Watchers Council – Slayer Training Room – Afternoon
Faith knelt on Robin’s legs as he did sit-ups.
“So,” he said, continuing to rise up and down. “Heard Xander’s coming back,” he puffed.
“Yeah, Red’s pretty stoked about it,” Faith said, grinning over Robin’s knees as he continued to exercise.
“What about you?” he asked.
Faith gave a casual shrug. “Well, I gotta give the guy his due,” she remarked. “I mean…no slayer strength, no bad ass Wiccan skills…he’s held his own and then some.”
“Yeah, it’s the some part that has me concerned,” Robin answered.
At first, Faith looked confused, but then she started to grin. “You think I got a thing for Xander?” She gave a light chuckle.
“You two were involved at one point,” Robin said. On his way back up, Faith grabbed his shirt and prevented him from going back down to the mat again.
“Time out, Ace. For starters, he and I were never involved. I just screwed him. End of story.” Faith paused for a moment. “But when you think about it, he’s quite the stud. Hell, after Red and me, that only leaves Ro, and possibly, if she’s drunk enough, maybe he’ll get a shot at Ken. Well, maybe Andrew too, but I don’t think Xan-man swings that way.”
“I’m being serious,” Robin said, trying not to laugh.
“So am I, you should have heard Andy go on about the damn window at Buffy’s house. He’s an engineering god, according to the dude,” Faith quipped.
“Faith,” Robin sighed.
“Okay,” she began, putting her hands up in surrender. “You’re worried I’m gonna run off with a former lover, so let me break this down into multiple choice, kinda like one of those standardized tests you principal types love.”
Robin grinned as he toweled sweat off his face.
“Faith can either; A) Hook up with the man who was nothing more than a one night stand; B) Stay with the great guy who doesn’t mind she comes in at five a.m. some mornings covered in vamp dust; or C) Decide to chuck it ALL away and go back to being the right hand to an evil genius, which isn’t all that impossible, since I saw an ad in the paper the Presidium ran last week.”
Robin’s grin grew into a smile. “Oh really?” he teased.
“Yep. They offer full health and dental, too. Just call 1-800-Hell-on-Earth. So…which do you think is the correct answer?” Faith asked.
“I get your point,” he answered, placing his hands on hers.
“Good, and for the record, the correct answer is B.” Faith’s grin began to disappear and she crawled over Robin’s knees to sit in his lap. She reached up and stroked his face gently. “I’ve never had anything like this before. I’ve screwed up lots of times in my life, and I’ll screw this up too, but I just hope it isn’t so bad that you’ll never forgive me. But I know for a fact it won’t have anything to do with Xander.”
“Thank you,” he nodded. “I needed that.”
Faith shrugged. “I’ve got what I want, Ace. But if you need constant reassurance, it’s gonna be a problem,” Faith warned. “It’s not an ultimative.”
“Ultimatum,” Robin corrected.
“Whatever,” Faith said. “I just want you to know where I stand. No whiny men or green eyed monsters, okay?”
“Consider that monster slayed,” he said with a firm nod.
Faith kissed him softly on the lips and moved over to the mats. “Okay,” she said as she lay on her back and stomped her feet for a moment. “My turn.”
Robin grinned as he moved to hold Faith’s feet so she could begin her work out.
“One,” he counted with a smile. She rose toward her knees with a similar expression.
Watchers Council – Vacant Area – Same Time
Willow pulled Xander along by the hand, going deeper into the vacant room, while pointing with her other.
“Ooo, and over there,” Willow said excitedly, “we could put more saw-y type stuff or, or maybe a drill press!”
“Now, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say you’re just a little bit happy that I plan on staying,” he remarked. “Not a lot. Just a little.”
Willow slapped him across the chest lightly. “Cut it out. Yes, I’m happy,” she said, grinning. “And like I said, all this is yours to do what you want. Consider it your Top Secret Slayer Weapons Lab and Workshop.”
