Act 4

Fade In:


Rowena’s Apartment – Morning


The soft voice roused the lightly-sleeping blonde from her slumber. Rowena rolled over onto her back and looked at the doorway.

Willow leaned against the door frame, her slim figure silhouetted by the living room lights.

“Hey,” Rowena replied. “How’d you get in?” she asked.

“You gave me a key, remember?” Willow told her.

Rowena leaned back against the pillows behind her head. “Oh, right.” Her eyes fluttered closed for a moment.

“I haven’t seen much of you the last couple of days,” Willow said. “I was beginning to wonder if you needed me anymore.”

“Always,” Rowena said, smiling slightly. “It’s just been rough lately, with the inquiry and all. Hence the separate abodes.”

“I get that.” Willow sighed heavily. “Losing a slayer on your watch isn’t easy. Losing six…and then having to investigate your…” Willow let the comment trail off.


“Ro, I’m okay. Really, I am. You’re doing what you gotta do, and if it were me, I’d do exactly what you’re doing,” Willow told her in a soothing voice.

Rowena rubbed her eyes sleepily. “I hear a ‘but’ coming on.”

But,” the witch said agreeably, “I don’t want to have to be against you. You’re the person who’s supposed to know me best in the whole wide world, a-and I feel like I suddenly have to justify myself to you. And –”

“Will, you never have to justify yourself to me,” Rowena insisted.

“Now I hear a ‘but’ coming on,” Willow answered wryly.

But,” Rowena began with a tilt of her head, “we need to know what happened out there. Not me, the Council. A full account needs to be on record for those who’ll come after us. We’re not just forming a Council, we’re building a legacy. A legacy that someone, some day will inherit from us. They’ll learn from what we’ve done right, and more importantly, what we’ve done wrong.”

Willow looked at the blonde intensely for a moment.

“What?” Rowena asked, off the redhead’s look.

The witch gave her a conspiratorial grin. “Anybody ever tell you that you’re incredibly sexy and persuasive when you’re passionate about something?”

“No, but I can take a survey if you want,” Rowena said, returning the younger woman’s grin.

“Ohhh, nooo,” Willow countered. “I don’t want everyone finding out what a deadly weapon you have there. If they do, they’ll all know I don’t stand a chance.”

Rowena smiled warmly. “You don’t need a chance. You’ve already won this heart hands down,” she said, tapping her chest. “But regardless, Councilwoman Allister has to do what’s necessary for all. Do you understand, Will?”

Willow nodded and cut her eyes around the bedroom, a slight twinge of embarrassment making an appearance on her face.

“So, how long do you have until you’re needed in the inquiry?”

Rowena rolled her eyes. “Willow, I love you dearly, but you have the subtlety of a falling piano.”

“So, how long?” Willow asked insistently.

“Long enough.” Rowena crooked a finger, and Willow continued to smile as she walked toward the bed.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Infirmary – Afternoon

Xander’s eyes fluttered open. He looked around the brightly lit room, trying to allow his eyes time to focus. Finally, his eyes fell on the slayer seated to his right, clasping his right hand in both of hers.

“Hi,” Vi said softly. “How are you feeling?”

Xander smiled. “Rumors of my death are exaggerated,” he groaned as he tried to sit up in bed. “But not by much.” He lifted his one good hand to his temple, rubbing it. “How long was I…?”

“Four days,” Vi replied. “Last thing you probably remember was being in Vancouver.”

“Four days,” he whispered idly, staring at the infirmary’s sterile ceiling.

Dr. Miller appeared in his field of vision. “Good morning, Mr. Harris. How are we feeling this morning?”

“Well, I can’t speak for you, but I feel like I was on the wrong end of a fight with a sledgehammer,” Xander replied. Then he jerked, as if an elusive thought had just slammed into his mind. “Did we get them? Are the vamps dead?”

Vi looked down sadly for a moment. “No,” she said simply, not trusting herself to say more.

Xander’s eyes widened. “How many…?” his voice caught.

“Six dead, one paralyzed. The Council building was destroyed,” Vi replied in a monotone.

His eyes closed tightly. “Willow?” His tone of voice made it clear that he was dreading the answer.

