Presidium Lair – Early Morning
“And why is it that you haven’t brought the witch with you?” Larmin asked coldly. “It isn’t like you to fail the Engineer.”
“Amy Madison’s gone missing,” Bonnie replied. “I have the others looking for her. But so far, no one’s found her. She’s probably still in Cleveland; my demons are still searching.”
“And what of the spell she cast on the others?” Larmin asked more harshly. “That was not part of the Presidium’s agenda.”
“She acted on her own. She had her orders and fulfilled them, but…”
“Yes,” Larmin nodded. “She took it upon herself to cast this spell to turn all her former acquaintances into children. My scouts tell me that the Head Slayer, Faith, is regressing in age and, as of last night, is without her slayer powers.”
“I heard we missed a golden opportunity yesterday evening,” the real estate agent countered.
“Correction. We took the opportunity. I sent ten vampires there to eliminate her,” the demon rebutted.
“And thanks to the slayer Kennedy, nine of them can now fit in an ashtray. You should have sent double that number, at least.”
“We didn’t foresee the young slayer’s strength,” Larmin admitted.
“You don’t say?” Bonnie replied mockingly. “Perhaps this is something to remember, because there’re at least forty more of these girls just waiting to take the Engineer on.”
“The Engineer will be quite prepared and protected when the time comes,” Larmin answered.
“Which, again, could pose a problem,” Bonnie continued, “Operatives report that the witch, Willow, and their new carpenter, Alexander Harris, are aging in reverse as well. If she loses her powers for good, then…”
“Mr. Harris? The one known as Xander?”
“Yes. You’ve heard of him?”
“He has been known to the Presidium for quite some time. He stopped the witch from destroying this world. It was also he who brought the final Chosen One back from death when the Master drowned her. The Presidium is, in many ways, wary of him. This Xander portends the possibility that there may be others like him among humans; others without any power save their own simple-minded do-goodism.”
Bonnie smirked at Larmin’s terminology. “We won’t have to worry too much about him,” she said, “because, as I was saying, our operatives report that he’s regressing in age too, by now.”
“But the man’s – this Xander – his powers will always remain with him. Only death can take them.”
“There will be time for that, too, won’t there?”
“Not yet. Not now. Now we must find the witch, Amy Madison. I entrust this to you entirely.”
“And I will not let the Presidium down,” Bonnie said pointedly.
“No, you shall not, because I know how much you value your own existence. And once you find Ms. Madison…?”
Bonnie smiled fully, an unpleasant curve of the lips. “I know what needs to be done. And it will be.”
“I know you won’t fail,” Larmin said, his smile matching hers.
Watchers Council – Coven Room – Later that Day
Jeff slammed the book shut and shoved it into the center of the circle. His blue eyes flashed angrily as he ran his hand through his long hair. He sighed heavily and looked at Willow, sitting off to one side in the circle of acolytes.
“I-oh damn it!” he swore. “I’m sorry, Willow. I’m really sorry.” He swallowed hard. “I thought I could focus enough energy to…”
Jeff looked away.
“Hey,” Will said, pouting like her twelve-year-old self, “it’s…it’s okay. Really.”
“You’ve done the best you could, Jeffrey,” Giles said kindly. “All of you have, and…and Willow and I are both very proud of the effort you’ve made.”
The young acolytes in the Coven all looked at each other dejectedly as they began to let go of one another’s hands.
“It’s okay,” Willow said again as Giles released her hand and Faith released one of Xander’s. “We can try again when your energies are full. Whoever cast this spell is very powerful. Maybe as powerful as…well, me. You guys need a rest. Reversal spells, even with a group like this, can be really draining.”
“Yeah,” Xander said, sounding as down as Willow. “Thanks guys…uh, and ladies. It was a good try.”
The members of the group began to rise, first one, then another, and slowly gathered their things. Faith got up with them. “I’m outta here,” she said. “I got a date with a guy who’s starting to be old enough to be my father.”
“How’s it going with you and Robin, Faith?” Willow asked, wrinkling her nose.
Faith smiled cynically. “Five by five,” she muttered and quietly left the room on the heels of the others.
Giles sighed. “I’d best call Althenea back and see what she and her group have been able to come up with. Perhaps they can teleport one of their Coven members here to work on reversing this spell.”
“Do you really think they can figure it out?” Willow asked quietly. “I tried everything they taught me and then some, before I lost my powers altogether. I don’t think they have anything in their bag of tricks that can help us now.”
Willow, Giles, and Xander all turned their heads at the voice. Jeff stood behind them with balled fists and bowed head. He looked at Willow from under long dark eyelashes and tousled hair.
