Swap Meet

Teaser

Story by CN Winters, Humaira, David Zahir
Written by CN Winters (additional writing by Susan Carr)
Directed by CN Winters
Produced by CN Winters and Susan Carr
Edited by Sharon Kierein and Angie Wilson
Sound by CN Winters, CSR
Art Direction by Chris Cook
Artists – Chris Cook, David Zahir, Humaira, Robert, CN Winters

Fade In
Int.
Dawn's Room – Slayers Dorm – Afternoon

Skye was lying on her stomach on top of Dawn's narrow bed with her feet propped up against the plain headboard only inches from her girlfriend's head. Both girls were reading textbooks, but every once in a while Dawn's attention would wander back to her girlfriend.

"Dawn!" Skye said in a warning tone as Dawn's hand once again slid up her thigh.

"Argh!" Dawn exclaimed, banging her head lightly against the headboard. "Totally not fair! It's my birthday and…"

"I know, but study first," Skye said as she rose up to sit next to her.

The young brunette sighed and then said, "Oh, all right."

The girls had just returned to their books when Dawn's cell phone rang. With a roll of her eyes, she picked it up from the nightstand and flipped it open.

"Hello?" she said. "Oh hi, Willow. What's up?"

Skye glanced at her, gave a small smile and then closed her textbook.

"Right now?" Dawn continued speaking into the phone. "Skye and I are studying…no, really!"

Skye chuckled and sat up as she put her books aside and moved to her knees. She watched as Dawn spoke.

"Oh, all right," Dawn finally said. "We'll be there in a few minutes." She flipped the phone closed.

"Trouble?" Skye asked.

"Don't know," Dawn answered as she closed the phone. "Will wants us to meet her in the conference room. I hope this is not about the other day. If Marsha squealed, I promise I'll find a way to hurt her, Slayer or no Slayer."

"I doubt Marsha said anything to Willow. Besides, what could she say? We were clothed," Skye assured her with a devious grin. "It's probably something Hellmouthy. Isn't it usually?"

"Yeah," Dawn said as she stood up and reached out her hand to pull Skye from the bed. "Come on…the sooner we get there, the sooner we'll find out what's going on."

Cut to:
Int.
Watchers Council Conference Room – Minutes later

The windows leading to the outside were tightly covered, and with the lights off, the room was quite dim. From outside the door, Dawn's voice could be heard as the door swung open.

"Hey!" Dawn exclaimed as she walked into the darkened room with Skye following close on her heels. "Where's Willow?"

"Surprise!!!"

Dawn gasped as Skye flipped the switch and the room suddenly filled with cheering people. Watchers, Slayers, friends and associates all popped up from where they had crouched hidden behind the large conference table, which held a large cake, refreshments and brightly wrapped presents.

"Look at all this!" Dawn exclaimed as Willow rushed up to her and blew a shrill noise-maker in her face.

"Happy birthday, Dawnie!" Willow said happily as she grabbed the shocked brunette in a tight hug. "Like I told your sister on her eighteenth birthday, you can vote now and you can be drafted and you can even vote not to be drafted."

Dawn laughed, but then froze as a new voice cut through the noise.

"Oh come on, Will, you need a new line, don't you think?"

"Buffy!" Dawn squealed and jumped into her sister's arms. "What are you doing here?" she asked, holding the Slayer tightly. "You said you couldn't come because you had class."

"I do have class," Buffy said. "Lots of it…haven't you seen my wardrobe?"

"But…but…" Dawn said, finally releasing her bear-hold on her sister, but keeping her hands on Buffy's shoulders as if afraid she would suddenly disappear.

"Giles sent the jet to pick me up," Buffy explained. "Willow even got him to agree to a limo to take me to and from the airport. Either that or she did a spell," the Slayer joked before looking seriously at Willow. "You didn't do a spell, did you? After all, we are talking about Giles here."

"No spell," Willow spoke up. "And very little argument actually." The witch turned to see Buffy's Watcher nod his head in agreement.

