Title: Trigger Discipline
Characters: Buffy, Kennedy, Willow
Setting: early S8
Summary: Buffy's friends have been trying to persuade her that she needs to get over her irrational fear of firearms.
(Author's Note: I'm from Britain. I've never fired a gun in my life, and barely ever seen one outside of films and TV programmes. I'm not sorry for any of these facts. I have, however, occasionally been entertained by reading fan critiques of those aforementioned films and TV programmes by people who do understand these things. Critiques where they condemn the gross neglect of firearms safety procedures by the actors on screen - or, occasionally, praise when they actually get it right.
At this point, the image popped into my head of drill-sergeant Kennedy giving that same rant to a reluctant Buffy on a firing range. It's perfect, really: Buffy is a klutz with guns and you just know Kennedy would relish the opportunity to lecture her "for her own good". And so that imagined scene sparked this fic...)
The handgun lay gleaming and smelling faintly of oil on the table.
As for Buffy, you could tell from her face that she was sulking. She'd explained, at length, that this was a bad idea and in no way necessary. Xander and Dawn had eventually persuaded her she should at least acquire the basic knowledge. Understand how guns worked, what they could and couldn't do, what you could expect from them. It might be a useful ability to have, one day. It might save her life, or help her to save others'.
That last one was the deciding factor; Buffy couldn't argue with that however much she might want to.
Kennedy had offered to train her. She actually managed to keep her face completely devoid of any gloating at the thought of being the one to tell the boss what to do - Buffy was grateful for that small mercy at least. And so they'd set out, the three of them; Willow was tagging along to give moral support, although Buffy wasn't entirely certain if she meant that support to be for her or for Kennedy. Together they arrived early in the morning at the secret firing range.
And now Buffy was looking at the pistol as if it were about to come alive and tear her throat out.
"It's so huge."
From her perch in the corner, Willow snickered. "I always said Ken was compensating for something."
Kennedy ignored her remark with an air of immense dignity. "It's a .45 calibre Colt semi-automatic. You need the stopping power if you're going up against demons, and it's not like you would have trouble with the recoil."
"I almost broke my wrist the one time I tried firing it," contributed Willow, "'Cause I'm not a Slayer like you guys. I'm just a helpless little girl."
Buffy rolled her eyes, and Kennedy snorted. "Yeah, like you need a gun when you can shoot fireballs from your fingertips."
"That's mages in computer games, sweetie. Creating a fireball actually involves..."
"Look, can we make me the centre of attention again please? I'm having issues here, long-standing issues dating back years, and this is a big deal for me."
"It's just a gun already. Pick it up and go fire it."
"Umm, okay." Buffy hesitantly reached out her hand, felt the weight of the pistol. Slowly, her dubious look was replaced by a smile.
"Okay, this isn't so bad. Actually, I could get to like this. Pow! Pow! Do you feel lucky, punk? Go ahead, make my - urk!"
The 'urk' was because a panic-stricken Kennedy had just physically grabbed Willow and thrust her out of the way of the erratically-waving muzzle of the gun in Buffy's hand, then blurred over to her side with preternatural speed and grabbed her wrist and arm, immobilising them. Luckily for all concerned, Buffy was able to resist her first natural impulse to break free by violence.
Kennedy forced her voice to sound as calm as possible. "That's not a toy."
Buffy sounded defensive but also stubborn. "Okay I'm sorry; but it's not like I was really going to..."
"What did I tell you before? Second rule of gun safety. Never, ever point a real gun at anyone unless you're prepared to shoot them. I assume you don't want to shoot Willow. I'm fairly confident you don't want to shoot me either, although, granted, a bit less sure on that one."
Buffy smiled a little at that, but still had a mulish expression. "It's not even loaded."
"Aaand that's the first law. Guns are always loaded."
"But they're not..."
"Look, you just assume they are, all right? Give me that."
She took the pistol from Buffy's unresisting hand and examined it, then pulled back the slide with a loud metallic clack and wriggled her finger in the empty chamber.
"Okay. I've now physically checked with my own hands and eyes that the gun isn't loaded. You didn't do that. And even so, if I put the gun down or let it out of my sight for a moment, I would check again before assuming."
"What, in case a bullet fairy came up and magically loaded it while you weren't looking?"
