Watchers Council – Kitchen – Later
Marsha and two younger slayers formed a washing, drying and stacking line for the dishes, while Andrew finished cleaning up the counter. Tracey walked in with her coat on.
“I’ve got all the eggs mixed up for tomorrow, Andrew,” she told him. “I’ll be a little late, but you should be set for the morning, and I’ll be here in plenty of time to help with lunch.”
“That’s great,” Andrew nodded without looking up.
Tracey returned the nod and started toward the door.
“Uh, Tracey,” he called out, making her stop and turn around. “I wanted to ask you something,” he said nervously.
“There you are,” another voice called out. Andrew and Tracey both turned to see a handsome dark-haired man in his early twenties make his way over. “Just about done?” he asked Tracey, slipping his arm around her waist.
“Yeah,” she answered. “Andrew, this is Steve. Steve, Andrew.”
“I’ve heard a lot about you,” Steve said, extending his hand to Andrew. “Tracey says she really likes working for your school.”
Reluctantly, Andrew took it. “And you are?” the cook replied, trying to be civil.
Steve looked apprehensive. “I’m not sure, but hopefully I’ll be an official boyfriend soon. We just started dating, what, three weeks ago?” Steve asked Tracey. She nodded.
“Andrew needed to speak to me for a moment,” Tracey told Steve. “Can I catch you in the lobby?”
“Sure thing,” Steve said. “Nice to meet you,” he added in acknowledgment to Andrew, then left the room.
Andrew stared after him until Tracey got his attention. “What did you want to ask me? If it’s the extra time off, Andrew, it’s not like it will become a habit. I just have –”
“Uh, no,” Andrew answered. “I just…I wanted to ask if you, uh, if you still enjoy it here, but Steve answered the question for me. I, uh, I was hoping you did, because you’re a real asset to us, here at the Council I mean, and I wanted you to know that. So don’t worry about the time. I realize that you’ve got a life outside this kitchen.”
Tracey smiled and leaned over to give Andrew a kiss on the cheek. “You’re a sweetie…I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Andrew nodded with a smile and watched her walk out the door. Once she was out of sight, his happy expression fell. He appeared to be on the verge of tears.
Marsha turned around and Andrew quickly averted his eyes, suddenly finding a spot he had missed on the counter extremely interesting.
“We’re just about finished up,” she told him. “Can I help you with anything else?”
“No,” he answered, his voice cracking. “You guys can take off.”
The two other girls celebrated and quickly darted from the room. Marsha, on the other hand, leaned closer to Andrew.
“For what it’s worth, I think that Steve guy has loser written all over him,” she told him. “And I’m willing to stay and help, too.”
Andrew gave her a small grin. “Thanks Marsha,” he told her sincerely. “Just go catch up to your friends.”
With a short bob of her head, Marsha slowly left the room. She turned around to see Andrew take a seat at the counter, his face resting in his hands.
Watchers Council – Lobby – Same Time
Xander walked next to a young man, who took notes as they spoke. “I’ll need those two by fours in the next week,” Xander said, as his associate tried to walk and scribble at the same time. “Oh, we need those drill bits, too,” he said in afterthought. The man nodded and held up the pen, as if remembering a prior conversation.
“Anything else?” the man asked.
“Nope. That about covers it,” Xander told him.
“I’ll go call it in,” he said, walking away.
Xander heard the front door open and turned to see Alex Neel step inside.
“Why if it isn’t Ms. Child Welfare, OHASA and Perry Mason all rolled into one. What brings you out tonight?”
Alex gave him a courteous grin. “Just coming by to check on Jeff, but now that you mention it, perhaps we should visit your workshop, too,” Alex countered.
“I’m sure you’ll find everything in shipshape. It might even please that bug up your butt, too,” Xander replied.
Alex gave a short laugh. “It’s good to know you don’t have a problem following directions. Some men are intimidated by smart women. Well, women who are smarter than them anyway.”
Xander cocked his head. “And let me ask you this, Ms. Neel…How does one properly tile a bathroom sink?”
“Excuse me?” Alex asked.
“I’m sure you’ve got some shiny, posh-looking bathroom filled with live plants and marble up in your law offices. How did they build it?”
Alex raised an eyebrow. “Let’s go have a look at that workshop, shall we?”
“Ja wohl,” Xander said, with a slight bow and flourish of his hand.
