Buffy Summers did not want to go to school. She did not want to talk to her sister. She did not want to live in Sunnydale. She did not want her parents to divorce. She did not want to be the Slayer.
Unfortunately for Buffy, no one listened to her complaints and her parents were getting divorced, her mom moved her and her sister Dawn to Sunnydale in a new, shiny house, Dawn was blaming her for everything (and really, she wasn’t wrong, Buffy thought), and her mom was forcing them to go to school the day after they moved. Buffy was incredibly angry, though she was quieter about it than Dawn.
Buffy slumped over her bowl of cereal, sulkily pushing the last five cheerios around. It was the only box of cereal they could find and, though not her favorite, it was tolerable. What was not tolerable was the way Dawn kept grunting and glaring at Buffy while she ate her own cereal. “Would you stop that?” Buffy snapped. She pushed her chair back away from the table and stood up. Grabbing her bowl, she continued her glare at Dawn until her sister scowled and looked away.
“Buffy,” Joyce said warningly. Buffy huffed and made her way to the kitchen. She rinsed her bowl out in the sink and began to think about what today meant. Her mom was going to join her in a meeting with the principal of Sunnydale High to go over her record and to make sure there weren’t going to be any problems. That was nerve wracking. Her mom didn’t even know that she was the Slayer, and kept treating her like burning down the gym of her last school was an act of delinquency, which certainly didn’t help her ability to train. She’d been grounded all summer and was still grounded. The only reason why she didn’t even go to jail was because her last Watcher pulled some strings with the Council or whatever and the police let her off with a slap on the wrist. Speaking of which, who was her new Watcher? He hadn’t made contact with her yet. Though they did just move here yesterday. So maybe he didn’t have her new address. Wait, did he know where she lived? Did he even know that she was in Sunnydale?
Buffy sighed in frustration. Walking over to the kitchen counter to grab her lunch, she contemplated the other problems she would be facing in the day. She was in a brand new town. Granted, it was attached to L.A., but it was far enough into Suburbia that it was virtually empty of anything interesting and she didn’t know anybody or the area. She wouldn’t have anyone to talk to, and she would probably have to do the irritating introductions in every class as well. And no doubt the entire school would know of her newbie existence within the first ten minutes.
“Buffy, it’s time to go,” Joyce said from the front door.
“Coming!” Buffy called back. She picked up her backpack and weaved through a myriad of boxes to reach the front door. Dawn sat in the front seat of the car with her arms crossed and a smug smirk on her face. Buffy whirled around to face her mom. “Mom! We’re dropping Dawn off first! Why can’t I sit in the front?”
“Buffy, stop. It doesn’t matter. We’re late as it is.” Joyce locked the front door and began walking to the car. Buffy followed sullenly, climbing into the back and ignoring her mom and Dawn chatting in the front.
“Bye Buffy,” Dawn said sweetly when they arrived at the middle school, her smile unbelievably smug. Buffy scoffed, but replied in kind at her mom’s stern look. She refused to get in the front, though, because she didn’t want to talk to her mom, and she knew that that was what Joyce wanted. Her mom sighed, but didn’t say anything for the rest of the ride.
It wasn’t until they were sitting in the front office waiting area that Joyce said anything. “Let me do the talking, okay?”
“Sure, Mom,” Buffy said, inspecting her nails. She painted them last night in an admirable effort to avoid unpacking. The index finger on her left hand was already chipped. Damn.
“I’m not doing this to punish you, honey. I care and I want you to do well,” Joyce said with a sigh. Buffy looked at her mom, and noticed that she had dropped her usual everything-must-be-okay-so-I’m-smiling smile and looked tired and sad and maybe a bit disappointed. Guilt sliced Buffy, and she suddenly felt like crying. She wished she could climb into her mom’s arms and tell her everything, but her last Watcher told her over and over that her destiny must be kept secret. Slayers were destined to be alone.
“I know,” she said quietly, feeling small.
“Miss Summers? Principal Flutie is ready to see you now,” Mrs. Barnhart announced from her desk. She was an older woman, about seventy, and smelled like patchouli. Joyce and Buffy stood up, smiled politely at her, and walked into the office. They never liked the smell of patchouli.
Buffy spaced out during the meeting, too strung out on nerves to focus on anything but her impending doom full of people she didn’t know. She didn’t have her books yet, and her mom would be expecting near perfection this semester to make up for the last one. She’d have to stop by the library after she received her class schedule to get her books, and, depending on how her classes went, find a tutor. Maybe her mom would let her go to the mall after school, without Dawn even, if she played her cards right.
A knock on the door interrupted Buffy’s train of thought. Mrs. Barnhart opened the door. “Mr. Flutie, Miss Rosenberg is here to help Buffy get to her classes.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Barnhart. Miss Summers, you may go,” Principal Flutie said. Buffy wasted no time in leaving, saying a quick goodbye to her mom, and was out the door. In the waiting area, a redhead clad in in a black shirt and blue overalls sat in one of the chairs, a book open in her lap.
“Hi,” Buffy said, stopping in front of the girl. “I’m Buffy.” The girl looked up with a timid smile. She slid her book into her backpack and stood up.
