Act 7



Pull Back from Black:


Bedroom – Night

The dark resolved itself into a pupil, then a brown eye.

Standing at the foot of her bed, a woman leaned forward and patted concealer under her eye, mouth agape as if to confer more elasticity and a better blend. Done, she puckered her lips, wiping the corners with her index finger. Next, she executed a quick run-through of her immaculately volumed, waist-length hair.

Then she paused. With a slightly pensive look, she tilted her head toward the door over her shoulder.

There was a knock. She smiled.

She turned back, face forward, checked herself once more, adjusted her terribly low-cut vest and winked at the mirror with a large smile.

Cut To:


Hallway – Moments Later

The apartment door unlocked and opened on a young man with Disney prince hair, a leather jacket, with a Hawaiian shirt underneath and white tee below that.

“Hey,” he delivered with a swoon-worthy smile. He leaned against the doorframe, his head resting back.

“Hey,” she answered silkily, almost melting into her shoulders.

“You look…”


“…not like your photo.”

She raised an eyebrow with a smirk.

“No, like, wow, you look even better…”

She giggled, “Living filter, what can I say?”

“You can say come in.”

She grinned, “Come in, BadBoi26.”

He raised his black boot for just a moment, then placed it inside her apartment. “Why thank you, XoXoBusty2020.”

With him now inside, she took a deep breath, smiled and closed the door.

Cut To:


Bedroom – Moments Later

Entwined, they tumbled into the bedroom, him slamming the door shut with the hand not wrapped around her waist. He pushed her towards the bed, wanting them on it, but she navigated him around to the foot of the bed.

She pulled his jacket down, and he threw it to the floor. He cupped her head and tilted it back, deeply kissing her before his lips coursed downwards to her neck. She opened her eyes as she turned her neck to the side, allowing him to nuzzle her, staring off into the distance with a smile.

“I gotta say,” he said as he came up for air, “if you taste as good as you look…” He lifted from her neck, his forehead bulging with his vampire ridges. His bright yellow eyes met hers. “…it really is my lucky night.”

There was a long pause as she stared at him, still breathing hard.

Then she burst out laughing, throwing her head back.

He blinked. “Sorry, what…”

Bringing her head back to look up at his confused face, she said, “C’mon, man, seriously? Seriously?”

“I, ugh…”

“And you really thought I looked better than my photo? Dude, she’s not even real, that was an A.I. composite.”

“Compos –”

“Ohhhhh, I get it now. BadBoi26? 1926. That line comes from ye olde times, along with the hair?”

He let her go with one hand and felt his hair. “But…oh, screw you.”

He tightened his grip on her, balled his free hand into a fist and brought it down into a punch, one that she caught with a pout. This was met with even more confusion. She effortlessly pulled his other hand from her.

“And I mean you, like, didn’t see all of this?”

She nodded at the wall opposite the foot of her bed. There stood a bookcase, a high-end computer and monitor and a camera on a tripod, flanked by floor-standing ring lights.

“Say hiiiiiiiiiii!”

Cut To:


Bedroom – Moments Later

“Yoooooooo, what is going on, you guys?” She bounced in front of the camera, beaming a smile. “It’s your girl, SlayBae, back with another, that’s right…” She danced backwards, now wearing a bikini, to reveal the vampire – now in his underwear – strapped to her bed, bound by titanium restraints wound with pink, glittery feather boas. He had a ball gag in his mouth. “…another sucker!”

His screams were muffled by the gag and the bass of her looped dance music.

“Come on, chat, gimme those bitties and see my…selection of toys!” She revealed a basket full of inflatable weapons.

He screamed.

Smash Cut To:


Bedroom – Continuous

She pirouetted around the bed brandishing a large plushy stake, tickling him with it and play-staking him, all while he screamed and tried to shake loose.

Smash Cut To:



She leapt over the bed while whipping his bare chest with a cat o’ nine tails. He recoiled and screamed. Then she jumped back across, whipping him once more.

When she landed, she looked up at the camera, “Oh, hey, Steak2MyHeart4Eva, thanks for the sub!”

Then she leapt again.

Smash Cut To:



She straddled the open wardrobe door beside the bed with a large plastic bubble-gun.

“The power of Christ compels you, bitch!”

Then she opened fire. The barrage of bubbles burst on his skin with a sear. Holy water.

He writhed in agony.

Smash Cut To:



She stood still in front of the camera, sipping her water bottle and scrolling the mouse with the other hand.

Smash Cut To:



“Okay…okay.” She planted her feet deep into the carpet and took a stance, a ping-pong ball in her hand. She turned back to the camera, “You guys sure this is gonna work? Okay, let’s give it a try, you give me the bitties and the subs, I guess I gotta do as I’m told, ’cause I’m a good girl. Okay.”

She readied the ping-pong ball, aiming it like a dart, and then released it. It bounced off of the dresser at the bottom of her bed and missed the vampire.

“Aww, c’mon! Okay, let’s do it again…”

She ran and retrieved the ping-pong ball, then went back to her position, readied and threw it once more. It bounced and landed on his leg. He spasmed as another burn mark instantly appeared.

She jumped up and down on the spot, clapping, “Oh my God, it works! Great idea, Half-an-Eyelid! Emotes in chat for Half-an-Eyelid!”

She raced to get it again and brought it to the camera, elated. On the ping-pong ball could be seen a cross, drawn in Sharpie.

Smash Cut To:



“Woo! Five hundred! Thank you guys so much! And now…” She looked back over her shoulder, now sat atop the vampire’s waist, “…for…the big…” she leaned directly back, almost in a yoga pose, and reached for the dresser at the bottom of the bed, “…finish.” She grasped a stake, this time a real one.

Carefully coming back upright, she then took a remote in her other hand and pointed it to a second camera running parallel to the bed. The feed changed.

“Are you ready, guys? Count me down!”

With another press of the remote, the RGB lights in her bedroom began changing colors with each passing second.

“Five!” She pointed the stake at the camera.

“Four!” She blew a kiss.

“Three!” She snapped her head around to look him straight in the eyes.

“Two!” She placed the stake straight above his heart.

“One – booyah!” She pushed down with all her strength. His eyes opened wide and the ball-gag snapped.

His body turned gray and began to crack. She swayed as the density of his body changed, before finally falling through him to the mattress as he turned completely to dust.

“Haha! Oh man, that was legit! Thank you guys so much for coming out, that was so much fun.” She pressed the remote, changing the camera angle, and turned around to her monitor. “Seriously, the old ones are so clueless it’s kinda too easy to bait them…oh my God, thank you for the two thousand bitties superchat, SpoilerHo451. ‘Now play in the dust.’ Oh, you nasty, but you know I like nasty!” She jumped back onto the bed and made dust angels. Then she sat up, reached around the back of her bra and…

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Buffy’s Office – Same Time

Buffy’s silhouette blocked most of the screen. She spun the chair she was sitting in around. Behind her, a pair of legs looked like they were coming out of her ears. Her face was a picture of horror.

“What…what did I just…?”

“Yeah, so they do that now. Some of them.” Grace said. She stood in the doorway, eyes down on her phone as she furiously typed.

“My gift…shared…world saved for…for that?” Buffy shouted, aghast. The legs waved like antennas behind her.

