| Ch. 1 | Ch. 2 | Ch. 3 | Ch. 4 | Ch 5 | Ch. 6 | Ch. 7 | Ch. 8 | Ch. 9 | Ch. 10 | End Season 1 - Epilogue |
| Begin Season 2 - Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15 | Ch. 16. | Ch. 17 | Ch. 18 | Ch. 19 | Ch. 20 | Season 2 - Epilogue |
| Ch. 21 | Ch. 22 | Ch. 23 | Ch. 24 | Ch. 25 | Ch. 26 | Ch. 27 | Ch. 28 | Ch. 29 | Ch. 30 | Season 3 - Epilogue |
| Toilet Demons Project |
| Ch. 31 | Ch. 32 | Ch. 33 | Ch. 34 |

TITLE: It Starts With Faith
CHAPTER: Twenty
AUTHOR: Dreiser
EMAIL: dreiser0@earthlink.net
ICQ #: 37674780
HOMEPAGE: http://www.lvdi.net/~reddeath/dreiser.htm
ISWF ARCHIVES: http://www.pinkrabbit.simplenet.com/ http://members.aol.com/xwpmom/dreiser.htm
CONTENT: F/F romance. Don't like it, don't read it.
SUMMARY: An alternate reality series that places Faith as the one true slayer aka the chosen one for her generation.
DISCLAIMER: I own nothing but my horrendously large collection of comic books. Go see the X-Men movie!
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Season Two is almost over. Yowza. Did this season go by fast or is my brain just going defunct?

It Starts With Faith
By: Dreiser

-Twenty-

Time is a funny thing. Sometimes months can pass by in the blink of an eye while minutes seem to drag on for countless millennia as you sit in observance.

Over two months had passed since Faith first got her injuries at the hands of Kakistos but it seemed like so much longer to her. Mainly because of her condition. Her condition and the damn annoying doctors treating it.

Both of which she despised with all of her being.

She wished with all of her might that she could just tell them that she was the Slayer and a stupid crack in her skull wouldn't keep her down for long. But then again, she thought that even if they knew about her healing powers they would still be on her ass all of the time.

After all, Cordelia and the others certainly were.

It was just a stupid crack in her skull... and all it really did was give her an occasional dizzy spell and bad headache. Why couldn't they understand that and see she was perfectly fit to perform all her Slaying duties?

And worst of all... the doctor gave down a strict order, which was being fanatically kept in check by Giles and all of her friends, that Faith couldn't drive Lil' Butchy.

No driving Lil' Butchy for who knows how long. No feeling the wind blowing past her body at top speeds, no experiencing the thrill of rounding a corner with insane breakneck pace, no having any fun at all on her baby.

It was enough to make Faith want to cry. But what was worse than her grounding from driving Lil' Butchy was the fact that Buffy was siding with everyone against her.

Buffy! Her fellow Slayer, her fighting buddy, her partner in crime, her other half of the Chosen Two.

There was no justice in the world, Faith decided.

No justice at all. Well... maybe some justice. There had to be some since right now, she was lying in bed trying to rest, per her doctor's order as she'd just seen him today, as Cordelia fed her some chocolate ice cream.

Maybe having a crack in her skull wasn't really so bad. She did get some perks out of it and that was cool.

Faith just hoped that soon she'd be allowed to do some heavy duty patrolling with Buffy again. Because she had to admit she missed it. When she was Slaying she felt more alive then she ever had in her life. The only thing that topped it in Faith's opinion was making love with Cordelia.

Too bad for Faith because of her medical condition both had been severely withdrawn from her daily habits. It was becoming an all too frustrating situation for the Slayer.

For her and anyone else who went near her.

"Stop pouting," Cordelia chided, obvious fondness in her voice as she fed Faith another spoonful of ice cream.

"I can pout if I want," grumbled Faith who shifted her current position where her head was resting Cordelia's lap. "Dr.Stewart has got everyone keeping me under lock and key so I can't go Slaying anymore, Buff still feels all guilty for me being this way even though I told her that it wasn't her fault, Jenny's feeling the same way and is killing herself helping Buff out with patrolling and doing research with G-man, and you..." Faith tipped her head back to give her girlfriend a very definite pout. "Are abandoning me for three weeks instead of two weeks now."

"Again with the abandoning," sighed Cordelia as she rolled her eyes before offering Faith another spoonful of ice cream. Pointing the now empty spoon at Faith, she said, "I'll come back, you know. And think on the bright side, if I wasn't going away would you be able to guilt trip me into bringing you ice cream?"

