It Starts With Faith
The Watchers Council wasn't happy.
Not happy at all and the reasons for that all boiled down to two things alone. The Slayers and their Watchers. They were the cause of their anger, the cause of their displeasure, the cause of their worries.
It was time to put a stop to that.
"They show no respect for their positions," said Abrams, his eyes narrowing as he looked at his fellow Council members. "Not only have they been ignoring all our requests for updates on their situations, they both refuse to initiate the ritual. They say it's barbaric and too hazardous to put the Slayers through."
"It's Kaldaresh," said Wolfe sharply. "She's always been a bad influence. If it wasn't for the power that her damn tribe holds she wouldn't ever been able to claw her way into the Council. Especially with the way she always goes against tradition."
"It is Kaldaresh, yes," Abrams agreed. "But Giles is much a part of this as her. And it's him, not Kaldaresh, that is said to be dangerously close to his Slayer."
"He's lost perspective," murmured Young as he leaned against the long table they sat at, his chin resting on the tops of his hands. "The Slayer is no longer the Slayer to him. Now she's like a daughter, she's family, and he'll risk anything to protect her. Even banishment from the Council. I suspect Kaldaresh feels the same way."
Releasing a growl of frustration, Wolfe slammed his hands against the table and proclaimed, "Who cares what they feel?! They're disobeying orders! We should remove them from their positions immediately!" He darted his eyes to all the present Council members and said, "We know their refusal to follow orders about killing Kakistos' Childe has already caused needless deaths! What more proof do we need that they're unfit for their positions? I say we act now, before more people die."
"Very well," Padwin said slowly and as soon as he spoke, all eyes locked on the leader of the Council. "We'll send out a team to remove the vampire first. After that's done, we'll deal with the Slayers and their Watchers."
"I volunteer for the mission, sir."
Immediately, all eyes turned to the source of the voice and several widened on seeing who it was. Padwin on the other hand, smiled softly at his charge.
"Kendra," said Padwin with quiet satisfaction. "Are you sure that you know what you're volunteering for? You'd not only be fighting an unnaturally vicious and strong vampire, but perhaps the Slayers as well."
Stepping into the dim light that reflected her hard yet beautiful caramel features, Kendra replied, "I'm prepared to fight whoever I need to for the sake of the Council, sir. I passed the ritual without the aide of having my powers activated as a Slayer, so I feel that I'm more than ready for this. Also," her voice lowered an octave. "I would like use this mission to prove my worth, if I may. To show you that training me, that teaching me, despite my status as an inactivated Slayer was a good use of your and all of the Council's time and resources."
There was another moment of pause before Padwin rose to his feet and crossed the room to stand in front of Kendra. Gently touching her cheek, he gave another soft smile before he spoke.
"Kill the vampire," Padwin instructed. "Once you've done that, we'll tell you how to proceed next."
"Yes sir!" said Kendra instantly, her voice reflecting an eager happiness at being given this task and her eyes reverent as they met Padwin's. "I promise that I won't let you down. I will succeed in my mission."
"I know that you will," murmured Padwin kindly, giving her cheek another gentle caress. "What else could we expect of one raised by the Council?"
Kendra's only response was a look of complete and utter pride as she thought about her mission. This was her chance. Finally, her chance to prove that she was worthy of everything that the Council had given her.
And that she was worthy of the title of Slayer.
Death makes people polite.
Polite and cautious and quiet and above all, afraid to offend anyone else. Perhaps that's why everyone at the wake were keeping their distance from Willow.
Because they were doing all of these things. Oh, they all felt the same in wanting to comfort her but none of them quite knew how to do that. Afraid that any clumsy attempts at comfort they could make would fail, everyone stayed away from her, silently thinking the same thing.
Out of everyone, Willow had only really spoken with Vince's parents and she was talking to them still. She tried to talk with Charlie and Derrick but the two boys had to leave the wake early, unable to take the sheer reality of the situation that they were in.
The reality that their childhood friend was dead. The reality that he died senselessly. The reality that he was gone and he'd never be coming back. The reality that they would never see him again or hear his voice. The reality that they'd never said it to him out loud.
They never said I love you, Vince.
