Kennedy pulled away from her girlfriend just slightly. "Huh?" She asked an unsure smile on her face.
"Did it bite you? Did you get bitten...anywhere . . . did it break your skin with its teeth?" Willow had begun patting her girlfriend's torso looking for tears in her jumper that may have been made by fangs.
"No Willow, it didn't bite me, I promise." Kennedy grabbed hold of Willow's hands and held them in her lap. "It just got me with its claws. Ali staked it in the back before it could do any real damage, then it ran after its buddy."
"Oh thank you." Willow fell into her arms and hugged her tightly.
"It was nothing," Kennedy grinned and hugged her back. Her Willow was a strange chick sometimes but she wouldn't have her any other way.
Alison, Cici and Miranda were still standing at the back of the kitchen listening to this and wondering what crazy world they had found themselves in.
"I didn't get bit either," Alison told them.
Giles smiled at her. "That's good, and well done on scaring the beast off. That was very brave of you. Now why don't you all go and get some sleep. I know from plenty of experience just how uncomfortable Hospital waiting rooms can be."
They all began to file up the stairs to the big bedroom they shared. Cici stopped next to Willow. "Can we still go to the hairdresser later?" She asked shyly, running a hand through her messy, clipped locks.
Willow smiled again now that her personal crisis was over. "Yes, of course we can. I have to go out to the airport later, we can try and find one then."
Kennedy pulled away from snuggling into Willow's neck, something Giles was trying to pretend he hadn't noticed, and asked: "Airport? Are you going somewhere?
Buffy nervously fiddled with a pencil on the desk in front of her. 'I've worked in one of these places now,' she thought. 'So why does sitting here in front of the Principal's desk still make me feel like I'm sixteen again and trying to convince Mr. Flutie I won't burn down the gym?' The silence was getting to her so she decided to break it.
"Dawn's a very good student, much better than I ever was. Not that I was a dummy, you should have seen my S.A.T. scores. Mom couldn't believe them" . . . 'Okay, should have just put up with the silence.' . . . "Dawn has always been the brain in the family though; I think she takes after Willow. Is it possible, do you think, to take after someone you're not related to? I guess it is if you spend a lot of time with them right, and Dawn's spends a lot of time with Willow and Willow's a straight A student; no she's more, she's a straight A-plus-gold star student and Dawn . . ."
She sucked in a much needed lungful of air as the grey-haired, broad-shouldered, twinkly eyed Principal, introduced as Principal Hayes, held up his hand and instructed "Ms Summers - breathe."
In his other hand he held the letter Robin Wood had sent from New York. He finished reading it quickly before smiling at the blonde.
"You can relax Ms Summers. Dawn has already been guaranteed a place here at McKinley High. Her grades in the past have been a little inconsistent but I believe we can put that down to the unsettling circumstances she has been through. One thing they do show me is that she's capable of great work and that's potential we can build on here at McKinley."
Buffy smiled. "Thanks, she is a great kid and it's not been easy for her. We . . . uh, lost our mother a few years ago and so she's had to rely on me and my friends for her parenting, and then with the thing . . . that happened. Having to up and leave her home and her own friends and start all over again. Well it hasn't been easy for any of us." Buffy went quiet for a second and looked back down at the pencil. Principal Hayes stayed quiet and waited for her to continue. "I just want her to spend the next two years doing high school stuff and not having to worry about losing her home to malicious holes in the ground."
Principal Hayes busied himself putting the letter away in a folder and placing it in his desk. When he was done he rested his elbows on the top and steepled his fingers. Smiling kindly he said. "Yes, we heard about the terrible trouble you had out west. It must have been awful."
Buffy frowned, confused. 'There's a Hellmouth Newsletter doing the rounds,' she thought, 'why am I not surprised?'
The Principal tried to decipher the look she was giving him. It looked more like she was trying to subtract four hundred and thirty seven from nine thousand six hundred and twenty four and a half, using only her toes. Not the look of someone who had just survived a terrible tragedy.
"The earthquake," he clarified. "It must have been terrible for all of you. Losing your homes and belongings like that. It was all over the national news for weeks. The rumblings didn't reach us up here, but from what I've heard the shock waves were felt all over California and the surrounding states. It's a wonder anyone survived at all."
Buffy chuckled. 'Newspapers, T.V. of course.' She'd seen the reports herself, just hadn't wondered what the rest of the world would make of them. She realized that chuckling after a statement like that wasn't really appropriate. "Yeah . . . yes, it was terrible. I must have repressed it for a minute there. One second there's your town and the next kaboom!"
