Faith was dreaming. She heard her own voice speaking, but she was seeing...experiencing?... other things.
Sometimes in life, bad things happen.
Kakistos stuck another poker into her watcher's body. The woman screamed more insults at him, but he just laughed and poked her again.
But other times, if you allow it, very good things can happen.
Faith and Buffy fought the monster that was Kakistos. He knocked Buffy back and was about to go in for the kill when Faith slammed a four-by-four through his chest. He dissolved into dust before their eyes.
A lot of the time, shit happens, and you deal with it.
Faith fighting half a dozen pasty-white demons with glowing orbs in their chests. Giles showing up and killing those that remained. Buffy, older and hardened by battle, standing next to Faith's bed as a Cure-User healed her wounds. Xander confronting the military commander of the refugee base. Seeing what happened to Scott.
What matters in the end
A man was walking down a familiar street. It was on Faith's patrol route. He glanced down at his watch, it was only a few minutes after nine. While he wasn't looking, a vampire lunged out from the shadows of the street and dragged him back, killing him and draining him dry in a matter of minutes.
is what choices you make
A young girl, around Faith's age, was making out with a college age boy. They were laying down on a stone tomb in a familiar looking cemetery, also on Faith's patrol route. The boy's watch showed it was a little before nine-thirty. The girl suddenly vamped out and half-drained the boy before shoving her slit wrist into his mouth, turning him.
and what decisions are made
Buffy was fighting a bunch of Trick's guys; vampires. She was fighting them alone, and it was clear she was outmatched, or soon would be. Buffy's digital watch, which glowed in the dark showed it was a few minutes before nine. It was clear that this fight, even if Faith helped her out, was going to take a good long while to win, if it could even be won. Faith also recognized this graveyard. It was on the complete opposite side of town from where the other attacks were going to take place. She had to make a choice, save innocent people from vampire attacks, or help her Sister Slayer in a fight she may not win.
when the bad things happen...
One Week Later
Faith woke up with a gasp.
"What the hell was that?" she asked herself. Glancing at the time, she noticed she had only a little while before she was due at the Library to plan their patrol routes for the night. Wiping the sweat from her brow, Faith reluctantly got up and got dressed for the evening. The dream kind of freaking her out a bit, she packed a couple extra stakes on her person and then stepped out of the guest room she was staying in, and made her way to Giles' living room.
"Ah, good evening Faith," Giles greeted her with a smile. "I wasn't expecting you up quite this early, so I'm afraid I'm not quite ready with the patrol routes and your weaponry as I normally would be..."
"Nah, no sweat G," she shrugged off his attempts at an apology, hiding her true feelings behind her usual bravado. "I was feeling antsy, and great as it is sleeping all day, I don't exactly need that much sleep in the first place. Hey, uh, thanks for letting me, y'know, crash."
"Think nothing of it," Giles said with aplomb. "The place was starting to feel a bit... empty of late. It's good to have company, especially one who appreciates genuine music and not just... noise." He shivered.
Faith smirked and actually tried to restrain the laugh in her throat, not truly succeeding unfortunately. "Yeah, B's still a club girl at heart. Anything with a beat that she can dance to and all that. Me, I'm all about the mood. And you can't beat good old fashioned rock and roll for whatever mood I'm in. And hey, the Beatles rock!"
"Yes, quite," Giles smiled and finished gathering some things. "Shall we go?"
"Five by five," she agreed.
She'd been staying with Giles ever since she and the others had gotten back from Psyren. She had only been able to stay one night, and not even the whole night, in her dingy apartment, before the nightmares of what all had gone on in that one little room of hers kept waking her up. There had been over twenty vamp attacks in that room alone! And every time she closed her eyes to sleep, she relived every single one of them in a flash!
She'd briefly considered going to Buffy, or even Xander, but after the whole Post deal, and given that Xander had been pretty pissed at her for going to Psyren, she went straight to option number three. Giles had a spare bedroom and merely offered it to her and asked her if it were all right that he play rock and roll at night when he couldn't sleep. It had been an odd arrangement for a bit, at first, but by now she was wishing she'd done it as soon as she'd gotten to Sunnydale.
Speaking of which, she'd was kinda feeling jibed when it came to the whole psychic power deal. While she hadn't been wholly forthcoming about the reason behind leaving her apartment, it was pretty clear to her by now that her little 'psychic gift' from the place she couldn't talk about was merely an upgrade to her already sucky Slayer Dreams power so that now every dream was a fucking Slayer Dream!
Like she didn't have enough of the violence and blood and gore in her daily life already!
"Pyrokinesis?" Amy repeated, staring at her friend incredulously.
"Yeah! Although it's actually something else entirely!" Willow whispered to her excitedly. "It's not just starting fires, I can actually control the flames, make shapes and stuff. But not big ones, and the more fire I use, the harder it is to control. I call it Firefly!"
"Wow, never would have figured you of all people for a pyrokinetic," Amy mused, smirking at Willow's flame-red hair.
"Yeah, I kinda had my heart set on having telekinesis like Xander, but this is really cool too," she held out her hand and Amy saw a small red spark hovering there over the girl's palm.
"Whoa, is that...? Wow," Amy stared at the psychic phenomenon.
The spark disappeared as Willow shook her hand. "Still have to work on my control, and if I dispel it too forcefully there's some psychic backlash. We're planning on going up into the woods next weekend, so we all can practice. I had to promise not to start any forest fires, not that I want to, it's just, like I said, I'm still working on control."
"I get it Willow," said Amy.
"Oh! Oh, I'm a bad friend!" Willow suddenly berated herself, "Here I am going on and on about what all I can do, and I haven't let you share at all! I'm so sorry, Amy! Please, please go on, tell me, what's your powers? How are you handling it? Is there anything I can do to help?"
Amy frowned and looked away. She tucked her hair behind her right ear and muttered, "Um, I, uh, don't have any power... Not psychic power at any rate..."
Willow blinked. Then tilted her head and looked at her fellow witch sideways.
"Uh huh," she said with much sarcasm. "And neither one of us have magic powers either. Don't worry, it's probably just something obscure and takes a while for you to figure out you're doing it. Greg actually says that most of the time, people have to tap into their psi and learn how to use it, rather than it just spontaneously showing up and..."
"Yeah, yeah, I know!" Amy shouted. "I was there for the lectures too, Willow! He told me that I have the power of molecular manipulation of existing structural integrations. I looked it up. Aeffigikinesis. The power to control structures, or effigies. Not even a real word, but it shows up online when you search for obscure psychic powers. It's a made up word that means absolutely nothing!"
"Uh, Amy, are you OK?" Willow asked, a bit scared at the sudden reaction.
