New York City – Hospital Hallway – Later that Night
A hospital security guard slumped to the floor, unconscious, as Gabrielle and the two demons walked past him. They stepped aboard the service elevator and stood inside as the doors closed.
New York City – Hospital Hallway – Moments Later
The elevator’s bell dinged, and the doors opened soon afterward. Gabrielle waited until the doors were completely wide before she strode outside and entered the hallway. She moved with a determined look on her face as they walked along the empty passageway.
A voice suddenly called out behind her. “You’re not welcome here in my domain. I suggest you leave.”
Gabrielle stopped, and a slow, menacing grin worked its way to her features. Her lips curled, and her eyes seemed to shimmer.
“Hello, Raphael,” she said without turning around. Finally, she swiveled on her heels to face him.
Raphael walked toward her slowly. “Michael said you might appear here.”
“And I suppose he sent you to stop me?”
“He sent me here to heal you,” he corrected.
“I’m not ill,” she countered.
“We all beg to differ.”
Gabrielle reached behind her back, and a sword magically appeared in her grasp. She held it outward in a defensive stance. “You’ll never win, Raphael – I’m stronger, I’m faster, and I’m –”
“About to meet your Maker,” a voice said behind her. “Repent now, Gabrielle.”
Gabrielle turned swiftly at the sound of the voice. “Uriel, what brings you to the party?”
She moved her head left and right, looking at both angels, who now had her trapped between them.
“Your soul,” he answered, taking a few steps closer. “Come with us now. Let us help you.”
Gabrielle gave a deep, throaty laugh. “Don’t you understand?” she told him. “It’s much too late.”
With that, her sword bore down on Uriel’s head, but, in a lightning-fast move, he pulled his own sword, deflecting the blow and holding it above his head. Raphael charged forward, but with a wave of her hand, Gabrielle threw him backward, keeping him out of the fight. He went crashing into the closed elevator doors, denting the metal before he fell to the floor.
The Vernarrs, who had come with Gabrielle, now cowered by an empty gurney, trying to avoid the crashing blades. The sound, however, pulled a few of the nurses around the corner of the nearest duty station to see what the commotion was about.
“Get security,” the head nurse told one of the attendants as they watched the ruckus from afar. She did as she was told and darted away, while the head nurse continued to look on.
By this time, Raphael had regained himself, and he charged toward Gabrielle. The archangel cocked her head, as if hearing his approach behind her. She flipped gracefully over Uriel’s head before he could react and put her sword to his throat, stopping Raphael in his tracks.
“Touch me, Raphael, and Uriel will cease to exist. You have my word.”
Raphael held his hands in the air as a sign of truce. “I can show you back to the true path, to the agent of God that you really are….just let me help,” he pleaded.
“The agent I really am? Nothing is really real,” she told him, as the nurse continued to look on at what was transpiring, “except suffering. And once I have what I seek, the Earth will tremble, as will the heavens.”
In a flash, Gabrielle disappeared, leaving the scared Vernarrs alone and searching for an escape. Seeing that the angel they were fighting was now gone, Raphael and Uriel drove their blades into the demons, killing them instantly. Then the two angels disappeared themselves.
A guard then appeared beside the nurse and asked, “What’s the trouble?”
Dumbfounded by what she had witnessed and heard, the nurse couldn’t speak. She only pointed to the dead demons in the hallway.
New York City – Hospital Hallway – Early the Next Morning
Liz stood at the same nurse’s station, next to the head nurse. She held a notepad in her hands as the nurse spoke.
“The man next to the elevator told the woman in the middle that he’d show her the true path, or something like that,” the nurse explained, while Liz wrote things down on her small pad.
“Can you remember exactly what he said, or how he said it?” Liz asked.
“No, not really. It just seemed like he was trying to help her. Like she was in trouble or something and…and he wanted to help her,” the nurse replied, sounding frustrated at her inability to find another description. “But I do remember what she said – she told him ‘nothing is real except suffering’.”
“What does that mean?”
The nurse shrugged. “I have no idea, but I remembered it because of the word ‘suffering.’ And like you, I wondered, ‘What the heck is she talking about?’ Then she said something about destroying Heaven.”
In a nearby corner, Rowena was talking with Justin.
“Your Coven has given us magical access to the room?” she asked.
