When Buffy and Spike went home from the meeting to change clothes before going on patrol, they saw Max just getting out of a taxi, and waited for him on the sidewalk.
He met them with a questioning look. “Good evening,” he said with a smile. “I hope the fact that you’re obviously waiting for me is due to your enjoyment of my company and not something more dire and less happy.”
Spike snorted, and Buffy looked embarrassed. “You know we love you, Max. Even if we didn’t have something to talk about, we would have waited for you.” She sighed. “But we do. I do, anyway.”
He waited with his usual patience.
“I guess I should have taken you with me to meet Sara after all,” she said finally. “I mean, not that you’d be meeting her meeting her, ‘cause you already know each other, but then she might have told me what she is sooner.”
“I had assumed that what she was, was retired,” he said with an apologetic sigh. “I honestly had no idea that the woman you were speaking of was my old friend. Not until the next time I spoke to her, and she told me she’d met you. It took no time at all to put two and two together, and I’ll admit to being quite appalled at myself for not realizing it when you first talked about her. I should have realized, but she rarely talks about her status as a Guardian, and with you not knowing anything about them….” He smiled again. “I promise we weren’t trying to hide anything from you.”
“It’s okay. We were just surprised… and so was Winston.”
“Ah yes. Well, as close as Winston and I seem to have become once again, he’s really become closer to you and your friends, and hasn’t had any reason to meet many of mine. The fact that there was a retired Guardian living in Sunnydale has simply never come up.” He sighed softly and shook his head. “I’m assuming that ‘retired’ is no longer the proper word to use?”
“I guess not. I mean, she helped me get my scythe, so I knew something was up, and now she’s gonna let the potentials stay at her house….”
“For which I must remember to thank her,” Max said, almost under his breath. But Spike heard him.
“No worries, Landlord. We’d already decided we couldn’t inflict them on you.” He grinned at Max’s embarrassed expression.
“And that level of thoughtfulness is why you remain my favorite tenants,” he said. “Now, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll take my crotchety old self to bed. You two, I presume, are just beginning your evening?”
“Kinda, yeah? We’re gonna patrol and see what we can scare up.”
“Well good hunting. As always, let me know if there’s anything I can do.”
“Just keep your head down,” Spike said.
“I’m actually quite skilled at that,” Max replied as went up the stairs to the front door.
Buffy frowned as she watched him unlock the door using a normal key.
“I wonder why he doesn’t just use magic like Winston does?”
“No sense upsetting his other tenants,” Spike said. “They don’t have their own outside doors like we do. I think some of them enter through the office.”
“Hmmm. I guess so, now that I think about it. I’ve seen some of them going in and out. I just expect most of them to use the back door where they park their cars.” As she spoke, they walked around and down to their own door.
“Most do. But probably not everybody. Don’t know that they all have cars—” He grinned at Buffy’s shocked expression that someone could live in southern California and not own a car. “If they live on the main floor, it’s probably just as easy to walk up those few steps and down the hall to their apartments as it is to come in the back.”
Buffy acknowledged his grin and raised eyebrow by muttering, “I’m an exception. And everybody thinks I’m weird anyway.” She went back to her original point. “But we’ve seen him put spells on the front door.”
“Have. But we don’t know what those spells did, do we? For all we know, they didn’t apply to anyone living here.”
“Good point. Okay, I’m just gonna change, and then we can go kill things.”
“That’s my girl.”
Buffy rolled her eyes and went into the bedroom to get some older clothes on.
As they were leaving Restfield, Spike stopped, put his hand on her arm, and frowned toward the gate.
Heartbeat. Not yours. And somethin’… else.
Moving silently, they crept closer, finding Robin Wood in deep conversation with Angel. Spike made no attempt to muffle his growl, but only Robin appeared to hear it. He whirled in their direction as they emerged from hiding and began stalking toward him and Angel.
“What did I tell you about listening to him?” Buffy demanded, walking right up to Angel and swinging her fist at his face. As she’d expected, he disappeared with a popping sound, leaving Robin staring mutely at the empty spot.
