I still do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or any mythology.
I’d also like to take a moment to thank Tammin for all his hard work, and Dusel for his contribution.Fear ItselfSunnydale High
Buffy gently placed the journal she'd lent on the counter as Giles stood up from retrieving some books. “It was an interesting read, could've used a better ending though,” the blond joked lamely.
“Did you get the answers you were looking for out of it?”
She didn't answer right away. What had she wanted to find out? Who India Cohen was? How she'd died? Or just how the Slayer before her had lived? The answer for all three was that she had learned some, but Buffy was now certain that quite a bit had been left out of the Watcher's Journal.
So she guessed she did get something out of it. The knowledge that she would never really know her predecessor and that was probably true for Kendra too. She'd never known Buffy wasn't a Slayer anymore, to take one example. “Yeah, I guess I did,” the Aesir said quietly.
Shaking her head to get rid of that depressing thought, Buffy went on. “Giles, I think I found out who's behind those disappearances.”
Giles looked up from the book laid out on the counter. “Oh?”
“Yeah, me and Faith got jumped by these vampires. One of them said he, uh, lived for Kakistos. Mjöllnir said it's old Greek for Worst of the Worst,” Buffy finished. Noticing Giles' reaction, she prodded, “You know who that is?”
“Uhm, yes, it's the name of a vampire; a very old one. So old in fact, that his hands and feet are cloven. Over the centuries he's killed quite a few Slayers and... and you say he is here?”
“And he comes to town right when our newest, unstable Slayer decides to make a visit,” Buffy said as a new thought entered her mind. 'What if Faith isn't running from her Watcher, but this Kakistos?'
“Unstable?” Giles enquired.
“Oh, right, I haven't told you yet. When these vampires jumped us, Faith just lost it. She just kept hitting this one vampire leaving me to deal with the rest. If she'd been alone, she'd be dead.”
“Well, she is different from you. Are you certain it wasn't just a case of a plucky fighter getting carried away?”
Buffy emphatically shook her head. “No, when I pulled her off of him so I could stake the vamp, she was actually surprised!”
“Yes, that does sound worrisome. And you think there's a connection between her and Kakistos.”
“There's two things in this world I don't believe in and that's leprechauns and coincidences. And when you combine that with Willow's warning Faith gets jumpy when talking about her Watcher; I'm not liking the picture at all. So I want you to get on the phone and try to get in touch with this Watcher Retreat, find out if she's actually there.”
Looking at his watch, Giles assented. “They're about eight hours ahead now, so they'll probably be sitting down for a nightcap.” He paused for a moment as his gaze turned inward. “I wonder if they still kayak. I used to love a good kayak.” He looked over at Buffy who was feeling too antsy to indulge him right now.
“While we're still young and they're still enjoying that nightcap, Giles.”
“Ah, yes, right.” And with those words he went into his office leaving Buffy with time to spare. Unable to think of anything better to do, she hauled out the book they were reading for Literature Class. Ms. Murray was big on participation and it would be nice if she knew what they were discussing in class.
She was just finishing the part where Hamlet debated killing Claudius while he was praying when Giles came back. And judging from his expression, it wasn't good news. “You reached the retreat,” Buffy concluded.
“Yes, I did. It seems her Watcher is dead.”
That was bad. And Buffy now had a good idea of what Faith's problem was, she'd lost a Watcher too. “Did they tell you how?”
Giles' expression went from sad to downright grim. “No, they wouldn't tell me much more than that she was dead. I got the impression they don't even know where Faith is.”
“No offense, Giles, but you guys really need to start communicating because this is getting kind of ridiculous.”
“I agree, although it is a bit hypocritical of me given that I failed to inform them Faith is here.”
“You did?” a surprised Buffy asked.
Her Watcher simply shrugged. “It slipped my mind. But getting back to Faith...”
“After school's out I'll go out and see what's she got to say when I mention Kakistos. Or if she tries to get out of Dodge,” Buffy finished.Sunnydale Motor Inn
Faith still had a little trouble really believing John was for real. With his brown pants and white undershirt he just looked so much like the stereotype of a sleazy inn's manager it was, well actually it was funny. But this wasn't the time to laugh in the guy's face, not when she needed his good will.
