London Motherhouse – Archives
“An extraordinary work, don’t you think?” Quentin Travers asked Giles.
“Yes, as a matter of fact, I do.”
“Nor is its quality restricted to that of artistic merit,” continued Travers, circling and examining the painting. “Are you familiar with its history?”
Giles paused. “Not as such.”
“Three of its owners committed suicide. Another three confessed to crimes long unsolved. One left his career as a successful barrister and became a rabbi. Two more experienced sudden life changes – the canceling of a divorce, and a hack writer who went on to win the Pulitzer Prize.”
“I wouldn’t call that a uniformly negative pattern.”
“Far from it.” Travers agreed. “But the evidence suggests power here. Power as yet not understood, and therefore an inherent threat. That’s why the Council purchased it, why it will never leave this building. You, however, are a different matter.”
Giles blinked before replying. “Explain, please?”
“Rupert,” Travers said, voice lowering, “I do understand your grief over losing your slayer after her confrontation with Glory. When Antoinette, my own Slayer, was killed – well, despite all my best efforts, I did feel for her. She was not unlike a daughter, and her murder inspired me to do much as you have done. I locked myself away, diving into esoteric lore and minutia, always and forever seeking distraction. That was twenty-five years ago. You had only just joined us back then. Do you recall?”
“You were in charge of the Archives then.”
“As you are now,” Travers nodded. “James Tyrell came to me one day. At first, I thought him about to utter some long speech full of, no doubt, entirely accurate observations and pleas – about which I myself could not care any less. Yet instead, he said something else. Exactly the right thing, as it turned out. I have come here to say those same words to you.”
Giles looked at the Head of the Watchers Council for an eternal several seconds. His face was a mask, while Travers simply waited, eyes unflinching.
“What?” said Giles at last.
“There is work for you to do.”
Watchers Council – Faith and Wood’s Suite – Night
Robin answered the knock on his door and seemed surprised to see Willow standing there.
“Good evening,” he said pleasantly enough.
“Uh, hi. Did you know that Faith is downstairs winning all the pocket money from the other slayers?”
Robin grinned. “Poker or pool?”
“Pool. I know she doesn’t really need any more spending change, but…”
“But she likes to win. That’s my girl. Something tells me that you’re not here because my lady’s a hustler.”
“No, I’m not,” she confessed with a grin.
Robin opened the door wider. Willow hesitated at first, but then stepped inside. He closed the door behind her and watched as she almost started to pace. “It’s about Giles. And, how he’s been.”
“In what way?”
“Okay, well – he’s just not himself. The way he reacted when he thought we were trying to celebrate his birthday. That’s just not natural or something. Plus, letting Becca go home by herself? What’s up with that? I know he’s fifty now and all but –”
“Willow.” She stopped. Robin paused and took a deep breath before continuing. “He’s got some issues. Seeing Howard die like that brought them up. Probably lots of other things too, but, whatever the cause, he’s the one that has to deal with them first.”
“He helped me.” Her voice went real low. “And if this is all because of the Howard incident, I’ve got to help him.”
“Tell me,” asked Robin, “if he helped you, and I have no doubt at all he did, what makes you so very sure he can’t help himself, as well?”
Willow didn’t say anything and instead rolled her shoulders.
“But I understand. No one is an island, right?” Robin continued.
“Exactly! And that’s what I’m afraid of. I don’t want him locking himself in his room, all despondent a-and weepy. This isn’t the first time that something like this has happened, so why is he taking this so hard? Aren’t you the least bit curious?”
“If Giles needs help, I’m sure he’ll come to us,” Robin told her.
Willow paused and cocked her head. “You don’t know Giles. He’s all Mr. Repressed and Stiff-Upper-Lippy-Guy. Only this time…”
Willow paused. “I’ve seen Giles scared and angry a-and sad. But I’ve never seen him…” Willow paused for the right word and met Robin’s eyes when she found it. “Hopeless,” she concluded softly.
“Okay then,” Robin nodded. “What do you suggest?”
“We should give him space for now, I agree, but not too much. I mean, not to the point where he spends too much time in his head and not interacting with other people. When I stayed with him in England, I was pretty much a recluse, but…he was still there for me. Even though we didn’t always talk for hours and hours, it helped knowing I could if I needed it.”
“Perhaps you should pay him a visit tonight? Let him know just what you’ve said. If I see him, I won’t push, but I’ll extend the offer,” Robin suggested.
“That sounds good,” Willow nodded as she turned to leave. “Oh, another thing. Was there anything else that happened out there? Something that wasn’t in the reports? Just want to know if there might be some other reason for Giles’s, you know, behavioral problem?”
