Watchers Council – Lobby – Continuous
“Who are you?” Kennedy said, as she and Faith rushed up to meet the stranger.
Startled, the young woman turned around. “I-I’m Karen,” she answered, sounding scared.
“What are you doing here?” Faith asked.
Still shaken by the intense questioning, she didn’t answer immediately. Then Robin came over to greet her.
“How are you, Karen?” he asked.
Karen looked between him and the slayers, unsure of what to say. “I’m, uh, I’m good. Yourself?”
“Can’t complain,” he answered.
“You know this person?” Faith asked shortly.
Robin did a double-take upon hearing Faith’s tone. “Yeah, Karen was one of my students a few years back.”
“I came by, Mr. Wood –”
“How many times do I have to tell you?” he said playfully. “Call me Robin.”
They both gave a light chuckle. “Okay, Robin,” she continued. “Do you mind if we speak privately?”
“Not at all. Come up to my office,” he said, leading her by the arm.
After the pair slipped away, Kennedy took a step closer to Faith. “I don’t like this,” she said softly.
“No kidding,” Faith answered, before starting to mimic the young woman in a singsong voice, “Okay, Robin. Do you mind if we speak privately?” Faith waved a hand at the departing pair. “And did you see the way he touched and squeezed her shoulder? Not just a touch, but a squeeze too.”
“Hello!” Kennedy said, slapping Faith’s arm. “We have a bigger pressing issue here.”
“Oh yeah, the dream,” Faith replied guilty. “Look, we’re taking all the steps to keep you off the streets, so don’t worry. And as for Dream Girl, she won’t be in town long. I promise.”
“Easy for you to say,” Kennedy answered.
“I know so,” Faith said, with a determined expression, “but I’ll find out what she’s here for and make sure she’s gone as quick as she came. Trust me.”
Watchers Council – Infirmary – Moments Later
Rowena crept up slowly to Mia’s bedside, and the slayer turned her head toward the sound. Upon seeing the suspended watcher, she started to rise. Rowena held up a hand to stop her, but Mia shook her head.
“I’ve been lying down long enough,” she explained.
Rowena pulled up a chair next to the bed and took a seat. “I stopped down, but you were always asleep. I…I wanted to apologize and…and if you choose to never forgive me, I’ll understand why.”
Mia gave her a grin. “He who forgiveth, and is reconciled unto his enemy, shall receive his reward from God; for he loveth not the unjust doers. You’re the big world religion girl. Know what that’s from?”
“Yes, it’s from the Koran.”
“Personally, I like Gandhi’s quote better.”
“Which one?” Rowena asked.
“If we practice an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, soon the whole world will be blind and toothless.”
Rowena let out a half chuckle despite her nervousness, and Mia gave her a small smile.
“You’re quite intelligent, Mia,” Rowena complimented her.
“Nah, I just love quotes. If I were intelligent, then people would be quoting me instead.” Mia gave Rowena a wink before starting to grin. A quiet settled between them, until Rowena cleared her throat.
“Still,” Rowena began. “I feel terrible about what happened to you. About what…what I did.”
“I know you do,” Mia answered. “So I’ve got two options. I can hold it against you and take it personally, or I can try to see why it happened.”
“I just needed some time to figure things out, to find a way to keep Willow safe while helping everyone.”
“I believe you,” Mia nodded. “But the real reason, the very core, was love. If it were Kennedy, I’m not sure I can say I would do anything differently than you did. You love her, so you better make Willow see that.”
Rowena nodded, but looked away. She turned back to Mia and asked, “Are we okay?” as she motioned a finger between the two of them.
Mia grinned and said, “To err is human…”
Rowena smiled and then added, “…To forgive divine.”
They both paused for a moment and then, at the same time, said, “Alexander Pope.”
Watchers Council – Robin’s Office – Same Time
“Please have a seat,” Robin said, motioning to a chair inside his office. He turned and closed the door, while Karen crossed the room and sat down in the chair. “How have you been?”
