It Starts With Faith
Though his voice was low and gravely, hardly ever rising into a shout, it seemed to shake everyone present in the room. They knew that this was important indeed.
And the person who knew it the most was the person who delivered the news. Their second in command. The one whose employees got paid to take orders from their boss while everyone else just did what Kakistos said because, well, they feared him.
"There's two Slayers guarding the Hellmouth," supplied Trick calmly as he regarded his employer. "I'm not sure how it happened but it did." Tilting his head to one side, he asked, "Still want to go there?"
Out of the shadows, a soft chuckle filled the air and moving forward to reveal his ancient features in the dim artificial light of the room, Kakistos smiled.
"Of course I still want to go," Kakistos murmured. "Killing one Slayer would've been fun but two? Two will be a joy all in itself. No matter how it happened."
"If you say so," Trick replied with a shrug. "I don't think that this is so smart myself, boss. We should play it smart and safe. If one Slayer is trouble then two are going to cause big problems. Especially since they're taking it upon themselves to guard the Hellmouth. Trying to release all of its power will be a lot more difficult to accomplish now."
"Yes," said Kakistos in rumbling tones as his smile widened and grew more dangerous. "It will certainly be more of a challenge. And I love challenges. They're what keep things interesting after thousands of years of existence."
"Right," said Trick while he heaved a sigh. Adjusting his tie, he asked, "When do you want to leave?"
"Immediately," Kakistos replied, sinking back into the shadows. "The sooner that we arrive in Sunnydale, the better. I feel like causing some trouble for these Slayers."
Turning on his heel, Trick shook his head then quietly said to himself, "I should've never taken this job."
"A Oracle, a Witch, and a Hellmouth."
Smirking as he looked at the far off expression on Buffy's face, Xander said, "Yes! It's the long lost sequel to the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe."
"Hush," said Amy fondly as she gave his hand that she was holding a light squeeze. "Don't tease her. Finding all this out at once must be a big shock."
"So... you're a witch?" asked Buffy slowly.
"Yeah," Amy said quietly. "Well, I'm not much of one. Not compared to my Mom." Her face then grew sad and she said, "She was just a little too good at witchcraft and didn't really care how she used her powers. Lately I've been studying her books... the spells that she ignored. Healing spells, locating spells, stuff that might help people instead of hurting them."
"And she's darn tootin' good at them too," Xander informed with a wide smile. He then pulled back his sleeve to show his arm, he said, "I got a pretty bad cut when I went down into the sewers to finish off the toilet demons and Amy healed it up perfectly. Can't even see it now."
"Cool," said Buffy with an easy smile, deciding that she most definitely didn't want to know what Xander had meant when he said toilet demons. Meeting Amy's eyes that were tinged with worry, she said, "I know who I'll be coming to if I get hurt on patrol." She paused then asked, "How do Willow's powers work?"
Both Amy and Xander were silent as they considered this, finally Xander said, "We don't know. She hasn't told us really. All we know is that she can predict things. She sees stuff in the past, the present, and even the future that no one else can see. She just seems to... know things."
"Wow," Buffy said as her eyes went wide. "That's sounds really serious. I guess that's why she looks the way she does, huh?"
"The way she looks?" Amy asked in puzzlement.
"Yeah, you know, all mysterious and I can see into your soul when I look into your eyes, looks," said Buffy as she gave little hand motions. "It's this powerful look. Like she knows way more than everyone else."
"That's probably because she does," said Xander wryly. "The Willster is our big living dictionary of weirdo stuff these days. It's kind of strange to think about."
"Yeah," Buffy agreed softly. She averted her gaze and was silent for a moment before she turned back to the couple then said, "The Hellmouth is just what it sounds like, right? I don't want to get confused here."
"It's the mouth of Hell, yup," said Amy with a crooked smile. "Lucky us, located on one of the prime fiery orifices of Hell. It's great for tourism, y'know."
"I'm sure," said Buffy as she laughed.
"No, picture it," Xander continued for his girlfriend as he formed an impish smile. "A big amusement park with tons of rides and booths called 'Hellmouth Land' that's got the nifty catch phrase like it's 'Hell-a-riffic'!"
"Hellacious too," Amy added playfully.