Even though they felt it time and time again, they never said it to him and it ate at Charlie and Derrick. That they felt too macho, too much of a guy, or whatever to say those simple words to their closest friend and now he was gone and they never said how much he meant to them.
Willow said the words to him. She said them once, twice, three times and more and it still felt the same for her as it did for them. That she hadn't said it enough, that she'd failed in letting Vince know how much she really did love him while he was still alive. Now he was gone and it was too late to tell him... too late to let him know that she truly did love him, that he wasn't a replacement for Buffy.
That he had held her heart.
A heart that was broken now. Crushed into tiny pieces and it seemed to Willow that it the pieces would never form a whole again. That it was lost now and the pain, the loss of it all, would never leave her.
"We want you to have Susie."
Blinking her eyes, Willow dimly focused on Vince's father and said blankly, "What?"
"Susie," repeated Matt Kesler, his dark brown eyes earnest and sad as they bore into her. His eyes, they were so much like Vince's, and Willow knew now where he had gotten his expression of thoughtful solemnity from. "We want you to have her. It'd..." Matt trailed off as his voice grew rough from tears and he gave a hard cough before continuing. "It'd hurt too much to see her every day, not being used. Vince worked too hard to get her running to let her go to waste like that."
"We know he would want you to have her," Rebecca Kesler murmured, her eyes shining with tears. "He talked about you so much, Willow. I think he was just so happy to meet a girl who loved music as much as he did. Someone who seemed to understand the connection that he felt whenever he wrote a song or played a note."
"Our boy loved you," Matt said a bit gruff as he reached out to hold Willow's hands in his callused grip. "I know it from how he looked when he said your name, his eyes would just light up like a Christmas tree. We want to do right by him. Do what he'd want and we know that he'd want you to have Susie. That he'd want you and the boys to keep playing music, even if he's not there."
Darting her green eyes from one parent to the next, Willow swallowed the lump in her throat and said in tones thick with emotion, "I don't know what so say..."
"Then say yes," murmured Rebecca, covering Willow and her husband's hands with her own before she pressed the keys to Susie in her palm. "If you don't know what else to say then that's what your heart wants."
"All right," Willow whispered, gently taking the keys from Rebecca and staring hard at them. How many times had she'd seen Vince hold these keys in his own hands? "I'll take good care of her."
"We know you will," said Matt softly. He gazed at Willow for a long moment, then said reluctantly, "We have to talk to the other guests now. But..."
Matt wore a rather helpless expression as he looked to his wife who gave him a understanding smile. Rebecca once again reached out to hold Willow's hands in her own and said, "If you ever want to talk, about Vince, about anything, we'll be here for you. We know..." As a tear ran down Willow's cheek, Rebecca moved to gently wipe it away. "That you loved him, just like we did, and because of that we want to support you and the boys."
"They already know that they're family," Matt said a bit gruffly, clearing his throat again. "Practically raised them with Vince, after all. But you... we weren't sure, so we wanted to let you know. We're here, if you need us."
Releasing a shaky breath, Willow blinked back her tears and tried her best to formulate a reply but the words simply wouldn't come. That was all right though, because she was soon pulled into a hold by both Matt and Rebecca that was both comforting and protective.
In their hold, as she shared their pain, Willow finally let go of some of the ache eating away at her heart. Some but nowhere close to all of it.
Because she would never get rid of all of it. The ache would always be there as long as Vince was dead. It would never go away because of who he was and what he meant to her. It just hurt so much, so much that she didn't want to feel it. If she let herself feel the pain, then she was afraid she'd lose herself to it.
She'd drown in a sea of grief, of loss, and never return to the surface. Burying herself away in the hurt that she was feeling and numb herself to the outside world.
They eventually parted and Willow stood alone for a long moment before the feeling struck her and she knew.
She knew and she felt it. She felt him. She felt that connection, the one that she would never shake. And as she did, Willow felt that wall she'd been creating since the moment of Vince's death begin to crumble.
Turning around, green eyes met blue, and her heart stilled in her chest as she watched him approach. Tapered hands reached out, pulling her in for a close embrace and Willow buried herself in his arms, absorbing the automatic feeling of safety that they leant her.
"She killed him," Willow sobbed. Her face was buried in the crook of his shoulder and she breathed in the faint scent of his cologne. "He made her into a monster and she killed him."
