After Willow’s return from her time with the coven, the main topic at the first full Scooby meeting was the fact that a potential had shown up in Sunnydale, where she’d almost been killed. Buffy had, of course, filled Giles in pretty well about the events in her time that had led to the her sharing the slayer powers with all the surviving potentials. And Winston, of course, was familiar with his own version of events. But many of the details were new to Xander, Anya, and Willow, and they reacted in their own ways.
“So, you were eating rats and hiding in the school basement, huh?” Xander said with a grin. “No wonder you didn’t share that with me.”
Spike just made a rude gesture at him and waited for the comments to end.
Anya had nodded wisely, saying, “The First Evil must still be trying to come up here. Maybe it wasn’t Willow’s spell that rattled its cage.”
“You mean it wasn’t my fault?” Willow looked disappointed and relieved at the same time.
“We don’t know,” Buffy said with a sigh. “But if someone or something is targeting potentials, we need to find out what it is and why.”
“Indeed we do,” Giles said. “I’ll start with the Council. Abby cannot be the only potential to be targeted.”
“She might be the first one—or the first one to be able to tell anyone about it.” Buffy sent Spike an apologetic smile. “I guess we should have tried harder to find out who in LA told those vamps about her.”
He shrugged, but looked embarrassed about his impetuous dusting of their only source of information. “In hindsight, I reckon I should have let him talk a bit longer. But he’d already said he didn’t know who was putting out the word in the vamp world there, just that it was the current exciting rumor.”
“But somebody had to know she was moving to Sunnydale,” Willow protested. “Maybe he could have said who that was.”
“Wesley!” Buffy blurted, having been lost in thought for a few seconds.
“You think Wesley sent vampires after her?” Giles’s wide eyes made everyone laugh.
Buffy shook her head.
“No. Of course not. I was just trying to think of how we could get some information from LA without actually, you know, going there, and I remembered Wes said to let him know if he could do anything for us.”
“That’s an excellent idea,” Giles said, his relief visible in the way his face and body relaxed. “He’ll know how to identify potential slayers, if he runs across any, and he’ll also be able to reach out to sources in the demon world. Shall I call him then, or will you do it?”
Buffy and Spike exchanged glances before she said, “I don’t see why we can’t do it. It’s a perfectly legitimate request to make, and has nothing to do with Angel, so there’s no reason for him to get nosy about it.”
“You know the big poof is going to think he should be the one looking into it, love.”
She frowned. “Yeah, I guess. But he also knows I don’t trust him and don’t want to talk to him, so he shouldn’t be surprised that we called Wes instead.” She bit her lip. “He might actually be able to help too—and as long as I don’t have to be the one to ask him for help, I don’t mind if Wes does.”
There were nods all around the table, with everyone being well aware of what Angel had done to earn Buffy’s distrust. His attempt to keep her attached to him via a weak claim made when she was unconscious, one she hadn’t been aware of until Spike’s more legitimate and accepted claim caused Angel’s to break, was old news by this time. They’d all had well over a full year to get used to Spike and Buffy’s vampire “marriage”, as well as the idea that a more traditional one was in the planning stages. So, while no one tried to encourage Buffy to speak directly to Angel, they also didn’t worry that allowing him to help with information might cause a problem for her.
“If Deadboy is smart, he’ll keep a low profile and just let the ex-watcher be the contact with us… you… I mean….”
“It’s “us”, Xan. If the First is trying to make an entrance, it’s going to be all hands on deck eventually.”
“It was bad, huh?” Willow said. “I mean, I know you’ve told us a lot about what happened, but—”
“It was bad. Badly bad. But if everybody was right about the reason I—we—were sent back here, it shouldn’t get to that point. It’s just kinda… disturbing… to know that potentials are being targeted, ‘cause that’s how it started in our time.”
“Not to mention,” Spike interrupted with a nod toward Winston. “We’ve got a bit more muscle on our side this time around. I suspect if the First tries to raise its ugly head, Winnie and Max will have a good time playing whack-a-mole with it.”
Winston grimaced, but nodded. “I expect we will be able to help considerably when it comes to keeping potentials safe, as well as with the Turok-hans.” He smiled tightly. “I’m actually somewhat looking forward to testing their supposed invulnerability.”
