Watchers Council – Cafeteria – Continuous
Siobhan and Hadley blinked at Faith.
“What other one –?” Siobhan tried again.
“Other ones,” Faith corrected.
“You mean there was more than one? How many?” Hadley asked.
“Pick a city. Any city,” Faith told her. “And more than one place, in most of the major areas.”
“Like…” Siobhan said, letting the sentence hang and motioning with her hands for Faith to continue.
“New York, ten. Los Angeles, twelve. Dallas, six. Chicago, five. Atlanta, three. Philadelphia, four…wait a minute. Maybe it was Chicago three and Atlanta five…” Siobhan and Hadley shook their heads in disgust. “Anyway, at least two places were hit in Phoenix, Detroit, Denver, Albuquerque, Washington…and…” Faith struggled to remember the rest.
“Oh, man,” Hadley sighed.
“Yeah,” Faith continued, “these heists were going on in major cities all over the country, all at the same time. It was timed to happen at exactly the same moment across all the time zones. And it wasn’t limited to places expecting shipments. It was also places that were already well-stocked. Each demon squad had the same M.O. – take the blood or die trying.”
“But…we have slayers in all those cities. Didn’t Cleveland warn –?”
“They can’t be everywhere at once,” Faith said. “That spreads us way too thin, and believe me, ladies, this wasn’t just some young punks knocking over a fruit stand type crime. This was well-planned and well-orchestrated across the entire country.”
Siobhan and Hadley looked at each other, but said nothing.
“You said ‘die trying’?” Siobhan finally asked Faith. “Does that mean that some of the demons were killed?”
“Yeah. In some cities, some slayer units and some humans were able to kill a few of them.”
“Well, that’s good, right?” Hadley asked.
“You’d think so, but many of them who got busted pulled the same maneuver as they did on you – they went boom. Only some of those booms were much more powerful. Particularly on the west coast when it was near closing time, which means humans were at work on the job.”
“Please, no casualties…” Siobhan whispered.
“Unfortunately, many, but even one is one too many,” Faith said. “Reports are still coming in, but it seems the demons took the blood and lives, as many as they could. Even the ones that blew their own heads off – they made sure they were close enough to kill the humans, too.”
“Slayers?” Hadley asked.
“No slayers killed. But plenty of civilians…and the body count’s rising. The reports sound like we didn’t know what we were doing and that we let the general public get hurt while we saved our own butts. Not true, but also not good in the eyes of John Q. Public.”
Hadley and Siobhan looked stricken, their mouths hanging open.
“Are the Council heads meeting?” Siobhan managed to ask. “Maybe we saw something or heard something that could help? We could report to them.”
“Which brings us to why I’m here,” Faith said. She picked up a spoon and scooped out some Rocky Road ice cream, then shoveled the melting ice cream into her mouth.
Siobhan and Hadley sat down quietly, their appetites gone.
“So,” Faith said, tossing the spoon on the table, “let’s end the ice cream social and start from the beginning, ladies.”
Watchers Council – Dawn and Skye’s Apartment – Moments Later
“I’m sorry,” Skye said, sounding sincere. “I had no idea it was this big.”
Dawn sat next to her and held her hand on the couch in their apartment, while Buffy and Rowena sat across from then.
Rowena closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead.
“When’s the next meeting?” she asked.
“Tomorrow,” Skye replied. “I’ll go, but again, I’m not sure how much I can learn. But at least we can assume that what Cleveland is planning might happen elsewhere, too.”
“I want you to get with Jeff,” Buffy told her.
“Oh, joy,” Skye sighed.
“Are you going to help or not?” Buffy demanded.
“Jeff and I mix like oil and water, okay?”
“And who’s the slippery, oily one?” Buffy asked. Skye just gave her a sarcastic smile. “Look, he might be able to see what’s about to come. If you can keep your ears and eyes open, we might be able to pinpoint things a bit more next time.”
