Rating: R (mainly just for language)
Disclaimer: All of the materials borrowed from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel belong to Joss Whedon and to the entities and companies associated with their creation. I have borrowed them for creative and entertainment purposes only. No compensation has been or ever shall be received for the writing below. No copyright infringement is intended. The same is true for what I have borrowed from Watchers.
My Website: http://www.dragonwriter17.net/
Feedback: Yes, but only if it’s of the non-flamey variety: DragonWriter17@aol.com
Distribution: Just here on the Watchers Forum for now. Eventually: The Mystic Muse, Near Her Always, Watchers Forum. If you are interested in posting my story on your site, please contact me first for permission.
Spoilers: The BTVS Season 7 finale; The end of Watchers Season 3.
Pairings: Willow/Rowena, Willow/Kennedy
Author’s Notes: I once told CSR that I’d try my hand at Kenlow story, and this is what I came up with. When BTVS Season 7 aired, I did not warm to the Willow/Kennedy relationship at all. I still mourned Tara and felt that the Willow/Kennedy thing was way too rushed. And Kennedy kind of annoyed me (she was a self-admitted brat, after all). Watchers, however, has taught me to appreciate Kennedy so much more. I think that’s why I’m able to write this now. By the way, I will be writing this in Watchers style, not in fiction style or in full screenwriting format (although I may cheat a little on the “no thoughts” rule.) Also, I started this story in the middle of Season 3 Watchers without knowing exactly how the season was going to end, so there may be some differences in actual Season 3 canon and what I do here. For example, I started this story with the assumption that Willow and Rowena would be getting back together by the end of Season 3. I don’t know for sure if that’s going to happen or not, but that’s the idea I’m working under here. Thanks to Isis for the cool banner!
Number of Chapters: 9
Story Summary: While a new vampire species menaces the city, a powerful talisman, once thought lost, comes into the possession of the Council, just in time for an unexpected visitor.
Kennedy opened her eyes slowly and somewhat groggily. She lifted her head from Willow’s lap and looked around the room. The movie having ended long ago, the TV screen showed only the DVD’s main menu. Kennedy sat up and turned to Willow, who was still asleep, her head resting on the small cushion she had tucked under her ear.
Kennedy lay her arm along the back of the couch and watched Willow sleeping. A small smile crept onto the slayer’s face. It didn’t last long, though. A frown took its place when she remembered which Willow she was looking at. She turned away and faced forward, then scooted up to sit on the edge of the couch a good foot away from the redhead.
Just then Willow woke up, disturbed by the movement near her. With her hair slightly mussed on one side, she sat up and looked around, bleary-eyed. When she tried to turn to look at Kennedy, she winced, putting her hand on her neck.
“Owww,” Willow said. She massaged her stiff neck then turned to face Kennedy. “Morning.”
“Morning,” Kennedy replied.
After the cursory exchange of greetings, a long and uncomfortable moment passed in which neither one spoke.
“I guess we fell asleep, huh?” Willow finally said, stating the obvious.
“Looks like,” Kennedy agreed, not knowing what else to say.
Another awkward pause ensued. Eventually, Willow put on a cheery expression. “How about some breakfast?” she offered. “I think it may be pancakes day.”
“Sure,” Kennedy answered, a bit of her smile returning.
As Willow and Kennedy made their way to the dining hall, two junior slayers passed them in the corridor. When the slayers saw Kennedy, they both stopped, turned, and stared.
“Wait a minute,” one slayer asked, a confused expression on her face, “why is Kennedy’s hair suddenly long?”
“Willow probably did it,” the other slayer speculated. “Magic, ya know.”
The first slayer toyed with her own short hair. “Do you think she takes appointments?”
The second slayer snorted. “Yeah, right.”
At that, the two slayers turned back around and headed in the opposite direction.
When she and Kennedy walked inside the dining hall, Willow immediately saw Rowena at a nearby table, finishing up her breakfast. Willow stopped in place. Kennedy did the same.
“Why don’t you, um, go on through the line?” Willow suggested. “I’ll catch up to you later.”
“Sure,” Kennedy agreed amiably.
As Willow moved in Rowena’s direction, Kennedy watched nervously for a long moment. Eventually, she turned and headed for the food line.
Willow wrung her hands as she approached Rowena’s table. “Hey,” she said, getting the watcher’s attention.
“Hey,” Rowena said coolly.
“I-I-I’m sorry I didn’t come back to bed last night,” Willow said, sitting in the chair across from Rowena. “Kennedy was…well, she was having a bad time of it, and I just didn’t think she needed to be alone. We ended up watching a movie in the rec room and falling asleep there.”
“Are you mad?”
Rowena didn’t answer. She just gave Willow a what-do-you-think look.
“W-W-Would it make you feel any better if I told you I got a crick in my neck from sleeping sitting up on the rec room sofa?” Willow offered apologetically while rubbing her neck.
Rowena lips quirked into a small grin. “Maybe a little.”
Willow smiled. After a long pause, she added, “Well, I guess I’d better run and get something to eat before Andrew closes the line.”
“If you want pancakes,” Rowena confirmed. “Otherwise it’ll be cold cereal for you.”
Willow smiled again. “See you at the meeting?”
At Rowena’s nod, Willow headed off for the food line. While watching Willow go, Rowena gave a heavy sigh. Then she got to her feet, picked up her tray, and walked away.
Rowena sat at the head of the table, flanked by Faith and Willow. Andrew, Robin, Dawn, Xander, and Vi sat in the remaining chairs.
“Where’s Giles?” Willow asked.
“He’s on baby duty,” Robin answered. “He sends his regrets.”
“Well, everyone else is here, so let’s get started,” Rowena said, opening the meeting with a tap of the gavel. “We’ve had the night to consider the matter, so what do you think about Kennedy and the amulet?”
Willow took the opportunity to speak first. “Well, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the amulet was discovered just days before Kennedy arrived. I think she’s meant to have it.”
“I hate to bring this up again,” Xander said, “but are we absolutely certain Kennedy is, well, Kennedy?”
Rowena replied, “I took the opportunity of having Dr. Miller test Kennedy’s clothing before sending it to the laundry, and—”
“You did?” Willow asked, surprised.
“Yes,” Rowena said. “I wanted to be sure. Anyway, DNA tests confirm that she really is Kennedy.”
“And my tests confirm that she’s not a changeling of any kind,” Willow added.
“That just leaves the amulet itself then,” Robin said.
“Is it real?” Andrew asked.
“It sure looks like the real deal,” Faith pointed out.
“It definitely matches the descriptions in the original paperwork that Angel received from Wolfram and Hart,” Willow said.
“And it was found at the seal, buried beneath tons of rubble,” Rowena pointed out. “I can’t imagine what else it could be.”
“But how did it survive?” Faith asked. “According to Buffy, Spike went all super nova down there.”
“Maybe it’s something that can’t be destroyed,” Vi offered.
“But Kennedy said that the First had destroyed their amulet,” Andrew countered.
“Well, maybe it can’t be destroyed if it’s used properly,” Vi amended.
Robin gave a big sigh. “We’re just speculating here. We simply don’t have any idea what this thing can do or what can be done to it.”
“Have you done magical tests on it?” Dawn asked.
“No,” Willow answered. “I didn’t want to attempt anything without someone else there with me. Andrew, could you help me with that this afternoon after the lunch rush is over?”
When Andrew nodded, Xander asked, “What does Buffy have to say about it?”
“I haven’t informed her about it yet,” Rowena said, “but I think that we should forward a set of detailed photos to her and get her opinion on the matter.”
“Well, assuming the amulet is real,” Willow said, “are we going to give it to Kennedy to take back with her?”
“We have to,” Dawn said urgently. “We can’t just leave her world like that!”
“I agree,” Willow said. “I think we should help her.”
“But what if we need the amulet here?” Vi asked. “What if the First comes back in our world and we’ve given away our only weapon? I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t want to go through that again, especially not weapon-less.”
“Nobody here wants that,” Robin agreed grimly.
“Look, I’m like everybody else,” Willow said. “I definitely don’t want a repeat of our battle with the First, but there’s been no indication that the First will ever be able to rise again. We did it right here. We won. But Kennedy’s world…” Tears filled Willow’s eyes as she paused and swallowed the lump in her throat. “…it’s nearly lost, and if we can do something to help, then I think we should. It’s what we do. We do good, we save the world. It’s just this time it won’t be our world we’re saving.”
Willow looked around the table, making eye contact with each leader present. No one said anything else for the longest time. Finally, Willow turned to Rowena and said, “I call for a vote.”
