Buffy and Angel were about to head in the direction of her house, when suddenly a vampire leaped out of the bushes. But instead of attacking, apparently it had recognized either Buffy or Angel, or both of them, and took off in the opposite direction. Not willing to let it get away, or say uncle to the chemical working its way through her body, Buffy, with Angel right behind, gave chase.
It must have been desperate to get away, because it took nearly an hour before the duo finally caught up and dusted the vampire. By now, they were in the school parking lot, and Buffy curiously noted that there was still a car there, despite it being well past midnight.
Suddenly, as they were about to resume their trek to the Summer's home, Angel stopped and physically stiffened.
"What is it?" she asked, looking around and extending her own senses, inadequate as they were for the moment.
"I smell blood. A lot of it." Angel answered, sounding more worried and afraid than he should have been.
"Where?" Buffy asked, looking through the dark.
Suddenly, she stiffened, her eyes very wide and her entire being was locked into a state of overwhelming fear. Angel could feel it. Slowly, she turned and stared right at the lone car in the parking lot. Cordelia's car she now realized with a sinking gut of dread.
"Oh god, please no. Not yet!" she cried, the tears beginning to fall as she raced forward as fast as she could for the car.
A few meters away, Angel knew beyond all doubt this was the source of the blood he smelled. And he also knew whose blood it was. Unfortunately, so did Buffy.
"Oh god, please not yet," she was mumbling as she slowly approached the driver-side door, and opened it...
To reveal a very much dead Cordelia with the back of her head blown off.
Instead of breaking down even further, like he had expected of her, like he felt like doing himself, Buffy knelt beside the corpse and slowly leaned her back upright in the seat. Blood came from every hole in the dead girl's head, one of her eyes was so red that Angel was sure blood had leaked into the organ, while the other was glassy and cold, stuck open in the moment of death.
"Buffy..." Angel tried to comfort her, but she shrugged off his attempts, instead paying far more attention to Cordelia than he thought she should have been.
"Shut up. Leave me alone and let me concentrate here," she ordered. There were still tears falling down her face, but she was obviously not someone mourning.
Closing her eyes, and regulating her breathing as though meditating, Buffy placed her right hand over Cordelia's forehead and her left over the heart. Then, in an amazement of wonder, Angel witnessed something that he had never seen and never thought he'd ever see in all of his 200 years of eternally damned un-life.
He witnessed the resurrection of someone who was definitely dead. And not a demonic resurrection, no, if anything, heavenly is the best and only way to describe it.
Within five minutes, Cordelia suddenly arched forward, like the body had been shocked, gasping with breath for the first time in over three hours.
Three seconds after that, she started screaming. Buffy immediately started trying to restrain her and and calm her down. "It's OK Cordelia! It's OK! It's over, you're all right! Cordelia! You're all right, you're OK, everything is OK! Please, calm down!"
After a couple more seconds of struggling and screaming, Cordelia finally quieted down and sat there, gasping in her car. "Buffy?" she finally said as she recognized the person still holding her. "Wha—what's going on? Where am . . ." she trailed off as she saw the blood in front of and on her as well as the damage to her car.
For a moment, it looked like she would pass out or start screaming again. Instead, in a display of remarkable emotional control, unheard of before in the May Queen, she turned to Buffy and Angel and asked in a somewhat shaky voice, "What happened?"
Buffy hesitated, and looked like she wasn't going to say anything, while Angel just had a completely baffled look on his. Finally, Buffy answered, "You died Cordelia. You were killed as the evidence more than shows you."
"Wait a sec, wait just one second!" Cordelia interrupted the Immortal Slayer. "If I died, why am I not still dead? Huh? Answer me that oh all knowing one!"
"You're an Immortal. Like me, like Faith, like Joy. You're one of us now," Buffy told her straight up.
Queen C's complexion suddenly matched very close to Angel's, maybe a few degrees paler actually. Then she took another look at all the blood in front of her and even on her. Her skin went from pale white to a sharp green in two seconds flat.
"I need to get out of here," she said hurriedly and Buffy and Angel got out of her way as she ran for the bushes and started puking.
