| Ch. 1 | Ch. 2 | Ch. 3 | Ch. 4 | Ch 5 | Ch. 6 | Ch. 7 | Ch. 8 | Ch. 9 | Ch. 10 | End Season 1 - Epilogue |
| Begin Season 2 - Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15 | Ch. 16. | Ch. 17 | Ch. 18 | Ch. 19 | Ch. 20 | Season 2 - Epilogue |
| Ch. 21 | Ch. 22 | Ch. 23 | Ch. 24 | Ch. 25 | Ch. 26 | Ch. 27 | Ch. 28 | Ch. 29 | Ch. 30 | Season 3 - Epilogue |
| Toilet Demons Project |
| Ch. 31 | Ch. 32 | Ch. 33 | Ch. 34 |

TITLE: It Starts With Faith 
CHAPTER: Nine 
AUTHOR: Dreiser 
EMAIL: dreiser0@earthlink.net
ICQ #: 37674780 
WEBSITE: http://www.lvdi.net/~reddeath/dreiser.htm 
CONTENT: F/F romance. Don't like it, don't read it. 
SUMMARY: An alternate reality series that places Faith as the one true slayer aka the chosen one for her generation.
DISCLAIMER: I own nothing but my collection of Tori Amos concert ticket stubs. 
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Being without a phone for nearly two weeks really sucks. And so does Ameritech, big time. 

-Nine-

Faith was hiding.

It wasn't something she was entirely used to but she was doing it and she was doing it for a very important reason.

She was doing it because Coach Nancy McGrath really didn't know when to take no for an answer. And she wasn't alone in this because Coach Johnston and Coach Walter didn't seem to know either.

All in all, Faith had three Coaches chasing her across the campus of Sunnydale High and it was getting more than a little bit exhausting trying to avoid them all.

Why couldn't they just accept that she wasn't a joiner and leave her alone? So what if she'd broken the all time state record for the 100 meter dash? So what if she'd made more three point shots in one minute than most people did in an hour? So what if she'd scored a goal from across the entire soccer field and caused the ball to rip through the net?

Was that really any reason to stalk her like this?

"Stupid Coaches," Faith muttered from where she sat huddled in the swivel chair Giles had in his office. "Bugging me with presents and scholarships when I got Slayer stuff."

She aimlessly picked up one of Giles number two pencils and balanced it on her index finger. Faith wasn't in the best of moods because the relentless stalking from the three Coaches of Eastwick had kept her from seeing Cordelia.

And if there was anything that made Faith grouchy it was not seeing Cordelia. It was like ensuring grouchiness in her and everyone in her group of friends knew this.

Even Giles knew this.

Needless to say, all her friends were going to be just as upset as Faith was with the three Coaches of Eastwick for keeping her from Cordelia. Because they were the ones who were going to have to deal with Faith's grouchiness.

Which wasn't fun for them.

No, not any fun at all.

---

The air was shimmering.

At least, it looked like it was shimmering to Brendan. Directing his brown eyed gaze towards Zac he wondered if the other vampire knew what this meant.

"Freedom," said the Master as he slowly drew his hand away from the invisible barrier that held him. "Will be mine very soon." Turning to Zac, he smiled and said, "The power you've brought to me is great, Anointed."

"It is your power, Master," said Zac while lowering his gaze downwards. "I am merely your vessel."

"Quite," the Master murmured. He kept his eyes locked on Zac for a long moment before abruptly turning away to walk towards his usual seat. "Tell me, Zac," he said smoothly. "How will you bring the Slayer to me?"

"I will ask her and she will come," replied Zac, who kept his eyes lowered while he said this.

Forming an amused smirk, the Master rested his chin on his hand which was balled into a fist. "You think it will be that easy, do you?" he asked with humor.

"The Slayer will come," Zac repeated slowly as he lifted his gaze to meet the Master's. "Because you will it."

Eyeing Zac with some surprise, the Master gave a low nod of concession then said, "Very good. But what of you, my Anointed? What is it that you will for yourself?"

"I will many things," said Zac as he formed a small smile. "All of which are selfish next to your own goals, Master."

"I see," said the Master after a slight pause. He studied Zac for another moment before he averted his gaze to Brendan who jumped on being held under its power. "Brendan," he pronounced slowly. "What is your will?"

Blinking at being asked anything by the Master who had only given him orders for so long, Brendan said in soft and humble tones, "My will is yours, Master."

"I see," the Master repeated with a slight growl. He studied the two vampires for a moment before waving his hand irately as he said, "Leave me. I must concentrate the energy I've gathered to help gain my freedom. You both will know when it's time for you to play your roles."

"Yes, Master," said Zac and Brendan together as they gave a matching pair of polite bows to him.

