Mr. Blake’s Barn – Night
A loud roar could be heard in the distance, getting closer. Rowena looked anxiously between the approaching storm and Willow.
The witch looked over at the scarecrow. It wasn’t interested in her, or Rowena, but its non-face staring down at the chest. It raised its handless arms, prompting Willow to look again to see what was inside.
The wind was picking up with every second that passed, tossing Willow’s red hair in front of her face. Rowena stood guard silently behind her.
A small cloud of dust exploded from within the chest and soon got caught up in the wind. Willow coughed, expelling the dust from her mouth a couple times, before focusing on the contents of the chest.
Hundreds of papers, some contained neatly in notebooks, some scattered or tied together with twine, lay inside. Willow squinted her eyes as she peered through the cloud of dust that remained wafting around the old chest. Willow felt a hand on her shoulder and realized that Rowena was peering over her, trying to see what was in the chest.
As the scarecrow crept a few steps closer, Rowena rose, making herself a barrier between the scarecrow and Willow as she examined the contents. The spirit recoiled slightly and appeared to look away shyly from Rowena’s protective stance.
Willow soon saw that these pages and notebooks had words scribbled all over them. Some she recognized as poems, due to their structure, some were detailed drawings, others frames that still needed work, but were still beautiful. The books, she soon realized, were journal entries.
Confusion soon took over for her amazement. She looked up at the scarecrow and asked, “Do…do you want me to have these? To read them?”
The hat tipped down slightly. A nod. “Okay,” she assured the scarecrow. “I will. I promise you. But we have to go!” She pointed at the storm behind them.
Graciously, the jacket began to bend at the waist, while the hat remained where the head would be. A small smile tugged at Willow’s lips when she realized the scarecrow was bowing. Just as soon as the suit had stood upright, however, it went limp. The hat, coat, and pants crumpled to the floor and lay together in a motionless pile.
Before either of them could react, Giles darted inside and looked and looked at the space where the scarecrow had been standing, only to find the pile of clothes and Willow closing the chest.
“I’m…I’m here to, um, save you,” he said quietly, shifting his weight uncomfortably.
“Thanks, but you’re a little late,” Willow remarked. Hearing the roar behind them getting closer, Giles grabbed Willow by the arm and silently ordered everyone back to the house. On instinct, Rowena picked up the garments and began shoving them inside her coat and pants as she ran to catch up.
They dashed along the long space between the house and the barn with the tornado bearing down on them.
“Ahh!” Giles and Willow heard Rowena yelp. They turned at the noise and found her lying on the ground with a broken wooden crate shattered around her.
They immediately responded, pulling Rowena to her feet between them and balancing her as they limped to the house for shelter. The group piled through the front door, but there was no loss of urgency, as the roar of the storm continued to grow louder. Giles looked around the house.
“We need to find the basement,” he told them, then pointed. “It’s toward the back!”
But before they could move any further, the sound of the windows in the house breaking overwhelmed all other noises. Giles shoved Willow and Rowena down to the floor. He used his body to cover both of them under the kitchen table.
Willow hair was flying about, partly covering her eyes. Lying next to Willow, Rowena’s hair was also flying all over the place. After a second, Willow squeezed her eyes shut. The whistling, pounding noise continued. The sound of creaking wood and bending metal filled the entire house and Willow tightened her hold around Rowena’s waist.
In less than a minute, the wind began to die down. The three of them lay huddled together under a mix of glass and other debris.
“Everyone all right?” Giles asked. “No cuts or gashes?”
Willow and Rowena both shook their heads and inspected one another, just to be sure. The noise slowly faded, until everything stilled completely.
Once he was sure that they were safe, Giles pushed himself up and looked out the door. The house, despite the porch missing several floorboards, and several broken windows, looked relatively fine. In fact, it looked quite beautiful outside. A cozy, reddish orange hue filled the horizon.
He moved to the opposite side of the house and watched as the tornado moved along against a dark, gloomy sky. The scene seemed to change so intensely from east to west that he looked back toward the front door again, as if to confirm he did, in fact, see a crimson sky on the other side of the house.
Shaking his head, he looked back out the window again and watched in awe as the twister cut along the open field, leaving behind a trail in the dirt in its wake. A hand on his shoulder startled him from his reverie.
“Boy, do I miss earthquakes,” Willow sighed in exhaustion. She too began to watch the storm pass, with Rowena standing beside her.
