Watchers Council – Conference Room – Day
“The serial killer who’s after Faith made an attempt to infiltrate the Council,” Buffy announced to the already noisy group of Council leaders.
Immediately, the room erupted into a cacophony of simultaneous outbursts, of shock, anger, frustration and fear. Buffy had to bang the gavel several times to restore order.
“Okay, okay, calm down. We’re all upset, but all this yelling is getting us nowhere, so zip it!” The group reluctantly quieted, and Buffy went on. “I won’t waste time ripping Faith a new one for ditching her security team,” she said, while giving the slayer in question a laser-like glare, “because that won’t get us anywhere, either.” Faith seemed to have the good sense to drop her eyes and stay silent. “Let’s focus on what we learned and how we can find this woman.”
“Well, the good news is,” Willow interjected, “the wards held. She tried to come in and put the whammy on the receptionist, and it didn’t work, so I’d say that’s one for the white hats.”
“And surveillance video got a good picture this time,” Kennedy said, punching a button on a small remote. A picture of Christabel appeared on the large wall screen.
Everyone stared at the photograph for a long moment. Then several at the table looked at Faith, as if expecting her to recognize the woman.
Faith shook her head. “Never seen her before.”
“It’s not likely that you have,” Kate said. “What’s driving this woman is not some personal encounter that she’s had with you. It’s what you symbolize – someone who escaped justice.”
“So…if we know she’s here, can’t we try the locator spell again?” Xander offered. “I mean, won’t it work better if she’s close by?”
All eyes went to Willow, and after thinking a moment, she nodded. “It’s possible. I’ll get the Coven on it right away.”
Lenore’s Chamber Occult Shop – Later That Day
Christabel stood in front of the occult shop, her usually calm exterior now showing signs of annoyance. She drew in a deep breath and closed her eyes, reciting a Bible passage as she exhaled.
“So will I break down the wall that ye have daubed with untempered mortar, and bring it down to the ground. It shall fall, and ye shall know that I am the Lord.”
Then she opened her eyes and went inside the shop.
Christabel stepped through the doorway, picked up a store-provided basket and began moving systematically through the cluttered shop, clearly on a hunt for particular items. After gathering what she needed, she headed for the register.
As she passed through a section marked “Amulets, Talismans, and Miscellaneous,” she suddenly stopped. Her face drained of all color, and she dropped her basket. She turned to the shelf on her right, where a collection of ornate wooden boxes was on display.
She frantically began opening each box, then slamming it to the floor when it didn’t contain what she was looking for. “Where is it? Where is it?” she cried, becoming increasingly unglued.
The manager, a forty-ish woman in earthy garb, immediately rushed over. “Stop that! This instant! Stop it or I’m –” Her words froze in her mouth when Christabel turned to face her.
The blonde woman’s expression was completely crazed, and her eyes were solid black. She made a sweeping motion with one arm and magically demolished the shop’s shelves and displays in a single wave. Then she made a scratching gesture with her right hand. A tendril of black energy shot from her hand and clamped around the helpless manager like a raptor’s claw. Christabel drew the terrified woman close.
“Where…is it?” she asked, drawing out the words in a menacing fashion.
“Wh-Where’s what?” the woman managed to ask. “I don’t know what you’re –”
“The Loathestone!” Christabel shrieked, tightening her magical grip on the manager until the older woman screamed in pain. “It was here,” Christabel insisted. “Where is it now? Who has it?”
The clueless manager just shook her head.
Christabel roared in fury and brought her fingers down into a closed fist, causing the magical claw to tighten even more around the manager’s body. She kept squeezing, past the sound of breaking bones, past the sound of compressed flesh, past the sound of the manager’s last strangled gasps of breath, until her rage had finally subsided.
As Christabel got her breathing under control, the black faded from her eyes. She released her grip, and the manager’s mangled body fell to the floor with a sickening thud. She turned from her without a second glance, then closed her eyes once again.
“Appoint a way, that the sword may come. Lead me, O Lord, make thy way straight before my face.”
By the time she opened her eyes, her tranquil demeanor had returned. She looked down at the items that were still in her overturned basket and left them where they lay. Then she calmly walked through the ruins of the shop to the door.
Watchers Council – Library – Same Time
Buffy, Faith, Willow, Kennedy and Kate were once again gathered in the library.
“So no luck on the locator spell?” Buffy asked Willow.
Willow shook her head. “We just don’t have the right object to get a clear fix on her. Plus, she could be using her own powers to run interference, so…”
Buffy’s cell phone suddenly went off, followed shortly by Kate’s. Both answered, listened and hung up.
“Lenore’s has been hit,” Buffy told Willow and Faith before turning to Kate. “Think it was her?”
Kate began backing toward the door. “Don’t know. Tell you when I get there.” Then she turned and headed for the exit.
Buffy glanced at Willow and Kennedy, who nodded and followed after Kate. Faith looked as though she too wanted to go along, but she made no move to do so. She merely put her hands on her hips and walked away, letting out a breath that was half frustration and half dread. Fresh out of reassurances, Buffy just stood there and worriedly watched her.
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Afternoon
“It was her,” Kate told the group. “Fingerprints confirm it.”
“But it doesn’t make sense,” Xander said. “She’s been sneakier than a super ninja till now. Why would she go berserk at a magic shop?”
“Well, I can’t explain the berserker part, but I can explain the magic shop part,” Willow interjected. She pulled out several evidence bags, each with a different magical item. “These were found in an overturned shopping basket at the scene.”
Faith examined a couple of the bags. “What do these do?”
“They’re used to break wards,” Willow answered solemnly.
“Oh.” Faith dropped the bags and slumped back in her seat.
“But they were left behind,” Rowena pointed out. “Why? Did she leave with another set of ingredients? Was she unable to find what she was looking for and went elsewhere? What?”
Willow replied with a helpless shrug.
Buffy turned to Kate. “Agent Lockley, what’s your take on this? What’s our next move?”
