After Spike had left via the sewers to 'borrow' a bus to transport the Watchers and new Potentials away from Sunnydale, Buffy made her way over to Giles and motioned for him to follow her to the rest of the gang.

For a moment, they all just stood there and looked at each other. Buffy sighed as she realised that it was up to her to break the silence. "Okay, we need to do something – sitting out here in the open like this; we're sitting ducks or whatever. I mean, that's mostly okay during the daylight – and it's not like the Bringers are hard to deal with but I don't think we all want to have to deal with the uber-vamps tonight when we've got no weapons to defend this big group other than this thing." She held up the Scythe.

Giles nodded. "Yes indeed. While you may be right about that weapon being something truly extraordinary, I think it might be asking entirely too much of both it and you to protect everyone all at once. The magic that the Watchers can conjure at present can only do so much as well."

Buffy rolled her eyes at that – while she trusted Willow and Tara, she wasn't willing to put the lives of everyone into the hand of the Watchers – their magic could hardly be on a level with her two friends after all. "Oh you know me, Giles – always up for a challenge…" She smiled at that but sobered quickly. "We need a big place to hole up for now, somewhere we can make safe and get enough rest for whatever's coming next. We also need weapons and food and other such provisions."

Andrew held his hand up. "Well… why not go to the mall? We could make it secure, right? Plus there's bound to be food and weapons there, right? I mean, the fresh food is probably out but there's bound to be stuff in tins and boxes and such, there's also the sports place that sells all the knives and stuff for hunting and of course there's lots and lots of wooden things that can be made into stakes so…"

Giles and Buffy both looked at him, surprised though it was the Watcher who spoke. "Yes, that's actually a very good idea, Andrew. Well done."

Torn between being offended that the group was so shocked that he would have a good idea and preening at the compliment, Andrew decided it was better to preen and grinned widely. "Thank you. Also, I never did get around to getting the latest X-men comic so I could do that too."

Faith sighed and smacked him upside the head. "Always have to spoil things with a nerdy comment, don't you?" She rolled her eyes as she turned her attention to Giles and Buffy. "It sounds like a plan to me, right? Should I round up the troops?"

Buffy frowned. "Not just yet. Or rather, we're not moving out just yet but round them up – we have to wait for Spike to come back… he's bringing a bus to take the newer Potentials and the Watchers to L.A., out of harm's way."

Robin frowned. "Do you think that's a good idea? The Watchers, I mean… Probably best to send the newer Potentials away to ensure that they don't get hurt or get in the way, but to send all the Watchers away? We could use their help – or rather, Willow and Tara could probably use the help of those who have magic at their disposal."

The blonde woman frowned in thought. "No, it's okay. We've done this before – if Willow and Tara need their help, they can get it from wherever they are – just as they can access help from Giles' coven in England. Don't ask me how that all works. I don't really get the whole magic thing." Giles sighed long-sufferingly but didn't say anything to that.

Robin shrugged. "Well if you're sure, Faith and I will get everyone ready to go." He looked over at the other Slayer. "That's okay with you?"

Faith shrugged. "Five by five."

Robin blinked. "What does that even mean?" Faith laughed at the bewildered look on his face and gestured with a nod of her head for him to follow so that they could get everyone ready.

Buffy smiled at their exchange before turning her gaze to Giles. "So, does this sound okay to you? Send away the Watchers and newer Potentials to L.A. with Spike… of course, he'll be back in a day or so once he's got them settled in with the group over there… meanwhile we will go to the mall to regroup." She frowned. "Maybe I should get Spike to go down again and bring up as many weapons as he possibly can? Although, I really don't want him going down there - it might not be safe."

Giles patted her shoulder reassuringly. "Buffy, this is Sunnydale. It's safe to assume we'll find more than enough weapons along the way without having to resort to sending allies down to their possible deaths or even just to be mortally wounded. We'll get by. We always do." His gaze ticked to the Scythe in her hands. "Honestly, at this moment in time, I'm more interested in the weapon you've found. When we get to safety, we will need to get everyone to see what they can dig up – I guess that makes the mall even more ideal – I doubt that the internet café will have packed everything up."

Buffy smiled and shook her head. "No need. Really Giles – I already know what this thing is. It's the Weapon of the Slayers: the first Watchers didn't create it; of course women angry with those interfering men did, apparently. They felt it was unfair that one girl in all the world should have such a responsibility so they created a weapon good enough for such a special human being."

Giles' eyes widened as he listened to Buffy's speech. "Really? My word! Fascinating! How do you know all this?" The Watcher in him itched to reach for a book and take notes but he forced himself to stand still and not go in search of anything to record the details, focusing instead fully on what Buffy was saying.

For a moment the Slayer contemplated spilling the beans, telling someone everything about the Mirror and all that it had caused and the changes that had happened because of it but quickly dismissed the idea – not because she was worried about her Watcher's reaction but rather because she couldn't be a hundred percent sure that the First wasn't around, listening to every word spoken and she would hate to spill the beans too early on and spoil the surprise heading the First's way. "Dreamt it. Just there when I managed to catch a nap after the… burial." She grimaced as she thought of the dead souls now residing in the ground that lay so close to their feet.

