Watchers Council – Faith and Robin’s Apartment – Day
Faith took a drink of water from a bottle while she stood in front of the open refrigerator in her kitchen. Absently, she placed it back in the fridge and continued to stare straight ahead.
Robin rounded the corner to see her just standing there, not moving. He looked confused, then began to grin. “Trying to cool off?” he asked.
The question brought Faith out of her thoughts with a shake, and she realized the door was still open. “Oh,” she said, as she shut it and turned around.
“Something is definitely on your mind,” Robin remarked.
Faith gave him a brush of her hand. “Nothing really, just…what do you think about Skye?” she asked him.
“Skye? I don’t think Dawn would let you borrow her for a night of romance, if you’re still on that track,” he teased.
Faith grinned. “No, I’m being serious. Have you talked to her since she’s been back?”
“No, just that night she arrived. Why?”
Faith didn’t look directly at Robin. She stared off into space again, deep in thought. “Something is off about her,” she answered, “and I know this might sound crazy, but…I’m getting a vibe.”
“What kind of vibe?” Robin asked.
“That’s just it. I don’t recognize it. It’s not like a demon vibe – y’know, like when a vamp is nearby. It’s…I dunno…different.” She began to smile. “I’m being real descriptive, huh?”
“Not so much,” Robin agreed with a grin. “But I get what you’re saying. Maybe it’s just because she’s not feeling herself. Despite what you think, you relate well to people, Faith. You know how they think, what motivates them. Better than most, actually.”
“Nah, you’re just trying to flatter me to get into my britches,” she teased.
“I don’t need flattery for that. Just my puppy dog eyes,” he shot back.
Faith laughed and leaned up to give him a kiss. “Ah, you’re probably right. She’s just not in the swing of things, so that’s what it is, but…”
“It’s more than that?” Robin offered.
“Yeah, like…” she paused to gather her thoughts, “why didn’t the campus police, or the regular police, call us? Wouldn’t they have noticed a Jane Doe at the campus hospital? That doc that found her said she tried to call the hospital to take her there, but has anyone called the hospital to see if that’s true? And why didn’t that doctor use Skye’s cell phone to try to call someone on her list? I saw the phone on her hip this morning, so she still had it. There’s a lot of missing pieces here, y’know?”
“You want me to do a little digging?” Robin asked.
Faith sighed. “I’m being paranoid, aren’t I? That’s what Red told me when I asked.”
Robin shook his head. “I don’t think it’s paranoia at all. Those are legitimate questions that need answers.”
“Well, Red doesn’t think it’s a big deal. She’s just glad to have her Coven member back, and Rowena’s in the middle of assigning those slayer/watcher teams, so I know she won’t have the time.”
“I’ll handle it,” Robin told her. “I’ll do a little quiet snooping and see what I turn up.”
“Ya sure?” Faith asked. “I know you haven’t got much time lately either, with new classes starting.”
“It’s not a problem…and you’re right – someone has to take care of security, if this is in fact a security issue. Either way, it’s good to know.”
“Thanks Ace, for being the only one who thinks I’m not nuts,” Faith answered with a grin.
“That’s what I’m here for,” he replied with a smile.
Watches Council – Coven Room – Same Time
Gregor sat across from Kennedy, holding up a gourd of some sort. She looked for a moment as if she were trying to suppress a yawn.
“And this, although it is an ordinary squash, is far from ordinary,” he told her. He paused for a moment, trying to hold back a grin. “In fact, the only person in the world that it can disable is you. Any other slayer is impervious. Understand?” Kennedy nodded and Gregor’s grin got wider. “I could tell you weren’t listening. Thanks for proving it.”
“Huh?” Kennedy asked automatically. “I’m sorry. You busted me. I wasn’t listening. It’s just…this stuff is boring. Again, sorry, but it’s true.”
