Watchers Council– Lobby – Continuous
Marissa immediately raised her crossbow and released a shot at Skye. The young vampire reacted with incredible quickness, throwing her body backwards and to the side. The arrow missed her, but not before she lost her balance. She sprawled onto the pavement and looked up.
“Whoa!” Skye shouted as she got to her feet, holding her hands up. “Whoa! I was just –” But she was cut off and thrown back to the ground as she was tackled by two more Black Ops slayers. Skye groaned when she hit the sidewalk again. Each of the slayers pinned one of the vampire’s arms to the pavement. “Get the hell off me!” Skye yelled, struggling. One of the girls raised a wooden stake, ready to bring it straight down into Skye’s heart.
“No!” Dawn cried.
The girl never completed the motion, however, as a strong hand caught hers in the air and held it.
“Don’t,” Kennedy said quietly, without releasing her grip on the Black Ops slayer’s wrist.
The girl looked up incredulously at her superior. “Are you kidding me?”
“I’m giving you an order,” Kennedy said. “Keep her pinned.” The girl sighed, and while Skye struggled beneath her, pocketed the stake with her free hand. Kennedy turned back to the group, most of which was still standing dumbstruck in the doorway. “Marissa, I need the cuffs!”
“Eventually that quick-shot move is gonna work,” sighed the Black Ops leader. She grabbed a pair of handcuffs off of her belt and held them out to Kennedy.
Skye kicked one of the slayers holding her down in the groin area. “Can we hurry this up?” the girl asked in exasperation.
“Just let me up,” Skye urged them, trying unsuccessfully to roll over.
“Okay, get her up,” Kennedy said when she came back with the cuffs. Each of the Black Ops girls grabbed one of Skye’s hands and hauled her up into a standing position with her arms wrenched behind her back.
“This really isn’t necessary,” Skye complained, as Kennedy fastened the handcuffs around her wrists. “Boy, you guys have really gone down hill in terms of how you treat guests.”
Kennedy took her hands off of Skye’s wrists once she got her restraints on. “You’re not a guest. Trust me…Let her go.” She nodded to the two slayers holding Skye.
“Are you crazy?” Marissa asked.
“She’s not going anywhere,” Kennedy insisted. “Let go.”
The two girls reluctantly released their grasp on Skye’s arms…and Skye remained where she was, her arms bound behind her.
“Skye…” Dawn managed, shaking off her shock. “What are you doing here?”
“I was just thinking the same thing about her,” Skye replied, nodding towards Buffy. “Nice to see you again, Buffy. Did you do something with your hair?”
“It’s a trick,” Buffy said. “She’s playing us somehow.”
“Really not,” Skye insisted.
“Well,” Kennedy offered as she walked back towards the door, “they say the perpetrator always returns to the scene of the crime.” She leaned towards Buffy and lowered her voice. “And she’s the only link we’ve got to whatever Wagner and her people are up to, so we’re going to be really, really careful…but I’m taking her alive.” Buffy nodded. Meanwhile, Kennedy fished a radio out of her back pocket. “Come in, Rowena. Are you there?”
“Yes,” Rowena answered, sounding a little surprised, “this is Watcher One. Over.”
“Yeah,” Kennedy continued, sounding purposely nonchalant, “this is Kennedy. I’ve got Skye under slayer escort.”
“Wait, what?” Rowena asked. “Did you just say you’ve captured Skye?”
“Hey, Rowena,” Skye said loudly. “Did you miss me?”
“Jesus,” the watcher said softly on the other end of the line. She quickly recovered from her shock and said, “Okay, bring her to the interrogation room. Over.”
“You guys have an interrogation room?” Buffy asked. “I always wanted one of those.”
“All right,” Kennedy announced, “we’re bringing her in.” The Black Ops slayers surrounded Skye with trained precision. As the group walked through the Council lobby, Kennedy asked the same question again. “Seriously, Skye, why did you come back?”
“Maybe it was just to see the look on your face,” Skye said, but her sarcasm wasn’t accompanied by the usual smile. Instead, she kept her eyes fixed on Dawn as the group passed the young woman by. Dawn noticed Skye’s stare, because she was staring right back.
Everglades Wetland – Night
The voices from the hammock had faded away some time ago. As the full moon rose in the sky, the temperature dropped until both Andrew and Tracey were shivering, their light jackets doing nothing to keep away the damp chill.
Andrew half-turned in the canoe. “Any idea how far we’ve come?” he asked.
“No,” she answered. “I was busy chatting with Billie on the way out here and didn’t notice.”
Andrew sighed. “I think Jimmy was paddling faster, too,” he said. “Want me to help?”
