I don't own anything. Buffy is not owned by me. Nor is anything own by DC Comics. They are owned by rich, talented people. I'm a nobody. Please don't sue me.
Buffy stalked dourly through the dark streets. She did not want to be out there that night. It was a couple of days after Christmas, and she wanted to be at home, on the couch, curled up with hot cocoa watching TV until she fell asleep. Instead, she was wandering the streets of Rome late at night, alert for the dangers that were sure to be found. It was an awful end to an awful day.
Actually, if she was being honest with herself, nothing bad whatsoever had happened that day. Which still meant that it was an awful day. Every day had been since Dawn had died.
When the Summers sisters had moved to Rome after Sunnydale, they had had no idea what the city was like. Italy had been the heart of the Mafia. Rome was the heart of the supernatural equivalent, and the entrenched forces of organized supernatural crime had not taken kindly to the eldest Slayer's arrival.
The number of demonic attacks on Buffy's home had eventually brought Willow to the city to lay the strongest wards she could on the building. Nothing supernatural could get in without Buffy's permission, and hostile magics couldn't affect it at all. They had thought they were safe.
Then an enterprising demon had hired a human sniper.
The man had been a consumate professional, and he had had a decade of experience serving Wolfram and Hart. He had been prepared for a Slayer, and so had set himself up more than a mile away and had used a fifty caliber sniper rifle. The bullet had punched a six inch diameter hole in Buffy's stomach, and she had only avoided death by a combination of her incredible supernatural constitution, the fact that she had stood up just as the shot had been fired, causing him to miss hitting her in the head, and the fact that Willow had been sitting mere feet away. She still spent a month in a coma, and it had taken four more for her to physically recover.
Dawn had not been so lucky. The bullet had passed through Buffy and had struck Dawn in the chest where she had been sitting across from her sister. She had died instantly, her heart and spine littering the kitchen behind her.
The sniper had not been lucky either. Willow had healed Buffy to the best of her ability, and then gone on Darth Willow rampage version 2.0. Fortunately, she hadn't been as full of dark magic as she had once been, and she had confined her depredations to killing the sniper (flayed alive), and the demons who had hired him. All of them. One of the nine demon crime families wiped out in a single night.
Even though Dawn had been dead for almost two years, Buffy had never really recovered. She had become obsessed with bringing down the rest of the demon crime families by herself, only accepting token aid from others. She had pushed everyone away to keep them safe, unwilling to let anyone else get caught in the crossfire, and only Willow had had enough stubbornness (and personal power) to force Buffy to let her visit; Xander had given up the third time he had woken up on the Council plane with a splitting headache after knocking on her door.
It had been Halloween night when she had finished her mission, slaying the last two desperate bosses while they had met to discuss an alliance against the Slayer. Her friends had all hoped that she would let them in afterwards, but instead she had become completely withdrawn, uninterested in anything. Willow had secretly cast a number of spells on her one night to make sure she would know if Buffy tried anything... drastic.
Of course, the witch wasn't nearly as slick as she thought she was. Buffy had become far, far more skilled at everything even remotely Slayer related during her time hunting the crime families, and she had known immediately when Willow had snuck into her room. At first she had been offended, but in the end she had settled on touched. Her friend really did care, and she appreciated that, especially after how she had treated her since Dawn had died.
Despite her apathy, Buffy had actually begun to heal. It had been a slow, painful process, but her biggest problem was actually the hole she felt in her life. She had had her sister, and then she had had her mission, and then... she had nothing. So she did nothing, simply drifting through her days in a kind of daze.
As she thought about that, a tiny part of herself was slightly interested in her reason for being out that night. Willow had called several hours before to inform her that a new Slayer had popped up in Rome. She was probably confused about her abilities, and was also a likely target for the dangerous vampire gangs that had been starting to move into the power vacuum destroying the crime families had created.
New Slayers were called within a month of their thirteenth birthday, which meant the new girl was around that age. Buffy wasn't sure if she would want anything to do with the girl – she didn't really want to do anything that would take too much... effort, and even if the danger of her being assassinated had dramatically decreased, she still didn't want to let anyone in. Especially not some squealing, untrained adolescent Slayer. Still, the new Slayers were around because of her, so the least she could do was explain things and direct the new girl to a teacher.
Buffy felt a familiar tingle running down her spine. Her eyes widened a moment later as she realized that she felt something else as well. She concentrated, and then broke into a run, as she realized that the new Slayer was surrounded by vampires.
Turning a corner, she skidded to a stop as she took in the scene. A tiny, unwashed asian girl wearing tattered, ill fitting clothing, stood at the center of a ring of vampires, all in game face. Buffy contemplated the numbers for a minute. She knew that she could take them, but if she wasn't careful they could easily hurt or even kill the young Slayer while she was busy fighting. There were just too many of them for her to deal with them quickly.
