Watchers Council – Coven Room – Night
Willow sat on the floor looking up at Anya’s face. Anya crossed her arms and looked down at Willow.
“I’m sorry, Willow,” Anya said, genuine regret in her voice, “that’s really all I can tell you.”
“Are you sure?” the witch asked.“Yeah. I’ve already spent too much time here as it is and probably told you far too much…Just take care of him.”
Willow jumped to her feet with an outstretched hand. “Wait!”
“Now what?” Anya asked impatiently. Willow paused a moment as if unsure what to say.
“Anya, I…um…I thought…Tonight, when I started the ritual that brought you here, I thought it was Tara trying to come through…Since she didn’t, can you tell me…have you seen her?” she finally asked.
“Yes, I see Tara,” Anya told her with a gentle smile. “In fact, she and I had a goodbye lunch for Joyce recently…She’s good, Willow – both of them actually.”
“Goodbye lunch?” Willow asked.
“Joyce is moving on,” Anya told her. “She’s free to move to the next level of existence and be reborn. I know it’s probably too deep for you to comprehend, like I’ve said, but you will someday. I promise.”
Willow simply nodded at first. “It’s just that after the First a-and when everyone that died came back, Tara never…”
“Appeared to torture you, no matter how much you hoped for the chance to see her again, even if she wasn’t real?” Anya asked.
Willow gave a slight grin. “Yeah, that’s a wordy, yet fair, description. I just, I was worried that she might be trapped somewhere and that the First couldn’t take her shape because she hadn’t crossed over a-and that maybe –”
“Listen,” Anya interrupted, “remember the stones you placed on Tara’s grave when you got back from the witchy detox center?” Willow gave her a disgruntled look, but eventually had to nod. “It’s a Jewish tradition as a tribute or marker. But I know it’s also a means of keeping the spirits at bay for the first year after death, right?”
“Right, but how did you –?”
Anya rolled her eyes. “I told you, higher knowledge now. Point is, the First couldn’t control Tara because you protected her spirit with the stones.”
“But I’m not following the Jewish faith any longer. Am I on the wrong path? I mean should I –.”
“Willow,” Anya said, cutting off her babble, “there isn’t one way of life that’s better than another when it comes to the afterworld. The only thing that truly matters is plotting a course to help humankind. I died trying to do that, which is why I’m here now.”
Willow nodded and considered the words before she spoke again. “So she’s okay? You guys are happy there?”
“Well, it’s nice, although not really what I expected. You know, I imagined the whole pearly gates and clouds everywhere. Figured they’d hand me a harp and a set of wings. And I really thought I’d miss everyone I left behind here, even you, but I don’t.”
“Gee, thanks,” Willow snorted.
“See? You’re mortal, so you don’t understand it. There’s no sense of loss because I know in the end that if we live our lives the way we should, a life that’s true to who we are as individuals, we’ll all meet again someday. Death isn’t an end, it’s just another beginning. But spirits like me must stay here until the issues are resolved on the earthly plane for those we love.”
Willow was almost moved to tears by this statement. She choked them back before asking the more difficult question.
“So Tara’s still there, then?”
Anya hesitated for a moment before answering.
“She’s happy. She watches over you everyday. When I got there, she told me that the days after she died, she was so sad about…well…you know. But she is so proud of you that you’ve come so far since then,” Anya added optimistically.
Willow could no longer hold back the tears and she began to cry.
Anya continued speaking over her sobs. “It’s not hopeless, but you still have a ways to go Willow. You’re still holding on to her and until you let go completely, she can’t get to the next level.”
Willow sniffled slightly and wiped away the tears rolling down her cheeks.
“So what? I’m just supposed to stop loving her because she’s dead? ‘Cause if that’s the case, Anya, it’s never gonna happen. She’s going to be trapped there forever a-and it’s my fault. So now –”
“No, Willow. You can love her. You can remember her. But you have to accept her death fully and let go of the guilt and move on.”
“But…I am ready a-and I am moving on. Kennedy –”
Anya looked at her hand, which was becoming transparent, and cut her off. “I’m sorry, Willow, I really can’t stay any longer,” Anya said as she began to fade out again. “You’ll have your answers. Just please, find Xander. Save him.”
“I will. I promise!” Willow shouted, just as Anya faded away entirely.
Willow took a deep, shaky breath and let it out in a slow exhale. She stood in the circle for a moment, before reaching down to pick up her athame. She moved to the north side of the circle to banish it. Seconds later she heard the clattering of steel from outside the coven room and, with an inquisitive look, she walked to the door.
Watchers Council – Lobby – Same Time
Willow opened the door to find all the building’s occupants had amassed in the lobby.
