Watchers Council – Slayer Training Room – Later that Day
Kennedy stood in the training room with her hands taped up, working the large punching bag.
Sensing someone behind her, she turned to see Giles come inside the room, walk over to the storage cabinet, and pull out a pair of brown, worn-out, leather punching gloves. He seemed to regard them with a reminiscent smile.
“Rowena is occupied at the moment,” he said as he slipped them on, “so she asked me to stand in. I hope that’s not a problem.”
“That’s fine, I guess,” she answered. Giles motioned her over with a wave of his hand, but she looked reluctant. “Hey, I don’t want to hurt you,” she began.
Giles just grinned. “I’ve been beaten up by a slayer before and I’ve been tenderized for years now,” he teased. Still not looking too sure, Kennedy hit him a few times but didn’t seem to put much power behind it. “No offense,” he teased, “but you punch like a girl.”
Kennedy gave him a disgruntled look and put more force behind her strikes. He watched her for a few moments with a slight grin and began to shake his head. “You’re opening yourself up for an attack with how you’re standing.” He took a pose and showed her. “Like this,” he instructed.
Ignoring the order, Kennedy kept her current stance. “I’ve been fighting this way for years and Jacobs couldn’t get me to change either. Might as well give up, since this works for me.”
Kennedy took a step forward, ready to swing, but Giles moved at the last second and smacked her across the face. Startled more than hurt, she jumped back.
“I’m a chaos demon with arms like a club. I just broke your neck,” he says dryly.
Kennedy pursed her lips and shook it off. She moved forward to challenge him again. This time she was ready. When he swung again, she ducked back. However, he stopped in mid-swing and hit her with his opposite hand, connecting with her jaw.
“I’m a Morten demon. Your jaw is now shattered and your teeth gone.”
“What do you think you’re doing?” Kennedy asked defensively, putting her hands on her hips.
“I’m training you to win and to keep you alive, with as little injury as possible,” Giles explained firmly.
“I’ve been doing fine on my own,” Kennedy replied.
“But you have the potential to be so much better,” Giles countered. “And there will come a time when you will be doing this very act – training recruits. You’ll be responsible for seeing that these girls are as physically capable as they can be before we send them back out into the world with their watchers.”
“I don’t know about that,” Kennedy answered nervously.
“I do. You are a natural born leader, Kennedy. Make no mistake about it. You-you have the fire and the-the passion to be a wonderful Slayer, dare I say one of the greatest,” Giles stressed.
“Sure you’re not just being a little transfer-y here, since you had the hots for my mom?” Kennedy asked.
Giles tried not to grin. “I’m positive. Because I saw this before I ever learned of your parentage. You were the first potential in Sunnydale to stake a vampire,” he said, making his point.
“Yeah, with help from five other girls,” she added in a defeated tone.
Ignoring her, Giles went on. “You stood against an uber-vampire, with only your human strength to rely on at the time.”
“Yeah,” she started again in the same tone. “And nearly got decapitated for my trouble.”
Still, Giles continued. “You climbed aboard a boat unable to swim, because you were dedicated to being there for our team.”
“And nearly drowned,” Kennedy pointed out.
Giles held up a hand saying, “And before you bring up the paralysis…you raced to take on a seemingly impervious demon to save a young man, and then you put your personal feelings aside to convey a message we desperately needed.”
“What’s your point, Giles?” Kennedy asked as she folded her arms across her chest.
“The point, dear slayer,” Giles said with a grin, “is that you are Faith’s second-in-command for a reason. So as I said, you have a fire that many of these other slayers do not possess. But while I recognize that spark, I also recognize a serious lack of discipline. You’re headstrong and passionate. Annoying traits to any watcher who has to deal with them, rest assured.”
“Gee, thanks,” Kennedy answered.
“But at the same time, two important elements that are vital to a slayer’s longevity, as any good Watcher will attest to,” Giles added with a grin. “You have the potential to be a positive force to so many girls here and I don’t want that potential wasted.”
Kennedy suddenly looked down, not able to meet Giles in the eyes. “You’re a smart guy, Giles, but I don’t know if you’re right about this…about me.”
“Listen to me closely,” Giles told her, his words forcing her eyes up again. “You’ve made mistakes, but it’s called being human.”
“But I’m not just human. I’m Chosen, remember?”
