It Starts With Faith By: Dreiser
Kakistos had seen many things in his life. Many things and many people. He'd encountered almost every single type of personality imaginable.
The ones that intrigued him, he changed. Became their Sire and trained them dutifully in his views, his ways, so that should he ever leave this world, he would certainly leave behind a being who echoed of his beliefs.
And his need to cause pain onto others.
It was the age of Kings, Queens, and their brave Knights when Kakistos first set sight on Sir Brendan Saris. Considered the most handsome and perhaps in some ways the most gallant of the Knights of his Kingdom, he was the personal guard to the Prince. They were close, always side by side, laughing and smiling, said to be the best of friends.
Except they were more than that.
That's where the troubles began. The Prince, like everyone else in the Kingdom, fell as soon as he saw that tender smile of Brendan's, meant for him alone.
Sir Brendan was everything to the Prince. He was his closest friend, the one person he could talk to about his problems and not feel guilty for doing so. He was his best teacher, the one person who would tell him when his parry wasn't good enough and how to improve. And he was his lover, the one person that could cause him to shiver with desire from simply being in his presence.
Their relationship was common knowledge among the nobles and though seen as a bit scandalous... none felt it was their place to protest. After all, no matter what was going on between them, the Prince would marry as was his Royal duty, in order to produce an heir.
At least, that's what everyone thought until the Prince flatly refused to even meet his prospective brides when he came of marrying age.
That was when the trouble began.
Trouble that Kakistos watched with delight. He was still fairly young at this time and his features retained their human appearance. Taking on the identity of a noble lord from a foreign region, he was able to observe the full drama as it unfolded.
Watch the abrupt parting of the Prince and Sir Brendan by the King, sending the Knight away to fight a group of brigands robbing towns in the far off lands in his Kingdom. Watch the Prince's loyalty to Brendan, waiting anxiously each day, for some word, some sign from his love. It was just a few brigands, after all, they shouldn't be any problem for his brave and strong Knight.
But they weren't brigands. They were an invading army from the highlands, seeking to claim the Kingdom as their own, saying it had been stolen away years ago.
This wasn't a fact unknown to the King. He had sent Sir Brendan there for two reasons. The first that, yes, he was a brave and strong Knight and he would be a great help in fighting these invaders. The second reason was less noble in thought. It was the hope that Brendan would die fighting off these enemies and the Prince would forget of him in his death. Forget and marry, doing his duty.
Unfortunately, Sir Brendan survived. He fought the army, stopping their invasion, saving the citizens of the towns they had taken over, making him a local hero. All with his head full of thoughts of his idealistic Prince, who he had suffered for to keep the Kingdom safe.
The Prince's future Kingdom safe.
Despite his survival, the King got what he wanted, as he was so used to. Because the letters, the hundreds of letters, detailed and long, that Brendan had written never reached his Prince. Because of this, the Prince thought he was dead. Only death would keep Brendan from writing him, reassuring him of their continued love.
When Sir Brendan returned, ragged and weary from his experience in war he found the Prince married. She was a smiling girl, full of innocence and light, her belly protruding in a way that told a Royal heir was to be born.
Dark and haunted eyes met shocked ones as the Knight gazed upon his Prince who had just found out with his very entrance into the Court that he was still alive.
With a low bow and a dip of his head, Brendan murmured in his usual tones, gentle and soft, that had first caused the Prince to love him so. "I wish you happiness," he said, then turned and left the Royal Court.
He hadn't planned to leave forever, just long enough for him to recover from the loss of his love and the betrayal by his King. Though, in his heart, he understood it. The Kingdom needed an heir and for that they needed the Prince to marry. Sir Brendan wasn't the one against this, it was the Prince himself. Feeling that any marriage would make him unfaithful to their love.
During this time, the stranger came to him.
Eyes shining, charming smile, and full of mystery as he first approached Brendan inside a local pub. He talked of foreign lands and strange customs, things the Knight had never heard of and they filled his head with a sort of fancy that had never been there before.
And a desire to see new things, to escape from what he had known about this world. He had devoted his entire life to serving his Kingdom, his King, and finally, his Prince and what had it gotten him? Nothing but pain.