"Total kaboom . . . So this school, it's a good school, right? I mean of course it's a good school, you wouldn't be Principal of a bad school, would you. So what's the death count like?"
Dawn sat in a chair in the secretary's office, kicking at the floor. Buffy was in talking with the Principal and the secretary was elsewhere and she was bored. They'd been in there talking about her for thirty minutes already and she didn't know why she couldn't go in and join them. Surely if she was the topic of conversation she should be able to at least participate in it. After all she was practically an adult herself; she'd be seventeen soon enough.
She was startled from her thoughts when the outside door opened. Looking to see who it was, her eyes were pleasantly surprised by the sleek, dark haired boy that strolled confidently in.
'Sleek,' she thought. 'That's an unusual word to describe someone with.'
He stopped in the doorway and stared at her.
"Er...Hello," She said. The way he was looking at her was making her blush. Luckily she couldn't see a letterman jacket and he was cute, so staring was good, right? It was definitely more promising than running away screaming.
"Hi." He flashed a brief smile before making his way past and sitting down on the furthest chair away. With another fleeting smile he said: "Cold." By way of explanation and patted the heater next to him. Then he turned to stare at the wall.
'Oookay,' thought Dawn, 'it's like seventy degrees out there.' She looked out of the window at the bright blue sky and then back at him. He was still looking at the wall like he was expecting it to do something other than stand there. Still, he was the first kid she'd met since moving to Boudenver and someone that good looking had to be popular, right? It couldn't hurt to make friends.
"Uh . . . I'm Dawn," She began nervously. "I'm new here."
He turned to face her slowly, blinked his green eyes and then turned back to the wall. "Sethos." He pulled a face. "Me too."
"That's an unusual name."
The boy shrugged.
Dawn tried again. "So what grade will you be in?"
"Junior." His accent wasn't quite American, although it seemed to try and be, with hints of spice and exotic places Dawn would probably never get to. She loved it.
"Ooh, me too. I'm glad I met someone before school starts. This way I won't look like a total spaz not knowing anyone and neither will you."
Sethos nodded but didn't take his eyes off the wall. Undeterred, Dawn kept on.
"So where are you from?"
The boy ran a lazy hand through his short black hair and sighed.
Principal Hayes recovered from his coughing fit with the help of a glass of water fetched from the side by Buffy.
"No . . . no, of course you are going to be concerned for your sister's safety," He spluttered. "I can assure you we've not lost a single student, on school grounds, since I've been in charge here." 'What a strange girl,' he thought, 'one minute sweet and bubbly and the next asking when they last had a case spontaneous combustion. It must be all she's been through,' he thought sadly, making a note in his diary to send the younger Summers sister to the guidance counselor the first day of term.
"Well that's good," Buffy was saying, still patting him rather harder on the back than he deemed necessary. "It was silly of me to ask, but you know kid these days. Always bumping into things, and catching things and falling over and . . . things."
"Ms Summers, your sister is sixteen, isn't she?"
"Uh huh." Buffy went to sit back down when she realized the Principal's face had returned to its normal color.
"Well then, she should be fine - we don't get many sixteen year old girls falling off the jungle-gym."
Buffy blushed. "Well that's good," she repeated.
"It must have been so cool living in Egypt," Dawn gushed, thinking of Sunnydale and now Boudenver. The only exciting thing in either was the Evil and she could live without that sort of excitement.
"Was okay." Sethos was slumped even further down in his chair with his feet propped up on the rectangular wall heater. While he was still faced away from Dawn, she was trying to hang on to the thought that he was just shy but she was starting to suspect it was more than that.
"So did you live near the pyramids?"
"What were they like?"
"Big, old and dusty."
Dawn frowned. "Dusty. Oh I get it, because of the desert right?"
Sethos deigned to look her way as he said. "No, because dead people don't care much for spring cleaning."
Dawn burst out laughing at the joke. It sounded loud in the other wise pin-dropping quiet of the office. Sethos turned back to the wall without smiling.
Dawn stopped laughing as suddenly as she started, embarrassed and a little intimidated by the strange youth, and that annoyed her. She'd faced Hell-Gods and Uber-vamps and the purest evil in the whole world, and one gorgeous guy thinking she was an idiot still had more potential to make her quake in her boots.
She stared down at said boots ready to accept this boy was not interested in being friends with her, so when he spoke next in his slow drawl she jumped.
"So you're from Sunnydale?"
"Yeah," she said cautiously. There were so many different stories going around about her home town she was never sure what she might hear next. "How did you know? I didn't say."
He shrugged. "My father knows things."
