Watchers Council – Giles’s Apartment – Moments Later
Giles walked in from his kitchen, carrying a tea set. He handed a cup to Willow, who sat in the chair, while he took a seat on the sofa.
“I must admit, I was rather worried when you didn’t vote and left abruptly,” he began.
“I just needed to cool off. Well, that a-and try to provoke your former slayer into a fist fight.” Giles’s eyebrows rose, and Willow just grinned and brushed off the comment. “Truth is, Giles…” she began again, yet seemed to look for a starting place to explain. “I’m sad…I’m scared…And I don’t know if I can do this if you’re gone.”
“You can,” he told her. “And do you know why?” Willow shook her head nervously. “Because you realize that you have limitations…You will have fear, and you will have sadness. But the important thing, and you must listen carefully, the important thing is that you continue to admit it to yourself. By admitting it, you can overcome it.”
“So ‘outta sight outta mind’ won’t work, huh? Can’t it work just a little?” Willow asked, in an almost begging voice, but then she started to grin.
“I’m not dignifying that with an answer, because –”
“I already know the answer,” Willow told him.
Giles nodded. “Exactly. I’ve done all I can here. It’s time I move on, let the next generation take the lead. You have doubts, but I know in my heart and in my mind you can do it. You’re not alone in this, Willow.”
Willow began to tear up. “See? This is what I’m gonna miss,” she said. “Just being able to talk to you.”
Giles leaned over and patted her knee.
“I’m retiring, Willow, not dying. And chances are we’ll still stay here in the city, so you can see me whenever you want. My door will always be open to you – to you, Faith, Xander, anyone here at the Council. Do you understand?”
Willow sniffed and nodded silently. “I do, but it’s not quite the same thing.”
“No, it’s not,” Giles admitted. “But I can still be here when you really need me. It’s just that I have other priorities in my life now, things I never took time for before. And things, quite honestly, I hope you don’t miss out on. But please don’t think I’m leaving and going to sever all ties here. Bloody hell, I don’t think I could do that even if I tried.”
Willow gave a light giggle as Giles grinned.
“Thanks for the reassure-y talk, Giles,” Willow complimented him.
“You’re quite welcome,” he replied. “Now, drink your tea before it gets cold.”
“Yes, Dad,” she teased, making Giles smile.
Watchers Council – Meeting Space – Same Time
“Our men have never seen anything like this,” the general said, as he handed over some photos. “We think this might be your area of expertise.”
Faith flipped through them and twisted one picture around to show the general and Rowena.
“If not, this wins the freak award of the year, Watcher lady? Your thoughts?”
“Freak indeed,” Rowena answered. “But I know what it is. It’s a Whitters demon.”
“A what?” the general asked.
“Whitters demon,” Rowena repeated. “Aside from being a deadly creature, you might have a larger problem on your hands.”
“This thing has…eaten…ten of our men. How much larger can it get?” he asked.
“Whitters demons aren’t inhabitants here. They can only be summoned. Someone is calling these creatures. We can destroy it, or them if there’s more than one, but that won’t stop the person from calling them forth again. If you want to stop the problem…”
“We have to find the source,” the general finished.
“Precisely,” Rowena said with a nod.
“Then what do you suggest?” the general asked.
Rowena and Faith looked at each other.
Watchers Council – Giles’s Apartment – Later that Afternoon
Rowena seemed surprised to see Becca answer the door to her and Giles’s apartment, looking stressed out and a bit weary.
“Heyyy Becca,” Rowena said cautiously. “Is the better half around?”
Becca shook her head. “He’s on a coffee and diaper run,” she answered. “Can I help you with something?”
Rowena cocked her head and completely ignored the question.
“When’s the last time you took a shower for more than five minutes, or walked outside this dinky apartment?”
Becca seemed to consider the question.
“I don’t remember,” she finally answered truthfully.
Rowena smiled. She walked inside the living room and over to the tiny crib where Elizabeth was starting to fuss. She went to the refrigerator next and took out a bottle.
