Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky – Room 312 – Early Morning
The early morning light penetrated through the cracks in the heavy curtains of Kadin’s hotel room.
Kadin was lying on the bed face down. The comforter only covered her from the waist down. Her bare back was exposed, and the many battle scars marred nearly every inch of the toned skin.
The alarm clock suddenly blared, penetrating the comforting silence of the room. The hunter slowly lifted her head, forcing one eye open and then the other. She stared at the red numbers for a long moment before groggily lifting her hand and slapping it down on the tiny white box.
The noise stopped as quickly as it had started. Kadin held her head up for a moment longer before dropping it back onto the pillow in a huff. She let out a long yawn and stretched her arms out to the side. She smiled sleepily at the feel of the cool sheets against her bare skin.
The hunter’s eyes suddenly popped open, and the smile quickly faded. Images of the previous night poured into her mind like an open flood gate, and she suddenly felt very nauseous. With her heart pounding in her ears, she lifted her head cautiously and looked around the room for any sign of Kennedy.
The room was void of any other sign of life, and the floor was bare of any clothes except her own. Her eyes lingered on the pile for a long moment until she was able to tear her eyes away. She glanced down at herself before falling back onto the bed and burying her face into the pillow.
The room once again fell into silence.
Watchers Council – Dining Hall
Faith sat alone at one of the many tables in the Council dining hall. Her breakfast tray sat untouched in front of her as she stared off into the distance.
“You’re up early.” Willow’s gentle voice broke into her silence.
The slayer turned her head and acknowledged the other woman with a light smile.
“Could say the same for you, Red. Whatsa matter?” she asked, as Willow took the seat across from her own. “Didn’t get your usual nightly workout?”
Willow smiled, but didn’t respond. She picked up her fork and began to poke at her eggs. “I just…couldn’t sleep, you know?”
“Tell me about it,” Faith sighed, reaching out to pick up her glass of juice. “Think Ace is gonna be sleepin’ on the couch for the next few nights. Not unless he likes sleepin’ on the floor better.” She shrugged and downed the juice in one gulp.
Willow looked up from her eggs with a raised brow. Faith set the glass down and shook her head with a light smile. “I get kinda…hyper when I can’t sleep. He made the mistake of sudden movement, and I sorta kicked him.” She paused, then added, “Real hard.”
“Poor Robin,” Willow smiled.
“What about me?” Faith pouted. “I’m the one losing the many hours of much needed sleep. Plus, his thighs are deceptively strong. I think I mighta sprung my toe.”
The redhead shook her head with a smile and went back to poking at her eggs. Faith pushed her tray aside and leaned forward on her elbows. Crossing her arms, she looked over at the other woman and let out a sigh.
“You gonna tell me the real reason you went and left Blondie in bed all alone? Seriously, Red, it ain’t very often we get time to ourselves around here. Figured you wouldn’t wanna pass up the opp for some steamy make-up…”
“Finish that sentence,” Willow warned, pointing her fork at the other woman. “And I’m gonna have to use my influence to get you an extra round of clean-up duty for a month.”
“So, sleepin’ with the boss really does have its advantages.” Faith grinned as she folded her arms across her chest and fell back into her chair.
“Moving on,” Willow said quickly, her cheeks pink with a light blush. “Rowena wanted to sleep in, and I didn’t want to disturb her, so I decided to get an early start on the day.”
“Right,” Faith said, dragging out the word. “And this sudden change in interest has nothing to do with the fact that Slick’s been gone for almost a day without so much as a smoke signal?”
Willow stared back at the slayer for a long moment, then set her fork down and averted her eyes with a sigh. “Why does it bother me so much?” she asked, lifting her eyes back to her friend’s.
“Will,” Faith said softly. “Just ’cause she’s your ex-girl doesn’t mean you can’t still care about her. You wouldn’t be any kinda friend if you didn’t. You just don’t wanna see her hurt, and neither do I.” She paused and let out a long breath. “But…maybe Ro’s right. It isn’t my job to protect her. Not from this, anyway.”
“As if we didn’t learn our lesson the last time,” Willow added with a nod.
“Oh,” Faith nearly shouted, raising her hands into the air defensively. “Let’s not even mention…” She paused and leaned in slightly, dropping her voice to a near whisper. “Bucharest.” She looked around to make sure no one had heard before sitting back and resuming normal conversation. “I had to give up two front row seats to Garbage just to get her back on speaking terms.”
Willow remained silent for a long moment, a look of pure concentration on her face. “You gave her front row seats to an awful concert and it actually made it better?”
Faith turned her head slightly and raised a brow. “Awful concert?” she repeated.
“You said it was garbage,” Willow said matter-of-factly.
Faith stared at Willow for multiple seconds, then cracked up. Willow looked even more confused at Faith’s laughter.
Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky – Room 312 – Morning
Kadin walked out of the bathroom, still towel drying her hair. She went over to her bag and was picking out a pair of socks when a light knock on her door caused her to freeze in her tracks.
“Kadin?” Kennedy’s voice carried through the thick mahogany. “Are you awake?”
The hunter glanced around the room nervously, perhaps considering pretending to still be asleep. Then she sighed.
“Yeah, just a sec,” she called out, and threw the socks and towel onto a nearby chair. She raced over and shoved her discarded pajamas underneath the bed before haphazardly pulling the covers back up. After one last look around the room, she calmly made her way over to the door.
Kadin reached out and pulled the door open to meet a smiling Kennedy, holding up a muffin.
“It’s not a singing cupcake, and I double-checked for candles,” the slayer said, smiling as she extended the offering out to the other woman.
“Thanks,” she said as she accepted it.
Kadin looked up to meet Kennedy’s soft eyes and gentle smile. “Happy birthday,” the slayer said sincerely.
Any residual anger that Kadin might have had from waking up alone in bed dissipated. She smiled and turned to allow Kennedy to enter. The slayer nodded, still smiling as she stepped into the room.
“So,” Kennedy said, as she watched Kadin shut the door and walk over to place the muffin on top of the dresser. “You ’bout ready for that birthday breakfast? If I don’t eat soon, I’m not gonna be much use for anything.”