It wasn't much of an explanation but it was all she was going to get because the door opened to the Principal's office and he and Buffy came out.
Principal Hayes turned to Sethos first. "Ah, you must be Seth. I won't keep you a moment." He looked around surprised. "Didn't your parents come with you?"
"No." Sethos didn't bother to look at the Principal.
The Principal looked apologetically at Buffy and then turned to Dawn with his hand out. She stood and they shook hands.
"Well Dawn, it was nice to meet you and I'm pleased to say that you'll be joining us on Monday morning. If you could come here before school starts, we'll have a little chat about classes and there will be a few tests you'll have to do so we know what standard you're up to. Your old Principal, Mr. Wood has provided an excellent reference for you but unfortunately you were forced to leave before you could take your end of year exams. However we don't want to see someone as bright as you kept back a year if we don't need to, hence the tests." He smiled enthusiastically at her and she smiled back, pleased despite the threat of tests.
To Buffy he said, "I'd like you to come and see me after Dawn's sixth week if that's possible. Just to discuss how she is doing and to make sure we're all happy."
"Yeah, sure, whatever you need. We've got to go now, sorry." Buffy had just seen the time on the clock behind the secretary's desk. "Dawn, come on." She practically dragged her younger sister out to the car by her arm.
"See you on Monday," Dawn called back to Sethos but he just ignored her.
Faith sat on her bunk in her cell, still a little dazed. She'd blacked out sometime during her beating and was surprised she'd come to again, that week at least. Lolitta didn't normally have such self-control. Faith assumed they must have been interrupted. No one had found her prone body though. She had still been on the floor between the wringer and the drier when she awoke.
She had managed to get back to her cell with the minimal of fuss. The bruises had already blossomed and begun to fade while she was having her beating-induced nap. She still looked plenty banged up but not like she'd gone ten rounds with Tyson anymore.
She leaned over, mindful of some pain in her ribs, and plucked the Polaroid of the Scoobies off the wall. She tried to lie back on her bunk but her bones protested too much; it was less painful to just sit still. She placed one thumb over Xander's face and her other over Willow's and stared down at Buffy.
She didn't know how long she sat there. The bell for lunch jangled, startling her, but food was the last thing on her mind.
A while later a shadow fell over her. "You got ten minutes to eat Wilkins or you can starve 'til tonight." It was one of the guards. The guy was okay compared to some of them, but none of them were particularly friendly. After all, she was a criminal.
She didn't bother looking up at him. "I'll wait."
The guard shifted his weight. "What's up with you? You're normally the first in line for chow down." It was true, Slayer metabolism meant she had to keep eating, even when she wasn't actually Slaying.
She looked up at him to tell him to get lost and he caught sight of her face.
"Jesus girl, you okay?"
She looked back down at the photo and smiled, ignoring the sting of her split lip. "Five by five."
Buffy rushed in the front door, talking to Dawn over her shoulder. "I'm sure he was just shy."
"No, he was rude and weird." Dawn followed her in. She'd been moaning about Sethos the entire drive home.
"So forget about him, there'll be plenty more kids at school to make friends with."
Dawn didn't look convinced. "Whatever."
Buffy saw Kennedy and Giles sat at the kitchen table. "You okay?" She asked the younger Slayer and then continued without waiting for an answer. "Where's Willow?"
"I'm fine," said Kennedy, looking annoyed. "Will's upstairs, slathering gooey stuff on the boys."
Despite Buffy's preoccupation, that got her attention as well as Dawn's. "What?" She asked with a smirk.
"They got poison ivy'd. I guess I escaped because of the Slayer stuff. How about you?" She asked Dawn.
Dawn pulled up her sleeve and inspected her arm closely. "Huh, I wondered what all these little itchy bumps were." She gave it a little rub, then pulled her sleeve back down and shrugged it off as nothing important. "So how are you, anyway?"
Giles spoke before Kennedy could. "We have Werewolves!"
"Damn. Is that gonna play havoc with the property prices or what?" Buffy darted up the stairs before anyone could ask her for a serious comment.
She walked into the room Xander and Andrew were sharing until the house renovations had been finished and sure enough the red-head was liberally spreading some creamy looking stuff all over Xander's chest. Andrew had already been done and he lay in bed, only covered from the waist down by a sheet and the top half of him covered up to the neck in the off-white mixture.
All three greeted her hello.
"You ready to go Will? I've got to check-in in an hour."
"Yep, you go grab your bag and I'll be right out," said Willow, wiping her hands and leaving to get the car keys and Cici.
Buffy leaned over Xander's bed and gave him a kiss on the forehead. "I'll be back in a couple of days," she told him.
