Act 4



Fade In:


Washington, DC – The Back Room – Day

Unlike the Stake & Crossbow, this bar had been around long before the Crisis. The walls were lined with semi-private, round booths, with faded pleather seats. The bar was wide and made of old wood, lined with brass. The photos on the walls were all black and white. The clientele, however, was about the same as the Stake & Crossbow, mostly women, mostly on the near side of middle age. Affixed to one oaken wall was a small framed plaque proclaiming the bar’s affiliation with the Guild of Independent Slayers’ Capital Area Local.

Shannon sat at one end of the bar, staring down at her glass of whiskey. After a moment, she sighed and downed the rest of the glass in one gulp. She slammed it down on the bar and raised one finger.

“Another,” she called.

Allie watched this from a booth in the far corner, wearing a Washington Nationals hat with the bill pulled low. “Is she supposed to actually be drinking this much?” she said, her voice low. “Should I be drinking more? I can drink more if it’s necessary for the mission.”

“You all told me to act natural,” Shannon said quietly at the bar. “This is me acting natural.”

Cut To:


Council Van – Same Time

Across T Street from the Back Room, a large, unmarked van was parallel parked. Asher and Hannah sat inside along a wall with some electronics and some other, more arcane instruments. Buffy hovered over their shoulders.

“I thought we weren’t doing a wire,” Buffy said. “That’s the first thing they’ll check.”

“Enchanted buttons,” Emma said from the driver’s seat, without looking up from her phone.

Buffy blinked and turned back to the team from the DC Branch. “Please just explain before I say another dumb old lady thing.”

Asher pointed to a small button, like one might find on the front of a dress shirt, hovering about an inch above his work surface in the center of a circle of brass wire. The wire ran over to a small speaker positioned nearby.

“There’s barely anyone in here,” Allie’s voice came from the speaker.

“It’s called a stakeout,” Hannah said in response. She wasn’t speaking into a microphone or anything in particular. “It generally takes a while. I ran a crowd-dispersal analysis using the inputs of the deaths we know about, along with several other incidents that seemed as if they might be–”

“Okay, I get it,” Allie’s voice said quietly. “I’m continuing to sit here, dumbass.”

“Compared to patrolling through graveyards, this is a plumb gig, dipshit,” Hannah shot back with a small smile.

Asher waved off Buffy’s strange look. “Watchers and slayers, amirite?” This did not make the look on Buffy’s face go away. “Anyway, Allie and Shannon have matching buttons. I ran Braxmann’s Enchantment on them, then souped everything up with a negative energy current running in a loop. It should give us slightly better range and less visibility than electronics. I just have to sacrifice one of my medium-prized possessions every couple hours.” He turned to Hannah. “You brought the comic books, right?”

“They’re in the trunk.”

Cut To:


The Back Room – Same Time

The bartender put another whiskey on the rocks down in front of Shannon. As he did so, another woman with dirty blonde hair slipped onto another stool, about four away from Shannon. Nobody was sitting in between them. Shannon shot the girl a look for a second then turned back to her whiskey. She picked up the glass and let the ice cubes roll around in the liquid for a second.

Nearby, a younger woman with short red hair pressed a couple of buttons on an older-style jukebox installed in one corner. It whirred momentarily, and then the opening bars of “Come On Eileen” started playing slightly too loud over the bar speakers.

Shannon and the girl down the bar from her made eye contact. “I hate this song,” the girl said.

“Yeah,” Shannon nodded. She downed a large gulp of her whiskey then set it back down on the bar.

The girl looked up at Shannon. “You’re Council, right?” she finally said.

That got Shannon’s attention for a split second, though she quickly covered it up. “I didn’t think I was wearing my jacket.”

Poor old Johnnie Ray/Sounded sad upon the radio.”

The other girl just shook her head. “No, I mean…you’ve got the look, is all.” She had finally gotten the bartender’s attention. “Old Fashioned,” she ordered.

“You got it, kid.”