“Hmm, but it is 2023, Buffy, you can’t shame a sex worker. It is a profession, with a union.”

“I’d have preferred if she’d’ve…” Buffy’s mouth froze. She was lost for words.

“Bumped his ugly?” Grace offered with a raised brow, eyes still down.

“Yes! Ugly bumped! Grace, she had a holy-water-bubble-gun. Holy. Water. Bubble. Gun.”

Grace grinned as she looked up briefly, before returning to her phone, “It’s certainly a choice. The garden sprinkler is a hoot, I have to say.”

“You’ve watched her before?”

“Oh, yeah.” She looked up again. “Had a report, had to check it out, and no, she isn’t on the books. Calm down, don’t have a stroke.”

Buffy shuddered, “I’m just glad that ping-pong ball didn’t…you know.”

Behind Buffy’s head, the legs collapsed.

“What are you doing here, anyway?” Grace asked. “You heard what happened, right?

“Yeah,” Buffy said, quickly sobering. “I asked Will and Ro if I should visit…but they said that they thought it’d be better for the kids not to have too many people all over them. Same for you, I take it?”

Grace blinked at this. After a long moment, she quietly said, “Oh, I don’t think they want me around right now.” Then she looked back up at Buffy, curtly said, “Enjoy your porn,” and turned to walk off down the hallway.

Buffy’s voice followed her. “This is for work! I don’t even like this!” Grace allowed herself a small smile.

Back at her desk, Buffy sighed and sat back in her chair. “The world is doomed.”

Cut To:


Loft – Downtown Cleveland – Later that Night

“I have to admit,” Nikki said, as she and Faith both held controllers and watched their goats running around the farm of Goat Simulator 3, “this is a cool pad.”

Faith glanced around the room. “Yeah, two bedroom, two bath condo right in the heart of Downtown Cleveland. Rock Hall is only a half mile away, if you want to go. Plus, full kitchen, if we feel inspired to cook.”

“We should bring Marty over. He loves music and he can cook.”

“Martin Giles?”

“Yeah, and he’s really good at it. Like really really good. Like, chef good. Between us, he should probably go to culinary scho– Hey! How did I end up on fire?” Nikki pointed to her goat as it ran around in flames.

“I have no idea, but it looks like I’m on fire too. Wait! Did you set me on fire?”

Both of them laughed, and Faith chuckled, “It’s a little like Zelda or Assassin’s Creed…but with flaming goats.”

“This is almost as entertaining as Grand Theft Auto,” Nikki replied. “Hint. Hint.”

“You’re thirteen, and I’m sure your dad would stop talking to me completely if I let that happen on my watch, so no. Hey! I’m not on fire anymore.”

“How did you do that?” Nikki asked.

“No idea,” Faith replied honestly. “Let’s go back to that tower thing,” she said, motioning to the TV with her controller.

“Did you ever play video games with your parents?” Nikki asked. “Did they even have video games then?”

Faith laughed, “Yes, we had games. How old do you think I am? On second thought, don’t answer that. I had Sega and a Playstation.”

“What’s a Sega? A game?” Nikki asked.

Faith stopped playing and turned to look at Nikki. “Point taken. I am old.”

“Did you play with your parents?”

Faith paused for a moment. “No, we couldn’t afford games, but…when I got to Sunnydale, I had that boss, the one who was kinda like a dad and…we played one day – Sonic, Gran Turismo and Street Fighter.”

“Oh, I’ve heard of Sonic.”

Faith snorted, “Thanks. I don’t feel quite as old now.” She looked down at her phone for a moment and said, “It’s getting close to dinner. Did you want to grab some food, Door Dash, cook here? I think I got a frozen pizza. It’s obviously not Martin Giles quality.”

“Obviously,” Nikki answered as she put the game on pause. “Liz is working Doublemeat tonight if you want to see her in a chicken/cow hat. That’s always fun.”

At that moment, Nikki’s phone went off. The screen said “Liz Giles.” “Liz is calling. Why is she calling and not texting?” She sounded nervous.

“Maybe she enjoys speaking to you?” Faith suggested.

“No one uses phones for calling anymore,” Nikki replied. She looked at her mom like she had a third eye on her forehead.

“There are some things I don’t get with this generation,” Faith muttered.

Nikki then hit two buttons and immediately said, “What’s wrong? You’re on speaker with me and my mom.”

“Psycho came in and shot the place up,” Liz said.

“What?” Faith and Nikki both exclaimed.

“Yeah, I wanted to call you in case you got a Google Alert. Jen and Alex were here, too, but they’re okay. The gunman not so much. Jen beat him. She beat him bad. A customer got hit with gunfire, but the EMTs don’t seem too super worried, so I’m hoping he’ll be okay.”

“Do you want us to come down?” Faith asked.

“No, thanks. I’m finished. The cops told me I could go and I’m home now. I just wanted to warn you is all. I’ll see you tomorrow at school, okay?”

“Okay, Liz. Thanks for calling,” Nikki told her.

“If you need anything, Sweetie, call us,” Faith added. “Or text,” she put in for good measure. “We’re glad to know you’re safe.”

“Thanks, ladies. And we’ll talk more tomorrow, Nik, I promise. Bye.”

“Bye,” Nikki said and then hung up. She looked over at her mom, “Doublemeat Palace is out. Can you believe that shit, er, stuff?” She tried to correct herself.

Faith got a distant look and said, “Sadly I can, because…nothing is really real except suffering.” She seemed to shake it off with a toss of her head and a roll of her shoulders. “Anyway, dinner. Frozen pizza and a little glass of red wine?” Faith asked.

Nikki smiled and nodded enthusiastically.

“You tell your father nothing.” Faith waved her finger.

Nikki made a zipper motion over her lips.

Cut To:


Restaurant – Early Afternoon – Next Day

January 3, 2023

Giles smiled and waved at someone entering the restaurant. As he approached, the visitor extended his blue hand, which Giles shook and then gave a gentle pat.

“Apologies for missing the party,” Brell told him.

“We missed you, too. But we all understand what it’s like to have sick kids at home. How is Belizet doing? It’s not the…” Giles let the sentence linger, as if unsure whether to press further.

“No. No thankfully, it’s not the new virus we’ve been seeing among the demon community,” Brell replied. “Just a small sneezing virus.”

A waitress approached and politely asked, “What ya drinkin’?”

“Water please,” Brell answered. With a nod, the woman walked away, and he turned back to Giles. “How is your daughter? I heard the news reports. I thought you might cancel today because of everything going on. That would be okay, if you need to see to your family.”

Giles smiled at his concern. “Surprisingly, Liz is doing much better than the rest of the family. Becca and Martin were pretty shaken up. Truth be told, I was scared as well. For me, however, there have been many situations where I could have perished. S-so perhaps I look at things differently. In the end, she is doing well, already back at the Council.”

“And what about the Red Witch’s children?”

“Willow said that the twins are doing okay. Jen is feeling a bit of heat at the moment. The majority of the public feel that she was within her rights to defend herself in any way possible. Others felt she went a bit too far and engaged in brutality.”

“I feel she did what she had to do. What do you think?” Brell asked.

