Deep within the crater that used to be Sunnydale, a Council-sponsored archaeological team worked with painstaking slowness to uncover the remains of the high school. There was no semblance of structure left behind--merely rubble. Three men and two women worked in separate areas, carefully sorting larger pieces, sifting through sand for smaller objects, and brushing sand and mud from recovered items. The lead archaeologist, Dr. Garrett, was working her way around the rough circle to gauge progress when an outcry from one of her team members caught her attention. She rushed right over.
A twenty-something scruffy young man wearing a red bandana lifted a dusty item and set it in the outstretched hands of Dr. Garrett. With her eyes blazing with curiosity, she carefully uncurled the dusty item and held it up for a closer look. It was an amulet with a heavy chain and a large gem in the centerpiece.
“Is that what I think it is?” asked the young man.
“I thought it was destroyed,” another of the team members commented.
“That’s what everybody thought,” Dr. Garrett said. “But obviously everybody was wrong.” She gave the young man a pat on the shoulder and smiled at the group. “Congratulations, folks, you’ve just found the Champion’s Medallion.”
Watchers Council – Briefing Room – Two Days Later
Faith entered the room and joined Willow and Rowena at the conference table. Rowena sat at the head of the table while Willow sat to her left. A small package was on the table in front of Willow next to some folders.
“Are we it?” Faith asked.
“ ’Fraid so,” Rowena said. “Buffy’s in London, and everybody else is either on vacation or on assignment. Thanks for filling in, by the way.”
“Hey, I told Ken I’d cover for her, so no prob,” Faith replied.
Rowena picked up the gavel and then grinned. “Hardly seems worth the effort for such a small crowd…” She tapped it on the table anyway. “I call this meeting to order. First item on the agenda…our little discovery. Willow?”
Willow took Rowena’s cue and opened the small package. Within seconds, she had laid the box’s contents on the table. The newly-cleaned amulet gleamed in the harsh light of the room.
“Holy shit! Is that what I think it is?” Faith asked.
Rowena looked questioningly at Willow.
“It appears to be,” Willow said uncertainly.
“But…I thought it was crispy-fried down in the hellmouth,” Faith said.
Willow shrugged. “Well, that’s what we all thought. ’Course we thought Spike was history, too, and then he showed back up in L.A. months later.”
“The question now, however, is what to do with it,” Rowena said.
“We need to study it, verify its authenticity, and Buffy in particular should take a look at it,” Willow suggested.
“Until then, we should keep it locked up, though,” Faith said. “Put it in the Vault with all the other scary magical items.”
“I concur,” Rowena said.
“Me too,” Willow agreed. Then she set the medallion back in its box.
“Next item,” Rowena prompted. “The Lamiae Aetheriae.”
“The what?” Faith asked, confused.
“The Ninja Vamps,” Willow explained.
“Oh. Yeah, well, no luck there,” Faith said ruefully. “These guys are like…ghosts or something. They’re feeding in clubs, right in front of us sometimes, and we don’t even have a clue they’re there. I mean shouldn’t our slayer radar be picking up on ’em or something?”
“This is a species of vampire we don’t know much about,” Rowena said. “Unfortunately, our research hasn’t told us anything that you haven’t already figured out.”
“What we need is a way to track them,” Willow said.
“Right,” Faith confirmed. “You help me find the suckers, and I swear, we can kill ’em.”
Willow and Rowena and Faith all nodded in agreement on that issue, but then they paused and looked at each other, clearly out of ideas on what else to do.
“We’ll keep up the research,” Rowena finally said before moving on. “Third item, Kennedy and Kadin’s mission.”
“Kennedy’s supposed to call some time today,” Faith supplied. “When she does, I can let everyone know what’s up. Far as I know, things are going fine.”
“Okay then, any other business?” Rowena inquired. When neither Faith nor Willow spoke up, she gave the gavel another tap. “Meeting adjourned.”
“Be honest,” Willow teased Rowena. “You know you miss the gavel.”
“Not as much as you might think,” Rowena replied with a small smile.
“Oh come on, I know in your mind, you’re holding it aloft and saying, ‘I have the power!!!’ ”
Rowena couldn’t help but grin. “Okay, I admit it…I do, on occasion, miss the gavel, but my occasional substituting for Buffy allows me to satisfy my board room She-Ra cravings.”
As Willow and Rowena chit-chatted, Faith prepared to leave. Just when she had pushed her chair back up to the table, her cell phone rang. She pulled it out of her jacket pocket and looked at the caller i.d. It showed Kennedy’s name and number.
“Speak of the devil,” Faith said to Rowena and Willow before flipping open her phone. “Hey, Slick, how’s it going?”
Rowena moved to Faith’s side of the table, in anticipation of receiving news of Kennedy and Kadin’s mission. Willow stacked her folders together and then began repacking the medallion into its box.
Suddenly, an explosion of light and a gale of wind burst out of nowhere behind Willow, knocking her against the table. When she turned around, she saw a blinding portal opening right in front of her. A figure stepped out of the gateway. And then just as quickly as it appeared, the portal was gone.
Willow and Faith and Rowena looked at the figure in surprise and alarm. It was Kennedy. A long-haired Kennedy. A dazed and bruised Kennedy.
“What the hell?” Faith said, still holding her open cell phone.
“What?” demanded Kennedy’s voice out of the phone. “What is it?”
“Look, I gotta go,” Faith told the Kennedy on the phone. “Call ya later.” As the slayer’s voice started to strongly object, Faith hung up.
Willow stared in shock as the Kennedy right in front of her stumbled forward.
“Willow…?” the battered slayer said in a choked voice. Then she promptly passed out and hit the floor with a thud.
Willow immediately ran to Kennedy’s side and turned her over. The slayer had clearly seen better days. She was thin and dirty, covered in scrapes and cuts and bruises, her clothes frayed and tattered. With her eyes full of confusion, Willow ran her fingers along the brunette’s long braid of hair.
Just then, Kennedy came to and saw Willow hovering over her. She reached out and touched Willow’s face. Grateful tears sprang up in the slayer’s eyes. “Willow…thank god…” Kennedy pulled Willow to her and kissed her passionately, desperately.
