Sleep Easy Motel Room – Same Time
The police were banging on the door again as Willow got up and put a towel around her naked waist. She opened the door, shirtless.
“Yeah?” she said.
“Sorry to bother you,” the officer said, as he pushed his way in, not waiting for an invitation.
Rowena pulled the covers up around her neck.
“Ma’am,” the officer nodded to her. He walked toward the bathroom and turned on the light. Not finding anything, he walked back. “Sorry for the intrusion,” he told them both.
The reflection in the mirror across from the bed showed a shirtless middle-aged man with red hair and a middle-aged blonde woman in the bed. The officer pulled out a picture.
“Have you seen this woman?” he asked.
Willow examined it for a moment.
“Yeah, it’s that witch lady you locked up, isn’t it?” she replied.
“You’ve seen her here?” the officer asked hopefully.
“Oh no,” Willow snorted, “I just mean I recognize her. Everyone probably would – she was all over the news.”
“Well, she’s escaped.” He then handed Willow a card. “If you see her, can you call us? We’ve got a $100,000 reward for any tips that lead to her capture.”
Willow took it with a shrug as the officer nodded to his partner and left the room. Willow then closed the door behind them.
“I’m wide awake now,” Rowena replied. “Might I suggest we leave ASAP?”
Willow let out a sigh. Then she looked back in the mirror at their glamoured reflection.
“Yeah, duty calls, I guess.”
Giles and Becca’s House – Foyer – Later that Day
One of the agents walked down the stairs and headed toward the kitchen.
The agent went to where several of the Council refugees were seated at the kitchen table having breakfast.
“Okay,” he began. “Where is she?”
“You mean Willow, right?” Buffy clarified. “Because when you say ‘she,’ we’ve got lots of ‘shes’ now scattered across the country, thanks to the U.S. Government.”
“Yes,” the agent said, frustrated. “I guess the chance of you telling me where Ms. Allister is would be slim to none, too.”
“Again, you’re under the illusion that helping you somehow helps me. But that’s not the case,” Buffy replied.
“Oh, Buffy,” Giles sighed. “I realize you’re upset, but it’s not Mr…?”
“Carter,” the agent supplied.
“It’s not Mr. Carter’s fault,” he continued as he got up. “He’s just doing his job. Just tell him what we know. They’re going to find out anyway, and this way they’ll leave us alone sooner,” he added, as he walked over to desk holding his computer
“Thank you, Mr. Giles,” Carter replied.
“Giles,” Buffy protested, “if you help these SOBs, I will lose all respect for you.”
“It’s here somewhere…ah, yes,” Giles said, ignoring Buffy and picking up a piece of paper.
“Rowena, well, her full name is Blanche Rowena Allister,” he explained, handing the agent the paper. “She left yesterday for Canada. I’m sure if you check with this airline, you’ll see she landed…” He looked over the top of the paper. “…around three p.m. She’s visiting family there.”
“Thank you for your cooperation, Mr. Giles,” the agent said. He then turned to Buffy. “You could learn a lot from him on how to handle these situations, young lady.”
Buffy shot up from the table. “You listen to me–”
Xander reached out and grabbed Buffy’s arm. “Let it go, Buff.”
“I’d also like to speak to Faith Lehane,” the agent told Giles.
“She’s here every day, but she spends the nights with Mr. Wood and her best friend, Kennedy. They’re all staying at Kennedy’s fiancée’s home.”
“Again, more people scattered to the winds,” Buffy grumbled.
“Do you have that address?” the agent asked.
“Here,” Giles said, as he motioned for the piece of paper the agent held. He wrote something down and then handed it back. “I don’t have the exact address, but there are only three homes along that street. It’s not even a street, really, it’s more like a dirt road, but I’m sure you’ll find it. If she’s not there, then chances are she’s here.”
“Thank you, Mr. Giles,” the agent told him with a polite nod. “You’ve been most helpful. I have to ask that if you see Ms. Rosenberg, or have any contact with her, you should notify us at once.” He then handed Giles a card.
Giles said nothing and took the card. As the agent walked away, headed to the front door, Buffy charged over to Giles.
“How could you? We don’t know where she’s at, but you have to help them anyway? What’s wrong with you?” she accused.
“They’ll find all this out anyway, Buffy,” Giles said, raising his voice. “And as I said, it’s not his fault. He’s doing what he’s paid to do.”
“What about us? Huh? What about the Council?” she countered.
They both heard the front door close, and immediately stopped their loud rant. Buffy smiled conspiratorially.