He smiled up at her. "I would give you a hug but you don't want to be on a plane smelling of this stuff." He waved his arms around and she caught a whiff of the potion. He was right; she really didn't.
She left the room to grab her bags. Andrew lifted his head from the pillow ready for his goodbye kiss, but she didn't even notice. He lowered his head again dejected. "Am I ever gonna be a Scooby?" he whined.
"Probably not," Xander said honestly, then he called to Buffy as she passed the doorway again. "Buff, I hope it goes good in L.A., but you know, if for some reason it doesn't . . . We all still love you. Don't forget that, okay?"
Buffy broke into a proper smile for the first time since the night before. "I never do." Then she was off down the stairs to the car.
Willow pulled the car up outside the airport terminal; the drive from Boudenver had been mostly silent. Buffy was fretting over her plans, Willow was trying to think of the best way to say what she wanted to say and Cici had been sitting in the back feeling the tension roll over her like an oil slick.
Willow realized she had no time for anymore re-writes and turned to Buffy as she was about to get out of the car.
"Buffy, I really wish you weren't just rushing off like this."
"Will, I have to see her." Buffy grabbed her hold-all from between her feet.
"But what if she doesn't want to see you?" Willow asked the valid question gently.
Buffy shrugged, trying for nonchalant, but the tightness of her features gave away the pain the comment brought. "Then at least I'll have tried."
"But . . . but . . ." Willow knew Kennedy wouldn't be happy with what she was going to say next, and probably neither would Buffy. "Can't you just wait for a few more days? We've got a dangerous Werewolf on the loose . . ."
Buffy smiled and gave her friend a goodbye kiss on the cheek. "She'll be fine. She's a Slayer."
Buffy opened her door but Willow started speaking again. "Yeah but she's new. She's had no experience with Werewolves and you've had lots. You'd only have to help this once and then she'd know what to do herself next time. Please, Buffy."
"Willow, my flight's booked. My plane leaves in twenty minutes. I need to see Faith, like, yesterday. I'm not canceling all that to hold Kennedy's hand. If you're that worried about it, just tell her not to patrol. I'll be back in a couple of days."
"We can't leave it, Buffy. Tomorrow's the last night of the full moon. If we don't capture it by then it might have moved on before next month's . . . and anyway it's not like Faith's going to be going anywhere in a big hurry." Willow flinched from the look the blonde Slayer shot her way.
Buffy climbed out of the car, and then turned to lean one hand on the roof so she could bend to look through the door. "So you want me to forget about what my girlfriend is going through so I can mollycoddle yours," she snapped. "Don't you think that's a bit selfish?"
"She's not your girlfriend, Buffy."
Buffy's hand slapped the roof of the car, making Cici jump. "For Gods sake Will, is that even the point? Kennedy is facing her first Werewolves in exactly the same position as I was in - in fact she's actually got it better. All I had was you guys and a tranquillizer gun, she's got three Slayer-strength assistants and lots of Werewolf facts we didn't have back then. If Kennedy can't handle a couple of 'wolves with all that behind her, then maybe she's just not cut out to be a Slayer."
Buffy slammed the door shut and walked into the crowded terminal without waiting for a reply. Willow stared after her angrily. She had a nagging suspicion that everything Buffy had just pointed out was true. Kennedy was the first Slayer to have the constant back up of an army, okay not an army yet but it would be soon enough, of Slayers. Still it didn't change the fact that Willow was scared that something would go wrong tonight and she would be back to spending three nights of the month in bed alone. 'And let's face it,' she thought as she headed the car into town, 'If something goes wrong then that's the best case scenario.'
Buffy settled into her seat and buckled the seat belt. She'd always had an irrational fear of flying. The fright gripping her from take off 'til landing, leaving her a sweatier, panting mess quicker than any demon had ever managed.
Giles had explained to her once that it was the fear of being out of control of what was happening to her. As soon as the plane took off she was relinquishing control to the pilot and that was something extremely hard for a Slayer to do. A Slayer had to be in control of the situation at all times or else the bad guys won.
Buffy had her own explanation which went more like, 'How on earth can all this metal get up in the sky and stay there!' It wasn't natural to be forty thousand feet in the air unless you had feathers, and even then it was just stupid.
'Faith damn well better appreciate this,' She thought grimly, gripping the armrests hard enough to leave her fingerprints on them as the plane began to taxi down the runway.
