Watchers Council – Basement – Day
Xander stood in the basement, holding the building blueprints as Giles looked over his shoulder. “Well this is a first.”
“Meaning?” Giles asked.
“I usually put our houses back together, not tear them apart.”
“We need the house to stay standing and just part of it blown up. Do you think you can handle that?”
“Sure I just need to make sure the charges are going the right way. According to the blueprint, it should be simple as long as we brace the surrounding area.”
“And if the charges are the wrong way or the braces refuse to hold?” Giles asked.
Xander paused a beat. “We fall down like a house of cards.”
Giles pinched the bridge of his nose to relieve the tension. “That’s reassuring.”
“From what Faith described, we won’t have to blast very far to come to an opening. She said she didn’t go that far down, and the rest of the slayers there agreed, there were no sharp inclines. And Jeff’s locator spell says this is Presidium Central. If we’re going in anywhere, it’s here.”
“I’m still not sure about this,” Giles answered.
“I gotta admit, the element of surprise won’t be in our favor. They’re gonna hear and feel the blast down below, and even then we might not be able to clear a path instantly.”
“I am aware, but Faith wants it this way and Willow agreed.”
“Outvoted?” Xander grinned.
“I’m just not sure if we’re prepared for an all-out battle,” Giles remarked. “They’re both convinced we move now. So I’ll pray the plan they’ve put together works.”
“Crazier things have happened,” Xander told Giles, tapping his shoulder with the rolled up blueprint.
Watchers Council – Weapons Storage Room – Same Time
“Hey,” Buffy said softly as she entered the room.
Faith closed the cabinet that was open in front of her and turned around slowly. “Hey.”
Buffy took a few more steps inside and looked around. “This is much bigger than the chest Xander made for me,” she teased.
“Yeah, the guy’s pretty handy. Him and the girls put it together.”
“Xander made all of this?” Buffy said motioning around the room to the various drawers and cabinets.
“Yep. Just told him what I had in mind and by the end of the week he came back with a buncha drawings I had to pick through. Two days later I had this room.”
Buffy looked around again as she nodded. “Nice choice.”
“So, something else terrible happen, or did you just stop in to chit-chat?” Faith asked, folding her hands across her chest.
“I came to see how you were doing,” Buffy answered.
“Since when do you care about me, B?” The dark-haired slayer smirked at the Buffy.
“I always cared, Faith.”
“Even when you stuck that knife in my gut and put me in a coma?” she asked sarcastically. “‘Cause as they say, with friends like that…”
Buffy considered the question. “Yeah, even then, because…I failed you. You needed someone to trust, but I failed you.”
Faith dropped her arms, giving up her defensive stance. “Damn, can we just stop all this?”
“Stop what? The fighting, the bickering, the backbiting?”
“For starters,” Faith nodded.
Buffy closed the distance coming about three feet away. “I saw you out there today.” Faith looked away and to the floor. “No,” Buffy said, getting her attention. “Hear me out first, okay?” Buffy waited a moment and Faith nodded. “I watched a slayer in top form organizing her girls, motivating them to make sure they all got home and something else too. Desire.”
“Desire?” Faith asked as her eyebrows reached up in surprise.
“Yeah, you had a passion for it. Not for the kill, but for the duty, for what it meant to be there. You fought with everything you had and you’ve got lots of fight in you, Faith.”
“Yeah, that’s me alright. Always looking for a fight.”
“I don’t mean that as a put-down at all. As a matter of fact, if I still had that spirit I’d be here, at the Council. But after seven years, day in and day out, somewhere I just stopped feeling. I went numb. And who’s to say…maybe someday I’ll pick up the stake again full time. Maybe I’ll teach the younger girls a thing or two like you have here. But I know if I go out there now, if I fall into that routine…I don’t think I’d survive. I want to see this world I defended for sooo long. I know that sounds selfish and I know that probably doesn’t make any sense to you,” Buffy concluded.
Faith bit her lip before she spoke, as if trying to say the right thing.
“I was pissed when you decided to bail. Hell, I was pissed when you came back,” Faith said with a slight chuckle. “But you’re not the only one that noticed something today. You look happier now than the last time I saw you. I mean, yeah, you had the First Evil hanging over your head when we caught up again but…even after that? When it was all said and done, you just looked…I don’t know, tired? Spent? You pick the word. Point is, I remember all of us sitting in the kitchen in L.A. and everyone was howling about some stupid comment Andrew made. We were all laughing, even Xander chuckled. But when I looked at you, there was barely a grin. So I get it, B, and I think you made the right choice, as much as I hate to admit it.”
Buffy gave a short laugh. “Who knows? Maybe in seven years, you’ll be ready to see some vineyards in France.”
“Maybe? Faith answered. “You got any to recommend now?”
Buffy smiled. “Heck, I’ll probably take you there myself, if you don’t mind the company.”
Faith grinned back at her. “No, I wouldn’t mind. We used to have fun together, remember? I mean, back before things got all screwed up. Hey!” Faith said, starting to chuckle. “Remember that goth couple we found in the graveyard screwing that one night?”