“The look?” Shannon asked.

“Like every problem in the world is your problem, and you’re really sick of it.”

Shannon smirked. “Something like that.” She took another drink.

There was another pause. The girl looked Shannon up and down.

Too-ra-loo-ra/Too-ra-loo-rye-ay/And we can sing just like our fathers.

We can barely hear you guys,” Buffy complained over the link. “Maybe you can have them turn the music down.

“Yeah, that won’t blow our cover at all,” Allie commented quietly.

“Can I ask you something I’m really not supposed to ask?” the girl finally said.

Shannon looked at her. “You’re gonna anyway, aren’t you?”

“How old are you?”

“I’m not sure I’m up for this conversation right now.” Shannon turned back to her drink.

Uh…what are you doing?” Asher asked.

A moment later, the girl moved one stool toward Shannon. “What I’m trying to say is, how long do you have left?”

Shannon’s face did not have any expression on it as she regarded this interloper. Finally she said, “Who are you and why are we talking about this? I don’t know you, lady.”

The girl accepted her drink from the bartender. “Thanks.” She turned back to Shannon. “Look, I just…I saw you over here, drinking hard liquor alone in the middle of a weekday afternoon. I was a slayer until not that long ago myself. And I thought, you know…maybe you could use a friend.”

Talk to this woman!” Buffy hissed.

“Are you hitting on me?” Shannon asked. “Because if you are…I’m not sure you’re in the right bar.” She looked over her shoulder at one woman whispering closely in another’s ear and laughing nearby. “Hell, maybe I’m in the wrong bar.” She shook her head then held up her left hand to show her ring. “Seven years now. To a dude.”

The girl laughed. “No, nothing like that, I promise. It’s just that I’ve been there, is all. So, how long do you have?”

You in that dress/My thoughts, I confess/Verge on dirty.

Shannon swallowed then said, “Less than two months.”

“It sucks, I know,” the girl said. She took a sip of her drink and grimaced. “They tell us to spend our whole lives training to be this one thing, and then they pull it away from us just like that. Leaving us with…what? Head trauma and scar tissue from old stab wounds?”

“I don’t think it’s the Council who pulls it away from us,” Shannon said quietly.

“I didn’t say it was.” The girl pointed a finger in Shannon’s direction. “You did.”

Shannon’s eyes narrowed almost imperceptibly. “Who are you? What’s your name?”

Too-ra-loo-ra/Too-ra-loo-rye-ay/And you’ll hum this tune forever.

“We don’t need to do names,” the girl said with a small smile.

“Okay, that is shady as hell,” Allie said. “I vote follow this woman. I don’t care if she is hitting on you, just go with it.”

“I do think we might have what you need,” the girl continued.

“Okay, I’ll bite,” Shannon said. “Who is we and what do I need?”

“Me and some very good friends of mine. They’ve got money, and they actually want to help, meaning they’re not the Council. What you need is…hope.”

Shannon snorted and turned back to her glass. “Hope is usually pretty pricey. I wish I still thought you were hitting on me.”

Ah, come on, Eileen/That pretty red dress…

“I’m not selling anything,” the girl continued. “I just…I was a slayer. The way things are for slayers now is not okay. Maybe the Council’s heart’s in the right place, but that’s not what we need right now. What we need is someone willing to break a few demonic eggs to make an omelet. An omelet that’s gonna save all of us.”

Shannon kept her eyes on this girl as the jukebox broke into a fiddle solo.

“Okay,” she said. “If I were in the mood for omelets, which I’m not saying I am, what would I do about it?”

The girl leaned toward Shannon. “We go up there together, and we take control of your future.”

Shannon took a deep breath then downed the rest of her whiskey.

“What the hell. Lead the way.”

Cut To:


Council Van – Same Time

Asher raised his arms in triumph. “We’re in!”

Buffy did not seem as enthused. “Yeah,” she said quietly. “Time to head down the rabbit hole.”