“I’m Willow,” she said, sticking her hand out awkwardly. Buffy took it and gave a small laugh. “Um, what’s your first class? I can show you where it is. It’d be cool if we share it. And if we don’t, someone there should be able to point you in the right direction of your next class. Also, lunch hour isn’t the same for everyone since there’s so many of us, but most sophomores have it at the same time. Last semester, me and Xander didn’t have our lunch hour at the same time, which sucked. Xander’s my best friend. We’ve known each other since we were babies. What electives did you chose?”
Buffy blinked at the girl in surprise - it was a lot of information to take in. She handed Willow her schedule and trailed after her as she started moving. “Um, well, I have history with Mr. Chomsky first, lunch at 11:30, and most of the electives were already taken, so P.E. and Woodshop?” Willow nodded along, examining Buffy’s schedule. “What about you? When’s your lunch and what are your electives?”
“Oh, we share History and Chemistry,” Willow said brightly. She turned left suddenly and Buffy scrambled to catch up. “I also have lunch at the same time. Do you want to sit with me and Xander? I know he and Jesse won’t mind. You’ve kinda been the talk of the school all morning. And I’m taking Computer Science, Art, and Health. I’m trying to frontload my classes so senior year can be relaxing on the school side and I can focus on my college applications. I’m probably going to go to UC Sunnydale but it won’t hurt to keep my options open, y’know?”
Buffy nodded. “Yeah, lunch with you sounds good. I’ll need to stop by the library to pick up some books first, though. Where will you be?”
“We usually eat in the courtyard.” They stopped in front of classroom. “This is where our first class is. Home-room’s almost over, but I can show you where that is later.” They walked in and settled down towards the middle, the only people in the room.
“Thank you for helping me, by the way,” Buffy said. She opened her backpack and pulled out her only notebook and a pencil. “I’m really nervous about today.” She fiddled with her pencil and almost dropped it.
Willow beamed. “It’s no problem, really,” she said. “Plus, I’m hoping to make a friend.” Buffy smiled back at her.
“Me too,” she said honestly.
Buffy looked at the clock, anxiously waiting for the bell to ring so that she could eat. Mr. Ashwood, her Algebra teacher, and Ms. Murray, her English teacher, didn’t allow food in the classroom and she was starving. Not literally, but she was hungry, and increasingly impatient with the slow tick of time.
Maybe she could sneak a Cheez-It out of its baggy? However, ziplock bags usually made loud noises, so that prospect was unlikely. Someone should create silent containers for hungry students, that way she could eat in peace and not worry about getting in trouble or how loud her growling stomach was becoming.
Finally, blessedly, the bell rang, and Buffy bolted out of her chair. She nearly knocked over a girl on her way out, muttered a quick apology, and swiftly left the classroom. She swung her backpack around her shoulder to her front to unzip the large pocket, revealing her precious lunchbox and all of the wonderful goodies hidden inside it. She slipped her notebook in, pulled her lunchbox out, zipped her bag closed, rotated it back to its proper place, and opened her treasure.
She pulled out her baggy of Cheez-Its and slipped her lunch bag onto her wrist so that she could eat and walk on her way to the library. Except she still didn’t know where to find the library.
Buffy ducked to the side of the hall to be out of the way and maneuvered her lunchbox into her backpack so that she could pull out her schedule from her skirt pocket. The back of the paper had a map of the school, but she had no idea which way was north.
“Buffy, right?” someone said, and Buffy’s head snapped up. The speaker was the girl she almost knocked over a couple minutes before.
“Yeah, I’m sorry for bumping into you earlier,” Buffy said, an apologetic smile on her face. “I’m really hungry.”
“I’m Cordelia, and don’t worry about it. You looked a little lost so I thought I’d help you out. Do you want to eat lunch with me and my friends? They’re going to love your shoes,” she said, a wide smile on her face. Buffy looked down as her black boots before returning a smile in kind.
“Thanks, I like your dress. I’m actually looking for the library to get my books.”
“Right this way. Let’s walk and talk.”
“Okay,” Buffy replied. “And I’d love to have lunch with you, but I already said yes to Willow this morning, but maybe we could go to the mall after school today?”
Cordelia smiled again, though it was a bit tighter this time. “I can’t go to the mall today, Harmony needs comforting. Noah broke up with her last night.” Cordelia turned right to go down another hallway. “You should totally come to the Bronze this weekend, though. It’s a club in the bad part of town and they let just about everyone in.”
“Yeah, that sounds great. Only, where is the bad part of town?” Buffy asked. She resumed eating her Cheez-Its.
“Only five minutes from the good part of town,” Cordelia said with a slight chuckle. They came to a stop in front of two large wooden doors. “Here’s the library.” Buffy started to enter, but Cordelia spoke again. “And Buffy, if you decide to hang out with Willow and her friends, you won’t climb the social ladder very well.” With that, Cordelia turned around and left.
“Thanks,” Buffy said to no one, a cracker halfway to her mouth. She couldn’t believe Cordelia had just warned her to stay within the proper social circles, just like Draco Malfoy had to Harry Potter. Like it was so important anyway. And, in any case, how would saying that make Buffy want to be friends with Cordelia? It just made her want to stay away from her. Buffy shook her head and opened the library door.
