Act 2



Fade In:


Watchers Council – Conference Room – Resume

The silence held.

“So…what you’re saying is,” Kennedy said, “maybe Lucia was out looking for vampires to slay because she had her powers back?” She blinked a few times, trying to work her brain around that one.

Hannah hesitated. “I…if you really dig into the scene where her body was found, I’m pretty convinced she was never actually bitten by a vampire. But at the same time, yeah, we think that she was…involved in something, and the point of that something was to get her powers back.”

Willow leaned forward. “I-it doesn’t make sense. I’ve been looking at this for years.” She turned to Rowena. “I conjured links to the spirit realm. We tried to reverse-engineer Gwen’s nanites. I literally climbed Mount Olympus and asked the Goddess Artemis. We had to get a babysitter because Artemis made me stay for dinner. Nothing has worked!”

“You had dinner with the actual Greek Goddess Artemis?” Emma asked. “Did you have ambrosia?”

“Yeah,” Willow said. “It’s sort of like…liquid baklava? If I was gonna go that sweet, I would have preferred we get mochas or something.”

“Willow,” Grace said very quietly, “I’m sorry, but that’s just not good logic. Just because you can’t do something, it doesn’t mean nobody else can. We’re not the only ones who have been looking for a way to give older slayers their powers back, and there is some stuff that other people are better at than we are.”

“And also, some of them don’t have your scruples,” Robin pointed out. “I highly doubt you murdered friendly demons for their oil.”

Willow opened her mouth then closed it. She sat back in her chair, looking down at her hands. “Yeah,” was all she said.

Rowena put a hand on Willow’s arm. “We were working with, um, Wellfresh Pharmaceuticals, on this.”

“Wellfresh,” Kennedy harrumphed. “You have to admit that name sounds like it’s trying too hard to be sunlight and rainbows.”

“They keep your wellness…fresh,” Emma put in. Then she noticed everyone around the table looking at her. She made herself seem as small as possible in her seat. “They run ads during Dancing with the Stars,” she explained quietly.

“The point is,” Rowena continued, “they have facilities and suppliers we don’t. That kind of went a little bit by the wayside when the pandemic started, but as I recall we had a decent relationship with their CEO, um, Tess Muller. We could bring her in on this, see what she thinks.”

Grace nodded. “I’d like to keep this from spiraling out of control, but…reaching out is probably worth it.”

“Grace.” Buffy gestured to all the photos pinned to the map on the table. “It’s already out of control.”

“Can we sit down?” Asher asked out of nowhere, pointing to the nearest chair. Grace rolled her eyes very slightly and nodded. He and Hannah pulled out the chairs, which made much louder squeaking noises than one might have expected then sat down.

Grace took a deep breath and refocused. “Okay, I think priority one is finding the source of this…serum. If that is what we’re talking about here.”

“We could bait them,” Kennedy said. “They had to contact these girls to get them the drugs in the first place. We dangle somebody we think maybe fits their criteria, except when they poke their head out, it’s our somebody.”

“You mean like a sting?” Emma said excitedly. “I could wear a wire!”

“No.” Robin shook his head. “No offense, but you’re a Council girl through and through. They’d never buy it. Also, you’ve still got lots of years with powers.”

Buffy took a deep breath. “So, I’ve got an idea.” She glanced around to see the room looking at her expectantly. “Who is the one person everyone in the world knows left the Council, and had some very public struggles with not having her powers anymore?”

Kennedy sighed and put her arms over her chest, while Grace slumped back in her chair and trained her eyes on the ceiling for a moment. “This is gonna go great,” the Chairwoman mumbled.

“Wait, who are we talking about?” Asher asked.

Shannon didn’t seem to be paying attention to any of this. She was staring at the map showing the pictures of the dead slayers, her fingers wrapped around her thermos. From behind her she could hear Buffy say, “Let me call Andrew.”

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Outside Conference Room – Minutes Later

As the group filed out of the conference room behind her, Grace took several steps down the hall for her own privacy. She glanced over her shoulder to make sure no one was following her. She pulled out her phone, quickly dialed an extension, and put it to her ear.

“Hello, Dr. Miller,” she said. “I’ve got a quick favor to ask. Can you pull the postmortem toxicology report for Casey Pierce?” She paused. “I’ve just got a hunch about something. Humor me…Yeah, thanks.”

She ended the call, a far-off look in her eyes.

Cut To:


Eggs and Things – Late Morning

Brell and Giles sat at the table of the diner they visited months before. “So then Belizet tells his mother and I that he does not need a license, and we sell automobiles for a living!”

It was lunchtime, so the place was not completely packed, but it was far from vacant. About half of the diner was filled with patrons – about 20 people here and there, each having different conversations and with different states of service. Some were eating while others were waiting for orders. At a table across the restaurant sat Liz, Marty, Jen, Alex and Belizet, all shooting the paper from their straws at each other.

“I do not understand these spawns today,” Brell added to Giles, who was seated across from him at their own table.

Giles smiled as he spared a glance to the ‘spawns’ across the restaurant. “That’s never been a problem with Elizabeth. She wanted her freedom as soon as possible. Martin, though…”

“He is like Belizet?”

“Yes, in fact Marty is in driver’s training, although it’s not his idea. Of course, Buffy didn’t help matters when it came to that discussion last year.”

Flash To:


Giles House – Kitchen – Day

A lunch spread covered the kitchen table, with some kebabs, vegetables, cauliflower rice and other fare healthier than you might usually find for a midday meal. Seated at the table were Giles, Xander, Liz and Marty. Becca and a pregnant Buffy were at the kitchen island still putting food on their plates.

“I don’t see why I have to have a license,” Marty whined as he put some summer squash on his fork. “I’m not looking to get a car. I have no desire to drive anywhere.”

“What teenager doesn’t want a license?” Becca asked to no one in particular.

Buffy shrugged. “I didn’t have a license until I was in college.”

“Really?” Marty asked with a great degree of interest. 

“Yep, vehicles and I never really mixed well.”

“See?” Marty challenged, pointing to Buffy. “It was good enough for Buffy, the Chosen One. She didn’t need a driver’s license, so why do I?”

“I liked walking everywhere when I was your age, and it was pretty much necessary when it came to patrolling. It’s hard to stake out a cemetery from inside a vehicle.” It was then that she noticed the only person smiling at her was Marty, while everybody else wore a scowl. She quickly snatched a pita and added, “But Sunnydale was a pedestrian friendly town. Y’know everything was within walking distance? Cleveland is a lot different, and you’re not a slayer, so you really should listen to your parents and get a license, Marty.”

“Nice save,” Xander mouthed silently to her. Buffy blushed and put the pita in her mouth as she walked over to the table.

“I just don’t see the point,” Marty said.

“Let me provide some clarity,” Becca replied. “I’m not driving your butt around for the rest of my life.”

“I’ll just call an Uber,” he countered.

“With whose money?” Giles countered.

Marty paused. “I’ll get a job.”

“How will you get to work?” Becca asked. “I point you back to the whole ‘I’m not driving your butt around’ conversation.”

“Liz will take me.”

“Ha!” his sister barked. “Not likely.”

“Fine.” Marty challenged, “You guys can make me go to class, but you can’t make me pass it.”

“Oh, yes we can,” Giles said with a slight grin.

“Nuh uh,” he replied.

“Yes uh,” Giles mimicked. “If you fail your driving class, you will not have a drum set.”

“What?” Marty and Liz both exclaimed. She then turned to her brother, “Don’t be a dork, Dork. Get your stupid license.”

“He can’t do that,” Marty challenged.

Giles cleared his throat. “Your musical instruments aren’t rights; they are privileges, which can, and will, be taken away as needed.”

Liz’s eyes narrowed on her brother. “Platypus needs a drummer and, although Alex is great at horns and okay on bass, he completely sucks at drums. I don’t care if you ever drive in your life, but you better pass the class.”

“Don’t tell me what to do. You’re not the boss of me.”

“Fine. We’ll find another drummer.”

“That’s not fair.”

“Life’s not fair,” Liz, Becca and Giles all told him.

Buffy and Xander smiled at each other.

“How to deal with teenagers 101,” Xander complimented. “I’m lovin’ it.”

Buffy chuckled. “And to think Giles keeps teaching us stuff all these years later. This will be good to remember for future reference.” She rubbed her belly.

Flash To:


Eggs and Things – Resume

“I’ve found that negotiating with teenagers works better when there’s something you can take away that they love,” Giles said.

Suddenly, Giles started to grin even larger as he looked over Brell’s shoulder. The gesture made the blue demon turn in that direction. They watched as Reteesk, one of the few remaining Vl’hurg demons, enter the restaurant, the tentacles on his face all a-flutter.

“My humblest of apologies for my tardiness,” he greeted them. “Were the young ones unable to attend?”

Brell motioned toward the kids tucked in the corner of a round booth, and it was then that Reteesk saw them waving over at him. He waved back and gave a chuckle. “They’ve grown tremendously since I’ve last seen them,” he proclaimed. “I must say hello.”

With smiles, Giles and Brell watched as Reteesk made his way over to the kids. Although they couldn’t hear the conversation, they watched as he talked with the kids, who all laughed at once and then nodded in unison. Reteesk reached into his pocket and then began to hand out five-dollar bills to each child seated at the table.

When he arrived back at the table, Giles said, “While it’s appreciated, you don’t need to provide the children money for their affection.”

“Oh nonsense. It’s not much – just a few dollars since I rarely have time to spoil them. Speaking of, I’ve been busy with our research project, and I bring news of Vor,” he said, taking a seat.

At that moment, the waitress came over and asked Giles, “Biscuits and gravy again?”

Giles motioned toward the kids’ table and said, “The spies are here today, so let’s stick with the egg white omelet and a fruit cup.”

The woman smiled, then turned to Brell and asked, “Chicken egg special again?”

“Yes please,” he replied politely.

“How about you, Reteesk?” she asked, “The usual too?”

“That sounds utterly stupendous,” he replied.