Watching them exit his cavernous prison, the Master narrowed his eyes and said, "So... then they truly are planning something. The real question is, will their plans interfere with my own plans for freedom?"

Yes, that was the real question indeed.

---

"Prom?"

Staring at Faith who had suddenly gained a blank look on her features, Xander smirked and said, "Yeah, the thing that happens at the end of the year... the social event of social events when it comes to high school society." He paused a moment then said in surprise, "You are going to ask Cordelia to go with you, right? I mean, sure you'll get some slack but you're the almighty kicking ass Slayer. You can just whomp anyone who says something about it."

"Are you going?" asked Faith, who still had a rather blank look on her features as she turned to Xander.

Xander had found Faith still hiding in Giles office and the two friends had wandered into the library, just wasting time away as they waited for the others to arrive. School was over and Faith was fairly sure that she was safe from the stalking habits of the three Coaches of Eastwick.

"Well, yeah... I hope I am," Xander said as he blushed. "I haven't asked Amy yet but I think that she'll say yes if I ask her to the dance. Don't you think so?"

Still wearing a blank expression, Faith blinked then shook her head and said, "Yeah... she'll say yes definitely."

"Okay," said Xander slowly. "Exactly what switch in your brain did I break by asking you about the prom?"

"Sorry, X," said Faith with a sigh. "It's just... I never thought about that sorta thing before. I was hardly at my old school and I never did the school dance thing."

"Yeah, well, you should probably start thinking about it now. Especially considering who your girlfriend is," said Xander as he gave a humorous smile. "Cordelia's infamous for being nutty involved in this kind of stuff."

"She is?"

Faith was now looking very nervous and Xander wasn't sure whether to be amused or concerned. He ended up being both because it was just such an strange situation. Him playing the part of Faith's confidant? So far that job had always been Cordelia's or Willow's and to a greater extent Giles as he had been there for Faith the longest.

Xander finally decided that he liked this role. He liked it and he was going to live up to it and try to give his friend the very best advice that he could come up with.

He was going to do that and tease her a little.

Because that was also part of the role of the confidant. Or rather, part of the perks of being the confidant.

At least, according to Xander Harris it was.

"Yep, she is," said Xander with a smirk. "Last year she helped organize the entire prom. She was even in charge of the sound system. Every single detail Miss C had covered in the most grand of ways. She's prom girl all right."

"Prom girl?" Faith echoed dimly.

"Yup, the whole shebang," Xander continued on. "Last year she had her dress picked out a month ahead of time. I wonder if she already has her dress now? Hey," he paused to study Faith. "Do you even wear dresses?"

"Dresses?" Faith echoed again as she looked at Xander with a degree of terror on her sharp features.

"I wonder how you would look in pink chiffon," murmured Xander, who was studying Faith closely now.

"Pink chiffon?" Faith echoed yet again, her face turning a sickly gray color at the mere idea of it.

Before Xander could say anything else to scare Faith even further, the doors to the library opened up to reveal the figures of Cordelia, Willow, and Amy.

And as soon as Cordelia saw the dumbstruck look on the Slayer's face she looked at Xander and said, "All right. What did you do this time?"

"Me?" said Xander innocently while he pressed a hand to his chest. "Why would you think I did anything? Faith and I were just having our usual guy to guy chat."

"She's not a guy, doofus," said Cordelia, pushing past Xander to lean down and meet Faith's gaze. "Hey," she said softly as she cupped the Slayer's cheek before brushing her thumb over lush lips. "What's wrong?"

Snapping out her daze, Faith gazed up into magnetic hazel eyes then said dimly, "I won't wear pink."

"Okay..." said Cordelia slowly. "I wouldn't want you to wear pink, Faith. It would look weird on you."

"No chiffon either," Faith added.

"Chiffon? Ew," Cordelia scrunched up her nose in disgust. "Why would I want you to wear that?" Moving to look at Xander, she said, "What did you do to her now?"

"I repeat, I did nothing to her," said Xander huffily. "We were merely male bonding, not snorting cocaine."

"Faith's not male," Cordelia scowled. "I wish you would get that through your thick head already."

"Dresses," Faith muttered as she shivered a bit.

"Dresses?" repeated Willow. She turned to Amy and said, "Did she just say dresses then shiver?"

"It looked like that to me," said Amy slowly. Just as slowly, her blue eyes locked on Xander.

"What?" squeaked Xander nervously.

"Who, when, where, why, and how," finished Amy. Taking Xander by the hand, she said in firm tones, "Come on. I want to know just what you were up to this time."

"But I didn't do anything!" Xander whined but he nevertheless allowed himself to be pulled out of the library by Amy.

Watching them exit, Willow said, "He's whipped."