“I’m not quite sure, to be honest,” she told him.
Robin took a seat next to her. “And why is that? You’re not being hunted, are you?” he asked.
“By vampires, you mean?” Karen asked. Robin nodded. “Oh no, it’s nothing like that, but it is…unusual and…Where do I start?” she sighed in frustration.
Robin gave her comforting smile. “How about the beginning?”
Karen nodded. “Okay, you’ll probably think I’m crazy, but time seems to stop around me for no reason whatsoever.”
“I’m not sure what you mean,” he told her.
“Ever since the Sunnydale earthquake, that’s when it started happening. Everything around me stops, but I can still move around and manipulate things. It was cool at first, but now…I can’t really go anywhere or do anything. It’s getting to the point I can’t even have a normal conversation.”
Suddenly Karen disappeared from Robin’s view. He stood up, looking left and then right for her.
“See?” she said from behind him, making him jump. “Time stops for everyone except me. I was able to walk around you without you even noticing.”
“I’ll be damned,” Robin muttered.
“I’ve been looking for you for a year now,” Karen went on. “I thought maybe you might have gone to England, to that Watchers Council place, but no luck. Then I found out about the group here in Cleveland. I hoped you’d be here and be able to shed some light on this. But if I’m crazy, I’ll just go away.”
“You’re not crazy, Karen. I’ll have my team research this. Until we get it figured out, we’ll put you up in the Slayer Dorm.” She had an apprehensive look on her face, and Robin cocked his head. “Are you okay with that?”
“Yeah, fine. That’s fine. Thanks, Robin…Seems I’m going to be indebted to you forever at this rate.”
“No,” Robin insisted. “I never expect anything in return from anyone, especially not from you. I was just glad I could help, then and now. Who knows? Maybe someday the shoe will be on the other foot.”
Karen gave him an uneasy smile and bobbed her head slowly.
Watchers Council – Lobby – Same Time
Xander came into the kitchen, talking on a cell phone.
“Come hell or high water?” he asked into the phone. “Well, just remember that when you get cold feet again.” He smiled as he listened to the voice on the other end. “Like I said, prove it tonight and be ready when I get there at seven. Okay. Bye.” Xander turned the phone off and faced Andrew. “You know, a wise man would think she’s avoiding me, but Alex is the one who keeps rescheduling.”
“What’s that?” Andrew asked, as if suddenly noticing Xander was there.
“Alex Neel. Attorney-at-law. Pain in my ass. Mother of my future children.”
“The woman you have yet to go on a date with?” Andrew remarked.
Xander paused a beat. “Yeah, that’s the one.”
“Kinda rushing things, don’t you think?”
“She promised that tonight’s the night. No rescheduling…Again.”
“I meant the mother of your children part,” Andrew said doubtfully.
“Oh, okay. I’ll see if we make it to a third date without killing each other before I fully reach that decision then.”
“That’s nice,” Andrew remarked with little enthusiasm.
Xander took a few steps closer. “You okay?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Andrew said. “I’m…I’m good. Great even…I guess.”
Xander appeared unconvinced, but gave him a shrug. “Alrighty then, but if you change your mind and decide you’re not as fine as you thought, you can come see me in the workshop,” he offered before he left the room.
Andrew gave him a short nod, then returned to focusing on chopping the vegetables in front of him. Slowly his lip began to quiver, and he put down the knife.
“Hey Andrew,” Tracey said as she walked inside, grabbing her apron from behind the door.
“Hey Tracey,” he said quickly and coughed. “How’re you today?” he asked without turning around.
“Okay,” she answered. “Yourself?” Andrew shrugged, but soon Tracey’s face contorted as she watched Andrew’s shoulders rise and fall rapidly, as if he were silently crying. “Andrew? Are you okay? Did something happen last night?” she called over.
Andrew shook his head and wiped his eyes. “No, nothing happened. I’m just…I forgot to clean the work board and…it’s stupid.”
