Just a bit of fluff in which Buffybot tries to learn more about people by watching her friends -- and doesn't have much luck.
Buffybot’s favorite hobby was people watching.
She’d lucked out tonight, because what she considered to be a pretty eclectic group was spread out before her. She’d taken an easy chair and set it up on one side of the lounge, so that she could see the faces of everyone else.
Kara Philips had the middle of the couch, facing the big screen TV that hung – supposedly for training purposes – against one wall. She held a small controller in her hand, and was staring intently at the screen. On her right, Dana was also concentrating on the images before them. On her left, Jason was much, much closer, and seemed to be concentrating mostly on Kara.
Which helped explain why, in a love seat not far behind the couch, Richard Philips was having trouble concentrating on his book.
“I don’t get this,” Jason said, glancing at the screen.
“We’re relaxing,” Dana told him, looking across Kara. “Classes are over, and we didn’t pull any missions tonight.”
“I know that. I’m talking about the game.”
Although she wasn’t very interested, Bottie looked at the screen. A snappily dressed young man with a goatee was climbing into what appeared to be a Gremlin – the car, not the creature. Shouldn’t someone who could afford clothes like that be able to afford a newer car?
“My roommate’s going to work,” Kara murmured, her attention on the lack of action before her.
Behind her, Kara’s father looked over the edge of his book. It was titled “High Five”, and appeared to be quite different from the textbooks and history tomes he usually read. “Oh, goody,” Richard said. “Someone in that house is making a living.”
Beside him, Tara nudged his shoulder. “He’s a dog shampooer.”
“It all spends the same.”
Bottie grinned. She knew that was funny, although she wasn’t sure why. That was why she enjoyed watching groups of people interact – to learn new things about how to act human, herself. Just last week she’d spent over an hour watching Buffy, Xander, and Giles interact, until Buffy started getting annoyed and sent her off to kill something. It hadn’t been a good night for vampires that night!
Jason’s arms were thrown over the couch back, and now he reached one hand up to play with strands of Kara’s dark brown hair. “I just don’t get this. They sleep. They hang around the house. They go. They come back and eat.”
Richard cleared his throat. “Staying busy keeps them out of trouble.”
Jason jerked his hand away from Kara.
“But sometimes they need downtime,” Tara murmured, without taking her gaze from the Wicca’s Digest Magazine she was reading.
Richard clenched his teeth. “As long as it’s downtime that doesn’t get them into trouble.”
Trying to appear nonchalant, Jason moved his hands to his lap, and after a moment Richard buried his nose back in the book. Tara smiled at both of them, and then went back to reading, herself.
“What’s that?” Dana asked, pointing at the screen.
“I have to hook up with someone to get points,” Kara explained.
Jason grinned. “Now we’re talking.”
Her lips quivering, Tara looked sideways at Richard, but from her angle all Bottie could see was his knuckles whitening as his grip tightened on the book.
“What’s hook up?” Dana asked.
“Sex,” Bottie blurted out. Everyone turned to look at her. So much for just observing.
“Oh.” Unperturbed, Dana turned back to the TV.
Still hidden behind the book, Richard muttered, “Isn’t Grandma Mazur something? No wonder Stephanie Plum is so messed up.”
Raising her magazine, Tara deliberately elbowed Richard. “Gee, they’re coming out with a new line of scribing crystals. It says here you can track demons to within a hundred feet.”
He elbowed her back. “With one of those, maybe Stephanie Plum could finally get her man the first time.”
“Rolls eyes,” Kara murmured.
There was a brief silence, except for the oddly catchy tunes and almost understandable dialogue from the game. Then Dana leaned forward, her spine ramrod straight. “Is she naked?”
Jason quickly came to attention. So did Richard, who dropped his book.
“They have to shower,” Kara told them, rather defensively. “If they get stinky, people don’t want to be around them and they lose points.”
Jason turned toward her, looking miffed. “Tell me again why you wanted to get this instead of Crash Bandicoot? I mean, you sleep; eat; clean house; go to work; try to make friends. What’s the attraction?”
“It was kind of fun when the kitchen caught on fire,” Dana told him.
Leaning forward, Richard picked up his book, and Bottie could barely make out his muttered, “Not in my house, it wasn’t.”
Bottie reminded herself to ask him about that, later. She didn’t want to mention it now and get the conversation off on a tangent, because she’d been wondering the same thing Jason had.
