| Part I
The Director leaned forward over her desk. “You were promised to Addergoole at your conception, Buffy. I will do what it takes to make certain all three of you can attend my school without undue concern for your lives or your avocations.”
“Hobbies,” Willow offered, “or, well, things that we do really well but don’t get paid for and, let’s be honest, Buffy, Slaying vampires is something you do really well and definitely don’t get paid for, and the whole back-up thing…”
“You guys do that really well, yeah. And none of us get paid, except maybe Giles, and if they paid him enough, he could afford better suits.”
“I like my suits, thank you very much! And they suit my cover as a high-school librarian. Sunnydale High, I must say, does not pay its staff very well at all.”
“SunnyHell doesn’t pay for anything. I’m not surprised it doesn’t pay you well, G-man. They spent all their money on that…” Xander had a coughing fit. “Never mind.”
“I believe we will be detailing all of the ‘strangeness’ to Director Avonmorea in due time,” Giles assured him. “That is part of the arrangement we’ve made, which includes being certain the three of you can continue to monitor Sunnydale in a manner you find proper, and that, in turn, Director Avonmorea will ‘deal with’ the Council of Watchers who, I’m afraid, most definitely do need ‘dealing with.’” Giles looked far grimmer than Willow had seen him in a long time. “It’s going to be an interesting time, I will say that, but Buffy… as your Watcher and as your mentor, I think it would do you good to come here.” He looked at Willow for a long moment and then at Xander for even longer. “And as your librarian, Willow, Alexander, I cannot stress how good it would be for the two of you. The training you’ll receive here will surpass anything you could be offered out there in the world.”
Willow looked at Xander. Xander was, unsurprisingly, looking at Buffy. Buffy was glaring at the Director.
“Really. You can really ‘handle’ the Council?”
“Not alone, no, but, just as you have Willow and Alexander, I have Michael and Luke, and they will, ah, ‘back me up’ in such a move. We educate teenagers and young adults here. We do not send them untrained and unarmed into battle.”
“Hey! Giles trained me! And I have weapons.”
“Mr. Giles trained you after you had already been in battle, correct? I do not mean to disparage your Mentor; I believe he has done amazingly well with what he’s been given to work with. I could not have done as well. But I do think this Council has done you a disservice, and, yes, I plan to deal with them.”
“I’d like to be a fly on the wall for that conversation,” Willow muttered.
The Director smiled at her. “It is possible I could arrange something of the sort. So: do we have a deal?”
“I want to meet these fighters, first. I don’t agree to anything without knowing if they can handle their own.”
“I want to talk about the education system more,” Willow put in. “Um, maybe with Professor Valerian?”
“I’m certain Laurel would be pleased to tell you more about our academics.” Was the Director winking at her? No, couldn’t be.
“I wanna know more about the hot tubs… nah, I’ve got nothing,” Xander admitted, “except, uh, why me?”
“The answer to that is long and complex, but the short version for the moment is this: because you are worthy and appropriate for this school.” The Director stood up. “So, we will do this thus: We will walk with Buffy and Giles to the gymnasium, where Luke and Doug are waiting with some students to spare with her. Then we will walk with Willow to meet with Professor Valerian — Laurel — and perhaps with Professors Pelletier and Solomon as well. And then you, Alexander, and I will discuss your interests, and who you might meet with.” She walked out from her desk and strode towards the door, clearly expecting them to follow.
The four from Sunnydale shared a glance, a couple shrugs, and one urging-out-the-door gesture, the last from Giles, who was rolling his eyes at them, and then, with a few more shrugs, followed the Director.
“We built this facility in an old government compound, because we wished it to stay undetected and to remain safe, even in the event of a nuclear attack. We started this project in the seventies,” she explained.
She didn’t look past her mid-thirties, maybe, possibly, a well-preserved forty. “Are you a vampire?” Willow blurted the question out, then slapped both hands over her mouth. “I mrrr…”
The Director turned to her and smiled. “I am remarkably well-preserved for my age, but I do not drink blood and I do not turn to dust when one stakes me, although I’d appreciate it if you didn’t try. We could attempt a church in the middle of the day, if you would like?”
“How – oh, no. You can’t catch me in that trap. That one’s always a trap.” Xander slapped both hands over his mouth. The Director raised her eyebrows at him while Willow and Buffy sniggered.
“I wouldn’t mind that church at high noon idea.” Buffy took a step forward towards the Director. “You don’t smell like a vampire, you don’t feel like a vampire, but you’ve got at least one vamp down here I’ve been told I can’t stake.”
“We’d appreciate it if you didn’t. For one, I do not believe Dysmas would turn to dust, though he would be in a great deal of pain.”
“Most things,” Xander pointed out, in that far-too-casual voice that meant something was about to go wrong, “when you put a stake through them, you know, they just die, not sit there and hurt.”
The Director met his gaze and answered without a flinch. “Many things do. We are not ordinary creatures here, any more than the three of you are.”
“Me? I’m ordinary.”
“Mm. I do hope you will forgive me if I don’t believe you. Here is the gymnasium.” She pushed a swinging door open. “And through here are the training rooms.”
“This is a nice gym,” Willow looked around at the wide space. “No bleachers, though.”
“We are not in the habit of competing in team sports. It would be difficult to explain certain parts of our school sufficiently and I’m afraid it would not really be a fair competition.”
“Oh, we know all about unfair competition,” Xander laughed. “Burning up other cheerleaders, turning the swim team into fish-people…”
“You see my point. If we were to compete with other schools, it would be hard to keep all of that quiet.”
“No cheerleading.” It was hard to tell if Buffy’s expression was a real sulk or put-on, but Buffy was often
“No, but quite a bit of opportunity to spar with other students who are — if not up to your level — within sufficient reach of your level to offer some challenge.” Regine opened a door in the side of the gym, one of a row of four unevenly spaced. “In here, you can meet with Luke, Doug, and their students. Willow, Alexander, please come with me.”
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