"Good," said Cordelia as she kept her eyes on Faith who seemed to be snapping out of her daze. "He needs to have a good woman in charge of him."

"So," said Willow, focusing her gaze on Faith. "What did he tell you to freak you out this much, huh?"

"Freaked out? Who's freaked out? I'm not freaked out, nope, not at all!" Faith exclaimed as she hastily stood up then looked from Cordelia to Willow then back again.

"Right..." Willow pronounced carefully. "Then what's with your way too convincing impression of me?"

"Impression? I'm doing no impressions!" Faith said quickly as she shook her head back and forth. "What I do is not impressions because what I do is slaying and what I leave to do now is slaying because it's what I do..." As she said this, Faith backed out of the library and pausing at the doors she offered a wide but wary smile to Cordelia then gave a little wave of her hand. "And I leave now, so bye!"

Watching as the doors to the library swung shut, Willow turned to Cordelia and said, "Whatever he said to her this time it definitely freaked her out. That much is for sure."

"Yeah," murmured Cordelia in agreement, a thoughtful look on her features. "But what on Earth could he have said that would make her react like that?"

It was a very good question and one that would have to be answered soon if Cordelia Chase had anything to say about it. And she most definitely had something to say about it.

---

Brendan looked around the dimly lit club and wondered just what the local youth saw in it. He supposed that it was a nice enough place but after experiencing the opera houses of Europe he just didn't see the appeal of dank little clubs like this. Then again, that could have to do with the fact that he lived in dank places exactly like this club and after awhile dank gets a tad repetitious.

"Ah, to sell my soul for a touch of yellow," said Brendan with a sigh. He gave a little shrug and picked an invisible piece of lint off of his black slacks as he observed Zac continuing in his talk with the club's owner.

He honestly had no idea what was so important that it made the Anointed come to the surface as soon as the first hints of the sunset had taken place. All he knew was that it had to do with Willow's awakening. Something that had to take place soon as the day of the Master's freedom was becoming closer and closer.

"Brendan."

Lifting his gaze, Brendan looked up to meet Zac's smiling blue eyes that held a warmth that he himself hadn't experienced in years. "Anointed," he said quietly while he kept his eyes focused on the club owner who stood a few feet away looking very nervous about being the focus of Brendan's attention. "Has your business been completed?"

"Yes, and very successfully at that," said Zac as his smile grew wider. "And all thanks to this."

Gazing at the object that Zac held rather triumphantly between his index and forefinger, Brendan said with surprise, "A cassette tape?"

"Not just any tape," Zac said playfully as he tucked the aforementioned music tape into his jacket pocket. "A tape of Willow's performance at the talent show. One that displays her incredible skill quite well."

"Anointed, you don't mean to say that you--" Brendan began as his eyes went wide.

"Shhh," said Zac, still smiling while he pressed a finger against Brendan's lips and slung an arm around the other vampire's shoulder. "This is our secret. Well," he paused and his blue eyes twinkled mischievously. "It's our secret until we tell the lovely Miss Rosenburg about it."

"But is she going to be happy about this?" asked Brendan with concern. "You said that it took a great deal of her courage just to play at the talent show."

"We're not going to give her time to be nervous," Zac said smugly. "Her first performance is tonight."

"Tonight?!" Brendan sputtered. "Surely you're joking, Anointed. How on Earth will she be able to play for a crowd of strangers when she's had no time to even prepare? She's not going to like this--"

"You worry too much, Brendan," interrupted Zac as he led the other vampire towards the front door to the Bronze. "Just leave it all to me. Besides," he paused in their walk and solemnly met their eyes. "Tonight will be the night."

His eyes going wide, Brendan said in hushed tones, "You mean that tonight you're going to..."

"We," Zac interrupted again. "We will awaken her spirit while it is at its peak during her performance. And once that has been done, a new path will form for us all."

"Anointed," whispered Brendan reverently.

"You know," mused Zac as he lightly let his fingertips rest on top of Brendan's lips. "I don't really like being called that but when you say it, it sounds musical." Considering Brendan with blue eyes that had turned as dark as the storm, he murmured, "It sounds beautiful."

"Because it is beautiful," replied Brendan quietly. "You're beautiful, Anointed, and so is your heart and so are your plans. You must trust in that and in yourself."

Ducking his blonde head low, Zac gave the softest of sighs before lifting his gaze to meet Brendan's. "There is beauty in all of us, I would suppose," he said. "The trick is to be able to see people with clear and unclouded eyes."

"She will see us," Brendan said with quiet but absolute affirmation as he gripped Zac's arm strongly. "She will see us for what we truly are and she will see what we truly seek and then she will join us in our quest, Anointed."

"Yes," said Zac with a sigh. Resting his body against Brendan's as they made their way out the door to begin their search for Willow, he whispered, "She has to."