“Nice good cop,” Buffy said.
“Excellent bad cop,” Giles replied, with a smile of his own.
“We still make a great team, huh? Think it’ll be enough for them to leave us alone?”
“We’ll see,” Giles replied.
“I better call Faith,” Buffy said.
“Right, I’ll call Rowena,” Giles said with a wink.
Buffy turned to Jeff and Ethan. “Are we okay?”
“Everything is in place,” Jeff replied.
“Yes, and finally, life here is getting interesting,” Ethan replied. “Having something to do kills the never-ending boredom.”
Canada – Mary Grace’s Car – That Same Morning
Mary Grace was walking back from the rest area toward the car where her mother and the twins were waiting. Rowena’s cell phone went off, and Mary Grace pulled it out of her pocket to see “Giles Calling.”
“Hey, Giles. Is Willow there?” she asked immediately. “Buffy called earlier.”
“No,” Giles replied. “The reason I’m calling is some agents stopped by today looking for Willow, and they asked about you. That means you might be getting a visit.”
Mary Grace harrumphed. “Good luck to them. I’m not blowing off my time with what’s left of my family to help them.”
“Rowena please,” Giles began. “You sound like Buffy.”
Ohio Edison Van – Same Time
Seated inside a disguised van, just down the street from Giles’s home, a man in a suit listened to the conversation on a pair of headphones.
Canada – Mary’s Car – That Same Morning
“Buffy’s right,” Mary Grace replied. “Look, I don’t want to fight, but thanks for the heads up.”
“Well,” Giles said, “for what it’s worth, thank you. Thank you for everything you’ve done for the Council. I mean that sincerely.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry about being snippy. It’s not your fault. I’m just…If you see Will, call me, okay?”
“I will. Take care,” Giles said.
“You too,” Mary Grace said as she hung up and opened the car door.
“Who was that?” her mother asked.
Mary Grace grinned. “Mr. Giles. The American Feds are looking for Blanche.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t have done this,” her mom sighed.
Mary Grace checked her mirrors as she buckled her seatbelt.
“Come on, Ma. Where’s your sense of adventure?” she teased, as she began to back up the car.
Ohio Edison Van – Same Time
Agent Carter knocked on the van door, and it opened.
“What are they doing?” he asked the technician.
“Buffy called Faith, sounding a tad miffed about you being there…Okay, she was downright pissed,” he teased. “Giles just called Rowena.”
“What’s Allister’s location?” he asked. “Giles said she was in Canada.”
“Pulling it up now. I should have it soon,” he said. After a few moments, his eyes widened in surprise.
“What is it?” Carter asked, noting the curious expression.
“He wasn’t lying,” the tech replied. “It’s her number. According to the ping, she picked up in Quebec.”
“They’re lying. I just know it, but I can’t prove it,” the agent said. “I’m going to check with the airline to make sure she got on the plane and it wasn’t just her phone that left the country. You stay here.”
“Hi guys,” a female voice said behind Carter, making him jump. He turned to see Becca standing behind him. “Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you,” she said. She was holding a platter with a pitcher and some plastic cups. “I thought you guys might like some lemonade.”
Giles and Becca’s House – Same Time
Buffy, Jeff and Andrew all watched with big smiles from the end of the Giles’s walkway.
Ohio Edison Van – Same Time
Becca held the platter out toward Carter, but he didn’t take it.
“Oh, like you guys are deep undercover, please. We all knew you were out here. Look, I’ll just leave this here,” she said, setting the platter on the floor of the van. “You might get thirsty – it’s gonna be a hot one today.”
“Yeah, like the high nineties,” the technician said, earning a sharp look from Carter. He quickly looked away, not adding more.
“Anyway, the cups you can recycle, but the pitcher and platter I’d like back, if you don’t mind. You can just leave them on the porch.” She motioned behind her, back toward the house. “If you’d like something different for tomorrow, like iced tea, just leave a note tonight.” She then turned and began to walk back.
Giles and Becca’s House – Same Time
“Taunting the Feds – Giles married a woman with a set of balls,” Jeff giggled. Buffy and Andrew both slapped each of his arms, but continued to smile.
“Go double-check the mojo is still working,” Buffy said, motioning toward the house.
“You got it,” Jeff replied, tugging Andrew with him.
