Lacey Chabert as Skye Talisker, Gale Harold as Jim Pollan, Caroline Dhavernas as Grace Hatherley, Elijah Woods as Jeff Lindquist, Laura Pyper as Casey Pierce, Steffani Brass as Shannon Matthewson, Robin Sachs as Ethan Rayne, Alexa Davalos as Gwen Raiden, Laura Prepon as Lori Carew, Christine Carlson Romano as Hope Lehane and Gary Oldman as Mr. Jason Felix
Tracy-Ann Oberman as Cameron Kreswell, Kyle Gallner as Zachary Kreswell, Joe Flanigan as Adrian Smith, Yunjin Kim as Li Heng Fu, Matt Czuchry as Kyle Matthewson, Robert Hoffman as Cody Matthewson, Bob Hoskins as Lavrenti Beria, Harry Lloyd as James Tyrell and Sir Derek Jacobi as Varthrim
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Same Time
Willow kept shaking her head. Kennedy and Faith exchanged smirks, while Buffy and Xander looked at one another sideways. Robin sat staring blankly, and Rowena, hand over her mouth, blinked at Rupert Giles, who sat staring stiffly at a spot on the wall.
“Giles, what were you thinking?” Willow asked incredulously.
He shifted his eyes left to her.
“I was thinking…” he cleared his throat and began again. “I was thinking about your life. A-a-and the lives of just about everyone on Earth. I was thinking that if we could find out what was keeping Ethan alive, we could work out how to revive all who had fallen comatose when –”
Willow waved her hands and her tone softened. “I know,” she said. “We all get that…but,” her voice went strident again, “what were you thinking making Ethan Rayne a…a…,” she raised her arms and let them drop. “I can’t even say it!”
“Then let me say it for you,” Buffy cut in. “A very big thorn in our collective butts!”
“Now, listen…I know that it’s unexpected, but –”
“No wonder he likes you so much, Giles,” Buffy said lightly. “He can talk you into anything.”
“Now that’s not fair, Buffy! I admit that Ethan has certain powers of persuasion, but that wasn’t what was at play here, and if you’ll hear me out, I think you’ll all agree that my promise to make him a watcher in return for his help was actually a far better compromise than meeting his original demand.”
“Wait a minute,” Xander said, suddenly coming alert. “I don’t get this. Did I just hear…’original demand’?”
“Look,” Giles said, leaning forward and resting his arms on the conference table. “Ethan said that he’d help, but then gave me a list of demands.”
“What a surprise,” Buffy deadpanned.
Giles ignored her. “Leading that list was that he was to be made a part of the Council and be the head of all the Council’s Covens and –”
Faith and Kennedy both snickered loudly.
“I get it,” Buffy said. “He played you. He gave you an option he knew you couldn’t agree to, so that you’d give him the option he really wanted all along.”
“Wrong,” Giles said smugly. “Right now, he has no interest in being a watcher. Ethan really wants that Covens post.”
“Over my dead body,” Willow told him.
“Yeah,” Buffy put in sarcastically, “Come on, gang. Everyone jump on the ‘let’s trust Ethan’ bandwagon. After all, he’s such a stand-up guy.”
“I’ll admit his past record isn’t stellar, to say the least –” Giles began.
“Stellar?” Xander, Buffy and Willow all said at once.
“You mean like when he took you out for drinks and you woke up a bit Fyarl-y in the morning?” Buffy said.
“Or when he tattooed Buffy so she’d be killed by a demon gunning for him?” Xander added.
“Hey!” Buffy said, “And let’s not forget the night you and my mother ate some of his chocolate bars and turned back into horny teenagers so Mr. Trick could kill some babies.” Giles looked away.
“Oh!” Willow chimed in, “Don’t forget the time we all bought costumes from him for Halloween.”
“Or when he showed up with Amy in Cleveland, not to mention the heartache he gave Dawn’s slayer,” Xander added.
