Old Factory – Kadin’s Cell – Afternoon
Still handcuffed, Kadin paced the floor anxiously. She stopped her pacing when she heard the cell door open. She moved toward it and saw Coen and the other five clan members enter. When they had filed in around the hunter in a large near-circle, James Vance walked in to complete it.
“Where is Kennedy?” Kadin demanded, taking a step toward the clan leader. Two of the werewolves immediately yanked her back.
James held up his hand. “All in good time,” he assured her.
At a nod from James, one of his henchmen unlocked the handcuffs and stepped back into the circle. Kadin rubbed her wrists and looked at James questioningly.
James adopted a formal stance and pulled out a parchment scroll. He unrolled it and began to speak. “By my authority as clan leader and as a Patriarch of the Knights Argentum, I call this hearing to order. Kadin Van Helsing, you were tried for your crimes against our brethren and found not guilty. However, having considered the evidence, I find that verdict to be unacceptable. Therefore –”
“Hey, it was your damn trial, you can’t just –”
“Silence!” James roared.
Kadin shut up.
“Therefore,” James repeated, getting back to where he left off, “We are setting aside that verdict and replacing it with the one rendered here.” James turned to Coen on his right.
“For the murder of my brother, Sabin Vance, and Mark Jasper, Rhys Hill, Eliza Fillmore, Eric Stevens, Davis Moreland, and Serena Vance, we find you guilty.”
Kadin glanced around the circle, looking at the group as if they were crazy. James merely continued in his pronouncements.
“Having been found guilty, you are hereby sentenced to death – execution to take place at nightfall in the traditional manner.” James rolled up the parchment and handed it to Coen, who stowed it in his jacket.
Kadin scoffed loudly. “The ‘traditional manner’,” she muttered to herself. “Death by mauling, yeah, that’s real tradition.” Then she met James’s eyes. “I want to see Kennedy,” she insisted. “You said you’d let her go if I turned myself in.”
James stepped toward Kadin and stared her down. “When justice has been done, when your mutilated body lies still upon the blood-soaked ground, only then will your slayer be released. If you fail to comply, your unfortunate lover will be the recipient of your punishment. Those are the terms.”
Kadin stepped forward to object but stopped when James backed out of the circle. Coen gazed at his father expectantly. James nodded, and Coen turned back to Kadin, a cruel grin on his face. He and the others began inching toward her. Kadin turned around inside the circle, unsure of what was about to happen. All at once, they rushed forward and grabbed her.
Old Factory – Kennedy’s Cell – Moments Later
The large metal door swung open with a creak, and a beaten Kadin was suddenly thrown in unceremoniously. Her body hit the concrete with a sickening thud, and she let out a loud groan of pain.
The sound of laughter could be heard on the other side as the door was pulled closed, and then the heavy bolt slid into place.
Coughing and heaving, Kadin struggled to regain her breath. When she finally managed to do so, she rolled over and peered through the dimly lit room to see Kennedy’s motionless body lying against the far back wall. The hunter got to her hands and knees and crawled over to where her lover was lying.
“K-K-Kennedy?” Kadin’s scratchy voice called out. Tears glistened in her eyes as she reached out to brush the blood-matted hair from the slayer’s face. “Kennedy? Baby?”
A sudden wave of rage flared up inside her, and she turned to growl towards the door. “Bastards!”
She turned her attention back to her fallen lover. “Kennedy? Baby, please. Wake up,” Kadin called out again, but still the slayer didn’t move.
Kadin’s fingers shot to Kennedy’s neck, feeling for a pulse. Finding one, she let out a heavy sigh. Her eyes slipped closed and she hung her head. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered.
With a final heavy sigh and a long groan of pain, Kadin shifted her battered body so that she could rest her back against the wall. She grimaced in pain as she reached out to pull Kennedy into her lap. She wrapped her arms around the unconscious slayer and held her. After letting out a long, deep breath, she tilted her head back against the wall and closed her eyes.
Fade to Black
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Near Sunset
The same group who had attended the earlier emergency meeting was gathered together once again. They all had their eyes on Willow, except for Xander. He was still somewhat agitated, finding it difficult to stay still.
“I’ve tried to do a locator spell for Kadin using the items Buffy and Xander got at her cabin,” Willow reported, “but nothing has worked. Apparently, the block extends to Kadin as well. Or at the very least, to the entire location where they all are.”