"I know," Zac whispered, stroking Willow's hair, holding onto her for dear life. "We'll end this. I swear it."
"No," Willow shook her head fiercely, still clinging tightly to Zac, leaning against him. "It will never end. This will never be over, that's why he did this."
Unable to reply, Zac simply met Brendan's eyes. The other vampire stood on the opposite side of the huge room that had been rented out for the wake and his gaze was dark as it met Zac's.
Brendan knew what he had to do. He knew what they were all going through by being a part of his plans. He even knew what it would take to defeat him.
Which was exactly why he was now intercepting Faith, stopping her from leaving the wake before she did something stupid. Like trying to defeat Kakistos' on her own. Something Brendan knew just wasn't possible.
How he knew this, is another story altogether.
"It isn't smart, you know."
Hearing these words, Faith froze in her walk, turning her head slowly to look back at the lithe figure of Brendan who stood inches behind her. The vampire's curly hair fell softly in his eyes, barely obscuring his features that were almost too beautiful for a man.
"Yeah?" asked Faith without preamble. She knew that sooner or later the dark vampire and his lover would return to Sunnydale. "Why's that?"
"You can't hope to defeat him alone," Brendan continued, moving towards Faith, his dark eyes steadily boring into her own. "He's far too strong. His power is enough to warp the souls of men, to turn them into what they are not. Do you think you can change that solely by yourself? I didn't realize you were foolish."
"I'm not going after him," Faith said a bit darkly. "I'm going after her, I'm gonna catch her before she goes and hurts anyone else. It's the least I can do."
"Catch?" repeated Brendan, quirking an eyebrow.
"I can't kill her, not yet," said Faith quietly. "Not until I know for sure. Not until your boy tells me that there isn't any chance I can bring my sweets back."
"Very well," Brendan murmured. He took a slow step forward and met Faith's eyes. "I'm going with you."
Blinking at this, Faith gave a short laugh and said, "You gotta be kidding! Why would you wanna do that?"
"I have my reasons," said Brendan, his tone soft but his voice hard, and it brooked no argument. "This will be a fight that you could use help with." He tilted his head just slightly to one side and smiled. "Isn't it?"
"Huh," Faith shook her head. "All right," she said in wry tones. "You're with me, pretty boy. Lets go."
Brendan simply gave a low nod of concession before he turned to lock his eyes with Zac's. The vampires went through a type of silent communication before they broke their gaze and Brendan headed after Faith.
He had just exited the front door when he found their mission had been slowed already. This time by three people, one he recognized and two he didn't arguing with Faith. Narrowing his eyes, Brendan heaved a sigh.
They simply didn't have time for this.
"Are we going or not?" Brendan asked, walking towards the group as all eyes turned to him.
"Yeah, soon as they bug off," Faith replied.
"You," said Giles harshly as his gaze focused on Brendan. "I should have known that you were behind this. Why would you encourage her to do such a thing?"
"Someone must do it," Brendan said in way of explanation. "Doesn't it make sense for it to be us? Or do you want to continue to let her roam free? This is the most sensible action for us right now. Capture Cordelia and then bring her back to Zac." He paused to solemnly hold Giles gaze with his own. "Don't you agree?"
Giles appeared as if he was about to protest Brendan's words but then, he hung his head low and gave a great sigh before he murmured, "Yes, I'm afraid I do."
"Giles!" cried the blonde girl at his side.
"I'm sorry, Buffy, but they're right," Giles said, looking first to her then the svelte brunette. "We simply must capture her before she hurts more people. I'm sure that Jenny agrees with me on this."
"Jenny?" asked Buffy, turning to her Watcher. "Is he right? Do you think we should be doing this?"
"The timing is bad," Jenny said softly. "But the intentions are right. We have to do this, Buffy. The sooner the better. Faith... is just doing her job."
There was a pause of silence then Buffy clenched her jaw and turned to face Faith. The two Slayers locked eyes and the air between them was electric.
"If it's your job then it's my job too," Buffy said in hard tones. "I'm coming with you Faith."
"All right," said Faith, giving a slight nod.
"I'm driving," Brendan said, walking past the Slayers and towards a nearby Mercedes Benz. When he saw the smirk Faith gave him as she opened her mouth to make some sort of remark, he cut her off with, "Don't even think about it. We know about your Harley."
