Watchers Council – Lobby – Continuous
Giles glared at Willow, as if bracing himself to take on her infamous resolve, but a noise from the entrance interrupted him and both watchers turned to the door.
Willow’s eyes widened in surprise as the doors closed behind Julia.
The slayer was dressed somewhat better than she had been the last time she visited the Council. Her jeans and jacket were new and her boots, though broken in, retained their shine.
“Hello, Julia,” Giles said after he got over his shock. “Welcome back. We can certainly use your assistance…a-as well as that of your followers.”
Julia let out a short bark of sarcastic laughter. “Not bloody likely, mate,” she said, mocking his accent. “I’m here to see Mia.”
“Ah, I see,” Giles said, moving towards the reception desk.
Willow continued to gaze at Julia, causing the slayer to shift uncomfortably and thrust her hands deep in her jacket pockets.
“You’re looking ragged,” Julia said.
“Thanks,” Willow said. “And you’re looking prosperous. Mug any old ladies lately?”
Julia just snorted her laughter.
Watchers Council – Slayer Training Room – Same Time
Kennedy and Mia both wore boxing gloves as they circled each other in the sparring area. A couple of other girls sat on the sidelines, watching the two girls exchange blows. While their attacks held nothing back, their padded gloves and face masks absorbed the full force of the blows and both women obviously were enjoying themselves. However, they both quickly broke off when Giles’s voice came over the PA system.
“Giles to Kennedy,” his voice said.
The brunette’s teeth fought with the string until finally she pulled off one glove on her way to the intercom on the wall. “Yeah, Giles?” she said, pressing the button.
“Is Mia with you?” Giles asked.
“Yeah, we’re warming up,” she replied.
“Julia is here to see her,” Giles announced. “She’s waiting in the lobby.”
Kennedy glanced over at Mia, who had just been about to take a drink of water from the sports bottle. The Asian-American Slayer’s face was pale and reflected her worry.
“Okay, Giles,” Kennedy said. “We’ll be there in a few.”
Kennedy flipped off the intercom and returned to Mia. The other Slayers moved off to continue their own training now that the show was over.
“You all right?” Kennedy asked.
Mia nodded, but then shook her head. “Why is she here?” she asked.
Kennedy shrugged. “Maybe she wants to apologize,” she said with a smirk.
“Ha!” Mia said, laughing as if Kennedy’s joke had relieved the tension. “That’ll be the day.”
“Right,” Kennedy said. “Come on then, we’ll go see what she wants.”
“We?” Mia asked, her head tilting curiously.
“Yeah,” Kennedy said. “Haven’t you learned anything, Rookie? Slayers stick together.”
Watchers Council – Lobby – Same Time
Buffy and Marsha walked into the lobby side by side. They paused when they noticed Julia glaring defiantly at Willow and Giles, a lit cigarette dangling from her mouth. The two slayers strolled up to Julia, assuming nearly identical stances in the way, their hands on their hips.
“Who are you?” Buffy asked with a nod.
“Her name’s Julia,” Marsha said. “There’s no smoking inside the Council.”
“And who are you supposed to be?” Julia sneered at Buffy, totally ignoring Marsha. “Another one of the goody slayers around here?”
Buffy leaned forward. “Yes, I’m a Slayer,” she said.
“She’s the Slayer,” Marsha boasted in a way that came off somewhat as a threat.
Willow glanced at the two blondes and did a double take as she noted their posture. Her mouth dropped open as she looked between the two slayers menacing Julia, who seemed oblivious to her observation. She turned to Giles and slapped him on the chest with the back of her hand.
“Ow!” Giles protested, getting the attention of the three slayers, who turned to watch them. “What was that for?”
“So that’s why you assigned me Marsha?” she accused. “Look at those two!”
Buffy and Marsha turned to examine each other. Both of them quickly dropped their arms at the same moment to change their stance and looked everywhere but at Willow.
“I can’t believe you’re just now noticing,” Giles remarked dryly.
Buffy laughed at Giles, then looked back at Marsha. “You could have done worse, Will. You could have another Faith.” She motioned to Marsha. “Come on, Mini-Me, let’s go see how the troops are doing. I think your watcher can handle Miss Attitude here.”
