Watchers Council – Buffy’s Office – Day
Buffy sat behind her desk, not looking incredibly happy. Three chairs were arranged in front of her, in which sat Willow and Faith. Between them was Miss Sanger, smiling a little too widely as she spoke.
“The Oversight Committee was formed by the Allied Powers during World War II, to counter Hitler’s research into the occult,” she was saying. “We were given funding and authority to combat supernatural threats.”
“If you’ve got all this…authority,” Faith interrupted, “How come we haven’t run into you guys until now? You’ve sure got a quiet way of ‘combating supernatural threats’.”
“We choose to remain covert,” Sanger explained. Faith opened her mouth to say something, but Sanger headed her off. “For some time, we’ve worked through outsourcing.”
Willow blinked. “You…outsourced the fight against evil?”
Sanger nodded. “We work through organizations already engaged in the field. We back them with resources, connections…we make things possible that otherwise would have been impossible.” She turned to look at Faith. “Even you, Miss Lehane, would have trouble slaying a vampire without a stake.”
“We make our own stakes,” Faith told her. “We’ve got a guy.”
Buffy held up a hand. “And Bureau Nine was one of your special pals. All this I know. I’m not sure I get why you just let a valuable asset like that go and merge with a bunch of…us.”
Willow stifled a grin.
“Bureau Nine was an autonomous organization,” Sanger said. “We have other assets.”
“Like the Initiative,” Willow guessed.
Sanger nearly laughed. “Oh, God, I’d almost forgotten about them. That was a fiasco, wasn’t it?”
Buffy laughed nervously, perhaps insincerely, for a moment before sobering. “So now you’re here because…what? You’d like to outsource some more of the fight to us?”
“The nature of our relationship has yet to be determined,” Sanger told her primly, “but I can tell you that we can give you more money and connections than you could dream of.”
“I don’t know,” Faith said. “I can dream of a lot.”
“You don’t have to,” Buffy said. “We have a lot. Money. Connections. All that good stuff. I could pick up this phone and call the Oval Office and Dubya will talk to me.”
“With us, you won’t have to bother,” Sanger told her. “Our authority is respected across chains of command, military, law enforcement, and intelligence worldwide. They are under standing orders to render us assistance.”
“We’ve got a helicopter,” Buffy shot back.
“How would you like an aircraft carrier?” Sanger replied with a smile. There was silence for a moment.
“That would be…nice,” Willow said.
“Yeah, it would,” Faith said, “but I don’t like accepting help when there’re strings attached. Especially when the strings are held by people I’ve never even met.” She paused. “Unless…”
“Sorry, but information on the identities of Committee members is only available to those with Top Secret clearance,” Sanger chirped.
Buffy raised an eyebrow. “Top Secret…”
“There are three levels of clearance we extend,” Sanger explained. “Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret. We are prepared at this time to extend Confidential clearance to everyone in this room, as well as Rowena Allister and Rupert Giles, pending a review.” She reached into her purse and pulled out three small manila dossiers, which she handed to each of them.
Faith opened hers, and for a split-second sounded like she was choking. “Lori Carew has higher clearance than I do?”
Sanger smiled winningly. “Pending a review.”
Watchers Council – Willow & Rowena’s Apartment – Later that Day
Skye leaned up against the closed wooden door. “So, they’re probably not going to give me clearance, huh?”
Rowena opened her bathroom door, the toilet still running in the background. “I doubt it. I’m not even sure if I want them to give me clearance.”
“You feeling okay?” Skye asked, noticing Rowena putting a hand to her forehead.
“Yeah,” Rowena nodded, “just tired is all. No more morning sickness, at least.”
“I guess there must be some positive aspects to being a fat cow, right?” Skye said. Rowena stared at her, a little blindsided. After a second, Skye shook her head. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what made me say that.”
“You don’t have a soul?” Rowena ventured.
“That could be it,” Skye nodded. Awkward silence reigned in the hallway for a few seconds before she continued. “So, um…I actually need to pee.”
“Right,” Rowena said, and she walked off down the hall.
“I’ll be sure to save you a sample,” Skye called, as she closed the bathroom door behind her.
Inside the bathroom, things were a little too bright, fluorescent lights and white tile. Skye looked into the mirror, seeing nothing there but a reflection of the shower curtain. She sighed and leaned down to fill a Dixie cup in the faucet.
