Watchers Council – Conference Room – Just before Dawn
The main conference room was more crowded than normal, with senior members from all three divisions in attendance at the impromptu meeting. At the head of the table, Buffy sat speaking closely with Rowena, Robin and Kennedy.
Willow and Jeff were close by on the right side of the table, representing both the Coven and the Watchers Division. Over the course of several minutes, Willow almost compulsively glanced towards the door, and at one point turned to Jeff and whispered, “Does Dawn know she’s supposed to be here?”
Jeff shrugged. “I couldn’t find her.”
“Did you check her room?” Willow asked.
“No answer,” he replied.
“Keep looking,” she told him. He only responded with only a nod.
Watchers Council – Dawn’s Room – Same Time
Dawn sat perfectly still in the middle of the floor, eyes open but devoid of any emotion.
Celestial Plain – Same Time
Dawn looked around the area at the various people walking around and turned to Anya.
“Where are we?” she asked.
“This is an area where people who have lost their lives to vampires usually hang out. If anyone is killed by a vamp. they’re most likely here,” Anya replied.
“Still a haystack,” Dawn muttered. “Even with all the slayers in the world.”
“Yes, the numbers have been rising lately,” Anya agreed. “But at least this is a much smaller haystack.”
Dawn nodded but stopped as she saw someone sitting at a small table outside a café. Taking Anya by the arm, Dawn pulled her along with her.
As Dawn and Anya approached, they watched Bonnie put down her mug.
“So, she finally got you, too?” Bonnie asked.
“No, I came to get her…the real her…I used magicks to get here so I can bring Skye’s soul back.” Bonnie began to laugh and Dawn looked around them. “Something funny?” the young witch asked.
“You came all this way to find Skye?” Bonnie replied.
“You mean, she’s not here?” Dawn asked. “She’s already ascended?”
“No, sweetheart. She’s here,” Bonnie replied.
“Oh good,” Dawn sighed.
“But she’s also there, back home, too.”
“Huh?” Dawn asked, obviously confused.
Bonnie laughed again.
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Same Time
Across from Willow and Jeff sat the slayer contingent, consisting of Faith, Vi and Heli. None of them said a word, although their posture and expressions seemed to speak volumes. Faith slouched, leaning back as far as her chair would allow. She stared at the far wall of the room, seemingly lost in thought, as she cracked the knuckles of each finger one by one.
Vi, on the other hand, sat on the edge of her seat with her head propped on her hand. She looked both tired and worried. She also looked lost in thought.
Heli, who was just to Vi’s right, was the picture of perfect composure. The Finnish slayer sat confidently in her chair, looking toward the head of the table, waiting for the meeting to start. Every so often, she glanced from Kennedy to Faith and then back again.
Finally the conversation at the head of the table ceased and Buffy began, “So here’s what we know.” Her voice was calm. “Earlier, thirty-two people were killed at the Fulton apartment building, only two blocks from the nest of demons that Kennedy’s team took out this afternoon. All the evidence at the scene points to the same type of demon.”
“Is it possible that one or two of them got out without us noticing?” Vi asked.
Both Buffy and Kennedy shook their heads. Kennedy spoke first. “No, because one or two demons couldn’t have done this much damage. We’re looking at a group of twenty or more.”
“I can think of two possibilities,” Buffy added. “One – there was more than one nest. Or two – something else did this and the timing and location was just a coincidence. Either way, we’ve still got demons roaming the streets. Kennedy?” The Lead Slayer looked up as Buffy went on. “I want every available slayer on this. You know the city better than I do, so deploy them how you’d like. You don’t have to wait for us. Go now.”
“You got it,” Kennedy said. She slid her chair from the table and stood up. Faith, Vi, and Heli got up as well.
“Faith,” Buffy called after them. “You stay here.”
Faith looked confused. “B, we don’t have time to pretend I’m not helping,” she protested. “I’m needed out there.”
“Please. I want you to stay here,” the blonde said simply.
“Are you kidding?” This time it was Kennedy’s turn to protest.