“No,” Tracey said. “No offense, but now’s not the time to learn how to paddle a canoe. It takes practice.”
“Where’d you learn?” he asked.
“Summer camp,” she replied. “And the instructors there always tipped everyone into the water on purpose. Not a fun way to learn.”
Andrew grinned in the darkness. “You learned well,” he said. “I trust you with our lives.”
Tracey paddled the boat in silence for a few more minutes and then asked, “That was a great spell you did back there, Andy. What was it?”
“Simple levitation spell,” he answered. “Willow taught it to me when she first started teaching me Wicca.”
“Moving that heavy pot was not simple,” she said.
“Yoda was right,” Andrew shrugged. “It doesn’t matter how big something is, the spell is the same.”
“You okay, honey?” she asked, concerned at his downcast tone of voice.
Andrew sighed. “I hurt those men, Trace.”
“They would have hurt us,” Tracey said. “They were going to boil that man. I’m sure they killed those other men, too.”
“Willow says you have to be so careful when you use magic,” he said. “Consequences have to be considered, actions, reactions, repercussions, so much.”
“Sometimes you just don’t have time for that,” Tracey said. “I think sometimes you have to trust in yourself and trust that the Goddess trusts you to do what’s right.”
Andrew was about to answer when the canoe moved through a patch of sawgrass and into a clear section of water, obviously a deeper pool resembling a small lake. Beyond the lake lay another hammock, this one riding higher and with a steep bank.
Tracey steered the boat toward the hammock and used a length of line to tie it to a cypress knee. Soon they were both climbing up the bank.
“Look!” Andrew whispered, pulling Tracey to the ground. Not far away, a warm glow could be seen through the trees.
“Let’s get closer,” she said.
Together, they quickly sprinted towards the nearest tree and then used the trees as cover as they crept closer to the clearing.
A large, well-kept chickee was the centerpiece of the clearing, with smaller chickees circling the area. Torches provided light, giving the camp a homey and comfortable atmosphere. Men and women, clad in colorful tunics and dresses, busied themselves with various tasks around the hut. In a small chickee, a group of children slept peacefully on a sleeping platform. At the edge of the camp lay a half-completed canoe dug out of a huge cypress trunk, the insides charred and scarred. On a bench next to the dugout, the wood-working tools were neatly stowed away for the night.
As Andrew and Tracey watched this domestic scene, an old, wizened woman stepped away from the chickee and looked towards them.
“Well, come on and have some supper then,” she said directly at the tree they were hiding behind.
Tracey and Andrew looked at each other in astonishment.
“Come on now,” the old woman said. “I know you’re there, so there’s no sense trying to fool me.”
Andrew gave a slight nod and together they walked into the clearing holding hands.
“Um…hello,” Andrew said. “I’m Andrew and this is Tracey.”
The old woman nodded. “Yes, you are,” she said. “Folks call me Betty Mae, so I reckon you can, too. Must be hungry by now, running around like that this time of night.”
She turned and walked toward the chickee. One of the younger women handed them each a bowl filled with a thick, steaming gruel resembling farina.
“Smells good,” Tracey said, sniffing the contents and taking a spoonful.
“Finest sofkee between that place and the big water,” one of the men said with a friendly smile.
“Oh,” Andrew said, the wooden spoon pausing halfway to his mouth. “Inspector Osceola said he didn’t like sofkee.”
“Jimmy’s a good boy, but he’d rather get his food from that darn Publix than make it himself,” Betty Mae said with affection in her voice. “Try it.”
Andrew tasted the gruel and smiled. “Good!” he said, shoveling another spoonful into his mouth.
They quickly finished their meal, handing the bowls back to the women with their thanks.
“So,” Betty Mae said, “got yourselves lost, I see.”
Tracey grinned bashfully. “We were helping the inspector and became separated.”
Betty Mae nodded. “I’ll have Moses take you back to the station in the morning. Tired too, I reckon?”
“Yes ma’am,” Andrew answered with a yawn. “It’s been a long day.”
“Rest for the night,” Betty Mae said, before she instructed one of the women to lead them to one of the sleeping chickees.
Watchers Council – Hallway Outside Conference Room 4 – Night
“Are you okay?” Buffy asked Dawn. The younger girl was outside a conference room door, accompanied by her sister.
Dawn didn’t answer the question. “I should be in there,” she sighed.
“These people are professionals around here, Dawnie,” Buffy told her. “I think you need to let them handle it.”
Rowena rounded the nearest corner and walked towards the two girls. She glanced at the door, then back at Buffy. “Skye’s in there?”
“Yeah,” Rowena informed her. “Kennedy and that Black Ops girl are in there watching her. They’re waiting for you.”