“What’s with the apology?” a female voice asked. Skye immediately straightened up to see herself in the mirror. The mirror image was in full vampire face, even though Skye wasn’t. “I mean, it’s a fact. The woman’s fat.”
“I don’t like making her feel bad,” Skye said.
“But that’s the best part,” Vampire Skye grinned. “At least until she has the babies. Bet they’d make scrumptious little morsels, don’tcha think?”
Skye looked disgusted. “What? No! I’m going to be, like, the cool aunt.”
“Cool vampire aunt?” Vampire Skye asked. “I doubt it. You’re a demon, Skye.”
“I’m not,” Skye insisted, shaking her head. “I mean, I am, but part of me came back…the real me…but…”
“But what?” Vampire Skye asked with a wicked, toothy grin. “You’re not going soft on me, are ya?”
A loud knock interrupted the conversation.
“Skye?” Willow’s muffled voice interrupted the conversation. “Are you talking to somebody?”
“Just peeing!” Skye called. When she looked back at the mirror, there was no reflection. She waved her hand in front of her face. Nothing. Hastily, Skye took a drink of water.
Watchers Council – Willow & Rowena’s Apartment – Moments Later
Willow walked into the living room to find Rowena sitting on the couch, leafing through a catalog.
“Did you find anything in your research about vampires talking to themselves?” Willow asked.
“No,” Rowena said distractedly. She held up the catalog, pointing. “What do you think of this one?”
Willow took the catalog and looked at it blankly for a few seconds. “It’s…nice.” She tried to force a smile. “Isn’t it a little early to be looking at cribs?”
“Oh, the twins’ll be here before we know it,” Rowena told her. “Do you think we should get a double crib or two separate singles?”
“They make double cribs? I…I don’t know,” Willow said. She ran a hand through her hair and quickly handed Rowena back the catalog. “You decide. You’re the one having them, after all.”
Rowena slipped a hand around Willow’s wrist. “We’re the ones having them,” she emphasized.
“Right,” Willow nodded. She pulled her arm back. “I should go. Faith wanted to talk about Coven tagalongs this week.”
Rowena looked like she wanted to say something more, but she nodded instead, then suddenly winced. “Ooo!”
“You okay?” Willow asked, turning back.
“I think they’re trying to kick my lungs,” Rowena said, surprise in her voice.
“Ro, that’s impossible,” Willow told her. “Your uterus is nowhere near –”
“I know that, but tell them because it’s not stopping them from trying.”
Willow was on one knee next to Rowena now. “Where?”
Rowena took Willow’s hand and placed it just below her left ribcage. They both looked at her swollen belly for a second, but quickly looked at each other with a smile.
“Told you,” Rowena said.
“That’s pretty…wow,” Willow said with a growing grin, as she watched her wife’s stomach. “I started to think I’d be the last one to feel ’em.” She quickly looked up at Rowena. “I mean, don’t you think it’s kinda odd that they move around for Xander, for everybody, but with me…”
Rowena stroked Willow’s face. Then she patted the seat beside her. “Think you can put Faith on hold for a little while?”
With a growing smile, Willow took a seat beside her, her hand never leaving Rowena’s stomach.
Watchers Council – Classroom – Same Time
Robin looked up from his desk to see Faith standing in his doorway.
“So, Miss Lehane,” Robin began, trying to sound casual as he looked back at the paper below him. “How did the big pow-wow go with Oversight?”
“Much awkwardness, Mr. Wood,” she replied. “Kinda like right now.”
Robin put down the pen in his hand and looked up at Faith. “I was trying to avoid another shouting match.”
“I know,” Faith replied, and then added, “now. At the time though it felt like you were, I don’t know, taking their side.”
“We’re on the same side, Faith.”
“Maybe you are,” she replied.
“What does that mean?”
At first Faith said nothing. She took a seat at one of the student desks in front of Robin.
“I’m worthless,” she finally said softly.
“You’re pig-headed, short-tempered and insecure sometimes,” he said.
“But you’re never worthless – not to me and not to anyone here.”
Faith took a deep breath. “Well, ever since Felix the Cat showed up with this slick grin and computer graphs, it feels like everything I’ve tried to do the last five years isn’t worth squat. I mean, sure, new threads, so I look more like a division head than a high school dropout,” she briefly held up her suit jacket by the lapels, “but…part of me feels like I’m playing dress up, like I don’t know what it means to run these girls.”