“But, he knows things!” Robin insisted. “Things about you, and about Spike. Did you know your husband used to rape slayers before killing them?”
Spike’s snarl split the air, but Buffy put a restraining hand on his arm.
“That was Angel who did things like that. Don’t forget, I’ve fought with Spike a lot. That’s the farthest thing from his mind when he’s fighting a slayer. Trust me. Spike is not a rapist. Angelus is—or was. And it doesn’t matter anyway, because you were listening to the First and it lies! When are you going to get that? It isn’t Snyder, or your mom, or Angel, or anybody else it might show up looking like. If you don’t want to believe me, try to touch it like I just did. You won’t be able to because it isn’t….” she hesitated.
“… corporeal. That’s all you need to do if you aren’t sure. Just try to touch it.”
They turned away, Buffy stomping off angrily, but Spike paused.
“You don’t have to like me,” he said. “Wouldn’t expect you to. But I can’t let you do anything that might hurt my wife.” His eyes flared yellow briefly. “Don’t try it.”
He joined Buffy who gave him an insincere glare as she scolded him for threatening Robin.
“Way to remind him of what you are,” she said.
“He knows what I am, Slayer. He just needed a reminder that you mean more to me than his need to believe everything he’s told.”
“I guess I’d better remind him that the First can look like either one of us too. I’m not sure that really registered when I was first telling him about it. He’s been pretty good about the girls, though. Not bugging me about the ones that aren’t in school or anything. Or asking for a lot of records we don’t have for some of them.”
“Can’t wait till he finds out you’re pulling them all out of school for a while,” Spike said with a laugh. “He really will believe that you’re a troublemaker then.”
Sara’s home proved to be easy to find, as it was in the same part of town as Angel’s abandoned mansion, as well as the former Mayor’s also abandoned home. On Sara’s street, however, the few widely spaced homes were all occupied and well-kept. As was the rather large one in which she lived. It had obviously been built with its use as a place for multiple women to live in mind, and Sara had simply closed off the unneeded rooms and made herself a lovely home in the main part of the house. The grounds were also extensive and beautifully landscaped, with a large lawn, ornamental shrubs and flowers, a vegetable garden, and a swimming pool below the patio just outside the back of the house.
The girls’ eyes lit up when they saw the pool, and it was obvious both Abby and Amanda wanted to live in the “Slayer House”. Lisa, who had driven the girls there, rolled her eyes and admitted defeat. “You can stay here for the rest of the fall, but once the First has been put out of our misery, you’re coming home, young lady. You have to finish school.”
In spite of Robin’s reservations about Spike and Buffy’s real motives, he had agreed to allow the potentials who were enrolled in his school to take a leave of absence for a few months. He’d even met briefly with Sara, who assured him she would see to their education along with their slayer training if he would provide the appropriate study plans and assignments. His only attempt to question her about how he could have grown up with a watcher and not have known of her existence was, “I am a Guardian, he was only a watcher,” in her haughtiest voice. Buffy’s had to turn away to hide her giggle at his shocked silence.
The girls had only been living there a few days when they had a chance to see the property’s defenses in action. A knife-wielding Bringer tried to stab Mel as she chased a soccer ball toward the edge of the property. He ran in her direction, knife raised, then suddenly was flung backwards and into the street. She stopped to watch as he got up and shook himself. When she just stood there, he ran at her again, only to be flung back into the street—this time right in front of a bus.
As the other girls ran up to see what was going on, they all watched the poor bus driver try to figure out not only what he’d hit, but if it was really dead or injured. When it began to crawl away, the Sunnydale born and bred driver just shrugged and got back on his bus. “Wasn’t human,” he said to the bewildered passengers as he pulled away.
“What the frilly heck was that?” Rosita’s question had them all turning to look at her.
“It was a Bringer. You know, those things that are trying to kill us?”