"Look at this!" she held out an unused pencil, it hadn't even been sharpened yet. "I used my powers on it. Take it. Try to break it. Take it!"
Confused, Willow accepted the pencil and did as bid, trying to snap the barely seven inches length of wood and graphite. It was like trying to bend steel! Frowning, she tried to snap it on her knee. It may as well have been solid steel, except that it would would at least bent a little, even from the small amount of force she could put into it. Willow took a closer look at the pencil and tried scratching off the paint from the wood. After a solid minute of scratching, her fingernail was more damaged than the paint, which didn't show so much as a single mark.
"Uh, what did you do to it?" she asked, handing it back.
"I... I reinforced it. Problem is, I did it too well. Can't even sharpen the pencil now. I showed it to Giles during my break period and he had Buffy try and do the same thing. As you can see, it still doesn't have a mark on it."
"Amy! That's amazing! What are you so upset about?"
"Because I actually passed out after doing this! My powers may be amazing, but I'm not! I've got next to no power!"
"Well yeah," Willow exclaimed, surprised at how her usually intelligent friend could be so obtuse, "You probably put everything you had into it, no wonder it can't break! Amy! A Slayer couldn't snap the pencil you... reinforced! Have you tried it on anything else?"
"No, I did that last night, and like I said, I passed out right after."
"Well, come on, let's go see what else you can do, and don't worry, I'll stop you before you use too much power. See if we can't moderate what all you can do. In the meantime, mind if I try something?" Willow indicated the pencil.
"Uh, sure, go ahead," Amy handed it back, surprised at her friend's sudden gung-ho attitude.
Willow called up a Firefly and had it encompass the entire pencil, and then even ignite the air around it to get some actual flames and fire going. She held it there for over three minutes. The pencil never caught fire, it didn't even smolder, and the paint didn't even melt!
It was warm to the touch after she let it go, but it cooled quickly, proving that whatever Amy had done to it didn't outright break the laws of thermodynamics, it also proved that she had fire-proofed the thing as much it could be possible to do so.
"Amy, what did you do to this thing?" Willow asked, amazed at what she held.
"Uh, I didn't know it could do that. All I know was that I couldn't use it as a pencil anymore since I can't sharpen it," the young witch frowned at her first experiment with her psychic powers.
"You said you reinforced it, right?" confirmed Willow. Amy nodded. "I think maybe what you did was you actually reinforced the properties of the molecules of the pencil. So much so that they don't react like they normally would. I mean, say you build two ships, both out of the same materials and in the same outward shape. In one, you make it like a cruise ship and use all the extra materials to make space for rooms and hallways and gyms and stuff. In the other, you use all of the materials to build nothing but structure supports and reinforce every piece of the hull so there's only space for the engines and whatever is on the deck. Which one survives an ice berg?"
"So that's what I did?" Amy frowned, taking a closer look at her pencil. "I turned a cruise ship into an actually unsinkable ship?"
"Or very nearly," said Willow. "I wonder if you could do that for all of our wooden stakes..."
"I told you, I passed out!"
"And you probably used way more power than you thought you were," Willow assured her. "Come on, let's go try out a couple things."
A few hours later, Willow and Amy stared in awe at all the 'junk' that had suddenly been transformed before their eyes. A rusted bike looked brand new, and performed like a bike at least a hundred dollars more expensive than it was when it had first been bought. Willow's very first computer, an IBM, hadn't worked for years, but Amy touched it for a few seconds and suddenly it was running better than it ever had. And as had been suggested, all of the wooden stakes they had available were now harder than steel, but weighed the same.
Amy, still slightly out of breath from her last reinforcement, stared at what she had accomplished. "I... I did all this? How? I mean, I know of about a hundred different spells that could do this, and from what I know about sorcery, there's something similar that can be done, but... it would take weeks of prep work! And more power than I could possibly have to do the same thing on the same scale!"
"Yeah, just like the difference I noticed when comparing fire magic with my Firefly," Willow giggled. "Hey, wouldn't it be awesome if we could somehow combine our powers? Using psi and magic together?" They both dissolved into giggles, which slowly came to a halt as they both gave the joke serious consideration.
"Conjuration magic isn't too far removed from this," Amy pointed out. "Same for protection spells, and repairing charms. Reinforce an object with my psi, and then enchant them with magic. Ooh, that would be powerful," the girl shivered with delight at the prospects.
"And I know what happens when I contain an ordinary fight with my psi," whispered Willow, "How powerful would it be with a magic flame being generated and constantly powering it? Powerful..."
"I'll help you research fire spells!" said Amy suddenly.
"I'll help you with everything else!" agreed Willow at the same moment.
They then made plans to spend as much of their free time as they could researching numerous spells that could work with their respective powers, and constantly working together at improving their psychic powers as much as possible over the next few weeks.
Jonothan was geeking out over the fact that he now had psychic powers. After the meeting at the Library, where he learned a lot more of the supernatural existed than he'd ever suspected; such as vampires, magic, other dimensions, and a whole lot more... well, he had to spend some time at the arcade in the mall just to calm down. After spending over thirty dollars in quarters, he reviewed what the genuine psychic, Gregory Magnus, had told him about his new abilities.
"Your Burst ability is a rare type that I've only seen a few times before. Potentially, it could be more powerful than my own and Xander's abilities. That is up to you however," Greg had told Jonothan when it had been the youth's turn in being scanned by Greg to identify his talents. "The type of power you have is called Territory. As the name implies, what happens is your psi spreads out over an area and everything within that area, your psi is able to affect with whatever special abilities it grants to you. As an example, I once knew a young man who could use his territory to control other people by affecting their shadows, so long as those people and their shadows were within his territory. The only other two I've met that had this ability, one could enact any rules he wanted to and those that broke the rules were punished how he saw fit, while the other was a doctor who could cover any territory that was deemed a Hospital or healing area, and within that area he could literally control who lived and who died with a vast arsenal of different abilities associated with medicine and being a doctor."
"Wow!" Jonothan exclaimed, then frowned. "But... how do I control it?"
"Here," Greg put his hands on the youth's shoulders, "Let me show you."
Suddenly Jonothan was intimately aware of what his psi was and how to tap into it. It was so glaringly obvious in hindsight, he was shocked that he'd missed it in the first place. What Greg was showing him, however, via Trance, was how to push his psi out until it established a boundary of controlled space around him, his territory. It was a lot like wrapping your hand, or even your whole body around an object, feeling everything your skin could tell you about it, only he was 'feeling' everything around him, and everyone. Suddenly it stopped and Jonothan was back to normal.