Cut To:


Street Outside The Back Room – Moments Later

Shannon followed the former slayer with the dirty blonde hair out the front door of the bar and onto a busy sidewalk. Shannon’s eyes briefly flitted over the unmarked van parked across the street then hurriedly left it.

“I’m parked a couple blocks over,” the other girl said, pitching a thumb over her shoulder down T Street. “But it’s…well, you’ll see. C’mon.”

Shannon hesitated a moment, playing her part. Finally, she moved to catch up, and she and the stranger started to walk down the sidewalk, Allie appeared out of the front door.

Stay on them,” she could hear Hannah say quietly. “But keep your distance. If we lose them, we’re still hooked up to Shannon, and she can help us out.

Allie nodded and moved in the same direction as the other two women had gone. Shannon looked over her shoulder for a split-second and could see the red baseball cap of her fellow slayer just visible between the shoulders of other denizens of the sidewalk.

Cut To:


Council Van – Same Time

Asher turned to his wife and said, “We can’t get too far away, the range on these buttons is…well, I’ve never tested it, but I have a feeling it’s not measured in miles.”

Buffy leaned over Emma’s shoulder as the slayer sat in the driver’s seat of the van. “You’re on, Em. Let’s start heading in their direction.”

Emma nodded and turned the key in the ignition. She examined the mirrors for a second, then pulled the van forward by about a foot, stopping just short of the bumper of the car parked in front of them. Then she pulled backward by about a foot, staring at the backup camera in the dash. She had not made any discernible progress.

“This might be a minute,” she sighed.

Cut To:


Washington, DC Street – Same Time

Shannon followed the former slayer down one block then another. Allie followed behind them, keeping her distance.

Then the other girl stopped next to a small red motorized scooter. She quickly unlocked a container strapped to the back and tossed Shannon a very retro-looking helmet. Shannon caught the helmet in one hand, but did not immediately don it.

Shannon raised one eyebrow. “Your car is a Vespa?”

“Way easier to find parking,” the girl said. “What, you’re too cool to ride on a scooter?”

“I just normally draw the line at getting this up close and personal with people whose names I don’t know,” Shannon said flatly.

Nearby, Allie had ducked into the mouth of an alleyway and was peeking out at the pair. “Guys, Shannon’s about to get on a very dorky scooter with this girl. Where the fuck are you?”

You’ve got to keep them in sight for a few more minutes,” she could hear Buffy’s voice say. “We’re trying to get over there.

Cut To:


Council Van – Same Time

“C’mon, asshole!” Emma yelled out, leaning on her horn and gesturing to a car that had just sped up to get past the van before it could pull out.

“Maybe we shouldn’t draw attention to ourselves,” Hannah commented.

“What is it with slayers and driving?” Asher asked. As Buffy shot him a baleful look, Emma finally did pull out of the parking space, the van lurching into traffic with a squeal from its wheels.

“So now what?” Emma asked.

“Now we just need to make a U-turn somewhere,” Buffy said. “So that’s not…too hard, right?”

Cut To:


Washington, DC Street – Same Time

“I tell you what,” the former slayer said, straddling the seat of the Vespa. “We get on the road, we’ll do names. How’s that sound?”

Shannon stared at her for another beat, then shrugged and stuffed the helmet over her hair before getting on the scooter behind the other girl.

Keep them in sight!” Allie heard Buffy say again. She looked around herself frantically for any way to follow the scooter. Then she looked up a drainpipe at the side of the alley.

Cut To:


Council Van – Same Time

Asher pointed over Emma’s shoulder. “You’re gonna want to be in the left lane, otherwise you have to turn onto–”

“Do you want to drive?” Emma grated at him, without turning around.

“I mean, I know the streets better, if you’re offering…” Asher trailed off when he found Hannah’s hand on his arm.

“Honey,” she said, “she wasn’t offering.”

“How’s it coming, Allie?” Buffy asked.

Cut To:


Washington, DC Rooftops – Same Time

“Oh, okay,” Allie replied.

