It Starts With Faith
The sounds of fighting were what Amy woke up to. Actually, it was more the sounds of a small war going on inside of the magic shop. But still, it was what she first heard as she woke up and gazed into Xander's eyes.
"Amy," said Xander with relief. "Thank God."
"No," Amy groaned, moving to sit up, her body feeling weary from the entire experience. She wondered why that was and figured maybe it had something to do with the fact this was her first out of body experience. Or something, she could figure it out later. "It's thank The Powers That Be. They're going to help Cordelia."
"Is that why she's passed out?" Xander asked.
Tilting her head around him, Amy stared at the unconscious figure of Cordelia, slumped forward in the chair she sat in. The ropes that were meant to restrain her were the only things holding the vampire up at this point.
"She's fighting her own battle now," whispered Amy, gazing up at Xander. "They gave her human soul back but Cordelia has to fight her vampire self to regain control of her body. And whoever wins... is the one that we'll have with us from now on."
His eyes going wide, Xander absorbed this information and the possible ramifications if Cordelia's human self couldn't win this all important battle.
"Go human Cordy?" Xander offered warily.
"Yeah," Amy's lips quirked up in just a hint of a smile. "Exactly that." Her eyes moving into the magic shop where the battle was raging, she murmured, "We should stay here and protect her from them. That's what Faith would want us to do. I'll try to cast a barrier."
"Are you sure?" asked Xander in worried tones. "You don't look so hot, Amy." When she gave him what could be considered an arch look, he laughed nervously and said, "No, no! I mean, you always look hot as in very attractive hot! You're my sexy girl, remember? It's just, you gotta be tired from going to see the big wigs and--"
"Xander," interrupted Amy, taking his hands in her own. "It'll be all right. I can do it and as long as I have you by my side, I'll always have more than enough strength."
"Okay," Xander said with a smile. "Then I guess we have a barrier spell to cast and a friend to protect."
"You bet," said Amy warmly.
That was precisely what they proceeded to do.
It was dark where she was.
Dark, cold, and unfeeling. So much so that Cordelia wondered where she was and why she was here. The last thing that she remembered was...
Faith and Buffy kissing and the feeling of her heart splintering into little pieces, as if her soul itself shattered.
Avoiding Faith with all her might, going with her parents to the airport and the limousine stopping. Then the glass lowering and that face staring at her.
Monstrous and full of everything evil.
Kakistos he... he... turned her... and Iris... did something to her parents. Put them under some kind of spell so they wouldn't know what was happening.
Then they died.
Along with everyone else on the flight. Killed on Kakistos' whim, his orders, because he didn't want them around. Her parents would only serve to remind Cordelia of who she once was and this way...
She remembered now.
This way her fortune was free and clear. No one could stop them for using the money as they wanted since Cordelia was the last surviving heir to the Chase millions.
It was all coming back to her... every sickening thing she had done... to Faith, to everyone, and...
No, no, no, she didn't, she couldn't, she...
She killed him. Oh god. She really did kill him. Vince was dead because of her. Because she was jealous of Faith and Buffy... because she had to blame someone.
How could she have done that? How...?
Feeling the tears stream down her cheeks, Cordelia collapsed to her knees and let loose a strained sob. "I don't understand why this is happening."
"Don't be so dramatic, it's tacky, really it is."
Lifting her gaze, Cordelia's eyes went wide as she looked at the shadowy figure that was standing over her.
"Who...?" Cordelia began.
"Tch, tch," Cordelia vampire stepped into the dim light and smiled. "Surely you must know me. I'm who you're wailing over right now. You don't appreciate my fun at all, do you?" She heaved a huge sigh. "That's fine, it isn't like you'll be around to moan over it anyway." In a sudden movement, her face shifted into a horrible mask, and she growled, "Because soon you'll be dead."
"No," Cordelia shook her head in disbelief on seeing this part of her. "You're not me! You can't be!"
"Oh, but I am," Cordelia vampire's eyes glittered as she stepped forward. Leaning down, she cupped Cordelia's chin in her hands and purred, "I'm strong and you? You're the weak one in our torrid little relationship."
"No," Cordelia shook her head and sobbed.
"You keep saying that," murmured Cordelia vampire with a hint of humor. "But it does happen to be the truth, you know. I'm strong and you're weak because you let me take over... sure, sure, it had something to do with Daddy casting a spell or two but you still fell to me. And now you have a chance to beat me back and what are you doing?" Cordelia vampire snorted with disgust. "I'll tell you what. You're sitting around crying like a baby. I was hoping for a halfway decent battle at least before I went back to slaughter the rest of your loved ones."
Suddenly, the world they existed in got a hell of a lot colder. So cold that Cordelia vampire fought the urge to shiver from the feeling. That's when Cordelia lifted her gaze to stare hard into her counterpart's eyes.
In that moment everything changed.
Cordelia wouldn't let this monster loose again. She couldn't let it loose again, to terrorize her friends, to hurt the only people who had ever really cared about her.