“What are you doing?” Becca asked.
“Got a diaper bag?” Rowena asked. “Oh, there,” she said, pointing. She placed the bottle inside the bag, then slung the bag over her shoulder. Finally, Rowena leaned into the crib and gathered Elizabeth in her arms.
“You’re not getting this child back any sooner than eight p.m. tonight,” Rowena told her. “Go grab a shower and have Giles take you out for dinner after he gets back.”
Rowena moved to the door, but Becca chased after her. “Really, you don’t need to do that.”
“Don’t trust me?” Rowena asked.
“No, it’s not that. I…Look, I know I don’t look too great right now, but –”
“You need a break, Becca,” Rowena ordered, as she started on her way again.
Becca still gave chase. “But you need the travel pen, and the –”
“I’ve faced two major apocalypses, I can improv,” Rowena answered with a wink. “It will only be a few hours, so go enjoy yourself. Go on,” she shooed Becca away with her free hand.
Speechless, Becca watched Rowena close the door behind her, Elizabeth in her arms.
Watchers Council – Willow’s Apartment – Moments Later
Willow walked into her apartment to find Rowena sitting on the couch, holding Elizabeth and feeding her a bottle.
“Did we adopt while I was out?” Willow said with a slight grin.
Rowena just grinned back.
Willow walked over and looked at the baby. She placed her pinky down next to Elizabeth’s hand and smiled when the baby’s grabbing reflex kicked in.
“I came back to say I’m sorry,” Willow began. “I took it personally, and I shouldn’t have.”
“Apology accepted. But maybe you’re right. I should have said something to you. This decision…it affects not just me, but you too – both of us. I should have told you about it.” Willow just shrugged nervously. “I’ll just have to learn how to balance work and home a bit more,” Rowena added.
“We both will,” the witch said, determined. “So…peace?”
“Yeah,” Rowena said with a grin. She went back to watching the baby, who was now asleep, with the bottle’s nipple barely hanging in her mouth. Rowena put a cloth over her shoulder and raised the baby up. She began to rub her back, and soon a small burp surfaced.
“Heyyy, you’re pretty good at that,” Willow complimented.
“Younger sister,” Rowena answered. “It’s been a few decades, but it’s like riding a bicycle, I guess.”
“Think you’ll have one of your own someday?” Willow asked.
“Is there something about you you’re not telling me?” Rowena teased.
Willow smiled. “There are ways, you know…I was just curious.”
“Do you want children?” Rowena asked.
Willow suddenly looked nervous. “I’m not sure I’m mother material. Like the burping thing…I’d forget a-and my kid would probably explode.”
Rowena gave a soft chuckle.
“I think you’d make a great mom,” she said. “Protective, loving…you’ve got all the qualities it takes.”
“Nah, you’re just saying that because you have to,” Willow answered with a blush.
“Nope,” Rowena said firmly. “It’s a fact…And really, this wouldn’t be bad…But not now,” she added quickly.
“Oh no, not now,” Willow agreed. “But…someday?” she asked, with a hint of hopefulness in her voice.
Rowena smiled and seemed to consider it. “Yeah…someday.”
Restaurant – Later
“What is taking so long?” Becca asked. She looked over her shoulder toward the kitchen of the small restaurant.
“We just ordered,” Giles told her. “Take a few moments and just relax, Becca. I’m sure Elizabeth is just fine in Rowena’s care.”
“You realize this is a Hellmouth?” Becca prodded in a hushed tone. “Demons, vampires, apocalypses at every corner?”
“Everything is fine,” he assured her.
“Oh yeah? Let me ask something. How did Willow survive the blast?” Giles looked confused by the course the conversation had taken. “Everything was gone in Vor, and she just walked away. How do we know she’s not one of those cyborg things? Our daughter could be with a cyborg killer right now,” Becca whispered in a concerned voice.
