| Part I
Willow was staring at Ms. Valerian. Ms. Valerian… was not offended in the least, from the looks of things.
“You’re delicious.” Ms. Valerian grinned at her. Willow blushed and turned away, nearly missing what the professor said next. “Talk to me about that when you’re an adult, legally, all right, sweetheart.”
“Go…” Xander trailed off, as if he’d been about to tease her and changed his mind. Willow appreciated it, whatever the reasoning in his pointy head. She was poking at the feelings inside of her and didn’t know what to think at all.
“So, classes. Great. What about those of us not so, uh, study-like-ly inclined?” Buffy interjected. “I mean, this is me we’re talking about…”
“Well, there’s the combat lessons. You’re impressive, but I think even you could stand some teaching from one – or all – of our combat professors. There’s the social life. There’s the lack of demons and vampires in a more homicidal sense.”
“You have a rule saying ‘killing gets you expelled’,” Xander pointed out. “How non-homicidal can you be if you need a rule about it?”
“Less than someone who counts her kills in the ‘I don’t count that high,'” Ms. Valerian pointed out. Ms.? Miss? Mrs.? Her ring finger was bare, but a lot of women didn’t wear rings all the time.
Willow shook her head. She had other things to worry about right now. “So you’re saying it’s safer here? But what about the Hellmouth? How safe is that going to be if-“
“I’m serious. There’s a reason for Buffy, Mister.”
“No! Why are you trying to… Oh. Hi, Giles.”
“Director Regine and I have been talking, and we believe we have a solution to Buffy’s problem.”
“Oh, good, because I mean, no matter how many times I bleach, I keep getting roots.”
“No, not that problem, although I’m fairly certain they could solve that one, too.”
“Oh, really? First good news I’ve heard all day. Giles, you did not tell me there would be demons here. And Vampires. And bit… unpleasant people, although I could have guessed that.”
“Giles, you didn’t tell me about the curriculum here! And the independent studies!” Willow sulked. “And computer classes that I don’t have to teach myself.”
“Giles you didn’t tell me… I’ve got nothing,” Xander admitted. “I just wanted to join in.”
Giles cleared his throat. “I might point out that I knew nothing about this school but conjecture and rumor before we came here less than an hour ago. Buffy, you haven’t staked anyone, have you?”
“No. You told me not to.” Buffy was clearly sulking.
“Yes, yes I did. And for good reason. Now please, come on in to Director Avonmorea’s office and we can discuss the issues surrounding your attendance here before you give away all of your secrets to randomly passing students.”
“Hey, they’re not so random. One of them had a cat tail. And wings! The wings was someone else…”
“And then there really was a vampire,” Willow offered loyally. “And a giant. And some really nasty person, but that seems normal. I mean, not that the vampire didn’t seem normal, but I begin to worry that my sense of normality is entirely skewed. Do you think it’s skewed?” she asked Xander.
“Hey, this is me, fish-guy hyena-guy soldier-guy. I’m not sure I’m the one to be asking about normal.”
“Ahem, a-hem Let’s go into Director Avonmorea’s office now, shall we?”
“Oh! Right, the secrets and the things. Of course, sorry, right away.” Willow let herself be steered. “It’s like going to the principal’s office, only scarier. And nicer,” she added, as they were ushered into a fancy reception area, through that, and into the office.
The reception area had been all wood and old and books everywhere, like a lawyer’s office. This was smooth and glass and modern and computer screens, and the woman sitting behind the desk was just as smooth and glassine. Her hair was straight, blonde; her nose was straight, perfect; her expression was straight, unreadable. Willow felt immediately grubby and small, and wished she’d worn a suit.
“These are the students, Rupert?” She made an expression with her face that was probably meant to be a smile. It looked like it had seen a smile in a magazine once.
“Ahem. Yes. Th-this is,” Giles cleared his throat again and straightened, seeming to gain inches in height and lose a few years. “This is Buffy, Willow, and Xander. Buffy is the one I was discussing primarily, with the–“
“‘Vampire Slaying’, yes. The Council.” The Director’s voice dripped with disdain. “And the other two?”
“Willow is a brilliant student, of course; you’ve seen her records. And, due to the nature of the rift in Sunnydale, she has begun to manipulate magic without the use of Words.”
“I use words!” Willow wrinkled her nose. “I use spells and everything.”
“Yes.” Rupert nodded. “You use very impressive spells that are, themselves, bending the world, which is impressive, because you are doing them without the Words of power. And this is Xander, who is earnest, loyal, and strong, dedicated and devoted. Also, he appears to be a magnet to the otherworldly, the magical, and the strange.”
“Hey, how come he gets all that earnest, loyal stuff and I just get quote-unquote Vampire Slayer?”
“Because, Buffy, you already know what you are. Sometimes Xander needs to be reminded.”
“Indeed.” The director looked from one to the next of them. “So.” She steepled her fingers and looked at them over her hands. “You were dedicated to this school on your births, and, as such , we have the stronger commitment. However, the… ‘spell’ that the Council used to bind Buffy to the calling of her spiritual ancestors is a strong one, and it is not without validity. I have sent a firmly-worded message to the Council, but in the meantime, I understand that both Buffy’s calling and the nature of Sunnydale remain problems.”
“You think? Demons and vampires and occasionally monsters from hell, oh, don’t forget the curses.” Buffy glared at Regine. “Yes. They’re ‘problems.’ I’m a ‘problem’. Always have been always will be. Just let me go back to Sunnydale and continue being a ‘problem’ for everyone.”
“Buffy…” Giles sighed.
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