Watchers Council – Joelle and Norman’s Quarters – Morning
“But, Mom, I swear I won’t do it again,” Norman complained from his seat on the couch.
“That’s right, you won’t,” Joelle confirmed, pointing her finger at his location. “You’re staying right where I can see you.”
“Mom, it wasn’t a big deal. Besides, you don’t know what I saw.”
“I know what I saw, Norman. I saw you blue and unable to breathe yesterday, and today I see you looking like death warmed over. I don’t care what you saw or what you think you saw, but I don’t ever want to see you lookin’ so sick again. You have to stay healthy, or they can’t go ahead with –”
A knock at the door made Joelle and Norman turn their heads.
“I’ll get it!” Norman said, moving with great effort to get off the couch.
Joelle had already crossed the room and opened the door. Shannon stood there, looking very serious, then smiled when she saw Joelle.
“Hi, Mrs. Hansen,” the young slayer said.
“Shannon. What is it, dear? Norman can’t come out today.”
Shannon’s smile disappeared, and she looked questioningly at the woman. “I-I-Is it because of yesterday?” she asked. “I mean, he’s all right, isn’t he? He didn’t like, get scared or something, did he?”
“Shannon, I don’t know what it was that you two were doing, but Norman had an asthma attack right after he came back from wherever you went – without my permission – and I just can’t let him take those kinds of chances right now. You have to understand that Norman is not able to do what you do. He’s not completely well, and he gets very tired and very sick doing things that you don’t even give a thought to. Norman’s staying inside for a few days.”
Norman groaned at Joelle’s words.
“But if you want to come in and visit with him here, that’s fine.”
Shannon peered around the woman to see Norman sitting on the couch with his legs covered with a blanket.
Joelle glanced sideways, then gently asked the young slayer, “Now, would you like to come in and stay for breakfast?”
Shannon smiled shyly, and Joelle let her in. “Hey,” she said to Norman.
“Hey,” he answered back.
Joelle stood watching the exchange. She saw a look pass between the children. “All right, you two…I’m going in the kitchen. I’ll call you when it’s ready.” She left them to their visit.
Shannon joined Norman on the couch. “They just called a meeting,” Shannon whispered. “About the Shadow Demons.”
“I wanna hear what they say,” Norman said in hushed tones, “but my Mom’s dead serious. I can’t leave. And besides, they checked the last time they had a meeting to see if I was hanging around and made me leave before I could get enough for the picture.”
“Well, sure,” Shannon told him. “They don’t want outsiders listening in on their briefings about demons and – wait a minute. Does this mean you believe now?”
Norman looked away then back again. “I been goin’ over it in my mind, y’know? And there is no way dragons are real. But I saw what I saw. I still don’t believe in vampires and werewolves. And maybe that dragon is some weird kind of lizard that –”
“A lizard that understands everything Ken says?”
Norman didn’t answer.
“And…talks back?” Shannon said with a smug smile.
Norman frowned. “Look – okay. Okay, yeah, I believe it. I can’t believe I just said that. But okay.”
Shannon smiled and nodded her head. “Listen, I know what we can do. There’s a room that you can’t get to unless you go down the back stairway. It’s a little storage room where Xander keeps extra wood and stuff. But it’s like right on the other side of the briefing room. You can hear everything they say from there.”
“How do you know?”
Shannon smiled. “We used to use it when we cut class. One day, me and Mar –” Shannon looked down quickly for a moment, then continued. “Me and Marsha went in there so we didn’t have to take Willow’s boring old history of magic class. There was a meeting going on in the briefing room, and we heard everything. I don’t think anyone knows you can hear them in there. And then Xander was looking for a place to keep some extra stuff he had, so they let him use that room. No one goes there to cut class now because Xander might come in.”
“And what if he comes in while you’re in there?”
“He won’t. He’ll be in the meeting.”
“I’ll find out what’s going on, and then I’ll tell you everything.”
“Great. But make sure you write it down just the way they say it. If you don’t, the picture won’t be right.”
“Okay,” Shannon agreed. Then she turned and headed for the door.
“Write it down!” Norman called in a hoarse whisper. “Make sure.”
“Okay, okay!” Shannon whispered back. She left without another word.
A few moments passed, and Joelle came into the living room. The T.V. was on, and Norman was staring at it, oblivious to it.
“What happened to Shannon, sweetie?”
He looked over at Joelle. “Huh? Oh, uh, she had class.”
Joelle looked at him oddly. “On Saturday?”
