Watchers Council – Library – Day
As Nikki sat down next to Kennedy at the library table, she put down the extremely large leather-bound book she had been carrying with a loud enough thud to make Kennedy jump. A small cloud of dust rose from the book.
“OK, is this anything?” Nikki asked, opening the book to a specific page. “You said that Vanessa was a super happy baby, and then it was like, one day things changed?”
“Yeah,” Kennedy said, her voice raspy.
“What if fairies took her?” Nikki said.
Kennedy stared at the teenage girl. “I’m sorry, I’m very tired right now. You said…fairies?”
“Yeah-huh,” Nikki said, without taking her eyes off the page.
“Not really,” Nikki found what she was looking for and pointed to a drawing depicting a beautiful, lithe woman wearing gauzy garments that left little to the imagination. She looked similar to a human, but almost moreso. It showed her fingers tipped with claws, and her eyes were red, the only color in the drawing.
Kennedy perked up. “OK, hotter than I was expecting.”
Nikki wrinkled her nose and giggled. “Gross. No, look, the Irish believed that the fairies, or the Sidhe, as they called them, were the original inhabitants of the Celtic world before the humans drove them into another dimension, the Fairy Realm. They’re supposed to have all these crazy magic powers.”
Kennedy ran her hands over her face, pushing her hair out of her eyes. “Look, Nik, I really appreciate your help here, but I’m not getting it. Nobody took Vanessa. She’s still here.”
“See, that’s just it.” Nikki turned the page and pointed to another drawing showing three similarly-dressed figures standing around a crib. They each reached out for the child with their claws. “According to legend, Fairies kidnap human children and take them back to their Realm. It-it’s not clear why. Some people say that they use the kids as their servants, some people say that they take the human children because they can’t have children of their own…”
“Jeez, you really are a watcher,” Kennedy said with a small smile. “Can we get to the point?”
“Sorry,” Nikki said, “it’s just interesting.”
“I’m glad you think so.”
Nikki huffed, then went back to her explanation. “Here’s the thing: when the Fairies take a human child, they leave a replacement. A Changeling, they call it.”
Kennedy perked up. “Like that thing the Presidium replaced your mom with that one time?”
“I-I don’t…wait, what happened?” Nikki turned completely away from the book, hands on hips.
“She never told you?” Kennedy sighed. “I guess I’m not surprised. Not her happiest moment, probably. Yeah, a demon shapeshifter replaced your mom while we were fighting the Presidium. For weeks.”
Nikki sat down next to her and considered this for a moment. “And my Dad…never realized it?”
“Nope, none of us did,” Kennedy said. “I should’ve known, though, honestly. The fake Faith was super afraid of bugs, for some reason. We only found out when the other Faith was…killed and they did an autopsy.”
Nikki swallowed and turned back to her book. “So it could be that, right? If you’re right about Vanessa, I mean. She could’ve been replaced by a shapeshifter, or a…”
“Fairy?” Kennedy asked, again sounding skeptical. She shook her head. “Nah. I mean, Dr. Goldman would’ve figured out if it had different insides, right? She took blood and everything. And after the whole thing with your mom happened, the Coven put wards on the whole building to keep those Vor shapeshifters out. Vanessa’s been in the building, no problems.”
“Maybe,” Nikki agreed. “Though Fairy magic is supposed to be, like, next level beyond awesome. If anybody could, y’know, prank the Coven, maybe it’s them?” She turned back to the book. “According to this, the only way to force a Changeling to reveal its true nature is through pretty drastic measures. Like here it says that if you hold it under water for forty seconds, it will revert to its true form to survive.”
“I’m not holding Vanessa underwater!” Kennedy protested.
“Sorry,” Nikki agreed quickly, closing the book. “I know. I-I’ll keep looking.”
“No, Nik, I’m sorry,” Kennedy said, composing herself. “I thought I had it together. I just, I know this, in my heart. I know something’s different.”
“But you said you didn’t feel that way about my mom,” Nikki pointed out.
Kennedy bit her lip, thinking about this. “Well, I guess it’s true what they say: when you have a kid, it changes a lot of stuff.” She looked up at Nikki. “You’re a good kid, y’know that?”
Nikki shrugged. “I try.”
Watchers Council – Coven Room – Night
Willow, Dawn and Skye all sat in the lotus position on cushions around a glowing circle of powder on the floor of the Coven Room, their eyes closed.
“Let this circle come uncast, but never be unbroken,” all three spoke in unison. “Merry Meet and Merry Part until we Merrily Meet again. As I will, so mote it be.”
The glowing circle faded, and the three women opened their eyes.
Willow put a hand to the side of her neck and stretched. “Wow, thanks guys. Turns out I definitely needed that.”
“Trouble in paradise?” Skye asked with a grin as she got to her feet.
“Oh no,” Willow said, picking up her cushion, “you’re not baiting me into talking about–”
Dawn leveled her eyes at the Head Priestess. “Will, we were all in that meeting. The cat is pretty thoroughly out of the bag.”
