Lacey Chabert as Skye Talisker, Gale Harold as Jim Pollan, Caroline Dhavernas as Grace Hatherley, Elijah Wood as Jeff Lindquist, Alexa Davalos as Gwen Raiden, Laura Prepon as Lori Carew, Christy Carlson Romano as Hope Lehane and Gary Oldman as Mr. Jason Felix
Dean Butler as Hank Summers, Nikki Cox as Jessica Summers, Daveigh Chase as Ursula Van Gelder, Tara Fitzgerald as Helene Van Gelder, Freema Agyeman as Siobhan Hartley, Robert Carlyle as Herr Wolf and Sir Derek Jacobi as Varthrim
Watchers Council – Buffy’s Office – Evening
Willow held her phone to her ear. “I’m gonna be a little late coming home tonight…Yeah, Buffy and I are going over some important things we need to cover. It’s gonna take a couple of hours at least.” She smiled across the table at Buffy. The slayer wore a grin and was shaking her head.
Willow rested the telephone in the crook of her neck and began furiously moving her hands over the desk as she spoke into the phone, “You know how it is – Council work is never done.” As she listened to the voice on the other end, she looked triumphantly across the table at Buffy and smiled. “Okay, Stephen Colbert’s AmeriCone Dream Ice Cream. Got it. You’re welcome. Love you, too. Bye.” Willow hung up the phone with a smile and turned to Buffy. “Okay, where were we?”
“Bandersnatch?” Buffy asked, as she gestured at the Scrabble board in front of her incredulously. “How the hell did you come up with Bandersnatch, of all the words in the world? And really, is that even a word?”
Willow shrugged. “You want to challenge?”
Buffy sighed. “No,” she said grumpily. “Serves me right for picking Scrabble tonight. What’s the score for that one?”
“Two-hundred and thirty-four.” Willow told her.
“Two-hundred and thirty four?!”
“Top row, two triple word scores and two double letter scores on the d and the h,” Willow announced.
“I was reading Through the Looking-Glass,” Willow defended herself. “Which, by the way, takes on a whole new meaning when you find out a little about Lewis Carroll.” her features scrunched uncomfortably.
“You have time to read?” Buffy asked.
“Yeah, surprising, huh?”
“Actually, not really. I’ve had more free time lately. I’m way ahead of my work load lately ’cause Joan’s so efficient,” Buffy told her.
“My assistant,” Buffy prompted her.
“Right,” Willow snapped her fingers. “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever actually met her…” Willow fell silent for a moment and then added, “No one’s ever met her.”
“Not you too,” Buffy grumbled. “She’s real and not a figment of my imagination, okay? And she’s one of the reasons I’m getting all my work done, which, by the way, allows me to focus on more important questions. Like, how the heck do you spell Bandersnatch with only seven tiles?”
“You watched me do it!” Willow insisted.
“Yeah, but I swear sometimes that you abracadabra the tiles into something else while I’m not looking.”
“I just spelled Bandersnatch.” Willow smiled. “You think I need to magic some tiles away to beat you?”
“Touché,” Buffy muttered. “Next game night, good old fashioned arm-wrestling.”
“Naah, I’ll leave the sweaty pursuits to you,” Willow told her.
“Speaking of sweaty,” Buffy offered a cocky smile as she studied the board in front of her, “what’s with dodging your wife?”
“Oh, that? It’s nothing.” Off Buffy’s look, she became indignant. “Really!” she insisted. “I just, you know, needed to get away for a little while.”
Buffy shrugged slightly. “Okay.”
“With everything that’s happening, it’s nice to spend time with my friends too, y’know?”
“Hey, you don’t need to defend yourself to me,” Buffy told her. “I love the company, but at least you have someone to run away from.”
“I’m not running away,” Willow argued. “I’m simply…”
“Being avoid-y girl?” Buffy offered.
“Noooo,” Willow whined. “I’m more than just someone’s wife and a mom-to-be.”
The pair turned their attention towards the door as it opened. They both stood up as Gwen Raiden strode into the office.