Norman looked back at her, momentarily at a loss. “Sheenas!” he scoffed. “Go figure.”
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Moments Later
Rowena cast her eyes about the room. Present were Willow, Faith, Xander, Dawn and Andrew. Only Robin was missing from the group.
“Well then,” she began quickly. “There was another, more serious attack, this one on a Great Dane who had just been weaned of her pups. The dog was killed, unfortunately, but this time, the owners got a far better glimpse of the demons than anyone previous.”
“Wait a minute,” Dawn spoke up. “A glimpse? What about a look…a good look?”
“I’m afraid these creatures are far too swift to allow for a ‘good look’,” Rowena replied.
“Well, how’s that gonna help us?” Dawn asked.
“Good question,” Rowena said. “It really doesn’t help us. So, I’ve asked Andrew to tell us about an idea of his that I’ll be broaching with the city police. Andrew?”
Rowena gestured for Andrew to come to the front of the room. Andrew looked left and right at the assembled group.
“Okay, um, well what I was thinking was –” Andrew began.
Suddenly, the briefing room door swung open and hit the wall with a loud thump. Robin crutched in with long, reckless strides.
“Sorry I’m late,” he said angrily.
No one said anything. Xander moved to pull his chair out for him then stopped. Robin used his hip to push the chair back for himself and clattered down into it noisily. Uneasy glances coursed around the table.
“Don’t stop for me,” he said bitterly. “You started fine without me,” he finished under his breath.
Andrew waited until he saw Rowena look back at him, and then he began to explain. “See, when Jonathan and Warren and I were still together, we came up with this idea for a night vision camera that could also…”
In the small, adjoining stockroom, amidst two-by-fours, planes, broken-toothed saw blades and a saw-dusty assortment of wood scraps and worn woodworking equipment, Shannon sat with her ear to the wall and pencil to paper, scribbling notes as fast as she could.
Watchers Council – Training Grounds – Later that Morning
Kennedy surveyed the group of young slayers she had just put through their morning paces. They all looked up from where they sat on the ground, in anticipation of the announcement of the newest patrollee.
“Okay, Shannon,” Kennedy said without warning, “you’re on board.”
A few disappointed groans escaped some of the girls.
“All right, maggots. Get ready for laps,” Kennedy ordered.
The girls, some grumbling, got up and grouped together.
Shannon got up wordlessly with the rest. Noticing this, Kennedy’s brow knit and she walked over to the young slayer.
“Hey!” She said sharply to Shannon, as the other girls began their stretches. “Did you hear me?”
Shannon looked at Kennedy gravely. “Yeah,” she answered quietly. “Okay.”
“Okay? Just okay?” Kennedy gawked at her. “Look, if you don’t want to be on a patrol, I’ve got plenty of other little maggots just dying to.”
“Shannie’s afraid,” Lorinda snickered.
“Oh, Ken,” another mocked, “please be gentle, it’s my first time.”
There were a few giggles among the other girls. But Shannon seemed not to hear and kept looking squarely at Kennedy.
“It’s my time – turn,” Shannon said, her tone serious and mature. “I’m ready. Just tell me where to report tonight.”
Kennedy looked at her coldly as though trying to decide if Shannon was being a smart-aleck. “You’ll be with Vi’s group,” she said pointedly. “Get back with the others.”
Shannon obeyed with a nod and returned to the group.
“Second unit, oh well…” Lorinda whispered behind her. “I’ll make Kennedy’s unit. That’s where the good ones go.”
“Quiet!” Kennedy bellowed. “Now give me five laps around the perimeter. Go!”
The girls always ended their morning workout with laps, starting out slowly but ending up, as usual, in an all-out race among them to see who could finish first. Shannon, grave-faced and focused, outran all but the two tallest girls.
They were all a bit winded afterward and sat down on the ground for a moment to catch their breaths. Kennedy was talking to Vi, not far from the group, and the girls were now free to come and go as they pleased.
Shannon asked one of the other slayers to toss her gym bag over. Her friend complied and sent the bag soaring over the heads of four or five of the other girls. As it tumbled through the air, some of its contents fell out. A couple of the girls helped pick up the loose things and handed them to Shannon. All except one item.
“Hey, what’s –?” one of the girls began.
“Gimme that!” Lorinda grabbed the sheet of paper from the girl’s hand. “Hey! Hey, look at this!”
All at once, the girls surrounded Lorinda to see what had fallen from Shannon’s gym bag.