Before she could move, the young Slayer acted. Buffy froze for a moment, staring in awe as the little girl dove at the first vampire, her foot connecting with his jaw with incredible force, snapping his head back and sending him to the ground, dazed. That strike didn't end her motion, as she simply flowed from one attack to the next, sending vampires flying in every direction as she moved through them with an effortless grace.
Buffy knew that she was one of the best warriors walking the planet. She had survived countless battles against dangerous foes, some of them legends with centuries of combat experience. Along the way she had trained, and trained hard, eventually even eagerly seeking out that training, her skills improving by leaps and bounds with the aid of the Slayer spirit.
But the little girl in front of her was something else. She fought as naturally as breathing, her tiny form destroying vampires with such consumate skill that Buffy was humbled to watch her work. She didn't know how a girl within a month of her thirteenth birthday had acquired such abilities, but she wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Buffy jumped in with a flying kick of her own, taking one large vampire that was attempting to blindside the young girl completely by surprise. "How do you like it?" she asked as she took him to the ground. Pulling a stake, she stuck it in, glancing up at the young girl as she did.
Buffy was first struck by the girl's look of horror as she staked the vampire, which swiftly shifted to confusion and relief as the creature turned to dust. She tossed the piece of wood to the girl, who caught it absently, looking at it in confusion. Buffy grinned ferally when the girl looked at her again. "The pointy end goes in the heart," she said as she demonstrated on a hapless vamp with her spare stake.
The little Slayer brightened up, gripping her own weapon, before launching a spinning kick at another vampire, dazing it and quickly sliding her own stake home, turning the creature to dust. "Good girl," Buffy said, as the newest Slayer attacked two vampires at once with a fierce grin on her cherubic face.
The battle ended swiftly after that. Buffy fought with the skill attained through a decade of being the Slayer, while the little girl fought with skill surpassing anything the elder Slayer had ever seen. When Buffy took a moment to survey the girl's moves, she was impressed yet again as she realized that not only were there no wasted motions to the girl's style, but every impact was precisely aimed at nerves and other soft spots, hits which could disable an opponent all by themselves, but instead chained together expertly into impossibly devastating combinations.
As the dust of the battle began to settle, Buffy watched as the girl walked to an alcove, dropping to her knees next to a dead girl. Buffy walked up behind her, her heart clinching as she saw the little girl near tears as she stared at the dead vampire victim. "You know her?"
The girl looked up at her, her face lacking any sign that she understood.
"Do you know English?" Buffy asked her. She then repeated the question in French and Italian, before giving up on language. That had never been a strong point for her anyway. She gestured at the victim, her motions meant to convey her question as she spoke. "Did you know her?"
The little girl's look of confusion disappeared, and she shook her head.
"Yeah, I hate finding victims too. All we can do is try out best, and do better next time. After all, stopping this kinda stuff? Kinda our job."
Buffy stood and smiled at the girl gently, offering her hand as she did. "You look like you've been takin' care of yourself. Thing is, you're a Slayer now, so you're my responsibility. Would you like to come with me?"
The girl looked at her for a long moment, before tentatively taking her hand. Buffy beamed at her, and the little girl smiled back shyly. "Coolness. Come on, you can stay with me tonight. Get a shower and some food. Would ya like that?"
The girl smiled again and nodded more confidently. After one last saddened look at the victim, she allowed herself to be led off towards Buffy's apartment.
Buffy fed the little girl, keeping up a steady stream of one sided conversation as she did. It didn't take her long to realize that, while she didn't seem to understand language, she was able to understand Buffy quite well. She was even able to direct the girl through fairly complex tasks with a combination of gestures and tone of voice.
Before long they had eaten and cleaned the dishes, and she then led the girl to Dawn's old bedroom. Even after so long she still thought of it as Dawn's room, and it wasn't until she took in the decorations, as everything was exactly as her sister had left it, that she realized where she was. It had the only spare bed in the apartment, but even Willow during her frequent visits was forced to sleep on the living room couch. For the first time in over a year she had entered the room, and with the intent of the little girl staying there.
Buffy felt tears fill her eyes, the memories of her lost sister nearly overwhelming her for a moment. Suddenly she felt warm, gentle arms wrap around her, and without meaning to she hugged the girl back, sobs wracking her frame. For the first time in a year she cried, clinging to the youngest Slayer as she did.
Finally she got herself back under control, pulling back and wiping her eyes. She flushed slightly as she looked at the girl. "Sorry 'bout that. I just..."
When she hesitated the girl smiled gently at her, before gesturing from herself to the living room where the couch was. Buffy hesitated for a long moment, before firming her resolve. "No. You can sleep here. Dawnie... Dawnie would have liked that."
