In every generation, there is a Chosen One. She alone will stand against the Vampires, the Demons, and the Forces of Darkness. She is the Slayer.
Ian Stone walked up to the school. He was early, most of the faculty hadn't even woken up yet, he supposed. School wasn't supposed to start until eight thirty and dawn was still an hour away, but he'd come from the Isles and hadn't fully adjusted to the new time zone. He took a deep breath of the autumn air and found it lacking the invigorating chill of his native Ireland. Back home, the trees would be starting to change colors, here they were palms, green all year because it barely got below ten degrees centigrade, or 50 in the infernal Fahrenheit that Americans clung to like out-dated, worn-out socks. He sighed, slightly depressed that he'd never see his breath in this god-forsaken town, but he had a purpose here, and Ian had never let creature comforts sway him from his purpose.
He walked into the building, and as he made his way to the office with a box of personal items, he was pleased to see the repairs from the attack had been nearly completed, however, given the history of the high school and the town in general he wasn't really surprised the local contractors were good. He headed to his new office, hoping the things the weasel that formerly occupied it had left would be gone by now and he'd be able to really get things off to a good start. He arrived at the office he sighed; most of the former principal's stuff was still there. Didn't the man have a wife to clean up after him after he was killed? Then he remembered just whom he was replacing and shook his head, no that man had never known the touch of a woman, or at least a sane one. Ian suppressed a shudder at the thought and set the box down, and he started to settle in as best as he could.
The first thing he did was look at the student files, but he didn't just start in the A's, he went through them as if looking for a specific name, and he found it, and pulled the bulging folder out of the file and laid it on his desk. He began going through it the expression on his face growing more and more dark, once he was done his face was one of near pure rage. He closed up the file of Buffy Summers and put it back in the file drawer.
"Go on in, he's expecting you," the principal's secretary said. Buffy gave her a wan smile, and opened the door. She hadn't expected for there to be a new principal for months, but here he was, only three weeks after the possibly tragic death of Principal Snyder on Parent-Teacher Night. Her mother was starting to go back to regular-mom attitude, demon and vampire activity had begun to pick back up after St. Vigeous night, and now there was a new principal. She sighed, and turned the handle. The man was standing behind the desk, which had been cleared of all things Snyderish, even the blotter. There was a box of stuff in one of the chairs, and she schooled her curiosity enough to keep from peaking the instant she saw it.
The principal had his back turned to her, but she could see he had a full head of dark hair, with maybe a tinge of red, but it was brown. The sun shining brightly through the window did give it nice highlights though. He was well muscled under his suit, which seemed to be tailored to accentuate that fact. She shook her head, wondering how someone who was a principal at a high school could afford such a thing. Or if he could, why he would take a job as a principal. He turned to her, and she could see that he had been looking through a very familiar folder—hers. "Miss Summers," he said, and his deep voice had a rumbly quality that didn't quite fit with his body. His accent was thick, but she could still understand him. "Please, have a seat."
She sat glumly, and started, "Look, I know my file looks bad…"
"Bad? Bad, you say? It looks horrific. If I believed half of what was in there, I would say that you belonged in…what do they call it here, juvie? Yes. I believe that is it," he said, stroking his beard and sitting in the chair. He threw her file on to the desk. "Fortunately, I don't believe the rubbish this Snyder slime wrote about you. Well, some of it I believe. But selectively. You were kicked out of Hemery because the gymnasium burned down."
"Yeah, I guess it was kind of my fault," she said, twisting her hands in her lap nervously.
"I somehow doubt that. Arson doesn't seem to be one of your big ideals in life, Ducky."
She looked at him like he'd lost his mind somewhere in the middle of his sentence. "No, not really," she agreed finally.
"Nor does it seem to be getting your classmates killed. Despite the fact that six of your classmates have died since you came to this school, your class has the lowest mortality rate for this school in recent memory. In fact, the school's drop out rate due to death is lower overall by at least thirty percent in the last year."
She perked up at that one. "Really?"
"Really. No one bothers to tell you that you make a difference, do they?"
Caught, she looked at him with wide-eyed innocence. "What?"
"You used to be a very good student, well above average when you came here. I understand that you are only barely passing most of your classes so far this year. Snyder was keeping very close track of you, and I will be as well."
She hung her head, not sure whether she liked this new principal or not. "That's really…"
"Absolutely necessary. You are a very important young woman. If you need help in keeping up with your classes, let me know. I am here because I intend that you walk across that stage at graduation with everyone else. If you need help with that, we need to nip it in the bud, and you need to stay up with your classes. I will arrange tutors for you as necessary. All you have to do is ask."
"Ok," she said, wanting to believe that this guy really wanted to help her out. "That's really nice of you, sir."
"Ach, don't call me 'sir,' Ducky, this 'Principal Stone' bit is going to be hard enough as it is, I think," he looked at her for a moment. "Go on, get to class. Don't need you dilly-dallying and missing more than you already do. The secretary will write you an excuse."
He folded her file up, and she stood, "Two more things. If you've got to go mitching off, drop by and tell someone, eh, and when you see Mr. Giles ask him to stop by at his earliest convenience , please?"
She simply nodded, having really no idea what he was talking about. She stopped by the secretary's desk for her excuse, then headed to see Giles before she went to class.
"Buffy, good morning," he said, adjusting his glasses.
"We have a new principal," she told him. "And he talks funny."
"What do you mean?"
"He told me that I should drop by and tell someone before I go mitching off. I don't know what he means."
"Oh," Giles said, scratching the back of his neck. "I haven't heard that in a while. Is he British by any chance?"
"He's Irish, I think," she said, wrinkling her nose and hopping up onto the counter. "He said he wanted to talk to you. What does 'mitching off' mean?"
"Oh, playing truant, uh, skipping school."
"Why would he want me to tell him if I'm skipping school?" she asked, then she grew quiet for a moment then said, "That isn't the only thing that was weird about the conversation. He talked about the student mortality rate and how it dropped and he seemed to know I was responsible for it. Giles, could he know I'm the Slayer?"
"I suppose anything is possible. What else did he say?"
"That he intends to see me graduate, he offered to get me tutors or any help I required," she paused for a moment then continued. "Giles he's up to something, he has to be!"
"Now, now Buffy, calm down. It might be that he really wants to help. What is his name?"
"His name plate said Ian Stone," pronouncing Ian with a long 'I'.
Giles took his glasses off and cleaned them, looking thoughtful, "It's Ian, actually," he said absently, pronouncing Ian with a short 'I'. "Older gentleman?"
"No, I think he's younger than you are," Buffy said and tilted her head questioning the disappointed look on Giles face at the news.
"That eliminates that possibility, then," he said, sounding as disappointed as he looked.
"What's with the mopey?"
"Uh? Oh…I just thought for a second I might know him, but that was twenty years ago and if our new principal is as young as you say there is no way it could be him. You had better get on to class."
Ian Stone walked into the classroom. It was his first class in some time; the Watcher Council waxed and waned in their trust in him, but had never given him enough of it to let him out into the field. He'd been stuck in the library for a couple of centuries, and had taken the time to read almost every book there. It was an impressive feat, even for an Immortal.
He held his roll sheet up, starting to read off the names. It was a mixed class. The youngest was someone still in high school; their first class. The oldest was a recent appointee to the actual Council. Most of the students were trainee Watchers, but there were enough full-fledged Watchers that the class should prove quite interesting. "Merrick Flanders?"