“I’ve never seen one,” she said with a shrug. “I was just told I had to stay here with Buffy because it was safer than home.” She frowned at the creature still moving slowly away. “That didn’t look very safe to me.”
“Well, considering that it couldn’t get to me, I’d say we’re pretty safe as long as we stay in here.” Mel shrugged off the close call. “Maybe we should ask Sara if we can keep some weapons outside—just in case we need to chase a ball into the street….”
“That’s an excellent idea, Mel.” Sara’s voice floated to them as she walked across the lawn to join the girls still staring at the bloody spot on the street. “I guess it’s time to open up the old armory and show you girls where it is.”
“We have an armory?”
“The Guardians have an armory,” Sara corrected. “You may choose some weapons from it to keep nearby. You’ll need them when your training continues, anyway.”
“Hey, most of us are trained,” Roxanne said. “We all had watchers except Amanda.” She smiled at Amanda to indicate that she wasn’t denigrating her background.
“A slayer’s training never stops,” Sara said, narrowing her eyes. “Why do you think you continue to have watchers even after you’ve been called? Why do you think Buffy, who has been the Slayer for many years, continues to consult with Mr. Giles? And none of you have ever faced a real vampire or demon, so you will definitely need practice there.”
Mel spoke up. “I just faced some kind of demon-thing.”
“You didn’t have to face it. The wonderful and powerful wards on this house and property took care of it for you. That, obviously, will not happen when you are elsewhere. There are very few places in Sunnydale as safe as this.”
“Why don’t we all just stay in the safe places until the First gets bored and goes away?”
“We can only wish that will happen,” Sara sighed. “But we need to be prepared if it doesn’t.”
Sara sat on her patio, relaxing with Willow, while Buffy demonstrated sword work for the girls, and ran them through some exercises to practice before the evening.
“She’s quite good at this, isn’t she?” Sara said, watching with a critical eye.
“She’s been here before,” Willow responded. “In her time, she had like… I dunno, twenty or thirty girls? Maybe not that many. But a lot. And she had to get them ready to fight Turok-Hans. She’ll be taking them out to slay regular vamps pretty soon.”
“Is that safe? They don’t have any powers yet.”
“They won’t be alone. Buffy and Spike will be with them, and I’ll be there too. And there are six of them now. Seven if you include Dawn…”
“Ah yes, Dawn. I suppose it’s a good idea for her to get the same training, although her talents will certainly lie in another direction.”
“What other direction? I mean, yeah, her blood could have opened Glory’s portal, but it didn’t, so that’s that, right?”
“Possibly.” Sara sipped her iced tea and didn’t say anything else about Dawn. She set her glass down and smiled at Willow.
“And what about you? Have you given any more thought to becoming a Guardian?”
Willow squirmed uncomfortably. “You know I like the idea. I mean as soon as I heard about the Guardian in Buffy’s time, I thought, how cool would it be to do something like that…. well, not the neck broken by crazy, eviled-up preacher, but you know, alive and knowing secrets about slayers. But, the thing is, I… I like doing magic. And now that I can control myself, it seems like I should be using my magic to help. You know, like Winston does. In Buffy’s time, I was the head of the magic department in the new Council.”
She looked at Sara apologetically. “Not that what you do isn’t totally awesome, but—”
Willow blinked when Sara waved her hand and created a bubble in which they could see the Magic Box and Giles and Anya in deep conversation. When Giles glanced around the empty store and then kissed Anya, Sara said, “Oops!” and flicked the scene away.
“That’s what I get for trying to be clever instead of just telling you that magic and being a Guardian are not mutually exclusive. In fact, some knowledge of and talent for magic is an important component of the job.”
“Huh. I didn’t think of that,” Willow said. “Those dresses you sold us for the wedding felt like magic.”
Sara laughed softly. “No doubt they did, but only the Slayer’s dress and shoes had any sort of enchantments on them. Yours and Dawn’s were simply very well-tailored and of very fine fabric. Nothing that can’t be bought with money, if one knows where to look.”
