New York – Staten Island House – Continuous
Hope and Faith walked in unison toward the front door of the house. Both watched – again, in unison – the windows of the house. Each had a heavy curtain, revealing nothing of what lay inside.
“No light,” noted Hope.
“Maybe vampires,” said Faith.
They neared the porch. Again, they stepped in unison up all three steps to the porch. Faith had her stake in her right hand. Hope drew out two daggers. Brown with white trim, the front door waited for them.
“Something’s…” began Faith.
“…weird about this?” finished Hope.
Hope shrugged. “Got a job to do.”
Both sisters braced themselves on their right legs, getting ready to kick the door open with their respective lefts. Then the door swung open.
A tall figure in robes stood before them. His (or her, it was really impossible to tell) skin was hairless, mottled gray. Large dark eyes were set wide apart on the skull, with a small mass of tentacles where in a human being a mouth would be found. No nose of any kind was visible.
“Oh, hello,” said the demon. “Are you ladies from around here? Our new neighbors maybe?” The head turned from one to the other energetically. “Won’t you come in?” A hand with three clawed fingers waved the way inside.
Hope blinked. Then blinked again. But it was Faith who simply strode inside the house. “Sure. Got any beer?”
“I don’t mean to be rude, but are you two old enough to be drinking beer?”
“Me, yes.” Faith said with a grin. “Her, no.”
“Perhaps a soda for you then, Miss?”
“Good idea,” called out Faith from inside the house.
After a moment or two of indecision, Hope followed her sister indoors.
Faith took a quick look around the room she’d entered. It held little enough furniture, apart from the heavy curtains. A low coffee table off to one side stood surrounded by large cushions. She also found a shorter, heavier version of the first demon. This one’s robes were blue, unlike the first’s, which were green.
“What?” wheezed the second demon. “Who’s this?”
“Neighbors, Granddad,” said the first demon. “Actually, we should do some introductions, huh? I’m S’Retniw, and this is my grandfather, Rihaz. Pleased to meet you!”
“Hi,” said Faith with a smile. “I’m Faith. This is my sister, Hope.”
“Yeah.” Hope said. “Hi. I guess.”
“Faith and Hope, eh?” Grandad looked at the two of them. “No offense, but your parents were tempting fate with those names, you know?”
“Don’t I know it,” agreed Faith heartily.
Granddad shrugged. “Well, they probably meant well.”
“Maybe,” was Faith’s answer.
“Beer and soda? Was that right?” S’Retniw piped up. “We don’t have a lot of variety, I’m afraid. Just moved in, you know.”
“I got that.”
“My daughter,” Granddad offered, “and her husband are out shopping. I’m sure they’d like to meet you.”
“Five by five,” said Faith with a wave. “No worries.”
The two demons looked at each other. “Um…” began S’Retniw, “I don’t know that phrase. Five by five? What does it mean?”
“Well, you see…”
Hope interrupted. “Why are we doing this?”
Faith looked at her. “Doing what?”
“Chatting with a pair of demons?”
“Hey, they seem like nice enough folks to me. Vl’hurgs, am I right?”
S’Retniw seemed to brighten. “Why, yes! How did you know?”
“I live in Cleveland. Got a friend there, and he’s Vl’hurg.”
“We almost moved to Cleveland!” chuckled Granddad. “Would’ve too, except for the little bit of a Hellmouth you got there. You sometimes get a bad element around those things.” He nodded sagely.
“You got that right!”
“Why are you having this conversation?”
The slayer looked at their hosts. “Listen, you’ve got a neighbor. His name is Wiggins. The fact is, he knows next-to-nothing about…well, non-humans…and he had a really bad experience with some vampires.”
“Vampires! Say no more!” Granddad said with a wave of his claws. “Shameless things!”
“And so pointless, too,” agreed S’Retniw. “I mean, it’s nobody’s fault they need blood, but there are how many butchers in this country? Throwing away how much blood I’m sure they’d much rather be selling?”
“Like I said – shameless! Shameless!”
Hope twirled her daggers.
“Stop that!” Faith used her older sister voice. It didn’t work.
“What’s going on here?” Granddad asked.
“I’m here to do a job,” said Hope. “And I’m going to do it.”
“No,” said Faith, “like I said these are Vl’hurgs. They’re harmless.”
“Harmless?” muttered the old demon. “I’ll have you know that in my day I got into a rumble or two…”
“Granddad…she means you don’t hunt people.”
“Of course not! What am I? A vampire?”
“Guys?” Faith said. “I’m trying to save your lives here.” That got them to quiet down. And suddenly become very still. Not even their tentacles twitched. “Like I said, Hope, these guys are harmless. I’m not gonna hurt them. Not even a little bit.”
“Fine. Just get out of my way…”
“And…I’m not going to let you hurt them, either.”
