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Beggars Would Ride

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Buffy let out a heavy sigh as she considered how much her life had changed: She was normal now thanks to Willow's spell which gave the essence of a Slayer to every Potential. Now there were thousands (maybe more) of Slayers in the world and so she was nothing out of the ordinary at all. Well, not exactly. Apparently being the oldest and longest serving meant that she had become 'Queen'. So still not that normal.

In the respect of the Slayers, Faith was considered her Second-in-Command then Kennedy. Of course in Kennedy's case, that was because she was the most assertive woman from the original group of Potentials as well as being Willow's girlfriend. In terms of the Scooby Gang though, their structure remained much the same with the addition of Kennedy, Robin and the return of Faith – bar Anya obviously.

She grimaced as her thoughts turned to her ex-demon friend. An ironic death, she supposed – all those years of running away at the merest hint of apocalypse, uncaring of any and all deaths of humans or other demons, only to die protecting Andrew – a person that many deemed to be one of the most worthless humans to ever exist. She truly hoped that her friend's final act of sacrifice had been enough to allow Anya entry to a Heavenly dimension… where bunnies would only be allowed if that were what she wished.

She turned her attention to the rather naïve blonde guy that Anya had saved and who was currently driving Willow to distraction. With a roll of her eyes, she joined the general conversation. "Is there any chance that you can take your gaze off that Star Wars show and focus on what is being said here? What Willow and Dawn are telling you is important, Andrew." At least she was remembering names now. Maybe not those of all the Slayers flooding in but certainly of Tucker's brother. It was a start, she supposed.

Andrew looked horror-stricken. "Star Trek, Buffy." He rolled his eyes. "Yes, they have Star in the title but they're nothing alike – well, apart from their sheer awesomeness – and it wounds me that you can't get the name right – or tell the difference. I mean, look - there's Picard being awesome on screen. He wasn't anywhere near Star Wars. Oh, but if he had been…"

This only caused Buffy to roll her eyes in exasperation once more – it would have been at this stage in the conversation that Anya would have piped up… probably with something along the lines of how Andrew really needed a girlfriend. She snapped her fingers a couple of times in front of his face to pull him out of whatever reverie he had slipped in to. "Look Andrew, it's really very simple – I need you to focus, okay? We need you to go with Dawn and Willow to collect this artefact doohicky.

Andrew sighed, reached for the remote and snapped off the television – this caused him to release yet another sigh. "I get it Buffy, your Queenliness. You need me to go instead of Kennedy though I doubt that I'll be any good in a fight if it comes down to that. I'll go with them and get the mirror thing and then everything will be ready for yet another apocalypsy thing... I don't suppose you know what this thing does yet?" He almost pouted when he was just completely ignored.

Buffy looked at Willow and Dawn. "Try not to strangle him, guys." She hugged first her sister then her best friend and chose not to reply to Andrew's complaints about not getting a hug too. "Though, if you do I will totally understand and perhaps you could just… you know, detour past Sunnydale and drop him in." The three women shared a moment of amusement as they heard Andrew start to whine about being under-appreciated.

When they left the sitting room, Dawn saying that she wished she'd had the foresight to be busy like Kennedy so she wouldn't have to deal with Andrew's girly whining, Buffy headed out to the back yard, still smiling a little at the silliness of Andrew and her sister's reaction to it. She frowned though as she watched Faith put the newest Slayers through their training. This newest batch had shown up within the last week. Only one of them appeared to have any training of any sort but that was okay – apparently one thing that could be said for Slayers was that they were quick learners… at least when it came to learning new combat techniques and battle strategies.

Thing was though, was she really needed here? They would all continue on just fine. Even if she had died back during their 'final' battle when that uber-vamp…Turok-han… had managed to give her what the First had tauntingly described as a 'mortal wound'. They would have been fine. Admittedly it had been she who had found the Slayer Weapon after guessing correctly at its location and managing to dodge around Caleb. Thanks to that, things were all so different now and that was undoubtedly something to be grateful for.

