Title: Again


"If this is how you define talking then I can't wait 'til you get around to explaining sex!" teased Buffy, rolling onto her side. Willow just lay there staring at the ceiling.

"Um...huh?" muttered Willow. Buffy laughed and reached over to tickle her, causing Willow to squeal. She silenced any protests by kissing her. Again.

"Buffy," said Willow out of the side of her mouth.

"Not now, silly," complained Buffy.

"Aren't you worried about Xander? He shoulda been back by now," reminded Willow. Buffy sighed and lay on her side, propping up her head with one hand.

"You worried about him being late or the possibility of Xander coming back and catching us?" asked Buffy as she played with Willow's hair, twirling it around one finger.

"Little of both...but can you imagine what Xander would say if he found us?" giggled Willow.

"There's that," smiled Buffy. Willow sat up, supporting herself by leaning on both elbows.

"I don't think he's in danger. I mean, Leigh could've, you know...but she didn't," said Willow.

"And why is that?" wondered Buffy out loud.

"Because she wants to live so that she can be with Kennedy. And if she really hurt Xander then she knows you'd kill her after I was done making her unlife just a bit more miserable than she'd like," explained Willow.

"Okay. We'll find Kennedy...in a little while," winked Buffy, "and try to talk her out of this. There's not much we can do to stop her anyway short of convincing her it's the wrong thing to do. But if the worst happens, well, I remember what Anya told me. Kennedy can't hurt you. She can't exact vengeance for herself. Wonder if she knows that?"

"I doubt it, what with the bitter-ass mood she's in. She went all Midnight-Train-To-Georgia on me," sighed Willow.


"Never mind," replied Willow, shaking her head.

"So right now..."

"Xander is probably peacefully eating our dinner. And if he's really late it only means that he felt guilty and had to go back to buy more," finished Willow.

"So we have a little more time to..."

Willow nodded approvingly at Buffy's suggestion.

"We do," agreed Buffy firmly.

"Though maybe we should readjust our wardrobe just a bit?" suggested Willow. "You know, in case Xander comes in without knocking?"

Sitting up, Buffy smiled...and quickly unbuttoned her blouse, letting it slip down onto the bed behind her. Her bra, having been pushed up to almost her collarbone by Willow's groping hands, was left as it was. Willow's eyes opened wide and she tried, rather unsuccessfully, not to stare.

"Not exactly what I had in mind. And yet..."

Willow met Buffy's challenge by pulling her sweater over her head, tossing it to the floor. She left her bra on, as if daring Buffy to remove it.

"Willow! I didn't know the idea of getting caught turned you on so!" teased Buffy.

"Neither did I," blushed Willow, laying back down on the bed. "But it would be worth it just to see the look on Xander's face!"

"And what exactly is on your mind?" ventured Buffy, taking her place beside Willow.

"My thoughts are quite impure at the moment. Perhaps it's best that I show you rather than waste time with the talking," smiled Willow.

"You sure your magicks aren't working?' asked Buffy, snuggling closer. "Because you sure are having an effect on me."

"Speaking of witch as in girl who likes brooms, why did you and Xander think my spell went all wonky? Presume much?" pouted Willow. "Failed spells are old Willow."

"Let me apologize for both of us," offered Buffy, first tugging at Willow's earlobe with her teeth then kissing the side of her neck.

"Well...maybe I'll let it slide...this time. Mmm, hope Xander takes his time with dinner."

"You want that other eggroll?" asked Xander.

"Nope. It's all yours," answered Kennedy as she slurped down some wonton soup.

"Thanks! Hey, could you pass the duck sauce?"

"Sure," nodded Kennedy.

Xander quickly wolfed down the eggroll, his eyes glancing around the small room they were in. There wasn't much to look at. Four windowless brick walls, maybe eight feet by ten feet, a single naked light bulb on the ceiling. They sat cross-legged, facing one another. Behind Kennedy a steep flight of ten stairs led up to a closed metal door. Xander turned slightly, looking at the metal grate at the base of the wall behind him. He could hear the surf through it. The grate was just wide enough for him to squeeze through.

"It's solid. Even a Slayer couldn't kick it in," said Kennedy, guessing his thoughts.

Xander wiped his hands on his pants and stared at Kennedy.

"So what's the plan? You hide me here until Willow promises to reverse her spell?" asked Xander.

"Which spell? Oh, you mean the one where she tried to kill my lover?" replied Kennedy sarcastically, pushing her soup aside. "Sorry Xander, it's not that simple. Besides, you mighta noticed that Willow doesn't have her powers at the moment, so that's not an option."

"Wait a minute, how did you know..."

"Did you try to stop her? Either of you?" spat Kennedy.

"She didn't ask our opinion. We were told after the fact," corrected Xander.

"Fine. It's on her. But didn't it bother you? Especially you!" said Kennedy, her voice rising.

"Me? Why're you singling me out?" asked Xander defensively.

"Anya," answered Kennedy.

"That's different!" snapped Xander.

"How?" replied Kennedy, even louder. "And how is not killing Spike any different? I don't wanna hear about any damn chip, he was dangerous! Did anyone try to kill him other than by wearing him out in bed?"