Buffy paused like she was trying to remember. Soon, Faith watched as Buffy’s eyes widened and she then started laughing. “Oh man, I forgot about them,” she said, wiping her eyes.
Faith continued to laugh too, trying to talk as she did, “He came running…around the tombstone…and he…” Faith trailed off and couldn’t continue because she was laughing too hard. Instead her hands made a bizarre gesture and Buffy began to laugh so hard that she made no sound whatsoever. She tried to get Faith to stop by waving her hands so she could catch her breath.
Finally, they both began to quiet down and Faith said, “It wasn’t always doom and gloom, B. And maybe that’s part of why I got so mad. I wanted more good times with you. But I think if I told you that story last year, you’d barely crack a smile. So I can see it, I’m not the only one that’s changed here.”
“So you don’t hold it against me?”
Faith paused and took a step closer. “I can see now you needed a break. But if you do get the urge to slay full time…you’re welcome here.”
“Hot chicks with superpowers?” Buffy teased.
“You know it, Baby.”
The two Slayers smiled at each other in the quiet of the room.
“Knock, knock,” another voice said.
“Hey Xan, what’s up?” Faith said. Both women turned to face him.
“I’m not interrupting, am I?” he asked.
“Nope, whatcha got?” she retorted, nodding to what he held in his hands.
“This is a prototype, but I thought I’d give it to you for the battle. If it works, great, but if it doesn’t then you got the reflexes to do without.”
“What is it?” Buffy asked, inspecting the object
“Here,” he said, handing it over to Faith.
She examined it closely for a moment. It looked like a crossbow pistol. She took aim at the far wall and pulled the trigger, sending the bolt along. “That’s co –” She stopped in mid-sentence as the pistol reloaded itself putting another shot in place. “Wow, that’s really, really cool.”
“I figure, if it works out for you, we’ll start producing them. Make them standard issues for all the girls on patrol. It’s small enough that it can be carried in a holster.”
“Ooh, can I try?” Buffy asked. Faith handed it over and as soon as Buffy shot, another bolt was loaded in its place. “That is neat,” Buffy added as she handed it back.
“Keep in mind it’s only a three-shooter right now. I’m working on a six.”
“No automatic,” Faith teased.
“Give me another year,” Xander shot back.
Faith gave a chuckle and slapped his arm. “This is pretty fine. Thanks Xan-man.”
“You’re welcome. Just remember,” he told her, “if it doesn’t work, just get rid of it. I’ll have to go back to the drawing board anyway. I’m afraid to give it to the other girls. They’re a little wet behind the ears and might try to rely on it too much, but I know you. You can improvise.”
Watchers Council – Slayer Rec Room – Same Time
Kennedy sat cleaning her crossbow, which lay in various parts on the floor in front of her, when Mia walked up to her.
“How’s the hand?” the Asian slayer asked.
Kennedy looked up and smiled as she patted the seat beside her. “Not too bad. How’s your friend? Sue, was it?”
Mia nodded. “Not so good. They’re trying to save her legs but…well, they said they might have to amputate if it gets to that, but they’re waiting for the moment. Slayer healing and all that, I guess.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Kennedy answered. She put a piece into place and continued to clean the next.
“Yeah. I hope she pulls through. She was pretty gung-ho about joining the Council, and now some of the girls…”
When she trailed off, Kennedy looked over to her. “What?”
“It feels like my fault. They’re talking about how Sue wanted to join and what’s happened to her and now…are we all gonna die here?”
“No, not all of us,” Kennedy said flatly.
“But some, right, or most of us? I mean, you won’t ’cause you’ve been through this already. But the new girls –”
Kennedy stopped cleaning again and faced Mia. “I’m not gonna go in with any notions. Anything can happen and usually does. Tell ’em to chill. We’re not going to be putting them on the front line. The experienced girls will go first.”
“Meaning me,” Kennedy nodded.
“Then I hope we make it out, for both our sakes,” Mia began, “but if not…” Mia closed the distance between them and kissed Kennedy tenderly, yet passionately, on the lips. As she pulled away, she stroked Kennedy’s cheek and stood up. “I wanna go keep an eye on them,” she nodded toward the door to the dorms.
Mia was already in motion when Kennedy was finally able to form a response. “Uh, yeah. If you need me…”
“I’ll find you,” Mia answered with a grin and walked out.
Kennedy blew out a breath and finished putting the last two components together. Then she looked over to see Vi staring out the window, alone in a corner.
She stood and walked over. Vi didn’t acknowledge her presence, so Kennedy gave a small cough. Not getting a response, her fingertips grazed Vi’s shoulder and the young woman startled at the touch.
“Hey,” Kennedy said softly, taking a seat.
Vi looked at Kennedy for a moment. “It’s just us now,” she said softly. “…All that’s left from Sunnydale.”
“Not true. Buffy and Faith are still –”
“That’s not what I meant,” Vi said.
Kennedy gave up the pretense and sighed. Finally she answered, “Yeah, I know.” Vi started to look out the window and Kennedy put her hand on her knee. “Maybe you should sit this one out.”