"Present," said one of the fledgling Watchers. They had grouped together away from the full-fledged Watchers.
"Present," this from one of the older Watchers.
"Call me Ripper," said a bubblegum-chewing, leather-jacket clad angry teen in the front row. The previously called Alfred Giles scowled at the younger member of his family.
He nodded to 'Ripper' and went on with the roll.
After a few more names, all full-fledged Watchers, and boring to look at, he got to an interesting one, "Deirdre Page."
"Here," she waved at him. She was clad in the fashion of the time, which, in his mind, looked absolutely ridiculous. She was also firmly attached to the student he pegged as being the most problematic.
"Present," said a snippy little bird of a woman, who, despite her young appearance, was dressed in the manner that most of the full-fledged Watchers were.
"Present," said the gentleman he'd been told had recently been appointed to the Council.
A few more names rounded the class out to 20. It was a good number, and from the sound of it, he would be teaching another class after this one. Enrollment was always good when the Council deigned him worthy of imparting his knowledge on their young, impressionable members. "Alright, then," he said, "As I am sure you've been told when you were enrolling in this class, I am the Council's foremost expert on Slayer prophecy, and I'm here to tell you that we live in exciting times. There have been signs recently that the Council has sought for centuries. As you know, Slayers have their own form of prophecy, completely separate from prophecy about them, but that becomes intertwined in everything as well. We don't have many perfect seers around, ever, so when they come around, much of what they say is written down. In this class, we will be discussing what has been said, what has been extrapolated from what's been said, and where that ties in to what Slayer dreams have been enigmatically unfulfilled."
Ian was busy with the mundane tasks of running an American high school. He was astonished at the amount of freedom the Yanks gave their students, or maybe it was because it had been so long since he'd been a student that practices had changed. It wouldn't be the first time. One of the things he was doing was meeting with each student, in order of the thickness of their files. Partially he was doing this to make his meeting with Buffy not stand out, but secondly he really did want to make a difference for these kids. Every one of them had had a raw deal being born in Sunnydale.
There was a tap at his door, that startled him out of his reading and he said, "Enter," then smiled as the door opened, "Hello, Rupert."
Rupert hesitated, and Ian knew why. The only change in his physical appearance was the beard that he'd been growing over the last year. He sighed mentally, wondering how much longer he would have in his current persona. Not long, if the look on his old student's face was any judge. The windows were open, that was intentional, the sunlight streaming in happened to be hitting the bare flesh of his hands.
"What are you?" Giles asked.
"Please, come in, shut the door and sit down," he said. Giles shut the door and went over to a chair, but didn't sit. Ian sighed and continued. "I understand that you have the respect of a number of the students. I have heard nothing but praise for you as a helpful, caring member of this staff."
"Really? And to whom have you been speaking?"
"Oh, I thought I would start with the most…troubled students first. Buffy Summers has the thickest file I've ever seen for any student, even yours, and she's only been here a year. The file does not contain anything from her previous school other than her transcript, and a short description of the incident that got her expelled."
"Yes, Principal Snyder did not care for Buffy in the slightest, but why does she interest you so much?"
"She's the Slayer, there's more but it will have to wait for just a moment," Ian said.
"No, it won't wait for just a moment, I'm her Watcher…wait, the Council didn't send you to…?"
"No, no nothing like that, Rupert. The Council doesn't know I'm even here. I must say I'm in rather bad odor with them at the moment," Ian said, and allowed a small smile to come to his face at Giles' look of relief.
"Then why are you here? Buffy is obviously at the heart of whatever it is."
Ian sighed, this wasn't going the way he'd hoped, yet maybe this would be better, "Very well, it has to do with why I was sacked, Rupert."
"They sacked you? You were the foremost expert on Slayer prophecies!"
"I still am, and they sacked me because they are a bunch of pompous, sexists windbags that can't wipe themselves after taking a shit without feeling overly self-important about the matter," and Ian smiled as Giles stifled a chuckle. No he hadn't read Rupert Giles wrong at all, and was pleased that the last bit of capital he'd had with the Council had been so well spent in getting him named as Miss Summer's Watcher.
"Well, be that as it may, it doesn't explain what you are doing in Sunnydale, or why you haven't aged a day since I last saw you," Giles said after regaining his composure.
"Now back to the matter I wanted to deal with first. I need to tell you this, not because I really want to, but because you deserve an explanation as to why your old teacher isn't old and gray and ready to be put out to pasture. It should be self-evident that I happen to be immortal," Ian said.
"So you haven't aged in how long?" Giles asked.
"Since the Battle of Cúl Dreimhne in the Year of our Lord 561. I was twenty-one years old, or at least according to my parents I was 21. Records weren't the science they are today back then."
"What happened?" Giles asked, finally sitting down.
"Columba copied a book, the owner of the book didn't like it, and the High King agreed with the book's owner and three thousand strapping lads were slaughtered in what has to be the most senseless battle in the history of warfare. It was on the blood soaked ground of Cúl Dreimhne that I was first slain. I was with Columba's kin's forces. The battle lasted for hours and I very nearly survived, just as the fight was winding down I got pierced by a spear. It pierced my heart and I bled out very quickly. I was probably dead for three or four hours. Fortunately they hadn't gotten around to burying me before I woke up."
"That must have been awful," Giles said.
"At first I thought I was just lucky, then I found my family and they were so scared. My father held a cross up. He thought I was a vampire, of course…well it's a long story and we have more important things to talk about."
"Do you know how it happened?" Giles asked.
"No, I don't know why I can't die but I have yet to suffer an injury that I haven't fully recovered from. I don't even scar, yet I have to eat, breathe and everything else that comes with a mortal life, I also have all the benefits of a mortal life save one."
"What is that?" Giles asked.
"As far as I know I can never father children. I have been married three times in the fifteen hundred years I've been alive and never fathered one child."
"I'm sorry, Ian," Giles said.
"Don't, Rupert. I've made my peace with it a long time ago. I've adopted a number of times to fill that void."
"Yet all of your friends, lovers, everyone you've ever known…you're doomed to see them all grow old and frail and pass to dust while you remain young and strong. I can't imagine what that must be like."
"You can't, not unless you happen to live for fifteen hundred years. Yet there are benefits, I've done things, seen things that most men dare not even dream of. Especially in most of the eras I've lived in. Anyway, we have a Slayer to discuss," Ian said with a note of finality.
"Yes, of course. What is it about Buffy that you wish to discuss?"
"First I want to say I'm impressed with the job you've done with her. You haven't tried to toe the Council's line on Slayers with her and I think it shows. Secondly I want to break even more of the Council's rules with her, if you are agreeable."
"Just what did you have in mind?" Giles said, smiling a little at the praise, then as Ian explained just what he intended to do Giles smile faded and by the time Ian was finished his jaw was nearly in his lap.
It was lunch and Xander grabbed the least offensive looking option, and today that was a baked potato. The hamburgers didn't look bad either, so he grabbed one of those. A few condiments and he would be good. He looked around, finding his favorite redhead at a table by herself, and so he grabbed what he needed and headed over to sit by her.
"Hi," she said as she noticed him, smiling as he sat down.
"Hi. So you hear that we have a new principal?"
"Yeah," Buffy said as she sat down, "Mister weird."
"Uh, I heard his name was Mister Stone," Xander put in.