"Hey! I'm with you on that one. More than once and in quite numerous ways I wanted to be the one to...um, well, except for the wearing him out in bed idea," cringed Xander.

Kennedy shook her head and let out a long sigh, not looking at Xander.

"No, really. See, there was a lot of tension with Spike, sure, but it wasn't sexual, okay?" tried Xander.

Kennedy simply raised her eyebrows at him. Xander pointed a finger at her.

"Well, maybe there was sexual tension with Buffy and him, but that's hindsight for ya. I mean, at the time, who knew? Hence the hindsight."


"Right," nodded Xander, somewhat red-faced now.

"For what it's worth, I couldn't stop Buffy when she decided to kill Anya," said Xander softly. "Well, I mean try to kill. Vengeance Demons are tougher than you think."

That got Kennedy's attention.

"Did Willow...what did she do?" asked Kennedy.

"She's the one that told Buffy that Anya needed to...that something had to be done," admitted Xander.

"Oh," nodded Kennedy. "Wow."

"Yeah," agreed Xander.

"You loved Anya, I..."

Kennedy faltered, meeting Xander's eyes with her own.

"And she still..."

"Yeah," repeated Xander sadly. Kennedy slowly inhaled and glanced at her watch.

"What is it with you Slayers and vampires? I just don't get it," sighed Xander to himself, as if Kennedy wasn't even there.

"Guess it's all about wanting something you can't have," shrugged Kennedy. Xander looked up, perplexed. Kennedy tilted her head slightly to one side, studying him.

"Does it disgust you that I have feelings for a vampire? Do you think it's some kind of perversion that I have sex with her?" asked Kennedy calmly.


"You know what? I don't deserve your ridicule! You loved a demon..."

"Ex-demon," corrected Xander strongly.

Kennedy inhaled deeply and looked away.

"Whatever. Guess I'm flawed that way," shrugged Kennedy, though her teeth were clenched.

"Then I am too," answered Xander, getting Kennedy to look at him. "And there's nothing wrong with that."

"Maybe. Maybe not. Or maybe that's why Willow can't love me...because I'm flawed. I can't hide it, not from her," said Kennedy, her voice trailing off.

"No. Kennedy, don't do this to yourself. Willow loves you. I loved Anya," added Xander, shrugging one shoulder. "It's just, sometimes these things just don't work out."

Kennedy closed her eyes, but only for a moment.

"Xander, when Anya was a Vengeance Demon...did she have a soul?"

He didn't answer right away, and that was out of character for him. Talk first, think later, that was his style. But something in the tone of Kennedy's voice had thrown him. It was almost as if she were frightened. Very frightened. He had never seen Kennedy act afraid of anything.

"Not you too! I already went over this with Leigh," protested Xander, carefully watching for her reaction.

"Xander...please?" begged Kennedy, no longer trying to hide her emotions.

"Look, to be honest, I just don't know. But I know Anya had a conscience and that, in the end, she did the right thing. It's why she lost her powers," nodded Xander.

"So she had free will," said Kennedy to herself more than Xander.

"I guess," shrugged Xander.

"Thanks," nodded Kennedy, smiling. "You just helped me make up my mind. Makes me a little more comfortable with my decision."

"What? No! No, see, free will doesn't mean that D'Hoffryn won't punish you if you don't do what he wants!"

Kennedy raised her eyebrows at the mention of D'Hoffryn's name.

"Yeah, we know what's going on. Kennedy, you can't be serious about this!"

Kennedy stood but Xander stayed where he was.

"I am."

"Kennedy...she's a vampire and she doesn't have a soul," sighed Xander.

"But she has a conscience, just like Anya," said Kennedy, her voice calm, confident.

"Has she asked you to spend eternity together yet, to become like her?" demanded Xander.


"If Leigh loves you she'll want to be with you. Forever. You're mortal, she's not," reminded Xander.

"Leigh wouldn't turn me. She wouldn't want to be with me like that," denied Kennedy.

"Oh, you'd have a choice?" laughed Xander.

"Yes! I told you, she's got a conscience!" shouted Kennedy. "She's not like that."

"Fish gotta eat, birds gotta swim. Trust me, she's like that," affirmed Xander.

"Xander, if I don't become...if I don't accept this, then at sunrise Willow's spell kicks in. And Leigh dies," winced Kennedy.

"Oh. Um...wow," managed Xander.

"Yeah," nodded Kennedy.

"What did Leigh say when you told her?" asked Xander, standing up.

"She doesn't know," confessed Kennedy.

"I'm going with wow again. That's blackmail," said Xander. "You trust D'Hoffryn after he..."

"It's not blackmail, it's an offer!" yelled Kennedy. "A chance to right a wrong. Trust doesn't matter! I trusted Willow and look where it got me."

"You know that if you go through with this you can't hurt Willow, right? It doesn't work that way. You can't avenge yourself. I know. Anya tried, but she couldn't hurt me. Well, not like that anyway," sighed Xander.

For a moment it seemed that his words had affected her. Kennedy looked down at the floor, her shoulders slumping. Xander took a step forward and Kennedy immediately looked up, taking a step back away from him.