“Don’t enjoy looking like a fool, do you?” Skye asked her.
“Looking foolish isn’t my main concern,” Buffy replied. “It’s for all those people who went to work and won’t go home tonight, because they’re in the hospital or in a body bag. It’s their families who are being called down to the morgue to try to identify what’s left of their loved ones. I realize you don’t give a damn about anyone except yourself and Dawn, but for everyone else here at the Council, we happen to care greatly, even for people we’ve never met. We’ve sworn to protect them.”
“I do care, Buffy,” Skye said. “But I don’t take it to heart like you do. If I did, I’d never make it. I couldn’t survive it.”
“Then that’s the difference between you and me, Skye. I couldn’t survive if I didn’t care.” A ghost of a smile crossed Rowena’s lips. Seeing the look, Buffy motioned her head toward Rowena. “She gets it…don’t you?”
Rowena nodded. “You see, Skye…I have four reasons I get up every day. Willow is one, the twins are two and three, and everyone else is number four. Not just all of you in this room,” She motioned toward the window. “But everyone out there, too. They need us, and tonight we let them down. So that’s why your work is important. That’s why we need any and all information, even things you might not think are relevant. And even if your soulless half doesn’t understand…think of Dawn. If she wasn’t immortal and got blown three ways from Sunday, how would you feel? There’re lots of families tonight experiencing just that.”
“I get it, okay?” Skye said defensively. “But that doesn’t mean I have to dwell on it.”
“I agree, to a point,” Rowena said. “Don’t dwell, but don’t forget. So maybe the next time something is said or done, you might remember things a bit more clearly. That’s all I’m asking.”
“I can do that,” Skye said.
Rowena nodded. “Then that’s all we can ask.”
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Moments Later
Buffy and Rowena returned to the main conference room to see Andrew, Jim, Robin and Faith all there, in the midst of a deep discussion.
“But you’ve got…charisma,” Andrew said.
“I am not charismatic,” Faith replied. She turned to Buffy. “Tell Jim he’s nuts.”
“Okay,” she said and then turned to Jim. “You’re nuts. Now tell me why.”
“I want Faith to address the press corps,” he said.
“Told you,” Faith said. “I’m not good at this public speaking stuff, B. I get flustered, and I’ll say something stupid, I know. Jim’s the polished one, and they like him.”
“They like you more,” Jim replied. “And you were the one who stopped the Cleveland threat from the Command Center.”
Faith shook her head. “My stomach is turning just thinking about it. I’ll look terrible if I toss my cookies on Robert Devlin and his cronies. How’s that going to help the Council when the Head Slayer can’t keep down her lunch?”
“You can do it,” a voice said from the doorway. They all turned to see Giles standing there. “I saw the reports. Hope you don’t mind that I stopped by.”
“Not at all, Giles,” Buffy told him.
“Fine,” Faith said. “Put Giles in the crazy camp.”
Giles grinned slightly and walked deeper into the room.
“Make no mistake about it, Faith – for better or worse, the public adores you. If you go out there with a heartfelt speech, explain what’s happened, then I’m sure they’ll listen. They may even have sympathy for the Council.”
“Thank you,” Jim replied. “That’s what I’ve been saying, Mr. Giles.”
Faith looked at Robin. She didn’t ask a question, but her expression was expectant.
“You know I believe in you, Babe,” he said.
Faith gave a heavy sigh and scratched the side of her face.
“Okay, fine,” she told Jim, “but you have to make me some notes or something. Hot topics of the day stuff – and not just the blood bank – but the other things I’m sure they’ll be asking, too.”
“Give me thirty minutes. I’ll have them start setting up,” Jim said excitedly. He darted from the room.
“You better be right, Giles,” Faith told him.
Giles grinned. “I have every confidence in you, my dear.”
Watchers Council – Jim’s Office – Moments Later
Jim was typing furiously on his keyboard when there was a knock on his door. “Come in,” he said, not bothering to stop. When he finally turned, he saw Rowena there.
