Title:Staying Around




Timeline/Spoilers:Goes off-canon at What's My Line Pt 2

Length:2,330 words

Disclaimer:Not mine. We all know that.

She'd thought that she was ready for this.

Her Watcher had impressed upon her the seriousness – and the danger – of this undertaking. The power he had sensed in this place had clearly shaken him; although his voice was as firm and resolute as ever, she couldn't help but see the fear that had crept into his eyes. The signs and portents had been dark for a while now, and her own raw attempts at divination had yielded nothing but hints of catastrophe and death.

But she had refused to be cowed. This was her life, her destiny. It was what she had prepared and studied for, all these years. What she had been born for.

There had been extra training in combat technique, in speed and agility, in mental discipline. She'd spent many hours both in meditation and callisthenics, honing the skills of her body and mind.

When the omens could no longer be denied, she had journeyed to Sunnydale with a determined confidence and the calm assurance that she was ready, physically and mentally, for whatever this forsaken place held.

She'd been wrong.

Kendra waited as Buffy threw open her closet door, surveying the contents with a critical eye. She reached in and pulled out something pink and shiny, then turned and held it out in front of Kendra, squinting at her with one eye closed.

"No," she said after a second. "I don't see the Barbie look working for you, somehow. And it'll never go with those pants." She shoved the offending garment back into place. "I think we need something a little calmer. Oh, here, this is more like it. You can't go wrong with good old white. It doesn't clash with anything and you get the natty symbolism for free."

Kendra took the offered shirt, turning it over in her hands. "Thank you," she said. "It is kind of you to share your home and possessions like this."

Buffy waved her hand. "Oh, hey, it's no biggie. I mean, it's not like I've only got the one shirt." She paused and her hand stilled, then made its way to the back of her neck where it rubbed absently. "Um. Not, you know, that there's anything wrong with that. The clothes do not maketh the man – or the Slayer - and all that. We're, uh, we're above petty concerns like fashion, right?"

Kendra smiled, running her fingers over the shirt and glancing around the room. "You have many nice things. There is no reason to be ashamed of that."

Buffy flopped onto the bed, giving her a slightly chagrined grin. "I know. And I'm not, really. It's just that my mouth doesn't always wait for the okay from quality control before it gets going."

She reached across to the little table beside the bed and grabbed a bar of chocolate, then snapped it neatly in two and threw one half to Kendra. "And hey, look, more sharing. The other thing you can't go wrong with is a quick sugar boost after a good fight. Slayer metabolism is like a licence to eat chocolate. Xander's never got over the jealousy."

Kendra unwrapped the chocolate and popped it into her mouth, savouring the sweet, creamy taste. She wasn't given to indulgence, but on some occasions it did seem to have merit.

Buffy licked the remnants of chocolate from her fingers with evident satisfaction. "On the subject of sharing - and let's just pretend that wasn't the clumsiest segue ever, okay? – maybe, you know, there are other things we could share. Like oh, say, slaying?" She looked up at Kendra. "What do you think? You could stay here for a while. I know we got the drop on Spike and Drusilla, but this is the Hellmouth. Next week's instalment is bound to be just as excitingly dark and powerful. I could – I could use some help."

"You have your friends. Your Watcher. They help you."

"I know. And they're great, don't get me wrong. But – they don't know. What it's really like, I mean. To be a Slayer. I never thought anyone ever could. But you do. You understand all of that stuff. It's – " she paused, and gave a little shrug. "Nice."

Kendra considered this. "Two Slayers…it is something that has never happened before. It is an important mystical event that needs to be studied seriously. It would be our duty to learn what we can from this."

Buffy blinked, then nodded vigorously. "Yeah. Of course. Duty. That's exactly what I meant. I'm a duty-first girl, no question."

Kendra uncrossed her arms and gave her a small smile. "And I agree it might also be …nice."

She'd expected this place, this Hellmouth, to be full of evil. She'd expected to find monsters and mortal danger. She hadn't expected to find another Slayer. Much less a friend.

It worried her. A Slayer was supposed to rely on herself and her Watcher, nothing – and no-one – else. There was no place, no time, for distractions. Other people were supposed to be simply a part of a Slayer's job, not her life.

It wasn't right, the way this Slayer, this Buffy, lived. School, family, friends – it wasn't supposed to be that way. It was dangerous, and irresponsible, and inefficient. A Slayer could not afford to give such mundane matters equal weight as her duties. It defied everything Kendra had ever been taught, had ever believed, about her calling. She abhorred it.

Didn't she?

She should have gone home. Should have reported back to her own Watcher and asked for guidance, for orders. Sunnydale was indeed full of evil but there were many such places. Her duty – her loyalty – was to the world, not to a single town.

Or girl.

She knew this, and yet she stayed. She told Mr Zabuto that she was learning from this other Slayer and yes, that was true. But it wasn't the whole truth. When she watched Buffy – watched her fight, watched her move, watched her smile – it wasn't purely a matter of study. It was also one of pleasure.

Buffy picked herself up off the floor and brushed at the dust covering her jacket. "Why do they always have to explode on me? They do it on purpose, I'm sure of it. It's pure spite."

Kendra finished her own vamp, who conveniently fell backwards as he disintegrated. Buffy gestured at the dispersing cloud with an indignant look on her face. "See? At least he had the decency not to die all over you. You're not the one who's going to be up the rest of the night trying to comb bits of vampire out of her hair."

Kendra reached out to rub away an ashy smear on her temple. "Your hair is fine."

Buffy patted it. "Really?"


Apparently mollified, Buffy tucked her stake into her jacket pocket and resumed walking. "Slaying is simply not compatible with the maintenance of a good beauty routine. In the good old days, I used to be able to make like Cordelia and spend the whole evening just glossing and furbishing myself." She broke off, and looked down at her hands.

