The television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all related characters and materials belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, UPN, & 20th Century Fox Television. Witchblade and all characters related are properties of Top Cow Comics and TNT Productions.

To my readers and reviewers: Another shorty for you guys. This was essential to the third chapter of my story, so I had to write this first. Hopefully, I'll get part III up and running, but I'm having a little writer's block lately. Hopefully it'll clear. Enjoy.

10:08 am, Saturday - Murray Hill

The McMahon family had gone out that morning, like they did nearly every Saturday morning, for a walk with their two kids from their Murray Hill residence near the East River. New York was absolutely gorgeous in the summer, something they had taken for granted all the years they lived there. Though well-to-do, they were able to manage to spend time with their young children, and the Saturday-morning walk was one of those precious moments. Which was why it was all the more horrifying when, while playing away from their parents, the two children would stumble upon something that would be burned into their memory for years to come.

10:48 am, Saturday - Murray Hill

"So who do have this morning?" a stone-faced Danny asked.

"Male, approximately late thirties to early forties, heavy-set. Kids were playing around near the parents and found it."

"There's no ID?" Sara asked.

"Not on him," the officer replied. "We're still looking, but we got to the area ten minutes before you did."

"Well, let's take a look," Danny said.

They approached the body and immediately noticed the lacerations covering it. The wounds indicated a sharp object had used to inflict them. As the two detectives got closer to it, they eyed the face of the victim. Sara's face began to turn white at the sight: it was Birdie. So shocked she was at the sight of his dead body, she barely heard Danny call her name.

"Pez!" he yelled out.

Sara flinched and looked at him.

"You alright?"

"Yeah... yeah, just not feeling too well," she replied.

"You need to take a minute...?"

"No," she quickly replied, "no, I'm fine. Let's just, uh, let's just get this done."

"Alright," he replied. Danny looked down at the man's wrists and noticed marks surrounding them. "The guy was bound at the wrists, maybe tied to a chair or supported by something. Looks like rope burns."

Sara saw the angry marks on the wrists. She knew what had happened and it didn't take a forensics team or a crime lab or an investigation to figure out the overall picture: this was Amy's retaliation on Birdie for ratting out her meeting location with Post. She started to feel extreme guilt, as she thought that Birdie wouldn't have been attacked had it not been for her roughing him up for info.

At that moment her stomach began to churn and an acidic taste began to cover her esophagus. She desperately tried to force her nausea to go away, tried to breathe in and out and have fresh air negate the taste. But it was beginning to be a futile action, as matter began to work its way up.

She closed her mouth and covered it as she ran over to nearby shrubbery. Though her efforts to keep from vomiting before she made it there were valiant, nevertheless some of it came out before she expelled the putrid contents of her stomach into the bushes. Danny heard her wretch and immediately ran over to his partner.

"Pez, you don't look too good," he said.

"Yeah, I just... ate some bad eggs this morning," she replied. A nearby officer handed her a bottle of water. She drank some, swished the water around in her mouth, and spat out. "I'm not feeling too well, Danny. Let's try and wrap this up as soon as possible."

"Okay... um, let's question the family," Danny replied, confused at his partner's behavior. Sara gathered herself and walked over to the family, trying as hard as she could to put the image of Birdie's corpse away. It was something that wasn't easily done.

When she got back to the station, she tried as best she could to get through the day. She was distracted, the visual of Birdie burned into her memory. Jake and Danny saw her inattentive state as clear as day. When she told them around 2:30 she was taking the rest of the day off, they both were in agreement with her that it was probably for the best. She was half-way home when she decided to make a detour. For the first time in a long time, she didn't want to be alone in her grief.

2:59 pm, Saturday - Slayer Base HQ

Giles held her gently as he could as she felt the warm and comfort of his arms wrapped around her, the slow hiss of his breathing apparatus sounding between her sobs. Though the grip of Sara's arms around him made his breathing slightly harder, he would endure it for her. She had told him what had happened when she stepped through the door and the first thing he did was try to console her. He told her it wasn't her fault, that she wasn't to blame for Birdie's fate, but knew it wasn't working. Truth be told, he didn't actually know if she was. Part of him felt that Amy would have killed him regardless, but there was still a shred of doubt in his mind as to whether or not she would have if Sara hadn't pursued revenge as doggedly as she did.

She wiped the tears from her eyes, a new surge of determination sweeping through her body. She wanted answers and she wanted them now. And there was only one person she knew could provide them. Once she told Giles her intent, he became skeptical of the possibility.