Mr. Blake’s Barn – Morning
A small, single flame danced proudly over what was once Hezekiah’s clothing, now reduced to a small pile of ashes. Suddenly water was poured on top and the flames turned into smoke, rising quickly into the air.
Giles swatted at the smoke for a moment, before dropping the bucket and staring down at the pile of ashes. He looked back at Willow and Rowena. “That’s it,” he said simply.
“It’s done, then?” Rowena asked, wanting to be absolutely sure. “I mean…a few chants and a fire took care of it?”
“It did,” Giles confirmed with a nod.
“Home?” Rowena asked.
Giles smiled at her, sounding very happy that he could say, “Yes. We can certainly try. The state police say the roads are clear and open now.”
“Good,” Rowena sighed. “I think I slept ten minutes last night at the most.”
“You ladies can get some rest,” Giles told them with a gentle smile. “I’ll drive.”
Council Car – Later
A stack of notebooks rode shotgun as Giles focused on the road ahead of him. He adjusted the rearview so he could still see if any traffic was behind him while watching Willow and Rowena. A slight grin came to his face.
Willow sat to the right, one of the scarecrow’s notebooks opened in her lap, staring down at it intensely, while Rowena slept next to her. The blonde, who obviously had been trying to read earlier, had a bundle of papers on her lap. But for now her head leaned against Willow’s shoulder, her eyes closed. Giles grinned at the scene he saw in the rearview mirror.
“Anything interesting back there to share?” he asked softly, glancing back and forth from the road to the mirror and catching Willow’s eye.
“Yes, actually…” Willow trailed off, staring, once again, down at the notebook. She was so busy marveling at the writings and drawings that she couldn’t think of what to say.
“Huh? What?” Rowena asked, her head snapping up. “Did I fall asleep? Where are we?” She looked around out the windows.
“Yes. And about an hour from home,” Willow answered.
“I didn’t drool on you, did I?” Rowena asked, looking at Willow’s shoulder.
“Minimal salivation,” Willow nodded with a grin. “Besides, what’s a little spit between friends?”
Rowena blushed and looked away. “Sorry,” she said sheepishly, rubbing her lips self-consciously. Willow’s face indicated, without a doubt, that she found Rowena adorable.
As if sensing Rowena’s discomfort, Giles offered again, “I wondered if there was anything of interest in those documents you found?”
“Oh,” Rowena began, “from what I’ve seen these works are…brilliant. I’ve never seen this much creativity.”
“I suppose there wasn’t much to do after his father locked him in with the animals,” Giles spat bitterly. “Bloody bastard! I can’t imagine ever doing anything like that.”
“Yeah, Brian…the boy, he talks about all that in his journals,” Willow replied. She looked back down at the books. “They used chains. Like, actual chains, so he couldn’t get very far.”
“The magic from Hezekiah’s suit must have invoked Brian’s spirit,” Rowena surmised. “With that kind of treatment during his life, how was he expected to not have unfinished business to take care of?”
“That’s exactly what happened,” Giles agreed. “The boy in the house told me they never got the suit on the scarecrow.”
“We all thought it was a monster, too,” Willow said bitterly, shaking her head as she closed the book in her lap. “That the suit turned their scarecrow into a monster. We just…assumed. How is that different than his family assuming he was a monster?”
“We’re trained to look at things the way we do, because there are monsters in this world, Willow,” Giles told her. “They were this poor boy’s family. They should have loved him, no matter what.”
Willow sighed as she turned her head to gaze out the window and watch the passing landscape.
“It just sucks,” she said after a long moment. “He was so talented…had so much beauty to offer. Even if he wasn’t perfect in his family’s eyes.”
“Well, as you and I both know,” Giles told her, again glancing at her face in the rearview mirror, “parents sometimes fail to see the greatness in their children.” He gave her a small smile. Rowena looked over at Willow, grinning as well.
“Point taken,” Willow answered, flashing the two of them a grin of her own.
Watchers Council – Lobby – Afternoon
The front door opened, but Willow, Giles and Rowena hesitated at the entrance. All three were visibly worn from the trip, but worry crossed all three faces as they took in the silent surroundings.
“Awfully quiet,” Giles commented.
“Too quiet,” Willow and Rowena spoke at once.
“Anyone care to wager on what’s wrong?” Willow asked, stepping inside and walking slowly towards the dining room. Giles and Rowena followed slowly behind her.
“Definitely not,” Rowena replied. “Let’s see if we can find…”
Rowena let her sentence drop when Kennedy appeared in front of them, looking worse than all three combined. Willow’s worry lines deepened, but it was Giles who spoke first.
