The road not taken
: Buffy & Co. belong to Joss & Co. Not mine, making no money.A/N
: When I saw "Empty Places," I was amazed how OOC the characters were. This is my feeble attempt to show what could have happened.The Summers Household
"So we vote." Robin's low voice reverberated into the silence.
"Wait. Guys -" Buffy looked around. Willow wouldn't look at her, Anya had her arms crossed and her lips pursed, the rest simply frowning. She opened her mouth to make a speech, make
them see it her way, when an itch from the Slayer stopped her. She took a big breath, and let it out. "First, this discussion doesn't need to happen in front of the potentials. All of you, clear out."
Kennedy stood up. "Oh, no! We've earned the right -" she was saying when Buffy got into her face.
"Let me make this perfectly clear to you, Kennedy. You have earned nothing," Buffy said, clearly incensed. "Because you lack the basic intelligence it takes to understand that, as a potential, you don't measure up to a Turok-han - you don't even measure up one-to-one with a Bringer - you insisted on patrolling, and said that you would, even if I forbade it. Because you have some leadership qualities, you would have dragged along many of your friends here, and gotten them all killed, because the First was just aching for a chance to take you out without a Slayer around. So I let you come along, and we lost some people, and I knew we would. But 'some' is fewer than 'every last one of you'. And the root reason that every one of those girls except Chloe was killed was because you decided that you had to go out patrolling, because otherwise they'd have been here in a safe house. So you have how many deaths on your conscience?" She watched as Kennedy's face paled. "Go downstairs, we'll talk later."
After the potentials had left the living room, Buffy turned to Faith. "I'm sorry for what I just said. It was in the heat of the moment, and I was all defense-y. Everything that I've heard since you've been with Angel is that you've so been working hard for redemption. Forgive me?"
Faith waved. "We're five-by-five, B."
Buffy then went to Anya. "Anya, I want to talk about what you said. First, you said I thought that I was better than you were. Umm, no. I'm not better than you. What I am is the most experienced Slayer here, by about six years to Faith's one active year. That includes the Slayer's intuitive grasp of tactics and the strategy that Giles taught me." She held up her finger as Giles opened his mouth. "I'll get to you in a sec, Giles." Continuing to look at Anya. "Then you say that I didn't work for what I have, didn't earn it, and am just lucky?" She let out a short laugh. "In what bizzaro world does having to fight creatures of the dark every damned night for six plus years, including at least six apocalypses that we've averted, not count as having earned it? How do you count me being in a position where I've already outlived any reasonable life expectancy, have died twice, and have been torn from heaven, in any way lucky?" Anya stood with her jaw hanging open.
"If I might interrupt?" Robin asked.
"Actually, no, you may not." Buffy replied. "We accepted you here because your mom was a Slayer. The only thing that you have done of consequence since you've joined us is to stab us in the back by depriving us of one of our strongest allies. And the fact is, you knew it was wrong, because you went behind everyone's back - well, everyone's but Giles' - to get him alone in a place that he supposedly couldn't escape or fight back effectively from. What are you going to do next, kill Willow because she changed your cousin into a cat for a few hours when she was on her magic high last year? You're here as a courtesy, not by right."
She knelt down by Xander. "Xander, I'm sorry that you lost your eye. Do you believe me when I tell you that I would lose my own eye, if it meant that you had yours back?" she asked, softly. When he nodded, she continued. "I want you to think with your soldier memories. When your enemy is dangling one target in front of your face, apparently unguarded, and has been consistently guarding another, which is likely to be a trap, and which is likely to hold or protect something of value?" As his eye widened, she kissed his forehead and stood up, facing Giles.
"Giles, we've got two things between us. The first is something holding me back from trusting you. You've betrayed me twice, now, three times if you consider leaving me alone last year a betrayal. I thought we had gotten past the Cruciamentum, but then you go behind my back to try to assassinate one of our allies based on what they used to be. Isn't that the pot calling the kettle black, Ripper?
" She shook her head. "When have I proved unworthy of your trust?"
Rupert hung his head. "You never have. I am sorry, dear girl."
Buffy looked at him and nodded. "The second thing is, are you going to trust what you have taught me? This is basic tactics, basic strategy. Sun Tzu, The Art of War
, 'To win, always attack your enemy's strength.' They aren't protecting the Hellmouth, in fact they're inviting attack there. Where does every book you've ever had me read tell you to attack?" She and Giles chorused, "The Vineyard."
She finally walked over to Willow, knelt, and put her hand on her shoulder. "Willow, I love you, and I want to know why you're worried about my judgment."
"Well, mostly it's because we've lost so many girls, and - and Xander's eye..." Willow trailed off.
Buffy smiled sadly. "I know. Did you hear what I told Kennedy?" Willow nodded. "It was mostly that they need to be out where I couldn't protect all of them. I didn't want them to be where they weren't safe. And Xander, being the stand-up guy he is, was protecting the girls where I couldn't. This is why I didn't want them there."
Willow nodded again. "Oh, Buffy! I was so scared for him!" She composed her self, and continued. But why have you been pulling yourself away?"
"It's part of the price of leading them. I can't get too close, or I might not be able to send them where they could do the most good." Buffy shook her head. "Though I think we're going to have a slight change of plans." She smiled. "We'll need to wait for Spike, but here's how it's going to go..."