"Don't they usually come when you least expect it?" Giles asked.

"Yeah, but I don't want to wait on their call. I don't have the time to wait to sleep or wait for the next encounter when I'm alone pouring over a case. I need to talk to them… now. If you have any suggestions, I'm open to them."

"Well, actually… I do have one idea," Giles replied.

"So, tell me again: how is this supposed to work?" Sara said skeptically.

"Giles will burn the herbs and you'll inhale the smoke," Willow replied. Giles had told her of his plan and she was more than eager to assist in its implementation. "The herbs will induce a trance-like state. Once that happens, hopefully you'll be able to communicate with them with my powers as a conduit."


"Sara, we still don't have much information on the Witchblade," Giles replied. "It's like you said: it has a mind of its own. Why the former Bladewielders don't communicate with you more often is just as much a mystery to me as it is to you. You'll have to concentrate after you inhale the herbs. This spell takes an extreme level of focus and will."

"Something I've been trying to work on," Sara replied. "So, will I, like, be on some astral plane or something?"

"No," Giles said, "no, nothing like that. Try and think of it as, um, peering inside oneself, one's essence. The herbs are usually used for self-reflection. The Witchblade is a part of you, right down to the cellular level. My thinking is that if you look inside yourself, the Witchblade will be there as well. Be careful, Willow. We don't know what to expect from the Witchblade. You said it yourself: it tried hard, painfully so, to stop you reestablishing the mental link between you two. I'd rather not have something like that happen again."

"So basically you guys are telling me you're making this up as you go along?" she asked incredulously.

"I know how it sounds, Sara," he replied. "I'm not exactly sure I'm resting it on too sound a foundation, but considering our options it's the best I could do. Hopefully, if things don't go as planned, you'll just vomit for the next hour."

"Oh… great. Well, you're holding my hair back over the toilet… again."

Giles smiled at her and said, "Shall we?"

"I guess so."

"Let's shall," Willow chirped in agreement.

They sat on the training room floor, Indian-style, directly across from each other. Giles brought out a small, round metal container and a tiny wooden box containing the herbs. He set them to the side of Sara and Willow, as well as a box of matches.

Willow laid out her hands and Sara placed hers into them. "Close your eyes," Willow said, to which Sara complied.

"Breathe deeply," Giles said. "Breathe in… breathe out, like we've practice. Match my rhythm. Concentrate on everything and nothing. Softly and slowly… Breathe in… breathe out. Empty your mind."

As Sara and Willow started to lose themselves in the rhythm of the breathing, Giles took out the herb from the box and put them into the metal container. He took the box of matches and struck one against the side, igniting it. He put the match into the container and covered it after a few seconds, enough to let the fire die out. He said to Sara, "Keep breathing." He held the container close to her face and then opened it on the side facing her, making sure he would accidentally inhale it himself.

"Inhale the smoke… breathe deeply… keep the same rhythm."

Sara breathed in the smoke on each inhalation. Much to her surprise, it had a pleasant odor, akin to fresh blueberries. She didn't have time enjoy it though, as she began to feel a slight tingle on the skin of her forearm. The spot felt unusually warm and prickly and the feeling started to spread. Her head began to feel funny and light, as if it were floating. She kept the breathing rhythm but found herself becoming increasingly disoriented. Willow began to feel Sara's agitation and channeled her power, concentrating as best she could.

Giles noticed the change in Sara's relaxed demeanor and pulled the container away, saying, "Concentrate, Sara. Keep the rhythm as much as you can. Focus."

Sara heard him and tried to keep the rhythm as best she could, though it started to become difficult. A stinging sensation covered her body and she began to get dizzier as the seconds inched on. The more time went by, the tougher it became to stay focused. It was almost unbearable. It was at that moment that Sara's breathing hastened and, as a result, Willow's breathing picked up pace as well. It soon caught up in rhythm to Sara's.

"Sara?" Giles said. He saw as Sara's breaths became faster and shorter in length. It was almost like a panic attack. He immediately started to regret putting Sara through the ordeal and started to become anxious himself.

"Willow… " Neither woman responded nor ceased their accelerated breathing. Beads of sweat started to form along their foreheads and each one felt their skin sting all the more. It became so intense that Sara's hands gripped Willow's as hard as she could. Willow, feeling the same emotions through Sara, tightly gripped the cop's hands as well. Their hands began to glow, faintly at first, but the glow grew in intensity.