“No,” Vi insisted.
“I don’t think you’re ready to –” Kennedy answered.
“I can’t bring back Rona, but I can take down a few of the bastards that killed her. When the time comes, I’ll be ready. More than ready.”
Seeing Vi was determined, Kennedy nodded her head firmly. “So be it, then.”
Watchers Council – Library – Same Time
Rowena agitatedly wheeled her chair in front of Willow as the witch went over various notes on the table in front of her. “Have I mentioned how much I hate this plan?”
“Several times already,” Willow answered absently, not looking up. She began to write something on the notepad.
“We really should research more and –”
“What?” Willow challenged, putting the tablet down. “Wait to see how many more slayers they can injure or kill?”
“Thirty percent are gone or can’t fight,” Rowena retorted.
“Which means seventy percent still can,” Willow pointed out. “It’s better to do it now, before that number is reversed in the Presidium’s favor.”
“But why blast through? They’re going to hear it and know we’re coming.”
“What’s the alternative, Rowena?” Willow countered, growing angry. “Sending those girls down into the caves again, filled with alcoves and caverns where the Presidium can hide tens, perhaps even hundreds, of demons, a-and ambush them at every turn? Lose another thirty percent and never reach the objective?”
“It’s a hell of a lot better than ringing the doorbell,” Rowena answered, her voice rising. “Yoohoo, we’re here to kill you!” she added sarcastically.
“I realize that you and Giles voted against this,” Willow started again, trying to be diplomatic.
“Yes, because it’s stupid to put those girls at risk by just walking in there. And not just walking in, actually, but letting them know we’re arriving. They could set up a host of traps before we even get there.”
“According to Faith, that control room wasn’t that big. And how is that any different than walking through the cave giving the Presidium time and space to coordinate a counter-strike. By doing it this way, we’re right inside – one entrance, one exit – and less opportunities for them on the whole,” Willow told her.
“Opportunities for who – the slayers or the Presidium?” Rowena asked flippantly as she started to wheel around again.
“Look at me,” Willow told her. Rowena stopped and turned around. “I’ve made up my mind. Faith has made up hers. The Council voted in favor and we’re doing this.”
Rowena looked away again and pursed her lips. “It’s not only that,” she said softly.
“Then what else?” Willow asked. annoyed.
She glanced at Willow before turning away again as she spoke. “I don’t want you going down there,” the blonde confessed in a timid voice. “Maybe I’m being selfish. Okay, I am being selfish,” she corrected herself quickly. “I don’t want to see you in the middle of it all.”
“I’ll be fine,” Willow told her as she walked over, coming within a foot of the other woman.
Rowena finally looked up. “You don’t know that.”
“But I know I’ll survive,” Willow admitted.
“How can you say –?”
“Because I have someone waiting for me when I get back.”
Willow nodded as her hand cupped Rowena’s left cheek. The blonde watcher closed her eyes and looked like she might cry. Slowly Willow’s hand slipped away, stroking Rowena’s soft skin as it left. The watcher opened her eyes and looked at the witch, who began to grin. “I need to find Giles,” she said softly.
Unable to speak, Rowena simply nodded and watched Willow leave the room.
Presidium Lair – Minutes Later
Larmin stood by as more demons began to stand in formation in the control room. He gave a glance to the Engineer seated at the control panel, then walked over and gave a slight bow of respect.
“We are ready, sire,” Larmin announced. “But I am concerned that Bonnie will disclose our intentions. With that said –”
A huge explosion shook the inside of the Presidium walls. The demons looked at each other and toward the walls around them, as if ready for a cave in. A few rocks fell from the ceiling, but after a few moments it still appeared intact and they relaxed.
Larmin turned to the Engineer. “You realize there is no guarantee the witch will come.”
The Engineer gave a ghost of a grin. “She will come.”
“Not that I am doubting you sire, or your wisdom, but how do you know –?”
“Her magic is prized above all else she owns. Her overconfidence will kill her.”
Larmin simply nodded.
Watchers Council – Lobby – Moments Later
Everyone began to file back inside the building and Giles took Willow to the side, while everyone else went back to preparing.
“Willow,” he began. “I realize you want to be with the slayers. but perhaps it would be best if you stayed up top with Rowena and myself.”
“Ohhh, not you too,” Willow sighed.
“If Bonnie is telling the truth, we are seriously outnumbered. I can’t promise your safety.”
“As opposed to what? All the other apocalypses?”
“Please don’t be flippant with me,” Giles remarked.
“Look,” Willow insisted, “this thing is feeding off my magic and it’s built with magic – I have to stop it. It’s already taking its toll, by manipulating what I can and can’t feel. I totally missed Julia’s gang and I’m constantly tired. I’m not about to let it continue to drain me until they get all the magic I have and open the dimensional door.”
“I simply think that perhaps we should wait until we know more.”
“Forget it Giles. There’s no use arguing with me. I’ve made up my mind. I’m going down there.”
End of Act Three