Watchers Council – Auditorium – Next Day
The auditorium was filled with watchers and slayers; not a seat was left open.
“Are we really ready to do this?” asked Jackson from the front row.
On stage was a panel that included Liz, Xander, Jen, Shannon, Kennedy and Dawn. Willow stood in front of them at a podium before a large video screen that showed references to the Opus Obscuram and known Loathestone effects.
“The downside here seems really…big,” he added.
“Any spell can have side effects if done incorrectly,” Willow argued. “I would estimate the chances for catastrophe here as only about one in twenty.”
“One in twenty?” Shannon sounded incredulous. “Willow, that’s way too high. I’ve been around a while, and I’ve seen some of your spells before. They go wrong a lot. I mean…a lot.”
“That’s not true,” Xander said. “Willow’s done more for this Council than any slayer brat.”
Jen’s eyes widened. “Slayer brat!? How dare you–!”
“Silence!!!” Liz shouted. When everyone immediately shut up, she smiled. “Works every time.” She walked toward the center of the stage. “Now, you all know this is the Stone doing the talking here, right? This conversation alone is illustrating the need to take action. However, I agree that Willow’s proposal is extremely risky.” She looked over at the podium. “Are you sure there’s nothing else we can do here?”
“Here’s the deal,” Willow said. “Maybe we can try other magic in the meantime to try and minimize the effects here at the Council in the short term. But, in my opinion, there’s a good chance that (a) it won’t work and (b) it won’t solve the real problem, which is the effect the Stone is having on everyone. I truly believe that if we take away the Stone’s power, everyone will start acting normal again. I’m going to continue looking for options, but until then, we need to do something before people start tearing each other apart.”
“Not to mention that we need my mother-in-law’s information,” Shannon said bitterly, “and she never stays in one place very long.”
Liz sighed. “Very well. I call for a vote on the question of whether the Coven does the spell. The Coven will cast its votes.”
Willow pushed a button on a device and looked up at the tally screen to see that the Coven voted unanimously in favor. “Thanks guys,” she said to her Coven in the front row.
Next came the tally from the slayer division, with forty-three percent in favor.
Jen wrinkled her brow. “Sorry, Mom. We gotta go with Nay on this one. For the sake of, y’know, our children and stuff.”
“Perhaps not as eloquently put as it might be, but still a valid argument,” Liz nodded. “Watchers?” she continued, as she too pushed a button. The reading came up as thirty-nine percent. “The Watchers branch also votes Nay, for the time being.” Liz then turned to Willow. “You will keep us informed of any further developments?” she asked her.
“Yes,” Willow sighed.
“Good.” Liz nodded. She banged a small gavel. “Meeting adjourned.”
Smash Cut To:
Watchers Council – Coven Room – Afternoon
Dawn was thrown backwards into the wall of the Coven Room. She landed on the floor, coughing. She slowly gathered herself, waving one arm in an attempt to disperse the dark gray smoke gradually clearing from the room. Eventually, it parted to reveal the Loathestone still sitting in the center of the room, apparently undamaged.
“I don’t think it worked,” she announced.
“Really?” Skye asked, still trying to extricate herself from the wall. “What gave you that impression, Dear?”
Willow slowly got to her feet. “The Stone must be protected somehow against attempts to destroy it by magic. Well, on the plus side, we now know what not to do.”
“Does anybody else feel like Gimli after he tried to hit the One Ring with an axe?” Andrew asked from his spot on the floor.
“I don’t know what that means,” Alex replied, “but I’m pretty sure it’s time to go back into research mode. Again.”
Watchers Council – Library – Day
“We can’t do it!” Willow told Alex. He had a file open in 3-D above one of the computer tables in the library. Other watchers and coven members surrounded them. “We’ll blow up the building. And probably some of the buildings next to this building!”
“The Trondheim Curse may be powerful enough to break through the Stone’s protections,” Alex argued. “If doing it here is a problem, let’s take it to the desert.”
“It’s right there in the name!” Willow told him.
“A city in Norway?” Alex asked.
“No, ‘curse,’” Willow said. “We don’t do curses.”
“How’s it going?” Liz asked, pushing through the group surrounding them.
“I might have found a spell that could destroy the Loathestone,” Alex told her.
“That’s wonderful,” Liz complimented him. Not seeing the excitement she expected, she asked, “What’s the problem?”