“You know these girls better than Felix ever could. They look up to you. They admire you, as they should. You’ve always treated them fairly, looked out for their interests as slayers, but…”
“Here it comes,” Faith muttered.
“Felix makes some valid points, Faith. Not all of them mind you, but some that we should closely consider. But in saying that, realize that I don’t think it’s a poor reflection on you or what you’ve done here. Truth be told, had Buffy stuck around to begin with, I’m not sure this ship would be as tight as it’s been with you.”
Faith grinned. “Oh, now you’re just using flattery to get into my pantsuit.”
Robin grinned. “Don’t be so hard on yourself,” he told her.
“All right,” she replied confidently.
“And don’t ever berate or chastise me like that again, especially not in front of a roomful of people. I’m your partner, Faith, not your whipping boy.”
Faith’s grin was instantly gone and she bit her lip like a scolded schoolgirl. “You’re right, and I’m sorry. I am, Ace…I realized, after the fact of course, you weren’t attacking me. I just got…”
“Defensive,” he finished. “Because you’ve put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into helping all your girls.”
“Yeah,” Faith admitted sheepishly.
“Well, next time, just realize I got your back. We might not always see eye to eye, but you’ll always have my love, respect and admiration.” Robin stepped closer and pulled Faith off the desk, leading her to her feet by the jacket lapel. “And as for the new business look…it leaves something to the imagination…which, I admit, is sexy as hell.”
Faith grinned for a short moment before Robin pulled her into a passionate embrace, kissing her soundly.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Evening
Kennedy walked out of the Slayer Gym and down the hallway, wiping the sweat from her brow with a towel. She hummed the tune from “Umbrella.” Then she suddenly came to a stop, the song dying in her throat.
At the end of the hall, a blonde girl of medium build stood still. She seemed to be staring straight at Kennedy.
The word was slow to come into Kennedy’s throat, and when it did it came out soft. “Heli?”
The girl at the end of the hall turned without a word and walked around the corner.
“No!” Kennedy shouted. She threw down her towel and sprinted. “Come back!”
She took the corner with such speed that she nearly fell, touching a hand to the floor. As she got up to her feet again, she nearly ran straight into a blonde girl.
“Going somewhere?” the girl, who had a piercing in her nose and was decidedly not Heli, asked with a concealed smile.
Kennedy blinked, then confusion momentarily entered her eyes. “Do I know you?”
“I’m Eve,” the girl said. “I’m a B-niner.”
“Right,” Kennedy said, “sorry. It’s been a lot of people all at once. Did…did you see somebody go past here?”
Eve shook her head. “Nah. Most of the girls are in the dorms getting hyper before patrol. You know the drill.”
“Right,” Kennedy nodded. “Well, see ya.”
“See ya,” Eve agreed. She walked down the hall.
Kennedy took a deep breath, confusion still on her face. “See ya,” she repeated, softer this time.
Watchers Council – Xander’s Apartment – Later
Xander sat on his couch, watching the news, an empty instant TV dinner tray on the couch next to him. The room was lit by a single lamp. The place was messy. Clothes draped over the back of chairs. DVD cases were scattered in front of the television set.
Rock Cartwright spoke on the TV. “Rumored presidential hopeful Autumn O’Mara spoke at a rally today in her home state of Ohio, where she once again decried the government’s refusal to pull troops out of…”
Hearing a knock at the door, Xander turned off the TV and rose to his feet. “One second,” he called, as he walked over to answer.
He opened the door. “Oh, it’s you,” he said. “Is it Tuesday again?”
“Yeah, it is,” Lori replied. Without waiting to be invited in, she limped past Xander and into the apartment, leaning heavily on her cane. Xander followed her. “Sorry I’m late. Dimmons detected a surge of magical energy in this area, so we had to check it out.”
“That’s fine,” Xander told her. “Actually, I forgot it was Tuesday.”
The look on Lori’s face was unreadable.
“You want a drink?” he continued.
“I can’t,” Lori replied. “Pain medication.” She reached the half-open door to Xander’s bedroom and stopped. “Besides, I don’t have a lot of time tonight. Why don’t we get right down to business?”
Xander nodded, a ghost of a smile passing across his features. “I’m at your service.”
“That’s the idea,” Lori said, and then, without another word, she pulled her sweater over her head.