"Hell-tastic," Buffy offered quickly.
"Hell-a-roo!" exclaimed Xander.
There was a slight pause as Amy and Buffy studied Xander carefully then repeated dubiously, "Hell-a-roo?"
"Hey, I think that's a great catch phrase," said Xander indignantly. "It combines the flamey doom of Hell with the cuddly fuzziness of Kangaroos."
"Right..." said Amy and Buffy in skeptical tones.
And as Xander further went into his theories on just why Hell-a-roo was a great catch phrase, the few students who could overhear them in the quad decided that they were better off just forgetting they ever overheard the conversation.
Because it was just a little TOO weird for gossip.
Shocking isn't it?
The table wasn't that big but somehow, to Giles it seemed to be the length of an entire ocean.
Perhaps because Faith and Buffy gave off that impression with their body language and the general mood of discomfort that they caused in those around them.
To be frank, they weren't getting along.
To be franker, they weren't getting along at all.
To be the most frank that anyone could possibly be in the entire universe, they were getting along horribly.
They tried... well, they attempted to try but in the two days that had past since Buffy's cold statement in the library they'd made no progress at all on forming a bond.
Or even forgiving each other. Both Slayers still had this silent grudge against one another. The funny thing was that everyone else was getting along fine. Buffy got along terrifically with Amy and Xander, and Cordelia also, even though the tall brunette was Faith's girlfriend, Willow was Willow, refusing to take sides, and Buffy was beginning to warm up a bit to Giles and listening to his guidance in the realm of Slaying.
Yes, Buffy got along with everyone.
Everyone but Faith.
That was made more than abundantly clear from the hard looks that they were giving each other from across the expanse of the library table.
"If this gets any more uncomfortable then I'm going to turn into a human wedgie," Xander finally said.
Immediately after he said this everyone focused withering looks on him and he smiled triumphantly.
"Ah ha! My plan succeeded! The discomfort has shifted into the 'Xander's a big old dweeb and lets stare at him' tradition!" he exclaimed happily.
"Real funny, X," said Faith with a chuckle. Diverting her gaze to Giles, she asked, "Got any info about what evils are popping up?"
"Not concise information but rather rumors that have been circulating lately," murmured Giles, removing his glasses to wipe them clean. "Disturbing ones."
"Disturbing how?" pursued Buffy.
"The local demons are spreading tales of a vampire older than the Master and more powerful than him as well. One who wants to seize control of the hidden power of the Hellmouth to increase his own," Giles said in solemn tones. "His name is Kakistos. The Cloven One."
"Cloven?" asked Amy. "Why is he called that?"
"He's lived so long that his hands and feet have become cloven," revealed Giles. "His power is great and so are his followers. If he is indeed headed for Sunnydale then we're going to have a great deal more troubles ahead."
"Swell," said Cordelia in sardonic tones. "Like we didn't have enough problems here in Sunnyhell."
"No worries, sweets," murmured Faith as she entwined her fingers with Cordelia's and lightly kissed her palm. "We'll get rid of this guy, no sweat."
"Don't be so sure of that."
Together, everyone shifted their attention to Willow who had been silent throughout the conversation. The redhead was sitting alone on the stairs of the library with a faraway look in her dark green eyes.
"Kakistos wants to release the power of the Hellmouth but he wants something else, something far more dangerous," Willow said in quiet tones. Moving her gaze, she locked her eyes on Faith and Buffy. "He wants to bring about the death of the Slayers."
"That's just spiffy," said Buffy sarcastically. "I didn't even want this job and now it's going to kill me."
"Join the club," Faith said darkly. Tenderly removing her hand from Cordelia's, she rose to her feet then said, "I'm going on patrol." Looking at Buffy, she added, "Because it's my job. Even if doing it kills me again."
Faith then stalked out of the library and the entire group was silent before Buffy sighed and stood up.
"I know, I know," Buffy said in weary tones as she waved her hands. "I'll go after her and apologize. And help her out with the patrolling."
Everyone in the library was silent again before Amy said rather sheepishly, "They're a fun pair."
"Yeah, a huge huggy barrel of laughs," Xander said dryly. "A barrel filled with deadly owie laughs."