“She’s fine,” Vi reassured him. Xander fell back on the hospital gurney, relieved.

“God, what the hell hit us?” Xander’s question was directed at nobody in particular, but Vi answered it anyway.

“They’ve started a board of inquiry to find out,” she told him. “They…they want to question you. But only as soon as you’re well,” she quickly added.

Xander took a long, deep breath. “I’m ready now,” he told her decisively.

“Xander, you can’t even get out of bed, much less get to the conference room.”

“Then bring them here,” he insisted. “I can answer questions just as well here as I can in the conference room. And this way we might get something useful out of me before I start to forget it all.”

“Xander, maybe you should –”

“Vi, get them in here.” His tone of voice left no room for negotiation. In a softer tone, he added, “Please.”

Vi simply nodded and then rose to leave.

Fade To:


Watchers Council – Infirmary – Later that Day

The annoying hum of the fluorescent lights was audible in the silence of the sterile room. Robin, Kennedy and Dawn sat around Xander’s bed. A microphone had been placed on a stand so that it sat a few inches from his lips.

Each panel member also had a microphone before them, as they prepared to take what would be the final bit of testimony.

Rowena stood next to the door, leaning against the tiled wall with her arms crossed in front of her. Her expression was one of intense concentration.

“Let’s start with your arrival in Vancouver,” Robin said softly.

Cut To:


Vancouver International Airport – Morning

“Canada, eh?” Xander quipped while stretching his arms out. Then he glanced around the airport. “Even the airport looks cleaner.”

“I’ve never been to Canada,” Vi commented idly. “Anybody feel more polite all of a sudden?”

“No, but I’m developing a massive inferiority complex, and I have a sudden desire to apologize for…something,” Xander replied with a grin, looking over at the redheaded slayer.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Infirmary – Resume

“You were met at the airport by one Chastity Holmes,” Dawn said, checking her notes, “Is that correct?”

Xander nodded. “I remember I was impressed that she met us at the airport, in spite of the fact that we arrived almost an hour before we were supposed to.”

“What time was it?” Robin did not look up from his notes.

“My watch was still on Cleveland time. It was ten a.m. in Cleveland,” Xander told them.

Robin quickly glanced over at Dawn, seated to his right. “Seven a.m.,” she replied to his unasked question.

“Why Willow felt the need to take off at the ungodly hour of six in the morning is frankly a mystery to me,” Xander joked.

Cut To:


Vancouver International Airport – Morning

Chastity stood leaning against a large, black SUV as the trio approached. Appearing to notice them for the first time, she calmly straightened and then held out her hand to Willow.

“Chastity Holmes,” she said, introducing herself. “Vi, right?”

“No,” Willow replied, with carefully-veiled annoyance. “Wrong redhead. I’m Willow.” She nodded in Vi’s direction. “That’s Vi, and the handsome one is Xander.”

“Is this everyone?” Chastity quickly looked over both of Willow’s shoulders to see if anyone else was about to join them.

“Were you expecting someone else?”

Chastity nodded. “Will Ms. Allister be joining us?”

“No,” Willow answered. “She’s still in Cleveland. Is that a problem?”

“Oh, no,” Chastity said. “I’ve heard about her work, and I was just kinda hoping to meet her, is all.”

“Well, she’ll probably be visiting you once you’re up to speed. That’s kinda in her job description these days,” Willow commented.

Chastity nodded.

Cut To:


Vancouver – Cadillac Escalade – Morning

Everyone in the car was pushed forcefully to the right as Chastity jerked the wheel to the left. The large sport-utility vehicle appeared to violate a number of laws of physics as it wove its way through rush-hour traffic.

“I think that you’ll be impressed at what we’ve done with the place,” Chastity turned her attention away from the road in front of her to glance over at Willow.

Willow’s hand flew to the small handle over her head. “I’m sure I will,” she replied through gritted teeth. “Um, eyes on the road!” she commented frantically. Her body tensed again as the vehicle squirted through another tiny hole in the rapidly-flowing traffic. “You have a team of seven here, right?” she asked, trying to keep her breathing under control.

“Seven slayers,” Chastity acknowledged. “Only one watcher, but our facility can house three times that number.” She looked back at Vi and Xander. “I’ve arranged private quarters for each of you.”