The silence that followed was anything but empty.
New York – Staten Island Street – Moments Later
A taxi pulled up. Jeff practically jumped out of the back seat and looked around. He saw the numbers of each house, then ran towards the one where Hope and Faith had entered.
“Hey!” the cab driver called out after him. “Don’t you want your change?”
Jeff ignored him and kept running. As he neared the house, he could hear crashes inside. He picked up speed. Nearing the door, he made an arcane gesture with his hand, muttering an incantation.
New York – Staten Island House – Moments Later
Jeff did not bother to knock. He simply burst through the door, still muttering and still making the same gestures as before.
The living room now had cracks in the plaster. The coffee table was broken into lots of pieces, scattered all over the room. From the kitchen door, the Vl’hurg S’Retniw peeked out, watching the fight.
And a fight it was. Hope and Faith were duking it out with a vengeance. Kicks and blows were flying between them hard enough to create an echo in the small room. Jeff could barely make out their faces, so fast were they ducking blows or moving to put as much power behind a kick as possible. But one of them was clearly faster and getting in more hits.
She managed to make two connecting hits directly to her opponent’s face, sending her back. Then, a twirling kick put her on the ground. Still, her opponent tried to get up. Another kick – directly to the face – sent her down again.
Faith grinned. But Jeff observed that she was wearing Hope’s clothes, and his eyes went wide.
On the floor, Faith groaned, bruised and battered.
Jeff looked between the two Faiths, then extended his hand toward the Faith on the floor, the one wearing the same clothes Faith had worn earlier.
“Garde,” he said, ending his incantation. Cold green flame erupted from his hand, bathing the whole room in its light for a moment. Like a cocoon, the flames wrapped around Faith. She struggled for a moment, then grew still.
“She’s going to be annoyed,” said Jeff to no one.
The other Faith, wearing Hope’s clothes, grinned. “Thanks, Jeffy!” She reached down and picked up Faith’s discarded wooden stake. “You’re just in time to help clean out this nest!”
His eyes on the Vl’hurg cowering at the door, Jeff said, “No.”
“That’s cool. I can take care of them myself –”
“No, I meant that isn’t going to happen.” He looked directly into Hope’s eyes as he said this. No bravado. Nothing like a threat. Merely a statement of fact.
Hope chuckled. “You really think you can take me?”
“Faith couldn’t.” He pointed to the confined figure on the floor. “See.”
She just stopped and stared at Faith’s form. “Is she dead?”
He shook his head. “Just immobilized. And protected. It’ll fade away in a few minutes.”
“Enough time to do my job!”
“Faith’s job as a slayer has never been to kill demons.”
“Oh, really?” Hope scoffed.
“Really. She defends people. That involves killing demons that are a threat. Vl’hurgs are no threat. They’re neat, nice, orderly neighbors. Faith, the real Faith, would never kill them just because they’re here. The real Faith wouldn’t do that.”
Hope blinked, seemed about to say something, then shook her head, as if to wake up.
“I…wait a minute…”
“What’s your name?”
She stared at him. “My name?”
“Hope. Your name is Hope.”
“No, it isn’t.”
“Can’t be Faith, can it? I mean,” he pointed to the floor, “that’s Faith right there.”
Now she looked at Faith. “Wait,” she said after a moment. “That doesn’t make…”
“What’s Faith’s boyfriend’s name?”
“Just a second…I think I remember…”
“Robin. He’s missing a leg. Which one?”
“Wait – he’s missing a leg?”
“That’s right. Which one? You could guess. Fifty-fifty chance of getting it right, after all. Of course, Faith wouldn’t have to guess. She wouldn’t have to think twice. This is the sort of thing she knows. Like what happened at last year’s Halloween Party, or what’s the name of the vampire Dawn’s in love with. For that matter, who is Dawn? Do you know?”
The woman who looked like Faith seemed about to be sick. “I don’t…you’re confusing me…”
“Listen to me.” Jeff stepped very close to her. “Your name is Hope. It’s a nice name. I like it. I like you. A lot more than I like Faith.” He stepped even closer. “A lot more.”
After a long pause of breathing deeply, she said, “Faith…she’s a handful.”
He nodded. “Yeah. She’s cool. But she’s not Hope. I want to see Hope.”
“I want to see Hope.”
“I want to talk to Hope.”
Now the young woman’s face was simply slack. She cast unfocused eyes around the room, before looking directly into Jeff’s. “Why?”
“Because she’s Hope. She’s fun, and funny, and attractive. I like her. Maybe more than like. I really, really want to find out. The only thing is, Hope seems to have some issues with her sister. Now, I’m an only child, so the whole sibling thing isn’t really something I get, but this much I do know. Try hard as you can, there’s no way you can ever be Faith. All you might succeed in doing is to destroy Hope. That’s what worries me. That’s what I don’t want. Please…be Hope.”
