Limousine – Day
Twelve Hours After the Battle of the Turnpike
Miss Sanger tapped on the divider separating her from the driver. The driver activated the intercom.
“Yes, ma’am?” he asked.
“Airport,” she said. “Now!”
“Right away, Miss Sanger,” he replied, and keyed off the intercom.
The woman watched as the limousine pulled away from her hotel, then opened her cell phone. After a moment, she yelled into the speaker-phone, “Paul, what the hell is going on?”
“All hell is breaking loose here, Miss Sanger,” the harried voice on the other end replied. “We have reports that a demon army is besieging Cleveland, Congress is getting ready to declare war and the FAA is preparing to go on lockdown.”
“Hold them off!” Sanger said forcefully. “Call the airport and get the jet ready. I’m on my way there now.”
“You might have time to make it back here, but—”
“No, I’m going to Cleveland,” she declared calmly, interrupting him.
“I just said it’s not possible,” the voice at the other end was getting frantic. “By the time you get there, Hopkins will be shut down.”
“I don’t care,” she said. “Find me someplace to land. Any airfield, I don’t care. Burke Lakefront, if you have to, or Youngstown Executive Airport.”
“That closed years ago,” he said, confused.
“The runways might still be there,” she said impatiently. “This conversation is over, Paul. Just do your job.”
Miss Sanger closed the phone with a snap and leaned back in the seat with a sigh.
Watchers Council – Buffy’s Office – Later
Buffy was squinting at her keyboard, laboriously typing, when Joan appeared in a pop-up window. Buffy looked up at the “ding” and jumped when she saw her assistant.
“Damn it, Joan!” she snapped. “I told you I hate it when you do that. Can’t you just buzz me?”
Joan rolled her eyes and ignored the question. “Miss Sanger from Oversight is here to see you, Chairwoman.”
Buffy sighed. “Send her in.”
Buffy smoothed down her hair and stood up as her office door opened. She leaned over the desk and held out a hand as the other woman approached.
“Good to see you again, Miss Sanger.”
Sanger ignored the outstretched hand and barked, “What the hell did you do, Miss Summers?”
“Me?” Buffy protested. “I’m just trying to keep things from falling apart around here.”
“Well, you’re doing a lousy job of it,” Sanger said.
“Hey, I don’t have to take that…”
“Yes!” Sanger insisted. “You do! Oversight has sunk a lot of money into the Council and you – you, Miss Summers – have lost control.”
“Look, I know that O’Mara is trying to shut us down, but as soon as we can get to our contacts in Congress, I’m sure we can hold her off longer,” Buffy said. There was frustration and exhaustion in her tone, as if she knew that she was speaking empty words.
“It’s already too late for that,” Sanger said. “You’ve got the National Guard getting ready to come in here with guns to shut you down.”
“I don’t think—”
“Get your head out of your ass, Buffy,” Sanger said with derision. Buffy’s jaw fell open, and Sanger continued, “Congress is getting ready to vote to shut you down, and there is nothing you or I can do about it.”
Buffy paused for a moment to look at Sanger. “You hate this, don’t you?” she finally said.
“Oversight has lost control of us, and you just can’t stand it,” Buffy said.
“I don’t think—” This time it was Sanger who was interrupted.
“I think that’s it,” Buffy said. “I think that is exactly it. You hate that you can’t control us like you do your other ‘outsources.’ You’re used to having your lackeys ask ‘how high’ when you say ‘jump,’ and you can’t stand it that we don’t.”
“I think that’s a bit of a stretch, Miss Summers,” Sanger said. “We have invested considerable resources in your organization, and naturally we expect a certain return on our investment…oh, say, like you saving the world!”
Buffy laughed. “We’re the Watchers Council, Sanger,” she said. “I don’t care how many aircraft carriers or spy planes you put at our disposal or how much money you dump into our coffers, we’re still going to do things our way…not yours. So why don’t you just go back to your little committee and watch on TV along with the rest of the world as we face the upcoming apocalypse.”