---

"Prom," Faith muttered in between punches as she threw yet another newborn vampire across the lawn of one of the growing numbers of Sunnydale cemeteries. "Me at the prom. Me and Cordelia at the prom."

Whirling around, she grabbed the vampire that she sensed sneaking up on her by the collar and then slammed him down on the ground. Holding a stake inches from his undead heart she looked him in the eyes and demanded, "Tell me something, do I honestly look like a prom sorta girl to you?"

"N-N-No!" stammered the vampire nervously.

"Exactly!" Faith growled as she buried the stake into his heart and watched him turn into dust. Heaving a sigh she looked around the cemetery and found that the rest of the vampires had made a run for it. With a thump, she sat on the ground and carelessly picked at the grass as she said, "So if I'm not a prom sorta girl then why in the hell am I busy racking my brain by thinking about nothing but it?"

"Perhaps because you want to attend?"

Releasing a shriek, well, the closest thing to a shriek that Faith can release, the Slayer abruptly jumped to her feet and turned to face an entirely amused Giles.

"G-man," said Faith as she took a deep breath. "Don't do that to me." Forming a frown, she asked, "Why did you do that to me anyway?"

"A Slayer should always be on guard, Faith," advised Giles in serious tones. He paused a moment then smiled and added, "It also seemed like a fun thing to do."

"Yeah, well, see my fun," said Faith dryly as she dusted off the sleeves of the blue jacket which at one time had been Cordelia's but was now considered hers. "Fun, fun, fun. Oh yeah, I'm whooping it up all right."

"Faith," said Giles quietly. His light brown eyes were thoughtful as he searched her features. "Would you tell me what's bothering you now? It can't just be the prom, can it? It hardly seems like you to get upset over such a thing. You seem to quibble at people's views on your relationship with Cordelia so why--"

"It's not the idea of folks seeing us together that has me so weirded out, G-man," confessed Faith. With a heavy sigh, she ran her fingers through her wavy brown hair and muttered, "I never thought that I'd get this far, that's all."

"I'm not sure I understand," said a confused Giles.

"That makes two of us," said Faith with a chuckle. Pulling the blue jacket closer as to smell the hint of vanilla that it always carried, Faith looked back at her Watcher as she said, "C'mon. Lets get out of here, huh? Cemeteries are prime places for vamp hunts but pretty low on the big list of the best locations to have heart to heart talks."

"Agreed," Giles said softly as he smiled. Once they made their way past the front gates to the cemetery he gave Faith a sideways glance and asked, "Might I ask just what location you consider good for heart to heart talks?"

"Baskin Robbins," replied Faith smoothly, forming an easy smile to match her tone of voice.

Somehow just knowing that Giles was there for her, that he wanted to hear about her problems, whether they be real, imagined, or just a bunch of silly paranoia that refused to leave her head, made her feel better already.

Of course, nothing made her feel better than a large ice cream sundae complete with all the toppings.

Because do remember, Faith is a Slayer.

A Slayer with a serious sweet tooth.

And lucky for Giles, he was paying their bill.

---

"Will, isn't that your guy?"

Averting her gaze from where she had been looking at some aimless pedestrians from the passenger seat window to Cordelia's Range Rover, Willow turned towards her friend who was staring at the front of the music shop that they were currently driving towards.

"Zac?" said Willow softly as her eyes went wide.

Cordelia was right. He was standing right in front of the music shop, his long blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail like always, dressed in a pair of black pants, red shirt, and a casual black jacket to match his pants. And next to him was the same guy that she'd seen him with at the talent show. The one with short curly black hair, who was almost too good looking to be a man.

"You didn't tell me you had a date tonight, Will," said Cordelia with a grin. "Naughty girl. I want details."

"But I don't have a date," said Willow quickly as Cordelia parked the car on the street next to the shop. "At least I didn't think that I had a date. But Zac's here so he might be here to ask me on a date or maybe not. I mean, it could mean a lot things, him being here now and I--"

"Will, take deep breaths and be calm," Cordelia pronounced in humorous tones as she put her hand on the redhead's shoulder and smiled softly. "The guy obviously likes you or he wouldn't keep showing up. Just remember that you're a stone cold hottie and he's lucky that you like him."

"I'm a stone cold hottie," repeated Willow as she took a deep breath and closed her eyes, appearing to be in a strange sort of mantra state. "And he's lucky that I like him."

"You got it, now go in," said Cordelia with an impish smile. In a smooth movement, she unbuckled the other girl's seatbelt and unlocked the door, then with an easy push, sent Willow stumbling out of the vehicle.

Stumbling out of the vehicle and right into Zac's arms.