“You cannot put Faith out there,” she told him.
“Too late,” he replied, before going back to typing again.
“You’re insane…and incompetent,” Rowena replied.
Jim grinned, but kept typing. “I’m fully aware of what you think of me, Rowena. You’ve never made that a secret…but what you consider being crazy or inept could prove to be a stroke of genus.”
“Or the deathblow to the Council,” she shot back.
He stopped and looked in her direction. “I’m typing up notes regarding Willow’s detention. Is there anything you’d like me to add?”
Rowena clenched her jaw for a moment. “You’re a son of a bitch.”
“I won’t argue that. My mother was an extremely difficult woman,” he answered with a grin.
“Look, I don’t want her even mentioning my wife’s name. You got it?”
“It’s bound to come up,” Jim said. “It’s important that Faith knows what to say.”
“That’s why this is crazy. We need a professional out there. Someone who’s experienced. Someone…”
“Incompetent, like me?” Jim asked.
Rowena paused. “Yes, to be perfectly honest. Faith is not a spokesperson, all right? She’s…unpolished.”
“Aside from the fact that you’re making her sound like flatware…you’re wrong on many counts. In fact, I’ll bet you twenty dollars she pulls it off.” Rowena opened her mouth, but didn’t get a chance to reply. “But I don’t have time to explain all the reasons why. So, if you have nothing useful to add, I suggest you use the door. Go home to the kids, Rowena. We’ve got this one.”
“Is that some kind of sexist remark?” Rowena asked.
“No,” Jim replied as he looked at his watch. “It’s late. You have children, and I have an address I need to give Faith in twenty minutes. So…good evening, and make sure the door doesn’t hit you on the way out.”
Rowena’s jaw clenched for a second time, and she swiftly walked out of the office. Jim had already begun typing again.
Watchers Council – Front Steps – Later that Night
Faith walked out to an array of flashbulbs. The glare from the lights for filming was substantial, and she had to shield her eyes to adjust for a moment.
“First, thank you all for coming and allowing us to brief everyone on the current situation,” she began as she put some papers on a podium in front of her. “As you are already aware, a group known to the Council as the Voice of Hell held many raids today across the country. Although no slayers were lost in these attacks, civilians were harmed. The Council, and myself personally, send our heartfelt condolences to their family and friends. Having lost family, friends, and associates over the years, I know firsthand that losing a loved one can be devastating. So tonight, our thoughts and prayers are with them. Now it’s my understanding you’ve all received our report, and since I was the slayer overseeing the Cleveland operation, I’ll be handling the questions tonight. So…let’s open the floor to questions about the events.”
Several Reporters raised their hands, and Faith pointed to one.
“June Buttermoore, Plain Dealer,” one reporter said as she stood up. “Was the Council aware of these attacks in advance?”
“The Council did receive an anonymous tip that a heist was set for Cleveland. We put all branches on alert, and I oversaw the operation here in Cleveland, which thwarted the attack. Other cities weren’t as fortunate.”
Faith then pointed to another reporter.
“Jay Silverstein, Weekly Review,” he began. “What happened in the other cities? Was there a breakdown in communication?”
“No,” Faith answered. “As I said, other branches were notified, and the slayers in those areas were able to meet the attacks. However, with so many sources of blood, it was impossible to be everywhere at once.”
Faith pointed again.
“What do we know about this Voice of Hell group?” Robert Devlin asked.
“Hello, Robert,” Faith began. “Uh, we’re currently investigating their whereabouts, so I’m unable to mention more at this time.”
Another reporter stood up. “Jack Jimmons, WKYC,” he began. “Our Congresswoman, Autumn O’Mara, has recently made accusations that the Council works in secret and is a threat to civilians. How do you respond to such accusations, given the fact you say you can’t tell us more about this Voice of Hell group?”