She wondered for a moment if this wasn't a really stupid idea after all. Maybe she should have stayed. Willow was right; she had dealt with Oz plenty of times, plus plenty of strays that wandered towards the Hellmouth's energy. Was she the one being selfish by not sticking around to help put the bad doggies down? It wouldn't be the first time her rash decisions had put her friends in danger. She could have waited until after the full moon; it wasn't as if Faith knew she was coming or anything and she wouldn't have baked a cake.
'No, I'm right about this, even if I could have gone about it a bit nicer. Kennedy has to be able to tackle this sort of thing, just like I had to. There can't always be someone there to help a Slayer out and it's not like she's going in blind. I've passed on the Scooby elite with an extra helping of experience.' She closed her eyes as the plane picked up speed on the runway. 'I haven't passed the Scoobies on, I've just loaned them out. If I ever get off this thing alive I might want them back.' She thought, then all rational thought disappeared and all she was left with was "Oh Shiiiiiiiiiit!" as the plane left the tarmac.
Hank left his seat at the window and came over to join his brother by the fire. "Not long now, Marv, I can feel it. Tonight's gonna be a good night, I can tell." He took the bottle from Marvin and drank straight from the neck.
"Yeah well, don't you be pulling no stunts like you did last night. How am I supposed to be looking out for you, when you're acting all reckless the second my back's turned?" Marvin took the bottle back off of Hank with deliberation. Hank tended to get a little . . . wild, when he was drunk. "You stick by me tonight, okay?"
"Sure thing Marv, but you know I wasn't gonna hurt 'em right. I was just playing with 'em, but then she smelled funny, didn't you smell it?"
"Yeah, she smelled like she weren't scared." Said Marvin, more to himself than his brother. It had been bothering him a little all day.
"What do ya think that means Marv?"
Marvin shrugged. "Dunno Bro, probably nothing. We'll be okay tonight though. The old guy in the shop said no ones going to be at the McGee farm for a few weeks. It'll be perfect."
"See, I said it was gonna be a good night," said a grinning Hank, rubbing his hands together in anticipation.
Willow arrived back at the house to find Kennedy and Giles in deep Werewolf discussion. She paused at the back door wondering if Giles had mentioned Oz, but from what she could tell it was more your basic facts and figures session than campfire tales.
She wondered if she was being as selfish as she had accused Buffy of being. No one knew more about the nature of the wolf than she; in the loosest term she'd been ones mate for nearly three years. 'Oh yeah, I can just imagine that going down well with Kennedy.' Her thoughts were disturbed when Cici politely pushed past her, gathering the attention of the couple in the kitchen.
"Hey Cici, it looks good. I think those plants almost did you a favor." Kennedy admired the younger Slayer's new haircut. It was much shorter than before, reaching to just below her ears and kind of wispy around her face. It reminded her a little of Vi, although Cici's coloring was much lighter than either Vi's or Willow's. Speaking of which . . .
Her girlfriend wrapped an arm around her shoulder and dropped a soft kiss on her head. "Hope you don't like it too much, I'd hate Cici's training to be neglected because I had to keep the two of you apart," Willow teased, then let out a squeal of surprise as Kennedy's arm snaked back and around her waist, lifting her easily and depositing her on her lap. She hadn't yet got used to the Slayer strength, but that didn't mean she didn't like it.
Cici was obviously embarrassed, whether by Kennedy's attention or the way her two elders were now looking at each other with hungry eyes, but either way it made her feel hot and uncomfortable. She blurted out her thanks to Willow and shot up the stairs to find Miranda and Alison.
"So Willow," Giles began, blocking out the girls' hello kiss in a way he never could of imagined eight years ago. "I trust Buffy got away safely."
Willow broke the kiss and moved from her girlfriend's lap to the chair next to her, which seemed more appropriate for a work based discussion. "Yep. We had words though. Not of the nice kind."
"You argued? What about?" Asked Giles.
"Not argued as such, more spoke our minds. And it turns out our minds aren't exactly in sync. Which shouldn't be a surprise but . . . I don't know Giles, I hate arguing with her, especially when she's about to go half way across the country, but I think she's making a mistake."
Kennedy squeezed her hand as Giles asked her. "What mistake do you think she's making? Is it just the fact that she's taken off at such short notice when we're facing another demon-related problem, or is it that she's taken off at such short notice to see Faith?"
"Well, it's the demon thing obviously. She . . . she shouldn't just be running off when we need her help. She's the Slayer or . . . or one of them." She gave Kennedy an apologetic grimace.
"Willow, I think you know as well as I do that Buffy has earned the right to put personal matters ahead of Slaying at least for a while, and a couple of Werewolves hardly amounts to an apocalypse, or for that matter a particularly difficult encounter. Both you and I dealt with Oz plenty of times without Buffy's help. On top of that, Buffy in her current state over Faith would not have been much help anyway."