“Or the pussy,” Skye put in.
Willow pointed at her. “No!” she said in the same tone you’d use to scold a dog. “Bad vampire!”
The three of them took their cushions back to the storage area at the side of the room, and Dawn picked up a broom the sweep the floor. “Look, you can talk to us…” She looked at Skye, who was nodding vigorously and batting her eyes innocently. “You can trust me,” she corrected with a smile. She pointed around the Coven Room. “You built this place. If this isn’t a safe space, I don’t know what is.”
Willow let out a breath and sat down on an old, comfortable-looking couch that now ran along one of the edges of the room. She pulled a hair tie out of her pocket and began to pull back her hair that had hung loosely during the ceremony.
“I…” she took another deep breath. “I kind of met someone else. Tamara. Dr. Goldman, we’re working together on the demon virus stuff. Honestly, I’ve been feeling… lost, lately. Not valued, wondering what the point is. I don’t feel that when I’m with her.”
Dawn sat down next to her on the couch and put an arm around Willow’s shoulders. “Hence the ‘sleeping with other people’ remark by Ro?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Willow admitted. “I basically told her that I thought that maybe we could open up the marriage, that we could each, y’know, see other people if we wanted. And she…she freaked. She is not into it, to say the least. I really…I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, I’ve known her, what, twenty years at this point. I just thought that this would work out. Or at least not…this. I-I think this might be it.” She put her head in her hands, while Dawn rubbed her back. “Guys, what am I gonna do? We have four kids. And all I can think about is…”
“Dr. Goldman?” Skye supplied. Willow sniffed, wiped a hand under her nose, and nodded. The vampire put her hands on her hips, standing in front of the other two women. “Well, that’s dumb.”
Willow blinked at her. “What?” she asked blearily.
“No, I mean your wife,” Skye clarified. Willow still stared blankly at her. “That’s what’s making her act like it’s the end of the world? That you asked to experiment a little?”
“That’s one way to put it…” Willow said slowly.
Dawn laughed. “Will, Skye and I have been including other people in our thing for…What?” She looked up at her girlfriend.
“Ten years…” Skye said. “No, eleven. There was, uh, Cherilynn?”
“Marilyn,” Dawn said, pointing. “I met her at that party after Pride that year, she had the…” She then made a gesture in front of her chest that made it look like she was holding two large pieces of invisible fruit.
“Well, you’re into that,” Skye agreed. She gestured up and down herself.
“OK!” Willow held up both hands. Her mouth worked a few times. “What?!?”
Dawn put a comforting hand on Willow’s arm. “Look, when you’re gonna live forever, you gotta make the best of it. And one of the best ways that I’ve found to make the best of it is to…have a bunch of threesomes.”
Willow looked at her, mouth hanging open.
Dawn sighed. “No, I said that wrong. Look, Skye and I love each other. We know that. We make each other happy. But why should we take that love and use it to keep us from really…exploring ourselves? In a weird way, it was Spike that taught me that.” Willow raised an eyebrow and Dawn recoiled. “No! Not…we didn’t. That would have been…gross on many levels, I just mean…” She trailed off, a thought clearly coming into her head. “Now, though…”
“Sweetie, no,” Skye said firmly, as firmly as she gripped the reusable coffee cup in her hand before taking a small swig. “No other vampires. That’s the deal. Your blood is only for me.”
She leaned over and kissed Dawn soundly. Willow quickly got to her feet. “Guys, I…I’m happy for you. But Ro and I are different. She’s not ready for this, but I can’t keep feeling what I’m feeling, it’s like I’m gonna explode, and then there will be little Willow bits all over Cleveland, and then all my new cats will eat the little Willow-parts…”
“Oooookay,” Dawn said, rushing back to Willow’s side. “Look, I’ve been by your side every day. Except during lockdown, but even then, we were on Zoom…You get it. Look, you think I don’t know you’ve been going through some stuff? People change. They grow closer, they grow apart. You always thought you and Ro were endgame, is that it?”
“I think we have four kids,” Willow said. “I have to figure out a way for this to work.”
“Willow, look at me,” Dawn said insistently. Willow turned and found her eyes. “I love your kids. I love Ro. But I love you, you get me? And I need you to promise me that, if you’re miserable, you won’t stay just for the sake of other people.”
Willow hesitated for a moment, but then she nodded.
“And if you bang it out with a hot scientist lady, bonus!” Skye put in.
Kennedy and Kadin’s Cabin – Bedroom – Night
Kennedy sat down on her bed, wearing an old gray T-shirt and underwear. Her dark hair hung in her eyes.
“So they want to redo the weapons training programs, and somebody suggested I should run it, but… I dunno.” Kadin, in her own long, ratty t-shirt, pulled back the covers on her side of the bed and moved her pillow back into place. “There’s a lot going on with Vanessa right now, and…everything.” She glanced over at Kennedy, who was still sitting silently on her side of the bed. “Plus, playing well with others is not always a hundred percent my thing. I’m more of the solo Council secret agent type.”