Rowena and Faith came around the table just in time to see the kiss. Faith glanced over at Rowena, but the watcher’s face was unreadable.
Willow pulled out of the kiss, gently but deliberately. Kennedy gave Willow a bewildered look then abruptly scooted back several feet away from Willow. Deep pain was clearly in her expression.
“You’re not my Willow, are you?” Kennedy asked, casting several glances at the room she clearly didn’t recognize.
Rowena stepped forward and put her hand on Willow’s shoulder. “No, she’s not.” Rowena didn’t say this meanly or possessively, just matter-of-factly and somewhat compassionately.
Faith came closer and said, “And you’re not our Kennedy.”
At that, Kennedy shook her head but said nothing more.
Watchers Council – Briefing Room – Resume
Willow looked at Faith and Rowena then turned back to Kennedy. “Well, wh-who are you?” Willow asked. “W-Where are you from? W-When are you from? Why are you here?”
Kennedy gave a rueful laugh. “It’s good to know that you’re still babbling in at least one dimension.” Kennedy took a deep breath and said, “Look, I’ll tell you everything, and you can tell me everything, but right now, I could really use a shower and something to eat.”
“Oh. O-O-Of course,” Willow said awkwardly.
Willow reached out to help Kennedy get to her feet. When the slayer stood up, she hissed in pain.
“Oh my god…you’re hurt,” Willow said. “We should call Dr. Miller, get you to the infirm—”
“I’m fine,” Kennedy insisted, cutting Willow off. “It’s an old wound, already healing up.”
“Will, why you don’t take Kennedy to the apartment,” Rowena suggested, “and I’ll go scrounge up some food in the kitchen?”
Willow nodded mutely.
“I’ll spread the word to the senior members,” Faith said.
Willow’s Apartment – Bedroom – Later
Willow came in the bedroom with an armful of clothes that she had “borrowed” from Kennedy’s apartment. She plopped them on the bed in a heap. A hair dryer could be heard running in the bathroom.
“Overkill probably,” she muttered to herself when she looked at the excessive amount of clothes. “She’s bound to like some of it. I mean, she’s still Kennedy, right?” Willow turned to the bathroom door. “I got you some clothes!” she called out loudly over the hair dryer.
“What?” came Kennedy’s voice over the dryer.
“I said—” Willow stopped yelling when the hair dryer was turned off and a towel-clad Kennedy opened the door. She started back in a lower voice, “I, um, I said I got you some clothes.”
“Cool,” Kennedy replied, beginning to check out the choices.
“I, um, I kinda stole ’em from our Kennedy’s closet,” Willow explained sheepishly. “She’s probably gonna kick my butt when she gets back.”
Kennedy picked out some underclothes, a pair of jeans, and a t-shirt. Then, without so much as a warning, she dropped the towel around herself and started getting dressed.
Willow froze for a moment, her eyes involuntarily drawn to Kennedy’s body. When Kennedy smirked at her long glance, Willow cleared her throat and turned around, embarrassed. “Sorry,” she mumbled.
“You don’t have to turn away for my sake,” Kennedy told her. “Been on the run a while. No time for modesty.” Kennedy pulled on her jeans. “Plus, it’s not like we haven’t seen each other before. Right?”
Willow chuckled nervously and turned back around, but kept her eyes politely averted. Well mostly.
Kennedy fastened her jeans and then yanked on the loose waistband. “Guess your Kennedy’s got a little more meat on her,” she said. “I’m not exactly gettin’ three squares a day lately.”
When Kennedy went to pull her shirt over her head, she winced slightly, causing Willow to look up. It was then that Willow got a glimpse of the wound on Kennedy’s back.
“Wait,” Willow called out. “Let me see.”
“Oh now you wanna see,” Kennedy teased.
Then she sighed and complied with Willow’s request. She turned around and lifted her shirt so that Willow could see. It was a deep gash maybe seven inches long across the lower part of Kennedy’s back, right above the waistband of her jeans. Given slayer healing, it was probably a few days old, but it still looked rather nasty.
“Kennedy!” Willow protested, running her fingers gently along Kennedy’s back. “This is bad! Y-Y-You need to see Dr. Miller and—”
Kennedy grabbed Willow’s hand and turned around. “It’s not that bad,” she insisted. “I can do without the doc.”
“Well-well…at least let me put some antibiotic a-a-and a bandage on it,” Willow offered.
When Kennedy shrugged in acquiescence, Willow entered the bathroom, gathered what she needed, and quickly returned. As Kennedy continued to dutifully hold up her shirt, Willow applied an antibiotic ointment along the gash.
“Kennedy, this was really deep and awfully close to your spine. How did it happen?”
“Eh, some Butch demon, in some dive outside of Des Moines…”
“Vutch demon?” Willow asked, alarmed.
“Yeah, whatever. Anyway he tried to slice and dice me before I incinerated his ass. You know, you wouldn’t think that Evil Inc. would give a crap about Iowa. I mean, there’s nothing there.”
Willow forced a laugh at Kennedy’s nonchalant attitude. She finished placing a large bandage over the wound and gave the slayer’s back a pat to indicate she was done.
Kennedy put down her shirt and turned around. “Thanks,” she said.
The two were mere inches apart. Willow looked into Kennedy’s eyes, but the slayer kept glancing away.
“Things are bad where you come from, aren’t they?” Willow asked softly.
Kennedy looked at her feet and nodded. “Ah…yeah.”
Willow reached out and put her hand on Kennedy’s arm. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
Kennedy met Willow’s gaze and held it. They stared for the longest time, moving imperceptibly closer, until Kennedy finally cleared her throat and took a step back.
“So…you and the blonde, huh?” Kennedy asked.
“Um, yeah. Rowena. Rowena’s her name.”
“You and me…well, the other me…we broke up, I guess.”
There was a long pause. Then Kennedy asked, “Over her?”