The pair quickly shared a glance. “No, really, that’s…” they said in unison.

“Ah, don’t worry about it. We have plenty of space,” the slayer told them. “Nobody’s living there yet.”

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Infirmary – Resume

“The ride was a little…” Xander’s eyes closed for a moment as he searched for the right word. “Lively,” he said finally. “But I’ve ridden with the Summers sisters.” He smiled at Dawn. “So I wasn’t all that phased.” He shrugged. “I figure any ride you can walk away from…”

“So you arrived at the council around eight a.m., correct?” Robin asked, quickly checking his notes.

“That sounds about right,” Xander replied, “I still wasn’t fully awake, so it must’ve been before noon Cleveland time.” He smiled.

Cut To:


Vancouver Council HQ – Foyer – Afternoon

“Donovan Smythe,” the elderly gentleman announced carefully. He smoothed the lines of his black tuxedo before he held his right hand out to Willow. “Miss Rosenberg, I presume?”

Willow nodded her assent. She blushed deeply as the handsome man lifted her hand to his lips.

“Ah, and this lovely young lady must be Slayer Violet Joston,” he said as he stepped past the witch. “I must say, tales of your beauty have reached even as far as Vancouver, but they fail, I must say, to do you justice.”

Vi blushed modestly. “Oh, well, I don’t think –” She did a double-take. “Really?”

“Absolutely, my dear.” He turned to Xander. “Ah, you must be Mr. Harris.”

Xander nodded and was about to offer the man his hand when Smythe spun away and stepped back in front of Willow.

“Anyhow,” Smythe said, carefully adjusting his bow tie. “I imagine you would like to take a tour of the facilities.” He turned to Xander. “I imagine that Mr. Harris will want to inspect our arsenal. I think he’ll find we have some rather exotic, but effective, weapons here.”

“I can show him our weapons,” Chastity quickly volunteered. Vi didn’t notice. Her eyes were fixed dreamily upon the dashing Mr. Smythe.

“Miss Joston, I believe, is probably most interested in learning of our training techniques, and it just so happens that our slayers are in training as we speak.” Smythe turned to face Willow. “And you, Miss Rosenberg…I would be honored if you would accompany me to the library and the coven room.” He nodded – almost bowed – cordially to the witch.

“Me?” Willow smiled girlishly. “The honor would be all mine, I assure you.”

Vi glared angrily at the other redhead.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Infirmary – Resume

Xander winced as he shifted in the bed. “I don’t think my morphine drip is on high enough,” he muttered. He shook his head when the doctor took a step forward. “No, I’m fine for now,” he added. “But look me up after we’re done.”

“So you spent the most time with Chastity, correct?” Kennedy asked.

Xander closed his eyes for a moment. “Yes, that’s probably right.”

“Tell us about her.”

Cut To:


Vancouver Council HQ – Weapons Room – Afternoon

Xander’s eyebrows arched at the impressive rack of weapons adorning the opposite wall of the room. “Okay, I officially don’t recognize any of the weapons in this room,” he said.

Chastity smiled. “Tend more towards medieval weaponry, do you?”

Xander nodded. “Most of this looks Chinese, but damned if I can identify any of ’em.”

“Good eye,” Chastity nodded, impressed. “It is Chinese.” She smiled. “You’d be surprised what you can get in Chinatown if you can convince the right people that you’re a martial arts school.”

“They sell real weapons to a martial arts school?”

“Pretty much,” Chastity nodded. “Only some very slight modifications are necessary to make them more demon-deadly: a little silver here, a wooden point there…”

“Now this, I know.” Xander picked up a thin, straight sword. “Rapier, right?”

Chastity smiled. “Close. Scholar sword. Two cutting edges and a stabbing point.” She took it from him, twirling it around her body in a series of very deadly slashes before she thrust the point at him, bringing it to a halt a fraction of an inch shy of his chin. “Lightweight, fast, has a little more finesse than its western counterpart. Perfect for a lovely recipe of diced vampire.”

“Why all the emphasis on Chinese weapons?”

