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Author's note: The dialogue, with necessary changes to fit with my canon, was taken from the original episode. Enjoy.

Checkpoint.

No more than a week had passed by before Giles summoned the slayerettes to a meeting at the Mansion on Crawford Street.

"Thank you all for coming," he began when drink and snacks had been dealt out and everyone was sitting quietly around the double height living room. "I've had some rather, ... well, I've had some news. It seems that the Council of Watchers has found some information that may help us out."

"About Glory?" Buffy asked hopefully.

"Presumably," Giles replied. "We'll find that out when they arrive. Could be very important."

"Arrive?" Buffy echoed his word worriedly. "They're coming here? Now? Why do they have to come here?"

"Yeah, don't they have phones?" Xander argued. "Allo, Buffy, here's some stuff we know, pip pip," he added, affecting a very fake British accent.

"Yeah! Phones. See, I'd like them on phones," Buffy added.

"Well, what's so bad about them coming here?" Tara asked. "Aren't they good guys? I mean, Watchers, that's just like other Gileses and Wesleys, right?"

"No, they're scary and horrible!" Buffy informed her.

"They, well, they can appear a bit well, uh, hard-nosed, but, uh, well, essentially, their agenda is the same as ours, they want to save the world and kill demons," Giles defended carefully.

"Kill the current demons, right?" Anya sought to confirm. "Current demons."

"Giles, I don't want them to come here," Buffy uttered softly. "I don't trust them. Make them not come here."

"They're probably already on their way," Giles informed her sadly. "Our old friend Quentin Travers is heading up the delegation."

"They put me through that test, and it almost killed me," Buffy remarked, referring to the Cruicamentum, although she put herself through it to save Giles' job. "And with all the troubles the hellmouth has thrown at us recently, honestly, I really can't handle almost being killed right now."

"I don't like the sound of this," Anya murmured. "They don't sound very ex-demon-compatible."

"It's all right for you, luv," Spike remarked, "at least you're human. I'm still a vampire, and a very concerned one right now."

"Are you sure they're English?" Tara asked. "I thought English people were, um, gentler, then, uh, normal.."

"Maybe it won't be so bad this time," Willow offered.

"They are just coming to give you information on Glory," Doyle added. "Chances are, it's the sort that needs to be told face to face, that's all."

"They're gonna screw everything up," Buffy replied. "They're gonna disapprove of Angel, Spike, Doyle, wonder why I'm living with two vampires and a fifteen year old girl. And then there's Glory. I don't need the Council looking over my shoulder when I don't even know what we're dealing with."

"Well, that's precisely why we need to talk to them," Giles reminded her. "If the Council knows something about Glory, her agenda or her origins, then maybe it will help us get a, grip on what we're dealing with. Right now I think we're a bit lost."


While her enemies were in conference, Glory was the middle of a crisis herself, tossing and turning in her richly upholstered bed coverings upon the floor before that article of furniture, a high fever ruling her mortal shell.

The doors banged open as Dreg and another minion dragged a hapless mailman inside to alleviate their boss' pains. "Mistress, at last we've found one." They threw him to the floor beside her.

"Look, don't hurt me," the mailman pleaded. "I beg of you, if you just let me go, I swear I won't tell anyone."

Dreg pulled the victim upright. "Help her!" he directed his assistant.

The minion assisted Glory towards the mortal. "We're here for you, great one."

Glory put her hands up on the mailman, as he cried his final words. "Oh, what is this? What the, what the hell are you things doing to me?"

A stream of bright white light streaked from her fingers, encompassing the victim's head, as sacrifice and receiver screamed in agony and ecstasy until sanity was restored.

"Very good, delicious," Dreg murmured in awe.

Glory fell back to the floor, greatly recovered, brushing away any help. "No, I'm good. It's okay."

The mailman rose muttering insanely. "I know you're all always looking at me. I can tell. Always tell. I can see. I, my hat, where's my hat?" he wandered off.