“But it’s too dangerous!” Willow argued.
“And opening the door between life and death isn’t?” Liz asked skeptically. She squinted at the images floating above the table. “Does that say Orca whale blubber?”
Alex looked at the spell ingredients, then back at Liz. “Yeah, why?”
“We can’t kill an endangered species,” she said.
“We’re talking one whale,” Alex replied.
“We’re not killing Shamu, Captain Ahab,” Liz told him.
Willow laughed out loud, earning her a dirty look from Alex. “Oh, lighten up. That was funny.”
“Let’s try something else, okay Sweetie?” Liz asked him. “But let’s make it soon, guys. I’ve got three slayers in the infirmary because of other slayers.”
Watchers Council – Weapons Room – Later that Day
Kennedy stared incredulously at the large pile of explosives piled in front of her.
“So…your plan involves blowing up the Loathestone?” she asked. “Like…physically blowing it up?”
“Whaddaya think?” Xander asked, hands on hips.
Kennedy shook her head. “I’m just marveling at the wrongness of this idea.”
“What?” Xander asked. “Why? Just because your wife didn’t think it’s a good idea doesn’t mean it’s not.”
“Instead of one piece of evil, we might have thirty!” Kennedy told him. “And since when is she just referred to as my wife? She has a name.”
“Yes, she does,” Xander agreed. “I should know. I was there first, you know.”
“A couple of stolen teenage kisses don’t count,” Kennedy retorted.
She looked like she was about two inches away from decking him, but Liz suddenly stepped in between the two combatants.
“Calm would be nice, guys, huh? Remember, this thing is in your heads.”
“Hey, Liz,” Joyce called from the doorway. “Can I maybe…talk to you. Maybe?” She was biting her nails on her right hand.
“Sure,” Liz said. She turned back momentarily to Xander and Kennedy. “Don’t beat each other up while I’m gone. At least not, you know, right next to the explosives. Oh, and, Kennedy’s right – find another plan.”
Kennedy smiled victoriously and Xander plopped down on his seat in frustration. “Awful uppity for someone whose diapers I changed,” he shouted over to Liz.
“Oh lord,” Liz sighed as she rolled her eyes, not bothering to reply as she followed Joyce out.
Watchers Council – Holding Level – Same Time
Faith walked between cells filled with hooting and hollering demons, some banging up against the bars, some fighting with each other, some clawing at the walls. She shook her head.
“How long have they been like this?” she asked the burly guard next to her.
“Since yesterday,” he said. “We can’t keep control in here. I’m not sure it’s safe for you.”
“I’ll be fine,” she told the guard. She walked up to one of the cells, where a demon with huge fangs was banging on the barrier and snarling. “So, you’re what happens next, huh?”
Watchers Council – Hallway – Same Time
“It’s completely mortifying,” Joyce complained, as she walked down the hall beside Liz.
“Imagine how the other girl must feel,” Liz deadpanned.
“She’s in a biocast, she’ll be fine, y’know, physically,” Joyce said. “What I’m worried about is whether she’ll ever forgive me. And, oh yeah, when did I become crazy attacking-people girl? And when did Jen start egging me on?”
Liz stopped and turned towards Joyce. “I don’t believe you’ve been acting under your own will, okay?”
“Then how do I stop myself from doing it again?” Joyce asked, upset.
“You have to fight against the rage you feel,” Liz said. “You can’t give into it. You need to remember that it’s all because of the Loathestone.”
“And what if it isn’t?” Joyce asked, the words coming out in a rush. “What if I’m freaked out, and I’m a slayer, and I hurt–”
“It’s the Stone,” Liz assured her, a hand on her shoulder. “I’m sure, all right?”
Joyce nodded, and Liz removed her hand. “So, why are you so cool about this?” Joyce asked. “Some of us,” she pointed to herself, “are obviously spazzing. You’ve been around this rock the longest. Shouldn’t you be spaz central or whatever?”
Liz blinked, thinking about this. She furrowed her brow. “That’s…a very good question. A question I don’t have an answer for.”
“Why not find out? You’re the watcher lady!” Joyce remarked sharply.
“Now is that the Loathestone or just your normal snark?” Liz asked.
Joyce paused, considering. “I’m not sure anymore,” she replied.
Liz smiled for a moment. “Just try to be nice on the whole, okay?”