Buffy looked a little green herself, but she quickly got to her feet and turned to Angel, a harder edge than he was used to seeing in her eyes as she faced him. "Watch her. Get her back to my place as soon as she can be moved. Let her argue all she wants, just get her to my place." She started to walk off, but Angel grabbed her arm, halting her.
"Wait a second, where are you going?" he demanded.
"She was killed. The assassin could still be out there. I'm going to look for them. Get her back to my place. I'll meet you there in an hour," she promised.
"But, wait, what about . . . you know?"
"I can handle it," Buffy hurried off into the night.
Buffy didn't find Cordelia's killer. But she did find the evidence left behind by the killer. A small note with a very simple symbol stitched onto it. The CIA wanted it's Black Ops team, now.
Once she had the note, Buffy knew she couldn't waste anymore time looking for the "activation team", the CIA elite that had been sent in to "activate" Nightwatch. And since Nightwatch, was at the moment 40 pre-Immortals, and now counting Cordelia, 60 fully active Immortals, that meant an assassination team.
Buffy ran as fast as her quickly weakening muscles could move her, taking her to her street and where her home was. Halfway there she caught up with Angel and Cordelia who were only walking, the latter grumbling the whole way.
"Shut up and start running. I'll explain on the way," Buffy shouted as she ran past them, only slightly out of breath. No slayer powers or not, she was still a nearly 4000 year old Immortal.
Grumbling a little louder, Cordelia started to run after the ancient immortal and the souled vampire.
Thankfully, Buffy's house wasn't too far from the school and it was only a matter of minutes before the three worried immortals arrived on Revello Drive. Unfortunately, for Buffy, all of her fears were realized in that one moment when they saw the shrinking flames and rising smoke coming from a charred heap that used to be a zebra-striped van.
Buffy couldn't take another step once she had identified what the vehicle was. Cordelia and Angel beside her only stared themselves, Cordelia trying to regain control of her breathing, Angel sympathizing for what the woman that he loved was being forced to go through tonight.
"What do you think happened?" Angel asked the ancient Immortal, trying to keep a level and objective head. He needed, they all needed Buffy to keep her head, in more ways than one, right now. Because it looked like either the Watchers, which he had heard about from Willow when she had called earlier that afternoon, or somebody else was targeting their group and killing them all off. If not one by one, as with Cordelia, then possibly all together, which the vampire feared had just happened.
Buffy, despite the circumstances, was showing no more emotion beyond the dried tears on her cheeks. Her face was a stilled-mask, her eyes steady and unburdened with emotion, and she wasn't moving. She just kept staring at the wreckage of the still smoldering automobile, like she expected something to happen that she could then react to.
Within a few moments more, it happened.
It started as a small little buzzing sensation at the back of her neck, but then it didn't go away, and in fact it was getting more powerful and spreading across her entire nervous system. Pretty soon it felt like her entire body was buzzing like she was a flea in the middle of a percussion drum at a Military Rock Concert. Cordelia cried out from the overload she began to interpret as pain, grasping her head as she fell to her knees, begging, screaming for it to stop.
Buffy just frowned as she kept staring at the wreckage, and then her head moved, almost on its own accord, about 45 degrees to the right where four charred bodies lay hidden in the darkness of the night grass. Faster than the others expected, Buffy raced forward across the street to the bodies. Angel decided that for the moment she could take care of herself, but quite obviously Cordelia could not.
Being gentle, he hurried to pick the still screaming girl up and carried her across the street to join Buffy. That was when he saw three more miracles that he would never tire of seeing.
Faith's back arched as she gasped in breath, and then let out a series of coughs, slowly rolling onto her side before even trying to sit up. When she finally could, she looked up and saw Buffy, Angel and Cordelia standing around her, the former with grave concern etched into every facet of her face.
"B?" Faith croaked, swallowing some to get moisture back in her mouth before trying to talk again. "B? What the hell happened? That was an explosion!"
Buffy just nodded, and turned her attention to the others on the ground beside Faith.
