Abandoned Factory – Resume
A few seconds after the Vampire King bit her, Emma’s arms flopped to her sides. The King let go of them, fully engrossed in feeding on her prey.
A moment after that, Emma slapped something large on the back of the King’s shoulder.
Surprised, the King released the slayer’s neck and took a step back. Slowly, she reached behind her back. She found a sticky package of a gray substance, approximately the size and shape of a brick, a small metal object embedded therein.
“I do not understand,” she said. She looked up at Emma to see that the slayer’s face had completely transformed. Rather than appearing terrified, she wore a feral grin.
“Welcome to 2023,” Emma said. With that, she pulled her phone out of her back pocket and raised it close to her mouth. “Hey Siri, blow this bitch up in five seconds.”
Emma took off in a full-on sprint away from the Vampire King. The King remained where she was, her normally placid forehead crinkled in confusion.
Emma’s run brought her to a large, rusty piece of old machinery. She dove behind it, where she found Buffy, Willow and the full Coven of the Cleveland Branch waiting for her, all wearing small, leather bags around their necks. She and Buffy exchanged a quick look.
Emma looked back up over the edge of the machinery to see the Vampire King slowly walking toward them. She looked frantically back down at her phone. “Siri, blow up the bomb!”
“I’m sorry,” her phone replied calmly, “I didn’t quite get that.”
Emma and Buffy exchanged another, more frantic look, then Emma screamed once more into her phone. “Blowupthebomb blowupthebomb blowupth–!“
An explosion rocked the factory. An enormous orange ball of fire rose fifteen feet in the air. Several rusty columns fell. A whole section of the ceiling fell to the floor with a crash where the King had been standing.
Watchers Council – Buffy and Xander’s Apartment – Night
The Night Before
“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.
“No, Em, it’s not a no. God help me. Let’s talk to Xander, see what he has that might work.” She raised her voice and called out, “Xander?”
He walked in from their bedroom, shushing her. He held a sleeping baby Joyce in his arms. “What are you doing?” he stage-whispered. “I just got her to sleep!”
“Remember the Judge?” Buffy asked him quietly.
Watchers Council – Armory – Earlier that Day
Xander put the brick-sized package of C-4 down on a table in front of him. Across the table stood Emma, Buffy and Shannon.
“So, not a rocket launcher?” Emma asked with a pout. “I was looking forward to –”
“None of us are trained on rocket launchers,” Xander said. “This is a lot more idiot-proof.” He looked up suddenly. “Um, I meant to say –”
“I wasn’t trained,” Buffy pointed out, a knowing smile on her face and her arms folded.
“You guys did some really dumb shit back in the day, huh?” Shannon said. She then turned to Emma. “Remember how she moves? We take a shot at her and miss, we’re not getting another one. This is better, but you’ll have to get really close to her to get it on her. And I won’t lie, that’s gonna suck.”
Emma looked back at the explosive sitting on the table. “Possibly literally.”
Abandoned Factory – Resume
Dawn was affixing a white bandage over the fang marks on Emma’s neck.
“That was really good acting,” Dawn commented. “How did you pull that off?”
Emma stole the briefest of glances at Buffy, who was peering over the edge of the machinery, then looked back at Dawn. “I’m method,” she said.
“Uh…guys?” Buffy said, worry in her voice. “I don’t think she’s dead. Or I mean…you get it.”
Sure enough, the fallen pieces of ceiling and girders piled some distance away in the center of the factory floor had begun to shift and move. Finally, the Vampire King threw off a particularly large beam and got to her feet in the center of the rubble. Her clothing was in tatters, but her body appeared unharmed.
Almost immediately, however, her skin began to smoke and burn in the sunlight streaming through the hole in the ceiling. The King held up her hand in the light quizzically and watched it begin to singe.
Then, in a blur, she shot out of the area of sunlight and into the shadows of the factory.
“How?” she bellowed, real anger showing through in her voice for the first time.
Watchers Council – Grace’s Office – The Night Before
Buffy and Emma sat in chairs at Grace’s desk. One of Grace’s monitors had a Zoom window open, with Willow and Rowena on the screen. They sat side-by-side in their kitchen. Somewhere behind them, Alex was looking through the refrigerator in his pajamas.
“I’m not seeing it,” Willow said. “It’s an interesting idea, Em, it is, but as far as I can tell, the King’s skin is impenetrable. I’m not even sure nuking her would work at this point.”
“Maybe it doesn’t have to kill her,” Grace said quietly, as if just having the idea. She looked up at the screen and spoke louder. “I mean, think about Andrew’s idea, right? She’s invulnerable because she’s somehow drawing power from the people she’s taking. So there has to be, what, a connection, right? What if we broke that connection? Whaddaya think, Ro?”
Rowena stole a glance over at her wife, who was just looking at her steadily, then looked back into the camera and took a deep breath. “In theory, yes. And it’s very possible a large and unexpected blow like this, even if it didn’t cause enough physical damage to actually slay the vampire, would be enough to break however she’s maintaining that mystical connection. So…” She looked back over at Willow. “It could work, and if it does, it means she’d be vulnerable, both physically and to magic again. She’d still be super-strong, though, like at the museum. If you can find her again.”
“The earring should still work,” Willow said. “I mean, she had it with her in that box for like a million years, a couple days with us isn’t going to make it any less hers.” She looked pointedly into the camera. “Which I could have told you the last time you rushed into something.”
“And you could have said that in the meeting, if you hadn’t rushed off in a snit like an eight-year-old,” Grace responded.
