by M Phoenix

Kennedy sat on the back step in the late afternoon sun. She was enjoying some down time and trying to ignore the vapid Euro-pop song one of her fellow Potentials had been singing for the last two days. A song that had currently taken up residence in her own skull, and was stuck on constant repeat. She intended to make that girl suffer in the next training session. It seems only fair to balance out the pain she's inflicting on innocent ears, with a little pain -- call it instant karma.

An old paperback of poems by Rumi, she had borrowed from Willow's bookshelf, lay on her knee. Usually Kennedy wouldn't be caught dead reading poetry, she preferred detective novels. But this was different; she used to have a copy of this, a present, lost in the chaotic rush to escape the Bringers after they had killed her Watcher. Having it in her hands again, brought with it an unexpected wave of sadness. Idly she flipped through the pages, some of them were starting to come loose; she'd have to take care not to scatter them. Will was still pretty much terra incognita, a dark continent waiting to be explored, but she struck Kennedy as someone who could be inordinately protective of books, and she wouldn't want to upset her, she seemed edgier than a cat in a rocking chair factory as it was.

At first sight Kennedy had thought, cute redhead, perhaps being here could turn out to be fun. But she had become almost instantly aware of something else: indefinable, powerful, haunted, and hidden just behind the young woman's eyes. It tugged at her, made her want to know more, and the practiced check-out glance had turned into a stare before she realized what was happening, and forced herself to smile and look away. Here be dragons. Yeah, maybe. But it never hurt to flirt, and that's all I'm doing, flirting. I can handle it.

She ran a hand through her hair then opened the book, at the place where someone had left a snapshot of a black and white kitten inserted between the pages, and read.

'Borrow the beloved's eyes.
Look through them and you'll see the beloved's face everywhere.'


This is the last night, and Kennedy is acutely aware of the sleepless hours dragging by. The plan is made, Buffy Almighty has spoken, and tomorrow they will take the fight down into the Hellmouth itself; but for now all they can do is wait. Willow is curled up in the bed next to her, facing the wall. Her breathing is slow and measured, but her body is rigid, and Kennedy is pretty sure she's not catching z's either; after all, who could sleep at a time like this?

The reluctant army camped in the Summers' house are probably the only humans in Sunnydale tonight. Someone has left a single, lonely, candle burning on the dressing table, and to Kennedy, lying, watching the wavering light, it seems like a gesture of remembrance.

She has tried all the relaxation techniques Miriam, her Watcher, did her l evel best to teach her in her long years of training, and failed to reach even drowsy. She has tried thinking about algebra, equations, geometry; 'cause that always started her yawning in 'the prison camp', as she fondly christened her school--nada. She has even tried counting sheep, but the woolly-backs wouldn't co-operate. They started jumping in reverse, then lined up and shimmied suggestively towards her like cabaret dancers in Vegas, complete with tight spangley costumes. In the end she flipped the imaginary sheep the imaginary bird and stalked off. Now she's more wide awake than ever.


'No tiredness, no jaded boredom.
'I shall be your eye and your hand and your loving.'
Let that happen, and things
you have hated will become helpers.'


Miriam walked, though crashed may have been a better word, into Kennedy's young life, on a bitter cold December night a few days after Kennedy's eighth birthday. The TV news was issuing yet another inappropriately cheerful, severe weather warning -- telling people not to travel as the roads were blocked by snow and the blizzard was set to worsen -- when the doorbell rang, and continued to ring insistently. A few moments later George, the butler, came in looking slightly aggrieved, which was his normal expression, irrespective of mood, to announce that there was an "English woman asking for Miss Kennedy". Before he had a chance to finish, Miriam stepped easily around him, her narrow face flushed red by the cold, flakes of snow melting in her mousey brown hair. In clipped tones, she informed Kennedy, her big sister Constanza, and their rather bemused parents, that she had been "Sent by the Watchers' Council of Great Britain to take charge of a potential Slayer, and...oh, hadn't they been expecting her?"

After a brief, stunned silence Kennedy's father threw the, 'clearly insane,' English woman out of the house. Her mother decided she was feeling unwell and retired to bed with a large gin and tonic. The next day Miriam returned and was refused entry. On the third day she brought reinforcements, representatives from the Watchers' Council. They were very convincing; and Kennedy's parents decided, with an odd mixture of relief and trepidation, that if Miriam wanted to take charge of their little darling, she was welcome to try.

