?” That was the moment he recalled that the rest of the world existed. He cleared his throat and was about to speak when his kinswoman of Indian descent answered in his stead.
“Tahani Al Jamil.” She stood and Buffy had to crane her neck up even wearing heels. “You must be the infamous Buffy.”
“Infamous?” She looked over to her date but he gave nothing away. She noted that even he was looking up and it made her feel a little less self conscious. ”I hope you haven’t been hearing anything bad.” Buffy glanced behind the crazy tall lady to the woman still sitting. She recognized her as the one who had been chatting her up in the bathroom only moments before. The realization put her on edge.
“Oh nothing in the slightest negative.” The standing woman, Tahani, continued. “I have only just met him and I can already tell William is completely enamored.” Hearing it said aloud had her suddenly thankful that her cheeks were too pink to notice a flush. “We were just keeping him company. Please do enjoy the rest of your date.”
Buffy watched the second stand and prepare to walk away with the taller woman.
“You look better.” Eleanor really had no idea why she cared at all but it felt kinda okay knowing her advice had helped, even just a little bit. Tahani grabbed her hand and pulled her swiftly to a booth not that far away.
Eleanor stared at her dazed. “So what?”
“Tell me what happened of course!” Her eyes were bright, waiting for what Eleanor had to say. “Why was she secluded in the bathroom?”
“Was I supposed to be your recon team?” Her soulmate’s face lost intensity. Something akin to disappointment was in her eyes now. “Sorry, didn’t get the memo.”
“You know as well as I do that Micheal was worried about these two.” She had shrugged off the expression so fast. “I thought we agreed that we were going to try and cheer him up by helping out.”
“Oh so that’s why we came here. I thought you were just hungry.” She waved down a waiter who was walking by. “Two margaritas.” He nodded and walked away.
Tahani looked surprised and she showed it with her whole body. She leaned backwards from the position she had been in. Her head tipped a notch downward with a slight tilt sideways while her eyes grew to show more than the usual hint of white. Elenore was not blind to the fact that all her expressions were overplayed like this. “You ordered me a margarita?”
“Oh those were both for me." Confusion filtered over her date's face. She gave what she hoped was an inocently charming smile. "Do you want something?”
“Well, maybe I didn’t-”
“So you can order when you figure it out. Meanwhile I can get a head start with some tasty tequila.” She proceeded to do the cabbage patch in her seat, excited about the sweet and salty beverage to come.
Surprise! Elenor and Tahani made their first appearance and they are together. We know it happened at least once that Michael paired them up.
Hats off to Katy Perry's 'I Kissed a Girl' Tahani had one heck of a life.
Hope you liked it! We will be moving into actual plot soon, promise.
Picking up right where we left off with our two sets of soulmates on two very different types of dates.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The clacking sound of silverware against ceramic bowls and plates ticked against his psyche. Glasses tapping against the tables rung out like hard knocks on a cabin door. Every voice within the restaurant met his ears with utmost clarity. All except the one which mattered. He wanted to listen to Buffy. He wanted to learn every small detail about her. Yet found himself unable to focus on the gorgeous woman before him.
He found her no less bewitching, her voice still ran across his senses soft as a tricking steam over a bed of river rock. It was simply too difficult to make out the words. She could have been speaking German and it would not hinder him any worse. The meaning within her speech was not reaching him.
He could feel sweat dampen his collar before noticing the heat which was overtaking him. He briefly considered removing his dining jacket but thought it much too informal to go without. A quick glance over his shoulder to the other patrons showed that no one else noticed this sudden spike in temperature.
“William?” A soothing crash of water against the shore of his troubled mind. Buffy had called to him. Could he remember anything they were talking about? He looked to her and was trapped within the volume of concern he saw. Her hazel eyes shone an earthy green tint against the warm candlelight. “Are you doing okay? You’ve been really quiet."
“Simply listening to you speak.” Maybe it was wrong to lie, but he was scared to show her a fault so soon. This place, all the people here. He had never been one for company, but this? This was much worse than he had ever been. “You have a lovely voice.” While he spoke the truth as he saw it. He recognized the complement as the misdirection that it was.
She accepted the complement with a fluster and continued where she left off. Apparently they had been talking about her schooling. She must be a great scholar from the extent of subjects she mentioned studying.
“I’m a little bit worried about them.” Eleanor was not surprised at the comment. Tahani had been doing nothing but look past her to the couple seated a few tables away since they sat down. She was tired of it already. Every few seconds painted a different expression on Tahani's face. Half of them looked like new and exciting varieties of constipation. Tequila was a real friend for getting her through this.
“Why’s that?” She offered unenthusiastically while starting in on her fourth or fifth margarita.
