Story by DragonWriter17
Written by DragonWriter17, Susan Carr, and CN Winters (with additional writing by Zahir al Daoud, Robert Kidman, Gelfling21, and Kye)
Produced and Directed by CN Winters and Susan Carr
Edited by DragonWriter17 and Lilly
Sounds by CSR
Art Direction by Robert Kidman
Artists – Robert Kidman, CN Winters, Zahir al Daoud, Isis, Mattxxx, and Humaira
Cleveland – Fancy Restaurant – Night
Delicately balancing a tray with a bottle of wine and four glasses, a formally-dressed waiter expertly wove his way through the maze of tables and chairs in the main dining area toward a small private party in the back of the restaurant. When he arrived at the table, he found the group gazing out the large window that overlooked a small lake outside. He set the glasses on the pristine tablecloth and then began opening the wine.
Taking in the beauty of the star-lit frozen lake, Buffy sighed with contentment. "This was such a good idea," she said, turning from the window to look at her dinner companions: Willow, Kennedy, and Faith.
"Too bad nobody else was free," Willow commented, unfolding her crisp white linen napkin and laying it on her lap.
"Yeah…" Buffy said a bit wistfully before nodding to the waiter, who had finished the formalities of the wine preparation. He began filling the glasses.
"Hey, their loss…" Faith began, raising her glass.
"…is our gain," Kennedy finished, also lifting her glass.
When the four clinked their glasses together, Buffy said, "Here's to a relaxing evening with friends, with lots of good food and absolutely no –"
All four turned sharply toward the screeching female voice of the hostess at the front of the restaurant. Two hulking demons armed with automatic weapons were smashing their way into the main dining area. They were shouting orders and firing repeatedly at the ceiling, raining plaster and glass on the customers. Buffy and the others ducked behind their table.
Two more demons came from the kitchen, herding the staff into the dining area. Patrons screamed in panic and stampeded for the emergency exits at the sides. They were stopped when two more demons broke in the doors and took up position there, blocking all exits from the establishment. When the crowd was effectively trapped, the demon leader sauntered in with two more of his minions.
"Look at what you did!" Willow accused Buffy in a hushed whisper from behind
"What?! What did I do?" Buffy objected.
"You jinxed it," Willow said. "Everything was going just fine, and then you said –"
"I didn't say anything!" Buffy insisted. "They broke in before I could even finish. It shouldn't count if I didn't actually say it all. Right?" She looked to Faith and Kennedy for corroboration.
Kennedy just shrugged; Faith kept her eyes on the demons harassing the customers in the dining area.
"But you were thinking it," Willow grumbled.
"Can you two stop bickering about the finer details of jinxability and focus on the real problem?" Faith shot back.
Willow and Buffy exchanged sheepish glances and then turned back to Faith.
"Sorry," Willow said.
"What's the situation?" Buffy asked.
"Eight demons," Faith said. "Four with guns guarding the exits, three hitting up the clientele. I don't think any of 'em have seen us yet."
"They seem to be looking for someone in particular," Kennedy added, peering at the demon trio moving through the crowd.
"Looks like they found them," Willow noted grimly.
They watched as the largest of the demons – with his two lackeys behind him – closed in on a particular table in the corner near the front window, where a woman and her two children were cowering in terror.
The leader let out a booming laugh and then said in a growling voice, "Take them!" His minions moved in, snatching the children from their mother's arms as she tried in vain to fight them off.
"Will, you and Ken take the ones guarding the exits," Buffy commanded. "Faith and I will take –"
"Wait a sec," Faith interrupted. "Why don't you let Slick and me take on the big guy and his sidekicks? You're not exactly 'in practice' these days."
"I'm not that out of practice," Buffy insisted. "Let's go," she quickly added, preventing any further objections.
At that, the four left the private alcove and entered the main dining area. The two demons guarding the emergency exits ordered them to get down, but they ignored them. As the demons raised their weapons, Willow shot twin bursts from her palms, blasting both demons at the same time and sending them crashing into the wall. They didn't stay down long, though, and soon rose to take on Willow. Kennedy rushed to the foyer to deal with the two demons there.
When Buffy and Faith arrived at the far table, the leader was just turning to see what the commotion was behind him. He took in the sight of the two slayers with annoyance in his eyes.
"Slayers!" he hiss-growled.
"Didn't your mother ever tell you it's not nice to take things that aren't yours?" Buffy replied with a nod toward the captured children.
The leader roared and rushed them. As he attacked, Buffy and Faith each grabbed an arm and did a simultaneous lift. Then they body-slammed him onto the nearest table, smashing it and everything on it into bits. Faith leapt on top of the demon, catching one clawed fist then the other as the demon tried to fight her off.
"I got Big Boy here," Faith called out to Buffy. "Get the kids!"
