It was the summer of her sophomore year that Brittany noticed the changes. Suddenly she was super strong and she healed super fast. Her mom complained about how much she ate, but suddenly she was super hungry. She shrugged it off, reaching for another carrot stick.
"Maybe I'm going through a growth spurt."
But it was more than that. Weird things were happening to her. Her grandad, who had died four years ago, kept visiting her, and trying to talk her into killing herself. Ms Pillsbury said it was normal for a teenager to think about those things, so Brittany ignored him. There were some brown robed guys, but Brittany was at Cheerio practice at the time, and Ms. Sylvester did not take kindly to anyone interrupting her practice. Not kindly at all.
Also, the urge to sneak out in the middle of the night and hang out in the cemetery was almost uncontrollable. Brittany thought she might be coming down with the flu.
It wasn't until Christmas, with her head full of Cheerios moves and Glee songs and wondering, for the hundredth time, how Santa could get to every house in one night, that they showed up.
A tall girl with long brown hair, and a man with an eye patch.
Brittany looked at the two.
"Are you a pirate?" she asked.
The girl snickered.
"No, but I'm pretty close," said the man.
"You wish you were that cool, Xand," the girl said.
The man turned to Brittany, smiling.
"You bet I do. My name is Alexander Harris. You can call me Xander. And this is my associate, Dawn Summers. Can we come in?"
"My mom said never to let strangers in the house," said Brittany.
"That's a good rule. But what you're going to want to hear what we have to say."
"Are you CIA?"
Dawn snickered again. She reached into her purse, and handed Brittany a business card. It said "Watcher's Council" in plain black letters. Under that it had "Dawn Summers" and a phone number.
"I've never heard of the Watcher's Council," said Brittany.
"That's what we need to talk to you about."
They looked so out of place sitting on the living room couch, uncomfortably perched against the pink flower pattern.
"Brittany, have you noticed something different about yourself?" Xander asked.
"I can finally fill out the bras my mom bought me," Brittany replied.
"Something less... ordinary," Dawn said, coming to the rescue. "Have you been feeling differently? Have you seen things you can't explain? Like people with bumpy foreheads?"
"It's not nice to make fun of people with deformities. Artie taught me that. He's in a wheelchair."
"We weren't... ah..." Xander stumbled.
Dawn stopped him with a wave of her hand.
"Brittany, there's no easy way to tell you this, so I'm just going to come out and say it. You're a vampire slayer."
Brittany shook her head, her blond pony tail bouncing behind her.
"I already had the shot for that."
Xander and Dawn exchanged looks.
"Ok," said Xander. "It's almost dark. Let's go out and prove it to you."
"I don't want to do this," said Brittany, clutching the wooden stake to her chest. "I've decided I don't want to be a vampire slayer. Can we go home now?"
"Don't worry," said Dawn encouragingly. "Just remember, there are three ways to kill a vampire: stake to the heart, cut off their head, or fire. Stakes are the most popular method, but any piece of sharpened wood will do. I know somebody once who dusted a vamp with a pencil."
"What if he tries to kill me?"
"You try and kill him right back," Dawn answered promptly.
"Your instinct will kick in," Xander assured her. "If not, I'm pretty handy with this thing." He patted the crossbow cradled in the crook of his arm.
Brittany stared at the stake.
"We could just go home. My mom would make us cocoa and... "
But she didn't get to finish that sentence. A man with a strange, bumpy face launched himself at the group.
"I love an easy meal," he growled.
"Ok, Brittany, you're on."
At first Brittany was scared. She dodged the vampire's fist and backed away. The vampire grinned.
"Here girly girly girly," he chuckled. He advanced on her, taking another swing.
Lightening fast, Brittany's hand came up and blocked his punch. Instincts kicked in as she threw out punches and kicks. With a handy swipe of her foot, she brought the vampire crashing down.
"Stake him," Dawn encouraged. "Right through the heart."
Brittany plunged the stake into his chest.
"Not the heart," the vampire taunted, attempting to throw her off.
"Upper left chest!" Xander called out.
Brittany slammed him to the ground again, and stabbed the stake into his upper left chest. A look of surprise flitted across the vampire's face before he dissolved, leaving Brittany kneeling over a pile of dust.
She scrambled to her feet, backing away from the ashes. Her stake slipped from her icy fingers and clattered on the pavement.
"He's gone," she said. "I killed him."
"He wasn't really alive," Dawn said sympathetically. "And he would have killed others."
Brittany looked down at her hands.