Kennedy and Vi stopped talking and looked over at the group.
The girls began to chatter at once. “Did Momma’s Boy do this?” “Shannie’s got a boyfriend.” “Hey Shannon, he drew you with your clothes on!”
Shannon, shoving the other girls aside, finally reached Lorinda.
“Give it!” she said, snatching at the paper.
Lorinda smiled and ducked away quickly. Shannon sprang. Suddenly the two girls were on the ground, one on top of the other, rolling in a tangle of legs and arms as each tried to punch the other. The other girls shouted and cheered for their favorite. Most were calling for Shannon, but they were out-voiced by Lorinda’s small, loud crew.
Lorinda cupped Shannon’s chin in the heel of her hand and pushed Shannon up off her a bit.
“You fight like a girl – a regular one!” Lorinda taunted her.
Shannon threw a side-arm punch, and would have caught Lorinda in the face, had another person not grabbed her arm in mid-swing.
“All right, all right,” Kennedy’s voice cut through the commotion.
Shannon was hauled up by both arms and pulled back into a standing position.
“Easy now,” Vi’s calm voice came from behind Shannon, as Vi continued to hold her by both arms. Shannon didn’t struggle.
Lorinda, held back by Kennedy, smiled mockingly at Shannon.
Kennedy moved to stand between the girls, then barked, “What the hell is going on?” No one answered. “What started this?” she demanded again.
One of the other girls picked up the crinkled paper from the ground and handed it to Kennedy. Kennedy looked at it. It was a Norman original: a well done, candid pencil drawing of Shannon sitting cross-legged on the grass with a baseball bat across her legs and a glove on the ground beside her. Kennedy folded the paper, then addressed the group.
“Hit the showers,” Kennedy told the young slayers, and the girls started to leave. “Not you!” she said, stopping Lorinda. “Take another five.”
“What?!” Lorinda objected. “Why? All I did was –”
“I know what you did. And it’s that kinda stuff that keeps you from going on a patrol.”
“You can’t keep me from –”
“Wanna make it ten?”
“Let’s go,” Vi told the grumbling Lorinda, and walked off with her to make sure the girl did the additional five laps.
Shannon looked down as Kennedy approached her with the drawing.
“Want to tell me about this?” Kennedy asked sharply.
Shannon shook her head no. “Are you gonna give that to Faith?” she asked quietly.
“Why would I?” Kennedy asked, handing the picture to her.
Shannon looked up in surprise.
“It’s yours, isn’t it?” Kennedy answered the girl’s unspoken question. “Just make sure you’re at the central recon area by six o’clock tonight. Both units meet there for a briefing, then we split up and go on patrol. But we got these Shadow Demons to look out for, so make sure you get some sleep this afternoon – whether you want it or not. I want wide-eyed slayers out there, not a bunch of sleepy little whiners. Now go on, hit the showers before I give you laps, too.”
Shannon quickly gathered her belongings and trotted off to the showers.
Kennedy watched her go, but turned her head and half-smiled at the sound of Vi’s sharp-tongued cry: “Hurry up, Lorinda! I have a life to live, you know…”
Watchers Council – Infirmary – Day
“So you see, Norman,” Dr. Miller said to the young boy sitting on his examination table, “now that we know that Faith is a good donor match, the next step is a big one.”
“Yeah, I know,” Norman responded. “More chemo, like before.”
Joelle stood next to her son, a supportive hand on his shoulder. Giles stood politely nearby, leaning against a wall.
“You’re right, there will be more chemo. But I’m going to be completely honest with you, Norman – it won’t be like before. The chemo will be intense. You’ll feel very sick from it. They’ll have to kill off all the bad cells, not just some or most of them.”
“I get it. All or nothin’.”
“But it won’t be forever. In fact, it’ll only be for a few days. Once your doctor in Atlanta knows all the bad cells are dead, he’ll get ready to introduce Faith’s bone marrow into your blood. The marrow will be infused using an IV. After that, you’re going to feel very sick for a few weeks. Sometimes, it may be very hard for you to stand it.”
“But then I get better and get to swing more than a couple of times a day, right?” Norman asked his mother.
Joelle looked at him, confused.
“Baseball, Momma,” Norman explained patiently.
“Your recovery will take a while, Norman,” Dr. Miller said. “It may be as long as a –”
“A year, I know,” Norman said. “I already read all this stuff.”
“Well then, that leaves just one question,” the doctor said, turning to Joelle. “How soon can the procedure be done?”
