Watchers Council – Coven Room – Same Time
For a moment, nobody dared move or speak.
The four new arrivals stood in the center of the room, their gazes shifting around the room as they took in their surroundings.
Finally, the young man in the back took a step forward.
“Rowena Allister?” he asked.
Rowena quickly glanced over to Willow, who mirrored her look of confusion.
“I’m Rowena.” The blonde watcher stepped forward.
“Oh, thank God.” The man took her hand and shook it forcefully, “I’m Gaiden Ca –” he stopped himself. “Actually, I think it’s best that we just keep to first names.”
“May I ask why?”
“Well,” the man who had identified himself as Gaiden shifted uncomfortably, “this will sound a little strange to you, but –”
“Time travel?” Rowena interrupted.
“Well, yes.” He appeared visibly shaken.
“Then you can probably tell me how one of my slayers got sent back three days just so she could watch herself get killed?” Rowena’s tone was firm.
“Vi,” Rowena replied. “Now I need an explanation.”
“Vi…Violet Joston? Is she here?” Gaiden’s voice became excited.
“She’s fine, as of right now.”
“I need to speak to her,” Gaiden told her firmly. “I need to speak with her now.”
“Look I don’t even know who you are, much less what you’re doing here. So if you think I’m going to let you talk to one of my slayers on those terms, you’re –”
“We’re,” Gaiden gestured at the four women standing behind him, “all that’s left of the Watcher’s Council, and Violet – Vi – is the only person who can save it.”
Rowena looked at him for a long beat, her features hard as she scanned his face for some sign that he was being insincere. Finally, without taking her eyes off of him, she spoke.
“Andrew, get Ken. Tell her to have a team of slayers in the conference room in five minutes, and another in the Coven Room right now.” As Andrew exited the room, she again spoke to Gaiden, her voice carefully devoid of emotion. “You, and only you, will come with me. The rest of you will stay here. Let me make one thing clear here: I don’t trust you. So if you so much as breathe in Vi’s direction the wrong way –”
Gaiden held up a hand. “Threats,” he told her, “are not necessary. I only want to talk.”
Rowena nodded. “Make sure you keep it that way. I don’t care if you have four slayers behind you –”
“Two,” Gaiden told her. “Only two are slayers.”
Rowena frowned. “Only two?”
Gaiden nodded. “Dina and Caitlin are our two slayers,” he indicated two of the women behind him. “Kenna and April,” he indicated the other two, “along with myself, performed the magic to get us here.”
“You think letting me know just how strong you are is a wise strategic move on your part?” Rowena asked.
“I told you, I only want to talk.”
Kennedy burst into the room, Heli and Faith just behind her. “What’s up? Andrew made it sound urg –” She looked at Gaiden, then her gaze panned over the four women behind him. “Who are they?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” Rowena replied. She turned to Gaiden. “…yet,” she emphasized. She leaned in to speak quietly to Kennedy. “I don’t think they mean any harm, but if I’m wrong…” She left the thought unfinished.
“Don’t worry. I’ve got this.”
Rowena turned back to Gaiden. “You’re with me,” she said firmly.
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Moments Later
Vi was almost supported by Xander as they stepped into the conference room, large, dark bags under her eyes showing the stress of the day. “Who is he?” she asked, looking at Gaiden.
Gaiden stood. “Ms. Joston?”
Vi nodded. “Vi,” she told him.
“Vi,” he repeated with a tilt of his head.
“Who are you?” she asked again.
“My name is Gaiden,” he told her, “but more important than that is where I come from. Or more precisely, when.”
Vi looked at him quizzically for a moment, then turned to Rowena. “Time travel?”
“Time travel.” Rowena offered a small nod.
Gaiden frowned slightly, but continued. “I was born in what would be, on your calendar, the year 2309.”
“Three hundred years?” Willow blurted, “Goddess, we can’t even figure out how to send something back three seconds.”