Chuckling at this, Faith followed after the dark vampire with Buffy close on her heels. All with hope in her heart. Hope that the three of them just might be able to succeed where she alone couldn't.
Succeed in capturing Cordelia. Capturing her and then, bringing her back to herself. Back to her true self.
Back to the girl that Faith loved.
"Ohhh, pretty!" Cordelia exclaimed, holding the diamond bracelet up in the air. Turning to face Kakistos she smiled widely. "You shouldn't have, Daddy."
"Nonsense," rumbled Kakistos, forming a proud smile on his features. "How couldn't I get you some sort of present after your latest performance?" Leaning closer to her, he murmured, "Killing that boy was an act of sheer brilliance on your part, my dear. I can feel the torment it's causing Nerine even as I speak and it's delicious."
Lowering the clasp on her bracelet and elegantly lifting her arm up to watch the diamonds glitter, Cordelia purred sensuously, "It is yummy, isn't it? Almost as good as the emotions that I felt coming from him while he died. Regrets and longing made his death taste much sweeter."
"They always do," Kakistos chuckled. He studied Cordelia for a moment longer and averted his eyes to look at Trick who stood on the far side of the room. "Speaking of tastes, why don't you go find a new toy to play with?" A slow smile forming on his face, Kakistos then suggested in low tones, "Perhaps the Slayers? They're searching for you quite busily right now, daughter."
"Not really," purred Cordelia coyly, her eyes meeting Kakistos and shining dangerously. "Faith is the one searching for me, the others are just following her lead. They want to protect her from me." Forming a dark expression, she said, "As if they could."
"Go find them," instructed Kakistos, his gaze boring forcefully into Cordelia. "And show them the true nature of the powers that your sire has given you."
"I'll have fun," Cordelia murmured, sauntering past Kakistos with a sultry swing of her hips. Pausing in the doorway, she smiled at him and asked, "Do you want me to bring you back any leftovers, Daddy?"
"Only if you think I'd enjoy them," Kakistos replied, smirking. Cordelia then left the room and all was quiet as Trick walked over to Kakistos.
"The spell is working," observed Trick soundly. "She seems to have lost any semblance of her true self. All that exists for her now is you." Looking at Kakistos, he then said with a touch of distaste, "Just as you wanted."
"Trick," murmured Kakistos slowly, meeting the other vampire's eyes. "Do I detect a hint of disapproval in your voice? Ah well," he shook his head a bit. "You can't understand what it is to be a sire until you've gone through it yourself. I've lost enough of my children to the fates, I'll not lose Cordelia. Especially now that she's showing some actual promise of becoming a real asset to my line."
"Do you really think she's strong enough to kill the Slayers alone?" asked Trick with genuine curiosity.
"Perhaps," Kakistos said thoughtfully, considering Trick's question carefully. "The pendant she wears is not only a spell which seals away her human soul but it's also a magnifier for the powers she possesses." He then turned to face Trick and his yellow eyes gleamed brightly. "MY powers at that, Trick. Everything I know, all of my skills in the dark arts, all of my experience in battles, have been transferred over to her through that pendant. There's also one last factor to consider," Kakistos said as he walked out of the room at a leisurely pace.
"What's that?" Trick asked, watching him exit.
"Cordelia," drawled Kakistos, stopping to look back at Trick with a smirk on his features. "Is young and strong. She has youthful energy on her side along with the wisdom of age through the spell of that pendant. Now, you tell me, Trick, do you think she can kill them?"
Standing still as Kakistos left him alone in the room Trick said softly to himself, "I don't know."
They came there for the books.
That's what they told themselves and really, that is what they did come there for. To retrieve the spell books that would help their friends battle Kakistos.
Somehow, their intentions got mixed up and muddled because of the emotions they were feeling. And as they walked into Amy's room, Xander softly closing the door behind him, the first thing that the couple found themselves doing was clinging to one another as if their very lives depended on it.
This continued for several moments before Amy lifted her head slightly, still remaining firmly in the safety of Xander's arms, as she did so. "Xander," she said in the barest of whispers, her voice shaky. "Don't ever die."
"You first," Xander replied, his voice rough with tears. "You promise me first then I'll promise you. But we both know that's all it will be... promises. Probably empty ones at that since we can't control that stuff."
