Watchers Council – Conference Room – Moments Later
Buffy held the door for Faith, and the two walked inside the crowded room.
“Where’s Mr. Wood?” Alex asked, looking around at the faces surrounding her.
“Probably over the Atlantic about now,” Faith answered. “He’s on his way to England.”
Alex nodded. “Right, the hearing,” she said, making a few heads turn toward each other, wondering how she knew. “Anyway, I’m here at the request of my client. It seems that Lucifer and his minions are going to make a play to conquer Earth once and for all.”
“Lucifer and his minions? Lucifer is real?” Dawn asked.
“Yes,” Giles remarked. “And quite frightening, in a macabre way. He appeared to me in Alex’s presence as Jenny Calendar.”
“Talk about your head trips,” Buffy replied.
“Which was his point, obviously,” Giles added.
“Well, what do you need from us?” Willow asked.
“We need you to stay out of it,” Alex said flatly.
“Excuse me?” Rowena asked. Around her, chatter filled the room.
Alex cleared her throat. “To be perfectly frank, you folks have done enough damage at this point, and we can’t risk any interference from the Council.” The chatter grew louder. “Please, people, my time is limited, and I have many preparations to see to in the next few days.”
“I-I’m not even sure what to ask first,” Giles began. “But when is this supposed to happen, and why is the Council being asked to step aside?”
“I wish I had a date, Mr. Giles, but I don’t. It could be this week, or it could be this year. I honestly don’t know. However, we do know it will be coming. As for why the Council is being excused…you’re part of the problem and not the solution. This is meant to be humanity’s fight, and they should have had nearly a year to adjust to the fact that vampires, demons and other things that go bump in the night are real. But as it stands…no one knows.”
Rowena closed her eyes briefly. “The spell.”
Alex gave her a single nod. “The spell, yes.”
“Hey!” Vi said, speaking up. “If you wanted the damned reporter left alone, why didn’t you pick up the frickin’ phone? You obviously know so much about what’s going on here. You could have warned us. Or did you forget our number since Xander dumped you?”
“No, I did not. But realize something, little girl – I’m not your babysitter. And I’m not your police, either. You should be looking after yourselves,” Alex shot back. Vi looked like she was ready to charge out of her chair, but Xander grabbed her arm and shook his head silently. “But it’s beyond the spell at this point,” Alex went on, “and it’s not just this branch, but the entire Council. Instead of suspending Ms. Lehane, they terminated her. Instead of counseling your difficult Black Ops squad members, you’ve turned them out onto the streets to do who knows what. The Council as a whole made these choices. So believe me when I say, this goes beyond the Cleveland branch. It would be easy to blame a single person – to point out the Big Bad, as you Scoobies like to say – but it’s not that simple.”
“We’re the Big Bad,” Willow muttered to no one in particular.
“If that’s what you’d like to believe,” Alex replied. “Regardless, the point is my client feels there isn’t a person among you who is deserving of this fight. And instead of risking relying on you and having you fail yet again, they’re hoping humanity will pick up the fight themselves.”
“Uh,” Andrew raised his hand. “Stupid question, but aren’t we part of humanity too? Slayers are like super-humans, but they’re still humans.”
Various Council members in the room chattered in agreement with Andrew’s comments.
“That’s where you’re wrong, and that’s why you’ve failed – you’re not human. Perhaps in the flesh, yes, but you’ve all been given a duty, a sacred trust, and all of you have abused that trust in one way or another.”
“Now, hold on a second –” Faith began.
“Yes, let’s hear from the woman who walked away from the Council because she had a bad day on the job,” Alex retorted before Faith could finish. Xander raised his finger, as if to say something, but Alex stopped him. “Or how about the man whose only alternative to ridding himself of a spirit is to drug and then stab his girlfriend – a woman who, along with said man and Ms. Rosenberg, decided to ignore the concerns of fellow Council members, which not only led to the death of several young slayers, but also to the total collapse of a branch of this Council.” Alex got up and began to move around the room, her eyes falling on Dawn. “But you my dear, you take the prize.”
“Me?” Dawn replied.
Alex nodded. “Your High Priestess is considering reinstating you to the Coven. Has she told you that?”
Dawn looked surprised and glanced briefly at Willow, then turned back to Alex and shook her head. Willow had an equally surprised look on her face at Alex’s comment.
