Felicia Day as Vi, Indigo as Rona, Matthew Ferguson as Howard Mayfair, Danny Masterson as Peter Owens, Mia Kirshner as Cassandra and Harris Yulin as Quentin Travers
Special Guest Starring:
Michelle Tractenberg as Dawn Summers and Amber Benson as Tara Maclay
Watchers Council Library – Afternoon
“It wasn’t his fault.” Robin said softly.
“Of course not!” agreed Andrew.
“But that doesn’t make a lot of difference in Giles’s eyes,” finished Robin. “He’s taking this one hard I think.”
Around him, the others took this in. Rowena had her attention fixed on Robin, while Faith watched from across the room, her stance one of relaxed attention – crossed arms, feet wide, head tilted back. Nearby, Andrew sat with hands folded in front of his face. Xander and Kennedy were on either side of Willow. Next to Andrew sat Vi and Rona.
“You know what’s really sad,” Rona offered up. “Howard wasn’t much older than us,” she added as she looked around the room.
“How are you?” Rowena asked Vi.
“I’m okay,” the Slayer nodded. Rowena raised a skeptical eyebrow. “No really,” Vi went on. “Howard is…Howard was pretty cool but…he knew the risk. Just like all of us, right?”
“In keeping with what Robin said,” Rowena told her. “That doesn’t make it any easier, so if you need to talk to anyone, Vi –”
“Seriously, I’ll be okay,” she said, cutting her off. “But I am wondering what we’re going to do about Giles. Especially with today being, you know…”
“Heckuva way to celebrate your birthday, huh?” murmured Xander. Vi nodded knowingly.
“Oh jeez!” said Kennedy. “I didn’t know it was his birthday!”
“The big five-oh,” Willow nodded.
“Damn,” said Kennedy.
“He’s never really made a big deal out of it,” offered Willow.
Rona spoke up. “What about Howard’s family?”
“Giles is going to see them now,” Willow answered. “I offered to go, but he wanted to do it. Figured maybe this is something he needed to do, so I didn’t press, but maybe I should have.” Willow turned to Rowena. “Should I have pressed? I’m not a press-y person but maybe –”
“I think you did the right thing,” Rowena told her before she could continue rambling. “He needs to do this himself.”
The whole room seemed to shudder at that thought.
“This is just…just awful!” Andrew spurted. “Especially ’cause now Mr. Giles is gonna get all loaded up with survivor’s guilt syndrome. Plus he won’t come out and say much, ’cause he’s so British! He’ll let things simmer and simmer and simmer until…boom! He’ll go pon farr. Only minus the sex stuff.”
Faith rolled her eyes. “Andrew, will you just…”
“No, it’s true,” Andrew insisted. “Mr. Giles cares so much about everything and everyone he hides it behind a Vulcan-like mask. Behind all that stuffiness and eyeglass polishing is a great, big heart, and that heart is hurting right now. It’s gonna go on hurting ’cause our fearless leader won’t ask for help. He’s always there for us, and it’ll never even cross that big ol’ mind to ask or even consider letting us be there for him!” Andrew stopped. Every single person in the room, except Rowena, was looking at him. Fidgeting over the attention, Andrew wiped away a little tear. “We must save him.”
Rona and Xander looked at each other, and as if on cue, rolled their eyes.
“But,” said Willow after a few moments, “Giles is strong. He can take this. Right?” She looked around at people, several of whom looked away. Then she looked at Rowena again. “Right?”
Rowena opened her mouth, but said nothing. Closing it again, her eyes blinked and she took a deep breath. “I think,” she said at last, voice low, “he’ll need some time alone after this one.”
Kennedy spoke up when no one added more. “I think we should call Becca. Some time alone, yeah – but not too much.”
“And a gaggle of well-wishers flocking all over Giles probably isn’t what he’d want right now, either” agreed Xander.
“No,” said Rowena firmly.
“Call Becca,” said Faith, nodding. “Good idea.”
Everybody looked at Robin, who also nodded. “I agree.”
“But…” Willow began, as everyone looked at her, “I don’t think we should just ignore the day either.”
“What do you suggest? Cake and ice cream and funny-looking hats? I don’t think it will help right now,” Robin told her.
