Chapter 5 pt. 1


It was all coming apart at the seams. Buffy Summers stood in the doorway leading to her courtyard and let out a blood curdling scream. She could hear doors slam and feet pound from several parts of the house, but the tiny blond Slayer ignored the noises and glared at her foe again. She yelled again, kicked the enemy across the courtyard, then threw herself across the intervening space and stabbed it with the dagger that had been hidden in her boot. Several times.

"Ah, Buffy?" Giles' questioning voice came from the doorway, causing her to start guiltily. Buffy watched as he blinked at her blearily, his eyes trying to adjust to the bright winter sun after spending the day closeted with his books in the rooms Buffy had designated as the library and his office. The Watcher nodded briefly once he'd ascertained the identity of the evil she'd just dispatched and commented wryly, "I do believe the clipboard is dead Buffy. No need to be cruel. We can give it a quiet burial or do you feel the need to cremate it?"

"Ha, ha, very funny," Buffy pouted, still glaring at the offending clipboard with it's attached lists. "I can't burn it until all the things on the list are crossed off. I promised Willow."

"And she didn't think to guard against stabbings? I am surprised." Giles drawled as he crossed the space. Buffy pouted at Giles' dry sarcasm, but the truth of the comments kept her from using a full power pout against him. He was still struggling to remove the dagger when Willow, Oz and Erin appeared in the doorway.

"Was it evil Mommy?" Erin asked, eying the seemingly innocent clipboard doubtfully.

"Very evil," Buffy assured her, trying to keep a straight face. It proved even harder when she looked at Oz.

Oz simply raised an eyebrow at the clipboard and reached for Erin's hand. "Come on," he said winking at Buffy and patting Willow's back in consolation. "Let's go finish in your room and make lunch while your mom helps Giles bury the clipboard demon."

Willow meaningfully cleared her throat, and Buffy sighed, yearning to follow her daughter and the werewolf who was Erin's sitter for the day. Buffy reluctantly accepted the battered clipboard from her Watcher, pouting when he failed to return her dagger. "Buffy, killing the clipboard won't get the chores done." Willow teased, trying valiantly to keep on her resolve face. She peered at the wrinkled, perforated pages over the blond's shoulder. "Buffy, you've done a great job! A lot of these things are done; you'll be ready for the party by tomorrow; that leaves three days to recover! Why did you feel the need to assassinate the clipboard?"

Buffy practically growled her response, regretting the day Wesley had convinced her to reconcile with the Watcher's Council. "Wesley just called. The new Slayer, Aria, finished up the local baddies where she lives, and they're coming to Sunnydale earlier than planned. As in tomorrow."

"Ahh..." Buffy was grateful when Willow didn't elaborate on her response; her frustration and nervous energy were making her increasingly snappish and she didn't want to take out her bad mood on her friend. She sighed as she watched Willow carefully separate the printed lists to move the 'New Slayer and Family' list to the top of the stack, wincing at the amount of work to be done and how little had been accomplished. "Here Buffy," Willow said, trying to hide a smile as she handed the clipboard back to her friend. "I even have a brand-new magic marker for you to cross things out with."

"OK, I get it," Buffy said, slumping down on the edge of the still non functioning fountain. "I'm acting like a child." She leaned back and turned her face up to the sun, basking in the warmth it cast. Buffy smiled when she heard Willow cross the patio and felt her sit down next to her.

"Want to talk about it?" came the quiet question, just as Buffy had expected. She had really missed having Willow around; there were times when the redhead knew instinctively that Buffy needed to talk, when she needed to repress, or if she needed a good cry on a sympathetic shoulder.

"I'm on my last nerve," Buffy began quietly. "I knew coming home was the right decision, but I'm still getting used to the idea of being here." She felt Willow's hand brush against hers, and Buffy latched on to it, squeezing the redhead's fingers gratefully. "I keep jumping at shadows because I'm scared to death the news that I'm back will get out before I'm ready. I'm stressed out about seeing Xander when he gets back from visiting Anya in San Francisco. I'm furious at Wesley for convincing me to make peace with the council..."