“Unlike the Wiccans, however, we don’t commend people for taking side trips to Purgatory. Instead, my clients hand out punishment. Neither you, nor any living person, for that matter, had the right to be there.”
Dawn looked uneasy for a moment, but then squared her shoulders. “Look, I had the chance to do something good. It’s been a long time coming, actually. Skye didn’t ask for the fate she got, she didn’t ask to be a vampire. That was thrust onto her. I saw the chance to change that, and I took it.”
Alex paused. “There’s a reason they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but hell is a fate you won’t have to worry about.”
“I’m not sure I understand,” Dawn said.
Alex took a deep breath. “As punishment, Dawn Summers, your worst fears will be realized…you will never get any older, you will never die. You will watch generation after generation of people you love move onto another plane, another existence. For you, however, there will be no journey other than to walk this earth.” Everyone in the room began to look at each other, and Dawn shot a worried glance to Willow, who simply put her hand over Dawn’s for the moment. “Realize something quick, people,” Alex continued, looking around the room, “there isn’t anyone here who can say they’ve done an exemplary job this past year.”
“Ms. Neel, I think you need to realize –” Giles began.
“Realize what?” Alex said in an annoyed tone. “That you tried to obtain information not meant for you in that cave?”
“From what I was told, no one should have the knowledge if they’re unworthy. However, the Guardian seemed adamant that I shouldn’t leave without it. Care to explain that?”
“Only if you care to explain why you haven’t told them everything about that journey, in particular the co-pilot of your journey.”
Giles turned away for a brief moment.
“What is she talking about, Giles?” Buffy asked. For a moment he didn’t say anything. “Giles?” she pressed.
“He knows that a former colleague of yours, a Mr. Wyndham-Pryce, is no longer alive,” Alex offered. “I’d like to hear why he didn’t share that with you.”
“Wes?” Willow asked. “Wesley’s dead?”
“He’s at peace now, and it’s a fact we couldn’t change. Besides,” Giles replied, “it would only arouse concern when we should be focusing on the important information here.”
“How did he die?” Willow asked.
At the same time, Buffy asked, “Did he mention Angel and Spike?”
“Are they all right?” Dawn added immediately after.
Alex turned to Giles. “Now I can see why you didn’t mention it. Although that oversight served a useful purpose, you still walked away from your position because your personal interests took greater priority than your duty. Care to offer an explanation as to why you nominated someone you weren’t sure would work as your replacement?” she said, waving to Rowena.
“You have no right –” Giles quickly raised his voice.
“I have every right,” Alex fired off, just as quickly. “Every human who is going to die in this fight has the Council to blame. You’ve all spent so much time wrapped up in your own personal traumas, to the point of distraction.”
“That’s not true,” Kennedy spoke up.
“Really?” Alex asked.
“Yeah,” Kennedy answered. She opened her mouth to speak again, but Alex cut her short.
“Your best friend and ex-lover were nearly killed because of your blind devotion to a man you hardly knew, all because you wanted information on your past instead of looking at where you stand now.”
“Hey,” Kennedy tried to challenge, but Alex just kept on going.
“And,” the lawyer continued, “did you realize the night you were at the bar sucking face with Ms. Allister that two women died? Women you might have saved had you been patrolling?”
Kadin turned to Kennedy, and Willow turned to Rowena, both women saying, “What?” at the same time.
“It’s not what it sounds like,” Kennedy answered.
Rowena quickly added, at the same time, “I’d had too much to drink.”
All four women then began to argue, but before it got too out of hand, Alex proclaimed in a loud voice, “Thank you for illustrating my point so vividly. Two innocents died, and mankind is on the verge of extinction, and your concern is a few drunken, stolen kisses…Like I said, stay out of this fight, people. We neither need you, nor want you.”
Alex began to make her way to the door.
“Now, wait just a minute here,” Buffy said, finally speaking up. “You can’t just prance in, threaten my sister, insult everyone and then leave.”
“Watch me,” Alex said, as she began on her way again.
“Oh no. I don’t think so,” Buffy said, starting after Alex. Faith, Rowena and Willow all took a stand behind Buffy. “If the end of the world is coming, you can bet this Council will have a hand in it.” Buffy paused for a second. “That sounded better in my head than out loud.”
Alex grinned slightly. “Oh, but that comment is appropriate on so many levels,” she replied before starting to move again.
“Just you wait a second,” Buffy replied. “You tell your client that, when it all comes down, we will be there. We will defend mankind, whether they like it or not.”