Willow interjected helpfully, "Actually it would be a bullet gnome, more likely. Guns are made of cold iron so fairies can't affect them with their powers."
Kennedy looked interested. "What about a Glock? They're plastic, not steel."
"Well, I guess that..."
"Look! I don't believe there's any such thing as bullet fairies, or gnomes or whatever. I was making that up... wait. Were you kidding, or what?"
"Nope." Willow looked the shining picture of innocence, but then spoiled the effect by grinning. "Maybe."
Kennedy looked stern. "It doesn't have to be supernatural. Maybe someone else came up and loaded the gun while you were away..."
"That would be a cool way to murder someone in a story and put the blame on you!"
"...Or maybe you loaded it yourself in a fit of absentmindedness, and then forgot. Either way. Always assume a gun is loaded, and never point them at people unless you're prepared to shoot them. Got it?"
"This is serious stuff, Buffy. Really."
"Okay, I've got it." She sighed. "Any other rules I should know?"
Instead of answering, Kennedy turned towards Willow and looked expectant. Willow rolled her eyes, and Buffy was sure there was a slight conspiratorial quirk of her lips sent in her direction; but she answered dutifully.
"Make sure you know what you're aiming at, make sure there isn't anyone standing behind or next to the target that you... that you m-might hit if you miss-- ." She took a deep breath; Kennedy looked at her with a flash of concern, but she assumed a determined expression and continued steadily. "Or even if the bullet goes right through the target and keeps on going. Oh, and keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to shoot, 'cause you might fire accidentally if someone joggles you, or you trip or something."
Buffy shook her head. "Battleaxes are a lot simpler."
"But Buff, you wouldn't swing an axe at a vampire's neck if there was an innocent civilian standing right next to him where your axe would follow through, would you?"
"Why not? I'd just stop the swing before it reached that far."
"But a normal person couldn't... okay, point taken. But not even a Slayer can run faster than a speeding bullet and catch it again if it misses the real target."
"I knew there was a reason I don't like guns."
Kennedy coughed. "You don't have to like them, but we agreed you need to learn how to use them. Now, why don't you watch me fire at the target first, then you can have a go yourself?"
Willow grinned. "You mean, you want to show off in front of Buffy by getting a higher score than she'll be able to manage?"
"How do you know I won't be able to match her?" Buffy sounded outraged. "Go on then, show me what you can do, but I bet you anything I'll do just as well as you. Or better."
Her hesitation was forgotten, but in her indignation she also missed that this time it was Kennedy and Willow who shared a secret conspiratorial smile. Buffy just needed a little motivation...
Kennedy picked up a magazine from the table, checked it, then took a second and did the same. As she did, she gave Buffy a running narration of each action she took - then turned to Willow and smiled. "Headphones, babe. Range is hot."
Willow hastily picked up the ear protectors hanging on the wall hook next to her and slipped them over her head. Buffy blinked.
"Shouldn't we be wearing them too?"
"Can if you want. I don't bother - I don't think you can damage a Slayer's hearing that easily, and I'd rather not muffle my senses if I'm going into battle. Or pretend battle. Eye protection, though, that's something else. There's safety glasses over there - pass me a pair and take one for yourself?"
"Well, okay." Buffy did so, then looked down the range to where four targets had been set up. They were man-shaped, with concentric rings over the head and chest; and she grinned as she suddenly noticed someone had hand-drawn vampy fangs and forehead bumps onto each of them.
"Did you do that?" She suddenly realised Willow might not be able to hear her with the ear protectors on, but Willow's reply came clearly... and after a moment, Buffy realised it had come telepathically, not by voice.
"Nope, that was Dawn."
"Dawnie does know that shooting vampires does no good, right?"
"Depends what you shoot them with. Last time I poked my nose in while she and Xander were using the range, your baby sister was wielding what looked like a young cannon. Maybe .50 cal, or even 20mm. I didn't like to ask."
"20mm? That doesn't sound too big..."
"It mean the bullets are almost an inch wide, Buffy. No normal person could even pick up a gun that big, let alone fire it; you'd have to be, cough, as strong as a horse."
"Okay okay. Picture: gotten. I think Dawn is having way too much fun with all this."
"She's definitely stopped asking me twice weekly if I've found a way to change her back yet."