“A call for a vote has been made,” Rowena announced. “If the amulet is verified, should we give it to Kennedy to take back to her world?” Rowena turned to Willow expectantly, although she knew how the redhead would vote.
“The Coven votes ‘yes’,” Willow said firmly.
Rowena then turned to Vi. “Vi, with Kennedy gone, you’re the senior slayer present. The Slayer Division’s vote goes to you.”
Vi fidgeted a bit in her chair and then glanced over at Faith. The older slayer simply shrugged and gave the redhead an it’s-your-call look. Vi took a deep breath and let it out. “Slayer Division votes ‘yes’.”
Rowena turned to Robin. “Watchers Division?”
Robin seemed surprised that Rowena had deferred the vote to him, but he quickly recovered and said, “Watchers Division votes ‘yes’.”
Rowena tapped the gavel once and said, “The vote passes.” Willow smiled widely. “However, no mention of the amulet will be made,” Rowena added, “until the medallion’s authenticity has been confirmed.”
Continuing to smile, Willow nodded rapidly, clearly not worried about that aspect of the situation.
When the meeting broke up, Dawn was the first one out of the briefing room. When she came into the hallway, she saw Kennedy waiting outside.
“Hey,” Dawn said, walking over to where Kennedy was standing.
“Oh, hey,” Kennedy said, shoving her hands into her pockets. Kennedy rocked on her feet and wouldn’t look at Dawn for more than a few seconds at a time.
Dawn noticed and crossed her arms tightly. “Why are you acting so weird around me?” she asked. “What happened to me?”
Kennedy sighed and met Dawn’s eyes. She opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out. She sighed again and dropped her gaze to her hands.
“I didn’t die in Sunnydale, did I?” Dawn asked in a choked whisper. “It’s something worse, isn’t it?”
Kennedy looked back at Dawn and nodded solemnly. “We thought that everyone had died at the school. We found out later that the First had kept you alive. She needed you. Your Keyness. With you enslaved to her, she started opening hellmouths and portals everywhere she went, building her army. It’s unreal how fast it happened. Within weeks, the First had overrun all of southern California.”
“Did you ever see me again?” Dawn forced herself to ask.
“Once,” Kennedy replied but didn’t elaborate.
Dawn shot Kennedy a look that demanded more.
“Dawn…” Kennedy said, shaking her head.
“Tell me,” Dawn commanded.
Kennedy lifted her head and started talking. “It was in L.A., before we escaped from there,” she said. “The First, she, um, she had you in chains…paraded you around like a dog on a leash. You looked like a zombie, like the life had just been drained out of you. Till you saw us fighting. Then there was hope in your eyes, just the faintest glimmer.” Kennedy’s gaze dropped again. “And then it was gone because…because we ran. We couldn’t fight them…there were just too many.”
Kennedy glanced back up. Dawn had an anguished look on her face. Kennedy started to say something hopeful like “we’ll save you”, but the words died in her throat. The slayer knew that she’d be lucky to save herself once she returned to her own world.
Just then, Willow came out of the briefing room and saw the two talking. She walked over to join them. “Hey,” she said, putting her hand on Kennedy’s arm. Neither Dawn nor Kennedy said a word. Willow looked at one then the other, trying to gauge the situation.
“I gotta go,” Dawn finally said. Then she hurried off before Willow could even say anything to her.
“What’s going on?” Willow asked Kennedy.
Kennedy pinched the bridge of her nose and then said, “Just some bad news…about her other self.”
“Wanna talk about it?” Willow asked.
“Not really,” Kennedy said.
“How about helping me with some research then?” Willow suggested. “We’ve got a vamp problem we can’t figure out.”
Kennedy snorted. Then she adopted a headline voice and said, “Slayer defies physics to save her world. Ends up research grunt. Film at ten.”
Willow linked her arm in Kennedy’s. “Come on,” she said and then led the slayer away toward the library.
With tears rolling down her cheeks, Dawn ran down the aisle to Skye’s cell. Skye was already at the bars, waiting for her. She reached through to take Dawn’s hands.
“What is it?” Skye asked worriedly. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Everything,” Dawn said, leaning her head against the bars and pulling Skye’s hands to her chest.
Skye pulled one hand free and used it to wipe the tears from Dawn’s cheek. “Tell me,” she whispered.
Dawn lifted her head and looked sadly into Skye’s eyes. “Not like this,” she said with sudden determination. Dawn pulled away from Skye and directed her gaze at the locked cell door. “Resera!” Dawn commanded, causing the locked door to instantly open.
“Dawn!” the vampire exclaimed, stepping away from the door. “What are you doing?! Buffy is gonna blow her top.”
“Buffy’s not here,” Dawn said, entering the cell and shutting the door. “And I need you,” she continued, wrapping her arms around her former girlfriend.
Skye didn’t argue. She put her arms around Dawn and held her tightly as the young watcher started to sob. “I’m here, baby,” she whispered, caressing Dawn’s back. “I’ll always be here for you.”
Kennedy groaned and rubbed her eyes as she sat across from Willow at one of the long tables.
“What’s the matter?” Willow asked.
“Nothing,” Kennedy said before gesturing at the volumes heaped on the table. “Just these old books. The writing’s too hard to read.”
“Yeah, I know,” Willow replied. “We’re in the process of transcribing all our volumes, but it’s going to take some time.”
“Even if it were typed up all neat and proper, it’d still be a bunch of mumbo jumbo to me,” Kennedy said, poking at the page in front of her.
Willow looked at Kennedy thoughtfully for several seconds. Then she said, “You know, it’s ‘mumbo jumbo’ stuff that made you a slayer, that sent you here.”
Kennedy glanced up. “I know. Doesn’t mean I gotta like it.”
Willow’s tone became serious as she said, “Ken, I want to tell you something. About our Kennedy, about her past. It’s probably true for you too, and I think you need to hear it.”
Kennedy’s expression became worried. “What? What about my past?”
“Well, it’s about your mother. Your real mother.”
“My biological mother?” the slayer said, looking on with interest.
“Yes,” Willow replied. “She was a witch. Actually, she called herself a techo-pagan, but…point is, she was magical. And you are too, Kennedy.”
Kennedy scoffed at that, flopping back into her chair.
“It’s true,” Willow told her. “And I think you need to stop fighting that about yourself. It’s something you may need in your world.”
Kennedy frowned unhappily.
“Just think about it,” Willow said.
Kennedy nodded reluctantly, and they both went back to their reading.
Within minutes, Willow’s face lit up. “Hey! I think I may have found something!”
End of Part Six
The same group that had met this morning was once again seated around the table, with one addition. Kennedy now occupied the chair at the end, having earlier requested and been granted permission to observe the meeting. A map of the city was projected on the screen, with three red X’s marking various locations.
“So far, they’ve hit these three clubs in this area,” Faith said, pointing to the map. “Makes me think they’ve got a nest somewhere nearby.”
“They haven’t hit more than one club in the same night,” Vi added. “It’s like they pick one and they all hit it together, usually on the club’s busiest night.”
“If we assume that they’ll be hitting a new club in the same area,” Faith continued, “then we’ve got three maybe four possible targets.”
“How many of these Ninja Vamps are we talking about?” Robin asked.
“Well, there were five or six victims at each of the three clubs,” Rowena said, “so there are probably at least that many vampires. Interestingly, though, most of the victims weren’t killed, just drained.”
“And that’s not the only interesting thing about them,” Willow cut in. “They’re different from most of the vamps we’ve encountered in that they can’t ‘de-fang’. Their demonic face is permanent, which means they can’t pass for human.”
“Hence the handiness of their invisibility,” Xander noted.
“Right,” Willow said.
“But they die like regular vamps, right?” Andrew asked.
Willow nodded. “All the usual techniques will work against them: staking, decapitation, fire, sunlight.”
“Now if we can just figure out how to see them,” Vi added ruefully.
“Yeah,” Faith agreed. “Why can’t we sense them?”
“I’m not sure,” Willow said. “It could be magic, I suppose, but I’m thinking that it has something to do with their ability to make themselves invisible. It’s like the more you try to see them and sense them, the more you can’t. It’s like seeing a ghost out of the corner of your eye.”
“So how do we fight what we can’t see?” Faith asked. “Especially in a crowded, noisy dance club?”
“I think I may have found a spell that will make the vamps temporarily visible,” Willow said. “It doesn’t last long, though, so we’d need to know for sure that they were there before activating it.”
