Elijah Wood as Jeff Lindquist, Helen Shaver as Becca Giles and Lacey Chabert as Skye Talisker
Rachel Leigh Cook as Chastity Holmes, Geoffrey Rush as
Donovan Smythe and Billie Piper as Barbara
Watchers Council – Infirmary Waiting Room – Later that Day
The two redheads now stood just outside the Council infirmary. Vi was oddly calm as she stood against the wall, her hands clasped in front of her. Willow paced nervously, glancing up at the infirmary door every few seconds.
Rowena stood a few feet away, keeping some distance as she watched the two women. Her expression was one of deep concern.
Dr. Miller pushed his way through the double doors, slipping his latex gloves from his hands. His green surgical scrubs were soaked with sweat, and his movements were labored, exhausted.
“Doc, is he…” Vi’s voice was anxious as she approached the doctor
He held up a hand, cutting her off. “He’s going to be fine. He has a hairline fracture of the right radius and left tibia, and one of his floating ribs was cracked. All of those will heal in time. He also has a concussion, but he’s going to be fine in the long run.”
The three women made no effort to hide the relief on their faces.
“Can we see him?” Vi asked.
“You can,” he replied, “but he won’t know you’re there. I gave him a sedative, and he’ll be out for at least the next few hours. Right now, his body needs rest.”
“How soon will he be able to answer questions?” Rowena asked.
“Questions?” the two redheads blurted simultaneously.
“How soon?” the blonde pressed, ignoring them.
“He should be awake and coherent in two or three days. I can’t make promises on how much he’ll remember, though. He took a nasty bump to the head,” Dr. Miller replied. “But whatever he does remember should be reliable.”
Rowena nodded. “Thank you.” She turned to face the witch and the slayer. “As of right now, I’m convening a board of inquiry to find out what went on in Vancouver. Until this issue is resolved, none of you are to discuss this matter with anyone else, not even among yourselves.”
“‘Resolved’? ” Willow demanded. “Ro, what are you talking about?”
“Willow, something clearly went wrong,” Rowena replied. “This should have been a routine opening of a new Council branch, but it turned into a bloodbath, and it’s our job to figure out why.” She stepped back a little. “Obviously, you’ll both be called in to testify. I suggest that you spend your time between now and then trying to remember exactly what did happen,” she told them. “Separately,” she emphasized.
Rowena turned and practically fled down the hallway, leaving the two women stunned. standing in the cold hallway, listening to the receding tapping of her shoes on the linoleum tile.
“Will –” Vi turned to the other redhead.
“What?” Willow interrupted. “She’s right.”
“Why am I not surprised to hear you say that?” Vi asked, with a tinge of annoyance. “She’s wrong.”
“No, she’s not. And I think, deep down, you probably know it,” Willow replied.
Vi looked at Willow a moment, but then gave a short bob of her head.
Watchers Council – Robin and Faith’s Apartment – Later that Day
Robin quickly dropped a bottle of Jack Daniel’s into the shallow drawer in the small end table by the couch in his living room. He then carefully placed the half-filled tumbler next to it and slid the drawer shut. With a lurch, he rose from the couch.
He leaned heavily on his cane as he made his way awkwardly over to the door, lifting his hand to his lips to test his breath as he did so. His artificial leg moved stiffly, unnaturally. He frowned in frustration as he leaned more heavily on the cane, reaching for the doorknob.
“Ro,” he announced once the door swung open. “How’s Xander?”
“He’s going to be fine…eventually. Doctor says he just needs rest,” she replied. “Can I come in?”
Robin nodded and stepped aside, with only slightly less awkwardness than he’d shown walking across the room only moments ago. “That’s good,” he said tiredly. He gestured to a small, comfortable chair and took a seat on the couch opposite it. “Any idea what happened out there?”
“At this point, I know about as much as you do,” Rowena said as she sat down. “They ran into something that wiped out an entire team of slayers and landed Xander in the infirmary.”