“Let me go in there,” Dawn begged. “She’ll talk to me.”
“Not until I figure out what exactly is going on,” Rowena told her. “If this works out, you can see her later if you want. Though I’m not exactly sure I’d recommend it.”
Dawn bit her lip.
“This has been a roller coaster for you, and not the fun kind,” Rowena added. Before she could say anything more, Dawn spoke up.
“I think I have a right to hear what she says,” the young watcher answered. “If it were Willow, wouldn’t you want to know?”
Rowena took a deep breath. “Fine, but no interaction with her – from either of you, no matter what,” Rowena said to both Summers women. They both nodded and Rowena motioned them to follow. “If Skye makes any sudden movements, I want you to get Dawn out,” she told Buffy.
“Affirmative,” Buffy answered with a casual salute.
“Okay, here goes nothing,” Rowena said, as she turned the knob on the door and entered the room.
“Hey, Ro!” Skye said cheerily when she saw the blond watcher come through the door. The young vampire, still handcuffed, sat at a small table in an uncomfortable looking chair. Kennedy and Marissa stood on either side of their prisoner. The room was windowless and otherwise bare, except for a small tape recorder on the table. The smile slowly appeared to turn into one of sincerity as she watched Dawn enter with Buffy. The slayer and her sister stood at the far wall near the door.
“I always wondered what Conference Room Four was for,” Skye said to Rowena. “It’s amazing the things you learn when you take a walk on the wild side.”
Rowena pulled out a chair opposite the vampire and sat down. She pressed the tape player’s “Record” button. “Skye Talisker debriefing, session one.”
“I always was more of a boxers girl myself,” Skye quipped.
“Were you this annoying when you were alive?” Marissa wondered.
“What, you don’t remember my sparkling personality?” Skye chided. “I’m shocked. By the way, who the hell are you again and why do you suddenly act like you’re so important?”
“I’m not going to beat around the bush,” Rowena said, before Marissa could reply. “You’re not an idiot, Skye.”
“Why, thank you,” the vampire responded. Rowena ignored her.
“You know everything about this place. You also know you’d be much safer almost anywhere else in the world but here. So the first question has to be…why did you come back here?”
“Do you even have to ask?”
“I really, really do,” Rowena insisted.
“Are you stoned or just stupid?” Skye asked incredulously. Getting no response, she continued, “I’m here because she’s here.”
“You mean Dawn?” Kennedy asked.
“No, I mean Miss Shoot First/Ask Questions Later over here,” Skye grated, nodding towards Marissa. But then her tone grew more serious. “Dawn and I…we’re meant to be together. I can’t just leave her.”
Dawn shifted uncomfortably at the comment, instinctively Buffy tightened her hold around her waist, almost as if supporting her weight.
“Sorry,” Kennedy told the vampire, “I’m pretty sure Dawn doesn’t date murderers.”
“Why don’t we let her decide that?” Skye replied. None of the Council members in the room seemed quite sure what to make of her, and things quieted down for a moment.
Rowena cleared her throat. “Well, then, let’s move on and discuss what happened?”
“You’re going to need to be more specific than that,” Skye told her. “I’m undead, not psychic.”
“Well, let’s start at the beginning, shall we?” Rowena said. “Halloween night. When you left for John Carroll you were still human. We lost track of you for a few days. You show up again, with a woman who later turns out not to be quite human herself, and now you’re a vampire. I was hoping you could fill in the blanks.”
Skye considered her options for a moment, glancing sideways at Marissa’s hand resting lightly on a wooden stake in her belt.
“Fine, I’ll play,” she announced.
“Good,” Rowena replied. “Halloween night…”
“Heli escorted me to the train,” Skye began. “I took the rapid to the University Heights stop, as usual. It was pretty late, but I decided to walk back to the dorm. I mean, they say it’s safe, they have those blue lights or whatever…what a crock.
“Anyway, I was jumped,” she continued. “There were vampires, at least two. Dr. Wagner was there, too…They were waiting for me.”
University Heights Campus – Halloween Night
As Skye approached a row of bushes she saw a shadow dart toward her from behind. She looked back but was suddenly grabbed, a hand covering her mouth before she could scream. The figure dragged her back into the bushes and off the sidewalk. Skye kicked all the way.
Watchers Council – Conference Room 4 – Resume
“They were waiting for you, specifically?” Rowena asked.
“My guess? Yeah,” Skye said. “They grabbed me, pinned me to the ground…we were right in the middle of the quad. They didn’t even bother to hide…”
University Heights Campus – Halloween Night
Skye continued to struggle against her captors. Her eyes widened when she saw Wagner standing over the proceedings. Then one of the vampires leaned down and bit into the side of her neck. Skye let out a muffled scream, then went silent. Her thrashing gradually decreased until she was still.