“I understand, believe me. But all that was different,” Giles said wearily. “Ethan wants something more. Something in which he can take some measure of pride and accomplishment. And…something with a lot of power and prestige.”
“Heavy on the power and prestige,” Xander said.
“Why?” Robin asked. “And why now? Just because of opportunity?”
“To some extent, yes,” Giles answered. “But also…because Ethan has changed.” The group collectively sighed and did a collective eyeroll. “He’s still Ethan, of course,” Giles continued. “But this Ethan wants something more at the end of the day than having a bit of mischief and getting into his cups.”
“A bit of mischief…” Robin said. “Nice euphemism. Not sure it’s fitting, but it’s certainly creative.”
“Ethan wants to play with the big boys,” Buffy snapped back.
“Ethan wants to play,” Giles said, looking pointedly at her, “with the good guys.”
Buffy held Giles’s stare and sat back, waiting. When he said nothing, she motioned with her hands for him to continue.
“Some of this has to do with his new wife,” he obliged her. “Cameron Kreswell is a good woman. That she sees so much good in him, frankly, qualifies her for sainthood, in my opinion. Her influence over him is astounding. And astoundingly positive. But most of it – in fact, nearly all of it, I think – comes from Ethan himself. He’s matured. He’s mellowed. He’s, dare I say, grown up.”
“Yeah, and he’s practically ninety years old, but hey, it’s a process. Better late than never and all that,” Buffy said.
“I thought he was Giles’s age?” Faith asked.
Buffy grinned and began to respond, but Giles looked at her sternly.
“Don’t,” he told her. “It’s so unworthy of you.”
A light chuckle drew everyone’s attention to Rowena at the head of the table. “All right, so Ethan’s had a-a catharsis of some kind. Maybe not completely, maybe still a scoundrel – and I say that with love – but you think he’s changed for the…better…”
“Could he get worse?” Kennedy muttered.
“…and you’re willing to take a chance on him being in the Council. But a watcher? Will and I have talked about your history with him, Giles. I understand that, on some level, you do trust him. But I think that, in the heat of the moment, you let your friendship and your desire to save us affect your judgment. I understand what you did, and why, but I can’t agree to it.”
“I never thought I’d hear myself say this,” Giles said, looking down at his hands folded on the table. “I want him to have this chance. I want him to be a watcher. If he fails, he fails. And it’s done. But if he succeeds, you’ll not have a sharper, quicker, nor more talented watcher on staff. We weren’t mates years ago merely for youthful rebellion, you know…” Something suddenly occurred to him and he looked up sharply. “Nor anything else.”
“Quick wits and talent are great,” Rowena said. “But what about loyalty, leadership and compassion?”
“He’s more than capable of all three.”
“You’re staking the Council’s reputation on –”
“I’m staking my word on it.”
“And if he fails? The impact on the Council –”
“The beauty of it is that, now that I’m back, I can keep a very close eye on him. Test him, if you like.”
“How?” Robin asked.
“Give him a simple assignment,” Giles said.
“Not with a slayer,” Rowena said.
“Yes!” Buffy said, turning to her. “Give him a slayer! He hates slayers, take it from me.”
“That’s not entirely accurate,” Giles said. “I distinctly recall you saying he told you he was rather fond of you,” he needled.
“Right, but he liked himself a whole lot more,” Buffy replied. “Not watcher extraordinaire material, Giles.”
“True,” Willow added, “it wouldn’t be fair to the slayer. Although a part of me does agree with Giles. I’ve seen Ethan do the right thing on more than one occasion recently.”
“See?” Giles pointed at her.
“But,” Willow continued, “it was only when he had something to gain for himself. I’m not saying everyone in this room is a saint. But I can say we do things more often to help others first, and not ourselves.”
“Your point, Will?” Buffy asked.
“No point, really,” she said with a sigh. “I guess I’m just on the fence when it comes to Ethan. I think Giles might be right when he says Ethan’s changed. But I also agree with Ro that it might not be a good idea to give him a slayer of his own. Hence the fence.”
