Watchers Council – Conference Room – Same Night
“Chamique, toast him!”
Roaring flames spread across the video screen on the wall of the conference room. Willow, Rowena, Faith, Kennedy and Andrew sat in chairs while Xander sat in his wheelchair with casts on one of his arms and one of his legs, while Devlin leaned against the back wall, arms crossed. Willow’s mouth was hanging open, and Rowena looked at the screen as little as possible, mostly examining a particularly interesting spot on the floor and generally looking miserable. Faith glanced at her fellow slayer, who looked slightly sheepish. Xander scowled at Andrew as the latter popped an M&M into his mouth and kept his eyes glued to the screen.
Finally unable to take any more of this, Rowena got up and walked over to the VCR, pressing pause to freeze an image of Marie about to stab a massive red demon in the neck, her sword glinting. She turned back to the reporter.
“What do you want me to say?” Rowena asked.
Devlin uncrossed his arms and stood upright. “It’s time to be straight, Ms. Allister. I don’t have Weta Workshop hiding in my basement.”
“I have an orc figurine signed by all the guys at Weta Workshop,” Andrew supplied cheerfully. There was a brief pause as everyone in the room spared him a baleful glance, then Devlin continued.
“There’s no way I could have faked this with the resources I have. There’s a war going on, a war the public doesn’t even know about. A war with demons, swords and super-powered young women.” He pointed at the television screen. “And I have proof. The Plain Dealer will be publishing an article stating the facts in the near future. I can assure you of that.”
Faith leaned forward in her chair. “So why come here and tell us? Now that you’ve got the scoop, why not just go write your story, get your damn Pulitzer and live happily ever after?”
“Faith,” Rowena said, “there is no scoop. I’m sure this is all some sort of mix-up. You see, at the Academy, we emphasize a well-rounded –”
“Oh, Ro, get over it!” Faith interrupted heatedly. “We lost. He’s got us. I bet you’ve hidden another copy of this, some place we’d never think to look, right?” She raised a questioning eyebrow at the reporter.
“You are correct,” he said simply. “To answer your question, it should be obvious: I’ve come to get your side of the story.”
“Come again?” Xander asked, as if he hadn’t heard right.
“Well,” Devlin explained, “I’m sure if I just go with what I know right now, I won’t be absolutely right on everything. I don’t like to do things only knowing some of the facts. And, no matter what you people may think, I’m not ‘out to get’ this organization. I saw what I saw, and if anything’s clear to me, it’s that you’re the good guys. Of course, the owner of that burned-down warehouse might think differently, but you get the point.”
There was a moment of uncomfortable silence around the room. Rowena pinched the bridge of her nose, and Kennedy fidgeted with something in the pocket of her jeans.
“I say we go with my plan from before,” Faith said, her voice low.
“The one where we ‘let him in’? ” asked Kennedy.
“We can’t,” Rowena said, exasperated. “I already explained –”
“The Coven votes yes,” Willow said quickly. Rowena turned and her shocked gaze fell on the witch, who shifted her weight uneasily in response. The blonde took a deep breath.
“I’m forced to point out that, since Willow is currently suspended from duty, she doesn’t have authority in this matter,” Rowena said. This time it was Willow’s turn to look shocked and hurt. There was more uncomfortable quiet.
“So, Andrew,” Faith said, breaking the silence, “what do you think?”
Andrew appeared startled at his sudden inclusion in the conversation. “What?”
“You’re the highest-ranking non-suspended Coven member on duty right now,” she explained. “What’s your vote?”
He looked rather flustered at this turn of events. “Oh, right, um…what she said,” Andrew pointed at Willow. “The Coven votes yes.”
Rowena did not look pleased.
“Guess it’s settled then,” Xander commented quietly.
Devlin looked slightly uneasy. “The Coven?”
Watchers Council – Lobby – Later
“You let yourself be followed?!”
Kennedy stopped in her tracks at the sound of Rowena’s raised voice and, with an annoyed sigh, she turned to face the livid watcher.
“What were you thinking?!” Rowena’s cheeks were flushed, and she was shouting as loud as she could.
“Careful, Ro, Devlin’s in there,” Kennedy admonished sarcastically, jerking her thumb toward the door of the conference room. “Don’t want the press hearing your tantrum.”
“My tant –” Rowena made a deeply offended scoffing noise, then stopped and forced herself to take a very deep breath before continuing in a lower, though just as angry, tone of voice. “Kennedy, do you have any idea what this means? People are going to die. We won’t be able to operate with any sort of…Do you have the slightest inkling of how royally screwed we are?”