Alex took a few steps back toward Buffy and her followers.
“You’ve been to heaven,” Alex said. “Don’t automatically assume it will be a return trip.”
“Trying to hold my afterlife ticket over my head?” Buffy remarked.
“Not just your ticket, but everyone else’s in this room,” Alex told her. “Still think it’s worth going into this fight?”
Buffy folded her arms across her chest. “If you ask me, heaven’s overrated,” she replied. “I’d give up my existence for humanity’s sake. And despite what you and your bosses think…so would everyone else in this room.”
“If that’s how you feel, then,” Alex replied calmly. “Good afternoon, everyone. I’d say I’ll see you later, but I realize that chance is slim to none. We’ll all be dead before then…well…with the exception of the younger Summers woman.” Alex then turned to Giles. “I must be going, but I’m sure you’ll find someone here to chauffeur you home, Mr. Giles.”
Once Alex’s back was turned from the room, she began to grin as she walked. The group behind her erupted into conversations with each other.
Alex’s Car – Moments Later
Alex reached around and buckled her seatbelt.
“So,” a voice said from the passenger seat. “How did they take the news?”
Alex looked over at Gabbie. “As you expected. They’ll be there when it starts.”
“You lawyers sure are the shifty types,” she teased.
“But we get the job done, don’t we?” Alex replied with a grin.
“Thank you,” Gabbie said sincerely.
Alex sighed. “All in a day’s work.” She put the car in gear. “Do you really think they’ll pull it together in time?” she asked in a concerned tone.
“I do,” Gabbie answered firmly.
Alex began to pull into traffic. “Well, here’s hoping you’re right.”
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Same Time
Everyone seemed to be talking at once. Giles and Rowena were wrapped up in their conversation, both nodding vigorously. Willow seemed to be consoling Dawn as Buffy spoke to her. Kennedy reached out to Kadin, who pushed her arm away with a look of annoyance, while Jeff and Andrew chatted quietly in the corner.
Faith watched the commotion, looking annoyed. She put her fingers in her mouth and gave a loud whistle that made everyone stop and look over at her.
“Thank you,” she said once the room fell quiet. “Now…calmly, rationally, do we think she’s telling us the truth, or is she full of it?”
“There’s one way to find out,” Dawn began. “Put a gun to my head and pull the trigger. If I survive, she’s not lying.”
“Let’s shelve that idea for now and instead try something more practical,” Faith teased. For the first time since Alex left, Dawn’s mood seemed to lighten. Faith then turned to Giles. “Do you know for a fact Wes is dead?”
“Whether it was an illusion of my mind or a fact, that I can’t tell you,” he answered. “He mentioned not dying in vain, since no one knew.”
“Knew what? About his death?” Faith asked.
“I suppose. Like most of the information in my head, it’s bits and pieces. I don’t have all the answers to some questions – the events and validity of Wesley’s death being one of them.”
“We call then,” Willow suggested. “Maybe see if we can reach them?”
“I’ll do it,” Dawn answered before anyone else could. “We need answers, and we can’t trust what’s in Giles’s head. No offense,” she said, looking at him.
“Believe me, none taken,” he answered.
“We also don’t know if what Alex has said is entirely true, either,” she remarked to the rest of the room.
“That brings up a good point, Dawn,” Faith added. “There’s no way for us to know if what Alex said was right. Also…did anyone notice that she never said who her client was?”
“Since she mentioned Lucifer, I’m assuming Yahweh,” Rowena answered. Faith motioned Rowena to explain. “Oh, uh, Jehovah, the name of the God worshiped by the Christians, Jews and Muslims.”
“Okay,” Faith nodded. “So this power doesn’t want us involved in saving humanity. Will?” Willow looked over in Faith’s direction. “You believe there’s more than one powerful deity that controls this Earth, right?”
Willow began to grin as she followed Faith’s logic. “Right…You want me to place a few calls, I take it?”
“Since it seems we’ve been forsaken, according to Alex, and if we help then we’re going to hell…really, what could it hurt at this point?” Faith said to the group.
Andrew, who had been quietly talking with Jeff, raised his hand. Faith nodded toward him. “What do we do until then? Alex didn’t say when this was going to happen.”
“Yeah, my sister’s out of school, and she’s due here tomorrow for the summer,” Vi answered. “Should I tell her not to come now?”
“Same with Shannon,” Dawn remarked. “I promised her I’d take her to go see Norman. She’s been looking forward to the trip all year, but should we cancel?”