“What’s going on?” Willow asked as she walked over to join them.
Giles scrunched his eyes in examining Willow’s puffy eyes and tear stained face. “Are you alright?” he asked.
“Fine. Well, not quite fine, but we’ll talk later,” she told him. “What’s going on?” she said, motioning at all the activity.
“Bad ass vamp slash zombie slash demon on the loose,” Robin said from behind the desk with his ear to the phone. “Damn it!” he said, hanging up and dialing again as he sarcastically mimicked the recording he just got, “The subscriber you are trying to reach is not answering.” He sighed and put the phone back up to his ear. “No kidding,” he muttered to himself.
“Giles?” Willow asked, pointing to Robin.
“He’s trying to reach Andrew. We let him take the younger girls out this evening, thinking we’d have no problems.”
“So, we got problems?” Willow asked.
Faith handed her a sword. “Time to see if those fencing lessons are paying off. We’ll explain on the way.”
Willow looked over to see Rowena talking to the group of six of the recently-arrived watchers. On the other side of the room, Kennedy was putting the remaining twenty Slayers into groups of five. Kennedy noticed her lover’s return and said something to Rona, pointing to the girls.
She made her way over to Willow, quickly closing the distance between them.
“You’ve been crying.”
It wasn’t a question.
“Yeah,” Willow told her. “It wasn’t exactly what I expected,” she answered cryptically.
Kennedy waited, but Willow didn’t continue.
“Okay,” the slayer answered, obviously frustrated. She ran her fingers through her long hair. “Well, when you decide you want to share, you let me know,” the Slayer added before she started to storm away.
“Kennedy,” Willow called out to her turned back, but she didn’t give chase.
Giles and Faith, who had been watching the exchange nearby, came over to Willow.
“Are you sure you’ll be okay?” Giles asked Willow. “You could stay here with Robin.”
Willow just tightened her grip on the sword and pointed it to the door. “Let’s just kill this thing and get on with our lives,” she told them. She walked outside, joining the slayers who were now assembling on the street.
“Faith…” Giles began.
“Don’t worry,” she told him before he could finish. “Red’s head ain’t in the game just yet. I’ll keep an eye on her.”
Giles simply nodded and he and Faith followed the others outside.
City Streets – Night
Kids, and a few adults, dressed in their Halloween costumes ran around the crowded street. The teams looked on in obvious confusion. In the mix of demons, vampires and zombies, they tried to distinguish which were real and which were just a once a year illusion.
“Oh, this is fun,” Willow remarked. Faith stood smirking beside her.
“Do we just stake at random and hope we’re right?” Kennedy added.
“Absolutely,” Rowena replied facetiously. “And then, when we find out that we killed a bunch of humans by accident, we can say we did it all for the betterment of man.”
“Why are you such a smart ass?” Kennedy said, taking a step closer, her hands stuffed in her back pockets.
“Jealous?” Rowena countered.
“Shh!” Faith put a finger over her lips and closed her eyes, trying to block out the bickering pair.
The teams watched Faith, whose face showed a look of intense concentration. In a flash her eyes opened and she looked behind her. She raced up the street to a man who was walking just behind a teenager leading two younger kids.
As she took off into the sprint, the teams followed her. She caught up to him and spun him around.
“Nice night, huh?” she asked him casually.
He bared a set of fangs and snarled. He tried to lunge forward, but Faith staked him, turning him to dust. The children that witnessed what happened looked on in horror for a moment before racing up the street to escape her.
“Everybody catch that?” Faith asked the onlookers.
“Right,” Rowena nodded in understanding before she turned to face the team members before her. “Slayers, now’s the time to put your training to the test. Sense the demon with your slayer talent, not your eyes. Understood?”
The groups nodded in agreement.
“And do what Faith did,” she added. “See if they make a move on you first when you approach. A human will be startled, but a demon will sense your slayer essence and try to engage.”
A girl in the back timidly raised her hand. “Umm…question?” Rowena nodded toward her for her to continue. “How can we be sure?”
“All of you have had demon encounters before you arrived. Just listen with your slayer senses and you will recognize what you’re dealing with, be it human or otherwise.”
“But what if we’re wrong?” another girl asked.
“That’s simple. Don’t be,” Rowena warned in a firm voice. “Now let’s get the teams separated and broaden our search.”
“Right then,” Giles announced. “Each watcher here will take a group of five girls to oversee. We know some of you have just arrived, but your training so far has been extensive. Now they couldn’t have gotten too far, so split up so we can cover a larger range of the city. If you come across Mr. Wells and the group of youngsters he has with him, lead them home. Ms. Allister will give you the street assignments. Cover as much ground as quickly as you can.”