She was running from rooftop to rooftop along the street, the dome of the US Capitol visible in the distance behind her. She kept the red scooter and its two occupants visible on the street on her left. Without breaking stride, she jumped over a gap between buildings.

On the street below, the former slayer driving the Vespa made a right turn onto a one-way street. She didn’t turn her head to see Allie leaping off one set of buildings as they came to an end and flying from one side of the street. Several pedestrians on the sidewalk looked up, mouths agape. Allie flew over the sign for a hardware store on the far side of the street and rolled to a stop just as her shoulder banged into the support for a billboard.

“It’s like having your own witch, without having to buy magic supplies,” the billboard read, next to a picture of the newest Samsung phone.

Allie scrambled to her feet and took off down the new row of rooftops at top speed.

“Do we have a plan here for what we do if I lose them?” she asked.

Cut To:


Council Van – Same Time

“Just stay on them,” Buffy said, sounding slightly annoyed.

That’s what I’m–” she heard Allie say before she cut off in mid-sentence.

“Allie?” Buffy asked. “You dropped out. Allie?” She turned to look at Asher, who was already settling into his chair next to his equipment. “Where’d she go?”

“I think they’ve just gone out of range,” he said, while fiddling with a wire. “Let me see if I can get them again, but it’s gonna be a second.”

Cut To:


Washington, DC Rooftops – Same Time

“Guys?” Allie asked, no longer getting any response on her end, either. She kept running, now keeping the red scooter to her right.

Down below, the former slayer turned her head very briefly to Shannon and called back to her, “I’m Kit.”

Shannon nodded then raised her voice slightly to be heard over the breeze and surrounding traffic. “I’m Shannon.”

“I know,” Kit said.

Above them, Allie realized almost too late that the rooftops in front of her were ending soon. The scooter pulled toward an overpass spanning a sunken freeway, too wide to jump. The slayer skidded to a halt, finding herself teetering on the edge of the last roof, arms flailing. After a moment, she steadied herself and pulled back.

Allie watched as the Vespa pulled away across the overpass and disappeared into the distance down Rhode Island Avenue. She threw her arms up in frustration. “Fuck!”

Shannon didn’t look back as Kit’s scooter sped away down the street.

Cut To:


Industrial Park – Afternoon

The red Vespa pulled into an industrial park made up of several long, low, fairly nondescript brick buildings, surrounded by trees regrowing their leaves for the spring.

As Kit rolled the scooter to stop in a parking space near one of the doors, Shannon pulled off her helmet and looked around at her surroundings. The parking lot had grass sticking up through the cracks, and a few of the windows had been broken and then hastily patched with boards.

“So you know me, and you brought me here?” she asked skeptically. “To say I’m regretting this whole thing already is an understatement. Just so you know, I still have my slayerness.”

Kit pulled her own helmet off and shot a sly smile back at her passenger. “Relax. Because of your Council, this whole thing is surreptitious. I guess they wouldn’t look too kindly on what my friends do here.”

“Why wouldn’t the Council want to help slayers?” Shannon asked.

“I’m not the one who works for them,” Kit replied. “How should I know?” As she stepped off the scooter and stowed the helmets, she continued, “You don’t have, I dunno, any glamours on or anything?”

Shannon just looked at the girl, her eyes not betraying anything. Kit held up her hands defensively. “No judgment, we can all use some help. It’s just, y’know, this is what they call a clean facility. No magic in, no magic out. So they’re gonna check ya when we head in. Better to declare things now.”

Shannon shook her head. “No, I’m good.”

When Kit turned away, Shannon snuck a hand into the inside pocket of her jacket and pulled out a small button. Without hesitation, she dropped it to the asphalt. Then she let Kit lead the way into the nearest building. She didn’t look back to see the button roll a few feet into a storm drain and disappear.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Washington, DC Branch – Workshop – Evening

Asher huddled over a makeshift device in the corner of a small room filled with similar contraptions, a tangle of brass and iron wire. In the center of his work hung the enchanted button from the vehicle, suspended in mid-air. Nearby, a laptop was open to an audio-editing program.