“Stewed goat eyes coming up. Lemonade to drink?”

Reteesk’s tentacles vibrated slightly in approval, and he nodded. “The service here is exemplary as always, and might I add, you have the best goat eyes in the entire city, perhaps even the state, if I may be so bold.”

“We aim to please,” the waitress replied in a friendly tone and walked away.

“Goat’s eyes? Really?” a burly man sitting at the counter said, turning to their table and pointing in their direction. “This is what’s wrong with this country. You creatures need to go back home.”

“They are home,” Giles countered.

“Of course you’d say that,” the guy replied, and then pointed to Giles’s chair. “I saw you wearing that traitor jacket when you came in.” He motioned to Giles’s coat, which bore the Council’s crest. “All you do is protect evil.”

“You’re mistaken,” Giles replied without judgment, as if trying to take the high road. He turned back to Reteesk and said, “Now, you mentioned Vor…”

The man got up from his spot at the counter. The tables nearest to them, who heard the exchange, began to grow quiet. They watched as the man stalked toward the table.

“You think you can just ignore me,” the man said, his voice starting to rise.

“Just sit down,” someone from the other side of the restaurant yelled over.

“No, that’s what they want,” the man said, now turning to the other man across the room and growing louder in the process. “For almost twenty years, they want you to think these ‘things’ are normal, and they’re not.”

That got the attention of the kids.

“That’s quite enough,” Giles said firmly, still seated at his table.

Jen turned to Liz and asked, “Is that asshole messin’ with your dad?” She was sandwiched between her brother on one side and Liz on the other, with Marty and Belizet on the very ends. “He’s about to learn what ‘fuck around and find out’ really means,” she whispered. She moved as if she was going to stand up and possibly attempt to walk over the table.

Liz grabbed Jen’s arm and said, “Chill. You got enough heat lately.”

“No shit,” Alex muttered. “Let’s not get grounded for another month just yet. The spring formal is coming up soon.”

“That’s enough,” the head waitress said as she came over to the man. “You need to leave.”

A small but growing chorus of patrons seemed to agree that the man had overstayed his welcome. When he pushed her shoulder, making her stumble, Giles got to his feet. The man turned his attention back to the retired watcher. When he was within arm’s length, the belligerent man pushed Reteesk with enough force that he slightly jostled Brell, who was quick to right him in his chair. Giles stared at the man, unflinching, and not saying a word.

“You can barely stand up. You gonna fight me old man?” he taunted Giles.

The fork that Jen was holding bent in her fist until the ends were touching, but Liz kept a hold on the slayer’s arm. For his part, Alex was nervously rubbing his fingers together as he watched, unblinking. Small sparks, almost like static electricity, began to jump around his fingers, and he wore a tense but determined expression. Martin and Belizet, who were on the ends of the corner booth, looked at each other and nodded before they turned their bodies away from the table. They both looked ready to dart out of the booth to defend their fathers in a matter of seconds, if need be.

“I’m not fighting you in here,” Giles answered. “Let these people enjoy their meal. If you’ve got more to say, let’s settle it outside.” At first, the man didn’t seem to know what to say as he watched Giles walk toward the exit and stop at the door. Giles tilted his head to the side slightly and asked, “I don’t see you walking. Are you suddenly afraid of an ‘old man’?”

The antagonist was red faced as he swiftly moved toward the exit. Giles opened the door in invitation and motioned the man outside. Once the man passed the threshold, Giles shut the door and immediately locked it, leaving the man stranded outside. As the man began to realize he’d been suckered, Giles took out his phone to the chuckles and cheers of the patrons.

Nine-one-one. What’s your emergency?

“Yes. Eggs and Things on Euclid has a man we locked outside. Red trucker hat, black hoodie and blue jeans with black shoes. He assaulted my lunch companions and a waitress here at the restaurant…Right now he’s raging outside, so time might be of the essence. He does not appear to be armed at this time…Hold on, let me get the waitress for you.” Giles looked to the waitress and motioned her over. He handed her the phone and said, “They have location questions.”

As she took the phone with a gracious nod and walked away, the kids all came over to Giles, with the exception of Liz, who walked toward the door and watched the man outside.

“Are you okay?” Martin asked.

“I’m fine,” he told him. Giles looked at the twisted fork Jen still had tight in her grip. “Seems the only casualty today was some flatware.”

Jen didn’t understand at first and then looked down at the contorted fork. She smiled sheepishly. “Something was getting mangled today – him or the fork. Liz voted for fork.”

“Good call,” he told her. “Let’s make this a small teaching moment. Can anyone tell us what we learned here?”

“Make sure to always have something in hand to destroy so it’s not someone’s’ face?” Jen asked.

Giles tried not to grin. “That goes without saying, but no.”

“Stand up to bullies,” Belizet added.

“You should speak out when, and if, you feel safe to do so, but again, no.”

Liz continued watching the guy still ranting outside, her back to her family. The man was still stomping around and yelling outside. Without turning to face them, she said, “The best way to win a fight isn’t with your fists – it’s with your brain. And that guy came unarmed.”

A few nearby tables, who overheard her, chuckled at her remark, or nodded in agreement.

She turned back and watched as her dad briefly put one finger on his nose, while the other hand pointed at her.

“You got it,” he said proudly. “Avoid violence, if possible. Now, while it’s true this man could have thrown a punch at any time, I figured his ego wouldn’t pass up the chance at a larger fight outside.”

“Mom said it’s not right to throw the first punch,” Alex said. “But it’s okay to throw the last one. We had your back.”

“Are you okay?” Belizet asked his father.

“Yes,” Brell nodded. “You?”

“I’m fine. I was a little nervous about what might happen there for a minute, but that’s not new.”

“Do people do this to you often?” Marty asked the pair.

“More in the last few years,” Brell replied. “Earth still much better than Vor.”

“Speaking of…” Giles said.

At that moment, the restaurant broke out into hoots, hollers and applause. Unsure what was happening, Giles looked around until his eyes settled on the exterior. Two police cruisers pulled in and began to make their way over to the man who was still wandering around outside.

Three people in the restaurant began to shout out to the waitress.

“I want to buy that man a drink,” he said as he pointed to Giles.

“I’ve got his lunch,” another one offered.

“Nah, your whole tab,” someone else chimed in.

Others began to voice their offerings, but Giles’s voice cut the din. “Thank you,” Giles announced, “but really, we’re good. If you feel inspired, perhaps donate to Safe Passages, or other charities who help my friends here.”

As people began to speak to each other and type on their phones, Liz came over.

“Be the change you want to see in the world,” she told him, pointing to the various people around the diner who now seemed to be looking up the charity information.

“Always,” he said as he affectionately gripped her upper arm.

Cut To:


Outside Eggs and Things Restaurant – Later that day

“Would you both be willing to come to the Council if I arranged a meeting?” Giles asked Brell and Reteesk as their group stood outside the diner.

Several yards away, the police were putting the now-handcuffed man into a squad car, but no one in the group seemed to acknowledge his predicament or even care.

“Absolutely,” Reteesk said immediately. “By such time as our rejoining I may have more information. Could you call with meeting details once they’ve been solidified?”

“Certainly, and thank you both again for all your help.”

Brell smiled. “A thank you is not needed. It does not matter what that man said – this is Brell’s home. I will still fight to keep my home safe. Safe for people like him, too. Maybe someday he will not have so much hate in his heart.”

“I think you’re dreamin’, Dad,” Belizet said.

“Perhaps. But as long as we have breath, we all have a chance to change – him too.”

“Listen well, young ones,” Reteesk added. “There was once a time that our kind and his kind were quite the adversaries,” he said as he motioned to Giles. “And the circle of protectors you see here before you now are proof that people and demons can change and we can work together for the betterment of everyone. It always helps when we can see what makes us the same more so than what makes us different.”

Liz paused a moment and then she looked over to Brell’s son.

“Hey, I need a date for the Spring Formal coming up. You want to go? Be advised, I’m not looking for a night of romance, just a fun time with friends.”

“Woohoo! I got a date!” Belizet announced.

“It’s not a date,” Liz said deadpan.

“I got a date!” Belizet continued to sing and do a little stationary dance.

“It’s not a date,” Liz repeated in the same tone.

“I got a date!”

Jen chuckled, “I think you broke him.”

“I got a date!”

Liz smiled. “I’m already regretting this decision.”

“That’s okay,” Belizet said. “You know why?”

“‘Cause you got a date?” Liz asked.

“I got a date!” He continued to dance as Liz shook her head.

Fade To:
Crypt – Night

Harrowing screams pierced the darkness, punctuated by the steady drips of water seeping through the gaps in the brickwork of the circular tunnel.

The screams grew as three figures emerged, their frames illuminated by the dim flickering light of the sconces. The shape of the middle figure jumped and rocked; it was now obvious that their movements were furious struggles against the two that flanked them.

Let me goooooo!” a woman shrilly cried. “Let me goooooooooooo!

Cut To:


Crypt – Central Chamber – Moments Later

Passing a standing torch, the face of one of the flanking figures was revealed. He had gray greasy skin, boils, an elongated, pointed and curled nose and limp matted black hair.

At the center of the chamber, a shaft of light shone down on a stone plinth. The two figures restraining the woman threw her from the shadows onto the plinth. She tripped forward and reached out, steadying herself on the cracked stone surface. She flicked her head back, her brown hair flowing behind her and revealing a small, round face with a button nose and big brown eyes.

She immediately spun on the spot and moved to run, but the two creeps grabbed her by the arms and pinned her down. She screamed. Then, with a rattle of chains, her wrists were bound then her ankles. She pulled at the chains and screamed at the top of her lungs as the two retreated into the shadows.

Then, “At last…” a silken female voice called out.

The captive woman went suddenly still, save for her head, which frantically turned as much as it could to find the source.

“…we have you…” The voice was closer. “…The Lock…”

“I don’t think so, buster!”

A wavy blonde-haired woman appeared at the foot of the plinth, wearing a striking red dress. She smiled.