“So we’re gonna stake out the bars and wait for somebody to get bit?” Xander asked for clarification.
Vi shrugged and nodded. “Basically, yeah.”
“We’ll divide into teams of two: one slayer with one coven member,” Willow explained. “The coven member will activate the revealing spell while the slayer will deal with the vamps.”
“What do we do once we know they’re there and we can see them?” Dawn asked.
“This is a tagging mission only,” Willow said. “We want to find the vamps, tag one or more of them, and track them back to their nest. Since we’re shorthanded at the moment, we don’t want to take on too much with our small teams. We simply tag ’em and then band together later to deal with the nest.”
“Staking out clubs…that knocks out all our junior slayers,” Faith pointed out.
“We don’t have that many of them here right now anyway,” Vi said. “Most of them are on summer vacation.”
“Okay, so what’s the plan?” Robin asked Rowena. “Who’s with who?”
“Willow’s in charge of this mission,” Rowena said before turning to the redhead and giving the floor to her.
“Robin, I’d like you to run the command center and the tracking system. Have the paramedics on stand-by just in case,” Willow said. Robin nodded in agreement.
“Rowena, I know you haven’t been out in the field lately, but I’d like you take a team of junior slayers and patrol the areas outside the targeted clubs,” Willow continued. “Just as a backup.” Rowena gave a nod too.
“As for the teams inside the clubs,” Willow went on. “Faith and Dawn can take Dance Zone, Vi and Andrew can take The Jungle, and Xander and I can take The Flame. We just—”
“Wait a minute,” Kennedy interrupted, speaking for the first time in the meeting. She looked hard at Willow. “You’re going into a potential vamp buffet, and you’re going without a slayer?”
“Hey,” Xander objected. “It’s not like she’s going alone. I’ll be there.”
“No offense,” Kennedy told Xander, “but you’re no slayer.”
“I have watched Willow’s back a helluva lot more times than you,” Xander shot back.
“Oh yeah? And what are you gonna do against a gang of five or six vampires, huh? You’re no match for something like that,” Kennedy said. “I’ll go with Willow.”
“No,” Willow said firmly.
“What?” Kennedy said, turning to face Willow.
“No,” Willow said. “You’re not here to fight our battles, Kennedy. You’ve got your own mission to get back to in your own world, and you can’t do that if you’re injured here.”
“Well, I’m sure as hell not gonna sit here and let you go into danger all by yourself,” Kennedy said, standing to her feet.
“She’s not gonna be by herself!” Xander objected loudly, leaning forward against the table.
“It’s not your decision to make, Kennedy,” Willow said.
“Am I a prisoner here? Are you gonna lock me up?” Kennedy asked, gesturing with her arms dramatically.
“Of course, you’re not a prisoner here,” Willow said.
“Well, then you can’t really stop me, now can you?” Kennedy replied, crossing her arms tightly.
As the others in the room watched with interest, Willow and Kennedy locked into a stare-down. Faith grinned and leaned over to Vi.
“She’s definitely Kennedy all right,” Faith whispered.
“No doubt about it,” Vi said, grinning as well.
After a long moment of staring, Willow broke away first. “Fine!” she growled.
“Good!” Kennedy shot back. Then she plopped back in her seat.
“What about me?” Xander asked, annoyed.
“You can take a couple of junior slayers and patrol outside the club Willow and Kennedy are in,” Rowena suggested. “Maybe with that eye of yours, you can spot the vamps before they even go inside.”
Xander wasn’t entirely mollified by that arrangement, but he leaned back in his chair in apparent compliance.
Rowena turned to the slayers. “Vi, I’d like you and Faith to work with all the slayers going out tonight. Practice with the tagging system, and do some blind sparring. You guys are going to need to use your other senses tonight.” Vi and Faith nodded. “And Willow, you coordinate with them to let them know what to expect when the revealing spell is cast: what it will look like, how long it will last, and so on.” Willow nodded as well. Rowena looked around the table. “Anything else?” When no one spoke up, Rowena dismissed the meeting.
Vi was standing perfectly still, her eyes completely covered by a blindfold. Nearby a boom box was playing a dance mix at a moderate volume. Faith stood before her holding a staff in her hands. A couple of junior slayers were watching silently.
“Are you ready?” Faith asked.
“Yes, but if you say ‘use the force’ even once in this session, I will kick your ass,” Vi replied.
“You mean you’ll try,” Faith corrected with a chuckle.
Faith nodded to one of the junior slayers, who turned up the volume on the boom box. Vi assumed a defensive position. Faith waited a long moment as Vi turned first one direction then the other, listening for the elder slayer’s movements. Faith circled Vi once before pausing and thrusting the end of the staff into Vi’s side right above her hip. Vi grunted and swept around toward Faith, but the staff had already been pulled away. Faith moved into a different position and struck another hit. Vi growled in annoyance.
“Listen for me,” Faith instructed as she walked around the redhead. “The scuffing of my shoe, the rustling of my clothing, the sound of my breathing.”
“That’s hard to do with that music blaring,” Vi commented.
“I know,” Faith said, “but just tune it out and listen only in the space around you.” Faith stopped talking and began quietly circling again.
Vi concentrated hard, and slowly, from her point of view, the music began to fade. She heard her own heart beating and her own breathing but tuned those out as well. Finally, in the self-created silence, she heard movement, the slight whoosh as the staff was swept toward her back. She turned in a flash and caught the staff in both hands. She quickly jabbed it back toward Faith, catching the brunette in the stomach.
“Ooof!” Faith said, doubling over from the blow. Then she straightened and laughed. “Good,” she said, “that was good.”
Vi took the blindfold off and smiled. “Okay, your turn, Faith.”
Faith groaned and took the blindfold that Vi held out and started putting it on.
Elsewhere in the gym, Xander was surrounded by Kennedy and three junior slayers as he prepared to demonstrate the new tagging system. He pulled an object from a box and held it up for the four slayers to see.
Kennedy snorted. “That’s it?” she asked. “It looks like an electric toothbrush.” The three junior slayers giggled hysterically.
“Sorry, but I didn’t design the thing,” Xander said. “This comes courtesy of Riley Finn and the New Initiative.” Xander opened a panel on the handle. “It’s small, which means it’s easy to conceal. It works on compressed air, so no big bang to worry about.” He closed the panel and opened another higher on the shaft. “It’s a one-shot deal. You have to manually reload each time.” He pulled a small dart the length of a paper clip from his pocket, held it up for everyone to see, then slid it into the chamber, locking it into place. He closed the panel and held up the device. Noting a switch and a button, he said, “Safety and trigger.”
He turned and pointed the tagger at a nearby corkboard target then punched the trigger button. With a soft pop, the dart flew out of the tagger and sank into the target.
“It’s extremely accurate, but has a short range, so you’ll need to be fairly close to the vamp to make the shot count.” He pulled out a palm-sized computer and turned it on. He held it screen out so that the others could see. “The tiny emitter in the dart activates instantly upon contact,” Xander explained. “And using its signal, we can track whatever we’ve tagged with these handy-dandy GPS devices.”
“Can’t the vamps just pull the dart out?” Kennedy asked.
“They can, but it won’t matter,” Xander said, pulling out another dart. He pointed to its tip. “The dart actually embeds the emitter under the skin when it hits its target. I don’t know how it manages to do that, but it does.” Kennedy gave an impressed nod.
Xander pulled a small box from the larger box and opened it. It was full of the small darts. “I’ve got a whole box of duds we can practice with,” he said. “These don’t have the emitter, but they still have the sharp point, so be careful. You don’t want to put somebody’s eye out. Willow doesn’t do the special eye-heal-y thing for just anybody, ya know.”
At those words, Kennedy looked at Xander closely, questions clearly racing in her mind. The three junior slayers, though, rushed forward as Xander began handing out the tagging devices and practice darts. Kennedy waited until the three had moved aside and started examining their new weapons before she walked up.
“You lost your eye here too, huh?” Kennedy asked.
“Yeah, I did,” Xander said solemnly. “But luckily I’ve got a best friend who’s a bad-ass Wicca,” he added in a lighter tone. “She fixed me up.”
“Look, I’m sorry about what I said earlier. I know you’re good in a fight.”
“But I’m no slayer,” Xander replied, repeating her words. Then he shrugged and said, “That’s fair, actually. But understand this: I would do anything to protect Will. I would die to save her if I had to, and I know you would too.” Kennedy nodded silently in agreement. “Tonight…if you need me, call. I’ll be right outside.”
“I will,” Kennedy answered.
