Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
Thanks to Valerie for her betaing and suggestions, and to Carol, JoeB, and Marcus Rowland for their comments.
Chapter Two - Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
In the upstairs hallway of the Giles' estate, Vi sat in the window seat, looking out at the moonlight. Her 'Standard Book of Spells, Grade 1' sat open on her lap, but she wasn't paying attention to it. She was going to be going into the sixth year at Hogwart's, so she had a lot of reading to do. How was she supposed to learn all this stuff when she only had a week before she was supposed to begin at the wizarding school? Maybe Willow could magic some of the knowledge in her head.
Who was she kidding? Despite the fact that their shared red hair gave her a passing resemblance to Willow, she was so not the one for this job. Kennedy was braver, Rona smarter...even Chao Ahn... well, maybe not Chao Ahn, who still spoke very little English. Despite her showing in the final battle against the First and her brave front since then, inside she was still the same little wimpy Potential who didn't even know how to hold a stake. Giles had the wrong girl for the job. And she'd tell him... if she could work up the courage to tell him he wasn't right.
She sighed. She was too wimpy to even tell Giles she was too wimpy for the job. This was not going to go well. Maybe she should just pack it in and head back to...
"Everything all right?"
She jumped at the sound of Giles' voice. He appeared from nowhere as if she'd conjured him - which she couldn't do, because conjuring a person was far beyond the 'Standard Book of Spells, First Grade.'
"Mr. Giles," she began hesitantly. "Are you sure I'm the right person for this job?"
Giles smiled. Out of all the surviving Potentials who were now Slayers, Vi had come the furthest. She'd started out as a timid, hesitant girl afraid of her own shadow, but in the final battle she had matured, rising to the challenge and emerging victorious. She had indeed grown to be one of the strongest of all of the Slayers.
He nudged her feet over, sitting at the end of the window seat. "I understand that this is a difficult assignment for all of you - out of your realm of expertise, as it were. But I have every confidence in you. You are intelligent and brave, strong and resourceful. You can do this," he assured her.
She closed her eyes, looking anywhere but at him. How did she voice the fears that nearly paralyzed her inside? "If I can't do this assignment, we're all in trouble. I have to be witchy enough for us all to stay at Hogwart's." She paused, biting her lip before continuing. "If I screw this up, this Harry Potter kid will die."
Giles looked at her intently. "Your last battle was for the fate of the world, and now you're worrying about the importance of one boy?"
She closed her eyes. How to explain? "Before, when we went into the Hellmouth to stop the First Evil, I thought I was going to die. I thought we all were going to. Then I felt the power rush through me, and suddenly, I was the Slayer. No thought, no fear, just strength and confidence. Now? Point me at a vamp and I'm there... but this is more than that... this is someone's life... and I'm the key figure in this equation."
He put one hand on her shoulder reassuringly, and looked in her eyes as he replied. "I wouldn't ask you to do this if I didn't have every confidence that you could accomplish the tasks at hand. You can do this, Vi. I know you can."
Vi smiled. Just knowing that Giles had so much faith in her imbued her with new confidence. "Thanks, Giles," she replied. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get through First Grade spells before bed." She gestured towards the pile of books on the floor next to the window seat. "Also Charms, Potions, and Transifiguration."
"Don't overwhelm yourself your first day," Giles cautioned.
"I won't," she reassured him.
"Good." He turned around and headed back down the hall.
Vi returned her attention to her spellbook. "Lumos solarum," she read. "Making sunlight. Now there's a spell we could use."
Willow had arrived earlier that evening, ensconcing herself in the guest room with magic books. Kennedy paused outside the door to Willow's room. Her girlfriend had barely said two words to her since arriving, giving her a quick 'hello' kiss before heading up to make with the mojo. Was there something wrong, something Willow wasn't telling her? Something magic-y? Or worse, something personal? Kennedy didn't even know if she wanted to ask her about it... if Willow did want to break up with her, did she really want to know about it?
"Don't rock the boat," she muttered, knocking on the door. She was going to go in and act like everything was normal.
Willow didn't even look up as she pushed open the door. "Hey, honey," Kennedy said, attempting a casual tone despite her too-worried-to-be-casual attitude. "How's the magic coming? Need any help?"
"Oh, hey," Willow said, looking up. "Working. On the magic. It's a highly complex spell," she said nervously.
"I thought Giles had done something like this before," Kennedy remarked. "He borrowed the power of the coven when..." she trailed off, unsure of what to say next. 'When you tried to end the world' didn't seem to be something she should remind Willow of.
"When I went evil and tried to destroy the world?" Willow finished. Over the last few months, during the struggle with the First, he'd come to terms with that part of her past. Doing the spell to empower all of the Potentials had shown her that she wasn't going to go all evil every time she tried a spell. She was capable of doing magic responsibly - which was good, given what she was about to attempt.
Honestly, she'd dealt with her problems and she was sick of everyone tip-toeing around the subject. Though, she wasn't one to talk, since she was tip-toeing around a very different subject herself - the true nature of her feelings for Kennedy, which weren't quite what the Slayer was thinking they were. If her girlfriend knew what had happened on her vacation with Buffy, Dawn and Xander...
She looked up, realizing that Kennedy was waiting for her to continue.
"The spell from before, where the Coven let Giles borrow all their power was different. Giles already had the inborn magic ability and knowledge - he just needed more power. Vi, on the other hand, isn't inherently magical. So I have to make her capable of doing magic, then give her the power to actually do it."