“No,” Buffy spoke up, making everyone turn her way. “Everyone just go about your daily lives. No one’s going to stop living because the world may or may not end. But in the meantime, we hit the books. Giles?” The watcher turned to her. “We’ll need you here a lot more right now. You’ve got information that Alex’s folks don’t want you to have. We need a record of everything the Guardian gave you – doesn’t matter if it is fragmented. Maybe there’s some clue there to help turn the tide back in our favor. Of course, that’s if Alex is telling us the truth about everything.”
“If this is going to happen the way she says,” Rowena added. “We can also turn the tide by letting the world know.”
“Know what?” Faith asked.
“The truth,” Rowena replied.
Watchers Council – Faith and Robin’s Apartment – Later that Night
Faith left her bedroom, jamming to her earbuds with an mp3 player attached to her hip. She danced her way over to the refrigerator and opened it up. Bending over, she looked around for a bottle of orange juice and pulled it out. When she closed the door and began to right herself, she found Gabbie standing on the other side of the door.
“Jesus! ” Faith said. She ripped the buds from her ears, nearly dropping the bottle.
“No, I’m Gabrielle…Please Faith, have a seat.”
Faith looked confused and then angry.
“Get the hell out of my house, you loony,” she finally replied.
Gabbie waved her hand and one of the counter stools shot over. She waved her other hand and carefully picked up Faith’s body, plopping it on the stool.
“Hey!” Faith exclaimed.
Gabbie strolled over and snatched the orange juice from the slayer’s hand. “We need to talk,” she said casually, before taking a drink.
Watchers Council – Willow’s Apartment – Same Time
Willow opened the door to her apartment to see Rowena standing there.
“Can I come in?” the watcher asked softly.
Willow looked apprehensive at first, but then opened the door wider, and Rowena passed the threshold, closing the door behind her.
“I need to tell you what happened with Kennedy,” Rowena began.
Willow looked down at her carpet. “I’m not sure I want to hear this.”
“Nothing major happened, that’s the thing. I kissed her at the bar, and that was pretty much the extent of it. You’ve got to believe us,” Rowena pleaded. “I was drunk, I was angry and…I wanted to hurt you for hurting me. Real mature, I know. But that’s what happened.”
Willow shrugged. “You were single at the time, right? I mean, it was after we broke up, wasn’t it?”
“Yes,” Rowena answered. “But I still wanted you in my life, and instead of trying harder to mend things with you, I…I acted quite foolish, instead.”
Willow looked up and began to nod. “You weren’t my girlfriend at the time, so what can I say?”
“Look, I made a tremendous error in judgment that night. I know it’s probably no consolation, but I swore off drinking not long after that. I wanted to find a way to win you back and regain my focus. I didn’t say anything because –”
“You didn’t want to get busted?”
“No,” Rowena said. “I just didn’t see the point in hurting you. Telling you would only relieve my guilty conscience, and it would cause you pain. Kennedy and I both agreed. Neither of us wanted to hurt you, and nothing more came of it, so we kept it private.”
Willow nodded. “Guess I could buy that, but…it’s my fault too,” Willow remarked.
“What? Why’s that?” Rowena asked, confused.
Watchers Council – Faith and Robin’s Apartment – Same Time
“Who are you?” Faith asked.
“I’ve been watching you. For many years now, actually,” Gabbie answered.
“Great,” Faith sighed. “I’ve got a stalker.”
Gabbie grinned. “No, not quite. I’ve looked after many humans in my time, yet I’ve appeared to only a handful of them. When I do, it usually makes the history books.” Gabbie took another drink of her stolen orange juice.
“Again…who are you?” Faith asked.
“Would you believe me if I told you I was a slayer, like you? Well, not exactly like you…I was better,” Gabbie teased and gave Faith a wink.
“You’re too old to be a slayer,” Faith answered.
“I was the first slayer to live beyond thirty, and the first to die while not active.” Gabrielle paused for a moment. “Do you know what happens to Christian slayers upon their death?”
“Can’t say that I do. B doesn’t talk much about that,” Faith answered.
“Buffy wouldn’t know, she wasn’t called after her death. She spent a large portion of her life fighting her calling. But for those who are asked, and those who have led a good life, they become warriors for the Kingdom of Heaven, if they so choose. In my case, a messenger and a warrior…and when called upon, I’ve caused quite a bit of devastation.”