Spike shook his head with admiration. “Where were you when that ugly bugger was having fun torturing me?”
Buffy looked dismayed. “I got you out as soon as I could!” she said. “I had to kill him first, before I could rescue you.” She looked for a second as if she might cry, and Spike was on his knees in front of her before anyone saw him move.
“You did, love. Wasn’t criticizing you. You were your amazing and awesome self and rescued me as soon as you’d sent him to hell. Know that, love. I’m sorry. I was just runnin’ my mouth, and as usual, it said something stupid. Forgive me?”
It was obvious to everyone in the room when they switched to silent communication, and they all watched, while trying to appear not to, as Buffy and Spike had a short, but intense conversation.
I don’t have the words, sweetheart, Buffy, Slayer. I can’t tell you how sorry I am that I made you think for one second that I—
Buffy shook her head. You don’t have to use words, Spike. I can feel you, remember? And I’m fine. I know you didn’t mean that the way I took it. I just had a flashback to all the mistakes I made that year, and—
And not a one of those mistakes included me or anything you did for or with me. You saved the bloody world, again.
I think I had a little help from you… and a gaudy piece of jewelry.
She gave him a small smile, and he took her hand in his, raising it to his lips.
Are we good, then? He held her hand and planted kisses on her knuckles.
As good as we can be until we get home and you can make it up to me. The visual she sent him had him throwing his head back and laughing.
“You’ve got it, love. As much as you want.”
Still chuckling, he sent her his own warm visual as he went back to his seat.
Giles cleared his throat. “If that’s all settled, let’s get back to the subject. In addition to asking the Council about other potentials, is there anything else I might tell them?” He frowned when Winston, Spike, and Buffy exchanged glances.
“We don’t know, do we?” Spike said in disgust. “If you tell them their building might be blown up, with them in it, they’ll want to know how you know that. I think ‘William the Bloody is a seer isn’t going fly with them any better than it did with Oxford.”
“We could ask them to look into that disgusting preacher who was working for the First? We could just say we’d heard something about him?”
“That could be a starting point… I like it. Do you know his actual name?”
Buffy shrugged. “Maybe? He called himself Caleb, but no last name and who knows if that’s really it or he made it up? I don’t even know if he was ever even a real preacher or priest or whatever.” She sighed. “I guess that won’t help. Not unless he shows up and we can catch him trying to kill a girl.” She straightened up and frowned.
“Might be something else to share with Wes, Rupert,” Spike said. “I reckon you should be the one to call him. He can be on the lookout for anyone like that in LA. I doubt anything that bloody evil just all of a sudden popped up when the First needed him. Most likely, he was already killing girls before he got all magically boosted and went lookin’ for potential slayers.”
“All right. I’ll call Wesley tomorrow during business hours and ask him to look into any unusual deaths in the city involving young women and also to keep an eye out for any potentials.”
Giles paused. “It may become necessary to bring Angel into the fold, so to speak, if it turns out potentials are being hunted in Los Angeles. He can get out and try to identify where the instructions to hunt them are coming from, as well as how they are being identified.”
Buffy and Spike exchanged looks, and she shrugged, letting him respond.
“Being as we already had a girl attacked here in Sunnyhell by vamps that came from LA, it should be possible to let him know about that without telling him anything he doesn’t need to know about us. Old grandpa should be all over that one—keeping potentials safe in ‘his city’.” The quotation marks around “his city” were more than obvious and everyone laughed while Buffy rolled her eyes. She nodded in agreement, though.
“Yeah. As long as we don’t tell him how we know that’s what’s going on, it should be okay. Just tell him we know she came from LA and that the vamps were told she was a potential.”
“That should work. I’ll speak with Wesley in the morning.” Giles gazed around the table. “Is there anything else?”
“I looked at wedding dresses today,” Buffy said brightly.
“Anything slayer or evil-related,” Giles sighed.
“Well, the woman who owns the store might be evil…. at least she knows about evil things, and she knew who I was… and who I was marrying. And that we were already…. that thing that I won’t say.”
Both Giles and Spike frowned. “I can understand how she knew you,” Giles said. “You are, after all, the Slayer. And have been for many years now, but—”
“It’s not just that she knew I was the slayer and that I’m marrying Spike. I mean I know that’s not a big secret. But she knew we were…. mated….” She rolled her eyes at Spike’s grin. “And she kind of implied…. I don’t know. She just seemed to know stuff she probably shouldn’t, and she totally finessed me out of the store. I think she’s a demon. She said she wasn’t, just that she has customers that are, but I don’t think I believe her.”