Xander smiled and held out a tagging device. “Now go practice. I don’t want you tagging Willow on the ass because that’s where your eyes keep going.”
With a grin teasing her lips, Kennedy narrowed her eyes and snatched the tagger from Xander’s hand. Then she joined the other three slayers near the target.
Willow and Rowena sat together in the briefing room, discussing the latest developments.
“I’ve briefed the slayers on the spell, so we’re covered there,” Willow said. “And Dawn and Andrew are preparing the packets we’ll use in casting. We’re good to go for tonight.”
“Robin’s getting the command center ready, integrating the tagging system’s GPS into our mapping program,” Rowena said.
“What about the amulet? Have you heard back from Buffy?”
“Yes, I just heard from her right before you came in,” Rowena replied. “Like your tests, she confirms that the amulet is genuine.”
“W-W-Was she okay with us giving the amulet to Kennedy?” Willow asked.
“She supports our decision fully.”
“Oh, good,” Willow said, relieved. “So I can tell Kennedy?” she asked excitedly.
Rowena smiled. “Yes, you can tell Kennedy. I’ll let everyone else know.”
“I’ll tell her tonight, after the mission,” Willow said. Then she gave Rowena a big kiss, which the watcher eagerly returned.
Kennedy sat next to Faith and across from Vi as the three slayers consumed large quantities of barbecued ribs, baked beans, and potato salad.
“Now this is a good pre-mission meal,” Faith said, dropping yet another cleaned rib bone to her plate. “I’m gonna tell Andy to add this one to the permanent menu.”
“I second the motion,” Vi said, waving a rib slathered in barbecue sauce. Several drops of sauce splattered on the table.
“Hey, watch it,” Kennedy said, grinning. “You’re armed and dangerous.”
Faith turned to Kennedy and peered at her face. “Yeah, looks like she got some on you.”
“Where?” Kennedy asked, looking herself over.
Faith pointed a sauce-covered finger at the center of Kennedy’s face. “Right there,” she said, before dabbing a big blob of sauce right on Kennedy’s nose.
“Hey!” Kennedy protested as Vi burst into giggles. Kennedy tried not to grin but failed. She laughed and wiped the sauce from her nose.
Dressed to blend in, Kennedy and Willow sat sipping their sodas at a table within sight of the dance floor. They carefully watched the crowd for any sign of the Ninja Vamps. Then, for the second time that night, two guys sauntered over to their table.
“Evening, ladies,” said one of the guys. “Would you two care to dance?”
“Buzz off, bozos,” Kennedy told them in an annoyed voice. An angry look immediately came over the guys’ faces.
“W-W-What she means is, we’re really flattered, but no thanks,” Willow interjected quickly, trying to smooth over the situation. The young men still looked miffed, but they moved on without another word.
Kennedy watched them walk off, then huffed once they were gone. “As if,” she grumbled.
“You know, you can’t blame them,” Willow pointed out. “We’re in a straight bar, we’re alone, and it’s not like we’re wearing our ‘hey, we’re gay’ buttons.”
“How about we send ’em a message then?” Kennedy said, getting to her feet and holding her hand out to Willow. “Let’s dance.”
A big smirk came over Willow’s face. She took Kennedy’s hand and let the slayer lead her to the dance floor. A fast song they both liked was playing, so they gave themselves over to the music and just enjoyed themselves for a moment.
After about a minute or two, the fast song ended, and a slow song began. Willow and Kennedy both froze in place and looked at each other awkwardly, not knowing what to do next.
“Oh. Slow song,” Willow said, wringing her hands nervously.
“It’s okay,” Kennedy said, stepping forward to take Willow’s hands. “I don’t mind.”
“Uhh…okay,” Willow said with a hint of a whimper.
Willow took a step closer and put her hands on Kennedy’s hips while the slayer rested her arms on Willow’s shoulders. They both chuckled a bit at the awkwardness, but they soon settled into the rhythm of the song. At first, neither would look at the other for very long, but that too faded as they became comfortable in one another’s arms. They gazed into each other’s eyes and smiled. For a time, they danced contentedly together. Then a shadow came over Kennedy’s expression, and she looked away.
“What is it?” Willow asked, concerned.
Kennedy took a deep breath and looked back up. “I’ve missed dancing with you.”
“With her, you mean?” Willow said.
“Yeah,” Kennedy answered. “Right.”
“We don’t have to—” Willow started and then stopped. “I mean, I’m sure the guys have gotten the message by now, so we can stop if you—”
“No,” Kennedy said, cutting her off. She looked deeply into Willow’s eyes for a long moment. Then she whispered, “I don’t wanna stop.” Kennedy slowly leaned closer to Willow, clearly intending to kiss her.
“Me either,” Willow answered uncertainly but huskily as Kennedy drew nearer. She could feel Kennedy’s breath, feel her own heart beating madly in her chest. Suddenly, alarm entered Willow’s eyes. “Wait!” she cried out.
Kennedy instantly backed away, dropping her eyes. “I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I shouldn’t have—”
Kennedy’s words were stopped as Willow yanked Kennedy even closer than they’d been before. The slayer’s eyes showed total shock as Willow began caressing her back as they moved to the song that was still playing. “Okay, then again, maybe I should have,” Kennedy joked, wrapping her arms around Willow once more.
Willow pulled Kennedy into a tight hug, resting her cheek against Kennedy’s. “I think I saw something,” she whispered into Kennedy’s ear.
Kennedy’s delight quickly changed into seriousness. “Where?” she asked, all business now.
“To my left,” Willow answered. “I saw a flash of something out of the corner of my eye.” She pulled out of the hug, and Kennedy cut her eyes to her own right. “See it?” Willow asked.
“Yes,” Kennedy replied. “It’s a slight shimmer, like that alien in Predator. Think it’s them?”
Willow nodded. “I think so.”
“Got your charm?” Kennedy asked, meeting Willow’s gaze.
“Oh, I’ve always got my charm,” Willow said with a smirk. Kennedy rolled her eyes. “Relax, I’ve got it. You got your thingee?”
“You betcha,” the slayer said.
“Let’s do this then,” Willow said.
Willow separated them, pulled the pre-packed bag from her pocket, and threw it hard to the floor, belting out an incantation as she did so. The bag erupted into an orange flame, which sent an similarly-colored cloud up to the ceiling. The crowd on the dance floor jumped back in alarm, but when they saw the cloud glowing above them, they became mesmerized by it. Some even started clapping, assuming it was part of the lighting special effects.
As the glowing particles of the orange cloud began to descend toward the floor, they revealed the Ninja Vamps hidden among the dancers and other patrons. The vampires hissed at the people near them, causing the screams to begin. The crowd freaked out and started stampeding from the dance floor. Only Willow and Kennedy and the vampires remained standing where they were. As the panicked patrons rushed past them, the vampires noticed Willow and Kennedy and realized that they were responsible for the spell. They growled and headed toward the witch and slayer.
As the glowing cloud began to diminish in strength, Kennedy pulled out her tagger and shot the vampire nearest them. He stopped, looked at the tiny dart in his chest, laughed at it, and plucked it out. Then he resumed stalking forward, with two other vampires flanking him.
“The tables!” Kennedy called out. “We need obstacles!”
Then she and Willow ran for the area where they had been sitting earlier. As Kennedy pulled down tables and chairs behind them, Willow activated her radio. “Xander! Get in here, now!”
“We can’t!” came Xander’s voice in her ear piece. “People are still pouring out of the exits! We can’t get through!”
Willow stopped and turned around. “Kennedy! Get behind me! I’ll shield us!”
The three vampires leaped over the tables and chairs, and Kennedy was forced to engage them. She knocked down the first vamp and staked the second before fending off the third in a flurry of punches and kicks. Mid-fight, Kennedy noticed two other vamps attempting to come around and behind them.
“Watch the sides!” she called out to Willow. “The sides!”
Just then, the two vampires rushed Willow from both sides. Neglecting her own battle, Kennedy turned to Willow and screamed her name. The third vampire took advantage of the opportunity and punched Kennedy in the back, sending her to one knee. The first vampire, the one that Kennedy had darted, got to his feet and threw a kick at her face. She caught his leg and did a twist flip, sending him back to the floor. The other vampire picked up a chair and slammed it across Kennedy’s back as she tried to rise. She went down on her hands and knees as the chair broke into bits against her, knocking the breath right out of her. Before she could recover, the vampire came around to face Kennedy. He grabbed her by the hair and then rammed his knee hard into her head. Her head snapped back, and her eyes rolled back. Then she went completely limp, falling face first to the floor like a knocked-out boxer.