Kennedy hadn't found the news of her possible calling particularly strange, in fact it was kinda cool. However, she had taken one look at Miriam and decided she must be the poster-child-for-tweed-incarnate, and needed to be got rid of a.s.a.p. She instantly set about finding out how far she could push Mary Poppins before she snapped and left. But it turned out she had finally met her match, a tough Yorkshire woman, dedicated to her job, who was not about to be fazed by an eight year old with a Machiavelli complex. After a valiant struggle, Kennedy realized she'd actually come to like her Watcher, and they agreed a truce.

Later, when they had got to know each other better, it turned out Miriam was a mistress of disguise, more flower child than tweed child. She was a zealous believer in whole food, recycling, saving the whales, giving peace a chance, freedom from the yoke of capitalist greed, the medicinal properties of cannabis, and poetry -- perhaps poetry most of all. But, after an unfortunate incident with a crossbow -- which Kennedy had been ordered not to touch, yet couldn't quite keep her eternally curious little hands off - she learned that in spite of the touchy feely hippy lurking within her Watcher, she was one grown up you didn't want to have truly pissed at you -- ever.


The house is quieter than she can remember it being in all the months she has spent here. No whispered chatter from the other Potentials bagging it on every available inch of floor, no creaking footsteps on the stairs, no phone ringing, no toilet flushing, no rustle of midnight snacking, no laughter, not even any crying. It's as if everyone has retreated so deep inside themselves that almost every outer sign of life has been suspended until further notice. Kennedy used to enjoy silence, but right now she just finds it oppressive; it makes her feel unreal, disconnected, like she's lost in space, eternal cold, eternal night. She blinks hard. It seems like the situation is finally getting to her, she's not exactly given to bouts of nihilist angst. Any other time she'd laugh and tell herself to snap out of it, but in the present circumstances it's not so easy.

She used to wonder if that emptiness was what Hell would be like. Not hideously grinning demons prodding you with pitch forks, not lakes of fire and brimstone; but nothing, just you, alone, forever. She doesn't actually believe in Hell, and she has no clue what brimstone is; but she spent a while wondering, after this girl, Crystal, in ninth grade called her a 'dirty little freak' and informed her that she would go there when she died, because 'God hates Queers.' Kennedy knew she had nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, she was pretty sure if she sold her soul to Satan himself, her father probably had enough ready cash to buy it back a few times over. But she found she was more upset about the encounter than she would ever admit. A couple of years later she seduced Crystal, all perfect blond hair, sunny smiles and cheerleader outfits, in the locker room after gym class--what a kick. She hasn't really thought about the whole Hell thing since, and, until she uncovers further evidence, she's agnostic about God, though she would like to believe in...something.


'Those that make you return, for whatever reason,
to God's solitude, be grateful to them.
Worry about the others, who give you
delicious comforts that keep you from prayer.
Friends are enemies sometimes,
and enemies friends.'


Seventeen sounded so old, Kennedy wasn't sure if she was a happy birthday girl, or in mourning for her lost youth, as she passed her father's study on the way to breakfast, and heard raised voices behind the heavy oak door. She stopped to listen. It wasn't nosiness so much; more the recognition that generally, in her household, that was the best way to find out what the hell was going on. She could make out Miriam sounding increasingly irritated; and the low rumble of Dad interrupting; then the door was wrenched open abruptly and her father gave her only a cursory glance before storming off, followed by Miriam growling "Wassack!" at his retreating back in an accent that was more coal miner than Cambridge graduate.

"What the fuck was that about?" Kennedy demanded, striding into the room.

Miriam slumped into a chair, closed her eyes and massaged the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger. "Your father and I have a slight difference of opinion about..." she looked up and gestured vaguely as if trying to capture the right words, "about the significance of your calling, and mine, come to that. He seems to think I have been a bad influence on you. That if I wasn't around you might be less inclined towards getting kicked out of your next school."

"Hey!" Kennedy broke in, settling her fists on her hips, "that whole thing got blown way out of proportion, it wasn't entirely my fault; and anyway, I was really stoned at the time."

Miriam sighed and gave her a 'you're not helping your case' look before continuing. "He thinks your time would be better spent in pursuits other than fighting and studying demonology; especially as at your, er, advanced years it is increasingly unlikely you will ever be called as a Slayer. He implied that Slayers may not actually exist at all and the whole Watchers' Council is just an elaborate front for...something or other."

"Sounds like Daddy dearest just woke up with a bug up his ass this morning. I'll give him the whole big-eyed repentant routine -- he'll get over it."