“Majesty!” she corrected amiably. Her smile widened, and she skipped forward and perched herself on the edge. “Oh, sweetness, we’re girly-girl friendsies now, all my besties call me Madge! Or, if you’re being real fancy, or nasty, it’s Majesterificus!” she reached out and pinched the woman’s nose between her thumb and forefinger. “And now I gotcha nose, too!”

The woman pulled against the chains, arching her back off of the stone. “When my sister gets here…”

“There’s a lotta caves under San Diego, she’s gonna be a while. And by the time she maybe gets here, if she’s not pummeled by the extremely handsome minions that guard my perimeter, you won’t be here. Well, you will, but not, like, here-here. You’ll be too busy…”

“T-too busy?”

Madge nodded incessantly. “Well, you know how you open a lock, right? With a key…”

The woman’s eyes went wide.

Madge craned her head back, “Bring in The Key!” she shouted, unreasonably loudly and manically.

Get away from my sister!

She snapped her head to the entrance, and the restrained woman did too.

Standing with her balled fists on her hips was Duffy Winters.

Duffy!” the captive woman cried with a relieved smile.

“Aurora!” Duffy shouted, and then leaped. As she did, she stumbled.


A buzzer rang out and the lights went up.

Andrew marched onto set with his assistant a step behind him, shaking his head.

“Oh, Annie. Oh, Annie, Annie, Annie.” He came to a stop and softly smiled, leaning his head into his left shoulder.

Annie Murphy, crestfallen, shook out her hands. “I know, I know. Mr. Wells, I’m soooo sorry.”

“You know,” he said.

“She knows,” Andrew’s assistant piped up.

“I know…” Annie pouted, “from…”

“…the knees,” the three of them said in unison.

Annie ran her hand through her hair and nodded. Then frowned.

“Hey, you know what, don’t sweat it, it’s totally fine,” Andrew reassured her. He reached forward and put his hand on her shoulder then immediately recoiled. “Oh, uh, that was a reassuring hand not a dirty entitled male hand, I need you to know that.”

She pouted a smile and squinted her eyes, “I know, Mr. Wells.”

Andrew made a “phew” with his face and grinned. “Cool, but like, we need to do that take again.”

“Sure thing! I’ll just…” Annie pointed to the entrance of the set, nodded, which Andrew reciprocated in kind, and then shuffled off to take her mark again.

Andrew sighed and lightly shook his head. “Oh, she’s a trooper.”

“Super,” his assistant supplied dryly.

He turned back to Hilary Duff, sitting on the foam plinth, and Jenna Ortega strapped down in rubber chains.

“Girls, you nailed it, one hundred percent, I’m so sorry we need to go again.”

“We can just cut it, right?” Hilary said, looking back at Jenna briefly, “I mean, it’s not a single camera take. You just cut it after Jenna shouts ‘Duffy’.”

“Yeah,” Jenna agreed.

Andrew blinked, his toothy grin now more a grimace. “Yeah, no we need to go again.”

Hilary rolled her eyes and shook her head. Jenna laid back down with a thud.

“Oh, actually, are we going again, Mr. Wells?” Jenna raised her head.

“Yes, Jenna Ortega?” Andrew said.

“Uh, just Jenna,” she assured him, “yeah, no, I was going to say, The Key is kinda phallic, you know?”

“Umm…” Andrew brought a questioning knuckle to his mouth.

“She means penis-y,” his assistant added.

“Yes, thank you, June, I know it means penis-y,” he barked back.

“So, it’s a bit obvious, not to mention an outdated trope,” Jenna continued.

“I mean, we’ve cast the role so…” Andrew trailed off, his wrists circling.

“Totally, but wouldn’t it be more, you know, 2023 to not have it be a guy? Progressive? I know Aurora falls in love with him, so it’s not rapey, but still. What I’m saying is that penetration isn’t the only form of intimacy and unlocking, right? You know I’m an advocate of LGBTQ rights, so I have no problem making this queer.”

Andrew’s gaze panned to June. He leaned in and whispered, “Can we…”

“You’d need to talk to the CD.”

“Yeah, and the writer…where is the writer for this ep?”

June opened her binder and flicked through the papers. “Australia.”

“‘Kay…” Andrew stood up straight and turned back to Hilary and Jenna. “You know what, you make a good point.”

Jenna’s face lit up.

“But we’ve already got Robbie in today, so let’s run the scene and see what it looks like on the dailies, ‘kay?”

The light in Jenna’s face faded. “Oh… oh, okay. Okay.”

As Andrew smiled, his phone began to ring, blaring out his ringtone, Katy Perry’s “California Gurls.” He fumbled into his white linen blazer, swiped without looking and put his phone to his ear. “Yeah…oh, hey Buffy,” he shot a glance at Hilary and Jenna and widely grinned, which they reciprocated. “Okay, right, uh-huh, oh no…situation, sure, hey one sec…” Andrew placed a hand over the phone as he lifted it away from his ear, turned to the crew and shouted, “Okay, places people!

“The director says that,” June said as she and Andrew moved away.

“Not now, June, jeez…okay, Buffy, I’m back, sorry. So, wine and dine…”

As the set reset, a half naked Robbie Amell appeared from another entrance of the crypt.

“Someone call me?”

He said places!” June screamed.

Robbie jumped and ran back off set, his bare feet slapping as he went.

“Sorry, yeah, one sec again…action!” Both Andrew and the actual director shouted the latter at the same time.

Cut To:


House – Front Steps – Evening

Maddie walked up the steps of a duplex and knocked on the left of the two doors. She pulled out her earbuds and sighed as she waited. A moment later, the door opened a crack, though it was still held by the chain. A woman’s face appeared in the opening, “What do you want?”

“You’re Carol? Carol Winkleman? I’m Maddie Allen, do you remember me? Your boss, Todd Kramer, hired me.”

“I can’t help you,” the woman said.

Maddie held up her hands and talked quickly. “Your boss hired me. You were his assistant. He paid me a bunch of money in cash. Then he got not just regular murdered, but like, extra murdered? I just need thirty seconds.”

Carol Winkleman looked at Maddie for a long moment then closed the door. A moment later, the sound of the chain being undone presaged the door opening again, wider this time.

“Thirty seconds,” the woman said. She sounded very tired.

“You’re scared of something,” Maddie said. “I can tell. Probably of whatever happened to your boss. What I need to know is, should I be scared, too?”

The woman looked around furtively. “I-I have kids. Look, you need to leave. What Mr. Kramer was into…I can’t be part of this.”

She started to close the door, but Maddie reached out and kept the door open with her hand. “Look, what if…what if I counted backward from five, Okay? And if you don’t close the door before I get to five, then that means I need to…Okay, that’s stupid, just tell me.”

The woman looked balefully at Maddie, who tossed her hands up in surrender, then closed the door in her face. Maddie stood on the doorstep for another long moment, then sighed and started to walk down the front steps again.

Then the door opened again behind her, and the woman held out a small USB drive. “Here,” she said. “I can’t sleep with this in my house.”

Maddie stared at the woman for a long moment then took the drive from her hand. Just after she did so, the door slammed shut in her face again.

She held up the drive to look at it then stuck it into her coat pocket. “Fuck you too, lady.”

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Shannon & Norman’s Apartment – Evening

Norman sat on the edge of a toddler-sized bed, a large, colorful book open in front of him. He held it up so Kelvin, snuggled next to him, could see the illustrations.

“And so,” Norman said, his tone indicating the story was coming to a conclusion, “Vampirina learned that you don’t need to suck everyone’s blood, it’s okay to just be friends.” He closed the book. “The end.” He turned and tousled Kelvin’s hair. “All right, kiddo, light’s out.”

“Daddy, can I stay up just a little longer?” Kelvin asked in his cutest voice. “I want to see Mommy.”

Norman sighed. “I know, buddy, but I don’t know how long mom’s gonna be. She’s been really busy helping people lately, but soon…”

“Soon maybe she can help people during the day,” Shannon said from the doorway. “Sometimes, at least.”

“Mommy!” Kelvin called happily as Shannon walked into his bedroom.

“Hey, buddy,” she said.

Norman ran his hand over Shannon’s back for a moment as she passed. Then she leaned down over Kelvin and kissed him on the forehead. As she did so, Norman slipped quietly from the room

“How was your day today?” he heard his wife say behind him.

“Oh great, Dad and I saw a worm and it was gross!”

“That is exciting.”

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Shannon & Norman’s Apartment – Moments Later

Norman was sitting on the couch in the living room, scrolling through menus on the TV with a remote, when she walked in and flopped down haphazardly beside him.

“He misses you,” Norman said, without looking over. “But soon it’ll be easier, I guess.”

Shannon stared at the ceiling. “Yeah…soon it’ll be different,” she said very quietly.

Norman’s remote hand fell to his lap, and he looked over at her. “How was your appointment this morning? With Dr. Miller? It was today, right?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

Norman looked at her a moment longer, then took a long breath and turned back to the TV. “Leftovers are in the fridge if you want them, I don’t know if you–”

“I’m not hungry,” Shannon said.

“So,” he continued on stubbornly, “any thoughts on what you’d like to watch? Netflix has a new eight-episode documentary on what really happened to Sunnydale, could be fun. Oh, and there’s the first episode of that new WCBO spin-off, we could see what tree they named the witch after this time.” He clicked a few buttons and started reading a description off the TV screen. “From the producers who brought you the wildly popular Watchers Council Black Ops universe comes this latest installment, in which the slayers and watchers must protect San Diego from the forces of darkness despite dealing with their own personal issues. Watch the exciting new series that The A.V. Club called ‘Better than WCBO: Kansas City.’ Whaddaya think?'”

He turned back to Shannon, just in time to realize that she had sat up and moved over toward him. A moment later, she was straddling his lap and laying a deep kiss on his lips. His eyes opened in surprise at first, but he relaxed into her.

After several seconds, she broke the kiss and pulled back very, very slightly.

With her mouth about a millimeter from Norman’s, Shannon huskily told him, “I have a better idea.”