“No,” Willow instantly answered. “Not really. Kennedy probably still thinks so, though. Our Kennedy.” Willow wrung her hands a moment before looking up. “Kennedy’s got a new girlfriend now. Someone she really seems to care about.”
“Good for her,” Kennedy said evenly, but she didn’t say more.
“Where you’re from…you and me…we’re still together?”
Kennedy didn’t answer. A look of anguish and uncertainty came over her face.
-- Kennedy and Willow enjoying their first date
-- Kennedy kissing Willow in Buffy’s backyard
-- Kennedy telling Willow “you’re my way now”
-- Kennedy and Willow making love prior to the battle with the First
-- Kennedy in a magic circle screaming “no!” while watching Willow get attacked by some demons
“I-I-I’m sorry,” Willow said. “I shouldn’t have asked. It’s none of my business.”
“No, it’s okay,” Kennedy said, pulling herself out of the bad memories. “I mean, I asked you first, and earlier I kissed you, so you’re probably wondering, and…” Kennedy paused and took a deep breath before continuing. “It’s just…I don’t know.”
Thinking of her own relationship troubles, Willow chuckled. “I can relate,” Willow said in a lighter tone.
“I got food!” they heard Rowena call from the kitchen. “Come and get it!”
Willow stepped aside and gestured for Kennedy to go ahead of her. Then the two of them left the bedroom.
Willow’s Apartment – Kitchen – Moments Later
While Rowena and Willow nibbled on the chips and dip, Kennedy dug into the huge tray of food that Andrew had whipped up. She wolfed down two burgers in a minute flat and then started in on the chef’s salad.
“Damn, this is good!” Kennedy said through a mouthful of food. “Hadn’t eaten like this in a while.”
“Well, she certainly eats like our Kennedy,” Rowena told Willow. Kennedy rolled her eyes but kept eating.
“She doesn’t look quite like our Kennedy, though,” Willow commented.
“What?” Kennedy asked, her curiosity piqued.
“Our Kennedy has short hair,” Willow said. “She chopped it all off last fall on a whim. She’s letting it grow back now, but it’s still short.”
Kennedy scoffed at the thought of short hair. “Last thing I’d want is somebody calling me ‘cute and perky’!”
Willow and Rowena burst out laughing. “She’s Kennedy all right,” they said to each other simultaneously.
Kennedy grumbled and went back to her food.
Watchers Council – Briefing Room – Later
This time, the meeting that Rowena called wasn’t so small. Seated at the table were Faith, Robin, Xander, Vi, Dawn, Andrew, and Giles. The head of the table was left vacant for Rowena, and the two chairs on the end nearest the door were empty.
When the door opened, Willow and Rowena entered, followed by Kennedy. After the slayer had walked a few steps in, she stopped in place and nervously looked around the table. As she stared at them, they stared at her. Pain filled Kennedy’s eyes as she looked at each one. She seemed to look the longest at Dawn. The others looked back in shock.
“Good lord!” Giles exclaimed.
As Willow took the seat next to Xander, he leaned over and whispered, “Are you sure she’s not a pod person? You know, like that Faith changeling from Vor?”
Willow smiled. “Don’t worry. We tested her, and she’s for real,” Willow reassured him.
Xander chuckled and looked at Kennedy. “No offense.”
“None taken,” Kennedy replied.
“Please, sit,” Giles said, motioning to the seat next to Willow.
Rowena had already taken her place at the head of the table. Once she had opened the meeting, she turned to Kennedy. “I’m sure you know that we’ve got a million questions, but I think the best thing is for you to just tell us your story.”
Kennedy nodded in agreement. She took a deep breath, glanced once more at Dawn, then began.
“Well, as you’ve probably heard, I’m from an alternate dimension,” she said. “One that’s not real fun to be in. In my world, we failed to stop the First. When we went to Sunnydale High that day, we lost...”
Sunnydale High School – Day (flashback)
With Sunnydale evacuated, the high school was trashed and abandoned. Robin led the group up to the entrance. He and Giles held the doors open for the others. As they went inside, Dawn walked beside Buffy.
“I wish Spike was here,” Dawn said to her sister.
Buffy glared at both Robin and Giles. “Well, he’s not.”
The sisters walked inside while the others followed.
Sunnydale High School – Hallway – Day (flashback)
Once inside the school, Faith came up to walk alongside Buffy.
“You got the bling bling, right?” Faith asked.
“Oh gee, was I supposed to bring that?” Buffy replied with mock ignorance. “But it really doesn’t go with what I’m wearing.” Faith rolled her eyes. “Relax, I’ve got it right here.” Buffy pulled the amulet from her pocket.
Faith looked relieved at the sight of the talisman, then a worried expression came over her face. “Are you sure that thing’s gonna work? What’s it supposed to do anyway?”
“Haven’t a clue. Guess we’ll find out when I put it on.”
Faith stopped Buffy and let the others pass so that the two slayers could talk privately.
“What if it...? Listen, B, if you want me to, I can wear the thing. I do fit the bill: ‘someone ensouled but stronger than human’. I know I haven’t always acted like I had a soul, but I do have one. And I know I’m not exactly a champion, but—”
“You are a champion, Faith,” Buffy interjected. “You proved that in L.A. and you’re proving it here. But this is something I need to do.”
“But why? You’ve already sacrificed yourself once. What if this thing just—”
Buffy stopped Faith’s rant with a raised hand. “Faith, I appreciate the offer, I do. But I need you on the front line, with the scythe, and the hopefully newly activated Slayers. We don’t have any idea what this thing is going to do or how long it’s going to take. You have to hold them as long as you can.”
Faith thought about this a moment then nodded wordlessly. Then the two slayers started walking again.
Watchers Council – Briefing Room – Resume
“Wait a minute,” Faith said, interrupting Kennedy’s narration. “You mean Buffy was planning to wear the medallion? I thought it was supposed to be worn by an ensouled vampire, like Spike.”
“It was,” Kennedy stated firmly.
“But…Spike wasn’t there, you said,” Dawn commented.
“No, he wasn’t,” Kennedy replied, casting a glare in the direction of Giles and Robin. Both men guiltily dropped their gaze to their hands.