Watchers Council – Willow’s Apartment – Evening
Willow lay stretched across her couch with her head in Rowena’s lap, each of them looking at a different text. “Find anything yet?” the blonde asked, looking down at her friend.
“Not really. Just post-partum depression stuff. Wanna switch?”
Rowena had begun to hand over her book when a sudden knock at the door made them both jump. They exchanged a nervous look. Willow got up and walked toward the door. “Who is it?” she called out.
Willow opened the door and Xander saw Rowena sitting on the sofa with a book in her hand. “Actually, I don’t want to break up the study group. It’ll just be a minute,” he said, pulling Willow from her apartment before she could protest and shutting the door behind them.
He motioned her down the hall with a bob of his head and they started to walk along. “Faith said something to me at dinner, and it’s been bugging me.”
“Becca and now you, huh? She’s really rackin’ ’em up tonight.”
“She thinks something’s going on with you and Rowena. But like I told her, if that’s the case you’d tell me, so I’m just checking.”
“Checking what?” Willow asked.
“Are you two, like, an item now?” he asked.
“You mean, like, with the dating and such? No,” Willow answered evasively. “I haven’t taken her out for a rootbeer float or anything, if that’s what you mean,” she added playfully.
Xander nodded. “Okay, good. I mean, not good actually, because I want you to be happy. I’m glad Faith’s just being paranoid and I’m not out of the loop. You’re my best friend, Will. If something is going on, I’d like to know about it.”
Willow took a deep breath and nodded. “Anything else? I really should get back and hit the books.”
“Yeah, there is. Alex stopped by. You know, Jeff’s attorney,” he said with a roll of his eyes.
“Everything okay?” Willow asked.
“With Jeff, just peachy. She had some paperwork to give him. With me, all she had to give was a hard time.”
“You really don’t like that woman, do you?” Willow smiled.
“Of course not. That’s why we’ve going out next week.”
Willow began to laugh. “Are you serious?” she asked. When Xander nodded, she added, “So, what kinda demon is she?”
Xander smiled. “She’s not a demon – just a lawyer.”
They both paused, and at the exact time said, “Same difference,” before snorting in amusement.
“Nah,” Xander went on with a bashful grin. “I think she’s just used to people agreeing with her.”
“And you’re discovering the joys of being disagreeable?” Willow said, stroking his arm. “But it’s good you’re getting out, even if it’s just to torture women.”
Xander bobbed his head with a grin and nodded toward Willow’s apartment. “I better let you get back. Sorry I had to interrupt.”
“I always have time for you, Xan. You know that,” she told him with a smile.
He squeezed her arm, and she watched him until he had disappeared down the hall before she returned to her apartment.
Once back inside, she closed the door and shook her head. “This is getting harder,” she told Rowena.
Willow shrugged. “Being back in the closet, kinda,” she said nervously. “I mean, I spent so long being honest about who I loved that it’s odd, I guess, not being able to say anything.”
“I told you my reasons why, Willow.”
“Oh, I know. I get that you don’t want them prying, but they’re starting to pry anyway,” she answered with a slight grin, before looking serious again. “And now…I feel like I’m lying and…I don’t like it.”
Rowena rose from the sofa and walked over. She stroked Willow’s face and gave her a tender kiss on the lips. “We haven’t lied to anyone, Will.”
“Okay then. How about telling half-truths then?” Willow asked, to which Rowena could only reply with a sigh. Shaking it off, Willow pointed back to her coffee table. “Let’s get back to work. I want to find something for Giles by the time he gets back.”
Becca’s Apartment – Same Time
Giles stumbled into the hallway clutching his bleeding stomach. His hand left a small trail of blood down the banister as he worked his way down to the street.
City Street – Moments Later
Giles made it to the sidewalk in a daze. He noticed a taxi slowing to stop at the light up ahead. He tried to wave the taxi down, but the yellow and black vehicle began to blur in his vision as he tumbled to the sidewalk.
The vehicle pulled up next to the fallen man and the driver rushed to his side, leaving his door open.
“You okay, Buddy?” the driver called out as he approached.
Getting no response from Giles, the man cautiously knelt beside him. When Giles didn’t move, the cabbie rolled him to his side and saw his bleeding stomach and the knife embedded in his shoulder.
“Oh, man,” the driver breathed, then quickly looked around for any sign of danger.