“Yes, you’re all set,” he told her. “You can enter at any time.”
“And just the two nurses then? No one else saw what happened?” Rowena asked him.
“Correct,” he replied. “By the time the security guard arrived, the three people had vanished. The slayers on duty stayed in Father Russell’s room as instructed, and the magical barrier seems to have held, or was never attempted to be breached. But the security cam did capture these images.” He held up a device and pressed a button. The video began to play, showing the events of the night before. “I need to know, Ms. Allister, who is this woman?”
Rowena watched the video for a moment. “She’s not your concern,” she told him. “You said our witness is now conscious?” Justin nodded. “Liz?” she called over, getting the girl’s attention and waving her over. “Thank you, Mr. Moore. That’ll be all for now. You can wait here.”
Rowena then ushered Liz, Shannon and Dawn into the room, going in last herself.
The four women all gave the patient a wave as they entered, and Rowena walked to his bedside and leaned over him so that he didn’t have to move.
“Father Russell,” she began, “I’ll keep this brief so that the nurse can start administering your sedatives. I’m Rowena Allister with the Watchers Council. We understand you were held captive by some demons and a woman, and we have video of the events that followed. At present, you are the only one who can help us in this investigation. We believe the same creatures that harmed you have killed at least eleven other people. What can you tell us that might prevent this from happening to someone else?”
The father appeared nervous. His head didn’t move because of his injuries, but his eyes darted around nervously, as if looking for someone about to jump out at him.
“Let’s do this,” Rowena proposed. “Yes or no – do you know why you were a target?”
“Yes,” he answered.
“Can you tell me –?”
“She’ll hear,” he said softly. “If I tell you, then you’ll be in danger too. Like me.”
Rowena licked her lips and took a deep breath. “The red-headed woman?”
“Yes,” the father answered. “My life will be over soon. She’ll see to that. I’m at peace knowing I’ll meet my Lord soon. But you, my dear, these other young women…it’s best if you not know what I know.”
“Do you know that humanity might very well depend on what you know, Father Russell? That it depends on what you tell me?” Rowena glanced away for a moment, then turned back. “I need to stop her. The world needs me to stop her. If you care at all about mankind, you have to tell me.”
He seemed to be on the verge of saying something, but then he glanced at the gathering of people behind her. As if sensing his reluctance, she pulled back. Unseen by the priest, she pressed a small button on her belt. “Everyone clear the room,” Rowena ordered them. “Slayers too.”
The two slayers looked at each other, but then began to filter out of the room. Once everyone was gone and the door was closing, Rowena turned back to the priest. “It’s just us, Father. Now, please, tell me what you know.”
The father’s tongue snaked out just a small fraction to lick his lips, an act that looked painful for him to undertake.
New York City – Hospital Hallway – Moments Later
Rowena emerged from the room, moving swiftly.
“Nurse?” she yelled. The woman turned toward her. “You can start his sedatives again.” Rowena then turned to the two slayers. “Go back and take your posts. Continue guarding the Father until you have orders to the contrary,” she told them. They both nodded and walked into the room as Rowena began to walk down the hallway. She motioned for Liz, Dawn and Shannon to follow her. Justin tagged along behind them and worked his way to the front.
“What can I do? What did he say? Do we know –?” he asked in rapid succession.
Rowena simply raised a hand, but her steps didn’t halt for an instant until she was at the closed elevator doors and pushing the button to call the car.
“First, have a van and squad of slayers ready for me at the Council. Second, my audio conversation with the Father has been uploaded to the mainframe at the Cleveland Council. Should we not succeed in our mission, contact Willow Rosenberg.”
“Willow? The High Priestess? You’re wi –?”
“Yes,” Rowena said, cutting him off. “She might be the only one strong enough to stop this threat if we fail.”
The doors opened. Liz, Dawn and Shannon stepped on board, all with growing looks of concern, with Rowena going last. Justin acted as if he was going to follow. But she put her hand on his chest to stop him and then nodded to Dawn to push the button.
“You’ve done a fine job on the legwork here in New York, Justin,” she told him sincerely. “But Cleveland needs to take it from here.”
As the door began to close, she moved her hand, and the doors shut.