Watchers Council – Holding Cells – Same Time
“Miss Lehane,” the guard asked. “May I ask why you’re here? We have it contained for the moment, and you don’t actually have any official…”
Faith had a far-off look in her eyes. “I can still hear it, you know. Now that I know what to listen for. And it’s calling them…”
With a guttural roar, one of the demons ripped the heavy, bullet-proof door off its hinges with huge clawed hands. Then more of the doors began opening, seemingly of their own accord.
“Malicky!” the guard screamed into the comlink on his wrist. “We’ve got a major breach on Level Four!”
“Sorry,” Malicky’s voice cackled over the link. “I guess you’ll have to deal with it yourself.” He laughed crazily.
“It’s the Stone,” Faith said, as she backed towards the wall. “Get behind me.”
As the guard did as he was told, he said, “But you don’t have any powers!”
Faith didn’t say anything, she just balled her hands into fists as a huge horde of slavering demons rushed the two of them.
But it wasn’t a fight like you see in the movies. The demons didn’t come at them one by one; it was a swarm crowding around them. And Faith certainly didn’t fight like a movie star. She scratched and clawed at any sensitive area she could find, doing her best to keep her karate stance. She kicked and bit and screamed and sucker-punched when she could.
One snake-like demon whipped a long, forked tongue in her direction. Faith gave it a savage yank, and it came free with a sickening squirting noise. Another demon stumbled in pain nearby, clawing at the stump of its missing eye-stalk.
Nearby, the guard Faith had been talking to was wielding a short plastic stick that sent a strong electric shock through any demon it touched. Several lay on the floor, stunned. For only a split second, he glanced over at Faith, a mixture of admiration and fear in his eyes at the sight of this small aging woman who fought like a caged beast, with grace and full-out fury all at the same time.
Faith’s fist found the solar plexus of one demon, then the throat of another. Both stumbled away in pain. She kicked one in the knee in a calculated move. There was a crunch, and it screamed as it collapsed. A demon scratched at her with long claws; she dodged, grabbed its wrist and bent it the wrong way, before giving a solid karate chop to its neck.
More guards finally arrived, and it wasn’t long before the surge of demons began to run in the opposite direction.
Faith spit out a bloody red chunk of demon and ground it under her shoe.
“You think you can take me?” Faith growled through clenched teeth at their retreating forms. “No one can take me!” She felt a hand on her shoulder and spun around.
It was the guard. “Are you okay?” he asked.
Faith stared at him a moment, the feral look seeping out of her. Then she said, “You can seal off the Holding Levels, right?”
The guard nodded. “Until a slayer team gets here, sure. They’ll find they won’t get very far.”
“You do that,” Faith told him. “I’m going to go see your boss.”
The guard watched her leaving bloody footprints as she limped away. “Maybe you should see a doctor first…perhaps a shower, too?” he offered.
Watchers Council – Liz’s Office – Moments Later
“Are you going to play it?” Nikki asked.
Liz’s was seated at her data console, holding her father’s final disc between her fingers, when Faith entered the room looking haggard.
“What the hell happened to you?” Liz asked, setting the disc down.
“Some of your demons tried to escape,” she said in between breaths. “You need to find a way to stop this.”
“We’re trying,” Liz replied. She pointed over to Nikki. “But I did find another interesting report. The Stone has come into contact with people who didn’t turn evil. I’m searching now for a common thread among them.”
“How are you holding up?” Faith asked Nikki. “You look…saner.”
“I’m doing better. The further away I get from that thing, the better I feel. Liz has it in two boxes and locked in the Coven Room anti-magic chamber,” she replied.
“I figured more magical protection layers might be better,” Liz said absently as she looked at her screen.
“Certainly couldn’t hurt,” Faith offered.
“I can’t find anything,” Liz said, looking up from her work. “All these people look, well, normal. There’s nothing unusual about them – a high school principal, a museum curator, a bakery owner – all seem to be extremely successful and stable. They didn’t seem fazed by the stone.”
“Maybe that’s your answer,” Faith said.
“What do you mean?” Liz asked.
“People who have a strong sense of self…they’re not as easily influenced or ruled by their emotions. You’ve been around it, right? You haven’t experienced anything, and let’s face it, you’re Mr. Spock.”