"Yeah, I met with him a little while ago," Willow said.
"I had a note to go see him waiting for me in my first class," Buffy groaned.
"Wow, so you got to see him before me," Will said. "He's kind of young, don't you think?"
"He kinda looks like he's just out of college," Buffy agreed.
"Whoa, our new principal is like only a few years older than us?" Xander asked.
"Yeah, but he was, like, obsessively weird," Buffy told him. "Let's talk about something else, though. What are you doing for Halloween?"
"Well, that depends, what are you doing, Buffy?" Will asked.
"Probably crashing with the staying in and stuff. Giles says that Halloween is really quiet. I don't even have to patrol."
"We should do something together," Will said.
"Yeah, like get together and watch really bad horror movies on TV at Will's house," Xander said.
"That could be fun, but I think my parents are having a party. Maybe Buffy's house?"
"I don't think Mom will be having a party, so maybe, I'll ask."
"So, about this new principal of ours, what's he like?"
"He seemed really nice to me. He just asked me a couple of questions, and, well, I sort of babbled," Willow said, ringing her hands.
"What did you say?" Buffy asked seriously, putting her hand on Willow's arm.
"I talked about Giles, he asked. and that was about it. Oh, and if I liked my classes."
"That was all?" Buffy asked, wrinkling her nose. "He didn't ask me anything."
"That's probably because he actually read your file before he met with you. He was kind of surprised that I was a good student," Will told them.
"Do you think he's going to be interested in talking to me?" Xander asked, horrified.
"Probably." Giles said, coming up behind them. " Mr. Stone is very thorough. A word, Buffy?"
"Hey, what's up, library man?" Xander asked.
"Oh, Principal Stone needs to talk to Buffy."
"Again?" Buffy asked.
"This should be the last time today, at least," Giles told them. Buffy rolled her eyes and got up, taking her sandwich with her.
"Thank you for coming down to see me Mrs. Summers, I know its short notice but I did want to discuss Buffy with you," Ian said.
"She's not in trouble is she?" Joyce almost groaned.
"No, of course not. Charming young lady as a matter a fact, definitely your influence no doubt. What gave you the idea…oh, yes…the incident at Hemery, rest assured Mrs. Summers that I will not judge Buffy on that incident unlike the self-important, odious toad Snyder. Forgive me. Characterizing him that way was out of line, and insulting to self-important odious toads."
"I'm relieved to hear that, Mr. Stone, and call me Joyce please," Joyce said, with a radiant smile and Ian felt his heart skip a beat at it. It occurred to him as she smiled she was a rather striking woman.
"Of course…Joyce. Now I did want to review a plan to keep Buffy up on her school work now that with the herculean efforts of both Miss Rosenberg and Buffy she is caught up on except for two classes," Ian said handing over Buffy's transcript to Joyce.
"I knew Willow was helping Buffy, but this is an amazing turn around for her," Joyce said, the smile warming.
"Even more so considering just how much class time she misses," Ian said.
"She's been missing class time?" Joyce said, the smile crashing.
"Yes, I'm afraid so. Not because she wants to miss it mind you, but because she has to," Ian said seriously.
"What do you mean has to? Is she involved in some extracurricular activity I don't know about?" Joyce asked, confused.
"What do you know about this school's mortality rate?" Ian asked.
"Never really thought about it, why? Is it higher than average?" Joyce asked.
"You could say that."
"How much higher?" Joyce asked.
"Sunnydale High had the highest student mortality rate of all high schools in the United States last year. Here are the statistics, of course feel free to double check the numbers yourself."
"What does this have to do with Buffy?" Joyce asked.
"Everything. These are the student mortality rates for this year, Joyce. They are a third lower than this time last year. Also look at the numbers from the time Buffy started attending Sunnydale High, there is a steep drop in student deaths starting practically from the day she started attending."
"What are you saying Mr. Stone?"
"Ian, please. What I'm saying Joyce is that Buffy has been instrumental in lowering those numbers. She's saving lives and that is why she misses classes," Ian said.
"Open House…the PCP gang? She helps stop them?" Joyce asked.
"That wasn't a gang on PCP. They were vampires," Ian said.
Joyce looked up as if she'd been slapped, "What did you say?"
"It might be best if Buffy was here for the rest of our conversation."
Giles wasn't sure that Buffy was entirely ready for what Ian was about to put her through, but with Ian backing him, it was possible that he could finally stand up to the Council where she was concerned.
The Council had not raised her from the time she was very young—as they had with so many other Slayers. They had identified her after she was called. It made her hard to work with, stubborn, untrusting of him and the motives of the Council, un-accepting of her destiny.
There was much that she was so unlike any other Slayer that he'd read about. "So what does he want to talk about that was important enough to interrupt lunch?"
"Oh. Principal Stone asked to see you. He thought it better to not pull you out of class again."
"Oh," she said, then after a pause, "But what does he want with me now?"
"Something about your duties and responsibilities, I think."
"Ok, wait. Did you talk to him?"
"Yes, of course I did. He's been part of the Watcher Council for some time."
"So he knows."
"And that's ok?"
"It's, well, he won't be giving you to the Vampires, at least."
"Do you trust him?"
"I have much to think about on that subject, but if he stays true to the plans for you he was telling me, then I think this will be a good thing, if such a thing ever happens on the Hellmouth."
"He has plans for me? Why do I get this sinking feeling at that thought?"
"Because you are a suspicious girl, a quality that has probably saved your life on numerous occasions and a trait I fully intend to foster. However, I think you overreacting in this case."
"But we are going to talk to him," she quickly stepped in front of him, stopping him. "Giles, this is a Bad Idea."
"Buffy, that is enough. At least give him a chance, will you?"
"Ok, I'll give him a chance. With luck he'll be eaten like the last two principals we've had," she said as she fell back into step with him.
"I'm sorry, I'll be good. I'll try to give him a chance. But if he turns into a giant bug or slimy thing can I kill him?"
"With my blessing," Giles said, sounding long suffering.
"Yay!" Buffy said, bouncing just a little, and a smile coming to her face for the first time since they had left the cafeteria. The smile disappeared when they opened the door to the office and Buffy saw her mother.
"Ah, good man, Rupert! Found our girl and brought her just in time. Capital, just capital." Mr. Stone said.
"Thank you, Ian. I do pride myself on my punctuality," Giles said.
"Glad to hear it, when you were in school, that wasn't quite the case if I remember," Mr. Stone said, and a chill ran down Buffy's spine.
"Mr. Giles used to teach you, Ian?" her mother said.
"No, Mrs. Summers. It was the other way around. Ian is older than he looks...much older," Giles said.
"Giles, what's going on? Why is my mother here?" Buffy asked, turning angrily on her Watcher.
"I think I can answer that, Buffy. I've been going over your history with your mother," Mr. Stone started.
"I knew it, I knew it. Your just like Snyder...no, your worse than Snyder. Snyder never pretended for one minute that he did anything but despise me. What is it with you guys anyway?"
Mr. Stone stared at Buffy for a few moments, seemingly at a loss of words, then said, "Well, Ducky...it seems Mr. Snyder earned his death in more ways than I even knew about for you to have this level of hostility. I wasn't talking about your grades, or what Mr. Snyder put into your file, most of which I believe to be Slayer-related or utter and complete bilge. What I was sharing with your mother was what we talked about at our first meeting," Mr. Stone said, sounding truly concerned.