“Any idea what could take out a team of slayers like that?”
“That’s what we need to find out,” Rowena told him.
“We?” Robin’s eyebrows arched.
“Well, you, actually. I want you to assemble a panel for a formal inquiry, interview the witnesses and present your findings.”
“Me?” Robin’s eyes noticeably widened. “Why me? I kick demon…” He trailed off and looked down at his leg. His body stiffened as his face took on a pained expression. “I used to kick demon ass. Bottom line is that I’m not exactly the investigation type. A trainer, sure, but…”
“After me, you’re the next most-senior watcher,” Rowena explained. “I can’t run this investigation. I’m too close to Willow. I can’t be impartial on this one, and even if I thought I could, nobody would believe that I was,” she told him.
“And you think I can?” Robin’s tone was surprised.
“Nobody in this Council can be totally impartial,” Rowena admitted. “At least not where these three are concerned, but I know that I can trust you to be fair. We need to find out what happened,” she said. Then she paused and looked down uncomfortably. “And, if necessary, who was responsible.”
“You really think that there was some kind of wrongdoing here?” Robin’s eyebrows arched as he looked at the diminutive watcher.
“Finding that out is your job,” Rowena replied quietly.
“Why not call Giles in on this one?” Robin offered.
Rowena shook her head firmly. “No, out of the question. He has his own life now, and we can’t run to him every time we have a problem. Besides, I believe you can do it, Robin. I’ll attend the proceedings as an observer, but that’s it. The judgment will be entirely yours.”
Robin closed his eyes for a moment. “That’s the problem. My judgment is what got me this,” he said, gently slapping his left leg.
“And that judgment is what kept you alive,” Rowena pointed out. “If you hadn’t had the courage to make that call, those demons would have ripped you apart when they found you. But they didn’t, and you’re here, and I need your help. So what do you say?”
Robin appeared to find something positively fascinating about the section of carpeting in front of the blonde’s feet as he considered her words. Finally, without a word, he nodded.
Rowena let out a relieved breath.
“Thank you,” she told him sincerely. “Assemble your panel, three or four people at most.” She stood and walked to the door, spinning to face him as she reached it. “And Robin, I don’t need to tell you that time is a critical factor here. If there’s a serious threat in Vancouver…”
“I know,” Robin told her. “Tell Willow to be ready to provide a statement tomorrow morning.”
“Will do,” Rowena said with a nod. Then she closed the door gently behind her.
Watchers Council – Willow’s Apartment – Night
As Rowena set her bag by the bedroom door, Willow flopped onto her bed and curled into a fetal position, facing the window. Rowena watched the redhead stoically for a moment before she spoke.
“Are you okay?” Rowena asked.
Willow turned to face her and started to nod before she stopped herself. “No,” she admitted, shaking her head.
“Is there –?” Rowena stopped and licked her lips nervously. “Is there anything I can do?”
“Other than putting me under investigation and leaving me at the same time?” Willow retorted, then winced. “I didn’t mean that,” she quickly added remorsefully.
“Yeah, you did,” Rowena replied softly, and a brief silence hung between them for a moment.
“I’m sorry,” Willow said. “I know you’re only doing what you –”
“It’s okay, Will,” Rowena cut her off, perhaps a little too sharply. She softened her tone and asked, “Do you need anything before I go into temporary self-exile?”
Willow looked up at the watcher. “A hug?” she requested, her voice small and mouse-like.
Rowena smiled and nodded before crossing the room. She gently slid onto the bed next to Willow, wrapping her arms protectively around the witch.
“Tighter,” the redhead whispered quietly, as her tears returned.
Watchers Council – Robin and Faith’s Apartment – Same Time
Faith drew up short upon stepping into the darkened living room. Robin sat with his back to her, staring blankly at the half-full moon beyond the tree just outside their window. He swirled the half-filled tumbler in his hand idly, causing the mostly-melted ice cubes to clink rhythmically against the thin glass.