Ohio Edison Van – Same Time
“Oh, yeah,” Becca said, as if remembering something. She turned around. “The other reason for being here…You guys can forget about the secret eavesdropping devices, because they won’t work. Phone calls, you can still trace. Something about electronic tracking or something – I really don’t know. But the house itself, though, that’s been magically fortified. So if you’re sitting here hoping to hear our conversations inside, the point is moot, so don’t waste your time.”
Becca gave them another wave and then made her way back to where Buffy was standing there waiting for her. Buffy too gave them a wave before escorting Becca back toward the house.
Carter looked at the pitcher for a moment and then swept it away, sending it and the contents to the street.
“Hey,” the technician chastised. “Be careful. She wants that back.” Carter snarled at the man. “What? She was nice.”
Carter grumbled and hopped inside the back of the van, shutting the door.
West Virginia – Diner – Same Time
Willow sat across from Rowena in a small town diner. Although they appeared normal to each other, their reflections in the window of the small booth appeared to be a middle-aged man and woman.
In front of the witch was an array of breakfast foods, all half eaten – eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, waffles, pancakes, cereal, toast and a cinnamon roll. Rowena had a dish of half-eaten fruit, the yolk and shell from two hard-boiled eggs and part of a bagel.
Willow reached over and took a bite of Rowena’s bagel. She playfully swatted her hand away.
“Eat your own half of the menu,” she teased.
Willow gave her a toothy smile and then began to chew again.
“Where do you put it all, Son?” their older waitress asked, as she brought Willow an apple juice and an orange juice, taking two empty glasses away. “You look fit as a fiddle.”
“I have a high metabolism,” Willow answered, before sticking a fork full of scrambled eggs in her mouth.
“I wish I had that problem,” the waitress chuckled as she filled up Rowena’s coffee. “Can I get you folks anything else?”
“Just the bill, before our trip budget is blown on breakfast,” Rowena teased.
“Where you folks off to?” the waitress asked.
“Uh, Niagara Falls,” Rowena answered.
“Oh, that’s wonderful,” she answered. “I’m sure you’ll have a great time. Me and my Alfred did when we went years ago. I’m sure it’s grown quite a bit since then. Just yell if he decides he wants the biscuits and gravy after all.”
Rowena smiled as the waitress walked away. She then looked at Willow, who was in the midst of downing the apple juice.
“Enjoying yourself?” Rowena asked.
“Next to the twins, this has been the best twelve hours of my entire life,” she answered, just before she hurriedly pushed a fork of pancakes into her mouth.
Rowena laughed quietly. “I can only imagine what you’ll order for dinner.”
“Steak, medium. No, wait – prime rib. Oh, no, filet mignon,” Willow said, excited at the prospect.
Rowena leaned closer. “You know, we really do have a budget. I’d love to buy you every food under the sun, but it might mean spending the night in the car.”
“Okay,” Willow conceded. “Steak it is. We’ll need a place with a bed tonight.” She wiggled her eyebrows. “And a shower, and a dresser, and–”
“Here you go,” the waitress said, putting the bill on the table.
Rowena, who still blushed from Willow’s comment, thanked the waitress.
“Where’re the restrooms?” Willow asked.
“Right back there, Honey.” The waitress pointed. She moved back and let Willow get out before she went back to take some of the empty plates away.
Willow walked to the back of the diner and paused for a moment between the two doors before going into the men’s room.
“You know,” the waitress told Rowena as she cleared the table, “he’s really sweet on you? I can tell by how he looks at ya.”
Rowena smiled and looked in the direction Willow had walked. “Yeah, well, I can say the feeling’s completely mutual.”
Kadin’s Cabin – Game Room – Later
“You think it can be done?” Kennedy asked. As she spoke, she leaned over Kadin’s pool table, with the hunter standing by her side. Pictures and a map covered the felt, making the playing area inoperable for the moment.
Gwen shrugged. “Getting in won’t be an issue. You guys have done some great leg work.” Kennedy smiled at Robin, who stood nearby. “But getting out with that many things…That’s what’s going to be tricky. How fast can slayers move?” Gwen asked.
“At a blur, for short spurts,” Kennedy answered.
“You mean literally at a blur? That quickly?” Gwen asked.
“Absolutely,” she replied. “But for only about two hundred yards at a time. Maybe five hundred, at the very most.”
Gwen considered Kennedy’s words, then muttered, “Okay, okay…let me see what we might work out. What about weight – how much can they carry or push?”
Kennedy didn’t answer the question. “Well,” she said nervously, “I should warn you, before we go further…There is a slight problem…with the payment. Truth is, we have no money. But if you’ll take an I.O.U., we’ll get it to you at some point. I swear.”