Buffy hung her head and said, "I'm sorry...that was uncalled for and I...wait, you TOLD my MOTHER!" her eyes flashed with fire as she looked up at him.
"Not everything, or rather not yet. I wanted you here when we gave her the 'One girl in all the world' speech."
"What are you talking about, Ian?" her mother asked.
"Well…Buffy is…" Mr. Stone began but was cut off by Buffy.
"Please, let me tell her."
"Very well, Ducky. It is your destiny after all," Mr. Stone said, sounding—of all things—a little hurt. He sat down, settling back in his chair with his hands folded into his lap.
"Mom, remember back in L. A. when I started talking about vampires and everything?"
"No…not this again, Buffy. The doctors said you'd given up those fantasies," her mother said, sounding disappointed.
Buffy looked very hurt, crumpled, and Ian leaned forward, looking very directly at Joyce, "They aren't fantasies, Joyce," Mr. Stone said, suddenly sounding much older than he looked.
"You believe this, too?" her mother said.
"Yes, Mrs. Summers, he does because it's true," Giles spoke up, his voice soft.
Buffy knelt before her mother, "Mom, listen to me. I am the Vampire Slayer. The one girl in all the world..."
"I love this part," Mr. Stone said, then wilted as Buffy shot him a look, "Fine, fine, I'll be quiet."
"Thank you," Buffy said, rolling her eyes then continued, "The one girl in all the world with the strength and skill to defeat the Vampires and the demons and the forces of Darkness."
"I don't believe this…" her mother said.
"Mom…this isn't easy for me, I wanted to tell you for a long time, but the rules, which I'm assuming we are throwing out the window now," she paused for a quick look up at Giles, and with a nod from him, she continued, "forbid it."
"You are all insane…Buffy, go to the car. I'm taking you…"
Buffy stood, crossing her arms. "No, Mom. I need to stay here. I've done a lot of good. Remember the night Principal Snyder was killed?"
"Yes, the gang on PCP."
"They weren't on PCP, they were vampires."
"No...it can't be true," she was starting to look a little shell-shocked, and Giles was getting concerned that this was not precisely the way this needed to be going.
"Joyce, if you please...I think I have a demonstration that will provide some evidence that what Buffy is telling you is the truth. As the Slayer, she is gifted with great strength. Far greater than any girl of her stature should be able to achieve. If you would please, try and lift my desk," Mr. Stone said, again sounding much older than he looked.
"Ok…I don't know what it'll prove, this thing must weigh a hundred pounds easy," her mother positioned herself to get the best leverage on the desk, to her credit she was able to lift one end up about an inch. "Ugh…what do you keep in that thing? Lead bricks?"
"No, badly behaved students," Mr. Stone said and withered under the glares, "Blimey…Snyder really was a killjoy wasn't he?" This he directed more at Giles, who again nodded.
"I suppose you want me to lift the desk now, right?" Buffy said, ignoring the comment.
"Well, well, beauty and brains. I bet the blokes at this school are just beating down your locker to carry your books."
"Not so much. The whole hanging around graveyards tends to scare away potential boyfriend material," Buffy said as she took her mother's former position and lifted the desk over her head with one hand, holding it like a serving tray. "Is this impressive enough?"
"Yes…very good Buffy," Giles said. Her mother's only response was to stare.
Buffy sat the desk back down and took her seat again, "Now do you believe me?" she asked her mother.
"I need a drink," her mother said. Buffy got up and got some water out of the cooler, the cone shaped paper cup dripped a little from the bottom. She handed it to her mother.
"Thank you, sweetheart, but I think I need something a little stronger than water," her mother said, drinking the water anyway. Then Mr. Stone reached behind his desk and produced a bottle of scotch.
"I think this will help, Joyce," he said as he poured her a shot of the amber liquid. She took the shot and downed it in a quick swallow.
"Thank you Ian."
"Are we done here? I do have class," Buffy said.
"Not quite yet, there is one more matter we need to discuss," Mr. Stone said turning and unlocking a filing cabinet, he opened it and pulled out maybe five or six sheets of paper, legal sized with tiny type on them.
"First we need to discuss your back pay," Mr. Stone said, flipping through the pages, he then looked confused, turned back to the file cabinet and snapped his fingers and produced another piece of paper.
"Back pay?" Buffy and her mother asked simultaneously.
"Yes, it's criminal that the Council doesn't pay you. That, among other opinions, is why I was sacked. As I wasn't able to get the Council to do right by the Slayers, I figured I might as well do it myself. As such I've created a fund, one that is self sustaining and fairly well impervious to the whims of the global economy, to pay you. Now unfortunately, so many Slayers don't have families, having been raised by the Council and when they die there's no one left to give their back pay to. You however, Ducky, are still very much alive and therefore entitled to back pay to the date you were first called. This check is a little bit over what is actually owed you by the formula I've come up with, but we can count that as interest against the delay. Here you go," Mr. Stone finally finished and handed Buffy the check-shaped piece of paper, it was indeed a check and Buffy looked at her Principal in shock.
Ian was somewhat troubled as his class was winding down to a close, He hadn't gotten any sort of a response from his request for what he called the basic ethical treatment of the Slayers. Their newest slayer was a baby—fifteen—and she'd been raised by the Council in the 'proper' way, and didn't think that asking for anything was right. She was, in Ian's estimation, a slave, and he'd told the Council.
Quentin Travers came up to him. "What can I do for you, Quentin?" he asked, noting idly that he was losing his brogue a bit again. It was time to go home for a little while where people spoke properly.
"The Council wanted me to inform you that you will be relieved of your duties as soon as this class is over pending an investigation of your pernicious ideas, to see if we require your further services."
Ian sighed. He had never pissed the Council off this badly before, but it just wasn't right, the way they were treating this poor girl. She was being constantly compared to Nikki—hell, she'd been the Slayer for nearly a year and he hadn't even heard the girl's actual name. Crowley had come back from New York a broken man, and Ian could understand why. Nikki had been his shining star for seven years. "Seven by seven, and on the third shall she die."
"What?" Quentin asked.
"Nikki. It's the start of the prophecy of her death. It was unfortunate that no one believed me when I said it two months before she died."
"Well, be that as it may, I think that you are finished here. Your ideas are dangerous."
"What? That the Slayer should be treated as a human being?" he asked, and he was almost yelling.
A small scuffing sound alerted them to the presence of another person in the room. "Oh, sorry, just forgot my books," Ripper said.
"That's alright, Mr. Giles. If you could run along now," Quentin said.
"Right then, cheerio," he said and hurried out of the door.
"Yes. The Slayer has been regarded for generations as something more and less than human. Born to humans, but apart from that life."
"Does that mean you think that Robin was an incorrect decision for Nikki?" Ian asked. Robin was a bit of a sore spot with the Council; Crowley had hidden her pregnancy and her affair from the Council, and was now taking the boy to raise, retiring from active Council life. "Or would you have rather had her abort her child?"
"I know as an Irishman you have strong opinions about abortion, but considering her duties, I think, yes, that might have been a good option for her."
"Not as an Irishman, as a man. I do not like the idea of killing a child because the child is inconvenient. I have no children of my own, Quentin. Did you know that?"
"I didn't, but it still doesn't negate the fact that by getting pregnant, Nikki Woods was negligent in her duties."