The muscles in Sanger’s jaw worked as she looked at Buffy. “I came to warn you, Miss Summers,” she finally said. “You take the information and do with it what you will.”
With that, she stood up and stalked out of the office.
Buffy let out a big sigh and rested her head in her hands.
Ginoette’s Restaurant – Evening
Jason Felix looked around at the sparsely populated restaurant as the maitre d’ led him and Miss Sanger to an intimate table in a corner of the comfortable, decorated room.
Sanger caught his look and remarked, “Looks like most of Cleveland is sitting this one out.”
Jason gave a sardonic chuckle. “Xander Harris tells me it’s like this every year around this time. He calls it the ‘Spring Fever on the Hellmouth’ phenomenon.”
Sanger didn’t respond to his attempt at humor, and Jason cleared his throat as the waiter came by for their order. After he had left, Jason said, “I hear you met with Chairwoman Summers today.”l
Sanger frowned. “The woman is totally irresponsible, Jason,” she said. “She has destroyed Bureau Nine, and the Watchers Council is next.”
“I think that’s a bit premature,” Jason said with a raised eyebrow.
“This time next week, the Watchers Council won’t exist,” Sanger said.
“I’m sure that’s an exaggeration,” Jason said. “The Council has existed in one form or another since the dawn of time. Neither demons nor a congresswoman can stop that.”
“Don’t be so sure of that, Jason,” she said. “Before, the Council worked in secrecy. They gave up a lot of power when they decided to ‘come out of the closet,’ as it were. Now they have put themselves in a position where they have to be held accountable for their actions.”
“They?” Jason asked. “Aren’t you forgetting that I’m a part of them now?”
Sanger looked at him pointedly, then asked, “Did you hear about Mr. Nogura?”
Jason seemed surprised at the change of subject. “Heart attack, wasn’t it?”
“Yes,” Sanger agreed. “His death comes at a bad time.”
“How do you mean?” Jason asked finally, looking at her.
“The last thing the Committee needs at this time is an opening,” Sanger said. She picked up a bread roll and tore it into pieces, but didn’t eat any.
“Do you have any candidates?” Jason asked.
Sanger brushed the crumbs off her fingers and looked at him in the eye. “We have some strong prospects.”
Watchers Council – Xander’s Workshop – Late Evening
Xander stood in front of the whiteboard near his main workbench, while Lori worked at the laptop. In one hand he held a dry-erase marker and in the other an eraser. A series of codes were written on the board, some of them in different colors.
Lori glanced up as he made a change to one of the codes and then down at the laptop again. “Why do you bother doing the manual thing?” she asked. “Computers are way more efficient.”
“Maybe, but I think better this way,” he said absently. He picked up another marker and made an additional notation on the board.
“I thought your best friend was a world-class hacker?” she said. “Didn’t you learn anything from her?”
Xander looked at her and then held up the marker. “I learned to organize my thoughts with different colored pens. That’s good enough for me.”
Lori shook her head and returned to work. After a few minutes, they both looked up as Felix entered the workshop.
“Jason,” Lori said in greeting.
“I’m sorry to interrupt your work,” he said to Xander, and then turned to Lori. “Can I see you for a moment?”
Lori glanced at Xander, who quickly said, “Sure, go. We can use a break.”
“Thanks, Xander,” she replied.
They passed by Buffy on the way out.
“Hey guys,” Buffy greeted, but her attention was on Xander.
“Chairwoman,” Jason said with a nod. Lori said nothing as they left.
Xander smiled when he saw the slayer and capped the marker he was holding. “Hey Buff,” he said, but then he frowned at her expression. “Okay, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” she said, holding out her hands in a gesture to make him approach. “I just wanted to check on how you were doing.”
Xander moved over to her. “Okay, time out,” he said, gathering her into a hug. “Nothing’s so important that you can’t accept a hug from your best friend.”