"I know," Amy whispered, ducking her head in his shoulder and closing her eyes. "Still, it might make us feel better. Make us stop feeling so..."
"Empty?" suggested Xander quietly.
"Yeah," Amy murmured, opening her eyes and lifting her head again to meet his gaze. "Empty inside, it's like being outside of yourself, on the astral plain."
"We better not stay on that plain," Xander said in soft tones, reaching down to cup Amy's cheek. "Because we're both needed here. It'll stop hurting eventually."
"You think?" asked Amy plaintively.
"I know," said Xander, his voice confident.
Smiling at this, Amy's blue eyes seemed to gain a look of knowing, of firm decision, and then she moved in closer to give Xander a passionate kiss which he wholly returned once he regained his senses.
When she pulled away, Amy saw the question in his eyes and simply met it with a look of pure love and an honest need. Slipping her hands under his jacket, she then pushed it off his shoulders and onto the floor before doing the same for herself.
Once again, lips met lips, this time more intense, more hurried, as if they were trying to enforce with every touch of skin that they were there.
That they were alive.
Softly, they fell back onto Amy's bed, Xander covering her smaller frame so lightly she could barely feel him on her except for the heat of his kisses. Hoarse and shaky laughs were given as hands fumbled with buttons, and soon they were down to bodies alone.
"Amy," Xander murmured in husky tones, his eyes a bit wild with desire. "Do you have any...?" he blushed as he trailed off, unable to say the words.
Smiling softly up at him, Amy nodded and reached over to her night stand, opening up the top drawer to it, then she tenderly pressed the small foil covered object into the palm of his hand.
"I got these," Amy whispered, blushing just as much as Xander now. "Because I wanted to do this with you, I wanted to be close with you, and now... I want that more than ever." Her eyes tearing up, she said softly, "We could die at any time. We all know that, it's a part of living in Sunnydale, of living anywhere I guess. And I... I don't want to die without doing this, without showing you just how much I care for you." Lifting up her gaze, Amy met Xander's eyes as she gently cupped his face in her hands. "I love you, Xander Harris."
"Amy," breathed Xander, his eyes wide and his voice full of emotion. "I love you too."
Ripping open the foil package that glinted in the bare light of her bedroom, Amy gazed up at Xander and gave the sweetest smile that he'd ever seen her wear.
"Show me," said Amy, her voice full of longing. "And then," her tones turned playful. "I'll show you."
Taking the condom out of her hand, Xander then went about doing just that. And it was a task that they were hard at work on for quite some time. One that was everything they could have wanted and more than they could have possibly dreamed.
Best of all, it reminded them that they were alive. And that certain things just made life, despite all the pain and hardship, truly worth living.
The love of another person being first on the list.
She was alone.
For the first time in months, she was alone.
As long as Kendra could remember the Council had always been there. Her mind could recall, barely, at the age of three, seeing Padwin smiling over her, then him kneeling down and telling her of her future.
Of her destiny to become one of the chosen. To become a Slayer that would protect all of mankind.
Strangely, she didn't cry when leaving her parents. Something in her knew, instinctively, that this was a good thing. That this would change her for the better and cause her parents hearts to fill with endless pride for her.
And they did have that pride, it showed in every letter she received from them and the occasional talks on the phone that she was allowed. Yes, even the few times she went back home to see them in the flesh, it showed.
This made Kendra train all the harder. Becoming more dedicated to her destiny, to her chosen path in life, and more anxious for her chance to be called.
When would it come? Would it ever come? Was she never to feel that surge of power that she'd been told about, that she'd read about in the Slayer journals?
One day Kendra came to realize it didn't matter.
Powers didn't matter, activation didn't matter, she was truly a Slayer in every sense. She knew what she must do to protect the world and she knew her loyalty lay with those who raised her. With those who knew what was best and what had to be done for the good of all.
She was a Slayer in the eyes of the Watchers Council and they were proud of her. To Kendra, that was all that truly mattered. Because, to Kendra, it was only them and their opinions to that mattered.
Them and no others.
Now they trusted her enough to let her come to Sunnydale alone in order to kill a vampire that was doing unspeakable evils but, for some reason, wasn't being dealt with by the actual activated Slayers.