"See? Look at this," she said, waving her fingers at Kendra. "Not only do these nails have chipped polish, they have grave dirt under them. That is not cool. You would never catch Cordy with grave dirt under her fingernails."

Kendra rolled her eyes and didn't reply.

Buffy shoved her hands in her pockets. "What?"

"I said nothing."

"Maybe not, but you did it in a very significant way."

Kendra shrugged and carried on walking.

"You don't like her, do you? Cordelia, I mean." Buffy paused. "Well, I guess that's actually kind of a redundancy. Nobody likes Cordelia. I don't even think Xander likes Cordelia and they're – well, doing whatever they're doing. I don't really like to dwell on that."

She gave a little shudder, and Kendra nodded in agreement. "Cordelia is – not like you."

Buffy stopped walking and faced her. "Tell me the truth, now. You're jealous, aren't you?"

Kendra stared at her. "What?"

Buffy grinned, and patted her arm. "It's okay. I won't tell. Or actually – no, I take that back. Maybe I should tell. Maybe if Xander thought you liked him then you could get together and this whole Cordelia thing could be nipped in the bud. That would be a service to humanity and therefore exempt from the rules of confidentiality."

"I see. But you're wrong. I am not jealous of Cordelia."

Buffy gave her a conspiratorial smile and another pat on the arm. "Sure you're not. It's okay, I won't really tell. It'll be our secret."

Kendra watched her walk on ahead. "It's not Cordelia who has something I want," she said softly.

The roles of Slayer and vampire were clearly defined: the relationship was one of predator and prey. This was one of the touchstones of Kendra's education – of her entire world. It was very simple, very black-and-white. Vampires were the enemy. She believed it – she knew it – with unshakeable certainty.

And then there had been Angel.

She'd known straight away – from that very first second, even before she'd known what she was looking at – that there was breathtaking evil in him. She'd been told that there was also good, and it was true that she'd seen some evidence of that with her own eyes. But the presence of good did not deny the presence of evil, and a soul could not be a guarantee - especially one that had been bestowed as an act of malice.

She'd quickly learned that this was not something that could be discussed with Buffy.

So she'd kept her distance, watching him with a wary eye. Watching them together, even though that hurt more than just her sense of right and wrong.

Although she was aware that her antipathy – her issues, as the others would say – might have a personal factor, she was still sure that her judgement was sound. Still sure that she was correct to stay suspicious – to stay distrustful.

But it gave her no joy to have that proven. No joy at all.

Kendra awoke to soft sheets, a cool breeze on her skin and a profound sense of disaster. She jumped out of the bed, her legs entangling with the sheets and spinning her off-balance.

As she twisted, a hand shot out and steadied her, preventing her fall. She looked around wildly, her heart only beginning to slow its panicked rush when she recognised Buffy. Her mind reasserted control, running through the standard checklist: no immediate danger, no life-threatening injuries apparent. Her body reported nausea, dizziness and general debilitation, but no major system damage. She was alive, she was safe.

She was with Buffy.

She allowed herself to be guided back to the bed, and accepted the glass of water that was put into her hands. They trembled as she brought the glass to her lips.

"What happened?" she asked, alarmed all over again by the weakness of her voice.

Buffy sat beside her on the bed. "Angelus happened," she said, looking down at her lap. Her hands were fastened tightly together. "He bit you."

Kendra's hand flew to her neck, the glass forgotten. Water splashed over the floor as her fingers found the soft, yielding surface of a dressing taped against her skin.

"You're okay," said Buffy urgently. "You lost a lot of blood and it was – well, we were worried for a while there. But you're fine now. It's over."

Kendra took a deep breath, fighting back the wave of revulsion that roiled in her stomach. "Did I – did he – "

Buffy shook her head quickly. "We think he was trying to turn you. That seemed to be the plan. But you didn't drink from him. I – I found you first."

For the first time, Kendra took in the bruises on Buffy's face. One eye was almost swollen shut, and there was a large angry welt along her cheek.

Her hands curled into fists. "Where is he?" she asked.

After a long second Buffy dropped her gaze, and Kendra could see the muscles working as her jaw clenched. Finally, she reached out and took Kendra's hand.

"In hell," she said.

Kendra let out a breath she hadn't realised she'd been holding, and squeezed Buffy's hand convulsively. Buffy leaned in, and Kendra's arms went around her. She was so silent it took almost a minute before Kendra even realised she was crying.

"Hush," she whispered, rocking Buffy gently.

After a while Buffy wiped her eyes with the heel of her hand and gave a rather shaky laugh. "Hey, I'm supposed to be the one looking after you."

Kendra put a hand under her chin, tilting her face up. "You are," she said. "You do."

Buffy swallowed, her own hand coming up to rest softly against Kendra's cheek. Her smile was watery, but defiant. "You know what?" she said. "I'm giving up men. Males, even. I'm thinking it's not worth the aggravation and the near-death experiences."

Kendra smiled back, rubbing her cheek softly against Buffy's hand. "I could have told you that."

"I wish you had," said Buffy. This time it was Kendra's turn to lean in. Buffy didn't move and their lips brushed together, so light as to be barely a touch at all.

Buffy straightened up again, her hand sliding down to rest on Kendra's shoulder. "I should let you rest," she said. "You need to heal."

Kendra nodded, covering Buffy's hand with her own. "As do you."

Buffy gave her hand one last squeeze and then stood up. Kendra got back under the covers and pulled them up to her chin.

"Don't leave?" she asked quietly.

Buffy turned back towards her with a raised eyebrow, and Kendra saw that she had picked up a brightly-coloured paperback from the bookshelf. She smiled, and settled herself into the chair by the bed.

"Wasn't going to," she said.