With Fate Conspire
"Ah love, could you and I with Fate conspire
--The Rubiyat of Omar Kayamm
Outside of the three dimensions that govern our world, a Goddess was disturbed.
Artemis checked her hunter's bow and quiver for the tenth time, waiting for her partner in this strange venture. For the last three thousand years, the two had worked together in this matter, insuring that the world would have its defenders, that the bloodlines of two exceptional women would continue. And through one act of negligence on her part, their plans were almost dashed asunder.
"Aphrodite!" screamed the Goddess of the Hunt, "Get your buns in here!"
A shower of stardust heralded the arrival of the Goddess of love. "Take a chill pill, Artie! I was just having a few giggles with Hephy, you don't have to shout!"
"Yes I do, Dite," Artemis answered, anger in her forest green eyes. "We're on damage control. The Sunnydale Project just hit the fan big time."
"Sunnydale--" Aphrodite gasped. "No, not the Rosenberg-Summers girls?"
"You got it, Dite. A madwoman named Faith just screwed things up royally. She abducted Willow and threatened her baby, in order to get Buffy to confront her. Here," she motioned to her scrying mirror, "see for yourself."
Aphrodite peered into the mirror, seeing the tragedy unfold. The dark haired woman slapping Willow across the face, Buffy attacking her, fighting her savagely, her only thought was to protect the woman she loved. Thinking she had defeated her foe, the Slayer turned to Willow to untie her. It was then when Faith made her move. A knife in the back, stabbing deeply. Feeling the wound too late, thinking she was going to die, Buffy channeled the last of her energy to taking down her nemesis once and for all. Her final attack threw them both off the building. The friends who came with Buffy rushed to help her, but the knife wound, compounded by the fall from five stories and the resulting cranial injuries, were working against her.
Aphrodite swallowed hard, resisting the urge to cry. "She's not gonna make it, is she?"
"I don't see how she can survive," Artemis confirmed unhappily.
"But Willow's gonna survive, right? That means that their daughter will live, that Xena and Gabby's bloodline will survive. Right? Right?"
Artemis waved her hand in front of the mirror, intoning, "See the future, Dite." Aphrodite looked again into the vastness of the mirror, seeing two tombstones. A group of people, their friends, the Slayer's mother, gathered around the two stones. "Willow Rosenberg-Summers is fated to lose the baby as a result of the trauma of seeing her beloved die. She herself will lose all will to live, and simply pass away within two months. And the last of the bloodline of heroines will be no more."
Aphrodite looked hard at the mirror, saying nothing. Then she turned sharply, facing Artemis. "Okay, Artie, here's the plan. You go down to Earth, look after Willow. Let her know that Buffy's not going to die on her."
"And what are you going to do?" Artemis asked.
"I have to see a woman about a tapestry," she answered simply, before willing herself out of the chamber.
Artemis watched briefly as her sister goddess departed, and then made her way from the celestial heights of Olympus to the mortal clay of Earth. Unseen by all but the most astute eyes, she slid effortlessly through the hospital. She located the young woman, Willow Rosenberg-Summers.
The young witch was unconscious, having fainted when she learned that Buffy was comatose. The doctors had kept her stable, insuring that she wouldn't lose the baby. Artemis smiled. Aescelapus, god of healing, couldn't do better than they had. Now it was her turn.
Seeping into the sleeping girl's mind, she assumed the form of her beloved. As Buffy, she spoke to Willow. She assured her that she would be well, and asked her to be patient; "There might be things that get in our way," she said to the young woman, as soothingly as she could. "I might even be gone for a while, but I will never leave you completely. Keep a candle burning for me, Will, and I promise I�ll find my way back home" It was not much, but it was the best that Artemis could do. Buffy's fate was in mortal hands for now. All Artemis could do is offer Willow hope.
Judging from the way the poor girl's shoulders relaxed, that hope seemed to be enough. Artemis hoped so, and wondered what the Goddess of Love was doing.
Aphrodite materialized at the foot of a vast tapestry. The tapestry stretched beyond the horizon, into the infinite. The tapestry was vibrant with every imaginable color, as it was woven and braided with the threads of every human soul that ever lived. An impossibly complex pattern of living fibers, the vivid hues of active lives, looping and braiding around other threads as their lives crossed with and touched other lives. The short dark threads of lives ended in violence. The long branching threads of those who were blest with family. The many junctures where two threads were twisted into one, signifying two lovers uniting, something Aphrodite could respect. The simple grey loose threads of those who chose to live apart from mankind.
