Buffy was pacing. She had been pacing for over an hour. Each step fell with a clack of her boot heel on the tiled floor of the Library as she moved from cage to check out counter to door to cage. Giles had stopped watching her after five minutes and had given up on getting her to stop after ten.
He sat at the table, poring over his official journals. Not only was Buffy's life coming under scrutiny, but so was his, and every decision he had made and failed to make would be examined and judged.
The journals weren't complete. He had never entered the information about Willow and Spike or Buffy and Angel, after Angel's loss of his soul. He had never been able to bring himself to do so.
And he had known that to do so would condemn them all. There had always been the chance that the Watcher's Council would call for an audit and demand to see his journals before the death of his slayer.
But, Giles had never expected that the second slayer would be sent to Sunnydale to 'help out'. That was a glaring slap at Buffy's abilities and his own tutelage. Although they had never said it in so many words, the Council obviously believed he and Buffy were not doing their duty to their fullest extent.
And the Council was right.
But, how could he explain that his Slayer was in love with the enemy and couldn't kill him or most of his followers?
That would get them eliminated for sure.
Giles had never told Buffy of the dark side of the Council and what they did to rogue slayers and watchers. He had hoped, perhaps in error, that her misdeeds would never come to light, that as long as she continued to slay and his reports continued to glow with her achievements, no one from the Council would ever come to Sunnydale.
He prayed his error in judgment wouldn't cost them dearly.
As they waited for the arrival of the new Slayer and Watcher, Giles' thoughts drifted back to the night before when Buffy had stormed into his apartment, her face an ashen mask.
"When do they arrive?" she asked as greeting.
Giles looked up from his glass of Scotch and blinked blearily. "Tomorrow evening."
"What are we going to do, Giles?"
"Lie." He took a sip of his drink, savoring the warmth it brought.
Buffy's brows furrowed and she picked up the half empty bottle. "How much of this have you had?"
"Not enough." He grabbed the bottle from her and set it down hard, "Don't you dare lecture me, Buffy."
At his cold tone, Buffy dropped her eyes to the floor and sank to the couch next to him. "What are we going to do?" she asked again, her voice begging him to help her.
Giles sighed heavily and leaned back into the corner of the couch, his bloodshot eyes fixing on her. "My reports have been glowing, my journals say nothing of your...indiscretions. I shall lie as I have been since July. You will spend more time patrolling and less time..." He made a dismissive noise of disgust which made her flinch. "The more kills you rack up the better."
"And how do I hide Angel from the new Slayer?"
"You managed to hide him from me for five months," Giles replied coldly.
Buffy paled at the anger in Giles, but knew she deserved it. "I'm sorry, Giles."
"No, you're not."
"I'm sorry for hurting you," she clarified. "Please, Giles, I need your help more than ever now."
"I know, Buffy, I know," he sighed heavily. "I don't like how this appears to be almost a sneak attack. I've known that there's been a breakdown in communication with the Council since that incident with Mrs. Post. I've been trying to discover the identity of the new Slayer since Kendra's death last September at the hands of Trick. I wasn't even informed that Mr. Zabutu had died as well until two months later. All I know of the new Slayer is that her name is Faith, she's seventeen, and from Boston. Her Watcher is a Wesley Wyndham-Price."
"Do you know him?"
Giles shook his head. "No. As you know, the Council has no computer records of anything, living in the dark ages as they do, so all I could discover is that he is young and promising."
"Great," Buffy replied heavily.
As she paced, Buffy's mind went over her conversation with Angel the night before. They had been at Willow's for what had been supposed to be a fun evening of watching football bowl games on New Year's Day. After the phone call from Giles, the fun had devolved into a loud discussion of the repercussions and implications of the new Slayer's arrival.
"It's easy. I kill the bitch."
Buffy glared at Angel who gave her a grin of eager anticipation as he placed his hands behind his head in the easy chair in which he sat, stretching his legs out in front of him.
"I'm not letting her do anything to Willow. I'll kill her first," Spike vowed, his voice low, his hand wrapped tightly around Willow's as they sat together on the couch.
"No, Spike, no, not for me." Placing two fingers on his cheek, Willow turned him to face her. "Not for me."
"I won't let her hurt you. I won't let anyone hurt you."
Angel's snort and eye rolling was ignored by all.
"This is a challenge to you, Buffy," Xander interjected. "They're saying you're doing a crummy job as slayer.
"Which you are," Cordelia added, then sank back into her chair as everyone glared at her. "What? She is. She doesn't even try to kill psycho boy there anymore." She pointed to Angel and he growled at her. "Or half his stupid clan. I mean, sure you still face the big evils and win, but how often do you patrol? And, I mean, really patrol, not boff Angel in the cemetery."
From her position in front of the fake fireplace, Buffy reddened and shot Cordelia a half-heartedly nasty look. The cheerleader was right, as usual.