Giles tried not to grin. “We did the tests on her. It’s Willow. Flesh and blood, and luckily with a great deal of her powers restored, which is how she did manage to escape…I’m sure Elizabeth is safe,” he added.
“I’m sorry, but right now the Council could be under attack from someone the Lover didn’t blow up, and then what? What if another Flayer guy, like his cousin or something, shows up looking for payback while we’re here…dining?” she asked, with a hint of sarcasm on the last word.
Giles began to look nervous as the waiter returned with two plates. “Well, Rowena does have to pack for her trip tomorrow,” he said to Becca.
“Exactly,” she agreed.
“Did you need anything else, sir?” the waiter asked.
Giles looked up at him and politely asked, “Yes, can we get the bill and have this boxed up to go please?”
Watchers Council – Willow’s Apartment – Minutes Later
Rowena opened the door to see Becca and Giles standing outside looking sheepish, holding their take-out boxes. She looked down at her watch.
“It’s seven o’clock,” she told them in an authoritative voice.
Becca blushed. “I know. We’re early but…you have to pack,” she replied.
“Uh huh,” Rowena said in a disbelieving tone, but then she began to grin. “Come on in, guys,” she said, holding the door open.
Willow walked in from the bedroom to see who had arrived, then sighed. She pulled five dollars out of her pocket and handed it to Rowena, who now wore a larger grin and slipped the money in her pocket. Willow then turned to Giles.
“Ya just couldn’t tell her no, could ya?” she accused Giles, while pointing at Becca.
“Well,” Giles began nervously. “We didn’t want to saddle you with our daughter…And Becca did make an argument about our early return that seemed convincing at the time,” he muttered.
They watched as Becca collected a sleeping Elizabeth from the floor.
“For what it’s worth,” Becca told Rowena, “I’m grateful for the short break. So, thank you.”
“Maybe next time you’ll be able to go the distance,” the young watcher teased.
“Hey, tonight was a start,” Becca retorted with a smile.
“That it was,” Rowena answered with a nod.
“Goodnight, guys,” Willow told them, as the parents made their way to the door.
“Night,” Becca answered for them both.
Rowena closed the door and smiled at Willow. “I can’t believe you thought they’d make it to eight,” she said with a chuckle.
“I thought Giles would make it to eight,” Willow punctuated with a raised finger.
“Well, I’m certain someone’s gonna grow up to be daddy’s little girl,” she answered. “A little speculation on Becca’s part and boom!…here they are.” Rowena chuckled again.
“Yeah, yeah. Rub it in, why dontcha?” Willow replied.
Rowena walked over and kissed Willow softly on the lips. While she did so, she reached into her pocket and handed the money back to Willow.
“You won fair and square,” Willow said, rejecting the bill.
“Ohhh, it’s not money that I want as payment,” Rowena said. She took Willow by the hand and led her toward the bedroom.
“Maybe I’m the winner after all,” Willow murmured as they walked along.
Iraq – Army Helicopter Pad – Day
With their faces shielded, Rowena, Faith, Buffy, Dawn, Andrew and Kennedy ran from the Council helicopter and across the cement helipad. Once the propellers were off, the group took off the smocks that covered their heads and dropped the gear they’d been holding. They shook the sand off themselves and wiped their eyes.
“Oh, this is gonna be fun,” Kennedy said, as she spit and wiped her lips. “I’m gonna have sand in places I shouldn’t for weeks.”
“Look alive,” Faith said to the group. Two formally dressed men approached them, one of whom was General Boeing.
“Glad you could make it,” Boeing told them. “This is Lieutenant Carrington. He’s talked to some of the men who gave eyewitness accounts of this thing we’ve got running around.”
“Good afternoon,” the Lieutenant said with a salute. “Let’s go inside.”
Iraq – Army Briefing Room – Moments Later
The Council members sat at one side of a table, while Boeing and Carrington sat on the opposite side.
“We’ve compiled a list of the usual suspects,” he answered. “But communication is a problem. Arabic, Farsi – these are languages most of our men don’t know.”