“Too bad,” Xander muttered. “He deserves a whole roomful of slayers…”
Rowena looked across the table at Xander. “What?”
“No, repeat what you just said.”
“He deserves a whole roomful of slayers.” Xander shrugged.
Rowena looked at Giles and grinned.
“Giles thinks he’s sincere in wanting to be a Council member. Others here, obviously, are disputing that,” she said.
“So what’s the solution?” Robin asked.
“I retract my earlier comment, because I think we’ve found our test.” She smiled.
Watchers Council – Hallway Outside Conference Room – Continuous
The door to the conference room opened and everyone filed out.
“So,” Xander said, “we’re set for the big arrival, right?”
“Everyone and everything is in place,” Robin answered as they, Kennedy and Faith exited the conference room. “Gwen Raiden’s working on the electric field barrier for Marsha right now. Both teams are arriving within a half hour of each other tomorrow morning. Security is all set, and Andrew and the Hospitality Committee have been ready to shower them with all kinds of –”
“Let me guess,” Xander said, “hospitality.”
“Right,” Robin grinned, “since last Tuesday.”
Buffy, Willow and Rowena exited a few seconds later, “…can’t wait to meet their watchers,” Rowena said to Buffy and Willow. “I’ve heard Li Heng Fu is making incredible strides in Taiwan. And Adrian Smith is being head-hunted by several branches in Europe.”
Giles stepped out last and closed the conference room door behind him, then looked down the hallway toward the three departing women.
“Rowena…?” he called.
They stopped. “Go on ahead and talk to Ethan,” Rowena told Willow.
Willow nodded. “Wanna join me?” Willow asked Buffy.
Buffy shot her a look. “Only if I can make snide comments about him.”
As Willow and Buffy spoke, Rowena approached Giles, a slight smile on her face.
“Shall we walk?” Giles suggested. She followed him down the hallway as he peered over his shoulder at Buffy and Willow. She followed Giles’s gaze and saw Buffy and Willow disappear around the bend in the corridor.
“Okay…” Rowena said. “Out of slayer earshot now.”
“Why do you look so amused?” Giles asked, defensively.
“Just picturing what it must have been like when she was sixteen and the Slayer, and you were…what – Mr. Tweedy Book Guy?”
“I cut a rather dashing father-figure, then,” Giles said stiffly.
“Don’t worry,” Rowena chuckled warmly, “you still do.”
Giles cleared his throat self-consciously. “Yes. Well, there’s something you should know. I felt it was best not to mention it in the meeting.”
“You mean in front of Buffy. Okay, let me have it. What else did you promise him?”
“Yes, well, I told Ethan that if he were to become a successful member of the Council – that is to say, quite successful. N-n-not just successful in the sense of doing an adequate job…”
“I said he might have a-a-a bit of go at…it.”
“It?” Rowena asked.
Giles looked back at her without blinking.
“As in the Council Coven,” Rowena sighed irritably.
“I didn’t say the lead position.”
“Thank you for your restraint on that,” Rowena said sarcastically, and turned to leave.
“Ro. Wait. Ethan is not the man he used to be. Any more than I am Ripper.”
“No, Giles. The Ripper is still in there. I got a glimpse of him last May when we were talking to Dianna.”
“Yes, it is in me and it is part of who I am. But I don’t let that part of me rule me or cloud my judgment. If I did, Dianna might still be in a body cast. My point is, Ethan is the same. It’s someone he can reach back for, if he ever needs to, in order to defend, teach…watch…those he cares for and with whom he’s been entrusted.”
“Outside of the fact that it’s giving all of us the ‘willies’ – to quote my wife,” Rowena said, “to hear you stand up for him this way, there’s one other thing that bothers me about it.”