"Sara..." Giles said a little more forcefully. He was emotionally torn; he knew that some people who went through this sort of thing had unbelievably strong experiences and came out fine afterward. He wanted to take hold of her and ease her though the event, but knew it wasn't possible. As he was agonizing over their decision to put her through the ordeal, both Willow's and Sara's eyes flashed open and they gasped.

They felt themselves floating, drifting through time and space. They were surrounded by light, swirling about as they approached the source of it. Closer and closer they drifted toward it, until a bright flash erupted, brighter than they had ever seen before. When they opened their eyes, both Sara and Willow found themselves in an unlikely place: a siege of a muddy, rainy town surrounded by tall walls. They saw soldiers in medieval armor running to and fro, carrying weapons. The soldiers were in the middle of battle and scurrying to reinforce the siege. Willow and Sara heard the sound of a horse galloping behind them. They turned around, only to see the horse and its rider bearing on them fast. It wasn't stopping; it was like the rider didn't even notice the both of them. They backed up as quickly as they could but saw that it was futile. Fearing they would be crushed the two huddled down and curled themselves into little balls, their arms over their heads, waiting to be trampled to death. It didn't happen.e
Giles looked on as the two women sitting in front of him were stuck in a trance. They were both covered in an orange-red glow, like flames crawling over their flesh.

Buffy, Kennedy, Rona, and Monica, who were reorganizing patrolling times and strategies in light of information given to them by Takagi, saw the bright glow emanating from the outline of the training room door. It gathered in intensity and looked as if it was ready to burst forth and bathe them all in its radiance.

"What the hell is that?" Rona asked.

Nobody spoke as they all made a beeline for the training room. They arrived only to find Sara and Willow covered in a fiery glare, sitting on the floor while Giles had an intense look on his face.

"Giles, what's going on?" Buffy asked anxiously.

"Shhh…" he replied, hoping to keep the room as quiet as possible. "We tried a spell. Don't distract them."

When the horse's hooves never came, Sara and Willow looked up. They now found themselves in a field on a cold and bitter morning, though they felt nothing of it. They looked out and saw a motley army in what looked to be ancient battle gear advancing on a small city near a river. From their view, the city seemed to be abandoned. Willow reasoned it was because of the advancing horde. As Sara started to walk toward the city the army began to charge, yelling out as came upon on the town. They both stood as they came toward; Sara reasoned that, like the horse, neither would be harmed by the obvious dream. The horde came down like a giant wave on a small beach, and they were both like pebbles in the sand. They made their stand as the wave came, their faces resolved not to fear harm. As soon as the advancing army hit them, the background changed once more.

Willow and Sara found themselves in a city at midday, throngs of people gathered. From what Sara could tell, the building and structures looked to be of a modern design. The crowd's gaze was transfixed upward, and both women followed that gaze toward a podium. A man dressed in uniform stood behind it, speaking with such intensity that Sara could not remember its equal in all her years. As soon as the speech ended, the man abruptly lifted his hand skyward and shouted to the crowed.

"Deutschland, sieg heil!"

The crowd followed in kind, swept up in its fervor, so much so that Sara began to get agitated. But Willow herself was so clearly uncomfortable that to say so would have been an understatement. Even though she knew it was an illusion, the mere fact that it was so vivid made her nervous. Their surroundings soon changed once more, into a drab grayish-green room surrounded by brick and mortar.

Sara recognized the background immediately: it was the dungeon she was in before when Elizabeth talked to her before. She looked around slowly, and from out of thin air her grandmother materialized.

"You seek us out, as I said you would," Elizabeth said. She then looked at Willow. "And I see you brought a powerful ally. You were wise to bring her, Sara."

"What was all that?" Sara inquired.

"A tiny history of where the Witchblade has been, of what it has seen," Elizabeth replied. "And what you do here determines where it will go next. Do you know why you sought us out?"

"To find what I need to stop Amy. She brings nothing but death and pain to everything she touches. I have to stop her. Please… tell me what I need to do."

"Are you sure you want to know?" Elizabeth asked cryptically. "Once you decide, you won't be able to turn back."

"What does that mean?" Willow asked, getting a chill down her spine at Elizabeth's words.

"This," Elizabeth replied, stretching out her hand and touching Willow's forehead. There was a quick flash of light and Willow gasped. She had seen what the Witchblade had in store for Sara and it left her with a queasiness in her stomach. The worst part about it, though, was that she Willow had no choice but to agree with the decision.

Sara ran over to her in concern and asked, "Willow, are you alright?"

"Yeah," she replied nervously, "yeah, I'm fine."