As Rowena began to direct the watchers to their locations, Willow walked over to Giles.
“Boy, our first real test, I guess,” she told him. “Think we’ll pass?”
“Rowena and I are going with the two most inexperienced teams and Rona and Vi will be looking after a group as well,” he told her. “No one’s going in totally blind, so yes, our chances of getting passing marks are good,” he told her confidently.
“That’s not just pompous watcher talk is it?” she asked with a grin.
“So you can see through my mask to the concern and uncertainty, can you?”
Willow grinned. “Had a feeling.”
Giles cracked a small grin. “We’ll do fine, but I want you to stay in Faith’s group.”
“Why?” Willow asked. “Giles, it would make more sense to split us up to cover the inexperienced people.”
“Under different circumstances, yes. But tonight, I think it would be wise that you two stay together.”
“You don’t think I can handle this?” Willow asked, slightly offended.
“To be perfectly blunt, I think your contact with Tara tonight might have left you a bit unbalanced, not t-to mention your earlier confrontation with Kennedy.”
“It wasn’t Tara,” Willow told him. He cocked his head curiously. “It was Anya. Xander’s in trouble and she wants me to find him, which I will, but we need to handle this right now. Saving Xander to live in a zombie world is pretty pointless, ya know? I can see this through, Giles. A watcher cannot let her personal experiences affect her duties,” she added, as if she was reciting a recent lesson.
“I said ‘should not’,” Giles corrected her. “Not ‘cannot’.”
“Giles,” Willow sighed.
Giles didn’t give her the chance to argue further. “I believe you’re a strong woman, Willow. You have the makings of an e-exceptional watcher. But I don’t want to take the chance that you might become distracted by your thoughts. Please, for me, stay with Faith tonight.”
Willow gave a sigh, then a small grin came to her face. “Why is it so damn difficult for me to say no to you?”
Giles smiled, but Willow looked past his shoulder to see Kennedy starting to lead her team back down the street. Kennedy looked up and made eye contact with her but, expressionless, she turned and kept walking with her girls and the watcher that had been assigned to them.
Feeling a tap on her shoulder, Willow turned to see Faith standing there.
“Whadda ya say, Red?” she asked. “Ready to move the girls out?”
Willow took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. “Yeah, let’s do it.” She paused a moment and turned to Giles. “Be careful tonight.”
“You too,” he told her.
Willow and Faith began to walk a few yards to their team in silence when Willow felt another tap on her shoulder. Surprised, she saw Kennedy standing before her.
“I’m sorry,” she began. “I shouldn’t have walked away earlier. I know we don’t have much time, but I didn’t want to leave with things like that just in case…”
“I understand,” Willow grinned sympathetically. “But don’t worry. We’ll both make it back home and tonight we’ll talk a-and it’s not what you think, Kennedy. It was Anya, okay? But I’ll explain everything then, I swear.”
Kennedy took her face with both hands and kissing her softly. “Be careful.”
Willow smiled. “You too, Sweetie. I’ll see you tonight.”
With a smile of her own, Kennedy quickly jogged back to her team and they began up the street again. From beside Willow, Faith made an exaggerated kissing noise, which brought a grin to the witch’s face.
“I think you’re the real smart ass ’round here,” Willow quipped as they began to walk.
“That’s right,” Faith said proudly, resting her hand on Willow’s shoulder. “And nobody better forget it, Red.”
City Street – Night
“I think we might be heading the wrong way,” Faith mentioned to Willow. They walked down their assigned street with the other slayers on their team following behind them.
As soon as the words left her mouth, a group of screaming adults and children rushed past them, nearly knocking over everyone in their path.
“Then again, maybe not,” Faith said dryly before they jogged around the corner through the rushing crowd.
They stopped and saw two vampires laying siege to a woman’s neck near an apartment entrance. Sprinting into action, Faith arrived and dusted the one of them. It was enough to distract his partner and Faith pushed the woman away from his grip.
“You will not defeat the Corrupter’s army,” the vampire zombie taunted in a monotone as the woman scurried away.
Faith shrugged casually. “We seem to be doing pretty good so far.”
She swung her stake, but he caught her wrist, blocking the deathblow. She then backhanded him and pulled her arm free. Not wasting another moment, she plunged the stake easily in his heart and he exploded into dust.
Suddenly Faith felt a hand on her shoulder from inside the doorway and spun around, her stake at the ready. She stopped just short of another kill and shook her head.
“Dude! You gotta death wish?” she shouted.
“A little touchy tonight, aren’t we?” Andrew asked.
Fade to Black
End of Act Three