Willow interrupted Buffy, asking, "How did he do that anyway? You were pretty adamant about severing your ties with them, and we know for a fact that he hasn't been in touch with you in years."

Buffy studied her fingernails, grateful for the reprieve. She knew that Willow would eventually get around to the tough questions, but the Slayer needed a little more time to calm down before stirring up more fears. "He talked to me just before he left Angel Investigations to go back to the Council. He said he understood why I'd quit the Council, and knew that what he'd been doing while he was my Watcher was wrong. Wesley said that working with Angel and Cordy helped toughen him up, and he wanted to see whether anyone else at Council headquarters was wondering why the best Slayer in centuries had severed ties with the Watchers. He got Giles to agree to send photocopies of his own Watcher diaries to the archives. That summer, the archivist read everything and was shocked and impressed enough to call me personally."

"Apparently he used to be the big, high mucky muck until a heart attack forced him into a less active role. He got my side of the story, and I think he talked to Giles, and maybe even Angel. He gave me a number to contact him, and he and Wesley started a quiet revolution. The result, about two years ago, was a semi-reconciliation. The council sends us lists of hot spots, and Giles and I tapped our own contacts to decide where we really needed to be. In return we got a small stipend, access to the archives, weapons, and are kept up-to-date on the situation with the Hellmouth and the other Slayer. Things are still pretty bogged down over there, so we usually got more info form you, but they do have access to all those books. Anyway, when the latest Slayer was called, the head guys put their feet down firmly. Apparently, she slipped through the cracks like I did, so they sent her Wesley because he's used to Slayers with attitude. I guess she's not too pleased with her sacred duty, so he wants to bring her here to me. They want me to show her the ropes and help her adjust to the situation."

Willow was silent for a long moment as she considered Buffy's explanation. "It makes sense from their point of view. I mean, get the longest surviving Slayer to train the new one, and maybe she'll last longer than usual. No one wants more Slayers to die. You know, except the vampires."

"I know, and Slayers will keep dying until all the evil is gone, Will. That's not going to change." Buffy sighed. "I guess I'm upset because they're coming *here* instead of finding a place of their own. I understand that it takes a while to get ready to move a family, and I hate the idea of her coming to a new place without her family, but I've got enough to deal with on my own. Plus, the council sent me a note that says she's got attitude problems that make them afraid of another Faith. *Just* what I needed to hear when I'm already nervous. So, Wesley announced that he's bringing the other Slayer, her parents and four younger brothers and sisters to live in my house a *week* ahead of schedule when I'm not ready for them, and on top of that..." Buffy let her voice trail off, almost afraid to finish the sentence and wincing when Willow did.

"And you're terrified at the thought of seeing Angel again." Buffy nodded and opened her eyes to Willow's sympathetic gaze. "Buffy he loves you. He'll be hurt that you didn't go to him after you were raped, but you guys can work through that. And he will adore Erin." Buffy nodded sharply, focusing on a scuff on her boot. "That is what this is all about isn't it?" Willow prompted.

"I'm so afraid that things will get messed up. You've heard Erin these last few days; 'When is Angel coming? Does Angel know about me? Will Angel love me too? Will he be my Daddy?' Talk about putting pressure on him before he even gets here! Maybe all the stories I told Erin were a bad idea. She's got huge expectations where Angel's concerned, and he hasn't even met her yet. What will it do to her if things don't work out? What..."

"Enough!" Willow exclaimed, clapping her hand over Buffy's mouth, laughter bright in her eyes. "Buffy, things will work out for you and Angel. Even if I have to *stand* on him so he'll sit still long enough to listen to reason, or create a foolproof curse for him from scratch. And, if for some unknown reason or sheer stubbornness, things *don't* work out, Angel will still adore Erin; first because she's yours, and then because she's an irresistible sprite."

Buffy heaved a great sigh and nodded reluctantly, a little calmer but still nervous. Until she looked at her watch and realized how little was left of the day, and how much was still left to do. Then, hazel eyes a little wild, she let out an exasperated moan and leaped to her feet, dragging Willow and the evil clipboard back to the work awaiting them.