She waited for a response from her wife, but still only could see the back of her head. Kadin sighed and just said, “OK.” She plugged her phone into the wall and then scooted into the bed. She reached over and turned off the lamp on her bedside table, then laid her head down on the pillow.
Then, in the nursery, Vanessa started crying again. The baby stopped between screams for air three times before either woman spoke.
“Ken, if you’re still up, can you deal with her?” Kadin asked tiredly.
Kennedy did not move. “What does it matter? She’s just gonna keep crying.” Her voice sounded far away.
“Alright!” Kadin growled. She reached over and flicked on her lamp, then sat up. She turned to her wife. “I’m sick of this shit!”
Kennedy turned to look over her shoulder at her, her mouth open. “I…I’m having…some problems right now.”
“As far as I can tell, you’re always having problems these days,” Kadin said. “What am I supposed to do, just coddle you all the time? I feel like I’m in this house with two babies.”
Vanessa kept crying. Kennedy winced at the noise.
“I-I thought we were in this together,” Kennedy said, her voice cracking. “What if I’d, I dunno, been in a car accident, and I couldn’t walk anymore, and you had to do everything for me?”
“What the fuck are we talking about here, Ken?”
Kennedy got to her feet. “I’m saying, you wouldn’t get to say, ‘I’m so sick of this shit’ then. Well, I need you now. It’s not any different.”
“But I would get sick of it, and I’d probably say it,” Kadin told her. “I’m sorry, I can’t just tiptoe around you all the time. And you don’t get to tell me what I can and can’t get annoyed about when you’re not even getting help from anyone. If you’d go talk to someone else about this, maybe I wouldn’t have to deal with it all the time.”
The cries of the baby continued.
“I don’t know how else to tell you that I’m not depressed,” Kennedy said. “This is something else. Something isn’t right with her. And you don’t believe me. Nobody believes me. But I’m telling you, I’m not crazy.”
“Ken, are you gonna go help her or not?” Kadin sounded very tired.
Kennedy’s hands gripped the sheets. Then, defeated, she said, “Yeah,” and got up and left the room.
Kennedy and Kadin’s Cabin – Hallway – Moments Later
Kennedy trudged down the carpeted hallway to the next half-closed door, the sound of the crying now louder. When she pushed it, it slowly swung further open with a loud creak. The opening of the doorway cast a shaft of light into the nursery and onto Vanessa. Kennedy’s shadow stood out starkly against the lit crib, with its little cartoon dragon mobile hanging over it.
Slowly, she took several steps forward until she was standing over the crib. Kennedy looked down and, just for a second, Vanessa stopped crying and stared back at her, eyes wide.
Kennedy’s breath caught, and she whispered, “You’re not my daughter.”
Vanessa’s eyes scrunched up, and she started crying again. Kennedy stood there and stared as the baby wailed.
Kennedy and Kadin’s Cabin – Living Area – Morning
Kadin grabbed her motorcycle keys from the kitchen table and walked over the closet by the front door. She pulled out one of several leather jackets and put it on. Then she turned around to see Kennedy standing nearby, shifting nervously from one foot to the other.
Kadin sighed, then said, “I’m sorry I was so harsh last night. I was tired, and I took it out on you, and I’m sorry.”
“No, I…” Kennedy looked down at the floor, then back up at her wife. “I know this isn’t what you signed up for. I don’t know what to tell you. But I’m going to try harder. I am.”
Kadin walked over and kissed her wife briefly on the lips, then brought up a hand to cup her cheek. “I love you,” she said.
“I love you, too,” Kennedy replied with a wan smile.
Kadin walked back over to the door and left the house with a final look back at Kennedy. Once she was gone, the smile on Kennedy’s face quickly faded.
Kennedy and Kadin’s Cabin – Master Bathroom – Moments Later
Kennedy walked into the master bathroom and kneeled down next to the tub. She reached down and closed the drain, then turned the faucet on. She waited for the water to fill up the tub, her face expressionless. In the background, the sound of Vanessa crying could be heard over the water.
Kennedy and Kadin’s Cabin – Nursery – Moments Later
Kennedy walked into the nursery and walked directly over to the crib. She picked the crying Vanessa up out of the bed, which only seemed to make the baby’s wails louder. Vanessa now in her arms, Kennedy walked out of the room.
Kennedy and Kadin’s Cabin – Master Bathroom – Moments Later
She walked back into the bathroom, still carrying the crying Vanessa. Water now filled the tub. The bathroom lights on the white tile of the floor and walls made everything seem a little too bright.
Shifting Vanessa to cradle her in one arm, Kennedy reached into her back pocket with the other and pulled out her cell phone.
“Hey Siri,” Kennedy said over the baby’s cries, “set a timer for forty seconds.”
She took a deep breath, then kneeled down next to the tub. She put the cell phone down on the edge of the tub and hit the button to start the timer. Then she placed Vanessa under the water.
End of Leap of Faith Part One