The two slayers headed off while Giles turned to Willow and said, “I think I’ll also go and see how Rowena’s coming along. Do you want me to stay?”
“No, go ahead,” Willow said. “The worst that can hurt me here is a little second-hand smoke.”
Julia’s face smoldered in anger as Giles left the two of them alone.
Watchers Council – Library – Moments Later
Rowena was struggling to pull a book off an upper shelf when Giles came into the room.
“Bloody hell!” he exclaimed as the blonde watcher fell back into the wheelchair. It rolled back several feet until he stopped it. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Trying to get a book!” she said in exasperation. She grabbed at the wheels of her chair to try and move it forward again, but Giles held on.
“I’m surrounded by incredibly stubborn women!” Giles said angrily as he moved to the shelf to retrieve Rowena’s book. “I daresay, you and Willow are perfect for each other,” he mumbled under his breath.
Rowena remained silent as she wheeled the chair to a nearby table, where Giles dropped the heavy volume with a thump. She opened the book and flipped through the pages.
“Where are Dawn and Skye?” Giles asked, his tone calmer as he sat across from her.
“Went to raid the kitchen,” she replied. “Again.”
“Ah…the resiliency of youth,” Giles smirked, and then looked up at Rowena’s pout. Her eyes were pointed in the direction of the book in front of her, but seemed unfocused. “What is it, dear?” he asked.
Rowena looked up, her eyes shiny with unshed tears. After a moment, she answered, “I don’t like this plan of Willow’s. She’s gonna get herself killed.”
Giles sighed in sympathy. “I t-tried to talk her out of it, but it’s obvious that Willow’s determined. And when Willow is determined, you only have two choices: stand aside and let her by or stand behind and catch her fall.”
“Which choice is better?”
“I’ve done both,” Giles admitted. “But in this case…we should stand behind her.”
Rowena took a deep breath and returned to turning pages in her book.
Watchers Council – Basement – Same Time
Andrew stood supervising a line of slayers who were moving the rocks and concrete rubble caused by Xander’s blast. The debris was shoveled into buckets and trash bins by the girls in front, then other girls quickly moved the buckets out of the way as they were filled.
Andrew adjusted the miner’s helmet on his head, making sure the headlamp was at its brightest setting.
“Tell me why we’re doing this again?” Marsha asked, returning with a stack of empty buckets. She grabbed a shovel and started filling them.
“The slayers need a clear path into the sublevel,” he explained, his tone suggesting he thought Marsha was acting dense. “Now come on, we need to pick up the pace.”
Marsha paused and leaned on her shovel. “Didja ever think that your clear path also gives the Presidium demons an easy way up into the Council?”
Andrew stared at her for a moment. Clearly the thought had never occurred to him. Finally, he nodded. “Keep digging,” he said. “We need to get to the last layer as quickly as possible to let Xander blast a final hole, but I’ve got an idea.”
Marsha dumped another shovelful of debris into her bucket.
Watchers Council – Lobby – Moments Later
Willow moved to leave the lobby as soon as Mia and Kennedy entered the room. “I have to go get ready,” she told them.
“Okay, Will,” Kennedy said. She stayed back and leaned up against a pillar as Mia approached Julia. The renegade slayer stood up from one of the chairs and spared Kennedy a brief glance
“Can we talk in private?” she asked Mia.
The Asian-American girl led Julia to the opposite corner of the lobby, where Kennedy was out of hearing range. “This is private enough,” she told Julia. “What do you want?”
The blonde shrugged. “I want you to come back,” she said. “Most of the girls are working real jobs and we don’t have to rob people anymore. We’re earning good money and I’ve been putting some aside, so we can get our own place instead of squatting in that old warehouse. We can use your help.”
“I’ve got people here who need my help,” Mia replied, pitching her thumb back towards Kennedy, whose eyes never left Julia.
Julia glanced at Kennedy, her expression hostile. “I don’t care about her,” Julia said. “We need you more.”
“Look, Jules,” Mia said. “I’ve finally found something that’s bigger than I am, and I don’t only mean her. The work we do here is real…it’s important and it saves lives. I want to be a part of that.”
“We save people, too,” Julia defended.