"Yes, well, they'll eventually find common ground," said Giles in tones less confident than his words. "Surely working together will help their attitudes."
"That's warped logic if you ask me," said Cordelia.
"Why do you say that?" Giles asked curiously.
"They're two people who dislike each other, are trained to kill, have a variety of pointy and deadly weapons readily at their disposal, all alone without any witnesses," Cordelia elaborated grimly as she stared at Giles.
Paling significantly, Giles squeaked, "Oh dear."
"Exactly," Cordelia nodded.
"Uhm... if you feel that way then why did you let Buffy go after Faith?" asked Amy.
"Because my Faith wouldn't hurt anyone," said Cordelia with clear confidence as she smirked. "Even if she has an overwhelming desire to. And besides, Buffy IS a Slayer too. She can take care of herself." Cordelia then paused and added, "At least, I hope she can."
"Oh boy," Xander said with a groan. "Why do I have a verrrrry bad feeling about all of this?"
"It's karma at work," said Willow softly as she walked down the stairs and past the group. "Where the Slayer is, chaos will follow. With two, the chances of that can only increase. And increase greatly."
Watching as Willow departed from the library, Cordelia said drolly, "Being an Oracle has done wonders for her annoyingly optimistic point of view."
"It sure has," agreed Amy sadly.
There were a few select things that could cheer Faith up when she was in a horrible mood.
The first was Cordelia. The second was any sugar based candy product. The third was television. And mixed in there somewhere were Giles and her other friends.
But there was also a silent member on her list. Something that no one really knew cheered her up. And that was getting in some good slayage during patrol. Just being able to release her aggressions on creatures that actually deserved it helped Faith immensely in dealing with her bad mood.
Of course, patrolling and slaying didn't really help her mood any when the person that caused her bad mood was following her around as she did it.
"Just go home already," Faith muttered sourly to Buffy who was trailing along behind her eyeing the turf.
"Wish I could but I promised the others that I'd help you out with patrolling," replied Buffy.
"You're not helping me," said Faith as she turned around to meet Buffy's eyes. "A Slayer who doesn't wanna do her job isn't a help to anyone. So just go." Her eyes narrowed and she said, "In case you haven't noticed, no one is forcing you to work with us. If doing what's right is such a horrible thing for you then quit already and so we can stop hearing you bitch about it."
"Shut up!" Buffy said hotly. "This is all your fault anyway! If you hadn't done such a lousy job at slaying vamps I never would have been called and--"
"And my life would still be perfect," said Faith in mocking tones. "Yeah, yeah. I heard it all before. But it's not about your life or mine. It's about saving other peoples. This job isn't all twinkies and filling for me either but I keep doing it because it's important." Faith paused then steadily met the other Slayer's eyes and said quietly, "And we're the only ones who can do it. We're special, Buff. You have to try and accept that."
Staring at Faith in dim shock, Buffy sighed then turned her eyes away and asked, "Why does it have to be so hard?"
"Sometimes the best things in life are hard," Faith revealed wisely. "I mean, school is good for you but no one can't say that it's not a pain in the ass."
"Good point," said Buffy with a chuckle. She paused to study Faith carefully then asked, "Do I really bitch a lot?"
Meeting Buffy's eyes, Faith formed a slow smile then said, "Nah, not really. You just do it around me mostly."
"Sorry," Buffy said sheepishly. "You just..."
"Drive you nuts?" Faith offered. When Buffy gave a sheepish nod to go along with her tone of voice, Faith chuckled and said, "Yeah, well, you drive me nuts too."
"We're even then," said Buffy with satisfaction.
"Yeah, or something like that," replied Faith, wearing an easy smile on her sharp features. She then formed a serious expression and said, "Buff... can we try and get along better from now on? Because if what G-man says is true then we're gonna need each other's help. And I dunno about you but I sorta like the idea of fighting next to someone who understands the job and what it's all about."
"I feel the same way," said Buffy quietly, her hazel eyes softening. Offering her hand to Faith, she said, "Want to shake on it?"
"Yeah," Faith said in equally quiet tones. As their eyes locked, she said playfully, "Faith and Buffy, the most kick ass chosen two, hereby make a promise to stop having stupid fights all of the time."