"And how do you think Robin would feel about that?"
Quentin did at least have the good grace to look appalled at that notion. "It doesn't matter; what's done is done. He will make a good ally in the fight against evil, since that appears to be what Crowley is planning for the boy."
"Yes, best not to think about those things that don't fit into your little world. Best not to think that we could have saved the best Slayer we've had in several generations from William the frigging Bloody. Best not to think that Robin could have his mother right now if someone had bloody listened to me."
Buffy moved mechanically through the rest of her day, fortunately, there were only two more classes, and, even more fortunately, two that she was doing well in.
She put her books into her locker; she could get them before she left if she could actually get into the spirit of homework, if not, well, then it wouldn't much matter if she had her books or not. She walked to the library, but Giles wasn't there. Willow was, and Xander walked in not far behind her. "Hey, Buffy," Willow said, looking up from a book.
"Hi," she said back.
"Are you ok?"
"Yeah, Buffy, what's with the glum?" Xander asked her.
"Oh," she said, shaking herself and smiling, "I'm, I'm good."
"How did your meeting with the principal go?" Xander asked her.
She sat down, and started talking, but it was very devoid of the normal bounce in her voice, "Mom was there, and, Mr. Stone, he's kind of like a rogue Watcher guy, and he's kind of talked Giles into going along with him—at least for now—and he told Mom about the Slayer stuff. Then he told me that he thought I should be paid for being the Slayer."
"Well, that's good. Paid for killing vampires," Willow said. "So how much are they paying you?"
"Well, a lot. I'm not sure exactly. But he gave me a check for the back pay that he thinks I deserve from the day I was called, and I didn't hear much after that. He and Mom kind of hammered out the details, while I kind of stared at the check."
"Do you have it?"
"The check. I want to see it," Willow said.
"Oh," Buffy said, shaking her head, then brushing her hair back from her face again, she reached down and fished it out of her purse. "Here," she handed the thing to Willow like it was burning her.
Will's eyes bugged out. "How long is this for?"
"A year and a half. Since I was called," She told them, and watched as Willow handed the check to Xander. The part of Xander's brain that translated 'boy' into 'English' stopped functioning, and he mouthed noises at her for a few minutes while she watched him, amused.
"That...that...that is a whole LOTA zeros, they even come before the decimal point!" Xander finally got out.
"Yes, it is. He had me sign a contract that basically said that I would acquire a high school diploma for continued employment in 'Maraíonn Sí.'" Buffy said.
"What happens if you don't?" Xander asked.
"I forfeit all future wages until such time as I fulfill the requirement," Buffy said.
"Oh, that is evil...offer to pay you then say you have to graduate high school before you see any of it. I am incensed at this," Xander said.
"Calm down, I have until the June after my 18th birthday to acquire said diploma. He's offered to get me any help I need to keep up, but I have to do the work myself,"
"That's wonderful Buffy!" Willow said.
"Yeah...now that I've had time to digest everything that's happened today I think you're right. This has been a good day, a bit surreal, but good. In fact, I feel like celebrating! We are so going to the Bronze tonight," Buffy said.
"I'm afraid that is going to have to wait," Giles said as he entered the library.
"Why?" Buffy said.
"You have to patrol tonight. I'm sorry Buffy, I understand your desire to celebrate your good fortune, and under other circumstances, I would fully endorse your doing so. Unfortunately a Miss Vanderdorf was buried today and from what my contacts in the morgue say it was definitely a vampire attack, she may rise tonight," Giles said as he opened the door to his office, retrieving his fighting gear.
"Is anyone else creeped out by the fact the G-man has contacts in the morgue?" Xander asked, only to get hit on the arm by Buffy, "Ow!"
"Which cemetery Giles?" Buffy asked, disappointed, but business was business.
"East street, and I think it would be a good idea for you to take your mother."
"My mother, on a patrol?"
"She won't fully accept this until she sees you in action, Buffy. Besides you take Xander and Willow all the time," Giles said.
"Fine...you win," Buffy said.
"Very good, now lets get to training, shall we?"
"It'll probably be a while, Mom."
"Well, I've never done this before," Joyce told her daughter from the chair that she had insisted on bringing, despite the fact that Buffy had told her that she would be fine sitting on the gravestones. Joyce had insisted it was totally improper. "So she comes out of the grave?"
"Yep. She just crawls right up out of the ground."
"And then what?"
"Kick, punch, ground, stake, dust," Buffy said with a huge grin.
"So do you enjoy your work?" Joyce asked, resting her chin on the big wooden cross that Buffy had given her for protection.
"There's a lot of fighting with it, and it's an adrenaline rush, and there's danger, but, yeah, I actually like it a lot. As a bonus, I get to save people. Good people. Willow and Xander people."
"Is there a down side?"
"Yeah," Buffy said quietly, "When I don't save the people. Jesse people. Sheila people."
"Who are they?"
"Sheila was my biggest competition, according to Snyder, for the worst student in the high school. She stabbed the Horticulture teacher with pruning sheers. I had to dust her on Parent-Teacher night. Jesse was Xander's best friend, and the first week of school last year, Jesse got vamped. Xander was the one who had to stake him."
"That's awful, Sweetheart. Is this really that dangerous?"
"Sometimes," she said, ducking her head. She was quiet for a long moment while she stared off into the distance. "Slayers don't have great life expectancies."
Joyce shifted uncomfortably. "What's it like to be the Slayer? I know you are stronger than most girls."
"It's different. There's the super-strength, and better hearing, faster reflexes, super healing, bad guy detectiness."
"Yeah. Not that I've tested it, but Giles says that I can break about every bone in my body and be back to better in like a week."
"That sounds awful, Buffy."
"Sometimes it's a good thing. Drugs run through my system much faster," she tilted her head to one side, "It also sucks sometimes because my metabolism runs faster, too."
"I know. I pay the grocery bill," Joyce said. "I had wondered how you could eat so much and not gain weight. About the drugs, how do you know?"
"Um," she twisted her hands, looking down at them. "I kind of was at a frat party a couple of Fridays ago and almost got eaten by a demon as a sacrifice. It's why all those companies started failing last week."
"They were making sacrifices to this demon, Machida, human sacrifices, like, three girls every year for like the last 50 years. I ran it off, but they drugged me to tie me up in the basement for the sacrifice."
"Now that the demon is gone, what happens?"
"Oh, the people who were getting whatever kind of power that they were getting start paying for it and they don't usually do so good after that."
"So, being the Slayer, how did this happen, how did it start?"
"Don't really know. But it's been going on for a long time."
"You can't get out of it?"
"I could die."
"Buffy, that's not funny."
"It's true, though. That's the way that a new Slayer gets called. The old one dies. New one is called. That's how it works."
"Alright. Let's talk about something more pleasant. Like your finances."
"I don't want to talk about finances."
"You are going to have to at some point. Why not now?"
"Still processing the fact that I'm getting paid $20,000 a week here."
"Well, that's a good thing though. Do you think you want to invest the money?"
"I don't know, Mom. I kind of was hoping," she hung her head a little, pausing. "That maybe you could help me?"
"I am glad you asked for help, but I don't know how much help I'm going to be. This is a new level for me too."
"It's kinda scary."
"No, well, yes that can get scary, but having this much money...what am I supposed to do with it?"
"I suppose anyone that gets to the point of making that kind of money as quickly as you have ask that question, sweetheart."