“Any luck on tracing that spy-bot you found in the cell phone system?” Buffy asked. Willow turned to Andrew for the answer.
“Not yet,” he said, shaking his head.
“What about the pay phone?” Robin asked.
“I’ve followed up on both Kadin’s phone and the pay phone at the grocery store where it was found,” Andrew said. “When I tracked down the last pay phone call, it came from a throw-away cell phone, impossible to trace to anyone, and it didn’t have GPS, so I couldn’t determine its exact location.”
“By the cell tower tracking, though, it looked like it was nearby,” Willow added.
“Bet the bastard was right there watching Kadin while he called her,” Faith speculated.
“The security video at the grocery was a bust too,” Robin admitted sadly. “All it showed was a fuzzy image of a dark van and three people forcing Kadin into it and then driving off.”
Everyone looked around the room at everyone else, waiting for someone to add a relevant detail or mention a useful strategy. But everyone seemed out of ideas.
As Jeff stared off, deep in thought, Dawn, who was next to him, asked hesitantly, “So what do we do now?”
After several long moments in which no one answered, Jeff finally spoke up. “Why don’t we do the locator spell differently?”
“What do you mean?” Dawn replied.
“Well, since Halloween, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about locator spells. What if we do this one by combining our efforts, each of us holding one object of Kadin’s and one of Kennedy’s?” Jeff suggested. “We’ve got two women and two men this time – a perfect balance – something we didn’t have the day Heli kidnapped everybody. Plus, Ken’s been training with us. Yeah, she’s not an official member of the coven, but…maybe together, we can break the block.”
“It’s worth a shot,” Willow said.
“You know what to do, everybody,” Buffy told the group. “Get to it!”
At that, everyone rushed from the room.
When Xander seemed at a loss about what to do, Buffy put a hand on his back and said, “Come on, Xan…you’re with me.”
Watchers Council – Coven Room – Moments Later
Willow, Andrew, Dawn and Jeff stood in a small circle around a map. In their hands, they each held two objects: one belonging to Kennedy and one belonging to Kadin. With their eyes closed, they concentrated intently. A faint light flashed over the map and then instantly vanished. When Willow looked down to examine the map, she growled in frustration.
“Nothing, damn it!” she exclaimed. She looked around the room, as if racking her brain for another option.
“What if we change objects?” Dawn suggested. “For Kadin, at least. We don’t really know which of these items is that important to her.” She held up the dagger she was holding. “For all we know, she nabbed this dagger off some demon and just nonchalantly dropped it in her weapons chest.”
“Good idea,” Willow said, pointing at Dawn.
The four of them set aside the objects that they had been holding and started through the pile of things Buffy and Xander had scavenged from Kadin’s cabin. While Jeff and Dawn focused on weapons and clothes, Willow and Andrew turned their attention to the jewelry box.
Willow went through it carefully until, in the bottom at the back, she found a soft velvet bag. She opened it and took out what was inside. It was a small, oblong medallion of gold on a simple gold chain. Inlaid into the center of the medallion was a silver moon.
Willow grabbed the medallion and turned around. “Okay, let’s try this again,” she said.
Moments later, Willow, Andrew, Dawn and Jeff were around the map once again, objects in hand. They closed their eyes and synchronized their minds, then intoned the necessary recitations. Immediately, the light returned, flashing much brighter than before, and with a force that nearly made the four witches take a step back.
“Whoa!” Willow exclaimed, her eyes wide.
Watchers Council – Moments Later
While Xander, Buffy and Rowena stood watch on the curb, Faith waited in the driver’s seat of one van, with the engine idling and the passenger side doors open and ready. Mia was sitting in the back seat. Behind that van was another, with Marie driving and Denise, Chamique and Casey inside.
Willow, Dawn and Jeff ran out of the building and dashed for the van. Willow hopped into the passenger seat, while Dawn and Jeff jumped into the back.
“We got it, and it’s not close, so let’s go!” Willow called out.
As soon as the doors were shut, both vans screeched away, leaving Xander, Buffy and Rowena behind.
As he watched the vans disappear into the darkness, Xander was visibly shaking. “I-I-I don’t think I can do this anymore,” he said softly.