“Chosen, yes, but in the end, all people are chosen. Everyone that walks this earth has a purpose. But you are still a person, Kennedy, with all the faults to go along with all the competence…and the true measure of a person isn’t always their success, but in what they learn from their failure.”
“Yeah, well, I think some lessons are being lost on me, because I keep making mistakes.”
“And why is that?” Giles asked as he slipped off the gloves and tucked them under his arm.
“What do you mean?” the slayer asked.
“Have you seriously sat down to ask yourself why you’ve had a rash of bad luck lately? Is there anything you could have done differently in some cases?”
“For starters, I could have left when Willow called it quits. Spared a lot of people from dealing with my screw-ups.”
“So avoidance is the key, you think?”
Kennedy groaned. “Well, being a part of the gang only seems to hurt them, doesn’t it? I mean, look at Lori. She…Can we just drop this?”
At this, Kennedy walked over to the punching bag and began jabbing at the vinyl. After a moment, Giles followed her and stood behind the bag.
“No, let’s look at Lori. What could you have done differently?”
“Not taken her out, for starters. She obviously wasn’t ready to be out there,” Kennedy said. She continued to jab while Giles held the bag.
“And why did you take her out?” he prodded.
Kennedy stopped again, coming toe to toe with Giles. “Like I said, let’s drop it.”
“Why?” Giles pushed.
“Because I got impatient! Because I wanted to be out doing something instead of sitting home babysitting everyone! Because I…” Kennedy trailed off, but Giles didn’t say anything. He simply waited. “I didn’t think it through,” she said softly. “I just jumped in and did it.”
For a long moment, the only noise in the gym was the metal riggings from the sway of the punching bag.
“Is that really the reason you did it?” Giles asked.
Kennedy only nodded.
“I suppose I would ask then – the next time you feel strongly about something, will you consider the consequences and steady yourself to deal with them, or will you just jump in, as you put it?”
Kennedy didn’t say anything and began to play with the tape on her hand.
“Consider this…you won’t win every battle you face, and people will get hurt, people like Lori. These girls need experience, and, yes, they do need to be dropped into the fire, you might say. You understood that Lori had faced and killed vampires before, so why would you think she couldn’t handle a simple patrol? Add the fact that you didn’t stray far from the Council, so as not to leave it unguarded, and…well, in my opinion, you did the right thing that night.”
“Then why did everything go wrong?” she asked.
“Because as I said, terrible things happen, Kennedy, things you have no control over. I feel the key to handling this job, be it as a slayer or a watcher, is to distinguish what can be avoided and what cannot. You’ve acted impetuously at times, yes, but some things, incidents like Lori’s… they were beyond your control.”
“It still feels like my fault,” Kennedy answered.
“That’s because you are a leader,” Giles stressed. “But in the end you weren’t the only slayer out there patrolling, were you?”
Kennedy began to crack the tiniest of grins, as if knowing where he was going. “No, I was not.”
“No, you were not,” Giles said in a tone of agreement. “But that’s the responsibility that all leaders feel. And until you’re placed in the situation of overseeing others, only then can you relate. Vi, and even Rona, despite being excellent slayers, don’t understand what you and I feel at times. And trust me, I know what that weight of responsibility can seem like.”
“So I’m not a total screw-up then?” Kennedy said, her voice shaking slightly.
Giles took her by the upper arms. “Before you take action again, consider what it might really mean in the end. Look at all the possibilities first, if you can. I said your passion is a good thing. It’s what will make you a supreme fighter. But as I also said, sometimes that passion can be a hindrance when misplaced.”
When Kennedy posed no argument, Giles slipped the gloves back on. “Let’s work a bit longer,” he suggested.
Kennedy took the stance that Giles had previously suggested. He gave a slight grin as Kennedy punched his hand with great force. He advanced and she blocked both attacks. On instinct, she reared her arm and backhanded him across the face, nearly knocking him from his feet.
“Oh jeez!” Kennedy said, as she raced forward wearing a wince and caught him before he fell. “I didn’t mean to do that,” she said honestly.
“No, no, you did,” Giles answered with a slight chuckle.
“No, honest Giles –”
He held up a hand to stop her. “Your instincts during the battle kicked in, and that’s good. Not for my jaw, which I’m sure will probably bruise, but…” Kennedy gave him an apologetic look as he went on, “but passion during the right times is a good thing, as you just demonstrated. You just need to determine when and where to follow them.”
“So, no more impetuous decisions, huh?” she said with a growing grin.