“So…” Norman cut in, “we go back home, Faith comes to Atlanta and gives me the bone marrow, and then she comes back here, right?”
“That’s right, sweetie,” Joelle answered her son.
“But…what if…what if I want to stay here and have it done? Can I?”
Joelle looked at Giles, who had remained silent up to that point.
“Norman,” Giles said gently, “why would you want to be here instead of home? Your recovery will be fairly difficult, and it will take a long time. Wouldn’t you rather be with your family?”
“Yeah, yeah…sure…but –”
“What is it, honey?” Joelle asked. “Tell us what’s on your mind.”
Norman looked at her and sighed. “I got friends here, Mom. I got Robin and Shannon. And a couple of the other Shee – I mean slayers – they’re not so bad, like I thought.” Norman’s eyes began to light up, and he spoke a little more quickly. “Anyway, they let me hang out with them when they play ball. And Robin tells me about when he was growing up and had a watcher – it was his mom’s watcher, but she was dead, and Robin was an orphan, and Dawn’s been tellin’ me all about Buffy, the greatest Slayer that ever lived…”
Giles cleared his throat to cover a chuckle.
“…and Andrew’s showin’ me how to play Dungeons and Dragons, and we play with that other guy, Jeff, and –”
“Norman…Norman!” Joelle laughed at her son’s animated comments. “Sweetie, I’m glad you’re makin’ friends here. That’s the best thing I’ve heard since – since they said your cancer was in remission. But now we gotta think hard about your health. And that means that you’re going to have to be in –”
“Don’t say it!” Norman cried. “Don’t say I’m gonna have to be in isolation. I already did that before!”
“Norman,” Dr. Miller interjected quietly, “your body will be very susceptible to viruses and any kind of bacterial infection that can find even the smallest foothold – a cut, a scratch, anything. Even things like fresh fruit and get-well flowers, which can carry bacteria, won’t be allowed in your room for a while, much less your friends.”
Norman’s face fell at the doctor’s words.
“But that’s not the end of it,” Dr. Miller continued. “It doesn’t stay that way. It gets better. Slowly – over months. But it does get better. It takes a full year for most people to recover. But judging by how positive you seem to be about getting better, I wouldn’t be surprised if your recovery is shorter than that.”
Norman looked down at the table and said nothing.
“Doctor,” Giles pulled the man aside and spoke to him quietly. “What if we were to perform the procedure here?”
“And allow Norman to stay here and recover?”
“If it was almost anything but this, I’d say it was feasible. But this is not something we should be doing here in our infirmary. Even the University Hospitals system here in Cleveland, as good as it is, is one step removed from the contiguous care he’s had at Grady Memorial in Atlanta.”
“But University is an excellent –”
“So is Grady, Mr. Giles. And this boy has come a long way under the care of his doctors and therapists there. Changing horses in midstream,” Dr. Miller said, looking at the downhearted child talking quietly with his mother, “would do more harm than good. Sending him home for the procedure and the recovery – away from the Council – might actually be the impetus he’ll need for getting better, since he’ll want to see his friends here again. In my professional opinion, this boy’s chances for recovery are greatest in his hometown, with his family by him and with the hope of returning here to see his new friends.”
“All right,” Giles said.
“Doctor Miller,” Joelle called.
Giles and the doctor turned to her and Norman.
“Norman’s decided that it would be better if he had the procedure done at home in Atlanta. And we all understand how he’s not gonna have visitors right off the shot. But…if Mr. Giles is all right with it, and he’s made enough progress, maybe Shannon can come and visit him during the school year when she’s got a little break. Maybe she could stay over with us for a week or two when Norman’s well enough to see folks outside the family. What do y’all think?”
Dr. Miller smiled. It was all Giles needed to see. “Well, of course that will depend on what Shannon’s parents have to say, but I don’t see that as a problem. In fact, I think it’s a bloody brilliant idea,” Giles said smoothly.
Norman looked at his mother and smiled broadly.
“See that, sugar-pie…it’s ‘bloody brilliant’,” Joelle said, smiling back.
“Mom, mom, can I go tell Shannon? Huh? Can I, can I? Mom?”
“There is still quite a bit to discuss,” Dr. Miller said. “But I suppose we can speak later on, or perhaps tomorrow?”
Joelle held her hands apart and smiled at Norman. “Go ‘head, baby, but don’t –”
Norman had already called out a fast “thanks” and was on his way out of the room.