Nikki chuckled, but then quickly shut up as Liz cast an annoyed glance her way. “She’s not lying.”
“Despite the description…” Liz paused for effect, “your mother has a valid point. I want facts, hard data most of the time.”
“More like first and foremost,” Nikki muttered.
“Sometimes, yes,” Liz conceded. “I like to be thorough. Is that a crime?”
“No,” Faith said. “And right now, it might be what’s holding you together so well. Hats off to Mom and Dad for raising a well-adjusted kid. For other people, though, folks with some hang-ups, things that haunt them, it seems like this stone preys on them.”
Nikki wore an angry expression. “Are you saying I’m damaged goods because I wigged out? Because if you are–”
Faith motioned toward Nikki. “Thank you for illustrating my point so vividly with that outburst. You always felt abandoned, and rightfully so. I left and, yeah, it did mess you up on some level. Both of us, truth be told. But I still feel that if I stayed it would have been much worse.”
“I’m still not sure I’m following your logic here,” Liz said.
“Well, look at you,” Faith continued. “You know your role, who you are…the Stone can’t influence you, or at least not as strongly as people who have ‘issues’ of some kind. Now that doesn’t mean you should start wearing the damn thing as the latest fashion accessory.” Nikki and Liz both smiled. “But based on what we know so far…you gotta admit, it makes sense.”
“I’m not sure I buy that just yet, Faith. Look at Joyce. She’s a great slayer and she put a girl in a biocast.”
“And she’s ruled strongly by her emotions,” Faith pointed out. “Besides, look at the shoes she’s filling. Her mom wasn’t just a slayer. She was The Slayer. And to make it worse, she wasn’t just partnered with A Watcher but The Daughter of the man who founded the Council. You had time to get over your issues, Liz,” Faith pointed out. “Joyce, in many ways, is still an impressionable kid. And let’s not forget, her dad practically fathered half of the Council today. She can’t walk down the hall without a family member bumping into her.”
“That’s not true,” Liz said with a smile.
“Granted, but you see what I’m getting at? She’s got her issues, too. The same goes for everyone here who’s acting freaky.”
“So you think people with a propensity for anxiety, anger or evil…this stone makes that suffering worse?” Liz asked.
Faith gave her a lopsided grin and nodded. “After all…nothing is real except suffering.”
The three women looked around at each other for a moment.
“Okay,” Liz started, “perhaps the solution then is to tell everyone and have them fight that urge – the same thing I told Joyce to do.”
Faith smiled and asked, “And how well do you think that will work, or last? We’re talking about human beings here.”
Watchers Council – Library – Same Time
Dawn and Skye were poring over books in the library while Shannon, also with a book open in front of her, kept them company. Instead of reading, however, she idly twirled a stake.
“Hey baby,” Skye said to Dawn. “Do you know where the Gotan Document is? There’s a cross-reference here I need to check.”
“Yeah,” Dawn replied. “I’ll get it.”
“You don’t have to,” Skye said.
“I know.” Dawn smiled sweetly at the vampire. “It’s faster if I get it than to tell you where it is.”
Skye watched Dawn disappear behind the stacks, as if enjoying the view, then turned to Shannon. “Wouldn’t you be more productive looking at the book instead of playing around?”
Shannon shrugged, and Skye continued, “Where’s Normie?”
“He promised Kelvin he’d do a portrait of the new baby,” Shannon replied absently.
“Neat,” Skye said, and then shook her head in wonder. “Seeing how great she looks, even after all these years, I can’t believe that Faith is a great-grandma.” She gave Shannon an appraising look. “And you look good too, Little Sis…for an old decrepit grandmother.”
Shannon didn’t reply to Skye’s sally, and the vampire just shrugged. She spent a moment reading her book, then she added, “Dawn and I have a bunch of gifts we were going to bring over for the new baby, but this whole thing kinda distracted us. I mean, post-birth gifts…we already did the pre-birth ones.” Out of the corner of her eye, she glanced at Shannon, who just kept on twirling her stake. “I have to admit, though, your newest grandbaby sure looks like a tasty morsel.”
“What?” Shannon asked, the stake stopping its motion as her eyes glared at the vampire.
Skye appeared pleased to have finally gotten a reaction. “Yeah, too bad I’m all good now, or else I’d be tempted,” she said with a smirk.
“You lousy…” Shannon said.
