To everyone's dismay, Gabby didn't arrive punctually at four, but at quarter past, and didn't even apologize; since she clearly was upset though, no one made any comment about it, Buffy just asking her to sit down and Giles offering her a drink, introducing her to the members of the gang she hadn't met yet after she had declined.
"You told all those guys about it?" Gabby demanded to know as soon as she had taken a seat, giving Buffy an incredulous look which briefly annoyed the blonde, "I thought you said you would keep it to yourself until we figured something out!"
"I said we wouldn't involve any authorities", Buffy corrected her, "and all those guys, as you called them, have helped with countless equally unpleasant situations, so let's not question them being here, okay?"
"Okay", the young woman agreed after a moment, "and sorry, I didn't mean to snap at you, it's just… I'm scared, you know?"
"I know", Buffy reassured her, giving her best to sound tender, "and we're all here to help. Now tell us everything you know."
"There's not much to tell", Gabby mumbled, running one hand through her short, brunette hair nervously, "Sarah, Ally and Henrietta have gone missing, and no one of us knows why. I already checked all their records I could get my hands on after our first talk, Buffy, but the only thing they really had in common was the Wicca group…"
"So someone's definitely targeting them for that", Pat stated the obvious, "the question is, why? Did you notice anything weird going on lately?"
"Not really", Gabby sighed, "everything was just as always before they started vanishing… But I already told all that to Buffy, so why do I have to repeat it?"
"Because you were upset back then and maybe, you missed something", the Slayer told her, "if you want us to help you, we need to know everything, do you understand?"
"Yes", Gabby gave back, now sounding impatient, "but there's nothing else I can tell you, there was nothing weird! We had our meetings, twice a week, and our bake sale the first Wednesday of the month…"
"When did the first girl vanish?" Willow wanted to know in reply, making Gabby look at her with considerable more friendliness than she'd been granting Buffy and the others so far, probably because she still remembered her from her short time in the group.
"On Friday, after the sale, it was Ally", she told the witch, "then, two days later, Henrietta vanished, and another two days after that, Sarah."
"A regular rhythm, then", Giles pointed out, taking out his glasses and beginning to clean them, "now the question is what is happening during those two days."
"Are there rituals that take so long?" Pat wanted to know, once more demonstrating that she knew surprisingly little about magic, despite the fact that her very nature gave her a certain talent and inclination towards it, frowning when in response, all she received was a blank look from Gabby and shrugs from her girlfriend and from Giles.
"There are millions of rituals", Willow told her when she noticed her dismayed look, "and of course there are some which can take that long… In case they work, which they won't if those girls are subjected to them."
"What are you talking about?" Gabby demanded to know, sounding impatient and annoyed again, "what rituals? And why would anyone subject three of us to any of those?"
"There are several magical rituals which need a witch's blood to work", Willow told her in reply, choosing her next words wisely since she didn't want to offend the other girl, not quite succeeding though, as the expression on Gabby's face quickly showed. "And, well, no offense, but… When I was still there, you girls weren't actually real witches. So their blood wouldn't do any good."
"How can you say that", Gabby demanded to know, outraged, "of course we are real witches!"
"Let's not fight about this now", Buffy butted in before Willow could reply anything and this might turn into a discussion, "we need to focus our energies on figuring out what is going on. Gabby, are you sure that you never noticed anything strange? Strange people at the bake sale maybe, or something like that? A newbie to the group?"
"No newbies", Gabby gave back, but not without giving the witch another glare, "and I don't know about all the people who come to our bake sales, they are open to everyone, not just to the campus population, so…"
"So, this is completely unhelpful", Pat added, frowning before she looked at Buffy, giving the Slayer a slightly mischievous smirk. "Seems like you have to take in a bunch of wiccas, Buffy."
"It seems so, yes", the Slayer sighed, then smirked as well, the demon not liking the sight of that at all, and with good reason, as she found out moments later when the blonde continued. "And also, I'll have to take in a certain witch and her partner, so we'll have all our fighters there combined in case an attack happens."
Grumbling, Pat leaned back into her seat and crossed her arms over her chest, showing that she wasn't all too fond of the idea; she had to admit though that it was making sense, and thus just nodded grudgingly, making Buffy smile sweetly at her – before Gabby spoke up and distracted them from their talk, sounding so confused that it forced the demon to hold back a chuckle. "Take in a bunch of wiccas? Why? What are you talking about?"
"I want all of you to stay in my house with me", Buffy clarified in reply, "you'll be safe there. Especially with Willow, Pat and me around. There's no reason to think that whoever has taken the three girls will stop, so I want to keep the remaining ones of your group close and at the safest place possible."
"So we're all supposed to move in with you?" Gabby wanted to know, stunned, "you do know there's still seven of us, right?"
"Yes", Buffy sighed, "but, as I said, we need to keep an eye on you and that'll be easiest and safest in my home. You are alright with this, are you?"
"Well, not really", Gabby muttered, "but it makes sense, so… I'll call the other girls and tell them about it and that they should pack up."
"Good", the Slayer nodded, "tell them all to come here, then we can go to my place together. If the last girl was taken on Thursday, and whoever is taking them keeps to this rhythm, then he'll try to get another one tomorrow, so tell them to come here right after packing up."
"Okay", Gabby agreed, then got up and moved a few steps away, digging out her cell phone so she could call the remaining members of the group; while she did so, Pat got up from her seat and told Buffy that Willow and she would go and pack up as well, making the Slayer nod before she asked the couple to meet them all back at her house, both of them agreeing before they left for their apartment, both slightly dismayed about the fact that they had to leave it again so shortly after returning to it.
