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Friend and Foe

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Buffy eyed the clock gloomily as the last few seconds of sixth period ticked by. It wasn't fair, she thought to herself for the zillionth time, that she was on academic probation. Outrageous that she, the Slayer, whose life's work was to defend the world from the forces of darkness, should have to deal with high school faculty and their ridiculous rules about actually going to class and doing the homework…

Okay, okay, maybe she wouldn't be winning any arguments with that one, but still. One thing was certain: Principal Snyder sucked. And not in the more often than not too literal I-want-to-suck-your-blood way that was common in Sunnydale thanks to its vamp population; but in the very real possibility that he was a spawn of Satan way. What kind of tyrant assigned detention on a Friday night? A Friday night that the Dingoes were playing at the Bronze no less? He was positively evil.

...And unfortunately human, as far as she knew, so her fantasy of epically slaying him or having Willow magick him away could never be.

The bell rang and Buffy sulked against the lockers, waiting for her friends. Xander was first to appear.

“Ah, behold the detention-bound Buffster,” he greeted as he dialed in his combination. “A martyr of our time.” She glared in response.

“Buffy!”

It was Willow. She looked frazzled but eager, an armful of books bulking her form as she sidled past other students in the hallway.

“Buffy, I was up all night reading.” She held up the topmost book in the pile, a slim leatherbound volume from Giles's collection. “And then I spent lunch and fifth period in the computer lab. And I have an idea for a spell that could be super useful. We have to go see Giles.”

“Uh, sure Will. I have some time to kill I guess. What's this about?” She straightened up from her slouch against the lockers and joined Willow as she headed toward the library. Xander slammed his locker shut and fell into step behind them.

“I'll explain everything in just a second,” Willow assured her.

They swung open the doors on a typically empty library. As they gathered at the table, Giles came out of his office.

“Oh good, you're here,” he said to Buffy as greeting. “Willow, I haven't seen you all day. I assumed you spent the day at home.”

“Sorry,” Willow grimaced. “I was doing some research. You know the whole Gwendolyn Post thing was kind of an enormous disaster?” She looked at his bruised and swollen eye as he nodded once in reply. “I was thinking, what if there was a spell to make sure that kind of thing didn't happen anymore? Something so we'd know the good guys from the bad guys. And I know that's vague and there's grey area all over the place,” she said when Giles opened his mouth to interrupt her. “And a truth spell wouldn't be practical, because we'd have to do one on every single person, well, ever. But what if there was something that could give us more intuitive knowledge of whether someone was on our side, without needing to directly involve them in the magicks? And—” She held the leatherbound book out to Giles. “I think there is.”

Giles took the book from her and Buffy got a better look at the title: Collected Treatises on Magickal Workings for Instinctive Perception and Clairvoyance . Sheesh. No wonder it'd taken her all night to read.

“Based on what I've read in here and on some websites I found, there should be a way to magickally assist us so we automatically know whether someone is a glove-stealing megalomaniac, just for example.” She glanced at Giles's eye again sympathetically. It did look pretty bad.

Giles flipped through the book thoughtfully before he spoke. “I admit it had occurred to me that there may perhaps be a way for the Slayer to hone her intuitive recognition of allies and enemies, even if said enemies are merely human. I suppose I previously didn't consider it worth pursuing.”

“Hey, I recognized intuitively!” Buffy protested. “I didn't like her.” She shot Giles a look. “And neither did you,” she muttered.

“Yes, well, be that as it may,” Giles said briskly, “You’d likely benefit from looking over the material Willow has been reading.”

“You don't have to though!” Willow cut in hurriedly. “Not for this, anyway.” Her eyes darted between Buffy and Giles, who both looked ready to argue. “I'm sure I can draft a really simple spell and you can be all Intuitive-Buffy pronto! Maybe today, even. The theory is pretty cerebral, but in practice it'll just be a lot of meditating I think. Wanna try?”

“Now?” She didn't want to spend the last of her detention-free hours trying to meditate. “You want me to shut up, sit still, and do nothing right before I have to report to Snyder's office...to shut up, sit still, and do nothing?”

“Oh! No, I didn't mean try it right now. Anyway, I think it's better to do it somewhere quiet anyway, where you won't be disturbed. So like, not here.”

Before Willow had reached the end of her sentence, Cordelia's loud voice came from the doorway.

“I'm just saying, if Devon keeps dressing like that, Dingoes are totally going to be the least fashionable band ever to exist in Sunnydale.”

She was speaking to Oz. Or at him, at least. He, for his part, looked placidly around the room before remarking calmly in reply, “None of the band's been eaten though, so at least we've got that going for us.”

“There you are!” Cordelia said to Xander, ignoring Oz and striding over to the rest of them. “I should've known you'd be in here.” She leaned against the edge of the table, arms crossed. Giles barely spared her a glance before he began talking.

“Buffy, as I'm sure you recall, the typical Slayer training regimen includes studying a great many texts. Perhaps now that Faith is here to shoulder some of the burden, it would be an ideal time to expand your training.”

“No!” she said wildly, the thought of more work to catch up on shoving her right to the precipice of panic and dread. “Ever since I got back, I've basically been a model student,” she elaborated. “Relatively speaking,” she qualified.

“Relative to what?” Cordelia snarked.

Willow spoke before Buffy could snap at Cordelia. “It's true! You've been working so hard, Buffy, especially with all that SAT prep you did on top of slaying.”

“On top of, and during,” Buffy added. “Dusted a fair few vampires with my number 2 pencils.” She pouted then and went on, “I don't know if I even managed to pull off a decent score, and now I have to get through a backlog of homework before I get suspended or whatever Snyder comes up with. Not that there could be any academic punishment worse than Friday night detention,” she muttered. “I mean, God, does he really have nothing better to do than make me suffer?”

“Survey says no,” Xander answered. “So Will, what were you saying about the spell?”

“Right. So, I think if Giles and I can determine an effective incantation to help you clear your mind, or broaden your mind, or... something like that, then you can use it in a kind of meditation practice so that you'll build this, like, evil-spotting zen corner of your mind. There are probably some supplies we could get at the magic shop to help it along, but really the overall spooky witchcraft level would be pretty low. Right?” She looked to Giles. He thumbed through a few more pages of the text.

“Willow may have to refresh my memory on the Treatises , but from what I recall I believe that would be a reasonable place to start,” Giles agreed. “While we don't precisely need to be rushing into doing it, a spell like this doesn't carry much risk, so it might be worth trying it soon if you're ready, Buffy.”

“I can go by the magic shop and meet you at the Bronze later with some supplies and instructions,” Willow volunteered enthusiastically.

“Willow, I can't,” Buffy reminded her. “I have detention with Snyder until nine, and by the time I go drop my school stuff at home and get a patrol in….” She'd been through enough stress this week, what with the drama over Angel's return becoming known to the gang, the ordeal with the evil glove, and the fact that Faith had been mostly incommunicado since. It would've been nice to hang out at the Bronze with everyone and get some fun in, but the detention would undoubtedly result in a headache, and the headache would result in a grumpy Buffy in need of a good night's sleep. She checked the clock. She had about forty minutes before Saturday Detention: But on a Friday Because Snyder Hates You Edition .

“Giles, can you bring out the dummy? I want to punch something.”