She looked him squarely in the eye. “Giles, you left Ripper behind thirty-odd years ago, for the most part. Ethan left his dark past behind about thirty days ago! I can’t be as sure as you that he won’t fall back on old ways; that as much as even he’d like to be different, that he can be this late in his life.”
“If anyone can do it –”
“Why are you so convinced he can?”
Giles blinked at her question. “Because I know him,” he said matter-of-factly. “And I’m asking you to be my ally and trust my judgment.”
Rowena sighed and rubbed a hand down one side of her face. Slowly, she began to grin.
“I think I’m ready for maternity leave,” she chuckled.
Watchers Council – Ethan & Cameron’s Apartment – Moments Later
“Yes! Yes, coming, coming!” Ethan opened the door to the spacious flat he and Cameron had moved into. “Ah! Welcome!” he said brightly when he saw Willow.
“Who is it, love?” Cameron called from the kitchen.
“Hi, C.K.!” Willow called out.
“Oh! Well, it’s the Little Red Witch!” Cameron came out, smiling broadly and wiping her hands on a dishtowel.
“Love the new pictures!” Willow said, as she took in the modern art hanging on the walls.
“Well, thank you,” Cameron replied. “Twenty-four, forty-five for the pair at The Christmas Tree Shop.”
Willow grinned. “They’re great with the new curtains!”
“Target, nineteen-ninety five,” Cameron grinned.
“Cheap chic. My kind o’ decoratin’! Pretty!”
Ethan rolled his eyes at their conversation as he closed the door.
“It needed a bit of a woman’s touch, didn’t it?” Cameron said.
“And we all thought Ethan had enough for both of you!” Willow grinned, glancing at him.
“Prat,” he deadpanned. “To what do we owe this suddenly dubious pleasure?”
“Ethan, we had a meeting just a few moments ago. A meeting about your new role here at the Council.”
There was a moment of anticipatory silence in the room. “I’ll go put a kettle on…” Cameron said, leaving Willow and Ethan to talk in private.
Ethan indicated a seat and Willow sat down on the big chair at one end of the sofa. Ethan sat on the sofa and leaned forward, his arms on his legs.
“Well,” he began with a self-satisfied smile, “of course I have always worked alone – and with staggering success. And I realize I am still not quite as strong, magically, as I need to be.”
“You know, I never thought I’d ever say this to anyone. And I want you to know how it pleases me to be saying it to you: I think we’re going to make a smashing team!” He beamed at her.
Willow sat, a strange smile frozen on her face, and blinked at him.
Inside the kitchen, Cameron absently turned the page of a home decorating magazine and noticed the conversation in the other room had hit a lull. The kettle was about to come to a boil. Suddenly, she heard Ethan’s voice in short, angry bursts, and Willow trying to placate him. Willow’s voice rose by degrees, until it became as angry as Ethan’s.
The whistle of the kettle began to shrill and Cameron sighed. She got up and walked quietly into the living room. Ethan sat, glowering at the fidgeting witch.
“Excuse me,” Cameron said hesitantly, “but what would the two of you like in your tea? Lemon or cream?”
“Scotch!” Ethan barked.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Midday
“Now look, Ethan,” Giles began, “it’s a new program designed to –”
“To make me look like a fool!” Ethan shot back hotly. “Throwing me in with a prattling pack of pre-pubescent progeny –”
Giles mouthed “prattling-pack-of-pre-pubescent-progeny.” “I’ve always wondered,” he feigned innocence, “how do you do that so quickly? And while you’re angry, too…”
“Dammit, Ripper! I’m not a-a-a…”
“Faith calls it a ‘den mother’…although I’m not sure I know exactly what that is. But actually, you will fill the role of watcher, as you requested –”
“I told you I wanted the Coven!”
“And you also told me you wanted to be a watcher.”
“Yes! So that I could be put in charge of the Coven!”
“Ah…well. And so now you are. A watcher. As requested and agreed upon.”