Right then and there, Cordelia vowed that she would stop her if it was the last thing she ever did.
Which was why she stood up slowly and stared at her vampire self right in the eyes before lunging at her with a viciousness her counterpart had never expected.
Normally, a human wouldn't be much match for a vampire. Especially a vampire of Cordelia's magnitude that had such a penchant for violence and the ilk. But where they were now, anything was possible.
The realm of your soul, of your heart, is a mysterious place and only those who have the most inner strength are those who remain triumphant.
And right now, Cordelia had far more of that than her vampire self. Which was why she attacked this enemy of hers, the one who had ruined her life, and proceeded to strangle any semblance of a life she had out of her.
At least, she was doing that until Cordelia vampire's eyes glinted and she growled with the last of her breath, "You want to go back, do you? What for? To see their eyes filled with hate? Because you know that they'll hate you because of what I've done. As much as you and they don't want to admit it, I'm a part of you and you're just as responsible for my crimes as I am. It's just poor little old you can't see the fun in them." Laughing a hoarse and dying laugh, she continued, "Good luck going back, 'sister'. I hope they crucify you for my actions."
Stunned into silence, Cordelia froze.
And that's when the monster took advantage. In a lightning quick movement, she was behind Cordelia, arm tucked tight under her neck in a unbreakable choke hold.
"Fool," Cordelia vampire chuckled. "You almost had me there but you forgot one striking detail of my plan, didn't you? I win no matter what. You go back instead of me, who cares, big deal, everyone will still hate you for what I've done. That's the beauty of it, really."
Closing her eyes against the pain, trying her best to block out the mocking tones of her counterpart, Cordelia almost didn't hear his soft voice calling to her.
"Don't let her win. They're waiting for you."
Opening her eyes, Cordelia and her vampire self looked on in certain shock as the figure of a man they both thought they'd killed appeared before them.
"Vince," Cordelia whispered.
"You," hissed Cordelia vampire, increasing her choke hold on her human counterpart. "I killed you!"
"People with good hearts never really die," Vince informed kindly, his eyes soft. They soon turned hard and he said darkly, "You won't win."
"I won't?" Cordelia vampire burst out laughing. "Are you blind, Casper? I am winning! I have won! All I have to do now is get rid of her weakness for good and I can go back and kill them all just like Daddy wants!"
"Cordelia," murmured Vince, looking at the trapped form of the girl he once knew. "You're stronger than you know. Much stronger than she can ever be. Just believe in yourself and what you can do."
"Vince," Cordelia whispered again. Blinking back the tears, she formed a face of resolve. "I'll try my best."
"That's all I ask for," Vince smiled. "And I'll help you fight, in every way I can."
"You," Cordelia vampire's eye went wide in disbelief as she felt her body freeze. Looking at Vince, she shouted, "You can't do this to me! You can't--!!"
"Really?" said Vince, tipping his head to one side. "And here I thought that I just did it."
"They'll never accept you," Cordelia vampire declared, her eyes flashing with hatred. "Do whatever you want to me, but I'll still be able to hurt them because I'll be living through you. Now and forever."
"Wrong," growled Cordelia, approaching the vampire with a look of cold control. "I'm killing you here and you'll damn well stay dead. Even if they do hate me, I will never let you near them again."
Moving her gaze to meet Vince's eyes, she watched as he gave a short and solemn nod of his head.
That's when Cordelia snapped her neck.
The body of the vampire fell in a crumpled heap, disappearing just before she hit the ground. Watching this as it happened, Cordelia took in a shaky gasp of air.
Looking up as she felt Vince approach, Cordelia shook her head as she whispered, "She was right, I let her kill you, just like I let her hurt everyone else."
"You beat her though," Vince said kindly, reaching out to clasp her hands. "And you're back. That's what matters to me and that's what matters to them."
Shaking her head again, Cordelia said harshly, "I can't go back... how can I go back? How can I ever make up for what she's done? How would they be able look at me after this? And Willow," Cordelia released a tortured sob, pressing her hand over her mouth. "She loves you so much and she... tried to tear that apart. Even after killing you, she continued to rip that love to shreds. I can't face her, I can't ever make up for all she's done..."
"So you're just giving up?" Vince demanded, his eyes boring into Cordelia. "You won and now you're giving up because you're afraid? No," he said firmly. "I'm not going to let you do that, Cordelia. You still have a lot to live for. Despite what you might think, some of them have already forgiven you. And the ones that haven't? That will come in time, I promise you. Besides," Vince wore a small smile as he reached out to tip up Cordelia's chin so their eyes could meet. "I have a favor to ask."
"A favor?" asked Cordelia.
"Let me see her once more," Vince said, his brown eyes pleading. "Through you, let me say goodbye."
"Oh Vince," whispered Cordelia, her eyes and voice teary. Standing close to him, so close that their bodies almost touched, she said softly, "You never had to ask. That favor was yours always."