Kennedy took a vaguely menacing step towards her former watcher, but her voice remained calm. “For the record, I didn’t let anyone follow me. You wanna suspend me, too? Again? Go ahead, but this is not my fault.”
Rowena remained stonily silent.
“And we’re not screwed,” Kennedy continued. “We’re following Faith’s plan. We try and convince him not to publish the story by showing him how important it is that all this remains a secret.”
“Kennedy, do you really think he’ll listen?”
“I don’t know,” the slayer said. “But it’s all we’ve got. Keeping all this a secret, it’s important. I get that. What I don’t get is you taking your issues out on me.”
“You heard me,” Kennedy continued, taking another step towards Rowena. “I don’t know what the problem is with you and Willow, but you don’t need to bring me into it. Just know that, if you and Willow are imploding, it’s not my fault. I’ve been keeping my lips to myself.”
“We’re not –”
“Oh, really?” Kennedy’s right eyebrow rose an inch. “Fine. Just saying, it’s not my fault.” The dark-haired slayer turned away from Rowena and walked the opposite direction down the hall. “You should probably go give your first press conference,” she shot over her shoulder before turning the corner.
Rowena stood looking down an empty hallway for a beat before the conference room door opened behind her to reveal Willow pushing Xander out of the room in his wheelchair.
“Is everything okay?” Xander asked. “I heard yelling.”
For a moment, Willow and Rowena looked icily into each other’s eyes.
“Just peachy,” Rowena eventually answered, her eyes never leaving Willow’s face.
Watchers Council – Library – Morning
“So…how long have you been a slayer?”
“Um…I dunno…seven, eight years?” Faith sat across one of the wooden tables in the library from Robert Devlin, who had his trusty notepad open and ready. “It was just me and B for a while there, until Red did her mojo a couple years ago and made all the potential slayers real slayers.”
Devlin raised his hand to stop her. “I’m sorry…B?
“Yeah, that’s what I called her.” Faith smiled. “They told you about Buffy?” Devlin shook his head, and the slayer continued. “B was the best damn slayer of all time, they say. Single-handedly stopped about a dozen apocalypses. Well, not single-handedly, she had her little Scooby gang.”
“That’s what they called themselves, B and Red and Xander, and whoever they were screwing at the time.”
“And Red is…?”
“Willow,” Faith explained impatiently.
“And where were you during all these…apocalypses?” Devlin looked as though he had trouble getting the last word out of his mouth.
“I was in a California State Correctional Facility,” Faith stated matter-of-factly.
Devlin took a moment to take this in, then asked, in a somewhat strangled voice, “Why?”
“I killed some people. Fought Buffy to the death. It’s all in the past,” Faith answered nonchalantly. Seeing the appalled look on Devlin’s face, she raised an eyebrow. “Maybe we should leave that part out.”
“So Buffy is dead?” he asked.
“No, she’s living in Europe. She helps with the slayers in the London branch.”
Devlin shook his head. “I’m confused.
Faith grinned. “I’m not surprised.”
Watchers Council – Coven Room – Later that Morning
“And this,” Dawn said, flicking a light switch to illuminate the empty Coven Room, “is where we make the muffins.”
“The magic muffins, that is,” added Skye, as she and Jeff followed Dawn into the room and were in turn followed by Devlin. The reporter looked around skeptically at the bare floor before shifting his gaze to the walls, which were lined with shelves covered with carefully labeled jars.
“And that is no way a drug metaphor,” Jeff clarified a little too quickly. “Just good clean yummy magical fun here.”
Dawn followed Devlin’s gaze and walked nervously over to the shelves. “Yeah, we pretty much got all the fixin’s. Motherwort, sacmus root, sacred lion claws imported direct from Africa…not that we authorize killing endangered species.” she winced.
“They’re only sacred if the animal isn’t declawed until after it has died of natural causes,” Jeff explained.
Devlin looked thoughtful. “So it’s not just monsters, then. Magic’s real, too?”
“I know, it came as a bit of a shock to me at first, too,” said Skye. “It’s like, when did real life begin to resemble a J.K. Rowling book, and why didn’t I get the memo? But once you get used to it, magic’s kinda fun.”
“Yeah, fun,” Devlin said absent-mindedly, running his hand over a glass jar filled with some unidentified green glop. After a moment, he turned quickly to his young guides. “Show me.”
“You mean, like, show you a spell?” Skye asked. Devlin nodded.
Dawn looked uncertain. “I dunno. Sometimes spells with us three don’t…um, they’re not really rated PG-13 all the time.”