Kate rubbed the back of her neck and shook her head. “She’s completely broken her pattern here. I don’t know whether she’s abandoning her plans for Faith or just hiding out to redouble her efforts.”
“She’s not giving up,” Faith said, in answer to Kate’s dilemma. “She’s just pissed off that things didn’t go her way. She’s not going anywhere until she’s got me right where she wants me.”
Everyone quietly considered Faith’s chilling words, but no one attempted to counter them.
“Let’s rig the where, then,” Kate finally said.
“You mean, like, set a trap?” Xander asked.
“With Faith as the bait?” Willow added, in a challenging voice.
Kate nodded to both.
Kennedy pointed at Kate. “No way! No freakin’ way!”
“It’s probably our best chance at catching her,” Kate argued. “She’s already lost control once, and she’s making mistakes. This is the perfect time to draw her in, to force her into meeting us on our terms!”
Kennedy jumped to her feet. “You are not going to hang Faith on a hook and dangle her out there and hope for a bite! My god, did you not see what that whack-job did at the magic shop?”
“Of course I saw it!” Kate said, also rising from her chair. “I’ve seen every single bit of carnage this woman has carried out! Up close and personal! In living color, 3-D, high def! In fact, it’s the only goddamned thing I see when I close my eyes at night!”
Kate stopped to catch her breath and calm herself. No else spoke while she did that.
“That’s why I want to catch her,” Kate finished, “before she can do that to somebody else.”
“But it doesn’t matter to you if you have to sacrifice Faith to –”
Buffy’s sharp command silenced the objecting slayer, and everyone else. As Kennedy sullenly plopped back into her chair, Buffy put her fingers against her forehead, as if trying to collect her thoughts. Then she stood up and leaned against the table surface with both hands, keeping her head down. A voice made her look up.
“I’ll do it.”
All eyes immediately shot toward Faith.
“I’ll do it,” she repeated. She looked over at Kate. “Lockley’s right. Setting a trap is our best chance.”
Kate made no expression of victory. She merely sighed and sat back down.
Kennedy turned to Buffy, but pointed back at Faith. “Are you gonna let her do this?”
Willow, Rowena and Xander sent similarly alarmed glances in the Chairwoman’s direction, but Buffy just locked eyes with Faith. When the brunette’s determined gaze never wavered, Buffy wearily returned to her seat.
“It’s Faith’s decision,” she said simply. When grumblings and objections began rising again, Buffy barked out another sharp command. “Enough!” She eyed each person at the table until they shut up, and then she went on. “Look, Faith has made her choice. It’s a choice we’ve all made at one time or another. We put ourselves on the line because other lives are at stake. It’s what we do. Now, we can waste time arguing about this, or we can use that time to make sure this trap works without any harm coming to Faith!”
No one said anything in reply, so Buffy continued in a lighter tone. “Besides, we all know Faith, and if we don’t let her do this, she’s just gonna go out and do it anyway without us.” She shot a knowing glance in Faith’s direction. Faith grinned back briefly, and the others had no choice but to acknowledge the truth of Buffy’s assessment.
“Actually, I’ve got an idea about this trap,” Faith said. “How to make the ‘bait’ irresistible to our little psycho.”
“What’s that?” Kate asked.
“Break the rules,” Faith replied. “Take me out of her game.”
“I thought that’s what we were already doing,” Buffy said. “Keeping you away from her, trying to catch her…”
Faith shook her head. “She’s killing people who’ve escaped justice, right? Well, what if I wasn’t escaping anymore? What if I confessed and just shot her little justification angle all to hell?”
“Faith, no!” Willow pleaded.
Xander waved his hand in the center of the table until Faith looked at him. “Okay, couple of things about you confessing. One, are you crazy? And two, news flash, I doubt a set of bars is gonna stop this woman.”
“Bingo,” Faith said, giving him a “you’ve got it” head tilt.
Kate nodded in approval of the idea. “The killer’s already made up her mind about Faith, already committed to her judgment against her.”
“Sounds familiar,” Buffy grumbled, while looking directly at Kate.
Kate cut her eyes at the other blonde, but then went on. “If we take that opportunity away from her,” she said with emphasis, “we’ll force her to take drastic action.”
“Which means she’ll take the bait,” Rowena finished.
For a split second, everyone seemed to be seriously considering Faith’s plan. Everyone except for Rowena, who was looking worriedly at Willow, and Willow herself.
“Helllllooo?” Willow said to the others. “Are you forgetting that this whole scenario starts with Faith turning herself in?”
“It doesn’t have to be a real confession and arrest, does it?” Rowena asked.
“You’re right!” Willow said to Rowena excitedly. “W-W-We could just fake it all.”
“No,” Faith said, but no one seemed to hear her.
“Yeah, yeah!” Kennedy agreed. “They do that kinda stuff all the time on those Law & Order shows.”
“No,” Faith repeated, but she was once again ignored.
“Exactly,” Xander chimed in. “They arrest the wrong person just to draw out the real killer. It’s like this big ‘psych!’ staged by the police and the prosecution and –”
As she had done the day before, Faith slammed her hand on the tabletop, stunning everyone into silence. When she had everyone’s undivided attention, she got up and began pacing behind her chair.
“Y’know, ever since this damn book came out, everybody’s been tellin’ me what to do: ‘Just keep your mouth shut. Try not to let it get to you. Let the Council handle this. Trust the tampering. Wait till it all blows over.’ But it all translates into the same thing: Keep lying. Keep pretending to be something you’re not. Keep saying nothing so you can save your own ass.”
“It’s not just about saving you,” Kennedy gently objected. “It’s about –”
” –saving the world,” Faith finished for her, though with disgust in her voice. “Well, that argument’s not gonna fly anymore. I’m not the ‘one and only’.” She glanced briefly at Buffy. “I never was. And I’m not the Second Coming, either! I’m just…me, and…” She stopped and swallowed hard. “…I-I-I can’t live like this.”