Well, first her face hit his chest, then she stumbled some more and to keep her from falling he grabbed onto her shoulders to steady her and somehow his hands fell to her waist and her face rested against his chest and they somehow ended up holding onto one another right in front of the music shop while Cordelia and Brendan observed with varied levels of personal amusement.

"Willow," said Zac softly as he down into her slightly pale features and offered a kind smile.

"Hi!" Willow exclaimed, smiling shakily.

Tilting his head to one side as he pulled Willow to her feet and took a small step away as to give her back a measure of personal space, Zac said, "I'm glad that I found you. I've arranged a nice surprise that you should enjoy."

"A surprise?" asked Willow with confusion.

"Yes," Zac smiled again. "You do know the Bronze, don't you? I'm friends with the owner and the band that was going to play tonight backed out. They don't have enough time to find a DJ it seems."

"Oh," Willow blinked. "That's too bad."

"I taped your performance at the talent show," continued Zac as he reached into his jacket and pulled out the tape. "It was a beautiful performance. Brilliant, really. I couldn't help but share it with my friend and he agreed. So much so that he'd love for you to play at his club tonight."

"Play? Tonight? Club? Me?" stammered Willow.

"Yes, that's what I said," said Zac quietly, his face coloring in concern. Taking a step forward, he then gently rested his hands on her shoulders. "Are you all right?"

"Me playing at the Bronze..." said Willow slowly.

"Yes, you playing at the Bronze," Zac smiled softly. "You'll give a magnificence performance."

Dimly lifting her eyes to meet Zac's which were smiling warmly down at her, Willow said, "I will?"

"Yes," Zac nodded firmly. "You will. I believe in that and so should you. Your talent is immense, Willow."

"It is?" Willow blinked once more.

"It is," Zac gave another nod.

They pair went through a form of silent communication before Willow dropped her eyes from Zac's and stared at the ground. When she lifted her gaze once more, she beamed widely then gave a short and happy nod of her head that caused Zac to smile again.

"It is," said Willow confidently, as she smiled.

"Well, then," said Zac, turning his head to look back at Brendan who gave him a silent look of affection. "I think that we should head to the Bronze, shouldn't we?"

"Yes," said Brendan with a low nod. "We should."

Willow turned towards Cordelia, who had been unusually silent during her talk with Zac, and found that her friend was focused on the Baskin Robbins down the street. Wondering if Cordelia had suddenly gotten a case of the munchies, Willow soon discovered it wasn't the ice cream shop that she was interested in but who was inside it.

And who was inside it was Giles and Faith.

Touching Cordelia's shoulder lightly, Willow smiled when hazel eyes met her own and said, "Go talk to her. I know that you want to. Giles won't mind and neither will I. Apparently," Willow's smile grew wider. "I have a show to get ready for. You'll bring Faith, right?"

"A show? Will... you mean...?" said Cordelia in soft amazement as her eyes went wide.

"Zac arranged it," Willow said with quiet pleasure. "It's tonight at the Bronze. The usual ten o'clock time, I'm guessing. Tell the others for me, won't you?"

"Of course," Cordelia breathed. In a sudden movement, she pulled Willow close in a hug and said, "This is so... I'm so happy for you, Will! You'll be great and we're all going to be there to cheer you on."

"Thanks," said Willow with a smile. Giving Cordelia a little push on the back, she said, "Now go talk to Faith already. I'm dying to know what her impression of me in the library was all about and I know that you are too."

Chuckling at this, Cordelia gave a little shake of her head then turned on her heel and dashed towards the Baskin Robbins, but just before the crossed the street she paused to turn back towards Willow. Cupping her hands over her mouth, she called out, "Take good care of her until we see her tonight, Mr. Tall, blonde, and handsome!"

With that, Cordelia dashed across the street and towards Faith to find out what was bothering her girlfriend this time around.

Observing this, Zac blinked and looked from a smiling Willow and Brendan then said, "Was she talking to me?"

"No, Zac," murmured Brendan with quiet humor. "There are quite a few tall, blonde, and handsome men on this street. It's just that we can't see any of them right now."

"Funny," said Zac sardonically as his blue eyes narrowed by the slightest margin. With a careless shrug and a slight chuckle, he dipped his head to meet Willow's eyes and said, "Shall we get going now, madam?"

"Yes," said Willow with a happy nod while she hooked her arm in Zac's. "We shall."

---

Giles watched with a combination of astonishment and terror as Faith finished her third ice cream sundae. He took a small sip of his own chocolate milkshake, that was still more than half full, as he began, "Now that you've had your quota of sweets for the hour, might we try discussing the issue at hand? Because if this keeps up, either you'll get a horrible stomachache or I'll be forced to declare bankruptcy from this ice cream bill."