“Might she be a witch?” Winston asked with his own little frown.
“I guess… yeah, that might make sense.” She narrowed her eyes at him. “She said she was older than she looked too…. I wonder if she’s like you and Max.”
Winston’s frown deepened. “That seems highly unlikely. Surely one of us would have felt that kind of power by now.” He shrugged. “I’ll ask Max about it. It’s possible he knows her and isn’t worried, so never mentioned her to me—anyone.” His expression made it clear he didn’t think much of that idea, and Buffy had to hide a smile while she nodded.
“Yeah. Okay. I’ll let you ask him about her and if he has any questions, he knows where to find me.”
In spite of her reservations, Buffy dutifully showed up at the wedding shop the next afternoon, shaking her head when Mrs. Johnson asked if Spike was planning to join them.
“No. He’s being a good sport about this whole wedding thing, but that doesn’t include participating in anything that doesn’t directly concern him. Apparently looking at wedding dresses didn’t make the list of things he cares about.”
Buffy made a face that she knew probably gave away more than she meant to about the conversation earlier in the day:
“Are you going to come with me later?”
A bleary-eyed Spike had peered at her from the bed. “To a dress shop?” He put the pillow over his head and went still.
“For a wedding dress. For our wedding.” She persisted.
“Am I gonna be wearing it?” he’d mumbled without taking the pillow off his face.
“Don’t be stupid,” she growled. “You should care what I wear.”
The reply was a loud snore, repeated often enough to send his response loud and clear.
“Fine!” she’d said as she slammed the apartment door. “Serves you right if I end up wearing something ugly!”
She plastered a more pleasant expression on her face and added, “What would he know anyway? He’s worn the same jeans and tee shirt since the night I met him.”
“Men,” Mrs. Johnson agreed with a laugh.
Her disposition somewhat improved by their shared low opinion of the male sex, Buffy looked curiously at the rack of dresses outside the dressing room. Mrs. Johnson gestured to it and said, “Why don’t you look through there and let me know which ones you think you might want to try on?”
Contrary to the lace and pearl-covered confections that the clerk had shown her yesterday, Buffy found nothing but tasteful and classic dresses and gowns on the rack.
“Wow. Where were these yesterday?”
“They were in the back, waiting for the right person to come along.” Mrs. Johnson smiled in satisfaction as Buffy went through the dresses, pausing occasionally to examine one more closely. When she’d been through the entire group at least twice, Buffy pulled out three different dresses and held them up.
“Ok, Mrs. Johnson, I’d like to try these on in my size.”
“Please call me Sarah, and they’re all your size, Buffy. I didn’t bother with anything that wouldn’t fit or look good on you.”
“Oh. Okay. Well, here we go!” She took one of the dresses into dressing room with her, while Sarah put the other two on the near end of the rack where she could reach them easily.
Buffy’s first choice to try on was a plain, but lovely, classic silk sheath. It clung to her body as if made for her, and made Buffy gasp. As much as she liked good clothes, and was now able to afford them, she’d never had anything that felt like it had been stitched onto her body. Even the long sleeves ended perfectly at her wrists and flowed smoothly off the shoulders of the dress. It almost appeared to be seamless.
“Oh my god!” she gasped. “This is it!”
Sarah laughed softly and suggested she try on the other two “just in case…”
Somewhat reluctantly, Buffy shimmied out of the one she was wearing and held it out the door. It was quickly replaced by another dress, this one somewhat more classically bridal seeming with its lace covered bodice and flowing sleeves. The skirt fell softly around Buffy’s knees and swished as she moved around trying to see it from all sides.
“This one is really pretty, but it looks a little too… I dunno. I don’t think it’s me. My mom would probably love it, but….”
“Let’s take a look at this one, then. Perhaps both you and your mother would be pleased…”
Sarah took the dress Buffy had just squirmed out of with one hand, while holding out the last of the three draped over her other arm. Buffy took it carefully, holding it up until she could slip it over her head. As was the first dress, this one, while gown-length, was also more of a sheath that molded itself to her body as far as her mid-thighs, then flowed gently to allow freedom of movement all the way down to where it just brushed the top of her bare feet. This dress also had long fitted sleeves, but unlike the first one, they were attached to the bodice in such a way as to leave her shoulders and décolletage bare.