Faith took a long breath and shook her head in disappointment. “Workin’ late?” she asked, a slight edge in her voice.
“Does it look like I’m working?” Robin’s voice was level, expressionless.
“These days?” Faith said before contemplating the question for a moment. “Yeah, this is exactly what you workin’ looks like.”
Robin was silent for a long moment before he spoke again. “I suppose I deserve that,” he said finally.
Faith was visibly shaken by the ease with which he conceded the point, but she recomposed herself quickly. “You’re right, you do.”
“If you have such a low opinion of me,” Robin commented quietly, “why are you still here?”
“‘Cause unlike you, I ain’t givin’ up that easy,” Faith muttered. She stepped around the armchair, standing between him and the window he was facing. “Christ, will you look at yourself? You’re on Vicodin, and you’re knockin’ back booze like there’s no tomorrow.” She shook her head. “You got any idea what that stuff’ll do to you if you take it with alcohol?”
Robin looked down at himself for a moment. “Apparently not much,” he replied. “Rowena asked me to run the inquest into what happened in Vancouver,” he said, in a ham-handed attempt to change the subject.
“Really?” Faith commented sarcastically. “Obviously she didn’t see the glass in your hand or smell your breath.” She leaned forward slightly, sniffing the air. “Or stand within five feet of you or check the end table.” She opened the drawer of the end table and produced a half-filled bottle of Jack Daniel’s. She showed it to Robin. “This the same bottle you had yesterday, or a new one?”
Robin did not respond. Instead his gaze dropped to the toe of his prosthetic left leg.
“Jesus, Ace, why do you even bother with the glass? You could save yourself the trouble of doin’ the dishes just by drinkin’ it from the bottle.” Her tone became harsher. “If, that is, you ever got your ass out of that chair long enough to actually do the dishes.”
Robin offered no answer. For that matter, he didn’t even acknowledge that she’d spoken in any way.
In a sudden flash of anger Faith spun around and hurled the bottle of whiskey at the wall behind her. The half-filled bottle shattered against the wall, emptying its dark-coloured contents on the off-white carpet. “God damn it, Robin,” she snarled at him. “Do something! Anything! ” Her expression was angry, but the tone of her voice was almost pleading. “Scream at me, call me a bitch, take a swing at me if you want to, but for Christ’s sake, do something other than just sit in that chair waitin’ to die.”
“What else should I wait for?” Robin muttered.
“How’re your eyes, Robin?”
“How many fingers am I holdin’ up?” Faith held up two fingers.
“Two. What’s your point?” he answered testily.
“Your arms, they workin’ okay?”
“They’re fine,” Robin replied.
“Good, ’cause I thought you’d gone blind or somethin’. You’re pissed at the world, fine. But someone who gives a damn is standin’ two feet away, and you won’t even reach for her,” she complained angrily.
“Would it matter if I did?” Robin did not look up to meet her gaze. “Look at me, Faith, and tell me what you see. You see a man, or a man with a fake leg?”
“Neither,” Faith rasped, “I see someone who’d rather pickle himself into an early grave than take stock in what he has.” She pushed past him and stalked back towards the front door.
“And what’s that?”
“Me,” Faith replied. “For now,” she added before pulling the door open forcefully.
“Where are you going?”
“Out,” Faith replied noncommittally. “I need a smoke.”
Watchers Council – Vi’s Room – Same Time
Vi slid into her darkened dorm room, closing the door behind her. She pressed her back against the door, then slowly slid to the floor, drawing her knees up to her chest. Her head dropped to rest on her knees. Finally, she flopped over onto her side, crying uncontrollably.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Morning
Rowena stepped silently into the hallway outside Willow’s apartment and quietly walked in the direction of the kitchen.
“You’re investigating Willow!?”
Rowena drew to a halt upon hearing the angry tone in the woman’s voice behind her. She turned around casually. “And good morning to you too, Kennedy.”
