Watchers Council – Grounds – Next Day
Ethan and Willow walked quietly across the grounds of the Council. Rupert-the-dog bounded merrily alongside them, often following his nose in search of an interesting scent.
“Don’t you think your plan is a bit, well, sketchy, kinda?” Willow posed to Ethan. “I mean, the Fire Eater’s already shown it’s a little bit scared of us, but I don’t have any real powers and the Coven…well, without Jeff, they wouldn’t be much of a force against it, either.”
“Your powers,” Ethan responded, “are re-evolving more and more each time we meet. It’s only a matter of time. That and the Va’al Kabeth exercises I’ve been making you do. You’ll be yourself, better, in fact, before you know it.”
“I know you’re right,” Willow said. “It’s like, when you help me, I feel like I could be my old self in no time. No one else makes me feel that way, Ethan.”
Ethan clutched his hand dramatically to his chest and deadpanned, “Oh, be still my heart!”
She punched him affectionately in the arm as they continued to walk and talk.
Rooftop – Nearby Building – Same Time
Il Pappagallo stared down a long rifle barrel at the pair walking on the Council grounds.
“I don’t get it, Pudge,” Tommy said. “I thought they call him ‘Papa.'” He nodded towards the hit man. “What’s with the ‘Il Pappagallo?’ Don’t that mean bird?”
“Parrot,” Vince answered.
“Yeah, but parrots talk a lot, and he don’t.”
“Yeah, and you talk too much!” Vince said.
Tommy held still for almost three seconds. “Whattsa matter? Why don’t he take the shot?” he asked.
“Shut up, he’s aimin’,” Vince replied. Then, to the hit man, he said, “Uh, scusi, Papa, but is everything, y’know…alright?”
Il Papa did not answer. He continued to squint through his sights at Ethan, Willow and the big tri-color dog jumping up and down around them.
“Papa…” Vince came up alongside him. “Why don’t you take the shot?” Vince looked at the pair. “Look, I know Jimmy said the redhead broad is supposed to be off limits, but she ain’t even in the way.”
Il Pappagallo kept his gaze fixed and the rifle steady as he quietly replied, “Dog’s in the way.”
“Dog!” Tommy said joining them. “Forget the damn dog! What the hell kinda b.s. is that?”
“I don’t kill dogs,” Il Pappagallo replied.
Watchers Council – Library – Same Time
Giles watched as Ethan and Willow made their way across the Council’s grounds. He saw Ethan clutch his chest and say something, and Willow laugh and hit Ethan good-naturedly in the arm. The dog seemed to sense the light mood and turned playful, jumping, barking and nipping the air around them.
“Bugger,” Giles muttered at the distant sorcerer.
He pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers, unseating his eyeglasses a bit.
Giles jumped as a hand touched his shoulder. He turned to see Becca standing there, watching along with him.
“She’ll always need you,” Becca said softly. “You’ll always be number one.”
Giles gave an awkward grin. “How is it you know how to get inside my mind?” he asked rhetorically.
Becca shrugged. “Just a good match, I guess,” she answered.
Giles looked serious again. “It’s more than that, though. I’m worried for her, scared actually.”
“I know you don’t trust Ethan…but have some faith and trust Willow.” She ran her hand down his back and stood on her tip-toes to kiss his cheek. “I’m going to take a nap. Get me if you need me.”
He watched her slip from the room before re-adjusting his glasses and picking up the blue-bound volume Ethan had bookmarked for him. He began to read about the Fire Eater.
Watchers Council – Grounds – Same Time
Rupert-the-dog suddenly stopped jumping around, as if he caught a whiff of something. Not far off, a small rabbit sat up, alert. The dog lunged forward, tail high, hell bent for the rabbit.
“Oh no,” Willow said, as she saw the rabbit stiffen, then run from the fast-approaching dog.
“Don’t worry,” Ethan assured her, “he won’t hurt it. For him, it’s merely the thrill of the chase.”
Willow stole a sideways glance at Ethan, but said nothing.
Rooftop – Nearby Building – Same Time
The hit man finally had a clear shot and his finger pulled the trigger.