"Mmm, good point," said Faith, opening her mouth up for another bite. She then reached for the bowl and set it aside on her end table. Her hands snaked up in an easy movement to rest lightly on Cordelia's neck to pull the other girl in close. "Of course," Faith formed her most charming smile. "I'd rather taste other things."

"Oh? What exactly?" asked Cordelia coyly.

"You," Faith breathed, meeting Cordelia's lips in a deep kiss that caused the taller girl to moan and fall softly on top of Faith for a heated embrace.

Just as things started to get more interesting with Faith quietly slipping her hands under Cordelia's shirt, she heard the sudden stop of footsteps and a sharp intake of breath. Tipping her head to one side, Faith focused her dark brown eyes on a very embarrassed Buffy.

"Buff," said Faith, smiling easily. Reluctantly moving away from Cordelia, but not much, she flipped over on her stomach to look at the other Slayer. "How did patrol go? Kill tons of nasties? Y'know I love details. I'm Slaying vicariously through you now."

Returning the smile, Buffy looked over at Cordelia who gave her a small nod of welcoming as she joined Faith by lying on her stomach. The couple had their legs raised up slightly and were now playing midair footsies. In the meantime, Buffy moved to sit on the top of Faith's desk that was directly in front of them.

"Patrol was dead, literally, figuratively, and bad pun joking wayly," Buffy said rather solemnly. "The whole thing has Jenny a little freaked. For a good reason now that I think about it." Scooting further back to lean against the wall, Buffy pulled her feet forward to rest on the edge of the desk. "Kakistos knows you're hurt, he has to, he's the one who did it. You'd think that he would use this time to strike at us... while the team is weak."

"Yeah, you'd think," Faith murmured, her eyes turning thoughtful as she considered this. "Gotta wonder why mighty vamp's is holding off on attacking us."

"Didn't Giles say that he was one of the ancient Vampires?" asked Cordelia, looking to Faith and smiling as the Slayer entwined their fingers. "If that's true then he probably operates by different rules than most of the other vamps you run into. He has his own specialized set."

"Honor," said Buffy quietly, her hazel eyes going wide. "Will said he has a high sense of ideals and honor. It would hardly be honorable of him to attack a crippled enemy."

"Crippled?" Faith echoed indignantly while forming a frown. "Aw, c'mon, Buff. Couldn't you have at least said I was wounded in the line of duty or something? It's not like this brain crack is gonna keep me down forever."

A long moment passed before Buffy and Cordelia met each other's eyes and burst into laughter while Faith could only observe them a bit irately.

"All right," said Faith, scowling now. "What is it?"

Hearing Faith's demand and seeing her scowl only served to make Buffy and Cordelia laugh even harder.

"I get no respect," Faith muttered to herself.

"Yup, you're Sunnydale's own version of Rodney Dangerfield, Slayer style," Buffy teased with a wide grin.

"Oh, I don't know, she's a cute little thing, unlike him," Cordelia added, smiling as she reached out to give Faith a playful pinch on the cheek before kissing her there.

"I'm gettin' angry..." warned Faith darkly.

"Like that's new," replied Buffy, quirking an eyebrow humorously at Faith. After she said this, the two Slayers locked their eyes for what seemed like an endless moment of tension before Buffy laughed and said, "All right, all right, you really can be such a pain..." Forming a wide smile, she leaned forward and drawled, "Brain crack. Tell me that doesn't sound wrong to you."

Hearing the saying again, Cordelia couldn't help but snicker, and looking at her girlfriend Faith groaned and rested her head on the bed as she said, "No respect... you even mock my brain status. And I'm crippled."

"I thought you were wounded," Buffy teased.

"Wounded, crippled, it's all the same," said Faith while she gave a careless wave of her hands. "They both mean that I can't do my job as a Slayer."

"For now," said Cordelia softly, moving close to Faith and gently pushing her hair from out of her face and behind her ear so she could gaze at the Slayer's profile. "It won't be long before you're back out there Slaying all the local baddies and causing trouble for them."

Sighing quietly, Faith looked up to meet Cordelia's warm hazel eyes. Leaning into her touch, she gave a small and almost wan smile and said, "Promise?"

"Promise," replied Cordelia tenderly.