Lori grabbed Xander’s face and brought it to her own, kissing him hard. Then Lori pulled away, grabbing her cane so she could make her way towards the bed. Dutifully, Xander followed.
Watcher’s Council – Xander’s Apartment – Moments Later
Their forms partially concealed by the bed sheets, Xander and Lori moved together, he on top, she below. The bed creaked under them rhythmically. Occasionally, Xander grunted. Neither of them looked at the other.
“Come on baby,” Lori breathed. “Come on.”
“We agreed…no talking,” Xander groaned, without slowing down.
Without answering him, Lori turned her head to the side and stared off into space. After a few moments, her breaths came quicker. She opened her mouth, closed her eyes and let out a small, blissful gasp.
After a couple of seconds, she opened her eyes. Lori lay still. Xander released a soft groan and rolled off of her. The two of them lay silently side-by-side.
Then she said, “You know, you could clean this place up a little.”
Xander turned his head to look at her. “Or next time we could just do this at your place.”
Lori shook her head. “Too many people around. That Mia girl’s just across the hall, she might hear.” More silence. Then, with effort and gritted teeth, Lori swung her feet around to the side of the bed, picking up a pair of panties from the floor. “I should go.”
It was about then that the alarm began to blare, a persistent buzzing coming from the speaker by the door. Both of them looked up, eyes wide in surprise.
“I need my pants,” Lori said.
Watchers Council – Slayer Staging Area – Moments Later
The Black Ops squad was larger than it had been, and was now arrayed around a large room waiting for instructions. They were all dressed in body armor. Amira and another girl, slender with short dark hair, stood at the front of the group.
“You must remember, Slayer Pavlov,” Amira was saying in accented English, “that I am in command of this mission. We are no longer at your Bureau Nine.”
“I’m aware, thank you,” the other girl replied. “And there’s no need to be so formal. My name’s Valentine. Or Val, for short.” She extended a hand, which Amira just stared at.
The awkward moment ended when Faith entered the room. She strode in and stopped on a dime in front of the two slayers. “What do you know about Applebee’s?”
Amira and Valentine exchanged a confused look.
“Friendly atmosphere,” Valentine supplied. “Bad food, except for the mozzarella sticks. They wouldn’t put the Indians game on during the Cavs playoffs…”
“What about hostage situations?” Faith continued, and handed each of them a printout. “We don’t know who the baddie is, but we don’t think they’re human.”
“Why?” Amira asked.
“Witnesses are saying the hostage-taker flew in through the skylight,” Faith continued. “No wings, nothing.”
“That’s a handy skill,” Valentine commented, “and a good entrance.”
Amira ignored her. “How many hostages?”
“We don’t know,” Faith told her. “And we don’t really know what we’re dealing with, so…eyes open. If it’s too big or too…magicky to deal with, pull out and we’ll figure something out. I don’t want any casualties on this one…any human casualties, anyway.”
“You got it,” Valentine grinned.
Suburban Applebee’s Parking Lot – Night
A few Council vans pulled into the parking lot of a large restaurant. It was in its own building, detached from a long strip mall that could be seen in the background. Police cars surrounded the building, with red and blue lights flashing everywhere. The back doors of the vans slammed open as the vehicles came to a stop and slayers piled out.
“We were wondering when you people would get here,” one officer commented. Amira walked over to him, ignoring the way his eyes briefly flicked to her headscarf.
“Has the subject made any demands?”
“Only one,” he replied. “That when you all get here, you come in and visit.”
Amira’s eyes widened. “What?”
“Yeah, she specifically mentioned wanting to talk to the Watchers Council.”
Suburban Applebee’s Parking Lot – Moments Later
One of Valentine’s eyebrows shot up. “She?”
“That is what he said,” Amira replied. “He also said she was ‘very scary looking’.” The other members of the Black Ops squad surrounded the two of them.
“Who you gonna call, huh?” Valentine said.
Amira’s forehead knitted.
“It was a movie…never mind,” Valentine sighed.
Amira looked around at the circle of slayers. “Spread out. Surround the building. We do not want to…”
“Excuse me,” Valentine’s hand went up.
Amira looked startled. “Yes?”
“They just said she knows we’re coming. Spreading out might just give her a chance to pick us off one by one. She wants to talk, I say we talk, get the lay of the land so that we don’t…”
“Slayer Pavlov, I am in command of this mission,” Amira said tightly.