“Kennedy, you have to go,” Buffy’s voice was now stern. “You have enough slayers without Faith.”
Kennedy stood her ground for a moment, ready to object some more, but Faith waved her off. “Go, it’s fine.” Kennedy nodded and left, with Vi and Heli on her heels. Faith plopped back down in her seat, looking very annoyed.
Buffy avoided Faith’s angry stare and continued. “I want the watchers working on identifying those bones.” She paused to think. “I feel like we’re missing something here, but I don’t know what.”
“We’ll get to work,” Rowena said, standing up. She nodded to Robin, who had also risen from his seat.
“I’ll make sure Kennedy is notified of anything we find,” Robin said as they exited the room.
“That just leaves the Coven,” Willow said. “What do you want us to do?”
“I don’t suppose you could do a locator spell?” Buffy asked hopefully.
Willow frowned and shook her head. “Even if we could, we don’t have the resources.” She thought for a moment. “I don’t think there is anything we can do magically to help.”
Buffy mimicked Willow’s frown. “Okay, then I want you to help with the research. Aren’t most of you watchers anyway?” Willow and Jeff both nodded. “Concentrate on possible locations for demon nests. Base your search on what would be ideal for a Strieaufix.”
“We’re on it,” Willow said. She motioned to Jeff and both of them rose from their chairs and left the room, leaving Buffy and Faith alone.
Buffy waited for the door to completely close. “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t let you go out with Kennedy.” She moved around the right side of the table and stopped across from Faith.
“Why’s that?” Faith asked, crossing her arms.
Buffy reached across the table and turned off the recording device. “Because I’ve got another job for you.”
Faith, now intrigued, uncrossed her arms and gave Buffy a curious look. “Why do I get the feeling this isn’t kosher?”
“Probably because it’s not,” Buffy responded. “I want you to hit all the demon dives this town has to offer. Find out anything you can about the Strieaufix and if there was more than one nest.”
“They’re not going to want to talk,” Faith replied. “Especially to me.”
“Be as persuasive as you have to be,” Buffy answered as she made for the door.
“What about you, B?” Faith asked. “You gonna play watcher?”
“I’ll be out searching with Kennedy,” Buffy responded. “Call me when you find something.”
Faith nodded and followed Buffy towards the door.
Celestial Plain – Same Time
Anya, Dawn and Bonnie all sat around the small table.
“Okay, this is how it works.” Bonnie sighed in frustration toward Dawn. “One more time. From the top…”
“Dawn?” They all heard a voice behind them call out. They looked to see Skye standing there. Slowly, the lovers began to smile. Dawn jumped up from the table and rushed over, as Skye opened her arms.
Bonnie just threw up her hands, giving up. She stood up and nodded at Anya to follow her over.
“What are you doing here?” Skye asked. “You’re not dead.”
Dawn got a curious look. “How did you know –?”
“I’ve been trying to explain this to her,” Bonnie mentioned from behind Dawn. “She’s not getting it.”
“Some days it’s difficult for me to understand,” Skye replied. Dawn looked confused and Skye motioned her along. “Walk with me,” she told her. As they began to move down the sidewalk, Skye spoke. “A part of me is still there within the body, it resides with the demon. Call it a life energy, a spirit, a soul, whatever. The point is, not only do I have memories of us, but I also feel us – here and there.”
“Now this is what I don’t get. You’re here. The real you?”
“The real me is there, too,” Skye told her.
“But when a person gets vamped, the soul comes here and the demon takes over. Angel and Spike –”
“I can’t speak for them,” Skye interrupted. “I don’t know if I’m some anomaly, like if the reason that happened to them is because they wanted death, where I didn’t. I don’t know if maybe they, too, had a part of their humanity inside their bodies, as I do right now, but didn’t use it. Maybe the world is filled with different vampire breeds and the one that turned me is different from the sires of the vamps you’ve known. I really couldn’t tell you Dawn.”
“Well, what can you tell me?” Dawn pleaded. “Is that really you down there or not?”