“You’re an archangel?” Faith asked. Gabbie nodded. Faith got a peculiar look. “What a second. Gabrielle, Gabriel…Can you turn into a man, by any chance?” Faith asked.
Gabby smiled and gave a light chuckle. “No, but I am one and the same. Seems someone left off two little letters in the translation. God is infallible, but man obviously is not.”
“So all this time, people have been calling you a dude?” Faith asked incredulously.
Gabbie laughed harder now. “It sounds worse than it is, actually. Since everyone assumes I’m a man, it’s pretty easy for me to make my way around. So perhaps it’s not a mistake, but rather something my boss planned. Either way, I’m not complaining. It helps me get my job done.”
Watchers Council – Willow’s Apartment – Same Time
“I’m not sure I understand how this is your fault, Willow,” Rowena said.
“Because I made a promise I didn’t keep – to you and to myself. I walked away, and I’ve been keeping you at arm’s length ever since. But…I don’t know how to bridge this gap. And I know in my heart that, if we’d been together then, you wouldn’t have kissed Kennedy, because I think you’re a faithful person and you truly do love me.”
“I do,” Rowena said softly.
“Which is why I’m sorry. It’s not often that someone walks away from a position they train their whole lives to handle, especially not over something like love. A-and I’ve had time to look at it all. I can’t be angry with you for doing what you thought was right, any more than I can overlook what you gave up to be with me.”
Rowena now looked at the floor. “According to Alex, the Powers find that to be a problem.”
“There’s more than one Power in this world,” Willow replied. “The ones I put my faith in care about things like love more than anything, and they see the expression of love as an extension of duty. It is possible to do both, in their eyes. A-and obviously they’ve answered my prayers, because you haven’t given up on me yet.”
Rowena began to grin. “Does that mean you’ll let me help mend that foot of yours then?”
“No,” Willow answered. Rowena’s expression fell slightly. “Making love to you should be for both our benefits, not just mine.”
“I want to help, Willow…and yes, I do still want you, but that’s not why I’m offering.”
“I still want you, too, which is why I’m declining,” Willow countered.
Rowena pursed her lips for a moment. “I love you so much, Willow.”
“Come here,” Willow said, motioning her over with her head and gently dropping one of her crutches.
Rowena closed the distance between them, Willow resting her weight on the remaining crutch. Her free hand took Rowena’s cheek and pulled her closer. She leaned down slowly and kissed Rowena gently on the lips.
“You want to start again?” Willow asked after a moment. Rowena simply nodded, and Willow pulled her back for another kiss.
Watchers Council – Faith and Robin’s Apartment – Same Time
“Let me see if I got this right,” Faith began. “…the messenger of God works in a demon bar?”
“What better way to get news from the other side?” Gabbie responded.
Faith grinned. “That’s pretty clever, actually.”
“As you grow older, Faith, you’ll realize that not everything is as it seems in this world. And also keep in mind that, like yourself, I fell from grace for not obeying a command exactly as given, and I remained outside the heavenly curtain for a time.”
“Really?” Faith asked.
Gabbie nodded. “Yes. But I kept my devotion, and eventually found redemption. You’re on the same path right now, and I’m certain you can do the same.”
“Why are you telling me all this?” Faith asked.
“As I said, I’m a messenger, and I’ve brought news and information to some of the most well-known figures in history. I helped dictate the Quran to Muhammad. I informed Mary of her impending virgin birth, which, believe it or not, she wasn’t real thrilled to hear about at first.”
“Go figure – the pain of childbirth but none of the fun beforehand.”
Gabrielle smiled softly. “But in addition to being a messenger, I’m also a destructor when I must be. I was involved in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. I was sent to destroy the giant children of the fallen ‘watchers’ and did so by turning them against each other. But unlike times past, I’m not here to destroy the cities of the world. I’d like to save them, but I am forbidden to enter this coming fight, as are my fellow archangels. The end of days will come when my God sees fit, not Lucifer.”
“Which is why you can’t enter the fight. It would be like he’s forcing your hand?”
“Exactly,” Gabrielle answered. “The message I bring to you is that the world needs you in this fight. You will be the catalyst that saves humanity.”
Faith crossed her arms. “According to Ms. Neel, you guys don’t want our help and, while I’m at it, how am I supposed to know you’re not just a crazy psycho sitting in my house, drinking up all my liquid refreshments?”