"Even if you could, the guilt would eat you up. I saw what it did to Anya. She wouldn't let me help her. Kennedy, let me help you. Revenge isn't what it's all cracked up to be," said Xander, extending his hand towards her.

Kennedy slowly smiled, but it was a cold, emotionless grimace.

"Revenge doesn't only feel good, Xander, it feels right" said Kennedy softly. "Time to take a goddess down a notch or two."

Kennedy reached down and picked up a roll of duct tape and a thick rope from the floor, one in each hand.

"Kennedy, wait! There has to be another way!" yelled Xander.

"Look, we can do this the hard way or the easy way, it's your choice. So what's it gonna be, tape or rope first?" asked Kennedy, holding each up. Xander shook his head and held out his hands in front of him.

"Sorry, hands behind you," ordered Kennedy.

When she was done tying his hands together Xander simply stood there and glared at her. Kennedy ripped off a piece of tape and held it near his mouth but Xander made no effort to resist. She had been surprised that he hadn't tried to talk her out of this, even more surprised that he hadn't spoken at all. Almost forgetting about Xander's cellphone, she reached into his jacket pocket and threw it to the floor, stepping on it. Kennedy turned and walked up the stairs, not looking back at him, and pushed the heavy rusted door shut behind her. Xander heard the lock click shut.

The sound of the water suddenly seemed louder in the empty, damp room. Xander turned, his eyes opening wide. Water was now seeping up through the grate. And it was rising fast.

Kennedy turned around. Leigh was standing there, waiting for her.

"Where did you get the key?" asked Leigh.

"I used to fish off here as a little girl. The old man who tended the lighthouse looked after me, think he felt sorry for me or something. I didn't have a lot of friends...but he was one. One day I took the key when he wasn't and made a copy. He never knew," said Kennedy.

"Why did you take it?"

"Because he would never show me this room, said it was dangerous to play in. You don't tell me I can't have something. Enough history, we gotta get going," said Kennedy, crossing her arms.

"Do I really have to do this?" frowned Leigh.

"Yeah," nodded Kennedy. "Just, just do it fast, get it over with. I need that eye to swell up some. Gotta make this look convincing."

"She believed your act before, didn't she?" frowned Leigh. "Just talk your way out of it."

"Leigh, we don't have time for this!"

"Fine! Close your eyes," ordered Leigh.

"No," answered Kennedy, shaking her head. Leigh started to argue but quickly changed her mind when Kennedy stuck her tongue out at her. The punch was thrown faster than Kennedy had anticipated. She fell to the floor but immediately found herself in Leigh's arms.

"I'm sorry," winced Leigh, holding her close.

"You punch like a girl," grimaced Kennedy, almost laughing. Leigh helped her to her feet and, unexpectedly, pushed her hard against the wall, her mouth finding Kennedy's lips, and the Slayer briefly gave in to the moment.

"Hey, you don't get to second base after you just punched me," scolded Kennedy, slapping away Leigh's hand as it moved up to her breast. "Not yet, anyway."

"Big tease," pouted Leigh.

Three short but loud raps on the door. Each of their eyes blinked open at the same time, their lips still connected if only for the moment. The knocking was repeated, louder this time. Buffy sprang out of bed, frantically groping for her clothes. Unseen, Willow's shoulders slumped, her pout anything but cute.

"So much for the wondering about the look on Xander's face," whispered Willow as she tugged on her sweater.

"What?" asked Buffy, reaching for her pants.

"Nothing," sighed Willow with an edge to her voice. Buffy picked up on her anger and hesitated, standing there with her pants in one hand. The knocking came once more.

"Willow, what's wrong?"

"Freaking out much? Xander wouldn't knock, Buffy, even if he suspected something. Especially if he suspected something...which he doesn't, by the way. He has a key," explained Willow, methodically getting dressed.

"Huh? What do you...oh, hey, no! Will, it's not like that," said Buffy. She struggled with getting one leg into her pants and fell back onto her butt with a loud 'hrumph'! Willow couldn't help but smile and she almost laughed out loud as she reached for the doorknob.

"Kennedy!" shouted Willow, opening the door. "You're hurt!"

Willow reached out to touch the side of her face. Kennedy leaned away, slowly lowering her hand as if she had been about to knock on the door again, but her eyes were focused on something behind Willow. Willow turned to catch Buffy as she finished tucking her blouse into her pants.

"It's Xander. She...she has him," gasped Kennedy between breaths.

"What? What do you mean she has him?" questioned Willow, awkwardly trying to ignore Buffy. The color drained from Buffy's face as she walked over to stand next to Willow.

"Leigh, she...we got into an argument," explained Kennedy, hands on her knees now.

"Arguments don't leave bruises," commented Buffy. Kennedy ignored her.

"Willow, I told her that you...that you tried to kill her. She just lost it!"

"How badly are you hurt?" asked Willow. Kennedy gave her a pained look that easily conveyed the double meaning of that question.

"I'll live," answered Kennedy coldly.