“Well, if the coven doesn’t get blown up, I guess I won’t be the person in charge of magic this time around, so I’ll have to think about it a little harder. Maybe I can hang out here and learn more about being a Guardian?”
“Absolutely you can. In fact, I have a rather extensive library that includes a lot of history about Slayers and Guardians, and also some books with spells that can be useful to someone who is trying to keep safe a young girl whose job puts her in danger every night. You’re welcome to come here and use the library any time you’d like.”
Willow’s eyes lit up. “A library? Oh, that would be wonderful. Giles will be so jealous!”
After another week of relative quiet, and the arrival of a few more slayers, including, Buffy wasn’t thrilled to see, Kennedy, there was a flurry of activity and information that required a full meeting. Winston had information from his friends in the Coven, and Giles and Wesley had been reaching out to friends at the Council.
Due to both the number of potentials who now needed to be protected, as well as Sara’s growing involvement in the regular discussions about what was happening, the meeting was being held in the large common area of the Guardian’s home. Giles, Winston, Buffy, Xander, Willow, Anya, Lisa, and Sara were sitting in a loose half-circle facing the potentials who were either sitting on the floor or sprawling across the small sofas and chairs in the room. Spike was leaning against a wall, almost blending into it. Dawn was seated with the other girls, seemingly quite comfortable at being treated as one of them. She hadn’t yet talked with Sara, who assured her there was no rush, and she should continue to train with the potentials.
Buffy started the meeting off by making sure everyone had met. She had to introduce Xander and Anya as the newer arrivals hadn’t met them yet. Winston got a lot of curious stares as he was introduced simple as “part of the team”, at which Spike snorted, bringing attention back to him. Buffy watched as Kennedy narrowed her eyes at him, obviously studying him intently.
“What did you say his name was?” she asked, pointing at Spike who had straightened up and was holding her hostile gaze with his own chilly eyes.
“I didn’t say, Kennedy,” Buffy said. “But since you asked so nicely, this is my husband Spike. Also known as William the Bloody. And yes, he is a vampire. However, he has his soul and is perfectly safe to be around.”
Behind her back, Spike let his eyes flicker to amber and his fangs drop just a little as he held Kennedy’s glare. His attempt to rattle her cage failed when Dawn stood up and threw a decorative pillow at him. “Behave yourself!” she said, and sat back down.
“You’re no fun, Bit,” he growled, relaxing his face and posture, and smiling at the giggles from the girls who’d known him longer.
“I could be, if you didn’t keep trying to scare off my boyfriends,” she huffed.
“If you two are through being childish…..” Buffy glared at Dawn and then turned to glare at Spike.
“Right you are, love. We need to behave. See that you remember that, Dawn.” He sniffed his disdain for her behavior, bringing on another flying pillow that hit him in the face.
“Do you both need time-outs?” Buffy’s voice had gone into her I’m-in-charge-here range, and they both subsided quickly.
She took a deep breath and continued: “Okay, here’s what we know so far. The Bringers are still trying to kill you, which makes me think the First is worried about all of you for some reason. As if you might somehow get your powers suddenly or something.” She was choosing her words carefully as she danced around the idea of what the future might hold. She made a mental note to include Lisa, at least, in those in the know about her and Spike. Telling the potentials still seemed like a very bad idea, as they really hadn’t had much of a chance to get to know them all yet. She knew Abby and Amanda could keep secrets, but had no idea about the other girls, or which ones might be susceptible to the First’s appearances as someone they knew.
“Not that you would, but there has to be a reason it’s so dead set—” Spike’s cough made her rephrase her comment. “… so determined to see that none of you live long enough to be called. So, caution is still the word of the day. You’re safe here, and I know it’s boring, but I can’t watch you 24/7. Once we’ve gone out a few nights, and you’ve got some actual fighting under your belts, you can probably start going out in small groups in the daytime. Just be sure you’re armed with something inconspicuous but lethal.”