"And to fight together to stop naughty evil," Buffy added quickly, a wide smile spreading across her features.
"And to help each other pass Geometry," said Faith in sly tones as she offered Buffy her best sneaky smile.
"Geometry? C'mon, you don't need help with that," said Buffy with surprise as she removed her hand from Faith's while she smiled. "You got a better grade than me on our last test."
"Yeah, but you understand the new stuff we're covering now way better than me," Faith argued. The two Slayers were walking side by side now, continuing on their patrol. "Do I gotta remind you which one of us kept raising her hand all the time while the other one was hiding her head all low hoping the teacher didn't notice?"
"All right, all right," Buffy chuckled. "But if I'm not the best tutor in the world don't freak out on me."
"Freak out? Me? Never," drawled Faith with a smirk.
"Right," said Buffy slowly as she smiled. Stopping in her tracks, she poked Faith lightly in the side and then said, "Drunken vamps at something o'clock."
"Something o'clock? Is that army time?" asked Faith humorously. She followed Buffy's gaze so her eyes rested on the group of swaying vamps trying their best to walk down the street without falling. So far they weren't doing so well as one in the group was toppled over in a heap. "Damn," Faith muttered lowly. "Wonder what's got them all upset?"
"Maybe they sucked the blood of alcoholics?" said Buffy helpfully. When Faith shot her a droll look she then said, "What? It could happen. I once staked this vamp in L.A. who would only drink the blood of vegans."
Shaking her head, Faith said dryly, "So it's true when they say that nothing but weirdos live out there in L.A."
"Hey!" exclaimed Buffy, catching Faith's barb.
"Sorry, Buff, I'm just jokin'," said Faith with a chuckle. "You know that you're my favorite Slayer. Anyway, lets stop analyzing them and start the staking. Will's set starts in a half an hour."
"Good point," said Buffy. Looking to Faith, she smiled then said, "It's Slayer time?"
"Definitely," Faith said with a huge grin.
And with that, the two Slayers began their attack on the drunk vampires who didn't know what hit them. Whether this was because they were drunk or Faith and Buffy were so efficient in their attack, no one really knows.
But one thing was known for sure after that night.
The Slayers were no longer arguing and were unquestionably on each others side when it came to doing their job.
Which meant nothing good for the local demons.
No, nothing good at all.
"We're strangers apart, sailing on the sea of confusion, but I can't find you, hidden away by tears in the night..."
As she sang the lyric, something made Willow lift her head from where it was focused on the keys of the piano and when she did, her heart warmed as she saw Faith and Buffy.
Faith and Buffy with smiles on their faces, appearing to be having quite the pleasant conversation together. Pausing in her walk, Faith gave Willow a jaunty wave, which Willow smiled at as she went into the final lyrics of her song. Buffy in the meantime, was frozen in her tracks, gazing at Willow with a sort of awe as the redhead went back into her performance mode, the lights accenting her features while she let herself become swept up in her song.
And when it was all over, Buffy was still staring at Willow with a quiet look of admiration in her eyes before she headed off to join the rest of the gang at their usual booth.
"Hey Buff," Faith greeted the other Slayer as she approached. "Guess what? Sweets here disagrees with your expert opinion just like I told you that she would."
"She does?" asked Buffy with humorous surprise. Sitting down next to Faith, she leaned forward to look at the tall brunette and said, "Are you crazy? Jem was clearly a better dresser than She-ra. She accessorized."
"She-ra had go go boots," said Cordelia as she quirked an eyebrow. "Need I say more?"
"Go go boots? Please," Buffy rolled her eyes. "Jem had a million of those in her closet I bet."
"In her little hologram earrings you mean. She only had good clothes because the hologram lady designed them for her especially," Cordelia pointed out in smug tones.
"At least she had more than two outfits. She-ra only had one as herself and then one as Adora," disputed Buffy.
"Who needs variety when you look hot?" Cordelia sniffed. "And She-ra is clearly hotter than Jem." Turning to her girlfriend, she asked, "Right, Faith?"
"Uhm... I dunno..." began Faith slowly.
"C'mon, Faith," said Buffy, now fixating her attention on the dark haired Slayer as well. "You know that Jem is way more of a hottie than She-ra. She was a rock star."