Mhmmm. She closed her eyes and savored the taste. How did this place manage to get the perfect amount of salt in even the first sip? If there was anything more comforting to her than the icy Mexican beverage she had no idea what it was. It tasted exactly as her mom taught her to make it when she was little, only better. And that was mostly because she didn't have to drink it with her mother.
“It doesn’t look like William is speaking at all.” Tahani was saying. “He needs to loosen up or this date is going nowhere.”
“I like a guy who doesn’t talk much.” Plenty of other good uses for a tongue.
The dark amber eyes across the table from her grew wide which frightened Eleanor. Was the alcohol making her say things she thought she was only thinking? Things the 'real' Eleanor wouldn't say? Her self preservation instinct was on high alert until realizing that Tahani’s interest was still with something else.
“Quick!” Tahani spoke suddenly in a stage whisper. “Say something romantic!” She grabbed Eleanor’s hands in her own making her let go of the drink and leaned in over the table. Eleanor was nursing a pleasant buzz. Just enough to make her feel warm and fuzzy. The movement, after a moment of surprise, was fun. It felt like riding a not completely shirty carnival ride. She let herself be pulled until she mirrored Tahani’s posture.
They were close, closer than they had ever been before now. Her hands were clutched lightly in Tahani’s between them. Still enjoying the sensations, her thumb caressed the soft skin of her soulmate’s hand. So much softer than the hands of any boyfriend she had in life. She drew her eyes up to the woman’s face. Tahani's form was rigid, her focus far away, but Eleanor refused to notice. Her cheeks looked like they might be even softer than her hands. Blissfully oblivious to most everything else, she brought up her palm to caress the skin smooth as satin. Her own pale hand accentuated the richer pigment which was a part of Tahani's beauty.
A flutter of black eyelashes came with the return of attention she had been deprived by the British socialite. Eleanor didn’t like admitting to herself how sexy this speechless look was. With the alcohol, her inhibitions were out of the way. No pesky thoughts or logic was going to stop her. She tipped her head in, pulling the goddess’s closer with her light grip.
In the few days Tahani had known Eleanor she hadn’t actually given the woman much thought. The majority of her focus had been on her welcome party, Michael's troubles and the crazy, blue haired fashion designer who also happened to be her neighbor. That woman was beyond infuriating, constantly wanting to change things about her look. Whether it was her home, clothes or makeup it made no difference. Tahani couldn't stand it. Worse yet she spoke of Kamilah as her one true muse.
So when the lady herself walked through the door of the restaurant, she dove headfirst into the first thing she could think of that might convince the bench to stay away.
That was how she found herself lip locked with the relatively drab humanitarian she called a soulmate. The hand on her cheek was a comfort she hadn't known she needed. She unconsciously leaned into it as her entire body melted with their first kiss. It was perfectly chaste. Nothing involved beyond their lips. Still it emptied her thoughts of anything but the action. Eleanor slowly let up on the embrace and she was sad to feel it go. A second later the hand upon her face also left her.
She sat up in her chair before letting her eyes open. Eleanor still sat across from her, drink still cupped between her hands. For a second she thought it only a daydream. The glass's rim sat pressed against the blonde's bottom lip. The same lip that had just been between her own. Her memory of it, too detailed to be anything but real.
"Was that distraction enough for you?"
"I-" the statement reminded her of what she asked. She had wanted an excuse. Any excuse to avoid the other woman. It made her hit earth again. She had gotten exactly what she asked for. "It worked. So I suppose so."
A foreign emotion filled her, made her sick. Disappointment? Regret? The expression Eleanor had was not one she was able to read. It was almost indifferent, which only made what she felt worse.
A few feet beyond the odd pair was another. William had redoubled his efforts to stay calm. Their appetizer of cheese and bread had just been brought out. He figured it might calm him to have an occupation for his hands. He started to reach towards the platter when he noticed a visible tremor.
No. It would be best not to it seemed. Gripping his hands under the table he tried to place all his focus on the subject of his affections. His free fingers continued to tap against his leg with a mind of their own as she spoke.
“I really was hoping I could go back after everything was over. College felt like the normal girl thing to do you know?”
At noticing the upturn of intonation which signaled a question he nodded. Thankfully, an affirmation was all she was looking for. He wasn’t sure he could have offered her a vocal response at this point. He had done nothing to alter his breathing and he was still unable to intake enough air. His throat was closing itself from inside. It steadily grew more restricted. To swallow simply saliva was akin to eating rocks. It felt as if stones were catching in his chest and dropping heavy in his stomach.
His eyes at some point drifted to Buffy’s lips. They moved in time with a melody he could no longer hear. She seemed to be speaking with passion. He longed to be drawn into the current she was creating. However, it was not to be. He could not reach her. The distance across the table had grown without changing in his eyes. It was a distance one could only feel. A hundred years spread between them. He wanted to reach through it, take her hand in his own and prove to himself that the space between them was imaginary.