Buffy watched the exchange with a pained expression before she coughed and slid off the desk. "That's my cue to give Giles the nightly report," Buffy said giving a smile that was a little too wide. "That and interrupt his and Jenny's nightly debate."

The couple watched Buffy's exit with careful eyes and a silence that spoke volumes more than mere words.

Just like Buffy and her expression did. 

---

Headache. She definitely had a headache. Of course, she always had a headache after giving her nightly report to Giles and Jenny. Maybe because they made it a constant habit to quiz her over the most minute details of her patrol and then analyze and debate her answers.

In some ways it was worse than Math class.

Releasing a groan, Buffy sank down into Giles couch and rubbed her forehead all while feeling guilty for complaining inwardly about her headache when she knew full well that Faith was suffering far more than her.

Two months, almost three now, she'd been having the dizzy spells and incapacitating migraines. Both being so bad that it made it dangerous for Faith to continue patrols with Buffy. And this knowledge ripped Buffy apart. Just like the knowledge she'd helped cause this. Cause Faith's pain that had been almost constant until a few weeks ago when the dizziness and migraines finally began to fade.

The others, they tried to help her. Jenny especially. Her new Watcher doted on her, listened to her, helped her train, and most of all tried to keep her safe. Ever since that night when they were tricked by Kakistos, she made the safety of both Slayers her top priority.

For Buffy, her Watcher's behavior was both comforting and irritating all at the same time. But she liked it somehow, and she liked Jenny.

Even if she was a tad overprotective now.

Then again, it wasn't like Jenny was the only one who was acting overprotective. Whenever her Watcher couldn't make a patrol with her Amy and Xander insisted on accompanying her. Along with Willow and Vince when they got the occasional night off from their shows.

If she didn't know better Buffy would almost think that her friends were afraid to leave her alone in dangerous situations. Like they thought that if they did she would use the situation to hurt herself. To allow pain to befall her.

She supposed she could see why they might think that. Buffy knew how she looked to everyone, even Faith who had absolutely no clue about her feelings for her, and she knew how she looked was sad.

Melancholy even. Depressed definitely. That and every other word that describes a morose person.

The guilt weighed so heavily in her heart that at times Buffy thought it would consume her. And it wasn't just the guilt felt for Faith's injuries. It was the guilt she felt over her feelings for Faith. For what she wanted from the other girl... for wanting what wasn't hers to have.

For wanting it with all of her heart when she knew that it was wrong to want it. But still, being unable to stop herself from wanting it. And the guilt that enveloped her because despite her Slayer powers Buffy was still a human being.

A human being with flaws, just like everyone else.

And according Buffy's current viewpoint, her biggest flaw was falling in love with a person who was already taken then causing the person she loved to get hurt.

"I suck," muttered Buffy lowly, giving a groan as she rested her head against the top of the couch.

"Doesn't everyone?"

Her eyes going wide, Buffy turned to gaze at Cordelia who was smirking at her as she crossed the tiny living room to sit in the nearby recliner.

"At least, the mean people do," Cordelia added smoothly before she gave a rather sly smile.

Smiling without helping it, Buffy finished the joke by quipping, "And the nice people swallow."

Chuckling along with the blonde Slayer, Cordelia leaned back in the recliner and said, "Faith and her habit of telling perverted jokes is starting to effect me."

"You think?" Buffy drawled, smiling.

"At times, I'm a smart girl, you know," replied Cordelia easily. She was quiet for a moment as she studied the other girl closely with hazel eyes. "Buffy," she said in a slow pronunciation. "Stop acting like a baby."

"What?" Buffy blinked in surprise.

"You heard me," said Cordelia smartly. "Stop acting like a baby. What happened to Faith wasn't your fault despite what I may have said. You're not exactly my most favorite person in the world but I'm starting to get sick of seeing you mope everywhere. So just stop it already."

Buffy stared at Cordelia blankly, at a definite loss for words as she looked at the tall brunette.

Finally, when she got her mind and voice back, Buffy could think of only one thing to say.

"Why?" asked Buffy softly. "Why... do you care?"

"Because," Cordelia sighed. "Faith cares and I care about what Faith cares about. It's part of the whole 'I love my girlfriend to pieces' deal we have going on."

"Oh yeah, that," said Buffy, looking sad again.