“Oh no! You’re not getting away on a technicality! You took advantage! You took advantage of me when I was in a weakened and distraught state! I was under duress! I wasn’t thinking clearly and you’ve…you’ve…”
“Ah. Be careful what you wish for,” Giles said lightly. “I’ve given you your wish, Ethan. You are now the watcher of a squad of slayers-in-training. There are five of them. The oldest is twelve. Three are eleven. The youngest, ten. You’ll be working as their lead watcher and in tandem with a lead slayer, someone with whom I think you’ll enjoy working.”
“I can’t believe you’re telling me this with a straight face!”
“I can’t, either. But there it is.”
“So the Council sours on a deal you really had no business making, I’m given a post of no consequence, and there’s a ‘lead slayer’ assigned to watch my every move and report back to the Council heads. Correct?”
“Brilliant,” Giles said blandly. “And you didn’t even have to research to figure it out. You truly are watcher material, Ethan.”
“And you truly are a git!”
Giles’s expression hardened. “Now see here. You got this position, not because you requested it, but because I advocated for you to be given a chance. What you do with it is up to you. My part is finished.”
Giles turned on his heel and began to walk away. He got a few yards down the hallway.
“Rip– Rupert…” Ethan called.
Giles slowed, and then stopped. Ethan came up and Giles turned to face him.
“Rupert…” he said softly, “I’m…I’m a mage. I’m a serious and lifelong professional, you know that. I’m past fifty, you know…” he looked searchingly into Giles’ eyes. “A man my age with a group of-of little girls…why, it’s not just demeaning, it looks unseemly on the mere face of it…” Ethan looked imploringly at him.
“Ethan. That act is as old as you are. Try a new one.”
Ethan huffed. “All right, Ripper. I am a mage. I said I wanted the watcher’s job only because I never expected to be made an actual watcher, but to have my magic abilities and knowledge put to some use. Before I get too old to –” He cut himself off and looked away, blushing.
Giles stared at Ethan, and then slowly smiled. Ethan heard Giles softly laugh. He looked up, his face still red.
“Ah, yes…I see now…” Giles said. “You’re quite the old dodger, aren’t you?”
“I feel that way, yes…”
Giles grinned, kindly. “Take the position, Ethan. Take it, no matter how bad it seems. I guarantee you, before long, you’ll feel quite rejuvenated. You may even like it. You’ve nothing to lose by it, and much to gain.”
Giles turned to leave.
“And if I muck it up entirely?” Ethan asked.
Giles turned back and tilted his head, peering at Ethan. The mage’s face was drawn and stern, his eyes staring unfocused at the floor.
“You won’t,” Giles said, smiling.
Ethan looked up at him.
“Not entirely,” Giles needled. Then he turned and left wordlessly, Ethan staring after him.
Watchers Council – Mr. Felix’s Apartment – Evening
Jason Felix hurried from the shower to the phone, dripping water all over the newly installed carpeting on his bedroom floor. He picked up the receiver just before the call could roll into voice mail.
“Yes…Zach? Zachary! How are you, son?”
Zachary’s Apartment – Same Time
“Jason, hello! I’m fine! How are you?” Zachary Kreswell said over the voice of the classical vocalist on the CD player.
“I’m quite well, thank you,” he could hear Felix reply, “although I’m not so used to being in quite so ‘chummy’ an organization as this…”
Zachary listened, plugging one finger in his other ear.
Watchers Council – Mr. Felix’s Apartment – Same Time
“Zach? Zach, are you there?”
“Yes…I’m sorry, I’ve got the music on a bit loud…just a moment.”
Jason could hear the sound of a door closing and the stereo sound dipping.
“Sorry, Jason,” Zachary’s voice said pleasantly into the phone.
“What is it you’re listening to…sounds from here like Brahms…”
“The Liebeslieder Waltzes.”
Zachary’s Apartment – Same Time
“Of course! The Lupati-Boulanger recording?” Felix’s voice replied.
“Is there any other?” Zachary asked, grinning.