“Gwen, hey,” Buffy said, giving her a little wave. “Glad you could come down.”
“Wow, standing ovation and everything. Girl could get used to this,” Gwen quipped.
“How ya doing?” Willow asked with a hopeful smile.
“Good. Glad to see the color’s come back to your cheeks since last time I was here.”
“I’m doing much better. Finally got married, too,” Willow raised her hand to show Gwen the ring.
“Which is why she’s hiding in my office,” Buffy teased. Willow shot her a disapproving look and the slayer grinned. “Please, have a seat.” Buffy gestured to the chair beside Willow.
“So what’s the four-one-one?” Gwen asked. “Don’t tell me it’s another apocalypse that somehow involves Scrabble.”
“Nope, no apocalypse, not yet anyway,” Buffy replied. “The point is, we want you to work for us. You’ve proven a valuable ally and friend to the Council, and God only knows when we might have to call on your…talents…and expertise again.”
At first, Gwen said nothing.
“We want you to be our freelance security consultant,” Willow added, “along with being someone we can call in for…special assignments.”
“So I wouldn’t be a desk jockey?” Gwen asked.
“Nope,” Willow replied.
“And I wouldn’t be working full-time? Not roaming the halls, going from meeting to meeting?”
“Correct,” Buffy nodded.
“And I can still, y’know, make a living with other…pursuits…when I’m not freelancing with you?”
“Sure, as long as you remain loyal and don’t blab that you’re on our books.” Buffy gave Gwen a demure smile.
“Also, I’d like the chance to work up a new control chip for you,” Willow put forward.
“Willow, thank you, but like I said before, I don’t think it can be replicated.” Gwen’s demeanor became crestfallen.
“I know, but seeing as we’ve now got Bureau Nine’s state of the art techs on hand, there might be a way. I can’t make promises, but I wanna try,” Willow said, resolute.
Gwen smiled. “Talking of the good Bureau, what about them? Namely Jason Felix. He gonna have a problem with little old moi working for you?” Gwen said.
Buffy slowly shook her head. “It doesn’t matter to us if he does, but to be honest, I don’t think he’ll have a problem.”
A grin widened across Gwen’s porcelain face. “Okay. I’m in.”
“Wonderful,” Buffy told her. She motioned for them all to stand. “As I said, I have nothing pressing this second, but I’ll let you know if we do.”
Buffy extended her hand and Gwen shook it. She followed suit, doing the same with Willow. “Sounds good, ladies. Until then.”
Gwen nodded and made her way back out. Buffy turned to Willow as they both took their seats again. “Anyway, getting back to more important matters…just don’t forget that you’re lucky, Will.”
“Excuse me?” she asked.
“We were talking about Ro. You know? The gal who warms up your feet, and other parts, at night?”
Willow grinned. “Yeah, I realize how lucky I am. But you could have the same. Not Ro, of course, because she’s taken, but still, you know what I mean, right?” Buffy shrugged. “Think about it, Buff. You’re a world-famous, super-hot chick with superpowers. Shouldn’t you have to beat them off with a stick?” Willow asked incredulously. “I mean, in ancient Rome, rich women would pay a premium to be, uh, serviced by the gladiators at the time…”
“Are you saying that I should get people to pay me for…?”
“No!” Willow shouted, then added more quietly. “Unless, of course, you want to, I mean, far be it from me to say what you can and can’t do for money, as long as it’s your choice and nobody’s forcing you. But just so you know, the Council doesn’t need more money, but I’m sure you could get someone to pay a lot…”
“Yammering,” Buffy told her, “and frankly, more than a little insulting.”
Willow grinned. “All I’m saying is that there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have prospects.”
“Well, I told you about the arrangement I have with Xander,” Buffy told her.
“Yeah, and frankly, you could do a lot worse in the physical department.” Willow smiled.
Buffy’s eyes clenched shut and she shook her head, trying to erase the evoked mental image. “Ugh, TMI!”