Watchers Council – Grounds – Same Time
Ethan and Willow had begun walking again when Ethan saw the barrier he’d placed around the Council begin to waver a little.
Willow saw it too. “Ethan…?”
“Rupert, DOWN!” Ethan commanded.
The dog, in full flight after the elusive rabbit, dropped like a stone to the ground.
“Ethan!” Willow cried.
Watchers Council – Library – Same Time
Giles watched the dog drop flat on command and heard the sound of Willow’s cry as the sorcerer side-armed her, knocking her off her feet and onto her side. Before she hit the ground, whatever had made the force field waver finally broke through and struck Ethan in the head. The force spun him around and he landed face down on the frozen ground.
Giles was in a dead run before Willow could scream again.
Rooftop – Nearby Building – Same Time
“Hurry up, will ya, old man?” Tommy groused under his breath, as he ran towards the access stairway. “Don’t kill dogs…” he muttered. “Jeez, what an assh –”
A bony hand landed on Tommy’s shoulder and turned him around to stare into Il Papa’s cold, clear eyes.
“That’s right,” Il Papa said. “Never killed an animal, not even by accident. But, there’s always an exception to the rule.” He patted Tommy sharply on the cheek and walked on ahead of him, with Vince right behind.
“Frikkin’ whale-hugger,” Tommy mumbled.
“Job’s done. That’s what matters,” Il Papa replied.
Watchers Council – Grounds – Same Time
Willow was shaking Ethan so violently that Giles could hear the sorcerer’s teeth clatter. A trail of blood dripped from Ethan’s temple.
“I can’t fix this!” she choked out at the kneeling watcher. “I can’t. Giles, I can’t fix…”
She began to sob. Rupert-the-dog pranced nervously to and fro, whining and half-barking at Ethan, then at Giles, then back at Ethan again.
Giles lifted Ethan up by the shoulders.
“He’s alive,” he said aloud to himself, as Willow’s sobs and the dog’s whining filled his ears. “Willow, calm down! He’s alive! Ethan is alive! Do you hear me?”
Willow choked back on her sobs and looked down. Ethan was beginning to stir. A low moan escaped him and his eyes fluttered open.
Rupert-dog licked his master’s face.
“Ethan?” Giles managed to keep his voice even. “Ethan. Look at me. Ethan.”
Ethan lifted one hand, resting it on the dog’s neck, and the dog sat down quietly. Then he turned his head and looked over at Willow, then up at Giles who held him in his arms.
“Ripper,” he said groggily. Then with a mischievous grin, he added, “Not in front of the children.”
“Can you stand?” Giles asked flatly.
Ethan looked up and down the arms that supported him, then looked back at Giles. “Yes, but wouldn’t you rather lie dow – OW!”
Giles hoisted him up onto his feet. Ethan teetered a little and Willow steadied him.
“Willow,” Giles focused on her, “what did you see?”
“Nothing,” she said. “Well, no one. But something broke through Ethan’s barrier.”
“Anyone who was around is long gone by now,” Giles concluded.
“Yeah, but judging by that scratch I’d say there’s a bullet somewhere around here with Ethan’s name all over it.”
“Not to mention a headache,” Ethan grimaced, as he placed his hand over the bloodied spot where the bullet grazed him.
“You turned your head just as it hit,” Giles said. “When you pushed Willow away.”
“You are linked!” Willow cried. “I knew it.”
Both men stared at her. “What have you been feeding her head with, now?” Giles asked.
Ethan shrugged. “She’s convinced herself we’ve some mystical connection. Some telepathy or symbiosis, you know,” he smiled seductively, splaying his hands at his sides, “joined at the hip.” He made a small, lewd movement in Giles’s direction.
Willow’s cheeks colored deeply.
Giles ignored Ethan’s comment and gesture. Seeing Willow’s embarrassment, he said simply to her, “I saw you out the library window.”
“And how did you know when to look?” Ethan baited.
“I’m always watching you, Ethan.” Giles said coldly.
“Oh, of course,” He turned to Willow, with a conspiratorial smile. “You’re a watcher, now. You never used to like to just watch…but…”
Ethan turned and saw that Giles was many yards away, walking quickly back to the building.