“And that means…?” Devlin prodded.
“Well,” Jeff explained, “magic often involves releasing the potential energy within a person or bringing that energy in tune with that of nature. This energy can be released in various ways, not all of which are entirely…uncomfy.”
“So that…oh!” An interesting look crossed Devlin’s features. “I see.” There was a moment where none of the four looked entirely comfortable. “Well, if you don’t feel…” Devlin turned his eyes back to the shelves, unscrewing the top of one of the jars, “I mean, if you’re not…”
“Gesundheit,” said Jeff, seemingly out of nowhere. Skye gave him a strange glance.
Devlin finished unscrewing the top of the jar and leaned down to sniff its contents. After one whiff, the reporter sneezed violently. After a moment, he recovered and looked at Jeff.
“Yeah,” said Skye, “he does that sometimes. He’s a soothsayer. It can get annoying.”
Jeff shot a not-pleased look at her, but Dawn ignored them both and gently took the jar back from Devlin.
“Essence of dandelion,” she explained. “It always makes my sinuses itch, too.”
“Right,” said Devlin shortly. His face was unreadable.
Watchers Council – Kitchen – Later that Morning
Devlin sat at the center counter while Andrew and Tracey busily worked around him. She wore a stained white apron, while his apron read “My cooking is mostly harmless.”
“Let me get this straight,” said Devlin, reading his open notepad. “You were a supervillain who fought against Buffy, then you killed your best friend under the influence of the original evil in the world, then you were taken hostage, and now you…bake.”
Andrew looked up from a simmering pot of spaghetti sauce. “I’m in the Coven too, but…yeah.”
“Hey,” Tracey said defensively, her oven mitts on her hips, “redemption can be a long and winding path.”
Andrew seemed uncomfortable. “Tracey, he’s not wrong. I did commit those awful, awful crimes, but now I have to –”
“Oh, come on, Andy!” Tracey interrupted. “You’re not the same guy you were then. You’re sweet and funny and charming…and not evil at all!” A wide grin grew on Andrew’s face until Devlin cleared his throat.
“And how did you end up working here?” he asked Tracey pointedly.
“Oh, y’know, I just applied for the job,” she said. “Not very exciting, I know. My flashback episode would be kind of boring. But it pays for school books and video games.” She looked thoughtful for a moment, then added, “And food, clothing and shelter, if I have any left over.”
Watchers Council – Xander’s Workshop – Afternoon
A crossbow bolt flew into the red bullseye of a target hung on the wall with a solid thunk, right between two other bolts already lodged in the target.
“That’s good, Heli,” Xander said from his wheelchair by the far wall. The blonde slayer lowered her repeating crossbow with a proud smile.
Devlin stood next to Xander, glancing around walls covered in strange multi-bladed axes and flail-tipped pole-axes. “And you designed all of these?”
“Well, not really,” Xander said modestly. “More like…improved. We got the best arsenal this side of Vor.”
“Hell dimension,” Heli said. “Or so I’ve been told.” She seemed strangely wistful.
Devlin seemed unable to process this momentarily, though his hand still wrote down the slayer’s words of its own accord.
“So…where are the guns?” Devlin said, at least partly to change the subject.
“What?” Xander asked.
“You know,” Devlin prodded, “if this is the biggest arsenal this side of, well, hell, then where are all the firearms?”
“Oh, they’re here,” Xander said, “in storage. We don’t like to break ’em out much.”
“You’d be surprised how useless guns can be,” Heli piped in. “Give me a sword any day.”
“Normally,” Xander said, “I’d show you how to make a simple stake, like we do with the girls their first week here, but, well…” With his free hand, Xander tapped the cast on his arm, which was covered in brightly colored well-wishes.
“How did you get injured, anyway?” Devlin asked, his pen poised over his notepad. Xander was silent for a moment, a frown on his face.
“It happened in Vancouver.”
Watchers Council – Dining Hall – Later that Afternoon
“Let’s talk about Vancouver,” Devlin said.
Vi sat across from the reporter, her eyes staring down at her half-eaten salad. A beam of sunlight streamed across the table from the not-quite-closed curtains. A small group of junior slayers were just leaving out a door in the far corner of the room, leaving the pair alone at their small table.
“You were there, weren’t you, Ms. Joston?” prompted Devlin.
“Yes, I was there, all right?” Vi snapped. Then she quieted down and went back to inspecting lettuce leaves. “What do you want to know?”