Kadin waited for any other comment before she quietly responded.
“Just need to finish up here and I’m good to go. Ten more minutes?” she asked, looking over at the other woman.
“Take your time,” Kennedy took a seat on the end of Kadin’s bed with a smile.
Kadin watched her from the corner of her eye for a long moment before sighing and disappearing into the bathroom.
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Morning
“Okay, last order of business,” Rowena announced. “It was suggested to me earlier today, by one of the heads here, that we dismantle the Black Ops squad.”
Robin gave Faith a confused glance from across the table. She simply shrugged with a perplexed look, as if to say, “not me.” All eyes, with the exception of Rowena’s, then fell to Willow.
“Yes, it was me,” Willow sighed. “I don’t think slayers should be going around killing people, okay? A-and we haven’t had to use them recently. So…I think we should hire people from the outside and begin training the girls we have now as full-time slayers. That’s all,” she went on in explanation.
“I disagree,” Rowena answered, avoiding eye contact with her lover. “They’ve proven to be too invaluable in the past.”
“Well, we sure didn’t use ’em last week,” Willow replied. “It was a magical creature that found me and Faith a-and not some…death squad.”
“And Gregor ended up dead because slayers aren’t trained in hostage situations,” Rowena pointed out.
“In all fairness,” Faith remarked, “Gregor was on his way out anyway.”
“Dr. Miller claimed otherwise,” Rowena countered. “And if you ask me, the man was delusional anyway. Rambling on about…” Rowena sighed and stopped her train of thought. “Point is, I think we still need to keep the squad in place, but I’ve been asked to call a vote, so here we are.”
“Guess it comes down to me, huh?” Faith answered.
Faith paused a moment in thought, then squirmed a little as everyone looked at her. Finally, she said, “Sorry Will. Gotta go with Ro on this one.”
Willow released a heavy sigh. “Fine. Anything else?” she asked shortly.
“I have nothing,” Rowena replied, seemingly trying to ignore Willow’s discontent. “Faith? Robin?”
Faith shook her head.
“Well,” Robin said and cleared his throat, “Demon kills are changing in proximity to the Council.”
“How so?” Rowena asked.
“They’re getting closer.”
“Closer?” Rowena asked. “As in, they’re coming closer to us here?”
Robin nodded. “They’re getting more daring…or stupid. Depends on how you look at it. New York, London and Paris are reporting the same.”
“What about the other branches?” she asked.
“They don’t have any of those figures, but I’ve asked that they start compiling them.”
Rowena nodded. “Good. That’s good. Anything else?”
“No, nothing major to report,” Robin continued. “No babies with tails, no missing persons, nothing really out of the ordinary. There was, however, an unusual suicide here in the city.”
“How so?” Rowena asked.
“A girl on the West Side turned on her gas stove, lit a bunch of candles by her bed and blew herself to kingdom come. Her neighbor in the next apartment was hurt in the blast but is now in stable condition, and the other neighbor wasn’t home.”
“Gotta give her points for creativity,” Faith said dryly. Rowena and Willow both silently chastised her. “What?” the slayer asked. “If you gotta go, might as well be with a bang.”
Willow groaned, and Robin just shook his head.
“Anyway,” he went on, “that’s the oddest thing this week to report here in Cleveland.”
“All righty then,” Rowena said, picking up her gavel. “Anyone else have anything?” When everyone shook their heads, she said, “Meeting adjourned,” and banged the gavel.
As Faith and Robin began to leave, Robin turned to Faith. “Go out with a bang?” he muttered to her, making her grin. Once they were out of the room, Rowena turned to Willow.
“I’m sorry the vote didn’t go the way you wanted,” she said softly.
Willow didn’t look up. She simply continued to put her papers in her folder, then reached down and picked up her small bag from the floor.
“We both know that’s not true, or otherwise you would have changed your vote.”
“Will, don’t pout, all right?” Rowena asked, with a hint of begging in her voice.
“I’m not,” the witch answered sincerely, finally looking up. “The truth is, you’re not sorry we’re keeping the Black Ops. And that’s fine; that’s your opinion. But if the fact I’m disappointed about it is too much for you, then you shouldn’t mention it. Of course, I could lie to you a-and put on a happy face. Is that what you want?”
“No, I don’t want you to lie to me.”
“Well,” Willow said, mustering a grin. “At least there’s something we agree on in all this.” The comment came out more optimistic than sarcastic.
The witch finished packing her items in her bag and walked around to where Rowena stood. She gave her a light peck on the cheek.
“Meet me for lunch? Around noon?”
“Yeah,” Rowena said, forcing a grin to her face.
Willow nodded and walked from the room. Once she was gone, Rowena closed her eyes and began to rub her temple.
“It’s too damn early to have a headache coming on,” she muttered to herself.
Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky – Restaurant – Morning
“Remind me to take another vacation here real soon.” Kennedy grinned as she pushed her third plate away. “These people can cook one mean steak.”
“Steak for breakfast?” Kadin smiled before downing the last gulp of her juice. “And here I thought it was my birthday.”
“Hey,” Kennedy said defensively, “I told you to order whatever you wanted. It ain’t my fault you wimped out and just went with the ham, eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes…” Her voice trailed off as her smile grew.
Kadin placed her empty glass back onto the table. She remained quiet for a long moment as she stared down at the bottom of the glass.
“So, about this necklace thing…” She paused before bringing her eyes up to meet Kennedy’s. “I’m not so sure it’s such a good idea that you come with me. I mean, we don’t even know what we’re gonna find in that cave.”
Kennedy kept her eyes locked with the other woman’s. “Did Faith say something to you?” she asked, her voice growing harsh. “‘Cause if she did…”
“No, it’s not what anybody said. I just don’t think it’s a good idea anymore, okay?” Kadin pushed the glass further onto the table and relaxed back into her chair. “I don’t even know what I’m walking into here, and I just…I can’t ask you to take that risk too. Especially now.”
Kennedy furrowed her brow. “How’s now any different than last night, or yesterday on the plane?”
Kadin looked back at her, dumbfounded.