"Are you prepared, Sara," Elizabeth asked, "to know what it is you need to defeat the Usurper?" Sara looked at her grandmother and then at Willow, who had a worried looked in her eyes. She knew the girl was privy to something she herself hadn't been. She thought about her decision for a moment. Deciding that it was now or never she tightened her jaw, looked Elizabeth in the eyes, and replied, "Yes… I am."

At that moment, chains shot out from the wall and ensnared her arms and legs. Willow backed away, her head hung low in silent resignation. The chains pulled Sara up and she hung from them in an X-shaped figure. "What the hell is this?" she yelled out.

"If you wish to know what you need to stop the Usurper, you must be ready to endure what is necessary. You must be ready to face yourself, to face who you are. And you must face your own fears. That is the only way you can win." Elizabeth then turned to Willow. "And it is the only way she will survive."

"What!" Sara exclaimed. "Why?"

"You brought her here."

"She's not part of this!"

"No, Sara," Elizabeth replied. "She is. Of her own accord, she decided to journey here. As of this moment you are both linked together. Here, she will experience everything you experience, feel every pain you feel. And if you die... she dies." Sara looked at Willow in dismay; another life would be dependent on her actions, this time someone who had been a friend to her when she thought she would have nor deserve none. The young witch's face was both sad and optimistic, hoping that the woman hanging on chains in midair would have the strength and ability to succeed.

Sara took in a deep breath and looked at her grandmother. "You said I had to face my fears." Sara said. "What fears?"

At that, Elizabeth lashed out into the air with a knife-handed strike. The sweeping motion was well away from Sara, but nevertheless produced a cut along Sara's chest. "Ahh!" Sara screamed out. "What… what are you doing?" Blood dripped from the wound. Willow dropped to the ground in pain and put her hand to her chest. Her own shirt was cut and when she lifted her hand from it, she saw blood on the palm.

"'What fears?' you ask. It's the fear that keeps you from doing what is necessary, the fear that holds you back and only emboldens the Usurper. You cower from the responsibility given you! You whine, moan, and gripe about the duties placed on you, and second-guess yourself to the point of mania. Is that the mark of courage? Is that the mark of a true hero?"

"I don't cower from the responsibility!" Sara retorted. "I've been fighting as hard as anyone to stop Amy… harder! Don't tell me I just shirk off my responsibilities."

"But you do; that is why you will never prevail unless you face your fears. And to do that, you must understand what they are. You've proven yourself worthy of wearing the Witchblade when you passed Periculum; now you must prove that you're worthy to keep it, and that hinges on what happens next. The secrets of the Witchblade can be open to you, Sara, but only if you are ready. So the question is, Sara… what do you fear?"

Sara hung from the air in silence at Elizabeth's question. She thought about it for a moment and looked inside; indeed, what did she fear? Taking a deep breath and looking at Willow, she answered, "I fear… bringing pain to everyone I meet because of the Witchblade."

Elisabeth made another sweeping motion with her hand, which cut Sara on the right side of her face. Sara yelled out in pain, as did Willow. "No!" her grandmother shouted. "That is but a consequence of your true fear. You gave Willow that line, but at its root, your fear is something deeper. Look deeper, Sara, and know the dread that keeps you awake at night and tears at your very soul during the day."

Sara closed her eyes and thought for a few seconds. She thought she had given as good an answer as she could, but obviously Elizabeth disagreed. As the moments passed, she dug inside deeper and finally opened her eyes.

"I fear… not being able… to handle the task. I fear… not being strong enough to be the Bladewielder."

Elizabeth slashed into the air again, cutting Sara along her abdomen, to which Sara screamed again. Willow dropped to her knees and clenched her stomach. "You are closer, Sara Pezzini, but you aren't being honest. With me, with us, with your friends… or with yourself."

"Sara, please..." Willow moaned.

"Please," Sara pleaded, the pain stinging her stomach, "I've told you what you wanted to know. I don't know what else I can tell you."

Elizabeth slashed her hand into the air again at Sara's words, as every strike produced more cuts that appeared all over her body. Her A-shirt and jeans started to soak the blood coming from her wounds. She cried out in pain as each wound came, stinging her more and more. Willow writhed and screamed on the stone floor, covering her body as best she could, trying in futility to protect herself from the strikes. The one across her forehead especially hurt. Another slashed came as both women screamed like never before.

The rest of the Scoobies had seen the cuts form on Sara and Willow and immediately began to worry. Buffy saw the intense look on their faces and wanted to put an end to it all, but Giles protested.