Robin shook his head. “I documented everything I knew Will, but if I think of anything else I’ll let you know.”
“Okay, thanks Robin.”
“So, where you off to?” Wood asked as Willow approached his door to exit.
“I’m gonna take one more crack at him before I call it a night,” she said.
“Like I said, if you need me just give a shout.”
Willow nodded and Robin closed the door behind her.
Motherhouse Hallway – Day
Giles waited more or less patiently as Quentin approached with a young blonde woman. She had much the same air as Quentin himself – focused, scholarly, self-assured.
“Rupert Giles, may I introduce Rowena Allister.”
“How do you do?” said Giles.
“An honor, Mr. Giles,” she replied.
“Miss Allister,” Quentin continued, directing them along the hallway, “like many of her generation, has more actual combat experience than we did at her age, Rupert. You may have heard of her exploits in Istanbul?”
“Oh yes – she recovered the Opus Obscurum. Congratulations.”
“Thank you,” she said.
“To have succeeded where generations of others failed – most impressive,” Giles added.
“It is on account of that we’d like her to be your partner, as it were, with this particular assignment,” Travers explained. “This is bound to be a difficult, and frankly troubling, matter.”
“You can depend upon me,” Rowena said, almost imitating a junior officer reporting for duty.
“Why me?” Giles wanted to know. “I know you believe it’s time to put Buffy’s death behind me, but I can’t help but feel there’s something more.”
“Quite true,” the Head of the Council nodded. “All kinds of tasks need doing and I daresay many, if not most, would benefit from your experience. There are all kinds of troubles brewing, in Cleveland, for example. Los Angeles as well. Yet this matter…this is something for which you are uniquely qualified. Besides, you’ve been requested.”
“Ah,” said Quentin. “Here we are.” The door at which he paused and now opened was one of the guest reception areas. “Our guest asked to see you personally, Rupert.”
The three of them went through the door.
The lovely blonde woman turned as they entered. Rowena entered first, then Giles, who smiled as he saw the woman. Then Quentin brought up the rear, shutting the door behind them.
“Tara? What on earth are you doing here? It’s nice to see you, of course, but…”
“Likewise,” she smiled the same way she always did. A simple, shy smile.
“I had no idea you were in London.”
“Kinda sudden. My decision, I mean. And I only got in a few hours ago. I came looking for you.” Tara spared a glance to the blonde standing beside Giles, but said nothing.
“Oh, this is Rowena Allister, another member of the Council,” he said, realizing her curiosity.
“Hi,” said Tara with a little wave.
“How do you do?” Rowena replied.
“Miss Maclay and I have already discussed matters,” intoned Quentin. “Perhaps we should all be seated?”
Both Giles and Quentin refrained from sitting until the ladies had already done so. Tara looked nervously around at them. Rowena just looked at her steadily. Quentin divided his attention between Giles and Tara herself. Giles, after fidgeting for a moment, spoke.
“Is Willow here with you?”
The light in Tara’s eyes dimmed, as did her smile. “We’re no longer together. She…”
“Oh dear, has she died, Tara? Is that why –?”
“No,” Tara said quickly. “She’s alive, but we broke up.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. The two of you got along so well.”
“Actually, the reason I came is also the reason we broke up. Mr. Giles…” She hesitated, then plowed on. “Willow tried to raise Buffy from the dead.”
Giles’s jaw didn’t quite drop, but he did pale. Rowena did such a quick intake of breath it sounded like a gasp.
“That kind of magic is –” began Rowena.
“I know! I know!” Tara interrupted. “But she thought that, since Buffy was killed by mystical energy, that gave her a chance to make it work. That was the theory, anyway. All that summer before you left, she was doing research into how to do it.”
“Good Lord,” breathed Giles. “And when you found out about this, you confronted her?”
“No.” Tara looked uncomfortable and slightly guilty. “These w-were unique circumstances, and Willow raised a good point that Buffy might have been trapped between dimensions – like Angel had been? Another fact was…I didn’t want to argue with her. She was determined and you know h-how she gets when she sets her mind to something.” Tara grinned fondly for a moment, but it quickly slipped away. “Anyway, we searched for an Urn of Osiris, but when that fell through, she t-tried other things. More risky things. And also… not long after you left, the demon population found out about the Buffybot. You’d have thought that all hell really did break loose in Sunnydale.”
“Good gracious,” Giles sighed. “Why didn’t you contact me?”
“Willow said no. You put your time in and now you have to live your life. It was up to us. Besides, it got to the point that no one could challenge Willow. I think it was the m-magics she was tampering with but…she changed.”
By now, Tara had the riveted attention of all three watchers.