Maybe that's why he fell so easily into the stranger's embrace and surrendered over his will. As soon as he felt that hot and eternal kiss seize him... the Knight known as Sir Brendan was lost forever.
To be replaced by the Childe of Kakistos.
As a Childe, he was everything Kakistos could have wanted. Holding all the same qualities he did as a human. Being brave, handsome, intelligent, and strong. And completely and utterly devoted to his Sire.
There wasn't anything that Brendan wouldn't do for Kakistos and the elder vampire reveled in this. Never had he been this pleased... this enamored with a Childe of his. Truly, Brendan was his favorite of them all.
This didn't go unnoticed by the others. Some swore vengeance through their jealousy, trying to kill the young vampire, but none of their attempts succeeded and it was them who would end up losing their undead lives.
Centuries passed like a blink of an eye when Kakistos happened upon another vampire. One just as strong as him... no, even stronger. This vampire called himself the Master due to this strength.
Just like Kakistos, the Master knew a prize when he saw one. When he saw Brendan, he saw his latest prize.
Panicked for the first time in countless years, Kakistos did everything he could to keep his favorite from switching his alliance, his affections, to another. But in the end, Brendan had spent too many years with Kakistos and his once purely noble thoughts had eroded away.
Now his only loyalty was for those who had the most power and the Master? He surely had more power than Kakistos. This much was said by Brendan as he told his Sire of his impending departure.
Feeling out of control, lost in a spiral of emotions he no longer knew he had, Kakistos turned to something that had never failed him over the years.
He cast a powerful spell over Brendan, restraining the human soul he knew to lay inside him, quelling the free will that would have taken him from Kakistos.
All was well for nearly a decade and Kakistos almost thought the Master had forgotten of Brendan and the prize he presented. He was wrong.
They came in the night, the Master with them, chanting ancient words of beings beyond the gods, who caused even Kakistos to feel fear. With those words the spell over Brendan was broken, his human soul returned and his free will restored.
All of which he used to leave with the Master.
Now, hundreds of years later, Kakistos sensed the one presence that he would never forget. The presence of the man who was once his favorite Childe.
Sir Brendan Saris of Fontenay.
Somehow, deep inside, he knew exactly what Brendan was planning. Which was why Kakistos was off in search of Cordelia, to take her back as his own before he lost another Childe to the horrors of the human soul.
And this time he would not fail.
When Kate arrived at Techno Pagan Ltd, she found herself knee deep in shock. Three vampires were on the premises. Two apparently good and one not so good.
And the not so good vampire happened to be Cordelia Chase. Currently was tied up in the back room being guarded by the formerly mentioned good vampires.
It was because of all this that Kate focused her stern blue gray gaze on Jenny who was wearing a nervous smile. "Jenny," began Kate slowly. "What's going on?"
Exchanging a look with her comrades, Jenny heaved a quiet sigh then murmured, "Apparently we're being visited by the Watchers Council. They've sent someone to try and kill Cordelia."
"Bastards," Faith muttered lowly.
Ignoring Faith's comment, Kate frowned then asked in confusion, "Don't you work for them? Shouldn't they be on your side?"
"They should," Giles said reluctantly, wiping his glasses on his handkerchief. "But they aren't. We've known for quite some time, Jenny and I, that they don't agree with our training techniques for Faith and Buffy. Perhaps this is their way of showing just how much they disagree."
"This isn't entirely about Cordelia," Kate said, studying Giles and Jenny closely. The Watchers looked at her with little surprise. They both knew the detective had a special knack for seeing things others couldn't. "Is it?"
The Watchers exchanged a glance before Jenny shook her head. Lifting her gaze, she looked plaintively at Buffy and Faith then said softly, "We should have told you this awhile ago but with everything going on..."
"We didn't feel it appropriate," Giles finished.
"G-man, what're you guys talking about?" asked Faith, a worried tone emerging in her voice.
"Buffy's birthday," murmured Giles.
"My birthday?" Buffy blinked. She couldn't possibly imagine her birthday causing any real trouble other than noise from a boisterous party with her friends.