He craved it. Wished for it more than anything. If only his body would do what he was telling it to.
“Do you know what you would like to have tonight?”
A jolt of sensation overwhelmed him. The electrical shock between nerve endings caused the statue he had become to jump within his seat. The steward had come over to take their order, that was all. Nothing to panic about. The two men looked at each other. William wondered how horribly shocked he must appear to rouse such a pitying face from this young man.
Somehow Buffy had not noticed. “Wow, I hadn’t even thought to look at a menu. Jeez, that’s kind of embarrassing." She was searching around the table and not a witness to the scene which transpired before her. “Are there any menus?”
The waiter cleared his throat and steeled his features. William was markedly jealous at the control the stranger had over his emotions. "There generally aren't since this place offers any meal you can think of. All the same I could have one made up for you of popularity ordered dishes and chief specials.”
“Um, I think I can think of something.” She finally looked across the table to address him. “Did you know what you want William?”
“Whatever the chef has on special is fine.”
Buffy bit the corner of her mouth as he watched. Had he done something wrong with his order? Should he ask for something specific? Would it be worse to look indecisive by changing it now? The time she took nibbling her lip felt like an eternity.
“Could I have mac n’ cheese?”
“Certainly." The waiter responded with ease. "Do you want the baked four cheese your grandmother made?”
“You can do that?” Her eyes were so large in surprise. Surprise that gave way to happiness as the server nodded. “Yes please that would be wonderful!” Her cheeks rounded and lines formed by her eyes with the size of her smile.
Though he smiled in turn he did not feel the joy he expected it to bring.
Roughly 100 Years Prior
The news of the wait he had before him had devastating impact. He spent hours lost to the world and himself. Reality was almost a foreign concept.
When William finally re-emerged from underneath the ocean of doubt inside his head he was in a division of the library he had not come upon previously. The entire layout of this area looked different. Where he had been was a carefully carved Victorian masterpiece. This however, was thoroughly utilitarian. The shelves were made of a simple hardwood and very close to each other. Beyond them was a railed landing with stairs heading down and curving inward around a table. The table was likely situated there, in the center of the room, to read at, or discuss matters of importance. Beyond it looked to be storage to the right and office space to the left. The far wall was bizarrely blank. Considering the open space before it, he wondered if it was originally meant to harbor a door. An entryway on that side would make more since with the layout of the room. There was even a counter that looked as if it might be a reception desk.
Another oddity was that lighting in here was drastically more intense. It was bright enough that he found himself looking upward just to make sure he hadn't stepped into the out of doors.
Curious of the library within a library, he stepped from the open area back into the stacks to look around. Every section was full of authors he had yet to read. There were so many of them. He racked his brain but found that he could not recall ever hearing the names. Faced with the conundrum, he called for Janet.
"Hi there William." He had to turn around to face her as she appeared behind him. It was all still very strange but was growing more used to it lately. "How can I help you?" Her demeanor, cheery as ever.
"I recognize that I risk repeating myself. However, where am I?"
"Your Good Place home is an extension of yourself. As such it is designed with your preferences in mind."
"I believe you said this my first day."
"That is correct.” She stopped for a moment to let him take in her smile. He supposed this was a point where a normal person would have offered a smile they had yet to show. “Your library is one of those preferences."
“I don't mean to offend. It is simply that I would not mark this area as within my usual taste."
"Of course not. This section isn't yours."
"Did you not only a moment ago tell me the library was mine?"
"I did." She spoke with the exuberance of a primary school teacher. "You have a good memory."
"Why is there a section which is not mine if the library is? Whose is it?"
"Well that would be because one of the core desires of your personality is to make people you care about comfortable." The explanation paused for a moment. "Often at the sacrifice of your own happiness." She added. "This section was in fact based in design on the library which your soulmate frequents most regularly during her time on earth. When you learned of her existence the library adapted to be what you needed.”
"So these authors and titles?” He gestured to the multitude of books at his disposal. “These are from her time?"
"Correct. Will that be all?
"Yes, thank you Janet." She disappeared and he continued talking, if only to himself. "So she too is an appreciator of the arts." It was a lovely thought. Perhaps they would be able to share interests when she arrived.
He explored the deep stacks for hours before he chose to read one of the novels. He sat down at the table and perhaps it was wishful thinking, but he could feel her presence.
He carried with him a fantasy titled 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.' What compelled him to take it off the shelf was something he could not explain. He however, was drawn into reading it at discovering the author was a woman. It was a delight to see that women had become as prominent in authorship as men. A part of him hoped that it may give him insight into her world.
Over most of the next century he hardly spent any time outside the library. There were occasional visitors but the perk of a library so large was that avoiding unwanted company is terribly simple.