"Where's Xander?" demanded Buffy harshly. Kennedy straightened up but put a hand to her side, wincing.

"The lighthouse. At the mouth of the harbor. I'm...I was too weak to fight her. Willow, I'm sorry! I came here as soon as..."

"Save it. Let's get going!" barked Buffy, already pushing past her.

"Wait! If she sees you she'll kill him this time!" warned Kennedy.

"She's right, Buffy. Slow down. Besides," said Willow, kneeling down beside her suitcase on the floor. It only took a moment or two to find what she was looking for. "You'll need this."

Willow tossed a stake over to Buffy and she caught it in a smooth, practiced motion. They both immediately looked at Kennedy. The Slayer looked down at her feet and reluctantly nodded her approval.

"You sure?" asked Willow softly.

"Yeah. Follow me," she said softly, her voice catching. Limping slightly, she walked out into the parking lot without waiting for an answer. Willow hurried to catch up with her while Buffy trailed behind.

"Kennedy, we know about D'Hoffryn," said Willow. Kennedy only glanced at her, keeping her eyes focused on the ground ahead.

"You can't even be considering his offer, right? You have no idea..."

"Willow, we can talk about this later. Right now helping Xander comes first," answered Kennedy, still not looking at Willow. Buffy moved up to be at Willow's side.

"We wouldn't have to help him if..."

"If what, Buffy?" yelled Kennedy. She stopped and turned around, staring directly at Buffy. "How is this my fault? If she hadn't tried to kill her..."

Kennedy's voice failed her so she turned and limped away. Buffy and Willow looked at one another with Willow looking away first. They didn't speak as they followed Kennedy.

"We get there, I can distract her, get her away from the lighthouse. Then you can get to Xander," said Kennedy without looking back.

"And if you can't" asked Buffy.

"Then we fight," replied Kennedy simply.

"I don't see her," said Willow.

"Probably inside," suggested Buffy.

"No, I don't think so. I mean, I don't sense her presence, do you?" asked Kennedy, looking at Buffy. Buffy looked back at the lighthouse and shook her head.

"No," admitted Buffy.

"Okay, if we corner her you'll have to do the heavy lifting," said Kennedy.

"Not a problem," agreed Buffy eagerly.

"Let's move it. I don't know, maybe she got hungry but she won't be gone long," said Kennedy.

"What? Snacking on Xander wasn't good enough?" spat Buffy.

"Buffy!" scolded Willow. Kennedy glared at Buffy but didn't say anything. She led them off the sand of the beach up onto a stone jetty made out of large granite boulders. It was a dark, overcast night. They hopped from stone to stone, water on both sides, the way only illuminated by the red light of the strobe atop the lighthouse.

Reaching the door of the lighthouse, Kennedy didn't hesitate. She opened it, glancing to the left and the right. They were in a small room, not much more than a closet, the walls metal. On one side a spiral staircase led up, to the right an iron ladder led below through a hole in the floor. The room was lit by a wire-encased light bulb on one wall. The room below them was also lit.

"Down here," said Kennedy, kneeling next to the ladder as she peered below. She didn't wait for a reply from either of them but instead made her way quickly down the ladder. Buffy glanced at Willow, shrugged once and followed.

This room was slightly larger than the one above but the damp walls, forming the foundation, were made of cemented brick. A single steel door was on the opposite wall from them.

"He's in there," said Kennedy, fishing in her pocket to retrieve the key. "It's an old storage room that's not used anymore."

"Kennedy...you have the key?" asked Willow.

"What?" asked Kennedy, frozen.

"The key," repeated Willow. "How do you..."

"Oh! I, um, I took it from her. When we were fighting. She doesn't know I have it. It fell on the floor...must've slipped out of her pocket," explained Kennedy.

Buffy eyed her suspiciously. Kennedy turned away and inserted the key into the lock.

"Maybe that's why she's not here. Maybe she went to look for me, knowing I had it," said Kennedy, nervously swallowing, hoping they wouldn't see how her hand trembled as she turned the key. Kennedy shouldered the heavy door, forcing it inward.

"Xander! Are you okay?" shouted Kennedy. Xander was about four steps down, looking up at them with his eyes opened wide in a voiceless warning. The floor behind him was covered in ankle-deep water, level with the first step.

"Xander!" cried Buffy as she pushed past Kennedy. Willow followed but stopped just in front of Kennedy, only now noticing that Xander was trying to yell even though his mouth was taped, his head shaking, eyes staring directly at Kennedy. She turned to face Kennedy and her mouth dropped open when she saw that Kennedy was smiling. And then Kennedy pushed Willow hard, sending her crashing into Buffy. All three of them fell into a pile with a loud splash.

Buffy and Willow struggled free, rising to their knees, their eyes turned to Kennedy. Xander rolled but could only get into a sitting position.

"Ya know, I'm going to enjoy this vengeance gig," laughed Kennedy. "Oh, point of information? High tide is at sunrise. Sorry, gotta go. Got a life to save."

Willow glanced down at the water, only now understanding Kennedy's words. She looked up again to see Kennedy pulling the door closed.