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Shannon & Norman’s Apartment – Moments Later

Shannon and Norman stumbled backward into their bedroom, trying to keep kissing each other and simultaneously strip off pieces of their own clothing, with various levels of success. Norman got stuck temporarily in the middle of pulling his t-shirt over his head, and just as he managed to pull it all the way off, Shannon surprised him with a light push and he flew backward onto the bed.

He watched as she smirked and finished shimmying her slim hips out of her underwear. Then she crawled onto the end of the bed, slowly pulling herself up between his splayed legs, keeping her eyes on his all the way. Then she leaned down.

Norman leaned his head back on the pillows, his mouth open. “Oh. Oh, wow,” he stammered. “You’re…you’re a bad girl.”

Shannon pulled her head up, though her arm was still working away, making Norman seem extremely distracted.

“Yes,” she purred. “I am a bad girl. And bad girls deserve to be punished.”

Norman’s brain was clearly not working right at that moment. “I…what?” he managed blearily.

“Whaddaya wanna do to me?” Shannon said. “You wanna tie me up? Hit me?”

Norman blinked several times. “No, I…” He leaned his head back again as Shannon’s arm increased slightly in speed. “I don’t want…”

When he trailed off, Shannon hopped up to straddle him, taking a moment to position herself. She gasped slightly as she found what she was looking for, then leaned down, bringing her face close to Norman’s.

“I want you to give me what I deserve while you’re inside me,” she whispered.

Norman just stared back at her. She grabbed his arms and placed his hands around her own throat. “Do it,” she said.

He shook his head, though he didn’t move his hands. “Shan, I-I…”

Shannon was breathing hard and did not move her eyes from his. What he could see in them wasn’t the hardness of a slayer, or lust, it was something more akin to desperation. She put her hands over his and squeezed.

“Do it,” she repeated. It was an order.

Then she pulled back slightly, Norman’s hands still around her throat, and she started to move rhythmically on top of him.

“Harder,” she growled after a moment. Norman’s hands tightened slightly around her throat, and she closed her eyes and briefly opened her mouth. “Harder!”

Norman’s eyes were wide as he watched Shannon moving above him, her muscles tensing under her skin.

“Harder,” she gasped, and when his hands tightened again, she didn’t have enough air to say anything. Shannon’s eyes fluttered and a small, strangled sound escaped the back of her throat.

Then Norman pulled his arms away and said, “I’m sorry, Shan. I don’t want to do this.”

Shannon stopped moving on top of him and opened her eyes. “What the hell, Norman?” she barked.

“I’m very in favor of experimenting,” he said, “but I can’t do this, I’m sorry. And I think maybe we should probably talk about this stuff beforehand if you want to…or-or have a safe word? That’s a thing people do, right?”

“Forget it,” Shannon interrupted him, and then she was on her feet. “Just forget it.” She grabbed whatever clothes she could grab easily and disappeared into their bathroom, slamming the door behind her.

Norman stared at the bathroom door for a moment then called, “I mean, we can finish if you want…”

When he received no response, he let his head fall hard back down against the pillow.

Cut To:


Stake & Crossbow – Night

“Okay, so the category for this round is ‘The Most’ where each correct answer is going to be worth two points, and then there’s a bonus question at the end for up to five more.”

The trivia host looked down at a paper in front of them. Most of the tables in the Stake & Crossbow were full of tables of women surrounding their own pieces of paper, pens at the ready. Cats also sat on several of the tables, though whether they were members of any of the trivia teams was unclear.

“Question One: Which U.S. state has the most tornadoes on average every year?”

At the bar, Maddie and SlayBae huddled around a laptop, which had the USB drive Maddie received from Todd’s assistant sticking out of the side.

“I say go to the Council with this,” SlayBae commented as she continued to scroll down a list of files on the screen. “I have no idea what I’m looking at here.”

“We don’t need the Council!” Maddie said. “Everybody thinks the Council’s got all the answers, because that’s their brand. It’s bullshit propaganda. We’re just as smart as they are. You’re like…tech gal, right?”

SlayBae sighed. “So there’s a bunch of these emails, but I can’t tell who they’re to? It just says ‘Z’? They keep talking about ‘the project’. He’s been doing all these real estate transactions, I have no idea what’s going on there. He’s taking out a bunch of loans based on the land he’s already bought, it’s like a pyramid scheme.”

“Question Four: Which country consumes the most chocolate per capita?”

“Maybe it was,” Maddie offered. “The dude was shady as hell. The only thing is, do people usually get murdered over pyramid schemes? I feel like if they did there would’ve been a Law & Order episode about it.”

“How should I know?” SlayBae said. “We’re vampire slayers, not weirdo con-artist slayers. How did you even end up working for this guy?”

Maddie shrugged. “His money spent okay. Bought me this laptop, for one thing. It’s not like I’m running background checks. And you should talk, Miss I Make Out On Camera With Random Strangers I Found On The Internet.”

“Question Seven: Which Actress has received the most Oscar nominations all time?”

SlayBae snorted a laugh. “‘Make out.’ You’re so cute. Look, I’m not saying you should sign up for the Council pension plan. I’m just saying, I agree, this seems fishy as hell, and put that on top of the part where he hired you to just sort of cause chaos at the museum. That is what happened right?”

“I honestly have no idea,” Maddie said. SlayBae spread her hands in a “see?” gesture, which was wide enough that she hit the beer bottle in front of her and barely saved it from spilling onto the laptop. Maddie shot her a look then continued. “Look, it’s not my job to figure out what Todd’s master plan was. I just need to know if I or my mom could be in danger. I saw the pictures online. We’re talking, like, next level dead here.”

“And your bonus question is, name the five football teams that have made the most appearances in the Super Bowl, one point for each correct answer.”

“Well, I’m sorry,” SlayBae said, “but…I don’t know what to tell you.”

Lisa the bartender peeked over the back of the laptop. “The two of you should talk to Ani.” She nodded toward where a girl with russet-brown skin and wavy dark hair was handing her trivia answers to the host. The girl then walked back to her spot sitting alone at the far end of the bar. She was playing the trivia alone, except for an unhelpful kitten trying to drink out of her water glass, while the rest of the girls handing in papers represented tables with at least three people sitting at them. By the time Ani had sat down again, Lisa was off to take orders elsewhere at the bar.

“That’s a good idea,” SlayBae said. “She’s probably smarter than most watchers. Have you ever seen that stake contraption she made? There’s this lever where you can adjust the angle, so you’re looking one way and then it’s going off in the other…”

She trailed off when she saw the way Maddie was staring at Ani down at the end of the bar. “I don’t know,” the younger slayer said. “I just…I don’t want to put anybody else in danger.”

“And what am I, a chatbot?” SlayBae asked. Maddie looked at her, sighed, and nodded.

Cut To:


Stake & Crossbow – Moments Later

Maddie and SlayBae hovered behind Ani’s shoulders as she quickly scrolled through the documents on the laptop that now sat in front of her seat at the bar.

“So…are you really a genius?” Maddie asked her.

Ani did not look up from the laptop. “That depends on what your parameters are for the question. I’m not a member of MENSA, if that’s what you mean. I went to a couple meetings, but the men there were insufferable.” She looked back over her shoulder at Maddie. “Yeah, this guy thought the world was gonna end.”

SlayBae blinked. “Sorry, he what?”

Ani gestured to the laptop screen. “All these loans? He doesn’t think he’s going to have to pay them back. It’s the only thing that makes sense. And if you look at the geographic center of all these real estate parcels…it’s the Hellmouth.”

“Hold up,” Maddie said. “You’re saying Todd had inside info that the Hellmouth was gonna eat us all, and he was using it to…get rich?” She blinked several times. “Yeah, that tracks. He seemed like that kind of dude.”

“And these emails…” Ani was scrolling through again. “They’re talking around something, and whatever it was, Todd was scared to death of it. The way he talks to this ‘Z’ person…you knew the guy, right? Did he usually call people ‘my liege’? Or ‘your most specialness’? Whoever this person is, they scared the fuck out of a guy who I don’t get the sense had lots to be scared of in his life.”

She turned around on her stool toward the two of them. “This is end-of-the-world shit. You should go to the Council.”

“Not you too,” Maddie groaned.

“You heard the genius, Maddie…” SlayBae began.

“You might notice,” Ani put in, “that when asked whether I was a genius, I didn’t actually respond in the affirmative. I merely…”

“…this is way over our pay grade,” SlayBae continued. “It’s not like I can bang the apocalypse to death.”

“No, but I’ll bet a lot of people would pay big bucks to see you try,” Maddie said with a grin. She received wan looks from the other two slayers.

“It’s an issue of economies of scale,” Ani pushed. “No matter how efficient an independent contractor is, they don’t have the flexibility or the resources to respond effectively to a sea change in the threat level.” Seeing Maddie’s blank expression, she clarified, “The Council can deal with this, we can’t. It’s just math.”

Maddie sighed and put her hands on her hips. Then she looked down at the floor. “Goddamn it.”

The trivia host turned on their microphone again. “Okay, so I’ve totaled up the scores, and after four rounds, your top three haven’t changed. In third place, Ask Us About Pointy Sticks, with 45 points.” A cheer went up from several girls in the far corner. “In second place, Slayer? I Barely Know ‘Er! with 49 points.” Another cheer. “And in first place, with 62 points, once again it’s Anisha Kasal!”

Someone in the bar booed. One of their friends shushed them.

Turning to the host, Ani coughed. “Ahem…”

“Oh, yeah, my bad, Anisha Kaur Kasal.”

Ani smiled then looked back to Maddie and SlayBae. “Gotta get back to work, gals,” she said, pushing the laptop away. She pulled an answer sheet out from under her kitten helper.

“The next round is a lightning round, so get those pens ready…”

Cut To:


Warehouse – Night

Cindy Loomis lay unconscious on the dirty floor of a warehouse, bleeding profusely from a cut above one eye. A few feet away, Rowena scrambled backward on her hands and knees. Her eyes were wide with fear as several large vampires closed in on her, a feral glint in their yellow eyes.