“Nobody wants Hope.” Her voice was almost listless.
“I do,” he answered. Then he took something out of his pocket. It was the amulet. “Here. A present. For Hope. Not for anyone else, just Hope.” He held it out towards her.
Slowly, her hand reached up from her side. Fingers closed around the amulet. She held it and turned it to see the amulet better.
Hope’s eyes shot wide open. She gasped. Her features began to shift, like suddenly melting wax. Bright red light emitted from her eyes, and she cried out in pain as her face continued to change. The light grew brighter and brighter, while Hope trembled and started to scream. Yet the scream faded along with the light. As it did, her features settled into their normal shape – Hope’s, looking terrified.
Then she fainted.
Fade to Black
Watchers Council – Rec Room – Night
Willow and Dawn sat across from Faith. Faith’s face still bore a few bruises.
“I don’t get all the details – don’t understand ’em, really,” Faith began. “But Jeff said what he’d done was put some kind of blessing whammy on the amulet.”
“Which one?” asked Dawn.
“Jeez, I don’t know.”
“Hestia’s Aura?” Dawn suggested.
“Maybe. That sound about right, Red?”
Willow just nodded.
“I was thinking that because it would disrupt any possessing demon’s inherent magic,” Dawn added.
“Her advanced magic training seems to be paying off,” Willow said proudly.
“Um…okay.” Faith shrugged. “Well, anyway, he kept pointing out that I was right there, so she couldn’t be me, and he kept complimenting her. Laid it on kinda thick if you ask me.”
“That would help the Hestia’s Aura,” offered Dawn.
“Reinforces the host’s consciousness and sense of self, helping to re-establish control.”
“If you say so.”
“Sure! Jeff and I were reading about a case –”
“Dawnie?” Willow said.
“Let Faith finish.”
Dawn subsided and looked back at Faith.
“So anyway,” continued Faith with a sigh, “it worked. This demon had to leave, and Jeff blasted it with the Force or whatever. After a couple of minutes that…thing…he put me in did fade away, and after he talked me out of killing him, we helped clean up. Well, I helped clean up. He insisted on taking Hope to a hospital, and it was about that time that the knight in shining armor here showed up,” she said, grinning at Willow.
“Why is it that every time you go on a road trip, I have to come racing to the rescue?” Willow asked. “Last time you hung out with Hope, she almost killed you then, too, and I had to race to the East Coast to get you.”
“Yeah, but you didn’t rescue me last time. I had everything in control,” Faith replied. She paused for a moment. “Truth is, you really didn’t help this time, either…You really should just stay home from now on.” Faith grinned.
Willow threw her hands up in the air.
“Well, is Hope all right?” asked Dawn.
“Yeah! She’s…fine. Then we both went and called Wiggins a bunch of names. Gave the Vl’hurgs our number if he gives them any more trouble. When I left, they were planning on having a barbeque to introduce themselves to everyone.”
“Not typical Vl’hurg food, I hope.”
“They ain’t stupid. Hamburgers and hotdogs were what they were talking about when we left.”
“And,” said Dawn, “what about Jeff?”
“Stayed in New York with Hope. For a little while, he said.”
Behind a counter, twenty feet away from where the slayer and two witches were talking, Lorinda crouched, unseen. She made no noise. No movement. All she did was crouch there and listen. Her eyes were bright. She did not smile.
New York – Rockaway Beach – Morning
Twenty feet from a boardwalk stretching for miles, Hope sat. She sat in the sand, dividing her attention between the Atlantic Ocean before her and the amulet in her hand. Its central stone was black now. She traced its outline with one finger. Then the outlines of the fantastical beasts on each side.
“Good thing I’ve got magic,” said a voice behind her. “Without it, I’d’ve had to pay a small army of private investigators to try and find you. I would’ve, too. But then I’d have to fill out vouchers and hand in expense reports, and it would have taken something like forever.”
Jeff’s voice managed to rise above the sound of the surf. Hope didn’t look up, not even when he came right up and sat beside her in the sand.
“Pretty,” he said. “Sometimes Rowena goes on and on about the sea. She grew up in a fishing village in Canada. Told me once that the first smell she can remember is sea air.”
“One of the watchers back in Cleveland. Actually she’s head of the Watchers Division, while Buffy’s the Council Head. We’ve got three divisions. Watchers. Slayers. And Coven. I’m in the Coven.”
They said nothing for almost one entire, endless minute.
Hope held up the amulet. “You want it back?”
Jeff reached over. With one finger, he pushed a strand a hair out of Hope’s face.
Fade to Black
End of A Little Faith
Next on Watchers…
The Council goes Hollywood when Andrew’s screenplay about the “Battle of Sunnydale” is actually made into a movie. Many have said that the movies are a cutthroat business, but never has that been so literally true.