Jimmy Volano’s Office – Later that Day
“Yeah. It’s done,” Jimmy Volano said into the receiver, as Vince and Tommy looked on. “What else has She got?” he smiled smugly across at them.
Il Pappagallo stood with his back to all of them, staring out the office window.
Tommy turned his attention to the only other person in the room: the woman sitting off to one side in the big, leather armchair. The leather outfit she wore nearly blended into the chair she sat in. Her blonde hair, shining and pulled back, stood out in contrast. She seemed not to hear the phone conversation, nor even to be aware of the men in the room.
Tommy leered at her as she stared off into space. Then he let his eyes roam down to her crossed legs. He followed their smooth lines, from the dainty ankles to the slight fold of leather where it creased at her hips.
The blonde bowed her head and stared at the floor for a moment. Then she slowly lifted her head and stared coldly at Tommy. His leering grin faded and he looked away uncomfortably.
Jimmy’s mood changed abruptly. “What! But he went down. They saw him! You callin’ me a liar?”
Il Papa turned his head slightly towards Jimmy. Then he went back to staring out the window.
“He is the best. Yeah, well, you didn’t tell us they have some kinda wall or somethin’…I don’t know, some shiny thing, it took the bullet a long time to get through. Yeah, well, that’s your headache!” He slammed the receiver down. “Screw you,” he muttered at the phone.
“That was the Limey, Rodham. He said She wants the job done right this time,” Jimmy looked at Vince and Tommy. “Idiots,” he said disgustedly.
“Hey Jimmy, who the hell is this Lovergirl broad, tellin’ you what t’do?” Tommy griped.
Jimmy glared at him. Vince hit him in the arm. “Shut up!” he hissed at the young hood. Silence fell over the room.
Jimmy walked over to a wooden armoire and took a bottle of scotch and a shot glass out of it. He poured himself a drink, shaking his head angrily. He swallowed the scotch and shook his head again. Then he felt a feather-light touch on his sleeve. He turned his head to see the blonde standing at his elbow. “Hey, Angella.”
The woman brought her lips very close to his ear and he waited, her breath tickling his earlobe. “My Mistress,” she said, so that only he could hear her, “is not interested in the sorcerer Rayne. He is…” she paused for a moment, as though thinking, or listening, “…mundane. But he is also very powerful. And meddlesome. His service is no longer wanted. He could cause…”
“Trouble, I get it,” Jimmy said, looking deeply into her eyes. He raised his head up until his nose was near her forehead. Then he inhaled the scent of her blonde hair. “Okay, Ang’,” he said, as he lowered his head. His lips were so close to hers, he nearly brushed them as he said, “We’ll take care of it. There’s nothin’ worse than a wiseguy gone bad.”
“I’ll tell ya what’s worse,” Tommy cut in, “and that’s a broad that goes around givin’ orders.”
“Shut up!” Jimmy barked. “Ya gotta know when to say ‘screw you’ and when to say ‘okay,’ capisce? That’s how you get to be a boss. Or an old hit man, eh, Papa?”
Il Pappagallo turned and walked to the door. He opened it. “Tomorrow,” he said over his shoulder. He walked out without closing the door behind him.
Watchers Council – Ethan’s Apartment – Afternoon
Ethan sat on the couch in the simple, spare apartment he’d been given by the Watchers Council. He sipped a rum-and-coke. The painkillers the doctor gave him lay on the end table.
Rupert-the-dog got up from in front of the fireplace, as the wood continued to crackle and hiss. He walked to Ethan, sat down, and looked into the sorcerer’s vacant eyes.
Whimpering a little, the dog nudged the hand that held the drink, making some of it spill on Ethan’s pants.
Rupert backed away.
“Oh, come over here. I’m not mad. Just…” Ethan put the drink on the end table and leaned towards the dog. “They’ve made their move. And now they know I’m on to them. Very smart of them, don’t you think, to call a mob hit on me?”
The dog made a throaty sound.
Ethan smiled. “Well, it’s not the kind of ‘hit’ I would ever have expected.”