“Yeah, it won’t be a balloons and streamers kinda day, but we should at least do something for him. You only turn half a century old once, ya know?”
No one said anything until Rona spoke. “That’s old,” she drawled.
“No, it’s not,” Rowena and Robin both answered at the same time. They then looked at each other.
“Of course they would think that,” Kennedy muttered to Vi. “They’re older than the rest of us.”
“Hey,” Rowena said, putting her hands on her hips. “Robin and I are both more than a quarter of a century old, but you don’t see us…boy, it really does sound old when you put it that way, doesn’t it?” she asked Robin. He just grinned in response.
“Look,” Willow tried to steer the conversation back on topic. “Let’s do something small, just us, and we’ll tell the rest of the Council the party is off for tonight. Oh! A-and we’ll make sure to call Becca, tell her what’s happened and see if she’s got any ideas. Agreed?”
Everyone in the room nodded.
Mayfair Living Room – Afternoon
The decor was a precise blend of modern and classical. Several of the photographs on the mantelpiece were of Howard, including a graduation picture. An 18-year-old version of the young man grinned out from it, donned in robes of maroon and gold. Another showed Howard posing proudly with his parents, the same parents who now sat opposite Giles. The watcher, who still looked tired, sat on the sofa and made a half-hearted try at drinking tea.
“No doubt,” he said, “the pathologist will give you a more detailed explanation. But I felt it my duty to personally explain what happened.”
“I…appreciate that…” said Mr. Mayfair vaguely. He didn’t meet Giles’s eyes. In fact, Mr. Mayfair looked as if his eyes were staring at something far, far away.
“As near as I could make out,” continued Giles after a few moments, “Howard must have made contact with some open source of electricity, probably wires damaged by corrosion or vandalism. The repair crews evidently hadn’t gotten to that section of the building yet. I…we should not have…well, strayed into that area.”
“What I don’t understand,” said Mrs. Mayfair, her eyes fixed on him like lasers, “is precisely what the two of you were doing there.”
“Howard, he said the school was a landmark…”
“Yes,” breathed Mr. Mayfair, eyes still a million miles away. “A shame to see such a fine old building just fall apart like that…a shame…” His voice trailed off.
Mrs. Mayfair’s gaze never left Giles. He continued. “Your son believed I would be interested in the urban legends that had come to surround the school. He said the writing on the walls even hinted of some cult-like behavior.”
“That is your area of expertise, Mr. Giles – cults?” She managed to make the word sound like a putrescent disease.
“Insofar as they pertain to religious history, yes.”
“Vandalism and graffiti in an abandoned public school have something to do with the history of religions?” She wasn’t even trying to hide her skepticism.
“They can.” He met her gaze coolly for several seconds. “The proper authorities will investigate events, naturally. I’ve already given them my statement, as well as contact information. When you decide upon a time for the funeral, there is a student of mine who’d grown close with Howard…”
“Our son,” interrupted Mrs. Mayfair, “will have a private funeral.”
Mayfair Family Home – Moments Later
As he left the Mayfair house, Giles kept his head down. He watched precisely where he was going and little more, simply walking in the direction of his car. There were passers-by, but he gave no acknowledgement. Eyes half-closed, lips pressed together, he walked with his attention on the sidewalk.
“Mr. Giles, isn’t it?”
He didn’t respond. The scruffy young man picked up his pace, coming up beside him.
“Mr. Giles? You are Rupert Giles, right? I saw you come out of the Mayfair house just now…”
“Yes?” Barely looking up, Giles stopped and sighed. “May I help you?”
“Well, I was kinda hoping you would, yeah.”
“And you are…?”
“Peter Owen,” the man said, handing him a business card. “I’m with the Cleveland Public Inquirer.”
“Oh dear…” This time Giles’s voice sounded like a groan.
“Hey, I’m not trying to get anyone in trouble… but, well, I heard Howard Mayfair got killed in an accident. Old family, father is on the Planning Commission and all that, plus the accident…it was an accident, right?”
“Yes. Yes, it was.”
“Well, this accident was in a building getting renovated by the city. That’s what I heard, anyway.”
“That’s what I was gonna ask you…”
“No, how do you know where Howard died?”
Owens shrugged. “I got my sources. Plus a police band radio. Basic tools of the trade. So, what happened, anyway?”