“What you did…who you were,” Willow told her earnestly, “that’s not who you are anymore.”
Faith gave a rueful chuckle. “Who I was…who I am…they’re kinda stuck in the same package.”
No one spoke for a long time. Then Buffy said, her voice cracking, “We don’t want to lose you, Faith.”
“You’re not gonna lose me,” Faith said before smirking. “You just might have to fly a long way to see me.” Then she added, “And don’t forget to bring cigarettes.”
“I thought you quit,” Rowena teasingly reminded her.
“I did. I’ll need ’em to barter for soap.”
There were a few forced laughs at Faith’s remarks, but everyone quickly sobered.
Faith turned to Kate. “Yo, Lockley…I think we need to talk.”
Kate ignored the daggers being shot from the eyes around the table and nodded at Faith. “Okay. Let’s go talk.” She closed up her portfolio and got to her feet. Then she and Faith left the room.
Those who remained in the room stared at the door in sadness and shock for at least a minute before Buffy clicked into action and clapped to get everyone’s attention.
“Okay, folks, we’ve got a lot to do here. Xander, I need you to get your hands on some floor plans.”
“Those Council plans we were talking about?” he asked, confused.
“No, the Corrections Center downtown,” Buffy told him. “If this is gonna go down like I think it is, then that’s where the trap is gonna have to be. We need to know everything about that place.” Xander gave her a thumbs-up.
She turned to Willow. “Will, I want you and Ken working the mojo on this. When that bitch shows up, I don’t want her laying a finger on Faith.” Willow and Kennedy gave back firm nods of agreement, and Buffy moved on to Rowena. “Ro, get with Felix and Jim. We need to clear all this with the Sheriff’s Office and the City Police Department, and we need to generate as much publicity as possible. Trap’s no good if the bait’s not visible.”
“What’re you gonna do?” Willow asked.
“Call Miss Sanger,” Buffy replied. “If the OC has as many connections as she claims, then it’s time for her to start pulling some strings. I am not gonna let Faith go back to jail without a fight.”
Watchers Council – Faith and Robin’s Apartment – Later that Day
Kate and Faith were finishing up their discussion of the details of Faith’s surrender: what would happen to her here in Cleveland and once she got to California, the likelihood of an increased sentence, perhaps even a revocation of her possibility for parole.
Faith merely nodded numbly as Kate reviewed each point. She perked up at the end, though, when Kate mentioned Willow again.
“Now, we’re a hundred percent clear on the fact that Willow is not going to be implicated, right?” Faith pressed.
“We’re clear,” Kate assured her.
Faith nodded again, and then her face grew sad. Kate closed her portfolio and looked at Faith intently.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” she asked.
Faith looked at Kate in surprise. “Are you sayin’ there’s an alternative?”
“For you to come totally clean…no. For us to just catch the killer…yes.”
When Faith didn’t reply right away, Kate went on.
“I could just arrest you,” she suggested. “You invoke your right to remain silent and let me do all the talking. Killer takes the bait. You get released for insufficient evidence.”
“You would do that?”
“Truth is…without your confession, I don’t have any evidence.”
“And if you did?”
Kate looked away for a moment and then turned back and said, “I’d have to take you in.” She glanced down at her hands. “Doesn’t mean I’d like it.”
While Kate was looking down, Faith noticed an old scar on the agent’s neck. “You get vamp bit at some point?” the slayer asked.
Kate reached up, touched the bite mark on her neck and chuckled. “Uh, yeah. By Angel, actually.”
“Me too,” Faith said, pulling her hair back and pointing at her own scar. “Well, Angelus, to be precise.”
After a pause, Kate said solemnly, “He did it to save my life.”
Faith gave a small shrug. “I did it to save his.”
They both looked away and cleared their throats. Then Faith spoke up again.
“Look…I’m grateful for what you’ve done to protect me, and I’ll do everything I can to help you catch this psycho.”
“I know you will.”
“And I appreciate the offer of an alternative scenario, but…that would just keep me living the lie, and I can’t do that.”
“I understand.” Kate got to her feet. “We still need to coordinate with the city and county officials and with your Council team, but I think we can put this thing in motion tonight.”
“Good,” Faith said, also standing. “That’s good.”
The two stood in awkward silence for a moment until Kate finally spoke.
“You know, the last time I saw Angel, he told me he’d had an epiphany. He said, ‘If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do. Now. Today.'”
Kate let those words sink in and then held out her hand. Faith smiled and took it, and the two women shook hands.
Watchers Council – Faith and Robin’s Apartment – Moments Later
After Kate left, Faith paced around the apartment. She stopped periodically at the table holding the phone and stared at the device, as if she were trying to work herself up to make a call. She finally let out an exasperated huff and snatched up the phone. She dialed a series of numbers and waited. When she heard a voice answer, she brightened her expression.
“Ace, hey! How’s it going?”
Sydney – Council HQ – Same Time
“Hey back,” Robin said with a big smile as he walked down a hallway, a stack of folders in his arms. He transferred his phone to his other hand and ear as he shifted the folders into a better arrangement. “I was just thinking about you.”
“Yeah?” came Faith’s voice over the phone.
“Yeah,” he said. “It’s good timing, too, ’cause I’m about to head into my first meeting of the day. Things are like a whirlwind over here, so much to do, and with the time difference, I don’t know if I’m coming or going. But it’s going well.”
“Good. That’s great.”
When Faith said little else, Robin’s eyes narrowed. “Are you okay? What’s going on?”
Watchers Council – Faith and Robin’s Apartment – Same Time
Faith laughed. “Hey, just missin’ my man. I can do that, can’t I?”
“I miss you, too, Babe.”
After letting another long moment go by, Faith finally said, “Anyway, I know you’ve got a meeting and all. I just wanted to say I love you and I miss you and…I’m sorry…for everything…”
Before Robin could respond, she hung up.
Sydney – Council HQ – Same Time
“Faith?” Robin said. “Babe?”
