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Slayers / CSI - IV - Lady Heather's Dominion

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This story is No. 8 in the series "Slayers / CSI". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: When Faith returns to Las Vegas Giles thinks she may need professional help. Rated 18 for non-specific references to homosexuality and BDSM. COMPLETE

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
CSI > CSI Las Vegas(Current Donor)MarcusRowlandFR1817,2052116,34927 Oct 0327 Oct 03Yes
This is the fourth of a series of short BtVS / Angel / CSI crossover stories. The setting is post season 7 for Buffy, post season 4 for Angel, and indeterminate for CSI, and will probably become an alternate universe as events post season 7 BtVS are mentioned in Angel season 5. There will be spoilers for BtVS seasons 1-7 and Angel 1-5. I'm publishing them as separate stories since the rating will probably vary widely from story to story.


These stories follow four longer pieces set within BtVS season 5-7 continuity, and mention their events. In Should Have Gone To Vegas... CSI received their wakeup call about the supernatural courtesy of Angel, learning more in Manhunters and Slayer, Las Vegas. Finally, Potential Problem was set at the end of BtVS season 7. You don't need to read those stories first, but their events may be mentioned, and they help to explain why the Slayer's associates are now based in Las Vegas.


All characters are the intellectual property of their respective creators, film companies, etc.; this story may not be sold or distributed on a profit-making basis.


I'm British, so's my spelling. Live with it.


Two web sites are mentioned in the story, both really exist; ladyheather.com eventually links to the official CBS CSI web site, the other is starbuckseverywhere.net - WWWs omitted to stop the site names being deleted by some archiving software. Thanks to Roz Kaveney for help with some of the characterisation.


Slayers / CSI

IV

Lady Heather's Dominion

By Marcus L. Rowland


Lady Heather's Dominion, Las Vegas - Monday October 25th


Rupert Giles sipped his tea, looked appreciatively at the attractive woman sitting opposite him, and said "It's good of you to see me on such short notice, Lady Heather."


"Any friend of Gil Grissom, Mister Giles, will be treated as I would treat him. With wary courtesy and respect."


"I'm not with the police and it's a rather delicate matter. I'm told that you are discreet..."


"My business depends on it. What can I do for you?"


"There is a young woman in need of help."


"Help?"


"Your web site says that you are a licensed therapist, and I took the liberty of checking your qualifications. They seem to be quite impressive."


"I don't practice these days, except by providing facilities for my clients to work through their issues. What's the problem?"


"I'm one of the directors of the Jenny Calendar School, we're based a few miles from here. I doubt that you've heard of us."


"I've heard rumours. The most entertaining is that you train assassins for the CIA." Lady Heather poured more tea.


"Oh bloody he... I'm sorry, I shouldn't swear. In fact we train unusually talented students for some rather specialised law-enforcement roles. Some of them work with Grissom and the Las Vegas police department, for example, we have an internship program with the LVPD, others with.. ah.. anti-terrorist organisations, a few freelance."


"I take it that this woman you mentioned..."


"Will not be working with the police, not in any official capacity anyway."


"Why not?"


"She's a convicted criminal. Assault, criminal damage and homicide."


"Then she's in prison."


"Currently."


"Then I don't understand. What can I possibly do for her?"


"Perhaps I should preface this by asking you your opinion of the supernatural," said Giles, putting his cup down.


"The supernatural?"


"Do you believe that the supernatural exists? That there are forces at work outside the everyday world? Demons, vampires, and magic?"


"You're serious?"


"Yes."


"Yes. I'm quite certain of it."


"You've some experience?"


Lady Heather silently unfastened a wide leather collar and lifted her thick reddish-brown hair to reveal two familiar-looking white scars. She waited for him to comment.


"Vampire? When were you attacked?"


"When I was seventeen I took a European vacation and ran into trouble. Putting two and two together, would I be correct to assume that your school trains vampire slayers, or is involved with them in some way?"


"You're very well-informed. Yes, we train Slayers and the people who work with them."


"Then I'm at your disposal. When I was attacked... I don't remember everything, I lost a lot of blood, but there was a girl about my own age who saved me. She seemed to be impossibly strong and carried me to hospital, but she left before I could thank her. Recently I've heard rumours, some of my clients do like to talk rather indiscreetly. I've known for a while that there's a vampire slayer in Los Vegas, working with the police, although the descriptions are vague and contradictory. I'd hoped to meet her. I can't think why I never thought of your school in that context."


