By Loki

Copyright © 2003

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: These characters are the sole property of Mutant Enemy and Fox. No infringement of copyright is intended and no profit is made.


Sure, wherever you like. Just please let me know where it's going.

Spoilers: None, really. It's kinda AU. Say this picks up a few weeks after Season 7's First Date.

Feedback: Yes, please!

Pairing: Willow/Kennedy

Author's Note: I adore Kennedy. I also adored Tara. I sincerely believe it's possible to do both.

Summary: Kennedy faces her destiny.

When it happened, Buffy finally had to talk about Faith. The girl who died so I could claim the "birthright" my Watcher first told me about when I was eight years old. It was a long wait. Eleven years. It happened right when I'd given up.

Funny thing, birthright. You want it, you crave it, then you think it might have passed you by. And that makes you so angry—was the training and sweating and bleeding and pride and dreaming for nothing? Ever tried to explain a calling like mine to uninitiated parents? We kept it a secret until I was fifteen, and that took some doing.

Demons are real, Mom. Vampires are real. Good and Evil are not just Biblical concepts. The "creepy old English man" isn't just my friend, he's my Watcher. No, he never tried "funny stuff" on me. Plus, I'd kinda rather be doing funny stuff with Lissa Gardener, anyway. Don't you get it, Dad? I'm gonna be the Slayer. I'm gonna be the fucking Slayer. And all those evil things? They're gonna be afraid of me, not the other way around.

When it all came out, they didn't talk to me for a week. But I was stoked. Primed. The whole idea of one day being such a bad-ass was more of a turn-on, more of a high, than I could ever explain. Now I was special.

That was before I knew what I'd really been asking for. Before I knew Buffy. And more importantly, before I knew Willow.

Then, "birthright" becomes this dirty word. You don't want it, you hate it, you loathe the whole idea of being just the latest in a long line of girls who are going to die for the greater good. It makes your gut twist in this sickening realization that it'll be all about you and nobody else. Just you, going on and on, fighting and struggling until some Big Bad breaks your neck in a filthy alley, or you choke on graveyard dirt with hot teeth tearing into your throat.

You lose. Not just your life, but the people in it as well. Person. Person in it.

Then, you don't want to be Chosen after all.

But just when you've got your head around this concept, this fear—the dirty word gets invoked out of the blue on an otherwise uneventful Wednesday afternoon. And suddenly you can break banister rails without blinking, but nothing else is much different except now you have a big fat target on your chest. And an expiration date.

Fucking birthright.

They asked about it, all of them. Separately, together.

"What was it like?"

"Oh my god, what was it like?"

"When it happened, what was it like?"

"What did it feel like?"

And on and on, until I wanted to use my new and scary strength to pound them into Potential Smears On The Floor. Because I knew they weren't asking about me. It was just Intel, to use a Buffy word. They were gathering information. They were waiting their turn. They eye me speculatively now, because it's me, see? It's my death they're waiting for this time around. I cannot ever express in words how creepy that knowledge is.

I'll tell you how it felt. It was 2:30 or thereabouts. I was drinking orange juice and dissing Andrew the geek boy. (So easy to do.) And then it was 2:31 and suddenly IwastheSlayerandjustknewit with a blinding hot sickly rush that nearly made my ears bleed. I fell off the chair and hit my head on the edge of the table. So graceful. And by the time I stood up on shaky legs, the bruise was already fading.

Willow cried.

A lot, actually, which made me feel so amazingly warm inside, but in another way made me want to shrivel and die for being yet another person to put hurt in her eyes.

Things were going so well between us, you see. Slow at first, then picking up speed like a kid going downhill on a soapbox racer. Can you love somebody in a matter of a month? I don't know. If you can, then I'm in love. She kisses me and it spears me right through the chest. She laughs and I want to make it so she never stops. She cries and I want to hurt everything and everybody in the world until she's better.

"I'm not ready, Kennedy," she told me. "Not ready to be this scared for another person about."

There wasn't any reassurance I could give her that was true. Instead, we just put our arms around each other and stayed that way for a long time. Then we went together to tell Buffy, because we both knew what my Calling meant.

Buffy wept, too. Not for me. For Faith. Right while I was trying to explain to her what had happened, the phone rang. Dawn told her it was somebody named Wesley, calling from LA. Buffy picked it up. Greeted Wesley. Listened. And then her face went gray.

Faith died at the hands of some rock-plated Hell Beast from deep underground. She'd broken out of jail to help out what Willow called "our big-city branch" and she'd paid for it with her life. It was easier for me, not knowing her. I never met her, never saw her. I could pretend that my little Wednesday surprise had nothing to do with a girl torn to pieces in the basement of an LA hotel.

Until Buffy gave me her picture.

God, she had been so beautiful.

I stared at it—at her—my cheeks burning, while Buffy sat on the sofa and cried with Dawn's arms around her. Eventually, Willow came and led me away.

