The Heart and the Will


Note: Just needed something new to write. I am working on my other fics, I promise. Just a little stuck on them.

"I have no interest in heroes, Slayer. But warriors are a different story. Prove to me that you are a warrior, and then we can talk."

Buffy's eyes flew open, hazel-green brimming with terror. She was trembling terribly and her breath was fast and labored, as if she just finished a brisk jog. But it wasn't just fear she felt, but a hot, gut wrenching anger that was directed at everything around her. How dare they?

She blinked, and realized that it was all a dream. Nightmare. But it felt so real.

Buffy cried as the images of the nightmare slowly slipped away. They were horrible, she was sure, full of pain and hurt, but for some reason she desperately clung onto them, as if she felt that she was also losing something incredibly important with them. A few moments later, only the feelings of loss, anger and pain lingered. Pieces remained, but the story was lost to her.

Her throat was parched. Deciding that her thirst was the pressing issue, Buffy scrambled out of bed and lightly treaded downstairs, trying not to wake up her mother. An unexpected pang of sadness hit her at the thought of her mother, but she quickly shoved the emotion away. It was the nightmare affecting her again.

When she arrived in the kitchen, she quickly downed a cup of water, nearly choking as she did. It felt like decades since she had water.

With a satisfied sigh, Buffy leaned onto the breakfast nook and focused on the jumble of feelings inside her—and that dream. Boy, that was some nightmare. Slayer dream, perhaps? She shook her head. No, she usually she remembered Slayer dreams with alarming clarity. This dream slipped away the moment she woke up, only leaving her with that a gutting feeling of hopelessness. She shivered as those emotions resurfaced again.

Buffy bit her lips, and shook her head, hoping that the action would at least help her with the swirling mess of emotions in her head. An odd curiosity seized her suddenly, and she glanced at the calendar on the wall.

September 1997.

She was surprised, seeing the date, but frowned at her own reaction. Of course it's September 1997! Duh! She had a Parent-Teacher Meeting to hide from, which, unfortunately, was coming up in three weeks. Aw damn, still haven't told mom about it.

Frankly, it didn't feel like such a big deal anymore. She found it pathetic that she was panicking over it all week long, and wanted to laugh at how insignificant her fear was. She couldn't believe she was actually frightened by what Snyder might tell her mother. Hah, please. In comparison to facing down a Hell God—

Buffy froze. Wait.

Hell God? Where did that thought come from?

Buffy frowned, puzzled. That was weird. Her thoughts wondered back to her nightmare that she could barely remember. It had left her feeling bewilderingly miserable. Sighing, she closed the kitchen lights, headed up back upstairs and tried to salvage a few more hours of sleep. She would worry about it tomorrow in the light of day with the help of her Scoobies.

"Buffy, are you sure you can't remember anything concrete? No words, or-or phrases or even colors?" Giles's British lilt made Buffy impatient and angry. She couldn't figure out why. She liked his accent, even though she was always making fun of his British-ness. It was like home to her, a safe place where she could relax and trust, where she would never be abandoned. But now, her feeling of fondness was tinged with bitterness.

"Uh, not really. I mean, I haven't tried cause…" Buffy trailed off. …whenever I do it hurt so much…

She cleared her throat. "Here, I'll try again." She shut her eyes tight, trying to concentrate—those emotions welled up in her again, so familiar, yet so alien and so very painful. She was tempted to open her eyes, willing them to go away, but hung on for the sake of her audience.

A male voice floated into her mind, the British accent achingly familiar. "It is nothing compared to the idea that another girl could mean anything to me. This chip, they did to me. I couldn't help it. But the soul, I got on my own…for you."

It wasn't like Giles's accent—it was rougher and more sensual, less stuffy and more alluring. But it was also full of love, so desperate and intense, and yet so pure. A soul? For her? It brought tears to her eyes. Startled by the deluge of emotion, Buffy snapped her eyes opened. Giles, Willow and Xander was looking at her with concerned frowns.

"Buffy are you ok?" Willow asked quietly.

Buffy quickly dabbed the tears from her eyes and stifled a teary sniff.