“Oh stop,” Skye said with a laugh. “I’m just teasing. Lighten up.”
Shannon stood up. “Stay away from my family,” she growled.
Skye frowned. “No way,” she said. “They’re my family, too. Did you forget Dawn and I are your son’s godparents?”
“I’m canceling that relationship,” Shannon declared.
“What?” Skye asked, anger in her voice. “Frig that and frig you, too, if you think you can tell me who I can or cannot associate with. What’s wrong with you?”
“What’s wrong with me?” Shannon said, standing up. She held the stake clenched in her hand by her side. “You’re nothing but a dirty filthy vampire, and I don’t want you anywhere near my family. Got that?”
“No, I don’t got that,” Skye said, her voice also rising. She stood up to face Shannon. “Where do you get off calling me names? Think you’re so goddamn special just because you used to be a slayer? What’s that make you now? A has-been, that’s what.”
“Better an ex-slayer than some foul killer,” Shannon yelled. “Or did you forget about that woman you banged and then drank to death?”
“You bitch!” Skye screamed and shoved Shannon with both hands. The former slayer crashed against a table, and it slid back nearly a foot.
Watchers Council – Outside Document Room – Same Time
Dawn turned away from re-sealing the door to the fragile documents room when angry voices reached her.
“What the…” she muttered, and started walking quickly toward the noise.
“You bitch!” Skye’s voice echoed loudly through the quiet library.
Dawn’s eyes grew wide in fright. She dropped the precious document and broke into a sprint.
Watchers Council – Library – Same Time
Shannon lifted herself off the table and ran toward Skye. At the last moment, she thrust her shoulder into Skye’s midsection, knocking the vampire to the ground.
“Ha!” Skye said, jumping nimbly to her feet. “Slayer strength fades away, but demon strength never. I’m gonna kill you for that.”
“Just like Bonnie?” Shannon panted. “Or how about Dana? I should’ve staked you when I had the chance.”
Skye swung out with her right fist and smashed it against Shannon’s face. Shannon stumbled and fell to her knees. Blood immediately began to spill from her mouth.
Skye glanced at her hand and licked the blood covering it. “Yummy,” she said. “I’m gonna enjoy the rest.”
“Skye, stop!” Dawn cried as she ran toward them. “What the hell are you doing?”
Both women ignored Dawn, who by now was running towards them at full speed. Shannon pulled herself off the floor and, with the grace of a lifetime spent training, rushed forward with the stake upraised.
“Shannon!” Dawn cried, trying to reach them. “No!”
Shannon didn’t hesitate as she thrust the stake forward. Dawn launched herself into the air and smashed against her lover a moment later. The pair crashed to the ground, and they both looked down to see the stake protruding from Skye’s heart.
“Sorry, Dawn…” Skye whispered. Then she vanished in a cloud of dust.
With a triumphant grin, Shannon looked at Dawn lying alone on the floor. A moment later, the smile turned to horror, and then she put her hands over her ears as Dawn’s agonized wail filled the library.
Watchers Council – Liz’s Office – Minutes Later
Two slayers held Dawn’s arms, holding her to the couch as the woman cried in agony. Shannon sat across the room, biting her nails and looking at the scene guiltily. Liz looked grief-stricken at Dawn’s pain and asked Willow, “Isn’t there something we can give her? To knock her out?”
Willow shrugged. “She’s immune to nearly every drug there is.”
“What about something magical?” Buffy asked.
Willow shook her head. “We can’t know what kind of effect something like that will have on her, especially right now.”
“She’s immortal for God’s sake,” Xander pointed out. “Even if it kills her, it won’t kill her.”
“Her body, yes,” Willow said patiently. “But something like that can seriously make her mind unstable. There’re enough unstable minds here right now. Besides, you don’t want her spending eternity as vegetable, do you?”
Liz paced around the office, finally stopping in front of Shannon.
“How did this happen?” she asked angrily. “You loved Skye like a big sister.”
“I know,” Shannon said, tears running down her cheeks as she held an icepack to her swollen face. “I-I just saw red, and I guess old reflexes took over. It just doesn’t make sense! Oh God, Dawn. I’m soooo sorry,” she called over to her. Shannon grabbed her midsection and bent over, her head hanging down, sobs racking her body.
Liz turned away and absently looked at the newsfeed displays hanging in her office. Her assistant Janice walked inside the room.