“I’m sorry I let you down,” he said simply. “I guess I’m no good at this magic stuff.”
“No,” Willow said, “you’re really good. Really. I mean you’ve got all the makings of a really, really good –”
“Kick-ass,” Xander threw in.
“Yeah, a-a kick-ass sorcerer,” Willow continued. “You have a lot of energy and power and –”
“And apparently no ability!” Jeff shot back.
“That’ll come,” Willow said, a little frightened by his anger, “you’ll see.”
Jeff, eyes blazing, turned his head aside to avoid their stares.
“Besides,” Willow pointed out, “Althenea taught me that it’s not always about power and energy. A lot of it’s experience and-and technique and, y’know, just being a master of the power and energy, and knowing a lot helps, too, because if you didn’t know anything, or if you, like, maybe were new to working magic or-or hadn’t been asked to harness what you, like have, and –”
“Will?” Xander interrupted, “Rambling.”
“Look, I get it,” Jeff said. “And I think Giles is right. You better get people in here who really know what they’re doing. I’ll still help. Whatever you need me to do.”
“We know, Jeffrey,” Giles replied. “And we’ll call on you when the time comes. Now, why don’t you go off to your next class and relax a bit. Your powers have been drained more than anyone’s today.”
Jeff nodded and headed out the door.
“Hey, Jeff-meister!” Xander called after him.
The other boy stopped.
“Thanks, man,” Xander said with an easy smile.
Jeff allowed himself a slight smile in answer and continued out of the room.
“You know,” Willow said to no one in particular, “he’s kinda cute.”
Giles looked at Willow curiously, but Xander’s head whipped around and he locked eyes with her.
“What?” she asked. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Will, are you…not gay now?”
Confusion etched its way across Willow’s face and her cheeks turned red.
“Oh, please, let’s not have this conversation here, shall we?” Giles said wearily. “Nor anywhere else, for that matter.”
“I…I…” Willow stammered.
“Well said,” Giles rejoined. He stood up. “Come along, then,” he told them and held his hand out to help Willow up.
As he did, she finally let go of Xander’s.
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Day
Faith gave a heavy sigh. “So since the little hand-holding session went bust, any more ideas?” she asked the group.
She, along with the rest of the gang, sat in the Council conference room with a host of books and files around them.
“Not yet,” Giles informed the group. “But Althenea is continuing her search in Devon.”
“Yeah, well this little problem is cutting into my social life big time,” Faith said, not hiding her agitation while pointing at Robin.
“I’m sorry, but children just don’t turn me on,” Robin said shortly. “I’ll always love you, Faith, but right now, I just can’t love you. And, although true, I just realized how bizarre and totally disturbing that sentence sounded.”
“Second that,” Xander nodded. “This conversation is getting creepy, so let’s just drop it, okay?”
“Ya got my vote,” Willow told him.
“I’ll give you that,” Faith addressed Robin. “Actually, it would be a little freaky if you did still want me like this.”
Rowena noticed the pained expression on their faces and turned briefly, looking at Willow.
“What other resources do we have?” Rowena asked, getting back on topic. “The Devon Coven is great, and I think the world of Althenea, but maybe she’s not enough here. Are we looking elsewhere too?”
“There’s another Coven in Wales she mentioned –” Giles began.
“Great! Get them on the phone. Who else?” Rowena rattled off quickly.
Giles looked at Rowena a moment. “I realize this is frustrating,” he told her.
“No, this is life-threatening,” Rowena replied firmly as she pointed to Willow, who was at her right. “And unless we find a way to slow this down or reverse it, then…the point is, we should be doing more.”
“We’ve already contacted the Covens that might be able to help, that have real power,” Giles explained, trying to remain calm but firm. “We have the slayers out looking for Miss Madison as we speak. And we’re looking into an amulet –”
“We don’t even know for sure if Miss Madison is behind this, do we?” Rowena posed. “For all we know, it could be a Presidium agent.”
“Yes,” Giles nodded. “But given the fact only these three were affected, it follows that the magic user knows them personally, so we’re searching for –”
“Obviously it’s not enough, and sitting here discussing it isn’t getting anything done,” Rowena cut him short, anger finally showing through in her voice. She stormed from the room.
As the door slammed shut, Andrew looked to Giles, “Should I, maybe, follow her?” he asked, unsure.
“Let her go,” Giles advised. “She needs time to calm down.”
“You have to admit, she makes a good point,” Robin told Giles. “We need to find someone who knows their stuff to fix this. So far we’re empty.”
Willow quietly got up and began to leave the room.
“Where are you going?” Giles asked.