Buffy stood with her arms around Xander, while he engulfed her in his and rested his chin on top of her head. After several seconds, Buffy smiled and pulled away, this time with a more relaxed expression her face.
“Thank you,” she said softly. “I needed that.”
“I could tell,” he said with a pleased smile on his face. He jumped to sit on top of one of the nearby tables and asked, “So what’s up?”
“Just really was checking on how you were doing with those codes,” she admitted with a grin.
Xander shrugged. “Not much yet,” he said with a wave towards the board. “They’re military, that’s for sure, but other than that, I’m hitting a blank wall here. I wish Willow was around…she’d knock through these like Bessie through the lake.”
“Any idea how long it’ll take us normal, non-computer oriented simpletons to break through these?” she asked.
He chuckled. “No, but I’m guessing it won’t be soon enough to divert the Voice of Hell from their evil plans. Especially with that crazy congresswoman on our back…”
“Probably not,” she agreed. “Why do I feel like we’ve been here before?” she asked after a moment.
“Oh ,maybe because we have been,” he said. “Only this time, instead of a secret government organization, it’s the U.S. Congress.”
Buffy nodded and sat next to him. She put her head on his shoulder. “I wish I knew how things got so messed up so quickly,” she said. “O’Mara’s gonna get the motion passed. Our best friend is in jail. People are getting killed, and that’s the worst part.”
“That’s always the worst part, Buffy,” he said. He got up and put his arm around her. “But we’ll get through it. We always do.”
“How do you do that?” she asked. “How do you always manage to believe that we’ll get out of whatever mess we’re in?”
“Faith,” he said.
Buffy looked around. “She’s here?”
Xander chuckled. “No. I mean confidence. As in you. As in me. As in us.”
Buffy smiled and put her hand up to his cheek and looked in his eyes. “Thank you…again,” she said. “I really do feel better now.”
Xander moved his head closer, watching her eyes for any sign of rejection. When there was none, he bridged the distance and pressed his lips against hers. She moved her arms around his neck and was just about to deepen the kiss when a knock came at the open door.
A tired-looking Robin stood in the doorway. He managed a little bit of a smile when he saw what was going on. “Uh, guys?”
Buffy sighed and pulled away. “What now?” she asked, turning to the watcher.
Watchers Council – Jason’s Office – Same Time
Jason grabbed a bottle of water from the small refrigerator in his office and handed it to Lori. She sat on the couch and opened it up.
“I met with Sanger this evening,” he said, sitting in a chair nearby.
“How’d it go?” she asked.
“She all but offered me a position on the Committee,” he said.
Lori’s eyes widened. “Really?” she asked. “I heard they had an opening. What did you say?”
“That I’d think about it, of course,” he said.
“Will you take it?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “If I do, it’ll be a great opportunity for you. You can continue the transition of B9 into the Council.”
Lori thought for a moment. “I think you should stay,” she finally said.
He narrowed his eyes. “Why?”
“The Council is in real trouble,” she said. “Even more than when they got blown up years ago. They need you, Jason. Yeah, you can do a lot of good on the Committee, but you’ll be the new guy, and it’ll take time before you can be in a position to make the kind of impact you can here.”
“Are you sure it’s just the Council that needs me?” he asked.
Lori chuckled. “Yeah, I’d like you stay around, too, but the Council – and, by proxy, the world – needs you more.”
Jason nodded. “Good, I just wanted to make sure your opinion wasn’t based on something else.”
“Like an emotional need?” she said knowingly. “Yeah, I could argue the same about you, but I think we’ve moved beyond that by now. Don’t you?”
“I do,” Jason said with a smile.
Watchers Council – Kitchen – Same Time
“So what’s so important that you had to interrupt the one moment I’ve had for myself today?” Buffy asked Robin as they entered the kitchen. Buffy immediately headed for the coffee urn. Finding it hot and full, she muttered under her breath, “Thank you, Andrew.” She poured two cups and placed one in front of Robin.