"Her singing sucked," said Cordelia bluntly.
"What?!" cried Buffy in offended tones. "Jem was a great singer! It was the rest of the band that sucked."
"She sucked," repeated Cordelia who turned her attention back to her silent girlfriend. "The only reason that she could sing was because of the hologram. Right, Faith?"
"Uh... I dunno..." Faith echoed herself again.
"I'm thinking Faith should've never brought this conversation into the light," said Amy humorously.
"I don't know about that," said Xander in thoughtful tones as he held her hand in his own. "It's entertaining us and only making her uncomfortable. That's a plus in my book."
"That's true," Amy admitted with a chuckle.
Suddenly, a sharp and unpleasant note rang out throughout the club and the entire group looked up to see Willow leaning against her piano, clutching her head in her hands, eyes squeezed tightly shut.
"Will!" exclaimed Faith in panicked tones. Moving past Buffy who'd slid out of the booth, she dashed towards the stage and her friend who still looked to be in pain.
Then in an easy movement, Faith swept the petite redhead up into her arms and carried her backstage and away from the prying eyes of the crowd, well aware of her friends trailing after her along with the rest of Willow's band.
"What's wrong?" asked Derrick, the bass guitarist, with a worried expression on her face.
"It's not another headache is it?" Charlie, the lead guitarist, asked as he looked to his bandmates with concern. "She said that she was taking pills to help her with those."
"Hey, Red," murmured Vince, the drummer, now kneeling next to Faith who was holding Willow in her arms. "Do you want me to go get your migraine medicine for you?"
"No, that's all right..." Willow finally said in soft tones. Lifting up her head, she smiled at Vince and said, "You guys go and cover for me, okay? I just need to rest a little."
"You sure you don't want us to stay?" Vince asked quietly. He paused to form a goofy smile and said, "Because if we go out there without you, your fans are gonna kill us."
"Strangle them, strangle them, strangle them!" Charlie immediately chanted and as soon as he said this everyone in the band, including Willow, broke into hearty laughter while those not in on the joke simply looked puzzled.
"Hey, if they come after us, I'll push Red's piano in front of me for protection," said Derrick with a smirk. "That thing has to weigh a ton. Sure feels like it when we move it."
"Yeah, but Red can move it easy," said Vince. "She's been eating her super duper steroid wheaties."
"I am the Red-a-nator," said Charlie in an extremely bad Arnold Swartzenegger expression. "I will move the piano with all of my tiny girl muscles and squish you allllllll..."
At this, all in the band laughed again, while Faith and the others shared yet another puzzled look.
"You guys," said Willow with a soft and fond chuckle. Giving Vince a light shove on the shoulder she said, "Get going already. They're already starting to shout."
"Shout it all out," Charlie murmured, turning his head towards the stage where calls from worried fans were indeed starting to fill the air. "Red's right. We better get out there."
"Rest, huh?" said Vince quietly as he gave Willow a soft smile. "We'll take care of the barbarians."
"Conan killers we are," Derrick nodded before the band wandered back onstage.
Moments later, they heard Vince announce, "We're Prophecy, minus the girl. Everyone's favorite redhead doesn't feel so hot and is taking a rest. Be a good audience and don't strangle us, okay? She'll be back soon enough."
"Dorks," Willow said in fond but weak tones. Green eyes met worried brown ones and she said, "I guess you want to know what that was all about, huh?"
"Since when do you get migraines, Will?" asked Faith solemnly as she searched the redhead's features carefully.
"I don't get them a lot," said Willow quietly, though her voice echoed of guilt. "Just on and off."
"What's going on?" Cordelia asked, moving to sit next to Faith. Reaching out to hold Willow's hand in her own, she said, "Please tell us, Will. Maybe we can help."
"You can't," Willow choked out painfully, diverting her eyes and unconsciously moving further into Faith's hold. "I have to have them... they're because of my visions."
"Your visions?" asked Buffy.