The Dark Slayer slowly got to her feet, making sure she was fully healed and steady before standing up. Then she looked over at Cordelia and Angel, and the moment Faith and Cordelia's eyes met, the cheerleader stopped screaming and all traces of pain left her, and the tiny buzz that had still been in her brain finally dissipated from Faith's consciousness.
Realizing what this meant, Faith nearly cried out with shock herself. Only her century of experience allowed her to school her features properly enough to keep it to just staring for a while, a small look of shock on her face.
"What the hell was that?!" Cordelia demanded to know.
Before she could get her answer, she cried out again, holding her head and closing her eyes in pain, even if it wasn't as powerful as the first time. Whether that was cause she was more used to it or whatever caused it wasn't as powerful this time around, Cordelia didn't know, but to her it didn't make any difference. Pain was pain.
Faith flinched, and finally looked down herself, seeing Xander and Willow strewn out beside her . . . until the long time friends, together, breathed in gasping for breath, their backs arching slightly as their nervous systems jump-started. As with Faith, after the initial gasp, they spent several moments coughing on their sides. Faith, seeing as Cordelia was still incapacitated, went to Xander as Buffy went to Willow and the Slayers helped the new Immortals sit up.
"B-b-Buffy?" Willow asked, surprised to see the blonde holding her. And even more surprised to see herself covered in black soot and her clothes burned. Taking in her surroundings, she saw Faith helping Xander, both of them in much the same condition she was. Angel was standing over Cordelia, looking helpless as the socialite cowered on the ground, holding her head and sounding like she was in immense pain.
It was at that moment that Willow recognized the buzzing she herself was feeling. The last time she had felt anything like this, she had been magically reliving the many lifetimes of an ancient Immortal. But that was under a spell, and this was most obviously reality . . . and here she was, feeling other Immortals . . . herself.
"Oh goddess!" Willow cried out, drawing everyone's attention, even Cordelia, who showed relief after meeting Willow's eyes. Sensing a pattern, Cordelia turned to her boyfriend and met his eyes, and both visibly relaxed.
"Buffy! What happened? I . . . I can feel Immortals! I . . . I can feel you, and Faith, and . . . Xander and Cordelia . . ." Willow trailed off, realization to her own question coming over her as she lay in the grass at night.
"Willow," Buffy called, shaking her redheaded friend out of her inner musings long enough to get her attention. "We need to get indoors. Now. I'll explain in my house. Let's move."
"Wait, where's Oz?" Willow demanded as the Gold Slayer pulled her up to her feet.
Faith tensed and Buffy just stopped for a minute, before slowly turning in the direction of the now smoldering van. It didn't take a super genius to figure out that she was silently answering Willow's question.
In a highly unusual display of emotion, Cordelia choked back a sob and ran into Xander's arms, who was fighting back tears himself, while Angel and Faith both bowed their heads in sadness.
"NOOOOOOO!" Willow cried and tried to run to the van, but Buffy stopped her, holding her almost easily, despite the blonde being at less than half power that night.
"NOOO! NO, NO, NO, NONONONONO!! NOOOOOOO!!!!" Willow screamed again, trying to fight her way out of Buffy's arms, but she was too weak, and ended up just crying in the blonde's arms.
"Let's get inside," Buffy said after a few minutes after Willow had stopped screaming. Angel helped her carry Willow while Cordelia and Xander mostly leaned on each other as they walked along, and Faith just brought up the rear, scowling at the wreck of the van, and the darkness in general.
"What happened?" Joyce demanded to know as she slowly and deliberately helped to clean up Xander and Willow. Faith was still upstairs taking a shower, but at least she knew and had experience with getting the traces of an explosion out of her skin.
"The Agency wants it's team," Buffy answered coldly. "My guess is that there's a new director, or maybe it's somebody working without the consensus of the Board hoping to get either a promotion or more power of some kind. More than likely the true nature of Nightwatch has been covered up and forgotten, even by those that helped design it. They probably think that Nightwatch is some sleeper assassination team, and only by putting the 'sleepers' in life-threatening situations can the programming be activated. Obviously, that ain't the case."
"I figured that much out on my own. I mean what happened?" Joyce demanded once more, sounding like an exasperated parent rather than a thousand year old Immortal who was used to the spy game.