“When Janna was your age, she didn’t much want to hear about magic either. She just wanted to finish her teaching degree, lead a normal life. But eventually she came around. I just hope that, someday, you will too. At least when that day comes, you’ll have an excellent teacher in Ms. Rosenberg.”
“Willow teaching me magic? You have no idea how ironic with a capital ‘I’ that is.”
“You might be surprised, Kennedy,” Gregor went on. “Things we find in our youth to be unappealing can take on special meaning as we grow older.”
He rose and Kennedy looked up expectedly.
“That’s it?” she asked.
“I can’t teach anyone who doesn’t want to learn and, be honest, your heart really isn’t in this.”
“But you said it was important,” Kennedy countered.
“It is, but you must understand. Magic is something that requires great care and nurturing. You have to be dedicated to it in order for it to work properly. Today, you don’t have that dedication, but tomorrow…who knows? You’ve opened your mind to the possibility by coming here and that’s a first step. I’m sure, if you decide to keep going, that Ms. Rosenberg would help you in your journey. If not, then perhaps that young man, Jeff. He’s quite powerful, too.”
Kennedy looked nervous. “I’m not sure what to say.”
“Say thank you, but no thanks,” he told her with a warm grin. “When you think about it…it is a bit ironic – your training I mean – not for the reasons you’re thinking of, but the connection you both share with Janna.”
“Meaning?” Kennedy asked.
“You see, the first major spell that Ms. Rosenberg performed successfully was one that Janna constructed with text from the old country. I won’t be here to see it but, perhaps someday, she’ll be the one training Janna’s daughter. There are many circles in life, Kennedy. Don’t forget that. That’s why it’s important that we don’t burn bridges as we travel…Go now,” he told her with a warm grin. “You’ve heard enough ramblings from an old man for one afternoon.”
Quietly, Kennedy left the room. Gregor’s happy expression fell almost instantly once she was gone.
Watchers Council – Library – Later that Afternoon
Faith entered to see Robin, Rowena and Willow there.
“What’s up?” she asked.
“We got a call from Romeo,” Rowena told her. “He’s decided to take my advice and not run away with Juliet, but he’s asked for our help. He’s afraid of what Hilbert might do when he goes to see him, so he’s asking that we escort him. I know this falls outside of the lines of what we do, so that’s why I’m asking before I give him an answer.”
“Sure, I’ll go,” Faith agreed. “You in again too, Ace?” she added.
“Actually, I’m gonna stay behind and do a little…research.”
Faith looked confused at first, but opened her mouth briefly in understanding and nodded her agreement. “Okay, let’s move out then.”
Abandoned Factory – Later that Afternoon
Hilbert stopped in his tracks when he saw Richard and his parents standing with Rowena, Willow and Faith just inside his front door.
“Oh. Good. I see you found him,” he remarked, with no joy in his voice.
Faith nodded him toward Hilbert. Richard looked reluctant, but took a step forward.
“Sir, I’ve come to ask for Erios’s hand. I apologize that I didn’t do so earlier. I’d like to court your daughter, with your permission.”
“Unacceptable,” Hilbert answered. “And I’d appreciate it if you’d leave immediately.”
Richard looked to the Council team, as if unsure of what to do next. Rowena closed the distance between herself and Hilbert.
“Hilbert,” she began, “as I explained to the Caperlets here, Richard and your daughter had made plans to run off together.”
“What?” Hilbert roared.
“Hilbert! Listen to me!” Rowena yelled. Then, in a softer voice, she added, “Please. Now, we managed to convince them to wait before they did anything stupid to see if we could find a solution to this problem. The Caperlets have agreed to let Richard see Erios, as long as he doesn’t break curfew or run away again. It seems their concern was more about the rest of Erios’s family than with Erios herself.”
“This…human…is not worthy of Erios’s hand,” Hilbert proclaimed.
“Now just hold on a second,” Richard’s father spoke up. Before he could say any more, Willow stepped in front of him and shook her head.