"You'll turn eighteen," Jenny supplied, taking over the explanation. "If a Slayer reaches the age of eighteen, a ritual is incited. One where they are drugged so all of their strength and abilities are taken away. When this has been done a vampire is released to hunt the Slayer. Should the Slayer survive, killing it, even without her powers it's used as proof she's worthy of her position."
"You're telling me," Faith began in a low growl. "They wanted to do that to Buff and me?"
"Yes," said Giles with a nod. "Recently they called us, speaking of plans for the ritual since Buffy's birthday is upcoming. We refused... saying it was barbaric and totally unnecessary. Ever since then, we've been having what you might call, well, communication problems with them."
"They hate us now," Jenny supplied easily.
"They wanted to drug me?" asked Buffy, the information sinking in slowly. "Drug and almost kill me... for some ritual thingy?"
"Basically," said Jenny, studying Buffy.
Giving a slight twitch, Buffy muttered, "The next time I see that Council chick she's going to be in SO much trouble. Not just for spitting on Faith either."
"Spitting on Faith?" repeated Giles and Jenny, immediately fixing their gaze on the dark Slayer.
"I punched her out for it," Faith shrugged. "What I'm more worried about is them going after Cordelia."
"How powerful is the Council?" asked Kate, focusing her attention Jenny. "I'd like to know just what we're dealing with. Especially if they're our enemy now."
For a response, Giles and Jenny met their eyes once again and Kate, along with Faith and Buffy, felt a sinking feeling seize her on seeing this.
Things didn't look too good for them.
Sitting silently, Willow listened to Zac and Brendan talk with Amy about the books and the mysterious beings called The Powers That Be. She continued to do this for several minutes then she moved her gaze, almost against her will, towards Cordelia.
Zac and Brendan had been guarding the vampire, who was definitely displeased with having her mouth taped shut, until Amy broached them about the books. After a quick protection spell being cast, one that would keep Cordelia from leaving the room and anyone with hostile intentions from entering, they left the vampire alone.
As if sensing her gaze, Cordelia shifted her position, turning her head to stare directly at Willow. An elegant brown eyebrow arched and it called out, asking her to come... to say what was on her mind...
Almost taunting her.
Slowly rising to her feet, Willow made her way into the back room, unnoticed by her friends. Or if her exit was noticed, simply unstopped by them. Perhaps they all knew she had to do this. That she had to confront her.
Stepping carefully past the barrier, the world froze as she did so and nothing existed but those cold hazel eyes that gazed up at her mockingly. Those weren't the eyes of her friend... of her confidant... of Cordelia Chase.
Those were the eyes of a monster.
The monster that had killed Vince. And now, she reached her time to challenge that monster.
In a smooth movement, Willow pulled the tape from Cordelia's mouth, ignoring the sharp cry of pain from the vampire. Tossing the tape aside, Willow asked in low, dangerous, tones, "Why did you do it?"
"He was in the way," Cordelia replied, not hesitating to give an answer, her eyes glittering with madness. "Faith is mine and mine alone, but some people just don't seem to understand that. Then again, some people wouldn't even want my Faithie poo if certain other people would grow a spine and go after them instead of settling for the first Mr. Nice Guy to come around."
"You killed him... because of me?" whispered Willow, trembling now. "Because you wanted Buffy to be with me and not Faith? That's why he died?"
"Basically," Cordelia smirked. Tilting her head to one side, she added, "That and I knew it would make my Daddy happy. He seems to like torturing you."
"It's my fault," Willow said in a daze.
"Duh," said Cordelia with a snort. "Don't tell me you're only figuring this out now? I mean, you may have loved the guy but you were only going to bring him pain, songbird. He loved, loved, loved you... I could feel it as I drained his life away. You were what he thought about as he died and you..." Cordelia paused to giggle in delight. "I simply can't get enough of this part... you were using him to forget. I know, you said he wasn't a replacement, but he was, wasn't he? You loved him, but he wasn't her, and no matter what, he could never be her..." Her voice turning into a deep growl, Cordelia said, "That's why he died."
"You're a monster," hissed Willow, her features twisted with rage. "And I don't believe a word that you say. I did love Vince and I loved him with all of my heart. He knew that... I know he did."