“You’ve got an ‘arrangement’,” Willow said through air quotes, “and you don’t even want to picture him naked?”
“Naked, sure, just not getting freaky with my best friend,” Buffy suppressed a shiver. “Now Jim, on the other hand…”
Willow blinked. “Jim?”
“Yeah, Jim, about this tall, dark hair, ruggedly yet boyishly handsome…”
“I know Jim,” Willow said. “Really? Jim?”
“You think he might be a…prospect?” Buffy asked.
“For you?” Willow’s eyes widened.
“No, dummy, for Xander. Of course for me!” Buffy joked.
Willow seemed reluctant. “Well, he’s nice. Seems like a great guy. Definitely not bad on the eyes. Actually, I think he’d be perfect for you, except –” Willow was interrupted by the ringing of Buffy’s phone. “Just a sec.” She reached down, lifting the handset off of its cradle. She flashed a grin at Buffy, then began twisting her fingers through her red hair. “Buffy Summers’s Office, how may I help you?” She frowned as the person on the other end of the line spoke. “Is this some kind of joke?” she asked sharply. She listened for a moment, looking up at the blonde slayer across from her, who now had her eyebrows scrunched in curiosity. “Hold please,” Willow said finally.
She pressed the hold button and held the phone across to the vampire slayer.
“It’s a guy saying he’s your dad.”
Buffy’s jaw immediately dropped.
Watchers Council – Willow and Rowena’s Bedroom – Later that Evening
“So, Hank Summers thinks that his new house may be haunted,” Willow said, as she held up a businesslike dress in front of her and inspected it. She cocked her head slightly before she folded it and placed it in the suitcase in front of her.
Watchers Council – Buffy’s Bedroom – Same Time
“So naturally, he and his latest trophy wife figure that they can just snap their fingers and call us to the middle of Assmuch, Illinois to have a big-ol’ family hug-fest,” Buffy railed as she paced back and forth at the foot of the bed.
Watchers Council – Willow and Rowena’s Bedroom – Same Time
“But I think this may be a good chance for Buffy to finally have it out with her father. She and Dawn have always carried a bit of a chip on their skinny little shoulders since he sorta vanished a couple of years after she moved to Sunnydale,” Willow continued.
“Feeling a little rage-by-proxy?” Rowena asked.
“What? No!” Willow said indignantly. “Why?”
Rowena tilted her head at the blouse in the redhead’s hands, which she had crumpled into a tiny little ball.
Willow looked at the wrinkled, twisted fabric in her hands, then abruptly tried to un-wrinkle it. “Okay, so maybe I’m feeling a little…indignant on my Buffy’s behalf, but…”
“She’s your best friend. I think it’s pretty much in your job description to take her side against her estranged father,” Rowena told her. “Actually, I think it’s kinda cute,” she added with a bit of a smile.
“What?” Willow’s eyes rolled upwards for a moment as she contemplated the comment. “Actually, I guess that is kinda cute. But I feel kinda bad leaving you alone here, especially in your…condition.”
“I’m pregnant, not an invalid. Hell, in Canada, women don’t even get maternity leave. We just work right up to the date of delivery, then we take a lunch break, walk out into the frozen tundra, squat and pop out a kid. Then we go back to work. It’s pretty cheap, actually. All you have to do is pay for the rental of an open field,” Rowena told her, deadpan.
“Cute, and gullible,” Rowena smiled.
Willow’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “You’re being surprisingly reasonable about all this.”
“Absolutely. I want you to join your friends. You’re my wife, not my slave. So go…have a life.”
“Well, what happened to all these stories I heard about pregnant women getting all crazy-hormonal. You know, going from out-of-control horny to clinically depressed six times a day?”
“Will, Buffy’s going to need you, and I’ll be fine. You’ve been cooped up in Cleveland for a long time, and a change of setting will be good for you,” she told her. Rowena spun around as a knock sounded at the door.