I couldn't sleep that night. Hell, I could have been sedated twenty ways to Sunday and I still wouldn't have been able to close my eyes. We made the other girls go upstairs and I spent the night in the basement with Willow and Spike. For a vampire, Spike's okay. He sparred with me until my muscles shook—I was so goddamn strong—laying into him hard enough to kill. He took it. When he realized I wasn't going to break, or give him any quarter, he started to give it back. But this time when I was pushed, I didn't go down. When he tackled me into a beam and my head smashed against it, I shook it off and knocked him flat. He never even spoke. Seemed to know what I needed.

We'd been going for about half an hour when it happened. I stumbled, and he landed a shot on my ribs that sent me reeling. I hit the ground, hard. Before I could get up he was over me, his features sliding into that of the demon, eyes glowing golden.

I froze. Couldn't move. Couldn't breathe. And it hit home that if this was real, if Spike was still a killer, then those eyes would have been the last thing I ever saw.

Faith had a moment like this.

One day, Buffy would too.

Spike's face changed back as my view of him blurred with tears. He helped me up, put his arm around me, led me over to the sofa and left quietly as I started sobbing into Willow's lap.

Like I said, for a vampire, Spike's okay.

"Shhh," Willow whispered, stroking my hair. "It's the first night, Ken. The next one'll be easier."

Things were quiet on Thursday. People seemed to know to keep out of my way.

Xander patted my shoulder without saying anything.

Anya managed to rein in any other comment besides, "I'm extremely glad it's you and not Molly."

Dawn made me breakfast, gliding around the kitchen in her socks. Just as I thought she was never going to look at me again, she kissed me on the cheek and left. Even Andrew seemed subdued. I heard him muttering something about being "plucked from an ordinary life" but a dirty look from Will shut him up.

Buffy didn't come down until lunch time. When she did, she called me into the living room. Willow followed, but refrained from taking the place next to me. "Slayer time," she mouthed, sitting at the bottom of the stairs.

It felt so formal, both of us seated there, careful not to look too closely at each other. I saw the marks of grief on her face, saw the new picture on the mantelpiece next to her mother's, next to Tara's. A small, sad line-up of the lost and the missed. I looked at Buffy and wondered how she'd gotten through seven years of this gig without losing her mind.

Finally, she spoke.

"Are you okay?"

I almost laughed. What a fucking question. She knew, better than anybody, how not okay I was. But I nodded anyway. "Are you?"

She drew in a deep breath. Instead of answering she asked, "Tested your strength yet?"

I pointed to a fading bruise on my cheekbone. "On Spike."

She smiled. "Huh. I remember the first night. I kicked down our back fence just because I could."

I smiled back. "Maybe later."

There was a short silence before she continued. "I'm going to let you in on something. Can I ask you a personal question?"

Like I could stop her. I nodded.

Buffy leveled a flat gaze at me. "Are you in love with Willow?"

Whoa, mama. It was like being doused in fire and liquid nitrogen at the same time. I glanced quickly to the stairs, where Willow sat—knowing she could hear us, knowing by the way her eyes flicked away that she had heard the question too. Hell, I could practically feel her holding her breath.

Oh, shit.

Well, my Dad always said, 'It all comes out in the wash, Ken.' I don't lie. And I won't now.

"Yes," I answered, through a throat of ice, without taking my eyes off Willow. "I think so."

Yeah, you heard me. Abracadabra that one away, Willow Rosenberg.

Willow jerked a little, then her cheeks flamed. To hide it, she buried her face in her arms, but not before I saw shock and incredulity flit across it—and something else. She was glad! I couldn't stop my grin, so I bit my lip instead.

"Good," Buffy said decisively. "Keep loving her. Love everybody you can. Love your family. Love your friends. Hell, love me if it helps."

I finally looked back at her. "Helps what?"

"Helps keep you alive," she answered quietly. "That's the secret."

"To Slaying, or life?"

She did smile then. "Same difference."

My confusion must have shown on my face, because she actually laughed. "Sorry. Didn't mean to go all Watchtower on you. Look. There are people who'll tell you Slaying is a loner gig. They couldn't be more wrong. If you have nothing and nobody to cling to...if nobody believes in you...then you have no reason to fight."

She stopped talking and swallowed hard. I could see that she was swallowing tears and suddenly I ached for her. Poor Buffy. Always so strong.

"Faith," she said. "Faith didn't believe that people cared. And she went off the rails. So if you have somebody to love, don't let them go."

I glanced up at Willow again. This time she was looking back, and what I saw in her face made my stomach jolt. In the good way. Hell, yeah. Hell, yeah.

"And that's the last time I give you the I-know-better-than-you speech," Buffy said, standing up. She rested her hand briefly on my shoulder. "We're partners now. Welcome aboard the Slayer Express. Train leaves in a hour."

I blinked. "Leaves?"

Buffy nodded. "Leaves."

I looked to Willow, who had the same question on her face that I did. "What about the First?"

"The First can bite me. Besides, everybody's going. We've got something to take care of."

"Okay," I replied. "But where exactly are we taking care of it?"

Buffy's face hardened. "Los Angeles."

And I understood. Faith deserved vengeance. Three hours later as I sat in the car, Willow's fingers entwined with mine and her head on my shoulder, I stared at Faith's picture until my eyes blurred, hoping and praying I'd be the one to deliver it for her.

The End

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