Glory groaned and then laughed with relief. "Try not cutting things so close next time, understood?"

"Yes, we live to serve," Dreg uttered bowing.

"As always," the other uttered.

"Cool. Dreg, take this mess out with the rest of the trash. And Jinx, you have something to tell me?"

"Indeed, Glorificus," Jinx confirmed as he helped her up.

"Well, I'm waiting," Glory fetched her mirror, and began cleaning up her appearance.

"We have found that the signs of the alignment are moving faster than expected," Jinx reported.

"Meaning?" Glory queried.

"If you are to use the key, you must act quickly," Jinx explained.

"Fine," Glory put the mirror down. "I have been cooling my heels in this crappy little town long enough. Sunnydale's got too many demons and not enough retail outlets," she added, picking up a pair of shoes.

"All you need is the key," Jinx reminded.

"Yes, and I bet Mousy the Vampire Slayer has an idea where it is," Glory mused.

"If I may remind your eminence," Jinx continued, "you don't have much time."

Glory scoffed. "Baby, if that girl's the only thing between me and my key? I don't need much time."


The slayerettes were at the Magic Box when the deputation they were waiting for arrived. Giles was engaged in helping Spike out with a serious magic user over a certain purchase, when he was interrupted.

"Well, if you're serious about these matters, all right," he remarked to the customer as he handed her the book. "But you need to be very careful. Measure precisely, and, please don't step ahead."

"No, he's quite right," a voice said, and Giles looked up to see Travers along with six other watchers enter the shop.

Quentin Travers took one of the purchases from Giles and studied the leather bound volume thoughtfully. "You wouldn't want to do anything dangerous. Turn the wrong person into a badger," he smiled and returned the book.

"Quentin," Giles greeted, "I didn't realise you were here."

"Well, evidently," Travers returned.

"Been a while," Giles continued. "I see you've, uh, brought some of our ... colleagues with you. Would you care to introduce us?"

"Well, first I thought we might catch up," Travers said pointedly.

Behind him, the watchers began exploring the store.

"Well, certainly," Giles agreed. "This is the shop, obviously, owned by one of Buffy's friends. We all help him out occasionally. I'll give you the grand tour if you like."

"No, that's all right," Travers replied, "I think I can see what you've been up to," he added disapprovingly.

"Buffy and I have been training a great deal these days," Giles added. "There's a back room suited for such a ritual."

"Oh yes," Travers uttered. "I thought perhaps you were keeping that space for the really dangerous items that should be kept out of the public's hands. Or maybe you don't worry about that."

"This is not my shop," Giles added.

"Most of this stuff couldn't harm anyone," one of the male watchers remarked. "Incense, dime store trinkets ... but there are some things."

"I'm sorry, who are you?" Spike asked as he entered.

"There are some very potent elements here," one of the female watchers uttered, ignoring him. "Focusing crystals, runic artifacts, an amulet of Cauldis... Also this statue. It's removal from Burma is a criminal offence and when triggered, it has the power to melt human eyeballs."

"In that case, I severely underpriced it," Spike remarked.

Travers looked to him. "You are the owner, I take it?"

"Yes, mate," Spike remarked.

"I apologise, but this is just for the duration of our stay. I think you can see why."

"What is just for the duration?" Giles asked.

The male watcher raised his voice. "Magic Box shoppers! We're going to have to ask you to leave. The store is, uh, closing early today."

"Terribly sorry for the inconvenience," uttered another.

"Hey! Giles, what are they doing?" Anya asked, concerned. "Customers! Please bring your money back."

Giles glared at his boss. "You knew you were gonna do this before you even saw the place," he uttered.

"I'm sorry," Travers did not look in the least bit contrite. "It's just for the duration of the Council's review."

"Council?" Anya echoed. "You're the Council?" She dropped her annoyance. "Welcome to our store. We're closed now. I'll be in the back." She exited the room.

"What review, Quentin?" Giles queried, a pit of unease growing within his stomach. "Let's just stop a moment and talk about this."

