As Xander came out of the bathroom, he was attacked by a flying redhead. He slammed down onto the bed and gently, confusedly, put his arms around the small woman who was now latched onto him for what appeared to be dear life.
“Will?” he said, tentatively. “Are you okay?”
She nodded into his chest. “I love you, Xander,” she said. “You know that?”
“I know Willow,” he said, a laugh in his voice. “I love you too.”
“Mmkay,” Willow said, pulling away from him and wiping her eyes of a few small tears. She and Xander adjusted themselves so they were in a vague sleeping position on the bed. Willow maintained her grip on him, and soon fell asleep.
Xander looked over at Buffy, questions in his eye. Buffy shrugged her ignorance.
A few minutes later, Faith came back in the room. She saw Willow and Xander, smiled, and wished everyone a good night, then went to sleep.
Xander had no idea what was going on.
* * * * *
The phone rang. And rang. And rang. And rang again.
Then it stopped.
Then it rang again. A hand shot out from underneath a comforter and grabbed it.
[Dad, hey. Did I wake you?]
“Who is this?”
[It’s me dad… it’s Corey.]
The comforter was thrust aside and Alan Matthews tried to wake up. “Corey?” he said. “Son, what time is it?”
[It’s a little after one a.m.]
“Are you all right, is everything okay?”
[I’m not sure… I mean, I’m fine. But… listen, is Morgan okay?]
“Morgan? What? Corey, what are you talking about?”
[Dad, I just… I need to know. Is everything okay with her? I mean, is she all right?]
“Your sister is fine, Corey. What brought this on?”
Amy Matthews rolled over in bed. “Is that Corey?” Alan nodded. “Well, tell him to go to sleep, and we’ll see him in the morning.”
“Your mother says go to sleep, Corey.”
[No, Dad, listen. It can’t wait. Morgan, is there anything… weird, going on with her?]
[Has she been breaking things? Cups, doors, you know… people?]
“What? No, I don’t think so. Not for a while.”
[A while? How long.]
“I don’t really remember, Corey.”
[Maybe since late May?]
Alan sighed, and racked his brain for the last time he could remember something like that happening. “Around then, I guess. Early June, maybe? I do know she’s been having nightmares about once a week”
[Nightmares?] Corey asked.
“Yeah. She wakes up in a sweat probably once a week. I guess that also started around late May. We asked her if something was bugging her, but she assured us it was fine. Why?”
“Sweetie, what are you talking about?” Amy asked. Alan held up a finger to keep his wife quiet for a minute.
[Dad, listen, this is very important. Did Morgan ever tell you what she dreamt about?]
“Once,” Alan said. “She said there was some girl, looked like she was dressed really old-fashioned, and she was in a fight with someone.”
Alan heard his son groan on the other end of the line. “Corey, what’s going on?”
[Dad, do you mind if I bring some people by the house tomorrow?]
[I just… Dad, it’s important. I need you to trust me.]
Alan sat there, stunned for a minute, before responding. “Well, of course we trust you, son,” he said.
[Good. Okay. Good. I’ll see you guys tomorrow then. Tell Mom I love her. Good night, Dad]
“Goodnight, Corey,” Alan said. He hung up.
“What was that all about?” Amy asked.
“I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.”
Amy rolled over in bed. “That’s your son, you know.”
“Sure,” Alan said, pulling the covers back up over him. “When he calls at one in the morning, he’s my son. When he does something good, he’s yours.”
“Yup,” Amy said groggily. “That’s just the way it works.”
* * * * *
The next morning, after a call from Corey asking them to come by the house, Willow and Faith went out and bought Faith some nice clothes (read: not a tank-top and super-tight jeans) that, Willow casually mentioned, seemed to be the kind that Xander would like. Faith scowled and denied everything, but ended up buying those same clothes anyway.
The Scoobies showed up at the Matthews house right on time, and were ushered into a sort of an awkward silence that had apparently been caused by Corey not explaining what in the hell his call the previous night had been about.
They were introduced to Morgan, who looked more like her parents than Corey did. She was short, as almost all Slayers seemed to be, and wore olive green cargo khaki’s, a ripped up black shirt advertising Sonic Youth. The hair on the left side of her head was shaved down to peach fuzz, the hair on the right side was down past her shoulder. And she was very shy. Her current image clashed with the family photos they saw around the living room.