"Kennedy!" yelled Buffy, bounding up the stairs. She grabbed the handle and pulled, shocked at how heavy the door was. Hearing Xander's muffled protests, Willow finally turned to him and ripped the tape from his mouth.

"Ow!" yelled Xander.

"Sorry," winced Willow.

"It was Kennedy. She did this," said Xander.

Willow turned to Buffy, her eyes professing her disbelief. Buffy simply turned and started kicking at the door.

"Aperto!" yelled Willow, getting to her feet and pointing at the door. Nothing happened. Buffy paused, first looking at Willow, then back at the door.

"Aperto!" shouted Willow, even louder this time, her hand clenched into a menacing fist. Again, nothing happened.

"Open, damn it!" cried Willow, her voice tinged with the pain of Kennedy's betrayal.

"Think that'll hold a Slayer?" asked Leigh, standing behind Kennedy with her arms crossed.

"It's cast iron and filled with cement. Since Buffy has no leverage because of the steep steps, I'm thinking yes," nodded Kennedy. "Still..."

Kennedy held out her hand and Leigh handed her a screwdriver. She pushed it into the crease just above the lock and gave it a hard kick, driving it in deep between the door and the wall.

"Now, first things first. I didn't get to finish my Chinese," pouted Kennedy, holding out her hand. Leigh grasped it and returned her smile. Kennedy led her over to the ladder.

"You go first," said Kennedy.

"Why?" asked Leigh, suddenly suspicious.

"Because I like looking at your ass!" replied Kennedy, slapping Leigh playfully on the bottom.

"Good answer," nodded Leigh appreciatively. As she began to climb up, Kennedy reached into her front pocket and pulled out a wrinkled envelope. Hesitating, with one glance back at the door behind her, she tossed it to the ground and quickly followed Leigh out.

"If it's going to happen, it'll be soon," said Xander, rubbing his wrists now that he was free of the rope. He looked up at Buffy, exhaustion plain on her face as she once again kicked at the door with no effect.

"How so?" asked Willow. She moved up another step because of the rising water and Xander followed her.

"D'Hoffryn's offer ends at sunrise. After that...your spell kicks in and Leigh dies," explained Xander.

"Oh," nodded Willow. Buffy shoved her shoulder against the door but then slid down into a sitting position on the top step. Willow was immediately at her side.

"Just need to catch my breath," smiled Buffy weakly. Willow rubbed her shoulder.

"Enough. We'll figure something else out," comforted Willow.

"Well, whatever it is, you better come up with it fast," sighed Buffy, glancing at the rising water.

"How 'bout I wrap this rope around that grate over there? Maybe all we need is a little Slayer strength," suggested Xander.

"See? We still work as a team," said Willow.

"On it," responded Xander.

"Wow," smiled Buffy. "You are...

"That I am," nodded Willow.

"Willow, I didn't finish..."

"Didn't have to," interrupted Willow.

"Thanks," nodded Buffy. She took in a short breath and quickly let it out.

"Will, about before, back in the room," began Buffy.

"Shh," whispered Willow. "It's no big."

She glanced at Xander to make sure his back was turned and then gave Buffy a quick peck on the lips.

"I'm sorry," winced Buffy.

"Don't be! Hey, this is all new to you. Been there, done that. Um, and ya know what? It's kinda new to me too," smiled Willow.

"You haven't kissed a girl before?" whispered Buffy, trying not to laugh.

"You know what I mean!" complained Willow, punching her on the arm.

Kennedy heard the shower turn off and looked up with a mischievous grin as Leigh came out with only a towel wrapped around herself. It was a ritual she had before lovemaking, taking a hot shower so that her cold flesh was warmed before she touched Kennedy's skin. Leigh didn't notice her at first as she reached up to touch one of the seaglass windchimes she had made, the glass tinkling as it sounded off the hanging metal bars. She had hung it here near the bed so that, with the window open to catch a breeze, she could watch it spin slowly at night while Kennedy slept next to her.

Turning, Leigh's eyes opened wide with approval as she viewed her lover stretched out on her bed, twirling her hair with one finger.

"Nice," nodded Leigh. She let go of the towel but pressed it against her chest so that it was open on her back, knowing the distraction it would create.

"What, this old thing? Pfft! Only wore it once, didn't like it," shrugged Kennedy, eyeing the towel.

Leigh stopped smiling.

"You mean she didn't like it," said Leigh, more a statement than a question. Kennedy flinched.

"Way to ruin a mood," frowned Kennedy. Leigh looked down and shook her head, angry at herself.

"Sorry," nodded Leigh. "That was out of line."

"Look, we're alone now. It's just me and you...as I promised," said Kennedy, trying to hide how Leigh's words had cut her. When she spoke again she spoke very slowly, almost as if it were rehearsed.

"There's only one girl here."

Leigh waited, weighing those words, wondering again if this was yet another game she was playing, what her role would be, if Kennedy had already rehearsed this. Sadly, it didn't matter; Leigh had no choice, her will was not her own. She would willingly take part in any sordid fantasy for this girl. Leigh slowly smiled and nodded, letting the towel drop to the floor. She walked over to the bed and lay down on her side next to her lover.