Travers stopped Anya. "Miss, excuse me, you work here?"

"Yes I do," Anya replied. "Ever since I moved here from south-eastern Indiana, where I was raised by both a mother and a father."

"Anya, just go," Giles advised. "You don't have to talk to him. Now tell me about this review. No one said anything to me about this."

"Let's sit down and talk about it over here," Travers directed.

They gathered around the large research table, Giles eyeing each one of the watchers, before directing a look to Spike, unspoken warning in his expression.

"You all stand around and look sombre," he remarked to the others. "Good job," he added wryly when they obeyed.

"You used to respect us, Giles," Travers said. "You used to be one of us."

"You used to pay me," Giles replied.

"Touché." Travers sat down. "But you were on the inside once. You know what sort of resources we command. We've discovered information about this creature, your Glory. Some of it is clearly vital, the rest merely extremely disturbing. And it won't be handed over until we're convinced that you and your Slayer are prepared for it. Thus the review."

Giles put his hands on the table, his look about to match his soft, yet deadly, Ripper voice. "I'm not having you put her through another one of your insane tests."

"It's not a test," Travers replied. "It's a check of her methods. We need to know that this information is safe."

"You can trust her," Giles assured them. "Buffy's come very far recently. She's acquired a remarkable focus."


At Sunnydale university, the slayer was applying some of that focus, to good use, in the history lecture.

"Now, Rasputin was associated with a certain obscure religious sect. They held the tenet that in order to be forgiven, one first had to sin. Rasputin embraced this doctrine and proceeded to sin impressively and repeatedly. The notion that he was in fact evil gained strength years later when the conspirators who set out to kill him found it nearly impossible to do so."

"Nearly impossible?" Buffy murmured.

The professor caught the sound. "I'm sorry, there's a question?" he sighed as the students all looked to the small blonde girl. "Miss Summers, of course."

"I, uh, about, you know, killing him," Buffy remarked. "You know, they, they poisoned him and, and they beat him and they shot him, and he didn't die."

The professor nodded. "Until they rolled his body in a carpet and drowned him in a canal," he added.

"But there are reported sightings of him as late as the 1930s, aren't there?" Buffy queried thoughtfully.

"I can assure you there is near consensus in the academic community regarding the death of Rasputin," the professor replied.

"There was also near consensus about Columbus, you know, until someone asked the Vikings what they were up to in the 1400s, and they're like, discovering this America-shaped continent," Buffy countered, much to the lecturer's annoyance. "I just ... I'm only saying, you know, it might be interesting, if we .... came at it from, you know, a different perspective, that's all."

"Well, I'm sorry if you find these facts so boring, Miss Summers." the professor replied. "Maybe you'd prefer I step aside, so that you can teach your own course. Speculation 101 perhaps? Intro to Flights of Fancy?"

Buffy scowled, deciding to ask Giles later. "I only meant-"

"What was it you were going on about last week? Mysterious sleeping patterns of the Prussian generals? Now, some of us are here to learn. Believe it or not, we're interested in finding out what actually happened. It's called studying history. You can sit down now. Unless you have something else to add, professor?"

Buffy smiled. "No, thank you. But why don't you take this up with Mr Giles, later. I'm sure he would be fascinated to learn your theories."

The professor coughed, looking discomforted. The last time he had talked with Rupert Giles, he was forced to rewrite an entire thesis. "Moving on to Rasputin's relationship with the Romanov's," he continued.

The slayer let him waffle on, as she discreetly retrieved her cell, to see a message from Spike, announcing the watcher's arrival. Grimacing, she returned to class, silently strategising battle plans.


At Sunnydale General Hospital, Jinx rounded on a young intern anxiously. "Begging permission to speak with you, sir."

"Don't touch me, you're crusty," Ben replied as he was dragged into a store room. "What do you want?"

"Oh, not me, the magnificent Glory," Jinx replied. "She wants. She wants more information on the Slayer, she ... knows you know her."