"The story we planted is that it's a clinic offering assertiveness training and counselling for girls with psychological problems. The CIA rumour is a little too close for comfort, we'll need to do something about that. I suppose I should be grateful that more people don't put two and two together."


"What exactly is it that you want me to do?"


"I'd better begin by explaining the background. Until comparatively recently there was only one Slayer. When one died another girl inherited her power. The Watcher's Council, which I worked for, identified the potential Slayers and trained and advised them. Usually Potentials were trained from their early teens, began their careers at fifteen or so if a Slayer died at the right time, and were dead by their twentieth birthday. I'm afraid that this was true of your rescuer and her immediate successor."


"But not any more?"


"Seven years ago Buffy, the Slayer I usually work with, was drowned by a vampire but revived by CPR. During the minute or so she was clinically dead another Slayer named Kendra was activated; when she was killed yet another girl, named Faith, inherited her power. But Buffy was still alive, in fact she still is." He smiled fondly.


"So there were suddenly two, not one. And nobody was expecting it to happen?"


"Nobody. The problem, of course, was that all of Faith's training emphasised her uniqueness, the overwhelming importance of the Slayer. When she actually became the Slayer and learned that she was just one of two I'd imagine that she was rather surprised. When they eventually met there were.. problems."


"Something like sibling rivalry? Did.. did Buffy.. have similar problems?"


"No. Buffy had never been indoctrinated, we only found her when she became the Slayer. She's much more flexible in that respect, I think that the worst she initially experienced was a feeling of competitiveness. She's also nearly two years older than Faith, which probably helped."


"Go on."


"Faith, on the other hand, developed what I suppose one could call an inferiority complex, and to make matters worse was betrayed by a corrupt former member of my organisation. She then accidentally killed someone, was treated extremely badly by the Council, and... well, I'd say that she went bad, but it was much more complicated than that."


"I'm beginning to feel more sympathy for her than for your council."


"Since I wasn't given a say in the matter I have to agree. As almost everyone who was involved in the fiasco is dead..."


"Dead?"


"Fighting the forces of darkness isn't without risks. My superiors always assumed that the risks were solely to the Slayer and those working closely with her, such as myself. Two years ago one of the more powerful demonic forces, known as the First Evil, decided to obliterate the Watcher's Council and almost succeeded. I and a few other Watchers working in the field were the only survivors. Currently we're rebuilding the organisation along lines which I hope will prevent the abuses of power Faith experienced."


"I see. Getting back to Faith..?"


"She betrayed us, spent several months in a coma, recovered and went on a destructive spree, then seemed to have a change of heart and saved a number of lives before fleeing. Later she tried to force one of our allies to kill her, when that failed she gave herself up to the police to save his life. During the Los Angeles blackout last year she escaped from prison, saved thousands of lives by helping to kill the demon that was causing it, then briefly visited Las Vegas and helped the police here before taking part in the final stages of the battle against the First Evil in Sunnydale."


"The town that fell into a cave formation?"


"That's one interpretation of events. Faith later gave herself up voluntarily for the second time. The Californian authorities have been ah... informally briefed on her role in Los Angeles and Sunnydale, and... ah... reminded that she was a minor at the time of her original offences. The authorities here have made more formal representations on her behalf. She will be paroled tomorrow and will arrive in Las Vegas on Friday."


"I see. Surely she must be over the worst of her problems with the other Slayer?"


"It's a little more complicated than that. Since Kendra was killed we've known that more than one Slayer could exist simultaneously. In the final battle in Sunnydale it became necessary to cast a spell to activate every girl in the world capable of becoming a Slayer."


"Every one? How many are there?"


"In excess of a hundred that we've found, the youngest being a nine year old child. There are probably others we've missed. At any given time there are a dozen or so working and training in Las Vegas, which is why the descriptions you heard were contradictory. Faith was part of the spell, a willing participant, but in the course of a few years she has moved from being the one girl in all the world, to being a relatively unwelcome spare, to being just one of many. She is still the second most experienced Slayer in the world and possibly the strongest, but I think she needs time and help to adjust to these changes. I think that you might be able to help her."


"Why me, though? Why not a more conventional therapist?"


"Faith has trust issues and no time for a clinical approach. And I must add that most therapists have problems dealing with supernatural issues. Overall I doubt that a conventional therapist would last an hour. But Faith respects strong women, mental strength and... ah... attitude as well as physical ability. I've been looking for a therapist or some other suitable mentor for nearly a month. I thought of Catherine Willows, but her police role precludes that. Grissom suggested I talk to you."