“Yes and no,” Skye answered. “The demon is there inside, but so are parts of my soul, like two halves that make one whole.”
“So the you that’s here,” Dawn said picking her words carefully, “is also the you that’s there…somehow?”
“Basically,” Skye answered.
“So you do have a soul, back on earth I mean?” Dawn asked.
“Not entirely,” Skye answered.
“Then you’re a demon?” Dawn replied.
“Not totally,” Skye replied. Dawn frowned and then rubbed her forehead. Skye chuckled. “It made my head hurt, too,” she sympathized. “But really, I’m not suffering now. The pain I feel is for you, for the others I’ve hurt…It’s almost as if we’ve merged.”
“So if I kill the vampire…am I killing you too?” Dawn asked. “Destroying your soul?”
“Those are questions I can’t answer,” Skye replied. Dawn eyed her skeptically. “Or I should say, again, those are answers I don’t know.”
“So is it a struggle?” Dawn asked. “Between you and the demon, I mean?”
“Sometimes,” Skye answered. “But you know me, Dawn, I can be pretty stubborn.”
Dawn gave her a light smile. “I remember.”
“Don’t discredit anything I tell you down there, but don’t automatically accept anything either, because you’ll never know for sure which part is really speaking, not unless you find some magical spell or litmus test of some kind.”
Dawn looked concerned. “But how can you still be in there? I mean Dana, Bonnie, that other girl…”
“Once I, well, the demon, was…discovered, I resolved myself to find a way to keep the demon at bay, but that might not always be the case. But then again…who’s to say, maybe I am the stronger of us in there, you know? I can say I’ve been trying to reach you, to make you see there’s something else inside and since you’re here, obviously I have, on some level. I just can’t say for certain that every conversation you’ll have with me is actually the me you’ve come to know, and not the demon gaining control.”
“Well, I have a way to be totally sure,” Dawn said with a smile.
“How’s that?” Skye asked.
“Because you’re coming back with me,” Dawn answered firmly. “Your soul, one hundred percent, is going back inside your body, because I’m going to take you there.”
Watchers Council – Slayer Gym – Dawn
The first hints of the approaching morning sun streamed through the large bay windows of the Slayer Gym, shining pink light on the tired faces of the assembled group. All eyes were facing forward, fixed on Kennedy as she stood facing the crowd.
Buffy watched from the doorway as Kennedy spoke. “I want two groups with Heli and Vi down on Woodbine. Third group, you’re with me on Fulton. Split into teams of four or five and search everything, including the sewers.” Kennedy paused, as if unsure whether she should continue. She took a deep breath. “Thirty-two people died last night, because…
Series of Shots – Same Time
V.O., Kennedy: “…we didn’t do our jobs. Because we weren’t there to protect them.”
– Jeff walking down a deserted council hallway looking worried.
– Jeff opening the door to an empty Coven Room.
– Jeff closing the door sadly.
Series of Shots – Same Time
V.O., Kennedy: “I won’t allow that to happen again.”
– Dawn sitting in her room, apparently deep in meditation.
– Skye scrunched down in the corner of her cell, crying.
Series of Shots – Same Time
V.O., Kennedy: “You’ve all trained for this.”
– Rowena pulling out a large, dusty volume from a shelf in the Council library.
– Robin examining a large demon claw, with a junior watcher looking on.
– Willow glued to a computer screen, looking at sewer tunnel blueprints.
Series of Shots – Moments Later
V.O., Kennedy: “You know what you have to do.”
– Xander handing out weapons to a queue of slayers.
– Faith watching Buffy and Kennedy climb into a black Council van.
– Faith starting up her repaired Shadow Sabre.
– Faith’s motorcycle peeling out of the Council’s garage.
Series of Shots – Day
V.O., Kennedy: “So go do it.”
– Vi leading a team of slayers through a dark sewer tunnel.
– Heli nodding to another slayer as they walk through a dirty, broken-down warehouse.
– Buffy and Kennedy entering a back alley behind the Fulton Road apartment building.