Buffy and Rowena wrapped their arms around Xander and led him inside.
Old Factory – Kennedy’s Cell – Same Time
Kadin was fast asleep, her arms wrapped tightly around Kennedy.
With a jolt, the slayer awoke and found herself in an unfamiliar position with unknown arms around her. She immediately shrugged the arms off and pushed away from the body behind her. Kadin was instantly awakened by the rough and sudden movements.
“Ken? Ken, it’s me,” she said, trying to soothe her lover.
Kennedy was still fighting to get away. Kadin reached out to grab Kennedy’s leg, but the slayer only clawed at the floor and kicked to get away. In a momentary burst of strength, Kadin reached out and grabbed Kennedy by the arms, flipping her over and then pinning her down to the floor.
“Kennedy! It’s Kadin.”
An expression of intense pain and then comprehension passed over Kennedy’s face, and she finally started to relax. Still breathing heavily from exertion, she gazed up at the hunter with a relieved look. Kadin let out a relieved sigh of her own and released the slayer’s arms. Suddenly, Kennedy’s demeanor changed to anger.
“What the hell are you doing here?!” she demanded, giving the hunter’s arm a smack.
“Oww,” Kadin protested as she rubbed her arm. Then she moved back to allow Kennedy to sit up. A sudden smile sprang to her lips. “Isn’t it obvious? I’m here to rescue you,” she said.
Kennedy was clearly not amused. She pushed herself away from Kadin and stood up, wavering on her feet quite a bit and holding her arm protectively against her right side.
“That’s bull!” Kennedy countered. “You just turned yourself over to them, didn’t you? Didn’t you?!”
“Well, what was I supposed to do?” Kadin retorted as she pulled herself to her feet. “Just let them kill you?”
“No,” Kennedy answered instantly. “You fight. You always fight. You never give up.”
Kadin didn’t reply.
“We can take them,” Kennedy said, stepping closer and whispering conspiratorially. “We just need to –”
Kadin scoffed loudly. “Ken, you can barely stand, and I’m not that far behind you in the injury department.”
Kennedy shook her head. “Slayer healing…it’ll kick in any time now.” Then she pinned Kadin with a stare. “We can do this. Just don’t let them take you.”
Kadin seemed to consider the words, but before she had a chance to reply, the cell door swung open and Coen came inside, followed by four of his clansmen, who circled tightly around the couple.
Coen carried a set of heavy shackles with a long chain in his hands. His eyes bore into Kadin. “It’s time.”
Kadin looked over at the five werewolves, then back at Kennedy. Kennedy’s eyes seemed to be pleading with the hunter – this is our chance, do something! A painful and regretful look came over Kadin’s expression. Without a word, she turned away from the slayer and walked over to stand in front of Coen. With no sense of defiance, she held out her arms and waited. Coen smiled and started to lock the shackles onto her wrists.
“No!” Kennedy screamed and launched herself towards Coen and Kadin. Two of the clansmen stepped up and grabbed her, easily preventing the injured slayer from reaching them. She struggled in their grasp, but was too weak to break free.
As Coen led Kadin away, she glanced back at Kennedy. The slayer shot an angry glare at Kadin and then looked away, refusing to meet her eyes. Kadin hung her head and turned back around.
Old Factory – Production Hall – Moments Later
Coen and the others led Kadin and Kennedy into one of the main rooms of the factory, where at one time assembly and production lines had been operational. The rusted and dilapidated machinery had been moved to the perimeter in order to block the other exits and to create a clearing in the center of the room.
On the far side, away from the doorway, was a large metal cage. Waiting beside it was James Vance, armed with a matte-black Glock 9mm handgun. The group headed that way.
Old Factory – Cage in Production Hall – Moments Later
At a nod from James, the two clansmen holding Kennedy shoved her inside the cage. As they slammed the door shut and locked it, Kennedy hit the far side, hard, then fell to the floor.
James turned to Kadin, who was looking at Kennedy with a pained expression.
“The rules are very simple,” he instructed. “Accept your fate and don’t resist it. If you do that, your slayer lover will live.”
Kennedy crawled to the front of the cage and pulled herself up with one arm, keeping the other pressed against her side. “Don’t do it, Kadin!” she urged, gripping the bar tightly in her fist. “Fight them!”