Watchers Council – Willow and Rowena’s Apartment – Moments Later
“Plus,” she called back to the bedroom as she paused for a moment in the kitchen, “you might save our Chairwoman from a lengthy prison sentence, should she decide to knock her father into next week.”
Rowena continued her journey to the door as Willow looked at her receding back with a stunned expression on her face. She opened the heavy wooden door to reveal Kennedy standing in the hallway with a suitcase in her hand and Marsha on her shoulder. She smiled warmly at the slayer before she turned to face Willow again, who was now standing in the kitchen.
“See? The babysitter’s already here. I’ll be fine.”
For a long moment, no one in the room moved or said a word.
“Look,” Willow began. “Buffy really doesn’t need me there. I’m sure that she can handle everything without me…”
“I’ve got a hot slayer here to wait on me hand and foot.”
“Why, thank you,” Kennedy remarked, with a proud grin.
“And,” Rowena continued, “I can have an army of them mobilized with one phone call. I have a fridge full of pickles and AmeriCone ice cream and a DVD player. What more could I need?”
“Oh, speaking of which,” Kennedy said, as she handed over some DVD cases to Rowena, “D.E.B.S., Fire, and Desert Hearts – a comedy, some angst and one with a somewhat happy ending.”
Rowena giggled. “Looks like you covered all the genres.”
“Hey guys,” Willow interrupted. They both looked her way. “I really think maybe I should stay.”
“Don’t be silly,” Rowena told her. “Everything will be fine and, if not, I can have every street between here and the nearest maternity ward cleared in five minutes or less.” Rowena ushered Kennedy into the living room. “Relax, we’ve got everything covered.”
Watchers Council – Buffy’s Apartment – Same Time
“So tell me again why we’re doing anything for this guy?” Skye asked, reclining in a comfortable chair near the head of Buffy’s bed. Her knuckles became even whiter than usual as she gripped the armrest of the chair.
“You know, I’ve been asking myself that,” Dawn turned to her sister. “I mean, if you really want to be technical about it, he’s your dad, not mine.”
Buffy paused. “Come to think of it…have you ever actually had a conversation with him?” she asked.
“A real one? Like one that wasn’t magically conjured in all of our heads?” Dawn asked. “Well, no. I’ve got…you know…memories artificially created by an order of monks who wanted to save the world.”
“That’s a sentence you don’t hear everyday,” Skye added to no one in particular.
“And that’s the reason why Will and Xander did their best to hide that I was…gone.”
“The word is dead.” Skye said. “Like your mother, whose funeral he couldn’t be bothered to attend,” she added, with a hint of anger.
Buffy ignored her and continued, “Can you imagine what would’ve happened if…?”
A loud crack interrupted Buffy’s monologue and the sisters turned to see Skye gripping the broken wooden armrest in her right hand. “Sorry,” the Vampire shrugged, “The thought of what he did pisses me off.” She then looked at the arm in her hand. “I guess they don’t make ’em like they used to.”
“You’re paying for that,” Buffy told Skye, before turning back to Dawn. “At any rate, this is probably nothing. And the sooner we get it done, the sooner we can get back to ignoring him completely…and vice versa.”
“But if it isn’t nothing, we could always just let whatever is haunting his house kill him,” Skye pointed out.
Dawn and Buffy both looked at the vampire with stunned expressions on their faces.
“And if that doesn’t work, there are some demons right here in Cleveland that could make a real catchy throw rug out of him. Think about it, you could put him in your living room and spend the day walking all over him, and when he gets dirty, you hang him up out back and beat him with a stick,” Skye added.
The sisters’ eyes widened, their jaws opening in shock.
“Kidding,” Skye said innocently. She paused for a beat. “Sorta.”
Watchers Council – Xander’s Apartment – Same Time
Xander was in the midst of zipping his overnight bag closed on top of his bed when a knock at the door drew his attention. He looked down at the bag for a moment before he moved it from the bed to the floor.
“Coming,” he called out to whoever was in the hallway.
He made his way to the doorway and swung it open. Lori stood in the middle of the hallway, leaning heavily on a sturdy cane. “Hey,” she said softly.