In a listless movement, Faith circled her plastic spoon around the bowl of her sundae and sighed. "Sorry, G-man," she said quietly. "I'm just trying to figure out how exactly to explain it to you, y'know? I'm not sure that I can explain it to you. At least, in a way that'll make sense."

"Well," said Giles thoughtfully and in kindly tones as he ducked his gaze to meet Faith's. "Didn't you say that you never thought you would get this far? Why don't you start by explaining just what you meant by that, hm?"

"Me and Cordelia," said Faith roughly. She was now occupying her time by ripping up one of the napkins into tiny bits and making a pile out of those bits. "Today, X asked me if we were going to the prom together. I just never thought we'd get that far... that I'd get that far."

"But why not?" Giles asked in clear confusion. "It's simply a school dance, Faith. Why wouldn't you--"

"Yeah, it's a dance," interrupted Faith with a sigh. "But it's kinda more than that. The prom is... well, it's the prom, G-man. It means more than just a dance. The prom is like THE dance in high school. It's for couples and for people who wish they were in couples. And not once did I think that I'd be in a couple long enough to even be able to think about the prom. Or to want to think about it," Faith gave Giles a wry smile as she said this. "I mean, lets face it. I'm not your prom sorta girl. But Cordelia is, and when I think about the prom and how happy it'll make her when I ask her to go with me, it makes me happy. Then I start thinking that maybe I am a prom sorta girl."

"And this frightens you," murmured Giles as he finally gained a measure of understanding. Reaching across the table to clasp Faith's hand in his own, he said, "I find myself relating all too well to your feelings, Faith."

"You do?" Faith said with surprise.

"Yes," Giles chuckled. "Hard as it might be to imagine, I myself have been in love. And as I recall, the instance of finding myself changing simply due to the relationship and my feelings of love was more than a bit disturbing and frightening to myself also. But Faith," he paused and said this softly. "You can't control every aspect of your life. Especially when love is involved."

"Changing?" said Faith a bit indignantly as she scowled. "What're you talking about, G-man? I'm not changing! I'm totally the same girl I was back when you first met me. I don't know about any changes."

Shaking his head a bit, Giles adjusted his wire rim glasses as he smiled indulgently at Faith. "Oh really?" Giles said in humorous tones. "I would rethink that statement if I were you because the girl who referred to me as 'tweed man' almost five months ago would most definitely not be the type to be contemplating her own angst involving the prom."

A moment of complete silence passed before Faith formed another scowl as Giles beamed triumphantly.

"Know it all," muttered Faith darkly. "Is being right all the time something they teach all of you Watchers?"

"Perhaps," said Giles as he smiled. His mood shifted once more to a more serious one while he continued, "This might seem like odd advice coming from me, but sometimes it's best if you simply act without thinking of what the consequences might be. Why dwell on the fact that attending the prom is something you never thought you would do? Instead focus on the fact that now you want to go. And now, you have someone to go with."

As he said his final words, Giles made a subtle gesture of his head and Faith turned around to find her eyes met with the always welcome sight of Cordelia.

"My work is done," pronounced Giles in droll and humorous tones as he scooted out of the booth he shared with Faith and rose to his feet. "So I'll be going."

"But G-man," said Faith, who rose to her feet in return while Cordelia neared the pair. "It's vamp feeding time out there. You sure that you wanna--"

"Faith," interrupted Giles with a sigh as he shrugged on his jacket. Not a tweed one, Faith noted. "I have been slaying vampires long before you were wearing knickers. I hardly think that you have to worry about my safety."

He then gave Cordelia a friendly smile and a look of encouragement and headed out the door to leave them alone. Well, alone except for all of the other patrons.

"Knickers?" Faith echoed. Looking to Cordelia who was standing in front of her, she asked, "Do y'know what knickers are, sweets? Because I have no clue."

"I think they're underpants," said Cordelia as she gave her soft chuckle that Faith loved so much. Tugging on the other girl's hand, Cordelia pulled her down into the seat across from her own in the booth. "So," she said the word in a slow pronunciation while hazel eyes bore into dark brown ones. "You want to tell me what's going on? I know that something's bothering you."

Averting her eyes from Cordelia's and trying her best not to get distracted by the sensations caused by her girlfriend lightly caressing the inside of her palms with the tips of her fingers, Faith heaved the softest of sighs.

"Faith?"

On hearing the concern in Cordelia's voice, Faith could feel her heart melting and it was then that she knew Giles was right. She had changed. And it wasn't because she was the Slayer now. And it wasn't because of all the things that she'd done since she first arrived in Sunnydale. Instead, it was all because she, Faith Spencer, was finally and truly in love.

And she was in love with Cordelia Chase.

And now that she figured that out, she damn well wanted to take the girl that she loved to the school prom.