"I'm sorry," whispered Leigh sincerely. "Let's start over. That's nice."

Leigh reached out and brushed her fingers along the soft material of Kennedy's nightie.

"Nice...and necessary. Come here, you," ordered Kennedy as she wrapped an arm around Leigh's waist, pushing her down on her back, kissing her hard. Leigh pulled her in close, returning the kiss even more aggressively than it was given.

"You ready for some unrestrained moaning and screaming with joy?" ventured Kennedy.

"You've got my attention," giggled Leigh playfully.

"Okay, but there's just one thing," started Kennedy, kissing Leigh's nose. "You've been restraining yourself, holding back. That's not good...for either of us."


"Shhhh," whispered Kennedy. "I'm a Slayer. I can take it...and hell, if I can't? Well, I do heal fast."

Leigh propped herself up on her elbows, looking at Kennedy with her head slightly tilted to one side.

"Kennedy, what are you saying?"

"I'm telling you to let go, to lose that control," whispered Kennedy, brushing her lips against Leigh's but denying her the kiss. Kennedy tugged at the bandage covering the wound on her neck until she pulled it free, letting it fall to the ground. She gave Leigh the smallest hint of a smile.

"Whatever happens, let it happen," offered Kennedy.

"You want me to..."

"No. Let me make this very clear, I don't want things to go that far," instructed Kennedy. "But...if you're in the moment and, um, it would...raise the intensity of the experience a notch or two...Leigh, I'm moving past words. I'm trying to show you that I'm yours."

"Wow," whispered Leigh, shocked that she had spoken out loud, embarrassed by what that had revealed. She turned her head so that Kennedy wouldn't see her blink back tears.

"Leigh? You okay?" asked Kennedy, resting a hand on her bare shoulder.

"Yeah, it's just...um, hey, it's not stupid, but I could really hurt you," frowned Leigh.

"Doubt it," challenged Kennedy boldly. "See, I know you love me. You won't hurt me because you'd feel so guilty afterwards that you'd probably stake yourself."

"There's that," smiled Leigh in agreement.

"You can get a little crazy. Hey, you ain't that tough! Don't worry about me, I'll protect you from yourself."

"But can you protect yourself from me?" asked Leigh in a quiet, serious tone. "I know, I love you so it's stupid to think I'd hurt you. I understand, but..."

Leigh pulled her knees into her chest and wrapped her arms around her legs, resting her chin on her knees. When Kennedy spoke again she spoke very slowly, as if she were remembering a line in a play.

"It's not stupid, but it's not gonna happen. I just want you to know you're safe with me."

Even if part of her knew deep down that Kennedy was living in the past, Leigh no longer cared.


"You can get as wild as you need to and I'll tether you down," nodded Kennedy.

"You'll be like, like my kite string?"

Kennedy's eyes opened just a little bit wider. Thrown by Leigh's choice of words, she couldn't talk for a moment .

"Mm-hmm. You'll be a kite, and I'll be your kite string, okay?" asked Kennedy, her voice small.

"And if it gets too windy and the string breaks?" asked Leigh.

"Then we'll see where the ride takes us," answered Kennedy eagerly.

"Okay," nodded Leigh.

"Okay," smiled Kennedy, closing for a kiss. "Mmm...come here."

"The intensity of the experience?" giggled Leigh. "Why can't you just say orgasm?"

"Whatever!" answered Kennedy, rolling her eyes. She grinned, her eyes taking in the girl next to her.

"You want me to let go...fair warning, that could be a slippery slope," said Leigh.

"Speaking of slippery slopes," winked Kennedy, tracing a finger along the side of Leigh's still wet breast.

"What about your Vengeance thingy? You decide what..."

"Vengeance? I get mine every time I kiss you," said Kennedy, silencing her with a kiss that was quickly answered. Leigh tried to move on top of her but Kennedy pushed her down, taking control. Their eyes met briefly and Leigh acquiesced to Kennedy's challenge. The Slayer smiled, moved by this vampire's trust, awed once again that this predator could become so submissive as their passions rose. Kennedy moved down along her neck, applying a little puff of breath before each kiss, each nibble. Her girlfriend not being able to breath was something that Kennedy used to her advantage, used it to tease, to deepen the anticipation of each touch of her pierced tongue. She knew exactly what buttons to push and when.

Kennedy moved her hand down between her lover's legs but she paused, palm open, waiting for Leigh's need, her desire to take over. She pulled her head back...and now it was Willow lying beneath her.

Leigh picked up on Kennedy's hesitation and shot her a questioning look. With a thrust of her hand Kennedy silenced Leigh's doubts. Leigh gasped and closed her eyes, keeping the illusion alive. Kennedy's tongue again sought out Leigh's neck, a single tear now rolling down Kennedy's cheek.

Another gasp, a moan of encouragement. Willow pushed Kennedy's nightie off her shoulders, pulled it past her hips with a little help from Kennedy as she arched her back. Kennedy kissed her again but now with more urgency, nipping, her teeth piercing skin. Willow writhed beneath her ministrations and cried out when Kennedy drew blood. Kennedy didn't think, she simply flowed with her emotions, ignoring the fear that she had gone this far, embracing it. If this is what Willow wanted...