"Thank you," said Vince, his voice rough with emotion as a blinding light surrounded them both.
"No," Cordelia replied, holding his hands. "I should be the one saying that. You saved me from myself and for that... I'll never be able to repay you."
Disappearing into the light completely, somehow they both knew they were right. They helped to save each other. Which is, after all, what real friends do.
With the arrival of the Special Forces unit of the Watchers Council, Faith and Buffy found themselves now in a heated battle against their human opponents.
This left Kakistos battling those he had far more interest in. Those who had shared his life with, those who had helped make him into the creature he was today.
Understandably, it was they who hated him most.
"Brendan," murmured Kakistos, his eyes lighting up as he looked upon his Childe. "You've met Nerine I take it? How do you like my former mentor? She can be quite the charmer. Do you know that she almost swayed me to the side of goodness and light after I was turned?" Forming a nasty smile, he growled deeply, "Almost."
"Father," Brendan said in calm tones, regarding Kakistos in a detached manner. "I am going to kill you."
Bursting out laughing, Kakistos smirked then said, "That's my boy, honest and vicious as always. You haven't changed a bit, have you? And here I thought that you'd be learning new things from this Master of yours." Tilting his head to one side, he chuckled again. "But the 'Master' is dead now and you?" Kakistos dragged his gaze over to Zac and eyed him derisively. "You follow this scrap of a youngling who isn't fit to lurk in your shadow."
Then before Kakistos could say a word more, Brendan leapt at him, pulling out a sword he hid no one knows where, and aimed a perfect downward strike at the older vampire's head. Unfortunately for him, Kakistos caught the sword in his cloven grip, seeming to not even notice the pain it caused as it sliced into him. Blood was trickling slowly down his arm as he looked into Brendan's dark eyes that were filled with fiery hated.
"You have to do better than that," Kakistos smiled softly. "If you truly mean to kill me, son."
"I will kill you," vowed Brendan. "I swear it."
Snorting at this, Kakistos released his grip on Brendan's double bladed sword and pressed his other hand against the younger vampire's chest. He released a burst of energy that caused Brendan to go flying across the magic shop. He then fell on several of Council members who began to swarm him.
Watching for a moment as Brendan fought the humans who were no match for him, Kakistos fixed his gaze on Willow who jumped at this attention. Moving far quicker than anyone gave him credit for, he stood in front of her, his hands clutching tightly around her neck.
"Nerine," Kakistos rumbled darkly. "You will help me bring my daughter back to me. I will not lose Cordelia as I lost Brendan, do you understand?"
Snarling viciously, Zac started towards Kakistos, his actions much like a panther's when Kakistos hurled another spell of energy, this time at the blonde vampire. Zac, just like Brendan before, went flying across the room and was soon being attacked by the Council.
This left Willow alone with Kakistos.
Or that was what he thought until an elbow went crashing against the side of his face and sent him tumbling to the ground. Willow almost went falling with him but instead, strong arms encircled her, gently placing her feet on the floor. Turning around to greet her savior, Willow could only gasp at what she saw.
"Cordelia," said Willow shakily, taking an unconscious step backwards and away from the other girl who looked down at her with sad brown eyes.
Shaking her head, Willow blinked and looked up at Cordelia once more. The familiar hazel was missing and in their place were brown eyes. Deep, dark, and luminous chocolate brown eyes.
Just like Vince.
"Red," Cordelia said slowly, stepping closer, her expression hesitant as she reached out. "It's me."
That voice. It wasn't Cordelia's and it wasn't Vince's... it was something almost mixed in between. Like they were blending together. Studying Cordelia closely, Willow read her aura. So many shades and shadows rested there, far too many for one person alone.
"Vince," Willow whispered tearfully.
She was so concentrated on him, him being back with her, that she didn't notice Kakistos rise up, ready to stage another attack against her.
Brendan, however, noticed thoroughly and proceeded to do something about it. Something very noticeable as he ran towards Kakistos, spun him around, and proceeded to run him through the heart with a large chunk of a broken table. Kakistos then moved his eyes slowly from the piece of wood to Brendan. Asking a silent question of sorts to his Childe.
"I said I would kill you," Brendan answered.
Laughing hoarsely as he felt his body begin to deteriorate and rot from years of undead living, Kakistos fixed his gaze on Zac. "Never have a weak moment," he advised in gruff tones, a slight smirk forming. "For once you do, he will betray you. This I promise."
With that, Kakistos crumbled into a pile of ashes.
For a long and endless moment, the only sound was the sharp crash of the broken piece of wood that had killed him hitting the ground. Then the vampires who had served Kakistos noticed the situation they were in and the fact that their leader was dead.
It took them mere seconds to flee.
Willow looked from the pile of ashes that was Kakistos to Cordelia... no, to Vince, because she knew it was him, and whispered, "How...?"
"Cordelia," Vince said quietly. "It's a favor."