"There you go," Greg grinned and clapped him on the shoulders once more. "You can figure out the rest on your own, just be careful with it, all right? Anyway, the more powerful you are, the larger your territory can be, but the more experience you have, the better you can use it with what powers it does give you. As for exactly what powers those may be, well, like I said, you'll have to figure out that for yourself."
Now, Jonothan was on his way home, almost eager to try out and use his powers, but everyone's warnings about being careful and the need for secrecy stayed with him more than anything else, and he knew better than to break out an untested power in the middle of the shopping mall, or a busy street. He knew he should wait until he was home, or back with the others so he could practice with supervision, but he was a realist as much a dreamer. The moment he could safely do so, he would bring out his powers and do his absolute best to test their absolute limits.
At home, Jonothan found himself home alone, which is exactly the way he wanted it. So, locking himself in his room, he focused his psi like Greg had shown him and began to push his territory as far out as he comfortably could. To his surprise, he could actually see his territory expanding, turning everything into a negative-color image in the wake of it's progress. When it covered his entire room, he felt that he could push it more, but he wanted to start small and see exactly what powers his territory will gift him with, so he stopped it there, solidifying in his mind that where he stopped it is now his territory. Something suddenly shifts and the negative-color lighting returns to normal, but everything else is different now.
Jonothan could now sense and knew everything within his territory, but more than that, he felt absolute control for the first time in his life. On a whim, and just because the thought occurred to him, he changed himself into his ideal self-image, and then some. And while he, subconsciously, knew what he was originally, he suddenly was his ideal version and everything was so much clearer and he could think so much better and thoughts were practically exploding throughout his mind. His analytical ability also skyrocketed and it took him but a single thought to realize what had happened and what his psychic powers truly were. He could control, influence, and manipulate anything and everything inside his territory.
He frowned, his new superbrain not quite enjoying calling his very unique new abilities by a category name. After all, Xander's powers, boiled down to it were just telekinesis and tele-viewing, but he came up with cool names like Farscape and Voyager and Vygr for them. He'd have to give some thought to what he wanted his new power to be called, but in the meantime, he had more experimenting to do. Instinctively knowing that he could control everything inside his Territory didn't make it one hundred percent accurate.
He focused his powers on the room cleaning itself up. Nothing happened, at first, but suddenly he was moving around quickly and efficiently and at the same time a mysterious wind flew through the room and anything that could be moved by the wind was lifted up and put in the general area of where it was supposed to go. It wasn't exactly how he'd imagined it happening, but in the end, his room was cleaned up. Next he tried changing the furniture into different versions of themselves.
The sheets and blankets on his bed changed colors and stitching, but the wood and metal frame stayed the same. Same with the carpet, he could make it be tightly-woven or out-of-control shag, but it would still be a carpet floor, not hard wood or marble. The computer was harder. He could change the casing, but it was still the same computer. He could also boost the RAM and other, singular aspects of it, but if he did the appearance went right back to normal. An either-or type of thing it would seem.
So, Jonothan concluded, he wasn't a god, he certainly wasn't Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation either. But he had some, minor, but still some control over physical properties of matter. Not enough to affect physical states or to change molecules around, but overall configuration and some pigmentation alterations. Not to mention, his heightened brain quickly deduced, since he was in his territory and he'd somehow changed himself, he could obviously... well maybe not control, but certainly influence the minds and bodies of humans.
He needed to do some more experimentation. Maybe some physical tests, to see if maybe he could change other parts or capabilities of his body. Right now, it was like everything in his territory were dolls in a dollhouse that he could play with. The toys remained the same toys, but with his imagination he could make a simple G.I. Joe action figure into a serial killer robot, or a Smurf figurine into a blue Superman! Hey, maybe that's what he could call his ability; Dollhouse. Well, that was for later, now he had to find the other limitations of his Dollhouse Territory. Opening the door to his room, he stepped out...
... and staggered against the wall and nearly fell to the ground as his territory was suddenly breached, giving him a sudden and unprepared for psychic backlash. It took him a few minutes for his head to stop hurting, but once he was able, he tried to analyze what had just happened. Only to find that his ideal superbrain wasn't working anymore. Focusing his psi once more, he expanded his territory... and then stopped once it encompassed his whole body and focused on his territory being around his body at all times, rather than just being the room he was in at the time. He felt his power trying to accommodate his wishes, but it felt like that time he played twister when he was a kid and trying to turn himself into an inside-out pretzel. Focusing as hard as he could on what he wanted, he decided that moving while using his psi might help him, since remaining stationary would just make it easier to lock in one place. He took a few steps, and suddenly the strain lifted and he felt his ideal personality reaffirm itself, and his territory literally covered a few millimeters outward from his skin and moved with him.
A successful experiment, he thought, said thoughts incredibly clearer and more focused than ever before. Now for some more.
He ran and jumped up on the wall and did a Xena-style backflip. He felt muscles he knew he'd never had before flex beneath his suddenly cool and high-end clothing. He hadn't even noticed when his normal cotton shirt and blue jeans had changed into an all-black ensemble reminiscent of Keanu Reeves in the Matrix. Or when he suddenly had sunglasses on his face. Smirking, he decided it was time to patrol, except that a voice from his subconscious reminded him of the warnings from the others, and that he really did need to know what all he could do before field testing anything.
That was the voice of a coward, he thought, feeling overwhelming confidence in his new abilities.
It was the voice of reason and caution, the same voice thought back at him. Suddenly he was imagining what it was like if he couldn't maintain his psi and reverted back to normal in the middle of 'patrol' or a fight or something else dangerous that he wouldn't normally be able to handle.
Fair enough, his overconfident self that had been reshaped into Jonothan's ideal nature—which he wasn't liking too much all of a sudden—thought back. Decision made, he went back to his room, sat down at his computer and started pulling up every IQ, Logic, and trivia test that he could, as well as a few websites that could give him some ideas on how to test what he could physically do. He remembered Xander and Greg talking about Rise, using psi to boost one's physical abilities, but he hadn't been too sure he could use it. Now though, he knew he could use it, and quite easily and to full effect.
An hour later, Jonothan collapsed on his bed, feeling more tired and worked over than he'd ever felt in his life. When he stopped using his powers, however, the exhaustion went away like it never was, and while he was feeling lethargic, he was more alert than just a few moments ago. Getting back up and going over to his computer, he stared in stunned disbelief at what he saw there. He'd passed, with 100 percent, every single test, IQ, Logic, Trivia, Mathematics, Science, and several certifications! And it was real!
He'd really done it! He'd become his ideal self, and he was a freaking GENIUS! What else could he do with this power, he wondered.
"This is so cool," Jonothan said in the silence of his room.