“So…what happened?” Xander inquired.
“Things didn’t go according to plan,” Kennedy continued grimly.
Sunnydale High School – Basement – Later (flashback)
Faith, Buffy, and the potentials gathered around the Seal of Danthazar. Faith pulled out the Tawarick knife and handed it to Buffy.
“You first, B,” Faith said.
Buffy cut her palm with the knife then handed it off. All of the others did the same. Together, they let their blood drip onto the seal. Moments later, the seal absorbed the blood and began to glow. Its sections folded into one another, and the seal opened. Then Buffy, Faith, and the potentials entered the hellmouth.
Sunnydale High School – Principal’s Office – Same Time (flashback)
In Robin’s office, Willow sat on the floor with the scythe before her. Lit candles and other magical items were also present. Kennedy sat across from Willow, waiting and watching.
“They should be in place,” Kennedy prompted.
“Okay,” Willow said. “Magic time.” Then she laughed nervously and added, “You ready to kill me?”
“Starting to be,” Kennedy replied in an annoyed voice.
“Good. Fun. Great.” Willow took a deep breath and put her hands on the scythe. “Brace yourself,” she warned as she began the ritual.
Kennedy looked on with anticipation. “Come on, Red. Make it happen,” she whispered.
Sunnydale High School – The Hellmouth – Same Time (flashback)
Buffy, Faith, and the potentials crept down into the dark cavern. Faith moved close to Buffy and nodded silently. Buffy pulled out the medallion and put it on. The two slayers waited expectantly, but nothing happened.
“It probably just needs to warm up,” Buffy said. “I’m not worried.”
With weapons drawn, the group spread out along the flat ledge that overlooked the deep cavern. Below they saw thousands of Turok-han, snarling and growling and readying themselves for war.
Buffy’s eyes grew wide. “I’m not worried,” she repeated unconvincingly.
The potentials did not look comforted by her statement.
“As long as Willow can work her spell before they—” Buffy started to say.
The Turok-han suddenly went silent and, as one, looked up at the ledge.
“—see us,” Buffy finished with a whimper.
Roaring in rage, the uber-vamps began rushing up the walls toward the slayers and potentials.
“Willow…” Buffy whispered worriedly.
Sunnydale High School– Principal’s Office – Same Time (flashback)
As Willow continued the activation ritual, her body seemed electrified by the powers passing around and through her. Then the spell seemed to climax.
“Oh…my…goddess!” she exclaimed as the scythe suddenly flared with a brilliant white light.
Kennedy’s head snapped up as the effects of the spell hit her. Now a fully empowered slayer, she smiled wickedly.
Sunnydale High School – The Hellmouth – Same Time (flashback)
Just then, the uber-vamps surged over the ledge and charged Buffy and Faith and the new slayers.
Vi took one look at the horde and said with confidence, “These guys are dust.”
The fight was on. Slayers, new and old alike, put everything they had into the battle: kicking, leaping, punching, stabbing. All around them, the vampires were going down. But for every one they killed, a dozen more arose from the cavern below.
“Buffy!” Faith called out as she kicked back a vampire. “When’s that amulet gonna do its thing? We can’t hold out forever!”
“I don’t know,” Buffy replied, swiping at three Turok-han surrounding her. “Oh! God…” Buffy groaned as the amulet started glowing. Even the uber-vamps around her were taken aback.
“It’s about damn time,” Faith grumbled. Then she added excitedly, “Now we’ll see some action!”
Faith’s smile faded when she noticed that Buffy didn’t look very well. Buffy dropped her sword and seemed unsteady on her feet. The Turok-han scrambled away from her.
“Buffy!” Faith shouted.
Sunnydale High School – Principal’s Office – Same Time
Kennedy smiled and held out her arms. She clenched and re-clenched her fists, relishing the new power surging through her. Then she looked back up at Willow. Her smile instantly vanished. “Willow?” she asked worriedly.
Willow was encompassed by a pure white light. Her hair had gone completely white, tears flowed freely down her cheeks, and an expression of rapture was on her face. Suddenly, she cried out in pain and doubled over as the white energy seemed to come under assault by a black cloud.
Kennedy jumped to her feet and tried to go to Willow’s aid, but she was repelled by the black cloud, as if it were functioning like a force field. The black cloud began to invade the white light, disrupting it, damaging it. Kennedy beat on the cloud, trying in vain to get past it and to Willow. Summoning all her strength, Willow straightened up and forced the scythe through the black cloud, handing it to Kennedy.
“Get this to Faith,” Willow told Kennedy, grimacing from the strain.
“No! I’ve got to help you!” Kennedy insisted.
“You can,” Willow countered, “by getting the scythe to Faith. Stop the First. I’ll be okay till then.”
After staring at her girlfriend for a long moment, Kennedy reluctantly did as Willow had told her. She leaped to her feet and rushed out of the room with the scythe. It was only after Kennedy had left the room that Willow allowed herself to scream.
Sunnydale High School – The Hellmouth – Moments Later (flashback)
Kennedy leaped down the steps and into the cavern, the scythe gripped tightly in her hands. The Turok-han rushed her, but she instantly put the scythe to good use, decapitating one vampire then staking another then sweeping the weapon around to take on the next one. She worked her way several yards into the battle until she saw Faith next to Buffy. She couldn’t see exactly what was going on, but she called out anyway.
“Faith!” Kennedy shouted, holding up the scythe. Faith didn’t respond.
Kennedy didn’t have time to shout again as more uber-vamps came at her. Behind her, Turok-han began moving up the stairs and into the high school.
Sunnydale High School – The Hellmouth – Same Time (flashback)
Buffy shuddered as the amulet’s power shook her body. Faith rushed over but was repelled by a force field surrounding Buffy. Faith pounded uselessly on the shield as the slayers behind her continued to fight the Turok-han.
Inside the shield, Buffy was suddenly face to face with the mirror image of herself. It was the First.
Smirking, the First said to Buffy, “I just want to thank you…”
Then the First turned to look directly at Faith outside the shield. Faith met the First’s eyes.