Nearing him, Willow watched Cordelia's body blur and fade until she saw Vince, bathed in an ethereal golden light, his face shimmering as he smiled.
Giving a choked sob, Willow buried herself in his arms and she could swear she smelled the comforting scent of his after shave as she did. Holding Willow close as able, Vince moved to whisper in her ear, "It's all right."
"No," Willow shook her head against him. "It won't ever be right again. Even if she's back now... you aren't. There isn't a way to bring you back. Maybe if I had my
--" In a gentle but firm movement, Willow was pushed backwards by Vince, his fingers pressed against her lips.
"Don't think that," he murmured. "We can't change what is but we can look forward. I've had my time," Vince smiled softly. "And it was good. You were such a big part of that, Red. That's why I'm here now. I see you blaming yourself for all of this, and it's not your fault."
"She killed you because of me," said Willow in heartbroken tones, unable to look at Vince. "How can it not be my fault? If it wasn't for me you'd still be here."
"I'm here now," Vince said strongly, cupping her chin in his hands. "And I'm telling you that I don't regret a moment of my life or the time I spent with you. Red," he said in gentle, loving, tones. "Everyone dies, and no matter how it happens, it really isn't anyone's fault. It's just a part of living and being human. I came here to say goodbye, yeah, but mostly I came to ask you to stop this... to stop blaming yourself for what happened to me."
"I don't know if I can," Willow admitted roughly.
"Can you forgive Cordelia?" asked Vince, his eyes searching. "For everything her vampire self did?"
Closing her eyes tightly, Willow said, "Yes."
"Then why can't you forgive yourself?" Vince continued, his voice achingly tender. Pulling Willow into his arms, he whispered into her ear, "Live your life and be happy, Red. That's what I want most, really it is."
"Vince," Willow sobbed, clinging tightly to him. "I'm sorry this happened... I love you, so much."
"And I love you," Vince murmured, looking deeply into Willow's eyes as she gazed up at him.
Leaning forward, lips met lips, and everyone in the magic shop was entranced as a golden hue surrounded the couple and they were bathed in the light of the Gods.
When they reluctantly parted, Willow could see Vince fading away as Cordelia's form was revealed. Her eyes teary, she whispered, "I'll love you, always."
"Be happy, Red," said Vince kindly, fading away from this life and into the next. His work almost done, he fixed his gaze on Buffy who froze at this.
No words were spoken but somehow, Buffy heard Vince's voice as clear as day. And his voice echoed deep in her heart and soul as it said, "Take care of her for me."
Then with a shimmer of light, he was gone.
All was silent while Cordelia stood, her head lowered before she fell weakly to her knees. Her voice afraid and lost, she said, "Faith...?"
In an instant, Faith was at Cordelia's side. Crouched in front of her, she reached out to touch the planes of the other girl's face, lifting her head so their eyes could meet. When she gazed into hazel depths, Faith knew, she knew with all of her being, this was Cordelia.
This was the girl she loved more than life itself.
"Sweets," Faith's voice was rough with emotion and her eyes were blinking back tears. "It's you."
"Yeah," Cordelia replied in trembling tones, the tears running down her cheeks. "It's me."
Nothing more was said and nothing more needed to be said in that moment. Faith pulled Cordelia to her in a desperate embrace, her arms holding the other girl tight, as they lost themselves in the feel of one another. Now they finally had what they needed most in the world.
No one would ever tear them apart again. This they promised as they clung helplessly together, parting only when Faith moved back to seize Cordelia's lips.
The kiss was loving but frantic. It was filled with all the pain caused from thinking their love was dead and would never return to them. Now they sought in some way to prove this was wrong, to show they were here, they were together, and that was what mattered.
When the kiss ended, tears were streaming down both of their faces, and Cordelia kissed Faith's away as she whispered shakily, "I love you... I'm so sorry..."
"It wasn't you," Faith said roughly, cupping Cordelia's face in her hands. "I hated her but I love you. I'll always love you, sweets. No matter what happens."
"Faith," Cordelia murmured, her voice torn.
More words were about to be spoken, that was certain, but they were cut off by Buffy's voice speaking in cold and clinical tones, "Stop right there."
Looking towards Buffy, the couple saw the figure of Kendra and the rest of the Watchers Council who had apparently decided moving near them was a good idea. At least, until they discovered they both had a bodyguard.
Strike that. Several bodyguards.
"I would listen to her if I were you," advised Jenny, her eyes narrowing. "Be smart for once."
"Kaldaresh," McMurphy snarled, stepping forward and past Kendra. "Don't you dare talk to us about smart. It isn't exactly smart to be protecting a vicious killer."
"That was the monster inside of her," Giles murmured, his voice steady. "A monster that she has now destroyed by her own hands. Your mission is over. Go back home and tell Padwin we're through."
"You dare?" Kendra said harshly. "You would leave the Council for the sake of this..." She bore her eyes into Cordelia with certain hatred. "Filthy creature?"
All was silent as Faith clenched her jaw.
