Disclaimer: As far as this fic goes, everything of the Buffyverse belongs to Joss Whedon/Mutant Enemy, everything else is mine and/or Eva's.
Historical Note: This fic is vaguely based on the same premise as Slayer Academy, but it's set in an alternate universe and the Scooby/Fang Gang-ers are the students rather than the teachers. I felt like this was a much better way to explore the idea of a school for Slayers (and various other supernatural beings), and would allow for a more interesting storyline. So, although it does borrow some pairings/events from BtVS and I've tried to preserve the characters and their various traits as much as possible, it's almost completely AU.
More Disclaimer-Type Notes: The idea of Buffy being sent London for finishing school and ending up in a training centre run by the Watchers' Council instead was purely my friend Eva's, as were the Dreams, so all credit for that (and the first half of Chapter I) to her. It's also her fault that the title is in French.
Chapter I: Firelight And Photographs
The firelight played gently over the room, throwing curves and angles into relief and blurring all else into soft, forgiving shadows, discreetly covering all the mundane aspects of the room in darkness so that her entire focus was held and caught by the man standing before her. She barely even dared to breathe. Her heart fluttered like a caged bird within her, incessantly, desperately, and the part of her mind which was not wholly mesmerized by his presence was vaguely alarmed by its rapid-fire thudding.
It wasn't the first night that she dreamt of him.
He held out his hand – palm upwards, darker lines in ivory skin clearly visible despite the softening effect of the golden firelight – and she gave him hers, hoping that he wouldn't notice how violently it trembled. He stroked her slight, slender fingers with his stronger ones. She was aware, dimly, that his skin was colder than hers, but it was completely drowned in her awareness of his touch and had his skin been made of pure, icy metal she could not have cared less.
She was surprised by his gentleness. She had no reason to expect anything else – but then again she had no reason to expect anything at all from him, this intimate stranger who may well only be an unusually vivid figment of her imagination. Even as he bent his head to brush his lips with immeasurable tenderness across the skin on the back of her hand, she wondered that her own mind could have produced this exquisite vision when she was so little acquainted with men. Overprotected her entire life, she had never even been kissed.
He drew her towards him slowly until there was barely an inch of space between their bodies and she stood looking up into his face, trying to remind herself to breathe. She couldn't conquer the trembling of her suddenly weakened limbs or the fierce, tingling sensation that seemed to originate within the very core of her being and work its way throughout her entire body, one nerve at a time. She wanted him to kiss her so desperately that it made her realize that she had never really known the meaning of 'wanting' before. Or of 'agony'.
But he didn't. His gaze sought and found every detail of her face – every curve and ridge, every near-imperceptible variation in skin tone, every single eyelash – and somehow she knew he was looking for something. She found herself wishing that she was more beautiful, nearer to perfection. What if he was judging her and found her lacking? The wish to please and the fear of not doing so almost led her to attempt to place a kiss on his beautiful, silent mouth, but the expression in his eyes stopped her. Not now, his eyes told her. Not yet.
She did not even have time to reply to this silent communication before the scene began slowly to dissolve and she was left freefalling through thick, silent darkness. And as she awoke, she could already feel the familiar dampness of tears on her cheeks.
"Buffy? Could you at least do me the courtesy of pretending to be listening to me?"
She roused herself enough to take in her father's mildly irritated tone, which was swiftly followed by the realization that she was sitting at the dinner table and had been staring into nothingness for at least ten minutes while her father attempted to speak to her.
"I – I'm sorry," she stuttered, turning to him. "What were you saying?"
Hank Summers looked closely at his daughter's face. "You know, that's the fourth time today you've completely ignored me."
"I'm sorry," she repeated, more earnestly. "I didn't mean to, it's just – that I've got a lot on my mind right now. You know, with school," she added, hoping that would be enough of an explanation.
"Nervous?" he asked sympathetically, and she nodded by way of reply. She thought it better to keep lies to a minimum, especially in dealing with her father. He had a knack for seeing right through her, although so far he hadn't been able to detect the cause of her strange behavior over the past few weeks.
And what she was agreeing to was partly true. When she wasn't busy with reliving her Dreams (that was the way she thought of the dreams involving the gorgeous stranger – with a capital D) she was feeling nervous at the prospect of moving to England, where she had recently been accepted into one of the most prestigious finishing schools in the country. The letter had come halfway through the summer holidays, and her anxiety had been growing steadily over the past month even with the major distraction of an imaginary nighttime lover.
"You shouldn't worry," her father told her, speaking a lot more confidently than she felt was justified. "You'll be fine."
At sixteen, Buffy had broken the record for youngest girl ever to graduate from high school in her school district – which wasn't saying much, since she had been home-schooled and her district was one of the smallest in Los Angeles – but it was enough to make her father proud. Rather than send her to college at such an early age, Hank opted to put her through finishing school instead, and a friend had helped him come into contact with the admissions office at the Warburton Finishing School in London. Money had never been a problem for the wealthy owner of Summers Shipping Inc. and he could well afford the school's exorbitant tuition fees. He only hoped it would be worth the expense.
"So, we should probably start drawing up a list of things you'll need to buy before…" Hank let the sentence die out when he realized that his daughter's pale green eyes weren't focused on him, or on anything else in the room. He sighed, deciding to be amused rather than annoyed. There one moment, gone the next.
Luckily, he never even came close to suspecting where she went.
"Is that the new girl?" The photo had clearly been taken from a distance, but its subject was still clearly visible. A petite girl with shoulder-length honey blonde hair stood in a sun-filled street, her head turned at a slight angle as though about to speak to someone. Small features in a heart-shaped face and a teasing smile lent her a mild but somehow remarkable degree of beauty.