"The Slayer?" Ben echoed. "I don't know any Slayer. Get away from me, you shouldn't be here."

"Oh, I believe you do, sir," Jinx countered. "She's short, symmetrical, hair on top? Buffy something."

"Buffy Summers is the Slayer?" Ben sought to confirm.

"That's the one! Very clever of you, sir." Jinx simpered.

"The Slayer," Ben murmured. "How does Glory know this?"

"I do not know, I was not there," Jinx replied. "But the beauteous Glory said for you to tell us please, where her dwelling is ... who her friends are..."

"Why?" Ben countered. "So Glory can find her, do something to her?" he frowned. "Why would I do that?"

"I don't know, sir, she just said to tell you to do it," Jinx replied. "For her. That was her message."

"Well, I've got a message for Glory too," Ben replied.

 


At the Magic Box, Giles was finishing the tour of the back training room, trying to muster some advantage over the Council delegation.

"We've been developing sort of a, a hybrid fighting style ... let me outline her progress for you and I think you'll see that your review isn't strictly needed."

Buffy opened the door, entered, caught sight of the watchers, and started to exit once more. "Bad day. Bad, baaad...."

"Miss Summers," Travers called out. "Good to see you again."

Reluctantly Buffy halted. "Mr. Travers."

"Giles has just been telling us of your training regimen," Travers continued. "Perhaps you'll favour us with a demonstration while we're here."

"Right now?" Buffy frowned.

"No need to rush you," Travers uttered.

"They're staying a little longer than I'd anticipated," Giles informed her.

We've already laid out our project for Mr. Giles." Travers turned to one of his delegation. "Nigel?"

"It's an exhaustive examination of your procedures and abilities," Nigel explained. "We'll observe your training, talk to your friends..."

"Talk to my friends?" Buffy queried.

"Yes, we understand you're still taking civilians out on patrols," Travers added.

"Oh, you've gotta be kidding me," Buffy murmured. "For your information, my friends are quite capable of defending themselves, some even more so."

"Buffy, I can sense your resistance, and I don't blame you," Travers replied. "But I think your Watcher hasn't reminded you lately of the resolute status of the players in our little game. The Council fights evil. The Slayer is the instrument by which we fight. The Council remains, the Slayers change. It's been that way from the beginning."

"Well, that's a very comforting, bloodless way of looking at it, isn't it?" Giles remarked scornfully.

"Giles, let me talk to Buffy, because I think she's understanding me," Travers replied. "Glory is stronger than you. She's a more powerful instrument, if you will. We can help you. We have information that will help. Pass the review and we give it to you without reservation. Fail the review, either through incompetence, or by resisting our recommendations..."

"Resisting your recommendations?" Giles growled. "She fails if we don't do whatever you say! How much under your thumb do you think we are?"

"How much do you want our help?" Travers countered.

Giles ignored him. "She's not your bloody instrument and you have no right to do any of this!"

"Giles!" Buffy cautioned as the watchers restrained him. He shook them off, glaring at every one of them.

"I understand you think this is unfair," Travers remarked. "But there are factors which should motivate you to go along with the review. Now, I don't want to do this, but obviously we could shut this place down permanently."

"You can't do that," Buffy remarked. "You don't have that kind of power over Spike. No one does."

"Of course we do, and a great deal more," Travers countered. "In fact, if you insist on fighting us, we'll arrange to have Mr. Giles deported within the day. Never set foot in this country again. Now perhaps you're used to idle threats and sloppy discipline, Miss Summers, but you're dealing with grownups now. Am I making myself clear?"

Buffy folded her arms, inwardly pissed off. "Crystal," she replied.

 


At her apartment, Glory looked up to see her minion returned, and frowned at the sight. "Jinx... hey, what's the deal with your face?"

Jinx lifted his bruised face to view. "It's a message from Ben. He isn't going to help."

Glory pored oil into her hands. "Isn't going to help?" She mused.