James ignored Kennedy’s interruption. “If you fight back,” he told the hunter, raising his Glock and racking its slide dramatically, “she dies.”
Kadin dropped her gaze to the floor for a moment. When she lifted it, she met Kennedy’s eyes. Once again, Kennedy seemed to be pleading with her to do something, to fight back, to do anything but give up. Kadin looked away. Then she turned and allowed Coen and the others to lead her from the cage.
Old Factory – Same Time
Two Council vans screeched to a halt in front of the run-down factory. Within seconds, the doors flew open and the rescue teams hurried out.
“Denise, Marie and Dawn…you take the east side and circle round, get in any way you can,” Faith ordered. “Chamique, Casey, Jeff…you take the west side, same thing. Stay in radio contact, and be on your toes. We know this bunch has at least one witch with ’em.”
As the two trios dashed away, Faith turned to those remaining. “Willow, Mia…it’s the front door for us.” Then they took off as well.
Old Factory – Production Hall – Same Time
While James stayed next to Kennedy’s cage, Kadin was led to the center of the room, where a heavy iron grate was embedded into the concrete floor.
“Kneel!” Coen barked.
Without even giving Kadin time to comply, two clansmen shoved her to the floor and held her in place with firm hands on her shoulders. Coen kneeled beside her, grabbed her right arm, and unlocked the manacle on that wrist. Then he reached down and snapped the heavy cuff around one of the thick bars of the iron grate and locked it tightly. After that, Coen and the others stepped back several yards and formed a circle around her.
Kadin got to her feet. There was just enough slack in the chain on her left wrist to allow her to stand, albeit somewhat hunched over. Her eyes darted from one clan member to another as she maneuvered awkwardly around the grate, afraid to take her eyes off any one of them for more than a second.
As the six executioners started to change into their wolf forms, James left Kennedy’s cage and moved closer for a better view.
“Time to pay,” Coen said, his deep voice already transitioning into something inhuman and savage.
Kadin’s eyes widened and she began to pant in fear, her breath clearly visible in the cold air. She reached down and gripped the chain with both hands, tugging frantically but uselessly, as Coen’s body began changing right in front of her. Behind him, she saw James shake his head and raise his gun.
Kadin let out a gasp of frustration and let the chain go. She whipped around to those behind her when she heard their loud groans become growls. Over the din, she could hear Kennedy desperately calling her name.
Old Factory – Hallway – Same Time
Faith, Mia and Willow moved rapidly through the warren of offices and storage rooms at the front of the factory.
“Marie, Chamique…anything?” Faith asked into her headset.
“Nope, nada,” Chamique answered.
“Nothing but junk so far,” Marie added.
“Keep looking,” Faith said.
Just then, they heard a howl, followed quickly by several others.
“Come on! This way!” Faith cried, and she, Mia and Willow dashed into a long hallway.
When they got to the end, they were met by a large set of double doors. The howling was coming from behind those doors. When Faith tried to open them, however, she found them locked securely.
“Mia,” she said, directing her fellow slayer to stand beside her. Then the two of them simultaneously threw their bodies against one of the doors. It didn’t even move an inch. Faith looked around the hallway. “We need something heavy, something we can use as a battering ram.”
“Will this do?”
They turned and looked at Willow. She had moved several yards back and was standing with a large ball of magical energy crackling in her palm. Faith and Mia jumped back as Willow hurled the ball at the doors. The magic exploded against the doors, blowing them inward and almost off their hinges.
No sooner than Willow had dropped her arm that the area around the doors began to buzz with power. After a split second, another ball of energy, just like the first, shot out toward the witch.
“Oh sh…” Willow said worriedly, quickly raising a partial shield. It went up just as the ball exploded against her. The impact knocked her twenty feet down the corridor.
Faith grabbed Mia and pointed at Willow. “See to her! I’m going in!”
As Mia ran to Willow, Faith headed for the busted doors.
Old Factory – Production Hall – Moments Later
James and Kadin both stared at the newly demolished doors as the werewolves completed their change. Kadin whipped around to look at James.
“You were warned!” James shouted at Kadin. “No outsiders!”
“I didn’t, I swear!” Kadin yelled back. “You watched my every move, you know I didn’t! Please don’t hurt Kennedy!”