“…you and your little slayers…”
Faith frantically returned to her pounding on the shield.
Series of Shots – Same Time (flashback)
-- Anya and Andrew fighting vampires in the North Hall
-- Giles and Robin battling Turok-han in the Lounge
-- Dawn and Xander dusting vamps in the Atrium
-- Kennedy and the new slayers still fighting in the cavern, but with many of the slayers dead or dying
Voiceover, The First as Buffy: “…all your little army…”
Sunnydale High School – Principal’s Office – Same Time (flashback)
Willow lay writhing on the floor, still under attack from the black cloud.
Voiceover, The First as Buffy: “…and especially your witch…”
Sunnydale High School – The Hellmouth – Same Time (flashback)
Buffy stood frozen in fear as the First turned back to her and said, “…for making all of this possible.” The First gestured grandly at the ongoing battle.
The First stopped smiling and took a step closer to Buffy. “I told you I would be made flesh,” she said fiercely. Then her face lightened again, and she pointed at Buffy’s chest. “And I’m thinking your bit o’ flesh will do nicely.”
At that, the First simply walked into Buffy, the incorporeal image of the slayer merging into the physical form of Buffy herself. Buffy screamed in agony as the ultimate evil took possession of her—body, mind, and soul.
Watchers Council – Briefing Room – Resume
When Kennedy paused, everyone at the table sat in total shock. Giles reached over and put his hand over Dawn’s. She didn’t react, so he withdrew his hand. Still no one spoke. Finally, Andrew raised his hand.
“Umm, what happened to us?” Andrew asked quietly. “The other us, I mean. Some of us got out, right?”
Vi perked up at that. “Yeah, we made it out, didn’t we?” She looked at Kennedy with desperate hope in her eyes. Xander took Vi’s hand in his.
Kennedy dropped her gaze to her lap and shook her head. When she glanced back up, she said, “Some of us survived.” Kennedy hesitated then added, “Me. Faith. Willow. And—” She cut her eyes at Dawn for the briefest of seconds. “And that’s it.”
The room grew silent once again.
Eventually Dawn broke the silence. “What happened to Buffy?” she asked softly.
“Dawn,” Giles said in gentle warning.
“No, I wanna know,” Dawn said testily. “Tell me.”
“There wasn’t any more Buffy,” Kennedy answered plainly. “She was gone…just gone. It was Buffy’s body, but…”
Tears began rolling down Dawn’s cheeks, and she put her hand over her mouth. A small sob escaped, and she abruptly rose to her feet. “I don’t wanna hear any more,” she said before rushing from the room.
“Dawnie!” Willow called out.
Xander stood up and put his hand on Willow’s shoulder. “I’ll go.” Then he left the room to follow Dawn.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Same Time
“Dawn! Wait up!” Xander called down the hallway. Dawn didn’t stop. Xander finally had to run after her and grab her arm. “Dawn, I—”
“I know…you just want to talk,” Dawn said, pulling her arm out of Xander’s grip. “Well, I can’t, okay?” She wiped the tears roughly from her face.
“Okay, we won’t talk then,” Xander replied in his usual joke-in-the-face-of-disaster way. “We’ll just sit around and glare. Maybe huff or grumble a few times. Point is…I don’t think you should be alone right now.”
Dawn softened a little at that. “I appreciate the offer, Xander, I do. But right now, I just wanna be by myself and think a little. I’ll be okay, I promise.”
“Well, okay,” Xander said reluctantly. “But I want you to know I’m here for you…if you need a shoulder…or if you wanna do that glare-and-grumble party I mentioned.”
“Thanks,” Dawn said with a small smile. Then she headed back down the hallway.
Xander watched her go, a worried expression on his face.
Watchers Council – Briefing Room – Same Time
“Sorry,” Kennedy mumbled after watching Xander take off after the distraught Dawn.
“It’s not your fault,” Willow told the slayer. “This just…it’s just a little too close to home, you know? Especially lately.”
“Yes, first Skye, then this,” Giles said. “It must be quite overwhelming.”
“It’s all overwhelming,” Faith said. “I mean, it’s just…blowing my mind.”
“Me too, and I wasn’t even there,” Rowena noted. “Either time. I don’t think.” Rowena looked at Kennedy questioningly. Kennedy shook her head. Rowena nodded in response.
“Well, what happened? How’d you get out?” Faith asked.
“After the First took over Buffy’s body, she immediately destroyed the amulet,” Kennedy replied. “Then she and the super vamps really got down to business. They slaughtered every slayer within reach. It was only because of the scythe that Faith and I got out of there at all. By the time we got upstairs…” Kennedy paused. She didn’t say the words, but everyone knew what she and Faith must have found there. Kennedy moved on. “Willow had managed to protect herself with magic, barely, so we grabbed her and got the hell out of there.”
“Did Sunnydale sink into the ground?” Robin asked.
“No, it just became invasion central, the First’s capital city,” Kennedy said. “We high-tailed it to L.A., but it wasn’t long before it too came under attack. Millions of demons flooded the west coast, and nobody could stop them.”
“What about the slayer activation spell?” Willow inquired. “Did you—”
“It didn’t work,” Kennedy answered before correcting herself. “I mean, it worked, obviously, but it just didn’t finish working. When the First attacked Willow, it disrupted the spell, and only a small portion of the potentials in the world were actually empowered. It was mainly those in North America. Still, we didn’t have anything like what you have here, from what you’ve told me. And even if we’d had the numbers, we just didn’t have the time to find them, to get them ready.”
“What did you do?” Rowena asked.
“We went on the run—me and Willow and Faith. For three months, we fought our way across the country, barely a step ahead of the First and her army. We gathered up any slayers we happened to come across, but they weren’t trained, and they were freaking out, and there were just so many attacking us…”
Kennedy stopped and glanced away, the pain of bad memories clearly on her face. After a moment, she looked back at the group and continued.
