For a few scattered moments, while chasing the strange frog-like being that neither Willow nor Spike recognized, Dawn was able to imagine herself back in Sunnydale, a town that no longer existed, chasing demons with her sister, now dead for the third and final time.
She had met with Willow after school. Once the new computer teacher had cleared her classroom of other students, mostly males who could not believe that Smallville high school would hire someone so young and pretty as a teacher, she and Dawn were able to talk freely.
"You totally surprised me showing up here," Dawn said. "I thought you and the others were trying to collect all the other new slayers?"
Willow's face flushed. "Well actually..."
Dawn shot an accusatory glare at Willow. "There's one here in Smallville right? That's the real reason why you're here. It's not because anyone cared about *me*!"
"Dawnie that's not true," Willow said. "If it just was a matter of a finding and watching a neo-slayer, any of the remnants of the Watchers could have done it, like they have in all the other places slayers have appeared. It certainly doesn't take both me and Spike here together to do *that*. I volunteered to take Smallville because you're still in danger. And we couldn't very well tell the Watchers about why you need special protection." The fact that Dawn was the key, mystical energy in human form, still was the old Scooby gang's greatest secret.
After talking some more and reminiscing about their fallen friend and sister, the two agreed to meet after their dinners to do some patrolling.
Armed with several stakes and a long knife hidden in sheath beneath her pants, Dawn patrolled the Smallville graveyard along with Willow and Spike. Willow had warned them to keep an eye out for a girl doing the same in the off chance that the mystery local slayer had taken up her duties.
"Couldn't you just magic up some sort of compass thingie to point to the new slayer, Red?" the souled vampire asked.
Willow shook her head, producing a cloud of red hair. "Normally yeah," she told them. "Ironically enough, I can't because I'm overqualified. Because I cast the slayer spell, I'm connected to all the slayers everywhere and it's hard for me to pinpoint one in particular, especially since there's some strange energy here in Smallville. And I'm still not-fully recovered girl after casting that spell anyway." That last was perfectly understandable as Willow had single-handed altered the conditions of the extremely ancient and powerful Slayer spell, extending Slayer powers to all the potentials Slayers. Now, instead of one slayer a generation, there were hundreds as everyone who could become a Slayer, did so.
"Strange energy?" Dawn asked. "Might that be the rocks from the Smallville meteor shower that Chloe said was having strange effects on people? She has this whole wall of weird things that have taken place. You need to look to see if these are demons or if she's right about these being the result of meteor mutants."
"Well, actually, mutants would be a change to the DNA that can be passed down to future generations," Willow said pedantically. "If these rocks, or more properly meteorites, are giving people weird abilities after they're born, that's not mutation."
"Whatever," Dawn rolled her eyes. "It doesn't really matter if they're X-Men or Spidermen. If Chloe's right, then these rocks may be what's screwing up your magic."
"Don't fret, little bit," Spike was confident. "There hasn't been a slayer born that I couldn't track down."
Willow glared. "Your usual way of tracking down a slayer is to stage a massacre and dare her to stop you."
Spike lit a cigarette. "Always worked in the past."
"But without a watcher, this new slayer won't know anything about her purpose. She'll be having dreams of past slayers but probably will just think too many anchovies on her pizza or something," Willow was in full babble mode. "She might not even believe in vampires."
By this time, the trio had left the graveyard, without spotting a single vampire, and had moved into town. Suddenly, Willow's babble was interrupted by froglike being that hopped onto them, snatched Willow's purse, and made a giant hop up a building.
"Hey!" Willow objected. "It took my purse! That's my magic supplies!"
Spike gave chase, his senses expanded to take in the smells of the town, the stench of gasoline, the omnipresent odor of fertilizer, the tantalizing aroma of coffee, and a whiff of slime that smelled froglike. He ran, with Willow and Dawn struggling to keep up, until he confronted the frogthing near a stream on the edge of town.
Spike punched, getting his hand slimy. The frogman jumped up, higher than Spike could, landed and on its hands, and kicked Spike into a tree, knocking him out.
"Levitar!" said Willow, levitating the frogman. She caught her bag with her mind and floated it over to Dawn. She turned to confront the frog, extending both hands toward it. Getting a good look, she shuddered for a moment with "frog fear." "Explusium Avi..."
"Willow no!" Dawn shouted. "You can't kill it unless we know it's a demon. It might be a person with those rock powers!"
Willow hesitated, conflicted. She did not recognize it but there were many demons she had not yet encountered. Her confusion broke her mental hold, and the frogman jumped away.
"Where's that wanker?" Spike was still dazed. "I'll give em a right proper thrashing, that's what I'll do."
"Was it a demon then?" Dawn asked Spike.
"Not one I've met," Spike said, lighting a cigarette to make himself feel better. "But there's a bloody lot of us. It's more likely a demon than a bloomy rock mutie or whatever this Chloe git was going on about."
"Still, we need to check," Dawn said. "We can't just go killing humans who happen to be a bit different, right?"
Willow and Spike exchanged a look. "Of course not, sweetie," Willow said brightly. "I'll do some digging when I get back to my place. And I still have those computer tests to go through so it will be another late night for me, just like college. What time do you have to be home?"
Having a bit of time before her curfew, Dawn suggested that they go to the local coffeehouse. Willow said that she did not usually drink coffee this late, but allowed herself to be persuaded as she did have to stay up to research. Spike declined, saying he doubted they carried his drink of choice and he wanted to hunt up the frogman to go another round.
The coffeehouse, the Talon, was a converted movie theater that still maintained the original marquee, now advertising "Try Our Organic Apple Pie." Although it was nearly nine, the place was packed, mostly with teenagers.
"Clarkie!" Dawn called out, recognize a friend from school. A large, well-built young man that Willow recognized from computer class, the boy who typed so quickly, waved from the table he was sharing with an older man. Willow looked closer and realized that, although completely bald, the man was most likely no older than herself.
Grabbing her coffee, Dawn made her way to that table, Willow followed in her wake. The two teens began jabbering away. The man lifted an eyebrow at this behavior and addressed the red head. "You must be the new teacher, Miss Rosenberg. Clark was quite impressed by you."
"Please call me Willow," she said with a smile and waited for the man to introduce himself. He just smirked at her. Finally she said, "And you are?"
Both Clark and the man looked shocked. "He's Lex Luthor," Clark finally said.
"Pleased to meet you," Willow said. "Is that Lex short for Alexander? One of my best friends back home is named Xander."
"Indeed," Lex gave an aristocratic wave. "And where might this home be?"
"Sunnydale, California" she answered. "What about you? Are you local or imported?"
Clark and Lex exchanged a glance again. "I'm Lex Luthor" the bald man said, as if this conveyed all the information Willow needed.
"Sorry, not from around here, don't know the people yet."
"You haven't heard of Lex Luthor?" Clark was astonished.
"I don't want to shatter your image of teachers," Willow teased, "But we don't know everything outside our field. I'm afraid I wouldn't have heard of you unless you're a businessman who founded a big computer company."
"Or are a demon bent on world destruction." Dawn put in as if making a joke.
Lex smiled. Here was a person who did not have preconceived notions of what it meant to be a Luthor. A rather pretty person at that. Exerting all his charm, he said, "Actually some here would consider me a mix of the two..."
The two were still talking when Lana closed the coffeehouse down around them.