Chastity shrugged. “I was born and raised here in Vancouver. Probably why I took this job when it was offered. I grew up in the middle of Chinatown, so if I wanted to survive, I needed to understand Chinese culture. I speak fluent Cantonese, and I’m fully qualified in traditional Chinese medicine. So when I was asked to arm this place to the gills, I guess I just reverted to what I knew.” She jerked her head at the weapons rack. “And,” she added, “Chinese weapons are pretty easy to get ahold of in this town.”

“You’re trained in all of these weapons?” he asked, gesturing at the rack. “That’s pretty impressive.”

“Trained, yeah,” Chastity nodded. “But my personal favorite is this baby here.” She picked up a long weapon, a staff with a stabbing point at one end and an angry blade at the other. “It’ll lop a head off a vamp from six feet away.” She grinned mischievously. “I like something with a little more heft than a sword.” She carefully balanced it on her thumbs. “Also pretty good for defense. Some of the vamps out here have started carrying swords. So far, these have held up nicely.” She gracefully swung the weapon through some movements, demonstrating the weapon’s capabilities.

Xander nodded. “Okay, you’ve sold me,” he said with a smile.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Infirmary – Resume

“She was very businesslike. She had her eye on the target and wasn’t taking it off for anybody,” Xander told them.

Cut To:


Vancouver Council HQ – Weapons Room – Afternoon

“Very impressive,” Xander said, as Chastity slid the halberd back into the weapons rack. “What’s that weapon called?”

“Its Chinese name is Kwan Do,” she told him. “I can give you some websites where you can order a few if you want to use them in Cleveland. Or I can give you one of ours so you can build some of your own. It’s not a complicated design.” She picked up a towel and mopped the thin sheen of sweat from her brow.

“Well,” Xander began, “some of the simplest designs are the most effective. Most of our slayers still prefer the classic stake over some of the more advanced crossbows.”

Chastity looked over at the older man. “Um, tell me about Vi,” she said abruptly.

“Vi? She’s great. Smart, funny, and has that vulnerability about her that just makes her irresistible.” He smiled.

“Well, does she…I mean, is she, y’know, with anyone?”

Xander looked at Chastity blankly for a moment before the elusive synapse fired in his mind. “Oooooooh,” he said, realization spreading across his face. “Um, no, she’s…that is…um…she’s…uh…spoken for,” he blubbered.

“Serious?” Chastity asked, clearly hoping otherwise. “‘Cause I could make sure that she lets her down easy.”

Xander’s features hardened. “She’s spoken for…by me,” he said sharply.

Chastity looked at him for a moment. “Oh,” she said softly. “No kidding, really?” Xander just arched his eyebrows. “No offense to you,” Chastity added quickly. “I’m sure you’re quite the ladies’ man. I just find it hard to believe that Vi’s not…the ladies’ lady, is all.”

“Well, I can assure you firsthand, she’s not,” Xander answered.

“Oh, uh…this is kinda awkward. Just forget I said anything.”

“Good idea,” Xander said coldly.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Infirmary – Resume

“She was very…forceful,” Xander added flatly.

“I would like to know a little more about the meeting you had in Willow’s room that night,” Dawn told him.

“Willow was a little anxious when Vi and I arrived,” Xander told them.

Cut To:


Vancouver Council HQ – Guest Quarters – Night

Xander watched Willow as she paced across the small room.

“Am I the only one who’s having serious second thoughts about the people we’re putting in charge of this branch?” Willow asked.

Both Vi and Xander dropped their heads.

“I mean, the facility is great,” Willow said. Then her voice became soft and dreamy for a moment. “And Smythe is a God of the written word.” She blushed rosily. “But he’s no Giles,” Willow said, shaking her head sadly.

“Come on, Willow, nobody’s another Giles,” Xander said. “There’s not enough tweed on earth for two of them.”

“I’m a little worried about the slayers, too,” Vi spoke up.

“How’s that?” Willow asked.

“They’re very well trained,” Vi told them, “but I’m a little concerned about where they put their loyalties.”

“Smythe?” Willow seemed alarmed by Vi’s implication.

“No,” Vi replied. “If it were Smythe, I wouldn’t be worried.” Vi continued, suddenly out of breath. “He can do anything,” she gasped, her eyelashes batting. Xander rolled his eyes. Vi shook her head quickly. “These girls are loyal to Chastity in a way I can only describe as fanatical.”