Strangely he found that the philosophy section was the one most visited by other residents. There was a Nigerian fellow who visited there every few months, or perhaps years. He wasn't entirely sure anymore. They had an interaction once where William was able to practice his conversational French which had become rusty with age.
Mostly the man entered alone but occasionally, he came in with a blonde who's expressions ran the gamut between extremely interested and thoroughly bored out of her mind. He approached them once to inquire if this woman was Mr. Anagonye's soulmate. To his horror, he found himself caught up in introductions again as if they had never met. After the encounter, he chose not to approach the man again. Lest he embarrass himself further in discovering he was forgotten for a second time.
The only visitor he entertained regularly was Michael. Michael would insist that they leave the library and venture into town. Rarely did William allow himself to be convinced. The architect was quite kind in checking up on his mental state over the years but the visits often led to a worsened feeling of depression for several days. It was easier to forget how long he was waiting when it was just himself and the books.
Trying to let the character web come together so you all can start seeing the personal hells I altered/wrote up for each one of our 'heroes'. I finally mentioned Chidi! That blurb was originally going to come much earlier but it fits better here I think. Next chapter goes Buffy-centric again
Anyway thanks again so much for reading folks! Means a lot to see the kudos and read the comments.
Buffy meandered around the building in the comfiest clothing she had ever worn. The form fitting leggings didn't look like much but they were way nicer than a pair of baggy grey sweats. Those generally were her go to mope pants.
Up top she had a wide neck, long sleeve sweater that came just a little bit lower than normal shirts. It was lazy chique and she was growing to love it.
It was much better than dumb dinners with their fussy makeup and annoying heels her stupid dates. Stupid pointless doomed dates.
Needless to say her date hadn't gone well.
In her hands was a bowl of peanut butter and 'class was canceled' twist. Every few shuffles of her slippered feet had her shoveling another impossibly large bite into her mouth. Her slipper socks were super soft and cute with little bunnies on them. Unfortunately, they were too tight so she ended up opting for barefoot after traveling a few hallways.
Janet had given her a quick tour but there was a lot of her new house she had yet to get to know. The place seemed almost too big for one person. Continuing to explore she found herself imagining unnecessary rooms repurposed for her sister and friends. Dawn would be at the end furthest from her. Hopefully it would prevent her from stealing her clothes all the time. Willow of course would have to be in a room adjoining her own. They could install a door between them and gossip away through the night like they had in highschool.
Giles and Xander would live here too but a little farther away. They could even have a whole floor to themselves. Sometimes girls just needed space to be girls after all. Boys probably felt the same right?
But if Xander and Willow were here that would mean Anya and Tara too. Not that there's anything wrong with them. Well there were definitely things wrong with Anya but that was beside the point. It just seemed so unfair that her friends could be so happily in love. I mean here she was in the forking Good Place with her soulmate and she still couldn't seem to get the guy to stay around.
What was so wrong with her?
Why was she unlovable?
Her fists hit a sandbag in punctuation to each question. Lost in her head she didn't remember the actual walk down to her gym. She did know that she migrated there feeling the need to beat something up. The act however was lost to her. Too much unfocused energy and not enough vampire fodder to slay. She had just stopped for more of her frozen treat when the doorbell rang.
Bare feet carried her to the front door. A few neighbors had stopped by with fruit baskets and other thoughtful gifts in the past few days. Apparently she was the last to arrive and everyone wanted to make her feel welcome even though she missed the party. This was likely another well wisher.
She took a towel in her free hand and swiped at her neck and forehead before dropping it to twist and push on the door handle. On her steps was not a new person but rather the one person in town she didn't feel great about. It was the blonde woman that she had briefly met at dinner the other night. Pretty sure Eleanor was her name.
"Sorry, I was close." The apology didn't seem terribly sincere. "Anyway," She invited herself in, stepping past Buffy and pushing her way into the training room that took up the entire ground floor. Elenor looked around appraising the sparsely furnished place before acknowledging her again. "You're like a genuine hero right?"
What a way to start off a conversation. "I mean yeah kinda. I've saved the world a couple times."
"Cool, cool." Buffy was quickly being reminded of how little she liked this woman. Who else could be so flippant about apocalypseses-apocali? Apocalypsees? "That would probably mean you have impeccable morals or something wouldn't it?"
Putting her serious need for a plural aside she let herself think about the question. "Really not sure about that. I've for sure done things I'm not proud of."
"Huh, sounds like the kind of thing someone with morals would say."
"Um… maybe? What's this all about? I was in the middle of training." That was kinda a lie. She had meant to be training but she was actually just pummeling her equipment. You couldn't really call that training. Remembering the icy treat in her hand she moved her arms behind herself. Gorging on frozen yogurt didn't fit with the whole training story.