"Whatever," Cordelia gave the best shrug she could in her confined condition. "You asked, I answered. Now," her eyes glittered once more. "What are you going to do about it? Kill me? I think I'd like that... you getting your hands dirty with my death."
Both of their heads turned and they saw the figure of Zac calmly observing them. Walking into the barrier, he stopped at Willow's side and murmured, "We think we've found a way to help her."
"Good," breathed Willow, giving a nod.
Zac then moved to walk out of the barrier, not waiting for Willow to follow. Before she left though, she looked back at Cordelia and her expression softened.
"This isn't you," Willow said, her voice even and steady. "That's also something I know. And... I want you to know that we're going to bring you back Cordelia."
With that, Willow turned and walked out of the barrier, leaving the creature who was once Cordelia Chase alone with her thoughts.
Thoughts that would soon belong to true self.
Kendra knew this as surely as she knew her duty to those who raised her. For the first time, she was trusted to complete a mission alone and she failed.
The vampire was alive and free. And she... she had been defeated by one of the Slayers. The first Slayer whom she had been hearing about since the day she received the call instead of Kendra.
She was a chance out of a thousand, the girl that no one predicted would receive the call. When they first found her, investigated her background, the Council was both excited and wary at having her for their Slayer.
At first they thought Faith to be nothing but a potential loose cannon. But then they realized something very important about her, she was a girl in desperate need of guidance. She wanted to be needed. She wanted for someone to tell her she was worthwhile and when she became the Slayer, the Council did that for her.
Or at least Rupert Giles, her Watcher and representative for the Council did that. Everything was perfect in the beginning... the first year or so. Faith had exceeded all their expectations, being both loyal to the cause and amazingly skilled in combat.
More skilled than most Slayers in the past. What made her most appealing to the Council, and Kendra when she heard about Faith, was the fact that she seemed to genuinely enjoy being a Slayer. She was proud of her role. So proud that on hearing a second Slayer had been called with her temporary death she was afraid...
Afraid that her position would be taken away.
Not that the Council ever considered that an option. As much as Faith turned out to be a diamond in the rough, Buffy Summers was, well...
A royal pain in the butt.
From the start she hated her role as a Slayer. They had already predicted she would be difficult to win to their cause, so they sent Merrick to be her Watcher.
He had a way with Slayers, after all. Eventually he managed to get Buffy to see her importance as a Slayer, to see the enormous role she now played in things.
However, he had yet to get her to respect the Council. Perhaps because Merrick himself didn't respect the Council. Being alive for several centuries gives people a tremendous ability to see the big picture.
And in the big picture the Slayers were far more important than the Council in Merrick's eyes. They were the champions who fought the darkness, they were what the hopes of many rested upon, they were the warriors.
When Merrick died protecting Buffy, the Council and Kendra knew nothing good could come of it. They'd been keeping track of both Slayers and Buffy was coming along nicely before this. Beginning to show signs that soon she would be at Faith's level of dedication.
But with Merrick's death Buffy lost that drive. They knew that from the representatives they sent to go talk with her afterwards. She had nothing but insults and names for them and did everything to curse her role as a Slayer. Claiming she wasn't really one, that her calling was all an accident and they should look to the 'real' Slayer for help from now on. To simply leave her in peace.
They couldn't do that though. The Council needed Buffy to fight the ever growing darkness. So they sent her to Sunnydale... to meet Faith, the first Slayer, whom they knew could be quite charming when she wanted to.
As expected, the Slayers connected on a subconscious level and this caused Buffy to ignore her attempts to rid herself of her role as one. She now embraced it because of her kinship with Faith and the Council had what they thought to be the perfect team.
Then came Kakistos and with his arrival in Sunnydale, everything went to hell.
Willow Rosenburg was kidnapped just as she was discovering her more powerful abilities as a Oracle. While a series of horrifying murders gripped the town. Then they discovered Cordelia Chase had been turned by Kakistos, losing her human soul.
At first, they were willing to let the Slayers try and find a way to save Cordelia. But when they discovered the gruesome serial murders had been her work? In their eyes, there was no other option but her death.