“Just the basics,” Devlin said gently. “Six girls died…Ms. Joston, what happened?” Vi remained silent, so the reporter continued, “It was a mission, wasn’t it? This Council…you’re taking on creepy-crawlies every night of the week, you’re bound to mess up every once in a while –”
“But we can’t!” Vi said, her voice loud once again. “Don’t you get it? Every time I screw up, people’s lives are on the line. We’ve got the world on our shoulders, every night of the week. I can’t mess up. There’s no breaks, no vacations…” She barked a single rueful laugh. “Though I guess I could take one during my suspension.”
“You’ve been suspended?” Devlin asked. “Why? Is it because of…”
“Vancouver, yeah,” Vi finished. “Starts next week, after Willow’s is over. I guess they didn’t want to be too short-handed. Some people around here seem to think the whole thing was our fault, me and Willow and Xander.” Then she let out a sigh and began to rummage around among her shaved carrot slices with her fork. “Oh, who am I kidding? It was my fault…our fault. If we had just listened to Chastity for one second, instead of just rushing in…those girls would be alive. They were right to suspend us.” She looked directly at the reporter for the first time. “Is there anything else you want to know?”
Watchers Council – Library – Later That Afternoon
Robin sat across from Rob Devlin in a large leather chair, the table between them covered three deep in old, leather-bound volumes.
“That story you told me about your girlfriend and the flying demon,” Devlin began, “that really was true, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah,” Robin’s expression didn’t change. “I can see you’re quick.”
“I don’t mean to bring up a painful subject, but maybe you could, um,” Devlin and Wood locked eyes for a moment, “give me some more details.”
“Well,” Robin answered after a moment, “we were in Vor, fighting the Presidium.”
“Vor, as in…” Devlin trailed off. “You went to Hell?”
Robin looked as if he was considering this. “I guess. Me more than most of us.” He looked down at the table for a beat.
“So what was that like?”
“You ever see Lord of the Rings?” Robin asked. Devlin nodded. “Think Return of the King, but bigger.”
“You guys have a lot of time to watch movies in between potential apocalypses?”
“Well,” Robin answered with a wan smile, “Andrew does have his purpose.”
“So how’re you adjusting…to the whole one leg concept?”
Whatever smile Robin may have had disappeared. “As well as can be expected, I suppose. It’s just…”
“Yes?” Devlin prompted. Robin sighed.
“I’ve been a demon hunter pretty much my whole life. My mother was a slayer, you know, back during the ‘one girl in all the world’ days. She was killed by a vampire when I was four. I guess…” Robin looked away from Devlin before continuing. “I guess I never really knew how to be anything but a warrior.”
“And now that’s gone,” commented Devlin.
“And your girlfriend?” the reporter continued. “The one with the chopping-action mystical weapon? How’s she handling it?”
Robin’s gaze returned to Devlin, his eyes hard. “To be honest, I’m not really sure. Faith and I don’t talk much these days. There’s mostly shouting.”
Devlin raised a hand, his eyes on his cryptic notes. “Wait…Faith? You’re in a relationship with the Head Slayer?”
“Yes,” Robin replied tersely. Devlin didn’t say anything more for a moment, writing something down before turning back to his subject.
“And this isn’t some kind of Oedipal thing?”
Robin’s stare darkened.
“I’m just asking,” Devlin said defensively.
“Excuse me, Mr. Wood,” said a bespectacled, fresh-faced young man. He might have been in his late twenties or early thirties. Neither man had noticed him until now.
“Excuse me, Mr. Devlin,” Robin said. “Yes, Jackson?”
“I think the Kraven may have a weakness after all.” The young man placed yet another text open on the table in front of Robin, who studied the page for a moment.
“Yes, this could be very useful,” he said absently. “Very, very useful.” Then he turned to the younger man and said “Great work, Jackson.”
“Thank you, sir,” Jackson replied, “but I’m sure the more senior watchers would have found it eventually if you all didn’t have so much on your minds.” Jackson left as quickly as he had appeared. Robin seemed vaguely discombobulated by the last comment, then he turned back to Devlin.
“See? We do occasionally manage to get some things done around here.”
Another Warehouse – Dusk
With a loud bang, the door of a decrepit and darkened warehouse exploded off its hinges, bathing the dank interior in the dusky pink of the setting sun. The floor was covered in stacked rows of old-looking tires. In the doorway, the light silhouetted Robert Devlin and Kennedy, who held her sword lightly at her side.
“You do this a lot?” Devlin asked. “Barge into places that could possibly house gigantor-sized devil creatures with a maximum amount of noise?”
“Ya scared?” the slayer teased.
“And you’re not?”