“Kadin,” Kennedy began slowly, leaning forward a bit in her chair. “I’m here because I wanna be. If you’re worried about my friends, don’t be. I can handle them.” She let out a sigh and fell back into her chair. “They don’t mean to be so nosy, it’s just in their nature. Turns out savin’ the world on a nightly basis can get kinda boring.” Another slow smile spread over her face. “They gotta find something to occupy their time in between.”
Kadin shook her head with a smile. “It’s not them. I just don’t want anything bad to happen to you, that’s all.” She averted her eyes and began to pick at the corner of her napkin.
“Hey,” Kennedy said softly, once again gaining her attention. “If this is going to be the end there’s something I need to do with you first.”
Kadin raised a brow and glanced over her shoulder.
Kennedy just grinned and nodded.
Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky – Game Room – Moments Later
“I have to admit this isn’t what I thought you had in mind as your last activity before…you know,” Kadin remarked.
“I’m full of surprises,” Kennedy answered.
The slayer had just finished racking the balls and was placing the rack back beneath the table. She chalked up her cue and looked up at Kadin standing across the table. The hunter raised her brow and smirked as she leaned against her own stick.
“Please go first,” Kadin remarked. “I wouldn’t want you to have the excuse that I got to break.”
Kennedy returned the smirk and lined up her shot. “That’s right. She talks big now.” She pulled her cue back and sent it forward at a rapid pace. The cue ball struck the one ball at an angle and sent the remaining balls out in all directions. The five and the seven sank in the right corner pocket, and the eight ball slowly rolled towards the side pocket before dropping in. Kennedy slowly stood, her grin threatening to split right off her face.
“Lucky shot,” Kadin mumbled, falling back against the wall.
Kadin was just about to rack up another game when her necklace began to glow again. She braced herself against the pool table and looked up at Kennedy.
“Why’s it doing that?” Kennedy asked.
Kadin didn’t answer, just stared down at the amulet around her neck.
“Get it off! Now!” Kennedy said urgently, and Kadin gave it a tug, but it wouldn’t budge.
Kennedy ran over, took hold of the necklace and pulled, but her tugging did little but pull Kadin into her.
“This is not good,” Kadin tried to joke, as Kennedy tugged again.
Elegant House – Study – Twenty Years Ago
The little girl’s eyes were trained on the silver necklace her father dangled from his hand in front of her.
“You know what this is?” he asked, smiling as he looked down at his daughter.
“Uh-huh,” the little girl answered. “It’s our fam-ly’s hairloom.”
“Yes,” the father said with a chuckle. “It is very important to who we are.” He laid the necklace flat in his hand. The interwoven “VH” design fit perfectly into the similarly-designed scar on his palm.
The little girl’s eyes stared down at it intensely. “Daddy? Why does it look like that? What happened?” she asked, tracing the edges of the scar with her tiny finger.
The man sighed before placing the necklace on a nearby table and lifting the child into his lap. His eyes met hers, and he held her close.
“Kadin, there is a lot about our family that you must learn. Someday, you will know what it means to be a Van Helsing, and although I pray every night that I will be there to see you through it, I may not be.”
The little girl remained silent as she stared back up into her father’s eyes. He smiled and ran a hand through her soft hair, then placed a tender kiss on her forehead.
“One day,” he continued, “you will have to face your destiny, make a choice, and I have complete faith that you will accept and embrace it.” He watched her for a moment before continuing. “You have great power within you, Kadin. It is your birthright, and someday, you will inherit it. But remember,” he paused as his smile returned. “No power in the world is greater than the power held within.” He lifted his hand from her waist and pointed to her heart. “In here.” The girl’s eyes dropped down to her father’s hand, before slowly lifting to meet his own.
“Do you understand?” he asked gently.
The little girl remained silent as she gazed up into her father’s eyes. After a short moment, she began to smile.
Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky – Game Room – Present
“Kadin?” Kennedy reached out and waved her hand in front of the other woman’s eyes. “Kadin!”
The hunter suddenly snapped out of it and looked over at the slayer, who was still trying to tug on her necklace.
“What? Sorry, I was just…” She shook her head and let out a breath. “Hold on,” Kadin told her, taking a step away.
Kennedy watched the other woman in silence. Kadin took a deep breath and held the amulet tightly in her hand. Her eyes went wide and she began to grind her teeth, tears coming from the corners of her eyes.
“What are you doing?” Kennedy demanded.
Then the light coming from Kadin’s necklace stopped, as quickly as it had begun, and she released her hold, shaking her hand in the air.
“What the hell…?” Kennedy asked as she quickly made her way over.
“Don’t…know,” Kadin forced out between clenched teeth. She held up her wounded hand and flexed her fingers.
Kennedy reached down and gently grasped Kadin’s hand by the wrist, pulling it up to examine it. “It looks sorta like…” she paused and scrunched her brow. “A map.”
Kadin’s eyes slowly fell to her hand. In the middle of her palm was what appeared to be a set of trees, surrounding the rough outline of a cave. There was a small glow of white light emitting from the center, directly hovering over the cave. The hunter looked up into the other woman’s eyes.
Kennedy lifted her own eyes and raised a brow.
Watchers Council – Library – Same Time
Rowena sat at a table in the library with a few books open in front of her. She had a notepad in front of her and was busy tapping her pen against her lip. Her eyes scanned over one of the books once more, then darted back to her pad.
Suddenly, a coffee cup was placed on the notepad, cutting off her view. “Hey!” She looked up to meet her lover’s smiling face.
“I think you’ve earned it,” Willow said softly. “You’ve been working on this night and day. I don’t think you can find something that just isn’t there.”
Rowena sighed, dropping her eyes to the brown liquid.
“I know,” she replied softly. “I just…after everything that’s happened with Kennedy lately…” She paused and looked back up into Willow’s eyes. “I just don’t want her to lose anyone else she cares about.”
Willow smiled as she took the seat next to the blonde.
“Hmm, now where have I heard this before…”
Rowena returned her smile.
“I know, I know. Should take a bit of my own advice, but…I just can’t help remembering how she moped around here after what happened with…” The woman trailed off, leaving the sentence hanging in the air.
Willow averted her eyes to her hands. “Yeah, I remember.”