“Hi,” Xander replied. “It’s…not Tuesday.”
“I know,” Lori told him. “Tomorrow’s Tuesday, and I don’t think you’re going to be back by tomorrow night.” She stepped past him into the living room, closing the door behind her.
“You know, there’s a funny thing about Tuesdays,” Xander commented wryly. “They tend to happen pretty much every week.”
“Well, maybe I don’t want to wait that long,” Lori countered.
“And if I am back by tomorrow night?” he asked.
“Tomorrow’s Tuesday,” she said simply, with a slight tilt of her head. She backed into his bedroom with surprising smoothness considering the cane she was leaning on.
“Are you coming?” she asked, her voice sultry as she disappeared through the bedroom door.
Xander tilted his own head slightly. “Still,” he muttered softly as he followed her into the bedroom, “more romantic than Faith.”
Council Jet – Later
“And then she walks in with the ultimate collection of lesbo chick flicks and her stinky dragon,” Willow ranted. “I swear, Marsha better not eat my cats, and Kennedy better not eat…my AmeriCone ice cream,” she ended in a mutter.
Skye smiled from behind the magazine she was looking at, while Dawn shook her head with a grin. Buffy, on the other hand, laughed out loud.
“Chill out, Will,” Buffy told her.
“And why are we leaving right now, anyway? We might as well go in the morning, since they’re not expecting us until then. That way, you know, I’m home with Rowena.”
“Admit it. What you really mean is, Kennedy’s not there?”
Willow seemed reluctant to answer. “Maybe,” she finally replied. “Maybe not.”
Buffy chuckled again. “Look, I want to be in town so at first light I can find this house. Besides, if anything, you should be lucky Ro and Ken are getting along. I remember a time when you said they couldn’t stand to be in the same room with each other.”
“I suppose,” Willow sighed.
Buffy looked around the cabin of the jet. “Where’s Xander?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” Willow replied. “I stopped by his room a few hours ago. It looked like he was done packing. I told him what time we were leaving.”
“Was he alone?” Buffy asked with a half-smile.
“Xander? Yes! I mean, I think so. I didn’t see anyone in the room or anything, but he was there…I mean, the only place I couldn’t see was his bedroom, and wouldn’t we know if he had someone in his bedroom that he…wasn’t alone with?” Willow stammered.
“Actually, if there was someone that he wasn’t alone with, that’s probably the one thing that we wouldn’t know,” Buffy said. Her eyes rolled up and to the left as she contemplated the question for a moment. “Wrong emphasis,” she realized. “That’s probably the one thing that we wouldn’t know.”
“Why us?” Willow asked.
“Well, if he was actually seeing someone, I’m sure we’d know about it. But if there was someone he was just being…not alone with, let’s face it, we’d be the last people he’d tell,” Buffy told her.
“But that’s not Xander. He’s not the type to be just…I mean he wouldn’t, would he?” Willow asked.
“Yeah, right. Ask your pregnant wife,” Skye muttered.
“Behave,” Dawn chastised her girlfriend.
“Will, do you know any guy who wouldn’t be the type, if they were single and had an offer for some…not-aloneyness?” Buffy asked.
Skye dropped the magazine down slightly. She looked at the duo, her eyebrows arched.
“You two are probably the only people in the known universe who can make casual sex, correction – any sex – sound boring.”
Buffy and Willow both glared at her, while Dawn tried to hide her growing smile.
“I’m here! I’m here!” Xander announced, slightly out of breath, from the doorway of the cabin. “Sorry I’m late, did I miss anything?”
“Not yet,” Buffy told him. She looked at him quizzically for a moment.
“What?” he asked, noticing her curious expression.
Buffy took a step towards him, examining him closely.
Xander’s eyes quickly scanned the cabin for an escape route. He seemed for a moment to find absolutely everything in the aircraft fascinating except for Buffy’s eyes. “What is it?”