Willow opened her mouth very wide, then Rowena hurriedly reached out and muted their feed.
Grace turned back to Buffy and Emma. “What I don’t get is, how is Emma the one coming to us with this blast from your past, Buffy. Weren’t you the one who was there? Why didn’t you bring this up right away?”
Buffy opened her mouth briefly, then closed it, thinking. “I’ve had a lot going on over the years,” she finally said. “To me, it’s just my life. These days I feel like Emma remembers more of it than I do.”
Emma motioned with her head toward Buffy as she spoke to Grace. “Her stories are the best. Have you heard them? I seriously think there should be, like, a Netflix series. ‘The Adventures of Buffy Summers, the Last of the Original Vampire Slayers.'”
Buffy sighed. “Don’t give them any ideas.”
On the monitor, Willow and Rowena could be seen arguing silently. Behind them, Alex turned to see what was going on, then looked momentarily into the camera. Very slowly, he backed out of view.
Abandoned Factory – Resume
Willow hurriedly got the Coven together and joined hands with Dawn and Alex on either side of her. The rest of the group formed a circle. In the center was a small, wooden box, into which elaborate carvings had been made.
“Daughter of Sineya!” growled the King. “You may have stolen my power, but I have the taste of your blood on my lips! I know you are alone, you cannot escape me!” She began to stalk toward the Council group’s hiding place.
Buffy, watching this, turned back to Willow. “I think she might be close enough.”
Willow nodded and began to lead an incantation. “Machon, wakwayi, winj lamonwa.“
Buffy turned back to look at the King’s progress and saw that the woman was suddenly standing about five feet from them. “Uh oh.”
Then the King picked up the section of machinery separating her from the Coven and flipped it easily to the side with a crash. Emma and Buffy scrambled backward, but the Coven kept chanting.
The King, seeing the box surrounded by witches, roared in anger. She turned to Emma with furious yellow eyes. “I do not know how you kept your witches from my sight, but I will not be imprisoned again. Now I will kill them all, and you cannot stop me.”
“Maybe not on my own,” said Emma.
A hand tapped the Vampire King on her singed shoulder. She turned and saw Shannon standing just behind her, with Cindy, Charlotte and several other slayers flanking her on either side. They were all wearing similar small leather pouches around their necks.
Shannon’s lips showed the barest hint of a wry smile. Then she threw a punch at the Vampire King.
Watchers Council – Slayer Briefing Room – Earlier that Day
“Remember,” Shannon told the assembled slayers, “we don’t have to actually slay her. The Coven just needs us to keep her busy, and nearby. Though, and don’t tell Hatherley I said this, anybody who actually does kill this fucker is going to get paid double for a month.” As she spoke aloud, she also said the words in sign language. “Any questions?”
Charlotte raised a hand, and Shannon pointed to her. Charlotte signed her question.
Subtitle: “This only works if she thinks Emma’s alone. If we’re all there, she’ll sense us.“‘
“That was more of a comment than a question,” Cindy noted with a curled lip.
“You may be surprised to learn that the Coven thought of that,” Shannon replied. She tossed Charlotte one of the small leather bags. The other girl caught it, looked at it for a moment, then brought it close to her face and sniffed it. She crinkled her nose then dropped the bag in her lap.
Subtitle: “This smells like my grandmother’s dog.”
Abandoned Factory – Resume
Shannon’s face rammed into a fallen piece of assembly line, and she fell to the ground. Wincing, she put a hand to her forehead. She looked up to see Charlotte bouncing off a handspring and aiming a flying kick at the Vampire King’s head. The King grabbed her foot a few inches from her face and threw Charlotte backward. The slayer maintained control, however, did a full backward flip in the air and landed, once more, on her feet.
“Rwake kendo chunge. We mondo dwarowa timo.” The Coven continued to chant, their voices growing louder. In the center of the circle, the box started to shake slightly.
While the King’s attention was still focused on Charlotte, Cindy dropped to the floor behind her and executed a leg sweep. When her legs came in contact with the King’s, they came to a dead stop. The King did not fall. Instead, she just looked down at Cindy.
The slayer looked back up at her and flashed a nervous smile. “Well, that sucks.”
Another slayer jumped on the King’s back.
“Machon, wakwayi, winj lamonwa.”
The eyes of several members of the Coven followed the slayer as she flew several feet over their heads. She flew into a metal column, striking it with the small of her back. Alex winced, but neither he nor any of the other members of the Coven stopped chanting. The box’s shaking continued to increase in violence and frequency.
Emma, bandage now affixed to her throat, wielded Jung Kook defensively as the King stalked toward her. The King lunged, and Emma swung the bat, but the King grabbed it with one hand. With a slight wrench of her wrist, the King wrested the bat from Emma’s hand and threw it across the room. Several pieces of blade broke off on impact.
“Hey,” Emma growled, “I liked that one.” She looked past the King, just for a moment, then charged.
She delivered a blow to the vampire’s cheek as she ran past. Just as she passed the King, she slid to her knees. Shannon was running in the opposite direction. Right before the two slayers would have collided, Shannon jumped off one foot. Emma caught the other and boosted Shannon over her head, several feet into the air. The lead slayer came down on the King from above, wrapped a leg around the vampire’s neck, and flipped her body backward with all her might.
Surprised, the King lost her balance and fell with Shannon, hitting the floor.
“Rwake kendo chunge. We mondo dwarowa timo.” A black mist began to pour out of the box. Sweat covered Willow’s brow.