“Will,” the blonde said softly, reaching out to place a hand over the other woman’s. She waited until the soft green gaze met her own before continuing. “No matter what, we never would’ve let him hurt you or Faith. You should have seen Kennedy the minute she thought that’s what he was trying to do. Uncle or not…you two are her family.”
Willow smiled softly. “I know that, but still…I just wish I could know that she’s not in any real danger.”
“We just have to trust that, if she is in danger, she’ll find some way out of it,” Rowena smiled comfortingly. “Kennedy’s a very capable slayer. She can take care of herself.”
Willow’s smile slowly faded, and she bit her bottom lip. “It’s not her that I don’t trust.”
“Will,” the blonde soothed. “I don’t think we have any reason to distrust Kadin either. She’s never done anything to make us believe she’s ever going to hurt Kennedy. In fact,” the Watcher paused, considering her words. “Well, I just think it’s pretty obvious what her intentions are towards Kennedy.”
Willow smiled weakly and dropped her eyes to the table.
“And about the vote earlier –” Rowena ventured.
“No,” Willow said, holding up her hands. “We already know we’re going to butt heads in the boardroom, so let’s not make a huge issue out of this right now, o-or ever if we can help it. Okay? Remember, no wimps.”
Rowena grinned. “Yes ma’am,” she answered.
Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky – Room 312 – Day
“Is it glowing again?” Kennedy asked as she dropped her bag onto the end of the bed. Kadin looked up from her spot next to the window.
“No,” Kadin answered. She pulled the glove off her hand and held her palm up to the slayer’s gaze. “But I think it’s done all that it’s going to.” She looked over and glanced at the bag resting on the foot of the bed. “You all set?”
Kennedy placed her hands in her back pockets and nodded. “Got the change of clothes and all the necessary demon fighting equipment.”
“I doubt we’ll run into any demons,” Kadin said, lifting her own bag over her shoulder. “But I guess it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.” She flipped open the inside of her duster, the light gleaming off her favorite crossbow, attached to her hip.
Cave Opening – Day
Kadin’s boot landed in a puddle, sending mud splashing out. She turned back to face her companion, squinting against the heavy downpour. “I think this is the place.”
“How can you tell?” Kennedy yelled back, shielding her eyes with her hand.
Kadin lifted her hand to show the other woman her bare palm. “It looks vaguely familiar. Plus…Map’s gone. What else could it mean?”
Kennedy nodded, folding her arms across her chest. “After you.”
The hunter turned and began to trudge her way through the mud into the cave, the slayer following closely after.
Darkened Cave – Moments Later
Kadin made her way into the large opening in the center of the cave, taking a moment to look around and brush her matted hair back away from her eyes. Stowing her gear near some large fallen logs that appeared to have been dragged inside, Kadin dropped her bag into the dirt and turned to face Kennedy.
“Well, at least it’s dry,” she said optimistically.
The slayer nodded before dropping her own bag into the sand. “And hopefully full of firewood. Whaddya think the chances are of that?” She began to peel off her soaked jean jacket.
Kadin watched intently for a moment before averting her eyes. “I’ll go see.” She turned and quickly disappeared into the darkness of the cave with her flashlight.
Kennedy continued to remove her clothes as she bent down and unzipped her bag.
Darkened Cave – Some Time Later
Kennedy was sitting on one of the logs and poking at the sand with a stick when she heard the footsteps approaching. Looking up, she met Kadin’s warm smile and saw her arms full of firewood.
“There’s a whole pile of it at the other end,” the hunter explained as she dumped the wood onto the dirt.
“Great, ’cause I’m freezin’ my slayer ass off here.” Kennedy ran her hands up and down her arms.
“The dry clothes didn’t help?”
“A little,” Kennedy replied, glancing over at Kadin. “Speakin’ of dry clothes, you should probably get changed.”
The hunter kept her gaze trained on the other woman for a short moment before nodding and getting up to make her way over to her own bag.
“I’ll just…get the fire started,” Kennedy mumbled to herself. She turned to her bag to retrieve the matches from the side compartment. Holding the dry matchbook up, she smiled. “Thank God for waterproof vinyl.” She turned back to the pile of wood and began to start the fire.
Kadin was digging around in her bag for a dry shirt when Kennedy’s voice floated into her ears. “So, you been here before, to Amsterdam?”
Kadin shrugged out of her duster and threw it onto a nearby log. “Once, when I was a child. My father brought me here to visit my grandfather’s grave.” She knelt down and began removing her boots.
Kennedy was sitting on the log, stirring the fire. She added another piece of wood and took a moment to stare into the raging flames. “You haven’t been back since?”
“No,” Kadin replied, shaking her head as she fastened the button on the dry cargo pants. She unbuttoned and unzipped her vest, pulling it off and throwing it next to the duster. “Guess I had no real reason to.”
Kennedy remained silent for a long moment. “What about the rest of your family? They buried here too?”
Kadin reached for the hem of her shirt and hesitated just a moment before pulling it up and over her head. “Don’t know,” she answered with a sigh. “Most of ’em are, I guess. Seeing as how this is technically the birthplace of our bloodline.”
“What about…” Kennedy began, turning her head to face the other woman. The rest of the question died in her throat when her eyes landed on the hunter’s bare and scarred back. Three large and jagged lines ran right to left from just under her shoulder blade to the end of her ribcage. “What happened to you?” The words seemed to slip from Kennedy’s mouth before she could stop them.
Kadin glanced back over her shoulder. “Werewolf,” she answered shortly before turning back to face the wall. “The one that killed Serena.”
Kennedy’s eyes immediately clouded over with regret. “Kadin, I’m sorry. I…I didn’t mean to…”
“It’s okay,” the hunter said, as she pulled on a dry shirt. “It was a long time ago, and it’s not like it’s the only one, or even the most painful.”
“No, I shouldn’t have asked,” Kennedy shook her head as she stood. “It’s not really my business to…”
“I said don’t worry about it,” Kadin interrupted. “It doesn’t hurt that much anymore.” She paused and dropped her voice to a near whisper. “Only when it rains.”
Kennedy suddenly found herself moving closer to the other woman. She stopped only when she was directly behind the hunter’s back. “Why only when it rains?” she asked gently.