At the corner of the tapestry, sat the weavers, the Fates. The eternally youthful Clothos, the Maiden, she who drew the threads of each life from her spindle. The kindly Lachesis, the Mother, she who wove each thread into the tapestry. The ancient Atropos, the Crone, she who cut the thread of life with her shears.
Aphrodite went to Atropos and spoke to her in the most commanding tones she possessed; "Atropos, I'm calling in my marker!"
The crone turned her weary head toward the Goddess, asking, "To what do
we owe this intrusion?"
"And as a result," Clothos cooed merrily, "giving me more threads to spin."
"Right," Aphrodite said, "I've helped you shape your tapestry
as you have wished in the past, and now you guys owe me. There is a thread that
is dangerously close to being cut. I plead with you, not to shear that
Atropos nodded silently to her sisters, who returned her nod, signifying agreement. "The thread shall not be cut at this time," Atropos informed the Love Goddess. "But be advised; there will be trial ahead for both Buffy Anne Rosenberg-Summers, and her lifemate Willow. Let it be known that from this point on to the ending of this ordeal, no one, man or God, may interfere in what happens next." She spoke as clearly as her ancient voice could muster, in a tone that would brook no arguement. Aphrodite silently bowed her head before the ancient goddess, agreeing to her terms.
"Please, child," Lachaesis bade her to sit on a settee near the tapestry. "Rest yourself. You must be weary from traveling this far beyond the realms of man and gods. If you wish, you may watch the events unfold on our mirror." She gestured to a large mirror, the image on which changed to that of a hospital room. Aphrodite sat down gracefully, her eyes glued to the image. She witnessed the unconscious form of Buffy Rosenberg- Summers as Willow sat beside her wife, speaking to her, praying that she could hear, that she would open her eyes again.
Artemis materialized next to Aphrodite, speaking quietly; "I spoke to Willow through a dream, assuring her that her beloved would pull through. Don't make a liar out of me."
"Don't worry, Artie," Aphrodite answered. "We aren't allowed to interfere any further, that was Atropos' only demand. But we have her word that Buffy will live."
Artemis looked at the Fates as they continued to spin, weave and cut the threads of life. "Your marker?" the goddess asked.
"You got it," Aphrodite nodded. "Watch, we can see what's happening from here." Artemis joined Aphrodite on the large settee and observed the proceedings.
As they watched, Willow had spoken with Buffy's grandmother. The sprightly old lady assured Willow that Buffy would pull through; "She comes from a long line of fast healers," she smiled as she spoke. The two goddesses shared a secret smile themselves; if only Willow knew. At any rate, she would in time.
"Geez, girls," a bombastic male voice suddenly broke the silence. "Still watching the soap operas? Get an immortal life!" Artemis and Aphrodite turned to see the unwelcome intruder who materialized from nowhere and was now sitting between them. A mane of short curly black hair framed a face that could have been carved in granite, touched up by his immaculately trimmed beard. His posture spoke of arrogance, his sneer of cold command told of battles won and lost, his very person stank of blood, gunpowder and toxic gas. He was, to put it bluntly, war.
"Ares," Aphrodite groaned, "who the hell invited you?"
"You are not welcome here, Ares," Artemis growled at the War God. "Our purpose is to stop you and those who worship you. Our champions--"
Ares chuckled mirthlessly at the thought. "Oh please, sisters of mine, don't tell me your little spell book is still out in the open! I still haven't forgiven Sappho for the mischief she caused me. Her spell stole Xena, my champion, once and for all."
"You lost your champion to love, Ares," Aphrodite scowled. "And we're making sure that you never lay a hand on her bloodline."
Ares shook his head in bemused disbelief. "Hate to tell you this, ladies, but you already failed." He produced a small smooth stone from out of the very air, and toyed with it briefly. "I have the bloodline of Xena and Gabrielle right where I want it."
"I warn you, brother," Aphrodite shouted angrily, "you can't interfere. None of us can during this crisis."
"Hey," Ares shrugged his shoulders, mock innocently, "I'm not
interfering. I already set the ball in motion. You recognize this stone,
"It's a Lethe stone," Ares answered. "It lay for eons along the banks of the river Lethe in Tartarus. The river of forgetfulness. And while the waters washed over the stone, they imparted their properties to the stone." Aphrodite and Artemis fell silent as realization dawned. Ares smiled. "You're catching on, aren't you? I will have Xena's bloodline. Your champion will be mine. Watch, girls, it's already happening!"