Observing this, Cordelia heaved another sigh and muttered, "Lord give me strength." Moving forward, she stood up and strode over to where Buffy sat and pulled her to her feet so they were standing directly across from each other. "Okay," said Cordelia in slightly huffy tones. "I've been avoiding this issue for who knows how long but I'm going to be blunt here."

"Cordelia?" asked Buffy in nonplused tones.

"Ah, ah, ah, no interrupting," Cordelia said, shaking her finger at Buffy. "This needs to be said."

"All right," Buffy said, appearing rather nervous.

"Faith..." began Cordelia slowly. "Is my girlfriend."

Blinking at this, Buffy said, "I know that."

"I don't share very well," Cordelia continued. "And even though I'm trying to..." Looking thoughtful now, she said to herself, "What did Xander call it? Oh, I know." She focused back on Buffy and said, "De-bitch myself I'm not about to let Faith go."

Blinking again, Buffy repeated, "I know that."

"Good," said Cordelia, eyeing Buffy cautiously. "I don't much like playing the jealous girlfriend role, it's way too cliche for me and outdated to say the least. What do I look like? Some lame housewife from the '50s? Please."

Smiling at this, Buffy said, "You don't look anything like that, Cordelia, trust me."

"Well," Cordelia murmured softly, giving Buffy a hesitant smile. "I'm beginning to think that I can do that."

"Good," said Buffy earnestly. "Because I want you to. And I may love Faith but that has nothing to do with her love for you, Cordelia. It's you that she loves, not me. There's nothing for you to get jealous over. If anything," Buffy gave a wry smile. "I should be the jealous one."

"Yeah, I guess you should," said Cordelia quietly. She was silent for a moment before her hazel eyes twinkled and she asked mischievously, "If that's true, then just why aren't you jealous?"

"Because," Buffy said slowly, with a wide smirk. "I'm a Slayer. And Slayers--"

"Never get jealous," finished Cordelia, rolling her eyes as she said this. "That's such a bunch of--"

"I didn't say that, did I?" interrupted Buffy playfully. "What I was going to say is that Slayers hide their jealousies very well."

"Hmm," Cordelia murmured, eyeing Buffy carefully as she smiled. "That sounds a bit more right."

"A bit more right? Is that proper English?" Buffy asked, her eyes glinting with humor. "Ohhhh, Faith really is starting to rub off on you. You get leather pants yet?"

Cordelia's only response was a dangerous glint appearing in her hazel eyes as she neared the blonde Slayer.

Seconds later, Faith, Giles, and Jenny all heard a piercing shriek echo throughout the apartment. And when they rushed into the living room they found Buffy suffering under Cordelia's all together vicious tickle assault. Which was far worse than anything found in Faith's tickling arsenal.

The three observers felt sympathy for Buffy and her plight but did nothing to interfere with the assault.

Because they hardly wanted to be the next victim. 

---

"So have you told him yet?" asked Charlie who wore a goofy smile on his handsome features.

"Not yet," replied Willow with a smile of her own. "He's been too busy talking with Frank about the different bookings he's helped set up for us. Some are in L.A."

"L.A.? Heyyyy, who's getting cool now?" Charlie said, his eyes lighting up. "Which clubs in la la land, Red?"

"I'm not sure, you'd have to ask Vince," said Willow. A minute later, she tilted her head to one side and her face lit up as she said, "Speaking of the huggy bear..."

"And he will appear," finished Vince, smiling before he dropped a light kiss on the top of Willow's head. Looking around, he asked, "Where's Derrick?"

"Derrick," began the bass guitarist while he wandered backstage. "Has been moving Red's heavy piano because we are going on in... oh, what is it?" He mock paused to study his watchless wrist. "Five minutes?"

"Maybe that's true," said Vince, his eyes reflecting humor. "But how can you tell without a watch?"

"Internal clock," Charlie offered, smirking. "Derrick has a clock hidden inside of that hunky bod of his."

"And you know you're dying to find it," Derrick drawled in husky tones, batting his eyelashes at Charlie, as he got into the always playful spirit of his bandmates.

"You bet, so c'mere baby," said Charlie as he formed a mock expression of lust and started after Derrick who released what could only be called a maidenly shriek before he went dashing onstage with Charlie following.

"You know, I can never tell if they're just joking or are really flirting and I've known them for five years," Vince murmured to himself, shaking his head a bit.

"Repressed lust maybe?" asked Willow with a smile.

"Heh, maybe," said Vince, chuckling now. "Despite his hunky bod Derrick hasn't had a date in awhile now. I think he's sorta given up on finding someone that he can really like. It's kind of sad to realize."