“KILL HER!” James screamed at his werewolves, pointing angrily at Kadin. “NOW! ”
“Marie, Chamique! Get in here now! Use a grenade if you have to,” Faith yelled over the radio as she climbed through the doors. “Jeff, Dawn! Check for magic booby traps! Willow just got nailed when she hit the doors!”
Without waiting for a response, Faith dashed into the room.
Old Factory – Hallway – Same Time
When Mia got to Willow, the witch was awake and lucid, but too weak to get up.
“Back…lash…spell,” Willow forced out. “I’m…fine…GO!”
Mia didn’t need to be told twice. She raced to follow Faith.
“Stupid!” Willow scolded herself, slamming her hand down on the floor.
Old Factory – Production Hall – Same Time
As the snarling werewolves moved in, Kadin looked on with panic in her eyes. Two snapped close to her and she dodged away, only to be snapped at from the other side. She couldn’t help herself from kicking out at them. When they jumped back, she quickly glanced at James. He was grinning.
Suddenly, Kadin heard a yelp from behind her. When she turned, she saw Faith attacking the werewolves on that side of the circle.
“No! Don’t!” Kadin cried out.
Faith was too busy fighting to hear her. A wolf from the far side leapt for Kadin. Mia, having just entered the chaos, lifted her crossbow and fired. When she heard a wolf squealing in pain behind her, Kadin turned back around to find it writhing on the floor, a crossbow bolt embedded in its chest. Kadin looked at James.
He had a furious look on his face as he took in the sight of the battle. He lifted his weapon to fire at Kadin, but before he could, Coen raised up on his hind legs to attack the hunter, swiping at her savagely. While Kadin dodged out of the way, James lowered his weapon and repositioned for a better angle, but once again, he was unintentionally thwarted by his own son’s movements.
At that moment, Coen’s attack was interrupted by Faith, who now grappled with the beast. Kadin stretched her chain to its full length to look around the battling slayer and wolf. She and James locked eyes. After staring at her hatefully for a long moment, the clan leader then stopped and simply smiled. He lifted his gun so that Kadin could see it and then started backing toward Kennedy’s cage.
“Nooo!!!” Kadin screamed. She went into a frenzy, pulling at her chain with insane desperation.
James hurried to the metal cage and faced the slayer inside.
“You son of a bitch!” Kennedy said.
James ignored her insult and raised his gun.
Kennedy stood her ground and stared at James defiantly. “Is this what ‘honorable’ Knights do? Kill the innocent?”
“Shut up!” James shouted, dropping his aim to point angrily at Kennedy.
The muscles in Kadin’s neck stood out as she strained to pull her chain free from the grate. Her groaning turned into a cross between a growl and a roar as she made one more huge effort. Unfortunately, the chain remained firmly in place.
Kadin screamed in frustration and changed her tactics. She made a fist with her left hand, then placed her right hand under the manacle on her wrist. She bent at the knees and then, in a swift motion, stood up, pulling the manacle away from its chain. She repeated the process again and again until she established a rhythm. Somehow oblivious to the pain, she kept up the frantic pace.
In the last few pulls, Kadin’s eyes took on a feral glint. With a final roar and an inhuman surge of strength, she broke the manacle from its chain. Without a moment’s hesitation, she rushed across the room toward Kennedy’s cage.
Old Factory – Same Time
“If I can’t see the hunter dead,” James shouted at Kennedy through clenched teeth, “then I’ll see her mourn you!”
When he raised the gun to shoot, a look of fear went through Kennedy’s eyes and she took a step back. James pulled the trigger.
Then everything seemed to move in slow motion. The gun boomed and the bullet shot out of the barrel, speeding toward Kennedy. She raised her hands in a useless gesture of self-defense.
Just as the bullet was about to strike Kennedy’s outstretched hands, a shimmering blue barrier rippled in front of her, causing the projectile to ricochet off.
Both Kennedy’s and James’s eyes grew wide in total surprise. He lowered his gun and looked at it oddly. She turned her hands over and gazed at them in disbelief. Then, as if remembering James’s presence, she dropped them and faced him once again. Unfortunately, as soon as she dropped her hands, the shield protecting her dissipated.
“What the hell?!” Kennedy complained.
