Spike took them to the meeting in his car, leaving early enough that they could show Mel some of the sights of Sunnydale. Said sights included the new high school which they assured her really was located over the actual hellmouth.
“But it’s way down in the old basement, and there’s a seal on it now. At least we think there is….” Buffy muttered under her breath, remembering that they hadn’t checked it for a while.
They rode past the Bronze, in which Mel seemed much more interested than she had the high school.
“So, it’s a club? With music? And you don’t have to be twenty-one to get in? Cool!”
After cruising past a few of the busier cemeteries, and laughing at Mel’s astonishment at how many there were in such a small city, they pulled into a parking place in front of the Magic Box.
“I wonder if Winnie has anything to do with parking always being available on meeting nights?” Spike wondered aloud as he held the door for the girls.
“Wonder all you want,” Winston said with a grin. “It’s a secret.” He raised his eyebrows as Mel entered the room, hiding somewhat timidly behind Buffy.
“Is this your guest?” Giles asked, giving Mel a warm, if puzzled, smile. “How do you do? I’m Rupert Giles, and you are?”
“I’m Melanie,” she said, shaking the hand he held out.
Buffy interrupted to say, “Mel was waiting on the sidewalk when we got home this afternoon. Her watcher sent her to me.” She put an arm around Mel and added, “He was killed by Bringers trying to get to her.”
“Oh dear,” Giles gasped, then pulled out a chair for Mel. “Please sit down and tell me about it. Who is-was your watcher? What was his name? When did this happen?”
Spike rolled his eyes and said, “Can you cool your research jets there for bit, Rupert? Let the poor chit meet Winnie, have some pizza, and relax for a few.” Without waiting for Giles to respond, he pointed to Winston, saying, “This is Winston. He’s not really a Scooby, but we let him hang out here because he’s a dab hand at magic and comes in handy sometimes.”
Winston favored Spike with a rude British gesture, but turned a warm smile on Mel.
“I’m pleased to meet you,” he said. “Although I’m sorry it is under such unfortunate circumstances. My sympathy for your loss.” As usual, his smooth charm worked its magic and Mel relaxed, eyeing the pizza that had just been delivered.
Over slices of pizza, Mel told Giles who her watcher was, where they’d been living, and agreed that there might be books worth securing in the house she’d left behind. She looked a little apprehensive at the idea of returning to the house containing what she expected would be her watcher’s body, and Giles reassured her.
“You can just give us the address and some directions if you think we’ll need them, and Buffy and Spike can make the run.” He glanced at Buffy and then Winston. “Perhaps Willow could accompany you. She’ll have a better idea which books will be the most valuable.”
Buffy shrugged. “Sure. If she wants to. She’ll be better at it than either one of us will.”
As had become their custom, Xander had brought both Willow and Anya in his car, picking them up at their respective abodes, to which he would be returning them at the end of the evening. He seemed to have resigned himself to losing Anya, although no one was sure if he actually knew she was dating Giles, which made for some awkward conversations from time to time. Buffy wondered, as she watched them all come in and find seats, whether he was just telling himself Anya just spent so much time with Giles because of the shop, or if he’d figured out that they were well on their way to being a couple.
They had no sooner arrived and been introduced to Mel, than Abby and her mother entered and introductions began again. As Lois prepared to leave, insisting that she’d just come in to say hello to everyone, Giles suggested she might want to join them for the meeting.
“She might want to, or you think you might need help to cope with two potentials?” Buffy asked with a snicker.
Lois glanced at Mel in surprise, studied her for moment, then nodded. She glanced at Buffy, who had told her about the possibility of there being more danger to Abby someday, without telling her why she knew those things.
“Is there something we need to know?” she asked.
“I’m afraid so,” Giles said, frowning at Buffy. “Please sit down and let us tell you about what Buffy—and Spike and Winston—have been able to do recently, and why it seems it was not enough.”
When everyone was seated again, except Spike, who was in his usual place leaning against a wall, Giles looked to Buffy for guidance.
“Do you want to talk about it, or shall I?”
To his surprise, Buffy asked him to take the lead. “Why don’t you do it? I can fill in if details are needed.”
“Very well. The bottom line is that we had information about a minion of the First Evil, who was killing girls in Los Angeles, including at least one potential slayer. Based on what Buffy and Spike have already told us about—”
He stopped, obviously realizing he was going to have to be careful how he explained why they knew as much as they did. He gave Buffy a brief glare as he understood why she’d let him do the talking, but she just grinned back at him and made “go on” motions with her hands.
“The point is, it appears that potentials are still being targeted, and that taking Caleb out of the equation, while very helpful, has not been the magic bullet we had hoped it might. We’re waiting for more information from both the Council and the Coven that Winston works with to find out if this is happening everywhere, or just in this part of the world. However, since Melanie here lived some distance away, it appears not to be limited to Los Angeles or Sunnydale.”
Lois raised her hand almost apologetically. “I suppose it’s none of my business, but I’m curious what you mean about ‘taking… Caleb?... out of the equation’? And, of course, I’m wondering what the rest of the equation looks like.”
