Author's Note:I'm not going to do review replies anymore, since I seem to end up devoting most of them to defending what I've written and/or my opinions. I still want to thank everyone who took the time to review, though.
Chapter VIII: Friday Night Is Movie Night
"I don't give a damn about what she said!"
Buffy forced herself to calm down – or at least level her tone to something resembling calm. "You have no right to even touch any of those girls, Spike. She could have used every swearword in the book and you still wouldn't have that right."
"Stop emphasizing things, Slayer, I get the bloody point. So you're saying I should've just let her –"
"Yes! If you hadn't gotten involved, she'dbe the one dealing with the consequences right about now. And believe it or not, Dawn can fight her own battles."
"She shouldn't have to. Not yet."
"She's almost eighteen! She's been through, what, two or three apocalypses? She can handle a wannabe bully. I'm only going to say this once: unless you're showing them a new throw technique or whatever, I don't want to see the shadow of a finger anywhere near a student. Try it and you're out. Understood?"
"Aye aye, Fuhrer."
"What was that?"
"Nothing. Can I get back to doin' my job now?"
Buffy conquered the urge to reply and gestured silently at the door of the teachers' lounge. As soon as it had shut behind him she exhaled and collapsed onto the nearest sofa. Xander, who didn't have any classes scheduled for that period, handed her a mug of coffee and sat down next to her. "Bad day?"
"Bad week. Giles managed to convince the Harper woman to fly over to deliver her first report to him personally, but he says he can't get her replaced without ruffling some serious Council-y feathers. Illyria couldn't be more of a teaching disaster, so Angel might be handling all their classes on his own. I haven't been able to talk to Dawn since before term started, and…" Buffy very briefly considered telling him about the stomach-churning morning sickness she'd been experiencing lately. "And the housekeepers still haven't arrived," she finished.
"It could be worse," Xander pointed out darkly. "There could be more than one Harper running around."
"Harper twins?" Buffy shuddered. "Thanks a lot, Xan. There's enough nightmare fuel to keep me up for at least two nights."
"At least it'll keep your mind off other things for a while." He grinned. "And besides, you're taking all of this way too seriously. I mean, think about it. I'm co-Principal, right?" He paused long enough for her to agree. "So if anything goes wrong and, say, a mob of angry pitchfork-carrying parents decide to storm the school, they'll be out for my blood just as much as yours."
Buffy laughed, sending her mouthful of coffee down the wrong way. And oddly, despite the highly embarrassing coughing fit that followed, she felt a lot better. At least for a while.
"Focus." Willow sat cross-legged on one of the large cushions provided exclusively for her classroom, extending her arm until the palm of her hand was directly above the smooth, round stone she had placed on the floor. "Remember to keep your breathing regular."
Twelve girls from various age groups sat in a wide semi-circle, all adapting a pose more or less identical to Willow's. A few of them had initially closed their eyes, but she had reminded them gently that this wasn't a meditation class and they needed to keep their eyes open if they wanted to be in control of what they were doing. She had realized early on that most of these girls had never practiced magick before and some of them had some strange preconceptions of what it would be like. A common question during the first class had been, 'When do we get our wands?'
"Focus on that stone, and your breathing, and my voice. Nothing else matters. Now, bring it up to your hand." Willow lifted her own hand to demonstrate, and the girls watched as the stone rose slowly through the air.
Three of the girls succeeded easily in lifting their stones, five of them managed to move theirs but were unable to lift them from the floor, and four achieved no result at all. Willow smiled patiently and told them that telekinesis was one of the most difficult things they would have to learn.
"Spells are easier to perform, but they could get you in a lot more trouble as a novice," she explained. "Don't expect it to come all at once. It's kind of like learning to swim – you need to splash around and embarrass yourself in the shallow pool before you can go anywhere near the deep end."
The girls seemed to appreciate this, but she could still see a lot of disappointed faces as they filed out of the class. After the last one had left she was surprised to see Angel standing in the doorway. She greeted him with a smile, but he seemed nervous.
"Can I, uh, talk to you about something?"
She was even more surprised by this, but tried not to show it. "Yeah, sure. You can come in while I put this stuff away. Or not," she amended hurriedly, "if you'd rather, you know, talk somewhere else."
"No, this is fine." He paused to try to phrase his next sentence, but then decided to just plunge in. "I kind of need a favor. Or actually, I need you to ask Buffy for a favor, since you probably have more pull with her than I do."
"Oh no," Willow assured him, "you have plenty of pull. It's not like you're a stranger or anything."
Angel shifted uncomfortably. "No," he agreed slowly, "but the person I need the favor for kind of is. And… I'm not sure she'll be too happy about it."