“There’s not much more here that we can do,” she told him. “I’m going back to the library, see if anything turns up.”
The group watched her walk out, but said nothing.
Watchers Council – Archive Room – Moments Later
Rowena moved quickly to a file cabinet. She removed a key from her pocket, swiftly opened the cabinet and began flipping through the files inside.
Suddenly she found the file she was looking for and pulled it from the drawer. Pursing her lips, she flipped through the few pages enclosed until she came to a 5×7 picture.
“Gotcha!” she said out loud as she pulled the picture and replaced the file in the drawer. She relocked the cabinet and left the room, the wind in her wake ruffling the pages of the open books on the reading table.
Watchers Council – Lounge – Moments Later
Willow stood in front of the phone in the Council lounge. She stared at it for a long moment before she finally lifted a cautious hand to the receiver. She picked it up off the cradle and brought it to her ear. The dial tone hummed at her. “Get a grip, Rosenberg,” she whispered to herself. Then she reached her hand to begin dialing.
The sudden sounds of four young slayers laughing and chattering in the hall as they passed made her jump and hang the phone up quickly. They passed without noticing her through the French doors.
Willow drew a deep breath, then let it out in huff. Face set, she picked up the receiver and dialed in earnest. There was a moment of white noise and then the phone on the other end of the line began to ring.
“Hello, it’s Willow Rosenberg…Not so good…I need your help,” she spoke into the receiver.
Watchers Council – Lobby – Moments Later
Becca entered the Council with two bags full of clothes, looking up to see Rowena approach.
“Ro, I brought some things that might fit the gang,” the shopkeeper explained. “Are the kids –?”
“Sorry Becca, can’t talk right now,” Rowena said as she passed by.
“Watcher class somewhere?”
“No. Witch-hunt,” she answered, not stopping.
“Witch-hunt? Who?” Becca called after her. “What witch?”
And with that, Rowena swept out the exit.
Watchers Council – Kitchen – Evening
Becca stepped into the Council kitchen to find three pre-teens chowing down on cookies, milk and, in Faith’s case, soda.
“Well,” Becca smiled warmly at them, “how are you doing?”
“Hey, Becca!” Xander greeted her with a full mouth.
“Hey to you, too.”
“Yo, Beck!” and a sing-song “Hi!” simultaneously sounded from Faith and Willow.
Becca sat down and gave them an optimistic smile. “No cure yet, huh?”
“Nope,” Willow answered.
“Well, you guys hang in there,” she told them, continuing to smile. “I know that Rupert will do everything he can, and then some, to see you get it straightened out.”
Willow looked at her and the young girl’s smile faded.
“Willow?” Becca asked, “What’s wrong?”
Willow looked at Xander. He was chewing absently and staring at Becca. He blinked and looked at Willow.
“What’s with you two?” Faith asked, then followed their gazes toward Becca.
“Okay,” Becca said, “someone wanna let me in on the secret?”
Willow smiled up at her. “You just, you smiled, and you looked like someone we knew.”
“Joyce,” Faith said. “You smile like her.” Without giving it much more thought, Faith went back to stuffing another whole cookie in her mouth.
“Who’s Joyce?” Becca asked. “A slayer?”
“Nah,” Xander said quietly, “Buffy’s mom.”
“She was really cool,” Faith added in a muffled tone.
“And beautiful,” Xander put in.
“She was like our own moms but, ya know, nice,” Willow said.
“Yeah,” Faith agreed. “She let me stay over for Christmas. And she kinda looked after me, when I let her.”
Xander looked down. “We couldn’t save her. She had a brain tumor. Then it exploded…”
“It was a hemorrhage,” Willow said.
“That’s very sad,” Becca said gently. “Seems like you were all very close to her. Tell me…”
Before they could say anything, Andrew walked in and saw the trio.
“What are you doing?” he chastised. “Supper is only an hour away and you’re filling up on junk,” he tsked, coming over and taking the cookies.
Faith snatched them back and tossed the package over to Xander who took out another. “Look here, Andy,” Faith warned. “I might be a teeny bopper, and I might not have my powers, but I can still kick your lily white butt all over this kitchen.”
Andrew leaned away with a timid look.
“Now kids,” Becca said, trying to keep things from exploding.
“Guess this proves you were always a hard ass,” Andrew muttered.
“That’s right, and don’t forget it,” Faith pointed at him while Xander and Willow giggled.
Andrew turned and walked to the refrigerator, “Yeah well, if you keep regressing, don’t ask me to change your diapers.”
Faith glared at him from across the kitchen and Becca patted her hand in support.