Giles seemed to seriously consider the question a moment. “I think my daughter would have died if not for Jen and Alex. In my lifetime, I’ve found that sometimes you have to engage in violence in order to protect the people we love. Although it should always be a last resort, some threats need to be eliminated, for the greater good.”

Flash To:


Construction Site – Night – May 2001

Ben’s breathing sounded labored and painful, his face covered in blood. Giles knelt beside him and asked, “Can you move?”

“Need a…a minute. She could’ve killed me.”

“No, she couldn’t. Never. And sooner or later Glory will re-emerge, and…make Buffy pay for that mercy. And the world with her. Buffy even knows that…” Giles reached into his pocket and pulled out his glasses. “…and still, she couldn’t take a human life.”

Giles watched as a confused and growing look of concern began to form on Ben’s face. “She’s a hero, you see,” Giles said as he put on his glasses. “She’s not like us.”


It was Ben’s final word as Giles quickly reached down, putting his hand over Ben’s nose and mouth, holding them shut. Giles kept him still, his calm expression remaining throughout, as the life slipped from Ben’s body.

Flash To:


Restaurant – Resume

“I am happy to hear they are all safe,” Brell replied, pulling Giles from his thoughts.

“Thank you. So how is the rest of your family doing?”

“Very well. We have plans to open another dealership in the spring.”

“That’s wonderful news. I-In fact, Rebecca and I were talking recently about purchasing a vehicle. Will the new location also offer customized painting?”

“Yes. I hope I say this right: ‘if it is not broken, do not fix it.'” Brell looked rather proud of himself for using an idiom.

“That makes perfect sense,” Giles commended him.

“You realize I have you to thank,” Brell mentioned.

“How so?”

“Before Watchers come to Cleveland, my family lived in shadows. Here I sit today, in the open, surrounded by humans. I have a business that helps beings of all kinds, creatures or humans. I have a life I never thought I would have, thanks to the Council.”

Before a misty-eyed Giles could reply, the waitress returned and asked, “What would you fellas like today?”

Brell asked politely, “Can I order a chicken egg omelet with mushrooms with a biscuit?”

“Certainly. And you?” she asked, turning to Giles.

“Since my wife and cardiologist are not here to tell me I shouldn’t…I think I’ll have scrambled eggs and bacon.”

Brell and the waitress both chuckled, and she asked, “Want some biscuits and gravy to go with that? You’re already bein’ naughty.”

Giles grinned. “You know what? Let’s do it, and bring an extra plate so I can share with my good friend here.”

“It will be our little secret,” the waitress whispered conspiratorially.

As she walked away, Giles turned back to Brell and said, “Funny you should mention the Council. While I did want to catch up, I also was curious if you might have some information.”

“What kind of information?”

“The Council has noticed a number of demon refugees coming from Vor in recent months, and obviously they are concerned. They wonder if there is a particular reason why there is such a sudden increase. I was hoping, if you had not heard anything yet, you might reach out to some people you know. In your line of work, you probably speak to many different people across many different walks of life.”

“I have not heard anything. I would be willing to talk to some people I know. If I learn anything, I will let you know at that time.”

“Thank you. I appreciate it.”

“As I said…” Brell held up his glass of water in a toast, which Giles met with his own. “…thank you.”

They clinked their glasses together.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Green Room – Same Day

“Remember what I said?” Jim asked Jen.

The two of them were standing face-to-face. Jen was dressed in a pantsuit, in which she seemed particularly uncomfortable, while Jim was in his normal business attire. From the other side of the door came the commotion of reporters and other interviewers who had gathered in the briefing room. Jen gave Jim a nod, and he motioned for her to elaborate.

“One or two word answers,” she said. “No more than a sentence if I have to elaborate. Keep my hands in my pockets, so no pointing, no crossing my arms, no fidgeting. Keep my head up, so I look like I’ve got nothing to hide, but not so high that it looks like I’m superior or I might drown if it rains.”

“You got it!” said Jim, “I’m not going to ask if you’re ready because I know you’re nervous. And that’s okay. When we get out there, I’ll do most of the talking, and we’ll just have a short Q and A. You can speak or not speak. It’s your choice. If you do, keep it brief, so there is less they can take out of context.” He looked over at Willow and Rowena, who were standing to the side of them. “I’m not going to feed her to the wolves. You know my thoughts on this matter.”

“We trust you Jim,” Rowena told him.

He nodded and motioned to Jen to follow him.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Press Briefing Room – Moments Later

The sound of cameras clicking and chairs squeaking filled the briefing room as Jim and Jen made their way into the raised area behind the podium. Jim stepped up first with Jen off to his right-hand side, slightly behind him. There were approximately thirty people in the room watching their every move. True to her word, Jen stayed rooted with her hands casually in her pockets. She looked straight ahead, with an occasional sideways glance at Jim.

“Thank you all for coming here today,” Jim began the conference. “I know recently there have been some reports about the incident which occurred yesterday at the Doublemeat Palace in Olmsted Falls that we would like to address. With that in mind, here’s a prepared statement that I would like to read…

“In keeping with the Council’s policy of not promoting terrorism, I will not be using the name of the alleged shooter. I will say that this is what we understand to be the case, as it relates to the Council: A Caucasian man between eighteen and thirty years old entered the Doublemeat Palace with an AK-47 assault rifle late yesterday afternoon. He opened fire on several patrons and employees of the restaurant, one of which happened to be Elizabeth Giles, a watcher-in-training here with the Council and daughter to Rupert Giles, one of this branch’s founding members. Alexander Rosenberg and his sister, Jennifer Rosenberg, also children of founding members Rowena Allister and Willow Rosenberg, arrived at the restaurant to visit Elizabeth shortly after gunfire began. As Elizabeth Giles distracted the gunman, Steve Harding, the restaurant manager, led as many people as he could out of the back exit, where he was able to call for police.

“Around this time, the Rosenberg twins entered the establishment, and when the gunman tried to open fire on Jennifer, her brother Alexander used magic to thwart his attack. Ms. Rosenberg took that opportunity to disarm him and, when he resisted, she neutralized the threat he posed to herself, to her family and to the patrons of the Doublemeat Palace. It’s our understanding that there are individuals and organizations who found the conduct of Ms. Rosenberg unbecoming a slayer and assert that her subduing of the subject was a brutal act. The Council has met and determined that, based on the threat posed, she was within her rights to defend herself and the citizens around her. The Olmsted Falls Police Department has issued a similar statement and are not seeking charges against Ms. Rosenberg. At this time, we will open the floor to your questions.”

Several reporters jumped up at once and started to ask a question. Jim held up his hand and pointed at one woman, who then said, “Karen Cashwell, The Plain Dealer. We’ve all seen the surveillance videotape, and Ms. Rosenberg can be seen repeatedly striking the gunman as he was on the ground. Doesn’t the Council find that behavior excessive?”

Jim replied, “No. He was a deadly threat to Ms. Rosenberg and everyone in that restaurant. Next question.”

“What does Miss Rosenberg think about all this?” another reporter said. Someone else chimed in and added, “She’s not saying very much,” while another one added, “Is she afraid to talk?”

“No,” Jen answered the last questioner. “What do you want to know?”