Then the form of Hannah Bloom cut off her view, standing between her and the vampires.

“Look who we have here,” one of the vampires chuckled. “Fresh meat.”

“Hannah, no!” Rowena grabbed furtively at the younger watcher’s foot. “Run!”

Hannah set her jaw and held up a small plastic bottle of water that looked like she might have bought it at a convenience store. The vampires’ laughter only increased.

“You think holy water is funny?” Hannah said, an edge in her voice. She unscrewed the cap and gestured emphatically with the bottle again.

The vampires quickly sobered. The one who had last spoken eyed her appraisingly. “You’re lying,” he said finally. He took another step forward.

Rowena, V.O.: “And I swear to God, that’s when she says…”

The next time Hannah spoke, it sounded like Rowena’s voice coming out of her mouth. “Any of you who want to feel what it’s like to have your eyes burned out of your skulls by pure liquid righteousness, please, take another step.

Cut To:


Rosenberg-Allister House – Living Room – Night

Hannah pulled a strand of long, straight blond hair behind her ear, which only made it more visible that she was blushing from embarrassment. “I don’t think I said it exactly like that.”

She and Asher ‘were on the couch, their two hosts sitting in chairs across from them.

“What happened next?” Jen asked eagerly from her spot leaning on the doorway to the kitchen.

Willow turned and looked over her shoulder to see her daughter eavesdropping and taking a sip from a can of Mountain Dew. “Aren’t you going to have trouble sleeping?” she asked. Jen shrugged.

Rowena sighed and continued. “Well, about thirty seconds later, Shannon and five other slayers burst through the window and slayed the whole nest. Hannah stalled them long enough to keep them from eating us all.”

Asher slung an arm over Hannah’s shoulders, and she snuggled slightly closer to him. Then he asked, “So, was it really holy water?”

“Oh, no.” Hannah shook her head. “I was just worried I’d get thirsty.”

Willow sat forward, a smile on her face. “You don’t know how big an impression you made on us, Hannah. On everybody.” She looked over at her former student. “I mean, you were great, Asher, but…”

He held up both hands. “Hey, don’t think I don’t know who the superstar is in the family.” He grinned.

Willow looked over at her wife. “Oh, remember that time when Alex got taken to the Murtath dimension by the…what was his name? Jurgnot!”

“Jurgnot gonna kidnap anybody anymore because he’s super dead?” Jen suggested.

“Well, sure, but this was before that,” Willow said.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Library – Night

Willow hurriedly paged through an enormous leather-bound book in the restricted section of the Council library. Buffy stood in the doorway, a haggard look of extreme concern on her face.

“I can’t let you do this, Will!” Buffy said. “You go to this place, there’s no coming back. You said it yourself.”

Willow looked up at her friend, her voice low and even. “If you had kids, you’d understand, Buffy. I can’t leave Alex there.”

“No one’s asking you to,” Buffy insisted, “but we’ll find another way.”

Willow shook her head. “There is no other way.” She picked up the book and brushed past Buffy, who had a look of panic in her eyes. As she exited the restricted section, she found Hannah waiting for her just outside.

“Get out of my way, Hannah,” Willow said, a faint echo of darkness creeping in at the edge of her voice.

Hannah stood her ground. “No. I’m not going to let you throw everything away. You think Alex would want that? You think he’d want to be rescued at the cost of you losing absolutely everything?

“He doesn’t get to decide that!” Willow snapped back. “And neither do you! You don’t know.”

“You think I don’t know?” Hannah asked, a little incredulous. She gestured to Buffy, who was now standing just beside Willow. “You think she doesn’t know? We’ve all got darkness in us, Willow. Yours is just a little more literal.”

Willow, V.O.: “And then you said to me, and I’ll never forget this…”

Hannah spoke next in Willow’s voice. “Anybody can sacrifice themselves to the darkness for the people they love. That’s easy. It’s living for the people they love that’s the hard part.

Cut To:


Rosenberg-Allister House – Living Room – Resume

“Wow, that’s deep,” Jen said. She took a loud slurp of her drink.

Willow rolled her eyes then turned back to Hannah. “It meant a lot to me. Really, it did.”

Hannah gave Willow a small smile and looked down, not quite able to meet her eyes to take a compliment.

“Well,” Asher said, squeezing an arm around his wife’s shoulders, “I for one always knew you were a badass, babe.”

“I-I’m not,” Hannah said. She quickly looked up, her eyes passing over everyone in the room. “Really.”

“How about you, Hannah?” Jen said. “Any cool war stories my moms probably don’t want me to know about?”

Hannah looked up at the young slayer, a small smile passing over her face.

Cut To:


Medieval Castle Grounds – Day

Kennedy rode along the line in front of her troops wearing full medieval armor, a shield bearing a symbol of a dragon on her arm and her sword held aloft. Her steed was a pure white unicorn, its horn flashing in the sunlight. In the distance behind her stood a gray stone castle, its parapets rising from the green plain.

“We cannot allow this wedding!” she shouted at the top of her lungs. “If the thrones of the Two Kingdoms are united, then all the lands will be covered in a Third Darkness! So says the Prophecy.”

She turned to a nearby spot in the lines, where Willow stood wearing a full wizard cloak and tall pointy hat. She nodded gravely at Kennedy’s mention of the Prophecy.

“One day the courage of the Nine Tribes will fail, but not this day!” Kennedy screamed, and her thousands of armored troops screamed their approval. Above her, Marsha circled, breathing a threatening trail of fire.

With that, Kennedy turned her unicorn toward the castle and yelled, her sword held high, “Onward, my brothers!” Her troops yelled again, and all began to run toward the castle.

At the top of the castle battlements, Shannon, wearing a beautiful white wedding dress, and Hannah, wearing a dirty servant’s outfit, stared open mouthed at the oncoming horde.

After a moment, Hannah turned and looked at Shannon. “So, tell me exactly what you said.”

Shannon took a deep breath. “Well, you gotta understand, we were on a date, and it was going really well, and then we both started talking about our exes–”

“Shannon!” Hannah growled, one eye on the screaming army running toward the castle. “We don’t have time!”

“Right, so, I might have maybe said that I wished that I lived in a world where Prince Charming would come and sweep me off my feet.”

Hannah stared at Shannon, who could only give an extremely embarrassed smile. Then she groaned and turned back to the battlefield, her eyes sweeping over the advancing army. They eventually settled on one of the lieutenants riding with Kennedy, who wore a strange pendant around his neck, with a ruby glinting in the midday sun.

“There!” she pointed. “Is that him? The guy from your date?”

Shannon squinted for a moment, then her eyes got wide. “Yes! Holy shit!”

“We have to smash his power center,” Hannah said. “It’s that necklace he’s wearing.”

Shannon looked at the woman next to her. “Wait, nobody else remembers who they are. How come you’re the only one not affected by my wish?”

Hannah sighed and met Shannon’s eyes. “I was. I am. I just…I think some things are coming back to me?” She flipped her hair over her shoulder. “And there was also some part of me that I think always knew I wasn’t destined to be a serving wench.”

Then Rowena appeared behind them, wearing a huge medieval dress that seemed designed to show an absolute maximum amount of cleavage. Her voice came out extremely high-pitched. “Milady Shannon, the wedding shall begin forthwith! Thou must maketh all haste to the queen’s chambers! Forsooth!”

Shannon and Hannah shared a look. Then the watcher gestured with her head toward Rowena. “You go with her. I’ll figure out a way to deal with lover boy.”

As Rowena led Shannon away, Hannah looked back at the approaching army and gulped.

Cut To:


Rosenberg-Allister House – Living Room – Resume

“Nope,” Hannah said. “Nothing that interesting.” She turned to her husband. “Can I get you some more tea, honey?”

“Yeah, that’d be great,” he said.

Hannah got to her feet and headed to the kitchen.

Cut To:
Warehouse – Night

“No, no, please, please!” A male demon slid backwards across the dusty floorboards, his hands raised both pleadingly and defensively. His right horn had been unevenly broken off. Purple blood ran down his face from a cut, mixing with tears.

Hard heels pursued him. His back came up against a pillar, halting his escape. Instead, he turned inwards and curled into a ball, sobbing his hearts out, frantically trying to catch his fleeting breath.

A shadow cast over him, and the heels came to a stop. His pursuer, a woman, stood over him with a baseball bat lightly clasped in her right hand.

“Please! Please! I-I-I just need a little more time, I-I’m good for it, it’s just…I needed to get the groceries, they needed to eat, okay?”

Her eyes were dim, lifeless, masked behind her straggly long blonde hair, which clung against her face from her sweat.

“Oh, c’mon lady, please. I-I’ll make it up next week. Please, I’ve got a family, for Kreth’na’s, sake!”

“That’s the problem.” She had a low, Southern drawl. “So do I.”

He threw his hands up over his head moments before she brought the bat up above her head and then down on his. A hard crunch echoed through the warehouse.

She didn’t move. She stayed hunched over his body. Then came a squelch and the sound of broken bone as she removed the bat from the demon’s broken skull.

Now upright, she panted as her breathing deepened, culminating moments later in a harrowing scream. She took the bat at either end in both hands, then brought her right knee up and effortlessly snapped the bat in two, the pieces she discarded, each flung and impaling into the solid floorboards. She stood, head raised to the ceiling, now quietly sobbing.

Her phone rang.

She let it ring.

It kept ringing.

She rolled her eyes closed, quickly wiped her eyes and then went for her phone.

“Yeah…” She listened. “Yeah, it’s done…proof? You sayin’ my word ain’t good enough for ‘ya when you’ve got my—” Her eyes fell down to the corpse. “Fine.”

Tossing her hair back over her shoulder, she pulled her phone away from her ear, took a quick photo of the dead demon, typed and then put it back up. “Told ya.” Her phone pinged, and she looked at the screen momentarily. “On it.”