“Look, he’s not a bad kid,” Faith put in. “He’s got stars in his eyes, yeah, but show me an eighteen-year-old who doesn’t. Hell, you said it yourself – teenagers.”
“He thinks he’s worthy of Erios’s love?” Hilbert asked Faith.
“I am,” Richard spoke up. “I love her, sir. She’s an exceptional being…demon or human.”
Hilbert looked Richard up and down. “All right, young man, I’ll make a deal with you. If you can defeat my champion, then you may see Erios. Agreed?”
“Agreed,” Richard answered quickly.
“Whoa, hold up,” Faith cut in. “Your champion? Another Denaver demon, I assume?”
“Yes. Shap, who you met when you first arrived here,” Hilbert replied.
“I’ll do it,” Richard repeated.
“Richard, for the love of God, shut up a second!” Faith told him. Running a hand through her hair in frustration, she turned back to Hilbert. “If you love your daughter so much, why don’t you fight him?”
“That’s not our way,” Hilbert answered.
“Well, it’s not our way to pit a human against a demon. So, why don’t I take on your champion for Richard?”
“I don’t need anyone to fight my battles,” Richard remarked.
Faith rolled her eyes and took Richard by the arm, making him wince as she pulled him away from the group. “Feel that?” she said, giving his arm an extra squeeze. When she let go, he rubbed his arm. “That’s just a fraction of what a demon can do to you. You walk into the ring and you’re a dead man. Do you understand?” Richard simply nodded. “Good, now follow my lead and, again, shut the hell up.”
The pair walked back to Hilbert and Faith asked, “What do you say?”
Hilbert turned to Shap, who simply nodded. “It’s acceptable to Shap, so it’s acceptable to me. The last one standing will be declared the winner. Agreed?”
Faith held out her hand to Hilbert. “Agreed?”
After they shook hands, Hilbert announced, “I’ll have the arena prepared. We’ll come for you when it’s time.”
Once the pair had left, Rowena turned to Faith. “What are you? Crazy? I said we should help, but not at the risk of you getting killed.”
“He’s not gonna kill me,” Faith replied. “Besides, I’ve bloodied my knuckles for just about everything in life except love. I think it’s time I fought for something worthwhile. Don’t you?”
“I’m sorry, Faith,” Willow spoke up. “I gotta go with Rowena on this one.”
“Now there’s a shock – you two, seeing eye-to-eye,” Faith said, as she took off her jacket and sweatshirt to reveal her tank top underneath.
“Hey,” Willow got their attention, as Richard walked over.
“I don’t want anyone here to get hurt, or worse, killed, over me,” Richard told her. “Not you or that Shap guy,” he added.
“No death – just ten rounds of boxing, I’m sure. Of course, that’s if he makes it to ten rounds,” Faith said with a grin. She began to stretch her arms.
The door opened again and a young woman entered. “Hilbert says they’re ready when you are,” she announced.
“Lead the way,” Faith answered.
Abandoned Factory – Gymnasium – Moments Later
Faith moved her head from side to side, her shoulders rising and falling as she stretched them out. “Just call me the Great White Hope,” she teased.
“This is not funny,” Rowena told her.
“Lighten up,” Faith replied. “I’ve seen him in monster form. This’ll be a cake walk, and then the two lovers can live happily ever after and get the hell outta our hair.”
The demon acting as a referee motioned everyone to the center of the ring. On Richard’s side stood his parents and the Council team, while Hilbert and what seemed like members of his ‘court’ stood on the other.
“Remember, anything goes,” the referee said, “The last one standing will be declared the winner. If you fall you have ten seconds to rise. If you don’t rise within that time, you forfeit. Understood?”
Faith and Shap both nodded.
As the referee stepped back, Shap let out a scream that made the other side jump a few steps back. The scream slowly turned into a growl, as his human form began to disappear and his demon form took over. He continued to growl while his height grew taller and taller, until both Faith and Rowena had to crane their necks back to see his face. Rowena and Faith simultaneously looked over at each other as he shadowed over them.