"Oh," Buffy blushed and ducked her head sheepishly. "Cordelia was shot in the back of the head by a sniper, I couldn't tell what caliber because the bullet was a self-destruct and the hole in her head had already healed by the time I got to her. And somebody put a bomb in Oz's van. That's what happened."
"Then how do you know it's not Wilkins, or the Watchers?" Joyce asked as she scrubbed fiercely at Willow's neck, who wasn't really moving or doing much of anything. Since getting inside, Willow had finally cried herself out and now she was just numb, not reacting or fighting anything that was happening to her, and hardly even blinking, except whenever someone said Oz's name, because then she blinked rapidly for several seconds and a few tears leaked out, but then she went back to numbness.
Buffy, in reply to Joyce's question, just handed her the note she had found where the assassin had shot Cordelia from. Staring at it, Joyce frowned, but had to agree with Buffy's assessment of the situation.
"So what do we do now?" the blonde was asked.
"We have a number of options actually," Buffy answered, sounding surprised herself. "One, all of us get out of here until the newbies are trained and we can come back, stop Wilkins, close the Hellmouth, and protect ourselves from any further assassination attempts. Two, you and Faith get the kids out of here while I take care of the Agency team, and Wilkins. And three, we pretend everything is normal and stick to our original plans for being here on the Hellmouth."
"Original plan?" Xander asked, keeping up with the conversation as best he could.
Buffy shrugged, "Maintain a guardianship over the Hellmouth until it can be sealed again, or destroyed even. If that's possible. React to each threat as it comes and respond accordingly. Oh, and do the whole Immortal thing of taking care of and teaching any pre-Immortals we came across."
The statement, while soft, came from the cowed redhead. Her head was lowered, but her body was perfectly still, despite her recent traumas.
"You knew," she said a little louder, now looking up and glaring at Buffy with a fierce anger in her eyes. Those eyes had last been directed at Alison Madison the last time Buffy had seen them at all. To have them pointed at her was a sobering experience for the ancient Immortal.
"You knew we were Immortal! You knew that Oz wasn't! You KNEW that these people would be coming here and what they would do! YOU KNEW!!" Willow shouted.
Xander wasn't exactly with the giving of sympathy, Buffy knew, so she didn't even try to break her stare with Willow. "Yes. So did Joy. So did Faith. So did Merlin, the little nerd that you've known as Jonathan for who knows how many years. As for these people . . . no. I didn't, I couldn't possibly know about them . . ."
"LIAR!!" Willow screamed.
Faith came running down the stairs at Willow's shouts, still only half dressed in sweatpants, pulling a tank top over her bra as she entered the dining room. "What's going on?" she asked the room.
She was ignored as Buffy bristled slightly at Willow's words. "I am not lying Willow. I wouldn't do that to you at this time. I couldn't know what's going on right now. I had it all planned. After graduation we were going to tell all of you about Immortals and that you were pre-Immortal, and then we would have given you a choice! Whether or not to trigger your Immortality, or to wait, or to protect you from ever dying so you could die of old age without ever having to worry about the things an Immortal worries about. And I think you know me well enough, Willow, that I'm telling the truth and not lying."
"Says the great actress," the redhead snapped, becoming angrier by the second.
Buffy recoiled as if she had been slapped. Then her face clouded over for several long seconds, switching emotions so fast that no one could keep track, until she finally stilled her features and silently walked around Willow and away from the dining room.
"That was below the belt Red," Faith tried to defend her teacher without taking sides.
"They killed Oz," Willow started to wail again, and Xander immediately embraced her and held her steady as she cried.
Even though Xander was comforting her, and she was clearly distraught, even to the point where Faith's own emotional armor would crack, the Immortal Slayer could not let the both of them go on thinking that Buffy just didn't care, which is what they were thinking, she could see it in their minds thanks to her own Slayer powers.
"Yeah, they did," Faith said matter-of-factly to Willow. "And don't you think it's eating the rest of us up inside? What the hell do you think it's doing to B? Huh Red? You know her about as well, if not better than me and Joy put together, so you can probably come up with an answer that's pretty close. How is Oz's death affecting her right now? How is you, Xand here, and even Queen C becoming Immortal, on her watch, in one night, how is that affecting her? Answer me that Red."