Emma leaned over his shoulder. “Can’t you just, I dunno, play it back into the microphone and record it that way?”

Asher sighed. “It’s not a recording device. It’s, y’know…”

“A button?” Emma supplied.

“Yeah,” Asher said. “But I think maybe I can extract the energy impressions from earlier today, and then – don’t touch that!”

Buffy hurriedly straightened up from where she had been examining a little ball of red energy held within a container of crystal on one of the shelves in the small workshop.

“I wasn’t gonna touch it. If I touched random magic crap, I would’ve gotten my fingers cursed off back at the Magic Box.” She looked around the room, then back at Asher, who had already turned back to his wires. “The way you do magic, it’s…”

“Not what you’re used to?” Asher said, without looking up. “Not all of us have Rosenberg’s or Lindquist’s raw power. But if I can amplify things, get all the elements working together in just the right way, I can be just as good. Well, almost.” He sighed and sat back. “Sometimes it’s not good enough.” He gestured to the button in front of him.

“You just gotta keep at it,” Emma said. “Wilton said her locator spell with the items Norman provided in Cleveland futzed out, she’s not sure why. Something’s blocking it. So you’re kinda our main man right now.” She noticed the look Asher was giving her. “But I mean, no pressure,” she added lamely.

“Why wasn’t Willow doing the spell? Isn’t she–” Buffy was cut off by the vibration of her phone, which she fished out of her jeans pocket. The caller ID read “Willow.” “Speak of the witch,” she said as she put the phone to her ear.

Hi, Buffy,” Willow said over the phone. “I, uh…I’m hoping to talk to you for a second. It’s kinda personal-ish, though.

Buffy looked over her shoulder at Emma and Asher. “I’m just gonna…” She gestured over her shoulder toward the door then left the room.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Washington, DC Branch – Hallway – Moments Later

Buffy stood alone in the hallway, her phone still held to her ear.

I’m telling you this,” Willow said, “because I didn’t judge you about Spike. So I’m hoping you don’t judge me for what I’m about to say.

“Oh my God, you’re sleeping with Skye?” Buffy exclaimed, a little too loudly. She looked both ways up and down the hallway to make sure no one might have heard. “I mean, you’re sleeping with Skye?” she repeated, this time in a whisper.

What?” Willow asked, sounding thoroughly confused. “No!

“I figured since, y’know, Spike was a vampire, and the number of vampires you could sleep with is not a lot…”

The number is zero!” Willow insisted. “No. Anyway, as I mentioned, I didn’t judge you about Spike. In fact, I don’t know if you knew this, but even before you were actually with him, and we caught him with the Buffybot, I stood up for you…I was the only one at the time, actually. I was going to say you could ask anybody who was there, but then I remembered the only one left is Xander. Not that he’s not reliable or anything. It’s just that they’re…gone…

“It’s been a while since I’ve had a good Willow ramble,” Buffy said with a small smile. “You have no idea how much I needed this.”

Willow sighed. “Anyway, I know I can’t talk to Xander about this because he’s too close to the situation. He has a vested interest in what happens with me and Rowena.

Buffy’s forehead scrunched, and she bit her lip for a moment before she spoke. “Are…are you guys breaking up?”

No!” Willow exclaimed. Then she thought for a moment. “Well, maybe? Probably not. I don’t know. Lately, I’ve just felt…restless…and more than that, I’ve been remembering everything I used to be.

“What do you mean ‘used to be’?” Buffy asked. “You’re one of the biggest guns the Council has.”

But I’m not the biggest gun. Not anymore. And I haven’t been for a while. Heck, I can’t really even hack anymore. Grace is right, I haven’t had time to keep up with the technology. Even my daughter knows more than me at this point. And we have plenty of other witches who can do the same things that I do, or even better, like Wilton and her locator spells.