As gods, they witnessed the span of days within an hourglass's time. As Ares spoke, the hours passed quickly, until Willow and her friends were gathered once more around Buffy's hospital bed. Buffy began, at long last, to stir, to awaken, to open her hazel-blue eyes and look upon the face of her beloved.
"Excuse me," she asked the red-haired woman. "Do I know you?"
The two goddesses sat thunderstruck. Ares grinned happily, as a theater-style popcorn tub materlialized in his hands. Holding out the tub to his sisters, he asked, "Care for some ambrosia?"
"Ares, so help me," Artemis fumed, her hands straining to reach her bow, to nock an arrow straight at the war-god's black heart, "Tartarus will seem like a vacation to what I have planned for you!"
"Remind me to give a damn," Ares grinned darkly. "You have no power over the situation now, it must play out as it stands."
"Ares speaks true," Lachaesis answered from her weaving table, while the other two Fates sighed in silent accord. "I'm sorry, dears."
Aphrodite decided to employ a more diplomatic approach. "Okay, Ares, I'll bite. What's the up?"
"Nothing special, sister dear," said the God of War in a voice calculated to sound warm and friendly, but meant to send chills down the spine. "Just helping the Slayer get in touch with her true self." He tossed the Lethe stone in the air, and snatched it in its arc before Aphrodite could. "I've separated the Slayer from the burden of her memories, her experiences as a mere human. Oh, she's so much more than that, Dite. That power, that passion, the fire that drives her to destroy demons! Mmmph! Hasn't been one like her since Xena herself! And as Xena was mine before," his voice now carried overtones of a predator's growl, "the Slayer will be mine now."
Artemis rolled her eyes in disbelief. "You are so full of it, Ares. Buffy will never be yours."
"Who said anything about Buffy?" Ares played the innocent, causing Aphrodite to squirm uncomfortably. "Buffy's right here," he indicated the stone in his hand. "It's the Slayer I want. And it's the Slayer I'll have. Look, girls," he grinned as his eyes rested on the scrying mirror. "The show's about to start."
The two goddesses gazed upon the mirror, and watched the scene unfold; Willow had taken her wife to a favorite place of theirs, a watering hole called the Bronze. Loud music, familiar settings, it seemed like the perfect way to help Buffy recover her memories. And she did recover some. Not the memories that belonged to Buffy Summers, but those of the Slayer. And the Slayer was snarling within her, desperate to be released.
"Yes," Ares whispered in anticipation as he watched Buffy's confusion. "Lose that crowd, lose those people. You don't need them, Slayer. You're wild, savage, unfettered fury incarnate. You only need the hunt, the prey, the kill!"
"Man!" exclaimed an increasingly angry Aphrodite. "Who made you God of Loving-To-Hear-Himself-Talk?" But she was still worried. Ares' plan seemed to be working, as Buffy's increasing fears drove her away from the Bronze, from her friends, from her wife. As she ran stumbling into the night, she was attacked by a group of vampires. What happened next caused Aphrodite to blanch.
Something snapped within Buffy. Gone was the serious, but loving young woman, the protector, the one who pledged to defend the lives of her wife and child. In her place crouched a beast, a monster, an animal warrior. Her moves were instinctive, her speech was gone, her eyes reflected nothing that was human. She had lost her humanity, under the crushing power of the Slayer.
"YES!" Ares exulted as the Slayer drove the vampires away quickly and efficiently. "Way to be, Slayer!"
"Fine," Artemis commented. "You've proven your point. But Willow won't give her wife up without a fight, you know!"
Ares looked thoughtful as he pondered Artemis' words. "You're right, Artie. She would give up her life to save her beloved." He laughed loudly as he contemplated that visual. "Which is exactly what's going to happen!"
"No!" Aphrodite gasped. "Not the kid! You can't do that to her, you can't kill the baby!"
"I don't need Willow, or the brat she's carrying," Ares roared. "I only need the Slayer." He smiled ferally as the image in the scrying mirror changed yet again. Buffy, shaken by her encounter with a band of vampires, asked her mother if Willow could stay with her that evening. Joyce hesitantly agreed, and Willow and Buffy settled in for the night.