“As yes. Excellent questions. Once we ascertained that Caleb was in fact doing the First Evil’s dirty work for him, and had a good idea where he probably was hiding, Buffy, Spike, and Winston drove to Los Angeles to meet a former watcher friend of ours. They found his hiding place, which, as we’d feared, was guarded by Bringers. While Spike and An-another souled vampire, and Wesley were fighting with the Bringers, Buffy approached Caleb and found that he’d already been given some extra strength by his alliance with the First Evil. However, with the help of her new weapon…”. He gestured at the scythe resting against the wall behind Buffy’s chair. “…she was able to defeat him and prevent him from being of any more assistance to the First.”
He beamed at Buffy proudly, causing her to blush lightly, and making Winston and Spike snicker.
Lois however, did not give up. “And by ‘defeat him’ you mean….”
Buffy stood up and held the scythe in one hand. “I slayed him,” she said firmly. “With this. It’s what works the best against the First’s minions. But Bringers can be killed other ways.” She sighed. “Right now, it looks like the First is still targeting potential slayers. It’s possible Mel will be the first of many to be sent to me to keep safe. I hope that’s not true, but if it is, we need to find a safe place for them to live. So far, I’ve only had to fight one Turok-han, and I had the scythe, so it was a lot easier than the—than it could have been.”
“Who or what is ‘the First’?” That question came from Mel, who was looking at all of them as if she had landed in a group of lunatics. “And why does he hate us?”
“The First Evil,” Giles explained. “Pure evil, that’s always been in existence. Just as there has always been Good to balance it and keep it from taking over the world. We’d hoped that balance was sufficient to keep it incorporeal and confined to the underworld, but it is beginning to seem that may not be the case.”
“Well why not? Why is Good falling down on the job? And what is ‘Good’ anyway?”
“We are,” Buffy snapped, pointing between herself and the two surprised girls. “Does ‘Heaven’s Chosen One’ ring a bell to either one of you? We’re the forces of good that stand against the evil things.”
The girls sat back, equally shocked expressions on their faces.
“You’re both potential slayers. You’re one mistake on my part away from maybe being the next Chosen One.” She ignored Spike’s growl behind her. “The more of you that get killed, the fewer there are left to fill my shoes. If the First is planning something big, the fewer possible replacements I have, the less it has to worry.”
There was a soft “Oh” from Abby, and a “Well that sucks!” from Mel.
“It does. But we’re a little bit ahead of the game now with Caleb gone, so with luck, we only have to worry about the Bringers trying to do the First’s dirty work.”
“What about ‘without luck’?” Lois asked shrewdly.
“Then I’ll—we’ll—have to fight some really nasty vampires. Which is doable with this.” She held the scythe over her head. “But even without it, they’re dustable, just a little—You know what? We’re not gonna worry about Turok-hans unless we have to.” She sat down and stopped speaking.
Giles sighed and said to the two wide-eyed girls and Lois, “I’ll give you a book with information on Turok-hans. As Buffy has indicated, if all goes well, that will be as close as you ever need to get.”
He turned back to Buffy. “Didn’t you mention another potential living in Sunnydale?”
“Yes, Amanda. Dawn knows her. I need to talk to her, and isn’t that going to be fun….”
“Why? Shouldn’t she be here, with us?” Abby looked bewildered.
Buffy sighed. “You two know what you are. Mel had a watcher, and you were raised by a well-trained former potential. You’re trained, and you know about vamps and demons and other evil things. Amanda has no idea….”
Willow interrupted. “Are you sure? I mean, yeah, she might not know what a slayer is or that she could be one, but if she grew up in Sunnydale, she might know something about vampires and demons. Even Xander and I were taught not to invite strangers in after dark. Although we didn’t really know why until we met you, I guess….” she finished in a mumble.
“That’s an excellent point, Willow.” Giles shifted his gaze back to Buffy. “She may be easier to talk to than you think. Particularly if she’s a friend of Dawn’s. No doubt she may have some idea what you are.”
Buffy made a face. “Yeah, Dawn’s probably bent her ear about what a pain it is to be the Slayer’s little sister. Okay, I’ll get with her soon.”
Breaking his normal silence, Spike said, “What do you want to do about Wood? Didn’t the Bit say he wants to meet you?”
“Wood? Isn’t that what we use for stakes?” Mel frowned at him.
Abby shook her head. “Do you mean our principal? He’s a Mr. Wood.”
“Yes, he is your principal. He’s also the son of a slayer who was raised by her watcher. And in—” She broke off before she could finish “in my time”.
“And he knows what Buffy is. What we don’t know, is if he knows he has some history with me. But he will know it, sooner or later.”
“The First!” Lois said, clearly remembering Buffy’s speech about the First and its ability to appear to you as anyone dead.
“Exactly. It got to him in—I mean—it could appear to him as his mum, and then he’d know….”
Mel’s eyes got big. “You killed his mother! You’re William the Bloody! I had to learn about you.”
Lois’s eyes got big as she obviously remembered her early training about the world’s most dangerous vampires. She stared from Spike to Buffy.