"Who's Oz?" Kennedy asked, looking from Giles to Willow.
"Okay, it's the Faith thing!" Willow blurted out before Kennedy had even finished her question.
Giles looked puzzled but decided to let it go for now. He'd have a talk with Willow when they were alone. "And that would be . . .?
"It's Faith . . . again. Seriously Giles, she messed up Buffy's life - no, all our lives - back in high school. Then she came back when we started college and did it all again. Then she came back last year, and okay, I invited her and it's good she came, but look at the mess she left Buffy in again." As Willow carried on speaking she realized this really was the reason she'd been pissed at Buffy, and it helped her warm to the subject. "And now Buffy's run off to see her with all her hopes high and what if Faith isn't interested? What if all she wanted was to get Buffy into bed and now that she's had her fun she'll just tell her to go away? Buffy's gonna be devastated and it'll be all Faith's fault, and partly mine 'cause I helped push the two of them together," she added guiltily, remembering how she told Faith the only room with any space left was the one Buffy was in.
"Willow, I know you have every reason not to trust Faith. She hurt you terribly by sleeping with Xander and . . ." Giles was talking slowly, choosing his words carefully, but Willow cut him off.
"Actually Giles, the holding a knife to my throat is higher up on my 'thousand reasons why I don't like Faith' list, but this isn't about that. I've forgiven her for all that. I had to last year. I've made mistakes just like she did. When I saw her in Los Angeles, what she did for Angel; it made me see just how much she has changed, wants to change. So honestly this isn't about that, although I think Xander may still have some issues." She smirked a little. "I just don't want to see Buffy hurt again and I think that's all Faith is capable of doing."
"I think you're wrong Willow. I believe Faith loves Buffy very much, much more than Buffy probably will ever realize. When she told me she wanted to go back to prison I was surprised to say the least, and I don't mind saying I tried to talk her out of it, but her reasons were ones I couldn't argue with even though I knew it could hurt Buffy. She did it so she wouldn't drag Buffy down, so Buffy could go and have the normal life she'd always dreamed of. She couldn't have done that if she'd accepted a wanted criminal into her life, into her home. Personally I believe we could have made it work, that we could have hidden Faith from the police long enough to work something out . . ."
Willow was shocked. Giles obviously really did believe in Faith, plus he was being uber-supportive of Faith and Buffy being together as a couple. Even she, as token Scooby lesbian, was having trouble with that mental picture.
". . . But she felt the only way was to go back to prison and I felt that at least was better than her just running away," Giles finished.
"Well I hope Faith's appeal goes well," said Willow honestly. "But if she gets out and comes here, I don't think it's going to be all Christmas and cookies"
"More like a year long Fourth of July," added Kennedy, thinking of the fireworks the two original Slayers caused even when they weren't together.
With a resigned smile, Giles had to agree.
Dawn was sitting on his bed talking to Andrew when Xander came out of the shower.
"Hey Dawnster, what's up? Did you escape the parting gift of yesterday's curse?"
Dawn looked up at him smiling brightly. "No, I got the Poison Ivy." She showed off her arms, which were still covered in a light pinkish rash. "I'm just not a big girl about it," she teased.
"Well, ah, obviously you didn't get got as bad as I did," Xander quickly covered. He was in fact feeling a lot less itchy than he had in the morning. Willow was indeed a witch doctor.
"And me," said Andrew. He was still lying in bed, his top half covered in the milky substance that had now dried to create a hard shell. "But this stuff is pretty cool; I have like an exo-skeleton." He grinned and rapped his knuckles against the stiff layer. It cracked and little creamy flecks flew up but it still made a knocking on wood sound.
"Hey, we should spray you green and you could be a teenage ninja turtle," Dawn laughed.
"Or he could be a teenage turtle," amended Xander while he looked though their wardrobe for some fresh clothes. "'Cause he's not so much with the ninja skills."
"I could so be a ninja," Andrew pouted.
Xander winked at Dawn, who smirked a little at Andrew then quickly turned it into a smile when he looked her way.
"So how was school? Did you meet any nice boys? And that answer had better be a no." Xander settled on a moss colored polo top and a pair of baggy black pants and disappeared into the bathroom to dress. He left the door open though, so he could hear Dawn's answer.
"I don't actually start school until next week, Xander. Today was just an excuse for Buffy and the new Principal to talk about me behind my back," she grumbled. "Actually I did. Meet a boy, that is."