The girl nodded gravely, before going to the bathroom to shower. Buffy left her a change of clothing, before going to her own room. She lay still in the dark, listening to the little girl clean up and go to bed. She didn't fall asleep for a long time.
Buffy was pulled from her slumber by the feeling that something was off in the house. Jumping out of bed, she grabbed a stake and crept silently out of her bedroom, taking in the apartment as she did. A moment later a head popped around the corner as the young Slayer she had found peeked at her out of the kitchen. Buffy dropped her stake on an end table and gave the girl a little smile. "Good morning."
The girl beamed back, before wandering back into the kitchen. Buffy followed after, watching as the girl looked through the cabinets. "Hungry?"
She looked up at Buffy and nodded, her eyes pleading.
Buffy couldn't help but grin as she made her way over to the stove. "How 'bout some pancakes and bacon? Sound good?"
The girl watched raptly as Buffy cooked, and the older Slayer once again keeping up a steady stream of chatter as she worked. The young Slayer slowly relaxed, a tiny smile peeking out of the corners of her mouth as she watched Buffy prepare food. "So, Tara used to ask if we were wanting the funny shapes or the rounds, but when I make 'em they're all a bit funny, so, you know. Funny shapes it is!"
After breakfast they washed dishes together, before heading outside. "Come on, let's get you some new clothes, and then see where you're at with the hand to hand against a Slayer."
It soon became obvious that the girl had never been clothes shopping before, as she was completely overwhelmed by everything. In the end Buffy took charge, giving her choices instead of letting her try to find things by herself, and before long the little girl had a complete wardrobe. One thing Buffy did notice while examining her choices was that she preferred clothing that covered most of her body. She eventually figured out why.
The young Slayer was covered in scars. Knives, bullets, and other things had all found purchase in her flesh at some point, and they had left their marks. From the size of some of them, it was obvious that she had sustained them at a very young age, and that the scars had grown as she had. Buffy couldn't imagine who could have repeatedly shot the child, but the evidence was right in front of her eyes.
Buffy was definitely ready to burn some energy after that, and the girl seemed far more eager to be sparring than shopping. They soon arrived at the small gym area that she had set up for her practice, and they both took off their shoes and faced each other. The girl bowed gravely, and she returning it before they began.
Buffy knew that she was in for an incredibly difficult fight. She had been awed by the girl's moves the night before, but she still hadn't expected her to be as skilled as she truly was. Buffy had to go all out almost from the start, using her very best moves to keep up with a girl half her age who had only been a Slayer for a little over a day. It was... humbling.
Buffy hadn't survived for so long, and hadn't defeated the enemies that she had, by losing though. She had been outclassed before. She had beaten stronger, faster, tougher, and sometimes even more skilled and experienced foes than herself. Even, on occasion, opponents who were all of those things at once. In this case, she held an edge physically, Slayer abilities growing stronger with time, leading her to be significantly stronger and faster than her young opponent. And, while she was somewhat less skilled, she had a strong edge in experience in actual fights.
It was a close match, with both taking a number of falls as the afternoon progressed, but in the end Buffy stood, panting and bruised as she was, over the defeated girl. She had the edge that day, but she knew she wouldn't have it forever. She was also pleased when, instead of getting upset, the girl smiled shyly at her afterwards.
"Good job," Buffy told her. The girl beamed in reply, shadow boxing for a moment, her exuberant actions somehow conveying her excitement to try again soon.
That night the two of them went slaying together. Despite the language barrier, Buffy had never worked with a more able partner. She only ever had to explain anything once, and the girl seemed to respond to her every action, fighting perfectly in sync with her, almost reacting before she would make her own move.
The girl started the evening uncomfortable at slaying even vampires, but after a few encounters, she got over it, her face steely with resolve as she took out the next pack before they could do more than frighten their planned dinner. When the near victims ran off, Buffy put her hand on the girl's shoulder and gave her a warm smile. She could practically see the girl devouring the silent praise.
The next afternoon Willow finally called. The two Slayers had existed in a kind of slaying bubble, and until her phone rang Buffy had forgotten about anything else. She slunk nervously over to the phone, taking a deep breath before finally answering it. "Hello?"
"Hey Buffy," Willow said. "How's the new Slayer? Any problems?"
"No," Buffy said. "No problems."
Willow waited for Buffy to elaborate, and after a long moment she spoke. "I take it from the world's most dramatic pause that there's something."
"You could say that," Buffy said, smiling slightly.
"Well, don't leave me hanging!" Willow said eagerly.
"Well, she's the best fighter I've ever met," Buffy said slowly. "I mean, scary good. Too good."
"Better than you?" Willow asked doubtfully.