Willow frowned, confused. “Why?! ” she demanded.

“C’mon, Vi, fanatical? Isn’t that overstating things just a little?” Xander tried to calm the two redheads down.

“Xander, I’m pretty sure that, um…” Vi’s confident expression suddenly became confused, uncertain. “That what’s-his-name…um…you know, that guy…Hale-Bopp comet, mass suicide…” She snapped her fingers in frustration, “Oh, poop, you know…that Heaven’s Gate person…yeah, that guy. I’m pretty sure he had less fanatical followers than Chastity does,” she told him. Then she mumbled something under her breath.

“Excuse me?” Xander asked.

“Nothing,” Vi answered.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Infirmary – Resume

Xander closed his eyes for a moment, collecting his thoughts. “We wanted to see what this group of slayers could do in action. Vi had heard about a gang of vamps in Chinatown. The Vancouver team had been watching them for almost three weeks.”

Cut To:


Vancouver Council HQ – Foyer – Night

Three weeks?! ” Willow demanded, chastising the slayer leader in front of her. “Just what the hell are you waiting for?!”

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Infirmary – Resume

“Willow wasn’t terribly happy when she found out,” Xander said.

Cut To:


Vancouver Council HQ – Foyer – Night

“We are going after those vampires tonight,” Willow announced, her tone of voice making it clear that the subject was not open to debate. “Get your team together, arm them and have them ready to go at sunset.”

Chastity nodded softly. As Willow walked away, Chastity quickly grabbed Xander.

“Xander, I really don’t have a good feeling about this,” she told him softly. “These might not be normal vamps. I think I should do some more reading.”

“Chastity, do you trust your girls?”

“Yes, but –”

“Do you trust us?” he asked next.

“Well, yes, but –”

“Look, I know it can be hard to make these tough decisions. I know how hard it can be to throw your girls into the field, but believe me, there comes a time when you’ve got to put the books away and take action. You can do this,” he told her calmly. “Trust me, I’ve known Willow for a long time. She knows what she’s doing.”

“But to hit a lair at night…” Chastity began.

“I’m sure we won’t move until sunlight, but Willow needs the team assembled and ready now. Follow me?”

“That makes sense, I guess,” Chastity answered.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Infirmary – Resume

“Chastity hadn’t wasted those three weeks,” Xander said. “She knew where they were going to go almost before they did. We found them coming out of a nightclub in Chinatown.”

“Then you traced them back to a warehouse, correct?”

“Yes,” Xander replied. “And like I thought, we’d planned on hitting them just after sunrise. If they came out before then, we were ready.”

“But they were ready, too,” Robin pointed out.

“Yeah,” Xander said quietly.

“Do you think that they could have realized that you were following them?” Kennedy asked.

“I can’t see how,” Xander replied. “I’ve seen Buffy shadow vampires dozens of times. Faith too. I’ve gone on patrol with slayers for most of my adult life. This was pretty much textbook.”

Cut To:


Vancouver – Chinatown Alleyway – Night

Willow idly flipped the pages of a textbook entitled How to Track and Kill Vampires. “Now,” she read, “we wait.”

Chastity was uncharacteristically silent as she stood, bracketed on either side by a pair of slayers. Xander, Vi and Willow stood farther back, intending to act primarily as observers to whatever would transpire.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Infirmary – Resume

“The two slayers next to Chastity – I don’t remember their names – they were the first to fall. The one on Chastity’s left got a crossbow bolt in the chest, the one on her right got two,” he dictated.

“Chastity didn’t get hit?” Dawn asked.

“No,” Xander replied, “just the two slayers standing beside her.”

“Then what happened?” Kennedy asked.

“Then…” Xander began, before sighing and regrouping his thoughts. “Then they came after us up close.”

Cut To:


Vancouver – Chinatown Alleyway – Night

The gang of vampires struck simultaneously from the right, from the left and from above. They descended upon the Council team like a flock of eagles striking at a mouse.

The Slayers, entirely unprepared for the strike, were crashed upon like a wave slamming into the shore.