Cindy scrambled over and wrapped herself around the King’s downed legs. Shannon tried to right herself on top of the King. Another slayer tried to slice down at one of the King’s arms with a sword, but the King caught the blade with her hand and snapped it in two.
“I thought I had killed the slayer,” the Vampire King growled. “Now her daughters have multiplied like rats.”
“Machon, wakwayi, winj lamonwa.”
Shannon pulled a stake from her waistband and raised it, then plunged it toward the King’s heart. The stake never struck home. Several slayers went flying in all directions, and the King sprang to her feet.
“Rwake kendo chunge. We mondo dwarowa timo.”
Now unimpeded, the King stalked toward the Coven. Her eyes met Willow’s. The witch was covered in sweat at the effort of the spell, strands of hair hanging in her face. Her voice was now raised to a shout.
“Machon, wakwayi, winj lamonwa!”
The King was only a few feet away from the Coven circle, but no one broke ranks. Then Emma appeared behind the King and slammed a fist into her temple. This did nothing, and Emma was left shaking her hand in pain. But the King hesitated and turned her head to look at the slayer.
Willow, Dawn, Skye, Alex and the rest of the Coven were yelling the words now. Black smoke poured from the box.
“Rwake kendo chunge! We mondo dwarowa timo!”
All at once, the smoke moved toward the King, wrapping around her arms and legs like ropes.
“No!” the King screamed. “Mano ok nyalre! Ok nyal loya!”
The smoke poured into her mouth, silencing her. It surrounded her entire body, then poured in a rush back into the box. Within three seconds, all of the smoke had returned into the small wooden container. The Vampire King was nowhere to be seen.
Then Willow reached out and closed the lid.
For several long moments, no one said anything. Willow’s chest continued to heave with ragged breaths as she stared at the box.
“See?” Emma said, turning toward Buffy. “Easy peasy.” She grinned. Buffy shook her head ruefully, but she was smiling now, too.
Abandoned Factory – Minutes Later
Buffy and Shannon walked out of the factory together, Emma close behind. Personnel in Council jackets surrounded them, combing the scene. Emma held the mangled Jung Kook over one shoulder. In the other, she held a plastic bag full of the broken blade pieces.
“See, this I know about,” Buffy said to Shannon. “That moment when you appeared behind the Vampire King, and you were about to punch her, that was like an all-time moment for a slayer quip. Emma even set you up for it. But you just threw the punch. That’s just a waste.”
Shannon looked at her for a moment then said, “I don’t quip.”
Further inside the building, Dawn was very carefully placing the box containing the Vampire King inside of a larger red and white box, marked “Mystical Hazard Containment” on the side. Then two technicians closed off the top of the larger container, which hissed as it sealed. Then they picked the container up between them and carried it away.
Dawn turned toward Willow, who was still standing quietly nearby. She walked over and put a hand on her friend’s arm. “We made it,” she said. She tried to look into Willow’s eyes. “We did.”
Willow licked her lips and raspily said, “What about all the people she took. Were you able to get readings off the box?”
“I think so,” Dawn said. “When we get back to HQ, we’ll see if we can trace that connection she had. Hopefully that will let us know where to find them.”
She looked up to see Skye walking up to the two of them. The two women briefly touched hands and smiled at each other.
Skye then turned to Willow and said, “Grace just called me.”
“‘Cause you two are best buds now?” Willow paused and looked up at Skye. “I’m sorry, none of our stuff is your fault. What did she say?”
“She said congrats,” Skye said. Willow made a small, skeptical noise. “And she said to tell her as soon as we get a lead on the kidnapped people. She might be at Casey’s later, but we’re supposed to call her as soon as we know.”
Willow nodded and began to slowly walk toward the factory exit without another word.
Casey’s House – Driveway
Grace was sitting outside Casey’s place, ready to leave the car when her phone chimed. She pulled it out of her pocket to see “Jeff” displayed on the screen. She inhaled sharply and blew it out slowly before tapping it.
“Hey,” she said softly.
“Hey, I-I don’t mean to bother you,” he began. His voice sounded tense, nervous – as if at any moment the connection might be lost.
“I’m in Casey’s driveway – just heading in to see her. What’s up?” she asked.
She heard him clear his throat before he spoke. “I just…I can’t explain it. I just felt like I had to call you a-and tell you I love you. No matter what happens with us, Grace, I can never stop loving you. And you might be thinking ‘why now, completely out of the blue.’ Well, I don’t know why. That’s the thing. I just had this overwhelming feeling that I had to call, so thank you for not hanging up.”
Grace closed her eyes and seemed to will herself not to cry. “Well, thank you,” she said, with her voice shaking just slightly. “I appreciate that. For what it’s worth, I love you, too, but…love is not enough, and I know you’ll never…look, I don’t want to talk here, and I need to get in there. So I’m gonna go –”
“Grace, wait” Jeff begged. “I respect that you don’t want to talk on the phone. I don’t want that, either, but I do want to talk to you. How about if I come to Cleveland again? You don’t need to answer me now. Just think about it, is all I ask. For now, just tell Casey I love her, too, and you can contact me if you need me, okay?”
“Okay,” Grace answered without pause. “I can do that.”
“That’s all I ask. Take care, Grace.”
“You too,” she said as she hung up. She sat in the car for a moment longer and then reached into her center console and pulled out a small tissue. She coughed and blew her nose, before putting the small pack of tissues in her pocket. She wiped her eyes and took a deep, steadying breath, then opened the door and made her way toward the house.
