Title: Respecting the Enemy

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Rating: T

Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not. I claim nothing but the plot.

Prompt: tth100 #60, Lake

Summary: B:tVS, Lake Placid. Buffy takes the baby Slayers on a tour of natural predators. 700 words.

Spoilers: B:tVS post-"Chosen"; "Lake Placid" (1999)

Notes: Set in the same 'verse as my ficlet "Return to Lake Placid".

"Wow, look how huge it is!" one of the baby Slayers exclaimed, pressed up against the railing overlooking the enormous crocodile's enclosure.

Buffy wrinkled her nose in agreement. Aside from the late, unlamented Mayor Wilkins, it was probably the largest living creature she had ever laid eyes on up-close and personal. It was as wide as her car, long enough for six of her to lay down end for end from its snout to its tail, and its jaws looked big enough-- studded with teeth, jutting forward under lazy, flat eyes-- to swallow her whole. She'd hate to have been on the team sent to capture this thing.

She glanced at the informational plaque again and shuddered on behalf of the poor people at... Black Lake, in Maine? Who finds crocodiles, especially ones that big, in Maine? ...who had been responsible for bringing it in. Could there be some kind of mutation-causing supernatural hotspot in the area? She made a mental note to ask Giles.

Come to think of it, wasn't one of the older new Slayers living in that area? Kelly something, dating a Fish and Game warden? Buffy remembered her arriving at the "School for Gifted Women" in Cleveland with an attitude even more abrasive than Kennedy's, but once Giles had managed to convince her he was telling the truth, Kelly had taken to the training with an impressive amount of determination. Buffy had to wonder now if that wasn't because of some past incident that haunted her, something that had made her aware of just how fragile and powerless human beings really were.

"I wonder what they feed it," another of the girls said in an awed voice. She was twelve going on thirteen, like most of girls on this field trip, barely pubescent and still half-believing in her own immortality.

"Cows," a third giggled. "I heard the old lady out at Black Lake used to lead one down to the water and ring a dinner bell. But it got her husband once instead!"

"No way," the first girl breathed.

"Yes, way," the third confirmed. "I saw this special about Hector Cyr on Discovery last week, you know, that crazy guy who swims with crocodiles all over the world? He thinks they're gods or something, he should totally meet Illyria sometime. But anyway, he was there, and he told the reporter the whole story. There wasn't just one crocodile, either; there were two, and the other one killed, like, half-a-dozen people before the Fish and Game guys finally killed it."

Awed whispers and giggles floated around the group as the rest of the story was repeated and hashed over in detail.

Behind them, Buffy sighed. The whole idea of this Natural Predators Tour had been to impress some kind of respect on the more reckless younger girls for the power and strength they would eventually be pitted against, without exposing them to any serious danger. So far, it didn't seem to be working; they were amused, not humbled, by what they'd seen, just as they were with most of the other strange things they had encountered in their new lives.

The girls had long since relegated Spike to the category of "stuffed toy", for example, an attitude not helped by Illyria's possessive behavior toward the souled vampire. Illyria herself was too much like a slightly upgraded Slayer to be really impressive, and most of the friendly Council-employed demons, Clem included, had too much of the submissive in their body language to be even remotely scary. Buffy had been running out ideas before Xander and Andrew had come up with the current plan.

Hopefully, by the time she got back home, the boys would have figured something else out. Or maybe the scheduled fly-over of InGen's facility on Isla Sorna would do the trick. Buffy wasn't willing to throw these girls into battle to be hardened the way she'd been, not when they hadn't even finished growing yet and so many other, skilled Slayers were available. But something had to be done.

After all, Buffy hadn't fought the First and activated the Potentials just to prove the old Council right about how little the average Slayer was worth.