“Yeah, and that’s great, but working on your own, you’ll always be small-time,” Mia said. Julia’s eyes narrowed in anger. “I’m sorry, but it’s true. The Council is global and their mission is to save the world when it needs saving…not only a small corner of Cleveland. We…we’re on different teams now.”
Julia’s jaw muscles rippled as she continued to stare at Kennedy. Undaunted, Kennedy returned the look. After a moment, Julia turned and left the Council without saying another word.
Mia turned to Kennedy and gave her a small shrug.
Watchers Council – Kitchen – Same Time
Dawn grabbed a gallon of milk from the commercial refrigerator and poured two glasses at the place settings she’d fixed at the butcher block, while Skye worked at the stove. A minute later, she joined Dawn, carrying two plates filled with toast and scrambled eggs.
“How’s that?” Skye asked her girlfriend, sitting down and grabbing a fork.
“Fabulous!” Dawn said, digging in. Her face exaggerated her enjoyment. “Oh my god! I don’t think I’ve ever had eggs this great. Buffy can save the world, but she couldn’t cook an egg if her life depended on it.”
Skye laughed at Dawn’s antics. “You’re just saying that because you’re crazy about me.”
“You betcha I am,” Dawn laughed and leaned in to give Skye a lingering kiss. “Mmmm, someone tastes even better than the eggs.”
Skye smiled fondly at Dawn and motioned towards her plate. “Finish your food, sweetheart.”
After a few minutes of silence, Dawn asked, “So, what do you think of Cleveland?”
“You mean other than the fact that it’s ground zero for the apocalypse?” Skye laughed, then shrugged. “It’s actually kinda nice. I mean I expected it to be trashy after all the jokes I’ve heard about it over the years, but I like it.”
“Me too,” Dawn said. She was about to go on when Buffy entered the kitchen.
“Hey!” she said, pointing at their plates. “Where’s mine?”
“Get your own girlfriend to cook for you,” Dawn jibed.
“Ha ha,” Buffy said, rolling her eyes. She grabbed a cookie jar and carried it over to where the girls were finishing their meal. “How’s the research going?”
“Kinda hit a standstill,” Dawn reported, growing serious again. She paused for a moment, then said, “Buffy…when the slayers go down to the caverns, we’re going with them.”
Buffy looked at both girls, one at a time. “No way,” she finally announced.
“Yes, we are,” Dawn insisted. “You know damn well you can’t stop us, and besides, you need all the help you can get.”
Buffy closed her eyes in frustration. “Why must we go through this every year?” she said, almost to herself. Then she opened her eyes and looked at her sister. “Fine. I know I can’t win, so fine,” she said. “But Skye stays here with Giles.”
Skye just laughed. “I don’t think so, Buffy,” she said. “And obviously you seem to forget, so I’ll say it again, I’m eighteen and –”
“You can go where you damn well please,” Buffy repeated, exasperated. “Second, my place is at Dawn’s side and where she goes, I go. Got it?” the slayer added in a tone of mocking mimicry
“You’re learning,” Skye nodded proudly.
“Awww, that’s so sweet,” Dawn said and leaned in again to kiss Skye. Buffy rolled her eyes again and dramatically cleared her throat until Dawn looked up and said to her sister, “See why I’m crazy about her?”
“Uh huh,” Buffy said. “Okay, fine. You can go, but I want you both in the rear formation. Okay?” Dawn looked about to protest and Buffy said again, “Okay?”
“Okay,” Dawn mumbled.
Watchers Council – Giles’s Office – Moments Later
Tracey poked her head into the open door and announced, “Got some visitors, Giles. Brell and his brother.”
“Oh?” Giles said. “Show them in, please.”
Tracey moved aside and the two blue-skinned demons walked past her, both of them giving her a slight bow of thanks. She smiled at them and left the office.
Giles came around his desk and shook hands with the brothers. “Brell. Tram. How are you both? How are your families?”
“Good!” Brell answered. “Wifes and spawns are good.”
“Excellent,” Giles said, leaning back against his desk. “So…how can we help you?”
“Big dead demon near lake,” Tram said. “No head. Very messy.”
“Ah yes,” Giles said, crossing his arms. “Xander and the Slayers took care of that, but I’m afraid we don’t have time for carcass disposal at the moment.”