” – run,” Joelle said to the slowly closing door.
Watchers Council – Gymnasium – Later that Afternoon
Robin watched as Faith took another swing at a punching bag. It shuddered as it rocked away from her. She uppercut it on the rebound, then hit it with a left hook. The chain it was on shook violently.
With a fierce cry, Faith lifted her leg high and kicked it so hard that Robin winced. The bag lifted a bit and came down hard. Robin thought the entire mechanism would tear out of its moorings, but it held.
“Looks like Xander’s reinforced stays are working,” he said as he crutched over toward Faith.
She glanced at him quickly and immediately began practicing her footwork. Robin watched her quick, light blows to the punching bag as she danced in front of it. He edged closer.
Faith’s hits became sharper and began to leave small indentations on the bag.
Robin turned to face her, standing right beside the bag. It brushed his shoulder.
Faith began hitting the bag in earnest.
Robin leaned a bit to his left, allowing the bag to take much of his weight and shifting it away from Faith, now in mid-stroke.
Slayer reflexes kicked in and Faith pulled her punch, just missing Robin’s chest. She held her fist in place where she had stopped its forward momentum and glared at Robin.
“What the hell are you doing?” she asked quietly, through anger.
“What the hell are you doing, Faith?”
“Workin’ out,” she said, tossing her head in an attempt at bravado.
“What the hell are you doing about Norman?”
“I’m doin’ the transplant,” she said.
“And what else?”
“What else is there?”
She gave a short laugh. “Whatsamatter, bone marrow not enough? Does he want my knife collection now, too?” She turned and began walking away.
Robin reached out to grab her by her right arm and nearly succeeded. But she pulled it around in front of her, and Robin felt her smooth skin slip from his fingers. He leaned forward and grabbed at her again.
Faith was turning back to him even before the telltale squeak of shoe leather and slipping crutch tip on the gym floor reached her ears. Slayer reflexes had stayed her hand; now they drove it forward to catch Robin before he could hit the ground.
Robin, halfway to the floor, set his crutch and, with Faith’s help, hoisted himself back into a standing position.
Faith felt his arm tremble a bit just before she let go of it.
They stood looking at one another for a moment, Robin embarrassed and Faith shame-faced.
“Faith…what’s going on with you?” Faith looked aside. “Norman needs your help.”
“I’m giving him my help,” she muttered.
“You’re giving him bone marrow. Anyone who matches his type could do that. Hell, I could do it.”
Faith said nothing and stared at the floor.
“Talk to me, Faith. Whatever’s going on –”
“You wouldn’t get it.”
“I said you wouldn’t get it.” She looked at the resolve in his eyes; he would not let her off the hook. She sighed. “You don’t – you had a mother. And a watcher. And they both cared about you. You know how to…take care of someone. Someone other than yourself. You can do that. I can’t. I don’t know how. And I don’t want to know how! It’s fine for you or Giles or…or anybody. But not me. It’s not what I want, Robin. I don’t want to be someone’s…anyone’s –”
“Jesus, Faith, don’t you ever want kids?”
“Kids! Don’t you ever want to have –” Robin looked at her as though seeing her for the first time.
“Hey, news flash, I already had one. And he’s been nothing but trouble ever since.”
Robin found his voice quickly. “Wrong. Wrong, Faith! You’re the one who’s been nothing but trouble ever since.”
“Well, look who just caught up,” she said, chuckling bitterly. “Funny, my family, my friends, my watchers – everybody agrees with you, Ace…
Voice Over: Mayor Wilkins: “…you‘ll always have me, Faith. I‘m the best, most important friend you‘ll ever have.”
“…well, not everybody,” Faith continued. “But practically everyone I’ve ever known agrees with what you just –”
“Hold on a minute, hold on,” Robin said.
Faith stopped talking and looked at him.
“Who’s ‘not everybody?’ Who are you talking about, Faith? Is it Wilkins? Is he the only person who didn’t see you as anything but trouble? Do you really think that’s all anybody here sees when they look at you, Faith?”
“He was the only one who treated me like I was…” Faith paused and drew a breath. “…like he was proud of me, like it didn’t matter to him if I was good, bad, slayer or just a…”
“Young, scared girl?”
“Faith, he came to you at a time when you felt completely alone and friendless. He saw a use for you and did use you to further his own plans.”
“I told you, you wouldn’t get it.”
“I do get it, Faith. It was more than just using you. I think that he really did care about you, that he really did see you as a sort of daughter to him. But I also know that he was all you had at the worst possible moment of your life.”