Watchers Council – Conference Room 4 – Resume
“After they fed off me, I was so weak. I couldn’t raise my head if I tried. That’s when one of them slashed his wrist…”
University Heights Campus – Halloween Night
With a sharpened fingernail, the vampire that had been feeding off of Skye drew blood from his own wrist. He looked to Wagner for approval.
“Do it,” she ordered.
The vampire cradled Skye’s head in one hand and held his bleeding wrist up to her mouth. Barely conscious, Skye tried to keep her mouth closed.
“You think you have a choice,” Skye’s voice said. “People think that when your life changes there’s a fork in the road, you take the road less traveled and that makes all the difference.”
Another vampire grabbed Skye’s chin and easily wrenched her jaw open. The first vampire let the blood drip flow from his wrist into Skye’s mouth. She managed only a whimper.
“This wasn’t like that.”
Skye tried to spit but the vampire put his wrist next to her mouth while the others held her jaw closed so the blood trickled into her throat. Smiling, the vampire looked down as Skye gave up what fight she had left.
“They force fed me blood. And if you ever wondered how much it takes to turn someone, lemme say, it’s not as much as you might have thought.”
University Heights Campus – Later that Night
Wagner stood over Skye’s motionless body as it lay on the well-kept lawn. After a moment, Skye’s eyes suddenly snapped open, glowing yellow.
Watchers Council– Conference Room 4 – Resume
“Wagner wanted me to be her inside woman from then on, reporting on activities going on inside the Council,” Skye continued.
“And she said I was inconsequential,” Rowena mused.
“That was later,” Skye said. “They put a glamour on me, pretty heavy stuff, so that I appeared to have a heartbeat, felt like I had a body temperature, etcetera.”
“How did they do it?” Rowena asked. “And why is Faith the only slayer that could sense something different?”
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Skye admitted. “Maybe since she was one of the real Chosen slayers,” she said, looking at Kennedy to emphasize the verbal jab. “Maybe she has a greater awareness. Couldn’t tell ya. Anyway, I didn’t even think Willow had that kind of magical power, to replicate the living.”
“But we saw you on tape; we figured it out,” Kennedy pointed out. “So what changed?”
“What can I say? I have authority issues.”
Dr. Wagner’s Office – “Rule of Three”
Without warning, Skye picked up a pencil from Dr. Wagner’s desk and hurled it at the man standing at the edge of the desk. The projectile pierced his heart and her sire turned to dust.
Watchers Council– Conference Room 4 – Resume
“They took the glamour away…to punish you for disobeying,” Rowena realized.
“She shoots, she scores!” Skye joked. “Actually, they didn’t just take it away, they erased it. It was as if the spell never existed.”
“That’s why Faith could spot you on the old video tape,” Kennedy stated.
Skye nodded. “And why that bitch Bonnie saw my reflection in the fridge door – or lack of reflection, actually. I couldn’t have her running off and squealing to you guys.”
“So you killed her, and Dana…just because you could?” Kennedy asked.
“Just because I had to,” Skye told her. “If I made Bonnie look like an accident, there was still a chance I might buy myself some time, figure things out, but after I heard the alarms, I knew…You guys figured it out first, and as soon as you found me I was as good as dust. So when I had the chance to fill up with a little slayer power to get out, I took it.”
“You make it sound so business-like,” Rowena chastised.
“It wasn’t personal, that’s for sure,” Skye commented. “There’s only one thing I care about in this world,” she said, glancing over at Dawn before turning back to Rowena. “And it wasn’t Bonnie or Dana – they were simply two means to an end.”
“I’m missing something here,” Rowena said. “If these people did this as you claim, went to all this trouble to plant a mole in the Council, why’d they just give the game up like that? They had to know we’d trace it back to them.”
Skye smirked. “You don’t scare them now.”
“Now?” Kennedy asked.
“They’ve been keeping track of us, well you, for a while,” Skye corrected herself. “I think what got them worried was when you guys took down the Presidium…but the track record since then, not that great.”
“We’ve been doing fine, thanks,” Kennedy defended.
“If you say so,” Skye replied casually before starting to clean her nails. “By the way, where’s Faith these days? Doesn’t she usually do this stuff?” The vampire raised an eyebrow in Kennedy’s direction, as if she knew more than she was letting on. “I don’t think the whole thing was ever more than a side game for them, anyway, but again, I can’t say for sure.”
Rowena and Kennedy exchanged worried glances before the blond watcher continued her questioning.
“Can’t or won’t?” Rowena asked.