“She began to use her powers more recklessly. Not just for defending Sunnydale, either. Some of the things she did…” Tara’s voice faded, as if unwilling to re-live or confess to something. “I tried to talk to her about it. I even begged her, but she didn’t listen. One of her spells backfired last w-week and…a-and now Xander’s dead.”
“Oh dear God,” Giles muttered.
“That’s when I hoped she’d snap out of it,” Tara went on. “I thought she would see the path she was on and where it was leading. But instead, she jumped headlong into the magics even more.”
“Miss Rosenberg’s abilities are even more formidable than we’d believed,” noted Quentin to his fellow watchers, his voice grave.
“I left, but it wasn’t easy,” Tara went on. “Willow put up a spell to keep me and Dawnie at the house. We weren’t able to set foot past the front yard. But I was able to counter her magics with my own and I escaped. I promised Dawn I’d find help. So once I got free, Anya drove me to the airport and paid for my plane ticket here.” As she finished, Tara looked at all three watchers, but her attention was mainly upon Giles. She looked on the verge of tears.
“Tara,” he said after a moment, “if what you’re implying is true, you realize this constitutes a kind of threat we simply cannot ignore.”
She nodded. Reluctantly, but she did it. “She’s going to destroy herself. Not just her body, but everything. And not just her, I know. I can’t help thinking all of this is my fault.”
“What on earth would make you think that?” Giles asked. “Tara –”
“I love Willow, Mr. Giles, more than anything…But maybe she would have been better off if we never crossed paths.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Isn’t it obvious? I put her in danger. The woman I love most in the world, and it’s because of my actions that she’s…the way she is now. If we never started training in more advanced spells, if I never allowed her to use my powers and gain her strength…things would be different today. I introduced her to that danger, but I didn’t have the power to protect her. So, like I said, it’s my fault.”
“Tara,” Giles began gently. “Loving someone is a risk everyone takes. You don’t know from one day to the next what might happen to them. You were always as straightforward with Willow as you could be, so I fail to see how this is your cross to bear.”
Tara didn’t respond. She simply lowered her head, looking at her lap.
“The current slayer has relocated to Cleveland,” Quentin offered when the room went silent. “Kennedy and her watcher are extremely busy at the moment, and besides, I don’t think she’s what’s called for in this situation. Rupert, we need you in Sunnydale as soon as possible.”
“I’m afraid I agree,” Giles muttered.
“Miss Allister will assist you.” He turned to Tara. “Thank you, Miss Maclay. You’ve done a brave and good deed by coming to us. We will strive to deal with this sad situation. Is there anything else we can do for you?”
“I…” Now Tara began to cry. “I don’t want anyone else to get hurt.” Her voice was a whisper. “And Dawn, she’s still there, Mr. Giles. I’m so afraid for her.”
“As are we,” agreed Quentin. “So will you see to this task, Rupert? I’m positive this matter requires someone acquainted with Ms. Rosenberg, not brute force.”
Giles reached over and squeezed Tara’s knee in support. “When do I leave?”
Watchers Council – Hallway – Night
Xander was headed in the direction of the kitchen when he met a distressed-looking Andrew – with a tea set in hand, no less.
“Oh, good! Xander, have you seen Giles?” Andrew asked.
After thinking about it for a moment, “I think Robin said something about the library –”
Shaking his head, Andrew interrupted, “That’s where I just was. Bringing him some nice tea and refreshments.” He held up the tea set with a tiny smile. “But he wasn’t there.”
“He’s gotta be somewhere. Did you check his place?”
“I was on my way now.”
“Okay, I’ll tag along just in case.”
“Thanks, Xander. You’re one in a million. Or maybe a billion. Well, five and a half billion according to the latest census…”
“Let’s get going?” Xander prompted.
They both walked towards the stairs.
Watchers Council – Giles’s Suite – Moments Later
Giles’s suite was a comfortable, even elegant apartment with dark wood furniture and plenty of books. It looked like something copied from another era, or at least the best elements of that era. No computers, though. And the phone itself was of an antique design.
There was no one inside.
Soon knocking was heard at the door. “Giles?” It was Xander’s voice. “You in there?”
Outside the apartment, Xander knocked on the door again. “Giles?”
Andrew, behind him, said, “This tea set is getting heavy.”
“I don’t think Giles is in there.”
“Unless – maybe he’s just not answering because he’s so depressed?”
Xander pondered this. “Okay, I suppose that’s possible.”
“Look through the keyhole!”
“It’s not that kind of keyhole, Andrew. I can’t.”
“Not even with your new spider-sense eye thingy?”