When the call ended, she dropped her shoulders and stared at the body for a moment, before bending down and checking his pockets. Out of one of his pockets she produced a thin wallet. She opened it and found no money, no cards. But there was something. Hesitantly, she reached out and carefully lifted a wrinkled photo from one of the inner pockets. It showed his family, including his wife and his son, the latter with tiny horns.

Her breathing wavered, and she rested her mouth on her bloody knuckles. Quiet tears coursed over her cheeks.

Cut To:


Apartment Block – Later that Night

The buzzer gargled as the artificial light of a fluorescent bulb flooded through the dirty glass window of the front door of the apartment block.

“Yes?” a voice came over the intercom.

“Delivery,” the Southern woman answered. The clip of her heels echoed as she moved away.

Moments later, the demon’s wife appeared at the door, confused. She opened the apartment entrance to find two heaving bags of groceries. She glanced up and down the street to find no one there. Then she looked back down and noticed a flickering object. Bending over, she found it to be the corner of her husband’s photo blowing in the wind, held in place between tins. Beneath it were three rolled bundles of dollar bills. But the money did not hold her attention – the photo did. She held it in her scaled hands and then pressed it to her chest.

Standing behind a dumpster in the opposite alley, the Southern woman blankly looked on.

The wife picked up the groceries and headed back inside. Once she was gone, the woman looked down at her phone. She tapped the screen and the screensaver showed a photo of her hugging a little boy, caught mid-laugh.

She clicked the screen dark and then headed off down the alley.

Cut To:


Venice Beach, California – Car – Morning

Andrew drove in his AMG SL 63 Roadster Mercedes convertible down the streets of Venice, listening to Stoned Platypus’s version of “West Coast” by One Republic, with Marty on lead vocals. He pulled into the parking space next to a row of townhouses. As he put the top up, he watched the people on the Venice fishing pier and grinned. After he exited the vehicle, he looked around the area and gave it a nod of approval. He walked up to the glass door and gave a knock. Not getting an answer, it was then that he saw a doorbell and pressed it.

A well-sculpted man, who appeared to be around twenty-five years old, rounded the corner while putting on his t-shirt. He looked up and saw Andrew. He walked over, opened the door and gave Andrew an appraising glance from head to toe. In a gruff voice, he asked, “What do you want?”

Andrew gave a timid wave and was about to speak when he heard Faith say from behind the man, “My lunch date, and you were just leaving.” His shoes were dangling in her fingertips and she tossed them to him. He caught them despite his surprise.

“Him? Really? I was gonna see if you wanted to grab dinner–”

“Nah, I’m good,” Faith said casually as the man slipped on his shoes. “I’ll call next time I’m around. Or not. I haven’t quite decided yet, but thanks. That was fun.”

Dejected, the young man left, bumping Andrew’s shoulder as he did. Andrew appeared unsure of what to say.

“I didn’t mean to…interrupt,” Andrew finally muttered to Faith. “He seems…nice.”

“He’s not,” Faith replied.

“Uh, okay,” Andrew agreed, and then blushed, hesitating to press further. “Boyfriend?”


“Understood.” Andrew grinned.

“Anyway, what brings you to the ocean? Filming out here today?”

“No, actually it’s Council business,” he replied.

“Sorry,” Faith said as she opened the door wider. “I’m being rude. Come in from the…beautiful weather.”

“Thank you,” Andrew said, passing the threshold. He looked at all the dated décor, none of which seemed very “Faith-like.” “Your place is…lovely.”

“No, it’s not. It looks like the Eighties threw up all over this house and the Nineties had diarrhea.”

Andrew snorted. “I’ll have to save that line for one of the episodes. The location is amazing, though.”

“Right? That’s why I bought it. Messy divorce of some B-List actor. They left everything, and I got the place for a song because…well, look at it. It’s retro, but not in a cool way.”

“You’ve been here for what? Ten years now?”

“Give or take. I didn’t invite you sooner ’cause it’s not much to look at. It’s not nearly as modern as the pad you and Tracey have in the hills. I should get an interior designer, huh?” They both smiled. “Seriously, I’m rarely here. I can’t see spending the money, since I only bought it for the view and resale value. But I’m sure you’re not here to talk about the ugly shark coming out of the wall.”

“No, we have a problem,” Andrew said, sounding serious.

Faith nodded. “I’ll grab a couple cold ones, and we can chat out there,” she said, motioning to the patio.

Cut To:


Outside Faith’s House – Later that Day

“No go,” Andrew said into his phone as he walked back to his car, narrowly avoiding a pair of skateboarders.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Buffy’s Office – Same Time

“Did you tell her how important this is?” Buffy asked.

“I did,” Andrew replied. “Still, she’s not interested, and we really can’t make her do it if she doesn’t want to.” Andrew could hear Buffy’s frustrated sigh through the phone and added, “I’m sorry. I can try again and–”

“No, that’s okay,” Buffy said, “I appreciate it.” She paused for a moment and then asked. “Can you do me a favor? Call Faith and ask her to meet you at Spago tonight – eight p.m. Your treat.”

“I’m not sure if even Wolfgang Puck food can win her over,” Andrew said.

“You’re not going, I am. So will you ask her, but keep my presence on the downlow?”

“Okay, I’ll let you know what happens,” he replied.

“Thanks, Andrew,” Buffy said then hung up. She called out her door. “Nancy?”

“You have an intercom,” she yelled back. Then over the phone system, she heard Nancy say, “Yes, Ms. Summers?”

Buffy got up and walked to the doorway of her office. “I need a reservation for two at Spago in Beverly Hills, eight p.m., and a Council jet to get me to LAX or Burbank before then. Text me the deets when you get them.”

“You got it.”

Cut To:
Watchers Council – Grace’s Office – Day

“So I’m gonna fly out there and talk to her. Andrew’s great and all, but I have a feeling Faith will take things a different level of seriously hearing it with fewer Star Wars references.” Buffy looked up from her hands over at Grace across the Chairwoman’s desk. “I hope I’m right because otherwise we’re sort of back at square one. Though I don’t usually keep track of assignments using squares. Or really any…shapes. I’ll be quiet.”

Grace sighed and turned her chair away from her monitors. “Well, we’d better get some shapes. Social media is getting weirder.” She quickly cut her eyes toward Buffy. “And also we need to stop any more deaths,” she continued quickly.

Buffy gave Grace a small smile. “I get it.”

“Look, Buffy, you’re the one I want on this. No offense to anyone else here–”

“You mean Willow,” Buffy said.

“I said nothing about Willow,” Grace continued without missing a beat. “You and Emma are the best watcher/slayer team we’ve got, and that’s what I need. I know we need a plan here; I want you to get me one.”

“Grace,” Buffy hedged, “I-I’m not the plan person, as a rule. Now, doing plans, I’m all over–”

Grace sighed. “Buffy, don’t give me that ‘I’m not really a watcher’ bullshit.” Buffy looked somewhat taken aback by this. “You’ve been pulling that nonsense since I got here, and I’m assuming before that. You kept this place together through some serious fires. Also you literally beat the First Evil ever. You didn’t do that by punching it in the face. Its face was unpunchable, if I’m understanding it right. This whole thing we’re doing here with there being thousands of slayers, as I hear it, is all your plan.”

“Let’s hope it was a good one,” Buffy said quietly.

“There’s, um, there’s something else,” Grace said. She looked down at her desk. “Do you remember Casey’s last out-of-town assignment? Before she…took a turn for the worse?”

Buffy thought for a second. “Was it that thing with the Cheese demons?”

Grace’s forehead knit. “Cheese…?” Then her mouth formed an ‘oh’ of realization. “Kaysar demons, sounds like queso, the way your brain works is great.” She held up her hands, stopping herself. “The point is, that assignment was with the DC Branch.”

Buffy thought about this. “I don’t…wait. Are you saying…?”

Grace pulled a folder off of her desk. “I had a hunch, or more like…” She swallowed. “Anyway, I had a hunch.”

Grace handed the folder to Buffy, who opened it and looked at the contents for about two seconds, then closed it again. She looked up at Grace, her face serious.

“It’s the same stuff as the other girls,” Grace said flatly.

Buffy reached out and put her hand on Grace’s. “I’m sorry, Grace. And also, thanks for not making me ask.”

Grace remained quiet for several seconds, then she said, “I really thought she would have told me.”

Buffy thought for a moment. “Maybe she was embarrassed,” she finally offered. “Maybe she thought you’d be disappointed in her, so she didn’t say anything. I’ve kept secrets from friends for the same reasons. It didn’t mean I was a bad person or that I loved them any less. Sometimes good people feel shame.”

“Guess we’ll never know,” Grace said quietly. She pulled her hand back and said, “I don’t know who these people are or what’s in this for them, but I need you to bring them the fuck down.”

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Xander’s Workshop – Minutes Later

Xander handed Emma a small crossbow, which she took in one hand. “New model. Try this,” he said.

She took aim at a straw dummy, and the wooden projectile fired with ease.

“Wow, that’s smooth,” she complimented. “Hardly any recoil, and it self-loaded without issue.” She fired another shot at the dummy. “What’s the range?”

“Now that is an issue. Anything further than a few yards like this and the mini-stakes would just bounce off a vamp like a toothpick.”

“Still trying for the best of both worlds, huh?”

“Yeah,” Xander sighed, “but I can’t change the laws of physics. Maybe there’s a workaround that I haven’t quite figured out yet? If I want the projectile to go further, I need more force. If I have more force, I’ll have more recoil. So, I’m trying to find a balance between the two.”

“I’m sure you’ll get there,” Emma told him, “and even as is, this works better than the current models in the field. We’ll just have to do some durability testing to see how it would hold up in a fight.”

“Hey guys,” Buffy said from the doorway. “I won’t be home tonight. I’ll be in Los Angeles. Technically, Beverly Hills.”

“What are we going to do about Joyce?” Xander asked. “I had plans tonight.”

“I’ve got deactivated slayers who are dying. So I really need to put a plan in place. I think D&D with Jackson and the gang can wait.”