"Sounds complicated," Kennedy observed. Maybe Willow was distracted because she was caught up in how to work this spell. Maybe. She could hope.
"Yes. Very complicated...the spell...which I have to do."
Kennedy smiled. She loved it when Willow babbled. "If there's anything I can do to help..."
"Sorry," Willow shrugged. "Just something I have to do by myself."
"Okay." The Slayer headed for the door. "I'll be downstairs...if you need me."
Willow smiled nervously. Goddess, Kennedy had to leave. She didn't know how long she could hold up under the strain of not telling her things she should tell her but didn't want to tell her because it would upset her...
She was almost hyperventilating by the time Kennedy closed the door.
Willow jumped at the sound of Faith's voice. She'd been so focused on holding it together for Kennedy she hadn't even noticed the other Slayer's presence in the bathroom that connected their bedrooms.
"Faith," Willow said, slumping down on the bed. She was getting ready to attempt a major spell from a somewhat shaky emotional state. Why couldn't people just leave her alone? "Look, if you don't mind, I've got a lot of work to do, and I need to be alone to do it."
"So you sent your girlfriend away?" Faith, ignoring Willow's request, sprawled in a chair near the bed.
"Yes," Willow asserted. "Because if she were here, I wouldn't be alone."
Faith reached into her pocket, realizing at the last minute that her cigarettes weren't there. Damn Giles' house rules. Setting a good example for the pep squad was all well and good, but there were sometimes when a girl just needed a smoke. Like when she was about to confront a sort-of friend about something she didn't want to deal with.
She took in a deep, nicotine-free breath. "You didn't send Kennedy away because you have to work."
"Did to!" Willow protested.
"When are you going to tell Kennedy how you really feel about her?" Faith asked softly.
"I...I..." Willow's voice trailed off. For someone so self-absorbed and emotionally detached, Faith was remarkably insightful. "I can't tell her. I don't know how."
"Willow, you can't hide this," Faith insisted. "Little Miss Debutante isn't a rocket scientist, but she knows something's up. It's distracting her, and it's distracting you."
"Don't bother denying it, Red," Faith interrupted. "You're distracted, unfocused. And people who are distracted when facing down things called 'Death Eaters' become corpses. As does everyone around them."
"What do I say?" Willow asked helplessly, tears welling up in her eyes. "How do I tell the person who made me believe I could love again that I'm not in love with her?"
Oh no. Not tears. She was trying to be the caring, understanding friend type, but Faith didn't know what she'd do if there were tears. She had to get Willow back to thinking, not crying. "You've got to say something, Will. You just can't leave her hanging."
"I know," Willow sniffled. "But if I tell her I'm not in love with her and I want to break up with her, then I'll have to tell her why. And I can't tell her why."
"What happened?" Faith asked, curiously. "Something happened when you were off with your little Scooby gang. Something that changed you."
"I'm a bad, bad person," Willow stated. Only a horrible person would have done what she did. It was too terrible to admit out loud.
"You did something bad?" Now she was confused. What could Willow have done that was so awful? "Worse than killing people or trying to end the world?"
Willow shook her head. Okay, so it wasn't end-of-the-world evil. Still... "I cheated on her... with Xander."
Faith stared at Willow. Definitely not what she was expecting. Cheated with Buffy, maybe... but Xander? "Xander?"
"Yep." The redhead nodded. "Xander. Apparently I'm not as gay as I thought I was."
"Wow." Faith sat back, speechless.
"How am I supposed to tell Kennedy I'm breaking up with her, I don't love her, I cheated on her, and, oh, by the way, I'm not really a lesbian?"
"Maybe you shouldn't say, 'oh, by the way.'" Faith suggested, unable to suppress a laugh. Even romantic relationships were no where near normal around here.
Willow laughed with her. The whole situation was just so absurd.
"Seriously, Will," the Slayer said. "You've got to tell her something."
"I know," Willow admitted. "I'll tell her tomorrow. I have to concentrate on this spell tonight. First thing in the morning, we imbue Vi with the power of the Coven, and in the afternoon we're testing it out in Diagon Alley. When we get home tomorrow night, I'll tell her."
"Diagon Alley? That's some sort of wizard mall, right?"
"Sort of." Willow breathed deeply, relieved to be talking about something other than her highly complicated love life. "Giles has Wizard money for us all to use, and we can get all the wizardy supplies we need for the mission - wands, books, robes..."
"Robes?" Faith asked suspiciously. "You mean, like, for bed? 'Cause I generally sleep in the raw."
"Too much information!" Willow held up her hand, fearing what faith would say next.
"We seriously have to wear robes? All the time. In public?" She couldn't be serious. How were they supposed to kick the crap out of evil dressed like Gandalf wanna-bes?
"Yes, all the time," Willow insisted. "That's the way people dress in the wizarding world."
Faith groaned. The look on Willow's face looked suspiciously like her 'resolve face.' There was no getting around this one.
"Look at it as an opportunity to get a whole new wardrobe," the witch teased, Faith's discomfort taking her mind off of her own problems.
Faith stood up. Robes. Now she definitely needed a cigarette.
"Go away." Willow shooed her towards the door. "Thanks for the chat, but I have work to do."
"I'm gone," said the Slayer, pulling the door closed behind her as she exited the room.
"Now," Willow said, turning her attention back to her spell. "To complete the transfer of power..."