Kennedy shrugged. “Nah. It’s my job, y’know? It’s all I got.” She stepped over the threshold and out of the sunlight. “Relax,” she continued, “this is probably a bust, just like the last three places.”
Kennedy began to carefully snake between the piles of tires, using them for maximum cover. Devlin tried his best to follow, but looked considerably less stealthy. Behind the pair, several other slayers filtered through the entrance and made their way slowly across the warehouse floor. At the foot of one particularly tall pile of tires, Kennedy halted and dropped to one knee. Devlin instantly duplicated Kennedy’s actions.
“What?” he asked, his voice resonating in the empty space.
“Shhh!” Kennedy raised one finger to her lips momentarily before answering in a whisper. “Do you hear that?”
“It’s okay,” Kennedy explained, still whispering. “Slayer hearing.”
“Jeez, is there anything you people can’t do?” Devlin whispered.
Kennedy turned her head slightly to regard the reporter. “We’re just people, like everybody else, all right?”
“Most people can’t kick down a door quite that easily,” Devlin pointed out.
“But we’re still…” Kennedy stopped a moment, searching for the right words. “Slayers laugh, they cry, they fall in love and they die, just like people everywhere.”
There was a moment of silence between the two before Devlin scribbled something down on his trusty notepad.
“Hey, Kennedy,” came the yelled voice of one of the slayers, “I don’t think it’s here.”
At the sound of the shout, the huge red Kraven demon rose above the piles of tires and got to its feet with an angry roar.
“So, not a bust,” Devlin commented, fear in his voice.
“It’s under control,” Kennedy said calmly, sizing up the demon.
“FILTHY HUMANS, YOU DISTURB ME AGAIN? DO YOU WISH TO D –”
Kennedy cocked her arm and then threw her sword a good hundred feet, straight as an arrow. With a squelch, her sword pierced the Kraven’s eye and cut it off in mid-sentence. Without another word, the demon toppled to the floor of the building. The massive crash made both slayer and reporter wince.
“Is it dead?” Devlin asked after a stunned moment.
“Yeppers,” Kennedy confirmed. “It’s like Xander told me once, everything has eyes.”
“Just a normal girl,” Devlin remarked with a sigh, before turning his attention back to his notes.
Watchers Council – Willow’s Apartment – Night
“So, you’re the…” Devlin scanned his notes and looked up at the woman sitting across from him. “Uber-witch,” he finished.
“Well, I don’t know about ‘uber.’ I’m the Priestess of the Coven around here, though.” Willow looked a little embarrassed. “At least, I am most of the time,” she added under her breath.
“Yes, your suspension,” Devlin continued, obviously having heard her. “How do you feel about that?”
“And how am I supposed to answer that?” Willow asked, annoyed.
“Just be honest,” Devlin said.
“It’s a crock. That’s what I feel about it,” Willow said. “We’re already dealing with this major setback, so my girlfriend decides the best way to make things better is to punish everyone involved. That’s definitely the winning strategy.”
“Your girlfriend…?” Devlin leafed vigorously back through his notes.
“Oh, Goddess,” Willow sighed.
“You and Rowena Allister are in…a relationship?” Devlin sounded as if he was sure he was wrong.
“Supposedly,” Willow replied. “Is there a problem with that?”
“Well…” Devlin looked uncomfortable. “In theory, no. It’s just, well, you’re both powerful people in this really powerful organization.”
“Which means…what, exactly?”
“It means that if the United States President and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court went home after a hard day of ruling the country and made sweet, tender love, I bet a lot of people would have a problem with it,” Devlin said. “Beyond the gay thing.”
Willow’s brow crinkled. “Oh, thanks. I definitely needed that image in my head. ”
“So how’s that working out?” the reporter prodded. “I imagine there might be occasional conflict-of-interest issues.”
“There might be,” Willow said tersely.
“Right,” Devlin said, seemingly not paying much attention. “You tried to destroy the world once, is that correct, Ms. Rosenberg?”
Willow turned red and sputtered at this new line of questioning. “Um…”
“Could you turn your hair black for me?” Devlin asked, looking up.
Willow just stared at him. “What?!”
Bonnie’s Quarters – Later that Night
“You’re an evil real estate agent?” Devlin asked.
“Sometimes,” Bonnie answered, clearly unhappy about being forced to give this interview. “I find that real estate can be a doorway to…other avenues worth exploring. ”
“But you’re not evil anymore, right?” the reporter continued. “I mean, they wouldn’t let you stay here if you were.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say I was ever evil, but I do look out for my interests first,” Bonnie said. “See, sometimes the good guys need somebody to be a little evil. You know, on their behalf.”