"You know what we do here?"


"Certainly. I'm not suggesting that Faith should take part, in fact I'd recommend very strongly against it. I'm certain she would be unwilling to participate submissively and she is too strong and much too dangerous to take a dominant role. During her breakdown there were also incidents..."


"Incidents?"


"As I think I said, she systematically tortured one of my former colleagues, as part of an attempt to force an associate to kill her."


"I see. Yes, I'd agree, that wouldn't be a good idea."


"Even if she tried to be gentle there could be unfortunate accidents. Also, it would violate the terms of her parole."


"So what do you want me to do?"


Giles took off his glasses and polished them with a handkerchief. "Just talk to her, basically... Faith needs someone to discuss these matters with, someone who isn't part of our organisation or an old friend or enemy and won't think her insane. Given the circles she moves in that doesn't leave many options open. But as I said, I think that she might talk to you. Ah... there's an excellent Italian restaurant not far from here, and it is getting on towards one. Would you care to discuss this further over lunch?"


"One question first. While we were discussing Faith I occasionally noticed a look in your eyes. Did she torture you?"


"No, but I've been.. unfortunate on several occasions, usually at the hands of vampires and other demons."


"That's not all, is it?"


"Must I answer?"


"I think so."


"In my youth I... experimented. Fairly drastically, mostly in dominant roles, occasionally submissively. The experience has helped me in my work, helped me to endure pain and when necessary to inflict it. When Grissom mentioned your business I realised that Faith may need help with similar tendencies, if only to acknowledge and work around them."


"That's all I wanted to know. Let's eat."


The Jenny Calendar School, Las Vegas - Tuesday October 26th


"You're quite sure about this?" asked Xander as he assembled a heavy wooden bench in the new laboratory. "They seemed to be friends? Oh, pass me the box of three-inch wood screws."


Willow gave him the box. "Definitely. She and Giles were chatting like they were old friends. Not lovers, I think."


"And he didn't see you?" asked Xander, screwing the frame to the hardwood top with a powered screwdriver.


"No. I was in a booth behind them, kinda hidden in the shadows, I saw them reflected in a mirror but I don't think they would have been able to see me. When I heard what they were talking about... Giles never talks about the Mark of Eyghon, or anything else that he did before Sunnydale, you know that. And there he was spilling the beans on everything; the sex demon thing and all the rest of it, stuff he never told any of us. Some of it was kinda icky."


"Icky?"


"You ever think about that list of Eyghon worshipers, how many guys and girls there were on it? Seems that he and Ethan... look, let's just say that they were more than just bad friends."


"Icky. Riiight... I so didn't want to know that, now I'm gonna have to erase it from my mind forever."


"Anyway," said Willow, "He was paying the bill and they heading out the door while I was still trying to figure if I should let him know I was there."


"Was she attractive?" asked Xander.


"Very. Strong cheeks, reddish-brown hair, dressed simply but very expensively. Kinda like an older version of me, in some ways, except for the expensive part, which is one of the reasons it creeped me out a little. Why?"


"Well, you're gay, if you were to casually drop a hint that... well, that you were interested... maybe he'd give you some details."


"How would I word that? 'Hey Giles, I'm hot to two-time my girlfriend, how about you tell me all about your friend so I can have my wicked Wicca way with her and Kennedy can beat both of us to a pulp with her Slayer strength when she finds out'. I'm sure he'd go for that one."


"I think it lacks Giles-cred," said Kennedy, looking up from the plans for the laboratory. "Anyway, how do you know I wouldn't want to go for a threesome?"


"You had to say that," moaned Xander, "now I'm definitely gonna have to have a shower when I finish here. Talking of which, if you want to pick this sucker up and put it over there I'm ready to start on the next one."


"Sure." Kennedy picked up the bench effortlessly, turned it right way up, and carried it over to sit against the wall, then went back to the plans. "Next one should be a type 330 unit, seven feet six inches long." She helped Xander lift it down from a stack of flat-packed units. Xander began to rip it open, both women helped.


"So... threesomes," said Xander, "any room for some girl-boy-girl action in there?"


"In your dreams, Xander," Willow said fondly. "Anyway, I thought you were kinda interested in Sarah?"


"Just because I gave her a hand fitting some kitchen units... Okay, maybe there's some attraction, she's kinda hot, but I don't think it's mutual and I don't want to push it." Xander lifted the end of the bench top from the floor. "Spread out some more newspaper, this one's longer than the others, fits that last section before the door."