“It…wasn’t easy. We’ll leave it at that,” Gaiden admitted. “Frankly, I’ve come to believe that time travel is not something we, as human beings, should be tinkering with, but I felt in this particular case that it was necessary.”
“Why is that?” Rowena asked.
“That demon you faced last night, what can you tell me about it?” Gaiden turned to face Vi.
“Big guy. Strong. Its arms must’ve been bigger around than my waist.” Vi replied.
“It’s a Diracian Demon,” he explained.
Willow quickly shot a glance over at Rowena.
“Never heard of it,” Rowena replied to her unasked question.
“In this time, nobody has,” Gaiden replied. “He’s a skipper. He basically skips forward in time, appearing for a short period approximately once every year. He becomes a little more powerful every time he shows up, and since it’s impossible to predict exactly where and when he is going to appear, he’s practically impossible to find.”
It was Rowena who first realized the significance. “So if he’s gone basically unchecked for three hundred years…”
Gaiden nodded. “I don’t think that the world as we know it will survive his next appearance.”
“You can’t beat him in your time, so you’re coming back to beat him in ours,” Willow realized.
“That’s part of it,” Gaiden agreed. “The other part is that Vi here is the only person who ever survived an encounter with this beast, so she’s the only one who actually knows where it’s going to appear.”
“But wait a second.” Vi quickly brought her hands up in a “time out” gesture. “This demon of yours…It’s dead.”
Gaiden frowned. “That’s impossible.”
“We’ve got its body in the morgue to prove it,” Rowena replied.
“How did it die?”
“I killed it…” Vi frowned, then tried again. “I will kill it…” She shook her head angrily. “Okay, someone who looks like me will kill it…We don’t have all the answers yet,” she muttered in conclusion.
“We think she traveled back in time and killed the demon,” Rowena explained. “And now that you’re here, that seems a lot more plausible than it was a few hours ago.”
Gaiden looked down for a moment, intense concentration painting his face. “We’re in a hub,” he said, finally.
“Okay, we’re going to need a little more explanation than that,” Rowena replied.
Gaiden stood up and walked to the white marker-board behind him. “Okay,” he started, drawing a single line on the board. “Normally, a person’s passage through time is a line. Now, every time you face a decision, that line splits off, and each one sprouts one possible future. Each of those sprouts a few more, and so on.” On the board, his diagram now resembled a genealogy.
“You’re talking about multiple universes,” Willow clarified.
Gaiden shook his head. “Not exactly – multiple possibilities. Normally these possibilities only exist for the fraction of a second it takes for you to make a decision. Then all these universes collapse into a single line again. It’s basic quantum mechanics – everything that can happen is happening, until we force the universe to take a stand and choose one path.”
“So, what are we seeing now?” Vi asked.
“When you bring time travel into the equation, you extend the time during which all these possible futures exist,” Gaiden replied. “Until we send you back, any one of these futures is possible. Maybe you decide not to go back to save yourself. Maybe you lose against the demon. Maybe someone stops you from going back in time. As of the moment you saw yourself kill that demon, until we send you back to kill it, any outcome is possible.” He turned back to Rowena. “This is why time travel is a bad idea.” he told her.
“So, I could live?” Vi asked.
“It’s one possible future.” Gaiden nodded. “But we have no way of knowing how this will turn out.”
“But, it’s possible?” Vi said eagerly.
“Possible…yes.” Gaiden agreed.
“Thank you.” Vi’s shoulders slumped in relief.
Rowena’s head dropped slightly and she rubbed her fingertips against her forehead. Finally, she looked up and spoke.
“Please clear the room,” she said quietly. “I need to speak with him alone.”
“Ro?” Willow’s tone was concerned.
“It’s okay, Will, this’ll only take a second,” Rowena assured her.
“Will,” Rowena’s tone was soft. “This’ll only take a moment. I’ll explain later.”
Willow’s expression was still worried as she, along with everyone else, silently moved to the door.
After the door closed, Rowena turned again to face Gaiden. “What was the last half of that sentence?”
Gaiden appeared genuinely confused. “What?”