"We thought perhaps you were feeling a little homesick," Giles commented to Dawn. "And as Willow put it, we decided to bring home to you instead of shipping you off to Europe."

"Oh, this is so great!" Dawn said, hugging her sister again. "Thank you guys, really."

Buffy smiled and looked over Dawn's shoulder at Skye. "And thank you for keeping the secret," she said.

"You knew?" Dawn said, her eyes widening as she turned toward her girlfriend.

"Of course." Skye smiled. "I told you I had something special planned for tonight."

"But I thought you meant…" Dawn trailed off weakly as her face reddened.

Buffy smirked. "Willow said your hormones were running her ragged."

"I tried, Buffy," Willow said with a fake mournful tone. "But you know how those darn redheads are. Frisky bunch, all of them, I tell you!"

"Uh huh," Buffy said turning to her best friend. "I lived with you when you were dating Oz and then Tara, remember?"

Willow smiled. "Ah, college! Those were the days."

Buffy laughed and then turned back to Dawn, who by now was hiding her head in Skye's neck. "But seeing as how you are now, as Willow's so helpfully pointed out, an adult, I hereby remove all previous restrictions and declare my guardianship well and truly done." Buffy's smile turned wistful as she reached out a hand to caress Dawn's cheek. "But please remember, Dawn…I'm your sister and your friend and whenever you need me…for help, advice or even a sympathetic shoulder to cry on, I'll always be there for you."

"Thank you," Dawn whispered as tears filled her eyes.

"That goes for me too, Dawnie," Willow said.

"I know, Will," Dawn said.

"Hey!" Xander yelled out from the other side of the room. "No crying allowed. This is a birthday party and although for the Summers women that usually means fear mixed with a bit of mayhem, let's try to break with tradition and just eat cake!"

Dawn took the knife a smiling Andrew handed her and, expertly sliced the cake into sections as he moved the pieces to paper plates and handed them to Tracey to pass out. When the whole cake was divided, Dawn took a plate and a fork and returned to Skye. Her girlfriend took the plate and used the plastic fork to lift a piece to Dawn's mouth. After Dawn chewed and swallowed, Skye leaned forward and licked a dab of frosting from Dawn's bottom lip.

"Happy birthday, Baby," she whispered and moved closer for a full kiss.

"If you two can stop making out for a moment, it's time to open the presents," Willow said interrupting them.

"Shh, Willow!" Xander protested. "Let 'em continue!"

Buffy slapped the back of her hand against Xander's chest.

"Ow! Heyyy, Slayer strength!" Xander said, placing a hand to soothe the spot. "Must you do that?"

"Must you ogle my sister?" Buffy countered.

"She is an adult now," he said.

"Don't even go there, Xander," the Slayer warned.

Xander just smiled and put his arm around Buffy's shoulder as she slipped hers around his waist. Andrew came over to Dawn and pushed his gift toward her in a proud fashion.

"Here, open mine first!" he said excitedly.

"Okay," Dawn said and tore open the package. Inside she found a Halle Berry Catwoman action figure.

"Oooh! Did this just come out?" she asked as she held it up for everyone to see.

"Yeah," Andrew said. "I pre-ordered it on the Internet. I know how much you enjoyed the movie."

"I still say the film wasn't worth the price of the admission," Tracey commented.

Dawn let out a bark of laugher, "Ninety minutes of Halle Berry in a tight leather outfit and carrying a whip? Who needs plot?"

"Right there with ya, Dawnie." Willow chuckled.

"Thanks, Andrew," Dawn said, kissing the young man on the cheek causing him to blush. Tracey reached over and stroked him on the back as they continued to look on.

"Here you are, Dawn," Willow said handing her another package. "Open mine next."

Dawn pulled off the silver metallic wrapping revealing a black silk box embroidered in red with traditional Chinese dragons. "Wow! This is beautiful, Willow!"

"Open it up," Willow said with a slight nod.

Dawn slid the bone latch out of the hook on the front and lifted the lid. Before the box was halfway open, her eyes widened in shock and she slammed the lid closed.