Jim stepped aside and motioned her to the podium. She did as he instructed.

“Do you think you used excessive force?” someone asked.

Jen paused for a moment, as if considering the question. Then she leaned forward toward the small microphone and said, “No.”

“How can you say that? He was down, but you continued to strike him.”

“He shot someone. I couldn’t let him get up again.”

“Were you concerned with harming him?”

“No. That wasn’t my priority.”

“What were you thinking?” another asked.

“Get everyone out alive.”

“Even if it meant killing someone?”

Jen paused again. “First, he didn’t die. Second, if it meant saving my best friend and my brother, or any of those other people in the restaurant, including me, then yeah.”

Another reporter stood up and asked, “Some have mentioned that your anger in this video suggests that a lack of male role models in your home is to blame for your violent outburst. Can you comment?”

Jim quickly stepped forward and started to speak, but Jen stepped in front of him. “Let me make sure I understand your question…”

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Grace’s Office – Same Time

Grace sat behind her desk, the feed to the press conference open on one of her monitors. She held her breath when she saw the angry look in Jen’s eyes.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – School Hallway – Same Time

In one corner of a locker-filled hallway, near a window, Liz and Nikki had pulled off to one side to watch the press conference on Liz’s phone. Each had one earbud in.

“C’mon, Jen, keep it together,” Liz urged under her breath.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Press Briefing Room – Same Time

The furious tone was clearly audible in Jen’s voice. “…it seems like you’re asking if the reason I physically stopped a gunman is that Jenny has Two Mommies. If that’s the case, you’d be right. I did learn that at home. I learned that you take care of family – no matter how much they annoy you. Including my brother. If he hadn’t been there yesterday, I’d be dead now. They taught me to take care of humans and benevolent creatures of all kinds and do everything in my power to protect them from the evils of this world. Sometimes evil comes in the form of a Vutch demon, and sometimes it comes in the form of a gun-wielding, unstable human. In either of those cases, I’ll still use everything I have within my power to make sure that innocents are protected. Now, if anyone else has a question that is not of an offensive homophobic nature, I would be more than happy to answer it. So who’s next?” The reporters all seemed to talk at once again, but a moment later Jen cut through the din and asked, “Here’s an idea: I have a question for all of you.”

Jim seemed to be holding his breath, while trying his best to still look confident on the outside. He wasn’t alone. This act seemed to surprise everyone, and the conference room settled down. Jen pressed on.

“In three seconds or less, show of hands, who can tell me about Michael Sanchez?” Jen asked. Three reporters’ hands went up immediately. “Look around,” she told the reporters. Jen was going to start to point, but then hesitated, seeming to remember Jim’s advice about not pointing. Instead, she nodded her head towards one of the people who had their hands raised. “Who is he?” she asked the nearest reporter.

“He’s the young gentleman who tried to thwart the attack and was shot,” the man replied. “He’s expected to make a full recovery.”

“Which is great news. So what can you tell me about him?”

“He’s an auto mechanic, if I’m not mistaken.”

“He is. Do you know what he was doing there that day?”

“I’ve heard that the shop was extra busy, so they were going to be working late. So he stopped in to get a burger with his girlfriend.”

“Winner winner. Doublemeat Palace dinner,” Jen replied.

The group of reporters began to smile and chuckle. Even Jim had to grin slightly.

“But here’s the problem,” she went on. “Or at least, the way that I see it. Everybody’s asking about this guy who planned to shoot up a restaurant, but nobody’s talking about Michael Sanchez. Here is a guy grabbing a quick burger with his lady, because otherwise he wouldn’t have seen her that day. She works two jobs, he works overtime. Livin’ the American dream, workin’ themselves to death, to keep a roof over their heads, right?”

Cut To:


Green Room – Same Time

“Goddess,” Willow sighed as she watched the interview next to Rowena. “She’s channeling her Grandma Sheila again. This is gonna go off the rails.”

Cut To:


Briefing Room – Continuous

Jen continued to sing the man’s praises, “So here he is, blue collar, regular Joe Six-Pack. He’s got no superpowers, but he’s got the bravery to stand up to someone with a gun. He charged ahead, knowing full well he might die. Three people in this room held their hands up out of thirty of you. Just three. And yeah, I’m flunking algebra, even though my Ma is trying her best to help, but I can tell you that only ten percent of you know what really matters. Here’s a suggestion from a smart-mouth kid: Do better. As my mom tells me, ‘Don’t be sorry. Just improve.’ You all have the ability, right now, to improve. Put your energy in the right places. How many of you have mentioned or printed news about Michael’s GoFundMe, so he won’t get evicted while he’s recovering? He can’t earn a living fixing vehicles when he’s flat on his back in a hospital recovering, which, by the way, is another huge expense. The choice isn’t tough here. You can continue to attack a fifteen-year-old female who was literally fighting for her life and the lives of those around her, or you can start reporting stories that matter. I don’t think there is anything else that I need to say here, so if you have any other questions, ask Jim…Mr. Pollan. And if I have time, between studying and still flunking algebra, I’ll answer them.”

The room erupted again. Jen turned to Jim and said, “Sorry. I said way more than a sentence. Can we go now?”

Jim leaned down and whispered in her ear, “Don’t you wanna drop the mic first and say, ‘Rosenberg out’?”

“No, because I’m not old like you,” she said with a grin.

Jim smiled, then turned to the collective and said, “You heard the young lady. We’re done. Thank you all for coming.”

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Meeting Room – Later that Day

Willow leaned over to Rowena, who was sitting next to her on one side of the Council’s largest meeting room, and quietly said, “This oughta be good.”

Rowena sighed and looked back over at her wife. “I-I know it’s been a hard couple days, for both of us, but can you try to be civil for a few minutes?”

The room consisted of several raised tiers of seats surrounding a central podium, next to which Grace was going through some papers as she waited for the last few stragglers. The seats were filled with nearly every veteran member of the Cleveland Branch of the Watchers Council. A Zoom screen behind her showed not just a couple faces, but several, with labels indicating they represented Council branches from all over the world.

“Oh, I’ll listen,” Willow said, “and if she comes up with another incredibly dumb plan to get us all killed, I’m gonna say so.”

Rowena let out a long breath. “Well, I tried.”

Liz walked into the room and was met with a hug from Buffy, who had been waiting for her near the entrance with Xander.

“Are you okay?” Buffy asked. Liz shrugged.

“If you need anything –” Xander began.

Liz then noticed Trina sitting with a group of other student watchers across the room and stormed over in her direction. Concerned looks from Buffy and Xander followed her.

“You’ve got some serious balls, showing up here,” Liz growled.

Trina looked up at her, eyes going from confusion to anger in a split-second. “I’m sorry, Giles, what are you talking about now?”

“We were all in danger, and you freakin’ ran away, that’s what I’m talking about,” Liz said, raising her voice. The general hubbub in the room died down at this, most of the eyes going to the two teenagers. “What kind of watcher are you?”

“I’m not a watcher yet, and neither are you,” Trina shot back. “The difference is, I’m not a self-important bitch who stays behind to get shot by a psycho. Newsflash Giles, you’re not Xena.”

“I had to protect those people,” Liz said, her hands forming into fists, “because you were too much of a coward.”