Standing slowly, reluctantly parting from Cordelia but holding onto her hand still, she bore her gaze into the Council members, who shivered at this attention. In Faith, they sensed a rage so powerful, so massive, that they had to wonder if under other circumstances if they'd survive it.
"I'm only gonna say this once," Faith began in tones that echoed of a deadly calm. "So listen up good. If any of you bastards even so much as scratches Cordelia I will hunt you down to the ends of the Earth. And," Faith's dark brown eyes glittered dangerously. "Just so you know, I do quit. I'm not taking orders from cold hearted pricks like you. I rather die than have to do what you say so you just keep damn well away from us, you got it?"
"All of us," Buffy spoke up, moving to stand at Faith's side. "Cordelia is our friend and if you hurt her, you're hurting us. Just know that if you attack one of us, you're attacking the entire group." Buffy smirked now as she continued, "Including one very pissy Slayer."
"And one easily excitable witch," Amy added.
"And one... uhm... me," Xander said sheepishly.
"And two former Watchers," Jenny murmured, her lips quirking up as she smiled at Xander.
"Indeed," Giles said softly, fixing a reassuring gaze on Faith and Cordelia.
"Don't even forget me," Kate said dryly while Jenny beamed at the blonde woman. "The Police have been known to not appreciate harassment."
"Any kin with souls fall under the protection of the Anointed of the Master," Zac said, his tones soft but menacing as his blue eyes bore into the Council.
Brendan didn't speak at all and instead, simply placed his hands on the scabbard to his double bladed sword and drew it back to show just a hint of steel.
All eyes stopped on Willow whose head was lowered and sensing their gazes, she looked at those watching her. "Cordelia is my friend and I will always protect my friends," she said quietly. Moving to look at Cordelia who met her gaze tearfully, she continued, "I mean that, I'll always be here. Always."
"You guys..." Cordelia whispered shakily.
"How can you say such things?" Kendra spoke up, her voice both incredulous and full of disgust. "Don't you see what she is? She's a vampire! A creature birthed of the evils of this world! She isn't your friend, she's a monster!"
"Get out," said Faith darkly, taking a slow step forward, restrained from moving further by the feel of Cordelia's hand squeezing her own. "Get out before I do something that I'll end up regrettin'." Seeing the Council hesitate and look among themselves, Faith roared, "GET OUT!! Get out before I make you get out!"
"Kendra," said McMurphy in low tones as he moved closer to their Slayer. "We should leave, this isn't a good situation and they have the upper hand."
"But--" Kendra protested.
"We'll be back," McMurphy whispered, his eyes glinting dangerously. "I promise you that."
A feeling of smug superiority filling her, Kendra turned to look back at Faith and the others. "Very well," she said easily. "We'll leave... for now. But know that the day of reckoning will come, for you and all sinners."
With that, the Council trooped out of the magic shop, leaving everyone inside emotionally exhausted from their presence and all that had gone on.
Releasing a shuddering sigh, Faith turned to look back at Cordelia and gave a soft smile. "Hey," she said in the gentlest of voices. "That wasn't fun."
"You stopped them," Cordelia murmured, her tones echoing with amazement. "You stopped them... you broke your ties with them for me. Why did you do that?"
"Oh, sweets," Faith said, falling to her knees and cupping Cordelia's face in her hands. "I'd die before I let you go again, don't you know that? I couldn't work for anyone that would even think of punishing you for what a monster wearing your skin did." Caressing her cheek with the pad of her thumb, Faith said, "I love you too much."
"Faith," Cordelia breathed out shakily. Her eyes slowly looked up at their friends and she said, "Thank you for doing that. All of you... I don't know why you did but I won't ever forget it... or your kindness."
"Forget it," advised Amy with a smile. "This is the sort of thing that families do, isn't it? And we're a family of sorts." She paused to look impish and added, "A pretty strange family, but still a family."
It was quiet as everyone absorbed this, all thinking that Amy was very right about the bond they shared.
Then Giles spoke up with a cough. "We should leave," he said solemnly. "Just because it seems as if the Council has left doesn't mean they truly have."
"He's right," Jenny agreed. She was about to say more but sighed as she looked at the mess that the magic shop was in. "What a disaster."
"At least you're alive," pointed out Kate drolly.
"True," Jenny smirked at Kate. "Alive and filled with far too many unquenched desires."
Buffy made a noise of revulsion on hearing Jenny's overt flirting while Kate rolled her eyes. Watching this interaction, Faith shook her head and looked to Cordelia who was gazing at them all with certain wonder.
"Welcome home, sweets," Faith murmured, pressing her frame gently into Cordelia's and wrapping her up in a tender embrace. "We missed you."
"I missed you too," Cordelia whispered, burying herself in the safety of Faith's arms. "All of you."
Things were finally as they were meant to be.
Edward Madison was used to the unusual.
In fact, one might say the unusual was usual to Ed since he dealt with it so often. It was just a part of existing in Sunnydale and being part of a family of witches.