“Yes,” he nodded. “If you seem unsure, then come to me first to examine a situation or t-to look at your options. It’s not a weakness to ask for help. I can’t be your constant crutch, but I can help you in times of real trouble and the day will come that you can make those decisions on your own. No one at this Council can say they’ve walked through life without making some mistakes – sometimes huge errors in judgment, myself included. But I feel that the more you examine where you’ve been, the better your chance of realizing where you’re going. If you need help then let me know. ”
“Thanks, Giles, but I don’t want to take up your time.”
“If you were an inconvenience, I wouldn’t offer it. You are worth my time, Kennedy. I’m certain of that. And you should know, Rowena is releasing you soon. I’m sure you will do fine on your own, but if you’d like my guidance, training or advice…I’m offering it.”
Kennedy finally gave him a genuine smile. “You’d do that?” she asked.
He gave a nod. “I would…the truth is, I believe I’ve missed this kind of connection with the slayers. It’s actually relaxing yet…odd. Perhaps masochistic, in a way,” he added as he rubbed his chin. “Next time, however, I’ll be sure to bring my boxing headgear.”
Her smile widened even more when she saw his smirk.
“You’re on,” she told him firmly with a nod.
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Evening
Faith paced nervously in front of the group. “So,” she began, “What do we think? How’d it go with everyone?”
“Well, my group wasn’t bored,” Willow quipped with a smug grin.
Rowena harrumphed at the response, making the witch chuckle slightly. “I think they like the free meal idea,” the blonde watcher added. “But if we go with the covert ops plan, I’m not sure what to do with them until they’re needed.”
“Might I offer a suggestion,” Xander asked, and Faith nodded to him. “They seemed interested in the weapons. Okay, a frightening amount of interest, but I might be able to use their help. Not just with manufacturing, but with design ideas. There’re some pretty inventive girls in the group, actually. I have to admit that impressed me.”
“I guess the real question is, how likely are these girls to come back?” Robin posed with the group.
“What do you think, Ace?”
Robin looked up at Faith’s question. “Are you really looking for my opinion here?” he replied in a surprised, sarcastic tone.
“Cut the crap, Robin. Yes,” Faith answered shortly.
No one in the room said anything and the tension seemed to drape over the room like a wet blanket. Robin cleared his throat. “We made a dent. How big of one, I don’t know, but it’s a start.”
“I think so, too,” Faith agreed. “But we need a closer here. Someone that can get the deal done.”
“I agree, and if I might add…” Giles said. “I think Mia is the closest link.”
“Why?” Kennedy asked.
“She seems to have a great deal of pull with these girls,” Giles offered. “I noticed quite a few of them looking at her before doing or saying anything at times, at least in her group. I didn’t notice any defined leaders within the other teams.”
“Yeah, I spotted that too,” Willow nodded toward Giles.
“Okay but how can you be certain,” Xander asked. “Do we have any reason to suspect she’s the key to turning these girls over from the dark side?”
“Now who’s spending too much time with Andrew?” Willow muttered teasingly in his direction, bumping shoulders with him playfully.
“She said she was Julia’s right hand gal when I spoke to her that night, but who knows if she was telling the truth,” Faith told the room.
“She spoke first,” Rowena offered.
“What?” the room asked harmoniously.
“She spoke first,” Rowena repeated. “As soon as they walked in, she was the one that spoke for the group. I think Giles is right, Faith. And she wasn’t lying to you. I think if you can win her over, you’ve got a good shot at getting a large portion of the girls to follow her.”
Faith chewed her lip, clearly deep in thought.
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Moments Later
Willow held the door for everyone as they filed out. As Rowena passed, Willow reached out gently.
“Still on for seven tonight?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Rowena replied excitedly. “I’m looking forward to it.”
“Me too. I’ll see you then,” Willow nodded.
Rowena gave her a nod in return and finished exiting as Faith walked up to the witch.
“You got a few minutes, Red?” she asked.
“Sure,” Willow said, closing the door and motioning back to the table. “Did you want to go over that world history again?”
“What?” Faith said, distracted. “Oh, no,” she added, quickly catching up. “I wanted to say something about Julia. Something I didn’t bring up in front of the others.”
“Oh, not another secret,” Willow sighed.
“Okay, that’s cool,” Faith said as she started toward the door.