Too bad he couldn't keep it going for much longer than an hour. At least that's what he was thinking right before he noticed a web page article opened on his web browser. It was about endurance training, and how it didn't just apply to running and physical exercise, but it could apply to specialty skills, such as mental exercises to let one maintain their focus for greater lengths of time. Jonothan grinned, glad for his cooler self's foresight and read throughout the article and several links about ways to 'exercise' various kinds of skills and talents. He could hardly wait until he was Ideal Jonothan all the time!
Sunnydale High Library
Faith walked in to the Library in the mid-afternoon time, after school had let out for the day. Greg was finishing up a lesson with all the Drifters on their newly awakened psychic powers. One thing that he insisted upon was that it was only those with psychic powers be present, as a none-too-subtle hint to Buffy and Giles to clear out. After Giles had gathered his books and papers, one of which Faith noticed included the Journal from the future, he and his Slayer went off for some strictly Slayer-type-training, some of which he promised to Faith the next day during school hours when Buffy was otherwise occupied. It made Faith actually consider enrolling into school to get out of it, but only for a few moments.
"By preparing a set of instructions in their mind before releasing their Burst psi, psi-users can create programs that allow them to lessen the effects of using PSI on their minds and can gain a degree of control not otherwise obtainable," Greg explained to the group. "It could be as simple as 'pick up that book' or as complicated as the most detailed computer application on the market today. Some psi-users have a near unlimited amount of raw power and vastly potent abilities. Others have barely any power worth having and perhaps only a single ability that allows them to be called a psi-user in the first place. But one imaginative psi-user with only a single, low-power ability that knows how to use it and has thousands of programs will almost always be able to beat the freak with infinite power but only has one special attack/program."
"If you kids are actually worth my time, you've probably already started to figure some of this out," said Greg as he looked around the room at the Drifters, not that he knew they were called that.
"Some, yeah," Xander acknowledged. All around them all of the books in the library were organizing themselves according to catalog and naming and being put into their proper places on the shelves. At the same time, a broom and dust pan were cleaning in all the corners, as were a couple of dust rags, anything getting in their way being moved briefly until they were done before being returned to its proper place. In the cage, all the weapons and tools of the slaying trade had already been straightened and put in order during the lessons so far.
"And what do you call it?" Greg smirked, gesturing around the room.
"Call what?" Xander asked. They all noticed the cloud over his head was an opaque white, and while it seemed to shift with his mood and attention, it remained stationary. Despite using his Burst to full effect, the young man did not seem the slightest bit affected, whereas a month ago he would have collapsed from the strain already.
"The program you're using right now? To do all the chores during this lesson?" he said.
"Oh, this? It's like Star Wars, y'know, Force Push, Force Pull... Force Sweep?" Xander laughed a little bit. No one else did. "OK, I may be tapping into my subconscious ability to use my powers while my conscious mind is doing other stuff, but it's not the same."
"It's exactly the same, Xander!" said Willow. "Why are you here for this if you don't need to know it? The rest of us have a lot of catching up to do, and you could be studying!"
"I am," said Xander, blinking innocently. Except it really was innocently, because his homework was being done on the table behind them, the pages of the books turning on their own and the pencils writing on the paper all on their own as well.
"Besides," he further defended himself, "Just because I have the basics doesn't mean I know it all. Like that part about attaining a degree of control not otherwise obtainable?" he directed this towards Greg.
Greg grinned and held out his hand. One of the half empty soda cans on the table flew to it, and then remained hovering above it. "I think I know what you mean," he said, still grinning. "Not just easier ways of using your standard powers, but ways of using your powers that give you even more unique and special powers. Like being able to fly?"
"For starters," Xander grumbled. "I can stay stationary, and even make a staircase of sorts, but I can't actually pick myself up and move about, and I've picked up and moved about things that weigh a heck of a lot more than I do!"
"Flight is more complicated than you might think. Your perspective is always changing. So, from your point of view, it would be more like you're trying to move the whole world rather than just yourself. There's also a subconscious component, a bit of fear of falling that is inherent in every living thing. You'll figure it out."
"But... what was that about special attacks?" Jonothan questioned, even raising his hand and waiting to be called on before asking.
Greg was grinning again. He held the floating can before him and then whispered, just loud enough for them to hear, "Crush!"
Instantly the can was, aptly, crushed to the size and shape of an aluminum jawbreaker. While it hadn't been even half full, they'd all known it hadn't been empty by any means, but there was no trace of any spray or soda leaking out. The liquid, they all realized was equally crushed along with the can.
"Explode!" The crushed can did exactly that. All the girls screamed and everyone ducked and covered their faces. Everyone except for Greg that is, who called out, "Shield!"
When they had enough courage to look, they saw the can in mid-explosion, aluminum shrapnel and soda spray suspended inside a spherical force field that seemed to glow to their mind's eye.
"I've got more, but I trust this is sufficient for what you were asking me?" said the elder psychic, taking a bow.
"Can I do that?" asked Xander, his voice filled with awe.
"If you want, I suppose, but why not come up with some of your own things to do with your own power?" Greg suggested. "Homework time. Everybody come up with some kind of very simple program for them to use with their own psi, here and now before I leave. Everyone except for you Xander. You come with me, and I'll help you out with what I think it is you're missing here."
The Voyager cloud dispersed and everything that wasn't already organized flew to the shelves and the broom and dust pan went back into the cage alongside the weapons, all before Greg had turned around to leave, Xander on his heels.
In the wake of their departure, all of the Drifters immediately got started on figuring out their very first programs. Cordelia began working on her telekinesis, using the basis of what Xander had hinted at, Star Wars Force powers; Force Push, Force Pull, etc, etc, etc. Willow created a single Firefly and began trying different 'programs' with it, ones that wouldn't start a fire or hurt anybody that is. Considering she was a computer programmer/hacker, it wasn't too hard for her. Faith, on the other hand, had a different idea. She'd seen something pretty useful in what Greg had just done and she set about copying it as best she could in making her own version of a psychic shield.
Jonothan was about to bring out his Dollhouse, but a glance around the all-female but him room stopped him cold. Instead he decided to work on his "Doll" state, changing just himself and no one else with various personalities, skills, and natural aptitudes. He wasn't suicidal after all, no matter what his Doll-self did most of the time, he still knew when enough was enough. Amy, on the other hand, was at a loss of what to do, until Willow started making her Firefly bright with real light without getting hotter. She started practicing changing which properties her Reinforce allowed her to enhance in the materials at her fingertips. She also tried to see if instead of making something stronger, if she could make it weaker, maybe even compromise it entirely, giving her a kind of 'death touch' for inanimate materials.