He got no reply. He pulled his phone down and looked at it, puzzled. Just as he started to call Faith back, one of his Sydney associates called out to him from down the hall and waved him in that direction, as if Robin were late.
“Uhh…” He held up his hand in just-a-minute fashion to his associate and looked back at his phone, clearly torn between two decisions. “Damn,” he said, closing the phone and tucking it into his pocket.
Then he hurried down the hallway to where his associate was waiting.
Watchers Council – Faith and Robin’s Apartment – Same Time
Faith set the phone down in its cradle and then picked up the folding picture frame next to it. She sat back down on the couch and studied the photos.
In the left pane was a picture of Faith with Robin and Norm at the last Fourth of July Council picnic. The three were sitting on the same side of a picnic bench, looking up from large plates of barbecued ribs, flashing sauce-smeared smiles.
In the right pane was a picture that Kadin had taken on their cursed vacation to Mrs. Longheart’s private island. It featured Xander in a chair surrounded by the remaining women on the trip: Buffy, Faith and Kennedy standing behind him and Willow and Rowena flanking him. All were showing wide smiles, as if they had been captured in mid-laugh.
Faith smiled as she touched each frame, remembering each event’s happy moments.
But soon her smile faded, and tears filled her eyes. When a sniffle entered her breathing, she tossed the picture frame aside and brought both hands to her face. Then she let the sobs come.
Watchers Council – Faith and Robin’s Apartment – Later that Day
When a knock came to the door, a still upset, but more subdued, Faith got up and answered it.
“Thanks for coming,” she said to the person outside.
“Of course,” Giles said, before stepping inside.
He smiled warmly at her, then reached out and gripped Faith’s shoulders and attempted to look into her eyes, but she wouldn’t let her gaze linger on his for long.
Before he could attempt a hug, she pointed at the coffee table in front of the couch. “I’ve got everything laid out,” she said, gesturing at several stacks of personal documents. “Since Robin’s not here, I wanted somebody to know where they were. You know…in case.”
They sat down on the couch, and Giles took a cursory glance at the paperwork Faith had laid out. But then he turned his attention to Faith herself.
“How’re you holding up?” he asked gently.
She swallowed hard. “Not too good,” she admitted in a hoarse voice. “But I’ll be okay,” she said, sounding stronger.
Giles looked back at the papers and picked up what appeared to be two letters: one addressed to Robin and one to Norman.
“Did you call them?”
Faith nodded, then let out a rueful laugh. “Didn’t tell ’em anything, though. I couldn’t.” She shook her head in disgust. “Sorry excuse for a fiance and a mother, huh?”
Giles reached out and placed his hand over Faith’s. “Far from it,” he assured.
She kept her gaze on the window as she took in several breaths and let them out. “I’ve been living on borrowed time,” she said. “I’ve always known that. But…”
She paused, then turned to face her former watcher, with new tears glistening in her eyes. “…it’s so much harder this time,” she said in a barely audible whisper.
Giles said nothing, he just gave her hand a squeeze.
“I didn’t have anything to lose then,” she forced herself to finish.
Another all-out cry seemed to be threatening to descend, but through sheer willpower, Faith pushed it all down and stood up from the couch.
“Anyway, it’s all there,” she told him. “If you need anything, you know where to find it.”
Giles got to his feet, as well. “There’s still time to call this off,” he offered.
“No, I have to do this,” she said firmly. “It’s the right thing to do.”
When Faith met his eyes, he gave her an understanding nod. Then he quietly turned and left the apartment.
Cuyahoga County Corrections Center – Front Steps – Evening
A huge gathering of both the media and the public alike hovered around the impromptu press conference that Faith had called on the front steps of the city’s largest jail. With her on the steps were Kate and Jim on one side and Buffy, Kennedy and Willow on the other. Giles, Rowena and Xander, as well as many other Council friends and colleagues, were mingled in the first few rows of the crowd.
After Jim had made some introductory remarks, he turned the floor over to Faith, who stepped up to the bank of microphones with more than a little bit of trepidation in her eyes.
As she took in the sea of faces, she held up a copy of John Harriman’s book, Blood and Darkness: The Real Story of Superstar Slayer Faith Lehane.
“I’m sure most of you have heard about this book by now, probably even read it, and you’ve been wondering why I haven’t said anything about it. I mean, if it was out of line, then I shoulda been saying that, right? Well, to be honest, a lot of it is crap.”
That brought some laughs from the crowd. Faith smiled lightly along with them as she waited for the levity to subside. Then she noticeably sobered.
“But…unfortunately, some of it’s true. I’m here to set the record straight on all that.”
She handed the book to Jim and then turned back to the microphones. She took in a shaky breath and let it out, then steeled herself and began to speak.
“I am the same Faith Lehane who confessed to second-degree murder in 2000 in California and was sentenced to twenty-five to life.”
A shocked gasp went through the crowd, followed by the sound of too many voices talking at the same time. She waited until the initial uproar died down and then went on.
“I’m also the same Faith Lehane who, three years later, escaped from the women’s penitentiary and became a fugitive from justice.”
Another wave of murmurs went through the crowd, but not as loud as the first. When it subsided, she continued.
“I broke out to save a friend in L.A., someone who had believed in me and helped me stop running from myself. He was the reason I came clean the first time and turned myself in.”
Behind Faith, Buffy was wiping at the tears rolling down her cheeks. Willow’s and Kennedy’s eyes looked wet with tears as well.
“Of course, I should have turned myself back in later, but these apocalypses kept happening, and I…I just kept telling myself that I was needed, as if that would somehow excuse me or earn me some kind of exemption.”
“But it doesn’t matter how many times I help save the world, none of it’s ever gonna bring back the lives I took.”
Faith ducked her head and paused for a moment, pain evident in her eyes. Eventually, she looked back up.