– Faith getting off her motorcycle and walking towards a filthy looking door just below a carved wooden sign reading “No Man’s Land.”
V.O., Kennedy: “Go be slayers.”
Watchers Council – Coven Room – Day
Jeff walked into the Coven Room to see Willow putting away several books on one of the shelves lining the walls.
“I’ve looked everywhere,” he said as he walked deeper into the room. “She’s nowhere in the Council and she’s not answering her cell.”
“And she’s not in her room?”
“The door was locked when I went up and I didn’t hear anything on the other side,” he replied.
Watchers Council – Hallway Outside Dawn’s Room – Moments Later
“She’s not in –” Jeff stopped speaking as they approached Dawn’s door. Willow sniffed the air, and Jeff followed suit. “I didn’t smell that last time,” he finished.
“Lilac and sandalwood,” Willow said in a worried tone.
“Reincarnation incenses,” Jeff muttered.
At the same time, both of them began to pound on the door.
“Dawn!” Willow yelled.
Celestial Plain – Same Time
A light shot down from above Skye and Dawn, surrounding them.
“What’s happening?” Dawn asked.
“I don’t know,” Skye replied.
“I’ve got to get you back now,” Dawn said. She reached out for Skye, but her hand fell just shy of making a connection.
The light now seemed to split in two separate directions – one to Dawn and one to Skye. Dawn stretched as far as he could, groaning at the effort, but she still couldn’t touch Skye. She watched helplessly as Skye’s form began to flicker, while the light around them grew brighter.
“No!” Dawn yelled, as she watched Skye’s body fade even more. Still trying to reach out, she watched as Skye completely disappeared from sight. “Noooo!” she screamed.
The light grew even more intense and Dawn’s body began to convulse.
Watchers Council – Dawn’s Room – Same Time
“Erumpo!” Willow yelled, and the door burst open, allowing her and Jeff to charge inside Dawn’s room.
Jeff saw Dawn’s body on the floor, jerking uncontrollably, and was ready to rush over, and was ready to forge ahead, but Willow grabbed him.
“No,” she told him. “We do this carefully or we might lose her. Take my hand,” she told him. “On three, we jump into the circle at the same time and each of us takes one of Dawn’s hands. Don’t lose your grip on me, no matter what. Understand?”
“Do you understand?” Willow asked forcefully.
“Yes, my Priestess,” he replied.
“Good, on three. One, two, three!”
They both jumped and landed within the circle at the same time. The fog filling the circle rippled at their entry.
“Again, on three,” Willow told him. “One, two, three!”
Both of them gripped Dawn’s hand at the same time and lightning seemed to shoot through all of them at once, until eventually coming to rest on Willow. “Hang on, Dawnie!” Willow shouted through her clenched teeth. Suddenly, a ray of light burst from the top of Willow’s head, and all three of them fell backward at once.
“I was so close…but…I lost her,” Dawn said softly. She began to cry and roll into a fetal position.
“What did I tell you?” Willow shouted. “Why didn’t you listen?” Dawn didn’t respond. She just continued to quietly sob.
Willow rose unsteadily to her feet. “Dawn Summers, you are hereby removed from the Coven. You are to be labeled a warlock from this day forward and you are forbidden from attempting any magic of any kind. Any violation of this, and I will see that you are removed entirely and permanently from the Watchers Council.”
“Willow,” Dawn said as she pulled herself upright, tears still staining her face.
“Don’t ‘Willow’ me right now,” the High Priestess said, going to the door. “You could have killed yourself, and Jeff, and me…I don’t want to hear any debate.” Willow then turned to Jeff. “Stay with her and be sure that Dr. Miller examines you both.”
“Yes, my Priestess,” Jeff said, nodding obediently.
Without saying more, Willow walked slowly, taking unsteady steps, as she made her way out the door.
Dawn buried her face in her hands.
No Man’s Land – Same Time
The front door to No Man’s Land swung open with such force that it crashed into the front wall, shattering a neon sign for Coors Light. Faith stepped through the doorway and surveyed the landscape of the surprisingly large pub.