They all kept at it until Xander and Greg returned, the former looking more thoughtful than smug as he'd been earlier. Greg, seeing their progress with their own eyes—Cordelia writing lines with a pencil and paper, Willow 'juggling' different colored fireballs made from pure psi, Faith and Jonothan sparing with their respective Rise powers active, and Amy withering one of the spare stakes lying around before restoring it with a touch and then making it nearly unbreakable—he cut their psychic practice short with a brief announcement.
"Better, much better. All of you, excellent work," he said. "Now that you've got the basics down, all you need is practice and experience. And since I'm not about to risk revealing psychic powers to the world by blowing up a high school, it is high time we moved these little training sessions of ours to somewhere more..."
"Secure?" Jonothan suggested, back to 'normal' now.
"Private?" Willow offered, dismissing her Fireflies with a wave of her hand.
"Cooler?" Cordelia said, distracted as she was still trying to write out her name with her telekinesis.
"... Remote," Greg finished belatedly. "Where you can use your powers without fear of hurting others, or having to hide or clean up after yourselves. I'll meet you all here tomorrow after school, and then we'll take a van to a place I have in mind. For now though, good work!"
Wilkins State Park
Mountains to the North of Sunnydale
"Think you've got it now?" Greg asked as he watched Xander walk up to the edge of the cliff.
Sweating nervously, Xander could only shrug as he answered, "Thinking is what I'm all about these days. Besides, I need to get this mastered. The sooner the better."
"We can start off smaller," the older psychic offered.
"And risk the property damage?" Xander laughed, though it was a hollow laugh as he nervousness largely took away from his humor.
It was the weekend. For the past several days, Greg had met the Drifters in the back of the school, piled them together in a six-seater van and driven straight to the public parking area of the National Park and then proceeded to hike them so deep into the woods that without Rise powers, it would take a normal person two days to reach, where for them they got there within half an hour, tops. And that was with Amy and Jonothan, the slowest of the bunch of them, dragging them down!
Here, they'd practiced and worked out a number of programs and exercised their powers without fear of reprisal or worry about damage control. Willow had started, controlled and stopped several acre-wide forest fires already. Jonothan, under Greg's supervision, found out what he could do with other people in his Territory. Cordelia did the whole 'Jedi-Training-On-Dagobah' thing, having learned after the first time out to change for a heavy workout rather than to dress to impress, and doing the whole handstand levitating stuff thing as well as exercising her Rise so well that she was among the fastest of them all, save for Faith and Greg. And Xander, well, he'd been trying to finish up his Flying Program and actually take flight. Today he was going to do it.
"Whenever you're ready," Greg said in reply.
"I know, I know," he sighed and then closed his eyes, envisioning his goal, letting the program build itself from his subconscious, where his powers were based.
At first he tried to just pick himself up from the ground directly, but that somehow made it more difficult. Then, as he felt the program take hold, but still not powerful enough to make him airborne from where he stood, he decided to see if maybe he gave it a little bit of help. And so he jumped.
Not down, though he was really close to that cliff, but up in the air. He jumped a lot higher than he ever had before, and what made it that much cooler was that the program caught him and he stayed 'up' rather than fell back down.
"Whoa-oa-wahoh... oh, ohh-kay, there we go!" he coached himself through it as he tried to remain upright from four feet off the ground. He was having a little bit of trouble remaining oriented, but he wasn't falling yet, so he called that good progress.
"Not bad, not bad at all," Greg commented from the sidelines. "Take your time with it. Try to make the program adaptive. For now, just see how well and how long you can maintain it."
"I'm good... I think!" he started cartwheeling a bit, but managed to keep from flipping out, literally.
A few more cartwheels and actual flips, not to mention bumping into stuff, and pretty soon Xander got the hang of it. He had also exhausted himself just from hovering in one place for a quarter hour. Setting himself down gently, he took a break for a while, getting his energy back.
"So?" Greg asked once his student was back on the ground.
"Definite work in progress," Xander admitted, "but progress is being made. I think it's just fear and stamina limitations that are keeping me from the high altitudes right now. Way I built the program, I could probably go cross-continental without too much difficulty. Wind sheer is easily handled, added a windshield to the program while I was up there. Just need to wait for the headache to subside."
"Don't push yourself," Greg warned, then corrected himself, "Sorry, I meant don't kill yourself, but do actually push yourself, otherwise you won't progress and get over, as you called it, your stamina problem."
"Thanks I'll keep that in mind," Xander said with no small amount of sarcasm. "Can you? Fly, I mean?"
Greg shrugged and then stepped out into open air and stood there as though he were on some invisible platform. And though he could not see it, Xander could feel the psi being used so for all he knew there was an invisible platform there.
"We all have our own methods," the older psychic answered Xander's question with a shrug. "But I would expect every psychokinetic in the world can use some variation of their powers to defy gravity and fly like a bird. You just won't catch them out in the open practicing, for fear of discovery."
"Doubt I'll have much to worry about that here," the younger remarked. "Way people react when weird stuff happens in Sunnydale, I imagine I could go total Akira and the next day nobody would blink twice at me or the state of everything, they'd just blame it on some storm or earthquake or something and then move on."
"Yeah, that is both convenient and concerning," Greg said.
"That's the Hellmouth," Xander replied jadedly.
Meanwhile, a short distance away, but further down the mountain, Jonothan, Amy and Willow were practicing with their own programs.
Willow was working at controlling multiple Fireflies, having already gotten the program down to make a single spark of flame-creating-psi do pretty much whatever she wanted, from attacking, shooting out like a bullet, expand into a literal flame shield, anything she could imagine basically. It was in controlling more than one at the same time that she began to run into concentration problems, even with the aid of Programs to take the heavier load. At the moment her comfortable limit was three, so she was working with five at the moment.
Jonothan was working on expanding his Territory's range and the details at which his Dollhouse could influence and control what went on within said range. As he'd previously discovered, he did not become an instant god, so while he could a lot of amazing things with it, there were still rules he had to follow with doing them. Number one of which was; no rewriting reality. The other things he'd discovered, as far as limitations, were that he could not create something out of nothing. If he did create or change something, or someone, then the potential for that change existed on some level, even if it were only a quantum level. Another was energy was still energy, whether it be psi, physical, elemental, or magical, while he could influence it with his own psi energy and etc, Newton's Laws and the laws of thermodynamics still applied. Last limitation he'd discovered thus far was other forms of psi still worked within his Territory, no matter what he did to prevent its use by the others, when it occurred to them to do so, they could still use their powers and the Programs they'd developed, almost like an instinct, even when he had them in a Doll state, as he'd coined the term.