His smile faded and his expression grew serious. “Now listen,” he grabbed the dog on either side of the neck. “You’re not to pull any heroics. Do you understand me? If it’s my time, it’s my time. You just do as I say, as always. And if I’m not around to tell you what to do anymore, you’re to return here. To this place. Do you understand? Do you?” he shook the dog a little. Then he let go.
“They’ll take care of you here…” he said, his voice trailing off and his eyes going vacant again.
“Yes, we seem to attract a lot of strays these days,” Giles’s voice came from the entryway.
Ethan turned, a bit too fast, and grimaced at the sharp pain over his left eye.
“Ripper!” he managed to smile. “Come to kiss and make up?”
“Make up for what?” Giles asked, disinterestedly.
“Whatever it is you’re going to accuse me of,” Ethan shot back, only half-joking.
“Who were they?” Giles asked.
“If I knew, I’d take care of it,” Ethan replied. “But it’s probably someone hired by Cyril and the Organization, which I believe is just an agency under the Presidium. Probably one of many.”
Giles picked up the rum-and-coke and sniffed it. He turned his nose at it and put it back down beside the pain pills.
“You should take those,” he said flatly, “and get some rest.”
Ethan gave Giles a disdainful look. “Really,” he said, fighting a smile, “don’t be maudlin. It’s so unbecomi –”
“Ethan,” Giles interrupted. “Do you think the Fire Eater is…part of this assassination attempt on you?”
“What’s that? You’re elevating me from a mere hit to assasssination attempt? Why Ripper, I’m a-flutter.”
“Is it possible that the Fire Eater was sent after you?”
“I suppose it is,” Ethan said, finally matching Giles’s business-like mood. “But what’s more likely to be the case is that this Eater was awakened by something, maybe even the Presidium, and was either sent or drawn here, where it would certainly begin a feeding frenzy.”
“Ripper, listen. It feeds on potential energy, right? The energy one finds in the most spirited of souls, souls with fire and passion…a true zest for life and living and –” He stopped, seeing Giles’s blank expression. “Ripper, what better source of that kind of energy than…” He waited expectantly, raising his hands to the room around him.
“An institution full of slayers and developing Wiccans and Watchers.” Giles realized.
Ethan put a finger on his own nose to indicate Giles had guessed correctly.
“So, you see,” Ethan said, coming eye to eye with him, “they may have sent it after me, but why bother when I can be brought down by my own simple mistakes, like not setting a barrier that would stop a bullet? I mean really, old man, why pull out a bazooka,” he smiled mockingly, “when a pistol will do?” He patted Giles on the thigh before reaching back for his drink.
“Giles! Giles!” Dawn’s voice called from the hallway.
Giles turned and went quickly to the door.
“Giles! They just brought Shannon into the infirmary! She’s not making a lot of sense, but I think she saw the Fire Eater. It almost got her again!”
“Who is Shannon?” Ethan asked, following Giles out of the room.
“She’s a slayer,” Dawn called back over her shoulder, as the two men followed her to the infirmary. “She’s the one whose watcher died saving her.”
Rupert-the-dog trotted down the hall behind them.
Watchers Council – Infirmary – Moments Later
Kennedy saw Giles and Ethan appear at the door. Behind her, in the windowed ICU, lay Shannon, a twelve-year-old slayer with dark hair and a slight build. She was struggling against the bed restraints that held her. She had broken one arm free and was thrashing wildly with it. An intravenous tube was swinging back and forth over her. The nurse tried to grab it and the girl’s elbow struck her across the jaw.
“Dawn,” Giles said, “let Willow and the others know. I want everyone accounted for and on full alert.”
“Right!” Dawn said. She hurried off, nearly stumbling over Rupert-the-dog.
“Kennedy, check on Becca. She’s resting in my apartment. Then get Mia’s group together in the training room and wait for my instructions.”
“Gotcha!” Ken said, then left at a run. She sidestepped the dog, who had discovered an open cardboard box full of young adult reading books, toys and games on the bottom shelf of a medical cart.
Inside the ICU, Shannon knocked a syringe out of Doctor Miller’s hand, while the nurse tried in vain to calm the girl down. The doctor turned, perspiring, and saw Giles and Ethan watching from outside the window. He popped his head out the door.