“Why didn’t you tell me he was really this big?” Faith asked, suddenly concerned.
“I distinctly said I know some facts about Denavers, not all facts,” Rowena answered.
“He wasn’t this big before!” Faith shouted.
“Well, he is now.” Rowena shrugged.
Faith didn’t have time to react to this before the demon grabbed Faith by the back of the neck and dragged her away. Rowena grimaced in response. With an easy toss, Faith landed halfway across the room and off the mat.
“Son of a bitch,” she swore as she moved back to her feet, only to find Shap standing over her again. “Oh shiii…” Before she could finish, Shap had her by the back of the neck again, tossing her in the direction she originally stood. She rolled to a stop at Willow and Rowena’s feet. “Don’t say I told you so,” Faith snarled up at them. Then Shap grabbed her by the strap of her tank top and dragged her back to the center of the mat.
“That’s it,” Rowena said, “Throw in the towel.”
“We don’t have a towel,” Willow answered. Faith could be heard howling in the background.
“Then throw something in,” Rowena replied. “She’s getting smeared out there!”
“Don’t you dare!” Faith called over to them, trying to see around Shap’s girth. “I’ll get him on the run,” she added, as Shap picked her up and held her over his head.
“Oh really,” Rowena shouted. “Will that be before or after you’re dead, Faith?”
Hilbert stood on the other side of the gym, watching the events with a smile on his face.
Shap tossed Faith upward and put his knee out, as if to break her back, but the slayer managed to twist her body and took the impact on her side. With Shap’s leg still in the air and her back to the mat, she grabbed his foot and took it up with her as she rose, putting Shap on his backside. Hilbert stood up in surprise. He watched as Faith swung Shap by the leg and sent him flying into a set of weights to the left of the room.
“Ha!” Faith challenged, “Take that you – Uh oh.” She ducked as a round weight came barreling past her head.
Shap continued to pick up the other weights, hurling them easily in her direction, no matter the size. Faith continued to bob and weave out of the way of each of the projectiles until he was out of ammunition to send her way. He began to charge and Faith did the same. However, instead of engaging, as he had intended, Faith went into a slide and slipped between his legs. She quickly moved to her feet and jumped up to receive a hard kick to the back of one his knees. He turned around to look at her, with an expression more of great annoyance than pain.
Faith shrugged. “It was worth a shot,” she told him.
Shap simply backhanded her like an annoying bug and she flew to the opposite side of the room. Willow and Rowena both hide their eyes behind their hands, unable to watch any longer.
As Faith came to a rest on the concrete floor beyond the mat, she noticed a pair of feet and looked up to see Erios standing there.
“What is going on?” she yelled.
“The ancient courting ritual of the Denaver,” Faith replied. “I’m fighting for Richard’s honor, which, based on how I’m doing, I’d say he’s plum out of.”
“The ancient ritual of what?” Erios asked her. Not waiting for an answer, she turned to her father. “What’s the meaning of this?” she asked.
Hilbert looked a tad guilty. “We were getting to know Richard and his folks.”
Erios helped Faith to her feet. “I am so sorry you got involved in all this,” she said before she walked away.
“Me too,” Faith whimpered, as she limped back toward the Council team.
Shap shifted back to human form quickly and sympathetically asked Faith, “Can I give you a hand?”
Faith held up her hand, as if to say, “stay away,” and Shap let her pass.
“Father, explain,” Erios said, poking him in the chest.
“We were just having a little fun. I wanted to see how far he’d be willing to go to court you.”
“So he came to you and asked to see me?” Erios asked.
“He did,” Hilbert admitted.
“And that in itself isn’t enough for you?” she asked. “None of the other boys I’ve ever been interested in had the guts to do that.”
“I know,” he said in a guilty tone. “But…he’s a Caperlet!”