No matter what, she wouldn't fail them. This she vowed. So perched on top of the roof to a building that was close to Kakistos' hide out, Kendra waited patiently for her target to emerge on the street below.
She didn't have to wait long.
In fact, it seemed more as if her target was doing the waiting as she stood on the street below, her hands on her hips as she casually tilted her head back.
"Yoo hoo! Whoever's up there, I can sense you! And I can also sense you're not my little Faithie poo or the girlfriend snatching bimbo Buffy, so I'm just wondering who else would be stupid enough to spy on me. Why don't you come down here and introduce yourself before I'm forced to climb all the way up there to kill you?"
Grimacing on hearing this arrogant and very annoying speech, Kendra rose to her feet and moved into the dim light of a nearby street lamp to look down at the figure of Cordelia who was smirking up at her.
"Vampire," Kendra pronounced with clear loathing. "Make jokes while you still can because this is going to be the last night of your undead life."
"Ohhh," Cordelia drew the word out, clutching her hands to her chest as she did so. "See me as I tremble with fear. Horribly bad accent girl is going to kill me!" In a fast flash of motion, Cordelia shifted into her game face and her yellow eyes glittered dangerously. "I'm waiting for you to go ahead and try it."
In a swift movement, Kendra leapt off of the building, landing firmly in front of Cordelia who arched an eyebrow curiously at this. "Before we get started, just let me ask one thing," began Cordelia, studying the other girl closely. "Who in the hell are you? I don't remember eating anyone who looked somewhat like you, so I'm guessing I never devoured your family. And I'm pretty sure that you weren't one of my buddies from that bungle in life I like to call being human. So... I'm lost." Cordelia tipped her head to one side then continued, "Unless you're one of the many thousands of people my Daddy has pissed off, which just might make more sense. He's been around longer."
"You need to know nothing, vampire, except that I'm the one who will bring about your death," Kendra said in hard and sharp tones, retrieving a stake before she made a lunge at Cordelia, officially starting their fight.
Dodging Kendra's attack easily, Cordelia sighed and said, "That was just pathetic. Come on! Try for just a little bit, won't you? Make this somewhat entertaining for me before I have to use you for an evening snack."
Kendra merely growled in response while a spark of determination showed in her eyes. A spark that revealed that the fight was only just getting started.
Something that made Cordelia entirely happy.
"Where are we going?"
Frowning for the seventh time in barely a two minute span, Brendan looked back at Buffy's face in the rearview mirror and said simply, "To Cordelia."
"How do you know where she is?" Buffy pursued.
"I can feel her," Brendan murmured, fighting the urge to frown yet again.
The second Slayer was nothing like he expected her to be. She wasn't the dark and silent type like Faith was. Instead she was blonde and talkative type. Which for Brendan, who was also dark and silent, was more than a bit bothersome to deal with. Especially since all of her questions seemed very interrogative in nature.
Faith herself wasn't helping at all with the situation as it went on. Her gaze was focused out the window of the car, searching the streets with attentive eyes. Nothing that went on inside seemed to interest her, even if it happened to be annoying the driver of the car she was in.
"But how?" Buffy kept up her line of questioning. At this point, even Kate would've been proud of the job that she was doing, she refused to drop the topic so much. "I'm sorry but I like to know these things. I mean, you say you can find her but I'm doubting you have a way nifty Cordelia homing device in your brain. And if you--"
What happened next was as much a blur if anything. All Brendan and Buffy knew was one minute Faith was in the car and the next... well, she wasn't.
Gaping as she watched Faith open up her passenger door and jump out of the car, Buffy said in the most shocked of tones, "Faith...?"
"Cordelia," said Brendan grimly, screeching the car to a halt and getting out of it at top speeds.
Blinking at this, Buffy turned her gaze to look out her window and saw the figure of Cordelia in the midst of a very heated battle with a girl she'd never seen before.
A girl who, oddly enough, seemed to be winning.
At least it seemed that way until Faith arrived, tackling the girl with all of her Slayer strength as Cordelia collapsed from the assault.
"Great," muttered Buffy, observing this. "This is exactly the situation that we didn't want to get in."
Still, here they were. In the situation and there was really only one thing for Buffy to do since they were in it.