"Yeah," Willow said softly, her eyes sympathetic. She smiled gently then reached down to hold his hand in her own and said, "But at least we have each other."

"Good point," murmured Vince, smiling.

"Vince," began Willow slowly, wearing a rather shy expression on her pretty features. "I want to tell you something..."

"You can tell me anything, Red," said Vince, his expression and voice turning instantly serious. "I hope you know that."

"I do," reassured Willow. She ducked her head and tucked a strand of red hair behind her ear. "It isn't anything bad, so don't worry about that. I mean, I think it's good but you might not. Just because I think it was a good idea doesn't mean it is. You might hate it and if you do I hope you can tell me nicely because--"

"Red," interrupted Vince tenderly, smiling with definite affection. "What do you want to tell me?"

"I wrote a song for you," Willow blurted out. Seconds after she said this, she blushed and then ducked her head to stare at the floor. "I was thinking about playing it tonight because... well, I don't know if you remember but I joined the band six months ago today. If I never did that then maybe we wouldn't be dating and I'd be missing out on one of the best people I know." Looking up into Vince's chocolate brown eyes, she continued, "A person that I'm starting to fall in love with."

"Red," Vince breathed, his eyes going wide. "That's so sweet. No one's ever done anything like that for me."

"So it's okay if I play it tonight?" asked Willow, still feeling rather shy from revealing so much of her heart.

"Yeah, of course it is," said Vince quickly sounding excited as he gave an emphatic nod of his head. "I was gonna save this for later tonight..." He paused to dig through the pocket of his pants and produced a sheet of paper that he handed to Willow. "I hope you like it. It's for the whole group really. So," he smiled impishly. "I got you a special present that's non-band related."

"Studio time?" said Willow, her eyes going much wider than Vince's just had. "You booked us studio time during the summer? So we can record our music?"

"Yup," said Vince proudly. "Pretty cool, huh? Frank hooked me up, he has some buddies in L.A. that own a small studio and are willing to help us out."

"Wait," said Willow suddenly, putting the paper down to look at Vince carefully. "Did you say you got me a non-band related present too? Vince!" she cried out with an incredulous laugh. "This was more than enough."

"Not for me," Vince said earnestly. "Not when it comes to the girl I love..." He blushed a bit and coughed as he dug into his other pants pocket to pull out a flat box that he handed to Willow. "I know jewelry is the cheesiest gift a guy can get a girl but my Mom, y'know how she has a tiny crafts store? Well, awhile ago she taught me how to make jewelry and other stuff..."

Opening the box, Willow's eyes widened yet again when she saw an intricately designed necklace that had beautifully hand painted and hand carved beads that spelled out her name in Hebrew.

"Vince..." whispered Willow. "You... you made this for me? Just for me?" she asked in shaky tones.

"Well, yeah," replied Vince softly, reaching out to take the necklace from the box and gently hook it around Willow's neck. "Who else would I do it for? You're my girlfriend... the girl that I love, aren't you?"

"Yeah," Willow said, her voice choked. "I am." Moving forward to propel herself into his arms for a tight hug. "And you're the best boyfriend in the world."

"I love you, Red," Vince whispered in her ear before tipping her chin up and meeting their lips in a soft kiss. "No matter what happens."

Pulling away, Willow smiled at him as she caressed his cheek and said, "Stop thinking about her. I have."

"But you--" began Vince only to be cut off by Willow moving forward to capture his lips in another kiss.

It was a kiss that could've gone on forever but the couple found themselves rudely interrupted by the shouts of their fans calling them onstage for their first set.

"That's our cue," said Willow, resting her head gently on Vince's chest and playing with the corners of his collectors edition MST3k t-shirt.

"So it is," Vince murmured, kissing the top of her head lightly as he moved to hold her hand in his. "I know whatever you composed for me it's beautiful, Red," he said in loving tones. "Because it came from your heart."

Smiling softly, Willow moved to walk out onstage while she gently pulled Vince along behind her, holding his hand in her own until she was forced to let go at her piano.

Sitting down, she looked back at Vince who looked at her with affection and quiet expectation, Willow felt her heart contract before dipping her head. Moving to look at the audience, she leaned into the microphone.

"The song's called Contented," Willow said, her voice husky. "And it's for Vince."