The reply he got was a long, intense stare. In fact, Giles was still so out of it, he almost looked like a wax dummy, save for the intensity of his stare. “Did you know him?” the watcher finally asked.
“Howard? Met him a couple of times.” The reporter nodded.
“I see.” Giles cut him off. “This is not your concern, Mr. Owens. Any duty you might have in reporting the tragic death of this young man can go through the proper channels. Use your sources, as you call them, but look for no help from me.”
“The people have a right to know everything that –”
“No, they have every right to know some things. Not everything – just some! And you yourself will enjoy zero privileges when it comes to interrogating me. Good day.” Giles turned and strode away.
The reporter followed.
“Look, I know this isn’t fun –” the man attempted, but wasn’t able to finish his sentence.
“Fun? A young man died today,” Giles reminded him.
“Point taken,” Owens told him. “But public safety is an important issue! And when someone is a public figure, like Mr. Mayfair, well, they don’t get as much privacy as the rest of us. It’s how it works. No one’s fault. It’s just the way things are.” He spoke faster as Giles picked up speed. “Plus there’s a possible abuse of public trust here. I mean, c’mon, what were you doing in that old school anyway?” By now they’d reached Giles’s car. The reporter did a double-take. “Whoa. Nice wheels, man.”
Giles pulled open the door forcefully.
“Hey!” He had nearly hit Owens in the process. “Nice aim, fella!”
Without saying another word, Giles got into his car, slammed the door shut, started the engine and drove away, leaving behind one very annoyed-looking reporter.
Watchers Council – Lobby – Later
Rona and Vi both sat in the lobby with bored expressions on their faces. Their expressions changed and they stood up as Giles opened the front door and walked inside. Giles, catching the tail end of this transformation, paused warily.
“Yes?” He peered at them.
“Giles,” began Rona, “you’re needed.”
“For what, precisely?” the Watcher asked, sounding drained.
The two slayers blinked, then looked at each other. It was Vi who spoke. “Robin didn’t say exactly why. Just to get you the moment you walked through the door.” She smiled, looking rather pleased with herself.
But Giles barely reacted. When he did, it was with a sigh and the barest of nods. Neither seemed to take the minor scowl to heart and, with Rona on his right side and Vi on his left, they all headed for the library.
Watchers Council – Library – Moments Later
Giles entered the library to see Robin, Willow and Rowena all waiting for him. On the table beside them was a formal tea set. All three looked up as he came in, with various sizes and types of welcoming smiles. Giles knit his brow in suspicion. Striding over to the tea set, leaving his teenage escorts behind, he lifted the top of the teapot.
“My favorite brand,” he noted. It was an accusation.
“You’re welcome,” said Robin.
Deliberately, Giles scanned the rest of the tea set. “And cookies.”
“What’s wrong with cookies?” whispered Rona to Vi, who said nothing.
“It is your birthday, Mr. Giles,” noted Rowena.
“Another year older and so on. Yes, thanks so much for reminding me. And how inventive, to celebrate not with a party but rather a kind of…intervention, is that the word?”
“No!” said Willow. “We just wanted…well, under the circumstances…” Her words trailed off.
Giles waited before replying. First, he looked at all five of them, and then sighed. He removed his glasses and gave them a quick wipe with his handkerchief. Glasses back on, he paused. Then opened his mouth to speak.
Through the door came Becca, still removing her coat. “Oh, you beat me back here,” she said with a smile.
“Ah. Another member of the insidious conspiracy of goodwill.”
“Stop that,” Rowena said. “We wanted to do something for your birthday, but felt awkward. So here’s what we decided on – tea the way you like it, followed by a nice dinner and we invited Becca. Simple and, hopefully, pleasant. No ulterior motives.”
“Giles,” began Robin, “if you’d rather talk – not to all of us in a group like this, but one on one, we’re here.”
“I can see that.” A beat. “Thank you.”
“Oh!” Willow took something from her pocket. “And a present. Here.” She handed an envelope to Giles. Becca walked over to watch him open it with a grin on her face.
“You know what this is, don’t you?” Giles accused.
“I’m not telling, so open it,” was her light reply.