“The room's eighteen dollars a day. That's every day,” John explained without even hinting at other methods of paying with something as small as a flick of the eye. That was the other reason Faith didn't laugh at him, he was innocent in a weird way.
“Yeah, I know. I'll get it to you by tomorrow, I swear.” Because tonight, hopefully, she'd have some better luck with the vamps. Living off of whatever you could steal from the vampires you slayed was a tricky supposition, a lot of them didn't carry any cash. But she had no other options. None she was desperate enough to try right now anyway.
John sighed and scratched the back of his head. “It's not like I own the place.”
Giving him a winning smile, Faith buttered him up, “But I bet you will someday.”
“Not if I listen to broads like you.” And that was the moment Buffy chose to enter her room.
“Hey, roommates are extra,” John said but Faith barely heard it. She was more worried on how much Buffy had heard about her money-troubles.
“I'm just visiting,” Buffy assured the manager without taking her eyes off of Faith.
'Something's wrong,' the Slayer concluded. She didn't know what, but her gut was telling her Buffy was on to her. That feeling only got stronger when Buffy made sure to close the door behind the manager after he'd made his exit.
Faith made sure to act casual. “So, what brings you to the poor side of town?”
Buffy didn't react, just went over to the nightstand next to the door, and lounged against. And her next words started a red alert in Faith's mind. “Cloven guy, goes by the name Kakistos.”
Somewhere in the deepest recesses of her thoughts there was this little voice simply praying, 'not again.' The rest of Faith was fighting a losing battle to keep her cool. “What do you know about Kakistos?” she asked. 'Not again, not so soon.'
“That he's here,” the blond simply said. But her next revelation was even worse. “That he killed your Watcher.” Faith especially hated the way Buffy said it, like she understood it. Like she could remotely get how that was like with her perfect life and her perfect... Well, just with her perfect life.
Looking around, Faith finally found her bag. “You have no idea what he did,” the brunette spat out as she quickly stuffed her meager belongings into the bag. “Or what I did,” she said more to herself than Buffy. It helped to remind her Kakistos wasn't invulnerable. But it only settled her down a little.
“You're right, I don't know exactly what happened. But I know what's going to happen if you do this.” The blond waved at her bag as she zipped it close. “Faith, you came here for a reason. Let me help you.”
Lifting her bag, Faith gathered the now tattered remains of her confidence around her. “You can mind your own business. I'm handling this my way.”
“Oh yeah, I see you're a real bad-ass when it comes to packing. And I guess you're going to leave me to clean up after you. But hey, that's no problem. After all, how bad can one vampire be?” The pure sarcasm in that voice kept Faith nailed to her spot by the bed. She should be getting out of here by now, not argue with Her Highness but she didn't want to let this go. Not like this.
“You have no idea what he is, what he does. There's no word for what he did to her, what he was going to do to me.” Faith gritted her teeth as the memories tried to drag her down. “So don't come down here all high-and-mighty thinking you have any idea what I've been through. Just leave me alone!”
With those words Faith made her way to the door, but Buffy just had to have the last word. “Faith, you run, he runs after you.”
“That's where the head start comes in handy,” she quipped right before there's a knock on the door. Looking through the peephole, she sees that it's John again. “Oh, what now?” she complained as she opened the door.
But John wasn't the only one at the door. In fact, John was dead. His corpse was being held up by Kakistos himself. There were a couple of other vampires there too but Faith's vision was filled by Kakistos' scarred face.
She managed to take a step back as the tall vampire let go of John. Faith could barely hear him say her name. Not with fear singing in her ears with the screams of her Watcher. She wanted to move as far away from this demon as possible, but couldn't move a single muscle, not with panic freezing every single one of them.
'He's here, he's here, he's here, he's here,' her mind yammered. It left here completely incapable of avoiding Kakistos' grabbing hand as it closed around her throat, then lifted her from the floor. One hand finally listened to her, but it was still inexplicably weak as it futility pulled at the vampire's wrist.