“How’d you know I wanted one?” he asked, ignoring the chairwoman’s question for the moment.
“You’ve got the look,” Buffy said. “Everyone’s hustling, giving the old hundred and ten percent, and could I sound more like a football coach?”
Robin smiled. “Thanks,” he said, then he took a sip of the coffee.
“So, what now?” Buffy asked again, getting back on track.
“I got a call tonight from Gregory Loreto in our Washington bureau. One of the slayers there tonight saved a congressional aide from a neck rupture.”
“One of O’Mara’s?” Buffy asked.
“No,” Robin replied. “But one who’s been working on the sub-committee reviewing her bill shutting us down.”
“He decided to pass along some information in gratitude for being saved. The sub-committee approved the bill with barely a glance. It’ll move to the House floor in the morning.” Robin’s expression was grim.
Buffy thought a moment. “If I remember civics class correctly, that means the next step is debate in the House. We still have time, right?”
Robin sighed. “I doubt it,” he said. “I think this bill is going to pass faster than the Patriot Act.”
“Okay, so we don’t have much time left,” Buffy said, thinking. “Let’s assume the worst and figure the bill will pass, and quickly.”
“Good idea,” Robin said. “I’m sorry, Buffy. I didn’t want to interrupt you and Xander, but I thought you should know right away.”
“No, that’s okay,” Buffy said, waving a hand in dismissal. “Just needed a time-out, as Xander said.”
Robin watched the small smile cross Buffy’s face, as if the Chairwoman was not even aware of it. He quirked an eyebrow. “I noticed it wasn’t a solo time-out. So, it seems you two are now at the kissing stage?”
Buffy blushed slightly. “He’s a good kisser,” she admitted.
Robin smirked. “Isn’t this more of a ‘girlfriends’ conversation?”
Buffy took his arm in hers. “Hey, we’re girlfriends.”
Robin put a hand to his chest in mock surprise. “Why, Miss Summers, I had no idea you cared.”
Buffy shrugged. “A very manly girlfriend, if that helps at all.”
“It does,” Robin nodded sagely.
Buffy and Robin looked over to the door, where Rowena was standing. Her eyes were very red.
“Everybody wants a piece,” Buffy sighed.
Robin saw the look on Rowena’s face and sobered. “Rowena, what is it?”
Watchers Council – Coven Room – Early Evening
Buffy walked in to find Andrew sitting upright, but asleep at the desk. He was holding a feather pen in his hand, but the pen was dangling above a handmade book of parchment sheets, nearly touching it as he dozed. She sighed and gently laid a hand on his shoulder.
“Andrew,” she said, shaking him lightly.
“Wha…?” he jerked awake and blinked. “Oh, Buffy…I’m sorry.”
“No, it’s okay,” she said. “It’s late. Have you been here all night?”
He nodded and put the pen in its holder. “Yeah, just trying to get all of these spells straight in my Book of Shadows. I don’t know how Willow does it.”
“Yeah, well, Will always makes everything seem easy,” she said with a shrug.
Andrew rubbed his eyes. “What can I do for you?” he asked.
“I need a favor,” she said with a sigh.
“Yeah, sure,” he agreed immediately. “Whatever I can do, you know that.”
Buffy thought a moment. “Yeah, I do know that,” she said. “I’ve always been able to count on you.” She chuckled. “Boy, have we come a long way from those days when you were our ‘guestage.’”
He smiled at her making air quotes. “What can I do, Buffy?” he asked again.
Her face grew somber. “I need you to lead the inventory. And fast. Leave the small stuff, but make sure we’ve got the most important stuff organized. We need to be ready to evacuate in a minute. I’m counting on you. As for the super important stuff, get it moved now – someplace it can’t be confiscated.”
Andrew’s face held worry at her words. “Does this mean we’re really getting shut down?”
Buffy remained silent.
Giles and Becca’s House – Living Room – Later that Day
Giles had the phone to his ear, nodding. “Absolutely, Andrew. I’ll see to it immediately…You’re quite welcome.”