“We contacted Althenea in England, and she and her coven came up with a plan that they thought would work,” Kennedy said. “But we needed the Champion’s Medallion, and to do that, we needed another hellmouth. So we set up a meeting in Cleveland. Unfortunately, it was already in bad shape too. Once word had gotten out about the First’s invasion, the local demon population had started wreaking havoc on the city. The same thing was happening all over the world, but especially in the U.S.”
“What was this plan that you all had come up with?” Giles asked.
“Althenea and her coven had discovered a way to attack the First using the amulet,” Kennedy explained. “Even though the First had taken over Buffy’s body, that wasn’t really the full ‘being made flesh’ thing; that part was still to come. If we could use the amulet against the First before she got to that point, we’d have a chance of defeating her. A slim chance, but at least it was a chance.”
“But you said that the amulet had been destroyed,” Vi noted.
“Right. Which is why I had to go dimension-hopping,” Kennedy said. “We figured we’d just Quantum-Leap one of us into an alternate reality—one in which the amulet hadn’t been destroyed yet—and nab us a medallion that way.” Kennedy got a confused look on her face. “I don’t know why I ended up here, though. I figured I’d end up in Sunnydale or L.A. some time prior to the battle at the high school. I guess the spell didn’t work.” Kennedy sighed in deep disappointment. “I guess I’ll go home empty-handed in three days.”
Willow looked at Rowena with an unasked question in her eyes. Rowena shook her head, indicating that now was not the time to reveal the fact that they had the amulet in their possession. Willow’s expression showed hurt and anger. She turned sharply away from Rowena and back to Kennedy.
“Three days?” Faith asked. “What do you mean by that?”
Kennedy pulled a small crystal out of her pocket and set it on the table. It was glowing ever so faintly. “My ticket back home,” she said. “It’s gotta recharge itself. Should take about three days. When it’s back up to full power, I can activate it and go back home.”
“Tell us more about this spell that sent you here,” Rowena directed. “And the one you intended to use against the First once you got the amulet.”
“I don’t know much about the amulet spell,” Kennedy replied. “That was pretty much between Will and Al.” Kennedy cut her eyes at Willow for a moment before adding, “Well, Al mostly.” She took a deep breath. “Even so, it was still in the planning stages. And as for the other spell, I just did what Al told me to do…”
VacantBuilding in Cleveland – Night (flashback)
In an underground room of a huge building near the lake, Kennedy helped Althenea set out the items needed for the portal spell. They laid the objects in a small circle in the center of the room. At the doorway, Faith spoke with three young slayers, instructing them on the plan to defend the room. In the back corner, Willow sat in a chair, leaning against the wall, her arms limp at her sides, her eyes empty.
All of seven of them in the room were beaten and battered from months of running and fighting. They were dirty and hungry, and their clothes were torn and disheveled. Except for Willow, the group looked exhausted but determined, as if they were fueling themselves on their last bit of hope. Willow, however, was beyond hope already. She was a mere shell of herself, guilt and anguish having drained the life from her. Kennedy left Althenea and walked over to Willow. She knelt at Willow’s feet and took the redhead’s hands in her own.
“Hey,” she said softly to Willow. “It’s almost time.” Willow didn’t respond. Kennedy brushed the tears off Willow’s cheeks. “Will, please…we need you. I need you.” Kennedy kissed her desperately.
After the kiss Willow slowly met Kennedy’s eyes. “You’re better off without me,” she whispered in a hoarse voice.
“No!” Kennedy instantly denied. “No, that’s not true! I—”
“Kennedy,” Althenea interrupted. “It’s time.”
Kennedy glanced at Althenea and nodded, then she turned back to Willow. She looked deeply into her girlfriend’s eyes, but Willow had already retreated within herself once again. Kennedy reluctantly left Willow’s side and rejoined Althenea at the circle. Suddenly, they heard a loud thudding on the floor above them. As Kennedy and Althenea looked up at the sound, Faith left her slayers at the door and walked over.
“We’re not alone,” Faith said. “Better get this show on the road.”
Althenea handed Kennedy a crystal. “This will get you back home. When it glows bright green, use the incantation I gave you. It should blip you right back here.” Kennedy nodded. The witch turned to Faith. “No matter what happens, don’t let them disrupt the spell. It may take a while for it to build enough to send Kennedy on her way.”
“Got it,” Faith replied.
“Ready?” Althenea asked, turning back to Kennedy.
“As I’ll ever be,” Kennedy answered.
As Kennedy stepped into the circle, Althenea knelt on the floor with the scythe in front of her. Faith returned to her slayers just as a pounding began on the door to the room. Willow still sat zombie-like in the corner.
Althenea put both her hands on the scythe and started the ritual, speaking in an ancient tongue. Blue light shot out of the items forming the circle and began to build in strength, creating a bubble-like shield around Kennedy. Just then, demons burst through the door. Faith and her untrained slayers leapt to the defense, but they were simply outnumbered. In less than a minute, one slayer was down and another injured. The demons were threatening to break through.
“Al!” Faith yelled.
Althenea stopped her incantation and turned to Willow. “Will! Get up, damn it!” she screamed. “We need you!” Althenea went back to her incantation.
Willow slowly turned and took in the scene before her. Suddenly, her eyes cleared, and she jumped from her chair. She ran to join the fight by the door, hurling a fireball at one demon then another. For a moment, she appeared to be turning the tide of the battle, but then one of the demons came up behind her, grabbed her, and hurled her against the wall. She sank to the floor, dazed.
“Willow!” Kennedy cried out when she saw the redhead hit the floor. Then she took a step forward as if she intended to leave the circle.
“No!” Althenea shouted, stopping Kennedy in her tracks. “Don’t break the circle! We can’t stop now!”
Kennedy never took her eyes off Willow, who came to just in time to see the demon up-close as he wrapped his sharp-clawed hand around her throat. He lifted her off the ground.
“Willow!” Kennedy screamed again, this time resting her palms on the inside of the blue-light shield.
Faith looked over her shoulder at Althenea. “Do it!” she commanded.
Just as Kennedy watched the demon rip his claws into Willow’s body, Althenea belted out the final line of the spell, and Kennedy disappeared in a flash.