The Slayers didn't see it the same way though. They still wanted to save Cordelia's soul, return her to what she once was, instead of punishing her for all of the evil she'd committed. This was last straw.
Unable to take what they saw as unacceptable behavior on the parts of the Slayers and their Watchers, the Council sent Kendra to kill Cordelia. They held no doubts as to where her loyalty rested.
For Kendra had been raised by them.
Because of this last fact they were perhaps more attached to her than most Slayers. That's why when those who had been chosen to accompany her to Sunnydale saw her weakly stumble into the room, they reacted with as much panic as they did fear and worry.
"They stopped me," Kendra said viciously, sitting down on a nearby chair with their help. "The Slayers came at the last moment, just as I was about to deliver the death blow to the vampire, and saved her."
"Don't worry," soothed McMurphy as he knelt at her side, patting her hand lightly. "We'll take care of it."
"But--" Kendra began, her eyes wide.
"Shh," McMurphy interrupted, smiling softly and pressing his finger against Kendra's lips. "This is the exact reason why we brought Special Forces with us."
"Special Forces is here?" asked Kendra. Her feelings of shock quickly turned to betrayal and she said softly, "You never trusted me to complete the mission, did you? That's why they're here."
"No," McMurphy shook his head. "That's not it at all. They're here for our other mission... should we happen to discover what you just did, my dear. If the Council ever finds that a Slayer is no longer following the code placed before them, only one thing can be done."
"Kill them," Kendra said with finality.
"Yes," said McMurphy, giving a nod. Rising to his feet, he looked to the others and said, "Call Special Forces and tell them everything that has occurred. Now we know what it is that we must do. And," he paused to fix a proud gaze on Kendra. "Who is our new champion."
The only response he got was a glint in her eyes.
"Higher! Ohh, that's it, that's the spot."
Sighing in contentment, Iris felt her body lose the last of the tension it had gained from being in the hell that was Sunnydale. Resting her chin on the tops of her arms she peered at her latest personal assistant, Luciana, who was watching the masseuse work on her boss.
A former demon call girl, she'd caught Iris' attention during a visit to her brothel for some business. Never one to pass up an opportunity to gain a new and loyal employee, Iris paid off the brothel owner.
The next thing Luciana knew, she was working for one of the most infamous vampires in New York City.
What really took her by surprise was the fact that Iris was really quite, well, a nice person. Much nicer than her former boss at least. Sure, she was a vampire who lived on the life blood of others, but at least she didn't try to make Luciana do anything she didn't want to do.
In fact, Luciana hadn't really done anything as Iris' personal assistant so far. Out of habit, she offered herself to the vampire who gave her a look of both disdain and a sort of quiet pity when it occurred. She swiftly told the girl that none of that would be required for her new role in the organization and if anyone tried to make her...
The rest of the statement made Luciana shiver.
Shiver with admiration, desire, and fear. Iris was a vampire but like none Luciana had ever met. Vampires had been her least favorite customers, the way they looked at everyone as if they were food. It made Luciana feel like even less of a person when she was with a vampire, from the way she saw them looking at her. Iris wasn't like that though, her eyes weren't full of hunger. No, they had a loneliness in them, a sense that she was incomplete.
"Luce," murmured Iris slowly. She had taken to calling the former call girl by the shortened version of her name. "What do you want out of life?"
"I... I guess to be happy," Luciana muttered with embarrassment, a blush making her already pink tinted skin turn redder. "To be able to live how I want to live."
"Mmm," Iris said in thoughtful tones. A smile spread across her fine features and she continued, "That's a wonderful thing to want and I'll make sure you get it."
"Boss...?" whispered Luciana with confusion.
"Once," Iris began in far off tones. "Once I was like you, miserable in what I was doing... forced to do disgusting things that tore at me. It wasn't who I was, but I had no escape. Then I met someone and they helped me out of that life and here I am now." Looking up at Luciana her eyes glittered dangerously. "No one will ever gain that control over me again, Luce, I swear it. Just like I swear you'll have your own freedom with me. Stay if you like the work here, go if you don't, I won't stop you."
"I... I want to stay," Luciana said softly, her eyes glowing with admiration. "I like working for you, boss."
"I'm glad," said Iris, smiling gently.