"No, Buffy," he said. "If you interrupt this, it could kill them. I'm worried, too, but the consequences could be disastrous if we stop this now."

"I hope you're right on this one, Giles," she replied.

"I hope so, too." he muttered

"Please," Sara said as her eyes began to redden under the strain, her body feeling the exhaustion. "Please… no more... no more." Willow lay on the floor, shaking and bleeding, the blood dripping from her lacerated flesh. Tears ran down her face as her body stung from each cut.

"Then search deep inside and face your true fear," Elizabeth said, "the fear that has kept you from being what you truly are. What… do… you… fear?"

Sara closed her eyes once more. She began to search deep within the recesses of her mind and soul, to discover the source of her dread. She didn't know how long she could last if she answered incorrectly. She looked inside herself, questioning what she truly feared, the thought that kept running itself in her mind and sometimes kept her up when most slept. Suddenly, it came to her. She had known it before, thought about many times ever since she encountered the Witchblade, but to say it out loud was something completely different.

"I fear…" she started to say.

"Yes?" Elizabeth questioned.

"I fear… being controlled by the Witchblade."

"Go on."

"I fear... having it control my life. I've tried to do everything I could to master it, but every day, every minute, I worry that… it's going to master me... that I'll be nothing but its slave." Willow looked at Sara with pity in her watery eyes, knowing what it felt like to fear being overtaken by embraced power.

"Why?" Elizabeth asked.

"Because it's so strong," Sara replied. "I hold back. I'm scared that if I give in, it'll master me and I'll lose myself to it."

"But does it not master you already?" Elizabeth inquired. "In not accepting who you are, you've let your own fears control how you engage not only your enemies, but the ones you love as well. You've closed yourself from nearly everyone you care about, even your new lover. You say that you don't want it to control you or your life. It already does."

"But the Witchblade is sentient," Sara replied. "I can't control it all of the time."

"The Witchblade has been and will always be sentient. It has a mind of its own and that will never change. But you remember the times when you've agreed and worked together. You must accept what you truly are and your role in this world if you want to have more control over it, to not be its servant. If you choose to be a slave to it, you will die and so will the ones you care about. Even your friend Willow."

Sara eyes were wide with fear at that statement as Willow stood up, relief coming to her slowly.

"Oh, yes," Elizabeth said, seeing Sara's reaction. "Every time you give in to your fear you march them one step closer to their own execution. Your fears will consume you and your friends and you'll be left to your fate."

The chains disappeared and Sara fell to the floor, a heap of lacerated and bleeding skin. She looked up at her grandmother, who walked over to her. She put her hand to Sara's chin and lifted her head up. She looked at her at Sara and spoke softly. "It's time to accept who you are."

Elizabeth stood and backed away from Sara. She swung her arm down at her granddaughter, her hand sporting the Witchblade's sword. Sara blocked it and looked at her attacker… it was a blood-red version of Giles holding a sword, its eyes filled with anger.

Sara rolled out of the way and stood up. She extended her sword as well and began fighting the twisted version of 'Giles' .

"Who are you?" The red figure slashed at Sara, who blocked and parried as fast as she could. The figure was aggressive, trying to force her back against the wall. Willow saw what was happening and stared to run over and help Sara, but a voice in her mind held her back.

"If you interfere," Elizabeth warned, "you will sacrifice both yourself and her. Is that what you want?"

Willow stood and looked at Sara as she battled for their lives, feeling as helpless as she had ever felt before. "No," she whispered.

"Who are you?" the figure striking at Sara asked again. They stood face-to-face, their swords the only thing between them.

"Sara Pezzini…" Sara answered.

"No! You are not just Sara Pezzini," the duplicate retorted as it turned into Kennedy. It pushed her back and attacked again. "Who are you? All that power and you can't even tell me!"

Sara blocked and parried and extended the distance between them. Gathering her breath, she said, "The Witchblade…"

"Wrong!" it shouted as it turned into a perfect double of Buffy. "Wrong answer, Sara! You'll be the death of us all if you don't figure it out. And I'm more than willing to stop you from doing that. You're more than just the Witchblade. Who are you? What are you?"

The red figure ran up to her and slashed furiously. Sara blocked and parried, but found her sword pinned to the floor. 'Buffy' punched her in the face and kicked her in the stomach, sending her crashing into the wall. Willow was thrown as well and her back slammed hard against the nearby wall, nearly knocking the wind out of her. She slumped down in an aching and winded heap. The figure ran up and kicked Sara and punched her angrily, shouting, "Who are you? Who are you? Who are you?"