“Mr. Giles, please, I could use the help of a couple of the girls here.”
“She’s not a danger to anyone but herself,” Giles protested.
“My nurse and I feel otherwise at the moment. We can’t get close enough to give her anything to calm her. That’s why I need a couple of the others. Have you ever tried to sedate one of these girls?”
“I did once,” Ethan offered congenially, “to ease the application of a tattoo.”
Giles pushed his hair back with one hand and sighed at the reference to Buffy. “I’ll call for one of –”
“Oh! What is this animal doing in here?” the nurse cried.
Rupert-the-dog had entered the ICU and had his front paws up on the bed, alongside the young slayer. He had something in his mouth and gave a couple of muffled woofs through it.
“Damn that dog!” Giles cursed, as he started for the room.
“Wait…” Ethan caught him by the arm.
Giles stopped and watched as the dog dropped a white stuffed Easter bunny with pink ears onto the girl’s chest. The young girl’s thrashing began to subside and her breathing, though labored, slowed. She calmed enough for the nurse to re-connect the intravenous tube and the doctor to give her a sedative, as she focused on the dog beside her. Rupert-dog whined at her a little and she blinked a few times, then fell asleep.
Doctor Miller came out of the room, herding the dog before him. “Well, your dog was a help,” he told Ethan.
“Taught him everything he knows,” Ethan replied smugly.
“Perhaps you could bring him back a little later,” Doctor Miller said, patting Rupert. “He certainly calmed her down.”
Ethan looked sideways at Giles. “I’m sorry, Doctor,” Ethan replied, “but Mr. Giles insists I always stick to the rules.”
Doctor Miller nodded. “I’ll keep you posted,” he told Giles, and returned to his patient.
Giles angrily left the ICU.
“Stay!” Ethan told the dog.
Watchers Council – Corridor Outside Infirmary – Moments Later
Ethan trotted to catch up to Giles.
“You know how I feel about familiars,” Giles rounded on him before he could speak. “And that dog’s finally proved that he is one.”
“You’re wrong,” Ethan said pointedly. “He’s just a dog.”
“Where did he come from?”
“I’ve told you,” Ethan said, irritated. “I found him. He was abandoned and I took him in. I took care of him. I gave him a name of his own. I taught him as much as I could.” His expression hardened. “I’ve given him what he needs, and in return I get his loyalty and devotion. Touching, isn’t it?”
“You’ve imbued him with –”
“Love? That’s always been a difficult concept for you, hasn’t it, Ripper?”
Giles saw Ethan’s eyes quickly darken.
“That a creature can respond in surprising measure,” Ethan’s eyes began to turn black, “to the least little bit of –”
“Calm down,” Giles said, backing up a step.
Ethan stared harshly at Giles for a moment, then took a few deep breaths.
Giles watched his eyes return to normal.
“That’s the wonderful thing about dogs,” Ethan said, allowing a sardonic smile to cross his lips. “Slip them a bone and they’re yours for life.”
Giles stared back hard at Ethan. “Get him out of the infirmary,” he said firmly. He left Ethan standing in the hall.
The sorcerer watched the departing watcher turn the far corner. Then he felt something plush and slightly soggy meet the palm of his hand. He looked down. Rupert-the-dog held the Easter bunny in his mouth, fervently offering it to Ethan.
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Evening
“So,” Giles said, “Shannon just left for home with her family. Doctor Miller’s going to follow her progress, but he says, aside from the shock, she should be all right. I don’t know if she’ll be returning to us or not. And I’m still not clear on what happened.”
“She was working out with Ken when the Fire Eater appeared,” Rowena said.
“Where is Ken?” Robin asked.
“I have her posted outside my apartment, keeping an eye on Becca,” Giles replied.
“The Eater, it was plainly visible?” Ethan asked Rowena.
“It was pretty opaque, but not in any recognizable form.”
“Well, the spell is still holding, then.”
“Apparently,” Rowena continued. “Ken told Shannon to run, but the Fire Eater was too fast for her and got around her before she could get out of the training room. Ken grabbed a crossbow and fired at it, but the arrow went right through it. But it did slow it down, somewhat. And the shot seemed to distract it, according to Ken.”