There was a moment of pure peace, complete serenity, when suddenly the ring of the phone changed the mood entirely and Iris scowled on hearing it.
Immediately, Luciana jumped, reaching for Iris' cell phone and hastily handed it to the vampire. Iris took it and tried to focus on the massage her shoulders were receiving as she answered her phone.
"Hello?" Iris said sharply.
"Baby doll," a familiar voice, oozing with charm greeted her over the line and she smiled immediately. "It sounds like you're a little tense. What's going on, hm?"
"Trick," breathed Iris in relief. Her expression turning coy, she murmured, "Nothing much... I'm getting rubbed in the most interesting of places."
A soft chuckle was his response, then he said in more serious tones, "I'm coming home soon, baby. Things have gotten more complicated than I like. The big man and his pet have put themselves on the Council's hit list."
"The Watchers are in town?" Iris asked, her eyes wide. "Which ones? The stuffed shirts or the few who can actually do some damage in a fight?"
"Latter," Trick murmured. "Which is why I'm cutting out. You were right, this job just isn't worth what we're getting paid and it has a lousy HMO. So I'm taking what's mine, and maybe a few things that aren't, then I'm leaving small town life behind. The way I see it, Kakistos will soon be dust to the wind."
"Sounds good to me," said Iris, smiling again. "You can help me with the latest deals I'm working out. I even have a new personal assistant you'll like."
"Oh?" Trick sounded intrigued. "Can this one actually answer phones and tell convincing lies? Gertrude nearly ruined our business when she went around telling the truth all of the time."
"She can do that and more," Iris said, looking at Luciana who gave her a nervous smile. "And she's like us." Pausing to give Luciana a steady and reassuring gaze, she finished, "She knows exactly what she wants."
"That's always a plus," said Trick with pleasure.
Iris sighed as she felt the tension leave her shoulders, the masseuse moving his hands down her back with a firm motion. "Trick," she said slowly, her voice sounding pensive. "Do me a favor?"
"Anything, baby doll," Trick replied.
"Steal some nice jewels for me."
Once again, the sound of soft and amused chuckling filled her ears. And on hearing it, Iris finally knew that she was home.
Amy squirmed uncomfortably as several pairs of eyes bore into her with disarming intensity.
"Say it again," Faith demanded lowly.
Quirking an eyebrow, Brendan repeated in tones laced with the barest of humor, "Amy must go alone when she seeks the aid of The Powers That Be."
"Okay," Faith was nodding her head now, looking deceptively calm while she paced back and forth. "I think that's where you lost me. The whole Amy girl going to see these mysterious and hella powerful beings by herself. You know, without any remote protection. I know that you say these peanuts that be are nice enough folks despite the fact that if they had the whim, they could destroy us all... but still, it doesn't sound right, Amy going alone."
"Have to say I agree with that," said Buffy, her eyes locking firmly on Brendan as she frowned. "I'm not too keen on my best friend being laid out like some sort of virgin sacrifice from the movies."
For no discernible reason, at least to those around him, Xander erupted into nervous laughter at this remark.
While everyone stared at her boyfriend, Amy sighed deeply and said, "We really don't have any choice, you guys. I'd like to have some Slayer bodyguards, sure, but because of the seal I placed on the summoning books I'm the only one allowed to attempt to visit their plain."
"Why did you do that?!" Buffy demanded.
Heaving a huge sigh, much larger than her one moments before, Amy looked Buffy right in the eyes then said in extremely dry tones, "Iris."
"Oh," said Buffy, looking a bit sheepish. Her expression turned thoughtful and turning towards Brendan she opened her mouth for a question.
"She sealed the books so no one can use them except her," murmured Brendan, intercepting Buffy before she could ask. "Making it impossible for anyone to go with her. The Powers That Be exist in a place that isn't within our world or any other. In essence, Amy's spirit will be seeing them while her body remains here, safe with us."
"What if her spirit can't make it back?"
Everyone was silent and did their best not to look at Xander who asked this question. Amy in the meantime, formed a heartbreaking expression. Standing in front of him, she gently reached up to caress his cheek.