Buffy, Giles, Rona, Kennedy, and Monica had seen the cuts that again form on both women as they became even more anxious than before. Giles assured them that it was all part of the experience, but deep down he himself started to worry. Kennedy finally lost it when Sara and Willow started to manifest bruises on their jaws.

"Alright, I'm stopping this now!" she yelled out. Walking hurriedly over to them she was about to shake them out of the trance when Giles yelled, "Kennedy, no!"

As soon the she touched the glow surrounding them she was forcefully thrown back. When she landed, her skin was stinging and burning all over. Kennedy winced and squirmed at the feeling, like a thousand needles constantly raked over her flesh. The pain, however, started to subside quickly as the cool air of the room made contact with her skin. The group immediately rushed over to her aid.

"We're just going to have to wait it out," Giles said. Their gaze then turned to Sara and Willow, with forlorn and worrisome eyes, wondering if they would ever see the two of them alive again.

The figure backed up from Sara's bleeding form, its icy stare glaring upon her as the cop spat blood onto the floor. Blood dripped from Willow's mouth, the white of her teeth mixed with crimson. Sara looked up at the figure, her eye partially closed. To her surprise, the figure turned from a petite Slayer into a duplicate of herself. Wincing at the pain in her body, she crawled on all fours, her head facing the gritty stone floor. The doppelganger taunted her in her weakened state, saying, "Look at yourself. You've been nothing but a weakling since you were born. Everyone sees it and everyone knows it: Jake, Danny, the captain, the Scoobies... even Dad." Sara looked up at her double in fierce anger. The doppelganger grabbed Sara by the hair and spoke softly into Sara's ear. "And now, Giles does too." It slammed Sara's head against the brick wall of the room, causing her to become even more dizzy. Blood oozed down the side of Willow's head.

"Sara..." Willow whispered in desperation. The doppelganger paid her no heed and stood up. It walked around as it continued to speak, mocking Sara.

"Pathetic: that's what you are. 'The Witchblade will control me. I'm so scared of its power. I don't want to be its slave. Wahhh...'" It walked up to Sara and said with derision, "You... are... weak. You've been weak, from the day you were born. That's all that defines you: a weak, whining, waste of human flesh that seems to pass for something as a hero to everyone else."

Sara shook her dizzied and bloodied head, saying, "No... no, I'm not weak. I'm strong, I know it. The Witchblade wouldn't have picked me if I wasn't."

"Strong enough for what?" the double replied, chuckling. "Strong enough to crawl around on your hands and knees? Strong enough to try and get your friend Willow over there killed?" It kicked Sara in the stomach; both she and Willow moaned in pain. "Strong enough to have some young upstart treat you like a green rookie?" It kicked her again, causing Sara to spit up more blood. "No," it said, "the truth is you've got just enough strength to be insignificant... and you barely accomplish that."

"No!" Sara shouted. "I am strong. I have the strength to stop Amy, to be worthy of keeping the Witchblade."

"Then prove it," the doppelganger ordered. "Who are you?" it asked as it punched Sara in the face. The fist connected and images quickly flashed in Sara's head. Her days of training at the police academy, then touring the streets as a beat cop. One image even had her tackling a fleeing criminal. Willow herself saw the images as well. Truth be told she was grateful to see anything, considering that her left eye was fully swollen.

"Who are you?" The doppelganger punched her again and the images in her head flashed again, to when she became a full-fledged detective. To when she acquired the Witchblade and her subsequent battles using it. Suddenly, Willow felt something deep arise in her, something powerful... and beautiful. It was what she was feeling from Sara.

"WHO ARE YOU?" the figure yelled once more as it extended its sword and brought it down toward Sara's head. Sara looked up, determination in her eyes, and grabbed the blade of the sword with her left hand. She stood up, holding the blade as it cut into her flesh, blood oozing from the palm of her hand. Willow's hand as well felt the sting of the blade, but she paid it little mind. She felt what Sara felt, and knew it was all over.

The figure didn't press its attack. Sara knew the answer. The images had showed her what she was, deep down into her very core. She was an instrument of power, used to beat back the darkness and those who reveled in it. She wasn't just a Bladewielder, just another woman in a line of heroines. She was something else. She was...

"Justice," Sara replied.

The red figure smiled and dissolved into a mist that slowly entered Sara's body through her hands. Sara was captivated by the power flowing through her. She took in the power; it was like nothing she'd ever felt before. Willow stood up, the same power feeling of strength flowing through her. Both women raised their heads, their eyes glowing a fiery orange, and said, "We understand."

