Watchers Council – Slayer Dorm – Same Time
The sounds of coughing and wheezing and the quick, sharp grunts of those who could still voice their pain were everywhere. Young girls – some limping, some carried, some leaning on the shoulders of others – hobbled into the Watchers Council, quiet and downcast.
Faith turned her head slowly in both directions, watching as the less-wounded lowered the most-wounded to the floor and into chairs, leaving those in shock standing and staring.
Buffy was busy giving some orders to one of the older slayers, nodding her head quickly.
Robin helped guide a still-shaken Vi to a corner of the room, where he gently eased her into a chair.
Faith saw Kennedy lay one little hurt slayer down in the arms of another. “Ken!”
Kennedy stood as Faith approached.
Faith reached out and grabbed Kennedy’s arm, rolling it over until she could clearly see a ragged gash that ran diagonally along the back of it.
Kennedy began to jerk her arm back and then stopped as Faith looked up at her, pulling her arm away slowly.
The older slayer let her go.
“Faith!” Buffy called, “We have to check in with Giles.”
“Right,” Faith answered, then turned back to Kennedy. “I need you to stay here and take care of the…”
“Survivors,” Kennedy finished, ruefully.
Faith’s eyes narrowed. “Wounded.”
“Keep ’em here and keep ’em calm.”
“Don’t think I’ll have much trouble there…” Kennedy muttered, surveying the subdued slayers.
“Hey!” Faith said edgily. “We need every one of ’em who can stand to be able to fight. And soon. Keep ’em on their feet. And on their toes.”
She looked Kennedy in the eyes. Kennedy looked back at her, grimly at first, then with simple resolve, and nodded.
“I’m glad you’re back,” she told Faith.
“Yeah,” Faith smirked, embarrassed by Kennedy’s sudden admission. “Well, I’m glad you decided to stick around after all. So we’re even.”
A large hand came to rest on Faith’s arm. “We have to go,” Robin told her. He nodded toward Buffy, who was already making her way out of the room. Faith nodded and turned to leave.
“So, Giles told you I thought about leaving,” Kennedy snapped. “He said he wouldn’t say –”
Faith swung back around and saw Kennedy blinking in surprise and annoyance.
Faith held her breath a moment and then gave a little laugh. “Nah, that’s B’s gig, runnin’ to Giles for everything. I never asked and he never told. I just knew. And I knew you had to work it out for yourself. That’s just the way some slayers are made…”
Kennedy blinked and looked away. One of the wounded slayers coughed raggedly from across the room, arresting Kennedy’s attention.
Faith turned to Kennedy suddenly, flippantly adding, “And, if you did go, you know I’d only drag you back here, so I didn’t have to mention it.”
She grinned at Kennedy for a moment until the younger slayer broke into a grin of her own. Without another word, Faith left the room and Kennedy turned to her charges.
Watchers Council – Library – Same Time
Giles opened the folder Ethan had given him at Thanksgiving and regarded a particular document. It was all there in black and white. And red. And blue. A mass of lines, obviously a diagram, for a positional spell of some sort.
“What in bloody hell kind of magic is this?” Giles wondered aloud.
“Any luck?” Becca peered over his shoulder at the diagram. “Shouldn’t that be a pentagram or something?” she asked.
Willow approached and stood looking at the diagram from the top down. “Giles, this is weird.”
“It appears this spell calls for a-a-a certain layout…” Giles replied. “A pattern is required, that much is clear. But how it’s supposed to work…I haven’t the least notion.”
“I’m sure we’ll figure it out,” Becca said.
“Ah. Yes. And that would be my cue to say, ‘We are not doing anything of the sort. I will figure it out and you will get yourself safely to another location’. ”
“And that would be my cue,” Becca smiled, “to say, no way, buddy. We made an agreement already.”
“So it would seem,” he replied, returning her smile resignedly.
“Agreement?” Willow asked.
“I’m staying in Rupert’s apartment until the end of the world,” Becca teased.
“Now, according to Tram, the world itself won’t end,” Willow corrected with a grin that matched Becca’s. “Just the world as we know it.”
“Accentuating the positive?” Becca asked.
“Oh, absolutely. It’s not an apocalypse without a little humor now and then,” Willow replied.
Rowena breezed past them, preoccupied with a large book open to a disturbing picture.
“What’s that?” Becca asked, distracted by it.
Rowena stopped and looked at her. “Wha – oh, this? It’s the Vutch Demon. We should look up how to make some Molotov Cocktails, just in case the flamethrowers aren’t handy.”
Becca scrunched her eyes as she examined the picture again. “That’s easy,” she said. “One third oil, two thirds gasoline and a soaked rag to light it. Boom.”
Rowena did a double take and everyone else in the room stopped what they were doing and looked at Becca.