Leaning in close, Amy moved in for an embrace, whispering in his ear, "I have to do this. Only I can do this, I... I know I can't promise I'll come back but I can promise I'll do anything I can in order to. Because thanks to you, I have everything I could've ever wanted and more."
"I love you," Xander said, his voice rough as he gazed deeply into her eyes. "Just remember that."
"Like I could forget," Amy teased softly.
The couple met their lips for a devotion filled kiss then parted a few moments later. Managing to ignore the embarrassed faces some of their friends wore.
Almost as if on cue, Faith spoke up first, sensing they were waiting for her to comment. "I don't like it," she said with a heavy sigh. "But if this is the way that it's gotta be, then I can't do much about that. Just... you be careful, okay, Amy girl? And get back here safe."
"I will," said Amy smiling hesitantly as she gave a nod of her head. "I'll get them to help us, Faith. To help us and help Cordelia. I won't rest until I do."
"I know," said Faith, her voice gruff with emotion.
Amy slowly moved her eyes towards Buffy who, as expected, was scowling at her. "You," Buffy began in a slight growl. "Are such a... grrr... I swear!" Laughing now, her tones almost hysteric, Buffy strode forward to pull the blonde witch into a strong embrace. "You're... you're my best friend and... you better make it back or I swear, I'll go to where you are and kick your ass, Slayer style."
Laughing at this, Amy wiped away the tears that were forming as her eyes rested on Giles and Jenny. The two Watchers were subdued, observing her with sad but admiring gazes that seemed to understand thoroughly.
"Don't mince words with godlike beings," Giles advised softly, his eyes showing a hint of humor. "Just get right to what you want and see what they say."
"And please, be polite," Jenny smirked.
"Will do," Amy said with a nod, smiling now.
The last person she focused on was Willow, the cherished friend she had known the longest. "Do what you have to," murmured Willow, stepping close to Amy and moving in for a gentle hug. "And have no regrets."
"I'll bring her back to us," Amy whispered in a heartfelt promise. "The real her... I swear it."
Nodding quietly, Willow pulled away and held Amy's hand as she said, "Good luck."
Pulling her hand back, Amy replied, "Thanks." Moving her gaze across everyone in the group, she wore a soft and reassuring smile. "All of you."
Amy turned to lock her eyes with Xander's and formed that sweet smile that always managed to break and repair his heart in an instant. Walking towards him, she moved into his arms, embracing him lovingly.
"Hold me," Amy instructed, her voice shaking.
"Always," Xander responded tenderly.
Closing her eyes and burying her face in the crook of Xander's shoulder, Amy began the slow chant of words that would send her spirit out of her body. Out and into a realm where she would find The Powers That Be.
Find and ask them for help.
Seconds after the last verse of the chant ended, Amy softly collapsed onto Xander, her body limp. As he lifted the girl that he loved into his arms, Xander looked at her beautiful face, usually so full of laughter and life, now taking the appearance of an empty shell.
Holding back the urge to sob, Xander pressed his face into Amy's hair that always smelled like summer, and prayed that she would return to him soon.
And bring Cordelia with her.
The first thing that Amy was aware of was the fact that she had a severe head buzz. It was similar to how she felt after drinking half a bottle of tequila last spring.
Recalling that particular memory, Amy held back the impulse to barf. That is, if she could even barf without technically having a body...
Looking around, she saw that where she was looked rather like ancient Greece. Pondering this, Amy wondered if maybe The Powers That Be were around at the same time Willow was in her previous life.
Then she frowned and hit herself softly. Of course they were! They're more powerful than gods, aren't they?
"Yes, they are."
Jumping with fright, Amy whirled around and came face to face with two... well, gold tinted people wearing togas. Her only reaction to this was to stare.
Finally, she spoke, but not very wisely.
"Uhm..." Amy began, saying the words without even helping it. "Why are you gold?"
The woman in the gold plated pair seemed to find this humorous and chuckled. The man, however, just wore a dead pan expression as he stared at Amy.
"Why are you beige?" the woman inquired.
Blinking at this, Amy shook her head after a moment then smiled. "Fair enough," she said. "So... are you guys The Powers That Be?"