"No doubt. You do realise, don't you, that your rebel without a clue act is serving no one, least of all yourself. Whatever you are trying to prove, this isn't the way. There is a time and a place for rebellion, but remember this -- certain rules must be respected; certain promises must be kept. It pains me to say it but I am...disappointed in you. I trust there will be no further incidents and I will not have to repeat myself."

Kennedy felt stung, her temper was rising. She resented it when her Watcher pulled rank on her, and was about to hit back with a suitably hurtful retort, when the words dried on her lips. She had never seen Miriam look so hurt, so tired, it disturbed her, sent ice running down her spine. Whatever happened they were in this together, her father would never understand that. She found there was a question buzzing around the back of her mind that she could not leave unspoken any longer. "So, am I?"


"Too old to be called?" Kennedy tried to make it sound casual, but couldn't quite keep the tremor out of her voice. She had spent the last nine years working, studying to be a Slayer, it was what she wanted, what she dreamed of, could all of it have been for nothing?

"No -- but you must remember, as I have always told you, many have the potential but few are chosen, and...the Slayer must die before a new Slayer is called. Do you really wish this girl death?" Without waiting for a reply, Miriam got up and rummaged in her shoulder bag; she produced a small, book shaped parcel wrapped in old newspaper and held it out to Kennedy, with a slow, half-smile. "I came here to give you this -- Happy Birthday."

Kennedy silently accepted the present and began to unwrap it. Generally she preferred not to think about the dead Slayer clause in the contract.

"I was training to be a Watcher long before you were even born. This is what my family have done for generations. I used to think that was all I was, but I realised it wasn't enough to sustain me; my spirit was withering up and dying. There is so much more in life, so much more to being human. It doesn't matter if you ever become the Slayer; what matters is who you are every moment, and one day I hope you will realise that too..." Miriam trailed off looking slightly embarrassed, but fierce with it. "Enjoy the poems, they were always my favourites."

Stupid fricking book. I thought Miriam, of all people, understood how badly I want...but she doesn't, she doesn't understand me at all. Kennedy left the room hurriedly; she was half way down the corridor before she realised she had forgotten to say thank you.


Kennedy rolls over slightly and wraps her arm carefully around Willow. If, by some miracle she has drifted off, the last thing she wants to do is wake her; but right at this moment she needs to hold her, because this may be all the time they have left and she doesn't want to waste it. Willow sighs and shifts closer to her, and Kennedy tries to focus on the sensation of her belly and breasts pressed up against the heat of her girlfriend's back, find comfort in Will's hair tickling the tip of her nose as she breaths in the scent of henna shampoo and clean skin. This is safe. This is good. This is happy endings. This is saving the princess using nothing but the power of your lips. This is flowers and making love on a moonlit beach -- which is overrated, sand gets everywhere. This is triumphing over evil and riding off into the sunset on your white horse, and all of that other fairytale crap...This is the woman I...I was trying not to fall in love with. This is the woman I might have to kill in the morning.

Suddenly Kennedy's heart lurches as if it's going to break out of her chest. She feels more alone than she has in her entire life. There is no comfort here. She can practically feel every vertebrae of Willow's spine, sharp against her own ribs, strange, she had never noticed before how thin Will is. There is too much heat coming from the witch, she feels damp and feverish, and there is a minute tremor passing through her that is threatening to turn into shaking. All Kennedy can do is hug her harder, and pray.

She remembers how, after Will had double checked her big spell for the billionth time, and, patiently, methodically, stowed the books and sheets of notes away; she had crawled into bed next to her and lain close, but not touching, gazing at the ceiling for what seemed like decades, as if there was a movie playing up there that only she could see. When she finally spoke her voice was barely audible. Of course she didn't want the room full of insomniac Potentials, to hear her, but Kennedy thought she sounded more like a scared child than the most powerful Wiccan in the West -- a woman on the verge of changing history by making her, and all of these girls, Slayers. In spite of the First, and possible, immanent death, Kennedy would have been a few state lines beyond excited at the prospect of becoming a Slayer at last, if it hadn't been for one thing --

"If, if I go to the bad place..."

"Will, please don't, not again."

Willow's tone grew stronger. "If I go to the bad place the First Evil could be the least of your worries. You'd have to kill me -- promise."

"This is crazy. I told you, I'll be there to keep you grounded and you're gonna be fine. So there will be no stabbing, shooting, beheading, or anything else involving sharp, pointy objects. Case closed, end of story. Okay?"

"You only heard the stories, second hand news, you d-don't really know what this thing inside me is capable of; what I'm capable of."