“Is that what your little slayer friend calls it?” Trina said, her voice low. “Protecting? Looked a lot more to me like she might just enjoy beating the shit out of people. Maybe she’s the one you should be worrying about.”

“Yep, that’s it,” Liz said, and she lunged toward the other girl. She got about two inches before Buffy grabbed her around the waist, dragging her backward. Given their height difference, Buffy found herself struggling with the taller young woman.

“Let’s not right now, okay?” Buffy said in a labored breath.

“Keep her away from me!” Trina shouted, pointing. “I’ve been through a trauma!”

“I’ll give you trau –” Liz got out before she was interrupted by a shout from the podium.

Everybody, sit down!” Grace yelled. She picked up her gavel and slammed it down on the lectern.

The noise that had broken out in the room died down considerably. Buffy released Liz, who looked up at Grace, eyes still furious. Liz huffed and straightened her jacket.

“I know you kids have had a hard day,” Grace continued, “which is why I’m not suspending both of you on the spot. But if you two can’t keep it together, you can leave. Otherwise, I’d like to get back to saving the world. Whaddaya say?”

“What did I do?” Trina wondered out loud. Grace’s eyes focused on her and got slightly, very slightly, wider. Trina’s mouth snapped shut, and she sat back in her seat. Liz strode across the room and sat down one row in front of Willow and Rowena. The latter reached out and put one hand on Liz’s shoulder.

Grace took a very deep breath then said, “Okay, so, I think you know why we’re all here. The vampire that emerged from the Box of Nakodok, who we have been calling the Vampire King, turns out to be a bigger bad than any of us have dealt with in, well, a long time. By now, you are all probably aware of what happened at the Cleveland Museum of Art and the school district parking garage. If you aren’t, here’s the clickbait: she seems to be invulnerable and immune to magic and has beaten the hell out of us every time we’ve run up against her. And, by some great cosmic coincidence, the night our latest excited Cleveland tourist arrived is the same night that disappearances in this town spiked like nothing our records have seen, ever. We’re talking well over a hundred in just over two weeks.” She looked around the room. “So here we are. We don’t know how to trap her again, we don’t know how to stop her, we don’t know where she is or what she’s doing, and we don’t know what she has to do with these disappearances, if anything. I’ve had a task force on this, but I think we might be past that. As of right now, this is priority number one for all of us. So I’d like to ask, does anyone have any ideas?”

For approximately five seconds, no one said anything. Somebody on the Zoom feed coughed.

“Grace,” Willow said finally, her voice steady. “If you brought us all here for a pep talk, I gotta say, that wasn’t –”

“If not,” Grace continued, acting as if she hadn’t heard Willow, “I’m going to ask Skye Talisker to speak to all of you.” She turned to the vampire, who was sitting in the front row just to her right. “Skye?”

As Skye got to her feet, a slight buzz returned to the room. Several of the slayers in particular seemed uneasy. Cindy whispered something derisive to the slayer next to her and was shushed by Emma, earning a glare from the redhead.

Skye stood behind the podium, flashed the room a big grin, then said, “Yep, it’s me, the vampire.” She briefly flashed into her monster face, then immediately changed back again. “Now that we got that out of the way, I’ve been looking into what we need to do to duplicate what was originally done to put my fellow Undead-American into confinement. As Liz Giles, eminent scholar and pugilist,” she nodded toward Liz with a wry grin, “figured out prior to her latest escapade, what we think was the original spell seems to now be impossible because it needs the egg of a bird that was inconsiderate enough to go extinct several centuries ago.” She clicked a button on the laptop sitting on the podium, sharing her screen with the room and everyone on Zoom. It showed a drawing of an elephant bird. “So, at the suggestion of the extremely beautiful and ageless Dawn Summers, also a whiz at Wordle, I broke the spell down into components.” From her seat, Dawn gave a small smile at this description. “As far as I can tell, the reason it needs the egg is because the yolk is infused with an ambient earth magic specific to a certain area of Madagascar.” She clicked her mouse again, showing a map with two lines converging on a northern area of the island off the coast of southeastern Africa. “Specifically, from an intersection of two ley lines, here.”

Robin cleared his throat. “Yes, the bald dude in the back,” Skye said, pointing.

Robin sighed, slightly bemused, then continued. “I understand how all this is theoretically interesting, but we don’t have the eggs, so how does this help us?”

Willow spoke up, not waiting to be called on. “Because if we can get an ingredient that duplicates that signature, it might have the same effect. I’d have to dig in for a couple days to figure it out, though, and even if it was something I could find, we would still need –”

“A containment vessel?” Skye supplied. “You’ve been…occupied, so I looked into that, too, and it seems like we can kill two birds with one stone. Or wood, in this case. And then drink the birds’ blood because I’m a vampire.” She grinned at everyone. “In case y’all forgot.”

She clicked the mouse again, and the screen changed to a picture of a very strange-looking tree, much wider at the base than the top and lacking branches for much of its height. Its trunk seemed almost twisted around itself.

“This is Perrier’s baobab,” Skye said, “adansonia perrieri, if you’re very boring, which happens to grow pretty much only in that spot I just pointed out.”

“Skye,” Rowena said, her voice sounding very tired, “I think I speak for everyone, but honestly mostly for me, when I say I have had a couple of long days. What are you getting at?”

Skye looked up at the picture on the screen then back at Rowena. “Really? You’re usually all with the dots-connecting. We make a new box out of the wood of this tree.” She pointed at the screen. “Do the rest of the spell exactly the same. It’ll work.”

“No, it won’t!” Willow said, throwing up her hands. Skye looked slightly stricken. “First off, how the hell are we going to get one of these trees?”

Xander spoke up, “We, uh, we aren’t. Skye mentioned this to me, so I did a little digging. There are only two hundred and fifty left in the wild, and exporting the wood from Madagascar is a crime. Kind of a big one.”

Willow held out a hand toward him, as if to say, “See?” Then she went on, “And even if we could eventually get some of this stuff, how’s this spell gonna work if this girl is immune to magic? I still don’t understand how that’s even possible.”

“Well, my Priestess,” Skye said, very tersely and formally, through her teeth, “if you have any ideas here, I’m sure we’d all love to hear them. Some of us are actually trying to solve this problem.”

Rowena put a hand across the very angry-looking Willow’s chest. Her own eyes were almost as angry, and she spoke in a furious monotone. “I don’t know if you heard, but our kids almost died last night.”

“Boo hoo,” Skye shot back. “I’m already dead. We’ve all got problems.”

Dawn sat up in her chair, eyes wide. She raised an ineffectual restraining hand in Skye’s direction.

“Skye,” Grace said quietly, from her seat next to the podium, “You’re out of line.”

Willow looked over at the Chairwoman, but Grace did not meet her eyes.

Skye swallowed then turned back to the two angry women. “You know I love your kids. Hell, I changed their frickin’ diapers, and trust me when I say I don’t do that for just anybody. But I don’t know if you heard our fearless leader’s little spiel. People are dying, or at least going missing. A lot of people. Like, a lot a lot. What’s been happening so far is not even close to enough. It doesn’t matter why. You’re tired, we’re all tired. You’re stuck, we’re all stuck. But we don’t have time for anybody to take a mental health day right now, I’m sorry. We gotta get our shit together or things are gonna get way worse, really fast. So if you don’t think this is gonna work, what do you think we should do different?”