"Um…yeah. Just…I can't…remember much…I…" She swallowed thickly. For some reason, she didn't want them to know. Those words felt so private, so intimate and so hers. And his, whoever he was. Her stomach lurched nervously—the voice definitely did not sound like Angel's. "At least, I'm not sure what it is I'm remembering."

Giles frowned. "If this is too difficult, Buffy, we can do this slowly. And it might turn out that the dreams are just that…dreams. It might not mean anything at all."

"He's right, Buffy," Willow put in sympathetically. Buffy stared at Willow, feeling a hostile irritation rising her chest, followed by a deep sense of loss. She quickly pushed those thoughts away. Where did that come from? "Could be all the stress you know. We've the Parents-Teacher night coming up, and that French test."

Buffy winced at the reminder. "Oh no…that stupid test." She let out a sigh and looked at Giles. "Well, do you anything about a chip?"

Giles looked at her blankly. "A chip?"

"Yeah. I mean, what I remembered just now was someone saying 'The Chip, they did to me'."

Giles frowned and repeated the words to himself. It sounded ugly and wrong when he said it. Buffy couldn't help but grimace, which did not go unnoticed.

"You okay there Buff?" asked Xander.

"N-nothing. Um. Yeah." She refocused her attention on Giles. "Anything?"

"W-well, it could meaning anything," Giles muttered, "Could mean a deep fried piece of potatoes—"

"Aren't those called fries?" Xander offered, confused.

Giles ignored him. "Or a poker chip…or-or…"

"Computer chip?" Willow suggested brightly, "Though I don't know how someone can 'do' a computer chip to a person."

"Or, it could be test-stressed fuel nightmare," Xander reminded them graciously, "Which, Buffy, I'm right there with you. Last night, I had a nightmare that all of the women in Sunnydale were trying to kill me."

Giles gave Xander a tired look, and sighed. He turned to Buffy, "Well, to be sure, I'll trying to r—"

The school bell rang, signaling the three high schoolers to their next period.

"Research, right," Buffy finished for him playfully, "Understood. See you later Giles."

"Hey, guess what?" Xander said to the two girls as they left the library, "We have a new girl transferring. Our year. News is that she's very easy on the eyes, and yours truly will be there to…"

Willow and Buffy exchanged an affectionate but exasperated looks as they let Xander babble on about a doomed plan to woo the unfortunate new girl.

Whistler was not happy. He paced the length of a spacious, color coordinated apartment. The modern décor of its living room obviously had been meticulously put together by a decorator of sorts, evidenced by the orange-hued pillows on a brick colored couch, tastefully chosen home appliances and modern art pieces.

The sound of dishes in the kitchen caught his attention, and he waited anxiously as a dark haired teenage girl strolled into living room, a red backpack slung over one shoulder and a peeled banana in one hand.

Whistler could not help but gape at the vision of an all-powerful primordial Goddess munching on something as mundane as a banana.

"Ah Whistler," the girl-Goddess greeted brightly, "What brings you here to my humble, new apartment?"

Whistler glanced around and muttered, "Never thought orange was your thing."

"Ah. Well, I needed something rejuvenating and fun. And bright," she explained happily, "I had Iris do it for me."

Whistler gave her an odd look. "Iris, Goddess of the Rainbows?"

The girl scoffed and rolled her eyes at the suggestion. "No silly, Iris Hampton, an interior decorator from Los Angeles. She's half Huek-Jon demon. She has great sense of color, and has a totally chic sense of design. She worked for Vogue, you know, back in her heydays. And I wouldn't let that other Iris within 100 feet from me. Now, Whistler, what are you here for? 'Cause I gotta tell ya, I've got places to be."

Whistler momentarily marveled at how quickly she had picked up not only English and the California accent, but the teenage-speak as well. If he didn't know any better, he would've though she was an immaculate vision of a spoiled Southern California female teenager. "Yes, that's what I want to know—what in God's name are you doing here, like this? And what is up with this apartment, and that!" He motioned to her, looking at her up and down in frustration.

The girl lifted her brows at him, her gaze patient but condescending. "I'm personally keeping an eye on the project," she replied after a while, "To see that it goes as it should."