Casey’s House – Moments Later
As Grace walked into the front door, she saw Casey’s hospice nurse walking quietly down the hallway toward her with careful steps. When she got within a few feet, Grace softly asked, “Is she sleeping?”
“I’m sorry, Grace,” the nurse said sincerely. “She passed about a half hour ago. I knew you were on your way for your evening visit, so I thought I would wait for you before I called the funeral home.”
“She’s gone?” Grace asked, tears welling up in her eyes.
The nurse nodded, getting teary-eyed too. “I’m sorry.” Grace just nodded and took the tissues out of her pocket. “Did you want to see her?” the nurse asked.
“No. She made me promise,” Grace said as she wiped her tears. “She wanted me to think of her being alive so…no. Please call the home. I’m gonna…” She just waved her smartphone.
“Of course,” the nurse said. “For what it’s worth, I am sorry. You’re not supposed to get too close to your patients, but in some cases, like Casey, it’s easier said than done. I’m sure she was a force to be reckoned with.”
Even through her tears Grace smiled. “And that’s how she’d like to be remembered, I’m sure.”
Grace turned and looked at her favorites list. Her finger hovered above two of them next to each other: Rowena and Jeff, Rowena and Jeff, Rowena and Jeff. Taking a deep breath, she pressed one of them. She waited and then cleared her throat.
“Sh-She’s gone. I just got here, and the nurse said she’s gone.” Grace began to cry in earnest.
Rosenberg-Allister House – Living Room – Same Time
“Oh, Sweetheart, I’m sorry,” Rowena replied. Willow gave her a curious look as Rowena started to put on her shoes. The watcher covered the phone. “Grace says Casey passed,” she whispered to her wife, while still listening to the woman on the other end. “Okay, sit tight. I’m on my way there,” she spoke into the phone. She paused for a moment. “You’re not an intrusion; you’re my friend. I’m leaving now, so I’ll see you soon.”
Casey’s House – Same Time
“See you soon, my friend,” Grace smiled briefly for a moment. As she hung up, she looked at her favorites again and saw Jeff’s number. Taking another deep breath, she dove in and pressed send. Jeff picked up, and she didn’t offer any pleasantries.
“Did you know when we talked a few minutes ago that Casey was dead? Did you know when she was going to die?” Her voice sounded harsh, and there was a long pause. Grace started to say, “If you knew –”
“She’s gone?” Jeff asked. Grace seemed to hear the sadness in his voice.
“Yes,” she said softly, the hostility now gone.
“I didn’t see it,” Jeff told her. “I didn’t know she passed. The reason I called…what I felt… it was your pain…again…but I didn’t know why. I swear.”
Rosenberg-Allister House – Foyer – Same Time
As Rowena was about to head out the door, she turned to Willow. “Do you want me to tell her anything? From you, I mean?”
Willow shook her head sadly.
“Willow, I know you two haven’t been on the best terms, but –”
Willow held up a hand to stop her. “I just got word from Dawn, they found the Vampire King’s victims. She was keeping them at a closed former Cloud 9 store in North Randall. Med teams are there now…” She swallowed. “They think maybe…maybe some of them might survive. A few of them, anyway. Grace wanted to know as soon as we found out, but I don’t know if now’s the best –”
Rowena hugged her wife tightly, then cupped her face with one hand briefly. “I’ll be back later,” she said after a moment, then she walked out the door.
Slayer Memorial Grounds – Day
“So…whose idea was this again?” Faith had her neck craned back and was staring nearly straight up. So were several of her old friends standing around her. All of them were dressed in black, at least to the extent that the colors of their outfits could be discerned underneath thick winter coats and hats.
“It was Hadley’s,” Robin said. “She provided a very generous donation.”
“Oh yeah,” Faith said, “I can see that. This whole thing is very Had, I’ll give her that. Doesn’t hurt she gets all the credit.”
“Actually,” Tracey put in, “I heard she made the donation on the condition the Council left her name out of it. Of course, now that we’ve told you, I’ll have to kill you.”
Tracey and Faith looked at each other for a few seconds, then Faith’s eyes slightly widened. Tracey raised one eyebrow. Then the two of them looked back up. Faith cocked her head to the side.
Kennedy shook her head. “I’m never gonna get used to her.”
“I think it’s great!” Andrew said. Several pairs of eyes turned to look at him. “The fact that we can’t see up her skirt from here is a remarkable feat of engineering.”
“We should head in,” Kadin said, and the group followed her away. Tracey patted an exasperated Andrew a few times on the back as the two of them brought up the rear.
They walked away from an enormous stone statue, at least seventy-five feet high, showing a fierce-faced stone slayer in a fighting stance. One of her arms was outstretched, delivering a punch. In her other hand, she held an enormous stone stake.
The grounds of what had once been first Council headquarters in Cleveland still stretched near the shores of Lake Erie, but now looked very different. The long, white Slayer Memorial Wall had remained, and around it had been built not only the massive statue, but extensive, landscaped grounds. At the feet of the statue sat a circular marble amphitheater, into which the group now walked, joining at least a few hundred others.
A large, black SUV pulled up to the black and gold gate of the Memorial Grounds, and Willow, Rowena and their four children all piled out, the adults and older kids all wearing black. Rowena held Sophie’s hand. She looked over at Willow and gave her a small smile. Willow did not return it, instead sighing and walking ahead.