“And I can’t help thinking that maybe that’s why an angel brought me back, so I could stand here and say that. I don’t know…” She gave a helpless shrug. “Anyway, I just wanted to say that I’m sorry…to those I’ve hurt and to those I’ve let down.” She glanced at Kate and then said, “That’s it.”
Kate immediately stepped in to speak before reporters could bombard Faith with questions.
“My name is Special Agent Kate Lockley of the FBI. I’m taking Miss Lehane into custody on an escaped fugitive warrant. She will be held here at the Corrections Center until extradition papers can be processed, at which time she will be returned to California to serve out the remainder of her sentence. Mr. Pollan will answer any additional questions that you may have.”
While Jim began fielding questions, Kate led Faith up the steps to the Corrections Center.
Alley Across From Corrections Center – Same Time
In the shadows, Christabel seethed as Faith was led away. Her eyes were solid black, but somehow managed to glow in the darkness. Her expression was frustrated, but undeterred.
“And they hid themselves in dens and in the rocks of the mountains, and they said to the rocks and the mountains, ‘Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb’.”
Christabel stepped from the shadows and smiled.
“But the eyes of the wicked shall fail, and they shall not escape. Their hope shall be but a dying gasp. For they have sinned against the Lord, and their blood shall be poured out.”
Corrections Center – Later that Night
Jeff stood in a darkened alcove off the sidewalk that was directly across from the entrance of the Corrections Center. His eyes were sweeping the nearby area when a voice came over his earpiece.
“Jeff, anything on your side?” Rowena asked.
“Not yet,” he answered in a whisper. “How’s Willow doing?”
“She’s hanging in there, but it’s taking a toll. I don’t think she’ll be able to keep this up much longer.”
“Well, masking the Council presence over an entire city block, I’m surprised she hasn’t – wait! I’m getting something.” He closed his eyes.
“Jeff! What is it? What are you sensing?”
“A definite magical signature, something strong…”
He opened his eyes and looked down the block. A blonde woman in a crisp, lawyer-like suit was approaching through the still-crowded streets.
“Amira! Possible suspect at my three o’clock. Can you confirm?”
“Three o’clock…checking…” said Amira’s voice. “Target has been confirmed. Shall I take her out?”
“Negative,” Rowena replied. “We need her inside and away from bystanders. We want no collateral damage on this.”
“Copy that,” Amira said. “Alert the inside teams. She’s on her way.”
Corrections Center – Maximum Security Wing – Minutes Later
Faith sat in the cell at the far end of the block. Additional cells lined both sides of the wide aisle, but they were all open and empty. When she heard the block gate open and then close again, Faith stood up and moved to the barred door of her cell. She saw a woman in a business suit approaching.
“Hey!” Faith called out. “Are you my lawyer?”
Christabel didn’t answer. She merely walked silently down the long aisle, cutting her eyes to the left and right, as if verifying that all the other cells were vacant.
“Council said they were gonna send me a lawyer,” Faith tried again.
When Christabel arrived at the final cell, she held her hands clasped behind her back. She let her gaze meet Faith’s.
“The Lord is known by the judgment which He executeth,” she quoted smugly. “The wicked are snared in the work of their own hands.”
Faith’s eyes widened, and she rapidly backed away from her cell door. Christabel waved her hand and magically slid the door open, but she did not yet enter the cell.
“I bring Judgment,” Christabel announced, as she whipped out her butcher knife.
Just then, Buffy and Kennedy materialized in the two cells on Christabel’s left and right, having been hidden by Willow’s magic. Their tranquilizer guns already drawn, they shot directly at Christabel.
At the last second, an energy shield shot up around Christabel, deflecting the tranquilizer darts harmlessly away. The killer turned immediately to her left and sent a huge magical bolt directly at Buffy.
In the small confines of the cell, Buffy had nowhere to go. She braced herself as the blast slammed her into the cinderblock wall. She hit it with such force that the cement facing caved inward, leaving a sizable indentation. Stunned, Buffy crumpled to the concrete floor.
Not wasting time to see the effects of her first attack, Christabel turned on Kennedy, who had already called up her own ball of magical energy.
“Two can play at that game,” Kennedy quipped, before hurling the ball at Christabel.
“Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me…” Christabel pronounced, before drawing her forearms together and deflecting Kennedy’s blast right back at her. The impact sent her crashing into the cinderblock wall in the same manner Buffy had done.
When Christabel turned her attention back to Faith, she was surprised to find the slayer standing directly in front of her.
“Shield this!” Faith said, as she gave Christabel a vicious kick in the chest, sending her skidding down the aisle. Faith went right after her.
As Kennedy came to, she called out mentally to Willow. “Will! She keeps shielding herself. Tranq guns won’t work if we can’t keep her from blocking us!”
“I’m on it,” Willow replied, although it was clear, even as the redhead began her set of mental chants, that she was already exhausted from her earlier hours-long trap-masking.
As Kennedy crawled out of her cell, she found Buffy doing the same. They turned to look up the aisle. They saw Christabel with her back to them, swiping and jabbing at Faith with her butcher knife. They got to their feet and hurried to reload their tranquilizer guns.
Faith easily evaded Christabel’s attempts, waiting until the crazed woman overcommitted before moving in to grab both her wrists and hold her at bay.
“You think you can grapple with the Hand of God?” Christabel growled. “You have been Judged!” she cried, before shooting green bolts of eldritch power directly from her eyes and into Faith’s.
Faith backed away, screaming in agony as she was temporarily blinded. Christabel turned and sent blasts back at Buffy and Kennedy, causing them to dive back into their cells. Then she turned back to Faith, who was just shaking off the blinding spell’s effects. In the slayer’s last moment of distraction, Christabel lunged forward and sank the blade into Faith’s stomach near the side.
Faith let out an angry groan and opened her eyes, now no longer blinded. She grabbed Christabel’s hand and began crushing it until the woman released the weapon. Then she shoved Christabel away. Faith grunted as she grasped the knife’s handle and pulled the blade from her stomach. She pointed the bloody weapon at Christabel and gave her a maniacal look of determination.