The room held a host of demons in a variety of species, none of whom seemed to have noticed her less than stealthy entrance. To Faith’s left was a wall lined with poorly lit booths, perfect for both clandestine meetings and shady dealings. On the floor was a red felt pool table, currently occupied by a group of spiky-faced demons who looked as if they didn’t want to be bothered. To the right was the bar, which was very clean for a demon dive. In fact, the whole establishment was surprisingly well kept compared to its front exterior.
Faith stepped to the left and walked down the bar, scanning the demons. She stopped in front of a brown-horned demon who was hunched over his drink. Leaning up against the side of the bar, Faith tapped him on the shoulder, causing him to jump and almost spill his drink.
“Slayer,” he gulped in a nervous, high-pitched voice. “Wh-what a surprise. If you’re looking for vampires you should try the Sunset Club.”
“I’m not after vampires today,” Faith answered menacingly. “I’m looking for some demons.”
“Demons?” he whispered innocently.
“What can I get you?” asked the approaching bartender. Faith looked up, then stepped over toward a woman whose name tag read “Gabbie.” Her human, flaming red hair and blue-green eyes looked completely out of place in the sea of demon faces.
“Nothing,” Faith replied, giving her a curious look. She quickly turned her attention back to the brown-horned demon. “What do you know about the Fulton Road Apartments?”
“What apartments?” the demon asked. “I don’t know anythi – Ow!” he cried, as Faith slammed his head into the bar.
“Faith?” Gabbie called from the opposite side of the bar. “Are you sure I can’t get you anything?”
Faith let go of the demon. “How do you know my name?”
“Who doesn’t, in this town?” Gabbie replied. “Dark-haired slayer, all attitude. Plus, you look too old to be Kennedy.” Faith gave her an indignant look. “No offense,” Gabbie added.
Faith eyed her curiously. “Well, chances are you heard about the apartment building. I’m looking for the demons that killed those people. What do you know about the Strieaufix?”
“Are you going to run my head into the bar, too?” she asked.
“That all depends,” Faith answered shortly.
“I know that they’re dead,” the bartender answered. “You and the other slayers saw to that.”
“Then what tore up those apartments?” Faith demanded.
“Something else,” Gabbie replied. “But right now, they’re the least of your worries.” She thrust her chin towards Faith.
“Why’s tha –” Faith wasn’t able to finish her thought, as a pool cue collided with the side of her head and dropped her to the floor. With a dazed expression on her face, she looked up to see that the group of demons that had been shooting pool were now standing over her.
The largest of them grabbed Faith’s jacket and pulled her to her feet, pushing her against the side of the bar.
“You don’t belong here,” the leader grunted, before hurling Faith back towards the center of the room. She landed on the red felt of the pool table and rolled off the side.
As the demons closed in, Faith regained her senses and leapt to her feet, just in time to block a punch from the leader. She pulled back his arm and kicked him hard in the chest. The rest of the pool players quickly attacked, and were soon joined by the demons who had been watching from the bar.
Faith pulled a pool cue off the table and used it to counter their attacks, getting in an offensive jab and kick whenever possible.
Gabbie smiled and shook her head.
Watchers Council – Library – Same Time
“I think I’ve got it!” Robin said loudly. He stood up, holding a large book, and Rowena rushed over. “They’re Selengus demons,” Robin continued.
“Selengus?” Rowena wrinkled her forehead. “But they don’t leave bones behind. Their bodies decompose within seconds.”
“That’s true,” Robin said, holding up his book. “But the decomposition is only a reaction of the brain shutting down. An enzyme is released that eats away at the flesh. If the bones were removed before the demon was dead, they would remain intact.” He set down the book and pointed to a passage of text. “The bone structure matches the description. And then there’s the genus.”
“The Selengus are genus Azile,” Rowena responded, without having to look at the book.
“The same as the Strieaufix,” Robin replied. “They also have the same body type and nesting habits. They’re nocturnal and very terr –”
“Territorial,” Rowena sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. She thought for a moment and then gasped, “Oh God. This is our fault.” She sat down in the closest chair.