Meanwhile, Willow summoned her magic and sent dual blasts against the two vampires threatening to tackle her. The vampires were blown back about twenty feet each. One went crashing behind the bar, while the other slammed into the far wall. When Willow looked up, she saw Kennedy hit the floor.
“Kennedy!” she screamed. She sent another blast into the two vampires standing over the slayer, and they went flying out into the middle of the dance floor.
By this point, the visibility cloud was nearly gone, and the images of the vampires were becoming lighter and lighter. Just then, Xander and the junior slayers came rushing in. The vampires hissed at them and then disappeared as the spell’s cloud finally dissipated. The vampires didn’t stay for the fight, though. They pushed past Xander and the junior slayers and fled the building.
Willow ran over to Kennedy and turned her over. With tears in her eyes, she felt for a pulse and found one. Gratitude came over her face, and she stroked the slayer’s cheek.
“Kennedy?” she said gently. The slayer didn’t respond at all.
Xander immediately got on his radio. “Robin, we need medics at The Flame, now!”
“Already on our way,” Robin’s voice came over the radio.
“Kennedy?” Willow repeated, her voice choking. “Kennedy?!” she cried more desperately.
End of Part Seven
Willow sat leaning against Xander in the waiting room adjacent to the infirmary. He had his arm wrapped protectively around her, but they weren’t speaking. They had already fallen into the silent numbness of waiting.
Just then, the outside door to the waiting room opened, and Rowena came in. Willow got to her feet, and the two lovers hurried into each other’s arms. A small sob escaped Willow’s lips as Rowena held her tightly.
“I came as soon as I could,” Rowena said. “I got my slayers to Faith and Vi, and then I came straight here.”
The two pulled apart slightly so that they could look at each other. Willow nodded and wiped the tears from her face.
“Are they targeting the nest?” Willow asked.
“Yes,” Rowena said. “They’ve got a clear signal. Thanks to you and Kennedy.” Willow’s expression became pained. “How is she?” Rowena asked.
“I don’t know,” Willow said. “Dr. Miller hasn’t come out to tell us anything.”
Xander got up from his seat and joined them. “Why don’t I go ask at the nurse’s station, see if I can find out anything?”
Rowena smiled gratefully at Xander. “That’d be wonderful,” she told him. Then he left the room.
Willow’s tears started flowing once again. “It’s my fault,” she said. “Kennedy’s in there because of me.”
“No, no, that’s not true,” Rowena said reassuringly.
“It is,” Willow insisted. “I should have put her with another team. She saw me about to be attacked, and she just turned and let down her guard and—” Willow’s voice choked, and she took in a halting breath before continuing. “I should have put my foot down a-a-and made her stay here. I—”
“Willow,” Rowena said firmly, stopping the redhead’s rant. She cupped Willow’s cheek and made her look at her. “Do you really think you could have stopped Kennedy from going along?” she said with a small grin. “You know how she is, alternate universe or not.”
Willow gave a hiccupy laugh. “That’s true.”
“She’ll be fine, you’ll see,” Rowena said. “She’s a slayer, she’s tough.”
Just then, Xander returned through the outside door. “They say the doc’ll be out any minute. He’s just finishing up.”
As if on cue, the inside door to the waiting room opened, and Dr. Miller came in. Willow and Rowena and Xander rushed over to hear what he had to say.
“How is she?” Willow asked worriedly.
“She’s got a concussion, some bruising to the body, but other than that…” Dr. Miller said.
Willow’s face instantly relaxed in relief. “Thank goodness,” she said. “Can we see her? Is she awake?”
“No, she’s not, and that’s what concerns me,” the doctor replied. Willow’s worried expression returned. “Most slayers regain consciousness fairly quickly after a head trauma. They may not be entirely lucid, but they usually wake up. Kennedy’s not doing that. She’s not showing any signs of waking up.”
“She’s in a coma?” Rowena asked.
“I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s serious,” Dr. Miller said. “When she arrived, was she complaining of any symptoms? Headaches, blurred vision, stuff like that?”
“Yes!” Willow said. “She’s had a nagging headache since she got here, but we just attributed it to the teleporting. Dimensional jet lag, you know?”
“I can attest to those side effects,” Xander interjected. “Always makes me wanna hurl when we travel like that.”
“Oh! And she was having trouble reading, when we were researching in the library,” Willow added. “She said the writing in the book was hard to read. It was an old one with fancy script, so I didn’t think anything about it. But maybe her vision was off. I guess that would explain why I beat her at darts, too.”
“What does all this mean?” Rowena asked the doctor.
“Well, there’s evidence that Kennedy suffered an earlier concussion, probably less than a week ago,” Dr. Miller continued. “It was a bad one too. Her slayer healing had already started working on it, but it’s likely that she was still experiencing symptoms, just the kinds of things you’ve mentioned.”
“I tried to get her to come to the infirmary, but she kept blowing me off,” Willow complained. “Why do slayers have to be so damned stubborn?”
“I think it’s an integral part of slayerness itself,” Xander said, “’cause I haven’t met a slayer yet that didn’t have stubbornness in spades.”
“Well that stubbornness has put her in danger,” Dr. Miller said. “Even for a slayer, getting two major concussions days apart…it’s not a good scenario.”
“So what do we do now, Doctor?” Willow asked.
“We wait,” he said simply. “I don’t think her brain has been permanently damaged, but I’ll need to run neurological tests, and I can’t do those until she’s awake. I’d feel a whole lot better if she’d just wake up.”
“You should do a healing spell,” Rowena suggested to Willow. “Anything to get Kennedy over this hump, right Doctor?”
“Yes, a healing spell is probably a good idea,” Dr. Miller said. “Anything to wake her up and maybe nudge her slayer healing into working a little faster.”
“I’ll get right on that,” Willow said, excited that there was something pro-active she could do to help.
“When you’re ready, just come on in,” Dr. Miller said. “She’s in room three.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” Willow said, shaking his hand. Then he went back inside the infirmary. Willow turned to Rowena. “I’ll be in the Coven Room and then here, I guess.”
“I’m going to the command center to check on the mission team,” Rowena said. “If Dawn and Andrew are back, I’ll send them your way.”
“I’ll come with you,” Xander said. “I want to check on Vi.”
Rowena took Willow’s hands and kissed her warmly. “I’ll be back later, okay?”
Willow nodded, then the three of them left the waiting room.
The lights were dimmed, and several candles flickered on the nearby nightstand. Willow stood at the head of Kennedy’s bed. She held one hand on Kennedy’s shoulder and rested the other on the slayer’s forehead. She had her eyes closed, and she was whispering a healing incantation. Dawn and Andrew had already come and gone, giving what they could, but Willow was still at it, determined to see Kennedy through. Rowena stood at the foot of the bed, watching silently.
Slowly, Kennedy’s eyes flickered open. She peered groggily at Rowena, then her gaze suddenly cleared. “Willow!” she cried out while trying to sit up.
Willow took Kennedy’s hand and stepped back so that the slayer could see her. “I’m right here,” she said, easing Kennedy back down against her pillow.
“I saw you…I thought you were—”
“I know,” Willow said. “But I’m not. I’m fine.”
Kennedy let out a deep breath and smiled. Willow smiled back.
“I’ll get Dr. Miller,” Rowena said.
Willow turned to Rowena. “Thanks,” she said, then Rowena left the room.
When Willow turned back to Kennedy, she found the slayer pulling back the covers as if to get out of bed.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Willow exclaimed as she attempted to hold Kennedy down in the bed.
“Sitting up,” Kennedy insisted, pushing Willow’s hands away. “My back hurts. I need to stretch.”
Kennedy turned in the bed and swung her legs over the edge. Then she put her hands against her hips and arched her back inward, twisting first one way then the other. When she heard a loud pop, she sighed in relief.
“That’s better,” the slayer said.
Willow stood in front of Kennedy with an appalled look on her face. “You are the most stubborn person I have ever known!”
“Ooo, do I get a trophy for that?” Kennedy quipped.
“Don’t make jokes,” Willow warned. “Why didn’t you tell me you had a concussion when you got here?”
“Because there was nothing you could do about it,” Kennedy said. “Besides, it was already healing up.”
“Not enough,” Willow pointed out. “You were still having headaches and blurred vision and goddess knows what else, weren’t you?”
“It wasn’t that big of a deal. You’re making too much of it.”
“Making too much of it?” Willow shot back. “For god’s sake, Kennedy, you could have been killed tonight!”