"Much," Buffy said seriously. "I can beat her 'cause I'm all with the older and the stronger. And I've got enough tricks up my sleeve to make ten magicians jealous... if they wanted ass kicking tricks, anyway. But pure skill? Talent? Scary awesomeness? Wow."
"You can't be serious," Willow said dubiously. "She's around thirteen. She can't be that good."
"Wills," Buffy said quietly. "She's better."
They were silent for a long moment. "What's her story? How... how'd she get that good?"
"You don't know?" Willow asked incredulously. "How do you not know?"
"'Cause she can't tell me."
"What language does she speak?"
"Does ass kicking count as a language?"
"Then none," Buffy said, looking around to make sure the girl wasn't around.
"She's mute? Does she understand English?"
"No. She doesn't know any language. At all."
Willow was silent for a moment. "Is this another Dana? All crazy Slayer, get help now kinda thing?"
"Please," Buffy snorted. "Dana was... intense. But anyone with a year or two of being a Slayer under their belt could beat her in their sleep. She was like the first Slayer. Totally nuts, but not really that skilled. Just anger and instinct. This girl... she's trained. Lethally."
"Yeah," Buffy said thoughtfully. "She's not a martial artist. The way she fights... every blow is to somewhere critical. If she hits you? It's to disable or kill. Nothing else. Slayer training is all about lethal force... but it's still more like a normal martial art. This is distilled killing, all in a pint sized teen bottle."
"Any idea where she came from?" Willow asked.
"I dunno, but she didn't stay wherever it was," Buffy replied. "Her clothes, the way she moves, her lack of hygiene... she'd been on the streets a long time. Years and years. Which makes the training she got ever crazier, since she had to have been trained since, like, birth to be that good before she ran."
"Some Council experiment maybe?" Willow asked. "Remember Kendra? What if they found a baby potential and decided, hey! Not just no friends. No nothing. Not even, you know, speaking for some reason."
Buffy considered it. "No. I wouldn't put it past Traverse, but I don't think this is them. She's got scars. Like, way, way too many scars. And a lotta them? Bullet holes."
"Someone shot her?" Willow asked, her voice alarmed.
"I haven't exactly given her a physical, but she's been shot and stabbed, and well, abused a lot. Very young too. The scars... she got them young."
Willow was quiet for a minute. "Do you want me to come over? See if I can do anything?"
"Yeah," Buffy said. "This is... this is a lot. I mean... I can't even imagine. I always said my life sucked beyond the telling of it... but she can't even tell it."
"I'll take a plane, and be there tomorrow afternoon," Willow said. "Be careful."
"You know me," Buffy said.
The two Slayers spent another day sparring, with Buffy edging out wins over the determined young girl for most of the afternoon. Eventually they went on patrol that evening, and before long they found themselves in danger. What Buffy had at first thought to be some vampires, turned out to be a small nest of polgara demons.
The creatures were fast and strong, but the greatest danger was from their long bone spikes which they normally kept retracted in their arms. Buffy fought hard against her targets, keeping an eye on her charge as she did, and she soon shouted a warning as one of the creatures prepared to stab her in the stomach. When the girl glanced at her in confusion Buffy acted instantly.
She dove through the air, tackling the girl out of the way as the bone spike shot out, catching Buffy in her lower back. She grunting in pain as they bounced, her eyes locking with the terrified girl's as she did. When they stopped moving, Buffy rolled off of her and tried to stand, before collapsing from the pain. "This sucks," she muttered looking at the three demons as they closed in.
Before she could come up with a plan, the girl jumped up and attacked the first demon with insane ferocity. She broke the bone spike off, jabbing it into the creature's eye, before jumping over the next one, grabbing its head between her thighs and twisting her body so sharply that she flipped the demon through the air in two separate pieces. The final demon tried to run, only to be struck hard in the back with a stake, the weapon sinking into he demon's heart, dropping it to the ground, dead.
The young Slayer immediately ran over and looked at Buffy, her heart in her eyes. Buffy smiled thinly as she held her hand against the wound. "Don't worry. 'S not so bad. Just some bandages and sleep, and I'll be good as new. No worries."
The girl didn't appear convinced, and she hovered over Buffy the entire way back to her apartment. Buffy immediately sat on a chair, and the girl ran off, returning with the medical supplies. "How'd you know where those were?"
The girl opened the box and immediately started working on her. Buffy smiled at her determined expression, although her concerns increased as she noticed just how... efficient the girl was. She had obviously received a significant amount of training at first aid. More than that, Buffy could tell that she had quite a bit of practice at field medicine. It was just another worrying fact about the training the girl had obviously received so young.
The next morning Buffy woke up to the smell of smoke. Jumping out of bed, she winced as she pulled at her stitches, the previous night coming back to her. She ignored the pain and briskly strode to the kitchen, taking in the sight before her.