“Only because you taught them,” Buffy insisted, now pacing back and forth in the hallway. “You’re doing what human beings are supposed to do. We pass down the stuff we know and the gifts we have, so that the people who come after us can be even better than we were. Or at least, that was what I was hoping for the Slayer Line before I saw that SlayBae girl online…but we’re not talking about my stuff right now. How does all this tie in with Rowena and…and my sometimes-judgmental husband?”

Willow paused again before she answered. “This project that I’m working on with Tam– with Dr. Goldman has been…eye-opening? I have a lot in common with her, and we really seem to enjoy each other’s company, and some of the hints she’s dropped…I think I want to, y’know, explore things with her. Including the physical stuff.

Buffy stopped pacing. She blinked. “You’ve got the hots for your doctor friend?”

Yeah, uh, big time,” Willow laughed nervously. “Goddess, I feel like we’re back in high school. But when I’m around her I feel, I don’t know, tingles? I’ve missed the tingles so much.

“Ro doesn’t give you tingles?”

She does. It’s just different tingles. Ro tingles are warm, inviting and run deep,” Willow said. “Tamara tingles are unexpected, quick and…electric.”

“I think I get it. Rowena has history and Tamara is new.”  

“Yes. But look, Rowena and I have never had a conventional marriage because of, well, many reasons, but my Wiccan faith is one of them.

Buffy ran a hand over her face. “Are we talking about sex magic stuff? Because if we are, I don’t wanna hear about anything involving my sister.”

I don’t kiss and tell,” Willow chuckled. “So don’t worry. It’s just that our bodies are one of the best instruments we have to reach out to the Gods and Goddesses, so it’s not uncommon for some of those rituals to result in…gratification. And between that and, well, you know that even Jake and Sophia were conceived au natural. So it’s not as if Ro and I’ve had a strictly monogamous relationship all these years.

Buffy’s voice grew quiet but insistent. “Willow, you know this is different, right?”

Because of the tingles?” Willow asked.

“Because of lots of things,” Buffy replied. “I’m not judging you; I’m just saying this isn’t the same thing as me letting you use my husband as a sperm donor. Even a sexy sperm donor.”

Willow sighed. “Maybe you’re right. And maybe part of this is me just lying to myself about the situation. And it’s not that I don’t love Rowena or want to continue having the life I have with her. But Buffy…she’s talked about wanting more kids. I’m on the fence. A part of me sees the appeal of more baby booties and first words and training wheels, sure, and everything else that goes along with that. But I gotta be honest, another part of me is looking forward to a time when it’s just she and I, but if we decide to have more kids, is that ever going to happen?

“So maybe this other person is feeling more like an escape?” Buffy reasoned. “Like, you don’t want more kids, so there’s a part of you that just wants to leave the situation?” She shook her head. “Never mind, you’ve got enough ideas running around in your mind, you don’t need anything from mine right now.”

No, ramble away,” Willow said. “Because honestly, I’m at a loss myself as to what’s happening. What I do know is Tamara, sorry, I did it again, Dr. Goldman, she makes me feel…this is so cheesy, she makes me feel young again. It feels like when I met Tara. And that’s the other thing, which Xander suggested after Ken made a comment about her appearance. Goldman really does look like Tara. If she’d, you know, survived, I mean.

Buffy half-smiled. “Can you send me a picture of her?”

Sure, one sec…

A moment later, Buffy’s phone buzzed again, and she opened a text from Willow. She paused, squinting. Then she put the phone back to her ear. “Okay, I can see the resemblance.”

Thank you!” Willow exclaimed. “Kennedy and Kadin don’t see one. I didn’t show Xander a picture for confirmation because he was already wearing his judgey face.

“To be fair,” Buffy pointed out, “Ken and Kadin never really saw Tara in anything more than a picture.”

True,” Willow agreed. “And since she does have such a strong resemblance, I’m, well, I’m feeling really mixed up right now. Like, am I really getting the tingles for this woman, or are they, y’know, residual tingles?