“Hmm…” was Devlin’s only response.
“And, well, I’m also here so that the Council can protect me from all the demons I pissed off back in my bad old days,” Bonnie elaborated. “It’s sort of their thing…protecting people. And like I said, it’s self-preservation. They protect me, and I help if I can. It’s a trade-off.”
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Later that Night
At the conference table, Rowena and Devlin sat on opposite sides of each other. She looked tired and mussed, while Devlin seemed in his element as he scooted his chair closer to the table and smartly flipped open his notepad to the correct page.
“Where do we start?” Rowena asked.
“Well, you are the boss around here, Ms. Allister, correct?”
“I am the chief of the Watchers Branch of the Council, yes, but we have division of pow –”
“But the Watchers Branch is higher than the other branches, right? I mean, you just have to look at the name of this place. It’s not the Slayers Council.” Rowena just stared at him, so Devlin moved on. “So I guess that makes you the one responsible for trying to pull the wool over my eyes.”
“Mr. Devlin,” Rowena sounded very tired, “the Council has existed, in one form or another, since the prehistoric age. And in all that time, its existence has remained a secret. It is essential to the safety of the world that it remain that way.”
“In my experience, Ms. Allister, secrecy never leads to safety,” Devlin retorted.
“Look,” Rowena said, exasperation creeping in, “this is the world headquarters for fighting the forces of darkness. If all those forces knew exactly where we were and the details of the identities of each of our leaders, it could be a very unfortunate scenario. Not to mention the inevitable and incredibly dangerous public panic it would set off.”
“If you’re trying to convince me to drop the story,” Devlin said, “it’s not working. And in case you haven’t noticed, a lot of people aren’t too fond of the United States government, and yet it has no problem letting people know what, where, and who it is.” A thoughtful look crossed the reporter’s features. “Hey, do they know about all this, by the way? The government, I mean?”
“Yes,” Rowena answered. “They tried to police the underworld themselves once, but that didn’t really come off very well.”
“You think, if this comes out, it could bring down the President?” Devlin had an interesting look on his face. “You know, with the lying?”
“That would be pleasant,” Rowena said thoughtfully, but then grew serious again. “Can we just get this over with?”
“Fine by me, Ms. Allister,” Devlin said coolly. “So, how long have you been the Head Watcher?”
Rowena looked like she was doing math in her head. “A month, maybe?”
“Ah,” Devlin said, “that would explain it.”
“Explain what?” Rowena looked somewhat defensive.
“A lot of things, actually,” he replied. “You’re sort of in over your head, wouldn’t you say?”
“What?” she exclaimed, shocked. “I am not –”
“Of course,” Devlin interrupted. “I’m merely pointing out that, well, Buffy Summers, who I’ve been told single-handedly did such a great job all those years, is retired now. Her watcher is retired. In their place, we have a rather bizarre former murderer and a hassled twenty-something with romantic issues.”
“I can assure you, Mr. Devlin,” Rowena said firmly, “I do not have romantic issues.”
“Seems to me,” Devlin continued, “that you guys, the next generation, might have gone uptown, but you’re not doing any better a job than one girl in the California suburbs. And I’m sure our neighbors to the north would agree with me. But I’m talking too much. My job is to listen.”
“Then listen closely,” Rowena said, leaning over the table toward the reporter. “I am not the one in over my head here. You are. You have no concept of the sort of things we deal with on a daily basis, and neither does the rest of the world. I won’t lie to you, there will be setbacks, and we all have made mistakes in the past and we all will make mistakes in the future.”
“Comforting,” Devlin said.
Rowena ignored him. “But let me make this clear,” she continued. “As long as the Watchers Council is here, the darkness won’t win. If it weren’t for the people in this building, the world would have ended many times over by now. We have one goal, the safety of humanity, and I promise you that I will do everything in my power to facilitate that goal.”
“And you think that suppressing the truth facilitates – God, I hate that word – you think it facilitates the safety of humanity?”
“Yes,” Rowena said, with absolute conviction behind it.
Devlin stood up from the table, his chair screeching against the floor. “Well, then, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.” With that, the reporter walked to the door.
Watchers Council – Lobby – Moments Later
As Devlin walked briskly away across the lobby, Rowena exited the door of the conference room and called after him.
The reporter turned back to the watcher. “Yes, Ms. Allister?”
“I think I have one more person you might be interested in meeting,” Rowena said. “Would you wait a moment?”