As the two women slept, something stirred in the breast of Buffy, allowing some deep primal instinct to hold sway over her own psyche. The Cave Slayer had come out to play. As she awoke, Ares giggled. "Yes, yes, take her now. Cut her throat, stop her breathing. End that miserable life, and the child she is carrying!"
"This isn't looking good," Aphrodite said worriedly to Artemis. "That's the Slayer in there, not our Buffy. That's her id taking over, it ain't gonna be pretty."
The hunting goddess regarded Aphrodite with an amused gleam in her eye. "On the contrary, 'Dite," she smiled slyly. "This has the makings of something truly beautiful. Watch and learn."
The Cave Slayer started to climb over the sleeping form of Willow, as Ares watched with rapt attention. She scanned the pregnant body beneath her, her eyes darting over every inch of Willow. She nestled her nose in Willow's red hair, as though memorizing the scent of her. "Yes," barked Ares, "take your prey. Take her now!"
"Don't worry, Ares," Artemis answered cryptically, "she will." Aphrodite looked apprehensively at the scrying mirror, searching for some clue. Artemis knew something, something that Aphrodite and Ares were both missing. She looked at the primal Slayer as she stalked over her wife's body, feeling her abdomen, running her hand over the swollen belly, over the developing fetus. Her eyes shone with a deep gleam, with a hunger...
But not a hunger for prey, for the hunt, for the kill. A hunger to claim, to posess, to return affection. She wasn't hungry to kill, but to love.
Willow stirred as Buffy's head rested over her belly, hearing the baby's heartbeat. Buffy loomed over Willow's face, leaning her head forward, meeting Willow's lips with her own.
"What the...!" the God of War fumed as he saw the Cave Slayer's intent. "NO! She is not your destiny! Kill her! Rip her throat, taste her blood..."
"SHUT YOUR PIEHOLE!" Aphrodite gestured, and a pair of manacles materialized around Ares' wrists, binding him, while a metal collar stretched over Ares' chin and mouth, clamping his jaw shut. He moaned inarticulately and angrily, thrashing against the restraints. "Give it up, Ares," Aphrodite chuckled, "those shackles were forged by Hephaestus himself. When Heph makes something, he makes it to last. Even a god can't break free from those shackles."
"Nice move, Dite," Artemis smiled. "How'd you get your hands on those things?"
Aphrodite grinned sheepishly, with just a hint of a leer. "Anniversary gift from Hephy."
Artemis regarded her sister goddess warily. "I now know officially know more than I ever wanted to about your personal life." She then turned her attention to Ares, as he continued to struggle against his bonds. She snatched the Lethe stone from where Ares had dropped it when Aphrodite bound him. "Dite," she asked sweetly, "would you at least remove the gag? I'm sure he has a few questions about what happened."
"Oh, all right," Aphrodite answered petulantly. With a flick of her fingers, the gag faded into a cloud of luminescent dust, leaving a shocked Ares to gasp on its wake. "What happened here?" he demanded. "Why didn't the Slayer follow her instincts?"
"And what makes you so sure she didn't?" Artemis challenged Ares. "Did it ever occur to you that her instincts would tell her Willow was her lifemate, not her enemy?"
"Good call, Artie," Aphrodite laughed, high-fiving her partner in crime.
"You may know love," Artemis answered, "but I know the wild. A lioness may kill for food, or to defend her pride, but she also romps with her mate and cuddles and suckles her young. Buffy's inner nature, despite her being the Slayer, isn't geared toward aggression, but toward protecting her loved ones. In her innermost soul, her first instinct is based on love, not hate." Standing over the angered god of war, she smirked at him; "So long as you choose not to recognize humanity's capacity for love is equal to or greater than their capacity for hate, you will always fail."
"Told ya, Warboy," Aphrodite announced, "love rules!"
"Maybe, sister, maybe," Ares regarded Aphrodite with a cold glare. "But you still lose this one. Check the mirror."
The two goddesses looked at the scrying mirror, and were shocked by what they saw. Time had passed on the mortal sphere, and Buffy was now confronting her family. She had discovered strange things, things that didn't make sense. She found out that she had been committed to a mental hospital, by none other than Willow's father. She had then confronted a demon in human form, something that she knew intellectually could never exist, but clearly did. She demanded answers, and was about to find them in the locked nursery.