Liz looked over her shoulder to see Willow and Rowena both sit back in their seats, pensive looks on their faces.

Then, over the speakers, came a voice with an Australian accent. “Hi, Vanessa Taylor, Head Watcher, Sydney. I honestly am not sure how much I should wade into this, but I have to ask, are there any tree species close to the one you described that we could use? Same family or area?”

“Uh, thank you, Ms. Taylor,” Skye said, “I love your accent. Um, I did look at that, and there are other, more widespread baobab species that are sometimes exported, but the further away you get from that intersection the more diluted that magic is. You’d need to give it some extra oomph, a boost.”

“Like a blessing,” Willow said, now thinking along with her.

“Um, Andrew Wells, High Coven Priest, Los Angeles,” Andrew’s voice came over the speakers. “I, uh, I’m still very jet-lagged, and I can’t see any of you, but wouldn’t a normal Wiccan blessing work? It would need to be with the same general signature as the original wood to have the right effect, I think?”

Skye hurriedly clicked off her screen share, bringing back the wall of faces on the large screen, along with a slightly larger box in one corner showing the current speaker, Andrew.

“It would need to be a local magic user, like a shaman,” Willow agreed.

She seemed not to notice Grace sitting quietly in her seat. She wasn’t smiling, but she wasn’t not smiling, either.

“That’s good, isn’t it?” Robin asked. “We get one of those, we get some of this wood, we’re in business. Kind of.”

“I’ve got a couple guys I talk to for the exotics,” Xander said. “They might have baobab. Give me a couple weeks…”

“A couple weeks?” Skye asked. “Were you just listening for my surprisingly un-snarky ‘people are dying’ speech?”

“Althenea Dimmons, High Coven Priestess, London. I can talk to Johannesburg and Nairobi about finding a native shaman, and if I recall, there may be records from when Bureau Nine ran a major operation in Madagascar, but yes, a couple weeks may be optimistic for the time it’ll take to –”

“Found it,” said Trina, holding up her phone.

The room was silent for three full seconds.

It was Grace who finally said, “Found what?”

Trina looked back at her phone screen and read from it. “Personalized boxes made from the beautiful wood of the baobab tree of Madagascar, custom-carved with the design of your choice.” She looked back up. “It’s on Etsy,” she said, with the sort of condescending tone only a teenage girl can pull off.

After another long beat, Willow leaned forward and said, “Well, that still doesn’t solve the blessing –”

“For an additional $25.99, your box will be blessed by Ando, a priest of the Anta –” Trina’s reading stumbled, and she sounded the word out awkwardly. “Antakarana people of northern Madagascar, now residing in Woodbury, Minnesota.”

She looked up and focused on Liz, still sitting across the room with her mouth open, and flashed her a sickening grin. Liz’s eyes got very large.

Then Trina looked back down at her phone and said, “Oh, they have overnight shipping for an extra forty bucks.” She paused, looking over at Grace. “Should I go ahead and –”

“Yes!” Grace nearly yelled.

“Okay,” Willow pressed on, “I guess that, uh, solves that problem, but it’s all going to be for nothing if we don’t figure out why magic runs off the Vampire King’s back like she’s the world’s angriest duck.”

Rowena looked over at her wife.

“What?” Willow asked.

Rowena shook her head. “I love you so much sometimes.”

“Do we think it has anything to do with the disappearances?” Andrew asked over the speakers.

Grace sat forward in her chair. “What do you mean?”

“It’s just – I’m sure you guys thought of this, sorry – the numbers you mentioned. She can’t be eating that many people, can she? All that blood, she’d be, like, the world’s fattest vampire.”

Rowena cocked her head, mouth slightly open. “So…what’s she doing with them?” she asked, thinking it out as she said it.

“I was thinking, maybe she’s draining their essences somehow, like to take their power?” Andrew continued, sounding maybe a little too excited. “Oh! Maybe she’s turning the potential energy of what they might become into her actual energy, like the Weeping Angels on Doctor Who.”

“That’s not how the Weeping Angels work,” Grace groused under her breath, arms crossed.

Buffy raised a hand and then said, “If that’s true, not the whosy-whatsies, but the essence thing, is there a way to stop her from doing that? Like to break the connection?”

Rowena thought about this then said, “Maybe?”

Buffy turned to Xander with a broad grin and whispered, “I knew a watcher thing.”

Shannon raised her hand then and stood in the back of the room, speaking for the first time all meeting. “How are we gonna do that if we can’t even touch her? I’m sorry, we’ve tried every single weapon we can think of on this vamp, and they’ve all bounced off her.”

Emma blinked several times. “No weapon forged,” she whispered to herself.

“What was that?” Cindy asked, leaning over to her.

Emma shook her head. “Nothing.”

“I know this is serious,” Shannon continued, “but I just want to say that I really, really urge everyone here to take a second before they send slayers back into this thing’s path. I couldn’t guarantee the Coven’s safety long enough for them to try any kind of spell, much less whatever complicated thing you all are talking about.”

This took the air out of the room somewhat. After several moments, Skye turned to look down at Grace and asked, “Can I sit down now?”

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Hallway Outside Meeting Room – Minutes Later


The Chairwoman stopped at the sound of Willow calling out her name, but didn’t turn around at first. Around them, the rest of the attendees filed out of the meeting room.

“Grace,” Willow said again, walking quickly toward her.

Rowena was just exiting the room and immediately saw what was going on. “Shit,” she said under her breath and then started jogging over toward them.

When Willow made it to within a few feet, Grace turned around, an expectant eyebrow raised.

A moment later, Rowena reached the two of them. “Will –”

“I know what you did in there,” Willow told Grace.

Grace crossed her arms over her chest, tablet still in one hand. “And what did I do?”

“You wanted to yell at me to get my ass in gear, to get things…unstuck, but you knew that if you did, I’d just get angrier with you. So you put Skye up there to do it instead.”

“I didn’t tell Skye to do any of that,” Grace said. “Ask her.”

“No, but you know Skye, and you know me. You knew what would happen.”

Rowena looked back and forth between the two of them, holding her breath.

“Is that it?” Grace finally asked, looking down at the floor.

Willow took a deep breath. “Skye is right. We have to push through this today.” Grace’s eyes came back up to look at her. “But I don’t like being manipulated.”

With that, Willow turned and walked away down the hall. Rowena shot Grace an apologetic look and took off after her wife.

“Well, that went better than I thought,” Grace said to herself.

Nearby, Emma tugged on Buffy’s sleeve. “We need to talk,” she said.

Buffy looked over at Xander then back at Emma. “I’ve got to feed Joyce,” she said. “Come by our place in an hour?” Emma nodded.

Cut To:


Corridor – Night

“Hhhhhhaaaaaaa!” a woman revved as her small, balled fist struck a metal door. The impact shook it slightly more than it should have, given its composition. “Hhhhhhaaaaaaa! Ugh!” She flung her long, wavy brown hair over her shoulder as she looked back. “Like, I’m strong, but I’m not the Hulk!”