"Okay," said Willow, then stopped, startled, and began to read the paper.


"What's wrong?" asked Kennedy.


"This is her. In the paper. Talking to Grissom at a charity concert three weeks ago."


"Paper, Willow?" asked Xander. Willow hastily put another sheet under the heavy slab of wood while Kennedy took most of the weight.


"That settles it," said Xander, "she must be some sort of cop." He lowered the bench top and glanced at the paper, took a second look, and said "She can give me a ticket any time."


"Who is she?"


"Let's see, 'guests included blah blah blah Crime Scene Investigator Gil Grissom and club owner Lady Heather (right)'. There you go, no threesomes needed."


"What club does she own?"


"It doesn't say."


"Okay," said Xander, screwing the frame together, "let's finish this bench then research time. Google's probably the best place to start."


* * * * *


"Well, I guess that's different..." Willow said a few minutes later, looking at a web site. "if you go for whips and chains and things. 'Ladyheather dot com. Lady Heather, My Command is Your Wish.' A dom dot com."


"Dom dot dot com, dot com," Xander sang to the Batman movie theme, "dom dot dot com, dom dot com." Both women ignored him.


"Some interesting ideas, I guess," said Kennedy, "but I'm not sure I'd like the liquid rubber."


"I don't know, peeling it off would be kinda..." Willow said, then shook her head and seemed to snap back to reality, "kinda like having your legs waxed only probably more painful."


"I can't believe this stuff is going on just a few blocks away and we never noticed," said Xander. "Whatever happened to our finely-honed Sunnydale instincts for weirdness?"


"Swamped. It's easy to spot the weirdness in a one-Starbucks town," said Willow, "I can't begin to guess how many there are in Vegas."


"Starbucks?" asked Xander, "Forty-one if you count the ones inside casinos and stores and the airport." Willow and Kennedy stared at him. "Andrew showed me a neat web site, some guy that wants to visit every Starbucks in the world. It has photos of nearly all of the ones in Vegas, if I counted right there are thirty-nine in Las Vegas plus two he didn't visit."


"Did the Starbucks guy get to Sunnydale before it was too late?" asked Willow.


"Nope," said Xander, "he's got an aerial photo of the crater labelled 'The one that got away.'"


"I liked the Expresso Pump more anyway."


"You guys are spending way too much time on line," said Kennedy.


"Getting back to business," said Willow, "I'd suggest going to the club and looking round, but I don't think I'd pass their credit check on Watchers Council wage. You would, but you're a little under their minimum age."


"You ought to ask Giles for higher pay while he's in town, haggle a little. I know he's doing much better than the old Council, but there's still room for improvement."


"Catherine's coming in to talk to the new class tomorrow," suggested Xander, "and I want to get her to take a look at the setup in here before I start connecting the gas and plumbing, make sure I'm not making any expensive mistakes. Maybe you could sound her out about Lady Heather. Or I could do it, mention I saw the picture and kinda casually ask if Grissom's babe has a younger sister, wing it from there."


"Sounds like a plan to me."


The Jenny Calendar School, Las Vegas - Wednesday October 27th


"...to conclude then," said Catherine Willows, "while it's virtually impossible to enter a crime scene without contaminating the evidence in some way, there's a lot that can be done to minimise the harm. But if at all possible wait until the CSIs, medical examiners and other specialists have finished their jobs. I know that isn't always possible in your line of work, but unless you want the police coming after you instead of the vampires it's something that really needs to be kept in mind. Those of you who intern with CSI and other police units over the next few weeks will have a chance to see how things are done, and I'll look forward to seeing some of you then."


There was a ripple of applause from the audience of Slayers and trainee Watchers, Catherine answered a few questions, then left the podium and turned to Xander with a smile. "How's the new eye?"


"Feels just like the old one, but you were right, it's a much better match for the real one. How did you know?"


"Saw one like it in a cadaver, realised that they'd improved the plastic since your old one was fitted."


"Murder victim?"


"Drunk driver."


"Well, he's got my thanks, for what that's worth."


"How's the new laboratory coming along?"


"If you can spare a few minutes I'll show you, I'd appreciate some more advice before we connect things. I think Willow's there, she can probably explain things better than I can." Xander led her through the building to the lab, where Willow was studying a microscope catalogue and Kennedy was slotting plastic storage trays into a rack system.


"Nice to see you again, Willow," said Catherine, "and you, Kennedy."


"You too," said Willow, Kennedy nodded.