“Sorry to interrupt,” she began. “There are reports of slayers attacking watchers, slayers and civilians. The police have responded to at least ten domestic disturbance reports at watchers’ homes in the past two hours alone. Jackson was one of them…his wife’s in ICU.”
“It’s the Stone,” Liz replied.
“There’s more,” Janice said. “We’re starting to get reports from other areas, outside of Cleveland. If it is the Stone, then it seems its reach is widening.”
Liz turned to Willow decisively, “I’m going to call another meeting, and this time I’m strongly recommending they vote to do the spell. I need to know if you’ve figured out how to close the spell once the souls are freed.”
Willow bit her lip. “Well, maybe,” she said, and held up a hand to stop Liz’s outburst. “It should close when we end the spell, but I’ve never done anything remotely like this. And although we don’t have any proof, we think you’re right in that once the souls are freed, then maybe the stone’s hold will be loosened. A-and then maybe we can destroy it.”
“There are too many maybes in that scenario, Will,” Liz said. “I don’t like maybes.”
“I realize,” Willow said. “But it’s the best I can give you. A-and if it’s any consolation, I’ll take the risk and full responsibility for it. We have to weaken the Stone somehow. If we don’t do the spell, the Council is going to destroy itself…even more…and then who will look after humanity?”
Liz sighed and looked again at Buffy and Xander trying to calm Dawn down.
“I don’t know,” she finally answered. “This is all my fault for bringing it here.”
“How could you have known?” Willow told her sympathetically. “You followed procedure – you put it in a box to examine it further. Besides, this isn’t about placing blame, it’s about finding a solution.”
Liz considered her words and then she squared her shoulders. “You’re right. So let’s get to it then.”
Watchers Council – Auditorium – Later that Day
Liz strode up to the podium in front of the waiting crowd of watchers, slayers and witches.
“We’re running out of time,” she said without any introduction. “You’ve all seen what’s happening. We’re certain this is caused by the artifact known as the Loathestone.”
Willow and Andrew watched from the wings.
“Do you think we can do it?” he asked in a whisper.
“I’m not certain,” Willow said. “But since when has that ever stopped us?”
“I need an immediate vote,” Liz continued. “This time, I strongly recommend you vote in the affirmative for the Coven to attempt to open the door to release the souls trapped within the Stone.”
“Madame Chairperson,” a voice from the gathering called.
“Yes, Mr. Robbins?” Liz acknowledged. A holographic close-up of the man appeared behind Liz.
“Has the Coven come up with a method to destroy the Stone yet?” Robbins asked.
Liz paused. “Not yet,” she answered. “But Willow Rosenberg has assured me they are close to finding an answer. I trust her. I suggest you do the same.”
She was silent for a moment to see if there were any more questions. “If there’s nothing else, please cast your votes.”
She watched her panel as the votes came in. After a minute, she looked up. “The Council has voted to allow the Coven to make the attempt to open the dimensional door. Thank you. That’s all.” Moving quickly, she joined Willow and Andrew in the wings. “There you have it,” she said, giving Willow a hard look. “Do not disappoint me, Will.”
Willow smiled, the lines in her face getting even deeper.
“I won’t,” she answered. “We’ll need time to do prep, so we’ll start tomorrow morning.”
Liz gave her a firm nod. “I’ll continue to help look into ways to close the gate…as a back up…just in case. It’s not that I don’t trust you. It’s just…”
“I get it, Sweetie,” Willow told her.
Watchers Council – Coven Room – Next Morning
The gathering of the Coven – the most powerful witches in the area, including Kennedy and Andrew – stood in a circle, holding hands and chanting. In the center, a brazier glowed warmly, the subtle scent of incense filling the room. The Loathestone was balanced above the brazier, an invisible force holding it up.
Willow’s voice began to rise, the arcane syllables rolling off her tongue like a stone rolling down a grass-covered hill. Their hands lifted into the air, and as Willow’s voice grew louder, the chanting began to crest. Finally, Willow cried a single word, “Release!” Everyone in the group released hands, their heads rolling back and their chests heaving for breath from the effort.
After a moment, they slowly came back to themselves and looked around. Willow glanced at the Stone, which appeared unchanged.
“Did it work?” Alex asked.
“We did everything right,” Andrew said. He looked at Willow. “What do you think?”