"How did I do that?" she asked.
"You're a vampire slayer, Brittany," Xander said. "This is what you were born to do."
"Oh," said Brittany. Then she fainted.
They sat around the kitchen table this time, nursing mugs of coffee. For someone who had never been in Brittany's kitchen before, Dawn seemed to know where everything is.
"Don't worry," she said to Brittany. "It's the shock of your first time. It gets better."
"I think I liked you better when you were pirates," said Brittany, feeling queasy.
Xander gave her an encouraging smile.
"It takes getting used to. But after your tenth vamp, even mundanes like Dawn 'n me get used to it."
"What happens now?" Brittany asked, looking into the depths of her cup. "Do I have to kill things all the time? Can I still be a Cheerio?"
"Actually, there's where you have a choice," said Dawn. "You have to be trained, there's no question about that. But you get to choose where."
"You either win an all expenses paid trip to our fabulous and very exclusive private Academy in Chicago," interrupted Xander. "Or behind door number two is your very own watcher while you stay in Lima."
"You've still got to come to the Summers Academy for the summer, but we're totally with the fun along with the slaying," said Dawn.
Brittany looked horrified.
"Leave Lima? Leave McKinley High? Leave the Cheerios?"
Xander held his hand out to stop her.
"You don't have to decide now. You can decide after you come see Summers Academy. And who knows. You might like Chicago. I've never managed it, but you might."
Brittany looked up at the sprawling red brick mansion that made up the Summers Academy.
"What do you think?" asked Willow grandly. She had been the one to meet Brittany at the airport, and already the blond cheerleader liked the woman who had introduced herself as 'Chief Witch in Residence'.
"Does it have a pool?" Brittany asked.
"Sure does. We make with the pool parties, when the weather is nice."
"My mom says chlorine makes your skin shrink. Like a wool sweater."
"Er, right," said Willow. "Well, why don't I take you around?"
Brittany was shown the classrooms, the dormitories, and introduced to the students.
"Buffy wanted to be here," explained Willow, "But she had an emergency in LA. An old friend of hers had an apocalypse without her and she's not very happy about it."
"Buffy's the first slayer, right?" Brittany asked.
"Right. Back when there was only one. Now there's lots, though. Which is kinda, hey, my fault. Sorry about that."
"Don't worry," said Brittany. "I'll get Coach Sylvester to kill you about that later."
"You like it here?" Brittany asked.
Rona nodded enthusiastically, her dreadlocks dancing with the movement of her head.
"Oh yeah. It's great here."
"We don't have to hide who we are," agreed Sara-Lynn, her Aussie accent colouring her words. "We have people all around us who understand exactly what we're going through. We don't have to be alone."
"Plus we have contests and stuff. Whoever slays the most vamps in a month wins a shiny new weapon of her choice," Cora's eyes glittered. "Mr. Giles has catalogues."
"You should totally come here," Rona summed up. "Come on, we're fun."
"But there's only girls here," said Brittany. "How can you go to an all girls school? Who do you have crushes on?"
Cora shot a glance at another girl, a tall, pretty brunette named Kennedy, who was talking to Willow.
"We manage," she said.
"We usually hang out in this cool club, called the Lizard," said Moira. "We find dates, don't you worry."
"Plus, having Buffy here is huge. She was the original slayer, you know, and she's been a slayer longer than anyone."
The other girls nodded reverently at the mention of Buffy's name.
Brittany considered everything that she had been told, and there was one thing that she knew would make or break her decision to come to the Summers Academy.
"Do you have a glee club here?"
"We're sorry you're not staying," Willow said regretfully. "I think we would have taught you a lot at Slayer School."
"My talent is too big for Summers Academy," she said earnestly. "It would have been wasted here. And you're going to send me stuff through the year, right?"
"Right," nodded Willow. "Exercises to do and hand vamp slaying tips and know-your-demon-of-the-week kits. You'll do them all through the year, as well as protecting your home town from vamps, and then over the summer you'll come to Chicago for group training. How does that sound to you?"
"Sounds good," Brittany said. "As long as I make it to the last Cheerio competition."
"Definitely," said Willow, although she obviously had no idea what Brittany was talking about. She glanced at the board. "You should go, your plane will be leaving soon." She embraced the blond cheerleader.
"Bye Willow," said Brittany.
"Bye," said Willow. "Oh, and you should be getting your new watcher sometime next week. So keep on the lookout for a nerdy looking British guy with lots of books."
Brittany didn't know what a watcher was, but she had a feeling she was about to find out.