Get out of the car and help Faith in any way she could. That and find out just who was this mysterious girl who managed to fight Cordelia to a standstill and more.
And what exactly she wanted.
Faith didn't know who this girl was.
Faith didn't care who this girl was.
Faith didn't wonder who this girl was.
The only thing that mattered to Faith about this girl was the fact that she was fighting Cordelia.
She was fighting Cordelia and she was winning. Well, she was winning until Faith tackled her. Even now as Faith held her down with all of her Slayer strength, it was no easy task, the girl resisting her hold with all her might.
"Strong arentcha?" Faith grunted, moving upwards with the hard bump the girl gave to her hips as Faith sat on top of her back, pressing her into the ground. "Sorry but you're gonna have to stay here for now. I can't let you up if you're after Cordelia. She's sorta a pal."
The girl froze on hearing these words and Faith took this opportunity to dart her eyes to one side and take in the sight of a groggy Cordelia who Brendan approached carefully while Buffy ran towards them both.
"Buff," said Faith slowly, tilting her head towards Cordelia and Brendan. "Help them out, huh? And give the pretty boy this while you're at it." As she said this, Faith tossed a pair of handcuffs at Buffy who caught them with wide eyes. Seeing her expression, Faith chuckled and said, "It's nothing kinky, I got them from Kate a few days back. Figured they'd come in handy for capturing her."
"Even Slayers can't be too careful I guess," Buffy teased with a smile before running over to Brendan.
Chuckling again, Faith looked down at the girl she sat on top of who was now perfectly still. "So?" she began rather dryly. "Wanna tell me your name, Wonder Girl?"
"You are the Slayers," the girl said in a soft spoken but fierce voice that had the slightest accent.
"Yeah, that's us," Faith asked lowly, her eyes narrowing in speculation at the girl trapped under her.
"Why do you protect the vampire?" asked the girl, her tone controlled but demanding at the same time.
"Because we have to," said Faith quietly. Without helping it, her eyes went back to Cordelia who was in the process of being handcuffed by Brendan. "Cordelia isn't a bad person, someone is controlling her, holding her human soul back. We have to help her."
"She's murdered innocents," the girl growled. "You would let her go unpunished? Soul or not, she is a monster now and she has blood on her hands. The Slayers are those meant to fight and kill evil, not attempt to reform it."
"How do you know so much about us?" Faith asked, observing the girl carefully. "Who are you?"
"I thought I knew you," the girl hissed. "But I can see that I never did and neither did the Council. When I tell them of this, they'll revoke all of your rights as--"
"The Council?" interrupted Faith, her eyes narrowing more and her voice growing harsh. Grabbing the girl's arm and squeezing it tight, she asked, "What do they gotta do with this? Did they hire you to take out Cordelia, is that what's going on here?"
Turning her head slightly, the girl ignored Faith's questions and glared up at her then said in harsh tones, "I am who they will name as the new Slayer. I am Kendra and I tell you now that your actions go against everything the Council stands for." Her eyes filled with bitterness, Kendra spat at Faith, watching in certain satisfaction as it ran down her cheek. "And you are scum."
"You," Faith began in trembling tones of pure rage as she wiped the spit off her cheek and flung it on the hard ground she sat Kendra on. "Don't know jack shit."
Then before Kendra could even think of responding, Faith lifted up her fist and brought it down hard on her head, knocking the girl out instantly.
Rising to her feet, Faith stared at the unconscious Kendra and her eyes narrowing, she said darkly, "Give my regards to the Council." Walking over to the others and seeing the questioning look in Buffy's eyes, Faith said, "I'll explain the whole deal later, Buff."
Nodding at this and seeming to accept that soon enough she'd be told the full story, Buffy turned to face an awakening Cordelia and said, "She must've been strong."
"No, just sneaky," Brendan murmured, reaching into his jacket and pulling out a small dart. "This was laced with an extraordinarily strong tranquilizer. If I didn't know his powers I'd be surprised she's waking up now.
"His powers?" Buffy echoed his words, taking advantage of having her turn to frown.
She couldn't say anything more though, because in the next moment Cordelia woke up and fixed her instantly calculating gaze on all of them, assessing her situation.
Then the most unusual thing happened.