Finding none, he darted over to his cab and opened the passenger door to grab his radio mic.
“Hey Jenny. It’s Harry. I just found a stabbing victim. He’s in rough shape.”
Soup Kitchen – Same time
The two slayers worked in the soup kitchen side by side.
“You know, in all fairness here, I never actually used the word romantic to describe the surprise,” Kennedy told Mia, as she easily hefted a crate and placed it on the shelf above her head. “I just thought that it’d be something we could do together. Something that you could relate to.” She turned to Mia with a hopeful look, only to find the woman with a slight scowl. “And I obviously thought wrong. Again.”
“No!” Mia exclaimed, “It’s good. It… It feels good to be helping out without, you know, punching things out. And I can relate.” She grabbed a box and placed it on the shelf beside the crate.
“But…” Kennedy prompted.
“Yeah, buts.” Kennedy reached out and put a hand on Mia’s shoulder. “I’m hearing buts here. And what’d we just talk about? You’ve gotta meet me halfway here, Mia. Okay?”
Mia looked down at her feet. “It’s just…” She looked back up and met Kennedy’s worried gaze. “Is this,” she waved her hands around the soup kitchen, “how you see me?” she asked.
“As someone who likes to help people? Who’d spend her pretty damned rare time off feeding the hungry? Damned straight! And not just for show, or out of guilt, or because there was a time when you didn’t know where your next meal was coming from.”
“So, I’m a street rat then?” Mia asked.
“No, that’s not what I said,” Kennedy insisted. She paused to think before adding more. “See…every Thanksgiving, my dad would bundle us off to some shelter, where he’d make big deal of signing a check and we’d spend a few hours helping out. I used to think it was to wash away the guilt from being filthy rich and not doing anything else the whole rest of the year, but as I got older, I couldn’t help but notice that we somehow always wound up where there was some news crew filming holiday stuff. Can’t help thinking that’s the kind of thing that looks good if you ever want to get into politics. Not that my dad was an ogre or anything, but he rarely did anything that didn’t have some kind of angle to it. But you’re not like that. You remind me of my watcher.”
“I remind you of an old British guy?” Mia asked. “At least I’m moving up on the food chain now.”
“Not the old stuff, or the British stuff, or the guy stuff, but in other ways, yeah. He was one of those people who liked to help people just because he could. He never expected to get anything out of it; he’d just pitch in and help ’cause it needed done. I don’t know how much the Old Guard paid him; I don’t think it was a lot, but it never stopped him from sharing what he had. He started bringing me to places like this and I pretty much gave him hell for it at first.”
“You didn’t like it?”
“I couldn’t figure out what the hell it had to do with slaying. How did washing dishes or dishing out stew one weekend a month help with the Council’s mission? I even asked him, ‘How’s feeding creepy, funny smelling people helping save the world’?”
“What’d he say?”
“He pointed out that people make up the world, even these people. And if I was lucky, I’d never be called on to save the entire world, but there were always people who needed saving. And after a while, I figured out that even creepy people get hungry, and once you took the time to know them, talk to them, they aren’t really creepy at all. Many of them are good people that got a bad break.”
Mia gave a half-laugh and said, “Sometimes I’m afraid that’s how you, and not just you but everybody at the Council, sees me. Like some creepy kid. Like they oughta lock the silverware up when I’m around.” She looked down again and when she looked back up, there was a touch of anger in her voice. “I don’t wanna have my whole life defined by one really crappy part of it.”
“Hey!” Kennedy put her arms around Mia and pulled her in for a hug. “We don’t think of you like that. When I look at you, I see someone who is incredibly strong. Hell, you’ve lived through stuff that I don’t think I’d survive.”
“You? Ken, you’re indestructible.”
Kennedy snorted, “You shoulda seen me last Christmas. Seriously, I can’t imagine living through the crap you’ve been through. I’ve never been hungry in my life.”
“Never?” Mia asked, her chin resting on Kennedy’s shoulder.
“Well, there was Dawn’s ‘blackened’ mac and cheese in Sunnydale, but no, I’ve never really had to worry where my next meal was coming from. And as for how the rest the Council sees you, I fully expect Giles to call me into his office any day now and tell me that he’s givin’ you my job. Six months, Mia, and you’ve become just about indispensable. Nobody sees you as just some street kid.”