'I'm going to die.' She didn't want to, but she knew she was going to. “No,” Faith whimpered. And then the hand was gone, followed a second later by the sight of Kakistos flying down the walkway knocking the other vampires out of the way as he went.
“No way,” Faith whispered at the impossible sight.
Buffy had learned a couple of things since coming to the Sunnydale Motor Inn. The first was that it was a complete dump. The second was that Faith had to pay for her stay, food, and everything else somehow and Buffy had no idea how she was managing that. Also, Faith wasn't managing that judging from her conversation with the manager.
But the third and most important thing was this, Kakistos had done horrible things to Faith's Watcher and it had left its mark on Faith. She was afraid, really afraid. And it was crippling her as a Slayer. Even if Kakistos didn't get her, some random vamp would soon.
All of this Buffy had learned even before Faith opened the door and found herself confronted with Kakistos. But seeing Faith reduced to a frightened child at the mere sight of the vampire cemented the last point. Buffy sprung into action only a moment after Kakistos had took a hold of Faith.
One strike broke that hold and before Pigboy had the chance to react, Buffy kicked him in the chest with every bit of strength she had. Seeing him fly down the walkway was immensely satisfying. The two minions he had with him were knocked down to. One to the floor, the other, a black one in an expensive suit, was knocked over the railing first before plummeting to the concrete.
Of course, the blond Aesir didn't need to hear Faith's amazed “No way” to know that the cat was really out of the bag now. She closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath to make sure her power was still under control. No need to freak Faith out any more with glowing eye-Buffy.
Having made sure of that, Buffy turned around and looked Faith over. “You alright?” All she got was a stunned nod before an angry roar drew her attention back to Kakistos. Seeing how he rose up drove home how tall he was. Ugly too, the ragged cut above his milky-white right eye didn't help.
“You! Whoever you are, you won't stop me from killing Faith!” he roared as he started to walk back towards where they were.
“I'm Buffy.” She thought of claiming that she was the Slayer but decided not to. “And I've been threatened by scarier things than you. But if it helps your fragile ego, they weren't uglier.”
It apparently didn't because Kakistos just roared and picked up the pace. Buffy only stepped out of the room and then waited. Seeing him preparing to just shove her back into the room, Buffy couldn't help but smirk. She ducked under his arms, and then smacked her own hands into his belly putting a stop to his charge. Next, the blond took a hold of his cassock and swung him sideways through the railing.
A second later she heard the dull thud of a body hitting stone revealing she'd missed all the cars. 'Good, car alarms can be so annoying.'
“How the fuck did you do that?” Faith asked.
And that was the right question. Buffy had just handled Kakistos like he was nothing. Could the difference between two slayers really be that much? It seemed impossible, yet it had happened. Faith combed a shaking hand through her hair. It was shaking because she'd gone from scared out of her mind to completely stunned in moments.
“Come on, we better get down there before he runs away.”
Looking at the blond like she'd gone insane, and given the insane thing she'd just said, that was only natural. “Are you crazy?!”
“Faith, you need to face him. I can beat him; you just saw that. But I'm not the one who needs to beat him.” Buffy retrieved a stake from her coat and slammed it down into the vampire still lying on the floor. “Now take this stake and prove to yourself that he isn't a nightmare. He's just a vampire.”
“I...I...” Her hand took the stake but Faith just looked at it like she had no idea what to do with it; not when it came to Kakistos.
Now Buffy gave her a smile. “I'll hold him down for you, if you think that'll help?” she proposed innocently.
And that finally snapped her out of her funk. “Hey, I'm not a baby. I know which end of the stake is supposed to go into the other guy.”
The blond's smile turned dazzling. “Great! Let's go.”
Faith followed but instead of going for the stairs, Buffy went to the hole in the wooden railing and seemed to be judging the height. Was she actually thinking of jumping down from there? She got her answer a second later when her fellow Slayer hopped down and landed on the hood of a parked car raising up from the crouch like she'd hopped off the sidewalk.