With that, Willow ducked her head and began to play the first haunting chords of the song that she wrote specifically to express all the emotions she felt for Vince.

And when the song was over, there wasn't a single person inside of the Bronze unaffected by the song and the emotions that Willow had poured into it.

First and foremost among these people was Vince.

Which made absolute and perfect sense. Being as the song was written for him, after all.

He decided right then and there, as Willow finished the song and the audience's roar of applause filled the air, it was the best present that he'd ever receive. And he went to show Willow just that as he walked over to her and pulled her into a tender hug and kiss in front of all their fans.

Romance was most definitely in the air.

Romance and beautiful music. 

---

"She must really love him."

Gazing at Buffy with soft blue eyes, Amy touched her friend's hand and said, "You okay?"

"Yeah," said Buffy, giving Amy a soft smile. "I'm fine. Will deserves to be with someone who can love her with all of their heart. I guess he does that for her."

Before Amy could reply, Buffy turned to Faith who was busy complaining rather loudly about Cordelia and Xander who were fussing over her being in the club.

Watching as Buffy intervened, managing to calm Faith down and get Cordelia and Xander to crack up with easy laughter, Amy whispered, "So do you, Buffy."

Of course, one could argue that everyone deserves to be loved by another person with all of their heart. That it's something no one should ever be denied.

The problem is a lot of people are denied it. Whether they deserve it or not. And right now, it looked to Amy like Buffy just might be one of those people.

That was the reality of the situation. No matter how truly unfair it was to Buffy and anyone else.

Life, thought Amy with a sigh, and love can really stink.

And stink big time, at that. 

---

Kakistos was rather fond of silence for the most part. He liked the way it made any situation feel soothing or uncomfortable depending wholly on a person's mood. Silence was a malleable thing, changing it's personality to fit whomever it effected and he enjoyed that aspect of it.

However, right now he wasn't enjoying it too much. Perhaps because his two most loyal, and most well paid, employees were staring at him rather quizzically.

And oh, how he hated quizzical stares.

"What is it?" asked Kakistos with a sigh.

Not looking the least surprised that Kakistos noticed his quizzical stare, Trick said, "Why do you want us to hold off on attacking the Slayers? It makes no sense."

Forming a slow smile, Kakistos leaned back into his chair and murmured, "How do you like to make your kills, Trick? What is your most preferred manner?"

"Fast and painful," said Trick with an easy smile. "It's the most efficient and leaves no mess to clean up."

"Mmm," Kakistos' smile widened a bit and he directed his gaze towards Iris. "And you, my dear?"

"Slow and torturous," said Iris, flashing Trick a coy look out of the corner of her eye. "I like to play with my food. It makes it all that much more fun."

"Opposites attract, I do suppose," said Kakistos with the barest hint of humor as he smiled. "Now, as for myself, I like my prey to be at full strength so they can try to escape me, so they can struggle, and I can feel their life drain away in my hands as I kill them." Moving forward so his face was shown in the dim light, he said, "Do you think that the Slayers are at full strength now?"

A look of understanding flashed in both Trick and Iris' eyes as they gazed at Kakistos with admiration.

And unlike before, the silence that accompanied their stares this time, was one that Kakistos enjoyed very much.

Perhaps because it was filled with respect for him.

"Does my request for constant monitoring of the Slayers make more sense now?" asked Kakistos slowly, the satisfaction of his plans evident in his voice.

"Yes, very," Trick purred, smiling wickedly. "You want to make sure that the Slayers are in perfect condition both mentally and physically before you attack."

"Exactly," drawled Kakistos. "And how soon do you two think that might be? Hours, days, months?"

"Almost three months have passed," murmured Iris, her eyes growing thoughtful. "With her Slayer healing powers Faith should be returning to full strength soon. It was your spell that effected her the longest and there are signs that it's starting to wear off." Eyeing Kakistos with a careful gaze, she asked, "Why didn't you make it a long term curse on her? Surely you have the power to do that within your grasp."

"Yes, I do," Kakistos acknowledged softly. "But cursing one of the Slayers is hardly worth my attention. I much rather save my power for a far more interesting task. One that fits my goals appropriately."

"Which is...?" Trick prompted.

A quiet chuckle filled the air and Kakistos murmured, "At first all I wanted was Nerine back. But now, I'd like to have a small taste of revenge on that upstart Slayer. I want to teach her the true meaning of suffering. So much so that she'll not only regret the day that she injured me but she'll regret the very day she was born." There was a small pause before, he leaned into the light and his yellow eyes flashed dangerously.