For example, to each; for a physical object, say he turned a red apple green. The possibility for that to happen existed, because either the apple had originally been green, or the mapping for such existed in its genetic code somewhere. Turning the apple into an orange or a bunch of grapes, however, more difficult, but still possible because they were all fruits and go back far enough in the genetic coding and pretty much all fruit came from the same plant. It was not possible for him to turn the apple into a puppy or a bird or a hand grenade. Because the possibility, the potential for that existence just simply did not exist, period. Thus, no rewriting of reality.
Same thing for people. Jonothan-Doll, his ideal self, was possible because the potential for that existed within his mind and body. And it didn't just have to be things like 'if he acted more confident' or 'if he started exercising and eating right'. It could be like 'what if he exercised every day of his life straight from the crib?' and 'what if he'd been hunting demons since he was a child?' and millions of other scenarios, all culminating in the existence of his Doll state. Same for the others, he just had to imagine the right 'what if' questions and Program in his image of what potential answer there could be to the question and the Program did the rest, adjusting and influencing the persons mind and body so long as they were in his Territory.
As for energy and the laws of physics, well, again, no rewriting reality. So if somebody shot a bullet at him and the bullet entered his territory, while he could change the properties of the bullet from hollow point or armor piercing to a musket ball or old western slug, the energy of the bullet spinning and being fired at the speed it was shot with remained constant, so the bullet would still be flying. No deflecting or stopping bullets in mid-air, even if he pushed air resistance to the same as if the sun were a black hole, at best it would slow it down or redirect it slightly, but not stop it. Same for psi, wind, water, fire, lightning, flying bodies, everything. No rewriting reality means dealing with the physical world same as everybody else, just able to change the potential of people and objects already in his Territory without breaking the laws of physics.
As for how psi still worked, well, Amy was helping him work that out now.
The two were sparring and all three of them were in a Doll state, a psychic overlay of potential possibilities that resulted in a whole new personality with either enhanced, or very different skills and powers. For himself, Jonothan-Doll had his 'standard' load out of near-Slayer-level strength, speed, stamina, basically the whole super soldier package, to say nothing of the raw intelligence and supreme instincts he possessed alongside his confidence.
Willow, however, was stuttering every other word, dressed in heavy wool, long sleeves, and ankle-length skirt, all of them earth-tones. But she was using a level of magic that none of them had ever seen from her before, able to tap into and fully utilize all four elements and she could raise and lower a protection circle faster than the other two could blink! As for her psi, she had no difficulty calling it up or using the Programs she'd already devised, it was just like she'd spent the same few days practicing and perfecting them with her current personality rather than her normal one. Jonothan had a feeling that if they spent the time to ask 'her', she'd probably tell them that she had, but with slightly altered memories.
Amy, the moment her Doll state took effect, had changed from her normal attire to an all black ensemble more in tune with a goth or emo groupie, complete with spike and chain jewelry and goth make-up. That was something else that was rather distinctive about Jonothan's ability, along with the mind and abilities, usually the clothes changed too. She was shooting off dark spells that had the both of them on the defensive from the word go, and though Jonothan had crafted her Doll state to be way more magic-oriented rather than physical fighting, she had already proven that some things ran deeper than a personality, by picking up a couple sticks, transfiguring them into either arrows, spears, and even a sword and shield, and then she'd used her psi to Reinforce them and then attacked with them, as they'd been training with her to do over the past couple days. What made it such a big deal was that the Imprint Jonothan gave her was specifically created with the parameter in mind; she hates fighting physically, and should only fight with magic!
It being their fifth such bout within the past six hours, Jonothan felt the experiment had run its course and acknowledged the limitation for what it was. Something to keep in mind for the time when he used his abilities against unfriendly psychics in the future. Deciding to move on, he tried to see if he could 'change' things while things were still very much active between the 'Dolls', hopefully without having to withdraw and then reactivate his Territory.
After all, Greg had given them the advice that it was easier in the long run to just create a new Program and overlay it on an out of control or older one, than it was to forcefully terminate and start a new one. He just hadn't actually tried to do it as of yet, always just stopping his powers after the Programs had run their course, so to speak. Well, now was as good a time as any.
"C'mon you muggles, is that all you've got! You are pathetic! You are..." Goth-Amy was saying right as the new Program took effect. "... You... are... uh, you are so going down, yeah! Woohoo! Yay!" Amy's clothes hand changed from black emo to perky cheerleader, literally she was wearing the Sunnydale High cheerleader uniform, though instead of the yellow sweater it was a midriff-baring armored vest with a couple of swords across the back. Her hair, which had been a dark crimson, which actually seemed to be her natural hair color, was now bleach blond to the roots and done up in twin ponytails. Oh, and she was now wielding a chainsaw.
"I wouldn't count me out just yet, blondie," Willow stated. She was now dressed in white cargo pants, and a tight fitting sleeveless black turtleneck. Her red hair flowed around her head in a halo, reminiscent of an open flame as she struck a pair of matches with each thumb and within moments had basketball sized fireballs in either hand. "I'm just getting warmed up."
Jonothan too had changed. He'd felt for a while now that he was limiting himself if he stuck with 'Jono-Doll', the perfect version of himself. He had other potentials that he could fulfill, ones that not even Jono-Doll could accomplish. So, while focusing on a program that would have the other two utilize their psychic talents to the maximum potential available to them, for him he went the other route.
Jono-Doll never used magic, and he'd become rather curious if it was possible for him to use the mysterious force that these two friends studied and used so easily... with his help of course. So, in this Program, while he made them 'experienced' demon hunters that primarily utilized their psychic powers, he made himself an 'experienced' magician, fulfilling his magic potential, whatever it may end up being, to his full capabilities. The effect was, well, rather startling.
He now wore round thick-framed coke-bottle glasses, and he actually needed them to see clear enough to even walk straight. His hair was longer and rather shaggy, as though he spent the absolute minimum amount of time and effort to keep it clean and tangle-free. His clothes were in a similar state, which wasn't saying much from his normal attire, except these clothes were just jeans, sandals, and an overly large t-shirt, rather stained, that came to his knees actually. Also, all the muscles that he'd had moments ago had disappeared. He wasn't fat or chubby, or even the out-of-shape state of his normal appearance. Far from it, he was actually quite skinny and very pale, like he spent all his time indoors, but as with his appearance he hardly took the time to eat more than the bare minimum.