On the street, Kakistos was slowly getting up now but the sight, instead of producing a fresh stab of fear, it actually elicited excitement. 'The prey is weakened,' her instinct seemed to whisper to her. 'Go in for the kill. Now's your chance.'
“Now's my chance,” Faith whispered. She looked down, then she took Buffy's lead and jumped; also landing on the same hood.
Buffy, meanwhile, was busy fighting some of Kakistos' underlings. She wasn't sending them flying this time, but the blond was handling them just as easily. One of them got dusted right as Faith straightened out. Focusing her attention back on Kakistos she noticed her window of opportunity was almost gone.
With a wordless cry Faith ran over the roof of the car and jump-kicked with both feet to give Kakistos a face-full of her boots. She managed to get her legs tucked back under her before she hit the ground, so while the bane of her existence was still staggering back, the brunette was already following up her attack.
With another yell the brunette drove the stake home only to lose her grip on it almost right away from the jarring impact. 'It's like I was trying to stake a block of steel,' Faith thought as she worked her tingling fingers.
“Looks like you need a bigger stake, Slayer,” Kakistos taunted before backhanding her against the car. 'He's right, and there's nothing here I could use!' Fear started to worm its way back, twisting her stomach into knots.
“What is it with guys and their obsession with size?” Buffy wondered as she appeared from between the parked cars. “Are we compensating for something?” the blond wondered acting as if she was giving that question some serious thought.
With Kakistos distracted and help here, Faith found her courage again and an opening. A kick in his belly only got a grunt out of the towering vampire, Buffy's punch in the same area had him doubled over.
“Faith, we've got to hammer that stake home somehow!”
She knew that, but what were they going to... In a flash, Faith knew just what to do. In her hurry to carry out her plan she even forgot to tell Buffy what it was. Or that she had one. Getting almost besides Kakistos as he was still straightening out, she hooked one leg behind his than trapped that leg with the other while pulling hard on his shoulder.
There was a moment where Faith feared it wasn't enough to topple the giant, but then his leg gave way and he started to fall forward. 'Let's hope there's enough force there.' Maybe there wasn't, but that didn't matter because Buffy obviously had grasped what Faith's plan was and had reacted quickly.
Grabbing Kakistos' other shoulder she gave it a heave as well to send the vampire smacking into the asphalt, stake-first. The downside, as far as Faith was concerned, was that she landed just as hard. Pain coursed down her bruised arm, begging her to roll over but Faith stayed right where she was. She wanted to see if it had worked.
And for an eternity, it looked like it hadn't. Kakistos roared as his one functioning eye focused on Faith again, his hand already reaching for her when it became brown and grainy just like the rest of him. With a fading scream, her nightmare turned to dust right in front of her leaving Faith to gag on his remains.
“Oh, ack, gross,” Faith complained as she finally relieved her sore arm by getting up. She looked down at where Kakistos had been, a part of her still not believing it was over. That it had been that easy, after all.
“Hungry?” Buffy finally asked after what might have been a minute consisting of her staring at the spot Kakistos had been with Buffy eying her in return.
Feeling grateful Buffy wasn't going to pry any further right now, Faith nodded without looking at her. Her eyes still fixed at the pile of dust that had been the oldest vampire alive. “Starving.”
Trick didn't even consider avenging his ex-employer as he slunk away. After all, that same employer had just illustrated quite nicely why vengeance crusades had gone out of style. The risk-reward balance showed a lot of risk for little reward.
No, he was a modern vampire who had an eye for the big picture. And that big picture was that there now was a vampire organization of considerable wealth and resources that had just lost its leader. Trick already knew he was never going to be able to hold it all together, but that was fine too.
'Like I tried to tell Kakistos. Stay local, live global.'Sunnydale, Happy Burger
Buffy hadn't tried to start a conversation yet, and that was just fine with Faith. She was too busy eating to do a lot of talking herself anyway, and she had absolutely no desire to hear Buffy tell her that it wasn't her fault. That she shouldn't feel guilty about the fact her Watcher had died before her eyes and the only thing Faith had done was run. Because Faith knew it wasn't right, she knew she'd failed.