“No, that’s the performance everyone else wishes theirs was!”
The two men chuckled.
“And speaking of performance, how is your new job going?”
“Very well, Jason! I’ve finished ahead of schedule and been given a bonus.”
“So tell me, how is…Mother?” Zachary waited, but Felix made no reply. “Jason?”
“Yes, well…your mother is just fine. She’s got her healthy glow back and seems…at ease.”
“So married life agrees with her, then?” Zachary waited. Again, Felix said nothing. “I do hope she’s happy and doing well. Please do give her my love and my best wishes.”
“Anyone…else, you’d like me to…relay a message to?” Felix asked tentatively.
The smile faded only a little from Zachary’s face. “Ah, well…I suppose it is time to bury the hatchet with Ethan, isn’t it? How is he, Jason? None the worse for all that happened, is he? I do hope he and Mother are settled and happy.”
“He…he’s fine…He’s just taken a new position, I’m told. Although I have my misgivings.”
“A position? Well, that’s wonderful, Jason. Where?”
“Here. At the Council.”
“Ah, more consulting.”
“No, actually, he’s in charge of a slayer squad in training. It’s a new program pairing a lead watcher and a lead slayer with a squad of slayers-in-training. Ethan’s been given the squad as a sort of ‘testing ground,’ to see if he’s up to snuff.”
“Well,” Zachary said, still smiling, “I’m sure that Ethan can do a good job at anything he puts his mind to.”
“When will we see you again, Zach? You’ll be stateside for a while?”
“I’m not certain. There may be another assignment coming up right away…in Greece, I’m told. But I’m here in New York for the time being. I’d love to see you again, Jason. And Jason…thank you. Thank you for helping me get through the most difficult time of my life. I wouldn’t be around today if you hadn’t been there for me.”
“You did it yourself, Zach. You’ve pulled yourself up by the bootstraps. And now look at you! Successful and happy and ready to meet new challenges. I’m very proud of you, son.”
There was a momentary silence and something could be heard to clatter from behind the bedroom door. “Uh, Jason, I’m terribly sorry, but I think someone’s at the door. I’ll call you again soon. Bye for now, eh?”
Watchers Council – Mr. Felix’s Apartment – Same Time
“Yes, yes, I’ll be waiting for a call. Don’t make me wait too long, then. Cheers!”
Jason heard the click of the other phone being hung up. Then he slowly laid his own phone back down on its cradle. He stood and frowned uncertainly at it for moment.
Zachary’s Apartment – Same Time
Zachary turned the CD player back up again. The music of Brahms soared loudly to the ceiling rafters. He walked to the front door and checked the lock. Then he walked to the bedroom, opened the door and went in.
There on the bed, a young woman, no more than twenty years old herself, lay bound on the mattress by the wispy green tendrils of mystic energy. The same green tendrils wrapped her neck, and each time she moved, they tightened around her throat, creasing and pulling the skin. She stared with wide, terrified eyes at Zachary looming above her, and choked as the tendrils continued to tighten. A luminous mist of green over her mouth dampened any of the sound she made.
“Now look what you’ve done,” Zachary said silkily as he looked down at the floor.
The girl had struggled violently enough against the tendrils around her arms that she had managed to hit the nightstand, knocking a glass tumbler full of water off the edge. The water spread out in a large stain on the carpet.
He reached down and picked up the glass, turning it over and over in his hand. The strains of Brahms filled the room.
He turned and stared intently at the glass. Suddenly, it lifted from his hand, flew violently across the room and shattered against the far wall. The young woman on the bed jumped and struggled fitfully at the sound of the crash.
Zachary turned and studied her. “You’re going to have to be less clumsy if you’re going to work for me,” he told her. “But first…” He slowly tugged at the few folds of sheet that covered her until they slipped to the floor. “You are very beautiful,” he said distantly as he began to unbuckle his belt. “Now then, let’s see what is so special about women that he would choose one over me…”
End of Act One