"Tact, Cordelia," Willow murmured.
"So, the new Slayer comes to town tomorrow, goes patrolling, and I kill her." Angel shrugged, still grinning. "I don't see a problem here."
"For one, there'll be another slayer toddling along after her," Spike snapped at his sire. "For two..."
"Willow doesn't want you too," Angel sneered. "You are so totally pussy whipped, boy."
Spike growled, his hands fisting, but Willow restrained him with one gentle touch.
"For two," Spike continued emphatically. "You start killing her sister slayers and how long do you think Buffy will continue to spread her legs for you?"
"Euuu, mental image!" Xander yelled.
Buffy glared darkly at the blond vampire. "Stop helping me, Spike."
Everyone started arguing at once until finally Willow's voice rose loud enough to cut through the din. "Cut it the fuck out, all of you!" As the room fell silent, she blushed furiously. "We have to deal with this logically. Hopefully Buffy can prove that she can handle the Hellmouth, and we all know she can, and the new Slayer will go back wherever she came from. Until then, we'll all have to be on our toes. No overt vampireyness from you guys, no attacking the new Slayer or Buffy. Angel, you warn your clan to lay low if they want to survive." She looked up at Spike. "No biting me in public."
Willow turned to glance at the agitated Slayer. "You and Angel have to scale back your...encounters, and you have to patrol nightly, and slay." Buffy nodded and Willow continued, her voice confident as her quick mind worked out a plan. "Spike and I will go to the airport and see if she can tell that he's a vampire. Their flight is private, but it's arriving at the same time as the nightly commuter flight from L.A., so there will be a crowd of people. If she can tell he's a vampire, she won't try to slay him in the terminal and there's a hidden sewer access there we can reach easily. If she can't tell, then Spike and I can continue to be seen together in public and...if Angel can behave," and her voice gave no indication of any faith in his ability to do so, "the two of you can play at boyfriend and girlfriend."
"What fun," Angel sneered. "We can go to the malt shop."
"This isn't funny, Angel." Buffy stalked over to him, only to be grabbed and dragged onto his lap.
"It's never funny when something threatens what belongs to me," he replied, his voice low and hard. "If we can't kill her, I'll play this game for you, but only for so long, my love, only for so long."
Swallowing hard against sudden tears, Buffy nodded and sank into his embrace.
The ringing of the phone startled both Giles and Buffy out of their contemplations. Buffy reached the phone first, and, after determining that it was Willow, she put it on speaker.
"They've just deplaned. He's...well, he looks like a younger Giles, more stuffy maybe. She's a brunette, wiry, edgy, wearing a pretty cool outfit."
Holding a cell phone to her ear, Willow watched from a position next to the arrivals board. Spike stood just inside the door, a small group of people with him. The Watcher and Slayer entered the terminal and walked right past him.
Letting out a huge sigh of relief, Willow continued, "They didn't notice Spike. She didn't even twitch or hesitate."
"That's how I was at the beginning," Buffy replied. "You two get out of there. I'll call you later tonight, Will, after the first round of the inquisition. And, thanks."
Willow smiled. "You're welcome. Hang in there."
Hanging up the phone, the redhead watched the pair sweep by her. The Slayer wore a well-worn jeans jacket, faded t-shirt and jeans, and carried a black duffel over one shoulder, while the Watcher--a handsome, young man in an expensive suit--carried a briefcase. They both had determined looks on their faces, but the Slayer's faded to a grin as she blew a bubble with her gum.
For a moment, Willow smiled, thinking that she might like to get to know this girl, but then the moment faded and reality returned. The new Slayer was just too much of a danger to all of them and everything they had in Sunnydale.
Spike joined her, sliding his arm around her waist. "She didn't notice me, but I knew immediately what she was."
"You've been around just slightly longer than she has."
He followed the pair with hardened eyes. "And, if need be, she won't be around much longer."
"Stop it," Willow scolded, frowning. "She isn't going to come after me. I won't give her any reason to."
"And if she goes after my sire? Dru?" Their eyes met. "If she tries to kill Buffy? That Council isn't all hearts and flowers, luv. I've heard things over the years. Elimination squads, assassinations, manipulating through money, influence and magic the politics and religions of the world, not to mention the people. Buffy's the oddity, Willow. More often than not the Council takes a young girl from her family and raises her to be a potential slayer. Sometimes they pay off the family, sometimes they just off them."
Willow flinched visibly.
"They're not nice people, luv, and we can't trust that they have any nice plans in store for Buffy and Giles."
"Then we do what we can to help, but killing has to be the last resort." She looked up at him, her eyes full of pleas.
Spike sighed heavily and finally nodded. "Come on, Angel will want my report and...I want you in my bed and my arms as soon as possible."
Smiling slightly, Willow wrapped her arm around him and leaned against him as he led her out of the terminal.