Andrew sat up a little straighter, sending white flecks flying into the air and Xander called through from the bathroom. "Go on."
"Well there's not much to tell. Except the guy is a jerk, and he's got a stupid name. Sethos. He's from Egypt which I thought was really cool but he acted like it was just some boring dump of a place," Dawn said irritably.
"Yeah well you used to think that about Sunnydale, in fact we all did," Xander pointed out. "It's different when you live somewhere; the everyday becomes mundane."
"Yeah but who in their right mind would want to live in Sunnydale? Besides the evil population, obviously."
"Well no one now because it's a great big hole, but for that very reason I bet when you start school Monday and tell everyone where you're from, they'll think you're pretty cool. Sunnydale is bigger news than Area 51 at the moment. I say cash in on it." Xander re-emerged from the bathroom.
Dawn couldn't help but think he looked good. He certainly wasn't her type anymore, at least that's what she told herself when she saw him looking so good and, she noticed as he collected his watch from the side of his bed, smelling this good.
She shook the thoughts away and looked over at Andrew to distract her, he was picking away at the milky flecks. Yep, she always had Andrew to flush away the last of any tingly feelings.
Andrew noticed her watching and blushed. "I'm just gonna take a shower, wash this off." He told her before getting out of bed and going into the bathroom.
Seeing Andrew in his Spiderman pyjama pants just wasn't the same. She smiled at herself then realized that Xander was pulling on his shoes.
"You going somewhere?" She asked.
"Uh huh. I'm going down to the tavern. Meet some people, maybe purchase a beer or two."
"On your own?" Dawn wrinkled her nose.
"Well I would take you, but I want to check the place out first. Do a taste test for evil beer; make sure the patrons aren't trolls or whatever. You can come next time," he promised.
"Well thanks, that's cool, but what I really meant is it safe for you? You got beaten up yesterday by a gang of children. Think of what their parents could do."
"I'll be fine Dawnie, that was just some freak misunderstanding. Besides, I've been down to Barnies before. It's okay, not the cool sophistication that was the Bronze, I'll grant you, but friendly enough."
He gave Dawn a smile and left the room. She followed after him.
"I'll grab something from the bar menu while I'm there, so that's one less meal to cook too." He was coming down the back stairs to the kitchen as he said that and Willow heard him.
"Grab what from what?" She asked looking up.
"Food, Barnies." He filled in the blanks and grabbed the car keys from the counter.
"You're going there tonight? You can't, we're going out on patrol," she told him, standing and moving between him and the back door.
He tapped his eye patch. "Me not so good with the patrolling anymore. I get blind-sided I'm just one more thing you have to worry about."
"That's not true, Xander. You are still every bit as helpful as you were before," Giles told him gravely.
Xander chuckled. "And I wasn't no great shakes before. Look, you guys can handle this, I'm going out."
He tried to walk around Willow but she side-stepped keeping between him and the door.
"Xander, what ever you were before, you never deserted us when we needed you," she tried the guilt card, but he was ready for it.
"Still not." He took his cell phone out of his pocket and held it up. "You need me, hit the button and I'll come running." He put the phone away again.
"You'll come staggering more like," said Kennedy unkindly.
Xander pretended like he didn't hear, but his face tightened.
"I'm taking the jeep, you can the have the car for patrol, it's quieter." He turned then and left the room. After a few seconds they heard the front door slam.
"Congratulations Kennedy," said Dawn, sarcastically.
"If I said something you guys weren't thinking then I'll go after him and apologize right now," said the Slayer.
No one spoke.
"Right then, in that case, can we talk about more important things? Like the fact that you guys don't have to patrol, that's my job."
"I'm going with you." Willow's resolve face was firmly on. "I have experience with Werewolves." She looked at Giles quickly then back to her girlfriend. "You haven't. We go together."
"I agree," Giles said. "I think the three of us should . . ."
"I'm going," Dawn said immediately.
"No you're not," said Giles just as quickly.
"No Giles, I am. I've been through my share of badness with you guys and that doesn't go away just because we've moved to an all new Hellmouth. I have skills, utilize me."
Giles cleaned his glasses wearily. Would his days of arguing futilely with the Summers' sisters ever end? He smiled; would he want it to? "Okay Dawn, but someone has to stay at the house."
"I don't think Alison should go out so soon, I know she's almost healed completely, but what's the good of having all these Slayer's if we can't substitute when we need to," Willow said.
"Andrew could stay with her. Then there's two people here to guard the homestead," Dawn added her suggestion.
Kennedy looked from one to the other as they spoke. Everything they said made sense but still . . .