"Two Willows," said Xander, "kinda like stereo."


"How many times has he made that joke now?" asked Catherine.


"I'd say five so far, maybe six," Willow said fondly. "For Xander that's barely worn off the showroom finish."


"Okay," said Xander, "that kills that one stone dead. Let's talk plumbing..."


Several minutes later Willow said "All of that's pretty much what we planned, except for the extra faucets and drainage on the side benches."


"Not a problem," said Xander, "except it sounds like we'll need a booster pump to keep the water pressure up. That's easy enough."


"This must be costing a fortune," said Catherine, looking around the room and feeling one of the polished wooden surfaces. "What are these bench tops, mahogany?"


"Iroko, it's about as hard and fire resistant but comes from sustainable plantations, not rain forests. At least that's what they tell us, just have to hope it's true. Costs about the same as the best chemical-resistant laminates, works nearly as well and I can install them myself rather than contracting it out to a laboratory construction company, which is good for security. Besides, money isn't a huge problem. The old Watchers had investments and loot stashed away everywhere, the lawyers are gradually tracking it down and making it available. Angel's helping a lot with that, keeping them honest. Something to be said for owning an evil law firm."


"Also," said Kennedy, "you pull one of the benches apart or smash the top and you've got some nice heavy wood, pull one of these wooden stools apart and you've got some thick rods that make good stakes. Wherever you go in this building, you're never more than a few feet from something a Slayer can use against vampires."


"Not to mention the thousand gallons or so of holy water that'll come out of the sprinklers if we ever have to set them off," said Xander.


"You're expecting trouble?"


"Not really, this isn't a Hellmouth, but neither was London when the old Watcher's Council bought it. If the vamps ever feel strong enough to take us out we can be pretty sure we'll be dealing with something a lot worst than the average henchman. If it ever comes to it, we want to be able to put up a fight."


"What about the other monsters?"


"There are defences against them too," said Willow. "Magical wards, special weapons, even a little feng shui arrangement of the corridors to stop some Chinese demons."


"I guess. Tell me something... we're trained to pick up on body language, and I have a feeling that you want to talk about something more than laboratory design. What's it about?"


"We were gonna try to be subtle but maybe it's better this way. A couple of days ago I ran into Giles while he was talking to someone, don't think they saw me, and I got some odd vibrations off her. Then I saw this picture, realised it was the same woman."


She produced the newspaper photo, Catherine looked at it and smiled slightly. "Lady Heather."


"You know her?"


"We've had two cases involving her club, both times she was an innocent party and the trouble originated with her customers or employees. She's.. well, she's a wealthy woman, has a daughter in her final year at Harvard. She's a dominatrix, so I'm not surprised you got an odd feeling about her. Grissom respects her mind and I guess her philosophy, she's totally uncompromising in her view of the world."


"That's not quite what I mean," said Willow. "I'm pretty sure she had Giles under some kind of spell. He was talking about things... Well, let's just say they're things he never discusses. Never."


"You're kidding."


"Nope. Giles has a past, things he did before he became a Watcher, stuff he never usually talks about. But he was telling her."


"It's not much to go on," mused Catherine, "and Grissom likes Lady Heather, he's not going to be too thrilled if we start harassing her. Why don't you just ask Giles?"


"He might be under some sort of thrall. It isn't likely, but we can't take chances."


"Maybe she has a thing for guys with 'Gil' in their names," said Xander. "Gil, Giles, maybe she's the gill-girl or something. Has she got webbed toes?"


"Okay," said Kennedy, "I know, why don't we dangle Xander near her, if she bites we'll know she's a demon."


"Thanks, Kennedy, that really... um..."


"Sounds like you? Mister demon magnet?"


"You're a witch, Willow," said Catherine, firmly ignoring them, "can't you check if Giles is under a spell?"


"I guess," said Willow. "Yeah, I think so, all of the standard controlling spells would show up in his aura. I just haven't had a chance to get near him yet, he's been so busy the last few days."


"This is beginning to feel eerily familiar," said Kennedy, "Didn't we go through all this the time you thought he was the First Evil?"


"Well yeah, but that was just a misunderstanding. This is different, I definitely got strange vibes from them."


"So ask him," said Catherine. "There's nothing worse for a team than everyone sneaking around trying to second-guess one of its members."


"It's kinda awkward timing," said Willow. "Faith's due back in town tomorrow evening, Robin and Angel picked her up yesterday and today Giles is running around trying to get a 'welcome home' party organised for Friday night. We really ought to be helping but we wanted to talk to you first."