They were polishing off their extra helping of fries when Buffy couldn't keep quiet anymore. “You know,” the blond started and Faith braced herself for the pity. But the blond went silent again and gave her a hard look.
She seemed to be debating something with herself, and then nodded as if she'd come to some decision. “You know,” she began again. “Giles isn't my first Watcher.”
“He isn't?” Faith thought back now and realized her Watcher hadn't told her much about Buffy's Slayer career from before Sunnydale. Just something about a fight with this master vampire called Lothos and that was it.
Buffy shook her head. “No, I only met him after I moved to Sunnydale. I still lived in LA when I found out about, “ she made some vague hand gestures, “all this.”
The blond's eyes unfocused for a moment, then snapped back into the present. “His name was Merrick and,” now a fond smile crossed her features, “he was dressed so weird and was talking about destinies and vampires first time we met. Naturally, I didn't want to have anything to do with a weirdo like that. Didn't even believe him really when he started talking about my dreams. But I changed my mind after he threw a dagger at me.”
“Wait, hold on a sec. You're first Watcher tried to kill you? Just like that?” Faith looked suspiciously at the blond, half-convinced she was trying to pull a fast one on her.
Now Buffy chuckled. “I caught it, so it was no big. He just wanted to prove to me I wasn't your average girl anymore and it got my attention. I was sold after seeing my first vampire. Of course, Merrick wasn't really happy with how I dusted him.”
“It can't have been too bad, you're alive.”
“I tripped and fell, then the vampire tripped over me. I just happened to be holding my stake in front of me,” Buffy illustrated the story by holding her right arm in front of her like she was holding a stake in front of her with the point pointed away from her.
“Lucky,” Faith snorted.
And Buffy nodded in agreement. “I was and Merrick always made sure to point out all my mistakes; to remind me of my destiny. He wasn't happy about my addition of music to his training methods either.” It all sounded more like Buffy should be glad the guy was gone, but she sported this fond smile as she said all that indicating there was more to the story.
And it was coming now, if the sadness in the blond's eyes were any indication. “There was this vampire, Lothos. Merrick told me I wasn't ready for him, but I didn't listen. So when I came face-to-face with Lothos, I got my butt kicked. If Merrick hadn't stepped in... I would have died.”
Neither of them said anything as Buffy seemed lost in memory. “I-He... Lothos had taken my stake and that's what he used to kill my Watcher, right in front of me. Merrick, he said I did everything wrong.” Her eyes shone bright with held back tears but now she started to smile again. “And that I should keep doing that. Not play by their rules.”
Buffy took a long drink of her soda before finishing the story. “Lothos just left us there after that all overconfident and boasting like bad guys like to do.” Now her fellow Slayer's smile turned downright bloodthirsty. “That was his last mistake, though.”
Faith finally popped the fry in her mouth that she'd been holding all this time, grimacing a little at how cold it now was. She had no idea what to say to all this. Buffy, however, still had a few more things to say. “I've never told my friends this. Giles might know a bit of the story, but I'd be surprised if it was even half of it.”
Now her eyes bored into Faith's. “So, yes, I do know what it's like to see your Watcher getting killed right in front of you. To know he died because you weren't fast enough, not smart enough, not strong enough... Because I wasn't good enough,” Buffy finished in a soft voice that sent a shiver down Faith's spine.
They stared at each other and Faith felt like she was balancing on a knife's edge. Could she, should she? Did she have any right to.... “I called her DD. She hated it; she was always so prim and proper. It's short for Diana Dormer.” The words just tumbled out with no sign of stopping. There wasn't a lot of order or coherence to it either, but Faith couldn't care less right now.
Because it felt good to recall Diana's life, at last, rather than her death.TO BE CONTINUEDAnd this is where we end the year. You'll have to wait a few months now for the rest. So I wish you all a Happy New Year and we'll see each other again in 2012.