Buffy watched Kendra's taxi pull away from the school, with mixed feelings of sadness and relief. In a way, it had been nice to share what it was like being a slayer with someone who understood. But Kendra was so different, had been brought up in a way Buffy couldn't even fathom. She tried to imagine being given to Giles at a young age, being raised by him....
She shuddered. Nope, she just couldn't picture it.
But she'd watched them together, the bookish watcher and the studious slayer who was everything a slayer was supposed to be: strong, brave, but still submissive to her watcher. Giles had gotten off on that, she could tell. Compared to Kendra, who was exactly what he'd probably been told a slayer ought to be, she must be a huge disappointment to him.
He was filing cards when she entered the library. He looked up to see who had dared enter his sanctuary, then, seeing it was only Buffy, returned his attention to his work.
"Did Kendra get off all right?" he asked.
"Yeah," she answered, slumping to a seat at the table.
They were silent, Giles filing, Buffy watching him. Would he miss Kendra? Did he wish she were staying and Buffy were going?
He finished with the last card and closed the drawer, heading for the circulation desk.
"Can I see the slayer's handbook?"
He stopped what he was doing and looked back at her. "Why?"
"Um how 'bout 'cause I'm the slayer?"
"Yes, but you haven't needed the handbook before now "
"I didn't even know there was one before now. I want to see it," she said firmly.
He stared a moment longer, then nodded. "All right." He went into his office and came out a few minutes later with a small leather-bound volume, which he brought over to the table.
Buffy examined the cover; in simple raised letters was the word "Slayer". Nothing more. She flipped through the pages, not really reading it, just trying to get a feel for what it contained. There was no table of contents, no index, no chapter headings, just text, printed with fairly large letters. An easy reader for slayers.
"Buffy," Giles began, perching on the edge of the table next to her, "I had my reasons for not giving this to you when we first met, the same reasons I imagine Merrick never told you about it, either. I'm sorry if my comment sounded flip the other day, that wasn't my intention. It's just it's just that your situation is very unique among slayers."
"Yeah, like most of 'em spend their lives studying and reading things like Domino Six " Buffy said dejectedly.
"Draemius," Giles corrected. "And yes, in a sense, that's exactly it. Now, Kendra is a slightly exceptional case; her people believe very strongly in vampires and in the power of the slayer. For her, being named slayer-designate was a great honor. But the truth of the matter is that most slayers, or rather slayer designates, do begin their training very young. They have years of training, of of preparation before they're actually activated.
"You, on the other hand, were already the active slayer by the time you learned of your calling."
"Yeah, who screwed up there?" Buffy asked.
Giles smiled wanly. "I don't know, exactly. Things got...well, very muddled about four years ago. Suffice it to say an error was made."
"What, the watchers targeted the wrong girl?"
"I don't know the details," Giles dismissed, "but that's beside the point. The fact remains that you are the slayer. You have the slayer's gifts, skills."
"I know all this, what's your point?"
"My point is that there is nothing in this book you don't already know. It was written primarily for slayer-designates, girls in training who had not yet been activated. It goes into some of the slayer's special gifts, skills, strengths, and weaknesses. It discusses training methodologies, courses of study, weapons and their uses, and touches on dreams and prophecies. It's meant as a guide, not as an instruction manual. That's for the watcher to do. It's an aid, if you will. A supplement. Sort of to let slayer designates know what to expect."
Buffy considered. "Kind of like those pamphlets we got in Jr. High. You know 'You're a woman now'."
"What?" Giles frowned. Obviously, the reference was completely lost on him.
She sighed. "Never mind. So what you're saying is I already know this stuff."
"That's exactly it."
"So how come I didn't know about Darius or whatever-his-name- is?" she asked, covering before he could correct her again.
"Draemius isn't mentioned in the handbook, only references to study and, and research. Of the importance of prophecies and historical texts, and of diaries and record-keeping."
"So why don't you have me reading that stuff like Kendra did?"
He sighed. "Every slayer has their special strengths, Buffy. Studying ancient texts is not one of yours. I didn't see the point in having you spend time going through volumes which wouldn't make much sense to you anyway, when that time would be better spent developing your strengths."
"Well, um...." Giles hesitated.
"Do you wish I was more like Kendra?" she asked.
He stared at her for a moment. "At times, when you're being...difficult...I might wish you were a little more obedient. But there are other times, when you use your own brain, your own intuition and skills, when I wouldn't have it any other way. You've had a difficult time, Buffy, because your situation is so unique. You've had to play catch-up, but you've done extremely well, all things considered. You're a very skilled, talented girl."
