Originally broadcasted 11/29/04
Watchers Council – Slayer Rec Room – Late Evening
Kennedy strode confidently into the Slayer Rec Room to find Mia playing solitaire on the card table. The Asian slayer looked up and smiled at her girlfriend, then waved her over.
“So all the kiddies have gone home for the holiday, I see?” Kennedy remarked as she walked over.
“Not all,” a voice said. Kennedy turned to see Faith in the doorway “You two are still here,” she jabbed with a gentle smile as she also walked over to them.
“Aren’t you going to bed?” she asked the senior slayer as she looked at her watch. “I thought it was past the old folks’ bedtime.”
Mia snickered. She counted three cards from the deck in her hand, before she looked at the last one.
Faith walked over the sofa and tossed her feet on the coffee table. “Listen up little girl. I was slayin’ all night and playin’ all day when you were barely out of your diapers. But I can out party you or any of the girls any time.” She clicked on the television.
“Oh yeah?” Kennedy said with a wicked grin. “Wanna put some money on it? How about one week’s salary for she who stays up longest?”
“I make more than you,” Faith pointed out.
“So?” Kennedy taunted. “Afraid you’ll lose?”
“No way, Slick,” Faith said. “You’re on.”
The two slayers shook on it. Kennedy plunked down on the sofa and waved Mia over, then stole the remote from Faith.
Watchers Council – Willow’s Living Room – Late Evening
Willow came into the living room and saw a sleepy blonde head lying on her sofa arm. “You better get to bed,” Willow said.
“In a few minutes,” came the drowsy response.
Willow sat on the edge of the sofa cushion and pushed Marsha’s bangs away from her eyes. “You need a haircut,” Willow told her.
“Letting them grow out,” the young slayer answered.
A knock at the door brought Willow to her feet. She answered to find Rowena standing there with a smile. “Hey,” Rowena said softly. She looked over and saw Marsha’s head pop up from the sofa. “Oh shoot! Sleepover. I forgot. I’ll stop by tomorrow.”
“That’s okay. You can come in,” Willow told her.
“No, I’ll see you in the morning. I just, uh, I was thinking about you and that indexing project I was going to start, but we can talk tomorrow.”
Willow hesitated a moment, pushing down a grin. “Okay, tomorrow then?”
“Tomorrow,” she answered soundly. Rowena nodded and then waved to Marsha. “You two have a good night.”
Willow shut the door and walked back to the sofa, where Marsha waited with a grin.
“Kinda late to be worrying about indexing, isn’t it?” The girl quirked a knowing eyebrow at her watcher.
Willow took a deep breath and pulled up Marsha’s legs. She sat down on the opposite side of the sofa and let the slayer’s feet rest on her thighs.
“Well, you know, a watcher’s work is never done.”
Marsha looked at Willow intently. “Really? That’s all?”
Willow looked away and sighed, before turning to look at Marsha for a long moment. “Can you keep a secret?”
“You’re my watcher. You tell me. Can I?” she retorted.
“This is serious,” Willow told her.
Marsha sat up slightly to move to her elbows. “What is it, Willow?”
The witch sighed again and bit her lower lip a moment. “Rowena and I have been seeing each other – privately. She doesn’t want anyone to know right now because she doesn’t want everyone bugging us. I don’t want to lie to you, because I think there’s a sacred trust between slayers and their watchers.”
“But what about your friends?” Marsha asked. “Does Xander know?”
Willow shook her head. “No one knows, just me, Ro and now you. So promise me you won’t tell anyone.”
“I promise. I’ll take it to the grave.
“I told Ro we have to make a choice here soon, so you won’t have to wait that long,” Willow told her with a grin, before looking serious again. “I don’t like hiding out.”
“Sounds more like hiding in, maybe,” Marsha teased with a slight grin.
Willow chuckled. “Yeah, sumthin’ like that.”
“So tell me,” Marsha began conspiratorially. “Have you two done it yet?”
“Marsha!” Willow exclaimed, her eyes going wide. She got up from the sofa and Marsha followed moving to the chair.
“So have you?”
“No!” Willow answered from the kitchen.
“You two aren’t getting any younger,” Marsha told her in a mocking tone.
Willow returned with a glass in her hand and then smiled when she saw Marsha’s playful smirk. “Maybe not, but we’re in no rush. Besides, it’s kinda better that we go in steps, take things easy.”
“Lots of reasons actually,” Willow answered after taking a drink. “I think I moved too quick last time, with Kennedy…and Rowena…this is all new for her. That’s why I don’t want you to say anything, Marsha. We’ll tell the rest of the gang eventually, just not right now. So promise me, okay?”