The point wasn’t lost on Skye. “I’m not working for them. If I was, then Bonnie would be alive, Dana would be alive, chances are Dawn and I would be naked up in her room right now and you guys would be none the wiser.” She gave Rowena a melancholy grin. “Funny…sometimes you think you’ve made the right choice, only to find out you royally screwed the pooch instead.”
Rowena ran her fingers through her hair. “Skye, what are we dealing with here? What is Dr. Wagner?”
“A scary bitch?” Skye ventured.
“And…?” Rowena prompted.
“Again, I don’t know,” Skye told her. “I was still kinda pissed off that they stole my life from me, so I didn’t put much stock in what they said.”
“You spent all that time with her…” Kennedy pointed out.
“All I’ll say right now is that, no matter how powerful Wagner is, she’s not the one calling the shots,” Skye said.
“So…the bitch has a boss?” Marissa ventured.
“She was always going on about her master – he wanted this, wouldn’t be pleased about that.” Skye rolled her eyes. “And you guys think I’m annoying.”
“Did she seem scared of this master?” Rowena asked.
“Maybe,” Skye replied, and Rowena began to write something down.
“Any idea who she was talking about?” Rowena asked.
“Nada,” Skye sighed. “Is that all?”
Rowena once again glanced at Kennedy, who nodded. “Actually, that brings us to perhaps an even more pressing question,” Rowena said, “What exactly are we going to do with you?”
Marissa raised her hand, as if waiting for the teacher to call on her.
“I know what your vote is, Slayer Stavros,” Rowena told her, “but I want to hear what Miss Talisker has to say first.”
“Well,” Skye said, “I was hoping I could stay here.”
“Without us killing you? Or vice versa?” Kennedy asked.
“Preferably both,” Skye sighed in frustration. “Look, I know I’m screwed. But it’s either them or you – well, actually, I don’t really give a damn about you either, but I do love Dawn. I promised her forever and I’ll keep my promise. The way I see it, if the people, demons, whoever they are, find out I’m still around, they’ll come after me.”
“Why should we care?” Rowena wondered quietly.
“Because as long as I’m on Dawn’s side, I’m on your side,” Skye told her. “And like you said, I’m not an idiot. I wouldn’t tell you everything I know. Then I have nothing to bargain with at all.”
“You’re evil,” Marissa pointed out flatly.
“I’m soulless, not evil,” Skye insisted.
Kennedy scoffed. “There are two dead people that might say otherwise.”
“Three,” Skye corrected. “Since the bitch at the college didn’t feed me, and I was starving, I…had to pick up a snack at the bar one night.”
“And that’s not evil?” Kennedy asked.
“Look,” the vampire continued, “I’m not going to debate an issue that nobody in this room except for myself truly understands. But consider this for a moment – I might not know everything Wagner plans to do, but I’ve seen things. If another agent of theirs shows up, I’ll know. I can do magic, I have super strength…And if Dawn wants me to, I’ll help.”
“Out of the goodness of your soulless heart?” Kennedy asked.
“Again, I might be soulless, but I still have a heart,” Skye replied, her eyes fixed on Dawn.
“Don’t think you’ll be alone with her for a second,” Kennedy said.
“You really think I’d plan to kill her?” Skye replied. “If I wanted to do that, I had plenty of chances already – any of you here, for that matter. Well, except for Buffy. That would involve hopping a plane to Europe, and frankly that would be too much trouble.”
“She’s got a point,” Marissa said. “Dawn would be a vampire already.”
“Exactly,” Skye said, motioning to Marissa. “Besides, I saw your classified ad in the paper. Something about a sudden opening in the snarky turncoat department…”
Rowena quietly sized up the small girl sitting across from her.
After a long moment, she stood and said, “All right. Take her to the brig.”
As Kennedy and Marissa hauled Skye to her feet, the vampire called to Rowena, Dawn and Buffy who began to depart.
“That’s really not necessary. I’m over the whole killing people phase,” Skye told her.
“I’m not letting a vampire roam free through the council,” Rowena stated flatly. “It’s a mistake I won’t make again. And I don’t believe you’re just here for your girlfriend. I think you’ve got another card to play.”
“Look, I told you…”
“And you should know that I’m far from deciding on whether you get to stay unalive over the long term. Take that under consideration before you pull anything.”
With that, she walked out of the room, leaving the Council’s newest prisoner to chew on her words.
Watchers Council – Lobby – Night
Rowena, Buffy, and Dawn sat silently together on the couch in the middle of the lobby. All three women looked up when Kennedy and Marissa entered the room.
“The prisoner is secure,” Marissa announced.
“Good,” Rowena said softly.