Pausing the game, Kara gave a heavy sigh and turned to Jason. “They do have an add-on program where you can put vampires into the game.”
Jason’s eyes widened. “Now we’re talkin’!”
But Kara shook her head. “That would make it even more like real life! I so don’t get you sometimes. Look, you can create your own people, and the world they’re in, and you’re responsible for what they do, and how it effects others.”
For the first time, her father looked interested. “So it’s like writing a novel.”
Kara craned her neck to look at him. “Well … yeah. I guess so.”
“A romance novel,” Tara suggested with a wide grin. She was rewarded with a dirty look from both father and daughter. “Think of it as practice for the future.”
Richard’s jaw worked for a moment, and then he made a show of checking his watch. “Bedtime.”
“What?” Kara stared at him, looking horrified. He had never, in Bottie’s memory, sent her to bed; in fact, this was about the time he often sent her out on patrol.
“You have a plane to catch tomorrow, for that place in Washington State where the bodies washed up on the beach. An early plane.”
“Oh, right.” Looking disgusted, Kara climbed to her feet. “So -- I’m going to bed.”
Jason vaulted to his feet. “I’ll go, too.” He froze in mid stride, his panicked gaze sliding toward Richard. “I mean –“
“I get to go with her.” Dana rose and brushed by him, then grabbed Kara by the hand. “You get nowhere.” She dragged the other slayer out the door, and Jason, looking as if a monster was after him, followed without a backward glance.
Tara managed to hold her laughter until the door closed. “The look on your faces!”
“Hum.” Dropping his book into her lap, Richard moved to the couch, where he sat down and began examining the controller.
Tara watched him for a moment, then followed to sit, again, beside him. “You’re bothered.”
“Did you use your witch’s power for that, or siphon knowledge from the spirit world?” He activated the game, and began moving his daughter’s main character around her home.
Suddenly realizing they’d forgotten about her, Buffybot sat very still.
Tara waited, and after a moment Richard grudgingly began, “I suppose one of the things that attracted me to moving here was the idea that she’d be living in a building full of other girls. You know … convent like.”
“But you brought Jason with you.”
“I couldn’t leave him in Indiana – not after he tried to save our lives, then got kicked out of his home for his trouble. I suppose it might also have occurred to me that with so much romantic competition, the odds would be against her.” He paused to concentrate on moving the female character away from the home’s other occupants.
Tara laid a hand on his shoulder. “But they’ve known each other since they were kids. There’s a connection. They kissed on New Year’s Eve – nobody else got a kiss, except for our regular couples, and Clem.”
Bottie felt blood – actually, nutrient/lubricant fluid – rush to her face. Clem had just looked so lonely behind the snack counter, with no one of his own species to keep him company … it had seemed like a good idea, at the time.
“I know,” Richard was saying, “I know. Jason’s a good kid, and Kara’s responsible, and Dana’s keeping an eye on them both, yada yada … I’m not really worried. I’m just being – fatherly.” Frowning, he hunched his shoulders. “You know, she was just a baby when her mother died.”
Bottie put a hand to her mouth to stifle a gasp. She hadn’t known – Kara never spoke about her mother. That was so sad!
“I spent all that time being both mother and father, and now here I am, letting her go – encouraging her to go – into danger.” He turned from the game to look at Tara, his eyes full of sadness. “There’s only so much danger a parent can stand.”
Drawing him into her arms, Tara kissed Richard on the forehead. “You’re a great dad. You have a special daughter, and you know what’s best for her.”
He returned her hug, then drew back. “Yeah, well – have fun flying across the country with her to look at dead bodies and battle vicious monsters.”
“And you –“ Tara paused, turning toward the screen. “What are you doing with her character, anyway?”
“Oh, that? I’m making her unpopular. When I’m done she’ll have no friends, her house will be a wreck, and she’ll stink to high heaven. No guy will want to touch her.”
Looking shocked, Tara punched him on the shoulder. “That’s cruel!”
“Dads do funny things.” Richard saved the game, then turned off the TV and rose. “Sleep well, Tara.”
“And you,” Tara said to his retreating back. She waited until he’d left before turning to Bottie, who jumped at the sudden attention. “Well. What have you learned about being human?”
Bottie thought about it for a moment, then shook her head. “That it’s complicated.”
“That it is.” Scooping the book and magazine up, Tara hooked her arm though Bottie’s and headed for the door. “That it is.”