"No," the man said smoothly. "We are the Oracles. Our work for The Powers That Be is very much what your friend Willow's was when she was in their employ."
"So... Willow was gold too?" asked Amy impishly.
The woman chuckled again and the man seemed to sigh at Amy's comment. "No, she was a human during her time as an Oracle," the man supplied.
"We speak for The Powers That Be," the woman continued. "And what we say now is what they wish us to tell you in the matter of Cordelia Chase. They will give her the ability to win back her human soul but the matter of it regaining control... well, that is entirely up to her."
"I don't understand," said Amy with a frown. "They're giving Cordelia her human soul back but she has to regain control? Regain control of what?"
"Herself," said the man solemnly. "Simply because her human soul is restored doesn't mean the demon which rests inside her will allow it to take control. If anything, it will battle until the last to prevent this from happening."
"It is up to Cordelia to win her humanity," the woman went on. "Her fate rests in her own hands. Any path she chooses from now on will be of her own doing. Through this, the balance is partially restored."
"What balance?" asked Amy.
"Between light and dark," the man answered.
"Good and evil," the woman added.
"The Powers That Be seek balance in everything," the man murmured. "They see beyond labels and want only what will hold the universe together. One side cannot be allowed to overcome the other if we wish to survive."
"Which is why," the woman began slowly. "They ask a favor of you. To both ensure the balance and as a type of repayment for their actions with Cordelia."
"What do they want?" Amy asked, her eyes narrowing with nervousness and suspicion.
"They seek one thing only," the man said. "We have already told you that it is balance. The Slayers are key in maintaining the balance but they can only do so much... fight a certain number of enemies. They are not able to see those who would cause far greater conflict until it is too late to stop them."
"This is where you come in," the woman said, smiling softly. "The Powers That Be wish to grant you a semblance of our powers and the powers your friend once had as an Oracle herself. Except... you would not be able to see all that goes on in this world, only portions."
"And exactly what portions would I be seeing?" asked Amy, still looking suspicious and now a bit wary on hearing all of this.
"Magic," the man informed. "You would see when magic was being called upon that would destroy the much sought balance our Masters seek."
"And you would stop it," the woman continued. "Before it goes too far and threatens the world as a whole. With the help of your friends, of course," she added.
"Of course," Amy echoed dimly.
"Well?" the man tipped his head to one side. "We have little time for contemplation. Do you accept and take on this favor that The Powers That Be would ask of you?"
Blinking at this, Amy darted her gaze nervously back and forth between the two Oracles. Swallowing the lump in her throat, she said quietly, "Yes, I accept."
"Wonderful," the man formed a breathtaking smile. "They are most pleased with your decision."
"We wish you the best of luck," the woman said gently, offering a lovely smile of her own. "And welcome you to our ranks, Amy Madison."
Noticing with some shock that she was fading away from the location where the Oracles stood, Amy's eyes went wide. "Hey!" she called out desperately. "How will I know what magic to stop?! Are you guys going to call me up on the phone or something?"
Chuckling now, the woman said, "Something similar. Do not worry about such details, child. You will know when The Powers That Be are contacting you."
"But--" Amy began, her expression worried.
"Trust us," the man said, his calm voice almost lilting with humor. "You will know."
With that, Amy faded completely, leaving the Oracles alone to contemplate all that had just gone on. And what was about to happen next.
Meanwhile, all was not well at Techno Pagan Ltd. In fact, all had not been well for several minutes. Just after Amy collapsed, leaving her body to seek the help of The Powers That Be, the trouble began.
First in the form of Kakistos defying the laws of vampirism and crashing through the front door to the store with a herd of his followers behind him. All wearing very deadly and dangerous expressions on their faces.
A fight ensued between Kakistos and his followers with everyone save Xander involved. Xander having gone immediately into the back room with Amy still in his arms, his thoughts only of protecting her.
Faith and Buffy found themselves at their wits end in their battle with Kakistos. The ancient vampire was now occupying his time by tossing them about like toys. In this, they thought things really couldn't get any worse.
That's when they saw, through the shattered wreck that was the front of the store, the figures of Kendra and the Special Forces team of the Watchers Council appear.
Suddenly, things got a whole lot worse.
To be continued...
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