“No, wait, Faith,” she said, making the Slayer stop. “Go ahead. Just know I’m really not the best person at keeping secrets. I don’t intentionally tell people, I just…have a hard time covering when I know something, so whatever you have to tell me –”
“A bunch of wallets dropped from Julia’s coat the night I confronted her.”
“She’s robbing people?” Willow asked. Faith nodded. “I can’t say I’m too surprised, based on what you told me.”
“Well that Mia chick said something before then, that not all the girls are like Julia but…if they do get here, we might want to keep an extra eye on things. Like a lock for the Coven Room door wouldn’t be a bad idea, ya know? Put some of the bad books on the top shelf, so to speak?”
“I follow you – dangerous stuff out of arm’s length. Gotcha. Thanks for saying something.”
“I do wanna trust these girls, but I’m not stupid either.”
“No, I completely understand,” Willow told her.
“Okay, good, well, that’s all I really had,” Faith said as she started toward the door again.
“Faith,” the witch called out, making her stop. “Can I ask something? You and Robin seem a tad…tense.”
“That’s the understatement of the year, but yeah.”
“Any reason why?” Willow asked.
“He just doesn’t get it,” Faith began. “It’s like, there’s this battle going on in my head over the past couple days. With the school thing, these girls…I’ve just been feeling like there’s all this weight on my shoulders that I can’t shake.”
“Hitting too close to home? I mean, these kids remind you of where you were once?”
“Yeah, I think so,” Faith answered, shoving her hands deep inside her jacket pocket.
“Have you told him?” the redhead asked.
“Yeah, I’ve mentioned it. I mean, I’ve told him that I’ve got to deal with it.”
“That’s good,” Willow commended, but then she cautiously added, “but did you explain it to him? Why do you feel like you need to do this alone?”
Faith looked to the floor. “I think if he really understood me like he says, then I shouldn’t have to say anything.”
Willow paused a moment and took a step closer. “Not every relationship is perfect, you have to work sometimes.”
“This from you?” Faith retorted. “Miss Christmas break up?”
Willow gave her a nervous grin. “I know she’s your friend, Faith.”
Faith rolled her shoulders. “Nah, I told you. I can be a friend to both. You had your reasons, but…I’m not sure if you’re the right person to be advising me here on working things out.”
“Well,” Willow began. “With Ken, it was kind of a one way street with the Wiccan thing. Ken wouldn’t really meet me half way or take an interest. If I tried to explore things a bit deeper, she seemed too interested in the physical side of stuff. But I can’t blame her. Maybe one of the reasons she never made the effort is because she sensed my mind was elsewhere sometimes. But Robin seems different, like he would try to understand and bridge that gap.”
Faith gave a shrug. “Maybe deep down he’s just not my type – Mr. Touchy Feely warm fuzzies. Maybe I’ve just outgrown it?”
“Or maybe he’s really getting closer and you’re scared?”
“I’m not scared,” Faith said defensively, pointing at Willow.
“Okay,” the witch said, holding her hands up defensively. “Not scared. Check…But maybe you’re a little reluctant to care about him, because if you do care, it means he’ll get hurt.”
“Why do you say that?”
Willow tossed her hands up. “Because you lost everyone else you ever cared about? Don’t take offense, Faith. I’m just rattling some ideas off, is all,” Willow added quickly. Faith didn’t dispute her theory, so Willow went on. “Just consider the greater tragedy – losing him someday but having the knowledge you gave him your heart, or losing him without him ever knowing how much he really meant to you, deep down?”
Faith looked like she was considering Willow’s words carefully. Willow sighed and put a hand on Faith’s shoulder. “I’m gonna go get ready for the party. You coming?”
“Uh, oh, yeah,” Faith nodded. “Think I’m gonna do a sweep, but I’ll be there later.”
As Willow left the room, she nodded her acceptance to Faith. The slayer paused for just a moment longer, thinking about what the other woman had said.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Evening
Willow stood in front of Rowena’s door, tugging at her blouse. Nervously, she pushed her hair behind one ear, took a deep breath and blew it out slowly before knocking.
Rowena opened the door with a smile, which Willow returned, and then the blonde nodded her further into the room. “Come on in,” Rowena told her. “I’m just about finished.”
“You look great,” Willow complimented as she passed the threshold.
“Thanks, you too,” Rowena replied with a grin.
As Willow turned to close the door, she noticed Xander on the other side of the room. “What are you doing here?” she asked him, a touch of irritability in her voice.
End of Act Three