Fortunately Giles seemed to take that at face value and nodded. "Well, if I didn't already know that this was going to be a big fight, the frequency of your Slayer dreams would certainly have allowed us to realise that fact." Buffy almost felt guilty at that. Almost. Then again, wasn't it a good thing that everyone was taking the threat seriously?

eieio

Spike had of course located a large enough bus to transport the Watchers and Potentials to L.A. There would be enough room for them but not enough to ferry everyone and the few belongings that Spike had managed to scrounge up while bringing the dead to the surface to the Mall. Still, Buffy wasn't going to complain.

Before leaving, Buffy instructed everyone to look around for wood to be used as makeshift stakes. Within half an hour of Spike's return, the Watchers and newest Potentials were safely put on the bus with a handful of more-fully trained Potentials to offer extra protection.

Buffy, the Scooby Gang and the remaining Potentials headed to the mall on foot, ready for any Bringers that might come their way. They needn't have worried. It was a completely uneventful trip – the First didn't even make an appearance to gloat at its minor victory in taking out so many of their people.

Even on the bus, the most exciting thing to happen, was that a brunette Slayer called Joanna (who looked eerily like Buffy would if she had brown hair) and a female Watcher had to restrain a newer Potential, to stop her trying to murder one of the younger Watchers who had decided it would be a good idea to try and get everyone to sing 'Five Hundred Green Bottles.'

Spike's only response to the unfortunate male, being almost choked to death, was to chuckle and point out that if it hadn't been the Potential, it would have been Spike himself doing the strangling. That apparently, wouldn't have been good for the rest of the people on the bus because he wouldn't have taken the time to stop the vehicle first.

Lewis had sniffed as the others applauded when he stopped singing. "I was only trying to brighten the mood."

Joanna rolled her eyes. "It's not like we need the distraction, Lewis – it's a twenty minute drive at best. Just do us all a favour: sit down and shut up. Please." She smiled politely at him to lessen the blow.

eieio

At the hospital, things had calmed down – more or less. The last remaining doctor had managed to prevail of the services of one of the Watchers who had trained as a doctor himself before being pulled into the 'family business'. Between the two of them, they had managed to get Xander's eye out of his socket (to ensure no infection could set in) and get him doped up until the pain left him. The carpenter was currently fast asleep on a hospital bed, Anya, sitting on a chair by the bed and watching over him.

Willow and Tara were moving around, helping out where they could. She looked at Tara as they took a break, drinking what was supposedly tea from a vending machine but was probably more accurately labelled as dishwater. "I still feel guilty – I mean, couldn't I have used magic to heal Xander's eye?"

Tara grimaced as she took a sip of her drink then set the cup aside, deciding it wasn't worth drinking. "Willow, we've been over this – you offered, he refused." She shrugged. "There wasn't anything more you could have done."

Willow frowned. "That's not true though, is it? I could have reasoned with him, made him realise that my 'super-duper-witchy-powers' were not going to turn him into a frog or something…"

Tara reached over and gave her girlfriend a hug. "He seemed pretty set in his conviction. What if you'd gone ahead, against his will, and he'd ended up hating you for it? You know how Xander can be after all… I mean, I love him but he can be pretty stubborn."

Willow considered that as she returned the other woman's embrace. "Yes, you're right of course. It doesn't stop me from feeling guilty though." She scowled. "Why would he go with them? They didn't need his help – he wasn't going to be able to win when they couldn't. It's not like as if one of us were to lose it: he could maybe reason with us and stop us from doing something evil – Caleb is completely evil to the bone and kills without conscience!"

Tara sighed. "That's just Xander, isn't it though? He wants to do the right thing and protect us all. If we lived a normal life, if we lived in a world where there was no magic, chances are that Xander would be the one we'd look to for protection and security."

Willow shuddered at the thought of such a world. Even though she only now used her magic to protect innocents, she couldn't bear to think of a world where magic didn't exist. She would be back to being the Willow that she had been all those years ago with probably just as bad dress sense. Plus, would she ever have met Tara? She shivered and pushed the thoughts aside. "Do you think he's going to be okay?"

Tara hugged the other woman a little tighter for a moment. "Xander might be the most normal of us Willow but he's strong. He'll be fine. He won't let this get him down."

eieio

Two hours after arriving at the mall, the group had managed to round up enough weapons and potential weapons to feel comfortable. While the fresh food left behind had long since gone off, there was plenty of tinned and packaged food left to keep them going. Buffy put Andrew and Rhona in charge of a group of Potentials whose job it was to gather the food together into one room – a large store that was full of comic books. Buffy felt sure that Xander would have been in heaven. As it was, Andrew had to be dragged away from the place to get some work done. Another group was busy gathering up anything that could be used as bedding into the same room.

Buffy looked around at the group as they did what they could to make the large room safe – a small group of Potentials had already been placed at each of the entrances – not to fight any intruders but simply to act as look-out so that they would have advance warning if anything attacked. Due to a lack of electricity, once everyone was inside the large store, Buffy pulled the steel shutters down over the storefront then pushed them back up again just to ensure that they could be moved and could be used as an extra line of defence if any of the Potentials did come running back to warn of trouble.

Given that everyone was looking at her, waiting for further instruction, Buffy took a few moments to try and to work out their next move. "Okay, Spike and the group mentioned earlier will be leaving in a couple of hours so I suggest that anyone who feels they could benefit from any basic training should come with us into the other room cleared out earlier – we can walk you through a few moves. Anyone else should get some sleep."