“Ro?” Robin asked, concern in his voice. “I’m not sure I follow you here.”
“We have to call Kennedy,” she said, as she stared at a picture of the Selengus in Robin’s book. “And we should see if Willow’s got anything yet.”
Fulton Road – Moments Later
Kennedy closed her phone, as Buffy looked on from a few yards down the sidewalk. “That was Robin. They typed the bones. It’s not our guys, but something similar. Rowena thinks they might be our killers.”
“Any locations yet?” Buffy asked.
“Yeah, Willow identified a few,” Kennedy said, reaching for the radio on her belt. “Attention Slayers Two and Three. I have possible targets for you. Vi, take your slayers and check out the drainage tunnels at the end of West 32nd.” Kennedy waited for Vi to acknowledge.
“I’m on it,” Vi’s voice answered.
“Heli, I want you and the rest of the slayers in the sewers under Fairview Park,” Kennedy continued.
“Affirmative,” Heli replied.
Kennedy adjusted the radio channel and spoke again. “My team, we’re going to West 38th. There’s a bunch of old buildings we should check out.”
No Man’s Land – Same Time
The battle raged on, as Faith incapacitated a purple-skinned demon by launching the eight ball at his forehead. He fell to the floor, joining several other unconscious demons that were already down for the count. Faith surveyed the remaining demons. Two of the pool players remained, one of which was the leader, along with three demons from the bar. They held position in front of her, waiting for her to make the next move.
Suddenly someone grabbed Faith from behind, locking her arms tightly at her side. She glanced back as she struggled to free herself. Instinctively, the slayer threw her head back into the attacker. She let out a loud cry of pain as she realized her mistake. The demon holding her was one of the spiky-faced pool players.
“Okay, now I’m pissed,” Faith announced. She pulled her arm free and elbowed the demon in the stomach. As he reared over in pain, she quickly grabbed his neck and twisted until she heard a crack.
Faith turned to the rest of the demons, none of whom looked eager to continue. The brown-haired slayer launched herself forward landing a series of punches on the nearest bar dweller. The demon didn’t have time to react before Faith took hold of his shirt collar and heaved him over the bar into the shelves of alcohol. Gabbie continued to clean a beer mug nonchalantly, shaking her head at the disturbance.
Quickly, Faith whipped around and landed a side-kick on a second bar dweller, knocking him across the room. She ducked a punch from the pool leader and kicked him into a bar stool. Rushing over, she grabbed him before he could stand up and punched him hard in the face, making sure to avoid the spikes. “Tell me where the other demons are!” She punched him again, as the other demons fled the bar.
The spiky-faced demon tried to get up but Faith held him down. He growled, “They live in a warehouse at the end of West 38th.” He began to laugh.
“What’s so funny?” Faith barked.
“Your Council,” he continued, still laughing. “You call us demons, but look at what you’ve done.”
“What are you talking about?” Faith asked.
“The Strieaufix and the Selengus,” the demon explained. “They’ve been fighting each other for months. They would have killed each other off eventually. But you…your Council had to get involved.”
“Still haven’t jumped aboard your train of thought here, Buddy.”
“You were set up,” he laughed. “You killed one side of a war, because that’s what the other wanted. After you did that, what did you think was going to happen? They went to town on everyone else in the area, humans included.” He grinned up at Faith. “Man, you guys are never going to survive the coming battle.”
Faith got an angry look on her face and snapped his neck quickly. She pulled out her phone and moved towards the door.
“Leaving so soon?” Gabbie called from behind the bar. She appeared entirely unscathed.
“Sorry about the mess,” Faith replied. She pulled out a couple of hundred dollar bills and put them on the bar, then continued toward the door.
“Are you?” Gabbie asked. Faith stopped and turned to face her.
“If it’s more than that,” Faith replied, nodding towards the money, “let the Council know. They’ll take care of it.”
“Money doesn’t fix all the Council’s problems,” Gabbie answered.