Kennedy strode up to the watcher Her eyes were fierce slits as she glared at the smaller woman. “You’re investigating your own girlfriend?”
“Well, technically, Robin’s the one who’s investigating –”
“That’s crap,” Kennedy snapped. “You started this investigation, which means that you didn’t have to.”
“Yes, Kennedy, I did,” Rowena said calmly. “Believe me, the last thing I want to do is put Willow on the chopping block, but something went wrong and slayers died. Slayers, I might add, not all that different from you. And Willow is one of exactly three people who know what happened. So yeah, we’re investigating her, and Vi, and Xander.”
“But I don’t understand –”
“Kennedy, we need to find out what happened,” Rowena gently interrupted, “so that it doesn’t happen again, so that it doesn’t happen to someone like you, for example.” The two women spent a moment facing off, neither one willing to be the first to turn away from the other. “How did you find out?” Rowena asked finally.
“Robin wants me to help with the investigation. He wanted a slayer involved, and he said that Faith hasn’t quite got her head screwed on right since…” She let the statement trail off to nothing.
Rowena nodded. “I get it. Meeting her son did take a toll.” She looked down at the floor for a moment, then her eyes rose again to meet Kennedy’s. “Look, if you’re not comfortable with this, you can probably ask Robin to get someone else. It might not be a bad idea, if you don’t think you can be impartial where Willow is concerned. That’s why I’m not doing it.”
Kennedy shook her head. “No, I don’t want to see any slayers hurt, so I guess the Council has to come first. It’s just…sometimes this job really sucks, you know?”
Rowena let out a long breath. “Tell me about it.”
Watchers Council – Kitchen – Later that Morning
“Andrew, I don’t suppose you have some tea ready, do you?” Rowena said as she entered the kitchen.
“I can have it in about five minutes,” he replied. He turned to the watcher, concern painted on his face. “What’s wrong?” he asked. He wore a t-shirt that read “Warning: Rays cast from this T-shirt travel at over 670,000,000 mph.”
“What makes you think that something’s wrong?” Rowena asked cautiously.
“First thing in the morning, you always have coffee. Rye and Ginger is your cocktail of choice. You have warm milk when you need to sleep. Tea, you only have when you’re upset about something,” he told her. He frowned slightly as he held the kettle under the tap. “I guess it’s a watcher thing. Giles is the same way.”
“You’re a very observant little man, you know that?” Rowena smiled slightly.
“Little?” he whined. “You’re not exactly Andre the Giant yourself, my attractive lesbian friend.” He peered at Rowena curiously. “So, you want to talk about it?”
“With you?” Rowena winced. “Sorry, that came out sounding a little more shocked than I intended.”
“Hey, you’d be surprised how many people stop by the kitchen just wanting to talk. I’m like Counselor Troi…if she worked in the kitchen.” He frowned and then added, “And if she were a guy.” He thought for a moment then continued, “And if she only had her Enterprise finale level of hotness instead of her Next Generation hotness. Oh, and if she –”
“I get the point,” Rowena said, cutting off his enumeration with a raised hand.
“So, do you want to talk about it?” he asked again, as he slid the kettle onto the stove and lit the gas burner under it. “Your tea’s gonna take a few minutes, so you might as well.”
Rowena’s head dropped forward, and she pressed her fingers against her temples as if trying to chase away a migraine. “A team of slayers was just wiped out,” she explained, “which means that we could be facing an entirely new threat.”
“I heard. I stopped by to see Xander in the infirmary. I also heard that Willow and Vi were lucky to get away with their lives.”
“Yeah, that about sums it up,” Rowena replied.
“So how goes the inquiry into what happened in Vancouver? Is that the problem?” Rowena gave him an incredulous look. Andrew smiled and said, “Hey, I told you, I know everything that goes on here.”
Rowena shrugged and then sighed. “We start today. An inquiry which, by the way, may result in all three being placed before the tribunal. Half the Council thinks I’m betraying my girlfriend by even starting an inquiry into what happened, and I’m not even sure that I believe that they’re wrong.”