"I know about the party, Grissom and Brass and I plan to be here if nothing comes up."


"What about the rest of your guys?"


"They're on shift, we're off. How about your end, will Buffy or Dawn be here?"


"No," said Xander, "Dawn's visiting her dad in LA for a couple of weeks, she was with Robin and Angel's crew yesterday when they picked Faith up so she oughtn't to feel too left out, Buffy's still in Cleveland with some of the new Slayers, she doesn't want to leave town until they've dealt with the snake cult guys. We're setting up a webcam link so that they can kinda join the party."


"That's a shame, I was hoping to see them again properly. Hmm... I'll make a prediction, Lady Heather will be at the party. Either Grissom or Giles will invite her."


"You think?"


"Bank on it."


The Jenny Calendar School, Las Vegas - Friday October 29th


"What did you say?" Xander shouted over the disco beat.


"I said I won my bet," yelled Catherine, gesturing towards the entrance to the gymnasium, where Giles was welcoming Grissom and Lady Heather. Some of the trainee Slayers and Watchers were sitting at tables around the perimeter of the room, the rest were dancing in the middle. Andrew was an over-enthusiastic DJ, a little too inclined towards Techno for Xander's tastes, but made up for his lack of skill with his endless nervous energy. Xander was sure that he'd had custom knobs fitted to the amps so that they went up to eleven.


"What bet's that?" asked Faith, walking towards them with Robin Wood on her arm.


"Check out the woman talking to Giles and Grissom," said Xander.


"What about her?"


"Willow thinks she's using some sort of spell to influence them. I'm not so sure, but it seems odd that she's here tonight, she's the only real outsider and Giles and Grissom do act kinda strange around her."


"And I still think Willow's mistaken," said Catherine. "She's an old friend of Grissom's, it isn't odd that she should be here."


"Giles and Grissom acting strangely," said Robin, "could it have something to do with her being totally hot, in a kinda refined way?" Faith poked him with her elbow, none too gently, and said "You've spent too much time talking to Gunn."


"Demon-fighting lawyer, demon-fighting teacher, we've a lot in common."


"She is kinda hot," said Faith. "I guess I see what you mean. What's Willow doing about it?"


"Well, some background checking, and she's running some spells now to see if she's a demon or something."


"Thought I hadn't seen much of her or Kennedy for a while. I sorta assumed..."


"Nope, Willow's upstairs casting spells and Kennedy's spotting for her, keeping an eye on her body while she goes astral or whatever."


* * * * *


Willow looked around the room, seeing the golden glow of Kennedy's aura mixed inextricably with the black streaks of demonic energy that made her a Slayer. On another level she knew that her body was sitting cross-legged, with Kennedy watching and ready to defend her if she was attacked; on this psychic plane her spirit form was invisible, warded by one of the spells that would hopefully stop Lady Heather seeing her if she was capable of doing so. She let her viewpoint sink through the floor, down through another level of classrooms and into the gymnasium and saw a confused mass of colour. Detached from her body it was hard to see the physical realm, but she concentrated for a moment and orientated herself. Faith was over to her right, her aura a darker version of Kennedy's, around the room a dozen other slayers were similarly unmistakable.


Over by the door was the familiar glow she recognised as Giles, and another she guessed was Grissom. Lady Heather just wasn't there. She turned her attention to the physical realm again and saw her next to Grissom. But there was nothing on the psychic plane, no sign of her at all. Willow tried to think what that could mean; there were spells that would conceal an aura, she was using one herself, but somehow she doubted that was what was wrong. She thought for a moment of the Buffybot, but even she had showed a distinctive aura, although it was nothing like that of a human. Maybe if she broadened her range... She concentrated, and the auras she could see seemed to yellow, compressed into a smaller portion of the "spectrum" she was seeing. Something began to appear beside Grissom, a violet nimbus like nothing she'd ever seen. As she concentrated it grew brighter, and the other auras in the room faded to insignificance. She felt something... a vast presence, a dizzy rush of sensation... and was back upstairs in her own body, gasping for air, as Kennedy rushed to help her.


"It's okay, I'm all right," said Willow.


"What the hell happened?"


"I'm not quite sure... I think I got a friendly rebuff."


"Friendly?"


"The power I felt could have levelled this building."


"She's a demon?" asked Kennedy, moving towards a rack of swords and axes.


"No. Let's just take this slowly and gently and leave the weapons alone for now. She's not a demon."