And just as she was about to say that, or at least say some of that to her companion, Cordelia interrupted her as she cried out, "Oh! I forgot to tell you and it's nearly ten o'clock! We have to call Amy and Xander or else we'll be late and miss the show!"

"The show?" repeated Faith in dim confusion. Studying her girlfriend, who was on her feet and a flurry of energy as she searched through her purse, Faith said, "I'm lost and you owe me a map, sweets. What's the what?"

"Willow," said Cordelia dramatically as her eyes sparkled in a way that Faith utterly adored. "Is playing at the Bronze tonight. She's supposed to be going on around ten o'clock. Which means we should get going. Here," she paused to shove her cell phone into Faith's face. "You call Amy and Xander. You know their numbers, right? If we're lucky they'll be together at one of their houses snuggling or doing some other kind of cutesy couple thing that we'd tease them for."

"Yeah, I know their numbers," said Faith while she trailed after Cordelia who was exiting the ice cream shop.

She was staring at the phone, ready to dial when she saw her hand gripped by another and Faith looked up to see Cordelia wearing a serious face once again.

Leaning forward, Cordelia left their lips only millimeters apart so breath would be on breath. "Faith," she said in a sensuous purr. "Don't think I've forgot about your Miss Weird act of the year in the library. We're still going to talk about that. But," Cordelia trailed off slowly.

"But?" Faith asked with nervous anticipation.

"It can wait until later," said Cordelia, who gave Faith the most passionate of kisses that left the Slayer wanting more as she pulled away. "After all," Cordelia drawled while she winked at a flabbergasted Faith. "Friends should always support friends, right?"

Still reeling from the kiss and the spinning affect that it had on her body and mind, Faith shook her head and opened the passenger door to the Range Rover. "Right," she said to herself in tight tones. "Friends should be there for friends. Even if it kills my hormones in the process."

And as she took off for the Bronze, Cordelia couldn't help but feel a bit satisfied with her slight teasing revenge on Faith. Of course, what the revenge was for she really had no idea. All she knew was that it was a lot of fun.

Fun for her, but not fun for Faith.

No, it wasn't fun for poor Faith at all.

---

Willow knew that she should be nervous.

She had every reason to be nervous. In less than ten minutes she would be playing in front of a fairly large audience in one of the most popular clubs in Sunnydale.

And she hadn't even prepared. The only thing that she'd managed to get done was pick out her song list, one that was a nice mix of covers and a few original songs.

So all things considered, she should be nervous.

But for some reason she wasn't nervous.

She wasn't nervous in the slightest.

And somehow, Willow knew that had to do with Zac and his belief in her. His belief that had led her to be sitting on the stage, trying her best to ignore the intrigued looks from her classmates, as she ran her fingers lightly over the keys to the piano they'd just brought onstage.

After she did this, her hands gravitated towards her neckline and the necklace that Zac had given her moments ago. It was simple in design with a small golden pendant that had a glittering jewel, what kind Willow had no idea, in the center of it, attached to a thin wisp of a gold chain.

The metal was cold against her skin but it warmed her heart, feeling it there. It gave her confidence, almost as if by having the necklace with her onstage it was the same as having Zac with her while she performed.

Something that she longed to have since Zac's absolute belief in her made Willow believe in herself.

Part of her knew that it shouldn't be that way. That she should believe in herself because of her own strength of will. That her confidence should come from a place deep inside. A place that everyone else but her seemed to know about.

Until now, that is.

Because now she finally felt like she had found her place in the world. And yes, it was partially because of Zac and his help. But more significantly it was because Willow had finally allowed herself to stop feeling afraid.

To stop worrying about what other people think and to just be herself. And when she did that she realized something very important. Something that Zac had wanted Willow to discover since the very first time that he saw her.

She discovered that she was important. That her words were important. That her thoughts were important. That her feelings were important. That they were all important and they needed to be expressed.

Expressed through her music.

And most importantly, her music, her choice of personal expression needed to be heard by others. So they might hear her words, her thoughts, and her feelings.

So they could hear them and know.

Finally know how important they truly were.

And when that moment arrived on the stage as Willow lowered her head, caressed the pendant once more, pushed back some loose strands of hair and gently played the first chords of her song, the whole world inside of the Bronze seemed to stand still as everyone was able to see what Zac had seen all along.

They were able to see the real Willow.

And she was beautiful. And she was rapture. And she was everything that they had ever wanted.

And she was Zac's.

---

The power was almost too much for him.

He knew that she would be powerful, but he hadn't truly realized just how powerful she would be. How could he have known? There had never been one like her before now. Willow was most certainly a one of a kind.

Shivering again, Zac felt a hand on his arm and looked up into Brendan's concerned features. Smiling at the dark vampire, he murmured, "Can you feel it? She's awakening the power, just as I knew she would."