For a full three seconds, Xander stared at him. “Promise me that’s not what you’re calling it.”
“Well, not often…” Andrew shuffled.
“How about not ever?”
“Okay, okay, I’ll stop. I promise. What about listening at the door, though?”
Sighing, Xander pressed his ear against the door to Giles’s apartment. Not hearing anything, he turned and took one of the empty tea cups, placing it to the door before resting his ear on it.
“What are you doing?” Andrew asked.
“Shh, I’m listening.”
“I thought you need glass to hear something, not porcelain.”
“I can’t hear anything with you talking,” Xander told him in frustration.
Willow rounded the corner to see the two young men began to shake her head.
“Do I even want to ask what you two are up to?”
Xander motioned to the door, putting the cup back on the tray. “He’s not answering and he’s not in the library.”
“Do you know if he’s in there?” she asked, looking briefly at the door.
“Not you, too,” Xander sighed. “Okay, for the record, I do not have x-ray vision.”
Willow turned the doorknob and the door opened. “I meant, did you try this?”
“Oh…uh, no,” Xander muttered awkwardly.
“See? She’s smart. That’s why she’s the watcher,” Andrew quipped in a whisper to Xander. Xander slapped Andrew’s arm, making the tea set clatter. “Hey, scalding hot liquids here,” he warned.
Willow carefully peeked inside, ignoring the commotion behind her. Not spotting Giles, she entered deeper into the apartment and waved the two men to follow.
“Giles?” she called out. “Are you in here? We’ve come bearing warm and tasty goodies?”
There was no sound in the apartment except for the tick of the mantle clock.
“Where on earth could he be?” Andrew asked.
Willow looked back into the hallway and nodded for them to follow her. “Let’s try the slayer side of life. Maybe he’s training with Kennedy tonight.”
“I hope we find him soon,” Andrew told them. “This tray is becoming more well-traveled around here than some of our students.”
Watchers Council – Quentin Travers’s Office – Day
The Head of the Watchers Council indicated for both Giles and Rowena to sit, while he still perused the file in his hand. Quentin’s face was rarely cheerful, but now it looked especially grave. “I had some data drawn up about Sunnydale in the last few weeks,” he was saying. “On the face of it, the reports seem not particularly worse than might be expected from atop a Hellmouth.” He sat down behind the desk, and then looked up. “However…”
“Tara’s report puts everything in a different light?” Giles asked.
“What kinds of patterns can be discerned?” asked Rowena.
“The number of arsons has increased, for one. Abandoned buildings, for the most part, large enough to have extensive basements.”
Giles nodded. “Vampire lairs.”
“Yes. More, construction on the new Sunnydale High School has been delayed several times due to construction accidents. There have been fatalities.”
“How many?” Rowena wanted to know.
“Three. A much more disturbing trend, however, lies in the real estate market. It seems people have been putting their homes up for sale at an extraordinary rate, fully twice what it has ever been before. Now, the Hellmouth has been there essentially forever, certainly as long as the town of Sunnydale. Why are people leaving at this time, and not before?”
“Could the Hellmouth have grown more noticeably active?” Rowena asked. “Mr. Giles?”
“Hm? No, that doesn’t sound right. In fact, several times during Buffy’s life there the Hellmouth became extremely active, but never once was it accompanied by this kind of exodus. I’ve often theorized the Hellmouth has some kind of cloaking spell in place, helping disguise or mask all but its most extreme manifestations from the public at large. Whatever is happening, this time people are noticing it, and fleeing.”
“Given what we’ve been told,” said Quentin, “I fear we have a good idea what is happening. Willow Rosenberg has proven herself a woman of extraordinary power, and evidently has none of the discipline and training such power requires.”
“The most powerful magic users always face the danger of having their power consume them,” noted Rowena.
Quentin nodded. “And it’s likely that is what will happen in this case, eventually. But not without unacceptable collateral damage.” He looked at Giles. “You and Rowena will leave later today for California. Your primary objective is to assess Miss Rosenberg’s current state, both mystical and emotional. Our allies in the Coven can bind her power or instill in her the wisdom to cope with them. We’ll arm you both mystically with a way to get in and out of the Summers’ home, hopefully with Ms. Rosenberg leaving the residence willingly. That would be the best possible scenario.”
“Not the most likely,” said Giles.
“No. Not the most likely.” Quentin leaned back in his chair. He looked unhappy. “If that occurs, if the danger is as real as we fear, our response must be equal to that danger.”
Rowena spoke. “Meaning we kill her.”
“I’m afraid, yes,” intoned Quentin, nodding, “that is precisely what we will have to do.”
Taking a deep breath, Giles frowned.
End of Act Three