New York City – Hospital Elevator – Same Time
“Should we not succeed?” Liz asked. “What do you mean ‘should we not succeed?’ What happens if we fail?”
“The Father wanted only me to hear what happened,” Rowena explained to all of them, “but I recorded the conversation anyway and uploaded it to the headquarters.”
“You lied to a priest?” Liz said. “You’ll go to hell for that.”
“I have plenty of strikes against me already, depending on who you ask,” Rowena replied. “But it’s important that the Council have this information, because if we don’t find a way of stopping her, the consequences are…unimaginable.”
Shannon closed her eyes and shook her head. “Special assignment,” she muttered to no one in particular.
Rowena turned to Shannon. “Accompany Liz back to Cleveland. That’s your final task for this ‘special assignment’,” she told her.
“What?” all three of the trio asked simultaneously.
“You heard me. I want you and Liz out of this city.”
“Why me?” Shannon asked defensively. “I’m the best you’ve got and you know it,”
“No,” Rowena replied. “You’re the Department Lead. You’ve got a child, and Liz isn’t much older than a child. Dawn stays, though, because I might need her for magical support.”
“Need I remind you that you, too, have a child – four of them?” Shannon pressed.
“They’re all old enough to have memories of me,” she told them. “Yours, on the other hand, isn’t. You’re going home.”
“Like hell,” Shannon replied.
“Ditto,” Liz added.
Shannon continued. “I might not know what we’re facing here, Ro, but I’m not leaving you guys here, so either we all do this, or none of us do this.”
Rowena paused for a moment and then sighed in frustration. “Fine. I’ll tell you guys all about it on the way to the Council Headquarters after we drop off Liz. But we will send Liz home.”
“All right,” Shannon agreed, while Liz exclaimed, “Me?” at the same time. “Why do I have to leave while everyone stays?” the teenager added.
“No arguments,” Rowena said firmly. “That’s final.”
Liz crossed her arms and shook her head.
Watchers Council – Willow’s Classroom – Same Time
Willow sat at her desk, a stack of papers in front of her. Emma Wilton peered through the small window of the door and gave a soft smile as she watched the witch making notes. She gave a light knock and then turned the knob without waiting for a response.
Willow went wide-eyed for a second, but then moved to her feet, closing the distance between them. She noticed that Emma locked the door as she closed it behind her.
“Emma…?” Willow began.
She didn’t have a chance to add any more. Emma’s lips captured her own in a passionate embrace. She took hold of Willow’s hips and maneuvered her over to the corner, out of view of the security camera, kissing her the entire time.
“I want you,” Emma whispered hungrily in her ear, almost sounding like a growl. Her lips and teeth nipped at Willow’s earlobe and neckline. “I know you want me too,” she added, as her fingers on one hand worked their way through Willow’s hair.
Willow closed her eyes and licked her lips. Her breathing became labored, and she emitted a soft moan. Slowly, her head tilted slightly, giving Emma greater access to her neck, and Emma wasted no time taking advantage of the invitation. The younger witch strategically placed one leg between Willow’s and allowed her hip to grind against Willow’s pelvis.
Instinctively, Willow grabbed Emma by the hips and pulled the younger woman’s body closer as they rhythmically began to move against each other.
“Goddess, yes,” Emma mumbled against Willow’s shoulder, as if she was doing her best to stay upright.
Willow’s hands quickly captured Emma on both sides of her face and pulled the young woman into a lust-filled kiss. It was now Emma’s turn to moan, as Willow’s lips devoured hers as if she’d been starved for weeks – the force of which was bound to bruise them both.
Emma led Willow’s lips down to her neck as she threw her head back, and Willow obeyed the gesture. The witch’s lips continued consuming Emma’s exposed flesh, her eyes still closed the entire time.
“Gods, you’re so sexy,” Emma breathed, as her hands began to work their way up from Willow’s hips.
Suddenly, Willow froze, and her eyes shot up. Her hands moved to capture Emma’s, but instead of leading her anywhere on her body, Willow held them tight and put them down at the woman’s sides.
“You…” Willow tried to say, short of breath. “…You are a beautiful girl.” Emma smiled and tried to move closer again, but Willow released her and turned away, slipping from the embrace. “But I love my wife, Emma. A-A-And I realized something a few seconds ago. I realized that I wished my wife would kiss me like that…like she used to.”