The reason for this unsightly appearance became obvious to Jonothan as his mind exploded with information. Magic spells, ritual circles, alchemical formula, incantations and more! Knowledge and experience of studying and understanding magic flooded his thoughts as he understood exactly what he could do, what he was best at, what he wasn't, and everything inbetween. He demonstrated this with the first thing he did, which was to cast out his hands and trap both girls in separate binding circles. Something that should have taken a normal witch or wizard at least a full minute to cast, not counting the full incantation and focusing medium. And he'd just done it by pointing his hands at them! Twice! At The Same Time! With Different Spells!
Only problem was... he seemed to be even more shy than he naturally was. Part of gaining such a mastery of magic was sequestering himself away from practically all human contact for the majority of his life. It was only the knowledge and 'memories' of his true self that kept the uber-shy mage from squeaking like a mouse and teleporting away. Somehow, Jonothan knew that his Doll State would remain active even while teleporting, reverting back to the simpler state of being skin-tight as to the wide-area effect he was using at the moment. It also helped if he thought of the whole thing as one big experiment. Scholars are all about the experimenting, Mage Scholars especially. Jonothan decided to call this one 'Jono-Mage'. And only to pull him out when they *really* needed a heavy-hitting magic user, big time.
"Uh, like, what's the big deal, dude?" the zombie-slaying cheerleader asked, revving her chainsaw.
"Yeah, and, uh, why can't I move, damnit!" the pyromaniac redhead cursed, using her flames as thrust to try and leave the red-glowing magic circle that had her trapped.
"Th-that w-would b-be m-my fault, I s-sup-pose," Jono-Mage stuttered, not really looking either of them in the eye. "A... a simple b-binding spell, to cease all hostilities b-before anyone could, well, c-could get hurt, you see?"
"No, I don't!" Pyro-Willow growled, igniting flames practically all over, not that it made any difference.
"Does this, like, mean we're done for the day?" Chainsaw-Amy asked, popping her gum in her mouth.
Having proven that it was possible to change up the program with his Territory still active, and with the terminally shy Jono-Mage still in charge, he saw no reason not to go ahead and terminate the experiment for the day. "Y-yeah, OK," he mumbled before withdrawing his territory, automatically ending the programs, thankfully without the psychic backlash as he'd already learned how to keep that from happening. Incidentally, he'd also learned how to do it intentionally, if he ever happened to get a 'bad guy' in his Territory and wanted to disable him, or her, before releasing them from his control.
"OK, first off," Jonothan said once they were all back to normal in the forest, "I have no control over the costumes, that is entirely because of the personalities, your personalities! Second, I have no control over what those personas say or do after they're Imprinted! Last, thanks for not killing me?" he squeaked the last part, cringing a bit when both witches walked up to him.
"Jonothan," Amy began. "Do not ever turn me into a cheerleader, ever again! And next time, try and keep me on the good magic side of things. That was... not pleasant."
"But you were like super powerful. And hey, we didn't even get to see what our psychic trained Dolls could do! I wanted to see how much I can blow stuff up with!" Willow said, excited. They both stopped and looked at her. Noticing their looks, she shrugged and said, "What?"
Sighing, Amy shook her head, exasperated. "Well, somebody obviously had fun being in Jono's Dollhouse. But being a dark witch, no matter how powerful, was not fun. Not after it was over. And the cheerleader thing reminds me of..."
"Oh Amy, I'm so sorry," Willow immediately apologized. "I didn't think..."
"It's all right," the blond shook off the redhead's touch. "Just..."
"Right, got it, no more cheerleader, and keep the magic focused on good magic," Jonothan nodded.
"How did both of you get so powerful without going dark, anyway?" she asked as they started walking back to the campground, now that their training for the day was done.
Jonothan shrugged and answered for both, "In the first place, I just put into the program that both of you relied more on your magic skills and abilities than your psychic abilities, which we've been training in for a few weeks now."
"To give yourself an advantage, no doubt," Amy remarked.
He shrugged, neither confirming nor denying it. "I just wanted the Program to reflect that your first instinct would be to cast a spell than to Reinforce some hand held weapons, or use Firefly to spark a fireball. Instead, you both stuck with the same tactics and strategies you've been using in training for the past week or so. Yes, you used magic primarily, but you still used your psychic skills and powers, which the Program was supposed to circumvent."
"But all it did was enhance, or evolve us along the path of magic we're already one," Willow pointed out, a bit uncomfortably as well. She'd thought she'd finally gotten over the worst of her shyness, but apparently focusing on magic to bring it to the level she'd been using while in Doll State brought it back with a vengeance.
"That's a scary thought," Amy muttered, looking down at her hands.
"When I tried to add another Program on top of it, which is what we planned on trying today anyway, I wanted to see what would happen if I used magic instead of relying on my usual Doll State, and also went the other direction with you two. The new Program was just supposed to turn you into experienced demon hunters that primarily utilized their psychic powers. Unfortunately, that version of me is so shy, I think he was about to have an actual heart attack from being so close to two girls."
"Ah, is lil Jono scared of being around beautiful women?" Amy teased, laughing.
"No," he answered seriously, ignoring the teasing entirely. "I mean it, he wasn't shy because you two are pretty. He was panicking because you're girls! If it had been Xander and Greg there instead, I think he would have tried running away instead. With you two, he was breaking out in cold sweat and did whatever you told him to do after stopping you from hurting each other."
"Yikes," Willow commented. "Shouldn't bring him out when there are girls on the other side of the fight then. Would he actually run away if it came down to a fight?"
Jonothan considered it for several moments, before reluctantly nodding his head. "I can't remember all the stuff he knows or could do, same as with Jono-Doll, but what I can remember of him was that he has spent pretty much all his life, from the moment he could walk, talk, read, and wash himself, he's been in seclusion, studying magic. He knows other people exist, but he doesn't know how to deal with them. Taking his memories from me, he'll probably treat any aggressive male as a potential bully and use his magic to avoid a confrontation, instead of confronting him. Same as he did with you two..."
"Cordelia," they both said at the same time. "Aggressive female," Amy added. "Obeying her and doing whatever she wants," Willow concluded.
"And you two are my friends, and I hate seeing friends fight," Jonothan pointed out. "Hence why he used binding spells, instead of a couple of lightning bolts."
"You'll have to work on that Program a bit, Jonothan," Amy said as they entered the campground where Faith and Cordelia were completing their own psychic exercises. "A magic user of that caliber would be useful in any number of circumstances, but we can't have him going rogue on us."
"I'll work on it," he promised. "How are you two doing?" he asked the Slayer and Seer.
"Badly," Cordelia answered with a smug look in Faith's direction.