Buffy smiled as she moved to and fro in front of the mirrors. She stepped out of the dressing room and twirled in front of a smiling Sarah Johnson.
“I think it’s fancy enough for Mom, but comfy enough for me.” She smiled at Sarah. “What do you think?”
“I think it looks like it was made for you,” Sarah said. “And with a lace veil, it should be sufficiently wedding appropriate for anyone.” She smiled again and walked to the back of the shop while Buffy strolled around the main area, enjoying the way the silk felt against her skin. She frowned when she realized that she could feel it so easily everywhere, and ran back to peer at herself in the mirror again. She expected to see her underwear showing through the delicate-feeling fabric, but there was no sign of panties to be seen, just a smooth line from head to toe. She frowned deeper as Sarah returned holding a beautiful lace veil.
“Why can’t I see my underwear?” Buffy asked. “Anything that feels this good is usually see-through.”
“Ah, you’ve caught me out,” Sarah sighed. “The dress is actually lined with a very delicate, but completely opaque kind of silk. It’s so soft and thin that you can’t feel it there, but it hides anything underneath it perfectly.”
Buffy’s frown didn’t go away, but it did soften. “Even a stake?”
Sarah sighed. “Yes, I suppose so. Surely you don’t intend to be armed at your own wedding?”
“I’m the Slayer,” Buffy said without further explanation.
“Yes. Yes you are.” Sarah sighed again. “And yes, the dress would hide a stake… or any other weapon you felt impelled to carry.”
“I guess a sword would be a little much….” Buffy muttered, mostly to herself as she turned back and forth in front of the mirror. She caught Sarah’s face from the corner of her eye and whirled to stare at the normally elegant and imperturbable woman. “Did you just roll your eyes at me?”
Sarah shook her head, obviously more at herself than Buffy. “I’m sorry. I probably did. My apologies, I’m usually more professional than that. It’s just that… you have chosen a lovely dress that allows you to move freely, you will be marrying the man you are already mated to for life who is, himself, a rather formidable fighter, and you will be surrounded by powerful magicians. Even on a Hellmouth, such a wedding is unlikely to require the bride to be armed with a sword.”
Buffy nodded. “Good points – all of them.” Her eyes narrowed. “And not necessarily things the average shop owner should know about me or my friends.”
“I am not the average shop owner,” Sarah said, having recovered her normal serene persona. “And you and your friends are not average citizens. You are quite well known in some circles.” When Buffy’s frown came back, she added gently, “Not all of them are potential enemies.”
Buffy studied the elegant woman in front of her briefly, mentally comparing her to the Guardian she’d met in her own time, then shook her head at herself.
“If you say so,” Buffy said, softening her suspicious glare to a more normal look of curiosity. “I don’t meet many people like that, unfortunately. It makes me…. something less crazy-sounding than paranoid…..”
“That innate wariness has undoubtedly contributed to keeping you alive all these years. I’m not offended.” She smiled her normal professional shopkeeper’s smile and said, “Shall I wrap this up for you, then? Or were you planning to wear it home?”
Buffy giggled in embarrassment just as her phone rang. She ran to the dressing room to retrieve it and began to shed the dress while she answered it.
“Yeah, Giles. What’s up?”
Sarah rescued the dress before Buffy could drop it to the floor, lifting it up as Buffy stepped out of it and whisking it away, leaving Buffy to take her call with some privacy.
“I’ve spoken to Wesley and I believe we need to talk about what he had to say. I’ve already rung up Spike and Winston and they are on the way here.”
“Okay. On my way.”
Buffy gave Sarah an apologetic shrug as she tugged her tee shirt over her head. “I’ve got to go. Can I come back to pick it up later? Or tomorrow?”
“No problem, Buffy. I’ll box it up and have it delivered to your home. Should I put a few veils in with it for you to choose from? You can return the ones you don’t need.”
“Yeah, that’d be great. Thanks!”
Buffy ran out without even realizing she hadn’t paid for anything or even asked the price, nor given Sarah her address.