Tracey looked over to see the board that listed the names of the slayers who were on KP duty. Marsha’s name was still there. Tracey’s eyes teared up too, but she took a deep breath and wrapped her arms around Andrew from behind.
“It’s not stupid,” she said softly, resting her cheek between his shoulder blades. “Don’t think that for a second.”
Andrew nodded and patted her arm. “I try to stay strong around the others. Especially Willow. But it’s getting too hard.”
“You don’t have to be anything but yourself with me,” Tracey told him.
“Am I interrupting?” a voice called over.
Tracey turned to see her boyfriend standing there. “Steve? What are you doing…?”
“I could ask the same question, but I know you’re not into scrawny guys,” he answered as he tossed her textbook on the counter. “You left that in my dorm room last night.”
Tracey put her hands on her hips. “That’s my friend you just insulted,” Tracey snapped.
“It’s okay, Tracey,” Andrew said softly.
“Come on, he knows I was just teasing,” Steve said, taking a step closer. He locked eyes with Andrew, and the cook quickly turned around. “Were you crying?” Steve asked, before giving a half-chuckle.
“That’s none of your business,” Tracey told him, putting her hand on her boyfriend’s arm. “Look, thanks for the book, but I’m at work, so you better go.” Steve batted her hand away, and she issued a reactionary, “Oww” that made Andrew turn around sharply.
“Don’t push me,” Steve said harshly.
“I didn’t push you,” Tracey answered. “I’d just like you to leave right now. Andrew’s upset –”
“Awww,” Steve teased. “Andy’s upset. Maybe what Andy really needs is to grow a pair. Of course, the way you talk about him, you’d think he was the second coming.”
“I don’t…Look, Steve,” Tracey said, giving up and pointing out the door. “Just go.”
Steve folded his arms across his chest. “Make me,” he challenged.
“You’re on private property,” Andrew said quietly.
“Excuse me,” Steve said, cupping a hand to his ear. “You’ll have to speak up. Was that an attempt at making a stand?”
Andrew cleared his throat and took a few steps closer. “I don’t mind if Tracey has visitors here, but she’s asked you to leave. So…you’ll have to leave,” he finished nervously.
Tracey looked confidently at Andrew and then turned to Steve with a smug expression.
“And who’s gonna kick me out, Short Stuff? You?”
Steve pushed Andrew, causing the cook to stumble back a few steps. Andrew looked away, not meeting Steve’s eyes.
Tracey stepped between them. “Stop this now!” she told Steve.
Steve pushed Tracey to the side. Her midsection slammed into the counter, knocking down some pots and pans that sat there.
Hearing Tracey groan in pain over the noise made Andrew’s jaw clench. When Steve rushed forward to push Andrew again, the cook stood his ground. Instead of turning away, Andrew batted both of Steve’s hands away, grabbed him around the waist and body slammed him to the ground.
As they both lay on the ground, Andrew grabbed Steve by the hair and sent his head into the tile of the kitchen floor. Then his fists began to connect to Steve’s chin on each word he spoke.
“Don’t…ever…hurt…her!” he yelled in Steve’s bloody face.
Hearing the noise, Vi turned the corner and looked around the room for a moment before finally seeing the two men on the floor, while Tracey looked on in shock. Vi raced over and pulled Andrew off of Steve.
“What the hell is going on?” she asked. She pushed Andrew behind her, making herself a barrier between the two men.
Steve got up to his feet and began to charge ahead, but Vi, with her slayer strength, pushed Steve so hard that he slammed into the wall near the door to the kitchen. Looking shaken and confused by Vi’s strength, he pointed a finger at the trio standing there.
“You better be looking over your shoulder, Shrimp,” Steve threatened Andrew. Then he wiped his bloody nose on the back of his hand and left the room.
“Make sure he leaves,” Tracey told Vi. “I’ll explain later.”
Vi nodded and followed Steve, as Tracey took Andrew over to the sink and turned on the water. She gently held his bloody knuckles under the faucet, cleaning them off with a soft smile. “Steve can be…”
“A jackass?” Andrew asked.