“Kennedy, what’s happened?” he asked.
No one said anything. Kennedy walked right up to Willow and said in a low tone, “Something happened.”
Willow allowed herself to be pulled to the side, all the while watching Kennedy as her face twisted in pain. When Kennedy didn’t look up right away, Willow turned to look over at Giles and Rowena. They were talking with Xander a short distance away, trying not to be too obvious in looking in Kennedy’s direction.
“Kenn…?” Willow tried, but she couldn’t find any words.
“I’m so sorry,” Kennedy told her with a shaky voice. “I didn’t mean –”
“What happened?” Willow interrupted gently.
“I pushed too hard…again. If I wasn’t so pushy, we’d all have had a quiet night watching Andrew’s stupid movie a hundred times, but no…I had to go out. I had to take Lori.”
“It’s how I’ve always been!” Kennedy exclaimed, too deep in her own emotional rant to notice Willow’s protests. “God, you’d think I would have learned…”
Willow furrowed her brow at Kennedy, not sure what the brunette meant. “This isn’t the first time someone got hurt,” Kennedy elaborated. “Chloe. She killed herself because I pushed her too hard –”
“Kennedy, tell me what happened. Is Lori dead?” Willow said immediately.
“No, not dead, but she’s in pretty rough shape, nearly got drained by a vamp. Of course, she’d be fine if I hadn’t taken her out,” Kennedy replied in a defeated tone. “I mean…I had your trust for the night and look what I did with it.”
Throughout the whole conversation, Kennedy avoided Willow’s eyes at all costs, but when she did look up her brown eyes shone from the un-shed tears. “I finally got a look at myself,” Kennedy sniffed. “There’s been lots of things over this past year and…I don’t think I like what I saw…”
“Kennedy,” Willow began, “You’re a good person. You might not always succeed but you certainly do try your best. A-and I –”
“People can change, right?” Kennedy asked, giving no indication that she had heard any of what Willow had just said.
Willow nodded without adding more.
Kennedy nodded back, then lowered her head and slowly walked away toward the Slayer Dorm. Xander began to make his way over, looking just as down as Kennedy did.
“Not you too?” Willow sighed.
“I saw it, Will. That ‘gift of sight’ I told you about? I saw them at the door before they ever entered,” he spat, obviously frustrated with how helpless he felt. “What the hell good is this if I can’t see anything beyond ten seconds? If I could see more, see things sooner, then that Lori girl wouldn’t have gotten hurt and Kennedy wouldn’t feel like a failure. I could have stopped them from ever leaving the Council tonight.”
“I don’t know,” she answered honestly. “You were given it for a reason, a-and maybe someday you’ll know why. Then again, maybe you won’t.”
“Gee, Will, thanks for the pep talk.”
“Look…bad things happen a-and you can’t always stop it. We both know that first hand. So maybe instead of thinking of it as a burden, you can look at it as a gift. Well, a gift that you can’t quite figure out yet, but one you probably will, if given time.”
Willow tried to grin and soon Xander found the ends of his own lips curling. “Ever the optimist, huh Will?”
Willow nodded. “I have to be, or otherwise…well, let’s just say I have to be and leave it at that.”
The Watchers Council TV Room
Toto, we’re home. Home!
And this is my room. And you’re all here.
And I’m not gonna leave here ever, ever again!
Because I love you all. And…oh Auntie Em…
There’s no place like home!
The sound of the familiar movies blared in the TV lounge as Willow entered the room. She immediately saw Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz in bed, surrounded by her family.
Willow turned away from the TV and looked at Giles and Rowena, who stood with their eyes glued to the screen and a very tired look on both of their faces. She then turned her attention to the couch, where Andrew sat cross-legged and was now smiling sheepishly up at the witch.
Without a word, Willow turned and walked out of the room while shaking her head, followed closely by Giles and Ro.
“Hey! Guys…come back!” Andrew shouted after them. “I can start it over! You missed the flying monkeys and that’s the best part because – come on! Flying monkeys, man! That’s just awesome! Uhh…guys? You coming back?”
Andrew turned back to the TV with a pout, but the movie instantly brought a smile back to his face. “Fine, I’ll watch it again all by myself!”
Fade to Black
Andrew (V.O.): [sighing] No one has any love for the scarecrow anymore.
End of Scarecrow
On the next episode of Watchers…
On her way home from her new night classes, Faith runs across a group of girls living on the street… all of whom seem to have slayer strength.
Click here to read “Gangland” now!