Emma followed her as Willow continued to back away. “You’ve got a woman right here.” She gestured up and down her body. “She’s ready and willing – one that will do whatever you want.”
“I see that,” Willow replied with a nervous grin. “But the bottom line is, you’re not the woman I need. So while it’s true that my wife doesn’t greet me like that anymore…it goes both ways. I-I-I haven’t kissed her like that in quite a while, either. A-A-And she’s the one I want.”
Emma hung her head for a moment. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
“I’m not,” Willow replied. Emma looked up, confused. “Well, I am sorry on some level, but…I’m flattered by your attention. More than flattered, as you could tell a few moments ago. And while it’s true that Ro and I don’t have much free time between orthodontist appointments, baseball practices and slayer training…I do love my wife, a-and I know she loves me. If anything, Emma, you helped me realize that. Of course, it’s not the outcome you’re hoping for, but…I’m sorry too, but that’s the way it is, a-and I hope you’re adult enough to accept that.”
Emma grinned for a moment. “Does she know how lucky she is?”
Willow smiled. “She might not say it often, but yes. A-A-And I know that you’ll find someone, too – you know, somebody your own age, unattached, who could make you happier than I ever could.”
“I’m not so sure about that,” Emma replied.
“I am,” Willow told her. “And aren’t you the one who’s always going on about how wise and insightful I am?”
Emma gave a light chuckle. “Lies, it’s all lies,” she replied, before starting to turn serious again. “I respect you Willow, so I’ll accept what you’re telling me. I’ll behave and keep my hands to myself.” She then held out her hand. “So, Instructor Rosenberg, see you at one p.m. today?”
Willow took Emma’s hand and gave it a shake. “Thanks Emma. I mean that,” she said sincerely.
Emma nodded and made her way to the door. She unlocked and opened it, but before leaving, she turned back to Willow. “I won’t wait for you, but…if Ro ever drops the ball or you change your mind…look me up.”
“I don’t see that happening,” Willow told her. “But thank you for the offer.”
“My pleasure, really,” Emma said, before giving her a short wave and leaving the room.
Willow had sat back down in her chair when her video-phone rang. She turned it over to see Rowena’s face displayed on the mini-monitor, and she smiled at the sight. She pushed the button as she held it out in front of her before speaking, as if it were taking a picture.
“Hey Sweetie, I was just thinking about you,” she began. “What’s up?”
Rowena sighed. “We have a bit of a desperate situation here,” she grumbled over the phone.
Willow’s smile began to fade and she bit her lip as she waited for Rowena to continue. When her wife didn’t say anything, and instead ran a hand across her mouth, Willow asked, “What’s wrong, Ro?”
“Gabrielle seems hell bent on destroying Earth…and Heaven,” she replied, cutting to the chase. Willow’s mouth began to slack open. “She’s looking for a physical item, like a talisman or something,” Rowena went on. “I uploaded all the details into the database a few moments ago.” She paused for a moment and looked away. “I’m on my way to send Liz home before following up on a lead, but the three of us are staying. If we don’t succeed…” She trailed off for a moment. “You might be the only one strong enough magically to stop her. So get with Althenea now to start forming a second front.”
“S-sure,” Willow stammered. “But Ro –”
“Second,” Rowena interrupted. She started to smile. “Always remember, you and the kids make my life worthwhile, okay?”
Willow began to tear up and nodded, not finding her voice at first. Finally she said, “I love you, Rowena.”
“I love you too, Sweetheart,” Rowena replied immediately, “and I’ll call as soon as I can. Until then…get to work, okay?”
Willow nodded quickly. Rowena blew her a kiss and Willow returned it before the screen went black.
Willow put the phone down and ran her hand over her face. She sat still in the silence of the room before taking a deep breath and turning on her computer.
She pressed another button built into her desk. A tone rang twice before a sleepy voice answered, “Hello?”
“Hey, Al. It’s Will,” Willow began, her voice cracking.
More alert sounding now, Althenea’s first question was, “What’s wrong?”
New York City – Council Helicopter Pad – Minutes Later
Rowena walked along the helicopter launch pad above the New York Council Branch. She headed toward the pilot, with Liz walking sideways next to her.