“Yeah,” Tracey admitted guiltily. She turned off the water and began to wrap his hands with a towel. “I didn’t see it at first. I mean, he doted on me constantly, but lately…he’s just more and more possessive. Truth is, I’ve been thinking of calling it off.”
“Now I have another reason,” she said with a grin.
“So…you’re not gonna go back to him?” Andrew asked.
“I told you, Andrew. I just want to be friends with you.”
“Oh, I know,” Andrew told her sincerely. “But…he doesn’t love you if he hits you. You understand that, right? I mean you’re not gonna buy the ‘it’ll never happen again’ excuse?”
“That’s the first time he’s ever done that.”
“Promise me it’ll be the last,” Andrew told her.
“It is,” she said soundly. “You didn’t get those bruised knuckles for nothing. But I gotta ask. Who taught you how to fight like that? That was…amazing, actually,” she said with a growing grin as she dried his hands.
Andrew paused for a moment and walked over to the board. Slowly he wiped off Marsha’s name and then the rest of the junior slayers’ names.
“A friend I won’t forget,” he said softly.
Watchers Council – Giles’s Apartment – Same Time
“What are you doing up and about?” Giles chastised from just inside his front door.
“I could ask you the same question,” Willow said as she passed the doorway of Giles’s apartment. “By the way, mind if I come in?”
“Go right ahead,” he told her.
“Okay,” Willow began, taking a deep breath. “I’m just gonna say this now and get it out of the way: I’m sorry.”
Giles shook his head. “No,” he insisted. “I’m sorry, Willow.”
“Why are you –?”
“Because,” he interrupted. “I had no right to say the things I did. I let my anger get the better of me. Or perhaps the worst of me. A-and you’re right. Your relationship with Rowena isn’t my business. My anger over the file should never have been directed toward you. The reason I got so angry was…I have high aspirations for both you and Rowena. After I’m gone, this Council needs people that will ensure its survival…But it’s more than that too, I think.”
“How so?” Willow asked.
“Perhaps I believe you can do better than I have. Rowena wasn’t wrong with the things she said. I’ve made judgments based on my heart and not my head. And, truth be told, I was also hurt that you had someone important in your life and you didn’t feel you could share that with me. Add the stress of the situation and Rowena’s actions and…The point is I overreacted. I treated you unfairly, and I apologize.”
“Well, this conversation is turning out different than I expected,” Willow remarked dryly. “Does that mean you no longer hate me?”
Giles tried to hold back a smile. “I never hated you, Willow. I was bloody good and angry,” he answered. “But I never hated you.”
“Even after I nearly killed you…again.”
Giles shook his head in frustration and led Willow over to his sofa.
“I told you. It wasn’t your fault. I’d even venture to say it was best that it happened in the office, with you there. If I had been out in the field for some reason, or-or in the middle of a fight, I very well might have died.”
“Well, if Faith hadn’t been there, you very well would have. I totally froze, Giles. We were shouting, and then you fell a-and I just…”
“You still would have found help,” he said with certainty. “And please don’t think that you caused this. Truth is, I’ve had signs – shortness of breath, numbness of the arm. When you engage in slayer sparring for nearly ten years, you tend to overlook aches and pains,” he told her with a grin. Willow looked away sharply and focused on her hands in her lap. “I’m sorry,” Giles said quickly. “I shouldn’t have mentioned slayer training –”
“It’s okay, Giles. It is. A-and I see what you’re saying. But you’re gonna be okay now, right?”
“I have some medication I have to take. Reduce my stress if I can. Eat better. Exercise more. Besides, Becca says she’ll kill me if I don’t plan to stick around.”
Willow returned Giles’s grin, but it slowly slipped away from her face.
“I’ve seen some pretty scary stuff over the years, but that was the scariest,” she confessed softly. “I couldn’t imagine losing you…especially if our last conversation was a shouting match.”