The girl had apparently tried to copy the pancake making Buffy had done for her. It was impressive how well she had managed to reproduce the batter, but the cooking left something to be desired. Buffy entered just as she was pulling a set of burned ones off of the stove. She looked up at Buffy, her eyes sad as she looked down at the burned food.
When Buffy saw that the girl had laid out two plates, she couldn't help the large smile that broke out on her face, even as the fire alarm went off. How could she be upset with a child trying to make her food while she was injured? She could think of only one response. "Thanks. Let me show you the right way to cook those."
The morning passed quickly, as Buffy showed the girl the wonders of television while she rested her back. Finally, an hour before sunset, Willow arrived, dragging a large set of luggage behind her. "Buffy!" she called excitedly. "How are you?"
"Peachy," Buffy said smiling. "Let me introduce... well, I dunno her name. We should do somethin' 'bout that."
"Hey, you," Willow said, smiling cheerfully at the young Slayer, who smiled brightly in return. "So, where do I sleep? I brought a sleeping bag..."
"Well, the couch is open," Buffy said tentatively.
"Huh?" Willow asked, blinking in surprise.
"I gave her the, um, other room," Buffy explained, looking away.
"Oh," Willow said, looking at Buffy for a long moment. She then smiled at the girl again. "You must be quite the charmer! I've been friends with her since forever, and I still have the couch! Wow. Totally jealous. Moving on. Okay, I'm back."
"Wills..." Buffy started.
"I'm just kidding. Really, though. You're looking good Buffy. I haven't seen you this relaxed in a long time. If I didn't know better, I'd think you might almost be happy."
Buffy rolled her eyes. Willow took that as a sign to continue. "Anyway, let me stick my stuff by the couch and we'll see what we can figure out. Besides, tomorrow's New Year's Eve! If happy Buffy sticks around, maybe we can split some Champagne. It'll be like old times... but with more bubbly stuff, 'cause in old times we didn't really drink, being underage and all."
"Prosecco," Buffy said. "It's Italian. Way cheaper."
"Fine," Willow agreed with a roll her eyes. "Prosecco. Anyway, exam first, then we can talk about getting our boogie on."
Buffy smiled at the younger Slayer while Willow bustled about. "She's my best friend. Don't worry, you'll be in good hands. She just wants to see if there's anything she can do to help. Okay?"
The girl nodded gravely, and she went with Willow to her room with only a single plaintive glance back. Buffy, on the other hand, was a bundle of nerves, pacing back and forth while she waited. She sighed in relief when they came out and Willow settled the girl back down in front of the TV.
"What'd you find out?" Buffy asked immediately.
"Well, I think I know why she can't speak," Willow said slowly. "I looked at her mind and it's... different. She doesn't have words, just... motions, pictures, feelings. You were actually kinda right about the speaking booty kicking thing. She doesn't have a normal native language. She speaks, well, motions. That's how she knows what you mean. She can read your body language, your moves, your actions, and its like you're actually speaking to her."
"That's why she didn't dodge the polgara," Buffy said thoughtfully as she rubbed her back. "She was fighting, so she didn't see me when I shouted."
"Probably. I'm just not sure how this was done. I mean, this isn't natural. You know how twins sometimes have their own language? Well, even if she wasn't around others, she probably would have made up her own language, even if it was really limited. And she was around people, a lot, 'cause otherwise she couldn't have learned body language so well."
"What are you saying."
"I'm saying," Willow said with a sigh. "This was deliberate. She couldn't be this way by accident. Someone... taught her to do this. And made it so she didn't know anything else."
"But... why?" Buffy asked, her voice appalled.
"When you fight, the way you move... there're so many little things you do. She can read them all, better than anyone else. It's part of why she's so good at the fighting. She can start reacting before you even act."
The two stood quietly in thought for a while, before Buffy finally sighed heavily. "Is there anything you can do?"
"Probably," Willow said nodding. "But I don't want to if we don't have to. Messing with her mind... and I couldn't ask permission, since she wouldn't understand. I think, if we can, we should come up with some kinda plan to teach her English as, well, like a second language. Best not to use magic if we don't have to."
"Always consequences," Buffy agreed.
They stood in silence for a while, until Buffy glanced out at the night. "I think it's time for all the good little Slayers to get slayey. Why don't you hit the couch and we'll be back in a few?"
"Alright," Willow said smiling. "Tomorrow we're gonna have a party though! Even if it is just the three of us, and only two drinking. Not that I want to drink much, 'cause I don't hold alcohol well, and..."
"Sure," Buffy said, smiling slightly. The young Slayer glanced up at her, before she smiled and hopped up, grabbing a stake as she did. "Come on! Slay-time."