Willow sighed. “I don’t know,” she finally said after a moment. “Nothing about this thing makes any sense!”
“We might have missed something,” Kennedy said. “We’ll get it.”
Willow looked at her and then sighed again. “Let’s close the circle, just in case,” she said. “You and I should head home to check our library for anything we might have missed.”
“I’ll do the same,” Jeff said.
“There’s got to be something,” Willow muttered.
The group nodded and Andrew moved forward to finish their ritual.
Watchers Council – Liz’s Office – Later that Day
Liz watched as Grace entered her office. “Thanks for coming in, Grace,” she said. “We really could use your help.”
“So,” Grace said, sitting across from Liz. “What have you got?”
The Chairwoman handed a datapad to the older woman. Grace activated it and scanned quickly. “Not much, I see,” she said after a few minutes. “But it’s a start. You’ve done good work. You always have.”
“Thanks, Grace,” Liz said with a small smile. “Think you can make something out of all that? Maybe find out more about the origins of the Stone and these ‘glow sisters?’ ”
“I’ll give it the old Council try.” Grace smiled and finally looked up. “I have a few things in my home library I want to cross-reference. I’ll get in touch with you as soon as I have something.”
“Give my love to Jeff and the kids,” Liz said as Grace got up to leave.
She nodded and passed Janice as the other woman entered the office with a file in her hand.
“More reports coming in,” Janice told Liz.
“What is it?” she asked.
“Mostly what we already know – lots of mayhem.”
“I’ll take care of it,” Liz said, extending her hand.
Janice handed the file over and began to walk out.
“Janice?” Liz called out, making the woman turn around. “Can you load up the other files my dad did? Transfer them to my mobile?”
“Right away.” Janice nodded.
“Thanks,” Liz replied.
Watchers Council – Slayer Gym – Same Time
Faith stood on the upper level of the slayer gymnasium, casually watching various groups of girls working out below. She leaned against the railing and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. She had just lit up when a voice behind her said, “Thought you quit?”
“I did, Slick,” Faith said without turning around. “But I figured, why the hell bother.” After taking a deep pull, she finally looked over her shoulder. The cigarette dropped from her mouth. “Hope?”
“Hey, sis,” Hope greeted, as she joined her at the railing. She put her hand on Faith’s shoulder. Faith looked at the hand touching her and then back at Hope.
She nodded and motioned her head toward the practicing slayers. “They’re looking good. Almost as good as you back in the day. I really did want to be like you.” She wore an admiring grin on her face.
Faith’s expression, however, went from shocked to sad and then finally to pieces. She put her face in her hands and began to sob.
“Oh, Faith,” Hope said, reaching out for her sister. She drew the weeping woman into her arms. She hugged her tight and gently whispered in the former slayer’s ear. “Say it. I know better than anyone else. Go ahead, say it.”
Faith grasped her arms around her sister and gulped out, “I’m sorry!”
The two sisters held each other and simply rocked as Faith cried.
Buffy & Xander’s House – Workshop – Same Time
“Xander!” called Buffy’s voice from the kitchen, as Xander walked toward his home workshop. “Chicken or beef?”
“Whatever Dawn prefers, hon,” Xander called back. “I’m fine with either.”
“Okay,” came Buffy’s reply, as Xander walked through the open doorway into his workshop. He headed for his workbench and then jumped back in shock, placing a hand over his heart.
“Holy crap!” he cried.
“Wow, aren’t you all domestic?” Lori said with a wide smile.
Anya looked down at the cards in her hand and discarded one onto the pile on the table. Vi, sitting next to her, immediately picked it up and placed it in her hand.
“Did you have to take that card?” Anya demanded.
“Yes!” Vi replied. “How else am I supposed to win?” She laid down her hand, and Anya threw hers down on the table in disgust.
“Uh…uh…” Xander sputtered.
“Still as eloquent as ever,” Anya said, finally looking over at him. “How the hell did you ever manage to turn into the Stud of the Century? I mean, really…talk about being an embarrassment in the afterlife. I get dumped by the founder of a dynasty. Thanks a lot!”
“Uh…uh…” Xander repeated.
“Xander,” Vi said, looking amused. “Chill, okay?”
Xander held up a finger. “I’ll be right back.” He strolled as casually as possible from the room, shutting the door gently behind him.
End of Act Two