“Gonna take a lot more’n that to bring me down,” Faith told her.
Christabel simply smiled cryptically and said, “I know.”
Before a worried expression could even appear on Faith’s face, she suddenly grimaced and grabbed at her stomach, stumbling a bit on her feet. She looked down at the knife in her hand, realizing too late that the blade had been poisoned. She saw the knife slip from her hand and clatter to the concrete. As her legs weakened, she stumbled one last time and then hit the floor, landing on her back.
“Faith!” both Buffy and Kennedy screamed, before running in her direction.
Christabel turned and, with a wave of her hand, erected a barrier between herself and the two slayers. Their frustrated screams became squelched as Christabel turned back to Faith, who was trying, quite ineffectually, to get her limbs to work properly.
Just as Christabel moved in to stand over Faith, Willow stepped out from an adjacent cell, finishing up a chant, her words gradually increasing in volume. Then she slammed her palms together, creating a shock wave that blew Christabel back into her own barrier. The force of it ripped hair from Christabel’s head and shredded the outer layers of her clothing, but did not stop her. Christabel returned fire, and soon the two witches were trading a flurry of magical blasts that were systematically demolishing the forward half of the cell wing.
When she got in a blow that blasted through Christabel’s personal shield and knocked the sorceress to her knees, Willow turned to the barrier wall, called up a churning sphere of red energy and formed it into a harpoon. She flung it at the barrier, causing the magical wall to explode and dissipate.
Barely able to stand on her feet, Willow called out to the now freed Kennedy and Buffy, “I…don’t think…she can shield…anymore…” she yelled between exhausted pants. “But you’ve got to – arrrgh!”
Willow went into convulsions as Christabel attacked her from behind, sending lightning bolts of magic into her back before blasting her toward Buffy and Kennedy, who tumbled over like bowling pins when Willow’s body hit them.
Weakened but undaunted, Christabel hurried back to Faith and dropped to her knees beside her. She scooped up the knife and then moved to straddle Faith’s legs.
Her limbs completely paralyzed, Faith could do nothing but watch in horror as Christabel gripped the butcher knife in both hands and raised it high over Faith’s chest.
Suddenly, there was a thunk!-thunk! that caused Christabel to jerk and drop her arms. She woozily looked back and saw Buffy and Kennedy a few yards away, their recently-expelled tranquilizer guns pointing at her. Christabel wobbled as she turned back to Faith. With the last seconds of her strength and consciousness, she rose up on her knees, leaned forward and repositioned the knife so that when she passed out, she would fall on top of Faith, stabbing her with the pointed blade.
Faith’s eyes were screaming in silent alarm as she saw Christabel and the knife descend. Just as the knife was about to penetrate Faith’s chest, Christabel was yanked back by an invisible force. It was Willow, extending her magic from the far end of the aisle.
With Christabel out of action, Buffy, Kennedy, and Willow rushed to Faith’s side. Faith could see the three of them hovering over her, but the images were beginning to blur around the edges. The sounds of them calling her name and asking her if she was okay were strangely muffled. She could see them touching her arms and stomach, but felt no sensation.
“Oh my God! She can’t breathe!” Willow cried.
“Ken, get ready to start compressions!” Buffy ordered before moving to kneel beside Faith’s head.
“Ready!” Kennedy called out.
Faith felt a hand on her forehead and another under her chin. As her head was tilted back and lips closed on hers, everything went dark.
Hospital – Faith’s Room – Later that Night
“Hey, I think she’s waking up.”
“No, she’s not.”
“Yes, she is. I distinctly saw an eye twitch.”
“But the doctor clearly said that –”
“Can you hear us?”
As Faith slowly blinked her eyes open, she found herself surrounded by faces wearing relieved but still concerned smiles. On one side of the bed, she saw her battered defenders, Buffy, Willow and Kennedy. On the other, she saw Rowena, Xander and Giles.
When Faith attempted to move and was unable to, panic set in her eyes. “W-W-Wh…?”
Kennedy immediately intervened. “Hey, hey…you’re okay, you’re okay,” she assured her. “The paralysis thing…it’s gonna pass. I promise.”
“It may be a while before you can move all your limbs, though,” Buffy added.
Faith calmed down. “What…happened?” she asked slowly, her voice slightly slurred.
“We totally kicked that witch’s ass, that’s what!” Willow said, gesturing excitedly. “Ow…” she quickly added, wincing at her own movements. Rowena reached out and patted her injured wife’s back.
“Yeah, right after she wiped the floor with all four of us,” Buffy said, rubbing her own shoulder.
“Where…?” Faith asked.
“She’s still at the jail,” Xander answered, anticipating Faith’s question.
“Not on the maximum security wing, though, since it pretty much got trashed,” Kennedy clarified.
“But we’ve got the Willow-proof cuffs on her,” Xander said, “and she’s being kept sedated, so she’s definitely in the no-threat category now.”
Faith nodded in relief, but then sobered. “But…what about later?” she asked, speaking more evenly now. “We can’t hold her like that forever.”
“Actually, we’ve been talking with some folks from the Oversight Committee about that,” Rowena said. “It seems that they already have a special holding facility in development, and they’d like for us to collaborate on its construction and design. Until it’s completely ready, though, they’ve agreed to assume responsibility for securing Christabel for us.”
Faith got a puzzled look on her face. “Christabel?”
“Yes, Christabel,” Giles said. “That appears to be the young woman’s name. According to Agent Lockley, that is.”
“What’s her story?” Faith inquired, looking as if she were tiring.
“Well, we don’t have all the details yet,” Giles answered, “but we have learned that she spent a good portion of her teen years in and out of various mental institutions. She had been relatively stable for the last five years or so, having been allowed to leave state custody and live near her parents.”
“But then her parents were murdered,” Rowena said. “The prime suspect was never arrested or charged, he subsequently skipped town, and Christabel just…went off the deep end.”