Buffy hung up the phone and took several deep cleansing breaths.
"Can you do this, Buffy?"
She nodded at her mentor and took a seat at the table, her fingers curling around the hard wooden edge. "Yeah, I have to, don't I."
"Be casual, courteous, friendly even. We have nothing to hide, remember?"
Snorting slightly, she nodded again and picked up a stake off the table, twirling it between her fingers to keep herself busy and her mind off all the possible outcomes of the meeting to come.
Angel was waiting for them in the foyer of the mansion and he jerked his head towards the Library, then stomped in there. Willow and Spike followed, hands tightly clasped together. Drusilla lounged on a red velvet sofa before the fireplace, reading. At their entrance, she set aside her book and looked up expectantly. Angel took a position in front of the fire, one arm resting on the mantle, his pose deceptively casual.
"She didn't notice I was a vampire."
"What's she look like?" Angel asked.
Spike shrugged. "Pretty, I guess. Brunette, about five eight, full of energy, I could see that from the way she walked, dressed for fighting in jeans and docs. Her Watcher looked like a bit of a ponce."
"They usually do, but they often turn out to be as nasty as Rupert." Angel growled deep in his throat and his eyes flashed gold for a moment. "I hate this waiting shit. I should have just gone to the airport and torn their throats out."
"And they'd send someone new in a couple of months," Spike explained patiently.
"That would give us a couple more months of peace," Angel argued. "I'll do it, too, if the bitch lays one finger on Buffy."
Spike couldn't contain his smirk, though he looked quickly away from his angry sire.
Drusilla didn't have his good sense, though. "Daddy loves the nasty Slayer," she sang softly, her finger tracing patterns on the velvet arm of the sofa.
Furious, Angel grabbed the vampiress off the sofa and shook her hard. "Don't ever fucking say that again." He raised his hand to hit her and Willow cried out.
"Stop! Don't hit her."
With a growl Angel threw Drusilla to the floor where she crumpled into a weeping heap of silk and velvet, and stalked towards Willow. Realizing her mistake, the red head back peddled quickly until she ran into the door. Angel stormed right past Spike, who stared at the floor in impotent despair.
Flattening his hands on the hard wood on either side of her head, Angel glared down at her fear-filled yet defiant face. "Do you want to take her place, Willow?" he asked, his voice silky and deadly.
"She spoke the truth," Willow whispered bravely.
He didn't explode, just continued in the same tone of voice. "You think I love Buffy? You think this dead and rotting heart of mine can feel anything pure like that? Do you even recognize the difference between love and lust, little girl?"
"I know the difference." Her voice wavered but her eyes stayed locked on his.
"And do you recognize rage when you see it? Or will you have to feel its results before you learn not to antagonize me?" Angel bellowed, making her flinch back and bang her head hard on the door.
Spike began to growl, his own fury building rapidly. Hands fisted, he turned to his sire, but before he could launch himself at the older male's back, Drusilla's hand wrapped around his arm, tugging him backwards.
"No," she whimpered. "No, don't."
Angel spun around from the door and sneered nastily at his two childer--the one so furious and about to attack, the other terrified of what such an attack might bring. "I can't have whom I want in my bed tonight," he said softly. "So, which one of you three will take her place? I can't guarantee that you'll find much pleasure, since I'm royally pissed off." His voice rose to a yell as he spoke, his eyes glittering with demonic fire, his body tensed for battle.
"You're like a child," Spike yelled back. "You can't get your way, so you take it out on those around you. Well, if you're going to be a child, I'll be a man. Leave Willow and Dru alone, you prick, and take your pissy mood out on me."
"No," both Willow and Drusilla protested.
Angel grabbed Willow and shoved her into the middle of the room and away from the door so that he could open it. The girl fell heavily against Drusilla and they both toppled to the floor. Not looking back at them, Spike stormed out of the room, buoyed by his own anger. Angel just smirked at the two females untangling themselves on the floor, and closed the door behind himself.
The door to the Library opened and the stake in Buffy's hand clattered to the table top. Nervously she smoothed her sweaty palms over her jean clad knees and watched the pair walking into the room.
"Mr. Giles?" the man asked, his demeanor cool and professional.
Giles rose, straightening his suit jacket and approached the other man. "Mr. Wyndham-Price, I presume?" he asked, his hand extended.
"Yes." The two men shook hands briefly.
"Welcome to Sunnydale." Giles turned his attention to the young woman who seemed to be nearly bouncing out of her skin. "And you must be Faith."
"Yeah." She snapped her gum, her eyes darting around the room. "Nice hideout you got here." Her eyes fell on Buffy and she smiled broadly. "And this must be the infamous Buffy. I'm Faith."
Buffy rose slowly to her feet, trying to ignore the feeling of dread building inside her. Plastering a fake smile on her face, she walked over to the new Watcher and Slayer.
End Trials: Arrival