"No." Jinx affirmed.

"All he has to do is turn over that tiny squirming Slayer girl!" Glory cried as she rubbed the oil into her skin. "I have business to do with her. If she knows where I can start looking for my key... aah!" She pinched her forehead in frustration before walking towards her minion. "Why won't he help? He knows her. He could go to her ... he could talk to her ... he could seduce her and bang the key out of her!"

"He is quite attractive," Jinx agreed.

"Well, of course he's attractive!" Glory cried. "But he drives me insane. Know what I mean?"

"He drives you insane?" Jinx queried.

"Yeah! That's it exactly!" she sighed against his chest. "Oh. Sweet lumpy minion. You're the only one that understands. Probably cause I haven't sucked your brain out yet. He makes me so mad... if I could just ... get my hands on him..." she curved her fingers as though she were about to grab his head.

He cringed in fear before relief swamped him as she dropped her hands. "You know? I'll just find her myself."


At the Mansion on Crawford Street, Giles paced the floor of the double height living room, trying to regroup, while the slayer and her soulmate lounged on the sofas in thought.

"It's a power play, that's what it is," Giles remarked. "It's about who has the power."

"I'm guessing they do?" Buffy remarked. "Big power outage in Buffy county?"

"I should have set you loose on them, that's what I should have done," Giles realised.

"Giles, that Travers guy is like sixty. I can't hit him," Buffy argued. "Can I?" She asked suddenly hopeful.

"I suppose not," Giles uttered. "Well, I could. I think I will."

"Can they really do the stuff they threatened?" Angel asked him. "Kick you out the country?"

"In a heartbeat," Giles sighed as he took off his glasses for a clean. "See, the rough stuff, they're all right out there, a bit ham-handed, but they get it done, but, uh ... this stuff, the, uh, bureaucracy, the pulling of political strings, they're the best in the world. They can kill you with the stroke of a pen. Poncy sods." He put his glasses aside before he broke them from the vigorous cleaning.

"Am I gonna be able to get through this review?" Buffy asked softly.

Giles sat down opposite them. "I suppose they'll make it as difficult as they want to. The physical stuff could be a bit of a challenge."

"That's not what I'm worried about. It's the other stuff," Buffy confessed. "Examining decisions I've made. I mean, twice now I've been within slaying distance of Glory, and twice she's kicked my ass without even tensing a muscle. And I haven't been able to figure out ... what she is, or anything about her except that she wants the key, which I have, and I can't even figure out if it's okay for me to tell anyone that."

"Buffy, no one could have done any better than you," Angel assured her.

"But no one else is gonna be asked the questions that I can't answer," she replied. "They're gonna expect me to be like a Slayer and, and know stuff, but I'm just me and I don't know anything, and they're gonna go away, and they're not gonna tell me how to fight Glory, and I'm not gonna be able to protect Elita."

"Buffy, calm down," Giles replied. "The scandal here is not anything you've done wrong, it's the way they're behaving. Holding what they know hostage with a gun pointed at my bleeding green card, no less. It's humiliating."

"Also smart," Buffy mused. "They picked the perfect thing. I can't lose you."

Giles smiled at that. "Thank you."

"I guess I should be getting ready. What do you think it'll be like, I mean, how do you think they'll start?"


"Agility, clarity, stamina and strength, these are the qualities that the Slayer must possess to do her job," Travers recited as he paced around the training room the next day.

"What came after agility?" Buffy pretended to be confused.

Giles looked at them, puzzled. "If you want her to attack the dummy-"

Travers shook his head. "No, no. Philip will attack the dummy. The Slayer's job is to protect it. Do you understand?"

Buffy nodded. "Protect the dummy."

"As if it were precious," Travers continued. "Now, getting the best of Philip will require agility. Listening to my instructions at the same time, that will demonstrate clarity. And stamina and strength will win the long fight. Good luck."

"Instructions?" Buffy queried.