"Actors, athletes, most of them come from backgrounds not too different from yours or Willow's and Xander's. Not all of them get the answer right either."
"That implies there is a right answer."
"I suppose so, what worries you most about it?"
"I'm afraid that I won't be able to live up to the trust that Mr. Stone is placing in me by giving me this much money."
"Oh, Honey," Joyce said getting up, "I'm so proud to hear you say that, furthermore hearing you say it gives me confidence that you'll do the right things with it."
"Thanks, Mom," she said as she gave her Mom a hug, she pulled back only to see pure terror in her mother's eyes.
"Buffy...I think its time for you to go to work..." her mother said.
"Huh? OH!" Buffy said and turned, a feral grin spreading on her face.
"I've always liked this town, the delivery places are always so...prompt." the fledgling vampire said.
"Sorry, I'm not take out," Buffy quipped and just before she moved forward she heard a voice she'd hoped not to hear again.
"Tsk, tsk, Slayer. It's rather rude to start the party before all the guests have arrived," Spike said coming out from behind a tree, five other vampires quickly started to surround Buffy and her mother.
"Spike...I should have known. You planned this didn't you?" Buffy asked.
"Of course I did! You didn't think I wouldn't be back did you?"
"A girl can always hope."
"I don't give up that easily, Slayer, and tonight I will drink you down and it will be SO SWEET!"
"Come on then, if you think you can take me, leave your goon squad out of it," Buffy said.
"You expect me to play fair?" Spike said with a laugh. "Where the hell is the fun in that?"
With that, Buffy moved and quickly staked the unsuspecting fledgling, only to be surrounded by four of Spike's goons. Buffy dropped and leg swept all four to the ground. "Looks like they need more practice Spike," Buffy said coming up only to see the fifth vampire grab her mother and bite. "NO!"
Xander stood, twirling the straw in his drink, with Willow sitting beside him at their accustomed table near the foot of the stairs at the Bronze. Well, that was, when they weren't on some of the couches. It was a comfortable scene, overall, there were some people on the dance floor, and 'The Dingoes Ate My Baby' were playing a song, "She Knows…"
"I wish Buffy was here," Willow said.
"Yeah, the Buffster would be great for laughs right about now. Too bad she's on Mom-patrol tonight."
"Yeah. I guess it would probably be kind of hard to not do. Maybe she'll show later, you, know, after."
"Yeah. Do you think she'd bring her Mom, since they are being all friend-y?"
"No, I don't think so. Mrs. Summers doesn't seem like the Bronze type."
"Don't you just love the band?" Cordelia gushed as she came up to their table.
"And the night just keeps getting better. To what do we owe this astounding pleasure?" Xander asked.
"Well, if you must know, Harmony is at home, wretchedly sick, Aphrodesia is grounded until she can stop flunking French and Gwen's parents took her to Aspen with them."
"So none of your minions are around to faun over you, and you decided that you should come torment us?"
"Ha ha. Now where is Buffy? She is only marginally cool, but since there is no one actually cool here tonight, other than my boyfriend, of course, I thought I would hang with her while Devon sings."
"Oh, she's out with her mom," Willow said. "But she might be by later tonight."
"Well, what are they doing? It can't be more important than her social life, can it?"
"You know, Cordelia," Xander said, slinging his arm around her shoulders, "Life is not all parties and dancing." Cordelia gave him the look. He dropped his arm, and lost his smile. "Buffy's patrolling and she took her mom with her."
"So she'll be by later?"
"Possibly. She has a little celebrating to do. Apparently, being the Slayer actually pays now."
"Really? And how's that? Do the vampires leave their wallets behind now?"
"Xander, I don't think you're supposed to tell," Willow said, wide-eyed.
"Yeah, you're probably right. Buffy is much more interested in the Slayer aspect of Slaying than in the huge paycheck that she gets because of it," Xander turned his back on Cordelia, "So, Will. Do you think Buffy is going to show?"
"Depends. Vampires aren't exactly punctual you know, and if Angel shows up...she might be out all night!" Willow said getting excited at the prospect of hearing the juicy details from Buffy.
Xander sighed. "Buffy and Angel won't be making out Will."
"Why not?" Willow said sounding disappointed.
"Her Mother is with her, remember?"
"Oh...yeah. That's right. Kinda hard to make out with your main squeeze with your mother watching."
"Angel isn't Buffy's main squeeze!"
"Yet." Willow said with certainity.
"How much are you saying that she's getting paid, anyway?" Cordelia asked as she pulled a chair up to the opposite side of the table and tried to get the attention back on who it belonged, namely her.
"Alot, like one...," Xander said, and Willow punched him on the arm. "Hey!"
"Xander, we don't know if Buffy wants us to tell anybody about this, or if she has even thought about who she should tell or how much she wants to tell or if getting a check for a million and a half dollars is going to change her life, or if she even wants it to change her life, or if she's going to do anything with it, or if she is going to just be Buffy."
"Will, you're babbling."
Cordelia just stared wide eyed and slack jawed, "A miiiiilllllioooonnnnn and..."
Xander looked back and forth between Willow and Cordelia and smiled. "Hey Will...we finally did it! Cordelia is totally speechless!"
Angel sprinted the last few steps as he saw that Spike's people were already circling into position around Buffy and Joyce, getting his game face on. "NO!" Buffy screamed as one of Spike's minions grabbed Joyce from behind. Angel pulled a stake and dusted him, grabbing her and keeping her from falling, but lowering her to the ground nonetheless. He could smell the blood seeping out from the bite, but she would be fine once they got her out of the situation.
"Sorry I'm late," Angel said, joining Buffy.
"Seems to me you're right on time," Buffy said launching herself at the goons, Angel not far behind. Buffy did a snap kick to the face of the first goon she got to, then while he was stunned, she dropped fast, pulled him to the ground, and staked him as he hit the ground, dusting him. Angel exchanged punches three or four times with the second, when the third vampire threw Angel down and moved to stake him as Buffy moved in on the second. Angel closed his eyes and waited for oblivion only to be showered by dust and be greeted by the surreal sight of Buffy's mother holding a stake.
"Thanks!" he said.
"I owed you," she said.
Angel got up just in time to see Buffy finish off the last of Spike's goons. "Well, this is not any fun anymore. I suppose you and Peaches win another round, Slayer. Don't worry though, I will be back!" Spike said and as near vanished as possible.
"Should we go after him?" Angel asked as his face morphed back to its normal state.
"No...he's doing the bad-movie-guy I'll-be-back thing, besides, I think Mom has questions. Ones best answered back home where we can get a bandage on that bite," Buffy said.
"I agree. Vampires don't carry rabies, do they?" her mother asked.
Buffy looked at Angel and he shrugged. "It's been known to happen."
The two women looked at each other. "Ew!" they said in unison.
A woman lurked outside Sunnydale High, watching from across the street as the new principal got into his car, driving off. She turned to watch as he moves down the street, and her profile is unremarkable. Pretty, an average nose, deep brown eyes, long straight hair, dishwater blonde, someone no one would look at twice passing her on the street.
She smiled, and headed for a motorcycle parked a block away in a residential area.
Joyce was not sure why her daughter insisted on using the water she had in a vial instead of using rubbing alcohol on the wound, but she humored Buffy. "So, vampires."