“But it’s more than just that,” Faith said. “I…I don’t know how to be anything better than what he was.”
Robin stared blankly at her.
“He…he’s all I really know about…being a parent.”
“What about your first watcher? Didn’t you learn anything from her?”
“A little. Yeah. But she was…she was weak. She wasn’t –”
“She wasn’t as strong as you. She wasn’t the match you should have had for a watcher, was she?”
Faith shook her head no. “If she had been, she’d still be alive.”
“So what are you saying? That the Mayor’s influence on you left you, what? Better? Worse?”
Faith sighed heavily. “I’ve been thinking about him a lot since the rugra– Norman got here. I’ve been remembering a lot of things, things that he said and did and gave me and showed me and…it’s all I have to go on. My own father tried to kill me. My mom died when I was real young. My watcher died when I was old enough to get it, but Wilkins was the only person I’ve ever known who treated me like I was…his. And I don’t know if I can be any better than that. A kid deserves better than what I know how to do. A lot better.”
“Oh, come off it, Faith. What’s the real reason?”
“That’s not real enough?” Faith was incredulous.
“Maybe it is for some uptown shrink. But I know you, Faith, and I know that while that may be part of it, it’s not the whole thing. Tell me.” When she didn’t answer, he added, “I said, tell me! ”
Faith looked down at Robin’s crutch, her jaw set tight and her eyes dark and angry.
Robin read her look. “Go ahead,” he told her. “Take your best shot, Faith. Kick it out from under me. Punch holes in all the walls. Yell about how nobody understands. Do anything you want…the day is yours. But remember this: whether you try to be or not, you’re always going to be Norman’s mother…”
V.O., Mayor Wilkins: “…always have me, Faith…”
“…whether you like it or not…”
V.O., Mayor Wilkins: “…always…Faith…”
Faith cupped her hands over her ears.
“…whether you try to shut my words out or not…”
V.O., Mayor Wilkins: “…me, Faith, always have, Faith, me always, Faith, always have, Faith, have me, always…always…always…”
“You lied! ” Faith screamed and began to cry.
Seconds later she brought fists to bear on Robin’s chest. He leaned back from them, but she stopped short of hitting him and merely rested them there. He could feel the tension in them.
“You said I’d always have –” She stopped.
Robin saw the look on her face and instinctively looked back over his shoulder. Seeing no one there, he looked back at her again, with grave concern.
“Faith, please. Just tell me.” He watched as she blinked droplets of salt water off her long eyelashes.
“They all leave,” she said, her voice shaking. “They die or they walk away.” She laughed bitterly. “Some of them run.”
Robin barely breathed or blinked as Faith spoke.
“He told me. He said, ‘You’ll always have me, Faith.’ And then he…he left, too.” She stopped.
Robin leaned into her, careful not to lose his balance.
“Wilkins,” he surmised. “Wilkins promised he’d always be there.”
“And Rosa, my Watcher. And my mom. And –”
“Faith…no one can guarantee they’re going to be around forever. But those people are still with you. They’re inside you, Faith, in your –”
“No,” she shook her head and turned from Robin. “They all left. I get too close, and it happens. It always happens. I lose them all.”
“Faith, listen. There are a whole bunch of people here that you’ve gotten close to and haven’t lost and, by the Powers That Be, they won’t leave you: Giles, Ken, Willow…even Dawn and Becca are closer to you than ever before. Your friends are here, and they aren’t leaving you.”
They were silent for a long moment, and when she looked back at Robin, there was a question in her eyes.
Robin ignored the look and continued. “I know Norman’s sick, Faith. And I know that there’s a very real chance that he won’t live very long. But that’s exactly why you have to get to know him. And know him well. Before you lose the opportunity altogether. It’s not going to be easy, but it’d be a whole lot easier if you let go of the fear and let him in. Can you do that? For once, can you do it?”
She didn’t answer, but her face grew sadder, and her eyes lost their glimmer.
“Listen to me, Faith. I’m no parent, but I do know something about kids. With kids, some things are easy, like teaching them to ride a bike. And some things are hard, like answering questions you’re still asking yourself. But there’s one thing that makes it all work, Faith – letting them in. Just let him in, Faith. Like Wilkins did for you.”
Faith lowered her eyes.
“I gotta go,” she said, avoiding his stare and collecting herself. “We’re on patrol for these Shadow Demons tonight.” She turned around and walked away. He called her name a couple of times, but she seemed not to hear him as she exited the gym. He looked after her until the door clanked shut.