Willow's fingernails dug into her shoulders, leaving marks, urging Kennedy on. The blood in Kennedy's mouth was warm, surprisingly warm. And now Willow's hand found Kennedy.

If this is what Willow wanted...

As her body remembered, the illusion was gone. This was Willow. Her Willow. Her touch, her voice, so familiar, so achingly familiar. Moaning, Kennedy surrendered to her memories, to her lover, to what she had lost and so desperately needed. Her mouth moved from one breast to the other.

"Harder!" begged Willow.

Unsure what that directive implied, Kennedy thrust her hand forward and bit down at the same time. Groaning, Willow sought out Kennedy's neck. The penetration was quick, painful, exquisite...

Kennedy gasped, shocked at the sensation, overwhelmed by its depth. Her body trembled, blood trickled from the sides of her mouth.

And then Leigh exploded into ash.

The windchime above them tinkled gently, the seaglass nudged against the metal bars by Leigh's death.

This is what Willow wanted.

"Told you I'd learn how to use them," whispered Kennedy, looking at the chopsticks in her still shaking right hand.

And then she cried, no longer able to hold back the tears, only now understanding what she had done, what she had lost. The wooden sticks fell to the floor as Kennedy wrapped her arms tightly around herself, rocking back and forth.

"Oh God. Oh my God. I'm sorry. Leigh, I'm so sorry," whimpered Kennedy. She tried to calm herself, tried to slow her breathing...and then she realized that she was bleeding. Her hand grasped her neck, came away dark with blood. Kennedy panicked, tried to stand but immediately felt light-headed.

The last thing she remembered before blacking out was the floor as it came rushing up to meet her. No, that wasn't right, she must be falling...

Buffy strained against the taut rope but the grate wouldn't budge. With a final grunt and the veins in the side of her neck bulging, the rope finally snapped. She flew backwards, landing on her butt.

"Ow!" yelled Buffy.

"Buffy! Are you hurt?" questioned Willow, immediately at her side to help her up.

"No, but this damn water is cold!"

They both looked at the rope she still clutched in her hands. Willow smiled and then, despite her best efforts, began to laugh.

"Willow!" protested Buffy, but she got caught up in Willow's infectious laughter and soon gave into it herself.

"Great. We're gonna drown like rats and you two get a fit of the giggles," sighed Xander, looking down at them from a sitting position on the top step.

"Xander, it's a giggle fit, not a fit of giggles," grinned Willow, suddenly discovering what she said was even more funny than what they were laughing at...even though she couldn't remember why they were laughing. Buffy's chortling only egged her on more.

Willow paused, catching her breath, suddenly overcome by a serious expression.

"Wait a minute," said Willow, staring at the brick wall closest to her. She looked down at the water and then back up at the wall again. "Something's not right here."

"Ya think?" laughed Buffy.

"No, really," replied Willow.

"Ow!" shouted Xander. He had slapped himself on the forehead and was now staring suspiciously at his hand.

Willow suddenly stumbled and would've fallen if Buffy hadn't caught her.

"Willow?" said Buffy, her voice laced with concern.

"Whoa," sighed Willow. "Got real dizzy there for a moment."

"Will, your nose," said Buffy. Willow reached up with a finger, already knowing that her nose was bleeding. She looked up at Xander, then at the door behind him.

"My spells. They're working. Buffy, they're working! Xander, see if that door is open!"

Even before Xander could turn around the door opened as if pushed by a strong wind.

"Wait!" warned Buffy, bounding up the stairs. She pushed past him and looked out into the empty room beyond.

"It's clear. Come on, let's get out of here," ordered Buffy. Willow and Xander didn't hesitate. They huddled around the ladder, looking up.

"Wait. We weren't down there that long, were we? I mean, it isn't sunrise yet, is it?" asked Xander.

"No. No, it isn't," agreed Willow.

"So does that mean..."

Buffy silenced Xander with an elbow jab to his ribs.

"It's okay. It means D'Hoffryn won," sighed Willow, her shoulders slumping.

"We don't know that," countered Buffy.

No one moved. No one spoke.

"I'll go first," announced Buffy, not waiting for an answer, needing to do something because she didn't know what to say. As she made her way up the rungs, Xander stepped on a screwdriver, its shaft bent sharply. He ignored it but reached down and picked up a crumpled envelope next to it. His eyes opened wide when he saw Willow's name on it. Without saying anything, he simply handed it to her.

Willow saw her name, eyebrows crunching together in confusion as she recognized Kennedy's handwriting. Ripping open the letter, she read it once to herself. Buffy's head appeared in the hole in the ceiling.

"Hey! Watcha waiting for?" yelled Buffy. Willow held up the letter and read it out loud.

"Willow, I couldn't do it. I couldn't go through with it. Leigh's dead. For good this time. Look's like you got everything you wanted. And I do mean everything. Yes Willow, I know. I'm not that stupid. Guess I've known for a while."