The girl nodded, and they headed out the door. Once they were outside, Buffy started to lead the way down the steps, but she had to stop suddenly as the young girl jumped in front of her. Buffy tried to move, but her every motion was blocked by the girl, whose eyes were locked on something in the distance. Following her gaze, Buffy gasped in shock.
Crouched on a rooftop over a block away was an older man with white hair, dressed in a blue outfit with a symbol of a white wolf's head on his chest. He had a sniper rifle sighted on her, but every time he tried to shift his aim, the young Slayer moved into his line of fire. "No," Buffy gapsed, visions of her sister dancing in her head. Without a thought she grabbed a stake from her belt, twisted her body slightly, and threw it as hard as she could.
The piece of sharpened wood sailed through the air, speeding like an arrow towards the man. He began to dodge at the last moment, his efforts to find a usable shot having slowed his reaction, causing him to be hit with a glancing blow to his shoulder. Before they could do anything else he turned and ran.
The young Slayer took off after him, and Buffy froze for a moment, before running after her. "Wait! Please!"
The girl didn't respond. They reached the roof the man had tried to shoot from, and the young Slayer flipped and jumped to it before pausing to look around. Buffy followed, her eyes sharp for the shooter. When they could find no trace of him, the young Slayer turned to Buffy and smiled sheepishly.
"What were you doing!" Buffy demanded. "You could have been killed! I'm not... I can't lose someone else that way."
The girl placed a hand on Buffy's shoulder, a concerned look in her eye. Buffy just grabbed her in a crushing hug. They stood like that for a long moment, before Buffy pulled away. "Don't ever do that again!"
The girl looked away, unrepentant. After a moment Buffy sighed. "Let's go back and tell Willow. We need to find out what's going on. Say, nowish."
When they returned Willow looked up from her laptop in surprise. "You weren't gone long. Nothing biting?"
"Sniper," Buffy said shortly.
Willow's eyes widened as she looked them over. "Okay. That's not of the good. What happened?"
Buffy haltingly filled her in, and when she got to the description of the shooter, Willow pursed her lips thoughtfully. She typed for a bit on the laptop, before turning its screen around to face Buffy. On it was a picture of the sniper. "This him?"
"Yup," Buffy said nodding. "How'd you find him?"
"The symbol. He's pretty famous. His name's David Cain. He's one of the best assassins in the world." Willow looked over at her friend. "But I don't... I don't know why he didn't shoot."
"What do you mean?" Buffy asked. "His shot was blocked."
"Yeah," Willow said, looking at the younger Slayer. "By a little girl. He, um. He wouldn't be bothered. By killing an innocent little girl."
Buffy leaned towards the younger Slayer. "Do you know why... why he didn't shoot?"
The girl looked around for a moment, before seeing one of the pictures Buffy had sitting on a shelf. It was one of the pictures they had taken after Sunnydale, with her and Dawn standing with Giles. It was the last time the three of them had been together. The young Slayer grabbed the picture and pointed at it.
"What is it?" Willow asked.
The girl pointed at Buffy then Giles. Then she pointed at herself and the picture of Cain on the laptop. Buffy figured it out first. "Cain... is your mentor. No... your father"
The girl nodded, biting her lip.
"The scars," Willow said. "And the messed up raising. And the training. He was training her to be an assassin."
Buffy looked sick. She leaned forward and gently grabbed the girl's hands. "That's why you ran away. 'Cause of what he wanted you to do. You had trouble staking vamps at first, 'cause you didn't want to kill them, even though they were all evil and dead already."
The girl looked at the ground, biting her lip. Buffy suddenly stood and hugged her. "It doesn't matter. You're one of my Slayers now. We'll figure this out. Okay? It doesn't change anything."
Buffy and the young Slayer clung to each other for a while. Willow, meanwhile, grabbed her laptop and did some more research. "I think I know why he's after you," she finally told her friend.
Buffy sat down and looked at her.
"Looks like you missed a member of the demon crime families," the hacker explained. "He put out a hit through the underworld. Big enough money to attract someone like Cain."
"Then let's stop him," Buffy said coldly. "I won't let them... this ends. Now."
Willow nodded, glancing from Buffy to the newest Slayer. She had been so relieved that Buffy had finally started coming out of her shell after Dawn's death that she hadn't really thought about the consequences should her friend lose someone else. She had just met the girl, and she didn't even know her name, but the witch was afraid of what Buffy might do if the young Slayer was killed. Willow wouldn't let that happen.
Unfortunately, resolve meant nothing when you had no idea where your enemies were. Willow couldn't do a spell to find them with the information they had, so she was reduced to hacking to try and find either the source of the hit or the hitman. Both were quite skilled at laying low, however, and hours passed without finding anything. Eventually, the two Slayers went to bed, leaving Willow sitting in front of her laptop, working in the dark.