"Look, just back off!" Xander got up to enforce the issue, but was stopped when Willow grabbed his hand and told him, "No. Don't. She's right."
Although she was still a bit weepy, Willow was much more in control of her facilities than she had been since reviving. "She's beating herself up inside, even worse than what I was saying to her. Even worse than the things Allison said to her," Willow answered Faith's question. "She's hurting just as bad as I am, not because of how she felt about him, but because he was a friend and how it's hurting the rest of us. And she's promising herself in between all the recriminations and pain, that she won't let it happen to the rest of us. No matter what."
"OK, so why'd you go and make her feeling worse?" Faith shot out, hardly even phased by the emotional speech.
Willow actually looked up to meet Faith's glare as she answered, too calmly, "Because she deserves it, and a whole lot more."
There was silence after Willow's statement for several long moments, until Joyce walked in and asked her, "And what makes you believe that Miss Rosenberg?" Very formally and almost coldly from the manner in which the question was asked.
Willow watched as Joyce traded the soiled towels for fresh ones and took the bowl of water they had been using to clean themselves with. "She didn't have to tell us. About Immortals. Faith either could have left, or even better, her "twin sister" could have shown up out of the blue one day. There would have been questions, but it would be easier than this. That's just one of the options, one of the choices she made that got Oz killed."
"Whoa, back it up Will," Xander interrupted her tirade.
"Whose to say that the CIA, or whoever is behind this, was actually watching Buffy enough that they knew she had told us about Immortals? And even if they were, everything says they targeted us, not Buffy, and not where she could easily find us. Cordelia was killed in the school parking lot for crying out loud!! Oz's van was rigged to explode. Not Buffy's motorcycle, not Joyce's Jeep, not even, if she had one, Faith's car. Even Giles is safe! We, we were the ones targeted Willow! They would have killed us whether Buffy told us about Immortals or not. Even when she told us about this Nightwatch thing, she only told us enough that wouldn't get us killed. Not who was in it, not it's first mission, not that . . ."
"THAT WE'RE IT!!" Willow shouted at him. "WE'RE NIGHTWATCH XANDER! Not just Faith and Joyce, not just her, or even just Angel. ALL OF US!! BECAUSE GUESS WHAT XANDER! WE'RE ALL IMMORTAL!!!!"
Xander didn't have anything to say to that as Willow sat back down with a huff of frustration.
Faith, however, was not calling that the end of it, and stomped around the table until she could look the redhead in the eye from across it. "So you're blaming me for Oz's death?" she demanded.
"What? No!" Willow blurted. "I blame Buffy..."
"SHE'S NOT THE ONE THAT GOT HERSELF KILLED, TAKING A KNIFE FOR YOU!!" Faith exploded in Willow's face. "I GOT MYSELF KILLED, AND CONTRARY TO YOUR LITTLE COMIC BOOK WORLD NAIVETY, I COULD NOT HAVE JUST COME BACK CLAIMING TO BE MY OWN TWIN SISTER. First off there's the Slayer shit, second off, we're on a fucking time table here Red. Not the Nightwatch shit, but some idiotic used-to-be pre-immortal wants to become a full-fledged demon black mage! In a few months time, he's going to get his wish, and if we aren't ready, Sunnyhell is gonna be a lot more hell than sunny."
Faith had finally calmed down, enough that she wasn't shouting anymore, but she continued, "I'm the one that started this whole thing rolling. Telling you guys about immortals, hell, even inviting John to Sunnydale, that all happened because I made a mistake. Oz's death . . ." Faith stopped talking as she took a deep breath, looking down at her fists before continuing, "Oz's death is not my fault. No more than it's B's. If we never told you about immortals, if Amy had never invited her "Uncle" here for a visit, if the Watchers hadn't even shown up . . . these people still would have, and they may have done it differently, but everyone still would have died tonight. Even Oz."
"You don't know that..." Willow snapped.