Xander paused. “You’ve been spending far too much time with Andrew.”
“Does it show?” Willow asked with a contorted face.
Xander paused again. “Slightly.”
“Then you got back just in time to rescue me,” Willow said optimistically. “Now, you just give me a list of what you need and we can have it here the next day. The Council is gonna pay for it all, so get all the best thing-a-ma-bobs you need.”
“They do have names, Will,” he laughed.
“None of which I know, but you do,” she added. “So call up the suppliers a-and I’ll sign the checks. Deal?”
Xander let go of Willow’s hand and began to walk around the room, taking it all in. “I’m not sure what to say. Thank you doesn’t seem to cover it,” he said as he turned back around to face her.
“I love Giles –” Willow said softly.
“Now this is news!” Xander smiled.
“Not that kinda love! I’m trying to make a point here!”
“Sorry, my bad,” Xander said with a grin, waving his hand for her to continue.
“I love Giles,” she began again, with a look that told Xander not to speak yet. “And it’s wonderful having him around, but…it’s not the same. It felt like my family got ripped apart. It was always the four of us, ya know? People came in and out of our lives, some by their choice and others…well, not by choice.”
Xander gave her a sad grin but continued to listen.
“I guess what I’m saying is, it’s nice, no, it’s wonderful, actually, to have part of the family back home again.”
“That’s the real reason I came back,” Xander told her. “I was sitting in this bar in Oklahoma and –”
“Not a demon bar, I hope,” Willow interrupted. “You promised me you’d –”
“She’s in a better place, Will. I know that now. Doesn’t make me miss her any less but, it’s a comfort to know, though one I can’t quite explain,” Xander told her.
“You don’t have to,” Willow replied. When Xander didn’t say more, she motioned toward him, “But please go on.”
“Well like I said, I was in this bar. Not a demon bar – just a standard, run of the mill, Garth Brooks, honkey tonk kinda place. Anyway, this trucker was there. He was talking about his family and then asked me, ‘Where’s your family?’ I said Cleveland and that’s when it hit me. My family was in Cleveland, so why the hell was I tramping all over the country?”
Willow gave him a broad grin.
“Sure,” Xander acknowledged with a slight nod, “it was great to see some places I always heard about but after that, what did I really have left? I realized in that dingy bar that what I had was you, and yeah, even Giles. I also needed something where I can make a difference. I’m not a Slayer or a witch but I’ve never fit better than here,” he said, pointing at the ground. “And I realized that even though it felt like I lost everything, I really didn’t. Sure the new eye is great, and again, thanks doesn’t cover it but…point is I see now that I still have you guys and, as long as you’ll want me, you’ll always have me.”
Willow sniffed and rubbed her eyes. “You know we want you here, Xander. We did mean it when we said the door was always open. Of course, if you decide to leave again, I might be forced into holding you against your will,” she joked.
“As long as that Will is you, I can manage,” he answered with a grin.
Willow gave a light snort and smiled.
“You’re my best friend,” Xander went on. “I spent practically 22 years with you, and almost one year without. That one year has been the longest, for lots of reasons, but the biggest void that I had control over… it was not having you around.” Xander paused and took a breath. “I shoulda come when you asked back in California, but…”
“You needed a breather. I get it. And Gods know I had a summer in England to prove that a-and, poor Giles, jeez, the first two weeks…” Willow rolled her eyes. “I was a psychological and neurological disaster. But he rode it out with me – all the nightmares, all the shakes, checking my temperature and feeding me aspirin at four a.m. to keep my fever down so my head wouldn’t explode.”
“I wanted to be there, Will,” Xander said with a twinge of guilt. “But Giles said…”
“I know you did. But he was right. It was better that I spent some time away from the Scooby circle, just like you had to. So I really do get it, Xander. But I’m back now…a-and you’re back now. So let’s kick a little demon ass, whadda ya say?”