"Well, uh" Luckily Eleanor seemed to be in her own world right now. "I was looking for someone to help me and I thought that you, with your hero-yness, might be apt to do that."
"I guess that's kinda what I do, help people." She managed to shuffle herself to a windowsill where she discreetly set down the paper cup of frozen yogurt.
"Awesome." Elenor clapped her hands then suddenly was right up in her space. Buffy unfortunately had made things worse on herself my backing up to the wall. She had more than enough strength to push the lady off of her but the shock of the action briefly made her forget. "I'm not supposed to be here."
"What?" As gently as she could manage she pushed the woman out of her space by one shoulder. The touch highlighted how her hands still buzzed from the workout.
With their places reversed and more distance between them Buffy rephrased her confusion. "Not supposed to be where?"
"Here." She watched as Eleanor pointed to the ground like that meant something. "As in the Good Place."
That made no sense. Unless she meant she wasn't supposed to be dead or- Oh. "Are you a demon or something?"
"What? No." At being called a demon Eleanor scrunched her nose up. She looked at Buffy like there was a second head growing off her shoulder.
"I don't get involved with human stuff." Buffy brought both hands up in a harmless gesture. "I leave the police for that. My expertise lies with supernatural only."
"Wow you really sound like a goody two shoes." Whatever air of kindness the older blonde had been putting on was gone now. Buffy couldn't help but imagine Cordelia standing in front of her, or the other brunette she had a rocky relationship with.
Her mood dropped and expression darkened. "And you sound like Faith."
"Don't go that far on me. Never been one for all that religion bullshirt. Did make a couple bucks off the 'take some leave some' basket they passed around at my ex's church though."
The slayer wasn't religious but she still didn't go around stealing from holy people. What was this woman's problem? Eleanor seemed to take offense to the disgust that leaked onto Buffy's face.
"Hey! It's for the needy and I was needy. Needed a good drink after listening to a guy talk about the man in the sky for three hours. I've heard people talk about men in the sky before. Don't need god to see that. Just an unfortunate mix of acid and molly."
The aside threw Buffy off guard. Normally she could hold her own in an argument but this lady was all over the place.
"Anyway this is supernatural stuff." Eleanor went on, looping back to topic. Are you just going to let an innocent be tortured forever?"
"I wouldn't do that!" And it was true. She couldn't knowingly consign anyone to that kind of fate.
"No? But that's what you're doing if you don't help me. Untold torture by demons and who knows what else." Eleanor was practically screaming her point. "I mean have you heard what is going on in the Bad Place? It's literally your worst nightmare."
She hadn't really thought about it. She knew that demons were sent to hell when she killed them. Angel had been stuck there for who knows how long. It had turned him into a raging animal. She hadn't even considered the idea that humans went there too. Not beyond the slave ring she broke up in LA anyway.
That kind of torture. It could make anyone a demon.
"Did you pick and choose who you helped on Earth too?" Eleanor was still shouting at her. "Did you say 'that girl has one too many parking tickets so it's okay if she is eaten by vampires or whatever'?"
"I get it! Stop already. I'll help you."
"Wow, really? I mean yes thank you so much. You won't regret it."
She was already regretting it. "What did you want me to do anyway?"
"I honestly hadn't gotten that far. You're some kind of hero so I thought you might have an idea."
"I work best under stress. As in 'sword swinging at my neck' stress, not the 'haven't studied for this test' kind. Normally now is when my watcher would go into research mode."
"Books? Ew, no thanks."
Buffy felt the same about research but hearing Eleanor say that pissed her off. "You do realize we are talking about your fate for all eternity right? Least you could do is crack a book."
She looked like she was about to say something but Buffy cut her off. "We need more help though. I wouldn't have any idea where to start. You know anyone bookish?"
"Maybe one but he's kind of a complete dork."
"We don't really have the room to be picky. Go find him and bring him here."
"What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to go find my own dork"
She didn't want to go see William again after how he ended their date. But he was one of the only people she really knew here and he had spoken about being a scholar before he stopped talking to her altogether. Eleanor and her parted ways with a promise to meet back here tonight.
"I still can't believe you just left her there." Samantha was perched on the arm of settee one leg crossed over the other. Her hair was braided up to hang over one shoulder of her purple pants suit. The crazy thing about today's look was the blue false eyelashes she wore with lipstick to match.
"Yet I did."
Somehow Samantha had become his saving grace. When, overwhelmed, he had run from his date, she followed him and helped him home. Now here she was again, across the sitting room, checking up on him for the fourth time this week.
"Deck move." He winced at the turn of phrase, by now he understood when the woman was really meaning to swear. "So what are you going to do next?"
"What is there to do? I have failed at courting Buffy miserably. She won't want to speak to me again. Perhaps for years." He appreciated Samantha's friendship but he wanted to mope and that is something best done alone.
