Oz and Aurelia walked into the library at the end of the school day to find Giles standing behind the counter checking in a stack of books. "The situation is still normal." She announced.
"Or as normal as this school ever sees." Oz said.
"So it appears." Giles said.
"No fires, no one's head is finding its way onto the walls." Aurelia said. "And the swing choir and the marching band have gone back to their normal, healthy seething resentment."
"It has been pretty quiet around here since you shut down the Seal. Unfortunately, the seers at the coven are certain the First is continuing to gather its forces. I'm afraid war is inevitable."
"Just in time for prom."
Giles gave Aurelia a strange look. "I didn't think you were interested in prom."
Aurelia shrugged. "I've never been to a prom. It sounds fun. Besides, Willow and Cordelia's enthusiasm for it seems to have seeped into me."
Giles smiled slightly. "You should go."
"Really? I thought you would throw a fit."
"Aurelia, do try to remember that I know what you've gone through since that night in 1753. You haven't exactly had the most normal of lives and this lifetime is certainly no exception. I want you to have a night to remember and I would like it to be a pleasant memory."
Aurelia smiled brightly. "Sometimes you're not so stuffy."
"Thank you. I try."
Her smile faded as Oz said, "Of course, there won't be a prom if there's no one to attend it."
"Yes, the lack of students and teachers is becoming extremely apparent as of late."
"It's like they know what's coming."
"Subconsciously, I think they do. The citizens of Sunnydale have an uncanny knack for turning a blind eye, but this time is just too big for them to ignore." Giles sighed. "Are you patrolling tonight?"
"I was thinking about it." Aurelia said.
"Will you be taking Ang…. Cassius?"
"Yes, I will be taking Cassius. We make a good team."
"Are you two being…. Careful?"
Aurelia laughed. "Giles, please don't blush when you ask personal questions of me." Giles blushed deeper and Aurelia laughed harder. "Stop! Please. Yes, we're being careful. You don't have to worry about us. We've lived in times where we knew of each other and were betrothed since my birth and could not do anything for fear of dishonor and having the betrothal broken. Do you really think that we can't control ourselves by this point?"
"Well, you two have been apart for quite some time."
Aurelia smiled. "Thank you for your concern, truly, but Cassius and I are just fine. I admit, I was worried about it at first, but we've settled into a nice routine that suits us both and keeps the world safe." She looked at the clock on the wall. "I'd better go. I promised Willow we'd go shopping if you didn't throw a fit about prom."
"You're still going to spend money on a dance that might not happen?"
Aurelia shrugged. "Willow's already bought the tickets. Why not?" She turned and headed out of the library with Oz.
A blonde young woman was running at top speed through the cemetery. She stopped running and looked for a place to hide. Someone punched her, knocking her down to the ground. Her pursuer kneeled down to grab the young woman, but someone picked him up and threw him into a nearby tombstone.
"Whatcha wanna do to her, vamp?" Faith said, starting to circle Cassius. "Angel!?"
"Faith!?" Cassius' eyes widened. "You're alive!"
"And you're evil."
"You were attacking that girl."
"Faith!" Aurelia ran up and tackled her friend to the ground in a hug. "Oh my god, you're alive!"
"B, what's going on?" Faith stood up, keeping a wary eye on Angel. "He's attacking a girl."
"No he's not."
The young woman that Cassius had been chasing stood up and growled. She attacked Faith, knocking her down. "That's one of the bad guys." Aurelia explained.
"You should make 'em wear a sign." Faith said as she fought the vampire. She reached around to Aurelia's pocket full of stakes. "May I?" She took a stake without waiting for an answer. "Thanks." Faith continued fighting the vamp woman before then staking her and turning to Aurelia.
"Nice to have you back." Aurelia said.
"It's nice to be back."
"What happened to you?"
"Bringers. They were tracking me hardcore. Trying to take me out."
"At least I know they didn't succeed."
"Yeah. So, how bad is it here?"
"Well, we just stopped this Seal in the basement of the high school from causing the entire school to implode. There's an army of super vampires coming…. Most likely from the Hellmouth itself…. People are disappearing at a more alarming rate…."
"You can save it. I'm depressed enough. I had to sleep in a cave with only my nightvision and my senses to keep me safe. Nightvision only goes so far in pitch black."
"I'm glad you're safe now."
"Ok, as close to safe as you're ever going to be standing on the mouth of Hell that's ready to open wide and swallow everyone stupid enough to stay around." Aurelia sighed and looked at Cassius. "I think we should call this night a bust and go check in with Giles. He'll want to know Faith is ok."
"I agree." Cassius said.
"It really is good to have you back, Faith." Aurelia said. "We need more people on our side."
"Aurelia, good. I'm glad you're here…." Giles said as she, Cassius, and Faith walked in. "Faith?"