"Yeah," said Willow with a sigh. "I had one onstage. Sometimes I have them, and they're not so bad, they're just like a little pinprick, and it's like ow! But then they go away and it's like remembering a dream that you liked and want to get back so you go back to sleep but instead of dreaming what you just did you dream of Richard Nixon in a pink tutu. Which isn't good at all but this vision wasn't like that at all. It was like some of the other ones which are like this huge metal hammer pounding down on your skull and everything gets all blurry. Sort of like being drugged, even though I don't know what it's like being drugged because I only take Nyquil. Well, now I take these migraine pills but--"
"Will," interrupted Faith calmly. "Calm down."
Taking several deep breaths and closing her eyes, Willow was silent before opening her eyes. She then said a bit sheepishly, "Sorry. I think that I'm okay now."
"What was your vision about?" asked Xander.
Meeting all of their gazes, Willow wore a worried expression and said, "Kakistos."
It was a rather odd situation for Giles, having five teenagers camped out in the middle of his living room, but here they were and it was all a part of his job as a Watcher.
But still... it was an odd situation.
Adjusting his wire rim glasses, Giles asked, "What exactly did you see in your vision, Willow? And please, try to recall as many details as you can. It will help immensely."
"There's not much to recall," admitted Willow with a sigh. Sinking back into the couch, her green eyes darkened as she said, "I saw Kakistos arriving in town. He's here. I saw him and another vampire in a limo. They killed a worker at a fast food restaurant."
"Do you know where he is now?" asked Faith.
"Yes," Giles murmured, turning back to Willow. "Do you know the location of his headquarters?"
"No," Willow said quietly, shaking her head rather emphatically. Lifting her gaze to reveal calm and almost hard green eyes, she enforced, "I only saw him driving into town."
"But how do you know it's him?" Cordelia asked.
"I just know," said Willow, turning to her friend. She then offered a wry smile and added, "Plus I saw that he had cloven hands. That means he can only be Kakistos."
"What're we gonna do, G-man?" Faith asked as she shifted her attention to her Watcher. "We know he's in town but we don't know where he's at. Should we flush him out?"
"No," said Giles, looking thoughtful. "I don't think that's a smart idea at this time. The first thing we should do is gather as much information on him as possible. Find out how many people he has on his side. Of course," he directed a meaningful look at everyone. "That can wait until we get a good night's sleep."
"And Giles, the mighty parental man, appears!" Xander exclaimed. "I knew it was just a matter of time."
"Funny," said Giles dryly. "Now all of you scat. Go home and try to get some sleep." Moving his gaze to Willow his tone softened and he said, "Especially you. Rest and try to relax. We'll take care of this, don't worry."
"I know," said Willow softly. "I know that you'll try."
The latter was said so quietly that only one person really noticed it. The same person who noticed the strange look of quiet determination lurking inside of Willow's green eyes. And it was that person who ended up following after her that night.
Because they knew, they just knew, that the last place that Willow was headed was for her home.
Sometimes, the person who can best recognize another's secret thoughts, innermost feelings, and deciding actions, is the one who just met them.
Which was exactly why Buffy followed after Willow.
She could see something that no one else could. And what she saw was dark and was dangerous. And it was something that Willow couldn't handle alone.
Of that much, Buffy was for certain.
"This town is boring," remarked Iris with a sigh. "Why did Trick ever want to come to this place?"
"The Hellmouth's here," commented one of her fellow vampires. "That's gonna help our connections what with all of the demons that it attracts with its powers."
"Legend has it the Hellmouth makes us stronger," another vampire added, while he kept scanning the alleys. "If we're here long enough, maybe our strength will increase."
"I know, but it's still boring," Iris drew the word out, the frustration evident in her voice. The pretty blonde looked down the empty street and said, "This town isn't even worth the time it takes to do a check. Nothing's going on. We should've stayed in New York and taken over that company with all those Logmar demons. They offered us forty percent of the stock options."
"Kakistos pays us pretty well," said the first vampire. He paused to smirk and added, "For somebody who thinks that Visa and Mastercard are ancient Greek gladiators."
The other vampires in the group all chuckled but Iris remained silent, stopping in her tracks. Turning around, she shifted into her game face and hissed, "Fresh meat, boys."
Iris and the other vampires watched carefully as a figure emerged from the shadows. It was a mortal girl with red hair who had a disturbingly calm look in her green eyes.
"Not exactly what?" asked Iris, her game face still on as she wondered why this girl wasn't scared of her.