Buffy didn't wait to see the demon break free and smack Faith in the face. She had her own fight to worry about. As Willow and Kennedy also continued to contend with their own demons, Buffy dashed around the family's table to confront the two that were holding the children.
The one in front tossed his captive back to the other demon. "Take them!" he told his companion. With his hands now free, he rushed at Buffy.
Buffy did a forward somersault right over the rushing demon and landed in front of the one fleeing with a child under each arm.
"Not so fast!" she told him before executing a leaping kick to his face.
Dazed, he stumbled back. Buffy kept up the assault with three more kicks to his face and chest until he released his grip on the children and fell to his knees. They scrambled to their mother's arms. Buffy grabbed the demon's head and slammed it into her raised knee, knocking him out cold and sending him tumbling to the floor.
As a grin of satisfaction crept over Buffy's face, she made brief eye contact with the woman hovering protectively over her children. Before Buffy could give her a sign of reassurance, she felt the other demon jump her from behind, wrapping his arms around her throat. The mother watched in horror as the monster pulled Buffy away, trying to choke the life out of her.
Faith was still occupied with the demon leader, so Buffy was on her own. With grim determination and pure strength, Buffy pried her attacker's arms from her neck. She gave him a quick elbow to the gut then flipped him over her head. Before he could recover, she moved in, grabbed his head, and efficiently snapped his neck.
By the time Buffy had finished off her demon, Willow and Kennedy and Faith had done the same. The crowd of customers had also regained their wits and begun to clap in appreciation. As the four gathered near the mother and her two children, Buffy knelt before them.
"Are you okay?" she asked them.
The woman nodded wordlessly.
"Faith?" Buffy said without turning around.
"On it," Faith said, already pulling out her phone.
"Help's on the way," Buffy assured the frightened family.
As Buffy went to stand, the woman reached and grabbed her arm. She looked intently in the slayer's eyes. "Thank you," she said with the deepest sincerity.
Buffy smiled and said, "Just doin' our jobs." When Buffy stood and turned around, she muttered to Willow, "Our 'can't-even-enjoy-our-night-off' jobs."
"And whose fault is that, Miss Jinxyspeak?" Willow replied, giving Buffy a playful nudge. Buffy just rolled her eyes.
Watchers Council – Buffy's Office – Later That Night
Later that night, Jim Pollan sat with Buffy in her office watching the various reports of the incident that were being played on the late news.
On the large widescreen monitor on the wall, a reporter could be seen conducting an interview outside the restaurant where the demon attack had occurred. He was speaking with the woman whose children had been nearly kidnapped. A banner at the bottom of the screen identified the speaker as Ivory Longheart.
"It was horrible," said Mrs. Longheart, pulling her fur coat more tightly around herself. "If those girls from the Council hadn't been here…" She broke down for a moment then pulled herself together. "Ms. Summers and her entire team have my deepest gratitude…"
Buffy muted the television and turned to Jim. "Nice to have some good PR for a change, huh?" she commented.
"Indeed," Jim replied. "And coming from a family as well-connected as the Longhearts, this one's worth its weight in prime-time gold. You do know who the Longhearts are?"
"Uhhh…no," Buffy had to admit.
"Just Cleveland's number-one billionaire families," Jim explained. "Ivory Longheart's family made their fortune in industrial and farm equipment in the forties. Since then, their corporation has diversified into everything from electric power companies to aerospace technologies." Jim leaned closer with an ambitious gleam in his eyes. "You know, if we want to jump on Bureau Nine's bandwagon and get our own corporate sponsors, the Longhearts would be an excellent place to start." Jim held her gaze pointedly.
Buffy smiled and shook her head. When Jim didn't stop his stare, she looked away, her brow furrowing as if she were reconsidering the matter.
Watchers Council – Buffy's Office – Morning
The next morning Buffy was in the process of taking her seat at her office desk when the voice of her assistant Joan came over the intercom.
"You have a visitor, Ms. Summers," Joan told her in an urgent tone.
"Already?" Buffy said with a bit of a whine. "I just got here. I haven't even had my cappuccino yet."
"Sorry, but Mrs. Longheart insisted, and she –"
"Mrs. Longheart?" Buffy asked.
"Okay then, send her in," Buffy said. "Oh, and can you get coffee for both of us?" she requested.
"Already on the way. I'll send her in," Joan replied.
Buffy began to adjust her clothes but stopped as the door opened.
"Mrs. Longheart," Buffy greeted, coming over as the woman entered the office. She strode over to the elegantly-dressed woman.
"Ms. Summers," Ivory Longheart said, taking Buffy's offered hand. "So sorry to ambush you, especially this early, but time is of the essence."
Buffy waved the woman toward the loveseat. Mrs. Longheart sat down, and Buffy took a spot opposite her in the chair. "What is it? What can we do for you?"
"It's not what you can do for me; it's what I can do for you."
Buffy tilted her head and eyed Mrs. Longheart curiously.
End of Teaser
To Act One