“Vi asked you if it was possible that she’d live through this, and you told her it was. There was a but coming after that, wasn’t there?” Rowena’s eyes seemed to bore intensely into him.
Gaiden looked up at her, slightly shocked. “How did you know?”
“Because I’ve seen exactly that same look in the mirror enough times to know when I’m hiding something,” Rowena replied.
“I don’t think we should really be talking too much about the future – yours or anyone here that might –”
“Listen,” Rowena cut him off, “I’m not interested in if I’ll have kids, or who the father might be, or exactly how many little rug-Ros are going to be running around. What I do want to know is what, exactly, you’re hiding. You’re here for a reason. You have an agenda. I need to know what that agenda is for the safety of my girls. Case closed. Now ‘fess up.”
Gaiden retreated as much as was possible, while still seated, from her verbal lashing. He was dumbfounded for a moment before he managed to speak.
“The plan was to send our two slayers back to kill the demon, and if we could, to maybe recruit some help to do it. They’d find a place to sit tight for three days and come back here at the end of those three days. To us, it would be as if we sent them away, then an instant later they’d be knocking on our front door.”
“So if we sent Vi, alone, back in time to save herself, then something really horrible must’ve happened,” Gaiden told her.
“Why?” Rowena asked.
“Because there’s no other way we would’ve sent her to face this thing on her own,” Gaiden said.
“Our doctor said she’d been in a fight of some kind,” Rowena told him.
“Against the Diracian?.”
Rowena shook her head. “No, against slayers. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that…would you?”
“Look, I really can’t talk about it,” Gaiden said. “It is possible that she faced a slayer but, again, this isn’t something I can talk about. No one should know too much about the future.”
Rowena glared at him. “I’ll accept that for now,” she said after a long silence. “But when I need more, I expect you to give it. Otherwise, you’ll get nothing from us.”
“You don’t understand –”
Rowena ignored his ramblings. “Not so much as a glass of water or a tissue for your nose. Understand?”
Gaiden met Rowena’s glare. “All I can tell you,” he said, “is that we have to send someone back in time three days from now if your future is going to have a fighting chance.”
“Why three days from now? Why not just do it now?”
Gaiden frowned. “Time travel’s a tricky business. You can’t just do it any time, any place. The curvature of spacetime is affected by literally thousands of different forces, not the least of which being the alignment of the moon and stars. So we have short windows. They last a few hours at most, and we can send someone back during that time to pretty much any time. Our next window is in about three days.”
“Then I suggest you start work quickly with our Coven, and think real hard about being a bit more open,” Rowena told him.
“I’m sure we can handle things. Our –”
“This is not open to negotiation,” Rowena told him. “If you’re going to use our Coven Room and our supplies, you’re going to use our witches too.”
Gaiden offered a small nod. “Thank you,” he told her tightly.
“Oh, and send your team over to the doctor for a medical exam. I want to make sure that they haven’t suffered any ill effects from their time travel,” Rowena said.
“Don’t worry, we’re…”
“This is also not subject to negotiation,” Rowena interrupted.
Gaiden’s jaw clenched as he looked at her. “Anything else?”
“No,” Rowena replied. “You can go…just know that one of our slayers will be with you at all times”
Gaiden stood to walk to the door.
Watchers Council – Lobby – Moments Later
Kennedy stood in the lobby outside the conference room, talking to Faith, when Rowena motioned her over.
“Stay with Gaiden, and don’t let him or anyone in his group out of slayer sight until we know more about them. Understood?” The slayer nodded. “Thanks, Ken.”
“So what did you guys talk about?” Willow asked from behind Rowena.
Rowena jumped slightly in surprise as she turned around. “Jesus, Will!”
“Sorry, but I wasn’t going to just leave you in there with him.”
“It’s cool, don’t worry.”
Willow nodded. “So…?”
“I noticed he wasn’t being altogether honest with us, so I thought if I grilled him a little on my own, instead of him feeling surrounded, maybe he’d offer a little more,” Rowena offered.
“And did he?”