“I did, but in case you need to hear it again, I promise Willow. Heck, after letting me stay here for Thanksgiving to avoid going home, I’d do just about anything.”
Willow stood up and walked over to kiss the girl on the crown of her head. “All I need right now is no gossiping.”
Marsha made a zipper motion across her mouth and Willow smiled at her.
“Go on,” Willow told the slayer, motioning her back to the sofa. She covered her with the blanket over the back of the couch. “Get some rest, okay?”
“‘Kay. Night Willow.”
Willow was almost to her bedroom when Marsha’s small voice stopped her in her tracks. “Hey Will?”
Marsha hesitated, as if she was going to say something, but stopped herself. Finally she answered. “Thanks again. I mean it.”
Willow grinned at the unspoken love in Marsha’s eyes. “Anytime I can help, Marsha. Remember that.”
With a nod and a smile, Marsha settled down on the sofa. Willow walked into her bedroom, her grin still in place.
Presidium Citadel – Great Hall
Two of the Lover’s servants flanked Imbethit, the Assassin, as he entered the cavernous meeting place. He wore an intimidating, spiked metal helmet , but there was only darkness beneath it where a face might have been. The Lover stood in the center of the room, with the Flayer behind her to one side. The servants left, and the demon knelt.
“Your master tells me you claim a debt of blood,” the Lover said to the newcomer, “owed you by the human slayers.” The shadowy Assassin glanced at the Flayer, who nodded slightly, then stood and faced the Lover again.
“For my children, Highness,” he hissed, “blood calls to blood. The debt must be repaid in kind.” The Lover directed a glance over her shoulder at the Flayer, who remained carefully expressionless, then turned again to Imbethit, glaring slightly.
“You would do well to remember your station,” she said quietly, “even one such as you, who has served faithfully, does not come to this place and tell your masters what must be done.” The Assassin fell instantly to his knee, his invisible gaze averted.
“Nevertheless,” the Lover continued, “your master has spoken on your behalf. You will be granted the opportunity to extract payment for your loss from those responsible. As we speak, the Arena is being fashioned, and the slayers begin to arrive. Your place is prepared. Go now.”
On cue, a servant appeared in the doorway. Imbethit got to his feet and followed her away, while the Lover stalked across to where he had stood, and turned back to the motionless Flayer.
“I mislike that one,” she said calmly.
“He is efficient, and loyal,” the Flayer noted, meeting her gaze, “and the Council must be punished for meddling in our affairs.”
“Perhaps,” the Lover allowed. “But I have fifty Sirra mages crafting the Arena, and over four thousand spell-ciphers lending their assistance in providing it with its guests. I will not extend such an indulgence to you again.”
“Yes, Highness,” the Flayer nodded stiffly.
Slayer Rec Room – Later
Kennedy raised the remote and the large screen television turned off.
“So how’d you like the movie?” she asked, turning to Faith, only to find the older slayer curled up against the armrest and snoring gently. Kennedy looked to her right to see Mia sleeping on her other side.
“Wimps!” Kennedy grinned. She hopped up to reach for a Post-it note pad and a pen. She peeled the topmost note off the pad and softly placed it on Faith’s forehead. “You Lost!” it read in block letters. Chuckling to herself, she left the room.
Watchers Council – Kitchen – Moments Later
Kennedy grabbed a juice box out of the refrigerator just as Andrew came into the kitchen, rubbing sleep from his eyes.
“You’re up early,” he grumbled, shuffling over to the coffee machine.
“Never went to bed,” she said. “I thought I’d take a short patrol around the neighborhood before I hit the sack. Might be nice to see the sun rising off the lake.”
“Ugh,” he groaned, as if disturbed by the thought.
“Later, Andy,” the slayer said, as she left the room sipping on her juice.
Underground Cell – Moments Later
Faith’s head shot up from the straw floor she was lying on, her sleep interrupted by the sound of a large, steel gate clanging open nearby. She watched Mia, stirring beside her, rub her eyes. The senior slayer rose to her feet and approached a wall of bars, glancing from side to side. Rows of cells stretched off in either direction, each with its complement of prisoners. Some were slayers from the Council, looking to Faith for orders, others unfamiliar girls. Many were still unconscious on the floors. Faith turned to see Marsha and some other slayers in her cell fall in behind her as heavy steps approached. A group of forms moved in the unlit corridor beyond the cell bars.
Finally, a tall creature dressed in ornate, unearthly armor emerged from the shadows, passing through the bars as if they were a mist. It stepped into the light and faced the slayers, but within its open-faced helmet there was still only darkness.
“Welcome,” Imbethit said in a rasping, hissing voice. “You have entered the Arena. None of you shall leave.”
End of Teaser