A flustered sort of anguish came over Kennedy’s face as she continued to defend her actions. “You were being attacked. What was I supposed to do?”
“You put yourself in danger!” Willow continued. “You put your own mission in jeopardy and—”
“I wasn’t going to stand there and watch you be killed!” Kennedy yelled, silencing Willow. Then an unexpected sob came out of the slayer’s throat. “Not again,” she told Willow firmly but in a strangled voice. “Oh god…” Kennedy said, wrapping her arms around herself as the unwanted tears came. She rocked back and forth on the hospital bed, hating the crying that she knew she couldn’t stop.
Willow embraced her, pulling her close against her chest. She stroked the slayer’s hair, repeating “it’s okay” over and over, although she knew things were anything but okay.
Kennedy spoke haltingly, forcing out words between sobs. “When I left, the demon was…he had her by the throat…he just jabbed his claws into her…she couldn’t even scream…oh god…” Kennedy pulled out of Willow’s arms and looked at her. “I can’t…go back there,” she said, tears streaming down her face. “Not with Will gone. I just can’t. I can’t, I can’t…”
When Kennedy began frantically shaking her head, Willow put her hands on each side of the slayer’s face. Then she kissed her, desperately, passionately. Kennedy hungrily returned the kiss.
Just then, Rowena walked back into the room, ready to tell them that Dr. Miller would be on his way shortly. The blonde froze in place when she saw Willow and Kennedy kissing. Surprise and hurt came over her face, and she quickly retreated, leaving the room without either Willow or Kennedy even knowing she had been there.
After a long moment of kissing, Willow finally pulled away. She wore a guilty expression and glanced away when Kennedy tried to look at her. Kennedy noticed Willow’s reaction and looked away too, another pain now evident in her eyes.
“I’m sorry, I-I-I shouldn’t have done that,” Willow said. “I don’t even know why I did that.”
Kennedy took a deep breath and forced a smile. “Must be my irresistible lips,” she said, wiping the tears from her face.
Willow gave a small laugh. “Must be,” she agreed.
“Sorry I cried all over you,” Kennedy said. More than a little disgust at herself was in her voice.
“Oh, no problem,” Willow instantly assured her. “I’m just glad you could, you know? If you’re anything like our Kennedy—and you sure seem to be just like her, lips and all—you keep way too much of that inside.”
Kennedy scoffed and gave a rueful grin. “Don’t worry, the blubbering slayer will be out of your hair in a day or two. Just as soon as my crystal recharges.” She forced another smile but didn’t say anything else.
An awkwardness set in that was thankfully broken when Dr. Miller came in the room. When he saw Kennedy sitting up on the side of the bed, he put his hands on his hips and looked at Willow. The redhead merely shrugged helplessly.
“Slayers,” Dr. Miller said, shaking his head.
Willow smiled at the doctor then turned back to Kennedy. “I’m gonna let Dr. Miller do his thing,” she said, “but I’ll be back to check on you later. You get some rest, okay?”
“Yes, mother,” Kennedy said, rolling her eyes.
Willow gave the slayer’s hand a squeeze then left the room. Dr. Miller walked over to Kennedy and looked down at her disappointedly.
“You and I are going to have a little chat about stubbornness,” he began.
Kennedy sighed and resigned herself to yet another lecture.
Willow paused in the hallway, clearly thinking hard about something. She glanced at the door to Kennedy’s room then looked away, the gears still turning in her mind. Then she walked off down the corridor with determined purpose in her eyes.
Willow sat at a table, books and papers and folders scattered across the table’s surface. She looked intently at a page in a book and compared its contents to those of a folder nearby.
“Yes!” she said, delighted to have discovered what she had been looking for.
Then her expression fell, as if she had just realized a complication she hadn’t considered. She sighed and leaned back in her chair, staring off, deep in thought.
Kennedy was lying on her side; her eyes were closed but not tightly. She rolled over to her other side and tried to get comfortable but failed. She opened her eyes and grumbled to herself. Finally, she threw the covers off herself, swung her legs over the side of the bed, and got to her feet.
As her feet hit the floor, she gripped the bed, expecting a dizzy spell to hit, but it didn’t. “Huh,” she said, tilting her head in surprise. “Cool.”
She went to the night stand and opened the drawer at the bottom. Sure enough, her clothes were folded neatly inside, sitting on top of her shoes. She pulled them out, and within minutes, she was out of the hospital gown and happily back in her own clothes.
She reached into her pocket and pulled out the crystal that Althenea had given her. It was now glowing brightly, fully recharged and ready to take her home. Kennedy looked at it sadly then tucked it back into her pocket. She glanced about the infirmary room once more before sneaking out the door.
End of Part Eight
Willow came in the front door carrying a book bag on her shoulder. She found Rowena sitting on the couch in the living room. The watcher had her knees pulled up to her chest and her arms wrapped around her legs.
“Hey,” Willow said with a smile.
Rowena didn’t respond. Instead, she shot an angry glare in Willow’s direction. Then she got up from the couch and stormed into the kitchen. Willow did a what-the-hell double-take then followed after Rowena, first stopping to set her book bag on the dining room table.
In the kitchen, Rowena was at the sink with her back to Willow, washing a tea cup that really didn’t need washing.
“Can you hand me the fire extinguisher under the sink?” Willow said as she came in. “’Cause I think you actually set my clothes on fire with that look you just gave me.”
Rowena whipped around to face Willow, but still she didn’t speak.
“What’s up?” Willow pleaded sincerely.
Rowena gave a disgusted laugh. “I’m having déjà vu all over again, that’s what’s up.”
Willow wasn’t following. She raised her hands in a confused gesture.
“Wasn’t it just last summer that I caught you and Kennedy locking lips in the gym, and you swore there was nothing to it?”
Shock then realization came over Willow’s face. She dropped her gaze to her hands. “You saw.” It was more of a statement than a question.
“Oh, I got an eyeful all right, and that was no platonic, I’ll-always-be-there-for-you, friendly kiss,” Rowena said.
“No it wasn’t, but it wasn’t the kind of kiss you think it was either.”
“And what kind of kiss do I think it was?” Rowena replied smartly.
“You think it was an I-wanna-jump-your-bones kind of kiss.”
Rowena shook her head. “No, it’s worse than that,” she said quietly before lifting tear-filled eyes to Willow’s. “I think it was an I’m-falling-in-love-with-you kiss.” She swallowed hard then asked, “Was it?”
“No,” Willow said firmly, not taking her eyes from Rowena’s.
Rowena stared at Willow, wanting desperately to believe. She sniffed and looked down, wiping away the tears on her face. Willow closed the space between them and took Rowena’s hands in hers.
“I’m in love with you,” Willow said with certainty. “I know we’ve had a bad year, but my feelings never changed. You’re the one I want to spend my life with, have a family with, grow old with.”
Rowena looked up. “Then why did you kiss her?” she asked.
“I was trying to comfort her,” Willow said. Then she gave a mirthless laugh. “It was a mistake, I know. It hurt her worse when I pulled away, when I reminded her once again that I wasn’t her Willow.”
Rowena nodded wordlessly, and Willow pulled her hands away.
“I know it’s hard for you to understand,” Willow continued, “but I will always have a special connection with Kennedy. She pulled me out of the darkest place I’ve ever been in. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to love again after I lost Tara. She showed me otherwise, and I will always be indebted to her for that. And I’d like to think that maybe I was something special to her too. I don’t know.” Willow shrugged then went into an explanatory babble. “Anyway, I know this kiss doesn’t make sense because this Kennedy’s not my Kennedy, or our Kennedy rather, but she’s still Kennedy, and it’s not just her irresistible lips that make me want to—”
“What?!” Rowena interjected.
“Sorry, just a joke she made after we—” Willow grimaced. “Never mind. Bad joke, very bad joke. Sorry.” Willow shook her head, laughing nervously. “I mean, it’s not like you’d know about Kennedy’s lips…”
Rowena cleared her throat and looked away, a blush creeping into her cheeks. Willow’s mouth dropped open in shock.
“You…you…you kissed Kennedy?” Willow spluttered. “When?”
“When do you think?” Rowena answered.
Willow made the connection. The night she’d seen Rowena all over Kennedy outside Rowena’s apartment. “But…but…you said that nothing had happened that night!”
“Nothing did happen, Willow,” Rowena said. “Not that it’s any of your business if it did. You and I weren’t together then; you’d made that perfectly clear. I was upset about you going out with Gina the psycho, so—”
“I wasn’t going out with her!” Willow objected.