“Lead the way, oh wise Wiccan One,” Xander said proudly with a grin.
Watchers Council – Slayer Dorms – Evening
Giles, Rowena, Willow and Faith entered one of the larger living areas to see Brell’s family watching television.
“I apologize that we didn’t arrive here sooner to discuss matters,” Giles said as they entered.
Tram turned off the television and nodded to his wife. She motioned for the children to follow her and they obediently went to the next room.
“I’m Mr. Giles,” he said, offering his hand to Tram. “These are my associates, Rowena and Willow, my fellow watchers, and Faith, our Senior Slayer.”
Tram nodded toward them as Greet closed the door behind her and walked back, taking a seat next to her husband.
“We seem a bit besieged with wayward travelers this week,” Giles said conversationally.
“If we started charging rent, we could cover the cost of running the Council for the year,” Faith quipped.
Rowena just grinned at Faith and waited for Giles to continue.
“Anyway,” Giles said, scolding Faith with a glare before getting back on topic and turning to Tram. “Can you tell us more about what’s happened to you recently?”
“A demon-man, called the Engineer. He tracks us,” Tram answered. “We worry that he will find us. He has many demons looking for us, but we seem safe here so far.”
“I did a magic spell on demons who aren’t kin to you,” Willow explained. “That means you and your wife can see each other, Brell, too, but if a demon comes they won’t see you here. So you can relax. You’re safe.”
“Brell said you do your best, so thank you. We will help you now, if we can,” Tram told them.
“What do you know about the Engineer?” Rowena asked.
Tram just nodded. “Engineer is the Presidium.”
All the Council members exchanged confused looks with one another. “Come again?” Giles asked.
Tram looked to his wife as if asking for a translation.
“Repeat answer,” she told him.
“Oh, Engineer is the Presidium.”
“We were under the assumption that the Presidium was a group of united demons. We’ve had run-ins, battles I should say, with several different species linked back to this Presidium organization,” Giles told him. “We’ve learned they’ve awakened the Hellmouth, but for what reason we don’t know.”
“Engineer is demon-man who runs the Presidium,” Tram told them. “Understand?”
“Oh, he’s like Giles here. He gives orders and others follow them?” Faith piped in.
Tram nodded enthusiastically. “Yes. But he come to our world before he come to yours,” Tram added. “Presidium killed many from my world, but those not killed got…” Tram turned to his wife again.
“Slaved?” she answered, uncertainty in her voice.
“You mean your people are now either dead or enslaved?” Willow asked. “Like captured and working for someone else?”
Tram and Greet both nodded. “Our people serve the Presidium or they die,” Greet told the room. “We not killed in first invasion. We sent to…work camp…but we escape one night with others from camp. Others die but we keep hiding. Tram spent months searching for port to this world and find it. He take us here.”
“Giles,” Willow began and turned to him, “If they got through, then that means that…”
“The Presidium can get through, too,” Giles finished.
“No,” Tram said, making them both look over at him. “Perhaps some, but not full army. Full army very big. Very, very big,” Tram said extending his hands. “It would take many years to get them all through space we entered. Portal only open for ten beats and only open once in every three cycles of our moon. That’s how Brell and cousin Clem got here. We come through and I find Brell. We meet in…” Once more Tram looked over at his wife.
“Food shop, serves sugar on dough. But demons come into shop. Following Tram. Brell and Tram escape, but shop broken.”
“That donut shop vandalism,” Willow remarked to her team. “It happened two days ago.”
Tram nodded again. “I ask Brell to stay with him, but since demon saw Brell too, he thought it safer for us to come here. Brell family is staying at friends, we stay with watchers.”
“Oh,” Willow said sadly. “He could have stayed here, too. Why didn’t he tell us?”
“Brell not want to intrude and he think it better that he and I not be close right now. Separate means more safe.”
“He’s got a point,” Faith said, “Split up, so it’s harder to find you guys.”