Watchers Council – Slayer Staging Area – Later that Evening
Shannon paced the staging area nervously. She was half an hour early for her first patrol and the only one on the scene. She heard footsteps behind her and turned.
“Hey,” Norman said as he came up to her. “I’ve been lookin’ for you all afternoon.”
“Been resting. First patrol tonight.”
“You’re going on patrol?”
“Yeah, just got assigned this morning. My very first.”
“Wow! That’s…you’re lucky,” Norman said, allowing a little bitterness to come through. He looked at her glumly.
“Are you crazy? Do you know what slayers do on patrol?”
“Yeah, they hunt vampires and fight demons and stuff like that.”
“Yeah, and they get killed.”
Norman scoffed. “What a baby. I’d go in a minute if they asked me.”
“What?! And hang with a bunch of Sheenas? You’re so warped.”
“I’m not the one who doesn’t wanna go on patrol.”
“You think it’s easy? Norman, slayers die. They die all the time. They don’t always win. A lot of ’em don’t ever grow up! They don’t get to have sixteenth birthdays or eighteenth birthdays or-or ever get to do what grown-ups do. All we get, Norman, is fighting while facing death. All the time. And sometimes we don’t die. Sometimes our…watchers die instead.” Her voice broke a bit, and she blinked back tears.
“You mean, like yours did?” he asked quietly.
She nodded her head. “I couldn’t help him. I couldn’t see what was coming after me, and by the time I did see it, it was too late. And Peter just stepped in front, and it was my fault. I’m the slayer. I’m supposed to protect everyone.”
“I-I’m sorry. I get it. I-I-I didn’t know that’s how it happened.” He watched her gain control of herself before he asked, “Do you want to be a slayer anymore?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“But if you don’t like it…I mean, do you have to be? There’s not, like, a law or something, is there?”
Shannon laughed through her tears. “No. No law. Nobody has to be an actual slayer. Some slayers refuse to come to the Council. Some join and then leave. Others just ignore it or try to pretend they’re just regular girls. I think about what it’d be like to do that.”
“Well, if there’s no rule that says you have to, why don’t you just quit?”
“It’s hard to explain,” Shannon sighed. She looked down, lost in thought, and became very quiet.
Norman watched her for a moment. “Hey, Shannon? You mad at me?”
She looked up at him quizzically, then something seemed to occur to her. “Do you –?” she started then she hesitated. After a moment, she continued, “Do you like your name…’Norman’?”
He returned her puzzled look and said, “Heck no.”
“Think you’ll ever change it to something else?”
Norman thought for a moment. “No,” he said with some certainty. “No, I don’t think so.”
Norman crinkled his nose at her. “Well, even if I changed my name today, tomorrow I’d still…feel like ‘Norman.’ I’d still feel like that’s what I should be called. And that’s who I am. So what’s the point of changing my name?”
“Well,” Shannon answered, smiling just a little, “that’s what it’s like for me…being a slayer, that’s who I am.”
Kennedy and a few of the other slayers could be heard coming down the hall.
“Can’t talk anymore,” Shannon told Norman.
“Yeah, but I gotta tell you something –”
“Norman!” Kennedy barked. “This is a restricted area. Go back to your mother.” Kennedy shot a withering look at Shannon. “You know this is a restricted area,” she told the new recruit.
“My fault,” Norman said. “I found her, I have to tell her something.”
“Oh Shannie,” a voice from the group of slayers called, “I looooove you.” A chorus of giggles followed it.
“Enough!” Vi said from behind the group. The girls quieted immediately.
“I’ll talk to you when you get back,” Norman said.
“Let’s go,” Kennedy gave him a gentle push, in spite of her harsh tone. She herded him toward the hallway. He looked back over his shoulder at Shannon, who stood grave-faced and still. She was not looking back at him.
“Shannon!” Norman called out. “I’ll see you la –”
“Don’t wait up,” she said coldly, before joining her unit.
Watchers Council – Giles and Becca’s Apartment – Midnight
A sharp, piercing beep cut through layers of exhausted, dreamless sleep as Giles woke with a start. Becca was already up and heading into the baby’s room as Elizabeth wailed her displeasure at the Council’s emergency alarm.
Giles quickly turned on the light and hit the intercom switch next to the bed..
“How bad is it?” he asked, as he grabbed for the jeans lying heaped on the floor.