Kadin shook her head. “Either it’s a werewolf thing or the muscle must’ve healed wrong. Hell if I know,” she said with a slight smile. “Most of the time I don’t notice them.”
“Does it hurt to touch it?” Kennedy asked gingerly.
The hunter let out a shaky breath at the slayer’s closeness. Turning her head slightly to the side, she met Kennedy’s eyes. “No, they’re old wounds.”
Kennedy remained silent for a long moment before she slowly stepped closer and reached out to lift up Kadin’s shirt. Her eyes ran over the length of the scars, the light from the fire flickering against Kadin’s skin. She reached out with the tips of her fingers and gently smoothed over the jagged lines.
Kadin’s eyes slipped closed, and her breathing increased slightly. “Kennedy, I…I don’t think we should do this again.”
The slayer never lifted her hand or her eyes from the scars. “Do what again?”
The words suddenly tore Kadin from the silent ease of the moment. She turned around swiftly, breaking the slayer’s contact with her back.
“Are you serious?” she asked in a huff. “You really gonna keep up with this ‘convenient amnesia’ bit?”
“Amnesia?” Kennedy repeated in confusion. “What’re you talking about?”
Kadin shook her head with a sigh. “I knew it was a mistake. I knew it!” She stomped over to the log and snatched up her vest. Shoving her hand into the pockets, she continued ranting to herself. “I shoulda just kept it simple, but no…I just had to go and sleep with her. Not to mention the fact that she’s a slayer. That’s just askin’ for a head trip right there.”
“S-sleep with me?” Kennedy asked.
Kadin turned around to face the other woman, the necklace now dangling from her hand. “Now you’re just gonna outright deny it?”
“Deny what?!” Kennedy yelled, her voice echoing off the empty cave walls.
Kadin was quiet for a long moment. She stood staring back into the perplexed face of the slayer. “You…you really don’t remember?”
“Remember what?” Kennedy asked again, taking a few steps closer. “We didn’t sleep together.”
Kadin’s grip on the vest slowly loosened, and it slipped from her fingers. Her eyes drained of all life, and she slumped to her knees. She clenched the necklace tightly in her fist and dropped her eyes to hide the tears.
Kennedy watched the hunter helplessly for a few moments before dropping to her knees in front of her.
“Hey,” she said softly, reaching out to lift Kadin’s eyes to her own, but the woman jerked away from her grasp. Kennedy pulled her hand back, a little hurt. “I’m not sure what you think happened between us, Kadin,” she said calmly, never taking her eyes from the hunter. “But I swear to you, if we were to sleep together, it’s not something I would ever deny or forget.”
Kadin slowly lifted her gaze back to Kennedy’s, a few stray tears leaking from her eyes and making a pathway down her cheeks. “Last night, you came to me. You came to me and you…” She swallowed back another sob. “And then we…and it was…it was the first time I felt connected to somebody in a long time. I felt…alive again.” She shook her head slowly. “Are you trying to tell me it was all just…a dream?”
Kennedy remained silent for a long moment, her eyes intensely focused on Kadin’s. “But Kadin…we didn’t,” she finally answered, with a motion of her hand between them. “You have to believe me. If we…did, I would definitely have remembered.”
Kadin took a moment to absorb this. “So, we really didn’t…?” She let the sentence hang in the air.
Kennedy only shook her head. “I was…” she paused and considered her words carefully. “I couldn’t sleep, so I was gonna come over and maybe…I don’t know, just hang out. But I got as far as two steps across the hall and realized how ridiculous it was to wake you up at two in the morning just to talk. I went back to my own room and finally fell asleep two hours later.” She gave the words a moment to sink in, before adding, “I never even made it to the door.”
Kadin licked her lips and looked her down at the floor. Her voice came out in a hoarse whisper. “But it felt so…real. I can still feel you…” She let the sentence die off and cleared her throat. Running the back of her hand over her eyes, she quickly stood. “Well, now that I’ve made a complete and total fool of myself…”
“Kadin, wait,” Kennedy interrupted, shooting to her feet. “You didn’t…I’m not…this doesn’t change anything,” she finally managed to force out. “You’ve really been under some serious stress lately, and it’s not your fault.” She wanted to reach out and place a comforting hand on the other woman’s arm, but hesitated and dropped it back to her side.
Kadin glanced up just as Kennedy pulled her hand away. A sad smile slowly formed across her lips. “I think we both know that’s not true.” She met the slayer’s eyes and said, “This changes everything.”
Kennedy could only watch in silence as Kadin turned and walked away.
Darkened Cave – Some Time Later
Kadin sat on the log at the far side of the cave, her eyes trained on her boots.
Kennedy glanced up from her place in front of the fire to look over at the hunter. “Aren’t you cold?” she asked suddenly.
Kadin looked up. “Not really,” she answered calmly. “Cold doesn’t bother me. Once spent three days stranded on an iceberg in Greenland with nothing but my duster and a box of matches to keep me warm.” She smiled fondly at the memory.
Kennedy found herself returning the light smile. “Is there anywhere on this planet that you haven’t been?”
“I’m sure there has to be.” Kadin shrugged.
“So, how’d you get off the iceberg?” Kennedy asked curiously.
Kadin’s smile grew a little as she dropped her eyes back to her boots. “Oil rig came by on the third night. Hitched a ride to the mainland then took the next flight out to Haiti.”
“What was in Haiti?”
Kadin looked up, her smile now a grin. “Haitians.”
Kennedy shook her head with a small smile of her own. “Sorry I asked.” Her eyes dropped back to the slowly flickering flames. “Fire’s ’bout out. Needs more wood.”
“I’ll get it,” Kadin answered as she stood.
Kennedy looked over and nodded. “I’ll just…wait here.”
Kadin nodded briefly, her eyes hesitant to meet Kennedy’s. “I’m just…” She motioned towards the back of the cave before quickly disappearing into its darkness.
Kennedy watched her leave in silence, then turned her eyes back to the fire.
Darkened Cave – Moments Later
Kadin shook her head with a sigh. “Just had to say it,” she mumbled to herself as she made her way through the tunnel to the other end of the cave. “Stupid.”