Grimacing through the pain, she raised both her hands in the same gesture she’d used earlier, but the barrier did not reappear. She tried again with the same result, then a third time with no luck. She looked up and found James staring at her, his mouth twisting into a snarling smirk as he raised the gun once more.
Just as his finger was about to close on the trigger, he gave a loud grunt as Kadin thundered into him with a body tackle. She pushed him back several yards away from Kennedy’s cage, near the machinery in the corner of the room.
When Kadin took James to the floor, he lost the gun. It skittered several feet away, well out of reach. After pushing up off his body, she immediately punched him in the face, first once, then twice. At the third attempt, James caught her fist in his hand and punched back with his free hand. Her head snapped back, giving him the opportunity to sit up and then flip their positions sideways.
With the sounds of his werewolves howling in pain in the background, James tried to throw his body on Kadin’s, but she raised her leg at the last second and kicked him away, knocking him onto his back. Kadin was on him in an instant, reaching for his throat with both hands. James made a strangled sound, then grabbed her wrists. With sheer brute strength, he pulled her hands off his neck. With a crushing grip, he held her in place an arm’s length away. Kadin poured all of her strength first into trying to push forward and then into trying to pull away, but she couldn’t budge the older man. A worried look entered her eyes.
James yanked her forward in a cocking motion and then shoved her back with such force that she flew across the room and crashed into some of the factory’s old machinery. She hit the metalwork hard, barely missing a jutting, sharp pipe, about a foot long. She slipped to the floor, a little dazed.
James hopped to his feet effortlessly and rushed over. Kadin was pushing herself up off the floor when he appeared over her.
“You think I’m some fledgling wolf that will fall to the mighty hunter?” he sneered. “I am so much more!”
By then, Kadin had gotten to her feet in a crouch. She looked up and growled, “So am I.” Kadin leapt out of her crouch and attacked.
From that point on, the two went into a flurry of motion: punches and kicks, dodges and blocks, first one gaining the upper hand, then the other, both fighting with pure fury fueling them. During one long exchange, in which Kadin pressed her advantage, James suddenly turned the tables on her and landed several heavy punches to her head. She wobbled and went down.
Before she could recover, he came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her neck in a stranglehold. As Kadin clawed at his arms, he began to squeeze. She tried to shake him and then flip him, but nothing worked. She elbowed him in the gut, but still he wouldn’t let go. Dangerously close to losing consciousness, she drove him back, intending to slam him against the wall.
When they hit, what could be heard was a sickening sssthunk, then a gasp, then a gurgle. James’s arms finally loosened and she tore herself away, barely managing to stay on her feet. Clutching her throat and sucking in deep breaths, she slowly turned around.
Impaled on the pipe that Kadin herself had narrowly missed earlier, James flailed around uselessly, gurgling out his last breaths – all while the hunter watched, her face showing a mixture of emotions: horror, glee, relief, guilt.
As his head fell forward and his arms went limp, Kadin’s eyes were drawn to the pipe itself. It jutted out from James a good six inches. Her brow furrowed and she reached behind herself to touch her back. When she drew her hand back, it was covered with blood.
She gave a weak scoff and then passed out, hitting the floor facedown.
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Later
As the group re-gathered to debrief, Xander was conspicuously absent. The others were tired, but alert.
“So this clan leader, James,” Buffy asked, “he was the werewolf warlock?”
“Yes,” Willow answered. “Apparently, he had used magic not only to hide everybody from locator spells, but also to juice himself up physically.”
“And to set those magical booby traps,” Jeff added.
“Don’t I know it?” Willow said, rubbing her aching head. Rowena patted her girlfriend’s arm lovingly.
“What about the other werewolves?” Robin asked. “James’s allies?”
“Two were killed in the fight, three more were injured, one escaped,” Faith said.
“Do we know which one escaped?” Buffy asked.
“Coen,” Faith stated unhappily.
“Great,” Buffy said, just as unhappily.
“How are Kennedy and Kadin doing?” Rowena asked.
“They’re pretty beat up, but they’ll be okay,” Willow said. “They’re in the infirmary recovering.”
Everyone was silent for a bit.
Finally, Buffy rested her palms on the table and pushed herself to her feet. “Well, I think that’ll do it for now. I’ll need your reports tomorrow, though. Anything else?”