Rowena nodded. “Yeah, but not anything near as much as I’d hoped. I think you should probably ask him, witch to witch. Maybe he’ll open up to you.”
“He’s only got three days here, he said,” Rowena explained. “Try working him, Will, I know you can.” She began to walk away across the lobby.
“A-and what makes you so sure I’ll succeed,” Willow asked incredulously.
Rowena stopped and turned to face her. “Willow, if you could get through these walls,” she said, tapping her own chest, “you can get through any.”
“So what do I do then?” Willow asked with a teasing grin. “Wine him and dine him and then six –”
“No,” Rowena said, holding up a finger and trying not to laugh. “Just be loveable, adorable you,” she said with a smile. “But to an extent, of course. I’m holding you to that ‘maybe’.”
Watchers Council – Infirmary – Day
Rowena walked into the infirmary. “Dr. Miller, any news on the cross-checking of the two new Slayers’ blood against the blood on the two stakes we recovered? See if we have a match?”
“Already done, but there is no match,” he answered.
“You’re sure?” Rowena asked.
He nodded. “The two slayers who arrived from the future are both O-pos. The blood types on the stakes were A-pos and O-neg.”
Rowena frowned. “Crap,” she muttered. “There goes that theory.”
The doctor looked at her, confused. “I’m not sure I understand.”
“You tell me that Vi may very well fight and kill slayers in the near future. Then two slayers show up here. I was hoping it wasn’t just a coincidence. Since it’s not them, then that means the slayers she fought are still out there.” Rowena frowned.
Dr. Miller nodded. “Well, I’m still trying to get the DNA work from all the slayers. That’s a pretty tall order.”
“I realize,” Rowena agreed sympathetically. “And if our new friends are telling the truth, it could be DNA from three hundred years in the future we need to be testing, which we don’t have.” She shook her head in frustration. “Just let me know if you get a match, or anything resembling one?”
“Absolutely,” he replied.
Watchers Council – Skye’s Cell – Later
Kennedy looked decidedly angry as she looked through the bars at the small vampire.
Skye, by contrast, almost looked amused, one corner of her mouth curling up slightly as she peered passively back at the slayer.
“You know, this conversation will go a lot faster if you actually say something,” Skye said.
“You know what’s happening?”
“I’ve heard a thing or two.” Skye nodded. “The guards like to gossip.”
“So…what?” Skye turned her back to the somewhat less heartbeat-challenged woman, taking a seat behind a small, nondescript desk in one corner of her cell.
“You don’t have any theories?”
Skye scoffed. “You need to talk to Andrew. Time travel? Not my thing.”
“Yeah,” Kennedy replied, “but being an evil bitch is. You managed to stick around this place for weeks without anybody even noticing. I figure you’d be reasonably good at spotting a phony.”
“And I would suddenly feel an irrepressible need to help you…why?” Skye turned around in her seat to look at her.
“I’m a slayer. You’re a vampire. Connect the dots,” Kennedy replied levelly.
Skye’s grin widened. “Killing me doesn’t give you your answers.”
Kennedy tilted her head. “True, but just how long can a vampire go without feeding?”
Skye looked through the bars at the slayer, her expression passive, before she finally spoke. “What do you want to know?”
“Vi’s going to kill at least two Slayers less than seventy-two hours from now,” Kennedy replied. “You know just about everyone here, and you have an insight that most of us probably don’t. So…who are they?”
Skye did not bother turning to face the slayer, “Ah, I see. Planning on beating the clock, are you? Going after two slayers who haven’t even done anything yet on the very flimsy possibility that they might do something wrong in the future. How Minority Report of you.” She shook her head. “And you guys call me evil.”
“You’re a demon,” Kennedy told her.
“Joe McCarthy wasn’t,” Skye retorted. “Well, at least not according to Council records I’ve seen, but the Council isn’t the most thorough organization out there. Maybe you could look into that for sure, since you really should study some history. It may give you some perspective. Or if you’re having trouble with the whole idea of picking up a book, Robert DeNiro did a movie about it. George Clooney, too, if I’m not mistaken.”