“What?” she asked nervously. “Nobody here’s never constructed a home-made bomb?”
Everyone except Giles shook their heads no.
“I learned from my sister. She was a big anti-establishment hippie…okay anti-everything person. Anyway, she taught me. About gave my dad a heart attack.”
“She didn’t hang out with the Manson family or the Symbionese Liberation Army, did she?” Rowena asked.
Becca chuckled and heard Giles sigh from where he and Willow looked back down at the spell diagram in his hands.
All turned to see Faith, Robin and Buffy stride into the library.
“Are you all right?” Giles asked Faith.
“You guys look terrible,” Willow said.
“Speak for yourself,” Buffy told her.
“We’re all right,” Robin began, “but Faith’s in bad sha –”
“It’s just a couple of ribs,” Faith waved him off. “I know they’re broke, but they’ll be fine in a few hours.”
Rowena, nose buried in her book, grumbled and the words “damn slayer healing” came through.
“Hey,” Faith sniped back, “don’t get your watcher-undies in a twi –”
Willow caught her by the arm.
“It’s not you,” she told Faith quietly. “She’s got broken ribs, too, but it’s kinda gonna be longer than a few hours before they get any better.”
Faith snorted, but nodded her understanding at the witch.
“Tell us what happened out there,” Rowena said, all business.
“After they got me out, the baddies regrouped and came after us again. But apparently, the Presidium didn’t think that was enough and summoned some kinda monster out of the lake.”
“You mean like Bessie?” Willow asked.
“No, I mean like Puff the Magic Dragon on a bad day,” Faith answered. “That thing did some serious damage to the girls until Xander and his rocket launcher got there. Where the hell did he learn to shoot that thing anyway?”
“Good ol’ Army-Guy-Xander…” she said with a quick glance at Buffy, who was also smiling.
“Long story,” Buffy said to Faith. “He just knows and leave it at that.”
“Fair enough,” Faith answered.
But then Willow’s smile faded and she looked at the ground uncertainly.
“Will?” Buffy called.
She looked up. “But everyone…got out, right? I mean…no serious – no – no ‘left-behinds’…right?”
Faith, Buffy and Robin all looked at each other, but didn’t say anything.
“Marsha, Kennedy – are they – they’re okay, aren’t they?” Willow asked.
“They’re fine,” Faith answered quickly. “Ken’s tending to the wounded. But we did lose some girls out there.”
“Well, we should have her here, now,” Giles said. “We still have planning to do and Kennedy, as your second, should be with us. Have Vi or-or-or Rona oversee the injured.”
“Yeah, well, that’s a problem, chief,” Faith answered, casually tossing her head, her long hair falling back off her shoulders. “‘Cause, see, Rona’s dead. And Vi’s head ain’t really back in the game just yet.”
Silence stung the room as everyone stared at her.
Watchers Council – Library – Moments Later
The sound of excited chattering and heavy clomping of feet filtered into the library from down the hall. The sounds grew and grew in the stillness until the door flew open and Jeff, Dawn and Skye walked through, each loaded with heavy books, folders, and piles of ancient parchments, as well as reams of copier paper printed on both sides.
Faith couldn’t see Jeff from behind the stack of tomes he carried. He was bent back from their weight. She moved to help him and accidentally bumped into Skye, toppling the girl’s armful. Books fell to the ground and folders fluttered open-faced, their contents scattering about the floor.
Skye gave Faith an irritated look and said ” ‘Scuse me.”
“Hey,” Faith said, “we’re slayers.” She began picking up the stray papers. “You want graceful, get a ticket to the Bolshoi…”
Faith’s voice trailed off as she stared at the page she held in her hand.
“Faith? Faith what is it?” Giles asked, moving forward.
Faith stood and held the page aloft. “What is this?”
Jeff blinked. “I know exactly what that is. All too well. That’s the – the thing – the device they put me in when they drained my magical energy from me. Some of the girls did a sketch.”
“Yeah, well, it’s still operational,” Faith said, lowering the picture, “hummin’ away and lightin’ up like nobody’s business. It’s still there. I saw it.” She held the picture in front of her for a moment. “But not like this,” she continued.
“What do you mean?” Giles asked, stepping over to look at the paper.
“They’ve tagged on a few upgrades since then. There’s more stuff on it, and in it, too, I think.”
“Faith, are you certain?” Giles asked.
“I’m telling you this is what I saw. Only, I dunno, enhanced.”
“Was someone else in it?” Rowena asked. “Who –”
“No one was in it,” Faith replied. “But it looked like it was pullin’ down some serious energy from all the lights I saw.”
“Well, if that’s the case,” Robin said, “then where exactly is it pulling its energy from?”