Aside from that though, the only people that really needed her were her family Dawn, Giles, Willow and Xander but even they didn't need her as much as they once had. Perhaps it had been that way for a while, though. After all, when it came down to it - when it came down to the vote in fact - Xander, Giles and Willow had been quick enough to back Faith as the new Slayer in charge. Dawn too, had told her to leave. She didn't hold that against her sister though. She was only trying to keep some level of balance in the house. The other three though… that had hurt!

All the years that she had kept them safe, the first chance that they got, they turned their backs on her - Xander being upset about the loss of his eye. It was unfortunate, of course it was and yes, she understood that it was a major problem and hindrance and all that but in the grand scheme of things, it was only an eye. It could have been his life! Many times over! How many times had she saved him? Far too many to count.

Anya had told them years ago about the other reality that Cordelia had brought into being when she had stated that she wished "Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale." Despite knowing that they would not have lasted long at all, that Xander and Willow would have become vamps, that they killed Cordelia and that they all died – herself included when she finally showed up - Xander had griped enough about his eye to turn his back on her. As for Willow, well she supposed she couldn't blame her. She had to side with her still relatively new girlfriend. She could accept that. Most of the time…

Her gaze turned to Kennedy then, at this moment acting as Faith's back-up. When she had first taken an interest in Willow, she couldn't say she was thrilled. She was just so different from the quiet, shy but oh so sweet Tara. Always seeming to be the one coming down hardest on her. It was one (slightly selfish) reason to be glad that Kennedy had become a full-blown Slayer.

Kennedy seemed a lot more settled now thankfully – the almost angry desperation with which she once challenged her was gone. She still had her moments of course, but at least now they were arguing on equal terms rather than Kennedy angrily believing she could do a better job if only she were a fully-fledged Slayer instead of Buffy or Faith. She was a Slayer with already a lot of experience in the field and yes, her ideas were usually worth listening to… she imagined though that she and Willow would want to strike out on their own soon. At least, she was sure that at some stage soon, Kennedy would want to and Willow would follow.

It was easy to understand Kennedy's initial reaction to her now, after Dawn told her what Anya had said to her the night that they had believed her little sister was a Potential: Being a Potential is a double-edged sword: on one hand, you get called and then there's the untimely, violent death. On the other, you don't get called and you are left feeling that you've failed spectacularly; never quite managed to reach your full potential. Indeed, the latter seemed to apply to Kennedy given that she had seemed so put out by the fact that she felt she was then too old to become a Slayer.

But yes, she could deal with her, could like her human part well enough even though their Slayer parts seemed to spend most of their time locking horns. Of course the fact that her love for Willow was quite clear certainly didn't hurt the other woman's cause. It was interesting how the dynamics changed – whilst with Tara, Willow had seemed to be the more dominant of the two but now it seemed that her friend was happy to let Kennedy take the lead for the most part.

Of course they all still missed Tara but there could be absolutely no doubt that their shy friend was watching over them from one of the Heavenly dimensions.

She sighed and sat down on the step and let her gaze wander over the Slayers, the movements were soothing despite their awkwardness - soothing to an extent that they couldn't really hold her focus for long. Her attention wandered again: So many lives lost. It didn't seem fair. They were trying to make the world a better place and yet their only 'reward' for this seemed to be that they continued to lose the people that they cared about.

Jesse; her Mom; Kendra; Merrick; Ms Calendar; Tara; Anya; Angel; Cassie; herself twice. They hadn't heard anything from L.A. in too long now. It didn't bode well but she couldn't bring herself to call: if she called then she would know for certain that something had gone wrong. She couldn't bear to know for certain. It was better to believe that Angel was fine, as were Cordy and Wesley and whoever else they'd pulled into their gang.

There were other losses too of course. One in particular was always at the forefront of her mind - the one she really couldn't seem to get past. She closed her eyes tightly as she tried to will away tears; tried to will away the thoughts of Him; her lover and best friend…

She took a deep breath and stood, moved over to where the Slayers were training. Faith took one look at her and knew that she needed to do something so passed control of the training session to the older woman – anything was better than stopping to think for too long.