The library was empty, which she supposed wasn’t strange for lunchtime, but it was still eerily quiet and creepy. Buffy walked to the front counter, set her crackers down, and tried to peer into the office. No one there. She peered over the counter and saw a middle-aged man crouched with a book in his hands. He appeared to be concentrating on the cabinet studiously.
“Um, hello?” The man startled and nearly fell over. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you,” Buffy apologized. “I was hoping you could help me find the textbooks for my classes. I’m new.”
“Miss Summers?” the man said, his British accent surprising her. Buffy looked away, feeling a bit uncomfortable.
“Um, yes. Guess I’m the only new student, huh?” Buffy replied awkwardly. “And you are?”
“Ah, yes, I’m Rupert Giles, though I suppose students should call me Mr. Giles,” Rupert Giles said, his voice trailing off. “Anyway, your books. I’ll help you find them, but the first thing you should know is that I’m your Watcher.” Buffy’s heart sank to her stomach. It seemed they would be getting straight to business. “Obviously, we’ll need to discuss your schedule to go over a general skills assessment, patrolling, and training routines. However, we can discuss scheduling after you get settled in. I’m told you moved here yesterday?”
“Um, yes,” Buffy said. “I’m grounded, though, because of the fire business last semester and am already going to have to weasel my way into going to the Bronze this weekend. I’m not sure when we’ll be able to talk.” Buffy looked away from Giles, a bit nervous. She hadn’t gotten along with Merrick, but what about Giles? He was younger at least, but he was still old - at least in his forties. Would he understand her priorities and familial obligations?
“Well, we can meet during your free period for research and training,” Giles said, but Buffy cut him off before he could continue.
“Where would we train? Don’t other students use the library?”
“Yes,” he said slowly, and Buffy could practically see the cogs in his brain turning. “I have a workout room in my home, but there’s not an appropriate way that I can see to explain your presence there. I will look into renting a gym space.”
“Is there any way we could make it look like a self-defense club? Mom would let me do that without an argument,” Buffy said, then took a breath before saying what she really wanted to ask her Watcher. “Merrick said that a Slayer was destined to work without attachments, that it was unusual for her to have siblings and present parents. He mentioned that most Slayers died really young, and I don’t-” Buffy’s throat closed. She cleared her throat before continuing. “I don’t want to die.”
Giles looked at her with gentle eyes. “I don’t want you to die, either, Buffy. It’s true that many Slayers die before they’re twenty, but one of our Slayers is twenty-eight and another forty. It’s also true that what you’re destined for is dangerous, but I am here to prepare you as best as I’m able, and to give you access to resources.”
Buffy smiled, relieved and ate another Cheez-It. She and Giles would get along just fine, she thought. “I’d like to tell Mom about this whole Slayer business,” she added firmly. “I can’t exactly go out every night without her grilling me and she keeps thinking I’m acting out when all I’m doing is what ‘destiny’ or whatever called me to do.” Buffy frowned when she realized she ate all of her crackers.
“I’m afraid the status of the Slayer must be kept secret. However, I will consult the Council on this matter, as it may be beneficial to your duties,” Giles said, removing his glasses from his face and wiping them. “In the meantime, I want you to read this book on vampires, as I’m not sure how much you know about your abilities,” he set the book he was holding down in front of her, “and let’s find your schoolbooks.”
Buffy groaned, but slid the book into her backpack and fished out another snack from her lunchbox. She absentmindedly ate her grapes as Giles talked, only replying when necessary, and slipped out of the library as soon as possible. While Giles was nice and definitely on her side, unlike Merrick, the library was still really creepy.
She stepped out into the sunny courtyard and found Willow fairly easily. She was eating lunch with two boys, one of whom had a skateboard. “Hi Willow,” Buffy said, sitting next to her. She turned to address the boys staring at her. “I’m Buffy,” she said, feigning confidence. The day was only halfway over and she was already exhausted. “Which one of you is Jesse and which is Xander?”
The boy with the skateboard lurched forward and presented his hand, “I’m Xander. I see that you’ve heard of me.” He gave an exaggerated wink and Willow laughed. Buffy shook his hand firmly, smiling reflexively.
“Yeah, from me, you weirdo,” Willow said. Jesse snickered, immediately gaining Buffy’s attention.
“So that makes you Jesse?”
“Yeah,” he smiled easily, wrapping an arm over Xander’s shoulders.. “So you know Willow is extremely smart, Xander is an over-confident loser, and that I hang around said loser, but we don’t know anything about you. So, what’s to know about you?”
“Um, not a whole lot,” Buffy said, put off by his direct question. If only she could answer honestly. “I like shoes and am terrible at math,” she offered. There, that was honest enough.
Willow laughed. “I can help you with math, if you like, Buffy.” Xander and Jesse rolled their eyes, but Buffy got the feeling that Willow helped them with their homework too. She was really nice.
“That would be great, Willow, thanks.” Buffy looked at Xander and Jesse. “So what’s to actually know about you?”
Jesse laughed, and Buffy had a feeling they were going to get along great.