Disclaimer: I own nothing. All Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters are the property of their original owners.
Late in the afternoon, Buffy Summers wearily walked up the front path to her house after another visit to her former high school to check on the Hellmouth there. Thankfully, she’d managed to entirely avoid Principal Wood during this, sparing her the likelihood of a nasty confrontation with him. Even so, the Slayer wasn’t looking forward to facing yet another tense evening in her overcrowded home filled with strangers and presumed comrades. Emotions were running really high among both the Sunnydale residents and the Potentials over the latest crises in their ongoing conflict with the First Evil.
Which was only natural, given the increasing number of calamities among their small group tying to fend off the latest apocalypse. So far, the Scoobies had lost several battles against something representing itself as the ultimate expression of wickedness, taking more than a few casualties along the way. A couple of the refugee girls who possessed the potential to be the next Slayer had been slaughtered, and others of their company uncomfortably crammed inside the supposed safety of the Revello house were still recovering from their own injuries. Virtually all of this suffering was due to the First Evil’s most dangerous minion, the evil preacher named Caleb.
The Scoobies’ last encounter with that woman-hating villain had been particularly horrible. On Buffy’s direct orders despite some protests by the rest of the group, an unsuccessful search was carried out in a nearby vineyard for a possible weapon or defense against the First. Unfortunately, it instead ended up with the super-strong Caleb effortlessly defeating in single combat the trio of Buffy, Faith, and even Spike the vampire. A triumphant Caleb then tore through the far weaker Potentials, culminating with him grabbing Xander and destroying the other man’s left eye, just for the sheer pleasure of committing this atrocity.
Now, it was a week later, and Xander had finally returned to Buffy’s house from the Sunnydale hospital yesterday. There’d been no direct attacks from the First Evil or Caleb during this, but it didn’t mean Buffy could relax and let down her guard. Not when her own friends and associates were making the Slayer’s life truly difficult. Worse of all had been the earlier plot between Principal Wood and Giles against Spike. This had ended with Buffy resolutely telling the son of Nikki Wood that if forced, she’d let Spike kill him because the English vampire was far more important to her plans than an ordinary human.
That hadn’t gone over very well with the Potentials. Becoming increasingly resentful of the whole doomed situation in which they’d found themselves, these young women had over the last few days began to quietly band together away from Buffy and the rest of the Scoobies. Those survivors of the Bringer attacks which had in the main murdered their Watchers now stuck together, holding private, low-voiced discussions out of earshot from even a Slayer’s keen hearing.
Slowing in her stride a few steps from the house’s front door, Buffy impatiently shrugged. She was more than confident about dealing with any complaints from the little crybabies, if they ever worked up the courage to go against her. After all, nobody
messed with Buffy Summers, the longest-lived Slayer!
She’d taken down the Master, the Mayor, Glory, and a host of other Big Bads with only a little help from those increasingly difficult people around her. Oh, sure, there’d been a couple of mistakes like Angelus and the whole previous Faith-in-Sunnydale episode, but it’d all worked out in the end, so no big deal. Not like her so-called friends, who still refused to sufficiently acknowledge their total fault in ripping Buffy out of heaven, and then objected to her being comforted by Spike over this. (Hmmm, her undead lover’s nickname also applied to one other wonderful thing than his century-wide enjoyment of those torture implements…)
In a much better mood while feeling the faint tingle of the magical wards laid down by Willow to protect the Southern California home brushing lightly against her skin, Buffy opened the front door, stepped inside, and she stopped dead in her tracks. The living room was currently occupied by the Scoobies seated in various chairs and couches, who now turned their heads to stare at Buffy gazing back in alarm at them all.
The blonde’s sudden worry was due to the matching expressions of shared shock and dismay shown by Dawn, Xander, Giles, Willow, and even Andrew in their seats. Only Faith casually leaning against the far wall while smoking a cigarette had her usual sardonic attitude, but even that superhuman woman’s normally unconcerned air of not giving any kind of damn seemed somehow strained at the moment.
Beginning to open her mouth to ask what’d happened now, Buffy instead paused. Something else had just caught her attention. For a place packed to the ceilings with almost a dozen unwilling female guests who never missed a chance to yell at each other, her house was at present remarkably quiet. Frowning at Faith, Buffy called out to her sister Slayer, “Faith, where are the Potentials?”
Bringing up her right hand to remove the lit cigarette between her lips, Faith blew out a long stream of smoke from her nostrils, and she then succinctly replied, “Gone.”