"Yes, we do," Buffy interrupted her, coming back into the kitchen. She had the folder that John had left for them in her hand. "Everything that Faith just mentioned, those were the good things that happened. It all allowed us to be better prepared for this moment."
"What moment?" Willow hatefully scorned.
Buffy put the folder down in front of the healing redhead. "The activation orders were given two months ago. The reason it took them so long to take it to this level was probably a number of factors, the least of which would have been funding for the operation, recruitment, they probably even just followed us around town, monitoring our activities for weeks before deciding on how to activate Nightwatch." Buffy pointed to one paragraph on the page right in front of Willow. "Any civilian targets in contact with targets are to be canceled immediately," she quoted. "If John had gotten to me just a few weeks earlier I might have been able to pick up on them watching us. As it turned out... they moved before I could find them out. They've probably bugged the house, which is why they moved tonight, after supper. We don't have time to sweep for them anyway. We have to be prepared and it's going to happen a lot sooner than I wanted."
"What are you talking about B?" Faith asked.
"We've known they were pre-immortal since we met them Faith," Buffy snapped. "Joy and I set up basically an Immortal boot camp not too far out of town. We'll be heading out there in the morning. According to procedure, the activation team should leave town after confirming that Nightwatch has been activated. And if the house really is bugged, then they just got it."
"And if this activation team doesn't follow procedure?" Xander asked, tension in his posture and voice.
Buffy didn't verbally answer him, but the look she gave each of them was enough.
"When do we leave?" Willow asked.
"In the morning," Buffy answered immediately.
"Well good, because it's been a long enough night as it is," Joyce announced as she came in carrying blankets and a couple of pillows. "Now, we know Giles is safe, otherwise they would have taken care of him along with Cordelia in the school parking lot."
"Gee, thanks," Cordelia bit out sarcasm as she accepted a blanket and a pillow from the older Immortal.
"So, Xander, you get the couch. Willow, Cordelia, I'm afraid you'll have to share the guest room. And I trust you two will keep your same sleeping habits?" Joyce asked with a disapproving motherly tone, causing all the other people in the house to look suspiciously at both Immortal Slayers.
"No, I'm gonna stay up and get things ready. Faith, you, since you've just had a major healing and I need you at the top of your game for the next few days, you go on up and get some sleep. That's an order," Buffy added when Faith looked about to argue.
Scowling, the Dark Slayer turned and slowly marched up the stairs, grumbling the whole way, "Stupid old bitch, having her stupid covert ops team five stupid minutes and she's already giving stupid orders . . ."
Those remaining struggled to keep their faces straight, except Buffy of course, who just had an understanding smirk on hers. "All right, everyone to bed. We all need to . . . to . . . be . . ." she would have continued but suddenly she seemed to lose all her balance and stumbled a bit before suddenly collapsing forward, fainting dead away.
"BUFFY!" every Immortal in the home cried out in panic, Faith racing back down the stairs even as Willow and Joyce immediately picked the blonde up from the floor and with Xander and Faith's help put her down on the couch in the living room.
"What just happened?" Faith screamed.
"I don't know!" Willow began to panic, "One second she was talking and taking charge like normal and then she started to look real faint and then her speech faltered and I think she fainted but Buffy doesn't faint so that means she collapsed from something, what if she's dying from some unknown disease that only Immortals get or when we get to a certain age we just stop and die and..." SLAP!
Everything stopped for a second, and then Joyce returned to looking Buffy over. Willow's head was still turned, and her cheek still red from where the Summers Matriarch had slapped her, but she was no longer panicking and running off at the mouth.
"I'm sorry I had to do that Willow, but now is not the time for hysterics," Joyce said as she continued to look Buffy over.
"Come on Red," Faith picked Willow up and dragged her into the kitchen before anything else happened.
Once they were gone, Xander took Willow's place beside the two Summers women and asked, "OK, without the hysterics, do you know what's wrong with Buffy? Because Buffy doesn't faint unless she means too or she's on emotion overload. So . . . what's wrong?"
"I don't . . ." Joyce stopped and took a deep breath and then let it out very slowly, "I'm not sure Xander, but for right now..." she stopped suddenly when she saw a tiny insignificant mark on her daughter's arm. She closed her eyes tightly and cursed, "Oh Goddess, not now!"