Faith eyed her curiously for a moment and looked as if she wanted to speak. Several seconds passed before Faith turned once more and continued out the door, dialing Kennedy’s number along the way.
From the dark recesses of the corner tables, Dr. Wagner stepped out and made her way to the bar.
“She’s certainly a sight to see, isn’t she?” Wagner asked, speaking to the bartender.
“That she is,” Gabbie answered, looking around at the mess that the fight had made of the bar.
“Such determination, such passion. This battle just might get interesting after all,” Wagner replied.
“That it might,” Gabbie answered casually, as she continued to clean a mug.
“I feel like waffles,” Wagner said out of nowhere. The comment made Gabbie look over at her. “Wanna go grab some waffles with me? Strawberry topping, maybe a side of bacon?”
Gabbie shrugged. “Battle’s not here just yet, and it seems like forever since I had a waffle. Sure, why not?”
She put the mug on the bar and tossed the rag in the sink.
“Hey, Donny?” she called down to the end of the bar, where a loose-skinned demon, similar to Clem, sat. “I’m gonna grab some food. Keep watch until I get back?”
“Sure, Gabbie,” he answered.
“Thanks,” she answered. She grabbed her coat and then motioned to Wagner. “Let’s go,” she told her.
Abandoned Warehouse – Moments Later
“Faith was right,” Kennedy said, as she entered a large room in the back of an abandoned warehouse. On the floor before her were thirty or so sleeping demons.
She turned around to where Buffy was waiting with the rest of the team. “Everybody get ready!” she ordered.
The slayers fanned out, each slayer taking a creature for herself. In a fast paced scurry that only took seconds, they were well on their way to decimating the demons.
Watchers Council – Infirmary – Night
Dawn lay on a hospital gurney, looking more depressed than injured or tired, her back to Jeff. He sat in a chair thumbing through a book.
“They hate me,” Dawn muttered. She rolled over and faced him. “You hate me too, don’t you?”
“I don’t hate you, and they don’t hate you, either,” Jeff replied. “If anything, they love you. That’s why they’re pretty mad. But hate? No, I don’t think they could ever hate you.”
“I messed things up…totally.”
Jeff gave a slow nod. “I have to agree with you there. But you’re still alive, so you should be thankful.”
“Yeah, I’m thankful, alright. I have a life of being the Coven outcast to look forward to.”
“But you still have a slayer to look after. They could have totally stripped you of all your titles.”
“Is that the silver lining of the dark cloud?” Dawn asked.
Jeff shrugged. “The decision coulda been worse. We both know that.”
A small knock at the door frame made both of them turn. Shannon stood there, looking unsure.
“Come on in,” Jeff told her, motioning to the chair beside him. “Have a seat.”
Shannon seemed to almost tiptoe inside. “I thought I’d stop by. There’s talk going on.”
“And what talk would that be?” Dawn asked. Shannon looked down at her foot as it scuffed at the floor. “It’s okay,” Dawn coaxed.
“Well, the girls are saying you’re out and I’m gonna end up with a new watcher.” Shannon was quiet for a moment. “I hope not, because I finally broke you in,” she teased.
For the first time since she checked into the infirmary, Dawn smiled. “I’m still your watcher, Shannon.” Slowly, the smile slipped from her face. “I’m just not part of the Coven anymore,” she added quietly.
“Why? Just because you did a spell?” Shannon asked.
“No,” Dawn replied. “Because I didn’t follow the rules when I should have.”
“Kinda like when you tell me to run five laps, but I run three instead.” A look of dawning realization appeared on Dawn’s face. “Uh, that’s just a ‘what if’ kinda thingy. I don’t really…you know…”
Dawn slowly smiled again. “Uh huh,” she said with a nod. “Anyway, it’s kinda like that…but a lot worse. I hurt a lot of people and I coulda hurt myself.”
Shannon chewed on her lip for a moment. “If you don’t mind me saying…that sounds kinda dumb and you don’t strike me as a dumb person.”