“We’ve sent the grounds patrol and the second unit to help,” Rowena’s voice rang in the bedroom.
“The grounds patrol…weren’t they breaking in a new girl tonight?”
He grimaced as he pulled on his socks. “Who’s with them?”
“Vi, Faith and Kennedy. I’ve got Xander and Willow heading out there, too. Giles, we really need you down he –”
“On my way,” he snapped off the intercom and pulled on a loose, dark t-shirt as he left the room.
Becca met him at the door with the baby in her arms. “How bad?”
“No casualties…yet.” He looked at her. “Maybe you could see to Joelle and Norman? This is always unsettling, even for those used to it. They’ll surely be alarmed.”
“I’ll go right away.”
Giles kissed Becca on the forehead. “Be careful what you say in front of Norman. Shannon’s in the midst of it, and it’s her first patrol.”
“It’ll be fine. Now go, they need you.”
Giles smiled at her, kissed the baby’s head quickly, and half-ran out of the apartment.
“Well, come on, little girl,” Becca crooned. She held the baby up near her face, rested her cheek beside the infant’s, and whispered, “Promise Mommy, you’ll never be a slayer…”
Cleveland Street – Same Time
Shannon made a roundhouse kick at the leaping creature, but it was too fast, and she missed it by a hair’s breadth, only to feel it strike her in the neck. She reached for it and grabbed it around what seemed to be its neck, but the needle-like teeth were already chewing at her flesh, while the curled, hook-like claws tore at her own throat. She grabbed it around its midsection with her other hand, but it only clawed and chewed its way deeper into her flesh.
Nearby, another slayer, Emily, was on the ground and under attack. Vi and three other slayers were trying to pull the demon off. Emily screamed as the small creature chewed her midsection almost completely through to her stomach.
Kennedy finally ran to Emily and grabbed the creature by its back set of legs. With all her slayer strength she pulled, but the creature had burrowed deeply into Emily’s stomach, and the girl let out a violent scream. Kennedy relaxed, then yanked quickly. The creature tore in half, its head still embedded deep in the girl’s stomach and its middle set of legs convulsing. The slayer convulsed, too.
Unlike Emily, Shannon couldn’t scream. She was using every ounce of her strength to pull the demon off her neck. She slid her hand up towards the creature’s head. She felt a soft, bulbous area meet her thumb. She squeezed it, and the creature bit deeply. She closed her eyes tightly in excruciating pain, and her mouth worked with the words, “I’m sorry, Peter,” but no sound came out.
“Shannon!” Faith cried, only once. She grabbed the girl around the waist with one arm, then closed her free hand over Shannon’s and did her best to pull the creature off the girl’s throat. Seeing that their combined strength wasn’t enough, Faith slammed Shannon and the creature to the ground.
Watchers Council – Giles and Becca’s Apartment – Same Time
“Really, these alarms happen quite a lot,” Becca said reassuringly to Joelle and Norman, who sat nearby. “It’s why we all look like we haven’t slept.”
Norman looked uncomfortably up at his mother, who looked uncomfortably back at him. “Those poor girls,” she said to Becca.
Becca gave up her brave face and looked honestly at Joelle. “It’ll be all right. Vi, Kennedy and Faith are all out there with them.”
“Slayers don’t always win,” Norman said, echoing Shannon’s words from their earlier conversation.
“Well, you’re right, Norman. They don’t always win. But Faith is there. And she won’t let them lose.”
Cleveland Street – Resume
Shannon felt something give, and then a thick wetness covered her fingers and ran down her chest, seeping into her shirt. A muffled sound, like a voice, reached her ears, and she blinked her eyes open. Flashes of light, sparkles, and fog floating in all directions – up, down and sideways – spun around her faster and faster and faster until nothing remained. She gurgled like a baby falling into a deep and devastating sleep.
“Shannon! ” Faith yelled, shaking the young slayer.
“Over here!” Kennedy shouted to the first EMT unit to arrive.
“Jesus!” one of the EMT crew said. “What the hell is that?”
“Just get to work!” Kennedy exploded, as they quickly knelt down by the slayer with the torn stomach.
“There’s nothing we can do…” the crew’s chief said quietly.
“Then haul your ass over here!” Faith yelled.
The crew ran over to Faith and Shannon.
“Can you help her?” Faith asked. “Dammit! Help her! ”
The crew chief checked Shannon for vital signs, then looked up at his two crew mates.
Faith cast her own eyes down at Shannon’s still form.
End of Act Three