"Well I think that's settled then. Alison will stay home and take it easy and Andrew can keep her company. The four of us will patrol accompanied by Miranda and Cici. The routine patrolling will be good for their training," Giles surmised.
"If we find the Werewolves, it may not be very routine," said Willow.
"Well I think there are enough of us to keep them safe should need be." Giles looked to Kennedy. "What time would you like to leave?"
"I'm just the Slayer, why ask me?" She huffed, and then relented when she saw their rueful expressions. "We'll get into town before dusk. They were on the main street last night. I guess we should start there."
Buffy got out of the cab with her bag and handed the money through the drivers open window. She turned as the cab pulled off to look up at the hotel. She'd stayed here for six weeks after the big battle, but it didn't feel like home. Nowhere did anymore. Most of those six weeks had passed in a blur of tears and staring competitions with the ceiling. Now she was about to face the cause of all that and she still didn't know whether she wanted to hug her or hurt her. With a sigh she passed through the front doors of the Hyperion.
Lorne was in the lobby alone, on the phone behind the front desk. He gave her a big welcoming smile and a wave when he saw her; she gave him a half smile back and he mouthed "Won't be a minute," before speaking into the phone again.
She dropped her bag onto the floor and stood impatiently tapping her feet and wondering if anyone else was around. She'd just spent three hours on a plane with screaming children and smarmy business men. She'd had the pleasure of sitting between one of each and her fingers hurt from hanging on to her seat. Not to mention the time difference; she'd left Cleveland at twelve-thirty and she'd arrived in Los Angeles at twelve thirty. She knew it wasn't exactly light years she traveled but it was irritating her none the less, making her feel out of whack. So she wasn't feeling really friendly and she wanted someone to vent on, but she didn't want that to be Lorne. The green-skinned Demon was too sweet; it would be like kicking a puppy, or Tara. He reminded her of Clem, but even Clem had more of an edge when it came to kitten poker.
Lorne was finally done on the phone and sashayed over to give the Slayer a hug. "You look great," he told her before pulling back to look at her properly, then frowned. "Except for the bags under your eyes that could accommodate even Cordy's wardrobe, may she sleep peacefully and wake up soon," he added.
"How is she?" Buffy asked him politely.
"Oh no change, but Cordelia's a fighter."
"She is." She allowed herself to smile.
Lorne led her by the arm to the central seating area. "So to what do we owe the pleasure? I don't remember Angel saying you were coming." He sat down next to her.
Her face turned cold again. "He doesn't know. At least not unless anyone has phoned to warn him."
"Ah, you know then." Lorne stood up slowly, scared to make any sudden movements.
"And from that I guess you do too. Do you know where he is?"
"Well he's a busy man these days. Big chief of Wolfram and Hart, he doesn't get a lot of chance to just kick back and relax, Sweetie."
Buffy stood up fast and Lorne back-stepped before he could stop himself.
"Just tell me where I can find him. Or Gunn; Giles said he's acting as her lawyer. I need one of them to get me in to see her."
"Well Crumb-cake, I don't know if that will be possible."
"Why not?" She asked vehemently.
"Uh, because it's a prison. They don't just let you walk in any old time you like. They have rules about visits and red tape, who ever knew how much red tape existed. Oh don't mind me; it's just who knew running a department of the biggest law firm in the universe would be so time consuming?" He saw she was about to shout at him and he pulled out his cell and snapped it open with the flick of a wrist. ". . . I'll give the big guy a call."
Lorne turned around and paced back to the desk while he waited for the other end to be picked up.
"Ah Angel buddy, it's me Lorne. I think you need to get back to the hotel. We have a visitor . . . No it really can't wait . . . Forget about the meeting with the Hairst'ka Prince; I know him, I'll send him a Tina Turner signed photo and he'll sign his grandspawn over to you, trust me this is more important . . . Hey!"
Buffy snatched the phone and spoke quickly. "Angel, it's me. Now we can do this the easy way or the hard way. The easy way is you and Gunn getting back here right now . . . Okay then we'll do it the hard way, I'm just gonna send Lorne out to buy some lozenges 'cause you know how sore my throat gets when I just won't stop yelling . . . Okay then I'll come to Wolfram and Hart . . . Why? Angel why don't you want me to see where you work? . . . What are you trying to hide from me now? . . . God, you're impossible, I'm coming over." She flipped Lorne's phone shut and handed it back to the uncomfortable looking demon. "Can you take me over there please?" She asked him sweetly.
"I guess." He gave her an unsure smile, donned a hat and trench coat and led the way out of the hotel.
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