Their car pulled away and was quickly replaced by another. After a moment, Grace got out, wearing a dark coat. She stood for a moment, looking up at the statue in the distance. Her breath puffed out in the cold air. Then she walked into the Memorial on her own, where Peter Gabriel’s ‘My Body is a Cage’ could be heard softly playing.
Slayer Memorial Amphitheater – Day
A closed casket sat in the center of the marble amphitheater, on which had been placed a metal World War I helmet. Next to the casket was a large photo of Casey in better times, a wry smile on her face and a fashionable eye-patch in place.
In ones and twos, people briefly walked past the casket, stopping to pay their respects, and continuing to their seats.
One of these groups was Giles, Becca, Liz and Martin. Liz looked down and gulped, then looked back up at the casket.
Giles Home – Night
“Giles!” Casey called over. He looked over and made his way through the crowd at the New Year’s party.
In the living room, he found Casey sitting on the couch next to a maybe six-year-old Liz. She looked up at him and pitched a thumb toward Liz. “This little’un knows a bunch of songs by The Clash?”
“This is London calling to the zombies of death/Quit holding out to draw another breath,” the small Liz sang happily.
“As old mans go, you ain’t half the coolest!” Casey proclaimed.
Slayer Memorial Amphitheatre – Day
Dawn walked up to the casket. Skye, next to her, put an arm around her shoulders.
Watchers Council – Cafeteria – Day
Skye looked up when Casey put down a large red thermos in front of her on the cafeteria table and just kept walking. She and Dawn, sitting across from her, looked at the thermos and then at each other. Dawn had a fork full of scrambled eggs paused halfway up to her mouth.
“Hey!” Skye called after Casey, making the former slayer stop. “What is this?”
Casey stopped and turned to face the vampire. “Call it a thank you. It was your contacts that stopped that bloody Qurani demon, yeah? If it hadn’t been for you, we’d have lost the whole squad.”
Skye raised an eyebrow. “Does this mean we’re…friends now?”
Casey snorted. “Not bloody likely.” She turned again and walked away, smirking.
Skye unscrewed the thermos cap and sniffed. Her eyes grew wide. “Whose blood is this?” she called after Casey.
Slayer Memorial Amphitheatre – Day
Kennedy and Kadin walked toward the casket, holding hands. Kennedy looked at Casey’s picture and smiled sadly.
Cleveland Alleyway – Night
Kennedy and Casey walked next to each other down a dark alley, stakes in hand.
“How’re things goin’ with the beastie?” Casey asked.
Kennedy shot her a look. “You mean…Kadin?”
“I mean the blue meanie your lovergal turns into when she wants a nosh,” Casey replied. “Surely that’s made things a bit more interesting in the bedroom, yeah?”
Kennedy ran a hand through her hair and said, “I don’t know if that’s –”
Casey stopped and turned toward her fellow slayer. “Look, I’m gonna say this once, and then I’m not bloody gonna say it again, a’right? The key to shagging monsters is to plan ahead. Bring protection, innit. And I don’t mean the usual, right? Or, y’know, tie ’em up. Bondage can be both fun and important for safety.”
Kennedy stared at Casey for a long moment, then the other slayer turned and kept walking down the alley.
Slayer Memorial Amphitheatre – Day
Faith walked directly up to the casket. She crossed herself, then put her fingers to her lips and placed them briefly on the casket.
Watchers Council – Parking Garage – Night
Faith was attempting to cram a cardboard box into a car trunk already full of other boxes when she heard the shout from across the parking garage.
Faith looked up to see Casey stalking toward her. When the other woman reached Faith’s car, the two women stood and looked at each other for a long beat.
“You…” Casey finally said, her voice very tense.
“I don’t expect you to –”
“You have a bloody daughter, you cunt!” Casey screamed. “You can’t just leave!” Faith stared at her, and Casey lowered her voice, though she sounded no less dangerous. “My old girl hopped it when I was twelve, and I have thought about her every single fucking day since then. You blame yourself for them leaving. Ask yourself, ‘What did I do wrong? What did I say wrong? Am I wrong?’ It’s like there’s something missing, inside. Dy’a get that? ‘Course you do. I don’t give a flying fuck if you quit your job, but if you quit on Nik, I swear to God, I’ll never fucking talk to you again, you hear me?”
Faith looked at her for a moment.
“I said, did you hear me?”
Then, with a blink, Faith said, “Okay.”
Slayer Memorial Amphitheatre – Day
Xander ran his hand over his wife’s back as the two of them looked at Casey’s portrait. Buffy took a deep breath and wiped a tear off the side of her well-bundled face with a mitten.
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Day
“You having a bubble, you absolute melt?”
Buffy’s jaw worked as she tried to understand Casey’s shouted insult. The English slayer kicked forward from having been leaned all the way back in her chair. Next to her sat Grace, barely suppressing a smile as she watched Casey’s good eye glare daggers at Buffy.
“I’m just the messenger, okay?” Buffy managed. “We can’t afford –”
“Too bloody right you can’t afford me, missus!”
“That’s Ms. Pierce to you!”
“You only have one eye!” Buffy finally shouted. “We can’t afford the liability of having you still going out on patrol!” A moment later, her face looked like she immediately regretted her outburst. “Legally or…”
Casey stood up from her chair with a clatter. “Your tits are a liability in that blouse, you muppet!”
With that, she stormed out of the conference room. Buffy briefly glanced self-consciously down at her own chest, then gave Grace a confused look.