"But you've already messed up!" Whistler snapped, "You were supposed to handle Angel—make sure the Acathla event never happens!"

"But it hasn't yet."

"But it's started. The Slayer and Angel are already making googly-eyes at each other! You know where that leads."

"Ah, well." The teenager let out a breath. "Yeah. Wasn't my priority. And that, Whistler, was some poorly written smut. I felt no passion, no intensity, really, take a writing class or something. Better yet, get laid—best writing comes from real experiences, they say. Though you might want to think of getting a new outfit before you start hitting the bars." She grinned brightly at him. "Besides, I'm only here to prevent the unpreventable, and Acathla wasn't unpreventable, so it's not really in my list of things to worry about. The Slayer will take care of it. I mean, from what I gathered, she did it marvelously the last time."

"Katonea," Whistler growled, pinching the bridge of his nose, "You don't understand. One thing leads to another. There are things that need to be nipped in the bud-"

"Well that's wasteful," Katonea muttered irritably, "I prefer careful pruning. Don't worry Whistler-"

"If that were the case Katonea, then you didn't need come back this far. You could have just come back when Glory was here and let the Slayer take care of it with her foreknowledge. Or you could have prevented the Red Witch from performing the Resurrection! But here, now?! 1997? What is here that you want?!"

Katonea's blue-gray eyes flashed dangerously at Whistler, revealing a bit of the primordial Goddess she was supposed to be. Whistler hesitated at the warning, and bowed his head slightly in understanding and deference.

A few moments passed before she spoke: "You understand nothing, Whistler. Really, I can't do some of that, and for a lot of reasons. The most important is this, so listen well: my deal was not with Angel. Or with you, Whistler. Or with the Powers or the Evil Ones. Or the Wolf, Ram and Heart. But with the Slayer. Buffy, the Slayer, not those other snotty little slayer brats. And I look out for her. Not this world, or your beloved souled vampire, but for her. And, of course, myself. And believe me, this time, Sunnydale 1997, is where and when I want to start. I won't let her potential go to waste."

She crossed her arms and let out an exasperated huff.

"Now excuse me, I have a high school to attend and I do not want to be tardy on my first day. Though…you know, being fashionably late might be cool. Depends on what image I'm going for." She grinned at herself. "Well, I supposed to be teenager aren't I? Nothing wrong with identity issues."

She brushed past him and opened the door. Before leaving, she turned to Whistler and said, her voice sweet, "Oh, and you have can Faith—maybe I can help you out with her, make sure she doesn't get herself entangled with that Demon-wannabe. She's an interesting Slayer."

"What about Kendra? She dies within the year—can you prevent that from happening?"

"Kendra? The little Jamaican syncophant? Nah. The Powers can have her. Perfect little Chosen slave she is. Might be better for her to be out of the fray early on. But then again, it all depends on Buffy's choice. Not mine. Or yours. Remember that." She winked at him, and left the apartment.

Whistler growled, frustrated. This was suspicious. Katonea was way too interested in Buffy. Something was off when the universe's most anti-social, misanthropic, and wayward Goddess stepped down from the gloom of her throne to go to high school with a Vampire Slayer.

May the Powers have mercy on her. High School was a hell that even She would have problems dealing with.

And damn it, he thought it was going to be bad dealing with a high school age Slayer again, but now he also had a Goddess who turned herself into a teenager, hormones and all. He wasn't sure he could handle this for three years.

"Class, settle. And Jonathan, don't touch that. Sit already. Now, I'm going to introduce to you a new student. Where are you—?"

A pretty, dark haired girl sitting in the back row raised her hand.

"Why don't you introduce yourself?"

She stood up, smiling around the class. "My name Kat. Kat O'Nea." She grinned even wider, seeming pleased with herself. "Great to meet you all. Hope we can get along." Her smile got brighter when her eyes fell on Buffy. "Hope we can be friends."

Buffy shifted uncomfortably in her seat. Something about the new girl's stare was unsettling, and her voice was familiar, though Buffy could not put a finger on it. Still, considering that she was feeling hostile even to her best friend and Giles, she figured that she was just imagining things.

Prove to me that you are a warrior.

Buffy forced a smile in return.

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