Ethan’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean?”
“Kennedy told me that as soon as the arrow pierced the Eater, it slowed and seemed to twist, like it was turning towards her. When it ‘turned,’ it missed Shannon – or maybe not completely. Ken said it almost seemed to graze her. And then, it just folded up and disappeared.”
“It did the same thing the last time we met it head-on,” Ethan said, thoughtfully. Something seemed to occur to him. “Ripper, do you have that small book of spells, the little one with the brown cover? We never used anything from it, but it was always required reading at the Academy…”
Giles hesitated in answering, looking contemptuously at the sorcerer. Then he sighed and asked, “You mean the small one, with the eclipsed sun on the cover?”
“Yes, The Little Brown Spellbook,” Ethan said.
“The Little Book of Spells for Our Time,” Giles corrected. “But everyone called it The Little Brown–'”
“Yes, Ripper, do you have it?”
“Yes. I…found it too quaint to merely throw away.”
“Good. Let’s get it. I think I know how to manifest this thing.”
Ethan and Giles got up from the table.
“Continue on with the meeting,” Giles told the others.
Watchers Council – Coven Room – Evening
Ethan and Willow had just finished putting the last of the cuttings into the bowl.
“Are you sure this is gonna work? I mean, it seems so simple and –”
He looked at her balefully.
” –and hey! Simple answers…often the best.”
“Grind this,” he said, handing her the mortar and pestle. Inside were some tiny splintered bones. “Add it to the rest.”
She did as he instructed, and as she added the bone to the pulverized roots, herbs and essences, Ethan channeled his energies and chanted from the small, brown spellbook.
The ingredients in the bowl began to glimmer and sparkle with an iridescent glow. Willow blinked at the initial brightness of it. Then it toned down a bit and took on a sparkling hue of many colors and varied luminance.
“Sooooo…” she said, as the sparkling substance stabilized, “let me get this straight. We’re gonna throw fairy dust at it?”
“How’s it going in here?” Giles said, poking his head in the door.
“Great!” Willow said, half-heartedly. “All we need is Tinkerbell and a boy in tights and we’ll be ready to save Wendy.”
“Well, how fortunate. Ethan can fill all the roles,” Giles said dourly, as he approached the glowing compound. “Oh, sorry, he’s already playing Wendy.”
“All right. That’s it.” Ethan stood. “You’ve been an utter bore ever since I got here. Let’s have it then. What’s gotten into you? Or needs to?”
Giles turned to Willow. “Please leave us,” he said calmly. “And take that…animal with you.”
Willow called to Rupert. He stood and looked up at Ethan.
“Go on, go on,” Ethan told the dog.
Once the witch and dog had gone, Giles rounded on Ethan. “I’ll tell you what’s wrong,” he said. “You’re not welcome here. And, honestly, you’re tiresome. By all accounts. It’s time you were gone. Time you got on with…whatever you do when you’re not annoying the bloody sodding hell out of me.”
“Oh. Is that all? Tell me, Ripper, does the Little Red Witch share this sentiment?”
“Willow is quite vulnerable right now.”
“She‘s not alone,” Ethan said under his breath.
Giles glared at him. “She needs time to-to re-learn and replenish her powers, and to accept her limitations, however great or small they may ultimately be.”
“Yes,” Ethan agreed. “She needs a teacher who can help her do that.”
“That teacher will no longer be you. When we’ve finished with this Fire Eater, you will be leaving for good. You will not have any more communications with Willow o-o-or anyone else in this Council.”
“Not…anyone?” Ethan smirked.
Giles’s eyes flashed angrily. “To do so would be most unwise of you, Ethan.”
“The Little Red Witch won’t be happy about this.”
“I’m not interested in anyone’s happiness!”
“Apparently. But then, that wouldn’t be anything new.”
“Giles, Giles!” Kennedy’s voice broke over the walkie-talkie. “Giles, it’s here!”
Giles hit the general alarm as Ethan snatched the bowl of magic ingredients. The watcher raced out of the room and towards his own apartment, with Ethan on his heels.
End of Act Three