“I speak both,” Rowena told him. “Do you have locations? A starting place?”
“We do,” Boeing nodded. “Karabilah is where the creature was first sighted and where the last attack took place. That’s how we managed to get the pictures. A photojournalist was there to shoot the war and ended up shooting…something else.”
Faith sighed. “So let me see if I’ve got this straight. You want us to go into a hotspot, talk to the locals, who may or may not hate us, and try to figure out who’s behind this?”
Boeing shrugged. “Pretty much.”
“Does the phrase ‘needle in a haystack’ mean anything to you?” Faith asked.
“I know how difficult this is,” Boeing answered. “More than you realize. You’ll talk to people that might have answers but won’t give them because of fear or loyalty…I’m not gonna lie. This whole war is an uphill battle of epic proportions.” Boeing stood up and put a box on the table.
Buffy peeked her head over the box and then raised her hand.
“Uh, I don’t do guns,” she said.
“Believe me,” Boeing said, in a tone not to be challenged, “you do here.”
“I just don’t –” Buffy began, but Rowena cut her off.
“General Boeing,” she began, “can you provide an armed escort? We’ll take the weapons, since you’re advising it, but I’d like to be assured that our slayers will have additional support.”
“I’ve already made arrangements,” he told her.
“Good, because we’re here to kill monsters, not insurgents. Is that clear?”
“Crystal,” he answered.
“All right then,” Rowena told him with a nod. “How soon can we leave?”
“Say the word,” Boeing answered.
“We’ll be ready and waiting outside,” he said. Then he motioned to the Lieutenant to follow him.
Once they were gone, Faith released a deep sigh and reached into the box.
“So, how’d we get this crap detail?” she asked.
“No kidding,” Kennedy agreed.
“Look,” Dawn told them. “Bitching and whining isn’t gonna get this solved.”
“As much as it pains me to say this…” Buffy added, as she pulled out two guns and handed one to her sister. “Dawn’s right. Let’s just do what we gotta do and get back home. Preferably in one piece.”
Faith didn’t say anything or look at anyone, but the words seemed to impact her, and she simply cleared her throat and cocked the weapon.
Dawn, Andrew and the slayers then filed outside, but Rowena lagged behind. She reached into the box and pulled out a handgun, looking at it for a moment. With a sigh of her own, she tucked it into her waistband and squared her shoulders. Confidently, she strolled from the room.
Iraq – Dilapidated House – Day
Dawn, Andrew, and the slayers looked out front the window of the house they stood in. Their armed guards were visible in front of the house, standing near their army vehicle. Inside, Rowena sat next to an older Iraqi woman on a tattered sofa, both of them speaking Farsi. Faith looked over to see Rowena nodding and writing something down on a pad of paper.
“You know what amazes me?” Faith said to no one in particular.
“What?” Kennedy asked.
“The only WMD in this entire country is a Whitters of Mass Destruction.”
Kennedy gave a slight smile. “And if we get lucky, we’ll be at the right place at the right time. Not to mention the fact we have no idea who’s the genius behind bringing them here.”
“It really won’t be too tough,” Andrew told the group. They all looked at him in disbelief for a moment. “No, really,” he insisted. “Dawn and I can do the casting to try to pinpoint a location, and then a little chant here, a little chant there, and we’re done.”
“And as for the demon itself?” Faith asked incredulously.
“That’s your department, ladies,” he said in a timid voice, motioning to Buffy, Faith and Kennedy. “I’m just a summoning expert. You just slay.”
“Just slay,” Buffy sighed. “Boy, do I feel loved.”
“No,” Andrew said quickly. “Slaying is a big deal – a really big deal. It’s just…you know…we find it, you kill it.”
Faith shrugged. “Yeah, that about sums it up. Only it’s usually not a hundred and twenty degrees outside.”
“Technically, it’s only a hundred and fifteen today. I saw the forecast on the Weather Channel before we left,” Andrew replied. Faith gave him a stern look. “But I get the point,” he added quietly.