"Yeah," she said, dabbing more of the water onto the wound. "The Holy Water doesn't hurt?"
"No more than anything else would at this point," she said. Buffy put the cap back on the bottle, setting it carefully away from Angel.
Angel had out tape and gauze pads, which he'd gotten ready while Buffy fussed with the Holy Water. "Thanks," she said cheerily to him, taking the items that she needed as she needed them.
"So, about the rabies," Joyce said to Angel.
"Oh, I doubt you will have to worry about it. Spike's minions mostly feed on humans, so they will be clean. It's the more feral vampires that you have to worry about, the ones that live in the woods and feed off of animals and the occasional stray human," he said, "Not that you will probably have much to worry about. Biting is much more about the vampire getting blood than the victim getting anything."
"Why does that not really make me feel better?" Joyce said, her mind reeling with dozens, no, hundreds of questions.
"Sorry," Angel said.
"Its ok. This whole day has been...well a little crazy."
"I know, Mom," Buffy said as she finished dressing the wound.
"So...I assume you aren't a college student, Angel."
"No, I'm not, you've seen what I am."
"So are there other good vampires?" Joyce asked.
"To the best of my knowledge I'm the only one." Angel said.
"So why are you like the others?"
"He has a soul, Mom. He's the only vampire to have one that I'm aware of or that Giles is too," Buffy said.
"So have you always had a soul?"
"No, I was born with one of course. There was a time I was human just as you are. Then I was brought into the darkness and I lost my soul as every vampire does. After I was changed I did horrible things, terrible things. Things that have haunted me for a long time."
Joyce felt a pang of sympathy for the vampire before her, "So how did you get your soul back?"
"Gypsies. I had killed one of their favored members and her family cursed me with a soul so that I would live the rest of my days as a guilt racked wretch, and I was one for a long time, until I found a purpose."
"And what purpose is that?"
"Buffy, my purpose is her, and her mission. I guess you could say I'm trying to make up for the evil I've done in some small way."
The way he said that made Joyce more than a little nervous for Buffy's sake, not because she thought Angel would ever physically hurt Buffy, or even intentionally hurt her emotionally, but the fact was he might do the latter regardless of what he wanted to do. However, that was a problem to deal with another time, it wasn't pressing and she needed more information from Angel before she could even think about how to deal with it anyway. "How old are you, Angel?"
"Is that from your human birth or just the time since you became a vampire?"
"From the time I became a vampire. I was born as a human in 1727."
"How old were you when you were changed?"
Joyce nodded, her concern only growing with every revelation, but there would be time later for this problem, besides whatever problems he represented, he did relieve her biggest concern. "Thank you for helping us tonight, Angel, and thank you for looking after my little girl."
"Your welcome, now my turn to play twenty questions, just why were you out there with Buffy tonight in the first place?" Angel asked.
"I told her. Or, rather, Principal Stone told her. Oh, I'm getting paid now!" Buffy said, her face perking up for the first time since they had gotten home.
"Paid? I thought the Watcher's Council didn't pay the Slayer," Angel said.
"The Council isn't. Principal Stone is." Joyce said.
"How much is he paying you?" Angel asked.
"One million dollars a year, after taxes," Buffy said, causing the vampire to do a double take.
"How much?" Angel said in obvious shock.
"One million US dollars, after taxes," Joyce said again for her daughter who was too busy rolling on the floor in peals of laughter at Angel's expression, a grin coming to her own face unbidden.
"Wow...well I better go, its getting late," Angel said, and Joyce looked at the clock on the wall and saw he was right, it was already past midnight.
"Yes...I need to get some sleep, I'm not going to be worth anything in the morning. Do you want to stay the night Angel?" Joyce asked.
"I better not, Mrs. Summers. I don't think you want me stuck here all day while Buffy's at school and you're at work," Angel said.
"Why would you be..." Joyce began, only to be cut off by Buffy.
"Mom...the sun, if he goes out into direct sunlight he's an instant barbeque."
"Oh...I'm sorry Angel. I wasn't thinking," Joyce said.
"Its ok, Mrs. Summers. I'll see you tomorrow, Buffy. Good night Mrs. Summers," Angel said and went to the door Buffy following him to the door. She opened it for him and hugged and kissed him before he left confirming Joyce's worst fears. Joyce sighed, he was a really nice man, and really everything Joyce would hope for a first boyfriend for Buffy...except for the fact that he was older than the nation Buffy was born in, and dead, and apparently couldn't go out in daylight, and probably a whole list of things Joyce was too tired to try to think of at this point.
"Night, Mom!" Buffy said cheerfully as she headed upstairs.
"Night, sweetheart," Joyce called back, then started for bed herself.
Angel looked both ways as he crossed the street in front of the high school. The area appeared to be deserted, but that really didn't mean anything. There were a number of ways to get into the school, and he'd been here a year, and learned a number of them. The sewer warrens ran straight into the school, but he didn't want to go that way. He hated the sewers, and he was going to avoid it if possible. The new frame on the window to the student lounge had been installed a few days before, but the glass had been delayed and wouldn't be in until the morning. He slid one of the bars up out of its socket, a feat that wouldn't have been possible if he hadn't been a vampire. Buffy might have been able to do it, but she didn't really have the leverage that would have been required.
The resulting hole was just wide enough to slide into, and he was able to push down the plywood that had been left in place of glass without damaging it too much. The interior had been repainted, replaced, whatever needed done, and the lounge looked as though nothing out of the ordinary had ever happened there, except maybe one of the students had gotten too rowdy and thrown a football through the window or something similar.
Angel pushed the plywood back up, and headed into the principal's office to see about this Mr. Stone.
He had a flashlight, and began looking through some of the papers on the desk of Principal Ian Stone. An understated placard bore his name, a name that, as yet, meant nothing to Angel. There were no pictures of himself, a good sign, he wouldn't be the narcissistic prick Snyder had been. He hadn't personally had the pleasure, but he would have gladly killed the man had he run across him in a dark alley at night for the pain and torment that he caused Buffy.
The filing cabinet had a locked drawer at the bottom, and Angel was about to try to pick it when he heard a familiar sound, that of a sword being drawn. "I wouldn't do that if I were you," he said, glancing around, finding that one of the new decorations was two real, sharpened swords, crossed on a red velvet and wood oval. He reached up and grabbed the nearer one.
"What are you doing here?" the voice was feminine, but it wasn't Buffy, and she had a sword. She was probably going to be dangerous.
"What are you doing here? Night security isn't typically a feature of high schools," he said, pinpointing her location by her voice, her scent, and the air currents changing around her too-still body. She had played with swords before, he guessed, but she wasn't a vampire. She smelled too alive. Even the recently dead smelled of earth or worse things. They didn't smell of coursing blood, the way she did. She was afraid, but she controlled it well. It was like she wasn't afraid of him, but of something else entirely.
"I saw the light, and I thought I would investigate. What are you doing in Ian's office?" he finally placed her accent. It was well hidden; years in America did that to a person, or even a vampire, but she hadn't been born here. She was from eastern Russia, her hard sounds were harder than the English equivalents, and her soft sounds weren't soft enough.
"I was wondering why he was interested in employing someone who is still in high school. He's got an awful lot of money to be throwing around for a principal."
"Ian has always been very generous with his time and money. He very much enjoys teaching. You might say it is his only passion."
She sounded bitter to Angel, bitter and hurt. "So he's just the principal out of the goodness of his heart?" Angel asked skeptically.