"Then what the hell is she?"


"I'm pretty sure she's a higher being."


* * * * *


"She's a what?" asked Xander, pouring a Coke for Willow.


"A higher being," said Willow. "I think an ascended human or a human that's host to one of the higher powers. Maybe even one of the Powers That Be."


"Why the hell would a higher being run a... a bondage operation in Las Vegas?" asked Kennedy.


"Beats me. I think that sooner or later I'll have to ask her."


"Sooner or later?"


"Not tonight. Don't think I'm up to it right now."


"Where is she anyway?" asked Kennedy, looking around the gym.


"She went outside with Grissom," said Catherine. "I still think you're mistaken about her."


"What about Giles?" asked Willow.


"He went out with Faith and Robin a few minutes later," said Xander.


"And you didn't try to stop them?"


"Faith can take care of herself and Giles isn't exactly defenseless. Neither is Robin."


"Giles has more cracks in his cranium than Humpty Dumpty, Faith isn't exactly Miss Stability and Robin's only human. If she's as powerful as I think they could be in big trouble. I think she doesn't mean us any harm but I could be wrong. We'd better take a look."


"All four of us?" asked Kennedy.


"If all four of us go out it'll be obvious we're snooping, if it's just you and me we can pretend to be looking for somewhere to spend some quality time together. If things fall apart I'll call for help mentally. Okay with that, Xander? Catherine?"


"Sure." "I suppose."


As they headed for the door Giles and Grissom came back in and moved towards the bar. Willow and Kennedy dodged behind a pillar to avoid them, and went outside.


* * * * *


Somewhere in the school's grounds Willow could hear voices. Faith was saying "...what can you possibly know about it."


"Nothing," said Lady Heather. "That's the whole point. Giles and Grissom thought that you might both need someone to talk to, someone who isn't part of this organisation and doesn't work for the authorities, who can help you get some perspective on all the changes in your life."


Willow gestured for Kennedy to stop, and they both listened to the voices, coming from the other side of a hedge.


"And a lady who runs a bondage club qualifies?" asked Robin. "Not that I'm knocking it, everyone's entitled to do their own thing, but it seems a little odd."


"I'm a qualified psychotherapist, I don't normally practice but I owe my life to one of Faith's predecessors."


"Buffy?" asked Faith.


"No, a girl I met before she was born, on a vacation in Germany."


"Black?" asked Robin.


"I'm afraid not. Giles told me about your mother, I think it was her successor. Getting back to the point, I'm sufficiently qualified for doctor-patient confidentiality to apply, if that's what you're worried about."


"I saw plenty of docs in prison," said Faith, "why in hell should you know more about it than they do?"


"I don't know that I do, but I think I might be able to help. Don't make a decision now, think about it for a while and get back to me if you decide that you're interested. I'm going back inside, perhaps we'll talk later."


Willow and Kennedy hastily moved to a bench and pretended to be more interested in each other than their surroundings. Out of the corner of her eye Willow saw Lady Heather walk past, stop for a second and write something on a card, and drop it on the bench. When she was gone Willow broke the embrace and picked up the card. On one side was an address, on the other was written 'Sunday 3.00pm'.


Lady Heather's Dominion, Las Vegas - Sunday October 31st


"To be honest, I'm surprised that there aren't more of you here," said Lady Heather, pouring tea for herself, Willow and Kennedy. "Of course your friends are waiting outside and I'm sure that there'll be all sorts of trouble if you don't come out in good time."


"Of course," said Willow.


"Mister Giles, Faith, and Mister Wood, of course, I presume that the other students and staff aren't far away? Have you involved Grissom and Catherine?"


"Not exactly. I told them we needed to check things out, that I thought you were more than human, but that's about it."


"Just as I needed to check you out."


"You wanted to check us out? I kinda thought that Giles came to you."


"After I'd spoken to Grissom and he spoke to Giles. Sometimes it's necessary to be subtle."


"That's.."


"That's power. Now, I know who and what you are, of course, what I need to know is if you pose a threat to my dominion."


"I don't understand."


"You already know much of it," said Lady Heather. "In seventy-eight, when I was seventeen, I visited Frankfurt with my parents and was attacked by a vampire. I was rescued by a Slayer, unfortunately I'd lost a lot of blood and my condition was complicated by my diabetes. The doctors had me transported back to the USA as soon as I was fit to travel. Fit is a relative term, I was in a coma, the blood loss left my brain short of oxygen for several minutes. Essentially I was brain dead."