“Now you’re making me blush,” Mia said, but she was laughing as she said it.
“Yeah, I’m good at that, ain’t I?” Kennedy pulled back and looked Mia in the eye.
“Real good,” Mia grinned. “But I don’t want you to have any illusions, either. I’ve had…I’ve done stuff that I’m not real proud of, and that’s part of me now. Some days I wish it wasn’t, But I can’t change where I’ve been. I can only use it for where I’m going, I guess.”
“I get that, Mia. I do. And yeah, stealin’s wrong, but starvin’s wronger.”
“Did you just say wronger?”
“Hey, I’m a slayer. Making up words is every slayer’s right. I got that straight from Buffy herself, and she’s the ultimate authority on all things slayer-y. Just ask her, she’ll tell you.” Kennedy grinned wickedly and Mia laughed.
“Are you still on about Buffy? She’s, like, a couple of thousand miles away.”
“Nah, I got no problems with Buffy. Buffy’s cool; I like her. Besides she’s real easy to like when she’s a couple of thousand miles away.” They were both laughing now.
“You are bad,” Mia laughed.
“Yeah, and don’t you forget it. I’m badder than you ever thought about being.” She pulled Mia into a hug again and lightly rubbed her back.
Mia wore a hesitant expression but returned the hug just the same.
“We okay here?” Kennedy asked after a moment.
“Yeah. We’re good.” Mia smiled. “Sorry to go off like that. It’s just that sometimes people seem to forget that I did have a life before coming home one day and finding that my dad had changed all the locks.”
Kennedy froze. “He what?”
The look on Mia’s face showed that she regretted letting it slip, but she continued on, “I… It was a normal day, you know, nothing out of the ordinary. Dad had stayed home with the flu. I went off to school and about the worst thing I expected out of the day was a pop quiz in history. When I got home, all my stuff was out in the yard and he’d changed the locks.”
“Why the hell did –”
“Why do you think, Ken? It’s not like I just decided to run off and join the circus…He read my diary and that was that. It happens, y’know?”
“Whoa. I’m not…I’m just trying to wrap my head around this. His own daughter…”
“In his eyes I was no longer his daughter, so that made it easier for him,” Mia answered, softly leaning back against the wall of the soup kitchen as Kennedy started pacing back and forth. “I’ve never told anyone else about what happened. Julia and the other girls all thought that I just got tired of living by my parents’ rules and decided to make it on my own. They respected that. They wouldn’t think I was so tough if they knew that my old man kicked me out on the street for being gay. Either that or they’d be afraid I’d hit on them some night. It was best just to keep my mouth shut. Experience taught me that.”
“God. I don’t know what to say, Mia.”
“There’s nothing to say. It happened. I’m not gonna spend the rest of my life dwelling on it.”
“Never had much use for dwelling myself. I am glad you told me, though.”
“Yeah. I’m glad I did, too. I think maybe I’ve been waiting to tell someone for a while now.”
“You do realize you’re in a place now where that stuff doesn’t matter. I mean, no one at the Council is gonna kick you out for who you love. Hell, Xander has an attraction to demons and the majority of Buffy’s men have been dead for over a hundred years. A couple of lesbians here and there are not a big deal, trust me,” Kennedy teased, trying to lighten the mood.
Mia smiled and bobbed her head in understanding. “So, you wanna finish up and be on our way?” she asked.
“Absolutely. Besides, I’m thinkin’ I owe you some romancing,” Kennedy said with a grin.
“Ooo, sounds good,” Mia replied as they headed out the door. “Will you even buy me one of those half-dead roses they sell down at the park by the lake?”
“If that’s what milady wants, then that’s what she’ll get,” Kennedy said as she flipped out the light. “You know, maybe we can do this again sometime?”
“Count me in,” Mia answered. with a touch of mirth in her voice. She reached down and squeezed Kennedy’s backside, making the slayer give a small squeal. “Just keepin’ ya on your toes,” Mia added with a chuckle.
“As long as I get to sweep you off your feet later,” Kennedy quipped, as they closed the door behind them.
Willow’s Apartment – Later that night
After another knock at the door, Rowena and Willow both rolled their eyes.
“I think I need to look into off campus housing. Skye can have my apartment,” the priestess teased, making Rowena smile.
She opened the door and looked surprised, yet happy, to see Becca standing there.