The small sliver of light shining in from the other end did little to light her way. She reached out to brace herself against the wall as she made her way through the darkened tunnel. The medallion around her neck began to glow again, but her attention was set on making it to the end of the tunnel.
Her foot suddenly landed in a puddle of mud. She looked down at her boot, groaning as she lifted it out of the mud. “The hell did that come from?” She glanced around at the cave floor, but found no source of water. She dropped her eyes back to the puddle. “What the…?”
The mud puddle began to shift. The center started to swirl as the outer edges grew in diameter. Kadin’s eyes were transfixed as the puddle grew to enormous size. She felt her back suddenly hit the wall of the cave as the outer ends of the puddle met the tips of her boots.
Her feet began to sink into the puddle, the mud slowly making its way up her legs. She didn’t call out or speak a single word. The necklace around her neck continued its slight glow as the mud slowly encompassed the hunter’s paralyzed body.
Kadin was soon completely submerged in the puddle, her head disappearing beneath its surface. The mud the slowly retreated until it, too, disappeared, leaving no trace of either Kadin or the puddle
Darkened Cave – Several Minutes Later
Kennedy was still seated on the log, idly poking at the remnants of the fire.
She glanced over at the place where Kadin had left. “Come on, Kadin, how long does it take to get a stack of firewood?” she grumbled.
“I’m afraid she won’t be returning.”
Kennedy whipped her head around at the sound of the intrusive voice. Her eyes landed on a hooded figure standing just off to her left side. She shot to her feet, preparing for a fight.
Darkened Cave – Deep Cavern – Same Time
Kadin lay face down in the dirt.. The necklace lay in the same dirt just beneath her chin, its glow now gone.
A sudden shift in the air sent a gentle breeze through the cavern. Kadin let out a small groan as her eyes slowly blinked open. She placed her hands against the dirt and pushed herself up groggily.
“Welcome, Kadin.” A soft and faintly recognizable voice floated into her ears.
Kadin glanced over at its source, blinking her eyes to focus against the darkness. The outline of a woman dressed in a long, flowing white gown slowly came into focus.
Serena’s smiling face stared back at her. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
Kadin remained silent for a long moment before slowly letting out a sigh and dropping her head back into the dirt.
Darkened Cave – Same Time
Kennedy remained motionless, fists raised as she stared back at the cloaked figure.
“There is no need to be frightened,” his voice rang out again. “I am not here to harm you.”
“Not really my main concern,” Kennedy retorted angrily. “Why won’t Kadin be returning? What did you do to her?”
“Nothing,” the figure replied calmly. “I am not the one who shall decide her fate. That lies in her own hands.” Kennedy watched the cloaked man suspiciously as he took a step closer. “It is not in normal tradition for the seeker to bring along her lover. You must be quite special to this one.”
“I’m not her…” Kennedy paused and thought better of the correction. “What if I am? Does that interfere with her quest?”
The cloaked man lifted his head slightly, a small chuckle coming from beneath the darkened hood.
“No,” he finally answered.
“Then what’s it to you?” Kennedy asked, irritated.
“I have no issue with your presence. In fact, I would be willing to take you to her. If that is your desire.”
Kennedy continued to watch the man carefully. Finally, she replied. “Show me.”
Darkened Cave – Deep Cavern – Same Time
Kadin slowly forced herself into a sitting position, leaning her back against the nearest wall. “You here to mess with my head again? Didn’t think you baddies had that much free time on your hands.”
“Baddies?” Serena repeated with a raised brow. She took a few steps closer, still smiling. “Is that what you think I am?”
Kadin glanced up at the woman. “Aren’t you? ‘Cause you sure as hell ain’t The Ghost of Christmas Past. It’s a little late for that one.”
Serena laughed. “Always the joker,” she admonished softly. “It’s one of the things I love most about you.”
Kadin’s eyes grew cold. “Don’t say that. Mess with my head all you want, but leave…that out of it.”
Serena took the last step closer and knelt down next to the hunter. Kadin stared back at her unflinchingly. “There’s no need to get angry,” she soothed, reaching out to brush a strand of hair back from Kadin’s brow. “You really should relax. Too much stress is not good for the heart.”
“What?” Kadin scoffed, pulling away from Serena’s touch. “And seeing your dead lover is?”
The smile that Serena had been wearing instantly faded. Her eyes took on a new look as she slowly lifted herself from her knees to stand.
“I see. It appears that this form has outgrown its use. Perhaps…”
Kadin watched as Serena’s face began to transform, her body soon following, until she was looking at the familiar form of her father.
“This one will be of more assistance,” her father’s deep voice finished with a smile.
Darkened Cave – Same Time
Kennedy still stood facing the cloaked man.
“While I’m still breathing would be nice.”
“I’m afraid it’s not that simple,” the man replied. “You see, no one besides those of the Van Helsing bloodline have ever been permitted to witness The Test. I would be going against all that is sacred to us.”
“Is this the part where I’m supposed to beg?” she asked coldly. “‘Cause if that’s what you’re expectin’…you’re seriously barkin’ up the wrong tree.”
The man chuckled again. “Actually, that is not my intention at all. I am simply…warning you.” Kennedy raised a brow, and the man quickly went on. “You have to understand, this is not something we take lightly. You may see something that you…No matter what happens, under no circumstances may you interfere.”
Kennedy considered the man’s words. “I…I understand.”
“Do you?” the cloaked figure challenged. “I cannot explain to you just how important it is that you do not try to help your friend. She must pass this test on her own. Otherwise, it is all for nothing.”
Kennedy slowly nodded. “I won’t interfere. I swear.”
“Very well,” the man nodded in return. “If you are ready…?” He turned slightly to the side and motioned towards the front wall.
The slayer’s head turned to the side in confusion. “The wall? But how are we…”
Before Kennedy could finish the sentence, the man reached out and grabbed her. She glanced down, and the brief image of coal black flesh against her own flashed through her vision. It was soon forgotten as she felt a tug on her arm. Looking up, she saw the stone wall directly in front of her face. She didn’t have time to protest before the man pulled both of them straight through the wall.