“We know,” Brell said. “Time for Presidium has come.”
“Yes,” Giles nodded. “I’m afraid so. We think it would be best if you took your families and got out of town for a bit. Much safer that way.”
“Family safe,” Tram said. “But we stay to help Council.”
“We stay and fight with you,” Brell added.
Giles smiled sadly. “That’s very kind of you,” he said. “But I’m afraid we are seriously outnumbered and I cannot guarantee you’ll be safe. And we haven’t forgotten our deal with you, Brell. You give us information and we keep you and your own safe. Remember?”
“Brell remember,” the horned demon nodded and looked at his brother. The two demons were silent a moment, then both turned and left the office. Giles blinked at their retreating forms and then sighed.
Watchers Council – Library – Same Time
“Testing…one, two, testing,” Andrew droned on as Willow attempted to adjust her tiny earpiece. Tracey was holding the receiving unit for her.
“I can’t hear you,” Willow said.
Andrew made an adjustment on the control unit and repeated, “Testing…testing.”
“Ow!” Willow cried, pulling the piece from her ear and glaring at him. “Too loud! Get it right!”
“Don’t yell at me!” he whined back as he made another adjustment. “How’s that?”
“Better,” she said.
“Good. Now, you’ll be Witchy One and I’ll be Witchy Two, got it?” Andrew said.
Willow rolled her eyes. “How about I just be Willow and you be Andrew? Okay?”
“But that’s no fun,” he pouted.
Willow grabbed the receiving unit and moved away from Andrew to secure the device in her hip pack. “Argh, he’s driving me nuts!” the witch muttered under her breath. Andrew pretended not to hear.
Xander entered with Becca and announced, “Kennedy’s checking the ranks. You almost ready?”
Willow nodded and buckled the pack around her waist. Rowena wheeled over to Xander and pulled him aside.
“Xander, I need to ask you for a favor,” she said.
Xander squatted down so he could be level with her eyes. “What’s up, Ro?”
“Please watch out for her,” Rowena said, looking deep into his eyes. “Okay?”
Xander smiled warmly. “It’s what I do,” he assured.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
Giles entered the library, followed a moment later by Kennedy, Faith and Robin. The senior watcher noticed Becca and walked to her side.
“They’re ready to engage,” he said, taking her hand. “Things might get a little noisy around here, but I want you to stay on the third floor. If the building starts to come down, you’ve got a clear escape route and a better chance to survive. All right?”
“This is not exactly what I had in mind, Rupert,” she said. “I need to know you’re safe.”
Giles handed her his walkie-talkie. “Take this,” he said. “You can hear everything that’s going on, but under no circumstances do I want you coming down those stairs. When everything is over, we’ll come up and get you.”
“It better be you coming to get me,” Becca said fiercely.
“I can’t promise that, but I’ll try like hell,” he said, just as intensely. “For the first time in a very long time, I’ve got something more than just the fight to live for.” Becca seemed unconvinced so Giles added, “Very well…I promise I’ll be back for you.”
Willow finished her preparations and looked at Rowena sitting in her chair. Her eyes widened as Rowena locked the wheels and struggled to stand. “Hey! Hey! None of that,” she cried as she rushed to stop the blonde.
Rowena ignored Willow as she finally stood on her feet and made sure she was steady. She looked into Willow’s eyes and the redhead’s protests died on her lips. The two silently looked at each other for several long moments and then, despite her injuries, Rowena pulled Willow into a bone-crushing hug.
Willow closed her eyes and gently returned the hug for a moment and then began to pull away. Rowena hung on and Willow again tightened her hold, running her hand over the back of Rowena’s hair.
“I’ll be back,” Willow whispered, and finally Rowena let go, her eyes again shiny with unshed tears.
She turned from Willow with a small sigh, then said to Tracey, “Help me get these books down to the control area.” Ignoring the wheelchair, she carefully walked out of the library, followed a moment later by Tracey.
Kennedy watched Willow as the redhead looked at the departing pair. Then Faith moved over to Willow to get her attention.
“We’re ready when you are, Red,” she said.
Willow looked around at the group and nodded. “Let’s go,” she said, her voice firm and resolved. “It’s now or never.”
End of Act Four