Watchers Council – Briefing Room – Resume
Once again, the group was quiet. Glances were cast about the room, but no one seemed to know what to say. Even Xander, who had returned in the middle of Kennedy’s narration, was at a loss for words.
“Anyway, that’s my story,” Kennedy said. She rubbed the back of her neck and then massaged her temples.
“Thank you, Kennedy,” Rowena said. “I imagine you’re rather tired from your ordeal. I’d like to offer the hospitality of the Council. You’re welcome to rest here for the next three days before you have to return. Xander, would you please escort Kennedy to the guest wing and—”
“Wait!” Willow interjected. “Aren’t you going to—?”
“Willow!” Rowena warned. “No. Not now.”
Willow crossed her arms tightly but didn’t say another word. Kennedy looked at the exchange curiously.
“Xander?” Rowena prompted.
“Guest wing,” Xander answered. “Gotcha. Come on, Ken. I’ll give ya the quickie tour while we’re at it. By the way, we’ve moved up in the world since the Summers home was jammed with potentials. You won’t even have to share a bathroom. And if you play your cards right, I just might give you the guest room with the mini-bar. Just kidding…”
Willow waited until Xander had completely shut the door and had had time to move down the hallway before whipping around to face Rowena.
“Why didn’t you tell her that we had the amulet?!” Willow demanded.
“Because we don’t even know if it is the Champion’s Medallion yet,” Rowena countered. “Do you really want to get Kennedy’s hopes up only to dash them when this turns out to be a counterfeit?”
“But it must be real,” Willow insisted. “Why else would the spell have directed her here, right now?”
“We have to be sure, Willow,” Rowena said. “And we have to decide as a group whether or not to even allow Kennedy to take possession of the amulet.”
Willow started to object but stopped herself. She finally just nodded mutely.
“I suggest that we take the night to consider the matter and reconvene tomorrow,” Rowena announced.
When everyone seemed amenable to the idea, Rowena dismissed the meeting.
Watchers Council – Kennedy’s Guest Room – Later
After Xander left, Kennedy shut the door and leaned against it. She let out a big sigh and just stood there for a long moment.
Eventually, she moved away from the door and into the sitting area. She stood there for a minute or two before walking into the kitchenette. She ran her fingers along the counter, poked at the microwave keypad, then peeked in the refrigerator.
A sigh or two later, she was in the bedroom, checking out the bed, then opening the curtains to gaze out over the Council grounds. She closed her eyes and frowned, as if unpleasant memories were flooding in.
-- Kennedy watching
her fellow slayers get slaughtered in Sunnydale
-- Kennedy finding Willow nearly unconscious in Robin’s office
-- Kennedy and Faith fleeing with Willow from the high school
-- Kennedy and Faith fighting demon after demon while on the run
-- Kennedy seeing Willow fall deeper and deeper into despair
-- Kennedy in the portal’s circle, watching helplessly while Willow is savagely attacked by a demon
Kennedy took in a halting breath and wrapped her arms tightly around herself as a single tear leaked out from each lid. Then she opened her eyes and wiped off her cheeks, clearing her throat loudly. She reached up to massage her temples, grimacing as she did so.
“I hope they got some aspirin in this place,” Kennedy grumbled before heading into the bathroom.
Willow’s Apartment – Later
Willow and Rowena were in bed together, getting settled in for the night. Willow lay with her back to Rowena.
“ ’night,” she said to the blonde over her shoulder.
Rowena smirked and scooted over to spoon Willow.
“You’re still mad, aren’t you?” Rowena asked, resting her chin on Willow’s shoulder.
“No, I’m not mad,” Willow said unconvincingly. When Rowena didn’t reply, Willow rolled over to lie on her back. “Okay, maybe a little,” she admitted.
Rowena leaned up on her elbow and put her other hand over Willow’s. “You understand why I did what I did, right? It simply wasn’t the right time to tell Kennedy about the amulet.”
“I know,” Willow said. “It’s just…” Willow turned over on her side to look directly at Rowena. “She’s been through so much already,” Willow said with a pained expression. “If there’s anything we can do to help her, we should do it.”
“And we will…if we can.” Rowena paused then said, “I’m just concerned that maybe you aren’t thinking about this as objectively as you should…given your prior relationship with Kennedy. Well, with our version of her anyway.”
“You aren’t exactly unbiased when it comes to Kennedy either,” Willow pointed out. “She’s been a thorn in your side since—”
“Kennedy and I have made our peace,” Rowena interjected amiably. Then she cleared her throat and added, “For the most part.” Willow grinned at that. “Look, Will,” Rowena continued, “whatever we do, we have to put the Council first, and if that means denying the amulet to Kennedy, then that’s what we’ll have to do.”
Willow’s pained expression returned, and Rowena scooted closer, wrapping her arms around the redhead. She kissed her warmly then rested her forehead against Willow’s.
“It’s so bad where she’s from,” Willow whispered. “And it’s our fault, all of us, in her world. We thought we were doing right, but it was all wrong, and now…”
“We’ll help her,” Rowena promised, “any way we can.” Then she kissed Willow again and hugged her tightly.
Watchers Council – Kennedy’s Guest Room – Later That Night
Kennedy tossed and turned in her bed. Her body was bathed in sweat as a nightmare gripped her mind.
“No…” she said, shaking her head. “No…”
Abruptly, she shot up in bed. “Willow!” she cried out.
With her chest heaving, she drew in panting breaths as she struggled to regain her sense of where and when she was. Suddenly, she gave an enraged roar and swung her arm back against the lamp on the nightstand, smashing it against the wall.
Kennedy jumped out of bed and scanned the room, clenching her fists as if she were looking for another item to destroy. Luckily, she didn’t see anything to her liking and didn’t lash out again.
Instead, she got her breathing under control and then pulled on her clothes. Within minutes, she was out the front door.
Willow’s Apartment – Same Time
“Kennedy!” Willow called out in fright as she sat up straight in bed, waking Rowena in the process.
“Willow, what is it?” Rowena asked, reaching to the redhead with concern.