Faith raised her hand. “Yeah, we seem to have a serious kidnapping problem around here.” Her face was serious, but a mischievous twinkle was in her eyes. “Is there some kind of anti-kidnapping spell out there? You know, somethin’ that’ll zap any would-be kidnapper into a Smurf or somethin’?”
Everyone looked at Faith like she was crazy. Then they rolled their eyes and got to their feet.
“What?” Faith said, now grinning openly, as she also stood up. “That would be pretty handy, right?” She turned her eyes to an imaginary kidnapper. “Kidnap me, would ya? Bing!” Then she looked at the floor and made a dramatic stomp. She turned back to the group with a triumphant smile.
Most of the group simply did another eye roll and left. Dawn and Willow, though, had horrified looks on their faces. They turned to each other.
“She stomped a Smurf,” Dawn said to Willow. “A cute little blue Smurf.”
Willow was unable to speak. Rowena and Jeff tried not to laugh. As Rowena and Jeff led Willow and Dawn away, Willow said, “I hope it wasn’t Papa Smurf…”
Andrew leaned over to whisper conspiratorially to Faith. “Personally, I never liked the Smurfs.” Then he got an embarrassed look on his face. “They were scary,” he admitted, before quickly slipping away.
Buffy was left shaking her head.
Watchers Council – Infirmary – Same Time
As a nearby pulse monitor beeped softly, Kadin lay in her bed, staring up at the ceiling. Her face was still battered, and her left wrist was now encased in a cast. She shifted against the stiff sheets, the heavy dressing on her back causing a jolt of discomfort.
At the sound of the familiar voice, Kadin froze. When she looked to the side, she saw the curtain separating her bed from the next being slowly pulled back. A hospital-gown-clad Kennedy peeked through. Though still rather haggard, the slayer looked better than Kadin, in that the bruises on her face had already begun to fade slightly. She was still favoring her right side, however, and was clearly in some pain.
“I didn’t wake you, did I?” Kennedy asked hesitantly.
Kadin sighed and shifted again. “No.”
Kennedy nodded absently as she took the few steps closer to Kadin’s bed, wincing a bit as she did so.
“I guess it’s pretty stupid to ask how you’re feeling, huh?” Kennedy asked.
“Look that bad, do I?” Kadin replied.
“Well, seeing that you got the crap beat out of you and you have a giant gaping hole in your back and you’re in extreme amounts of pain…I’d say you look pretty good.”
Kadin snorted in disbelief. “Right. You’re looking better, I see.”
“Yeah, gotta love that good ol’ slayer healin’.” Kennedy shifted uncomfortably on her feet. “Not workin’ fast enough, though. My ribs hurt like hell. Meds are making it bearable…barely.”
Kadin’s expression became pained, and she looked away. “I’m sorry,” she said in a soft voice. “I’m sorry you got hurt because of me.”
“Wasn’t your fault. James and the others – they’re the ones who caused this.”
Kadin shook her head. “No, it’s my fault. I set it all in motion…me and my desire for revenge. It cost me Serena, and it nearly cost me myself. You helped me see that…that my rage would consume me until there was nothing left.”
Kadin reached out and took Kennedy’s hand.
“But this time, I almost lost you. I-I-I couldn’t live with myself if I’d let them kill another woman I loved. That’s why I’m so scared for you, Ken, with this whole Heli thing. I don’t want to see you go where I’ve been. It’s not a fun place to be. So, please, I’m asking as your lover and your friend, just let it go. Let someone else handle it.”
“I can’t,” Kennedy answered in anguish. “I just…can’t. All I can do is tell you it’s not the same.”
She kept her eyes locked with Kadin’s for a second longer before pulling out of her lover’s grasp and disappearing from the room. Kadin watched her leave, helpless to stop her. She just closed her eyes and dropped her head back onto the pillow.
The only sound in the room was Kadin’s ragged breathing and the steady beep of the machine.
College Admissions Office – The Next Day
“I’m sorry,” the counselor said with a shake of her head. “But the regulations are very clear.”
“But…” Hope’s answer stopped short. “I did everything the brochure said. And I double-checked with your website. I even called up here and asked folks at this office about requirements!”
“We have specific rules –” the counselor began. She didn’t get to finish.
“I asked you what those rules were! And I obeyed every single one you told me about! Why didn’t you simply tell me the truth to start with?”