"Not exactly fresh meat," murmured Willow, a hint of humor shining in her eyes. "My body might be young but my mind is anything but. I know who you are and what you want."
"How is that, little girl?" Iris asked condescendingly.
"I was and am, Nerine of Ithaca," said Willow in calm tones. "Although now I go by a much different name."
"You... can't be Nerine of Ithaca... she died after the massacre in 1307," said Iris in shaky tones, shifting out of her game face just from shock alone.
"Kakistos has taught you well," Willow said with quiet humor. "But has he failed to teach you that those with the strongest wills are the ones most likely to be reborn and still have their original powers and memories retained." She paused then said, "You're obviously an intelligent member of the kin, so why don't you leave this town? With two Slayers and my own presence it's hardly a safe place to be."
"You dare... to tell me what to do?" Iris snarled, shifting back into her game face as her eyes glowed yellow. "I don't care who you used to be, little girl, you're going to die."
Just as Iris moved forward, running at Willow with a wild look in her eyes, a wiry figure landed firmly in front of the redhead to deliver a strong kick to Iris's stomach.
Watching the blonde vampire fly backwards and into her comrades, Buffy smirked then said, "Sorry, but nobody dies on my patrol. Especially a new friend of mine."
"Who are you?" Iris hissed, slowly moving to her feet.
"I'm Buffy, a vampire Slayer," said Buffy easily. "Just one of two in this territory. Which means bad news for you as I'm expecting my partner in carnage to arrive any minute now. When she does, mass stakings will ensue."
Narrowing her eyes, Iris shifted her gaze to Willow then said darkly, "This isn't over, little girl. Even if you are who you say you are, it won't matter to Kakistos."
"I'm sure that it won't," Willow said as she formed a small smile. "He was always the impetuous sort."
Scowling at this, Iris turned on her heel and seconds later, she and the other vampires disappeared from sight.
After a moment of silence, Willow turned to regard Buffy then said, "You let them go."
"I can stake them anytime," Buffy said with a shrug. "I just wanted to keep her from hurting you, that's all."
"Faith's not coming, is she?" asked Willow wryly.
"Nope," replied Buffy, forming a smile. "That was a pretty good fake out on my part, don't you think?"
"Very good," said Willow with a nod. She turned, beginning her walk down the street as she asked, "How did you know I was going to be here?"
"I followed you," revealed Buffy. "It was easy enough."
"You followed me?" Willow blinked. "But... why?"
"I knew you were going to do something stupid," said Buffy with a shrug. She paused to study Willow closely then continued, "I could see it in your eyes back at Giles place."
"My eyes?" echoed Willow in confusion.
"Yeah," said Buffy as she nodded. Meeting their eyes she said solemnly, "If you want to know what a person really thinks, is really feeling inside, all you have to do is look. Look with everything inside of you and you can't go wrong. When I looked at you I knew you were hiding something. Something you didn't want the others to know. Which probably meant that it was dangerous. So I decided to follow after you."
Willow's look of confusion slowly changed into one of happiness and blushing a bit, she murmured, "It's lucky for me that you did. It turns out that I did need your help."
"That's better," said Buffy with a smile. "You look a whole lot nicer with a smile on your face. It's a lot better than that gloomy face you've been wearing lately."
"You think that I'm gloomy?" asked Willow, dashing to catch up with Buffy who was walking ahead of her.
"Well, I just met you, but yeah," said Buffy. Turning to regard Willow she said, "You seem like you put way too much responsibility on your shoulders. Thinking about stuff that you can't do much about. You sort of have that same look when you play, I saw it tonight... but it was so much more beautiful. Like you were at peace. All the other times you get that look you just seem gloomy and upset."
"What look do I get?" asked Willow softly.
"This mysterious look..." Buffy said, her head tilting back to look up at the night sky. "It's like you're communing with everything around you. Listening to all of it, having some kind of silent conversation in your head, but when you were onstage playing it was a happy one. You were at peace."
They were silent for a long while before Willow said softly, "Thank you for saving me. For being able to see what no one else could. I didn't think... anyone noticed."