The group got down to business, accepting with grace from Topanga a blend of coffee that they had never heard of before, but liked all the same. The presence of the beverage seemed to naturally lead to talking. It made things easier when somebody could take a sip, delay for a second and gather their thoughts.
When the Scoobies finished explaining everything, Morgan was the first one to speak.
“So I’m a freak.”
Xander, Willow and Buffy glanced at each other, not quite sure how to handle that.
“A little,” Faith said, to everyone’s surprise. “You’re different from most everyone you know, that’s for sure. But ain’t nobody gonna push you around anymore, unless you let ‘em. There’s a lotta this thing that’s a sweet deal.”
“That’s right,” Xander said. “But, there’s also responsibility that comes along with it.”
“Like Spiderman,” Corey said, nodding very seriously.
“Corey,” his father said, “I don’t think Spiderman is probably the best way to go about this.”
“Actually, he’s not far off,” said Buffy. “Slayers have a lot of power, and it gets to you. It’s hard to ignore. You see something happening, and it occurs to you, ‘I could have stopped that,’ or ‘I could have helped those people.’ It doesn’t feel good to know you could have made a difference, and didn’t.”
“But, you have to weigh that against the danger,” Willow said. “What we do is very dangerous. And we have ways to protect from being discovered by most demons.”
“Why her?” Amy asked, as Alan wrapped his arm protectively around her. “Why did you do this to our daughter? What gave you the right to make this decision, to just wave your hands and change the lives of all of these girls?”
“We didn’t have a choice,” Xander said, softly. “If there had been another way, we would gladly have taken it. But there wasn’t.”
“I don’t believe it,” Amy said, shaking her head. “There had to be something else, there had to be some way that… that *this* didn’t have to happen. There had to be.”
“There wasn’t,” Willow said softly, her head bowed in apparent shame. “The world was going to be overrun by demons if we didn’t win. The four of us, and about thirty other people were the first line of defense. We had a second group in Los Angeles who would be another line.”
“And after that, there was nothing,” Buffy said. “The military can’t handle this type of thing, we know that first hand. Police, national guard… there’s nothing they could do. If we didn’t make it, the rest of the world’s best chance for survival was if they had a bunch of Slayers out there who instinctively knew what to do.”
“It’s not fair,” Xander said. “It’s cruel, and it exposes people to things they should never have to deal with. And we’re sorry. It doesn’t help anything, I know, but it’s the truth. None of us wanted this. We know how hard it can be. Losing people you love, being an outcast, knowing what’s really out there and how scary it is. It’s a horrible thing to do, and if we could take it back we would. But we can’t. The best we can do is find everyone who was affected and tell them what’s happening.”
“And who’s to blame,” Faith said. “We’re the ones that did this, we deal with the consequences. It’s a responsibility we don’t take lightly.”
“I know exactly who’s to blame,” Amy said, anger and tears in her eyes. “Please leave my house.”
The group shared looks with each other.
“Mr. Matthews,” Buffy started.
“No,” Alan said, standing up. “You heard my wife. Please leave us. Corey, see them out?”
“Sure, dad,” Corey said.
“Thank you for your time,” Xander said, as Corey ushered them out. “And… we’re sorry.”
Corey joined the group outside for a moment.
“I’m really sorry about that,” he said. “I know that they’re not –”
“You don’t have to apologize,” Willow said, shaking her head. The others nodded in agreement. “They have every right to be angry. They have every right to want to hurt us, and to yell at us.”
“The important thing is, they’re taking it seriously,” Xander said as Willow pulled out a couple of things from her bag.
“Here,” she said. “This is some literature on our school, and a necklace that will help protect your sister. And please tell your parents thank you for listening to us.”
“And to call us,” Buffy said. “If they need anything.”
“I will,” Corey said, accepting the materials from Willow. “And thank you, again. For last night.”
“Of course,” Buffy said. “And thank you, too. For listening.”
Corey nodded, then rejoined his family inside the house. The Scoobies stood there for a moment, then nodded at each other and headed back to the car. They drove back to the hotel in silence.
Willow checked her cell phone messages, and found one from Riley, saying that he and Sam had to head off to Fiji for some demon something or other, and one from Giles. She began furiously taking notes as she listened Giles’ message
“Guys,” she said, as the others were packing their belongings. “We’ve got a problem.”
“Where to now?” Faith asked.
“West,” Willow said. “And Xander, we might need your fire truck.”