“Hey, Willow. I just wanted to apologize for earlier.”
“Oh, no. That’s fine, Becca. Crankiness is to be expected,” Willow said cheerfully. “Did you see Giles?”
“No,” she answered. “But he called. Told me to come back to the Council to talk. He had to stop out to see the slayers first – the ones that Brell brought in? I wasn’t sure how long he’d be, and I wanted to see him before it got too late. I wasn’t sure which safe house they’re being kept at right now.”
“Oh, the one over on Ma…” Willow trailed off as she noticed blood on Becca’s shoes.
“Yes?” Becca asked expectantly.
Willow looked back up into her eyes, but before she could say anything, Becca slammed her hand over Willow’s mouth with a piece of duct tape, then grabbed Willow’s arms and she shoved her way into the room.
Rowena jumped up off the sofa, but Becca turned Willow around and grabbed her by the throat. “Come closer and I snap her neck,” she warned.
“Just calm down, Becca,” Rowena said, trying to reason with her. “No one’s going to hurt you.”
“No one can hurt me. Imbethit’s power fills me now. I’m invincible.”
Memorial Hospital – Same Time
The ambulance medical crew rushed Giles through the double doors of the emergency room with a crash.
“What do we have?” the attending physician asked as they swiftly wheeled him inside.
“Cabbie found a stabbing victim on the street. Two lacerations to the torso – abdomen and left shoulder. The stomach isn’t bad, but the shoulder wound is pretty deep.”
“John Doe?” the doctor asked.
“No, he had a license on him. Rupert Giles,” the driver said.
“Let’s see if we can contact someone,” the doctor replied.
“On it.” The driver walked to the check-in desk, while the doctor and remaining crew wheeled Giles in the opposite direction and into one of several draped areas in the treatment area of the emergency room.
“Rupert, can you hear me?” the doctor asked.
Slowly, Giles nodded with his eyes closed. The attending nurse began to replace his IV pouch.
“You’re at Memorial Hospital right now, okay? We’re going to give you a sedative, so you’ll be asleep in a few moments.”
Giles tried to shake his head, but the needle slid into his arm before he could open his mouth to protest. The last thing he saw was the bright light of the examination room, before he was plunged into utter darkness
Willow’s Apartment – Same Time
Rowena inched closer to Becca, who still held Willow in a firm chokehold.
“Who is Imbethit?” Rowena asked.
“The Assassin,” Becca answered. “And his will must be done.”
Recognition flickered in Rowena’s eyes, but she kept her features impassive.
“Okay,” Rowena agreed steadily. “Let Willow go, and I’ll tell you whatever you want.” Willow began a muffled protest behind her taped mouth, her eyes wide. “Trust me, okay?” Rowena said. She still held Becca’s eyes with her own, but the tone was meant as much for Willow, who quieted somewhat at the words.
“No,” Becca answered firmly.
“Then no deal,” Rowena replied, just as harshly, folding her arms across her chest. “You want a location. And I want Willow safe. Give me what I want, and you get what you want.”
Becca pushed Willow to the ground. “Take that tape off and I kill her,” she told the witch, pointing to Rowena.
“She’s not going to touch the tape. The safe house you want is the one in the Heights on Maple,” Rowena answered.
Becca ran from the room and Willow ripped off the tape from her mouth. She began to chant but Rowena stopped her.
“No, let her go,” Rowena told her.
Willow looked bewildered.
“If she’s working with the assassins now, she might meet with them. We can take them all out.”
“We’re not hurting Becca,” Willow said decisively.
“I meant the assassins,” Rowena corrected herself. “We need to get Faith and warn Vi.”
“She had blood on her shoes, Ro. What if Giles ran into her and…”
Rowena sighed. “Did Giles take one of the phones with him?”
“I doubt it,” Willow answered. “Electronically allergic, remember?”
“Then let’s try her apartment. Maybe he’s there inside,” Rowena replied. She walked over to the coffee table and moved two books out of the way before picking up a third. “I gave her what she wanted because I know where I heard of Imbethit.”
“Where?” Willow asked.
Rowena held up the book. “Brell’s text. You call Vi and move her group. Then have Faith meet us in the conference room. ”
“What if Becca gets there first?” Willow asked.
“Just pray to Hecate she doesn’t, for everyone’s sake.”
End of Act Three