"Present." Faith said. "But there's no need to get all gushy. B's done that enough for the four of us with that bear hug."
"Sorry." Aurelia said.
"I wish I had more time to express my relief at your return, Faith, but I need you two to get down to the hospital. A girl was attacked on her way into town. She might be a potential. Willow is there now. She was going to call if the girl wakes up.""Ok." Aurelia looked at Faith. "We'll make a stop at my house and find you a place to stay there."
"You don't need to worry about that, B." Faith said.
"Actually, it would be wise for you to stay at Aurelia's." Giles said. "We need all the help we can get and with Aurelia still attending school, another Slayer to watch over the girls during the day would be excellent."
"Ok, sure. I'll play babysitter. As long as they don't want girl talk and their hair braided, I'm five by five."
"Good." Aurelia said. "Let's go."
Aurelia walked into the library and searched for Giles. He was sitting in his office rummaging through some paperwork. "Hey."
"Aurelia." He said, looking up. "I thought you had class."
"I did. But there was no teacher and only six people showed up. Including myself."
"It's getting worse, then."
"Seems like. I hope this doesn't ruin prom. I mean, we can still have fun if only a few people show up."
Giles chuckled. "You may have to face the fact that there most likely will not be a prom. People are leaving town, half the students don't bother showing up anymore…. You've got things to deal with that are much worse than anything here. It's time to start looking at the big picture."
"Right. The big picture. The one with the big war and the dead little girls."
"Not dead. Not if you get them ready."
"I don't want to lead them into war. It can't be the right thing."
"Most wars aren't."
"Some of these girl haven't even been tested in battle."
"Maybe you should test them." The phone rang. "Sunnydale High School library. Rupert Giles speaking. Yes. Yes. I'll tell her." Giles hung up. "That was Willow. The girl's awake."
Shannon was bruised badly all over her body. She was laying in the hospital bed covered with bandages. "He was a minister, or something…. At least, he dressed like one." She said. "I thought he was trying to save me…. at first."
Aurelia and Willow were standing beside her bed and Oz was standing guard at the door. "He picked you up on the side of the road?" Aurelia asked.
"Bringers were chasing me. He said they were his boys…. right before he burned me." Shannon removed the bandage over the burn on her neck. Willow took out her camera from her purse and snapped a picture of the burn. "He wanted to tell you something. Before he…. cut me…. he told me to give the Slayer a message."
"What is it?"
"He said, 'I have something of yours.'"
Aurelia had gathered the core of her team in the living room. "We need to start arming the girls." She said. "I want to be ready to move when we find him."
"We don't even know where we're going." Willow said.
"I figured Faith and I would do a little reconnaissance first. Are you up for it?"
"Point me where you want me." Faith answered.
"And you're certain this is the best course of action?" Giles asked. "You don't even know what this man has of yours…. if he, in fact, has anything."
"It could be a potential trying to get to us."
"Could be a stapler."
"I'm going in anyway."
"With the girls? Most of whom have yet to be in the field, let alone in a life or death situation."
"Then, like you said, it's time we test them. I'm just taking the ones that have been here the longest. The rest can stay behind."
"It could be that's just what he wants you to do." Cassius said. "It's the old bait-and-switch trick."
"Yeah, he lures us away and then kills the girls we leave behind." Willow said.
"I know." Aurelia said. "That's why I need you to stay here with them. You're my most powerful weapon, Willow. I know you can keep them safe if anything happens."
"An unknown man breezes into town, says he has something of yours." Xander said. "Auri, this thing's got 'trap' written all over it."
"He won't be expecting a full attack. Not this soon. That's why we have to make our move now."
"We know nothing about this man." Giles said. "We cannot go into battle unprepared. We have to have more time."
"We don't have time. And you're not going into battle. I need you to stay behind with the others."
Aurelia and Faith were following a Bringer through the woods. "No eyes, but look at him go." Faith said. "He got SONAR or something?"
"Or something, I believe." Aurelia said. "They're pretty good when they attack."
"Tell me about it. Do they just roam free around town?"
"Well, normally, they show up out of nowhere, and then either stab or get stabbed, and then they run off. Looks like this guy wants to be found."
"Lends weight to the whole 'it's a trap' theory."
"I'm through waiting around for people to attack us."
"Hey, I'm with you. Drop me in the hornet's nest, what the hell? You got a rough sitch here, trying to turn a bunch of little girls into an army…."
"They're potential slayers, just like we were."
"Right. Maybe they'll do as good as us."
"They're getting better."
"I'll work with 'em. Some of 'em seem real eager. Fashion disasters, yeah, but they're ready to fight." Faith stopped and looked at the barn-like building that the Bringer walked up to. "Buffy…. What is this place?"
"Look, there's more of them."
"I think we just found our hornet's nest."
"Then let's get the cavalry."