"We understand," they said in their trance. Their eyes opened and they stood up. The orange flames surrounding her glowed even brighter and their wounds began to heal instantly. Willow knew what she had to do, why Elizabeth had thought it wise for Sara to bring her along; it was for this moment. Bathed in the fiery glow, she began to speak.

"Witchblade," Willow said, "reveal yourself. Take my power and show yourself to the one you have chosen, to your bearer, Sara Pezzini. Let your true form be known."

Everyone else in the room began to back up as Sara was bathed in blinding light. Buffy noticed that the Witchblade, which had activated as Sara was in the trance, started to change. Rather than a cold and impersonal piece of armor, it began to look more organic, tendrils slithering up Sara's arm and even to her forehead. Some of the tendrils turned into sharp edges around her shoulders and arms and parts of her face, and some began to flail about violently. Willow formed a small force-field over the group as the sharp tendrils menacingly struck the air, threatening to slice and impale anything in their way. The metal covering Sara's fingers turned into claws, taking on a sleeker and more deadly look. Her knees were covered in the now-organic looking armor. Everyone watched in awe as the cop transformed into something they had never seen before.

She lifted up her right hand and aimed her palm at the training dummy in the room. Looking at it with her fierce fiery eyes, she said, "I am an Angel of Life. I am Power. I am Justice." She then let out a guttural yell. As she did, a stream of plasma-like energy shot out from the gauntlet and burned a hole through the chest of the dummy. After a few seconds, the energy from her hands died down and the fiery glow faded. Willow dropped to the floor in exhilaration as Sara Pezzini stood tall, the Witchblade's armor covering various parts of her body. Buffy and Kennedy helped Willow up, who was reveling at what she had been able to do for Sara.

"Pez…" Rona said, astonished.

"Sara…" Giles started to say. "Are you… alright?"

She looked at Giles, who was standing near her with concern in his eyes. Her expression was one of slight confusion, as if she didn't recognize him. She lifted up her right hand, claws and all, and reached near his face.

"Giles, be careful," Buffy cautioned.

"It's alright," he replied, to both Buffy and Sara. "It's alright... it's me."

Sara gently touched one finger of her clawed hand against Giles' lips. Giles slightly flinched for a moment; to his surprise, the glove was cool to the touch. Sara's clawed forefinger trailed down to his chin . "Giles...?" she said softly.

"Yes, Sara. It's me."

She dropped her hand to her side and blinked her eyes hard, letting out a loud breath. It was as if she had woken up from a long, deep sleep.

"Are you okay, Pez?" Kennedy asked.

"Yeah," she replied as she began to smile. "Yeah… I am."

"Wow," Rona said. "What just happened there?"

"That's what I'd like to know," Monica said in agreement.

"I finally got it. I finally came to terms with what I was," answered Sara. "It took me long enough, but I got it."

"Sara also got a power boost," Willow replied. She could feel the power radiating from the woman. To her, it was something that felt almost as wonderful as the day she activated all of the Slayers. The power was primal, yet refined; wild, and yet focused. She wanted to describe it to everyone, but knew the words wouldn't adequately describe it. She accepted that it would have to be her own little guilty pleasure.

"With your help," Sara replied, commending the redhead.

"Hey, I thought I was the only one in the group who got to shoot fire from their hands?" Willow joked, trying to lighten the moment more.

"Hopefully I didn't infringe on any copyrights," Sara jibed.

"You'll be hearing from my lawyer."

"Is it supposed to look like that?" Monica asked.

"During that whole glowy thing, we found out that this is its true form," Sara replied.

"Why didn't it do that earlier?" Rona asked.

"Partly because of me," Sara said somberly, "and partly because there have been so few people powerful enough to unlock the power. With Willow here, we solved that problem. and changed the game."

"She has a knack for that," Rona quipped.

"Will it ever go back?" Kennedy asked.

"No," Sara answered. "This is permanent. Guys, I can't describe it to you how I feel. Words can't do it justice."

"Well," Kennedy said confidently, "all I know is Amy had better watch out. This'll level the playing field a little more."

While everyone else in the group expressed their happiness with Sara's newfound abilities, Buffy was the odd one out yet again. An already powerful and dangerous Sara was now even more powerful and more dangerous. She knew sooner or later, that she was going to confront the detective on her relationship with Giles. She cared too much for the man she came to know as a father to let what just happened fall by the wayside. She had lost too many people close to her and she wasn't going to let Giles be one of them.

"What do you think, Buffy?" Kennedy asked, snapping Buffy out of her thoughts.