"But it always seems like you're yelling at me for doing something or other wrong. If I was more like Kendra "
"If you were more like Kendra, you wouldn't be you," Giles countered. "Kendra is a very knowledgeable young lady. But she lacks your...fire. She kills vampires because she's been told that's what she's supposed to do. Almost like she does it out of obedience. You do it because you must because there's something within you which makes you follow your calling. Not necessarily a desire, but a drive. How many times have you told me you quit?"
She stared at him. "I dunno...."
"And every time, you came back. Do you know why?"
Buffy was silent, considering. Did she know why? Did she know why she kept going back to slaying, even after she'd sworn to stay away, even after she'd thrown a book in Giles' face and ran out of the library?
"Because I had to," she answered softly.
"Who said you had to?" he asked, his voice just as low.
You did, she almost answered, but stopped herself. No. He would remind her of her duty, but he never forced her into anything. He always let her decide for herself.
"I did," she finally answered. "I did, because I'm the one who can."
Giles smiled. "I don't need a studious slayer, Buffy, I need one with that kind of drive, that internal fire. If I get angry with you, it's only when you don't live up to your very great potential. I know what you're capable of; and I know the dangers. When you don't work to your best abilities, it means you put yourself at risk, needless risk. Risk you shouldn't be taking. You're not invincible, for all your strength, and we cannot afford to take those sorts of chances."
She gazed up at him, feeling his affection, but also his concern. "In other words, I shouldn't have gone in without backup last night."
He raised an eyebrow. "You did what you felt you had to do. But it was a good thing we had Kendra with us this time. We won't be so fortunate again." He took a deep breath. "Buffy, I know you care for Angel, and...and while I can't ever say I'm pleased with your relationship, I also wouldn't ever tell you no. And I'm the first to acknowledge all of the things Angel has done for us, all of us. Your wanting to rescue him was laudable, but it made you careless. You walked straight into a trap without a second thought, because your first and only thought was for Angel. You must be more careful. Don't let your feelings for Angel for any of us cloud your better judgement."
She frowned, worrying a thumbnail with her teeth. "But I always thought it was my feelings that gave me my edge."
"They are. Or they can be your downfall, only you can decide which. Your emotions are strong; that's good. But don't let them rule you. If you're angry, use that anger, but channel it, don't just let it run rampant. That becomes counter-productive."
"So you're saying don't be ruled by my emotions but don't ignore them, either."
"Precisely. The key to your success as a slayer won't be found in any book, Buffy. The books can guide us, but that's all they can do. Ultimately, the strength, the answers, must come from within you. Don't try to become something you're not because you think it's what I want, or what you're supposed to do. All that will do is frustrate you and diminish your effectiveness as a slayer. Rely on your heart, but temper it with some common sense."
Buffy thought about that. She'd always thought she had pretty good instincts when it came to slayage. Or at least, it had all worked out okay so far. Maybe she'd just been lucky. But maybe it was a combination of luck and skill. Luck, skill, and the special knowledge Giles brought with him as her watcher. His guiding hand. His books were useful, she knew, in the hands of someone who knew how to use them. Someone like Giles, who could take what was gibberish to her, distill it down to its barest essentials, and tell her just what she needed to know. Okay, usually more than she needed to know, but always at least what she needed.
She smiled up at him. "Okay, so how 'bout if I'll be the heart and you be the brains of this outfit. Like a team."
He smiled gently. "I believe that's the way it's supposed to work," he said.
"Not like you always telling me what to do?"
"Well, certainly, there will be times--I am here to advise you, after all. But you'll see throughout slayer history that the most effective slayers were the ones where the watcher and the slayer worked as a team, supplementing each others' strengths, compensating for each others' weaknesses."
She considered that for a moment. "Is that what you want?" she asked.
"To be one of those great watcher and slayer teams."
He raised an eyebrow. "Don't you?"
She thought about it. "Yeah, I guess I do. I mean, might as well be famous for something, right?"
He chuckled and she pushed herself up from the chair with a sigh. "I guess I'd better get to class."
"Yes, we don't want Principal Snyder giving us any more difficulty than he already does," Giles agreed.
"Um " she hesitated. "Don't suppose you'd consider giving me the night off, would you? It's just my mom's due home tonight, and I kinda wanted to check and see how Angel's doing, too."
"Hmm," he considered, scratching his head. "I suppose I can give you a break." Then he smiled, a wonderful, generous expression. "You've earned it."
Buffy couldn't stop her own smile. "Thanks." She hoisted her backpack on her shoulder. "See you." She started for the door.
"Buffy " His voice called her back and she turned around. "You want this?"
In his hand was the slayer's handbook.
She didn't even have to think about it. "Nah. Don't need it."
His answering smile told her she'd said the right thing.