"You were brain-dead? Something moved into your body?" asked Willow.


"More or less. I reached an accommodation with the original Heather, just as I had done several times before with other hosts. With myself, really. My original soul, my personality, joined with something greater. I made a miraculous recovery, completed my education, and eventually went into business. I even have a child, although she isn't proud of the source of the funds that pay for her education. She has no idea who I really am."


"But what are you?" asked Kennedy. "Willow seems to think you're a higher being, what on earth are you doing in the bondage business?"


"There isn't a good word for it in English. In Latin you'd call me an animus, in Japanese I'm a kami."


"A spirit of place?" asked Willow.


"That's right."


"And the place is..?"


"Las Vegas."


Willow's eyes widened. "The spirit of... the whole city? The whole freaking city?"


"That's right."


"I thought I sensed a lot of power but that's scary."


"You nearly destroyed the world. That's really scary."


"You know about that?"


"Word gets around," she said calmly. "Do drink the tea, it's a shame to waste it."


"I would have thought you'd own a casino or something," said Kennedy.


"There's more to Las Vegas than gambling, although my two previous incarnations were in that business. Gambling is part of it, of course, but money and sex are just as important. Besides, the casinos have their own protection. I'm the spirit of the city as a whole, and I adapt to it as the city changes. Believe me, you wouldn't have liked me in the fifties when the mobs ruled Vegas."


"How does that work, exactly?" asked Willow.


"I protect the city, live as part of it, act as an aspect of its character. In this life the aspect I chose was sex, it seemed more interesting than the alternatives. In return it nurtures and powers me."


"Protect it?"


"Eight years ago a group of terrorists planned to destroy Boulder Dam. If they had succeeded the attack would have left Las Vegas without power for days, perhaps weeks. One of them was killed by a collapsing brick wall, another electrocuted by a wiring fault in his hotel, a third was in a car that was sideswiped by a truck after a mysterious traffic light failure. Papers found in his room led the police to the rest of the group and the threat was removed."


"You protect the city, not the people?" asked Kennedy.


"Exactly. People are necessary for the survival of the city," Lady Heather said calmly, "but there are always more people. I suppose I do favour some above others; the police and fire department, others who protect or strengthen it one way or another, and I would probably respond to a threat to the population as a whole. That's why this conversation was necessary. Your people have bought a new element to Las Vegas, whether it's good or bad for the city remains to be seen."


"Why would it be bad?"


"Need I remind you of Sunnydale?"


"Sunnydale was on a Hellmouth," said Willow, "Las Vegas isn't."


"As I understand it that isn't necessarily a guarantee that there won't be one in the future. My worry is that the presence of your organisation might provoke problems rather than preventing them. In just a few years we've seen vampires, werewolves, magic. Monsters roam the streets, some of them are even registered with the police."


"Most of them were here before, and we're doing our best to keep them from doing any harm."


"I know. As I said, whether you're good or bad for the city remains to be seen."


"You could always help us."


"I probably will, if I decide that your presence is desirable. Now, it's been interesting, but on the whole I think that it probably isn't a good idea for you to know about me right now."


"What are you going to do?" asked Kennedy, springing to her feet.


"Nothing." A violet aura engulfed them and the world...


Lady Heather's Dominion, Las Vegas - Monday October 25th


Rupert Giles sipped his tea, looked appreciatively at the attractive woman sitting opposite him, and said "It's good of you to see me on such short notice, Lady Heather."


"Any friend of Gil Grissom, Mister Giles, will be treated as I would treat him. With wary courtesy and respect."


"I'm not with the police and it's a rather delicate matter. I'm told that you are discreet..."


"My business depends on it. What can I do for you?"


"There is a young woman in need of help."


"Help?"


"Your web site says that you are a licensed therapist, and I took the liberty of checking your qualifications. They seem to be quite impressive."


"I don't practice these days. I'm afraid that you've had a wasted journey."


"But Grissom seemed to think..."


"No, Mister Giles. I can give you details of several excellent therapists if that will help, some of my clients come here on their advice, but I really have no interest in resuming that career."


"If you're quite sure..."


"I'm certain." She checked a Rolodex, jotted a few names and telephone numbers onto a pad and gave them to Giles.


"Thank you. There's no way I can persuade you to change your mind?"


"Absolutely none."


"Then I won't waste more of your time." He drained his cup, shook hands with her, and left.


Lady Heather smiled a little sadly; she'd quite liked him the first time around. But she couldn't play favourites, not in her dominion.


End

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