They all turned to see Rowena walk over to them.
“What’s the news, Blondie?” Faith asked as she arrived.
“She claims her daughter saw the demon a few weeks back, and the people are now calling it ﻥﺩﺭﻜ ﻝﺎﻤﮔﻴﺭ ﺎﻴ ﻝﺎﻤ ﻥﺸ ‘ﻥﺩﺯﻩﺩﺎﺒﻨﺴ ‘ﻥﺩﻴﺸﺎﭙ ﻥﺸ ‘ﺎﻴﺭﺩ ﻩﻨﺍﺭﻜ ﻥﺸ ‘ﮒﻴﺭ ‘ﻥﺸ ‘ﻩﺴﺎﻤ ﻩﺜﺠﻠﺍ ﻡﻴﻅﻋ ‘ﻩﺒﻭﺠﻋﺍ ‘ﻻﻭﻴﻫ ‘ﺕﻴﺭﻔﻋ.” Faith blinked and shook her head in confusion. “It means sand monster,” Rowena added.
“Her daughter saw it?” Dawn asked. Rowena just nodded. “Okay, we’ll go talk to her next.”
“Why not?” Faith asked impatiently.
“Killed in a car bomb explosion,” Rowena said softly. “She didn’t want to discuss it, and I didn’t want to press. Besides, we’ve got other leads we can check out. We’ll come back here only if we need to.”
Faith sighed. “So…next stop?”
“According to the General, it seems to be making its way toward the installations, so we could do that. He’s got another person here on the list,” she said, waving her notebook briefly. “Or we could have Dawn and Andrew try the location spell again to get a fix on who’s casting. We can see if it works this time.”
“Sorry,” Dawn said. “I’m not sure why it showed the base. The general says they have no insurgents there in custody at the moment.”
“It might be a residual thing,” Andrew added. “Like leftover aura or something. Maybe we can call Willow and see what she thinks.”
“Anything that gets us out of here sooner, I’m all for,” Faith answered. She started toward the door.
Faith immediately responded by making her way to the front door, but the Iraqi woman grabbed her arm.
“ﻥﺩﻨﺎﺘﺴﻴﺍ ‘ﻥﺩﺎﺘﺴﻴﺍ ‘ﺕﺴﻴﺍ !” she shouted.
Faith looked confused, and then another blast went off again, only this time louder, with more impact. The woman pulled Faith down to the floor with her, and the rest of the team followed suit.
“Sounds like the Fourth of July out there,” Andrew said, his hands over his ears.
“Those aren’t fireworks, Andrew,” Kennedy answered. “Of course, if you’d like to go out and check, be my guest.” She motioned outside.
“I’ll pass,” he replied.
Rowena crept to the wall next to the window and looked outside for a brief moment. She watched as their two escorts hid behind their vehicle, popping up briefly to return fire in the distance. Suddenly, a barrage of bullets sprayed across the truck, and the two soldiers dropped dead to the ground.
For a moment, everything was quiet. Then Dawn asked, “Is that it?”
Rowena watched as two men carrying AK-47’s crept toward the house.
“Oh Christ,” the watcher swore. She pulled her gun.
“I’ll take that as a no,” Dawn replied.
“Everyone stay here,” Rowena told them. She turned to the woman who was still holding onto Faith. “ﻭﺭﻫﺍﺭ ‘ﺭﺩ ‘ﺏﺭﺩ?” she asked, as she pointed to the door in the room and then toward the back of the house.
The woman nodded swiftly. Rowena nodded back and cocked her weapon. “You guys stay put for now,” she said. Her eyes were fixed on the two men outside, who were now kicking the soldiers’ legs to see if they were still alive.
Rowena began to creep along the ground. “What the hell are you doing?” Kennedy furtively whispered.
“Trying to get home,” the watcher answered.
Kennedy and Buffy traded concerned looks, and then each quickly took a side at the window and rose up briefly to glance outside.
End of Act Three