Xander’s eyes darted to his left just in time to watch the point of a sword leap out of the center of Barbara’s chest. The vampire standing behind her allowed her lifeless body to drop to the asphalt under her feet, then he advanced on Vi.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Infirmary – Resume

Xander’s body on the hospital gurney jerked, as if he were struck, “Five slayers were down before we even knew what hit us. I ran forward to defend Vi. My mistake, it turns out.”

Cut To:


Vancouver – Chinatown Alleyway – Night

Xander charged the vampire that was advancing on his girlfriend, the small sword in his hand ready to strike at its neck.

The vampire effortlessly blocked his swing, then slammed the point of his elbow under Xander’s right cheekbone, dropping him to the ground. The vampire then stomped on his left arm. Xander’s groan of pain was nearly drowned by the crackle of the radius of his left arm snapping.

A woman fell to the ground in front of him, a large stab-wound in the center of her chest. Blood bubbled out through her closed lips as her perforated lungs deflated.

Nearby, another slayer was grabbed by a pair of vampires. Xander heard the sickening crunch as the girl’s spine shattered.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Infirmary – Resume

Xander closed his eyes tightly, a pained expression on his face. “We were hoping to use the element of surprise on them, but they turned it against us, and they ripped through us before we even knew what hit us.”

“And Chastity?”

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Xander said quietly.

Cut To:


Vancouver – Chinatown Alleyway – Night

Vampires walked right past Chastity, seemingly oblivious to her presence, and leapt upon slayers standing some distance away from her. As the vampires ignored her, Chastity stepped quietly out of their way. Once they had passed her, she attacked the nearest one. With the Kwan Do in her hands, she cleanly decapitated the vampire, watching with some satisfaction as he and his head disintegrated at her feet.

She immediately launched herself at a second vampire, but as he turned to look at the approaching slayer, his eyes stared through her vacantly.

Or at the very least, they stared through her for the split-second it took before his head was smoothly separated from his neck.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Infirmary – Resume

“She danced around the vamps as if she wasn’t even there,” Xander said, shaking his head. “They just didn’t seem to see her.”

Unnoticed to everyone, a sudden look of realization appeared on Rowena’s face. Her mouth opened, then her hand rose to her lips. She shut her eyes tightly, her hand closing into a fist.

“If I hadn’t seen her with my own two eyes, I would have sworn that she was invisible,” Xander added.

Cut To:


Vancouver – Chinatown Alleyway – Night

Chastity danced her way past another vampire, still curiously unnoticed by the monsters around her. The halberd in her hand flashed again, slashing across the abdomen of a vampire near her, forcing him backwards.

She quickly glanced over to where Willow and Vi were standing over a now-prone Xander. She gasped in alarm when she saw a vampire descending upon the distracted pair.

The vampires around her suddenly looked directly at her and growled.

“Look out!” Chastity screamed at Willow and Vi.

A vampire behind Chastity gripped her firmly under the chin. Then, in a single, vicious movement he jerked her head backwards, disjointing it from her neck. She sagged to the ground, no longer breathing.

Fade To White

Fade In:


Watchers Council – Conference Room – Morning

“I managed to deflect the vampire’s attack, just as I saw the last of the Vancouver contingent fall,” Vi said quietly.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Conference Room – Morning

“We’d only managed to kill three vampires, and they’d torn through all seven of Vancouver’s slayers. I made the call to retreat. Maybe I made it too late,” Willow said dolefully.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Infirmary – Resume

“I guess Vi must have carried me out of there. I was still a little dazed from that hit I took,” Xander told them. “I’m sorry, but I don’t remember any more than that.”

Robin was silent for a moment before he spoke again. “Tell me this, now that you’ve had the opportunity to think about it a little, can you think of anything you could have done differently?”

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Conference Room – Morning

“No,” Willow said confidently.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Conference Room – Morning

“No,” Vi insisted.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Infirmary – Resume

Xander shook his head. “No. Everything we did, everything was right out of the book.” He shook his head, slightly more angrily now. “I’m sorry I can’t be of more help.”

“It’s okay,” Robin told him. “We’ll let you know if we have any further questions, and you’ll be informed of our findings. Rowena, any further questions at this –?” Robin said, turning around to face the head watcher.