Inside the envelope were two tickets – ivory-colored, with raised lettering. Becca smiled as Giles’s eyebrows lifted. His lips even twitched into something like a smile. “The…um…” he said, “Harrington Art Auction. Preferred seating, no less.”
“For two, I might add,” Becca noted. “Xander, I’m told, noticed the open catalog on your desk and Willow ordered the tickets. And I know for a fact something Xander didn’t – that you’ve been looking forward to this for months, but chances were you would forget until after it was over.”
“Well, the-there are some extraordinary works expected to be there, and of course, some even have quite interesting histories. T-They even sold an original Klimt last year!” His voice grew more animated as he spoke, the twitch slowly became a restrained grin. Giles looked at Willow, and at Xander and Rowena, who were behind her. “Thank you.”
“‘Bout time,” muttered Rona.
Giles even laughed at that.
Street Near Pharmacy – Later
Peter Owens was talking into his cell phone in a parking lot outside a small pharmacy.
“Nah, but that doesn’t matter. I’ll just track him down later. Yes, I’m sure there’s a story. Fact is, I’ve been doing some research on this Rupert Giles guy. I got my ways, you know that. Anyway, even at first glance, there’s something weird going on. Has a rap sheet in England, turns out. Then went to Oxford, got credentials all the way up his bum, did all kinds of scholarly stuff around the world, then took a job as a public school librarian in California. I know, weird! And that’s just at first glance, ya know? Wait a minute, now listen… he’s in Cleveland now, right? And he’s got a six-figure car! I mean it, six figures. Wanna guess how he saved up for that on a civil servant’s salary? No, nothing specific, but I’ll keep digging. Right. I said right, okay?”
He hung up. “Editors,” he muttered. Then he walked inside the pharmacy.
Pharmacy – Same Time
“Miss,” the man behind the counter was saying, “just so you know, I will be closing soon.”
The doe-eyed young woman with long dark hair nodded at this, but didn’t look up. She just kept browsing among the painkillers.
Owens stepped up to the counter. “You got my Imitrex yet, Ernie?”
“Ah, Mr. Owens, yes, I have it right here!” A tiny package was already prepared. He got it out and put it before his customer. “That will be $140 dollars.”
Without a word, Owens handed over his credit card, and immediately opened the package. Taking out a single small pill, pale pink and triangular, he swallowed it dry. Then he looked around the room. The doe-eyed girl was looking right at him, and her expression – curiosity, interest, a strong hint of flirting – certainly caught his attention. Her shapely figure also caught his eye. Owens smiled back.
“Your signature,” prompted the pharmacist. Owens turned and signed the receipt, trying to sneak a peek at the girl via the oval mirror behind the pharmacist. He gave up after a second, signed his name and then pocketed his medicine. When he turned back, the doe-eyed girl was by the door, still looking at him.
He grinned as he headed towards her.
Street Outside Pharmacy- Moments Later
Owens and the young lady walked together down the darkened street. Both were smiling, she in a flirtatious way, he with a pleased grin.
“So what’s your name?”
“Cassandra. And I heard the clerk call you Mr. Owens.”
“That’s right. Pete Owens.”
“I also heard you’re taking Imitrex.”
Owens sighed. “Yeah, I get these migraines. Felt one coming on. That stuff really works if you take it when the pain starts. Nips it in the bud like you wouldn’t believe.”
“You get migraines, too?”
“Terrible ones. I always have. You’d think that…but that’s not important. The fact is, like you, I’ve taken Imitrex. That’s how I recognized it.” As she said this last, she stopped and looked into his eyes.
“Well,” said Owens, taking a tentative step into her space, “maybe we can help each other.”
“I hope so,” she said enticingly.
“Yeah,” he continued, voice getting low, “the trouble is, that stuff is really expensive.”
“Oh, that’s not the problem,” Cassandra noted.
“Getting money isn’t the problem. Getting the medicine isn’t either.” She batted her eyes.
“My problem is… getting the medicine into the blood.”
Pete Owens’s response to that was going to be “Huh?” But even as he began, Cassandra’s face shifted. Her brow furrowed, eyes changed to a feral gold, and fangs erupted from her mouth.
“What the hell?” he exclaimed as his eyes widened. Cassandra grabbed him with super-human strength and began to drag him into a nearby alley. She buried her fangs into his throat with a snarl.
End of Act One