But before she could continue her investigation of the nursery, a shadowed figure stalked into the house. The prowler headed stealthily up the stairs, and took the others in the nursery completely by surprise. The woman, whom Giles had called Faith, pulled a gun on the others, and the mad gleam in her eyes told the three gods that she intended to use her weapon.
"It looks like you lose after all, girls," Ares grinned sourly. "If I can't have her, at least you can't either."
Aphrodite gasped, and even the normally cool Artemis gritted her teeth at the sight of the gun. She glanced at the Lethe stone in her hand, and was startled to feel it growing warm in her hand. A strange vapor emerged from the stone's surface, trailing wisps of smoke in front of the Goddess's eyes. The smoke coalesced into a strange wraithlike form, that of Buffy Rosenberg-Summers. The image looked at her surroundings, saw the faces of the dieties that surrounded her. "Wha-what's going on here?" Buffy asked. "Who are you guys, where am I?"
"You are somewhere...outside," Laechesis answered, lifting her motherly head from the Great Loom. "You were brought here to decide your future, and that of your family as well. Content yourself with that knowledge, we cannot tell you more."
"Wait up, sister," the wraith demanded, her voice hollow and small compared to that of the goddess, but she still made her demands clear. "I'm not just gonna 'content myself' with anything until I get some answers! I..." Her attention was drawn to the scrying mirror, to the image of the dark Slayer threatening her family. "Faith," Buffy whispered. "She's gonna kill them!"
"So what of it, Slayer?" Ares barked at the spectral figure. "We have greater things to discuss." Aphrodite shook her head; she was afraid of what her brother might say, and prayed that Buffy would know his words for the sham that they no doubt would be.
The wraith glowed red-orange at Ares' words, burning with rage at the thought of somene threatening what was hers. "What the hell do you mean, Mr. Machismo? That psycho-bitch wants my family dead. What could be more important than that?"
"Why, fulfilling your destiny, Slayer," the war god answered smoothly, employing his most seductive facade, the sweet words and gentle, persistent voice that once won over the famed Warrior Princess herself. Until a sweeter voice spoke to her in words of love.
"My destiny," Buffy weighed his words. "What do you know of my destiny?"
"Only everything, dear Slayer," he purred, attempting to gesture toward the wisp, and Aphrodite shuddered as he succeeded in dispatching the shackles of Haephastus that bound his wrists. "You are the Chosen One, the one woman in your generation that can stand against the forces of darkness. Is that not your mission? Your goal?"
"I am the Slayer, yes," Buffy admitted, her voice quieting at Ares' honeyed words. "But I have done that over the years. I've beaten the Master, Angelus, the Ascension, I've won against all of that."
"But still they keep coming, don't they?" Ares shrugged his shoulders, looking sure of himself, confident in spite of his being shackled. "No matter how many you battle, there will always be more. Like Hercules versus the Hydra; for every head he cut off the beast, two would grow back. But I can save you from that, Slayer." Aphrodite and Artemis knew that this was the moment of truth. Buffy faced the ultimate tempter, and the two goddesses could only sit back and not interfere. They prayed that his false promises would not be too tempting to Buffy.
Ares continued; "I can empower you, make you stronger, wiser, swifter than any Slayer before you. You will know power beyond anything you ever dreamt of. Power enough to destroy all demons, all vampires, the very Hellmouth itself. At my side, Slayer, you will succeed in ridding your world of all evil, not only that of the Hellmouth, but all the evils that plague humanity. We will bring a new Golden Age, a new order, to your world." He smiled, confident that he had her. "Swear your feality to me, Slayer, and I will give you everything." He held out his hand, knowing that once the wraith touched it, the bargain would be struck, and the Slayer would belong forever to him.
Buffy regarded Ares carefully, scanning his face with a mind-reader's stare. "What about Willow? And the baby? What happens to them in this new world order?"
Ares shook his head angrily. "Forget them, Slayer. They're not what matters, you don't need them!"
Buffy's spirit then regarded the god with a look that would sour milk at ten paces. "Wrong on both counts, you Village People runaway. They're all that matters, and I do need them. You tell me you can give me everything? They are everything. I have them, and you have nothing else I want." She turned her back on the god, ignoring his growing rage.
"You insect!" shouted the god of war. "You will regret denying me! I will destroy you for this! I will..."