There was a confused silence as all eyes turned to Buffy’s one word answer and then to Willow.
“Huh?” Willow asked, more confused than anyone.
“No offense, oh Wicc-y-Watcher,” Buffy said without humor, “but like I told you earlier, you look ready to fall over.”
“Well. Gee. Thanks for making our private conversation non-private now.”
“I did say no offense.”
“And that makes it so much better because…?”
“Will, look at the circles you have under your eyes. And you’re walking around half-dead, like you’ve been sucked by a vamp.”
“Well…I-I haven’t been feeling particularly…perky, lately. But, but that’s just –”
“Just my point,” Buffy finished for her. “Maybe these presbyterian guys found a way to pull magical energy from someone without putting them in their jungle-gym.”
“The Presidium,” Giles corrected. “To my knowledge the Presbyterians have nothing against us.”
“Where was he on May Day?” Rowena muttered.
Giles bit his lip and began to nod, “I have to give you that. The point however, remains the same.”
“Yeah and the point is, you folks haven’t noticed how awful she looks,” Buffy said, pointing at Willow. “You see her every day and it’s probably been gradual, but I noticed it as soon as I walked in.”
“Okay,” Willow sighed. “Come on gang, do I really look that bad?”
The group began to examine Willow and they began to agree with various nods and shrugs of affirmation.
“I really am a ghoul.”
“No,” Rowena spoke up first. “You’re beautiful, but Buffy is right. You do seem worn out. Perhaps there is a connection, if you consider everything.”
“I had to break the barrier today,” Robin piped in.
“Julia’s gang,” Faith added quickly, to which Robin nodded in agreement.
“Sleeping for ten hour stretches,” Giles also put in.
“Enough already,” Willow said, holding up her hands. “We officially have a connection, but where do we go from here?”
Watchers Council – Holding Cell – Same Time
Bonnie stared, wide-eyed, at the legion before her. She couldn’t do much else while she was in the holding spell they’d put on her. Her toes floated two inches off the ground, her body held in near-perfect stasis.
Kennedy and Faith stood by either side of her, while Buffy faced her head-on. Interspersed between them and at varying distances were Willow, Robin, and Rowena.
Giles stood just behind Buffy and watched from over her right shoulder.
Bonnie began to smirk at the watcher hiding behind his slayer.
“I wouldn’t smile if I were you,” Buffy said offhandedly, “unless you want to lose your front teeth.”
“Tell us!” Faith continued her questioning. “Tell us what this machine does!”
Bonnie merely shrugged, but her eyes didn’t leave Buffy.
“Look, we’re gonna figure it out anyway,” Willow said, in her best imitation of a threatening tone. “It’ll just be a lot easier on you if you tell us what we need to know now.”
No one said anything and Buffy rolled her eyes. “You kinda need the vein-y thing goin’ on to make that work, Will,” she said.
“Well, I don’t.” Giles stepped forward. He placed a hand on Buffy’s shoulder, gently guiding her out of his way. He passed her and loomed toward Bonnie, coming nose to nose with her.
“Tell us where the device is.” Giles hand shot to her throat so fast that she didn’t have time to even gasp for air before it was cut off by a one-handed choke-hold. “Tell us,” he said smoothly, “or I will snap your neck.”
His grip tightened and he tilted her head to the side. She felt the stress at the wrong place on her neck. One quick move of his hand and she’d hear the snap.
Her lips moved.
No sound escaped and she began to blink compulsively.
“Uh, Giles. She needs air to speak,” Buffy pointed out. “But not too much.”
Giles loosened his hold and Bonnie gasped for air. She shook a little.
“Speak!” he roared at her.
“If I –” she glanced all about her at her captors. “If I tell you anything – anything at all – they’ll kill me. The Presidium doesn’t take kindly to being…tattled on. They will kill me.”
“We’ve discussed this already. The Presidium isn’t here now,” Ripper glared back at her.
“You’re wrong,” she shot back angrily.
Giles tightened his grip on her neck again and narrowed his eyes at her.
She swallowed against his fingers and he loosened his grip just enough, once more.
“They are here,” she said nervously. “They’ve always been here. Hundreds of them. Waiting for the right moment, all of them, all waiting to break through. They’ll break the barrier between this dimension and theirs.”
“You mean the Presidium is going to cross into our dimension?” Willow asked.
“No. Not just the Presidium. All of them. Hundreds of them, waiting to release thousands more. All here.”
“The caves,” Kennedy cried out.
“What?” Giles asked.
“They’re under the Council! The device has gotta be under the – us!”
Bonnie, still registering fear and nervousness on her face, managed to smile mockingly at the Slayer. Then she brought her eyes around to Giles and mustered one more ounce of bravado against him.
“I told you this place was a steal.”
End of Act Two