Devlin regarded her suspiciously for a moment before answering. “Yes, of course.”
“Good,” Rowena replied, and she began walking across the lobby and momentarily disappeared down the hallway.
Devlin stood where he had stopped for a moment, obviously unsure of what to do with himself until Rowena returned. He fished his notepad out of his pocket and began making a few additional notes.
“How’s it goin’?”
Devlin’s eyes rose from his notes to regard the new arrival. “Ms. Lehane,” he said to the slayer. “Fine, thank you. Your leader is certainly a forceful woman.”
“We got a lot of those around here,” Faith said as she stood casually against the wall near the reporter, her arms crossed. “So, did you think about what Blondie said?”
“About dropping the story?” Faith nodded. “She has a valid point of view, but I’ve been doing this for years. Decades, in fact, and if I’ve learned one thing it’s that the truth is always the way to go. Lies just come back and bite you.”
“So you’re writing it?”
“Then perhaps I could…convince you to change your mind,” Faith said, stepping forward.”
“I really don’t see how,” Devlin said, looking a little nervous.
“That’s ’cause you don’t have a big enough imagination, Kolchak,” Faith replied, taking another step forward. “I, on the other hand, have a gigantic one. Vivid colors and all that.”
“Ms. Lehane,” Devlin said in a low voice, “are you threatening me?”
“It’s only a threat if you can’t back it up,” Faith said menacingly. In one lightning quick motion, she put one hand against the reporter’s chest, slammed him against the wall, and held him there.
“Assault the media,” Devlin groaned. “Good call. I can see why you’re in charge.”
“I’m in charge,” Faith said, “because I get the job done. Now, you know I’m a murderer. What makes you think I won’t reach up and snap your neck right now?”
Devlin stared hard at his attacker for a moment before replying. “Because you’re the good guys.” Faith gave him a hardened look, then removed her grip. Devlin dropped to the ground, his breath coming in gasps. “You don’t get it, do you?” he said. “I’m trying to help.”
He stood up straight, his tie even more crooked than usual. Faith merely glared.
“You’ve got this incredibly powerful international organization,” he continued, “and all the people running it are angsty twenty-somethings. I’ve only been here a day or so, and even I can tell things are going to hell. You guys want to protect humanity, fine. But that’s not what’s going on here. Nobody here wants their dirty little secrets to come out. That’s what this whole thing has been about. You people are so caught up in your own crap, you couldn’t see an apocalypse if it came up and bit you in the ass!”
“Mr. Devlin?” Rowena interrupted. “This is Brell. He’s…an ally of ours.” The reporter dubiously examined the blue demon that accompanied Rowena.
“Hello, intrepid reporter,” Brell said with a wave.
Devlin sighed and followed as Rowena ushered him and Brell into the conference room together. She shut the door behind them and turned to face Faith.
“What’s with Brell?” Faith asked. “He can’t speak normal English, but he can say ‘intrepid?'”
“Faith!” Rowena exclaimed. “What were you doing? Did you just attack Robert Devlin?”
“Oh, shut up, Blondie,” Faith said bluntly, before turning and walking back toward the walkway to the Slayer Dorm. “You got your way, and I got mine.”
Rowena was left gaping in the lobby, alone.
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Moments Later
“So…you’re a good demon?” Devlin asked, a little confused. “There are good demons?”
“Brell just person, like reporter,” the blue demon answered. “Try to make life good for family.”
“You have a…you have a family?”
“Yes,” Brell said. “Wife and three spawns. Watchers protect us from Presidium, save family’s lives many times.”
“So the Council makes the distinction between which demons need to be fought and which are just…different looking?”
“Yes,” Brell said, proudly. “But other humans…they not understand.”
“People are afraid of you?” Devlin prodded.
“Yes,” Brell answered. “Very afraid. Pretty watcher told reporter that if he writes about Council, people die. Reporter maybe wonder who pretty watcher mean.”
Devlin motioned for him to continue.
“Brell, wife and spawns, we live outside human world, have good lives. But if normal humans notice Brell, Brell’s family, then…Brell has seen how humans act, intrepid reporter. Family will not survive.”
There was a moment of silence in the conference room as Brell’s statement sunk in. Devlin slowly got to his feet.
“You make a convincing argument, Mr. Brell,” he said. “But the truth will come out eventually, one way or another. At least this way, I can control how it happens, and maybe try and make sure your fears don’t become a reality.”
“It is not enough,” Brell said sadly.
“Maybe,” Devlin said, “but every once in a while, you just gotta have faith in humanity. I’m writing the story.” And he left the room.