“Of course.” Valentine shut her mouth, but glared at Amira during the subsequent pause. Most of the girls shuffled nervously in place.
“However,” Amira continued, “I think you may be correct. You and I will go in through the front, I think, and…talk.”
Valentine snapped to attention, saluting. “Yes, ma’am!”
Applebee’s Restaurant – Moments Later
Amira opened the glazed glass door first, head on a swivel. She held her gun at the ready, just in case. The place was lit. SportsCenter was still on the TV in the waiting area, but it seemed empty. Amira entered, motioning with her gun for Valentine to follow. The two of them crept around a corner and stopped. Valentine audibly gasped.
Each of the high tables surrounding the bar, a dozen or so in all, had a patron or employee standing on it, looking very helpless. Each had a pulsating red magical tendril stretching from their neck to the ceiling, like nooses.
Jocelyn, her vein-covered face framed by jet-black hair, sat on a stool, leaning casually back on the bar. She still wore the stone around her neck. Sure enough, there was glass on the floor, and the skylight above had a large hole in it.
“Are you the only two?” Jocelyn asked, sounding a little disappointed.
Amira hesitated. “You…I…I know you.”
Valentine was very confused. “You do?”
“Amira Aziz, right?” Jocelyn said. “I was hoping they would send Willow. She was really the one I wanted to talk to.” She turned her head, speaking under her breath. “I know, I thought she’d be here.” She paused, head cocked, as if listening.
“What’s she doing?” Valentine whispered to Amira.
“I do not know,” Amira replied, “but I do not like this. I feel something…”
“Horrible?” Valentine finished. Amira nodded.
Jocelyn sounded very small. “Yes. Yes, I will.” She raised her voice again, plastering an evil smile on her face for the two slayers’ benefit. “I wouldn’t shoot me, if that’s what you’re thinking. It wouldn’t do any good, and then I’d kill all of these people. You wouldn’t like it.”
“Why are you doing this?” Valentine asked.
“I want to give you a message,” she said. “A message for Willow Rosenberg. You got a pen?” The two slayers remained mute. Jocelyn shrugged. “Oh, well, I bet you’ll remember this one.” She turned her back to them, looking as if she was watching the sports highlights above the bar. “My name is Jocelyn O’Hara. The Watchers Council said they were helping me. Willow said she was helping me. But really, she was just holding me back. She was holding me back because she was afraid of me. And she should be afraid of me. She’ll be seeing me real soon.”
“What do you want?” Amira asked quietly.
“I want what it wants.” Jocelyn looked back over her shoulder. She wasn’t smiling. She looked very serious. “And it wants everyone to suffer.”
Jocelyn looked back up through the skylight. Valentine, sensing disaster, shouted “Get down!”
In what seemed like slow motion, Valentine grabbed Amira and tried to drag her behind a nearby partition. Amira, surprised, tried unsuccessfully to keep her feet planted.
A split second later, Jocelyn snapped her fingers. There was light, and then sound. Flame shot from every inch of her for a moment, but she was not burned. Everything else in the restaurant was not so lucky.
Amira and Valentine were shielded by the partition, sprawled underneath a table. They heard the hostages. They wailed, screamed, begged for mercy.
“Let go of me!” Amira grunted, but Valentine held her by the wrist.
“I saved your life,” she said.
“I know,” Amira returned. “Later I will thank you.” Valentine released her wrist and both hurried to help.
When they rounded the corner, Valentine stopped, shocked. Jocelyn’s explosion had set the entire restaurant aflame. The hostages were now on fire. A few had already fallen or jumped, and were hanging limp above the burned remains of tables. In the center of all this stood Jocelyn, completely untouched. She regarded her work silently.
Amira pulled down a nearby curtain and immediately ran to the nearest hostage. She tried unsuccessfully to smother the flames.
Without a change in her expression, Jocelyn’s feet left the ground. She rose into the air, hovering for a moment.
“No!” Valentine shouted. She raised her gun and fired several shots in Jocelyn’s direction. They simply bounced off the girl with dull thuds, as if she was made of rock.
Then, Jocelyn shot away through the skylight. Valentine ran forward, firing her gun upwards in frustration, but in a moment it was over. Amira, unable to save the man she was helping, coughed into her sleeve.
End of Act Two