“No vehicles or supplies of any kind, either, I’m assuming?”
“None whatsoever,” Kennedy replied honestly.
Gwen smiled. “I’ve got cash for what we’ll need.”
“Are you positive?” Kennedy asked. “I want to make sure you’re aware–”
“Willow gave me back a part of my life I thought I’d lost forever. She never asked for a cent. If I can help save the Council…well, one good turn deserves another, right?”
Kennedy smiled and then nodded. “Thanks, Gwen.”
“Now, like I asked, how strong are these girls?”
Willow and Rowena’s Car – Later that Day
“I gotta hand it to Andrew,” Willow said from the back seat, where a laptop literally sat on her lap. “This is a pretty cool set-up – Tracfone and a laptop. The connection is shaky, though. I keep dropping out.”
“But you can connect?” Rowena said from the driver seat.
“Yeah, but I don’t think I can do any heavy-duty hacking until we stop for the night. But at least I know where to start this evening…This work stuff is really annoying. I had other plans for tonight,” Willow said with a sly grin.
“Work first, play later,” Rowena told her, with a glance in the rearview mirror. Willow let her eyes run over Rowena as she licked her lips, but she didn’t say a word. “How about play first, work second, play later?” Rowena amended.
Willow smiled and went back to her laptop. “I have to say, what I’ve found so far is kind of weird.”
“Well, it’s not so much what I’ve found, but what I haven’t found. There really is no record of Autumn O’Mara prior to her run for Congress. She’s an independent, so it’s not like I can even search her records within a party. Her website lists her information, but…I don’t see any history of her prior to her election. Very odd, but not unusual.”
“Why’s that?” Rowena asked.
“I know of one other person who had a similar history, or lack thereof…Mayor Wilkins,” Willow said. She kept her eyes focused on the laptop, while Rowena watched the road. “He was immortal until he turned into a giant snake…and then we blew him up.”
“Along with the high school,” Rowena added.
“Technically, it was the library and the rooms around the library. The other half of the high school was still there. Unusable, yes…but still there,” Willow retorted.
“I hope you’re not suggesting we blow up the Capitol Building next. You’ve already got a high school and a town in California under your belt. Let’s avoid U.S. landmarks, if we can.”
“I’m not ruling anything out,” Willow replied with a grin. “But yes, the chance of the Council getting reopened after destroying Congress? Slim to none, so let’s make that a last resort.”
Voice of Hell Meeting – Night
The room seemed more like a root cellar, though its details were obscured by the encompassing shadows. Several large demons were sitting and playing cards in the slanting, random shafts of moonlight coming through the high, narrow windows. One of them dropped a card from inside his shirt. The other demons went stock still for a split second, and then they were on the offender with harsh cries and fists. One of them upturned the table, and the entire card game, several beer cans, pretzels, chips and a plate of something that looked like raw animal parts went flying in all directions.
The demons screamed and carried on against the cheater. Sounds of heavy, shuddering breaths cut through the ruckus, and one demon turned to look at the opposite wall of the room. A young man, barely out of his teens and dressed in a sailor’s uniform, was sitting on the ground, his ankles and wrists trussed together with tight ropes. Blood had seeped into the rope fibers from the severe rope burns on his wrists and ankles. The sailor bit down on his lower lip, trying not to draw further attention to himself.
“Hey!” the demon shouted.
The other demons quieted and looked at their leader, then at the trembling sailor.
“What’s his problem?” another demon asked.
“I think he’s scared,” a third laughed, his scaly head rippling a little.
“If he’s not, he’s an idiot,” the leader sneered, revealing a double row of upper teeth in a bright red mouth.
The sailor said nothing, but looked away, shamefaced.
“Aw, now look what ya gone and done, Marty. You hurted his feelin’s,” a heavy-set demon said. He walked to the sailor and squatted down in front of him, tilting his head this way and that until the sailor finally looked at him. The demon suddenly snapped at the sailor’s face with a fierce growl, his double row of teeth missing the sailor’s nose by less than an inch.
The sailor tried to back away, but the ropes tightened on his wrists and ankles, and he let out a cry of pain. The demons laughed again. Squatting in front of the boy, he snatched the sailor’s hat off his head and put it on his own, cocking it to one side. He stood up and grinned hideously at his fellow demons, who again howled with laughter.
“Sounds like you boys have started without me.”
All heads turned to the doorway. Skye smirked at the demon in the sailor’s cap. “Is that our new club hat?”