“No, that’s tomorrow. Tonight is the new weapons test in Pittsburgh.”

“You know I could babysit?” Emma offered with a raised hand. “I’m not on patrol, and I don’t have any other plans. I honestly don’t mind.”

“Thank you,” Buffy said sincerely, while at the same time Xander said, “Hold up.”

He turned to Emma. “I appreciate the offer, and I’m sure you would do great. But I’d like to talk to Buffy first, if that’s okay.”

“Sure,” Emma said as she made her way out of the room. She glanced briefly at Buffy as she walked past, as if she wasn’t sure why Xander seemed upset.

Once she was gone, Buffy asked, “You don’t trust Emma?”

“I trust Emma. But we’ve had this discussion. I mentioned that we have to start setting boundaries about what being parents to Joyce means and the role Emma plays in our lives.”

“I’m sorry, my plans take precedence over yours.”

“Says who?” Xander challenged. “It’s not about what’s more important because new R&D weapon rollouts are important. We agreed that one of us would always take care of Joyce, and I already made these plans weeks ago. You can’t just push Joyce off on Emma whenever it’s inconvenient for you.”

Buffy grinned and began to shake her head. “Okay, you can step all the way back right now. You act like I’m neglecting our daughter by doing my job.”

“And you’re acting like your job is more important than your daughter.”

“And you’re not right now? My job is what keeps our daughter alive, and you and Emma and everybody else on Earth safe. My job is pretty crucial.”

“And mine is pointless?” he asked, holding up the hand crossbow.

“I didn’t say that. But yes, if you wanna compare me searching for what’s killing these young women versus the latest gadget that may or may not work, then whose evening is more important?”

“Buffy,” he sighed.

“Answer the question, Xander. I have no issue with Emma looking after Joyce while you go. Why do you?”

“Because she’s not Joyce’s older sister. She’s your slayer.”

“What do you have against slayers?”

“I have nothing against slayers. You just need to set the boundaries with her. You are her watcher. She is your slayer, not your daughter.”

“You don’t think that slayers and watchers can become family? Did you happen to forget our wedding?”

Flash To:


Outdoor Staging Area – Day

“Okay,” Andrew called out to the gathering. “We’ll be getting started in a few moments.” He turned to Giles and Buffy. “Tomorrow you’ll both walk toward me, and when I ask, ‘Who gives this woman to be wed,’ Giles, that’s when you say, ‘I do’. You’ll give Buffy’s hand to Xander and then take your seat behind her and next to Becca. Flower girl Liz will stand behind Matron of Honor Dawn and Marty, ring bearer, will be behind Willow, Best…Human…”

Willow grumbled, “Don’t know why anyone has to ‘give her away’. She’s not property. She’s not chattel to be traded. It’s an outdated tradition–”

“That I want,” Buffy cut her off. “My wedding. My choice. You agreed.”

“I know,” Willow sighed. “I said my piece.”

“Five times now,” Buffy muttered, making Giles smile.

“Shutting up now,” Willow added.

“If only,” Buffy muttered again.

Cut To:


Outdoor Wedding – Next Day

With Dawn on one side and Willow on the other, they walked down the aisle toward Andrew. Giles turned to Buffy and asked, “Did your father come? Because if you would rather have him–”

“No. And even if he did, I’m standing next to the man who matters most to me. Well, aside from the guy waiting down there at the end of the aisle, but I think that goes without saying.”

Giles grinned. “I’m honored. Truly. And I’m very happy for you both.”

As the Wedding March began to play, the attendees rose, and Buffy and Giles made their way, side-by-side, her arm wrapped around his. When the pair reached the end of their journey, as he mentioned the day before, Andrew asked, “Who gives this woman to be wed?”

Willow seemed to be holding her tongue from behind Xander until she heard Giles speak.

“Her mother, Joyce, and I do.”

Willow’s jaw dropped, and her eyes started to well up with tears. Giles turned to a teary Buffy. He leaned down and whispered, “She’s here. We can’t see her, but she’s here, and she would be happy and proud for you both. I know I am.”

Buffy handed her flowers to Dawn and then pulled Giles into a tight hug. “I love you.”

Giles smiled. “I love you too,” he said as he held her. When he pulled back, he said, “Go on now. Your groom’s waiting.”

They smiled at each other.

Smash Cut To:


Watchers Council – Xander’s Workshop – Resume

“Watchers can be family. Robin can tell you that, too,” Buffy told Xander firmly. “And if Emma is offering the help, Joyce can be with her tonight.”

“So I don’t have a say in this?”

“Of course you do. Stay home with Joyce, or have Emma watch her so you can go. Just don’t pin your decision on me. Either way, I’ll be in California.” Buffy started to make her way from the room, then she stopped and turned around. “And for the record, I love you. I do. All I ask is that you never try to shame me again for wanting to save lives.”

“Buffy, I wasn’t–”

She ignored his remark and continued, “You’ve known who I am for the past twenty-five years. Yes, I may not have slayer powers, but I still matter in this fight, just like you, and you’re not gonna change me now that I’m someone’s mom.”

She didn’t wait for his response. She simply walked out of the room.

Although she was gone and the room was empty, Xander said, “I’m not trying to change you. I just want Joyce to have what I didn’t.”

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Dr. Millenti’s Office – Same Day

Jen paced back and forth in Dr. Millenti’s office.

“Are you sure it’s okay for me to be up and moving around in here?”

“Absolutely,” the doctor replied. “Whatever makes you feel comfortable is fine by me.”

Jen nodded. “When I sit in the chair, I feel like I’m in a classroom. And if I lay on the couch, I feel like I’m with a shrink.” Quickly she added, “No offense.”

Dr. Millenti smiled and said, “None taken.”

“I know you’re just doing your job by signing off on my well-being, so I’m not trying to give you a hard time. I just don’t really see the point of this.”

“Your family wants to make sure that you’re feeling okay. The Council, myself included, want to make sure you’re doing okay. What you went through was something some slayers will never experience. Just because you face monsters doesn’t mean you can’t be unnerved by dealing with gun-wielding humans.”

Jen didn’t reply and just continued to move at a slow pace from the wall to his window that overlooked the city.

“Why don’t you tell me about that day?” the doctor asked.

“Not much to really say. Alex and I went up to see Liz since she was working, and we just happened to be there at the right time, or the wrong time depending on how you want to look at it.”

“Are you glad you were there?”

She didn’t answer immediately. “I am, and I’m really glad Alex was there because I probably would not have survived. Funny thing is, he wasn’t going to come at first. He was worried about getting caught with the bikes – motorcycles – but at the last minute he decided to go. He’s always more cautious, more than me. When you’ve got slayer strength, sometimes you think you’re indestructible.”

“Based on the reports, it seemed like you were pretty angry. Would that be a fair assessment?”

“Hell yes, I was mad. I mean heck.”

“Jen, you can say whatever you want in this room, and it goes no further. So hell yes, you were mad. Tell me more.”

“It all happened so fast.” Her arms began to wrap around her body, almost as if she was cocooning herself as she spoke. “One minute Alex and I are walking through the door, and the next we’re dodging people who are running away. At first I didn’t know what was going on. Then I saw him, the gunman, and I just ran towards him, but I moved so fast he didn’t know I was there. I didn’t stop to think about it. I didn’t even know if anybody was hurt. I just wanted to surprise him and stop the bastard.”

When she didn’t say more, the doctor said, “And you did stop him.”

“And this is the part where you say I was too hard on him, right? That’s what everybody seems to say.”

“I’m not here to judge,” the doctor replied. “I just want to hear your thoughts on everything.”

“Well, it’s true that the guy pissed me off. He went there with the intent to kill people. He was gonna kill me. I knew that.” Jen paused for a moment, then her voice started to break when she said, “And I knew he couldn’t kill me if I killed him first. So yeah, I was willing to kill a human, and that’s not what slayers should do. Number one rule: don’t get killed. Number two: don’t kill humans. But I used all the slayer strength I had and whaled on that guy. Truth is, I probably would have killed him if Alex and Liz hadn’t distracted me. The scary part is I think I really would have been okay with that.” Dr. Millenti didn’t say anything. He simply waited to see if she would continue. “I was really angry. I get angry a lot, but the truth is I was more scared. And I’m scared a lot.”

“What are you scared about?”

“Sometimes before I go on patrol, even though I’m still in a group, and not with an individual watcher yet, it feels like my heart is just gonna pound out of my chest. Sometimes it seems hard to breathe.” She stopped looking out the window and turned back to the doctor and said, “Some brave slayer I am, huh?”

“If you’re asking my opinion, I think that makes you smart. There are young women who come in here who don’t have the same self-awareness that you have. I see your self-awareness more as a gift than a curse. What do you think?” Jen seemed reluctant to answer the doctor at first. “Again, you can say whatever you want – everything stays here.”

“I don’t like being angry all the time. I don’t know why I’m so angry, even the littlest things just set me off. I haven’t hurt anybody – I mean, anyone who didn’t actually deserve it. I just don’t know why I do it.”

“Quite often when people have a ‘short fuse,’ it can be the result of depression or anxiety, and based on our conversations, you do seem to be anxious at times. That’s perfectly understandable, given your calling.”

Jen grinned and turned back toward the window. “My calling. I’m never gonna have a say in what I do with my life. I’ll always be a slayer, or at least until I’m thirty, if I make it that long.”

“Do you think you won’t?”

“If I’m not dead or in jail for beating somebody to death, sure. I just wish…” Jen stopped her sentence and started to shake her head. “I almost did it. I almost said ‘I wish,’ but I stopped myself. See? See how ingrained the Council is in me? I can’t even talk to my therapist without worrying that he might be a Vengeance Demon in disguise. I can’t get away from this responsibility, this ‘calling,’ as you put it…it’s a big shadow. It follows me everywhere. I’ll never be free of it. Or maybe I will, and it’ll break up my parents.”

Dr. Millenti paused for a moment and then asked, “What do you mean ‘break up your parents’?”