“Look, I came here for help, not a history lesson.”
Skye stood up, striding to the barred door. “What exactly makes you think that there’s any difference between the two? You’d think that a Council of eggheads would learn a thing or two from history. Humans have done their fair share of evil. Being a demon doesn’t make you evil any more than being human makes you good. Look at our soulless friend Brell. All being human means is that you don’t have a good excuse for being evil. What your problem is, is that you don’t even have the faintest clue what evil is all about.” Skye turned around and flopped down on the bed.
“So what is it then?”
Skye opened her eyes. “You want to believe it’s that simple, don’t you? That evil is a set of rules, a checklist that you can run through, separating the world into black and white, right?” Her eyes closed again. “It’s not that easy.”
“I’m a slayer, I fight evil. That seems pretty simple to me.”
“There you go again, using that word: evil. You’re fighting something and you don’t even know what it is.” Skye rolled over, facing the wall. “The watchers, the slayers…you’re all fighting a war. Ever stop to wonder whether you were fighting on the right side?”
“That’s rich,” Kennedy scoffed, “a demon telling me that I’m on the wrong side of the war on evil?”
“No, I’m telling you that the Council is its own worst enemy. It always has been. Worse than the Presidium, worse than the First. That’s your problem. You spend too much time worrying about the big picture, and you miss what’s right in front of your nose. You spend so much time saving the world, you don’t realize that you need saving yourselves,” Skye replied. “Trust me, you have a lot bigger things to worry about than me here or one more dead slayer a few days from now.”
“Vi is not just some slayer,” Kennedy retorted.
“And that’s why this Council will fail,” Skye replied. “Because, when it comes down to it, everyone is expendable in the higher order of things. Everyone, including you.”
Kennedy’s jaw tightened.
Watchers Council – Computer Room – Evening
The glow of the computer screen danced over Kennedy’s features in the darkened computer lab. Her hands moved awkwardly over the keys of the computer as she scanned through a series of personnel files.
Her typing stopped as she called up a specific personnel file. Her hand rose to her lips and her eyes widened.
Watchers Council – Rowena’s Apartment – Evening
Rowena slowly opened her door, pulling her nightgown tightly around her body as she did so.
“Sorry,” Kennedy apologized in a whisper, “I didn’t want to wake you, but it really couldn’t wait.”
“It’s okay, Ken,” Rowena replied in a normal tone of voice, “Can I get you anything, coffee? Tea?”
“No, I just…” Kennedy frowned. “I don’t know a lot about magic.”
“Well, maybe this is a conversation you should be having with Will…” Rowena began.
“That’s not…” Kennedy held up a hand, “that’s not what I mean.” She shook her head, frustrated, then spoke again, “Oh, I’m so not good at this.”
“I was in the computer room today, looking up your potential. The one that the First killed,” Kennedy started.
Rowena froze. “Ipek,” she said softly.
“I knew that you’d lost a potential, but I never really found out why you weren’t there to protect her,” Kennedy explained. “You were helping us, weren’t you? That Opus book, in the end, it helped Willow do the big magic thing, didn’t it?”
Rowena gestured at an armchair, then took a seat on the chesterfield across from it.
“Yes,” she said finally. “I didn’t know it at the time, though.” She shrugged. “Or maybe I did, on some level. I don’t know. It just seemed safer giving the book to the Coven in Devon…But I have to ask, what’s so interesting about a book I recovered four years ago?”
“The Council thought the First might be gunning for the potentials, but you left her to go after this book anyway.” Kennedy told her.
Rowena nodded. “I still don’t know if it was the right thing to do.”
“I do,” Kennedy replied. Rowena looked across at her, confused. “You took the chance that someone you cared about might die, but you possibly saved thousands, maybe even millions, of people in the process.”
Rowena rolled her shoulders and opened her mouth to say something.