“Get some rest,” Kennedy told her fellow slayer. “You never know when you’re gonna need it.”
Marissa nodded and took off towards the Slayer Dorm. Kennedy walked over to where the three women were sitting.
“You can see her now, if you want,” she told Dawn. “She’s in the last cell at the end. You’ve got clearance.”
“Thanks,” Dawn said, and got up to head down to the basement.
“I’ll go with…” Buffy motioned toward her little sister. Rowena nodded, and the two girls left Kennedy and Rowena standing together in the Council’s big, empty front lobby.
“She’s lying, you know,” Rowena said quietly.
“Skye?” Kennedy asked. “I’m not so sure. I mean, yeah, she’s not the most credible source, but…I think she’s serious about her and Dawn.”
“Maybe you’re right,” Rowena said. “But I’m not taking any chances. And I’m worried about Dawn.”
“It’s okay, Skye can’t hurt her from inside the cell.”
“When somebody loves you,” Rowena said sadly, “you don’t have to touch them to hurt them.” The silence returned.
“Didn’t see this one coming,” Rowena remarked.
“Neither did I,” Kennedy agreed. “But remember that massive list of problems we had?”
“Don’t remind me.”
“Well,” Kennedy said with a small smile, “it’s getting smaller. We captured Skye, we have more info on Wagner, and Faith’s back, though I’m not sure where that ranks on a list of accomplishments.”
Rowena thought about this for a beat. “You’re right,” she said, her tone brighter.
“High five.” Kennedy held up her hand and Rowena slapped it. “Now down low,” Rowena slapped her former slayer’s hand again. “Right side,” Kennedy continued, but then pulled her hand away when Rowena once again followed her instructions. “Too slow!” Kennedy announced, and both women broke down in giggles.
From the top of the stairs, Faith stoically watched the pair give each other another high five, then turned to walk back to her room.
Watchers Council – Holding Cells – Night
A thick metal door separated the holding cells from the rest of the council basement, and after Buffy and Dawn came down the stairs, it was outside this door that they paused.
“You don’t have to do this, Dawn,” Buffy repeated softly.
“I know,” Dawn replied. “But Buffy…what would you do?”
Buffy smiled a little and hugged her little sister. Dawn buried her face in the slayer’s shoulder for a moment before releasing her.
“Alrighty then,” Dawn said. She fished an access card out of her pocket and ran it through a reader next to the door. The indicator lights on the device changed from green to red, a buzzer sounded, and the door unlocked with an audible click. Dawn turned the handle and opened the door, but paused before continuing.
“I’ll be right here,” Buffy assured her.
Nodding, Dawn shut the door.
Watchers Council – Holding Cells – Moments Later
Dawn walked slowly past several cells. A few of them were empty, while a few held demons of various shapes and sizes, the sort of criminals that could not be dealt with by the civilian police force. They glanced up as she passed. When Dawn reached the very last cell, Skye was standing stock-still in the middle of the cell, looking out at her.
For a moment, neither girl said anything. “I feel like Hannibal Lecter,” Skye joked, “only much hotter.”
“I didn’t know,” Dawn said. “All that time, and I didn’t know.”
“None of this is your fault,” Skye said. “You need to know that.”
Creases appeared on Dawn’s forehead. “You had so many chances to turn me, and you never did. If you really think we’re destined to be together, why didn’t you?”
“You told me not to,” Skye replied. Dawn looked confused. “I asked you if you thought it would be nice to live forever, and you said no. I couldn’t do something like that to you if I thought it would make you miserable.” Skye glanced around at her new home. “I know it’s made me miserable.”
Dawn was having trouble getting her words out. “Skye, if you have a plan, a reason to risk your neck by coming back here, that’s fine. But don’t lie to me.”
“I’m not lying,” Skye insisted plaintively. “God, I tried as hard as I could to stay away from you. I knew you would never…but I was crying myself to sleep every night in some alley. They say vampires don’t have a body temperature, that they don’t get cold…but I was shivering every night. And it wasn’t because it was winter in Cleveland…it was because you weren’t lying next to me.” Skye started sobbing and leaned forward against the bars of her cell. Dawn gazed at the vampire guardedly, while her own eyes started to well up.
“This is never going to happen,” she told Skye. “You know that.”
“But I’d do anything,” Skye sobbed.
“No!” Dawn shouted suddenly. “If that were true you would have searched the whole world, and not come back until you’d gotten your soul back!”
Skye was blindsided by this statement, startled out of her tears.
“Don’t ask me to accept you like this,” Dawn said evenly, “because I can’t.”
She turned on her heel and walked back toward the outer door of the brig, leaving Skye staring after her.