“Well, since the press conference, people have been wanting me to go on their shows, do interviews. I haven’t decided, but I heard the two of them talking about it…well, arguing, but it was about lots of stuff, actually, like interviews, slaying, the Council, my life…”

“Sounds like it was a pretty big conversation.”

“Yeah, it was. Ma, she thinks – oh, that’s Willow, by the way. Anyway, Ma thinks I should be doing what I want. My mom wants me to avoid the press and stay with the Council, or at least that’s what it seemed to sound like. The conversation got pretty heated until my Ma went up to bed…I don’t want to be the reason my folks break up.”

“I haven’t seen your parents here about marriage issues, but it’s not uncommon for spouses to disagree, and yes, it’s okay to go to bed angry sometimes. A good night’s rest can help clear minds. But whether your parents stay together or split up, it’s got nothing to do with you. It’s about them and the choices they make. Know what I mean?”

“Parent strife is not my fault. Check.”

“Of course, you’re always welcome to talk about that false sense of ‘guilt’ if you like. First, though, I’d like to go back to what we were saying earlier.”

“About what?” Jen asked.

“Without using the W word, what were you about to wish when it came to your anger?”

Jen took a deep breath and blew it out. “I…hope…I’m not always this angry. I don’t like feeling this way…but I don’t know how to stop it. I don’t like making smartass comments to Alex when he’s being sincere with me.”

“Has it always been like that?” the doctor asked after a lull.

“Yes…Honestly, no,” Jen replied. “I mean, he’s my twin, so it’s complicated, but we were close. The last year’s been worse…”

“What’s changed?”

“Well, I started patrolling. He’s a Coven member. And…I’m not saying it’s her fault, but Liz started to hang out with some different people last year. She started…ignoring us for them. Or it felt like that. Then she got into some trouble – nothing too super serious, but still…Anyway, she went to New York last May, and after that she seemed more like herself. Platypus was recording more afterward. Lately, it’s felt more like it used to…but I’m still…I’m still mad.”

The doctor cleared his throat and asked, “Who are you mad at?”

“You name it,” Jen snorted. “Seriously, it depends on which way the wind blows someday.”

“Does anything help?”

She shrugged. “Sometimes I try to put myself in their shoes.”

“What do you mean?”

“Like Sophie, my little sister, I asked her to empty the dishwasher, and I forget I’m a foot taller than her. So I see her leave the room and boom, I’m mad. I asked her to do a chore to help me out and she runs away. I start to yell about how she’s a slacker, and she comes from the utility room with the stepstool so she can reach the coffee mug shelf. Then I felt like shit for calling her names when really she was doing what I needed, but I didn’t have the patience and I just got mad immediately. I don’t know how to turn that off, and I don’t know…how to be perfect. Slayers need to be perfect or people die.”

“No one is perfect, Jen.”

“Slayers are. We have to be. One bad move and it’s game over.” Jen shrugged again. “It’s a lot sometimes.”

“Maybe you should talk to someone who’s been there, done that. Maybe your Aunt Buffy?”

“You mean The Slayer? Nah. I don’t think she’d get it.”

Dr. Millenti cleared his throat and said, “Well, I’ve known lots of slayers who are far from perfect, so some advice you didn’t ask for: lower your bar.”

Jen grinned a little. “Easier said than done.”

“Listen,” the doctor began, “why don’t we do this again next week?”

“I’m still not sane, huh?” Jen teased.

“Nothing like that,” the doctor reassured her. “I just think you might benefit from a few more sessions. If you want me to sign off so you can go back to the field, I will. If you want me to wait because you need a break, I will.  But I’d still like to see you here at my office either way. So what do you say?”

Jen seemed to consider it.

Cut To:


Spago Restaurant – Beverly Hills, CA – Night

Faith’s white blouse billowed through her open beige blazer as she passed the threshold of Spago. The maitre d’ greeted her warmly.

“Good evening, Madame. Welcome to Spago. How can we help you this evening?”

“Dr. Faith Lehane. I’m meeting a friend for dinner.”

“Yes, right this way,” he said politely as he motioned for her to follow.

She did so and once she turned the corner, she found Buffy nestled at a table that seemed to be as secluded as possible without being an actual private room. She grinned and started to shake her head as she made her way over.

The host pulled out the chair for Faith, and she took a seat.

“Did you require anything at the moment, Ms. Summers?” he asked.

“No thank you,” she replied.

He turned to Faith, “Dr. Lehane?”

“I’m good,” Faith told him politely.

As he left, Faith turned to Buffy. “Wine me, dine me, do things Xander might not approve of.” Faith gave her a carnal grin, which made Buffy blush. “Seriously, B? You couldn’t ask me to dinner yourself?”

“Would you have said yes, F?”

“Probably not,” she admitted with a slight grin. “And now I have to beat up Andrew because I already told him–”

“Let’s not beat up any Hollywood producers just yet,” Buffy said, trying to cut off Faith’s train of thought. “I asked him to set this up. Instead of physical violence, how about we have a drink, eat some overpriced food neither one of us can pronounce, and talk?”

“Well, since you came all this way on such short notice, how can I not?” Faith replied. Although she wore a grin, her voice still had a slight edge of agitation. 

“I’m glad you showed up, Dr. Lehane,” Buffy said. Then she smiled. “Dr. Lehane,” she giggled. “I still remember the gal who didn’t want to be in high school.”

“It’s not too late for you, B. You could go back and get your doctorate, too.”

Buffy snorted. “First, I’d need a degree. I’ve been too busy flying across the country lately, but I’m okay with that. It’s not a bad life.”

The waiter came over and said, “Good evening. I’m Seth. I’ll be your server tonight. Care to start with a beverage or cocktail?”

“Yeah,” Faith said. “She’s buyin’, so give me the stiffest, most expensive drink you’ve got and keep ’em comin’.”

The two women smiled at each other.

Fade Out

Fade In:

Spago Restaurant – Beverly Hills, CA – Night

Nearly empty plates now littered the table. The two women were laughing as the server returned and began to clear the dishes.

“So you kept it in a box?” Faith chuckled.

Buffy pointed to the smartwatch on her wrist. “I didn’t know how to work the damn thing, and I was embarrassed to ask him for help. It was a month after my birthday, and Giles asked how it was going. I could have lied, but I figured I owed him the truth. He went to the trouble to get it, after all.”

Faith laughed. “That’s hilarious. I remember the briefing at New Year’s. Giles is so on the ball, and you are so behind the times.”

“I am, or I was,” Buffy replied.

“So your watcher is still teaching you stuff, huh?”

Buffy nodded. “It’s just incredible that the man who complained that Sunnydale’s new library had tablets instead of books is showing me how my birthday present works, because when it comes to technology I’m a dumbass.”

Faith laughed again. “Hey, I don’t know much about it either. Angel had one, but he got rid of it when it couldn’t detect his heartbeat and kept asking if he was dead, which, yeah, he is.”

“You’re making that up,” Buffy said.

“Maybe a little,” Faith confessed with a grin.

“Well, it’s got lots of bells and whistles, and this week Giles said we can go over it some more, so I might take him up on it. I hate feeling like I’m ninety-nine years old.”

Almost as instantly as the dinner plates were removed, two servings of dark chocolate souffle were placed in front of each woman. Once alone again, they each dipped their spoons into their dessert. Buffy held out her spoon toward Faith.

“To the Original Two,” Buffy toasted.

Faith grinned and clinked her spoon against Buffy’s before they each took a bite.

“This is delicious,” Faith said. All Buffy could do was nod as she went back for another spoonful. “But I’m sure you didn’t fly all the way out here to hear my stories with Angel Investigations and eat wonderful souffles.”

“As much as I enjoy both of those things, you’re right,” Buffy replied. “I need your help. Girls are dying. Technically young women. And even more technically, deactivated slayers.”

“Andrew did mention that.”

Buffy nodded. “And we’re noticing a pattern – women are dying, most recently Lucia Dominguez, the former lead slayer of the DC Branch.”

“Yeah, Andrew said that, too,” Faith sighed. “Smart kid. It’s a shame. I always liked her.”

“There’s more. While it looked like a vamp attack at a graveyard, we suspect that it was a staged event and she died of something else.”

“She was murdered?”

“We don’t know. But what we do know is several other deactivated slayers were in DC and ended up dying soon after. Plus, the toxicology report shows a pattern. They all had traces of substances in their blood, like galantamine and ingredients for rejuvenation spells.”

“Why does galantamine sound familiar?”

“It’s an Alzheimer’s drug.”

“Okay, but wait. Why would a thirty-year-old need that?”

“Exactly. They wouldn’t. And the only thing they have in common, besides being deactivated, is the tox reports and the location in their final days-slash-weeks – Washington DC. But going back to Lucia, she was found in a graveyard like she was hunting vamps.”

“You think she got her powers back, or tried to?”

Buffy nodded. “We think someone, somewhere, has a serum these women thought would give them their powers back. On a hunch, Grace did some research and found out that Casey was one of these people, based on her final bloodwork.”

“Before or after she got sick?” Faith asked.

“After. If I had to guess, and I am, I’m thinking it was her last-ditch effort to buy more time, thanks to slayer healing.”

“I can see why she might do that. She had nothing left to lose.”

“And obviously, that didn’t work. In fact, Grace is thinking that it sped up her demise.”

“What do you think?” Faith asked.

“I think we need to save these women, and I need your help to do it.”

“Okay, I’ll bite. What are you asking me to do?”

“I need someone to go undercover to find out as much as they can about this serum.”

“So you can shut it down?”

“Yes,” Buffy answered. “I need that somebody to be you. It has to be someone deactivated and who…might not have close connections with the Council, who can get inside with them.”

“I know what you’re asking,” Faith replied.

“I feel a ‘but’ coming on.”

“I’m flattered you came to me, buuuut I have to say no thanks.”

“What do you mean, no thanks?” Buffy asked.

“Just like I said, B. No thank you. I’m not gonna do it.”

Buffy’s jaw dropped.

Black Out




End of Act Two

Go Back Next Act