“And it didn’t stop there. When you left Willow in the lurch to go back to England, I was furious. Here, you had someone that I would’ve given my left eyeball to have, and you were ditching her, I thought. When you concealed information that almost got Mia killed, I wanted to throttle you with my bare hands. You put Willow on trial, and I thought you didn’t care about anything but the party line: keeping the Council under control. You killed people in Iraq without batting an eye. And Vi watches herself die, and I think that you’re being a cold-hearted bitch.”
“Thanks,” Rowena answered dryly.
She stopped for a moment, then spoke again. “What I’m trying to say is that I never really got you until now.”
“No, let me finish,” Kennedy interrupted. “Giles told me something interesting when I went to see him yesterday for help.”
Rowena’s eyes widened. “That’s why Hawking called.”
“Who?” Kennedy asked.
Rowena brushed her off. “Never mind…you were saying?”
“I…I made things tough on you ’cause I just didn’t get you.” Kennedy lifted her eyes to meet Rowena’s. “But you rarely think of yourself when you make a decision, do you? That’s why you went to England, to make sure the London Branch functioned, and it’s why you left the Council Chair, because it was too difficult on Willow and next to impossible to have lovers in the top brass. Am I close?”
“Look…” Rowena said. “I’m far from a saint. And for the record, I have made calls to benefit myself. I wanted to protect our High Priestess from the Mizors, yes. Losing someone of her power would have been devastating to the Council. But I nearly got Mia killed, Giles too, actually, if you consider the argument jump started the heart attack. Yeah, the decision I made was to help Willow, to make sure the Council kept its High Priestess, but I also knew I didn’t want to lose my girlfriend. That motivated me more than anything else. So again, not very saintly behavior.”
“No,” Kennedy said, shaking her head. “Sure, you had something to gain, but you also did it to protect the Council’s interests.”
“I don’t think it’s as simple as all that,” Rowena answered.
“How so?” Kennedy asked rhetorically. “If Willow had found out you held the information, chances are she would have dumped you – she’d be alive, but you’d be officially kicked to the curb. Yet you did it anyway. So did you play the odds that she’d take it all in stride, or did you do it knowing that you might lose her, but she’d still be alive?”
Rowena shrugged. “Truthfully, I’d say both.”
“Right,” Kennedy answered. “Willow would still be alive and if you still had her, that was a bonus. Same thing with the division chairs – now that you’ve stepped down, you can put a rule in place that says division heads can’t be romantically involved. That way no one else has to go through the year you guys have gone through so far. And if Willow comes around and stops being angry, you’ve got a shot to start again with her. But I’m willing to bet, regardless of Willow’s choice on the matter, you still planned to step down.”
Rowena gave a small grin. “So you’ve got me all figured out now, eh?”
Kennedy returned the grin. “No, but it’s a start.” Quietly, she stood up, and Rowena rose to meet her. “Look, I’m sorry I woke you up, I just…I wanted to thank you.”
“If you hadn’t done your duty – gotten that book – not only would I not be a slayer, but chances are we’d all be dead thanks to a pack of Ubervamps. I needed to say that…and to tell you that if anyone can find a way to save Vi, it’d be you.”
“I’m working on it.” Rowena sighed.
“I know, really, I do,” Kennedy answered. “Now get some sleep. We’ll need fresh watcher minds come morning.
Kennedy quickly backed out through Rowena’s door, closing it behind her as the watcher looked on. Once she was gone, Rowena shook her head and headed back to bed.
Watchers Council – Dining Hall – Morning
“I thought you were going to stop by last night,” Willow said as she slid into a seat across a small table from Rowena.
The slightest of smiles tugged at the corner of Rowena’s lips. “I let myself in, but you were asleep. I thought I’d let you rest.”
“Did you sleep at all?” Willow asked.
Rowena nodded. “A few hours. I’ve got forty-eight left, though, to find out if Vi will…die…and you’ve got a Coven who’s trying to accomplish the impossible. We need to take rest when we can get it.” She took a sip from the mug of coffee in front of her. “Speaking of which, how is that going? The Coven work, I mean.”