Indian Camp – Night
Andrew awoke with a jerk and sat up. Tracey stirred and woke more slowly.
“Andrew?” she mumbled.
“Something’s happening,” he said, sitting at the edge of the platform and quickly pulling on his shoes.
“What?” Tracey said, more fully awake.
“I don’t know,” he said.
The torches were all dark and the moon lay low in the sky. The camp was silent. Peering through the gloom Andrew looked around and said, “No one’s here.”
“Not even the children?” she asked, pulling her own shoes on and then her jacket. She tossed Andrew his and they both walked around.
“Wait,” Tracey said, holding up a hand. “Can you hear that?”
Andrew paused and listened. “Music,” he said.
They followed the source of the noise and were met by a smiling Betty Mae.
“Welcome, Andrew,” she said. “Welcome, Tracey.”
“What’s going on, Betty Mae?” Andrew asked.
Beyond them, a long line of dancers were following a chanting man wearing a colorful turban. The men were responding to the leader in the same language. Women silently followed, the rattling shakers tied to their legs adding a pleasant accompaniment to the chant.
Beyond the line of dancers, a large cooking pot bubbled furiously over a roaring fire.
“You’re making men-angels,” Andrew whispered in horror.
“Not me,” Betty Mae said pleasantly. “The Great Spirit is.”
“What?” Tracey said and they both turned as Betty Mae pointed.
A tall, imposing figure stood over a table. On the table, cleaned bones were laid out in the shape of a human. The figure covered the bones with a white cloth and stood back a moment. The chanting intensified as a luminous glow emerged from the sheet, illuminating the entire area.
“Whoa!” Andrew whispered, as the cloth began to move. The body emerged from underneath to reveal a glowing man, clean-fleshed and wearing glowing wings.
The newly made man-angel smiled beatifically at the figure and said, “My service to you, Great Spirit.”
“Your service is needed for the Final Battle,” the tall figure replied. “We will fight well together, my brother.”
The new angel moved away and more dripping bones were brought from the pot to the table and the figure began to reassemble them into their familiar pattern.
“Wasn’t that nice?” Betty Mae said to a transfixed Andrew and Tracey.
They turned toward her in astonishment.
“But, those other sites,” Andrew said. “The bodies?”
“Amateurs,” Betty Mae scoffed. “Some folks around here think they know everything. Only the Great Spirit can make proper men-angels. The others are abominations, not fit for the forces of good.”
“If it’s all the same to you, Betty Mae,” Andrew began. “I think Tracey and I would rather stay as we are.”
The old woman laughed heartily as the dancers continued their dance. “Oh child, your kind isn’t needed for the Final Battle,” she said. “The Great Spirit has no use for you.”
“My kind?” Andrew asked.
“No use for Wiccans?” Tracey said uncertainly.
“I don’t mean them, child,” Betty Mae said. “They are fine folk and the Great Spirit will take whoever is good, no matter which god they pray to. Your man here does wonderful work. But you both carry a taint on you that the forces of good have no use for in the coming fight.”
Andrew looked confused. “I can understand my taint, Betty Mae, but Tracey’s innocent.”
“She’s aligned herself as she will, young man,” Betty Mae said. “Now, you both have good hearts, which is why you’ve been allowed to see the truth. But now it’s time for you to go.”
“Go?” Andrew asked. “Go where? We don’t even know where we are?”
Betty Mae smiled.
Portofino Bay Hotel – Same time
Andrew and Tracey looked around their suite. The lightening sky beyond the balcony window was muted by the curtains.
“What just happened?” Andrew asked as he looked around their room confused.
“I have no idea,” Tracey replied. “But it’s not just you. I mean…we were in that camp, right? And we did see…what we saw, right?”
“Yeah…yeah, we did…We’ll have to let Hellmer know we’re back,” he said. “And of course, report this to Ro.” His voice did not seem as if he were that concerned.
Tracey nodded absently, her expression matching Andrew’s. “You tired?”
Andrew thought for a moment. “Not at all,” he said looking at her, a gleam coming into his eyes. “In fact, I feel very refreshed. Like I’ve had a full night’s sleep and a brisk shower.”
“Me too…and we are on vacation,” Tracey said. “In fact, we’ve done what Hellmer asked us…solved the mystery.”
“That’s true,” Andrew said. “And I don’t think the ‘final battle’ is right around the corner. It’s only February.”
“What’s that mean? February?”
“The end of the world always comes in Springtime, for some reason,” Andrew replied off-handedly.
“So, you think Ro and Hellmer can wait, then?” Tracey asked, moving closer to him.
“Yeah, I think so too. Why, do you wanna go to the park?” Andrew asked.