Kennedy coughed meaningfully. "I know my poor little nineteen-eleven is pathetic next to Dawn's mounted artillery, but it is what we came here to fire. So can we fire it?"
"Sorry, sweetie. Show Buffy what you can do, then let her try."
Buffy folded her arms across her chest defiantly. "I'm going to win."
"Riiiight." Kennedy walked over to the barrier and laid down the gun and two magazines on the small shelf. "Okay. Seven rounds, aimed, at the target on the far left. Then seven more rapid fire at the next. The two targets on the right will be yours, Buffy."
"Do your worst. No, really. Do your worst."
"Ha, ha." Kennedy picked up the gun and slid the first magazine into the hollow grip with a solid clunk. She took a firm two-handed stance. The sound of the safety catch being clicked off echoed loudly in the expectant silence, and she sighted carefully down the barrel.
BLAM. The noise was shocking, and the acrid smell of burning cordite filled the room. Kennedy let the gun return to a level position and aimed again. BLAM. She continued firing, steadily and without haste, until all seven bullets had been discharged and the sudden ringing silence seemed louder than the gunshots.
"Second magazine, rapid fire. Time me, babe?" The last was directed to Willow, although Kennedy kept her eyes and the gun pointed strictly downrange.
"Um, okay. On my mark... mark."
Kennedy's left hand swept up the magazine, slammed it into place. The first shot came as the gun was still rising to her eyeline; the second through seventh came as a single loud cacophony of noise, barely a whisper between them. Buffy, deafened, barely heard Willow say, "Four point five seconds."
Kennedy removed the used magazine, worked the gun's slide. Her tone was just a little smug as she narrated her actions for Buffy's benefit, then dry-fired the empty gun downrange at the target to prove it was unloaded, and stepped away to replace it back on the table.
"Range is clear."
Willow pushed her headphones down off her ears so they clung around her neck and stood up. "Come on then, let's see what you did that Buffy has to match."
"You mean 'beat'."
Together the three of them opened the door and walked towards the targets. Willow gave Kennedy a proud smile as she saw the one to the right had a bullethole right through the bullseye. Two more pierced the inner ring, and three were in the outer - only a single lonely hole had missed the rings entirely and passed through the lower reaches of the target. Kennedy leaned down and put her finger over it ruefully.
"I knew I fired too soon on that first shot."
"You still killed it pretty much dead."
They were interrupted by a rather gleeful laugh from Buffy. "Ha! You missed this one! Only one of your bullets hit!"
They turned to look at the target on the left - and sure enough, there was only a single ragged hole, dead centre in the middle of the bullseye.
Kennedy just gave Buffy a look. Willow rolled her eyes. Slowly, Buffy's smile slipped away to be replaced by a look of chagrin.
"You didn't miss, did you?"
Kennedy and Willow both shook their heads silently.
"You hit the bullseye with every single bullet, didn't you?"
Kennedy and Willow both nodded in unison.
Then Willow spoiled the effect by adding in a tone of curiosity, "Actually, though, how would we know? You could have missed the target completely with some of the bullets, and we...wouldn't... um, sorry. " She wilted under Kennedy's indignant glare. "I know it's not very likely."
"You could check the backstop for the spent bullets, you know. If you doubt me."
Buffy interrupted hastily. "My turn now!" She turned and dashed towards the door, and so missed Willow's apologetic smile and Kennedy's magnanimous decision to forgive her.
The two of them found Buffy already standing at the firing line with two full magazines in front of her and the gun resting on the shelf.
"I waited to load it until you were off the range. That seemed like the right thing to do?"
Kennedy winced. "Definitely the right thing to do. Do you want me to talk you through...?"
"I saw you do it. I can manage." And indeed, Buffy loaded the pistol with commendable efficiency considering it was something she'd never done before. She turned to face the target, then hesitated and lowered the gun again.
"You know, I still don't like these things. I think they're ugly and more trouble than they're worth, and you know I'm only doing this under protest."
"But there's something I've realised. When you get right down to it, this is just a weapon."
A dangerous fire shone in her eyes.
"And I'm the Slayer."
She turned back to the range, and before she pulled the trigger even once Willow was sure, as sure as she'd ever been, that Buffy was not going to miss one single shot.
Kennedy was very quiet for the rest of that day.