As he hung up, Becca walked in, carrying Martin.
“More end of the world stuff?” she teased. Giles said nothing, and concern took hold of his features. By association, Becca began to look serious, too. “What’s wrong, Rupert?”
“Andrew called. I’ll need to clear space in the attic and the garage. He needs to move as much of the library here as he can.”
“So it is the end of the world then?” Becca asked.
Liz climbed into her father’s lap, holding a stuffed animal that looked like a kitten.
“The world, no,” he replied. “The Council…perhaps.”
Andrew’s Apartment – Bedroom – Later
Andrew paused a moment as he left the bathroom, looking at Tracey sound asleep in his bed. Then he crawled into bed next to her. She stirred at his movements.
“Andy?” she asked groggily.
“Hey,” he said. He wrapped his arms around her as she snuggled into him.
“It’s so late,” she said. “I’m sorry, I waited up for you, but I fell asleep.”
“It’s okay,” he said. “Listen, babe. I need you to go back to school tomorrow.”
She paused a moment and then sat up. “What? Why? I just got back!”
“I know,” he said. “But things are about to get crazy – well, crazier – around here, and I need you safe.”
“Then I want you to come with me,” she said. “Please.”
He shook his head in the dim light. “I can’t,” he said. “I’m needed here.”
“Is this it then?” she asked, tears in her eyes.
“No,” he said emphatically. “I’ll come for you, eventually, but I have to do this.”
Watchers Council – Outside Buffy’s Apartment – Same Time
Buffy wearily made her way to her suite in the early hours of the morning. To her surprise, Sanger was waiting for her outside her door.
“How the hell did you get in here?” she barked.
Sanger smiled. “Can I come in?” she asked, indicating the door.
Buffy looked at her and then shrugged. “Sure, why not,” she said, then unlocked the door. “Come in, sit a spell…Can I get you a drink?”
“Scotch, neat,” Sanger said and parked herself on the couch.
Buffy poured the drink and sat at the opposite end of the couch. “So, Miss Sanger, what brings you here at such an hour?”
“I was about to head for the airport, but I couldn’t leave without saying goodbye,” Sanger explained.
Buffy looked at her skeptically.
Sanger laughed. “Really. I know you hate me, and you hate my job, but even in light of everything, I’ve grown to respect you, Miss Summers.”
Buffy blinked in surprise. “I don’t hate you, per se, but what’s nice girl like you doing in a job like that, anyway? And that’s not a line, by the way, just a quirky question.”
Sanger shrugged and looked into her glass. “I wanted to save the world, but unlike you, I didn’t have any superhuman powers helping me along. The Committee lets me put my strongest aspect – my intelligence – to good use.”
“I can buy that,” Buffy said.
“How’re things going along with Mr. Harris?” Sanger asked after a moment.
“You don’t miss much, do you?” Buffy quipped. Sanger said nothing, so Buffy continued, “Good. When I get a moment to think about him and this thing developing between us, my brain just wants to shut down.”
“Well, I mean, here’s this guy I’ve known since high school. I think about how he was so awkward and geeky then, following me around like some puppy dog with big brown eyes. And then I think about his brown eyes and how all I want to do is get lost in them, and my insides melt. I never thought I’d feel that way about him, but I do, and it’s the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Sanger shook her head. “Wow.”
“Yeah,” Buffy smiled. “Wow.”
Sanger drained her drink. “I’ve got a plane burning fuel on the tarmac, so I’ve got to go. You know how gas prices are these days.”
“Thanks for stopping by,” Buffy said.
“You’re welcome,” Sanger replied and held out her hand. “I doubt we’ll meet again, Miss Summers, so I just want to say thank you…thank you for saving the world so many times.”
Buffy nodded and silently watched as Sanger left the suite, as if truly considering her last words. Then she turned and headed for bed.
Fade to Black
End of Act Two