"I'll destroy the Slayer by her own making," Kakistos pronounced in low and menacing tones. "And I'm already being helped by her intrepid partner. When all that I've seen comes to pass, capturing Nerine will be simple."

"Buffy?" said Iris, her voice loathing. "How would she help you destroy Faith and capture Nerine?"

"Through love," said Kakistos while he gave a derisive chuckle and leaned back in his chair. "The great destroyer of gods and man alike. Slayers included."

Eyeing their employer closely, Trick and Iris felt a cold shiver run through their systems despite their lack of guilt when it came to less than wholesome actions.

Maybe it was because they both knew that whatever it was that Kakistos was planning it had already been moved into action long ago. That he had moved all of the residents of Sunnydale, including them, like pieces on a chess board until they would be in their proper places.

All so he could say checkmate.

Which, it seemed, was coming very soon. 

---

"Doctors, I hate doctors," Faith whined. "I saw him today, why do I have to see him tomorrow morning too? I think they're out to ruin my life, that's it."

Prophecy Girl's first set had just ended which meant Willow and Vince were spending some time with their friends relaxing before they finished their show. Of course, only a few minutes passed before Vince asked if Faith was feeling any better. Which then led to Faith's current rant about her doctors.

"Right," Cordelia said fondly while she rolled her eyes. "The guys who are helping you recover from your injuries are out to ruin your life. Exaggeration, thy name is Faith Spencer."

"More jokes," grumbled Faith. Looking to Willow, she said, "All she and Buff do is pick on me lately."

"That's because you don't behave, cripple," Buffy teased, giving an easy smile.

"Cripple?" asked Vince with a laugh. "She doesn't look so crippled to me. In fact, she looks very feisty."

"Feisty?" Faith drawled, quirking an eyebrow appreciatively at Vince. "I like that." Giving a chuckle that sounded rather sinister, Faith said, "You wanna see how feisty I can get, Buff? You keep on callin' me cripple then we can have ourselves a knock down fight to find out."

Smirking at the other Slayer, Buffy leaned forward and said, "I'd say yes but I'm doubting that you'd ever get past your girlfriend to fight me anyway."

On hearing this statement, Faith focused her dark brown eyes on Cordelia who was frowning severely at her. "Sweets," began Faith with an anxious laugh. "I swear that I wasn't being serious. I was just jokin' around, y'know?"

"Oh, I know," Cordelia purred. Faith looked relieved for a second before her hazel eyes narrowed and Cordelia leaned in and whispered in Faith's ear, "That you're not fighting anyone until you're recovered, right?"

"Right," said Faith quickly, nodding her head.

"Good," Cordelia purred again, stroking Faith's cheek lightly before she moved in for a loving kiss.

"No fair," whined Buffy, looking to the rest of their friends with plaintive eyes. "She suggests the fight and she gets kissed? I'm such a victim here."

"Oh, Buffy, how my heart aches for you... for I never get kissed either, and I know the pain of..." Xander stopped in his goofy and overdone speech to blink. "Hey, wait a minute," he murmured. "I do get kissed." Giving a sheepish chuckle, he said, "Forget it. Sorry, Buff."

"I should noogie you severely for that," Buffy muttered, glaring at Xander evilly while he scooted far away from her, using Amy as his human shield.

Laughing quietly at this, Willow smiled at Buffy, studying her carefully. The other Slayer almost seemed different to her tonight, like something had changed inside of her and she was finally feeling at peace with herself.

Willow hoped that her new mood meant that Buffy had at last been able to forgive herself for Faith's current health condition caused by Kakistos' attack on her.

Maybe, thought Willow hopefully, things are starting to look up. Maybe things will work out for us all.

But just moments after she thought this, Willow felt her entire body freeze and a shiver ran down her spine as she heard the ominous laughter of Kakistos run through her ears to shake her entire emotional system.

"No," Willow whispered in stark tones of fear.

"Red?" asked Vince, turning to look at his girlfriend on hearing her speak. Eyeing her expression of terror with immediate concern, he grabbed her hands and asked her, "What is it? Did you have another vision?"

Slowly turning to look into Vince's chocolate brown eyes, Willow said, "Kakistos is planning his move." 

---

Faith glared at Dr. Stewart and he glared right back at her.