Rowena wasn’t there. Unnoticed by anyone in the room, Rowena had silently slipped out as the board of inquiry had been wrapping up.

Fade To:


Watchers Council – Willow’s Apartment – Moments Later

Willow rose abruptly at the knock on the door and strode quickly across her living room. Rowena stood in the hallway, her arms crossed defensively across her chest, her expression unreadable.

“What is it?” Willow asked.

“Can I come in?”

Willow’s brow furrowed in concern as she stepped out of the doorway, allowing Rowena to step across the threshold.

“What is it?” Willow asked again, trying to keep her tone light, but the expression on her face clearly betrayed the concern she felt.

Chiang Shih,” Rowena told her.

“Gesundheit,” Willow offered. She recoiled as the smaller woman glared angrily at her. “What?”

“Six slayers are dead, Will. Another will never walk again. And you bagged a total of three vampires out of at least nine,” Rowena told her. “Believe me when I say that you don’t want to be joking with me right now.” Her tone was cold, and her jaw clenched as she threw Willow a hard look.

“The inquiry hasn’t even finished yet,” Willow said defensively, “and it sounds like you’re already blaming me.”

“The inquiry hasn’t worked it out yet,” Rowena replied, “but eventually they will, especially with Dawn’s help.”

“What are you saying?”

“You were facing Chiang Shih. Chinese vampires,” Rowena explained.

“Like super-vamps?”

Rowena shook her head sadly. “No. They’re no more dangerous than your garden-variety vampires. Less so, actually, if you know how to deal with them. They’re pretty good strategists, but their fighting abilities are subpar at best.”

“For garden-variety vamps, they sure did kick the crap out of us, didn’t they?” Willow challenged.

Rowena drew in a shaking breath. “Their eyesight is very specialized. They can only see a living creature if it’s breathing. That’s how they knew you were waiting for them. They could see you breathing, even on the other side of a wall.” She paused, visibly preparing herself for unpleasantness. “That’s also how Chastity did so well in the fight. She held her breath so they couldn’t see her.”

It took a moment for the implications of that statement to sink in. “So,” Willow said slowly, “she knew…”

Rowena nodded. “She knew how to deal with those things, but you didn’t listen.”

“What?” Willow’s expression was genuinely confused.

“Your own testimony, Will,” the watcher said, with a mix of frustration and sadness. “At least once she came to offer advice on dealing with the nest of vampires. You brushed her off, and six slayers died because of it,” Rowena told her. Her voice was steady, but her eyes continued to betray sadness and guilt.

“What, you’re saying this is my fault?”

“It is,” Rowena told her firmly. “It’s your fault, and it’s Vi’s, and it’s Xander’s. If just one of you had been willing to listen, none of this would’ve happened. But you thought you knew better than someone who was actually familiar with the territory, someone who knew what kind of curveballs it could throw.”

“But –”

“Willow, I have phone calls to seven families I need to make tonight. I need to explain to fourteen people why they won’t see their daughters or their sisters ever again, and to another three, I need to explain why we’ll probably have to make their home wheelchair-friendly,” she told her sharply. “I can’t stay and debate this. I just wanted you to know what happened.” Rowena turned to open the door.

“Wait,” Willow called out. Rowena paused at the doorway, the door half-opened in her hand. “Why didn’t Chastity make it? If she was holding her breath, she should’ve been fine, right?”

Rowena’s head sagged forward. Her knuckles whitened as her hand, claw-like, gripped the hard wood door. She did not, could not, turn to face Willow before she spoke again.

“According to Xander’s testimony, she would have been fine,” Rowena told her. “If she hadn’t taken a breath to warn you…” Without adding more or looking back, Rowena shook her head and stepped through the door, allowing it to close behind her.

Willow stood in the middle of the living room floor, an expression of horrified shock fixed on her face, still staring at the front door.

After a moment, she dragged herself to the sofa and plopped down, almost as if she were a marionette whose strings had been severed. Her face fell heavily into the palms of her hands as her body shook.

Fade To Black



End of Both Sides Now


Next on Watchers…

When reporter Robert Devlin stumbles on the secret of the Watchers Council, he finds himself in the middle of the story of the century, while the Council finds itself torn apart over how to respond.


Click here to read “Just the Facts” now!