"Oh, he probably has other reasons to be here, which brings us back to the original question. Why are you here? Ian hasn't even been here for a full day."
"He moves fast, then. He's already doing things that make me suspicious of his motives."
"He is a good man, more than I can say for you, sneaking into the school in the middle of the night," she said, and with that, she launched herself at him.
Angel ducked the blow and kicked her in the midriff, and sent her flying, she crashed into a security camera. She recovered quickly and got past his defenses to stab him in the chest with the sword, missing his heart, but it wouldn't have mattered if she had hit it the sword being steel, but the injury still hurt and brought on his vampire face. Angel grabbed the blade and growled.
"That wasn't nice, missy!" he said as he broke the blade.
"That was my favorite blade!"
"Well, that will teach you to poke people with it."
"You are no person, vampire!" she screamed and lunged at him, instinctively Angel brought up the broken half of the sword and it pierced her chest and came out her back, blood gushed out of the wound assaulting his nostrils driving the demon inside him crazy with need to feed. Angel knew that the sword piece had pierced her heart and there was no saving her, besides, that much blood...he had to get out of there, he crashed through the window and left the bloody mess behind.
Killarney, Ireland, 1978
Ian was sitting at a table in the back of a tavern. He had known the owners of this particular tavern for generations, and that meant he was usually left alone, unless something happened.
His beer stein had been empty for some time; he set it over within the line of sight of the barmaid, daughter of the owner. "Ya be needin' more o' that ale, then?"
"Please," he said, and she took the stein away to refill it.
"What's it that ya be readin' there?"
"It's a book of prophecy."
"Ah, ya believin' what's in there, then?"
"A bit," he said with a smile.
She smiled back, "Jes let me know if ya be needin' anythin' else, Mister O'Braonáin."
"I will, thank you," he told her. He didn't often use what he would probably term his 'real' name. Braonán, his father, had been a good man, and he honored him when he could, and that usually meant taking the honorific last name that had been in vogue when they had been giving such things out. He had had little use for it until he was about 500 years old. Ríoghbhardán was his given name, but he liked the name Ian. Considering he had reinvented himself every twenty to fifty years, he'd taken many names. Some he liked, some he didn't, some grew on him, some wore on him. Perhaps he would be Sean next. It was the Irish derivation of John, rather than the Scottish. It was a reasonably good name. Perhaps not. He was undecided as of yet, and the 'Ian Stone' persona still had some life in it. "You're a bloody hard chap to track down," said a familiar voice as he was reading the book and musing about his life. He was intending on writing down what he was reading, but he hadn't gotten around to it.
"I was not intending to be tracked down, Ripper."
"What's that you have there?"
He sighed. "Something the Council has forgotten about, much to my dismay. Not that they would have been able to read it up to now anyway."
"You skank it off them?"
"I liberated it from a shelf that hadn't been dusted in at least twenty years, let alone anything picked up off it."
"Why'd you leave?"
"I wanted to come home."
"You were yelling at that stiff shirt Travers," Ripper pointed out.
"I yell at a number of people."
"Not like that you don't. You taught for a year and I hadn't seen you yell at anyone, certainly not like that."
"I was rather emotional, I suppose. The conversation was about Nikki Woods and that new Slayer. Don't even know her name. No one ever tells me what's happening on the front lines."
"Samantha Ellis," Ripper said. "She isn't a bad Slayer, but after Nikki, no one talks about what she can do, all they talk about is how she's not Nikki."
"That is something that every Watcher must understand. Every Slayer is different, and every Slayer is unique, and deserves to be treated on her own merits. While comparing them to each other may be useful in the abstract, it is destructive to do so to or in front of them."
"You know that it's standard to rate the Slayers against what their predecessors have done."
"And I find it destructive and abusive."
Ripper looked thoughtful, an odd expression, considering his outward persona. "I can understand that," he said finally. "What's the big deal about this book?"
"It is written in English."
"How old is it?"
"It was written by the man who founded what became the Watcher Council."
"Yes, you could say that."
"What's it say?"
"That's the problem. I have been able to unlock the seal on the first page, and that is all."
"What's the first page say?"
"'As I write this I know that you will understand. I know that I am writing in a language that will not be understood for many generations to come, but you will come to find that I am what you call a perfect seer. And so my frustration of you must begin. The events that I see, I hope to alter somewhat by writing this to you. My hope is that this finds you. The future is understandably murky on the validity of this, and so, if it is the time of She Who Died, a Slayer of great power and destiny, then you will be able to read this book. Once that time has passed, you will find all of the spells to have worn off. The events have paths, and so as some paths close, others will open. I have attempted to anticipate this. If this is the only page you can read, the time must be close, the players are beginning to align. The next page will not unlock until She is called.'"
Ian walked into the school, at a time appropriate to his position. "What's going on?" he asked his secretary indicating the hoard of police that were swarming the front office.
"When we opened up this morning, your door was open. There was so much blood in the room…" she looked shaken, and he put his arm around her.
"Was there anything else?"
"No, just the blood. It's rather strange. With that much blood, you would think there would be a body."
He glanced into the room, assessing the situation. His papers had been ruffled through on his desk, and he looked up into the corner where a camera had been installed only the day before, and it was smashed beyond recovery. He frowned, knowing that he would have to get another one. Hopefully he would get something off the tapes, which were run to a different room, a storage closet. There was a lot of blood, some spattered, some smeared, but most of it was in a pool on the floor in front of his desk. It did look like someone should have died there. "You would think," he agreed with her, and went to check the tapes.
The VCR that was set up to monitor his office was fine, and he popped the tape out, taking it with him to the A/V room, wanting to get this over with before any students got into the school.
He found the moment that the tape stopped receiving signal, and he backed up a few minutes to get an idea of what had happened just before that, but there was nothing. It had been too dark, and whoever had entered and swept the room first had done so with just a flashlight, which didn't illuminate his face. Then another shadowy figure appeared with a sword drawn. The picture was so dark that he couldn't tell if the second figure was male or female. They seemed to be talking, but the camera didn't have a microphone. Then the fight started with the second figure lunging at the first one, then the recording stopped, he didn't really see what destroyed the camera. "Great," he muttered to himself, and went back to the office.
"Do you happen to have the tape for that camera?" one of the officers asked him.
"I do, lad, here," he handed the officer the tape. "It doesn't show much, though. He took the camera out."
"Well, it could have been a she, but I find that those lurking about and doing nefarious deeds in the middle of the night tend to be 'he's."
One of the detectives spoke then, "Well, I think we've got all the information that we can get from the scene. I imagine you want to get a cleaning crew in here and get started, don't you, Mr. Stone?"
"I do. I'll just take some paperwork to one of the empty classrooms while they clean up in here," he said.
The policeman nodded and left, and he went into his office, closing the door and stepping around the puddle of blood, and going behind the desk. He pried up one of the tiles under the desk, and reached into the hole that the absence of the tile revealed. His hand closed around something and he pulled it out. He leafed through the volume, the pages all gold leaf, and while they turned somewhat more clumsily than paper, he was very familiar with the book. A sigh of relief shuddered out of him. "At least those Council cronies who broke in here didn't find what they were after," he said to himself as he replaced the codex and the tile, smoothing the tile carefully ensuring that it matched up with those around it. "But I wonder who interrupted them?"