“No, but you are…” a man’s voice echoed, as he stepped out of the shadows. His hair was tousled back, and he wore round glasses that framed his stubbled face. “…the Slayer. The Head Slayer in point of fact, Duffy, but you won’t be either for much longer if we don’t get through.”

“Hey! Up there!” Another woman appeared between them. She was petite with a bob of red hair. Wearing a ballgown, she pointed upwards. “A vent! I’ve got this, fam!”

The woman contorted her fingers into peculiar hooks and thrust them down by her sides. With a shudder and the sound of gears, she went straight up, swaying, into the air.

“I get it, we’re running out of time, Miles!” Duffy growled sarcastically.

“Precisely, and if they…” Miles pointed to the door and cocked his head all the way to the right, his ear touching his shoulder. “…drain the Guardian dry, they’ll deactivate the entire Chosen line! Until we know that Wisteria can magic her way through, keep punchi –”


A loud buzzer rang, giving way to the audible click of flood lights bursting into life and the chorus of voices and hustle of the indoor set. The actors separated from their marks and looked toward the booming voice.

Wearing a white linen suit, Andrew, flanked by a woman carrying an open binder held pressed against her chest, strode forward.

The seated director was in the midst of taking off his headphones with an incredulous look, mouthing profanities under his breath, when Andrew placed a hand on his shoulder. “It’s okay, I’ve got this,” he said, through pursed lips and squinted eyes.

Andrew marched to the foot of the set, came to a stop and, after a moment, smiled. His assistant came to a stop ahead of him. Andrew’s eyes widened in disgust as he looked her up and down from behind before taking a larger step ahead of her. Then he smiled again at the man playing Miles.

“Andy? Can I call you Andy?”

With his hands on his hips, Andrew Lincoln bluntly said, “No.”

“Andy, you see, like, a watcher watches, and you’re just doing that head tilt thing you did in The Walking Dead, okay? Like, it’s iconic, don’t get me twisted, but watchers are less, ‘I’m gonna kill Negan’ and more ‘Get back in the house, Coral,’ you know? You know. Well, some watchers do have ‘the shoot all the windows thing’ in ’em and do have a look, but you know, more waaaatching, ‘kay? Thanks.”

Andrew Lincoln rolled his eyes shut, took off his prop glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Oh, and Rachel?” Andrew cupped his mouth, shouting, craning his head upwards.

Fifteen feet above the set, Rachel Bloom lightly swayed, strapped into a harness that cut into her dress. “Ya-huh?”

“My diagnosis? Awesome, you’re killing it, Sweetie, but more witchy fingers!”

“You got it, Andy!” she fluttered her fingers.

“Andrew,” he corrected.

“Oh, yes, sorry, Mr. Wells.”

“And Annie?” Andrew cast his gaze back down to the girl playing Duffy.

“Yes, Mr. Wells?” Annie Murphy perked up, bright eyed.

From above, Rachel muttered, “Yes, Mr. Wells ?” snidely imitating Annie, the pitch of her voice almost as high as the position she was suspended in.

The assistant behind Andrew stifled a smirk with her deadpan eyes.

Andrew raised his hand to his mouth, his thumb, index, and middle finger forming a triangle, and threw his hand out in a chef’s kiss

Annie beamed a huge smile and turned to Andrew Lincoln, who gave an exaggerated nod before becoming crestfallen as she looked away, up to Rachel, who quickly changed her mocking expression into one of curled-up joy and gave her a clap.

Cut To:


Cleveland City Street – Evening

A boot, its bottom edge encrusted with slightly pink salt crystals, hopped over an icy curb onto the sidewalk. It belonged to Maddie Allen, who was hurrying along through the cold, hands-in-pockets. She came to a small, windowless building, with a lighted sign hanging above the front door. “The Stake & Crossbow,” it read, below a sort of coat of arms featuring a silhouette drawing of a crossbow interlocked with two crossed stakes. Maddie hurriedly pushed through the front door.

Cut To:


The Stake & Crossbow – Same Time

Inside, several patrons, all female, hung out at seats around a bar that formed both sides of a rectangle, some alone, some in small groups, along with a few at smaller tables around the edges. All were nursing drinks of various sizes, or half-eaten plates of potato skins. To the casual observer, the décor might have appeared the usual mix of knick-knacks and photos, though a closer inspection would have revealed that many of the knick-knacks were rusting swords and other weapons of various types, and the photos were all of various groups of girls, some mid-fight. A large signed photo behind the bar depicted a smiling Faith with her arm around a middle-aged woman. It hung beneath the same stuffed and mounted Grofthaar Beast head that could be seen behind the two women in the photo. An ignored television in one corner showed a basketball game.

Maddie pulled off her gloves, stuffing them in a coat pocket, and sat down at a seat at the bar.

“All right, Maddie, my luv,” said the bartender, the same woman in the photo with Faith. “What’ll it be?”

“I’ll have a Dortmunder,” Maddie said with a straight face. The bartender just gave her a baleful look. Maddie sighed. “Okay, a Sprite.” The bartender nodded and walked off. “Thanks, Lisa!” she called after her.

“You’ve been trying that since we met,” said the girl in the seat next to Maddie with a smile.

“Hey, SlayBae,” Maddie greeted her.

“What are you now, seventeen? You’ve got years to go.”

Maddie raised an argumentative index finger. “Hey, if I’m old enough to die fighting vampires, I think I should be old enough to drink. And don’t get me started on voting.”

“Nowt to do with me, sweet’art, sorry. ‘ere are,” said Lisa in her thick accent. She put down a glass of Sprite in front of Maddie.

As Lisa set down the drink, a small, black cat jumped up on the bar next to it. As Maddie chuckled and stuck out a finger toward the kitten, SlayBae asked, “Who’s this? Is she new?”

“He, actually,” Lisa said. “Name’s Bruce. Girl brought in a new batch the other day, said she broke up a demon poker game. As if we ‘aven’t enough ‘ere already.” She gestured around the bar, where it was now clear several cats of various sizes were roaming around. In one corner, a couple of them were chowing down on a bowl of dry kibble.

“So, how’s tricks?” Maddie asked SlayBae. Seeing the girl’s grin widen, she hesitated. “No, I mean…the slaying. You’re still here, no new neck scars, so mostly okay, I’m thinking.”

Slaybae shrugged. “Pretty much the usual. Had a pretty good session the other day. Got a guy from the 1920s, complete idiot. I pulled out the holy water bubble gun.”

Maddie brightened considerably. “Oh, that one’s great!” SlayBae raised an eyebrow at her and took a swig of her own Dortmunder, causing Maddie to backtrack. “I mean, I’ve heard. I heard that one’s great.”

“Uh-huh. Look, speaking of, I gotta ask you…” SlayBae looked away from the younger girl and up at another photo on the wall, this one showing a group of young Japanese girls holding up a trophy above the caption, “Nagoya Independent Slaying Club, 1st Freelance Gold Medalists, World Slayer Games.” On a shelf nearby, a tabby cat slept, its tail twitching occasionally. “I’m not trying to pry, but what do your parents think of you coming out to bars on school nights and hanging out with, y’know, adult entertainment entrepreneurs?”

