"The 'Charmed Ones' huh?" Anya asked, "The three witches who vanquish the most powerful demons, by dressing sexy and chanting? You want them devoured?"
"Buffy wasn't sure," Dawn told her, "But Spike was. Just as a precaution."
They were inside the Magic Box. The shop was closed for the evening. Anya, Dawn and Xander were seated at the round table at the back of the selling floor.
"I don't know Dawn." Xander shook his head. "Taking them on would be as rough as it gets. For most demons it's a suicide mission."
"Not any more Xander." Anya said, "Their oldest sister Pru did get killed by a demon. That diminished the power of the other two, making them vulnerable."
Dawn asked, "Haven't you heard? The two younger sisters, Piper and Pheobe, discovered that they have an illegitimate step sister named Paige. They brought her in, and they've got the power of three again. Like Xander said, it'd be a suicide mission."
"That's okay Dawn." Xander told her. "They're only potential Slayers, and they've already got enough on their plates. I don't think they'll be showing up here."
Dawn asked, "What about my classmate Amanda?"
Xander told her, "We'll just keep an eye on her."
"Just an eye?" Anya asked, "Why not a fang, or a pair of them? Just to play it safe."
"We can't." Xander told them. "Unless we know for sure that she's become empowered. Buffy promised Dawn."
Dawn was looking at a different copy, of the same issue of "Undead Life" magazine, that she'd picked up from the shop's magazine rack. She turned one of the pages. Then she exclaimed.
"There's another potential Slayer! Right here in Sunnydale! She's goes to my School too!"
She showed Xander the photo, of a slightly chubby girl, who was forcing a smile.
"Her name's Cassie." Dawn told them. "She's not like Amanda. Amanda's a friendly girl. Cassie keeps to herself, and there's something strange about her. Just like every other Slayer I've ever known."
He said, "Then we'll definitely have to keep an eye on her too."
Anya added sharply, "Or fangs in her!"
"Only if we know for sure." He told his fiancée, "On the other hand, I wouldn't mind if she is. This girl definitely has more than enough blood in her, so that you and I might share her for dinner my dear."
Anya smiled, "Thank you Xander. He's so thoughtful, isn't he Dawny?"
Dawn repeated, "'Thoughtful'?"
Anya said, "Can I look at that?"
Dawn handed her the magazine. Anyanka the Vengeance Demon flipped through a few pages, until she found the article she was looking for.
"Ah-hah!" Anya spoke cheerfully. "Look Xander. An entire article concerning demon weddings. I think we ought to look at this."
He moved over beside her, and began looking at the article.
Dawn asked, "You two aren't thinking of marriage again, are you?"
"Yes Dawnster," Xander told her, "we are. Now that I've been killed, Anya's vengeance has been satisfied, and now that she and I are both demons, we've been reconciled."
Anya exclaimed, "Now don't you think that's wonderful Dawn?"
The girl spoke uneasily. "I'd like to wait and see about that."
"Oh I realize," Anya told her, "that after what happened at the last wedding, everyone's bound to be skeptical; but this'll be a different kind of wedding."
Dawn again spoke uneasily, "Just how different?"
"Last time," Anya explained, "we were having a mortal wedding. This time it'll be a demonic wedding ritual."
She pointed to a photo in the magazine. "Just like this one."
Dawn leaned over, to get a look at the photo, while Xander moved over, to make room for her.
Dawn asked, "Do you still want me, Buffy and Willow as your bridesmaids?"
"Sure I do." Anya told her, "Same as before. Of course, since this won't be a human wedding, you'll be wearing the traditional demon bridesmaids' outfits."
Xander asked, "Burlap infested with blood larvae?"
Dawn repeated nervously, "Burlap? Infested..."
"No." Anya assured them. "Forget the burlap. Let's have some class."
Dawn sighed in relief. So did Xander
"It'll be like you see in this photo. The bridesmaids are all wearing the flayed skins of their enemies."
"Flayed" Dawn repeated.
Xander repeated, "skins?"