Buffy’s eyes narrowed as she leaned close. Xander fidgeted in front of her uncomfortably. Then, just as suddenly, she drew back. Her eyes widened to their normal diameter and her tone was light when she spoke again. “Nothing,” she said brightly as she slid back into her seat, facing Willow across a table bolted into the aircraft’s bulkhead.
Willow’s brow arched upwards, her eyes questioning. Buffy shrugged slightly.
“What was that about?” Xander asked, as he slid into the seat facing Dawn and Skye. He gingerly sipped from the bottle of water in front of him.
“They want to know if you’re having sex with someone,” Skye told him.
Xander’s eyes bulged out as he choked on the water he’d almost swallowed. He coughed and sputtered, trying to clear his airway.
“My guess? He is,” Skye said with a shrug. She rustled her magazine and began looking at it again.
Summers House – Next Day
The door swung open to reveal a young, blonde woman, only fractionally taller than Buffy. Her fingers curled thoughtlessly through her golden locks as she looked at the quintet on her doorstep.
“Kin I help you?” she asked as they approached the house.
“Is this the Summers house?” Buffy asked, suddenly looking confused.
“Yes,” the woman replied.
A pregnant silence hung in the air before Buffy spoke again. “Is Hank Summers here?”
“No, he’s still at work. Can I take a message?” the woman asked.
“Um, I’m Buffy…Summers,” Buffy said awkwardly.
“Buffy…Hank’s daughter?” the woman asked. Her expression immediately brightened. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were so old. I mean. you look a lot younger on T.V.”
Skye smiled. Buffy just glared at her, as if daring her to say something.
“Can we come in?” Skye asked the woman, instead.
“Oh, certainly,” she said. “Come in, come in.” She ushered them into the entrance hall.
As the woman turned her back to lead them into the house, Buffy turned to Willow, standing at her left. Old? she mouthed silently.
Willow’s only response was a shrug.
The woman turned to Skye. “I’m Jessica. I guess you must be Dawn.”
Dawn raised her hand from behind the group. “No, I’m Dawn.”
“Now, which daughter are you? Are you the lesbian, or the one who sleeps with vampires?” she asked, practically bouncing up and down.
Dawn’s mouth opened, then closed again. She looked around, unsure of what to say.
Jessica rushed forward, gathering the brunette in a tight embrace. “Ooooh, I just know we’re going to be such good friends. I’ve always wanted someone like a sister.”
“Your maiden name isn’t ‘Kendall,’ by any chance, is it?” Skye asked from Dawn’s left.
Willow slapped Skye across the forearm as forcefully but casually as possible.
As Dawn wriggled free of Jessica’s grasp, Xander looked up at the large, elegant ceiling that towered above them. “Fantastic woodwork,” he said softly.
“Isn’t it?” Jessica asked, finally releasing her daughter-in-law. “Hank got a spectacular deal on it.” She led the group deeper into the house. “I’ve got rooms all set up for you.”
“Um, look,” Willow said softly. “I’d like to do a search on the history of this house. Do you have an internet connection I could use?”
“Oh, we have WiFi,” Jessica said.
“Perfect,” Willow replied. “Can I set up in the living room?”
“Of course,” Jessica replied, as Willow removed a laptop from her shoulder bag.
Willow carefully unfolded the laptop on the coffee table in the center of the room and pressed the power button.
“Usually, hauntings like this come from someone who used to li –” Willow’s explanation was cut off when sparks leapt from the keyboard of the laptop. She reflexively jerked away from the computer as it seemed to spasm on the wooden tabletop.
“Ungrateful wretch!” The computer’s tinny-sounding speakers shrieked at her. “Nasty child who should know better!”
Flames exploded out of the laptop’s screen, showering sparks and bits of scorched electronics on the cowering witch. Willow backed away from the computer as it burst into flames.
“Wow,” Jessica said, as she looked at the computer burning. “That’s…that’s not supposed to happen, is it?”
As the laptop continued to smoke, Willow turned to Buffy. “The Council will reimburse me for this, right?”
End of Act One