“Yeah,” Marty said. “And that’s our newest member,” he pointed to the sailor. “Or, he will be…”
Skye’s smile slipped, just for a split-second. She quickly recovered it and sauntered over to the sailor. He looked up into her eyes, silently pleading for help.
“Hi, Sailor…” she crooned.
The demons laughed again.
Skye looked around. “Where is everybody?”
“We’re it, tonight,” Marty answered. “Small group to induct the new member…” He nodded at the sailor.
“He doesn’t look like he wants to join,” Skye replied. “Didn’t you show him the brochure?”
The door opened, and light flooded into the small room. The voice of Hell’s silhouette stood out against the backlight, her cat-eyes glowing.
“He’s late!” she said angrily. She turned and looked at Skye. “Hello, Skye,” she said pleasantly. “I’m glad you’re here.” She stepped into the room, and the door swung shut on its own. “It appears we’ll need your help.”
“Glad someone does,” Skye said, smiling.
“Well, you’ll find us very much more appreciative of your…talents than your former friends at the Council were.”
“So, what can I do for you?”
The Voice of Hell’s mouth twitched slightly, and she turned a piercing gaze on the frightened sailor.
At first Skye said nothing. “What?” she said and blinked. She recovered again, quickly. “I mean…don’t you have someone to do that for you? I’m kind of a vamp virgin in that way. I might screw it up, so how about someone…experienced? I think I met him at the first meeting…Stan…Stu…”
“Steve,” the lead demon said. “Yeah. But he ain’t here now. You are.”
“He’s the one who’s late,” the Voice said. “And I don’t feel like waiting. I need this sailor…” she smirked, “on board now.”
“He’s young and tender,” the heavy-set demon said.
“Uh…thanks, really,” Skye said, holding her hands up, “but I already had a blood bag before I came here. Trying to watch my figure.”
The demons laughed, but the Voice remained stone-faced.
“Was that supposed to be funny?” she asked dourly.
The demons quickly shut up.
“Oh. No, I mean. I really – I–” Skye stammered.
“Never heard of a vampire who wasn’t hungry, even after drinkin’ all night…” Marty said darkly, his eyes fixed on Skye.
“Turn him,” the Voice of Hell ordered.
“I – I can’t. You know that.”
Marty and the Voice exchanged a glance, and Marty began moving threateningly toward Skye.
“Remember?!” Skye said slightly desperately to the Voice. “Don’t make me say it out loud, okay? It’s really embarrassing. Can you just send these numb-nuts away, and maybe we could have a little woman-to-woman–”
“Marty…” the Voice nodded at the demon. He began to move toward Skye again.
Skye snarled, and her forehead became ridged. “I can’t drink a human, but I can rip you to shreds,” she warned Marty.
VOH suddenly began to laugh. “Marty, enough,” she told him. He stopped in his tracks. “I know what Skye means. I was just having a bit of fun with her.” Skye visibly breathed a sigh of relief. The other demons looked confused. “You see, fellas, the Council…neutered Skye. Put a spell on her so that if she harms a human, she’ll automatically dust.”
Ooohs and Awww’s of sympathy soon followed.
“Thanks,” Skye said. “They treat me like a dog. Literally. Put a muzzle on me. A magic muzzle. If I try to turn a human, as soon as I make a move, I’ll dust. Poof. Just like that.”
“That there’s not a muzzle,” the heavy-set demon piped up, still bent over. “That’s cuttin’ off yer–”
“Quiet!” the Voice of Hell said.
Skye looked ruefully at her. “He’s right! I’m half a vampire.”
“Those days are gone my dear,” the Voice told her. “You’ve proven your worth to me. Your killing and disposing of that Brell demon went wonderfully.”
“Okay…But what do you mean, exactly? You found a way to take away the spell?” Skye asked hopefully.
“Not a way…a mage.”
She turned her head and looked over her right shoulder into the furthest corner of the room. Out of the shadows and into the slanting rays of moonlight stepped Ethan Rayne.
Skye blinked in surprise and stared open-mouthed at him.
He smiled slowly back at her. “Hullo, luv.”
Fade to Black
To Be Continued…
Special Guest Starring:
Eric Stoltz as Glamour Willow, Kim Dickens as Glamour Rowena and Neil Patrick Harris as The Police Officer
End of Asha
Next on Watchers…
Willow, Andrew and Dawn find themselves trapped in a comic book based on Faith’s life. Because of, you know, magic.