Travers wrapped a blindfold around her. "Yes, I'll be telling you what to do, how to counter Philip's attack. We assume you're familiar with the Japanese names for aikido and jiu-jitsu moves."

"Japanese?" Buffy questioned, looking at Giles.

"And, go!" A watcher ordered, clicking the stopwatch.

Travers uttered an incomprehensible phrase.

"Huh?" Buffy looked to her watcher.

"He wants you to bow," Giles translated. "Take a bow."

"Oh." Buffy bowed, then watched Philip as he circled around her. He aimed a thrust at the dummy, and she blocked it. Then she kicked at him, but missed. Undeterred, she spun round and blocked his overhead punch.

Travers uttered another phrase as Philip punched her.

"Punch him," Giles translated.

"Thanks, Giles," Buffy replied.

"Sorry," he apologised. Travers uttered more phrases, causing him to add, "Back kick, elbow strike."

Buffy back kicked, then struck her attacker again.

"How have you been training her?" Travers asked him.

"I've trained her to win," Giles replied.

Buffy stopped. "You know what? I'm gonna have to do it my way, guys." She ducked as Philip swung a weapon. She waited for him to lift it, then grabbed the handle, kicked him in the stomach, forcing him back against the vaulting horse, elbowing him in the face. He tumbled backwards over the horse, losing the weapon, the momentum pulling it from the slayer's hands landing in the dummy's chest, knocking it into Nigel.

Buffy took off her blindfold and surveyed the damage. "Uh-oh."

"I think she just broke my rib," Philips muttered as he was helped up.

"Yes, well," Travers muttered.

"He is the attacker," Buffy pointed out. "Usually, I'm meant to kill them."

"Fine," Travers remarked. "We can move on to the real review. Look into your strategies, plans ... figure out what's going on in that head."

Buffy held back a groan. "Good. Head stuff."

"We start at seven tonight," Travers added. Give you time to, uh, well, however you prepare."

Buffy looked to her watcher as the others walked away, matching frown for frown. "I'm going to check on Mom and her guest," she announced, before exiting the room.


For safety's sake, they had concealed Elita at 1630 Revello Drive, reluctant to put her before the watcher interrogation board which had left the slayerettes in quivering knots the day before, convinced they had made out their best friend as an incapable moron. Something which she had more than proved during the physical review this afternoon, Buffy realised inwardly as she entered her former home.

"Mom?" she called out as she entered the living room. Suddenly she froze as she came face to face with Glory.

"Long day, sweetie?" Glory grinned at her. "So this is where the Slayer eats, sleeps, and combs her hair?" she picked up a photo. "Oh, so cute. I can't even stand it. Personally? I need more space, but uh, this is good for you, it's so quaint, and..."

Buffy moved to the fireplace and picked up a poker behind her back. As she straightened up, she found Glory right behind her.

"Buffy," Glory took the weapon, "if I wanted to fight, you could tell by the being dead already. So play nice, little girl."

"What do you want?" Buffy asked.

"The key," Glory replied. "Why else do you think I'd come here? See, I think you knew where it is. And that's a good thing."

"I'm glad you think so," Buffy murmured.

"Well, it's the only thing keeping you alive right now. Because you may be tiny queen in vampire world, but to me, you're a bug. You should get down on your knees and worship me!"

Behind her, Buffy's eyes widened in horror as she caught sight of Elita entering from the kitchen. Frantically, she tried to signal with her gaze for the girl to go away.

Glory continued. "But oh, no, you still think it's neat having Slayer strength. Ooh, big deal! Stronger than humans! Who isn't? I could crush the life from you as easy as you'd break a nail. But I need the key." She turned suddenly. "Kid! Come here a sec."

"Leave her out of this," Buffy ordered.

"Not asking twice," Glory remarked, causing Elita to advance cautiously towards her.

"This is between you and me," Buffy remarked.

"No. This is between me and my key," Glory replied. "You just happen to be the thing in the way." She turned to Elita. "And you are just the darlingest thing I ever did see in my life. What's your name, honey?"