Spike was still looking at Mel. “Pretty sure the Slayer told you that when she introduced us, luv. Weren’t you paying attention?”
“Yes. No. I mean, I heard her say it, but I… It didn’t register.”
Buffy took over the conversation. “Okay, let’s get this over with. Yes, Spike is William the Bloody, who killed two slayers. One of them was a really long time ago when he hadn’t been a vampire very long, and the other one was still before any of us were born…. Well, maybe not Giles and Winston, but the rest of us. He was evil then. Now he isn’t. He has his soul back, which he went and got himself because he wanted to be a better man. But even before he got it, he was helping me and taking care of my sister, and—” She seemed to run out of air, and Winston broke into the silence.
“And we’ve all had years to get to know him and to understand how much he has changed from the demon he once was. Rupert and I, and Buffy, trust him completely.”
Spike slid his eyes to the side, to see Giles give a short nod. Buffy snorted at Spike’s obvious surprise and then gave Giles her own grateful smile.
“The point is,” Buffy continued, “that Robin Wood is sooner or later going to figure out that Spike is the vampire that killed his mother. And there’s a good chance he won’t take it well.”
“Which means,” Winston said with his usual tact and gentleness, “that at some point it may become necessary for everyone to help Spike watch his back.”
“Can’t he just stay away from Principal Wood?” Abby asked.
Buffy shook her head. “He already told Dawn he wants to meet me. I’m not planning to hide who I’m married to. And I think he’s too savvy not to realize Spike is a vamp pretty quickly. The issue will be if he can figure out which vamp Spike is. For all we know, her watcher might have told Robin who killed his mother, if he knew.” She raised an eyebrow at Spike, who shrugged.
“No idea, love. We fought more than once, so she could have talked to her watcher about me and he may have figured it out, but I don’t know. It’s not like we were formally introduced.”
“But if he doesn’t know, the First will make sure he does. It’s what he does. Gets into people’s heads by pretending to be somebody they trust, and tells them things that will make them doubt the people around them. So, just be aware of it, and suspicious of anyone you know is, or has been, dead. Including me,” she added for Mel’s benefit.
“So, what else do we need to worry about?” Willow got a grateful smile for her attempt to change the subject. “I’m going to go to Mel’s house to see what research books we might be able to use. Maybe Winston should help me because he’ll know even more.”
Giles, Spike, and Buffy all tried to hide the surprise they felt at hearing Willow ask for Winston’s help, but Winston just smiled and said, “It would be my pleasure. I’m even willing to drive.”
“And he can drive,” Willow added.
“Well if you both go, you probably won’t need us,” Buffy said. “Even if there are Bringers hanging around, you two can just set them on fire.”
“Yep. We can.” Willow smiled her agreement, and Buffy struggled not to roll her eyes.
“I suppose the next order of business is deciding where Mel is going to spend the night while we assess where she will live permanently,” Giles said. He’d barely stopped speaking before Lois spoke up.
“She’ll stay with us of course,” she said with finality. “I have plenty of room, and Abby would be happy to have the company.”
“Thank you, Lois,” Buffy said. “That’ll be great. Once we know if we’re going to have more girls showing up, we can start looking for a safe place that we can make into a dorm.”
“If you’re supposed to keep us safe, shouldn’t we be wherever you are?” Mel asked, smiling at Abby and her mother to show she appreciated their offer, but was concerned.
“If we have to go that route, we will,” Buffy said with a sigh. “But we’ve got more than a bit of magical muscle on our side, and I’m pretty sure whatever house we find to use can be protected from just about anything the First can throw at it, right, Winston?”
“I don’t doubt it,” he said with a nod.
“Well, if that’s all then, I guess we can call it a night. We’ll meet again once Winston and I have obtained more information from our various sources about the other potential slayers in the world.”
Willow, meanwhile, was talking to Mel about where her watcher’s home was located, and also what, if anything, Mel would like her to bring back from there in the way of clothes and keepsakes. Willow told Mel to make a list for her to take on the day trip to her former home.
As everyone began to head for the door and home, Anya announced that she had ‘business to discuss’ with Giles, and would be remaining behind.
“Somebody will give me a ride home, Xander. You and Willow can go on without me.”
Xander just snorted, “I’m sure somebody will,” he said under his breath as he held the door open for Willow.
There was a moment of silence after it closed behind them, then Spike said, “Don’t think you’re foolin’ anybody, Anyanka. Why don’t you just tell the poor sod that you’re seeing somebody else and make it a clean break?”
Why don’t you tell him? You’re friends now. You could do it.”
He glared at her. “Because it’s not my place. It’s yours. Man…er… woman up, and do it.”
Anya just gave an offended sniff and stomped back to the office area.
“Let’s go before you get yourself in trouble,” Buffy said, laughing. She began to tug him toward the door, then paused to say to Giles and Winston, “Give me a call if you learn anything important for me to know right away, okay? Either one of you.”
Neither man questioned her right to be giving them directions, just nodded and said their goodnights as Buffy and Spike went out the door together.