“Well,” Willow said, “I think we’re going to be able to do it, when the next window opens.”
Rowena pressed her fingers against her temples. “Good,” she replied. “Now, how does it work?”
“Actually,” Willow began, smiling, “it’s remarkably simple. Every person’s soul leaves a mark on the fabric of the universe. In essence, they lay out a trail behind themselves through time and space. What we do is we lock onto that trail and track it all the way back to its point of origin. It’s still basically just teleportation, but we use a living soul as both a power source and a target,” Willow explained.
“Simple? Sounds like some pretty hefty mojo,” Rowena noted.
“It is. Which is why I need the whole Coven to perform the spell, but the good news is I think it can be done. Even then, it’s going to take at least an hour just to perform it, and we’ll only be able to maintain the portal for maybe thirty seconds.” Rowena nodded. “So, how are you doing?” Willow asked.
“Not so good,” Rowena admitted. “I might have to send a slayer to her own death – someone I call a friend. I may have to convince her to step through that portal, knowing that she’s going to die on the other side but save mankind in the process. And now I’ve just been told that if I do that, maybe no one will even remember any of it.”
“We don’t know what to expect or what will happen. Gaiden said it himself – Vi very well might live and be just fine.” Willow said optimistically.
“I’ll say it again. This time travel stuff makes my head hurt,” Rowena said, rubbing her temples. “One theory says the future can’t be changed no matter what you do. Another says that if a butterfly flaps its wings one too many times, the world ends. But then again, if you capture the butterfly, the world will be saved. I mean…who’s right?”
“You’re asking questions that people have wondered for eons,” Willow replied.
“Unlike all those people, I need to find those answers in the next three, sorry, two days.”
“A-and we will,” Willow answered.
“Maybe,” Rowena replied. “I mean, I always knew as a watcher that the day might come when the Council had to sacrifice a slayer for the greater good. I just hoped that day would come sometime after I died of old age.” She looked up into Willow’s eyes. “I can’t tell you how often I’ve wished I didn’t have this job in the last few months. With Buffy here, I thought maybe it would slow down, just for a little while, but…”
“We both know what our jobs entail. A-and we both know we’re doing the right thing.”
“Will, when Giles brought me in as Head of the Council, we spent more time butting heads then bumping ug – ,” she winced. “Ugh, I’ve been spending too much time around Faith.” Rowena shook her head.
“I just want some time for us. I want a chance to fix this.” She motioned between them and looked intently into the redhead’s eyes. “I don’t think that’s asking the Powers That Be for too much.”
Willow smiled warmly.
“Am I interrupting something?” Gaiden’s voice cut into the conversation.
“Of course not,” Rowena replied with a sigh. She gestured at an empty chair. “Willow was just telling me about the magical meanderings of last night.”
“Ah, yes,” Gaiden replied. “Miss Rosenberg has a very talented Coven.”
“Legendary even three hundred years from now?” Rowena quipped.
“Of course, you’re the first generation of the Watchers Council. In our time, you’re the equivalent of Adam and Eve,” Gaiden replied.
Willow looked at Rowena for a moment. “Adam and Eve? Which of us is which?”
“Oh, you’re Adam, hands down,” Rowena teased. “I’m not butch enough.”
Willow looked down at herself. “And just how butch are we talking, here?”
Rowena gave her a bashful smile.
“Would you two…like a moment alone?” Gaiden asked.
“I would love that,” Rowena confessed. “But not without having a plan to save a dear friend first.”
Willow smiled. “Actually, you might want to grab some breakfast before everyone starts waking up and you have to fight your way through a whole crowd of slayers to get there.”
Gaiden nodded. “I’ll have to do that.” He turned and walked towards the kitchen counter.
Kennedy pushed her way into the dining hall.
Willow’s eyebrows arched. “You’re up early.”
“Not really, more like couldn’t sleep,” Kennedy replied groggily.
Rowena’s head bobbed forward. “That’s to be expected – we’re all under a lot of stress.”