"She's not even aware of it, is she?" Brendan said in quiet observance as he turned to look at Willow who sat onstage, lost in her playing, and in the audience who could only watch her with expressions of entranced wonder.

"No," said Zac as he shivered again. His shivers only stopping as Brendan subtly moved to stand behind him, placing his hands lightly on Zac's waist. Leaning back against the Brendan, he continued, "It's for her as it is for me. But her power is pure, uncorrupted. That's why she's the key, Brendan. With her help and good will we'll be able to achieve the peace that we seek."

"All because of that pendant?" asked Brendan lowly, his mouth almost brushing against Zac's ear as the side of his face rested against Anointed's.

"No... the pendant has nothing to do with it," Zac admitted in hoarse tones, his eyes still focused ahead on Willow. Focused on the energy that no one besides he and Brendan could even see forming. The energy forming a silent spell almost as entrancing as Willow's music. "It's merely a focus for her powers. She will use it at first, just to help control the power. Willow," he said her name as if it were a prayer, his voice reverent but lilting and filled with deep affection. "Is pure and she will remain so. This was the only way to help her prepare, help her understand the power that she has been given. Unlike me, she will not have the Master," Zac said the last words bitingly. "To aid her in controlling and mastering the vast knowledge."

Closing his eyes, Brendan moved to place the softest of kisses on Zac's blonde hair and felt the Anointed smile at this gesture. "She will know more than you."

It was a statement, not a question and Zac knew it.

"Yes," said Zac with a sigh. "She will know more than me. She will know more than all of us combined."

"The energy grows," murmured Brendan, his dark eyes focused onstage as the invisible energy seen only to them in swirls of blue electric mist, grew to high levels. "It won't cause her to go mad, will it?" he asked with actual concern. Though he knew little of Willow he felt as if he knew her because of Zac's feelings for her. Feelings that were often shared with him in dark of the night.

"No, it won't," Zac said firmly. "She is stronger than that. I know that, and now so does she. She'll be ready for what the power means when it peaks within her. All we need to do is wait for it to be awakened, then all we can do is watch and pray she can control it's strength."

"And if she can't?" asked Brendan quietly.

"Then she will die and we will all be lost," replied Zac in the darkest of tones as his eyes turned the color of the storm.

---

Something bad was going on.

Faith wasn't sure why she felt like something bad was going on. I mean, after all, she was at the Bronze, just sitting with Cordelia and the others, watching Willow rock out onstage, when a sinking feeling hit her stomach.

It was the same sinking feeling that she got every time something bad was about to happen.

Moving her gaze through the club in a calculated movement, her dark brown eyes finally rested on the tall blonde guy she recognized as the one that Willow danced with a few weeks ago. The one that Cordelia said Willow really liked. The one who had arranged her show tonight.

Gazing at the guy, Faith shivered unconsciously.

She shivered unconsciously and wondered about him and his companion. The one who almost looked like he was holding the blonde man lightly around the waist.

Faith studied them for a moment longer then, almost against her will, she found her gaze being drawn in the same direction as theirs and turned to look at Willow who was still playing onstage. Her red hair flying back as she tossed her head upwards, craning her neck towards the microphone to sing in a low sultry voice that was melodic enough to be considered a siren's song.

And as she watched Willow onstage, Faith saw it.

She saw the energy that Willow was drawing to herself without even knowing it. It was the energy of the audience. The little bits of magic that everyone has deep inside of them without ever realizing that it's there.

That was the magic that Willow was gathering. That was the power that Willow was gathering. And it looked to be on the verge of bursting. Faith could only watch, her body frozen, as it converged on her friend.

The energy formed a massive cloud of blue snapping sparks that loomed over Willow while her voice echoed throughout the whole club. It echoed clear and true, and Faith knew in her heart that it was beautiful.

And then, just as quickly as the cloud had formed, it was gone. Swooping down towards Willow with a speed that seemed impossible, disappearing into the gold pendant that she wore around her neck.

Faith watched, in combination of horror and wonderment, as that energy seemed to take over her friend as Willow froze in her playing, her body stiff as a board.

Only to finish playing her song moments later.

As the final chords filled the air, Faith turned to lock eyes with Zac and in that instant she knew the truth.

That whatever had just happened to Willow, he was the one responsible for it. And he wasn't sorry in the least.

Ripping her gaze away from Zac, she focused on her friend, who had turned to face the audience. With all of her heart, with all of her love, Faith searched the fine and gentle features of perhaps her only true friend.

Faith searched Willow's features and as she did so, she found a stranger in her friend's place.

And she didn't know what she could do to fix it. 

Continue to Chapter Ten 

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