The next morning Buffy once more awoke to a feeling that something was wrong. Rolling to her feet, she cocked her head to the side, listening. Her eyes widened as she heard a dull barking sound. She had heard that sound before, far too often.
In the movies, silencers made guns nearly silent, at most producing a cough or a whistle. Some of the nastier demons that worked for the crime families Buffy had fought over the previous two years had used firearms, however, and she had learned quite a bit about facing them. She knew immediately that the sound she heard had been the sound of a silenced gun firing.
Buffy ran as fast as she could towards the front of the house, a scream sticking in her throat at what she found there. Willow was slumped in front of her laptop, blood everywhere, a gaping hole in the back of her head. Standing behind her was Cain, dressed in his blue outfit, a silenced pistol in his hand. He slowly raised it to point at Buffy.
She froze. Her best friend was dead. Another person, dead because of her. She couldn't... she just couldn't move.
And then the young Slayer was there. She came out of nowhere, diving between them again, flying towards Cain with her arm back to punch. Cain fired three shots, and Buffy gasped in horror... but none of them hit. The young girl did.
She may have only been thirteen, but she was both a Slayer and a master martial artist. Cain rolled with the hit as only another master could, but even so it left him dazed. The young Slayer froze, staring down at the blood covering her fist. Cain slowly regained his feet. "Cassandra," he said quietly, staring at the girl. "It is you..."
Buffy slowly focused. Willow was dead. The young girl she had taken in was in danger. The gunman was responsible. She moved.
The young girl had been blindingly fast. Even to Buffy's superhuman senses, she had been little more than a blur as she had streaked between them. Buffy wasn't even that. One moment she had been standing in the doorway to the room, the next, she was a dozen feet away, standing in front of Cain, her fist extended, and the man already flying backwards. He struck the front door and knocked it off its hinges, before bouncing down the steps and out into the dark, predawn streets.
The girl started to move forward, and Buffy looked at her sternly. "Stay here."
The girl shook her head, making a gesture with her fist. Buffy shook her head in response. "No. He may be your dad, but that doesn't mean you have to deal with him. God knows I stopped dealing with my dad years ago. He's mine. Stay here."
The girl looked mutinous, but she stayed as Buffy stalked down the steps. By the time she reached the street Cain was already pulling himself to his feet, a backup pistol in his hand. He started to raise it, but Buffy kicked it out of his hand before he could. "No. No guns. Not anymore."
He swung a punch at her, his skill superb. He was a true master, with a lifetime of experience, and despite his age, he was still incredibly fit. It didn't matter.
Buffy's block carried with it enough strength to rattle his bones, and she followed it up with a head butt which broke Cain's nose. He staggered back a step, falling to the ground as he tripped over Buffy's foot, which she had put behind his heel when she had stepped forward to block him. "No more. You killed Willow. And that little girl. I saw the scars. I won't let you hurt her. Not anymore."
"She's my little girl," Cain growled. "I didn't hurt her. It was just training."
"Training?" Buffy spat contemptuously. "Are you completely mental? What kinda training uses real bullets?"
Cain tried to sweep her feet, but she hopped over it, kicking him in the chin as she did. He rolled backwards with the hit, tumbling back to his feet, a knife appearing in his hand. "I wanted an heir. You've seen her fight – she's perfect. The deadliest on the planet."
"She's not a weapon," Buffy spat, lashing out quickly with both hands, a Slayer strength blow at the top and bottom of the blade of the knife shattering the tempered steel like fragile glass. She then grabbed his shoulders and kneed him twice in the stomach, before he grabbed her with a grappling move she didn't recognize. He twisted her arm sharply, and Buffy had to pull off a backflip flat footed to avoid dislocating her arm. She then rabbit punched him twice in the kidneys with her free hand, prompting him to let go of her and stagger back with a pained grunt. "She's a little girl. I won't let you hurt her, ever again!"
"She's not yours," he grunted as he launched a quick combo, connecting hard with a nerve strike to her jaw that caused Buffy to see stars and nearly black out. Only willpower and Slayer fortitude kept her fighting as she blindly lashed out, her full power but off balance blow clipping his shoulder and still nearly tearing his arm off, forcing him to give ground. "You've got no right to her."
"I've got every right!" Buffy shouted, leaping forward, her fist connecting with his face, knocking him to the ground again. "She's a Slayer now. She's mine. You hear me? She's mine. I won't let anyone hurt her!"
He stared up at her for a second as she loomed over him, her heart pounding in her ears. She had never murdered a human before... but he had killed Willow, and he had hurt the little girl that she had taken in so badly. Would it really be so bad, just to stop him forever?