"What? What is it?" Xander insisted.
"The serum," Joyce said simply as she started to pick Buffy up.
Xander, seeing what she was trying to do, helped her, taking the other side of the blonde. "What serum?" he asked.
Joyce looked at him, and then seemed to realize something and let out another long sigh. "Never mind right now, I'll explain later. But for right now lets just get her to the couch."
When Buffy finally came too, she already knew what had happened because she could feel it, throughout her entire body. The serum was more than a combination of multiple varieties of sedatives and muscle-relaxant drugs. It was also mystical, empowered with enough magic to physically weaken a Slayer for days if not weeks, given in enough quantities. For an Immortal, gifted with Slayer powers by the gods themselves, it would be a minimum of 24 hours. 12 hours for the serum to take full effect, and then 24 to 72 after that for the effects to be fully extinguished.
Buffy felt weak, weaker than she had in years. When she moved, it felt like she was straining to move at all, like gravity itself was strong enough to crush her in a single moment, and when she could move, it felt like she was crawling, her movements were so slow.
"Hey Buff," a familiar voice said right beside her, "how ya feelin'?"
She looked around to find herself on the couch, Xander and Joyce sitting across from her.
With a groan she slid herself into a sitting position and then almost collapsed back into the couch. The full serum was enough to kill a mortal Slayer, but it was also the only way an Immortal Slayer could be affected at all. But it still kicked like a burly mule in heat.
"Weak. Damn the Watchers. It's going to be at least an hour before I get even a fraction of strength back. Good thing I'm Immortal, otherwise my heart would have stopped." Buffy answered him.
"Uh, dear, your heart did stop," Joyce explained.
"Yeah, which is why it's a good thing I'm Immortal. My heart doesn't stay stopped. This doesn't change anything. Everybody get some sleep. We're still leaving in the morning and I'll take care of the Watchers tonight. Uh, after I can actually move that is."
"Hey, I thought we were supposed to be a team here Buff!" he suddenly exclaimed.
"We are," she emphasized. "But the rest of you aren't ready, even for dealing with the vamp the Watchers have created for this damned test. You will be. We, Faith, Joy, and I, will make sure of that. But right now, you just need to get some rest and then go with the others in the morning. I'll catch up."
"Buffy," Joyce suddenly interrupted, "You do realize that there is a faster way of getting the serum out of your system, don't you?"
"I'd be out for hours Joy," the blonde protested. "Not to mention when I actually went after the Watchers, they'd know something was up, and if Travers never managed to convince anyone else that I was an Immortal, then they'll think that Giles never gave me the serum. And you know what that'll mean."
"What?" Xander asked, clueless.
"He'll get fired. And that's not something we can afford at this time," Buffy answered him.
"Buff, I really don't think you should be going out alone, especially if . . ." Xander started to object.
"Hey," she said comfortingly, "I may be lacking in the Slayer strength department, but I'm still a 4000 year old Immortal. Believe me when I say that all this, with the exception of the CIA hit squad, this is all just par for the course. Now both of you, go get some sleep. You're going to need it for tomorrow. Really Xander, I'm fine. Now go!"
"All right, all right. I got the couch in case you forgot though, so, unless you'd like to join me," he waggled his eyes suggestively.
She just smirked and replied easily, "Oh Xander, I would never do anything like that with you, you should know that."
He just grinned self-reproachingly and nodded, and then she continued.
"And certainly not behind Cordy's back. Besides, if anything were going to happen, I wouldn't do a thing unless Cordy were there too," with that she got up off the couch and hobbled into the dining room, her muscles screaming with unnatural strain.
Xander was left sputtering in the living room, his face very red and his eyes wide in either fright or shock. Maybe both.
He looked over at Joyce, who just giggled at the look on his face and answered his unasked question, "Get used to it Xander. Now that you're a part of the club, so to speak, you're going to get to know the real Buffy." With that, giggling her immortal head off, the mother figure went up the stairs leaving the young Immortal alone to sleep on his own. That is if he could ever get any sleep at all after such a blatant innuendo from his new Teacher.