Grace sighed and said, “When she feels threatened, the Cockney comes out. She’s like a pufferfish in that way.” She pointed in the direction that Casey had left. “I should probably…” Then the watcher got up and followed her charge.
Slayer Memorial Amphitheatre – Day
Shortly behind Buffy and Xander, Emma walked past the casket on her own. She looked all around the amphitheater, unable to quite bring her wet eyes to rest on Casey’s portrait.
Cleveland Street – Night
A fourteen-year-old Emma threw a vampire over her shoulder onto a very green lawn. Around her, several other slayers were in various stages of fighting other vampires. Emma pulled a stake from her belt and lunged forward, only for the vampire to grab her and pull her down over his head. Her back hit the grass hard. Emma groaned, and the vampire jumped on top of her. He growled and moved forward to sink his teeth into her neck, but then suddenly burst into dust. Emma still held a stake directly up in the air for a moment, lying there in shock, then started coughing from the dust.
“Wayhey!” Casey called from behind a nearby tree. She walked out, clapping her hands. Emma looked around to see that the rest of the fight had wound down, and the other slayers in the patrol were looking at her.
Casey grabbed Emma’s hand and pulled her to her feet, but then kept hold of the hand and pulled it into the air in triumph.
“This one just popped her cherry,” Casey called out. “First solo vamp, right here!”
The rest of the patrol broke out in whoops and cheers. Emma managed a small, embarrassed smile and looked up at Casey.
Slayer Memorial Amphitheatre – Day
Shannon walked toward the casket, Norman following a few yards behind her pushing Kelvin in a stroller. She stood next to it for several seconds quietly, her arms crossed, her expression unreadable as she breathed out into the cold January air.
Watchers Council – Slayer Gym – Day
Shannon and Lorinda, each in their late teens, sparred in the center of a circle of cheering classmates. Each had their hands on the other girl’s shoulders, their heads inches apart. Then Shannon managed to hook her leg behind Lorinda’s and pushed forward with her arms, causing the other girl to tumble over backward. As she did so, Lorinda reached out with one hand and grabbed Shannon’s hair. She yelped as both girls flopped awkwardly to the mat together.
Casey walked forward out of the surrounding crowd. She offered Shannon a hand up, then turned to where Lorinda still lay sprawled on the mat.
“I saw that. We don’t do that shit in here.”
Lorinda got up to her elbows. “What, you think that when Shannie here’s fighting a Pentathix demon, they’ll care that she doesn’t like getting her precious hair pulled?”
Casey walked over to Lorinda, putting a foot on each side of the prone slayer. She leaned over the girl and spoke quietly. “I see you, Sheparton. You don’t think people do, but I’m different. I know who you are, yeah?” She straightened up and said, “And when you get your eye burned out by demon blood while saving the world from a nuclear apocalypse, you can talk to me about whether our training is realistic enough, all right? Until then…wind your neck in.”
Shannon watched, a small smile on her face, as Casey stepped away from Lorinda.
“Wait, is that what happened to your eye?” Lorinda called after her.
Slayer Memorial Amphitheatre – Day
Andrew and Tracey walked up to Casey’s casket. He sniffed and moved to run a fairly expensive-looking glove under his nose. Tracey stopped him with a light hand to his arm, then produced a tissue with her other hand, which he accepted gratefully.
Abandoned Warehouse – Night
“Andrew, look out!”
At Dawn’s yell, Andrew turned to see the Mourazi fire mage had turned to face him, tentacles poised to blast him with a ball of flame. He froze and watched, wide-eyed, as the mage released the projectile toward him.
Just as the fireball was about to strike him, Andrew was tackled by Casey at a full sprint. It hit her full in the back, instantly setting her leather jacket aflame.
The two of them rolled to the ground. Casey quickly and desperately pulled off her jacket and threw it aside, where it continued to burn in a heap. The two of them lay panting next to each other.
Andrew briefly raised his head to watch Kennedy run a sword through the fire mage’s back. It briefly splurted blue goo all over her as it died. Then he turned to Casey and stuttered, “You-you saved my life.”
She looked over at him. “Yeah. Funny that.”
“I owe you a Wookiee Life Debt,” he continued. “My life is yours, Casey Pierce. Um, I’m sort of involved, right now, but if you do wish me to…service you…I’m sure Tracey will understand under the circumstances.”
Casey stared at him for three seconds, then got to her feet with a groan. She turned to offer him a hand up. “How ’bout you just buy me a new jacket and we call it even, all right?”
Slayer Memorial Amphitheatre – Day
Willow, Rowena and their family were next to approach Casey’s casket. Jen was desperately trying to hold back tears. She reached out and took Alex’s gloved hand. He looked down at her hand in surprise then back up at her. She did not turn to look at him.
Rowena looked over at her wife. Willow said nothing, and her face was expressionless, but her eyes were sad.
Watchers Council – Infirmary Waiting Room – Day
Casey sat in the corner of the waiting room, her head down. Her good eye had tear tracks beneath it. Her hands clasped each other nervously. Grace sat next to her, about as close as she could get to her friend without touching her, staring at Casey’s devastated face. Across from them sat Willow and Rowena, looking on with grave concern.
“He said…” Casey managed quietly. She tried again. “He said I might have a couple years left, if we do the treatments. A couple…” She looked up at Willow abruptly. “Can you fix this? You can fix this, yeah? Tell me you can fix this?”
Willow’s mouth hung open as she looked into Casey’s very plaintive good eye. She looked over to Grace, who had her fixed with a hard glare, then back at Casey.