But despite dealing with the unusual on a regular basis, Ed wasn't often prepared for life's little shocks. And he certainly wasn't prepared for what Amy just told him.
"You... did... WHAT?" Ed demanded in a growl.
"I sort of made a promise with The Powers That Be and told them I'd be a... uhm... well, I guess a magic alarm for all the bad stuff going on in town," Amy said as she ducked down, hiding behind Xander.
"Why in the world did you do that?!" Ed shouted.
"Mr. Madison," said Xander in quiet but firm tones. Hearing Xander speak this way was enough of a surprise that Ed blinked and studied him carefully. "Amy did it to save Cordelia and help us all. If she hadn't done what she did then Cordelia would either still be a evil murdering vampire or a pile of dust thanks to Faith. She couldn't let that happen, so she acted." His eyes locked with Ed's as he murmured, "You should be proud to have such a brave daughter. I know I would be."
Heaving a sigh, Ed ran his fingers through his perpetually messy blonde hair. Peering at his daughter with solemn eyes, he said, "All right then. Your boy has a point, precious. What you did for your friends, that was mighty brave but it was also mighty stupid, if you ask me. These Powers That Be... I know just hints of what they can do from what your Mama and Aunt have said and they're not folks to be trifled with. And now," Ed heaved a huge sigh. "Now you got yourself messed up in some sorta contract with them. When it comes to people like them, most contracts can't be broken. I just... wish you had thought some before agreein', that's all."
"I know, Daddy," said Amy, her features relieved on discovering her father wasn't truly angry. "I didn't have the time though. I had to make my decision right then and there and... well, I think it was the right one. It helped our friends and now I have a purpose, you know?" She smiled softly and said, "I can help them and everyone I love."
Sighing again, Ed looked over at Xander who looked fairly nervous at this attention. Smirking a bit, he said confidentially, "She's a pain in the butt, ain't she?"
"The biggest," Xander agreed with a smile. "Even though she's a pain that's well endured."
"Xander!" cried Amy, whacking him on the arm before she shot her father a dirty look. "Don't encourage him, Daddy. I don't need both of you teasing me."
"Ow," said Xander, wincing slightly. Looking at Ed, he asked, "Was she always this violent?"
"Yep," Ed said solemnly, his eyes twinkling with humor. "I think that she gets it from her Mama."
"What is it," Xander began theoretically as he leaned closer to Ed and spoke softly. "About attractive women being somewhat crazy witches?"
"Don't know," Ed murmured back. "I think that it's one of the grand mysteries of life, son."
Seconds after hearing this, Amy gave both of them a good whack on the arm.
They certainly deserved it.
Shrugging off her jacket, Kate hung it up before turning to face Jenny. "Probably with Joyce," she said as a slight smile spread across her features. "They're spending a lot of time together lately." She held out her hand to the other woman and said, "Jacket."
"Bossy aren't we?" asked Jenny, her lips curling into an easy smile. Nonetheless, she removed her jacket and handed it to the other woman. "Happy?"
"Ecstatic," Kate responded dryly, placing Jenny's jacket next to her own on the rack.
"I knew you would be," teased Jenny, dark eyes sultry as she studied Kate. "So," she began, looking away from the blonde for once. "Are they dating?"
"Huh?" Kate blinked, feeling perplexed at the sudden change in conversation and mood.
"David and Joyce," supplied Jenny, smirking. "Are they dating? Or is it just a budding flirtship? Like us?"
"Flirtship," repeated Kate, giving a soft snort as she walked into the kitchen of the town house. "That's a good a name as any for what we got here. And yeah, it's heading towards dating. They're just... going slowly."
"Makes sense," Jenny murmured. When Kate looked at her with some surprise, she added softly, "If something is really special, it's worth waiting for."
Blushing a bit, Kate turned away from Jenny and opened up the refrigerator. "Want a drink? We've got a nice variety for once. Beer, beer, beer, soda, and juice."
"I think I'll have beer," Jenny chuckled.
"Works for me," Kate said, pulling her head out of the refrigerator and handing Jenny her drink. She twisted the cap off her beer and took a sip. "So," she began.
"So," Jenny echoed, arching an eyebrow.
Kate started to reply when the ring of the phone startled them both. Frowning now, Kate set down her beer and walked out of the kitchen. "Be right back," she said as she passed Jenny, offering a wisp of a smile.
"I'll be waiting," said Jenny softly, so softly that Kate wondered if she even heard it.
After a minute, Jenny being Jenny, got bored. So she did what she usually did when she got bored while in someone else's house. She snooped. Although, she didn't really snoop much here. Instead, she simply walked over to the table and looked through the pile of papers that were stacked on it rather haphazardly.
She didn't really know what she expected when she went through the papers. Certainly she didn't expect to see lease contracts for various apartments nearby.
Part of Jenny knew, always knew that Kate would be leaving town. That's why she didn't fight so hard to get the blonde cop to open up to her. Because she would just end up leaving... leaving like everyone in her life.