“He’s Richard,” she answered. “And his last name shouldn’t matter. It’s what’s inside him that counts.”
Hilbert said nothing at first. “They said you were going to run away together,” he eventually said.
“We were, and someday we still might, if it comes to that, but if I do leave, I want it to be as an adult and not a child. I don’t fear you, Father, and I love Richard, so the choice is yours.”
“Say yes,” Faith said, clutching her ribs. “Please, make this all worthwhile.”
Hilbert let out a sigh. “Fine, but the same rules as Richard’s folks. Home at curfew and no running away. Got it?”
Erios smiled and then hugged her father, who finally began to grin. “And you, young man,” he warned Richard. “You better have her home on time. Before time would be even better.”
“No problem, sir. I promise,” Richard answered.
Erios released her father and ran over to Richard’s waiting arms.
“Aw,” Willow said fondly, “we saved the day and united two families.”
“We?” Faith answered. “I don’t recall your ass out there gettin’ kicked, Red.”
“You,” Willow corrected herself. “You saved the day.”
“Maybe now you’ll think twice about listening to what I say,” Rowena added to Faith.
“Don’t count on it, Blondie,” she answered. “Let’s just go home.”
As they began to leave, Hilbert called out to them. “Please stay for dinner. Everyone is invited,” he announced.
“Sorry,” Faith answered. “But I got a date with an ice pack.”
Richard released Erios and ran over to Faith. “Thank you,” he told her. “Sincerely. If there’s anything I can do –”
“Yeah there is,” Faith told him. He waited expectantly. “Stay in school. Get your education and don’t be in such a rush to grow up. I know what I’m talkin’ about, kid. If Erios is the one, then she’ll still be there ten years from now, with or without a ring. So play your cards right and someday you will get that new Charger, nice apartment and a good life for her – everything you want, okay?”
“Yes ma’am,” he said with a nod, before running back over to Erios.
“You did good, Faith,” Willow commended. “I’m proud of you. You stood your ground and you fought for love.”
“Thanks,” Faith answered. “Now, if it’s not too much trouble, can you guys carry me once we get out this door and away from Shap’s eyes? I think I might fall over.” Rowena and Willow giggled. “I’m serious,” Faith whined, beginning to stumble a bit. Rowena and Willow did their part by steadying her out the door.
Watchers Council – Faith and Robin’s Apartment – Early Evening
Faith walked into her living room with a limp, sporting a black eye.
“What the hell happened to you?” Robin said, rising from his chair.
“War is hell, Ace. And so is love sometimes. On a brighter note, the lovers and the families are now together. Just took a little elbow grease…and a mild thrashing.”
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“Yeah, just give me a few hours and I’ll be good,” she replied. “What about your night? Did you find any dirt?”
Robin shook his head. “No. In fact, everything checks out. Skye was listed as a Jane Doe at the hospital, but the campus police didn’t catch it. The hospital said they do remember getting a call from the university, and as far as the cell phone, well, maybe Skye just bought the same model as the last one she had.” Faith gave a deep sigh. “Still not convinced?” Robin asked.
“Hell, maybe I’m just slipping – as if these bruises aren’t an indication of that, huh?” Faith remarked.
Robin grinned. “Why don’t I run you a warm bubble bath with Epsom salts so you can soak for a while?”
“Will you make me some of those instant chocolate chip cookies?” Faith asked.
Robin shook his finger. “Now you’re pushing it,” he teased as he headed toward the bathroom, but not before turning on the oven. “Go get undressed and I’ll get it ready.”
Faith removed her jacket carefully and winced as it passed her shoulders. Once it was off she tossed it in the chair. Then, like earlier, she began to stare off at nothing, deep in thought.
Fade to Black
End of Love’s Labor Lost
Next on Watchers…
Gregor Kalderash’s wining and dining of the top brass of the Watchers Council takes an unexpected turn, leading some of our heroes to question everything they thought they knew.