“Please,” Casey said, “oh, please, I don’t…I don’t wanna…” Grace reached over and put an arm around her friend as Casey raised a sleeve to her sloppy face.
“Casey, I…” Willow swallowed then kept going. “I have tried over the years to solve big medical problems like this with magic. I have studied, researched, I’ve done everything I can think of. It just…” Her voice broke. “I can’t get it to work. Not like this. I’ve tried, I have. But I can’t help you.”
Casey looked up at her, eye glistening. Her lip curled slightly.
“Maybe you shoulda tried harder, yeah?”
Slayer Memorial Amphitheatre – Day
Grace walked up to Casey’s casket, alone. The wind picked up, whipping in her hair as she looked at Casey’s photo. She reached out and ran a hand over the metal helmet sitting at one end of the casket.
“Thanks,” she said quietly.
Waiting Room – Day
The second hand of the wall mounted clock struck loud. Sitting small in her seat, she held her purse on her lap, her shoulders hunched and mask on, Grace’s eyes were cast upwards to the tiled ceiling, tracing the grout joints. At the sound of a sob, they fell to a woman sitting opposite her, in the corner, her hands shakily gripping a clipboard and pen.
Grace rolled her eyes shut and sat forward, doubled over. She exhaled as long and deep as the second hand of the clock.
“‘ere are, budge up.”
Grace threw her head up to the left to see Casey plop herself down beside her, sidling up as close as possible and clearing her throat.
Aghast, Grace didn’t know where to look. “Wha-what? What are you doing here?” Not giving her a chance to reply, Grace grabbed her purse and went to stand up, but Casey put her arm out to block her.
“Nah-nah-nah. Got my good eye on you.”
Grace blinked. “You’re sitting on the wrong side.”
Casey pointed ahead of her, to their reflection in the glass of a watercolor painting of a sunset overlooking a cliff.
“You-you can’t…you can’t be here,” Grace bleated quietly.
“Yes, I can.”
Soft at first, then through gritted teeth, Grace said. “I don’t want you here.”
“Yes,” Casey reached and took Grace’s begrudging hand in hers, “you do.”
Cleveland Slayer Memorial Grounds – Day
People milled about, some chatting, some hugging, some leaving. The service wound down. The respectful silence had been replaced with hushed chatter and an altogether decidedly different quietness, one that seemed to have weight.
Rowena ran her flat palm across her fringe as she made her way past a huddled group and emerged to find Willow standing away from anyone else, glancing around.
She stopped for a moment and watched her wife. When Willow turned around, her eyes didn’t stay on Rowena. Instead, they continued to scan the immediate environment. Her brow wrinkled and her mouth was poised, as if not sure whether to ask a question.
“Will?” Rowena said as she approached. “Will?”
Willow momentarily glanced at her, blankly. “Huh?”
“Are you okay?”
“Wha-oh, umm, yeah.” She nodded a couple of times, then an extra for good measure. “Yeah, I’m… yeah. Has she…”
With a small sigh, Rowena rolled her eyes before looking back to Willow with a doleful, weak smile, if it could be even called that. “Leave her alone. Please, give her time. Give yourself time.”
Glassy eyed, still searching, Willow’s gaze briefly fell on Rowena’s once more and she reciprocated the same meek smile before looking around again.
Cleveland Slayer Memorial Grounds – Moments Later
Grace’s eyes were motionless, empty and did not blink. They squinted ever so slightly when the wind blew.
“You’d better come back and haunt me, you hear?” her words echoed through the trees.
“No…no chance of that…” Casey’s voice lilted in unison with the swept-up, dancing winter leaves, “upstairs…those angels, those muscles…I’ll be too busy…”
“…blowing their trumpets…to haunt you…” Casey’s voice faded into the breeze.
She double blinked, and Grace continued to stare ahead, her eyes slightly pink and swollen, her mascara damp.
“Are you…are you okay?” a man asked.
She kept her eyes ahead and, after a beat, gave a small nod.
The man came to a stop beside her. Jeff raised his hand, palm outstretched behind her, about to coyly place it on her back, but his fingers recoiled and balled themselves into a fist before falling by his side.
“Thanks for coming,” she sniffed.
“Of course I’d be her –”
“I didn’t –”
“What? You didn’t think I would?”
“No…no, of course you…I…sorry, I don’t know, I don’t…you don’t need to be here for m –”
“Grace, not now. Not here. C’mon.”
She sniffed again. Then, after a moment, she raised her fingertips to her lips, kissed them, and reached forward and placed them on a photo of Casey. Beside it was her battered tin World War helmet. “Sweet dreams…get those angels, luv.”
Jeff looked bewildered as Grace sharply turned around and walked on. He followed a few steps behind. Heading off, he asked, “Angels?”
“Remember the tongue thing you love? Yeah, she taught me. That’s totally how she got into Heaven.”
They kept walking.
Warehouse – Night
Todd Kramer walked into the empty, dark warehouse, his freshly dry-cleaned navy suit incongruous against his surroundings. He nervously tugged adjusted his tie as his eyes scanned the dirty interior.
“Mistress?” he called out. No answer came. “Empress?” he tried again. Still nothing.
Todd sighed then reached inside his jacket for his phone. He swiped the screen a few times, grumbling.
Then, with an ear-splitting pop, a large, circular swirl of blue energy appeared at one end of the room. Todd looked up from his phone, startled. Then two hulking demons, each approximately the size of a Buick, emerged from the portal, struggling to carry a large, stone throne between them. They placed the throne down on the floor in front of the vortex, then disappeared back through it.