"What – the favor or the fact that it's for a stranger?" Willow asked, confused.
Angel sighed. This wasn't going to be easy. "Both."
"Nacho cheese flavored Doritos?"
Oz picked up one of the many bowls crowded onto the living room coffee table. "Check."
Gunn put down the phone receiver and flashed a double thumbs-up. "On its way."
"M&M's? Popcorn? At least a dozen cold ones?"
"Check, check, and check." Buffy grinned. "And since that wraps up the entire list, can we please get started now? We've gotten through the first week of term without any accidental deaths, we should be celebrating already."
Xander gave her a stern look with his good eye over the edge of his clipboard. "You can't have a decent Horror Movie Night without the right equipment. That would be –"
"'Wrong on several different levels'," Faith mimicked, rolling her eyes. "We know, Xan-man. Let's get on with the heckling already."
"Hey, we're not just here to heckle," Xander protested. "We can all learn something from these movies."
"That a really high body count can't hide a tacky plotline?" Buffy said innocently.
"And that any honey who spends her time snackin' on newborns is bad news?" Gunn offered.
"Oh, and if a juniper bush starts doing some serious growlin', you should probably get rid of it," Faith added sagely.
"Night Of The Living Lawn Gnomes?" Oz asked, curious.
"Nope." Faith popped a handful of Skittles into her mouth. "Personal experience."
"A possessed garden plant? Really?" Buffy was impressed. "Don't think I've ever had to deal with anything quite that bizarre."
"Take that back, or I start listing 'em," Xander threatened. "In detail. Anyone want to hear about the giant-praying-mantis-disguised-as-a-teacher incident again?"
"Okay, okay." Buffy feigned alarm. "I take it back. Just don't go there."
"Is it just me, or is it really sad that we're spending a Friday night like this?" Gunn asked conversationally.
"Oh please, like Friday nights at old Wolfram and Hart were such frolickin' good times." Nobody had heard Spike enter the apartment, but after a brief pause Oz shifted on the couch to make room and Xander handed him a beer.
"Thanks, mate. What're we watching?"
"Stroke Of Midnight," Buffy told him. She sat on one of the armchairs with her legs tucked comfortably underneath her, and the look she gave him said she hadn't forgotten their earlier argument but she wasn't going to bring it up if he didn't.
He acknowledged this with the briefest of nods. Then he grinned. "Ah yes, that time-worn old classic. Wondering when you'd get round to that one."
"Quality viewing," Buffy agreed. "We definitely saved the best for … um, first."
"The first of many, hopefully."
Buffy snorted. "You're just saying that 'cause you're getting a free drink."
"More than one, love." He smiled. "And so what if I am? It's not like you're here because you're such a bloomin' big fan of –" He peered at the opening credits passing across the TV screen, "Candy Leblanc, Ace Blackfeather, Whitney Wilcox, or… Wait. Whitney Wilcox? Are they serious?"
"You got through Candy Leblanc without flinching, but you think Whitney Wilcox is messed up?" Xander smiled crookedly. "Let's hope you never have to name any kids, Spike."
"Hey, I could burden some poor little mite with a name as well as the next bloke," Spike protested. "Can't be too hard, they're doing it all the time."
"Could we please not discuss the possibility of Spike having kids? I'm getting nauseous over here." And to back up his point, Gunn was pulling a very realistic nauseous face.
"That's 'cause you just finished half the wontons on your own, you pig," Faith said, pelting him with her last few Skittles. "Besides, what you got against people having kids?"
"He wasn't talking about people, he was talking about Spike," Xander quipped. "And what, you get engaged and suddenly you wanna talk about kids? Isn't it little early to be getting all Mother Hen?"
Although she hadn't made any public announcements about it, the news that Faith was engaged was suddenly all over the school – not that she seemed to mind, even though students would come up and demand to see her ring on a regular basis, just so they could stand around oohing and aahing over it.
Faith shrugged, and to Xander's surprise her expression softened. "Can't blame a girl for planning the future. And it's not like I'd never thought about it before Robin proposed. It's a standard girl thing, wonderin' what your kids are gonna be like. Right, B?"
Buffy was staring vacantly at the screen, arms wrapped around her middle. "Hm?" Faith repeated what she had said and Buffy nodded slowly without turning from the screen. "Right," she agreed softly. Xander gave her a brief, searching glance and a slight frown crossed his features.
Thankfully, no one else had noticed anything.
Author's Note: I know Illyria's being kept in the background in this fic, but she's a difficult character to fit in, so she's probably going to stay there unless there's fighting to be done. Hopefully I'm not disappointing any big Illyria fans. :-P