Watchers Council – Giles’s Office – Next Morning
The Watcher dropped his spoonful of cereal into his bowl and stood up. “Willow? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” the youngster said breathlessly. “Nothing wrong – something right! I found a spell, a spell to conjure, we have to find Jeff and Andrew and we can conjure it and –”
“Willow,” Giles motioned with both hands for her to settle down. “Please slow down. Tell me what you’re talking about.”
“I found it – in a book. Giles, we can conjure this amulet, see…” She held a book open in front of his eyes for a second, and then lowered it immediately.
“And then we can do a simple spell that will make the amulet seek out the most powerful magic user around. It’s kinda like a hyper-locator spell. Giles, this could be it. Find the source of the spell and we can get it reversed!”
She beamed at him happily.
“So we can conjure the amulet,” he repeated slowly, “and use it in conjunction with a locator spell to find possible casters…”
Willow nodded enthusiastically.
Poppy’s Restaurant – Morning
“Amy Madison,” Rowena told the waitress at one of her favorite diners.
“If I see her, I’ll definitely call ya, Ro,” the waitress smiled as she handed back the picture.
“Thanks,” Rowena said and paid for the coffee to-go. She yawned as she walked out of the diner. She stood outside the door and looked both ways before deciding to go left and continue her search deeper into the seedier end of the district.
As she began to step off the curb, someone tapped her shoulder firmly. She jumped, then spun around, sending coffee in a wide arc that struck her assailant.
Watchers Council – Coven Room – Morning
“It’s working!” Willow said. The tear-shaped amulet had begun to materialize before Jeff, Giles, and Andrew. The three men concentrated harder as the amulet faded momentarily, then coalesced once more in the center of the circle.
Suddenly it was solid, dull, jade-like substance, creamy-green in color and shot through with milky-white veins.
“You did it!” Willow nearly squealed, shaking Jeff by the shoulders and jumping up and down.
“I helped,” Andrew pouted.
“Yay you!” Willow said, hugging Andrew warmly. He blushed.
“Yes, yes, yay everyone,” Giles said impatiently. “Willow, where is the locator spell?”
“Here. Here, I got it,” she said digging into her jeans pocket. She removed an over-folded piece of paper and handed it to Giles.
“Yes, well, Jeffrey, would you do the honors?” Giles asked, handing him the paper with Willow’s scribble on it.
Jeff inhaled deeply and looked down at the paper. A smile crossed his face as he saw that the words were in Latin. He straightened his shoulders and held his head up as he began to chant in a strong, youthful voice.
Jeff completed the chant and the four waited expectantly. Nothing happened.
“Uh, maybe I, uh, copied it wrong or something,” Willow suggested.
But before anyone could say another word, the amulet began to vibrate. The vibration caused a humming sound, not unlike that of a hummingbird’s wings. The sound grew and gave way to a green, luminescent glow. The glow became brighter until the entire amulet was almost too bright to look at.
Willow’s eyes widened as the amulet began to turn around and around and around, faster and faster, until it suddenly came to a dead stop pointing toward the door and the Council lobby beyond.
Willow and Giles exchanged startled looks and then ran out of the Coven room, with Andrew and Jeff but a footfall behind.
Watchers Council – Lobby – Moments Later
The sound of Becca’s laughter could be heard ringing in the Council lobby. “Of course he’s welcome!” she said to someone standing in the doorway. “And so are you! I’m sure Rupert will –”
“Becca?” Giles called as he slid to a stop. “Becca!” Giles saw the person in the doorway. “Oh. My. GOD!”
“Well it’s about time you recognized my true worth. But please, refer to me by my given name, as usual,” the man answered smugly.
“Ethan!” Willow cried and ran straight into his arms. She hit him with such force that he took two steps backward.
“Visited much?” he asked, surprised but still smiling bemusedly.
Suddenly, a large, tri-colored dog, with floppy ears, a flowing coat and great brown eyes rounded Ethan’s legs and sat proudly to his left.
“Ru-whuf,” said the dog.
“Quiet, Rupert,” Ethan said.
Giles’s eyes grew dark and angry and he began to raise a fist. “Don’t you tell me to be quiet you –”
“Ru-ooo…” The dog whined and held up a paw.
“Oh,” Willow trilled, “he’s so cute! Is his name really Rupert?” she asked with a slight laugh.
Ethan said nothing at first, but smiled innocently and batted his eyes at Giles. “It seemed fitting for a dog,” he told her dryly.
Giles squeezed his eyes shut as Willow dropped to her knees and gave the dog a hug. “Bloody, bloody hell,” Giles sighed.
End of Act Two