Kendra Young leaned further over her friend's shoulder to get a better look, and her voice with its heavy Jamaican accent sounded faintly disapproving as she spoke. "Where did you find that photograph?"
Riley Finn leaned back in his chair, looking more pleased than ashamed, although there was a little of both in the smiling expression on his handsome face. "We-ell, we didn't exactly find it."
"More like stole it," Xander Harris supplied glibly. "I didn't do the stealing, though," he amended hurriedly as Kendra looked at him. "Nope, I was just the lookout man. That technically makes me an accomplice. Which is the closest thing a criminal can get to being innocent, if you think about it."
Daniel Osbourne, better known among his friends as Oz, shook his head without looking up from the guitar he was tuning. "One stern look and he confesses. I knew you wouldn't stand up to hardcore interrogation, man."
"That was the longest sentence I've heard you speak in a week," Xander shot back. "I say we celebrate."
"Yeah, I'm up for a decent wreck-all party." Faith Lehane stretched her arms over her head sinuously, grinning in Xander's direction. "It's been ages since we had some fun."
"By ages I suppose you mean two hours," Riley teased.
Faith laughed, shrugging. "Does it matter? All I know is, we're past due a little holiday. Mr. G's had me working my ass off this week. Don't know about Lady Two Shoes over there, but I'm tired of kicking the crap out of straw men. I want some real action."
"You know that the training is important," Kendra admonished. "We are not ready to face real vampires yet."
"Speak for yourself," Faith retorted. "I'm more than ready to introduce a few big bad uglies to the heel of my boot and a decent-sized stake."
"That kind of impetuousness would get you killed out in the field."
"Yeah, and saying 'impetuousness' out loud would get you killed anywhere else."
The two Slayers had both stood up without realizing it and were standing face-to-face, gearing up for another all-out verbal (and occasionally physical) battle, when the common room double doors opened and the rest of their group flocked inside.
"Goddess, what a day." Willow Rosenberg sank down thankfully in the nearest seat and sighed. "I don't think I've ever had to concentrate so hard on anything before in my life."
"Yes, but you overdid it," Tara Maclay pointed out mildly, sitting down next to her. "We were supposed to be levitating a pot plant," she explained as the others turned to look at them. "And, well … Willow set it on fire."
"I didn't mean to!" Willow protested, horrified by the thought that she might be mistaken for some sort of pyromaniac. "I was thinking float, not fire."
"I guess something must've got lost in translation," Cordelia Chase said, unscrewing her bottle of Perrier and taking a brief sip. She paused to consider for a moment. "Either that, or you're some sort of pyromaniac."
Willow looked miserable until Faith took pity on her and pointed out that "Being a pyro is way less lame than being a thief."
"And how many thieves do you know, exactly?" As he leaned forward and brushed some of his shoulder-length brown hair away from his face, Lindsey McDonald sounded genuinely interested, as though he wouldn't put it past Faith to be well acquainted with a secret ring of jewelry thieves. But then again, with Lindsey it was never easy to tell whether or not he was being serious.
"Well, the entire Wolfie group, for starters," Faith replied, jerking a thumb in the general direction of Riley, Xander and Oz. "They stole a photo of the new girl from…" She paused and turned to Xander, who looked briefly confused. "Um, I think she's from Los Angeles."
Faith rolled her eyes. "Where'd you steal the photo from?"
"Again, I wasn't doing any of the actual stealing per se, I was just –"
"Mr. Giles's office," Riley interrupted, foreseeing another never-ending Xander rant. "It was easy enough, seeing as how that thing he calls a door lock is like a hundred years old."
"Much like that thing he calls a face," Cordelia quipped. "I've never seen a man in more desperate need of serious amounts of Oil of Olay. I was going to give him some for his birthday, but then I figured he wouldn't want to be reminded that he's getting any older." She shrugged. "So I kept it."
"That was really sweet of you," Xander mocked. "And was this before or after you shoved Hansel and Gretel into the oven?"
"Actually, that works the other way around," Amy Madison informed him. "And we'd prefer it if you didn't refer to that kind of offensive stereotype about us."
"Ach, here we go again." Allen Francis Doyle rolled his eyes. "The witches and their quest for equal rights. Those stories were written an eon and a half ago, Madison. Would you just get over it?"
"No, I won't just get over it," Amy retorted, mimicking Doyle's Irish accent. "It may not be important to you, migraine boy, but it is to me."
"Migraine boy, eh? Now who's belittin' who?" Doyle asked triumphantly. "Maybe I should start up a little movement of my own – Respect The Psychics, or something."
"Okay, but I'm designing the T-shirts," Cordelia told him. "Seeing as how you're color blind and Lindsey insists on dressing like someone off of Boston Legal. Don't get me wrong," she said, turning to an amused Lindsey, "it makes you look way suave, but you've gotta mix it up once in a while."
"Oh, hey, I almost forgot to ask – what's her name?" Faith decided to ask Riley this time, if only to spare Xander another opportunity to ramble.
Riley still held the photo in his hand, having been unable to tear his eyes away from it for the past few minutes. He didn't even bother to look up now. "Buffy," he answered softly. "Her name is Buffy."
There was a slight pause following this announcement. And then Faith laughed.
"No, seriously – what's her name?"
Author's Note: Just to clarify, all the teenagers are around the same age (sixteen); Xander, Oz and Riley are werewolves; Amy, Tara and Willow are witches; Lindsey, Doyle and Cordelia are psychics and Kendra, Faith and Buffy are Slayers. Spike and Angel are of course going to join the fic lineup later on, as are Wesley and Lorne.