"Elita," the girl replied.

"Elita. Did you know your friend took my key, Elita? And she won't give it back! I bet you know where she put it, don't you?"

"She doesn't know anything," Buffy remarked.

Elita frowned. "I know some stuff."

"Where's my key, Elita?" Glory asked.

"Go upstairs, Elita," Buffy ordered.

Elita scowled at her. "You're always talking about stuff I'm not supposed to hear. I'm gonna figure it out, you know." she added before obeying.

Glory grinned. "Ooh, I like her. She's sassy. And I'll kill her. I'll kill your mom, I'll kill your friends and I'll make you watch when I do. Just give me the key. You either have it or you know where to find it. Obviously, this is a one-time-only deal. Next time we meet, something you love dies bloody. You know you can't take me. You know you can't stop me." she dropped the poker and left.

Buffy watched her go, worried, so concerned in fact, that she jumped when another voice broke the silence.

"Buffy, who was that?" Joyce asked.

Buffy turned to her mother. "That was Glory. Pack a bag, you're staying with me and Angel for a bit," she ordered.

 




At the Magic Box, the slayerettes watched the Council delegation angrily, taking out their frustration at failing the review questions with death glares at them as they inspected the books.

"Look at them," Xander muttered. "Big tough Council members picking on the books."

"Fascists," Willow uttered.

"Why doesn't Mr. Giles put them all out of here?" Tara asked.

"Because if they deport him," Spike remarked, "they're not just destroying his career, they're condemning the man to a lifetime diet of blood sausage, bangers, and mash."

Travers turned to Giles. "Well, your Slayer's twenty minutes late and counting, Rupert."

"Buffy will be here, I assure you," Giles' voice was grim.

Travers chuckled. "Yes, but when?"


In an alley not far from the main street, Buffy checked her wristwatch and swore at the time before picking up her pace.

Abruptly someone grabbed her by the waist, pulling her to the ground.

Buffy rose up as he did, before flying into a pile of garbage as he backhanded her. She rose once more, only to find two more warriors in armour joining the first to circle around her, waving their swords.

"Uh ... guys?" Buffy remarked. "Any way we could ... not do this? Only, I'm late for a very important meeting."

The first knight swung his sword at her, causing her to duck. She executed a spin and punched him, before dodging a staff thrust from the second, then kicking the third, ducked again, and punched the second in his midsection. She ducked another swing, then kicked the third twice, before avoiding another swing from the first. She blocked a punch, then punched him in the face while grabbing hold of his sword arm. She kicked him, then grabbed one of the staffs and used the grip to push him away. She deflected the other, then flipped herself over them before grabbing a staff and jabbing it into the knight's stomach. She dodged another thrust from a staff, kicking the attacker until he spun away. Battling with the one she disarmed, Buffy finally hit him in the face, sending him to the ground. She dropped her staff to block an overhead sword thrust, before punching him and sending him to the floor. Finally she kicked the last away, before facing off the first, knocking the sword out of his hand, pushing him to the ground, holding the weapon to his throat.

"Okay. Let's see what you are," she remarked, removing his chain mail mask to reveal an ordinary human with a symbol on his forehead. "Or who you are," she added.

"One soldier in a vast army," he replied.

"What army?" Buffy asked.

"The Knights of Byzantium, an ancient order," the knight replied. "And now your enemy."

Buffy pushed the sword point harder at his throat. "You work for Glory?"

"You think we align ourselves with the beast?" the knight scorned. "You must be mad."

"You're the ones trying to kill me," Buffy replied. "I think it's a reasonable suspicion."

"No, we were fools, three alone," the knight replied. "But if it takes a hundred men, we send a hundred men, and if it takes a thousand, we send a thousand."

"A thousand?" Buffy echoed.

"So long as you protect the key, the brotherhood will never stop until we destroy it and you," the knight informed her. "You are the Slayer, and we know what we must do. Now, be done with it. Kill us, and let legions follow."