"Um… it's great," Buffy replied, smiling as best she could and forcing the inaccurate response to come out. "Whatever juice we get against Amy is always a plus."

3:54 pm, Saturday - Slayer Base HQ

"Penny for your thoughts?" Sara asked as Giles swept the training room and picked up the burnt remains of the practice dummy.

"I would hope my thoughts would be worth more than that," he replied, chuckling.

"They are," Sara said. "But there's something bothering you. I can tell."

"How?" he asked.

"Oh, your eyes: the way they kind of shift down and blink a lot when you're bothered. Besides... you've gone over that spot with the broom for about five minutes and I don't think it's going to get any cleaner."

Giles smiled awkwardly and tried to sound out the words, but none came.

"Come on," Sara said as she held his hand. "You can tell me anything."

Letting out a loud sigh, he proceeded as they sat down on a bench. "Well... I was just thinking about what happened. It's a hard pill to swallow, but I'm thinking that our days of one-on-one training with the Witchblade are over. I mean, I'll always be there, but it won't be together like before, us trying to understand its nature and measuring your control. I guess I was just lamenting that you won't need me anymore... to help you with the Witchblade, that is."

"No..." Sara replied. She looked at Giles, who eyed the floor in dismay upon hearing her in agreement with his words. "I'll need you more."


"Giles, I may have some new powers and all," Sara began to say, "and I may be some 'instrument of justice'... I think I really hammed it up on that whole thing."

"It was a tad dramatic," he replied jokingly.

She smiled at him. "Still, I'm going to need the people I care about to keep me grounded, to make sure I never forget why I do this stuff. In accepting what I've become, I don't want to forget what I am: human. I'll need you to be there for me."

Giles looked at her and, if it were possible to him, she became more beautiful in his eyes than before. Few words could describe what he felt or what he wanted to say, so he made do with one word.


4:10 pm, Saturday - Slayer Base HQ

Buffy had just gotten off of the phone. On top of what happened with Sara, what she had heard from the phone made even more wary. She sat on the couch and was deep in thought when Sara emerged from the training room after helping Giles clean up.

"Hey," Sara said as she greeted the head Slayer. She noticed Buffy had an anxious look on her face and asked, "Something wrong?"

"Hey," Buffy replied, "Uh, no, no, just got done talking to my sister. Turns out she's going to be staying in New York for a while. She's got some internship at the Met. She told me she was on the short list a few weeks ago, but I just found out she got it. She'll be here in two weeks."

"Two weeks? So soon?"

"Yeah, well, part of the reason they liked her, aside from her skills, was that she told them she could relocate to New York without any hassle. She starts the week after she gets here."

"That's great," Sara replied, until she noticed Buffy's look again. "Isn't it?"

"Yeah, it is. But… I was kind of happy with her being away from all of this. I mean, I know she can handle herself, but being all the way in Europe Amy hasn't really thought about getting to me through her. That might change if she comes here."

"She's got her big sis and her friends looking out for her. I'm sure she'll be fine."

"Probably. It's just… I'm concerned, you know? I mean, I'm involved in such a dangerous life, messing with people and things I don't completely understand yet. Loved ones get hurt when that happens." Buffy looked Sara directly in the eyes as the Bladewielder stood listening and continued. "And I'd hate to have a person I care about get hurt because someone they were with didn't fully understand what they were doing. You know what I mean."

Sara listened to Buffy intently and got the double meaning in her words. The tone was obvious. But it was the look, the stare that made sure that the point wouldn't be missed, that gave it away. Opening her mouth and staring back at Buffy, Sara replied, "Well, I'm sure that your sister is more than capable of looking out for herself. You should have more confidence in her. Sometimes people know how to handle things more than you think."

"I hope so," Buffy said as she stared at Sara. " I hope so." The Slayer then stood up and walked away, leaving Sara to her thoughts. Sara shook her head in amazement. There was going to be a problem with her and Sara knew it was about to come to a head sooner or later. Whether or not that meant a fistfight was up in the air.

"We'll see," Sara said to herself.

To the readers: The reasons I wrote this portion are a few. First, it gives me an excuse to bring the Witchblade closer to its comic-book form. I admit that was a major reason and unashamedly so. Second, it also sets up for a confrontation (verbal) between Buffy and Sara about Giles in another short story. That interlude will be a little more light-hearted and less dramatic than what you've read so far (if you've been reading, that is). Third, it also ties in what's going to happen in the third part of my story. Hopefully you guys have been staying tuned and will continue to do so.