"It's not you, stop saying that. I won't hurt you, you can't make me."

Kennedy had spent half her life learning all the different ways you could make an alive thing dead. Although pre-Sunnydale she'd never actually had the chance to try those methods out, in the field, she had always enjoyed the challenge, always been inventive. But now she couldn't stop the graphic freeze frame images of her killing her lover, in all those different and interesting ways, from flashing through her mind, over and over and over. Oh Christ -- there's so much blood. I did that...with my hands. My hands. She was well aware that Will could be dangerous, she'd had a taste of that darkness quite recently, but she hoped if she simply refused to believe in it, with enough determination, it might go away.

There was look of raw pain on Willow's face that she was doing her best to cover with a deeply unconvincing smile. "Hurt. No, I can't make you. I know this is a terrible thing to ask you to do; I wish I didn't have to; but believe me when I tell you it is for the best. You're my safety net, only in this case safe might mean kinda dead, and now I realize this analogy really doesn't work; but hey, I can't think of anyone I'd r-rather be killed by -- I'm sure you're, y'know, really good at it. Not that I thought about it, much, and anyway, you're probably right, right, and everything will be just fine; " Willow took a deep breath, and abandoned the smile. "But if it isn't -- promise me, please."

Kennedy reached out and stroked a strand of fine red hair back from Willow's forehead, thinking there had to be something, some argument or joke she could use that would make all the difference; that would make this not be happening. But her mind went blank and she couldn't find anything else to say, an extremely rare occurrence in her life. So she made the hardest promise she had ever made, and fought the urge to cry when Will murmured "I'm sorry," kissed her, then slowly turned away from her to face the wall.


'The soul is a newly skinned hide, bloody and gross.
Work on it with manual discipline,
and the bitter tanning acid of grief, and you'll become lovely, and very strong.'


The day her Watcher died, Kennedy was late for training, because of a book.

For someone touched by destiny, Kennedy had a remarkable immunity to the magical and esoteric, so she had not been overjoyed at being presented with the collected ramblings of a thirteenth-century Sufi mystic. She had dumped the book in her bottom drawer and ignored it for months, but eventually she grudgingly began reading the poems because Miriam cared so much about them, and she cared about Miriam. She read one, and then another and another, and she was pretty certain that she didn't get half of what this guy was writing about, but he wrote with so much real passion, and longing, and humour, that she kept going back to try and figure it out. He wrote about God like a lover, not a hearts and flowers, chocolate box kind of lover, but someone who could give you the night of your life, and make you come so hard you forgot your own name. She was paraphrasing of course, and he would have called it spiritual union, an experience of oneness, but, whatever, she liked it. And there was always the parable of the maid servant, the impatient mistress, and the donkey, which had left her eyebrows hovering somewhere close to her hairline. It wasn't the kind of tale she'd expected from a religious guy.

Kennedy had been hanging out with her new pal Rumi, in her favourite little Italian coffee shop, just off the main street. She had quickly discovered that looking soulful and reading Persian poetry, in translation of course, while sipping your espresso was a great way to pick up women. Not that she was shallow, in fact she found it all rather romantic. Unfortunately, that day all she picked up was a middle aged professor of English literature, trawling for jailbait; and in her hurry to get rid of him she left her book behind. By the time she had gone back to retrieve it, she was in a foul mood and half an hour late, so she could expect one of Miriam's lectures on punctuality. Oh joy.

She needn't have worried.

Miriam was lying, unmoving, on the floor of the training room, near the vaulting horse, a dark pool of blood congealing around her body, her face stark white, looking terribly dead. For a few shocked, seconds Kennedy stopped, frozen in the doorway. Then her training kicked in, she dropped her bag and took up a fighting stance, glaring around the room to see if the perpetrator was still at the scene of the crime. Fuck! Some sonofabitch is in for a world of pain. But there was no one to pummel. Kennedy ran to Miriam then, hoping against hope that she might still be alive. But there was no pulse, no breath, her body was already starting to cool; her blue eyes were glazed and staring at nothing, with an expression of almost comical surprise. Gone -- how can she be gone? Kennedy reached out and shook her Watcher, her friend, as if she just needed a good wake up call, but only succeeded in getting more blood smeared on her hands. It felt sticky; obscene. She crawled into a corner and dry heaved until she was dizzy, but she didn't cry; she had always prided her self on not being a girly crybaby like her sister. She was still crouching there when a harried looking middle aged English man arrived to tell her she had to move because the Bringers were on their way back, and he was there to take her to Sunnydale, California, and the protection of the Slayer.