“Ah, so you’re worried that you’re Lt. Areel Shaw?”
Rowena looked at him blankly.
“Star Trek,” Andrew offered, “Episode 15, ‘Court Martial.’ Captain Kirk is being court-martialed for killing one of his crewmen. His ex-girlfriend, who clearly still loved him…” His eyes took on a dreamy look for a moment before he shook himself out of his reverie. “She was the prosecutor.”
“You bought the DVD box set, didn’t you?”
Andrew nodded enthusiastically. “My point is that it’s your duty to find out what went wrong, not only for history, but for all the slayers who are out there right now and those who will follow. Your job is to keep them safe. If learning exactly what happened there can help you prevent it from happening again, then you have a duty to pursue it,” Andrew pressed. “In a way, Willow’s kinda your Ben Finney.”
“Same episode. He was the bad guy. He was a friend of Kirk’s back in the academy when Kirk turned him in for an oversight that could’ve hurt a lot of people. Finney held a grudge and faked his death so that Kirk would get blamed for it,” he explained patiently.
“I’m not following you,” Rowena said, shaking her head.
“Kirk turned Finney in because it was his duty to do it. He had to protect his people and his crew. You have a duty to protect the people of this Council. Slayers, watchers, and even formerly-evil cooks.” He turned around to lift the kettle off the stove and poured some boiling water into the mug in his hand. “Which means,” he continued, “if Willow did something wrong, you still have a duty to deal with it…girlfriend or not.” He passed a cup of tea across the counter to her, “Nobody said that your job was going to be easy. Maybe no one did anything wrong. Sometimes bad things just happen. You’ll just have to get to the bottom of it to make sure.”
Rowena cocked her head slightly as she lifted the cup to her lips. Her elbows were resting on the counter in front of her, and the tiniest of smiles was tugging at the corners of her lips. “You know, you’re a wise man, Andrew.”
“Not yet,” Andrew countered, sounding quite proper. “But with your help, I am learning.”
Rowena’s eyes narrowed.
“Next Generation, Season 2, Episode 9, ‘Measure of a Man’,” Andrew admitted.
Rowena smiled as she blew into her tea cup. Then she took a sip.
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Later that Morning
Willow took a seat behind a small table in the center of the conference room. The large black microphone sat on the table in front of her, thrusting intimidatingly at her lips. Her hands rested, clasped in front of her, on the hard oak, while a three-person panel sat facing her. Centered in front of her was Robin. He had a white legal pad in front of him, and in his right hand, a pen was tapping nervously against the counter. His cane sat resting against the counter beside him. To his right sat Dawn, who looked significantly less nervous, although abnormally serious for the young woman. She also had a blank notepad in front of her. On Robin’s right was Kennedy. Of the three, she appeared the most calm. She leaned back in her chair, looking passively at Willow. No notepad was on the counter in front of her, but her attentive expression made clear that no word uttered would be missed.
Around the room, a number of people were seated. Rowena took a chair close to the far wall where she could observe the proceedings from a distance. She fidgeted in her chair, as if she could will herself to sink into the floor by simply moving around more.
“Willow, you understand that this is not a tribunal. You are not on trial. This is an inquiry to determine the events leading up to Wednesday night’s disaster in Vancouver,” Robin told her, his voice deadly serious.
Willow nodded. “Yes,” she replied.
“However, if the need for a tribunal arises from our findings, then your testimony may be used as evidence.”
As she listened, Rowena’s eyes closed tightly. The color of her skin paled even more than usual.
“Your statements today are being recorded, and the transcripts will be logged in our archives. For the record, do you understand all this?” Robin continued, offering a quick nod to the stenographer seated to Willow’s left, who was dutifully typing every word spoken in the room.
“Yes,” Willow repeated.
“Very well, then. You may begin.”
Willow looked down at the microphone in front of her and took a long, deep breath.
End of Act One