"You know what might cheer you up?" She stood with exuberance William couldn't fathom. "A drink. I make a mean old fashioned."
"No thank you." He gave a light protesting wave.
"Just the scotch then?" She said, already working on the beverages. "I can do that too."
His home, being in the style of his time, was of course outfitted with a small bar in several rooms. Casual drinking was not only commonplace, it was expected during most social occasions. Were it not such a practice he would have denied the glass his odd benefactor placed in his hand.
"I don't know what happened to me." His airy voice matched the exhaustion he felt.
"From everything you've described and what I saw, you had a panic attack." She used the furniture correctly this time if only to be closer to his downturned head.
"I imagine that name is self explanatory but humor me would you?"
"You could call it a burst of anxiety. Something triggered the innate human 'fight or flight's response and you chose flight."
He looked up at her feeling determined. "I will not let it happen again."
"It doesn't work like that." The pity she offered hurt. It made him feel weak. "You can't just turn it off."
"You said something triggered it. That tells me what I can do. I can remove the trigger."
Her eyebrows raised making her dark eyes seem much larger. "You think you know what the trigger is then?"
He nodded while taking a sip of the Scotch. It was nice, reminded him of the bottles that would be served at important meetings and other such gatherings. When he was working away from his mother's home it was one of the few things he spent money on. Couldn't skimp if you were going to be a good host. And you had to be a good host if were going to change anyone's mind.
Buffy pulled her sweater back over her head and threw on one of five new pairs of boots she impulse bought this week. Not like you could really call it buying when it's all expenses paid, but whatever.
Boots securely tied up she stood and looked around at the large open training room. This was so not going to work as a Scooby headquarters. Oh well, it wasn't as if this was going to be the Scoobies anyway. She was dead and the rest of the gang were still living.
Resigning herself not to think about her loving friends she pushed open the front door and stepped out into the afternoon light. Still she couldn't help but wonder what was going on for them right now as she set off towards the one person her who reminded her of home.
Sorry for being late posting. I kept changing my mind about how much was going to happen this chapter. First it was too long, then too short, then too long again. Anyway I finally worked it out. I hope you enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Eleanor stood outside wondering just where to find the university professor she was thinking of. She had met him the night of Tahani's welcome party.
He had been standing at the buffet talking to no one in particular about there being too many options. She called it a buffet but it really wasn't. A buffet was something like the Golden Corral. Steak and chicken and pizza and more shrimp than she could eat. There was a reason why they called it all you can eat. Tahani's version, well she didn't recognize half the things on display there. Plus the plates were ridiculously tiny. The man of interest was dressed to the nines like everyone else who showed up. Tahani had tried to convince her to wear this ball gown looking thing. Eleanor couldn't stomach it. Instead she opted for a simple style sleek dress. It was a floor length silver with a cut up her leg to mid thigh. It was hours before Tahani let it go that her soulmate was going silver when she already decided to accent gold. Funny the things rich people got particular about. Tahani still brought it up occasionally, used it to guilt her into doing things she wanted to.
Not managing to think up any leads she started walking to the center of town. She wouldn't normally remember someone she met only once. Especially not when she was as drunk as she was at that party.
She was probably on her third glass or better when the two started talking. Like everyone else at the party he was desperately boring and way too nice. Halfway through the conversation she had started picturing him as a sexy postman to get through it. That was what made him memorable. Ten outta ten would imagine again, and she was. Right now in fact. The daydream had made everything he said a thousand times more interesting. She still forgot most of the discussion's content but she did remember that he taught history. She was proud of herself for remembering that tidbit.
Luck was on her side because she ran into the man on her mind after turning the next corner.
He corrected his glasses with several apologies before he looked at her. "You're Eleanor right? Sorry again, I didn't see you there."
"It's all good uh…" Fork. "What was your name again?"
"Chidi, we met at Tahani's welcome party."
"Chidi" So that was what it was. She was spectacularly bad at names, particularly because she didn't care about them in the slightest. "I remember you Chidi." Planning on buttering him up she gave him her most charming canned smile. "So, what have you been up to all this time?"
If she was going to convince him to help out she would have to work it in slowly. Before all the death and dying she was a master manipulator. At least when she wanted to be.
"I uh." He seemed flustered. Acting friendly was aided by the mailman image in her head. Maybe too well. Was she coming off flirty? It might explain his nervousness. "I've wanted to rewrite my thesis but I still haven't decided on a topic." She tilted her head and made it look like she was interested. Really she was waiting for a good lead in for her request. "I've written the start to four different topics already. Lately I've been considering writing them all. All the time you'd ever want in the afterlife right?" He chuckled at that. "Problem is that I still have to decide where to start."