Darkened Cave – Deep Cavern – Same Time
Kadin was speechless as she stared up into the eyes of her father. “But how? Why?”
Jackson Van Helsing took a step closer to his daughter. “You seek the power of our bloodline. It is not something given freely. Tell me Kadin, are you worthy?”
“W-worthy?” Kadin repeated, slowly rising to her feet. “Father I…I don’t understand.”
“Oh, I’m sure you do,” he shot back. “You always were the brains of the family. I’m sure you’ve figured it out by now.”
“Figured what out, exactly?” she asked slowly.
Jackson shook his head with a chuckle. “Don’t play dumb with me, Kadin. It’s really not flattering. You forget, I taught you everything you know.”
Kadin’s expression steeled. “You are not my father. That much, I know.”
“Really?” the man said with a wide smile. “And how are you so certain of this?”
“My father rarely smiled,” she answered softly. “Well, not since my mother…” She let the sentence hang in the air, then cleared her throat uncomfortably. “I’m not really sure what you are, but it sure as hell ain’t my father.”
Jackson took a moment to stare back at her before slowly taking a step back and bowing his head.
“Well done,” he nodded, his voice beginning to change. As he lifted his head, his body morphed into that of a man dressed in a solid black cloak. The only color was the gold lining that made up the seams along his hood and sleeves. He looked up, but his face was still hidden by the cloak’s hood. “You have passed the first test.”
“Test?” Kadin repeated. “What test?”
“In order to claim your power,” the cloaked man explained, “you must prove your worthiness. The first test lies in the strength of your mind.”
“That’s what…” Kadin’s eyes clouded over with understanding. “Is that why I’ve been having these hallucinations? Attacking werewolves, Serena, and then…Kennedy…”
“But…why them?” she asked, slightly confused.
The man did not answer for a long moment. “Because…we had to know the strength of your mind. What better way to discover it than with your greatest weaknesses?”
Kennedy’s form slowly materialized through the back wall of the cavern. Her eyes were shut tightly, and her hands were out in front of her, feeling the air blindly. She peeked one eye open and then the other. Dropping her arms, she let out a relieved sigh. The moment was soon interrupted when her eyes landed on Kadin standing on the other side of the cavern.
She remained hidden in the darkness as she watched and listened.
“M-my weakness?” Kadin finally repeated slowly.
“Yes,” the man answered again. “Like most humans, your greatest weakness is love. Fortunately for you, it is also your greatest strength.”
Kadin averted her eyes. “Then why…” She shook her head and swallowed back the question.
“The slayer.” Kadin’s head jerked up at the man’s voice. Her eyes bore straight through him, but he showed no sign of fear. “We know about her,” he said matter-of-factly. “Why do you think she is here with you now? It was not by pure chance that your paths crossed under such complicated circumstances.”
“You know nothing about our paths, all right?” Kadin shot back defensively. “She’s got nothing to do with this. Besides, we’re just friends.”
“Just friends?” The man’s voice had an air of amusement. “Is that how you would label your relationship with her…with the one you so obviously hold quite dear to your heart?”
All certainty quickly vanished from Kadin’s face. “W-what?”
“Oh, I think you know,” he replied, crossing his hands behind his back. He began to walk around Kadin in a circle. “I think you already know what your heart has been trying to tell you all along.” The man stopped when he was standing just behind the hunter. “The vision you had? The one of the slayer coming to you in the night? We played no part in it. That was the inner workings of your own mind, or rather I should say, your own heart.”
Kadin closed her eyes, sucking in and then letting out an uneasy breath. “So, what if it is?” She turned to face the cloaked figure once again. “What’s it got to do with any of this?”
The man was silent as he took the few steps forward and lifted his arm. Kadin nearly flinched in surprise when his jet black hand emerged from beneath the long sleeve and grabbed the necklace around her neck. “Everything,” he finally replied. Slowly, he released the necklace to fall back against the hunter’s chest.
Kadin watched closely as the man’s arm fell back to his side, but he remained standing just in front of her. “It is time for your second and final test.”
“What is it this time?” Kadin asked, a bit annoyed. “I gotta walk over hot coals? Or maybe I have to break a board with my head. Already tested my mind, and now it’s time to test my body?”
The man remained silent for a long moment before finally replying. “That would be the logical conclusion, but it is not the correct one.” He took a step to the side and stretched out his arm, pointing to the far wall. “This is not a test of endurance…but a test of choice.”
Kennedy jumped back in surprise when the man’s arm extended out and pointed directly at her. The slab of rock she was hiding behind disappeared, and she suddenly found herself standing out in the open, staring back at a very surprised Kadin. She looked around anxiously for a beat, then dropped her hands to her side and smiled nervously. “Uh…Hi.”
“Kennedy?” Kadin said the name as though it was foreign to her lips. “What are you…how did you get here?”
The slayer opened her mouth to respond, but was quickly cut off by the cloaked figure. “That is of no consequence. All that matters now is the choice.”
Kadin’s eyes left Kennedy’s and landed on the man standing a few feet in front of her. “What choice?”
The man once again folded his arms in front of him. “Perhaps the most important choice you will ever have to make. The choice between claiming your birthright, the power of your family’s heritage,” he said, nodding to the necklace still hanging around her neck. After a short pause, he slowly turned his head toward Kennedy. “Or claiming the love of a woman whose heart is as unpredictable as the very nature of the feeling itself.”
Kadin’s eyes shot over to Kennedy. The slayer was looking back at her, wide-eyed and speechless. “Love?” Kadin’s voice wavered as the word breathed through her lips. Her eyes remained locked with Kennedy’s as she continued to speak. “I haven’t known love for a very long time. But power? Power I know. Power, I understand.”
“Is that to be your decision?”
Kadin glanced over at the hooded man briefly, before once again locking her eyes with Kennedy’s. “Why can’t I have both?”
“My dear child,” the man chuckled from beneath the hood. “Since when have you ever known the two to exist together in peace? It is true that with great power comes great responsibility.”
“Terrific, I’ve got a vision quest led by Spider-Man,” Kadin muttered to herself.