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Morning
Around the conference table sat the powerful triumvirate of young women who ran the Watchers Council. Rowena, Willow and Faith were all bleary eyed…they had been arguing for some time.
“So, what are our other options?” Rowena asked, as she leaned forward in her chair and rested her elbows on the table. She kept her face impassive and her voice even.
“How ’bout we buy him off again…with more money this time?” Faith asked. She had her chair leaned back against the wall and her feet up on the table. Apparently relaxed, she twirled a pencil in one hand, but her attention never wandered from the discussion. “We’re not hurtin’ for cash, and judging from Devlin’s clothes and that rattle-trap car of his, he sure is.”
Willow sighed. That they had been at it for a while was apparent from the haggard look on her face. “We’ve tried. Robin made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, and he refused it. An honest reporter. Go figure.”
“Willow…” Rowena began, hesitated, then began again, “The spell –”
“Is off the table as an option,” Willow cut her off.
“Why?” Faith asked. “We’ve been over and over this, and it keeps coming back to magic. Why can’t we just do the damned spell and be done with it? We’ve tried reasoning with him. Tried buying him off. Hell, I even tried a little subtle – okay, maybe not so subtle – threatening. Nothing has worked. What else are we supposed to do? Have Black Ops disappear him? Lock him up in the Council looney bin with that psycho slayer Dana and throw away the key?” Her feet were off the table, and all pretense of relaxation had disappeared.
“Why not just let him do the story? Why isn’t the truth an option here?” Willow countered. “Maybe he’s right. Did we even consider that possibility? Maybe Devlin is right when he says that people have a right to know what’s going on. How many lives have been lost because people don’t know that vampires exist? If we had known what was going on in Sunnydale before we met Buffy, maybe Jesse…” She trailed off.
“Willow,” Rowena said softly. “Do you think it hasn’t been tried? Do you think this is the first time this situation has come up? The Council has dealt with this issue before.”
“Bet that went over well. We’ve had some experience with how the Old Council dealt with things.”
“You’re correct, it didn’t go well. But in this case, it truly wasn’t the Council’s fault. The last time the Council tried to…to go public, so to speak, there was panic among the governments and religious institutions of the time. The Inquisition was one of the results, and thousands died because the Council tried to reveal the true nature of the world to a populace that wasn’t ready to accept that truth. Can we risk that happening now?”
“Ro, that was centuries ago! The world is different now,” Willow protested.
“That different? Have you watched the news recently?” Rowena asked. “You’ve seen firsthand how people react when they encounter the supernatural. Either they lie to themselves about what they’ve seen, or they try to destroy it. What do you think would happen to Wiccans if people knew that magic really exists? Do you remember May Day?”
Faith snorted. “Hard to forget. If it hadn’t been for Will’s little surprise, things mighta got ugly. And all that aside, there’s no way we can do this if we’ve got people watchin’ our every move. I can just see us trying to patrol while trying to meet some type of OSHA regulations. I vote we do the forgetting spell and get back to doing our jobs.”
Willow shook her head. “You don’t understand what you’re asking. This is wrong. You can’t just do a spell to make someone forget and expect that to make things okay! It doesn’t work that way. You can’t use magic to make the world be the way you want it to be.”
“Why not?” Faith asked. “Isn’t that what you’re doing every time you do a locator spell or somethin’? How’s this different?”
“Because that’s not manipulating the human mind!”
Rowena sighed and shook her head. “Will, have you considered that perhaps, just perhaps, you’re being influenced by your personal experiences and not just your religious beliefs?”
Willow’s eyes and mouth opened wide. “How dare you bring up – !”
Before Willow could say more or Rowena could reply, they were cut off by Faith saying, ‘Let’s vote.” Rowena and Willow looked at the slayer. “It’s just a matter of time until this guy is gonna spill. We’ve talked this thing to death, and we’re starting to get into stuff that you two should probably hash out in private,” Faith said. “Slayer Branch calls for a vote. Do we do a spell to make Devlin forget what he’s found out about slayers? Slayer branch votes, hell yeah.”
Rowena paused for a moment and, looking away from Willow, said, “Watcher branch votes to perform the spell.”
“The Coven votes no,” Willow said quietly.
“Two to one,” Faith said.
Rowena nodded. “It’s decided. We do the spell,” she said.
“No,” Willow said. “The Coven isn’t doing this.”
“But –” Rowena began, but Willow stood and walked out of the conference room.
Faith and Rowena looked at each other.
“So much for freakin’ democracy,” Faith commented testily.
End of Act Three