“All of us are prone to occasional stupidity. Even us watcher types,” Dawn replied.
“But why?” Shannon asked plaintively.
Dawn gave her a melancholy grin. “Because as Xander once told me, ‘Love makes you do the wacky’,” she replied.
Shannon shrugged, but seemed to accept the answer.
Watchers Council – Lounge – Night
The familiar Jeopardy theme sounded through the lounge. Faith, Robin, Vi, Xander and Andrew sat vegged out on various pieces of furniture. Tracey rounded the sofa and sat down on the floor between Andrew’s legs, setting down a bowl of popcorn in front of them.
“Oh!” Tracey exclaimed in disgust. “When did Alex shave off his mustache?”
“A while ago,” Vi answered from her place on the sofa. She reached over Tracey to get to the popcorn and added, “At least a year, I think.”
Tracey handed her the bowl. “Why would he shave it off? It was his thing. It’d be like Faith swearing off leather.”
Everyone turned to Faith, who was lying on the sofa with her head in Robin’s lap. Her eyes were closed and she didn’t respond. Robin looked to Tracey, “I’ll say ‘Hey!’ on her behalf.”
“Well, I think he looks good without it,” Andrew said, taking the popcorn bowl from Vi. “Ten years younger at least.”
“Do you think I’d look good with a mustache?” Xander asked, rubbing his chin.
“Don’t even think about it,” Vi replied quickly.
“Well, what about me?” Andrew asked. “Think I’d look good with one?”
Tracey giggled, “Andrew, you can’t even grow one.” Everyone laughed.
“Well, I can grow a mustache, obviously,” Robin said. “But I think I’d rather have a beard. Do you guys think I should lose the goatee?”
“Don’t even think about it,” Faith muttered from his lap, without opening her eyes. Robin frowned.
No one else spoke as Alex read the clue on the TV. “This mountain, the highest peak in Iran, stands at over eighteen thousand feet.”
“What is Mount Damavand?” Xander answered quickly. Everyone stared at him. “What?” he asked innocently, as he rubbed his left eye.
“What is Mount Damavand?” One of the contestants answered from the TV a few seconds later.
Vi slugged him in the arm. “Cheater.” Xander grinned.
Across the room, Rowena watched her friends sitting together. She moved to join them, but stopped. She turned and left the room.
Watchers Council – Slayer Gym – Moments Later
Rowena entered the Slayer Gym to find Buffy pounding away at a hanging bag. Willow sat not far away, looking at a book of some kind. Buffy landed a series of punches and kicks in rapid succession, without any hint of slowing down. Rowena walked closer and came into Buffy’s view. She raised a hand, giving Buffy a small wave.
Buffy slowed her pace, but didn’t stop. “What’s up?” Buffy asked. The comment made Willow look up from her reading material.
“Just thought I’d check up on you guys,” Rowena answered. “Everyone’s watching Jeopardy in the lounge, if you want to –”
“No thanks,” the slayer replied quickly. “I’m not really in the mood for trivia. But Willow might.”
“No,” the witch answered, “but thanks for thinkin’ of us.”
For a long moment, no one said anything more.
“It’s not your fault, guys. Not Dawn, not the demon nest. None of this,” Rowena said, stepping closer to Buffy, but looking at them both. Neither Buffy nor Willow answered. Rowena looked at the floor, where a couple sets of paddles were strewn about. “You want to do some paddle work?”
Buffy stopped pushing the bag and turned to Rowena.
“Sure,” she replied. She began removing the tape from her wrists. “It’s been a while since I’ve done any real training,” Buffy said, with a hint of sadness.
Rowena held up a paddle for Buffy to kick.
“Yeah, me too.”
Buffy kicked at the paddle.
Special Guest Starring:
Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers, Stephanie March as Bonnie Terea
and Emma Caulfield as Anya Jenkins
End of Rules of Engagement
Next on Watchers…
The discovery of Vi’s dead body is particularly confusing given that Vi herself remains alive and well at the Watchers Council, and things only get weirder from there when Rowena encounters a mysterious time traveler.