But these contracts.
Did they mean that Kate was staying in Sunnydale? And if she was... why was she staying? To fight against the demons of the night she now knew existed? To join David in his P.I. business? Or was it for other reasons? Reasons Jenny didn't dare hope for?
"I see you found them."
Whirling around and feeling much like a thief in the night, Jenny studied Kate with wide eyes. The blonde had an amused smirk on her fine features as she leaned up against the doorframe to the kitchen.
"Well, here's something I thought I'd never see," Kate drawled, walking towards her. "Jenny Calendar with no snappy comeback. What's wrong? Nothing to say?"
"You're staying?" asked Jenny, her voice small.
Her eyes softening, Kate murmured, "Yeah, I am."
"Why?" Jenny pursued, drawing her gaze away from Kate to look out the windows of the kitchen and at the town outside. "Do you want to fight with us?"
"There's that," Kate admitted with a nod. "That and the fact I have to sort things out for Cordelia. People who are claimed dead coming back to life... well, it's a bit suspicious even for the Sunnydale P.D."
"I can help," murmured Jenny distantly. "It won't be hard to think of a story to tell them. Often that disease, the one where you can't be exposed to the sunlight, is used as a excuse for the souled vampires in society."
"That works," Kate nodded.
They were silent for another moment before Jenny turned away from the window and looked at Kate. As she searched the blonde's features, she seemed lost in thought.
"So that's why you're staying?" Jenny asked.
"That and..." Kate ducked her gaze, blushing before she looked up and sighed. "For some crazy reason I can't quite fathom, I've gotten attached to you, Calendar."
"Oh," Jenny stood still, her body frozen with shock. Finally, she smiled sweetly. "I feel the same way," she paused to wear an impish expression, "Detective."
"Hey," growled Kate playfully. "I thought that I told you to call me Kate."
"And I thought I told you to call me Jenny," said Jenny in equally playful tones as she neared Kate. Giving the cop a tap on the nose, she added, "Right?"
"Jenny not Janna?" asked Kate, smiling.
"Only my family calls me Janna," murmured Jenny softly. "And you're not my family, are you?"
"No," Kate shook her head. "I'm not."
"You're someone much different," Jenny continued, reaching out to gently touch Kate's cheek. "But just as special as they are."
"Jenny...?" Kate breathed out.
"Come on," said Jenny quietly, moving past Kate and into the living room. "Tell me about these apartments you're looking at. Are they rent controlled? Please don't tell me you're getting a studio. People need space, not a small box to exist in. And, oh lord, no pastel decor..."
Closing her eyes, Kate smiled softly and giving a shake of her head, she knew this was the right decision.
She'd found her place in life. And maybe even someone to share that place with her.
Even if that person did happen to drive her crazy.
Buffy found Willow sitting in the drivers seat to Susie the Bus, a pained expression on her features.
"They gave her to me," Willow said, not moving her gaze from where it looked out at the street ahead. They'd parked Susie just outside the magic shop earlier and from her current position, she gave a nice view of the town. "I just realized... I don't know how to drive her. I mean, I'm not exactly sure how to work a stick shift. On the way here, Xander was driving and he kept messing up all the gears when shifting. Isn't that funny?"
"Faith can teach you," Buffy offered. She looked rather sheepish as she said, "I would but I can't even drive an automatic decently. I'm a hazard on wheels."
It was quiet for a moment before Willow murmured, "He's really gone now," tears were streaming slowly down her cheeks. "I won't get to see him anymore... I won't get to be with him..."
"Will," said Buffy tenderly, clasping the other girl's shoulder. "It'll be okay... don't cry."
"No," Willow shook her head, moving with Buffy's grasp to look at the blonde Slayer. "It won't be okay... he's dead, Buffy, dead! I loved him and now..."
Breaking off into a sob, Willow buried herself in Buffy's arms who knelt on the bus floor on the open side to the drivers seat. "Vince saw you today," Buffy finally said after a moment. "Why did he do that, do you think?"
"What?" Willow sniffled as she pulled away.
"Well," Buffy continued, smiling as she gently wiped away Willow's tears. "I think that Vince must've had a reason for seeing you today. Just like he had a reason to help Cordelia. He wants you to be happy, doesn't he?" Ducking her head, she looked into sad green eyes and murmured, "I know it hurts, Will, I know it does. But you've got to try to get past that and live life."
"How?" asked Willow tearfully, her eyes plaintive. "I know what you're saying, Buffy, I do. But it hurts and it feels like it won't ever stop, no matter what anyone says."
"Just live," said Buffy gently. Squeezing Willow's hands softly, she continued, "Take it day by day, knowing that I'll be here... that we'll all be here to help. I..." Buffy broke away, averting her gaze. When she looked back at the redhead she said solemnly, "I'll be here for you."
"Buffy," Willow whispered, her eyes wide.