"They notice, Willow," said Buffy in reassuring tones. "They love you, all of them, they just don't know what's really going on with you. They know it's something, they just can't see it like I can. Probably because they've known you longer." She was quiet for a moment then said, "Sometimes, it's the people you love the most, the ones you think that you know the best, who turn out to have the most secrets from you." Looking into Willow's eyes, Buffy said, "Don't keep anymore secrets from them." Forming a wry smile, she added, "I can't be everywhere at once, you know."
"You mean Slayers can't be cut into two so they can reproduce like worms?" asked Willow in mock surprise. "And here I thought I could make a whole army of Buffy's to be at my beck and call. Darn, this just ruins all of my plans."
"Very funny," said Buffy sardonically. Forming a serious face, she touched Willow's shoulder and caused the redhead to pause in her walk. "Promise me that you'll tell them? They're worried about you. You don't need to keep protecting them. It's not helping, it's only hurting them and you too."
"You can see all of that?" asked Willow in husky tones, feeling shaken that Buffy could instinctively know just what she was thinking. "Are you an Oracle/Slayer now?"
"No, I just have eyes," Buffy said quietly, wiping away the tear that streaked down Willow's cheek. "You don't have to deal with this alone, Willow. We're all here for you."
Lowering her head, Willow whispered, "But who are you here for? I don't even know who I am anymore."
"Don't think about it so much," Buffy advised, ducking her head to look into Willow's eyes. "Just be who you are. Don't think about who you were, how you used to act, stop thinking that you have to act a certain way because of what you once were. Just be who you are now. Relax, be at peace... like how you are when you play music. Then it'll all fall into place and you'll know who you truly are." Quietly, she regarded Willow for a moment before cupping her chin to lift it up so their eyes could meet. "You're a good person and nothing you could tell us can take that away."
Nodding at this, Willow pulled slowly away from Buffy as they continued on their walk. Neither girl needing to fill the air with conversation because of how they felt.
And how they felt was at peace.
"Buffy," said Willow softly, looking at the blonde Slayer's pretty profile as they walked along. "I want to tell you why I had to see them... see those vampires."
"I'm listening," said Buffy quietly, her support clear.
"I... I was the one who taught their leader," Willow whispered in shameful tones. "Kakistos was my pupil in my former life. He learned most of what he knows about spell casting and fate from me. I helped make him into what he is now. One of the most powerful vampires to ever exist."
"Hey," Buffy murmured gently, moving forward to gather Willow in her arms, and as soon as she did this, the redhead collapsed against her, crying. "That was then. You can't be held responsible for your past self... she's not you. She's just a part of you and what she did wasn't that bad. I mean, she didn't know he'd end up being a big bad vampire, did she?" When Willow nodded no against her chest, Buffy said, "See? It wasn't her fault so it sure can't be your fault that he turned into a huge evil guy."
Pulling away slightly, Buffy looked down into tear filled green eyes then said, "Besides, think of this way. Since you're the one who taught him then we know what he knows. And we've got someone on our side who's going to disarm him." Forming a goofy smile, Buffy said teasingly, "No one likes to run into their old teachers. Especially their extra mean ones."
"Extra mean?" asked Willow, wiping away the last of her tears as she caught onto Buffy's playful mood. "And how do you know that I was a extra mean teacher?"
Forming a wide and mischievous smile, Buffy leaned forward to tap Willow lightly on the nose and said, "Simple. I just looked, really looked, at you and I could see it."
Then with that, Buffy turned on her heel and began walking back down the street as she whistled a cheerful tune.
Watching Buffy walk away, Willow felt a slow smile spread across her features because she knew that someone had finally seen her for who she truly was.
And it was a wonderful feeling to know that.
So with a light feeling in her heart and a happy smile on her face, Willow ran after Buffy, offering to treat the other girl to a bowl of ice cream at the nearest Baskin Robbins.
Because she figured if Faith had an addiction to sweets then Buffy probably had one too. They were both Slayers after all and had to share similar metabolisms.
Or at least that was what Willow guessed.
And it was a very good guess at that. Too bad it caused her wallet to be empty at the end of the night.
Slayers happen to find banana splits irresistible.
It's a little known and well hidden fact. Probably due to the amounts of money that it gains for the ice cream makers.
Which is a conspiracy to be revealed at another time.
To be continued... !