She jumped suddenly, as she felt a hand on her back. She looked behind her, as her eyes locked with the pleading ones of the young Slayer. Finally she looked back down at the defeated assassin. "I won't kill you. I won't sink to that level. But if you hurt her, ever again... I'll make you wish you'd never been born."
"Cassandra?" he croaked, looking up at the girl. She turned her head away from him, refusing to even look at him. Buffy put an arm around the girl's shoulders, and the youth leaned into her side. He looked down, his expression devastated. He slowly pulled himself to his feet, looking from his daughter to the furious Slayer standing beside her. He slowly nodded. "I... don't worry about the hit. You've taken her in... I won't let my daughter be on the streets again. I'll take care of him for you."
Buffy nodded, her eyes hard. He stared at his daughter for a long moment, before looking away. "I'm sorry."
The two Slayers stood there for a long time after Cain had left, unwilling to break the moment. Buffy knew that the second she went inside, she'd find Willow. She just couldn't face that yet. If she concentrated, she almost thought she could hear her friend's voice. "What'd I miss?"
She could just imagine Willow asking that. Wanting to know, even after she was dead. "Buffy? What happened? Buffy?"
Just like that... she slowly turned around. Willow, soaked with blood, stood behind her. "W-Willow?"
Buffy swallowed, slowly walking up to her friend, reaching out a tentative hand to touch her. She was solid. Warm. Real. "H-how?"
Willow smiled. "No big deal. Just a little bullet lobotomy. I'm more mad about my laptop – I'll never get the blood out. Totally ruined! When I catch whoever did that, they are going to be so skinless..."
"Willow!" Buffy shouted, hugging her friend, tears in her eyes. A moment later the young Slayer joined the hug.
"So, what do you want to do with her?" Willow asked. "I mean, she doesn't need much Slayer training. But she'll need someone there, all the time, helping her. Maybe someone without a big, busy, time taking type job, who could just devote hours and hours to being a teaching type person. Plus, danger. I mean, daughter of the biggest assassin around? Total danger. Bet all kinds of trouble would show up, so it might be of the good to, you know, keep her somewhere with someone who could cope. Used to being in danger and all."
"I get it," Buffy said, smiling slightly as she peered through the doorway at the young girl she had taken into her home just days before. It had felt like far longer. She suddenly couldn't imagine what she would do if she had to go back to living alone in her empty apartment. "And hey, she can really take care of herself. I mean, she saved me, from Cain the first time. I didn't even know he was there. And I froze on the rematch. If it weren't for her..."
"Exactly!" Willow said excitedly. "So will you?"
"You seem awfully up 'bout this," Buffy drawled.
Willow blushed. "I know. I just... worry. But even with the whole sniper assassiny guy after you? This is the happiest I've seen you since..."
"Yeah," Buffy agreed quietly. "I have been... happy. I didn't think I would be again."
"You're great with her too," Willow added. "It'll be hard though. I mean, she's gonna need a lot of help. We still don't know what he did to make her not talk, and if she has any other problems..."
"Big job," Buffy agreed. "'Course, can't be too much harder than guarding a Hellmouth with a coupla good friends and a quip or two, right? Hey, what time is it?"
Willow glanced at the clock on the wall. "Five after midnight. Hey! Happy New Year."
"Yeah," Buffy said, slowly smiling. "I think it will be." She looked at the little girl, Cassandra, her heart swelling with an emotion she had thought lost with her little sister. "I really do."
That... took on a life of its own. I was planning something about a third of that size. I don't know how many of you have read it, but the early 2000s Batgirl run, starring Cassandra Cain? Perfection (well, most of it, comic books being as they are, some writers were better than others). My second favorite superhero. Plus, I actually like her father, the horrible monster that he was. He was almost like a Buffy villain – powerful, dangerous, cruel... yet he does love his daughter, and he is hilarious. Great character. Well, until they retconned and character assassinated him, but I digress.
I based the hits on the story Mark of Cain, from the No Man's Land event in the Batman titles. Cain tried to kill Commissioner Gordon, and Cassandra stopped him in a similar manner to what unfolded in this.
As for the bullet to the head for Willow thing, so many people posit a sniper could take her out with no problem. But in early Season 8, we see a bad guy using magic to block all of her magic, and then start lobotomizing her. As soon as the power block is removed, she instantly heals. I'm not certain a bullet to the head would take her out at this point. Just a random thought.
Cassandra here is about three or four years before we first see her in the comics. This is during her period travelling to world, trying to avoid her father. I came up with this idea when I was considering the fact that she was one of the few comic book characters I could imagine without weapons or superpowers having a real chance to take down an experienced Buffy in a fair fight. Then I suddenly thought of her as a Slayer, and how scary that would be.
Anyway, have a happy New Year everybody!