“As I said, I plan to be here for a while, but if the natural order stays in place, someday I will be gone.”
“Don’t talk like that, Giles.”
“It’s true, Willow. We both know that. And when I am, it will be up to you to keep this place going, including everyone here.”
“Even Rowena?” Willow asked.
“Yes, even Rowena. Xander came by earlier and mentioned that you two haven’t spoken since the ritual spell.”
Willow rolled her shoulders. “I’m still mad. Maybe you can teach me that understanding you seem so good at.”
Giles smiled. “With age comes wisdom, although it isn’t always immediate wisdom.”
“The wise thing for me now is to be quiet, I think.”
“You’ll need to speak to her at some point,” Giles coaxed.
“I’ll just say something stupid, and then things will be worse and…” Willow gave a heavy sigh and rolled her eyes. “I’m still mad Giles. You might not hold what happened to you against me, but…a part of me blames her, as far-fetched as that might sound.”
“Blames her?” Giles asked with a curious expression.
“I can’t shake the feeling that if I wasn’t defending her actions then you would have been okay. Sounds stupid I know but…it feels like you were hurt because of what she did.”
“I told you –”
“Oh I know,” Willow said. “Even as I defended her actions to Kennedy this morning, a part of me is just as angry about what Rowena did. I’ve gotta find a way past that first. So I will talk to her, but just not now. I need to calm down a little more.”
“When you feel you’re ready then?” Giles prompted. Willow simply nodded. “So, how’s your head feeling?”
“The head’s not bad, but the magic ability?” Willow harrumphed.
“Still having difficulty?”
“Difficulty would be promising.” Willow snorted. “Try zilch. Nada.” She paused and then added, “Well, that’s not entirely true. I did make a pencil wiggle today, so I guess that counts as something.”
“Take your time. You’ll get there,” Giles said optimistically.
“Maybe, but with a big bad coming to town – and God knows when it’s coming – I have the feeling I’ll be in the duck-and-cover stage of warfare. But then again…all my magical ability couldn’t save Marsha. So who’s to say, huh?”
Giles put his arm around Willow and pulled her head down to kiss her on the crown. “Powers or not, we’ll always need you. All of us, and especially me.”
“So, we’re good then?” Willow asked him.
Giles grinned. “We’re just fine,” he assured her.
Watchers Council – Faith’s Apartment – Same Time
Kennedy and Faith sat across from each other in Faith’s apartment.
“So this could really happen? I mean, this girl shows up, right?” Kennedy asked.
“Maybe, but my prophecy dream didn’t come true the way it was meant to, and I’m still here,” Faith replied. Kennedy didn’t appear too reassured, chewing on her fingernail. “Look, I talked to Giles, and he agrees to take you off patrol, just for the time being. The dream might not be anything, but let’s not tempt fate.”
“What if it is fate, like with your watcher’s murder? What if it can’t be changed?”
Faith looked away, unable to answer.
Watchers Council – Slayer Dorms – Same Time
Karen set her suitcase on the bed and opened it up. She pushed her shirt aside to reveal a dagger with a bizarre looking handle. With a deep sigh, she opened her cell phone and pushed a button. After a few moments a voice answered.
“Okay, I’m inside now,” she said nervously.
Office – Same Time
A figure in a chair swiveled around to reveal the face of James Tyrell.
“Good work, Miss Sturgess. You know what’s next.”
Watchers Council – Slayer Dorms – Same Time
“I do, but…” Karen said indecisively.
Office – Same Time
“Understand, Miss Sturgess. You have the chance to close the Hellmouth forever. One slayer is worth the world, worth saving other families like your own, isn’t it?”
Watchers Council – Slayer Dorms – Same Time
Karen didn’t answer immediately. She hung her head and picked up the dagger. “I suppose you’re right,” she muttered. “By midnight the intended Chosen One will be dead.”
Office – Same Time
From his office in England, Tyrell smiled.
End of Act Two