“You’re telling me,” Kennedy replied, as she flopped down in the chair Gaiden had just vacated. “Everyone’s a little on edge. I was sparring with one of our slayers-in-training, and she was so frustrated that she almost knocked my head off my shoulders.”
“How’s Vi?” Rowena asked.
“She’s holding it together…” Kennedy replied, letting out a long breath. “Xander’s doing what he can, but…”
Watchers Council – Kitchen – Same Time
“What’s for breakfast?” Gaiden asked.
“Oh, we’ve got your standard continental today,” Andrew replied. “Croissant, fruit, juice and coffee if you want it.”
“That sounds fine,” Gaiden replied.
“I could whip up some eggs real quick if you like.”
“Oh no thanks, I’m allergic.”
For a moment Andrew said nothing. “So, I was thinking about that spell we’re performing.”
“What about it?”
“Well, if we’re tracking our way back through time on the soul of a living human being, then the only way you could’ve come back from three hundred years in the future would be to hop from generation to generation,” Andrew rationalized.
Gaiden nodded. “It took us nine jumps. What about it?”
“Well, you ended up in the Council. Which means that someone in your group had to be a descendent of someone who was here when you appeared,” Andrew continued.
Gaiden looked down at the plate Andrew slid across to him, avoiding eye contact. “Interesting theory.”
“Yeah, it’s interesting,” Andrew commented idly. “So what do you think of your great, great, too many ‘greats’ to count, grandma Rowena?”
Gaiden looked up sharply.
“Oh, I won’t say anything. But it’s the little things,” Andrew added quickly. “The way you pinch the bridge of your nose for one. I guess some things are really well preserved from generation to generation. But then again, your forehead creases when you’re really concentrating. And there’s the way you tilt your head when you’re talking to someone in a not-quite-condescending way.” He frowned, looking at Gaiden’s face intently.
Gaiden let out a long sigh. “Believe it or not, Rowena and I aren’t actually biologically related. Genetically, she is not my grandmother.”
Andrew shook his head. “I don’t see a lot of Willow in you, though.” His eyes drifted up to where Rowena and Kennedy were seated, chatting. Then his gaze again fell upon Gaiden’s features. His eyes widened.
Watchers Council – Dining Room – Same Time
“Oh my God!”
Rowena, Kennedy, and Willow all turned around in unison at the sudden outburst from Andrew in the kitchen. They turned in time to see Gaiden trying desperately to calm the young cook down.
Rowena strode up to the kitchen counter. “Andrew, what’s going on?”
Andrew, wide-eyed, looked at Rowena, then over to Kennedy. Finally, his eyes darted to Willow before coming to rest on Gaiden again. “Um, nothing,” he offered sheepishly.
“It sure as hell didn’t sound like nothing,” Kennedy said.
“I – uh, I thought I saw a Silex demon under the counter,” Andrew said quickly. “My mistake.”
“Andrew…” Rowena sighed.
“So, what can I get you for breakfast?” he asked quickly.
“We’ve eaten. Andrew –” The rest of Rowena’s question was cut off as, in the center of the room, a bright, swirling vortex appeared.
“Not again,” Kennedy groaned, as she shielded her eyes.
A single young woman stepped from the vortex. She wore a black body-suit and her long dark hair hung over her eyes. Her penetrating gaze quickly panned around the dining room. After a moment, her eyes met Gaiden’s.
“Oh God,” Gaiden whispered. He turned to Kennedy. “Kill her!” he yelled.
Kennedy looked sharply back at him. “What?”
“Kill her!” he repeated.
The young woman smiled wickedly before she turned around and dove through the vortex behind her. The portal collapsed an instant later.
Rowena turned angrily to face Gaiden. “Look, I don’t know how the Council operates in three hundred years, but right now, you’re in no position to give orders.” Her features hardened.
Gaiden’s gaze remained fixed upon the space the vortex had occupied a moment earlier. “Then will you take a suggestion?”
“What’s that?” Rowena asked.
“Prepare for war.”
End of Act Two