The candle is burning low now, its wick swimming, nearly drowning in a pool of wax. The bed seems like an island in the rising dark. Kennedy's arm is going numb, but there is no way she is letting go of Willow, she doesn't ever want to let go of her. She can feel the shudders wracking Will's body, through every cell of her own, this is not how she imagined love would be. The shaking seems to be getting worse -- shit, maybe she's sick, that could win an award for worst timing ever. I should be doing something instead of just lying here like a brick. "What's wrong sweetheart?" She whispers.

Willow stiffens. "Nothing. I'm scared, that's all. I-I wish this was over."

"Ya wanna know a secret?" Kennedy asks, kissing Will's bare shoulder, and trying to sound reassuring. "Me too, I'm terrified."

More shaking.

"Will, is there anything I can do to help you -- anything?"

Willow grasps Kennedy's hand and squeezes it with unexpected strength. "You are helping. Just don't go away, 'kay?"

"I'm not gonna leave you -- though I may have to pee, at some point, I guess I should probably get up to do that." Stupid. Lame and stupid.


"Uh-huh." Which translates as, I love you. If we'd had more time could you have, maybe, loved me?

Silence. Willow traces Kennedy's knuckles with the tips of her fingers, slowly, delicately. Her breathing sounds ragged, and when she speaks, her voice is thin, defeated and halting, as if it hurts to form words. "Remember I told you that this is what lies on the other side of the greatest darkness I've ever known. Well I feel like I've been hiding from this, from myself, my whole life. And the more I tried to hide the worse I screwed up. With my friends. The magicks. Tara...and now I'm hurting you. I tried, but I'm still hiding and I don't know how to stop; and I don't wanna screw up again, 'cause I never want to cause that kind of pain, and 'cause you're all relying on me t-to...but I'm lost, and it's my fault, and I can't find my way anywhere anymore. I' tired."

Oh God. Kennedy's heart is sinking. I'm in way out of my depth. I'm really losing her; and if she's lost, we're all lost. This is not how I thought it would end.

A few more minutes drag tortuously by. Willow is still now. It's as if she's given up struggling, as if she's already dead. And Kennedy knows that in the morning she will keep her promise. Not out of a sense of honour, or duty, or any of those big, heroic virtues that Watchers like to believe wannabe Slayers possess, but simply because Will trusts her.

Shadows flicker across the walls, as the candle flame flares briefly, then dies with a wet hiss. Kennedy is expecting darkness, has been waiting for it with a kind of weary resignation; but instead, as the candle snuffs out, she realises the whole room is flooded with moonlight spilling through the half open curtains; pale silver light rendering everything strangely beautiful, magical, perfect. For a moment she's floating in the clear space between thoughts, free, powerful, and she forgets to be afraid. Time seems to stop, as if there's simply no need for it anymore, because something more real has taken its place -- Then one of the Potentials sneezes explosively, and giggles. It starts a chain reaction of whispering, coughing, fidgeting, nervous laughter -- the unspoken recognition that they may all be dead before the day is out, but they are alive now, and that is what matters.

Kennedy feels Willow shift in her arms, and twist round until she is facing her, their heads resting on the same pillow. She draws her into a gentle kiss, wanting to share the odd feeling of relief that's suddenly sweeping through her, wanting to comfort her, and is surprised when Will responds almost fiercely. She tastes salt on her lips and, when she finally pulls away to look at her, she sees her girlfriend's eyes are bright with tears, her expression an awkward combination of grief, acceptance, and...a tiny glimmer of hope.

"I think," Willow says musingly, her voice all but drowned out by the racket the newly revived Potentials are making, "that maybe sometimes the secret is knowing when to just let go."


The sound of slightly raised voices drifted through the open, kitchen window, Buffy and Dawn discussing dinner options, Dawn was making a last ditch stand for pizza, but was clearly losing; Kennedy smiled wryly and continued reading, it seemed like such a wonderfully normal argument to be having in the midst of a war with the ultimate evil.

'If you can't do this work yourself, don't worry.
You don't have to make a decision,
one way or another. The Friend, who knows
a lot more than you do, will bring difficulties,
and grief, and sickness,
as medicine, as happiness,
as the essence of the moment when you're beaten,
when you hear Checkmate, and can finally say,
with Hallaja's voice,
I trust you to kill me.'

She slipped the blurred snapshot of a black and white kitten back between the pages, closed the book, and stood up to go inside. Willow should be home soon.


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