It wasn't Faith that her gaze stayed on. Instead it was Brendan and as it stayed on him, a lazy and long smile spread across her beautiful features as she chuckled.
"Brother," Cordelia drawled with delight.
The only thing Faith and Buffy could do was stare at Brendan and stare at him with all of their might.
All while wondering just what this meant.
The wake had long since ended and Willow found herself at the magic shop with Zac, Giles, and Jenny. She'd almost had to go home with her parents but some smooth and charming talk from Zac kept her from doing so.
Somehow her parents had known from talking with him that wasn't what Willow needed or wanted right now.
That now was a time for her to be with friends. Even if they didn't exactly trust her friends as of yet.
Giles and Jenny were in the front of the shop, quietly discussing business, leaving Willow and Zac all alone as they sat on the far end of the room at the round table near all the various low level spell books.
"I want to kill him myself."
Though these were the first words Willow had spoken to him in over a half an hour, Zac didn't appear at all surprised on hearing them. He simply nodded his head in understanding and gazed at her with soft eyes.
"I understand," murmured Zac. "I wanted to kill the Master myself, but wasn't able. Faith--"
"Won't kill Kakistos," Willow cut in, lifting her gaze to bore hard green eyes into Zac. "I'm going to do it, I'm going to see him die by my hands. It's only fitting since I was the one who taught him magic. I helped created him all those years ago and now, I'll help destroy him."
"And Cordelia?" Zac asked, his eyes lidded. "If I can't detect a human soul being held back inside of her, is it you who will kill her too? Will that bring him back? Will that even make you feel better about his loss?"
"Cordelia was made by Kakistos," Willow said coolly. "And I made Kakistos in my former life with my teachings. This is all a great circle, repeating itself but I'll bring it to a stop with both of their deaths if necessary."
"Will it bring him back?" Zac repeated firmly.
Shaking her head, her eyes full of tears, Willow shouted, "No! Nothing will! But... but at least..."
"Justice will be done?" offered Zac, snorting derisively as he said this. "You don't believe that." He ducked his head and reaching out to hold Willow's hands in his own, he said, "Don't do this... don't walk down the easy path, twisting your emotions to fall into the darkness. That isn't you, Willow." Zac paused before he added in gentle tones, "That isn't the girl Vince loved."
"He's dead," Willow said, her voice rough. "And so is the girl that he loved. I caused him to be killed... I..."
"You loved him," murmured Zac, his voice echoing of truth as he cupped Willow's chin in his hand so their eyes would meet. "I doubt that he ever regretted that you felt that way, so don't you regret it now. None of this is your fault, Willow. Please believe that."
"I wish I could," breathed Willow shakily.
It was quiet as Zac considered what to say next when the ring of the bell sounding that the front door to the shop was opening, entered the air. Turning his head he froze at what he saw next.
Not at Cordelia and her being held forcibly by Brendan while Faith and Buffy trailed quietly behind. Or even the fact that for some reason Cordelia had duct tape covering her lovely mouth. But rather, he froze at what he saw surrounding her.
And what he saw as an aura of complete darkness. Overwhelming and thick, almost impossible to breach. The sight left him with no doubts whatsoever.
Cordelia did have a human soul and that black cloud, that horrible force around her, was holding it back with a power that he had never seen before.
Watching the play of emotions cross Zac's handsome features, Faith neared him and said, "Well?"
"It's there," said Zac softly and one could practically feel the relief from everyone in the room. "I don't know what magic is holding it back but it's stronger than any I've encountered. I'm not sure how to help her."
"The pendant," Brendan murmured, his eyes locking with Zac's. "That is what he's using to restrain her human soul. Kakistos did as much to me while I was still in his grasp. Before the Master freed me."
"How did he free you?" Zac asked while everyone else gaped at Brendan on hearing this information.
"Powerful magic," supplied Brendan in somber tones. "Holy magic of beings beyond even the gods."
"Uhm... and that's who?" Buffy asked impatiently.
"The Powers That Be," Brendan answered, looking Buffy calmly in the eyes as he held Cordelia tight.
Instantaneously, everyone in the room except Zac, Brendan, and the captive Cordelia, met their gazes and all exclaimed together, "Amy!"
A few miles away, Amy Madison released an enormous sneeze as she put on her bra, having no idea at all about just what she and her magic were in for next.