Caressing Willow's hand softly, Buffy smiled and said, "Feeling better?" Willow nodded her head and then Buffy beamed. "Great! So... how do we drive this thing?"
Willow's only response was a dim expression.
And watching the two girls and their horrendous attempts to start up and drive the bus, were the figures of two concerned vampires.
"We should help them," Brendan murmured, observing as Buffy caused Susie to make a screeching noise that almost caused ear drums to shatter.
"Yes," Zac agreed with a nod. "We should."
"They'll end up destroying the vehicle," Brendan continued, now watching Willow attempt to move the bus out of its parallel parking space.
"Yes," Zac nodded again. "They probably will."
"But we aren't going to, are we?" Brendan finished, grimacing as Willow almost hit a nearby car.
"No," Zac smiled softly. "We aren't."
Chuckling as he walked away with Zac at his side, Brendan commented, "They make a cute couple."
"Not as cute as us," was the only reply.
She was back.
She was back, after so long.
She was back and she was his again.
With a scurry of excitement, Monet skidded across the hardwood floor of Giles' apartment and then pounced on the figure of his long gone mistress.
Laughing as licks and furry kisses flurried across her face as she knelt on the floor, Cordelia said, "I missed you too, baby, really I did." Picking up the calico cat, she turned to smile softly at Faith who was watching her with dark eyes filled with adoration. "You kept him."
"We were waiting for you together," Faith said.
Locking the front door, Giles walked around the two girls, pausing for just a moment. "Cordelia," he said in soft, serious, tones. "I want you to know how glad I am, we all are, that you're back." His eyes darted to Faith and he smiled. "She wasn't the same without you."
"Hey," Faith sounded offended, scowling a bit. "What're you talking about? You're making me sound like some sorta co-dependent wacko, G-man."
"Oh? And you aren't?" Giles gently teased.
Scowling more at this, Faith grumped while Cordelia chuckled softly. Looking warmly into Giles eyes, she said, "Thank you... for everything. I won't forget it."
"Yes, well," Giles colored a bit. "I think that it's time for bed. I'll see you both in the morning... perhaps."
Her eyes going wide, Faith stared at her the retreating back of her Watcher for a moment. Then she got a hold of herself and called out, "Dirty mind!"
Shaking her head, Faith turned back to Cordelia smiling until she saw the grim look the other girl wore.
"Hey," said Faith softly, moving closer to Cordelia. She reached up to gently touch the brunette's cheek as she said, "What is it, sweets?"
Smiling slightly as Monet nuzzled her cheek, Cordelia focused on the calico cat as she rubbed his head gently. "I... I just can't believe this is happening."
"What's happening?" asked Faith in confusion.
Cordelia moved to carefully place Monet on the floor, though the cat stayed close by, rubbing his face up against her legs as she looked at Faith. "This," Cordelia said plaintively. "Your forgiveness... your love. How can you even look at me after what she did?" Squeezing her eyes shut, Cordelia hugged herself tightly and said with loathing, "What I did? I... I remember everything, you know. I know what she was thinking, feeling, when she killed those people. When she killed Vince. It was fun for her... she enjoyed making you suffer, making all of our friends suffer. It was like a game to her. That sick mentality came out of me, Faith, whether you want to believe it or not, it did. I just... don't understand," she broke out into harsh sobs now. "How you can love someone as disgusting as me."
"You're not disgusting," said Faith, her voice shaking with ferocity. Moving forward, she clasped the tall brunette's arms and shook her slightly. "Do you hear me? You're anything but. You... you're the bravest person that I know, sweets. You had a monster take over your soul and you fought them back. I don't blame you for one thing that creature did, I never could. I swear it."
"You say that now," Cordelia closed her eyes tight, tipping her head back and trying to keep the tears from falling. "But sooner or later you'll realize that I'm the same as that monster and you'll hate me."
"Cordelia Chase," Faith growled deeply. "Open your damn eyes and look at me." When the other girl did what she asked, Faith continued, her tones softening, "I'd never told you but you were the first, y'know? The first person that I ever made love to because you were the first person that I ever really loved. And I can't tell you what it would take to make me stop loving you, because I don't even think that I could stop if I wanted." Moving closer so they were only a breath apart, Faith said, "From the very moment I met you, I knew you. I knew who you really were deep inside, and I think you knew me too." Forming a charming crooked smile, Faith tipped her head to one side and said, "Dontcha see, sweets? We were meant to be and it's gonna take a lot more than this to break us apart."
"Faith," Cordelia whispered, her voice trembling as she reached out to cup the Slayer's face in her hands. "I want you to know... you were my first too. My first and my only because I don't plan on there being any others."
"Same here," Faith murmured with a smile.
With that, they embraced in a kiss that reaffirmed the love they knew had always been there and would stay there until the end of time.
And Monet? He happily watched his mistresses back together, playing their usual games. Hoping that they wouldn't forget to feed him before they went to bed.
Which was what any good cat would do.