“You’re the one who keeps telling me that being a watcher is more than doing paperwork. It’s about helping people. It’s about making a difference. This is a great chance!”
“Enough!” Rowena said, sounding as if she’d been listening to this argument ever since they’d left the hospital. She stopped in front of the pilot. “Get her to JFK; the Council jet is waiting for her arrival. And make sure she boards the plane.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” he told her.
Rowena turned to Liz. “You’ll have your chance, but not this one, Kiddo.”
“I’m not a kid,” Liz argued. “And I could help you guys. ‘Quick on my feet,’ remember?”
Rowena pulled Liz into a tight hug and held her for a moment. Unsure, at first, Liz finally returned it. Only then did Rowena pull back. She looked at Liz with a gentle smile.
“In this line of work, Sweetie, always make sure your goodbyes are never angry ones if you can help it, especially with someone you love…’cause it might be the last time you see them.”
“Aunt Ro?” Liz looked like she wanted to say more, but didn’t know exactly what.
“You just be patient, and it’ll come to you, I promise. You will have a chance to shine.”
She then cupped Liz’s face with her hand and gave it a light pat before she started to jog back to the entrance. Liz looked like she was on the verge of tears for a moment. She took a few steps forward, as if to stop Rowena, but she halted her steps. Even after Rowena was out of sight, Liz continued to look at the closed door, her bottom lip quivering slightly. But after a moment, she straightened her shoulders and turned to the pilot.
“I need to use the little girls’ room before take-off,” she told him. “If that’s okay?”
“It won’t be that long until –”
“I don’t think you understand,” Liz told him. “Mother Nature is calling, if you follow me, so please, where is the restroom? It’ll only take a minute or so.”
“Oh,” the pilot said with a tinge of embarrassment. “Here, I’ll show you.” He said motioned for her to follow him.
New York City Council Branch – Upper Level – Moments Later
“You wouldn’t happen to have a dollar coin, would you?” Liz asked. “All my bags are packed, and I don’t have money for the, uh, you know, dispenser.”
“Oh, sure,” the pilot said with a slight blush. He dug into his pocket finally producing a coin. “Here you go.” He then pointed to a door near the corner of the hallway. “Right over there,” he said.
“You’re a lifesaver,” Liz told him as she took the coin. “Be back in a flash.”
Liz walked down the hallway and turned to see that the pilot was looking the opposite way. She pushed the door with her arm, but didn’t go inside. Instead, she darted around the corner, giving the illusion that she’d walked into the bathroom.
As she walked down the hallway, she rolled the coin in her fingers. “Heads, I follow Aunt Ro. Tails, I get on the plane,” she said as she flipped the coin in the air. She slapped it on the back of her hand and looked at it. “Okay, best two out of three.”
New York City Council Branch – Elevator – Moments Later
“Nice weather we’re having, ‘ay?” Liz said in a perfect English accent to someone standing next to her in the elevator.
“Yeah, I hear it’s supposed to rain, though,” the middle-aged man told her. He looked at her for a moment. “You’re one of the new slayers, aren’t you?” he asked. “Gina, from the London Branch?”
Liz nodded. “I’m having a smashing time in New York. You have a rather intense program here. Much better than the London Branch, I must say. Perhaps even better than Cleveland.”
The elevator bell dinged, and the doors opened at the lobby level. “Well, we do our best here,” the man said proudly.
“It shows,” Liz said as she stepped off the elevator, moving toward the lobby.
New York City Council Branch – Lobby – Moments Later
Liz continued walking until she was out the front door. She looked left and then right to see Rowena, Shannon and Dawn standing behind a Council van while someone walked over with an outstretched hand holding a set of keys. Inside the van were twelve women of slayer age.
Liz ran over to a waiting taxi and jumped into the backseat.
“See that van with the three women outside?” she asked. Not waiting for an answer, she added, “Follow it.”
“I’m not sure I’m real comfortable with tailing a Council vehicle, young lady.”
“There’s a hundred dollars in it for you if you do, and another two hundred if they don’t notice us by the time we stop,” she told him, holding up her thumb.
He held out a thin scanning device and punched in some numbers. He handed it back to Liz, and she pressed her thumb to it. After it beeped in a high pitch, he cleared his throat.
“Buckle up, Sweetheart,” he told her.
End of Act Three