A Grudging Ingratitude




Buffy stood in the library, holding Kendra's bag. Facing her was Snyder, a gloating look spread over his face like butter on hot toast. "You know I didn't do it," said Buffy. It was almost a question but not quite. "The police will figure that out."

The look got, if possible, even more irritating. "In case you didn't notice, the police in Sunnydale are deeply stupid. It doesn't matter anyway. Whatever they find, you've proved too much of a liability for this school." Principal Snyder took a slow, deep breath, extracting every ounce of satisfaction from his words. "These are the moments you want to savour. You wish time would stop so you can live them over and over again. You're expelled."

Buffy reached into the bag and pulled out Kendra's sword in one fluid motion. Snyder blanched and fell back a step. Buffy felt, not for the first time, that the burden of being a Slayer lay mostly in that pesky rule about not killing humans - but there was nothing that said they couldn't be taunted. Using a dagger to the ego rather than the flesh, she said simply, "You never ever got a single date when you were in high school, did you?"

Snyder flinched, visibly hurt. He rallied momentarily to say, "Your point being?" but by then Buffy had swept out, victory - yet again - hers.

Snyder made a phone call to the mayor's office to update him and then slumped into a chair. "Oh, I had a date, Missy," he whispered. "I had a date..."

***

He could still remember the pain he felt as he slipped over the edge and fell in love with Claire. Pain is a necessary part of teenage romance - without it, where's the fun - but this anguish was different. He knew, beyond any possibility of a fantasy, that he would never have Claire's love. Goddesses might mate with mortals but never with freaks. It didn't matter. If love were logical, it wouldn't be love.

Claire. Even her name was perfect. It rhymed with so much that the poetry he composed about her seemed to almost write itself. Fair, rare, compare, share... He shuddered as he recalled the Valentine's Day when he had slipped a poem inside her locker. Claire hadn't been the one to stick it up on the notice board, scrawled over with derisive comments; it had been one of her friends, the crowd of sycophants who surrounded her like dim winged moths around a blazing fire. It had to have been one of them. Claire was never cruel - hadn't she once held open a door for him when his arms were full of books?

The day she died his emotions were mixed. Sorrow, of course, but was there a tinge of relief that he would never have to lose her, never see her marry someone else, never have to admit that he was too much of a coward to even tell her openly how he felt? He sat in the school assembly, listening to the platitudes of the Principal as he described a ‘popular, beautiful, intelligent girl with a bright future’ - did he miss a single cliché? – and then skillfully sidestepped the gruesome details of her death, glossing them over with a reference to a mugging. The students made up for the lack of details of course. He listened to the rumors of rape and mutilation for what seemed like an eternity that lunchtime before cutting school for the first time ever, stumbling to a quiet place where he could weep alone.

Then his innocent naivety was dealt another blow as he saw how quickly she was forgotten, how her 'best' friend slipped into the number one spot with suspicious speed, her facile tears drying faster than her nail varnish. He felt a bitterness and hatred towards those students on Claire's behalf. How hurt she would have been!

Thinking about it, those emotions had dictated his choice of career. He couldn't revenge himself on his peers but he could make sure any other students he dealt with suffered for their sins.

A few weeks passed and his misery became his security blanket. It allowed him to make excuses for everything that was wrong in his life. He wasn't dateless because no girl in the school would be seen talking to him, let alone kissing him; he was faithful to Claire's memory. He wasn't failing math because he couldn't grasp calculus; it was because such mundane matters just didn't matter in the echoing wasteland of his grief. He even toyed with the idea of suicide but the closest he got was a pilgrimage to the bar where she had last been seen alive, a month exactly after she died.

He didn't intend to go into the bar of course. Claire had looked much older than her age and rules didn't apply to the likes of her anyway. Snyder knew that he would be lucky to be carded first before being tossed out like garbage. No, he just wanted to see it for himself, retrace her last steps. There was a delicious thrill of danger about it that sent ripples along his spine. After pausing to stare solemnly at the bar for some time, he moved off along the street, his steps quickening as he reached the mouth of the alleyway where her body had been found.

Looking around with a well-practiced furtiveness, he pulled out a rather limp rose. He planned to lay it on the floor but not if there was the slightest chance of an audience.

"How sweet," drawled a soft voice. Snyder flinched back in terror then hesitated. That voice - he knew it from his dreams.

"Why don't you come and put it right on the spot where she died?" the voice continued. "Step in just a few more feet and you might be able to see the bloodstains."

"You're sick!" blurted Snyder. "Who are you anyway?"

The shadowy figure stepped out into the street and smiled at him gently.

"Claire!" he gasped, his senses blurring with shock. "No; you're dead, you're dead!"

"Yes, I suppose I am," she admitted casually.

A dream like unreality that made everything seem possible allowed Snyder to ask her the obvious question. “Are you a ghost then?"

She laughed low and sweet. "You'd like that wouldn't you? A ghost that only you could see? Are you still in love with me, Spider?"

"Don't call me that," he moaned, trying to will his feet to move.

"I'm sorry. I know you hated that name. You had so many didn't you? All cruel, all unkind. Come here, come to me and I'll make it all better, I promise."

Her crooning words, her outstretched arms - it was a glimpse of heaven. Snyder staggered forward, desperate to touch her. His fingers groped blindly as she retreated into the darkness.

One more step and he would have joined her but as he moved a violent shove sent him flying against the alley wall, bruised and breathless. Peering frantically into the shadows, he saw a tall figure raining blows on Claire and struggled to go to her rescue. Further down the alley was a dim light over a doorway and the two figures, still fighting, were illuminated by it as they rolled over on the filthy floor.

Snyder saw Claire's face and recoiled. It was transformed, a travesty of her features that somehow remained sexually appealing and young. Her adversary was also female, lithe and aggressive, armed with a wooden stake. As he watched, the stake was raised high and slammed down brutally into Claire's heart. As she was impaled, her head twisted towards him and Snyder thought he saw her mouth his name before, incredibly, unbelievably, she exploded into dust.

The killer jumped up jauntily and brushed herself down before walking over to Snyder. "You OK? She didn't bite you or anything?" she asked in a matter of fact tone.

"What did you do?" whispered Snyder in horror. "What did you do to my Claire?"

Impatience flashed over her face. "She wasn't your Claire. She was a filthy vampire, a demon in Claire's body. I did her a favour and I saved you from being her dinner. Doubt she would have turned you; they usually go for the jocks."

"A vampire? No, that can't be. She was a ghost. Claire died here last month, she was mugged -"

"She was attacked by a vampire who decided to turn her into one too, you mean. Look, I know this is a lot to take in and I wouldn't advise you mentioning it to anyone if you want to stay out of an asylum, but there are such things as vampires. I should know; I'm the official Vampire Slayer. Now don't bother to thank me for saving you and getting all beat up; I'm sure you were about to but it's really not necessary - hey!"

Snyder launched himself at her, his fists hammering at her face and body as the helpless tears streamed down his cheeks. He didn't even have the satisfaction of knowing that he'd hurt her. She twisted away, moved behind him and sent him flying into the wall with a well-aimed kick to his backside.

"There’s just no helping some people," he heard her mutter as she moved away.

***

Snyder's dark memories receded and left him aching with the pain as he had ached back then in that alleyway.

"Slayer," he muttered. "Oh, I know what one is now and I've never been happier than when I was making this one's life miserable. That bitch wanted my gratitude. Gratitude, when Claire was about to kiss me!"

Shaking his head in disbelief, he left the library. There had to be something he could do to help the police find that murdering Summers girl.


A/N Dialogue at the start is from the episode script of Becoming.
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