"Enough!" Atropos shrieked above Ares' rant. "The test has been passed. Buffy Rosenberg-Summers has survived the challenge. This crisis is over." She nodded to Clothos, and the youthful fate beckoned to the wisp. The spirit of Buffy drifted toward Clothos, who captured this essence of Buffy and spun it into her spindle, drawing it back into a golden thread, which she handed to Lachesis to weave anew into the tapestry.
As Lachesis wove, Faith held the gun at Willow's forehead in the scrying mirror. She prepared to pull the trigger, to put a bullet into the young woman's brain, when a vengeful woman grabbed the gun from her hand, and threw her against the wall, shouting, "Leave my wife alone!"
"Yeow!" screamed Aphrodite gleefully. "You go, girl!" Artemis shared in her sister's happiness, knowing that their two charges had overcome this latest hurdle. The love that Buffy and Willow shared had pulled them through the worst of it. Their child would survive. The bloodlines of Xena and Gabrielle would continue.
Ares regarded the two goddesses sullenly, his eyes dark and unreadable. "I am disappointed in you, Artemis," his voice carried a quiet menace. "I thought that you had no use for Xena. Why would you protect her descendant?"
"Because she is Gabrielle's descendant as well," Artemis said simply. "It was Gabrielle who turned Xena away from your path once and for all. Gabrielle was my Champion, the one I chose to lead my people, the Amazon tribes. And in her turn, Gabrielle chose Xena as her consort, as her love. Xena has earned my respect, and I will not let you do to her descendants what you tried to do to Xena."
Ares returned his gaze to the scrying mirror, and to the sight of Buffy and Willow reuniting. "Very well, sisters. You win this one. But there will be other chances." He looked at the fallen figure of Faith, and his mouth curled into a thoughtful leer. He snapped his fingers, and disappeared in a brief flash of lightning.
Artemis and Aphrodite looked toward the tapestry, seeing how Buffy's thread was being restored, woven back into the pattern, together with Willow's thread. "I fear that Buffy and Willow have made an enemy in Ares," Clothos said.
"All humanity has an enemy in Ares," Artemis observed. "Buffy and Willow have faced many great evils in the past. We will keep watch over them."
"Damn straight we will," Aphrodite replied. The two goddesses left the chamber of the Fates in a shower of light, returning to their own place of observation. They had no intention of letting Buffy and Willow escape their notice anytime soon.
This ordeal was ended, and the two lovers had found each other again. And two goddesses swore that they would do what they could to guide Buffy and Willow Rosenberg-Summers through whatever else the Fates had in store for them.
"All rise," the bailiff announced tonelessly. "Arraignment court Part two for the city of Sunnydale, California is now in session, the honorable Judge Christeen Demons now presiding."
"Be seated," the judge declared. She then summoned her first case.
The bailiff introduced the defendant; "Miss Faith Wilkins, the charge is criminal trespass, kidnapping, attempted murder, assault with intent to kill."
"How do you plead?" the judge asked.
"My client pleads not guilty on all counts, your honor," the state-appointed attorney answered, "and the defense requests a light bail."
"Your honor," the prosecution said, "given the seriousness of the charge, and the fact that Miss Wilkins, a woman without a fixed abode or family, represents a substantial flight risk, the State requests that she be held without bail."
"That seems a bit severe," Judge Demons replied sternly, "but the prosecution raises a valid point on the matter of the charge. Bail is set at two-hundred thousand, cash or bond." With a slam of the gavel, the arraignment was dismissed, and the next defendant was brought in.
As the guard took Faith from the courtroom, a tall man with an immaculately trimmed beard and an impeccably tailored suit walked forward. "Excuse me," he greeted her attorney, "but I'll be taking over Miss Spenser's case at this time."
"Look, mister," Faith turned in surprise to the handsome young lawyer, "but do I know you?"
"Not yet, Miss Wilkins," the lawyer smiled, and Faith noted a strange cat-like grace in his manner, like a predator. She liked him at once. "But I represent the firm of Wolfram and Hart, and we've heard a great deal about you."
"Yeah, well thanks," the dark Slayer said sullenly, "but I can't afford any hotshot legal eagle."
"I believe we can work something out," the lawyer said in a silken voice, one that promised treasures, but at a great price. "The truth is that Wolfram and Hart wants you on our side." He offered his hand to Faith, adding, "Oh, I'm sorry, I haven't introduced myself. My name is Kevin Mars."
Faith accepted the handshake, saying, "Well, in that case, Mister Mars, you've got a client." Kevin Mars smiled ferally as the bargain was struck.