“Would it help if I put on my game face, as you slayers call it when a vampire morphs?”
“It might,” Faith remarked.
With a quick shake of her head, a pair of white wings suddenly emerged from Gabrielle’s back and then her body began to glow. Faith’s eyes widened.
“I’ll be damned,” she muttered.
“Let’s hope not, shall we?” Gabbie replied, as her wings disappeared again. “The point is…you’re destined for greatness, Faith. But you still have a road to walk before that time arrives. So you have two choices. You can either believe me, or you can fight me about your calling, as Mary did. I’m hoping it’s the first, because time may be of the essence here.”
Faith looked as if she was considering the words. “So what do you need from me?”
Gabrielle grinned. “First, understand who and what I am. I am the Archangel of humanity, resurrection, heavenly mercy, vengeance, death, revelation, truth and hope. I am the Bringer of news and herald the revealing of answers. I can be the Maker of changes, and I’m forever the Patron Saint of Communications. I have witnessed many slayers over the centuries, but none compare to you. Again…humanity needs you in this fight, since I’m forbidden to do battle. You could be the one to inspire the masses, but only if you join this fight, heart and soul. So, will you do your part?” It took a moment, but Faith nodded. “Good, now I understand that Ms. Rosenberg plans to call upon the gods she knows of.”
“How did you know that?” Faith asked absently.
Gabbie sighed. “Did you not hear what I just said? The whole bit about Bringer of news, Patron Saint of Communications and such?” she whined.
“I’m sorry, okay,” Faith said defensively. “It’s not everyday an archangel comes into my kitchen, plops me on a stool and reveals themselves to me. Let me catch up a minute.”
“Okay, I’ll give you that. Now, the second point I need to address, you’ve already proven just now.”
“Which is?” Faith asked.
“You’ve taken my word over a mortal’s. Ms. Neel spoke the truth. There is concern that the Council will be more of a hindrance than a help. Her words were…harsh…but they were given so that the Council would take action. As we speak, they already are, such as Ms. Rosenberg. This is a good thing.”
“And the ticket to Heaven business…?” Faith asked.
“A test of devotion to humanity that I asked her to do. You guys passed.”
“I’m not a test gal,” Faith told her in an annoyed tone. “So really, for future reference, cut that out. You want something, then you come to me. Agreed?”
Gabbie smiled again. “No need to worry. When faced with damnation or helping humanity, you chose to help humanity, and as their guardian, well, to say that I’m pleased is an understatement.”
“Is this kinda like that dude who took his kid to the rock and was going to kill him, but it was really just a test?”
“Yes, kind of like that dude,” Gabrielle said with a half chuckle, before turning serious again. “I needed to know that you’d all do what was right, and not what suited you best. You have to understand, Faith – heaven is a place for those who helped humanity, first and foremost. We realize that humans are not perfect…even angels are not perfect. But as long as a person serves mankind first, and not their selfish desires, everyone has a chance to get there.”
“I thought everyone was supposed to serve God first?” Faith asked.
“And what is God exactly? Is it someone who sits on a throne in the clouds, the waitress who takes your order at a diner or is it something as simple as a raindrop on a leaf? Or maybe, it’s all of the above?” Gabrielle asked.
“No offense, but wouldn’t you know the answer better than me?” Faith countered.
“But you serve God too, Faith, with your actions, whether you realize it or not.”
“You’re talkin’ in circles. What in the world does that mean?” she asked, getting frustrated.
“Someday you’ll understand. All the questions you ever had will be revealed to you should you earn your place in the Kingdom. I’m here to tell you, you’re on the right path – not only for yourself, but for mankind. So stick to it until the end.”
Faith paused. “So when is this all supposed to happen?” she asked.
“I don’t know for certain, but if I had to venture a guess…within the next month. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to say sometime this week. Since you’ve pledged your loyalty to the cause, I’ll inform you of anything I know, as soon as I know.”
Faith rolled her shoulders. “Not that I’m not delighted by this Touched by an Angel moment.” Faith looked embarrassed for a second. “Not like I watched that cheesy show but…anyway…why me? Why not someone else here?”
Gabbie took a few steps closer, and her hand cupped Faith’s cheek. “Mary asked me the same question, but your answer is different. The reason is that everyone, including you, deserves second chances.”
“How do I know you’re for real?” Faith asked.
“Look with your heart and your soul. What are they telling you?”
Faith was quiet for a moment. “Yes.”