Tracey shook her head. “I think we’ve got everything we need right here.”
Andrew looked around in confusion. “What…?”
Tracey pushed him back until he fell onto the bed. “I’m tired of waiting, Andy,” she said, lowering herself over his prone figure. “I feel good. You feel good. Let’s make each other feel great.”
For once in his life, Andrew stayed silent and leaned up to kiss his girlfriend.
Watchers Council – Dawn’s Room – Night
“I think maybe what you need to do is just take some time and do something fun.” Buffy was brushing her hair in the bathroom mirror, raising her voice so she could be heard in the other room. “Something non-strenuous. I hear that a bunch of the junior slayers are getting together in the Rec Room to watch the Olympic Figure Skating.” She finished her task and exited.
“It’s too bad Michelle Kwan pulled out,” Buffy said as she left the bathroom, “because then we could…why is my suitcase packed?”
Dawn sat on her bed next to a somewhat overstuffed piece of luggage.
“The helicopter’s leaving later tonight,” Dawn said. “Althenea’ll be there.”
“Dawnie,” Buffy said, “I don’t get where this is coming from. I want to be here with you.”
Dawn sighed and played with the bedspread with one of her hands.
“You’ve really helped me the last few days,” she said. “I felt like I couldn’t breathe, like I was stuck in this room and walls were closing in on me. And then you came and I realized that it didn’t have to be that way.” She looked up at her older sister. “You’ve gone through this more than once, and you stayed strong.”
Buffy sat down next to her sister. “Well, actually, what they don’t tell you in the heroic ‘Buffy stabs her boyfriend’ stories is all the nights I spent crying in Willow’s lap.”
Dawn smiled, then her expression changed to one of mock horror. “My God, I really am doomed to live your life, aren’t I?”
“I sure hope not,” Buffy told her emphatically. “Listen, Dawn, you’re the most important thing in the world to me. I don’t want to abandon you.”
Dawn looked up at her sister. “You’re not abandoning me, but you’re also not my crutch…We’re professionals around here, Buffy. Please let us handle it. Let me handle it,” Dawn emphasized.
Buffy sized up Dawn for a moment. “You have grown up,” she observed. Sighing she laid back on the bed. “I’m gonna miss the skating,” she said.
“Like you don’t have your Tivo set back in England?” Dawn kidded.
“Yeah,” Buffy said with a smile, “but it’s not the same.”
Watchers Council – Roof – Night
As the blades of a black Council helicopter began to pick up speed, Willow released Althenea from an emphatic bear hug.
“Come back soon,” she told the dark-haired witch.
“You can count on it,” Althenea replied. Smiling, she nodded to Rowena, who was standing nearby. The watcher pulled her into an embrace and the witch returned the favor. “Take care of our girl,” she told Rowena. Then Althenea turned and boarded the helicopter.
Buffy and Dawn were running over the roof towards the chopper. Huffing and puffing, the pair arrived just as the blades got up to full speed
“Man, I’m out of shape,” Buffy managed between breaths. “Are we late?”
“Not quite yet,” Rowena assured her.
Buffy leaned over and kissed Dawn on the cheek. “You take care of yourself.” Dawn nodded. “I love you,” Buffy told her.
“Yeah, me too,” Dawn agreed quietly.
“See ya around, Will,” Buffy told Willow, and waved to Rowena. Then she hopped into the helicopter. The three women on the ground stepped back immediately and the helicopter rose into the air, their hair blowing wildly in the wind kicked up by the machine’s rotors.
As she watched the helicopter climb into the night sky, Willow turned to her girlfriend. “So, Skye just showed up, huh?”
“Yep,” Rowena replied.
Without replying, Rowena pulled out ten dollars from her pocket and slapped it into Willow’s waiting, outstretched hand.
Portofino Hotel – Much later
The curtains still held back the light, but now it concealed the approaching night. A harmony of moans came from the bed, and the couple under the blankets moved in perfect rhythm together. Andrew raised himself up slightly to look down at Tracey’s damp, yet beautiful face.
“Oh goddess, Tracey,” he whispered as his body moved, causing Tracey to bite her lip in pleasure. “I never knew it could be like this.”
“Me either, Andy,” she whispered back. “It’s never been like this for me. God!” She breathed heavily as he continued to move over her. “Oh, Andrew,” she whispered, her hand curling in the sweaty hair on the back of his head, pulling him down for an open-mouthed kiss. “Ich liebe dich,” she murmured against his lips.
Andrew’s eyebrows pressed together in confusion for a moment and then his face shone in happiness. “I love you too, Tracey,” he whispered.
Fade to Black
End of A Road Trip To Remember
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