"Of course there will still be the blood larvae. Wouldn't be a real demonic wedding without them."
Dawn asked, "You expect me, Buffy and Willow to attend your wedding, dressed in flayed human skins, while being nibbled on by blood larvae?"
Anya spoke firmly, "When my friend the demon Halfreck had her wedding, I was her Maid of Honor, and that's how I dressed. I wasn't a wussy, and you shouldn't be either."
Dawn repeated, "'Wussy'?"
"Marriage is about commitment girl. That's what weddings are all about. Good or bad, pain or pleasure, you stay committed. Right Xander?"
"Another thing." Anya told them, "At a demon wedding, the Bride and Groom express their exclusive commitment, by exchanging the heads of their former rivals."
Dawn asked, "You're going to have a formal exchange of heads?"
"That's right." Anya told them, "To sanctify the vows. Then after the Ceremony, both of those heads will be hung above our bed, on our wedding night."
Xander said, "Isn't love beautiful?"
Dawn asked, "You and Xander are going to exchange the heads of your formal rivals?"
"That's right." Anya smiled pleasantly. "Xander is going to present me with the head of a woman, with whom he's been intimate; and I in turn will present him with the head of a man with whom I've been intimate."
Dawn sounded troubled. "With whom he's been intimate?"
Xander looked away from his fiance, while Anya looked directly at him.
"Now just a minute!" Dawn was indignant. "What happened between Xander and Willow was a long time ago! They were in High School. Willow told me that it was all accidental!"
Anya repeated, "Accidental?" She asked Xander, "What'd you trip and fall on her lips?"
"No." Xander explained, "She fell on mine. No. That didn't sound right. You see, it was all because of Cordelia. She just happened to show up at the wrong time. No. That doesn't sound right either."
Now Dawn asked, "It doesn't have to be Willow's head, does it?"
"No." The Vengeance Demon told her, "Just somebody who my fiance's been intimate with. Maybe he can bring me the head of Cordelia. She actually was his girlfriend."
"No." Xander said, "She's now working for Angel, and we don't want trouble with him, and especially not Buffy."
Anya asked, "Well was there anyone else you were intimate with, Xander?"
Dawn said, "Ooops."
Xander said, "Uh-oh."
"What do they mean by 'Ooops' and 'Uh-oh'?"
"Well you see Anya," Xander explained, "my one true and eternal love. Back when I was attending Sunnydale High School. You remember Faith, the other Vampire Slayer. Well, one night, after I helped her defeat two powerful demons, she...well..."
Dawn spoke sharply, "Buffy told me that Faith used him as her boy-toy!"
"That settles it." Anyanka the Vengeance Demon said, "This simplifies things. At our wedding, I expect Xander to present me with the head of Faith the Vampire Slayer."
Xander looked away from her and Dawn.
"A Vampire Slayer?" He told them, "I don't know what to say."
Anya told him, "You can say, 'Yes, I will bring you her head, my dear'."
"But Anya. A Vampire Slayer."
"You can also bring her flayed skin, for my Maid of Honor to wear."
"Maid of Honor?" Dawn said, "You want Buffy to wear Faith's flayed skin?"
"Yes Dawn, while you and Willow wear the skins of Amanda and Cassie. You can decide between yourselves, whose you want to wear."
Dawn asked, "While all of us are being nibbled by blood larvae?"
Now Xander spoke, "There's something I've just thought of Anya. I'd I have to present you, with the head of your rival, who I'd have to kill. Then you'd have to present me with the head of my rival, who you'd have to kill; and we all know who that rival is."
Dawn asked, "Spike?"
Anya spoke sorrowfully, "Who I used as my boy-toy."
"Forget it Anya." Xander told his bride to be, "You try to kill Spike, and Buffy'll tear you apart."
Dawn asked, "Isn't there anyone else Anya?"
The woman thought it over. "How about the ten foot tall, half ton of flesh Troll named Olaf, who I used to date? Would you like me to hand his head to you Xander?"