“Hmmm…” Faith said in reply, her eyes starting to flutter closed again.
The gang took the hint and began to quietly file from the room, gathering outside the door to divvy up the Faith-watching shifts.
Hospital – Faith’s Room – Later that Night
Buffy was the one on Faith-watch duty when the dark slayer woke up again later that night. Buffy helped her sit up in her hospital bed. Faith grimaced in pain at her stomach wound, but soon found a relatively comfortable position. Once in place, she held out her arms and wiggled the fingers of each hand.
“They feel weird,” she said with disgust, looking at her arms.
“Least ya can move ’em now,” Buffy pointed out.
“Yeah,” Faith agreed, but not with much enthusiasm.
“Not to spoil your wake-time or anything,” Buffy warned, “but Robin’s on his way here. Norm too.”
Faith titled her head back and groaned.
“Yeaaaah,” Buffy confirmed. “They’re pretty pissed.”
“I guess they got a right to be,” Faith mumbled.
“You guess?” Buffy needled playfully.
“Okay, okay…I shoulda talked to them.”
“Don’t worry. They’ll deal. They’ll just be happy you’re okay.”
Faith shot Buffy a hope-filled look. “Will they be here before I have to –?” She made a gesture as if her hands were being cuffed.
“Oh, absolutely,” Buffy said. “In fact, I doubt you’ll be medically cleared for days at least.” She gave Faith a conspiratorial wink.
Faith smiled sincerely and said, “Thanks.”
Buffy watched as Faith’s smile slipped away and a dark cloud of depression descended over the slayer. She didn’t say anything to her, though. She just waited until Faith finally spoke in her own time.
“I almost died. Again.”
“Yep,” Buffy agreed with a nod. When she saw the sadness in Faith’s eyes turn to fear, she reached out and touched her friend’s arm. “But you didn’t,” she reminded her in an encouraging voice.
Faith wasn’t consoled. “But I will someday, and Gabby won’t be there to bring me back.”
“She might,” Buffy offered.
Faith just gave a skeptical snort and shook her head. Once again, Buffy saw a mixture of despair and dread enter Faith’s expression. She frowned in concern and looked down at the floor beside Faith’s bed, not knowing what else to say at this point.
“I think I was in hell.”
Buffy’s head shot up in surprise at the revelation. “What?”
Faith turned to the blonde. “I think I was in hell. After I died. Before I came back.”
“But…I-I-I thought you couldn’t remember where you were before you came back.”
“I couldn’t. I still can’t,” Faith answered. “Doesn’t matter. I’m goin’ back there just the same, just like I’m goin’ back to jail.”
Buffy waved her hand in the air to object. “Wait…didn’t Gabrielle tell you that you would make a good archangel?”
“She said I might,” Faith replied. “And there’s a whole lot of leeway between would and might.”
Buffy tried to continue her objection, but Faith cut her off.
“Ah, who am I kiddin’, B? I’ve got a ‘go directly to hell’ card in my future, and no amount of whinin’ about it is gonna change that.”
“I don’t believe that,” Buffy told her, “and neither should you.”
“Look, you don’t have to try and make me feel better with your little white-lie reassurances…”
“I’m not,” Buffy insisted, getting a bit annoyed.
Faith went on as if she hadn’t heard Buffy’s interruption. “I know what I know, all right? I heard it from Gregor. I even heard it from crazy-ass Heli at the supercollider. And –”
“This is your evidence?” Buffy questioned. “A desperate dying man willing to say and do anything to save his daughter? And a known sociopath who spent the last five months of her life finding ways to inflict emotional and physical pain on this Council?”
When Buffy put it like that, Faith stopped and closed her mouth and said nothing more.
“Let me show you some real evidence,” Buffy said. Then she turned on the hospital room’s TV.
Atlanta, Georgia – Headline News Studio – Same Time (On Screen)
At her desk in the studio, Anchorwoman Christi Paul soberly addressed the camera as the video screen behind her showed a huge crowd in front of the State Capitol Building in Sacramento, California. People were cheering, chanting, and waving signs such as “Free Faith!” and “Pardon Faith Now!”
“It took less than an hour for hundreds to gather outside the Governor’s office once the news broke of Faith Lehane’s confession and arrest in Cleveland,” Paul announced. “Since then, the group has grown to a crowd of thousands. A similar crowd has also formed in Washington outside the White House.”
The anchorwoman turned to a second camera. “In Cleveland, however, supporters are camped, not outside the Corrections Center, but rather outside the city hospital, where, in a bizarre twist to the story, Miss Lehane was rushed just hours after being booked, the apparent victim of an insane sorceress serial killer that the FBI has been hunting for months. Lehane’s confession and arrest were part of an elaborate and ultimately successful trap to lure the killer into the correctional facility where she could be subdued and taken safely into custody. Lehane herself, however, was severely injured in the battle and only narrowly escaped death.”
Paul turned back to her primary camera. “But one question remains: Was her confession true? Or was it merely a ruse, just another cog in the FBI’s complicated takedown operation? Special Agent Kate Lockley, the chief investigator in the serial killer case, had this to say.” She turned to her monitor, and the screen cut to Kate on the steps outside the hospital, answering questions from reporters.
“Yes, Miss Lehane’s confession was real,” Kate confirmed. “And she should be applauded for her courage…not only for coming forward with the truth, but also for once again selflessly putting herself in harm’s way so that others might be saved.”
“Is she going back to prison?” shouted a reporter.
“I’m afraid so,” Kate replied. “On that matter, the law is clear. Miss Lehane’s only hope at this point would be a pardon.”
The camera’s focus returned to Christi Paul. “But will one be forthcoming?” she asked the viewing audience. “Well, moments ago, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a public statement through his press secretary, Margita Thompson, that answered that very question.”
The host turned her head toward the monitor, and the screen cut to show the Governor’s press secretary standing at a podium bearing the California state seal. The woman was near the end of her speech.