“Is there anything more you might be able to tell us?” Giles asked.
“No,” Tram shook his head. “Tram tell you all he know. Presidium…very scary. Very large. Very dangerous.”
“So,” Willow sighed despondently, “the Earth is in danger…again.”
“No,” Tram corrected. “Earth is okay. Every creature on it, no.”
Silence fell across the room until Faith spoke up.
“Well, it’s not all bad,” she jibed.
Watchers Council – Study – Night
Giles walked into the study. It took him a long moment to realize that he wasn’t alone.
“Oh, Mr. Rosenberg,” Giles said, “I’m sorry I haven’t had the chance to speak with you much. We’ve been rather busy as of late.”
Ira began to look through the stacks of books. “Impressive library,” he said casually.
“Years in the making, I can assure you,” Giles answered politely.
Ira looked at Giles for a moment, saying nothing. Finally he took a few steps closer.
“Princeton, Harvard, Yale…” He gave a snort and shook his head.
“Excuse me?” Giles asked.
Ira regarded Giles for a moment. “They all wanted her. And we could have sent her. But instead she chose UC Sunnydale. I remember when she got her acceptance to Oxford…she was so excited. You know the first thing she told us?”
Giles shook his head.
“That’s where they make Gileses.” Ira wore a sad grin and took a seat in the leather chair next to the fireplace. “I kept wondering, I still wonder, actually…what went wrong?”
Willow walked up the hallway toward Giles’s study, but stopped when she heard her father’s words through the door. She stopped and looked up and down the long corridor. It was vacant, so she crept closer to the room’s door, but didn’t go inside.
Study – Night
Giles ran his hand over his mouth, as if unsure if he should approach the subject.
“With all due respect, Mr. Rosenberg,” he began diplomatically. “I don’t think that anything is wrong with your daughter.”
“And you probably wouldn’t, but I can connect all these shenanigans over the years back to one thing – you.” Ira pointed an accusing finger at Giles.
“Me?” Giles asked with a half chuckle, slightly taken aback.
“Willow was a good girl, a smart and beautiful girl. But starting sometime during her sophomore year in high school, the topic each day of what happened at school was Mr. Giles said this and Mr. Giles said that. Next thing I know, she’s dating a musician and hanging out at the library constantly, although her grades began to slip.”
“She was the salutatorian of the class of 1999,” Giles countered.
“She should have been valedictorian,” Ira said firmly.
“I’m not sure I see your point,” Giles confessed.
“It didn’t end there,” Ira continued, ignoring Giles. “I remember finding a crucifix hanging in her room and I thought it couldn’t get much worse. Silly me, a few months later I found the pentagrams. So here’s my Jewish daughter forsaking her heritage, her upbringing, and worshipping Pagan gods.”
“Mr. Rosenberg –”
Ira went on. “Sheila told me it was just a phase. Willow had to do some growing and find herself. Things would be different when she started college. She was right. The wannabe rock star cheated on her, just as I had predicted, but the next thing I know, she comes home and tells us she’s dating a Baptist woman!” Ira began to chuckle glumly before giving a deep sigh.
Giles licked his lips and began rubbing his hands together nervously. “I realize that children don’t always live up to their parents’ expectations and –”
“Oh really,” Ira snorted. “How many children do you have, Mr. Giles?”
“That isn’t the point,” Giles answered.
“No, I think it is. I think you’ve had a profound, and unfavorable, influence on my daughter, one that continues to this day. Not to mention you’ve brought her into a world of danger.”
“Willow is a-a resourceful young woman and –”
“So was Tara Maclay, I’d been told. And where is she now?” Ira paused and Giles didn’t say anything. After the brief silence, Ira went on, “Do you know how we learned of her murder? Willow left us a fifteen second telephone message. She said ‘Tara’s dead and Giles is taking me to England. I’m not sure if I’ll be back, but if I can I’ll call.’ That was it, nothing more. And once again, the common denominator was Mr. Giles.”