He and Dawn both asked in unison, "Isn't there anyone else, Anyanka?"
Now the bell over the entrance jingled, as the front door opened, and someone stepped into the shop.
Anya called out, "I'm sorry! We're closed for the night! You'll have to come back in..."
She'd turned around, and stopped speaking.
A man in his mid forties stood in the open doorway, dressed in a tweedy suit, and glasses.
Xander said, "Giles?"
Dawn called out "Giles!"
Anya jumped up, rushed around the table, and headed toward the man, with her arms outspread. He reached inside his jacket, pulled out a crucifix, and held it up high, for everyone to see.
Anya halted, about halfway between the table and Giles. She turned her face away, and raised her hand, blocking the crucifix from her view.
Xander and Dawn had remained seated. Xander had also turned his face away, and blocked his view with his hand. Dawn did not hide her face from the religious symbol, but she looked very anxious.
Rupert Giles, Buffy's former Watcher, remained standing in the same spot, within reach of the open door. He had a troubled expression on his face.
Then he spoke, with his upper class English accent. "Just as I feared."
Dawn forced a smile. She raised her hand, and waved in his direction.
"Hi Giles. How're you doin'?"
"I'm still alive," he told her, "and apparently, you are the only one, here in this shop, who still is. You're the only one here, who is not cringing at the sight of this crucifix."
Anya still had her hand raised, shielding her eyes.
"Could you put that thing away Giles? I promise that none of us'll hurt you. Whatever's happened, you know you can still trust us."
"I'd like to believe that Anya. I'm sure you all believe that too, but it's best if we all play it safe."
"Right." Now Xander said, "It's true, I'm now a vampire. So are Anya and Buffy. But Buffy is still the Vampire Slayer, and every vamp in this town knows it. Now more than ever, Sunnydale is hers, and so are we; but we're still among the good guys."
Giles said, "Oh I believe you, but the Watchers' Council wouldn't take that chance. They have decided to send in a replacement."
Dawn asked, "Has the New Slayer just been empowered? Is it somebody I know?"
"Not exactly." He told them, "Not 'new', and not 'just', but she is someone you all know."
Giles backed away to the door, still holding the crucifix. He looked out the doorway and spoke into the night.
"You can come in now."
A woman in her early twenties strode into the Shop. She wore a tough expression on her face, long black hair, was dressed in a black leather jacket, matching leather slacks and boots. She also wore a backpack.
She stood beside Giles with her arms folded in front of her.
Dawn said, "Good evening Faith."
Anya, the wish granting Vengeance Demon Vampire, remained standing about halfway between the table and Faith. She folded her arms in front of herself and smirked.
She said, "I can't tell you how glad we all are, that you'll be able to attend mine and Xander's wedding."
"Wedding?" Faith chuckled, "Trying again huh? Are you gonna be among the bridesmaids again Dawn?"
"Oh yes. I'll be among the honored, though there are some disagreements about the outfits."
"You mean you're not sure whether you want to be wearing blood larvae, or spider webs?"
Dawn looked at Anya. "Spider webs?"
The bride to be nodded, "If you prefer. Your gown would be spun by dozens of two inch long, hairy spiders, while they're crawling all over you. That is traditionally the bride's gown. That's what I'll be wearing, when Xander kisses the bride."
Xander said, "You will? While they're still crawling?"
"It could be the Bridesmaids' outfits too; if they'd prefer that to the blood larvae."
"Gee." Dawn told her, "I don't know Anya. It's gonna be awfully hard to decide. I'll definitely have to talk it over with Buffy and Willow."
Faith now spoke. "Good idea. I'd like to have a talk with Buffy myself."
The woman reached over her shoulder, into her backpack, and pulled out a foot long, sharp wooden stake.
Anya hurried away from the center of the shop. She moved behind the table, where Dawn and Xander remained seated. Then none of them moved.
"Dawn." Faith said, "I'd like you to call your undead sister for me. Tell her I'm here, I've got my stake, and she's got 15 minutes to show up, before I start using it."