They would have kept going on like this, but Giles heaved a sigh and looked at the doctor who right now seemed to dislike Faith as much as she did him.

"Doctor," began Giles. "So what you're saying is my niece is in the final stages of full recovery?"

"Yes," replied Stewart, turning his gaze to Giles and seeming to relax. He always got so wound up when around this particular patient. Maybe because she did anything she could to disobey his medical advice. "Her tests today indicate that in a week she might even be fit to drive that motorcycle of hers again." He eyed Faith out of the corner of his eye and said dryly, "And I do know how much she's looking forward to doing that."

Faith merely sneered at him for a reply.

Holding back another sigh, Giles asked, "What about her athletic activities? Can she return to them?"

"Her Karate lessons, you mean?" asked Stewart. He paused for a moment, then said, "I suppose that would be acceptable... but only if she went slowly and didn't over exert herself. That might cause a relapse in her migraines and the dizzy spells are still fairly unpredictable."

"Only because I hardly ever get 'em now," Faith muttered darkly to herself, folding her arms over her chest.

"I heard that Miss Spencer," said Stewart, turning to eye her fully. "Should I take back my current advice and tell him to put you on full bed rest again? Would you like that? Or will you attempt to be civil to me?"

Scowling, Faith grumbled, "I'll be good."

"Yes, well, I'm sure we've bothered you enough," Giles said, looking anxious to get Faith and Stewart away from each other now that he knew what he wanted. "We'll see you again next week, Dr. Stewart. Thanks so much."

Giles then headed out the door with Faith trailing after him, who was muttering to herself about evil doctors who were trying to control her life the whole time.

Watching them go, it was Stewart's turn to heave a sigh as he murmured to himself, "I don't know what's more strange, that girl's fast recovery from such serious injuries or her insane hatred for doctors."

After a moment, he decided that it was both. 

---

"How could he have known though?" asked Cordelia, her hazel eyes full of worry. "How could Kakistos have known what Dr. Stewart would say today?"

School hadn't started yet and everyone was gathered in the library, discussing Faith's visit with the doctor that morning and Willow's vision of Kakistos.

"He has prophetic visions, just like me," said Willow, her gaze looking distant. "I taught him how to bring them about. That's probably how he knew."

"Why attack now though?" asked Buffy, leaning forward. "Is it because Faith's starting to fully recover?"

"Yes," Willow agreed, looking to Buffy. "That and one other thing," she then smiled a bit derisively. "It seems as if he's getting impatient with waiting for her recovery to be at its best before he strikes. He wants revenge for his injuries and he wants it to fall upon us swiftly."

"So he's going to attack soon?" asked Vince, squeezing her hand. "Do you know when?"

"Very soon," murmured Willow, turning to him and looking tired as she leaned against him slightly. "And I'm not sure when he'll make his move. Or even what he's planning. One thing is for certain, though. It's not going to be something simple... he won't just seek death, he wants to have fun... cause pain for us first."

"Peachy keen," Faith muttered. "I gotta S&M vamp after me now. Perv probably wants to cuff me up."

Everyone simply stared at Faith after she said this.

"Yes, well," Giles coughed. "I think that we should focus our energies on researching Kakistos past habits on dealing with his enemies. Jenny and I were able to discover some unknown lore concerning him and it should be able to help us discern just what he might be planning."

"Hopefully, it should," Jenny said wryly. Looking to Buffy who appeared rather anxious, she smiled before she said, "You just keep up patrolling. And since Faith is starting to feel better she can accompany you. But we rather you--"

"Not go alone," Buffy and Faith interrupted together, exchanging a humorous look while grinning.

"Don't worry, Watcher lady," said Buffy with a charming smile. "We'll be good and always bring a Scooby with us until Faith is the epitome of healthy goodness."

"Or something," Faith added sardonically. She then formed an easy smile and said, "But nobody worry. It's not gonna be long before Faith the Vampire Slayer is back in full force then we'll show Kakistos who's the boss here."

And even though Faith's expression and voice echoed of undying confidence, everyone in the room still couldn't help but find some shred of doubt there.

But whether it was inside of Faith or them, they didn't know. They just knew that it was there and it wasn't about to go away any time soon.

At least, not while Kakistos still lived. 

-End- 

(Season Two is almost over. Just the Epilogue for it is left and then that's it. Ah, it's been such a... uhm... something ride. lol. It's been entertaining for you readers hopefully.) !

Continue to Season Two Epilogue

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