Faith grinned. “Should I read from my notes, or should I tell you what I really think?” she asked. The press corps gave a brief chuckle. “Seriously,” Faith began again. “I think she’s misguided, ’cause as far as I know, she’s only been here once. If she’d like to see our operations, evaluate things for herself, rather than believe everything in the rumor mill, she’s more than welcome to stop by. I’ll even give her the tour personally.”
The corps again let out a small laugh as Faith pointed again.
“Tonya Wilkersmen, WJW Fox8,” she began. “What does the Council have to say about the charges filed against Willow Rosenberg?”
Watchers Council – Willow and Rowena’s Apartment – Same Time
The kids were asleep in their playpen as Rowena watched the television. She leaned closer, listening for Faith’s reaction.
Watchers Council – Front Steps – Same Time
Faith swallowed hard and looked down at the papers in front of her.
“At this time, the Council…”
She trailed off and was silent for a moment. She then crumpled up the paper in front of her.
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Same Time
“No, no, no, no,” Jim muttered to the television. Buffy, Giles, Andrew and Robin all stood around, watching the monitor at one end of the main conference room. “Stick to the script, Faith,” he told the screen.
Watchers Council – Front Steps – Same Time
“I’ve met a lot of people over the years, but none of ’em compare to Willow Rosenberg. She began this fight at fifteen years old. Fifteen! While all of you were probably wondering how to cut your hair for the big high school dance, she was out there trying to save the world. The truth is…she’s helped a lot more people than I have. The spotlight just fell on me at the right time and right place, I guess. But Willow…she’s a good person who’s saved millions, and I think what’s going on now is a travesty of justice.”
“Are the accusations true?” a reporter called out from the back.
“In my personal opinion, no. I’m not saying she’s perfect, because there’s not a damn person sitting here who can say they never jaywalked or broke the speed limit. Not you or you or you,” Faith pointed. “She’s not a saint, but she does believe that humanity is important, and she’s willing to protect it. Now, unless you’ve been in a cave for two years, you know Willow’s married,” Faith teased, eliciting a few giggles from the group. “She’s also got two young kids who are growing like weeds.” Faith allowed herself a brief smile, but then she looked serious. “They’re missing that time together as a family and…my heart, well, it aches for all of them. I don’t have a lot of big fancy words to say how that feels. But I can say this…if it were possible, I’d trade places with her in a heartbeat.”
Watchers Council – Willow and Rowena’s Apartment – Same Time
Rowena teared up and smiled, but only for only a second or two before she looked seriously at the screen again.
Watchers Council – Front Steps – Resume
“So you would be willing to go back to jail?” a reporter in the front row asked skeptically.
“Yes,” Faith answered sincerely. “I was pardoned because…well, I really don’t know why. They said the world needed me, that I did more good out here than in jail. But actually, the world needs Willow more – they just don’t realize it. They don’t know how much safer they are because she’s keeping watch. So, like I said, if I had a choice, I’d go…”
“Has there been any news on her trial?” a reporter asked.
“Guys,” Faith sighed. “I can’t speak for any of you, but the mosquitoes are really starting to bug me. If we stay out here answering all these off-topic questions, our skin will be one big lump.” A few reporters laughed again. “But, really, we have serious issues tonight – people lost loved ones, and I’m sure many of them would like to know what happened. So if you have any more questions about tonight’s events, I’ll answer them. If not, I’m bringing this to a close, understood?” she asked. The majority of the reporters nodded in agreement. “Okay, next question.”
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Same Time
Jim was smiling as he looked over his shoulder to the group.
“Rowena owes me twenty bucks.”
Watchers Council – Hallway – Later that Night
Faith walked next to Robin.
“You were great,” he told her. “Calm, cool, and collected.”
Faith grinned. “Thanks, it would just be great if I could do that again, but have good news to deliver.”
The door to Rowena’s apartment opened, and they both turned to see Rowena in the doorway.
“I’m gonna go on ahead,” Robin said to Faith.