“Willow was grieving horribly at the time. She needed –”
“What?” Ira interrupted. “To be trained as a Pagan even more while she was vulnerable? She comes back after three months overseas and decides that she’s devoting herself to her Wiccan life. Hence she forgets that once a woman is born a Jew, she remains one until she dies. I thought perhaps after Ms. Maclay’s death it would have been a wake up call to her. But instead she plunged even further into this nonsense.”
Giles cleared his throat. “You simply don’t understand –”
“You’re damn right I don’t understand!” Ira said, darting to his feet and closing the distance between them. “Even to this day, she continues to make the wrong choices. She could be teaching anywhere in the world with the marks she had in college. Instead, she’s still here! With you! Carrying on with women and praying to false gods! So, where has my daughter gone, Mr. Giles?”
Giles’s jaw was clenched as he darted forward, coming face to face with Ira.
“Willow hasn’t changed! Not one bit! She’s still the compassionate, intelligent young woman she’s always been. She is beautiful, inside and out. And maybe if you took your nose out of your books and personal affairs long enough, you’d realize that!”
“Don’t tell me my business!” Ira shouted back.
“Your business should have been spending more time loving your daughter, rather than criticizing every step the girl took,” Giles countered.
“She is my daughter, not yours!”
Giles ignored Ira’s comment and quickly continued.
“You know why she respects my opinion? Because I respect hers. It goes both ways, Mr. Rosenberg. I’ve given that girl more attention, respect and love than you have in years – dare I say, in her entire life. And it’s something I don’t regret in the least. If you opened your eyes and your narrow mind, maybe you’d see that Willow has so much to offer this world. She does it every single day, without asking for anything in return.”
“And you’re self-centered,” Giles said as he stormed toward the door. “Willow is an exceptional human being. I’m honored to know her and I’m blessed to say that she’s family.”
Giles flung the door open and slammed it shut before Ira could so much as open his mouth.
When Giles stepped out of the room, he saw Willow trying to race around the corner.
“Come back here,” Giles called out, plunging his hands in his pockets.
“I’m sorry,” Willow answered guiltily, slowly turning around and walking back. “I wasn’t spying…much.”
“How much did you hear?” Giles asked delicately.
“My dad wondering what went wrong? So, in actuality, nothing I haven’t heard before,” Willow shrugged with a forced grin.
“He’s wrong, you realize, a-and I meant what I said,” Giles replied softly.
Willow’s grin melted into one of sincerity. “I know, Giles and I appreciate it but…”
“But what?” Giles asked with concern. “I didn’t want to make things worse for you.”
“Oh no, it’s not that,” Willow reassured him. “He’s just kinda set in his ways. Very headstrong and stubborn, so unlike yours truly, huh?” Giles simply smiled. “No, I mean, I don’t think it did much good. Just wasted breath, although the sentiment is definitely appreciated.”
Giles smiled and put his arm around Willow as the two began to walk.
“Come on,” Giles said with a nod, “Let’s take a break from Presidium studying, shall we? I’ll look for those books after he’s gone to bed, but for now I say we go to the lounge, have some wine and give your father even more ammunition by claiming I’m turning you into an alcoholic.”
Willow walked along and she slipped her arm around Giles’s waist.
“You know what Giles?” she asked in a small voice.
“The best families are those we make.”
Wordlessly they turned the corner.
Watchers Council – Lobby – Moments Later
Willow and Giles walked down the lobby staircase to see someone new tromping their snow covered feet near the doorway.
“Geez o’ petes,” she said softly. “Did someone put a vacancy sign out front without our knowledge?”
Giles grinned and walked over to the figure that had their back turned to them. “Can we help you?” he asked.
Bonnie lowered her jacket hood.
“I love what you’ve done with the place,” she told the pair with a smile.
End of Act Three