The dark haired Slayer scowled and shot the dark haired cheerleader a dirty look, but refrained from speaking, instead concentrating on what was in front of her. Which at the moment was a bowl of water. She was trying to use her burst on it, but in spite of what Greg and everyone else had told her, it wasn't happening. Cordelia, on the other hand, was doing a one-handed handstand while various rocks, pine cones, leaves, and other things floated around her. Well, to be honest, it was no more than four things at once, but that was only because she was simultaneously using her telekinesis to balance herself without wobbling. Clearly, she wasn't on Xander's level, but it was quite impressive progress for the once reluctant Seer.
"Leave her alone, Cordelia!" Willow snapped at her childhood tormentor. She was, of course, ignored.
"I don't need nobody's help, Red," Faith said from where she was staring angrily into the bowl of water.
"I wasn't... I mean, I..." Willow said, flustered.
Thankfully, she was interrupted from having to further defend herself to a frustrated Slayer, by a loud shout from overhead. "WOO HOO!"
Looking up, they were stunned to see Xander flying through the treetops, actually flying, like something from the comics! Jonothan immediately smiled wide and cheered. Willow cried out, though from fear or excitement not even she could say for sure. Amy, Cordelia and Faith just stared open mouthed, and with a lot of jealousy. Cordelia flipped herself upright and dropped the program that had been holding up the other objects, and Faith stood to her feet and tried to get a better angle of tracking the flying psychic.
"WHOO-WHOA WHOA WHOA WHOA WHOA!" he then came to a screaming halt, dropping and then flying smack into a tree.
"I feel that there was a joke there we just missed out on," Faith commented with a wry laugh.
"Ow," Xander groaned from where he was stuck in the branches.
"Are we done for the day?" Cordelia asked, sounding bored. "I need to get to the mall before it closes."
"Yes," Greg answered from just behind the young psychics, "We are done for the day. You can all go about your business. Oh, by the way, I am taking Christmas off, just so everyone is clear, that means I am not going to be in town. Besides, you've all progressed to the point of self-study. I'll help where I can with any last minute pointers, and definitely with the demon hunting, but this favor for an old friend has already taken up more of my time than I planned on."
"What, just like that?" Xander called as he floated down from the tree he'd crashed into. "Dude, I still have no idea how to do half the stuff you can! And everyone else is just getting started."
"Yeah Mr. Psychic," Faith added while proudly presenting her assets, "are you sure you don't want to stick around for a while longer?"
Clearing his throat, Greg shot the young Slayer a warning look before replying, "Tempting as it is to start a school of Psi, and Heaven only knows how this would even be possible in the first place, I've got other commitments and responsibilities. Don't worry, I'm not abandoning you, but for the holiday season, you are all doing self-study with your programs. If you get stuck or can't think of anything else to do, well... we'll see where you're at come the New Year, all right?"
They all grumbled, but were definitely unhappy to lose their teacher. As much as they hid from him, it was nice to have somebody they could talk to and who could understand about their new abilities.
"See you later!" he called, suddenly halfway down the trail. It wasn't until a moment later that they all remembered Greg was the one that drove them up here, and chances were that he wasn't going to be waiting around for them at the van!
"Shit!" Xander shouted first, activating his new Flight Program and jumping into the air. He still wobbled a bit, but he was soon gaining altitude and picking up speed.
"Oh hell no!" Cordelia was the next to realize and react, racing down with her Rise at full.
After that, the rest kind of figured it out for themselves and wasted no more time in commentating over it, activating their own Rise and racing after Cordelia and Greg. All of them envying Xander for his new found flying ability, which undoubtedly gave him an unfair advantage in the race to the car.
Faith was dreaming. She'd hoped by changing what bed she slept in she could change the kinds of dreams she was having. One week at Giles' place, one week in Cordy's pool house, a weekend or two at Red's place while the parents were away, and now she was trying Buffy's hoping that maybe, just maybe, the Psyren enhanced Slayer Dreams would skip her and hit the blond instead.
So much for hope.
Hope. A dangerous and powerful emotion. A state of mind really.
The old man from her earlier dreams, walking down the empty street. There was more detail this time. She could see that he was holding a small carry-on luggage case, a newspaper sticking out of the pocket. She saw the date. She also saw that it was stuffed with clothes and hospital scrubs. The man was a doctor!
Hope can elevate a person to the next plateau. Allow them to move on from tragedy...
She saw the couple again, earlier in the evening it seemed, walking into the grave yard. His eyes were sparkling and he was smiling, filled with life and love. Her eyes were cold and while she smiled, there was a hint of lustful malice behind it. Instantly, Faith knew the vampire was a minion. She'd seen it before, she'd see it again, standard bait and bite.
...live life to the fullest...
She saw their deaths again. The old man dragged into the alley and drained, the boy killed and turned.
...and face up to the worst of the worst without flinching.
Buffy fighting again. Outnumbered, being pushed back. And then she saw it, one of the sword wielding vampire soldiers sneaking up behind her. She was too tired, too worn from battle to notice him amidst all the others. She watched as he got a lot closer than any of the other vampires had gotten, his sword poised to strike!
But hope can be a curse too. It ties us to what was, what we wish had been, what could be...
Suddenly she was in a hospital operating room. The old man, the doctor operating, the date and time displayed on the wall behind him, a week after the attack at almost the same time! He was operating on a young woman. Suddenly she was dying, flat-lined. He worked steadily, not panicking like all those around him. Within moments, her heart started beating again, and it was clear to all she would live.
...hope can make us fight for the what ifs instead of the what is. Holding us back. Keeping us down.
The time was years later. The man's family celebrating his retirement, awards and pictures and news clippings and hand drawn pictures a memorial testament to the lives he saved over the years. That he... could save... over the years... if he lived.
Until hope turns to bitterness and avarice, as we never get what we want and envy what we don't have.
The boy, now a young man, meeting another pretty young woman, a human woman. They smile, shake hands, kiss, date, enjoy life and fall in love. They marry. They have children. Their children become heroes. A granddaughter is a potential Slayer. The son a police officer, the daughter a nurse. The nurse helps save a life that will help save the world, stopping something terrible from happening. She can't see what but she knows it just the same!
Hope is nothing but dreams and wishes... until someone has the Faith to act. The Will to do something.
Suddenly the attacks change. Faith... she is there! She grabs the vamp in the alley and stakes it before the man even leaves the coffee shop. Any other vampires in the area quickly take off and the doctor makes it home safely, never knowing how close he came to death. She's there, pulling the vampire seductress off the tomb right before it can strike and dusts it before the scared kids eyes. The vampire with the sword poised to strike Buffy in her blind side suddenly goes flying. Xander is there, silently but effectively watching Buffy's back, ensuring that she'll come to no harm, though she may not even know it!
Live in hope, have faith in your choices, and choose LIFE!
Faith's eyes snapped open as she gasped awake.
To be continued...