“Whatever,” Rowena said in annoyed voice. “It bugged me, so I went The Alcove and proceeded to get completely hammered. Kennedy found me there and took it upon herself to make sure I got home safely. But before we left, I…” Rowena stopped and shook her head. “I kissed her. Just laid one on her.” Rowena glanced at Willow, who still looked a little shell-shocked. Rowena shrugged unapologetically. “I wanted to know what all the fuss was about,” she explained. Then she gave a regretful sigh. “Most of that night is still a blur, but for some reason, I definitely remember that part.” Rowena rolled her eyes and looked away. “It would be that part,” she grumbled to herself.
Slowly, Willow’s expression of surprise gave way to one of amusement. She began to chuckle, causing Rowena to look up. Willow’s chuckles then became full-fledged laughs. Rowena smiled but managed to look a little incensed. Soon she joined Willow in laughter, and the two fell into hysteria. When their laughing finally eased, Willow moved close to Rowena and once again took the blonde’s hands in her own.
“I really am sorry,” Willow said. “Forgive me?”
Rowena smiled and pulled Willow closer. “I forgive you.”
“Good, because I, um, I kinda want to talk to you about a-a-an idea I have,” Willow said.
Rowena’s eyes narrowed, and she looked at Willow suspiciously, knowing the witch was up to something. “About Kennedy?” she asked.
“Yes,” Willow answered somberly.
Rowena released Willow and took a step back. “What is it?”
Willow took a deep breath. “It’s not enough just to send her back with the Champion’s Medallion,” she said. “We need to do more.”
“Like what?” Rowena asked, puzzled.
“Like give her a reason to want to go back,” Willow answered.
Rowena stared at Willow with a very worried expression on her face.
Willow and Rowena sat at the dining room table with Willow’s books and papers scattered over its top. A fist-sized blue crystal with multiple facets was resting on a nearby folder. Rowena was carefully reading a set of pages while Willow waited anxiously for her to finish. When she did finish reading, Rowena shook her head and set the sheets of paper on the table.
“What do you think?” Willow asked.
Rowena pinched the bridge of her nose. “I…I don’t know what to think.”
“I-I-I know it’s extreme,” Willow said, “but these are special circumstances.”
“Will it even work?” Rowena asked pointedly.
“I think so, but I can’t know for sure. A lot depends on Kennedy. A lot depends on the magic that brought her here. It may end up being an exercise in futility, but…I’d like to try.”
“Yeah, I’ll bet you would,” Rowena muttered.
“That’s not what this is about,” Willow objected.
Rowena softened. “I know.” Then she sighed and said, “You know, this situation was a hell of a lot easier when I was on the outside looking in.”
“I know,” Willow admitted.
“Are you sure there’s no other way?”
“There are other spells, but I don’t think they’d be as effective,” Willow explained. “It needs to be something big, something able to generate a lot of power. A-A-And it needs to be me and Kennedy.”
Rowena sighed resignedly then said, “Okay.”
Willow’s face lit up. She jumped from her chair, grabbed Rowena’s hands, and pulled her to her feet. Then she picked her up and gave her a big twirl before planting a huge kiss on her lips.
“Thank you,” the witch said sincerely.
Rowena smiled. “You’re welcome.” Then the blonde’s expression sobered. “Do you think she’ll do it?”
Willow shrugged uncertainly. “I don’t know. I guess I’ll find out when I ask her.”
Just then, the phone rang. Willow looked at Rowena as if wondering who could possibly be calling this late. Willow picked up the phone.
“Hello?” Willow answered. She listened a moment then said, “What?!” Her expression became aggravated. “Thank you. I’ll see if I can find her.” Willow hung up.
“What is it?” Rowena asked.
“Kennedy left the infirmary,” Willow answered.
“You don’t think she…?”
“I hope not,” Willow said.
Carrying her book bag on her shoulder, Willow knocked on Kennedy’s door. There was no answer. She knocked again and leaned close to the door.
“Kennedy, are you in there?” Willow called out.
She knocked one more time and then listened intently. Soon she heard the lock turn. She let out a breath of relief at the knowledge that Kennedy was inside.
The door opened. Kennedy stood there, an awkward and somewhat sheepish expression on her face. She tucked her hands in her back pockets.
“Hey,” the slayer said.
“Hey,” Willow replied.
For a long moment, the two fidgeted in place, not saying anything.
“The infirmary called,” Willow said finally. “They said you’d left your room.”
“I didn’t want to stay in there,” Kennedy said with a shrug. “I hate places like that.”
“Nobody likes them, Kennedy, but—”
Kennedy held up her hands. “Please, save the lecture, okay? I’m not in the mood.”
Willow nodded in acquiescence. “Can I come in?”
“Sure,” Kennedy said, stepping aside to allow Willow to enter.
Kennedy led Willow to the living room, where she plopped down on the couch. Willow took the other end, setting her book bag next to the coffee table. Willow froze when she saw Kennedy’s green crystal sitting on the table, glowing brightly.
“It’s recharged,” Willow commented.
“Yeah,” Kennedy said. “Since last night. Since I left the infirmary. I guess I can go home whenever I’m ready.” Kennedy’s face clouded as she considered the prospect.
“About that,” Willow said. “There’s something I need to tell you. I couldn’t tell you at first because we weren’t sure if it was even real, but now that we do know for sure, I can tell you.”
Kennedy gave Willow a confused look. “Tell me what?”
“The Champion’s Medallion,” Willow replied. “We have it, and we’re letting you take it back with you.”
“What?” Kennedy asked incredulously.
“It was uncovered in an excavation at Sunnydale just days before you arrived,” Willow explained. “We thought it had been destroyed in the battle against the First, but then boom, there it was.”
“So that’s why I came here, now.”
Willow nodded. “So you won’t be going home empty-handed after all.”
Kennedy smiled gratefully for a moment, then her face darkened once again. She stood up and walked a few feet away, keeping her back to Willow. “That’s good,” she said. “Good.”
Willow got up and walked around the table to stand in front of Kennedy. She touched the slayer’s arm but didn’t speak.
Kennedy gave a scoffing laugh. “I should be happy, right? I got what I came for. Mission accomplished.”
Willow gave Kennedy’s arm a sympathetic squeeze and moved closer.
Kennedy swallowed hard and continued in a quieter voice. “But all I want to do is stay here. With you.”
“Kennedy…” Willow said, trailing off and shaking her head.
Kennedy stepped back, putting some space between them. “I know. You’re with Rowena, and there’s just no place for me here.”
“And your world needs you,” Willow said. “You have to go.” Willow stepped closer again. “But before you go, I want to give you something.”
Kennedy looked up. “What?”
Willow took Kennedy’s hand. “Me,” she said simply.
Shock came over Kennedy’s face, but it was quickly erased by one of intense anger. She yanked her hand out of Willow’s. “What is this? Some kind of sick joke?!” she demanded.
“No, no,” Willow instantly denied before frantically trying to explain. “Not me me, the other me, well, actually it would be me first, but then it’d be the other me, if it worked, and I’m not even sure it will, but it’s worth a try, if you’re willing, that is.”
Kennedy just looked at Willow like she was crazy.
“I should probably start over, huh?” Willow said.
“Good idea,” Kennedy said.
Willow and Kennedy were once again seated on the couch. Willow’s papers and books were covering the coffee table. Kennedy was holding the multi-faceted blue crystal in her hand.
“What do you think?” Willow asked.
Kennedy set the crystal on the table. “I…I don’t know what to think.”
“I know. It’s a lot to take in.”
“Do you really think it will work?” Kennedy asked.
“But…it depends on me?” Kennedy said worriedly.
“Well,” Willow replied. “You’ll be the one to cast.”
Kennedy looked down at her hands. “And if it doesn’t work?” she asked softly.
“At least you will have tried,” Willow said. “A-A-A little hope’s better than none, right?”
At that, Kennedy smiled and nodded.
Wearing satiny green robes, Willow and Kennedy stood in the center of the coven room before a specially-prepared altar. On it lay a censer, a bowl of water, a dish of salt, two athames, and three lit candles—one white, one gold, and one silver. Willow and Kennedy held the blue crystal together in their hands.
“Let this be the vessel of our power,” Willow intoned.
“Let this be the vessel of our love,” Kennedy finished.
The crystal gave a soft glow, and Kennedy smiled in surprise. Willow smiled back at her. After the two placed the crystal on the altar, they stood looking at each other awkwardly.
“Are you ready?” Willow asked.