Todd rushed over toward the stone throne. Several feet in front of it, he stopped and knelt, paying no mind to the stains the floor was no doubt getting on his suit pants.
He trained his eyes on the floor, barely lifting them at the next demon to appear through the portal. It was, if anything, more hulking than its two predecessors. His skin was ashen, almost the color of graphite, save for two charcoal stripes that ran down from his hairline and coursed to his nose, accentuating his glowing eyes. From his medium-length fiery red curls, two large horns protruded and arced over his face. Their tips appeared to be smoldering, but his goatee remained unsinged.
The large demon took up a place behind and to the left of the throne, cleared its throat, and in a deep, rasping, voice, pronounced, “All now present, I call upon thee to cower before the Queen of Ashes, the Mistress of Shadows, the Grand Duke of the Seventh and Twenty-First Hells, the Twelfth Scion of the Thirty-Eighth House of Ralkess, the –”
“Skip to the end, Krog,” said the woman now stepping through the portal. The demon did, indeed, immediately shut his mouth. She wore a gold circlet crown, held in place by a pair of small horns on her forehead. Beneath her crown, however, she wore a dark hoodie advertising for the band My Chemical Romance and a pair of denim jeans. Her blond hair didn’t quite come down to her shoulders.
“The Empress Zorgrafilloraxtragor,” Krog intoned.
“You think you’re never gonna get tired of hearing that,” the Empress said, “and then, y’know, you do.”
Todd kept his eyes trained down toward the warehouse floor.
The Empress rolled her eyes and sighed. Then she walked over to the throne. When she reached it, she less sat in it than draped herself across it. She kicked up both feet over one side, leaning against the other. This showed off that she was wearing modern-style tennis shoes.
“So, Todd – Wait, is your name Todd?”
Todd chanced a look up. “Yes, Empress.”
Her nose wrinkled. “Seriously?” She looked over at Krog for confirmation. He grunted. She turned back toward the man kneeling on the floor. “Like, your parents could have picked any name in the world, and they picked Todd?”
She shrugged. “Okay, Todd. What’s up?”
Todd licked his lips nervously. He stuttered as he tried to get the words out. “E-empress Zorgrafix– my apologies, Zorgrafillor –”
“Zorgy,” the Empress corrected. Todd looked up at her, surprised. She sighed. “Hey, I didn’t ask for my name either, okay? All my subjects call me Zorgy. Zorgrafilloraxtragor is way too many characters to fit into a tweet.” She nodded for Todd to continue.
“Empress Zorgy, I-I’m sorry, I have to report that your plan…your plan has failed. The Council…the Council has de-defeated the Vampire King.”
For a long moment, she just stared at him. Then she burst out laughing. Todd looked up, deeply confused. Krog continued not to move a muscle.
It took several seconds for Zorgy to get her laughter under control. Then, she said, “Todd, my man, you thought that was my plan? The Vampire King? What was it, ‘Step One: Release the Vampire King, Step Two: Question Mark, Step Three: Profit?'” She started laughing again.
“Todd, I can see that you’re nervous,” Zorgy said. “Don’t be. You did fine, okay? And you’ve picked the right team. The Vampire King thing was…a means to an end. At the most. But I gotta say, I’m a little pissed that you thought I’d care about this. You know I had to take three portals to get here, right?”
“The Watchers Council,” Todd said, “they are strong, and they stand in your way, Empress.”
Zorgy sighed. She swung her tennis shoes around to the floor and sat up on her throne. She leaned forward toward him, elbows on knees.
“Let me tell ya something, Todd. You’re right, the Watchers Council is strong. That’s why the Presidium never stood a chance. They – Man, I hated those guys. Pretentious assholes. ‘Oh, we’ll bury your skulls under the severed tongues of your children.’ That’ll help. Oh, and don’t get me started on Lucifer. I don’t think he was even trying.” She stopped, a sudden far-off look in her eyes. She held up a finger in Todd’s direction. “One sec.”
The Empress Zorgy reached into the back pocket of her jeans and pulled out an iPhone. She typed furiously for several seconds, while the others in the room waited. Then she put the phone back and said, “Sorry, when I get the idea for a conspiracy theory, I’ve gotta get it down or I’ll lose it. Where was I?”
“The Watchers Council is strong, Empress?” Todd ventured.
“Yes,” she said. “Okay, so yeah, see, what the Presidium and Lucifer couldn’t figure out to save their lives, literally in some cases, was that you can’t beat the Council with brute force, or demons, or magic, or swords, or arrows or any of that shit. Not on its own. The only thing that can beat the Watchers Council…is the Watchers Council.” She leaned back on her throne and crossed her legs. “I mean, humans suck in general, but the Council…they are so ready to turn on each other. They just need a little push. And guess what, little pushes are sort of my specialty. How do you think I took over Vor?”
She sighed and got to her feet. “Look, Todd, big stuff is on its way. By the time I’m through with it, the Watchers Council won’t be able to stop shit. We’ll ‘WhatsApp’ you if we have anything else for you.”
She turned around and casually walked back toward the portal. A step short of the threshold, she stopped. Then she half-turned toward Krog, who still had not moved.
“Actually, kill him. This meeting could have been an email.”
Krog grunted and stepped forward. A moment later, Todd began to scream.
Zorgy, Empress of Vor, smiled and stepped back through the portal.
End of Things Fall Apart
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