"You know", Pat spoke up half an hour later, back at their home, packing up clothes and her stash of cigarettes for the stay at Buffy's house, "I wonder why we even bother having an apartment, we could just move in with Buffy permanently and make it all much easier."
"Uuh, no, bad idea", Willow disagreed as well while she threw several pairs of socks into her bag, "where would we sleep there? No matter which room we'd get, there'd always be someone too close for comfort when we… get close."
"Good point", Pat had to admit, "and also, Buffy's house is non-smoking. I just hope we won't have to stay there for too long, I don't like the thought of living with a whole bunch of wannabe-wiccas for several weeks."
"I wonder if they'll really freak out when they see some real magic", Willow giggled in reply, "or when they see what you can do…"
"If they really as far from real witches as you think they are, they'll probably run away screaming", Pat smirked, finishing her packing and zipping the bag shut, "and I don't see why I shouldn't trust your judgement, so… Yeah. They'll freak. Majorly."
"I know that's nasty, but I kinda look forward to that", Willow admitted, having the grace to blush slightly, "especially after how Gabby insisted on how they are real witches."
"Yeah, because having a bake sale once a month is totally something a witch would do", Pat muttered, shaking her head while she sat down on the edge of the bed and watched how Willow went on packing, the witch giving her a brief smile in response to her words.
"Let's hope it won't turn into a stampede", she stated, zipping her bag shut as well afterwards, "or they'll ruin the house and Buffy will be pissed."
"She already is", Pat chuckled, "not that I don't understand her, the thought of living with a bunch of college girls who believe they're witches unnerves me a bit, as well."
"I think the only one who likes the new situation is Dawn", Willow giggled, grabbing her bag and making her way out of the bedroom with her partner in tow, "she seemed quite enthusiastic about the idea."
"She might come to regret that once she has to share her room with a girl or two", Pat smirked, putting down her bag so she could put on her jacket, then took a moment to decide between shoes and boots, settling for the boots after a moment, figuring that they were more suitable for kicking, in case there should be any fighting going on.
"Let's go then?" she half-asked, half-stated once she had put them on, making Willow nod; they both picked up their bags again, then left the apartment once more, heading for Buffy's home not even a minute later.
When they arrived there, the Wicca group already was present, all of them sitting in the living room and looking around uneasily, making both the witch and the demon wonder how much they were aware of the danger they all were in.
"There you are", Buffy greeted, sounding so relieved that it made the couple smirk, "I was just about to tell them all what's going on."
"Don't let us stop you", Willow gave back, looking for a free seat and frowning when she didn't find one, taking the floor after a moment and making her partner sit down next to her; nodding, Buffy focused on the group of girls again, taking the time to introduce both Willow and Pat – without mentioning their special nature – before she repeated what Gabby had told her, reminding the group of the fact that three of them already had vanished and that so far, there was no reason to think that it would stop.
"So you all think we're in danger, too", one of them spoke up, a rather pudgy girl with long, wavy red hair, looking at the Slayer with a mixture of worry and disbelief on her face, the worry increasing when Buffy immediately nodded.
"Three of you have vanished", she then reminded the other girl, "and, as I said, there is no reason to believe that whoever is responsible for this will stop anytime soon. So, you all are in danger, and that's why Gabby called you all and asked you to stay here for a while."
"And how do you want to protect us?" another girl, with strangely coloured green and blue hair, wanted to know, sounding quite sceptical, "no offense, Buffy, but I'm not really sure why Gabby chose to ask you for help, you're quite… well… small."
"No worries", Buffy gave back, giving her best to not let her annoyance about this show, telling herself that it was normal to be sceptical for people who had no idea about her being the Slayer, didn't even know that a Slayer existed, "we'll do just fine. As you know, Willow's a witch, and both Pat and I are stronger than we look."
"At least she's tall", the girl mumbled with a look at the demon; then, yet another girl cleared her throat and gained the attention of everyone, shifting on the couch nervously as she noticed that all eyes were on her now.
"So how long are we supposed to stay here?" she inquired, "and what about the guy who's snatching members of our group? Shouldn't we call the police or something?"
"The police won't do much good", Gabby was the one to answer that question, before any of the members of the Scoobie Gang could do so, "you all know how useless they are here, right? How are they supposed to protect us?"
"Well, how are three women supposed to protect us?" green and blue hair girl wanted to know in reply, still sounding sceptical, raising an eyebrow at the Slayer's answer. "We're working on finding out who is responsible for this, and once we know, we'll stop them. That's all you need to know for now."
"This is all so weird", another girl muttered, shaking her head, "there's some psycho out there who targets us and no one of us knows why and now, we're hiding away in a house with a bunch of other women who're supposed to help us. I feel as if I stumbled into a horror movie or something."
The other girls just nodded in reply to that, all looking equally glum and dismayed now; then, Buffy broke the silence by getting up and telling them that they should come with her for a short tour of the house and the assignment of their sleeping places, along with some rules she'd come up with to make living together here more bearable, relieved when at least this time, no one questioned her or talked back.
Instead, all the girls got up from their seat, even the sceptical green and blue haired one; giving them a hopefully calming smile, Buffy led them out of the living room and upstairs while Willow and Pat remained where they were, glad that at least for now, the girls were willing to stay here and that at least, they acknowledged their need for protection, even though both were well aware of how fast this might change if they wouldn't be able to figure anything out anytime soon.