Willow put her hand on her chest where her heart beat madly. She took a deep breath and sighed, then fell back against her pillow.
“Nothing,” she said. “Just a bad dream.”
“It’s just a dream, sweetie,” Rowena said. “I’m sure Kennedy’s fine.”
“I’m gonna go check on her,” Willow announced, pushing back the covers.
“Will, it’s two in the morning,” Rowena pointed out.
“I don’t care. I gotta go.”
Willow hurriedly pulled on some clothes and then slipped on her shoes. She rushed over to Rowena’s side of the bed and kissed her.
“I’m sorry,” Willow said, “but I really need to do this. Once I know she’s okay, I’ll come right back.”
When Willow gave her a hopeful grin, Rowena smiled back indulgently. “Okay,” the watcher said, “you better.”
Willow kissed Rowena again and dashed from the room. As Rowena watched her girlfriend go, a frown crept into her face.
Watchers Council – Slayer Gym – Moments Later
Kennedy punched the bag mercilessly, jab after jab. With sweat pouring off her brow, Kennedy changed from jabs to full punches, grunting hard with each punch. She gave a yell of frustration as she put all her might into a final blow which caused the bag to swing back hard on its chain.
“Thought I might find you here,” Willow said.
Startled, Kennedy gasped and turned in a flash, fists ready. Her abrupt reaction frightened Willow, causing her to jump and hold up her hands in surrender.
“Hey, hey, it’s just me,” Willow said in a coaxing voice.
“Jesus, Will, you scared the shit outta me!” Kennedy said, lowering her fists.
“Sorry,” Willow replied with an apologetic shrug. “I went to your room to check on you and—”
Kennedy looked at her watch. “At two o’clock in the morning?” Kennedy winked playfully at Willow. “Just what were you wanting to check out?”
Willow rolled her eyes then continued. “I had this dream about you and—”
Kennedy waggled her eyebrows. “Oh, dreamin’ about me, huh?”
Willow stepped closer and touched the slayer’s arm. “Kennedy, I’m serious. I’m worried about you.”
Kennedy’s light tone vanished. “Well, you shouldn’t be. I’m fine.”
“Tell that to the lamp in your room.”
“Sorry ’bout that. I got a little…mad.” Willow raised her eyebrow at Kennedy. “Hey, at least I didn’t smash anything else. I came here instead.” Kennedy wiped the sweat from her forehead, pausing to massage her temple.
“Headache?” Willow asked.
“Yeah,” Kennedy said. “My head’s been killing me since I got here. Must be inter-dimensional jet lag or something.”
“Well, why don’t you hang up the gloves for now, and we can go hang out in the rec room? Maybe play a game of pool, or some darts, watch a movie…”
Kennedy smiled at that. “Sounds good.” Willow smiled back.
Watchers Council – Rec Room – A Short Time Later
Willow took careful aim as she stood in front of the electronic dart game. Two darts were already in the board. She held the third in her hand. She let it fly. Thunk! Right in the triple twenty.
“Woo-hoo!” Willow hooted. “Triple twenty…I believe that is game and match,” she bragged.
Kennedy sighed and carried her darts up to the board and returned them to the case on the shelf nearby. Willow removed her darts from the board and did the same.
“I can’t believe I beat you,” Willow said. “I never beat you. None of you slayers. Not with your super-duper weapony expertise thingee going on.”
Kennedy shrugged then grinned. “Maybe I’m just goin’ easy on ya.”
“Or maybe that inter-dimensional jet lag is affecting you more than you’re letting on,” Willow countered. “Why don’t we go with something a little less strenuous? I say it’s movie time.”
“Okay, but I don’t want some boring sappy date movie, okay? Gimme something with a lot of action, something that’ll keep my attention, like Die Hard or something.”
“No sap. All action. Check,” Willow said, leading Kennedy over to the big screen TV.
Watchers Council – Rec Room – A Little Later
With Die Hard rolling right along without her, Kennedy was fast asleep on the couch before the big screen TV. She had her head in Willow’s lap, and for the first time in months, the slayer slept soundly and safely.
Willow looked down at Kennedy fondly. She smiled at her, gently stroking the slayer’s hair.
When Willow turned her gaze back to the screen, she saw Bruce Willis pulling glass shards out of his bare feet. Willow grimaced and looked away. She grabbed a small couch cushion and placed it against the side of her head. Then she closed her eyes and joined Kennedy in sleep.
Watchers Council – Rec Room – The Next Morning
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.
Watchers Council – Hallway – The Next Morning
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.
Watchers Council – Dining Hall – Moments Later
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.
Watchers Council – Dining Hall – Same Time
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.
Watchers Council – Briefing Room – Later That Morning
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.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Moments Later
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.
Watchers Council – Detention Block – Moments Later
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.”
Watchers Council – Library – Later
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!”
Watchers Council – Briefing Room – Afternoon
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.
Watchers Council – Slayer Gym – Later
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.
Watchers Council – Slayer Gym – Same Time
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.
Watchers Council – Briefing Room – Same Time
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.
Watchers Council – Dining Hall – Later
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.
The Flame – Night
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.
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.
Watchers Council – Infirmary – Waiting Room – Later
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.
Watchers Council – Infirmary – Kennedy’s Room – Later
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.
Watchers Council – Infirmary – Outside Kennedy’s Room – Same Time
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.
Watchers Council – Coven Room – Later
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.
Watchers Council – Infirmary – Same Time
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.
Willow’s Apartment – A Short Time Later
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?”
illow 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’s Apartment – A Short Time Later
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.
Watchers Council – Outside Kennedy’s Guest Room – Moments Later
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.
Watchers Council – Kennedy’s Guest Room – Seconds Later
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.
Watchers Council – Kennedy’s Guest Room – Later
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.
“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.
Watchers Council – Coven Room – Morning
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.
Watchers Council – Coven Room – Later
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.
Watchers Council – Briefing Room – Moments Later
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.
Vacant Building in Cleveland – Night
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’s Apartment – Bedroom – Later That Night
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.
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