“Due to Miss Lehane’s courageous, constant, and selfless defense of this country and this planet,” Ms. Thompson reported, “and in light of the time she has already served and the extenuating circumstances surrounding the crimes she committed as a troubled teenager, Governor Schwarzenegger has stated that he would be more than willing to sign a petition for her pardon should the appropriate paperwork reach his desk. ‘The world needs faith,’ he said, ‘and that means having Faith Lehane out there in it, fighting to keep it safe for the rest of us. Thank you.”
Hospital – Faith’s Room – Resume
As the anchorwoman reappeared and then cued to a reporter who was moving among the cheering crowd in Sacramento, Buffy hit the mute button on the remote and turned to Faith, who seemed to be in a state of complete and utter shock.
“If this can happen here,” Buffy told her, “then…” She trailed off to let Faith consider the implication.
Buffy reached out and put a hand on Faith’s arm. She waited until the brunette had met her gaze.
“You’re free, Faith…where it counts, at least,” she said pleadingly, as if trying to convince her friend of the truth of her words. “And I don’t mean the pardon.”
Faith glanced briefly at the television and then looked away as if she were deep in thought.
Los Angeles 1999 – Angel’s Place – Doorway/Hallway – Night
Angel was blocking the door to keep Faith from running.
“You gonna step aside, or do we throw down?” Faith warned him. “I mean, am I your prisoner here?”
“No,” Angel answered. “You’re not my prisoner.”
“So I’m free.”
“I don’t know about that,” Angel replied.
Hospital – Faith’s Room – Resume
Faith’s eyes were closed, and she was frowning in remembrance.
V.O., Faith: “God, it hurts. I hate that it hurts like this!”
V.O., Angel: “Oh, well, it’s supposed to hurt. All that pain, all that suffering you caused is coming back on you. Feel it! Deal with it! Then maybe you’ve got a shot at being free!”
Faith opened her eyes, took in a deep breath and slowly let it out. Then she turned to Buffy.
“Free as I’ll ever be, I guess,” she said. She gave Buffy a small smile, which she brightly returned.
Washington, DC – Autumn O’Mara’s Office – Later that Night
Autumn O’Mara was watching the television. A round table discussion played as the earlier newscast in Sacramento played behind the commentators. O’Mara reached for a scotch glass on her desk as a voice came over her speakerphone.
“Miss O’Mara? I have Deputy Inspector Patterson on line one, ma’am.”
“Thank you,” she said before taking a quick drink. She then pressed the answer button. “Deputy Inspector Peterson, sorry to be contacting you so late. But I seem to have an issue at the moment, thanks to the governor of Cal-y-forn-a-ya,” she said sarcastically, trying to sound like the governor.
“How can I help, Congresswoman?” the voice asked.
“Well, my constituents are contacting me in record numbers. They’re quite concerned regarding the Watchers Council, as they should be. It seems these individuals are above the law as long as they win a popularity contest. I need to show my voters that’s simply not true.”
“The state governor has pardoned Miss Lehane for her crimes. There’s nothing –”
“I realize that,” O’Mara stopped him. “But I’m not talking about Miss Lehane,” she added with a sinister smile.
Fade to Black
Hospital – Main Lobby – The Next Morning
Willow and Rowena walked hand-in-hand as they entered the bright hospital lobby.
“I don’t want to leave Xander with the twins for too long,” Rowena said.
“Are you kidding? He’s great with them,” Willow said. She looked a bit battered, but otherwise none the worse for wear. “Diapers them both on the right end and everything,” she added with a small smile.
Rowena returned the smile. “Yes, but all the same, I don’t want to burden him too much.”
Just as they neared the reception desk, Willow’s cell phone rang.
“Damn,” she grumbled. “I forgot to turn it off.” She looked down at the name. “Oversight?” she said. “What do they want?. Hello?” She then listened for a moment. “You can’t be serious!”
“What’s wrong?” Rowena asked.
“One sec,” Willow said into the phone, and she turned to Rowena. “It’s Vivien March. She says…” Willow trailed off as a pair of dark-suited men stepped into their path. She immediately turned to the phone again. “I think they’re here,” she told March. “Will you call Alex Neel with what you know?” she asked. Rowena looked confused. “Thanks,” she replied, hanging up.
“Willow Rosenberg?” the taller of the two men asked while looking at the redhead.
She eyed them with suspicion and swallowed hard. “Just to be sure…who wants to know?”
The shorter one said, “We’re with the FBI, ma’am.” Then both men flashed official-looking badges.
“Are you Willow Rosenberg?” the taller one repeated.
“Y-Y-Yes, I am,” Willow answered.
“We’re here to place you under arrest.” He pulled out a set of cuffs.
“What?” Rowena objected. “No! You can’t do this! On what grounds?” She put herself between the agents and Willow.
The shorter agent reached back and put his hand on his weapon holstered at his waist, eyeing the two women warily. Willow turned to Rowena and held up her hands to stave off her wife’s ill-advised attempt at intervention.
“Honey…don’t,” she urged her. “We can’t afford to have both of us in jail.”
“Get back to the Council; tell everybody what’s going on. Make sure March calls Neel.” She tried to give her wife a reassuring smile. “It’ll be okay.”
Willow put her hands behind her back and allowed the taller agent to restrain her. As soon as she heard the metal ratchets click into place, she felt a buzz of energy and tried to look back at her wrists.
“What the –?” she started to ask. She could see that her handcuffs were now glowing with a green aura.
The shorter agent began the official recitation. “Willow Rosenberg, pursuant to Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 1030, we are placing you under arrest for the cyber crimes of trespassing in a government computer and damaging a computer or information. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney…”
All Rowena could do was watch, open mouthed, in horror.
Fade to Black
Special Guest Starring:
David Boreanaz as Angel
End of Tainted
Next on Watchers…
In the year 2036, history starts to repeat itself when Liz Giles must work together with a spunky young blonde slayer to stop a threat from deadly demons that can assume any form.