“No one lied to you, Miss Lehane,” the counselor answered, lips stiff and eyes half-closed behind thick glasses. “The rules are the rules, and you simply do not meet the qualification requirements for entry this spring term. Your GED scores needed to be turned in by a certain date.”
“I did turn them in by the date you told me to!”
“You did not turn them in by the date required.”
“But I asked you –”
“We have no discretion in this matter, Miss Lehane. This is simply not allowed.”
Hope simply stared at the counselor, at her unflinching expression and also her stillness. The woman was not even breathing hard. Nor was she making the slightest effort to move, to look up regulations or pick up a phone to ask questions or double-check facts. Instead, her hands remained clasped before her, fingers intertwined, and her eyes remained unengaged.
Not so Hope. She trembled, and when she got up to leave, she did so quickly.
The counselor did not even blink as Hope left her office.
Hallway Outside Office of Admissions – Moments Later
When Hope stepped out into the hallway, she stood very still, forcing herself to remain that way. Her breathing, however, gave her away. She took in air as if running at full speed. And her eyes burned.
“Miss Lehane, isn’t it?”
She turned. The voice was a mellow baritone, with a slight accent. It belonged to a middle-aged man with a mustache. He managed to appear diffident and strong at the same time.
“You are Miss Hope Lehane, am I right?”
Hope nodded. “Why?”
“I was actually hoping to meet you sooner or later. Something of a coincidence to actually run into you.”
“No, I had you followed.”
That made Hope stare at him. He smiled, both amused and apologetic at the same time. Hope turned to face him. “You had me followed?”
“Not really. But I was keeping tabs on you – well, you and everyone else at the Watchers Council. I was hoping to meet you eventually, but this really is just a coincidence.”
“I’m not with the Council. My sister is.”
“Yes, but you are her sister. And you are in what seems to be a possible romantic relationship with Jeff Lindquist. Seems to be, I emphasize. I try not to leap to too many conclusions.”
“Who are you?” she asked loudly.
“My apologies. Jason Felix, at your service.” He handed her his card. It read: Jason Felix, Director, Bureau Nine, followed by a phone number. A logo was embossed onto the card. “I’m the Council’s competition.” He smiled.
“Well,” she said after a moment, “good for you. Nice to meetcha and all that. You take care.”
“If I may?” Something about the way he said those three words stopped Hope from finishing her turn. Instead, she turned back and listened.
“You seem agitated. And you are in the University’s Admissions Office. Being an alumnus here myself, would I be right in assuming the bureaucracy is being its usual self? Namely, is it doing a splendid impression of a certain bodily orifice?”
Hope grinned. “Uh…yeah.”
“I thought so. Allow me to help. Please?”
“Well, for one thing, I’m an alumnus, and I’m quite wealthy. If there is anything a university won’t do for someone who fits that criteria, I’ve yet to discover it. There is even a certain amount of satisfaction in proving that fact, again and again.” He said this with a twinkle in his eye.
“Okay, but then there’s my second question.”
“Ah yes. Well, it’s at least partially true that I’m doing it out of goodwill.”
“You said you’re the Council’s competition.”
“While I am a capitalist, Miss Lehane, I am not a cutthroat one. Bureau Nine and the Council will both function much better if our relationship is cordial. Besides, we will likely need one another now and again.”
“Uh-huh.” Hope’s expression revealed her skepticism better than words. Mr. Felix smiled.
“There is, of course, more to it than that. I…this will sound odd…possibly even pathological.”
“I can handle it.”
He acknowledged this with a bow. “The fact is, my daughter was going to attend college here. I was quite looking forward to smoothing a few of her paths. But things changed. My daughter, she died.” Felix’s voice caught a little at that. His gaze wavered for a split second. But then he continued, smooth as before. “Allow me a little role-playing on your behalf. I really am quite sane, and there are eminently practical reasons, as well as sentimental ones, for being of help. If you will permit me?”
“What if I say no?” Hope lifted an eyebrow.
“Your choice will be respected.”
She waited several seconds, then nodded. “Okay, let’s see what you can do.”
“My pleasure,” he said. He motioned her back inside the office door as he opened it.
Fade to Black
End of Collateral Damage
Next on Watchers…
Faith’s quest for answers about her resurrection takes her to Spain, where she runs into a force that is stripping slayers of their powers.