“This power is the greatest you’ve ever known. Love is nothing if not irresponsible. You cannot be loyal to both your power and to your heart, for with this power comes a life of solitude, a world of your power only. You may not have them both. You must choose.”
Kadin quickly turned back to the cloaked man, as if she had just thought of something. “This power. It’ll give me all the answers I’ve been seeking about my past? Maybe finally shine some light on who and what I really am?”
The man nodded. “This power will give you all that and much, much more. All your ancestors have sought it before you as they reached their twenty-fifth year. They have all searched to understand its worth…its true meaning. It is power beyond your wildest imagination.”
Kadin said nothing at first, looking back over at Kennedy, who still stood, wide eyed, at the far side of the room. Kadin’s eyes remained soft, but the resolve on her face never wavered. “Then I guess the choice is easy.”
Kennedy’s chest slowly settled as she quietly exhaled the breath she was holding. She averted her eyes from Kadin’s as she waited to hear the hunter’s next, inevitable words.
“I choose love.”
Kennedy’s head shot up so fast at Kadin’s words that her neck popped. She saw the hunter give her a soft smile.
Both women were so enraptured with each other that they did not notice when the cloaked man slowly turned and knelt down in front of Kadin.
“You have passed your final test,” he said. “By choosing to follow your heart and trusting that it would lead you to the right decision, you have proven yourself worthy of the power.”
Kadin was at a loss for words.
“I-I did? I…I am?”
“Yes,” the man nodded as he rose to his feet. He stood directly in front of the hunter. “When presented with the option of great power or great love, you chose love.” He reached out with both hands and held Kadin’s hand in a tight grip. “We tested the strength of your mind, your ability to see the truth for what it really is. Then we tested the strength of your heart, your willingness to give up great power to stay true to yourself.”
Kadin looked down to see the same white light that had glowed from her necklace began to shine through the man’s fingers.
“Are you ready to accept this power?”
Kadin cast a glance over to Kennedy, who had a half smile on her lips, but still said nothing. She then looked back at the cloaked man and slowly nodded.
The white light grew in intensity, and Kadin closed her eyes. A moment later, the light subsided and she opened them to see that the cloaked man had disappeared. She looked down at her hand and saw that where the imprint of the map had once been, there was now the imprint of the letters “VH,” similar to her father’s scar from years ago.
As she closed her palm, a slight smile of contentment grew on her face.
Kadin’s Cabin – Bedroom – Early Morning
Kadin put away the last of her clothes and shut the closet door. She turned back to the bed and lifted her suitcase to put it away. A sudden knock at the door caught her attention, and she turned to glance at the clock.
Another knock at the door pulled her gaze away. She dropped her suitcase to the floor and kicked it under the bed before quickly leaving the room.
Kadin’s Cabin – Front Room – Moments Later
Kadin pulled her front door open to reveal Kennedy standing outside her cabin. She returned the smile briefly. “Kennedy? Thought you were gonna go straight to bed?”
“Yeah, well,” the slayer shrugged. “The whole time change thing threw me off a bit. Plus, there’s that nine-hour nap I took on the flight back.”
“Right.” Kadin nodded with a small smile. “Forgot about that.”
“If you’re tired, I can just…” Kennedy pitched a thumb behind her.
“No,” Kadin replied, and opened the door wider. She turned and motioned for the slayer to enter. Kennedy accepted the invitation with a smile and stepped over into the room.
Kadin pushed the door shut and stuffed her hands into her pockets as she stepped around to face Kennedy again. The two women shared a nervous smile.
“So,” Kennedy broke the silence with a small sigh. “Feelin’ all powerful yet?”
Kadin shook her head, her smile more confident. “Not really. I’m still waitin’ for it to kick in. Never really understood how all that worked. You know…” Kadin paused and let out a sigh. “The magic…stuff. I’m babbling, ain’t I?”
Kennedy just smiled.
“I don’t usually…do that,” Kadin turned away and ran a hand back through her hair. She let out a slow breath before turning back to face the slayer. “I’m willing to bet you didn’t come all the way over here at one in the morning just to ask me how I’m feeling.”
The smile slowly slipped from Kennedy’s face. “No,” she finally answered, with a slight shake of her head. “I didn’t.”
“Didn’t think so,” Kadin whispered. She gave the slayer a sideways glance before letting out another long, slow breath. “Look, Kennedy…I think I know what this is about. It’s about what I said back in the cave, and I know you’re probably wantin’ to talk about what it means, but…”
“No,” Kennedy quietly interrupted the other woman’s rant. She kept her eyes locked on the hunter’s as she took the few steps forward to close the distance between them. “Don’t wanna talk,” she whispered, her eyes flashing down to Kadin’s lips. “Wanna…”
The rest of the sentence died off as the slayer leaned forward and their lips met. The kiss was soft at first, but soon turned passionate. Kadin’s hands found their way onto Kennedy’s hips.
The slayer lifted her hands and pulled her jacket back off her shoulders. It fell into a heap at her feet as she reached up and pulled down the zipper of Kadin’s vest. The hunter suddenly pulled back out of the kiss, breathing heavily.
“Kennedy…w-what are you –”
“Kadin,” Kennedy interrupted between panted breaths. “No more talking.” She reached up and pushed the vest back off the hunter’s shoulders, adding it to the pile at their feet. Kadin looked up into Kennedy’s eyes, a smile forming on her face.
Kadin’s Cabin – Bedroom – Moments Later
The door slammed open, and two women’s bodies hurriedly fell backwards into the room. Their feet tangled and nearly sent them both crashing to the ground.
Kadin reached out and braced her hands against Kennedy’s hips, while the slayer pushed the two of them back toward the bed.. The back of Kadin’s knees hit the edge, and they both toppled backwards.
Kennedy broke the kiss just long enough to sit up and pull the shirt over her head, before diving back to the hunter’s lips.
Kadin’s eyes flickered open as Kennedy’s kisses broke away from her lips, Kennedy smiled wickedly for just a moment before she began a slow journey down Kadin’s body. A deep moan reverberated from the back of Kadin’s throat as her eyes slipped closed.
End of Birth Rite
Next on Watchers…
A baseball card and a unique friendship lead to a bitter lesson in what goes around comes around for Shannon.