“It’s okay,” Maddie said. She took a long swig of Sprite through her straw while the other woman waited, then she sighed. “It’s just my mom. And she doesn’t know where I am. She basically never does. She works like four jobs, and when she figured out I was making more money than she was, she basically stopped asking questions. Y’know, as long as I give her half.” She glanced up at the basketball game then back over at Slaybae. As she spoke, she absent-mindedly stroked Bruce the kitten’s back. “It’s not like I’m out doing drugs or something like a bunch of the kids at school. I’m doing my job. And when it gets slow, I come by here until it picks up again.”

“You know, I’d say you should sign up with the Council, but I know you think they’re…”

She pointed at Maddie just in time for the younger girl to finish, “…a bunch of goddamn fascists,” then nodded, satisfied, and took another drink. As she did so, Maddie continued, “I mean, what, I’m just supposed to fight who they tell me, when they tell me, and, oh, if I don’t, they’ll ground me? What if I don’t trust who Grace frickin’ Hatherley says are the bad guys and good guys, huh? What if I want to pick my own clients, pick my own battles, set my own rates? Like I need some old guy telling me how to stake vamps, anyway.”

Slaybae shrugged. “I hear that some of them are young, hot guys these days. Not that they’d let me join at this point.”

“Oh, right,” Maddie said. “Like either of us needs a watcher to pull guys. Just put you’re a hetero slayer in your Tinder profile, RIP your inbox. Anyway, just look at Buffy Summers. She spent years hanging out with some old guy I saw her say on BuzzFeed was ‘like her dad.’ Because that’s not creepy at all. Oh! Did I tell you that I think I met her?”

“I think that you might have told Crystal, who told Lexi, who told me. But yes.”

Maddie ignored this. “At the museum. Oh man, that was a clusterfuck. But anyway, Buffy Summers. I mean, she didn’t say much? But I’m there like twenty seconds, and her slayer, Evelyn or whoever…”

“Emma, I think?”

“…is already telling me what to do. Like I don’t know what I’m doing, like I’m not out here supporting my family and making these calls every day, and it’s fine. It’s been fine.”

“You know,” Slaybae said seriously, “if you’re out there and get into a tight spot like that, you’ve got people here, probably five girls in here right now, that you can call, right? No matter what the Council thinks, none of us are in this alone.”

“Thanks…” Maddie said, and then she grinned, “…Brenda.”

Slaybae scowled and set down her beer. “And if you tell anyone that’s my real name, I will answer that distress call exactly as fast as I feel like, after I’m done with a mani-pedi. Is that clear?”

Maddie barely paused at this. “And, and, then this little blonde girl, she is like, thirteen, maybe? She straight up comes after me, screaming. She said she was gonna gouge out my uterus with her thumbs. I mean, it was hilarious, I would have kicked that girl’s ass halfway to Detroit if she’d tried anything, but I mean, it’s the principle of the thing. I’ll betcha the Council didn’t do shit to her, either. Fuck them.”

“I’ll drink to that,” Slaybae said. She clinked her beer against Maddie’s glass then took another long swig. Nearby, a cat meowed.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Buffy & Xander’s Apartment – Same Time

Buffy sat on her and Xander’s couch, Emma across from her in one of their chairs. Xander could be heard in the background, singing a lullaby to Joyce.

“I get why you think this is a good idea,” Buffy said. “Heck, I think it might be a good idea. Maybe. I’ll have to think about it.” She shook her head. “But you saw everyone in there. It’s going to take a lot of convincing to get them to send everybody into the breach again. Those are some…really big breeches.” She stopped, a far-off look in her eyes, then softly said, “I have no idea what that means.”

Emma sat forward, resting her elbows on her knees. “If you support it, they’ll do it,” she said. “Everyone respects you. You were the Slayer. The Slayer.”

Buffy sighed. “I appreciate that thought, Emma, I do, but there are a couple key words there. First, were, as in, not currently. Secondly, slayer, as in, not watcher. I am not the one anyone here would ask if they wanted to know if this plan was going to work. And honestly, I have no idea if it will. That’s not going to convince Shannon, or anyone else.”

Emma took a deep breath then said, “Summers, it’ll work. I need you to trust me. How many times did you have to ask Giles to trust you? And he did, right?”

“I mean,” Buffy said, “sometimes. There were a bunch of times where he didn’t and then I did the thing anyway.” She stopped, her eyes getting big for a moment. “Do not do that!”

Emma set her jaw. “Do you trust me?”

Buffy looked away. Her eyes went to an elaborate, abstract wire sculpture on the nearest end table. On its base had been written, “Emma Choi, 15.” She looked back at the slayer. “Em, it’s not just a trust thing. I have to think about your safety, too.”

“So that’s a no?” Emma asked. After a long moment, she huffed angrily and sat back in her chair.

Buffy ran her hands over her face and let out a long sigh.

Cut To:


Abandoned Factory – The Next Day

Emma kicked a soda can, and it rattled away across the dirty, debris-strewn cement floor of a factory. Rusting metal columns held up the ceiling. There were holes in a few places where the sunshine showed through in single beams down to the floor. She carried her guitar case over her back.

“She thinks she has to protect me,” Emma said to the empty building. She twirled her stake as she picked her way among the debris. “She should know, I’m a badass. I’m a slayer.” She raised her voice and shouted, “I’m Emma Choi!” The sound echoed through the space.

“Hello, Emma Choi.”

Emma whipped around to see the Vampire King standing a few yards behind her. Emma made a very small noise of surprise, her breathing quickening.

“Why did you come here?” the King asked.

Emma swallowed and kept moving away. “I needed a good fight. Thought I’d patrol.”

“You are all alone,” said the King. “You did not bring your Council with you.” These were statements, not questions.

Slowly and very carefully, keeping her eyes on the King, Emma began to step backward. The King matched her steps, moving forward.

“I-I don’t need backup to fight you,” Emma said, but her voice shook with nerves.

“You cannot fight me in any case,” the King said. “I cannot be harmed. Not by that stick you hold.” Emma’s grip tightened around the stake in her hand. “Not by the magic of your witches.”

Emma took another step back, into the nearest shaft of sunlight. The Vampire King stopped at the edge of the circle. The light illuminated the heavy sweat on Emma’s face. She was losing control of her breathing. She raised her stake.

Then the vampire lunged forward, into the light. Emma’s eyes went huge, and she threw up a defensive left forearm. The King grabbed this and pulled Emma toward her into the center of the circle of light. Emma tried to bring up the stake, but the King grabbed it and easily forced her arm back down.

“Not by the sunlight,” the King said easily.

Emma stayed still, her eyes huge, as the King brought her face within inches of hers. The King spoke to her, each word seeming like a pronouncement from some deep place in the earth.

“Here is what will happen, daughter of Sineya. I tell you to cause you pain. I have tired of many things during my time, but pain is not one of them. I will drain your blood. Then you will drink from me. You will become something greater than your weak mortal shell. Then you will wish to cause your Council pain. And you will.”

Emma’s breath caught, and something hardened in her eyes. “I’m not afraid,” she whispered.

“You should be.”

The Vampire King drove her fangs into Emma’s neck.

Black Out


End of Act Seven. On to the final act…

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