“I don’t know,” Kennedy said, wringing her hands. Then she gave an anxious laugh. “I shouldn’t be nervous, right? I mean, we’ve done this before…well, not we we, the other we, but still, oh god, I think I’ve caught your babble.”
Willow closed the space between them. She placed her hand gently on Kennedy’s cheek. “Don’t think of me,” she whispered. “Think of her.”
Willow leaned in and kissed Kennedy softly on the lips. Kennedy closed her eyes and received the kiss. Then she eagerly returned it, pulling Willow closer.
Having cleaned up after the ritual was over, Kennedy and Willow were once again dressed in their street clothes. Kennedy was holding the blue crystal in her hands. It was now glowing with a very intense brightness. Willow handed a black velvet cloth to Kennedy.
“You know…if we’d gone one more time, I think we’d’ve blown that thing to bits,” Willow commented with a smirk.
“Heh, heh,” Kennedy chuckled as she wrapped the cloth around the crystal and then tucked it into her jacket pocket.
“I’ve called Ro,” Willow said. “She’s getting the amulet.”
“Good,” Kennedy replied.
“Shall we?” Willow asked, gesturing at the door.
Kennedy took a deep breath and nodded. Then the two of them left the coven room.
Willow and Kennedy walked into the briefing room, where Rowena and the others were waiting. Rather than being seated, the group was clustered around the end of the table near the door.
Rowena was the first to step forward. She smiled politely and said, “Are you ready?”
“As I’ll ever be,” Kennedy replied.
As Rowena stepped aside, Faith and Vi came over. Faith reached out and shook Kennedy’s hand.
“Give the First hell, okay?” Faith said.
“That’s the plan,” Kennedy said.
Vi gave Kennedy a hug. “Take care,” she said.
Andrew, Xander, Giles, and Robin chimed in their good-byes as well. Then Dawn stepped forward and hugged Kennedy warmly. When they pulled apart, they shared a long, heart-felt look.
“I’ll do everything I can,” Kennedy promised.
“I know you will,” Dawn said.
When Dawn stepped aside, Rowena looked at Willow, but the redhead just nodded, indicating that she had already made her good-byes. Rowena opened the box on the table and pulled out the Champion’s Medallion. She stepped forward and held it out to Kennedy. Kennedy walked over and took the amulet from Rowena’s hand.
“Thank you,” Kennedy said. Before the blonde could step away, Kennedy took her hand and held it. “Thank you,” she repeated, meeting Rowena’s eyes in an intense gaze, thanking her secretly for the sacrifice she had been willing to make.
Rowena got the message. She smiled sincerely and simply said, “You’re welcome.”
Kennedy stepped back and put the amulet in her jacket pocket. “Well, I guess I should be going,” the slayer said in a light tone. “I’ve got things to do. You know, asses to kick, names to take, that sort of thing.”
As Willow joined Rowena, Kennedy pulled the small crystal from the pocket of her jeans. It was still glowing a bright green, just waiting to be activated. She stepped to the far side of the table, away from the others. She held out the crystal and started to speak the incantation. Before doing so, she turned and looked back at Willow once. Then she turned back and spoke the words. In a flash, the slayer was gone. Everyone looked around the room, a mixture of sadness and wonder on their faces.
Kennedy blipped back into the magic circle mere seconds after she had left. By the doorway, Faith was fighting demons like a mad woman. The other slayers, though, were down and not moving. A few yards away, Willow was sinking to the floor at the feet of the demon who had attacked her. Nearby, Althenea was using magic to fend off several demons that had pushed her away from the circle.
Snatching up the scythe that Althenea had left behind, Kennedy leaped into action. She moved like a whirlwind through the room, massacring the demons near Althenea first, then the ones near Faith. Then there was only one demon left, the one that had attacked Willow. Kennedy stood stock still in front of him, demon blood dripping off the scythe as she stared him down. Faith and Althenea were frozen in place, awestruck from watching Kennedy work.
The demon roared and rushed the slayer. She remained motionless to the very last second, then stepped aside, allowing the demon to ram himself into the wall. Before he could recover, she swung the axe end of the scythe into his back of his neck. The scythe’s blade went through his neck and embedded into the wall. The demon’s headless body slipped to the floor, jerking. The demon’s head rested precariously on the top of the scythe for a second, then toppled off.
Kennedy instantly released the scythe, turned from the demon, and ran over to Willow. Faith and Althenea followed. The witch was bleeding badly from her stomach, where the demon had sunk his claws into her. She was struggling to breathe.
Kennedy leaned over Willow and looked into her eyes. “Hang on, baby,” she said. Kennedy pulled the glowing blue crystal from her jacket pocket and laid it on Willow’s chest.
“What are you—?” Althenea started to ask. She stopped when Kennedy placed her hands on Willow and began the incantation.
At first the crystal did nothing, but Kennedy kept at it, reciting line after line, putting everything she had into the spell. Mid-way, Willow gave one final ragged breath then stopped moving, her eyes fluttering shut. Still, Kennedy didn’t stop.
Slowly, the crystal began to pulse, and the light inside it seeped out and into Willow’s body. Faith and Althenea could feel the heat radiating from the pulsing crystal and its energies. More and more light was pouring into Willow until finally, with a flash, the crystal went dark.
Kennedy nearly fell over but caught herself on her hands next to Willow. The slayer was breathing hard from the exertion of the spell. She pushed herself back up and looked at Willow. The witch still wasn’t moving. Kennedy stared at her with hope-filled eyes. Faith and Althenea knelt on each side of Kennedy and watched expectantly. When she saw no change in Willow, Kennedy closed her eyes and sighed. Faith hung her head, and Althenea put her hand on Kennedy’s back.
Just then, Willow took in a gasping breath, startling all three women. As Willow took in more breaths, tears of joy filled Kennedy’s eyes.
“Thank god,” the slayer said, touching Willow’s cheek.
Althenea reached out and passed her right palm over Willow’s abdomen. The dark-haired witch closed her eyes and concentrated. Then she pulled her hand away. “I think she’ll be okay,” Althenea said.
“Damn girl,” Faith said with a grin, “since when do you do the mojo?”
“Since today,” Kennedy replied.
“Well, I’m puttin’ you on the witchy roster from now on,” Faith teased.
“Faith’s right,” Althenea said, picking up the blue crystal. “This was very advanced.”
“I had a little help,” Kennedy said. Faith and Althenea looked for her to go on, but all she said was, “I’ll tell you everything later.” Kennedy reached into her other jacket pocket and pulled out the Champion’s Medallion. Faith’s eyes lit up as Kennedy handed her the amulet.
“You did it!” Faith said excitedly.
“No, we did it,” Kennedy corrected. Then she turned to Althenea. “See what you can make of it?”
The witch nodded, then she and Faith left Kennedy alone with Willow. Kennedy turned back to the redhead and hovered over her protectively.
Willow looked confused. She sat up and glanced at her abdomen, which was still covered with her own blood. “I thought I was…”
“So did I,” Kennedy said softly.
“How did you—?” Willow asked.
“Long story, tell ya later, okay?”
“Okay,” Willow said, nodding.
Kennedy reached out and cupped Willow’s cheek. “I thought I’d lost you,” she said in a choked voice, tears rolling down her face once again. “Please don’t leave me,” she pleaded.
Willow was moved to tears herself. She put her hand over Kennedy’s and said, “I won’t.”
The two lovers kissed passionately then embraced one another, holding each other for the longest time.
Willow and Rowena were curled up together in bed, with Willow leaning against Rowena’s shoulder. The blonde had her arm wrapped snuggly around the redhead. She kissed the top of Willow’s head.
“Whatcha thinkin’ ’bout?” Rowena asked.
“Kennedy,” Willow answered.
“I figured. Me too.”
“I’m just wondering if she made it,” Willow said. “I-I-If she saved her.”
“I guess we’ll never know,” Rowena said, “but I certainly believe so.”
“You do?” Willow asked, turning to face Rowena.
“Yes, I do,” Rowena answered. “If anyone could make it happen, it’s Kennedy. Stubbornness does have its virtues,” she added with a smirk.
Willow grinned back. “True.” She kissed Rowena warmly before reaching over to turn out the lamp on the nightstand. They both settled back against their pillows, deep in thought.
Once darkness had settled in the room, Willow said, “So…Kennedy’s lips…irresistible?”
“Oh yeah,” Rowena instantly answered.
The two started giggling, lightly at first, then hysterically, as they rolled into one another’s arms once again.
End of LOSS