Willow looked up at Buffy but Buffy closed her eyes. Willow read the letter one more time and then looked up at Xander, tears in her eyes. Xander knew this wasn't a time for questions. He simply opened his arms to her. Willow shoved the letter into her back pocket and fell into his embrace.

Kennedy walked along the beach, listening to the rhythm of the waves as they gently broke in the dark. She thrust her hands into her pockets both to avoid rubbing her red puffy eyes and because of the cutting breeze. The cold numbed her and she welcomed it.

She stopped, looking down at the sand. Something caught her eye. Bending down, she picked up a frosted shard of rounded seaglass, held it in the palm of her hand and stared at it. Green. The glass was green. Leigh liked that color. It matched the color of her eyes.

No. Leigh had liked that color. Past tense now, remember? Leigh was gone.

Kennedy bit her lower lip and closed her eyes. Her hand tightened into a fist and she brought her arm back to hurl the glass into the sea. Then she stopped, opened her hand and again looked at the glass.

Kennedy slowly sat down, rested her chin on her knees and stared out at the water.

Willow and Buffy sat next to one another behind some tall beach grass, huddled together for warmth and comfort, watching Kennedy.

"You believe her, right?" asked Buffy, slipping an arm around Willow. "I mean, about Leigh being dead."

"Yeah," nodded Willow.

"No chance she's a Vengeance Demon?" asked Buffy. "Xander seems to think..."

"What's Xander know about Vengeance Demons?" interrupted Willow. It only took a moment for them both to smile.


"Buffy, with Leigh dead, D'Hoffryn had no hold over Kennedy."

"Okay, but...I still don't get it. Why try to kill us and then change her mind?" wondered Buffy.

"Buffy, she didn't try to kill us," pouted Willow.

"Huh? Hello, in denial much?"

"Did you look at the walls? There's a water mark about halfway up. At worst we would've been up to our waists. Kennedy lives here...she knew that," sighed Willow. "She was just hurt, angry, needed to lash out."

"Well, the water was cold," complained Buffy. Willow almost laughed.

"Yeah," nodded Willow, her eyes on Kennedy.

"Wasn't all that, um, kinda over-the-top?" frowned Buffy.

"That's Kenn. Well, on a bad day anyway," nodded Willow, suddenly smiling. "Now on a good day..."

Buffy raised one eyebrow at her, causing Willow to blush.

"Um, let's go with never mind on that," cringed Willow awkwardly.

"Gotcha. Uh...you know, Leigh lived here too. Don't you think she knew that lame-ass drowning trick wouldn't work?" asked Buffy.

Willow turned her head to look at Buffy, suddenly confused.

"So you think Leigh knew she was going to die?" asked Willow in disbelief.

"Maybe. Maybe she'd rather die by Kennedy's hand rather than from D'Hoffryn," shrugged Buffy.

"Not D'Hoffryn, Buffy. Me. I killed her. D'Hoffryn simply TiVo'd the moment," pouted Willow. "I don't want to think about it anymore."

"Okay," nodded Buffy.

"I should go to her. She's so alone now."

"And say what? Will, she needs time. Let her be. She made her choices and you made yours. No. No, we made our choices," corrected Buffy, pulling Willow closer.

"We did," smiled Willow, leaning in for a kiss. Buffy affectionately returned it and put her head on Willow's shoulder.

"Um...Willow? Why do you think she waited until sunset to come down here?"

"Well, it makes sense in a depressive morbid reminiscing kinda way. I mean, she and Leigh didn't exactly walk hand in hand in the bright sunlight, ya know?" suggested Willow.

"Oh. So you don't think..."

Buffy pulled away and looked at Willow with her head tilted to one side. Willow scrunched up her eyes, glanced at Kennedy and then shook her head.

"No. No, she wouldn't. She couldn't. Besides, Leigh's dead," protested Willow.

"I know," answered Buffy quickly, regretting that she had mentioned it. "I'm sorry, I'm just being big paranoid girl."

"Oh, hey! Normally I'd be right there with ya! But there's no way Kennedy would let Leigh turn her. If nothing else, she's still a Slayer."

"You're right. Let's give her some time alone, let her sort things out," said Buffy, standing up and brushing off her pants.

"You have the tightest little...:

Buffy's eyes opened wide even though she was smiling.

"Smile! I was going with smile. Get your mind out of the gutter," warned Willow, her face red.

Shaking her head, Buffy offered Willow her hand. Hand in hand, they walked away from the beach, each drawing comfort from the touch. Still, Buffy couldn't resist one last look over her shoulder at Kennedy.

"Ya know, I like the symbolism of the lighthouse. All safety in a storm, a light in the darkness. Think Kennedy was trying to be that literal?" asked Buffy.

"Um...no. The lighthouse as a metaphor? Just too phallic for a lesbian," replied Willow, shaking her head.

"There's that," agreed Buffy.

Kennedy sat there staring out at the ocean. She slowly unclenched her fist and opened her hand. The glass, even with its edges rounded, had cut into her flesh. Kennedy watched as single line of blood dripped down to her wrist.

Closing her hand, she looked back at the dune that Buffy and Willow had been hiding behind.

To Be Continued?