"Oh my god! Is this what I think it is?" she exclaimed and turned to the priestess who was looking on with a mischievous gleam in her eyes.

"You like?" Willow teased. "You did ask, after all."

"Oh my god," Dawn repeated, her face now totally crimson. "You didn't!"

"As my grandmother used to say, 'Use it in good health'," Willow teased her.

"What is it?" Skye asked, curious.

"Never mind!" Dawn said, stuffing the box under her arm.

"What'd you get her?" Buffy asked Willow in an accusing manner.

"I'll tell ya later," Willow said.

"No she won't!" Dawn exclaimed before she turned quickly to Willow. "No you won't, will you?"

"Remember that old saying about revenge, Dawnie?" Willow smiled.

"Yes, well…" Giles butted in replacing his glasses on his nose. "Open another, Dawn, quickly. I beg you."

"Thanks, Giles," Dawn said reaching for another package.

As Dawn continued, Rowena quietly slipped into the room and watched the gift frenzy with a slight smile on her face. From the other side of the room, Willow saw Robin move over to greet the blonde and bring her a drink. He said something that seemed to amuse her and they both gave a small chuckle. Turning her eyes away again, Willow went back to watching Dawn open her presents.

Cut to:
Int.
Presidium Citadel in Vor – Panopticon – Same time

The Lover silently observed the birthday party in the spherical, shifting morass of images around her, her green-green eyes absorbing the relaxed family scene. Although the Unmaker made no sound, the moment he entered the chamber the Lover waved a hand, fragmenting the sphere, sending the images back to the dark walls of the Panopticon, where they writhed, distorted and incomplete. She looked up, questioning, as the Unmaker approached and stood before her.

"Everything is in place?" she asked. A nod from the tall figure, and she drew a short breath, her teeth clenched. For a moment the Unmaker's eyes gleamed through the shroud of shadows about him, black and still.

"Thank you, my master," she said, exhaling calmly. He turned slightly, inclining his head towards one of the images on the chamber's walls. With a gesture the Lover drew it from its place, the twisted forms straightening into a view of the birthday celebrants as it neared.

"It will work," the Lover said. "She will be drawn to it. It will function as expected."

The Unmaker turned his attention on the image, as it drifted from one face to another around the Council meeting room. Where his gaze fell the image distorted, eddies forming in the magic, recoiling from the focus of the Unmaker's eyes.

"Synchronicity will work in our favor," the Lover continued. "It is an excellent opportunity for us to study the only creatures ever to succeed in defying one of our number. Look at them," she pointed, drawing a clawed fingertip through the image, swirling through its surface gently, "I find them fascinating subjects. They bond to each other not by blood or duty, but by choice. A patriarchal figure in the Englishman, watchful brothers in the young men, and a great sisterhood among the Slayers." A cold smile formed on her dark gray lips, and she twitched her fingers, sending the image reeling to come to rest on Mia and Kennedy. "Strong feelings among them, ties of shared flesh…shared feelings…" She turned to the Unmaker.

"We must study them," she said. "We must test them, subject them to stress, learn how they survive...or how they break."

The dark figure nodded slowly, and reached out. He drew his fingertips through the lover's faces, as the shadowy aura surrounding his arm flowed into the image and changed it – bright colors turned deep crimson and ashen gray, the smiles warped into sickly rictus grins. The Unmaker drew back his hand, watching the image return to normal.

"We think alike," the Lover said, a slight tremble in her voice. "We can't afford to move in haste. I promise you… we will be strong again." The Unmaker glanced down at her, and she froze in place, veins standing out on her mottled face.

Quickly, the Unmaker passed a clawed hand in front of her face. For a brief instant his aura reached out and lanced into her eyes, and her skin trembled, moving of its own accord, stirred as if by turmoil beneath its surface. Then it was over, and she staggered back a step, almost lifting a hand to her throat, but stopping it part-way.

"My master," she said breathlessly, regaining her footing, "yes… We will be strong. When I discover the weak one among them."

Fade Out

End of Teaser
Onto Act One