Gabrielle grinned. “You must understand, Faith, not all heroes are born wearing a white hat. In fact, most aren’t…So follow your heart and your soul and take this chance that’s being offered. The fate of the world depends on it.”
Suddenly, Gabrielle vanished, and Faith began to look around the room. After a moment, she muttered, “She took my orange juice.”
Quickly, she moved from the stool toward her phone. After dialing a few numbers and waiting, she said, “Hey Ace, you’re not gonna believe this.”
Watchers Council – Willow’s Apartment – Later that Night
Rowena was curled up in Willow’s blankets, obviously naked, with a slight smile on her face. The smile widened as Willow snuggled up toward her back.
“How’s the foot?” Rowena asked.
“Same as before, but other parts feel wonderful, though,” Willow said.
Rowena’s grin widened, and she turned to face Willow. “Now will you let me do the spell with you?”
Willow grinned. “We’ll see,” she replied as she began to kiss Rowena’s neck.
Rowena gave a light chuckle. “You’re the most stubborn woman in the world.”
“Second most,” Willow countered.
Rowena reached above her and lightly smacked Willow with the throw pillow. Willow pulled the pillow down to reveal a smile on her face. She moved in to kiss Rowena, but a pounding noise on the front door made her stop just short of the blonde’s lips.
“Wouldn’t that figure?” Willow sighed in frustration.
“Stay here,” Rowena told her. “I’ll get it. No sense in you hobbling around.”
Watchers Council – Willow’s Apartment – Moments Later
Rowena walked over to the front door wearing a bathrobe. She opened the door to find Faith standing there.
“Hey, come on in,” Rowena motioned.
Faith stepped inside, and slowly her grin grew into a smile. She looked Rowena up and down. “Sorry to interrupt. Really,” she teased.
“It’s okay,” Rowena answered. “Did you need to see Will?”
“Got any orange juice here?” Faith remarked.
“Yeah, the Archangel Gabbie showed up at my place and took mine.”
Rowena’s jaw dropped.
Giles’s House – Office – Later that Night
Giles sat in his home office next to the speakerphone with a perplexed look.
“You mean the Archangel?” he asked in disbelief.
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Same Time
“So it would seem,” Rowena answered. Seated around the conference room speakerphone were Faith, Kennedy, Willow and Buffy.
Giles’s House – Office – Same Time
“It could be a demon decoy. Perhaps we should call Alex to confirm it?” he asked.
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Same Time
Rowena opened her mouth as if she was going to agree, but Faith piped in first.
“No,” she replied.
“Why not?” Rowena asked.
“Because I believe her. I can’t explain why, it’s just something in my gut, y’know? When Red was tutoring me for my GED, she said something that stuck with me.”
“I did?” Willow asked.
Faith nodded. “Willow said to always go with your first reaction to a question because it’s probably the right one. You start second guessing yourself and you’ll screw up. Gabbie talked about tests of faith, and I think her coming to me is one of them. My gut tells me she’s the real deal, so I’m gonna go with that.”
An audible sigh from Giles was heard over the phone. “Well, we don’t know who is, or who isn’t, telling the truth here. If you trust this woman, this angel, being, whatever…I trust you, Faith.”
“I do too,” Willow added.
“Me three,” Kennedy said with a grin at Faith.
All eyes in the meeting room then fell to Rowena and Buffy.
Rowena began to nod and simply said, “Yes.”
Faith looked over at Buffy. “It’s up to you, B. Time for you to be tested too, it looks like.”
“How do you figure?” Buffy asked.
“You’ve told me you’re proud of how I turned my life around…Guess we find out whether you trust me as much as these guys do.”
At first Buffy said nothing, but slowly she also began to nod. “I agree,” she answered. “Forget about wasting time with Alex, since we probably won’t get a straight answer anyway. Let’s focus on getting the word out and what we can do. Whadda ya say?”
“Wise choice,” Giles answered. “I’ll be by tomorrow afternoon after Becca’s doctor appointment, and we’ll discuss how Rowena’s press conference went. We can explore other avenues of notification to the public and so on, agreed?”
“Agreed,” Buffy answered. “Get some rest tonight, Giles. We’ll see you then.”
“Goodbye all,” he said.
The room collectively told him goodbye, as well. Buffy pressed the button to end the call, then turned to Rowena. “Do you think the media will listen?”
“I know at least one person who will,” she replied.
End of Act Two