He kissed her on the cheek and headed toward their apartment. Faith walked in the opposite direction, closing the distance between herself and Rowena.
“I saw the press conference,” Rowena said.
Faith said nothing at first. The two women just stared at one another.
“I meant everything I said,” Faith finally replied. “Even if it doesn’t change much between us.”
Rowena inhaled deeply and blew it out slowly. “It’s a start,” she told the slayer.
“Hey, a start is good. That’s more than what I had when I woke up today,” Faith replied. “Good night, Rowena.”
“Good night, Faith.”
Fade to Black
Federal Detention Center – Visitation Room – Day
Rowena and Willow smiled at each other. Rowena held Jen on her lap, who was dressed in a blue and white sundress.
“So you forgave her?” Willow asked.
“No,” Rowena replied. “But…Buffy’s right. I still have to work with her, and doing the silent treatment is…it’s kind of exhausting, to be honest,” she replied with a slight grin.
“Well, you should get your rest,” Willow answered. “I know it’s not easy coming up here on the weekends.”
“Willow, I’d go anywhere to see you,” Rowena told her.
The witch smiled. “I know. But it’s nice to hear…Put the phone next to Jen again,” she said, with a motion to her head.
“Hey Jen,” Willow said softly, making the baby coo in response. “Since I’m not around full-time right now, you’ve got to make sure you keep your mom and your brother out of trouble, okay?”
The baby giggled and let out a squeal. She then tried to eat the phone, but Rowena took it from her.
“What did you say to her?” Rowena asked as she took the phone back.
“Just girl talk,” Willow answered coyly. The baby continued to kick her feet.
“You get her so riled up,” Rowena laughed. “I think Liz is the only other person that gets this kind of reaction.”
Rowena tried to balance the phone on her shoulder and reposition Jen at the same time, in spite of her ongoing kicking.
“She’s got a lot of spirit…like her Momma Ro,” Willow told her.
“And her Momma Will. You realize this child is going to be a handful. I mean, they say boys are tough, but sheesh…when she wants to eat, she wants to eat now, and when she wants to sleep, she wants to sleep now.”
“Let’s just say it’s the Harris gene,” Willow told her.
Rowena gave her a light chuckle. “Oh, so anytime there’s a less than desirable trait…?”
“Right, we’ll blame Xander.”
Both women began to chuckle.
“You certainly seem in better spirits on this visit,” Rowena remarked.
“I am, but I have to admit, I hate missing the gossip, so tell me…how cute do Buffy and Xander look together? I got his letter.”
“I just found out myself, actually. I’ve been…keeping to myself a lot lately.” Willow frowned. “But it’s okay,” Rowena insisted. “Things are getting better, and I’m talking to more people now. It’s…well, it’s not all good, but…it’s as good as I can hope for right now.”
A guard came into Rowena’s side of the room.
“Looks like time’s up,” Rowena told her.
“Come back tomorrow?” Willow asked hopefully.
“You know it, Baby. I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
Willow blew her a kiss and hung up the phone as the guard on her side opened the door to escort her away. Rowena gave her a reassuring grin until the door closed, and Willow was gone. The happy expression turned into one of melancholy, and she looked at the closed door for a few more seconds.
“Would you like a hand?” the guard asked Rowena, breaking her away from her thoughts.
“That’d be great,” she said as she turned around. “Thanks.”
“No problem,” the guard replied as she steadied the baby carrier as Rowena put Jen in place.
“You know,” the guard continued. “I’ve been doing this job nineteen years, but I’ve never seen anyone get as excited about a weekend visit as she does.” She motioned her head toward the area where Willow had just been sitting.
“That’s because she knows,” Rowena said.
“That she’s my everything.”
The guard smiled, and Rowena returned it as they each picked up a baby carrier.
Fade to Black
End of Breaking Point
Next on Watchers…
With the end of the Watchers Council as we know it looming over everyone’s heads, will the remaining skeleton crew be able to keep things together when the Voice of Hell goes on the offensive?