Yeah he was definitely the kind of nerd who would be what Buffy asked for. She could barely believe he actually wanted to lock himself up with old books. Sounded like a nightmare to her. He could do literally anything here and that's what he chose?
"Maybe taking some time off would help make the decision for you."
"I hadn’t considered that. What would I do?"
"Hey it's the Good Place right? What do you want to do?" She couldn't reasonably ask him to drop one academic project for another. There would be a way to ask eventually. She had to be patient. She hated being patient but her fate was resting on this. Buffy was a hero, and more likely to say yes. Chidi was just a regular guy. A regular guy that was good enough to be here but still just a regular guy. When it came down to it she meant nothing to him.
"There's so much. I'd love to do a few social experiments to gauge natural reactions to morally gray actions."
"That's your idea of fun? Maybe we should start with something smaller." She watched as he thought for a moment before speaking.
"Well a picnic by the water might be nice."
"Then we'll do that!" She grabbed him by the arm and started walking to the river. "While we are at it, I can tell you what I've been up to lately.” And hopefully wrangle up your help.
On the other side of town Buffy was failing to do the other half of the job. In addition to asking for help, she had wanted to talk to William about the strangeness of his actions. Except she was scared of what he might say. That her own soulmate might not even find her worth sticking around for. She could see the door to his home, the stone path that led past a small fence, quaint garden and finally ended at a simple door. She could see herself walking up to it, knocking on the door. She could do exactly that. Should do exactly that. Yet she didn’t move a step closer. Instead she turned around and walked herself home.
When she entered the door she immediately threw off her boots. Were her feet growing or all her shoes shrinking? They felt way too tight, tighter than they had been when she picked them up at the outlet. Now that she thought about it. That was not the only thing that had been bothering her. Everything felt off. It occurred to her then that something was wrong, had been since she died and ended up in this place. Her skin still pricked to the touch, felt like the nerve endings were constantly misfiring. It almost reminded her of the way she felt when a vampire was nearby. Only that feeling was localized. Gathered at the back of her neck. This was everywhere. Particularly where her clothes rubbed against her skin, like her ankles, wrists and neck. But her fingers and toes also bothered her, well irritated her anyway.
"Janet?" She called from the safety of her home. She needed help to get to the bottom of this. Eleanor’s problem could wait.
A lovely chime signaled her arrival. "Hi Buffy, what can I do for you?" She seemed distracted, as if she wasn't fully focused on helping and instead caught up thinking about something else. Maybe Buffy was just being paranoid.
"Do we keep side effects from the way we died?"
"Well that answer would depend on the information you are asking for. If we are talking physically, then no. However, if you were wondering psychologically, then yes. Memory of death is a traumatic stressor that can cause severe psychotic breakdowns. Upon entry into the Good Place, all memories of the instant of your death are extricated to prevent such an occurrence. In the case of traumatic or embarrassing deaths we erase the entire event."
Maybe that is the problem then. "I remember dying. It was weird but not particularly traumatizing."
"It still would be a concern." Whatever calculations were happening behind her eyes changed focus. Now Janet was entirely focused on her. It made Buffy feel a little nervous about what this could mean. "Are you experiencing any headaches, nightmares, weakness, dizziness, changes in vision, depression, decorporealization or shortness of breath?"
"Um, wow. No, I just have a weird tingling sensation throughout my body half the time. Especially my hands and feet."
She was silent for a moment. "Have you eaten an abnormal amount of sugar or caffeine recently?"
"...No?" She had been eating a lot of frozen yogurt and variously flavored nonfat lattes but neither in abnormal quantities.
"Unfortunately my database is not having luck finding an analogous situation to the problem. Which is surprising considering that my database contains the whole of human knowledge." Buffy struggled to hear the next piece of information Janet spoke. "Then again, considering recent events I may know less than I thought." She didn't know what to make of the strange statement and didn't have time to ponder it before Janet went on. "I need more information. Can you describe the sensation in more detail?"
"I guess it's like I always feel a little off but when I touch something or am touched by someone I feel way too much or sometimes nothing at all." With a pause she tried to put the feeling into words. She even tapped her fingers to her arm to make it happen again. "It's almost as if I'm feeling things but not the way I'm supposed to be. Like my brain is getting the wrong information."
"Interesting. Have you noticed any muscle weakness?"
"Well now that you mention it I don't feel quite as strong. I thought I might not keep all my Slayer strength in the afterlife." Her hand rubbed up and down her arm sending tiny shocks through the limb.
"Uh... I had a hard time putting my earrings in this morning.” She ceased rubbing and instead brought the hand over the simple stud in her right ear. “I assumed I was still half asleep."
"How about if I increase the temperature in this room?"