Buffy stepped off him, letting him get up. As he rose to his feet, she put the sword to his throat again. "Go," she uttered. "And think twice before coming after me again."


It was a thoughtful slayer who entered the Magic Box some time later, carrying the sword, her mind still on what she had learned from the fight rather than the Council she was about to face.

"You're late." Travers frowned at her.

"Yeah," Buffy agreed.

Giles eyed the sword. "Was there an attack?" He asked her.

"Yeah," Buffy replied.

"We can begin the review at last," Travers continued pleased. "We'll, skip the more obvious questions..." he trailed off as Buffy put her weapon down on his papers.

"There isn't gonna be a review," she remarked.

"Sorry?" Travers queried.

"No review," Buffy repeated. "No interrogation. No questions you know I can't answer. No hoops, no jumps and no interruptions," she added as Nigel tried to speak, glaring at him until he shut up. She turned to Travers. "See ... I've had a lot of people talking at me the last few days. Everyone just lining up to tell me how unimportant I am. And I've finally figured out why. Power. I have it. They don't. This bothers them." She smiled at him. "Glory came to my home today."

Giles uttered a gasp of shock. "Buffy, are you-"

"Just to talk," Buffy assured him. "She told me I'm a bug, I'm a flea, she could squash me in a second. Only she didn't. She came into my home, and we talked. We had what in her warped brain probably passes for a civilised conversation. Why? Because she needs something from me. Because I have power over her." Her gaze moved over all the watchers. "You guys didn't come all the way from England to determine whether or not I was good enough to be let back in. You came to beg me to let you back in. To give your jobs, your lives some semblance of meaning."

"This is beyond insolence-" Nigel began, before he jumped back as the slayer grabbed the sword from the table and threw it across the room to land point first into the wall directly in front of his nose.

Buffy cleared her throat. "I'm fairly certain I said no interruptions."

"That was excellent!" Xander whispered in awe.

"You're Watchers," Buffy continued. "Without a Slayer, you're pretty much just watching Masterpiece Theatre. You can't stop Glory. You can't do anything with the information you have except maybe publish it in the 'Everyone Thinks We're Insane Home Journal.' So here's how it's gonna work. You're gonna tell me everything you know. Then you're gonna go away. You'll contact me if and when you have any further information about Glory. The magic shop will remain open. Mr. Giles will stay here as my official Watcher, reinstated at full salary..."

Giles coughed. "Retroactive."

Buffy continued without a slip. "To be paid retroactively from the month he was fired. I will continue my work with the help of my friends..."

"I ... don't want a sword thrown at me," a watcher began, "but, civilians, I - we're talking about children."

"We're talking about three very powerful witches, one half Bracken, one half vampire, one chipped vampire, two watchers and a thousand-year-old ex-demon," Buffy replied as the friends sitting on the mezzanine level above beamed with pride.

"The boys?" Philip queried of Xander and Oz. "No power there."

"One is a werewolf three nights of the month, and the other boy has clocked more field time than all of you combined," Buffy replied. "Now. You all may be very good at your jobs. The only way we're gonna find out is if you work with me. You can all take your time thinking about that. But I want an answer right now from Quentin, 'cause I think he's understanding me."

Travers cleared his throat. "Uh, your terms are acceptable." He turned to one of them as the slayerettes broke into applause. "Uh, Spike."

"Quentin," Spike grinned.

"When we inventoried your shop, we found a bottle of single malt scotch behind the, uh, incense holders. I think I could use a glass."

"Just a minute," Buffy held up a hand. "Glory. I wanna know."

"Well, there's a lot to go through," Travers started.

"Just tell me what kind of demon I'm fighting," Buffy added.

"Well, that's the thing, you see," Travers replied. "Glory isn't a demon."

"What is she?" Buffy asked.

"She's a god," Travers replied.

"Oh," Buffy replied.

 

The End
To Be Continued In
Qualms Before The Storm.