Suddenly it was crazy hot and Buffy could feel a sweat starting. "Stop the heatwave!" With one arm thrown out in between them she pulled at the collar of her shirt and fanned herself until the room cooled down. "What was with trying to cook me there? I'm not a turkey to roast up for Thanksgiving."
"You reacted more quickly than expected. It seems your sensitivity to heat has increased." Janet's expression was a mix of concern and confusion.
"Does that mean something to you?" Buffy withdrew her hand from her collar feeling sorely in need of a shower after that.
"Trauma induced peripheral neuropathy."
"Trauma whosa what now?"
"Trauma induced peripheral neuropathy." Buffy said nothing this second time and waited for Janet to explain. "You said you remember your death. At the risk of causing further damage to your psyche; How did it feel?"
"Not like much of anything really. It was really painful for a second. I've never been struck by lightning but it was probably something similar. After it just felt like nothing."
"Nerve damage. Sometimes when nerves are damaged they don’t knit back together properly. One such case is peripheral neuropathy. I don't believe you actually have the condition. Your body should be in perfect health here since we restored you. Only your mind doesn't believe it. It's overreacting and underreacting to stimuli."
"Is there something we can do about it?"
"I can request that Michael wipe your memory but it would have to be of your entire time here as well as your death. Should you retain any memories of this physiological reaction it may return." She paused for a moment. "It is curious that this happened. I don't remember anyone having caused this to themselves before. Nor the mistake of not removing the memory of death.”
Buffy looked shocked at hearing what would fix her. Janet didn't react, had no reason to unless Buffy asked for assistance. The inside of a Janet's mind is not comparable to that of a human's. It isn't even comparable to the much advanced mind of a demon. It contains a wealth of knowledge so vast that a new word would have to be created in order to describe the volume. What it generally lacks is empathy and the ability to understand human emotion on a basal level.
Imagine all the data accessible by internet. She knows more. She could tell you the statistics of human reaction to a picture on the internet. She understands that pictures of animals are cute, that political reposts on Facebook are annoying. She knows what jokes are funny and may laugh to seem human, never to express enjoyment. She knows enough to mimic emotion convincingly. Knows far more than that subject and knows all of them to the same extent. As such, is far easier to compile a list of things Janet does not know, than a list of things she does.
This would be one of the few things Janet could not do. Needless to say, it is fairly difficult to know that which you do not. She did however, know at least one thing now that she did not use to. The information hit her in an unexpected way. It was making her feel. This situation with Buffy wasn’t even the first thing she had relearned today. In fact, it was probably the less impactful of the two revelations.
Earlier That Day
Janet popped into the room but for the first time he could remember in near three hundred resets she seemed hesitant. It was a subtle difference. He doubted that the humans would notice it so he decided not to press the subject. Instead he shelved it in his mind for a later date. "Yes Janet, what is it?"
"You have a visitor."
This was new. Janet wasn't his secretary. He never wanted her to be. At best she was his partner, at worst his pawn but never a secretary. Something about calling her that lessened the impact how much she did. She was truly a marvel and he'd grown to enjoy her company. It was always a refreshing break from the single minded demons and bumbling, chewing humans. Always with the chewing.
If someone, human or otherwise, wanted to talk to him they walked in, or sometimes even knocked but that was rare.
"They are asking for your permission to enter this domain."
"Permission to enter the office?" Bizarre way to word that. "Granted I suppose."
At her word a door appeared from nothing in the middle of the room. The office chair underneath him shifted back to the echo of plastic wheels. It was surprising to say the least. The only way in and out of his town was the train. He had made sure of that. Yet here there was a stranger stepping through an entry they themselves had created. His worst fear was that Shawn was coming but Shawn would not bother to ask permission.
What met him instead was the least remarkable person he had ever met. The man was just under an average height. Couldn't be called overweight but at the same time far from fit. In the center of his face was a nose slightly too big and definitely crooked. The rest of his visage was… proportionate.
"Wow." The plain man looked around with wide eyes at everything he saw. "This is so neat!" He stopped just long enough to take the whole room in then turned to face Michael.
"Hi there! I'm Lawrence. I'm here as a representative of the Good Place. Before I tell you why, I just want to get across how amazing it is to be here right now. Thank you so much for inviting me into your place of work. I've always been so curious about how the Bad Place works you know." He laughed. "Call it a morbid fascination."
Were they here about his commandeering of Janet? Sweat built at the collar of his skinsuit. "While I must admit I've felt the same in reverse I need to ask: To what do I owe the pleasure?"
Peripheral neuropathy is a real condition and requires a doctor's diagnosis. It generally effects the hands and feet but can travel up to higher points on the limbs in more serious cases. I took some liberties for my own reasons. It was kind of difficult to describe but I spoke to a few people who have the condition and tried to use their descriptions and issues they have as much as possible. If you know about it and think anything doesn't ring true please say something.