“Sadly, I don’t think I’m the tingle expert,” Buffy said. “I thought you were talking to me because of my history of getting tingles for the wrong people?”

I’m talking to you ’cause you’re my best friend, Buffy,” Willow said. Buffy gave another small smile at that. “You and Xander. But I can’t tell Xander because he just doesn’t understand.

“Understand what, exactly?” Buffy asked.

Willow took a deep breath that was audible over the phone. “What you had with Spike. Pre-soul, I mean. That wanting something that might not be the best for you but you have, I don’t know, this intense need to connect to it. You’re drawn to it against your better judgment. I see Tamara, and I just think about how…how strong I was, and how…” Her voice broke. “How needed I was, back then.

Buffy took her own deep breath. “Willow, you are crucial in sooo many ways. Have you talked to Dr. Millenti?”

I am not depressed or insane,” Willow said flatly.

“Okay, but let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you were,” Buffy said. She blinked. “Wow, that sounded way more judgey than I intended.”

There was a long silence on the other end of the line.

“Sorry, all I mean is maybe he can help you sort through things in a way that people who are really close to you can’t,” Buffy said quickly. “Because honestly, I can’t tell you to have an affair with this woman, and I can’t tell you not to. What about making a set of pros and cons? You love those! I’m willing to help, but you might not like what I have to say.”

Willow sighed. “I understand.

“Do you?” Buffy pushed. She looked up to see Hannah and Allie walking down the hallway toward her. “Because I love you. I love Rowena, too. I can see why you guys work. But this is hard for me because I don’t want to see Rowena get hurt. And I don’t want to see you get hurt. Or the kids. But if you’re asking me to pick a side, ever, I want you to know…it’s always you, every time.”

Buffy watched Allie make an “awww” face as she and Hannah arrived, and rolled her eyes. “Look, Willow, I hate to do this, but I’ve really got to go. We sort of…misplaced… Shannon, and Wilton’s locator spells seem to be blocked.”

What?!?” Willow shouted on the other end of the line and talked in a rush. “Why didn’t you start the conversation with that? How did you lose Shannon?

“What did we say about not judging?” Buffy said with a half-grin. “Gotta go. Bye,” she finished pointedly.

“Buff–” Willow’s voice was cut off by the disconnect.

Once the phone was put away, Hannah asked, “What was that about?”

Buffy just shook her head. “Any word on Shannon?”

“No, but while we’re here, something else has come up,” Hannah told her. “There’s a girl who Allie met out on patrol the other night. Former slayer who says she’s been a part of this organization.”

“Deactivated slayer,” Buffy corrected. “Not former. Just because they’re not currently active doesn’t mean they’re not slayers.”

Hannah nodded. “Sorry, I-I should have remembered.”

Buffy grinned at her. “It’s okay, I can’t keep up with the terms, either. But I think it’s important.” She turned to Allie. “You think she can tell us where Shannon is?”

“And all kinds of other shit,” Allie agreed. “But the thing is, she wouldn’t even tell me her name. She’ll only meet us in as public a place as possible. She doesn’t think they’ll try something with a lot of other people around. And, oh yeah,” she sighed, “she’ll only talk with Buffy Summers.”

“Well,” Buffy shrugged, “good thing you’ve got a Buffy Summers, then. Though this whole thing has been way too cloak and dagger for me.”

Hannah managed a small smile. “Yeah,” she joked, “who does this girl think she is, Deepthroat?”

Allie looked at her watcher in surprise then clapped her on the back. Hannah doubled over forward. “Wow, dumbass, I wasn’t expecting you to have such a dirty mind. I must be rubbing off on you.”

“No,” Hannah coughed, straightening up. “The nickname of the Watergate informant? Woodward and Bernstein’s contact?” She looked between two blank stairs and sighed.

At that moment, “Come On Eileen” started blasting from inside the workshop door, closely followed by triumphant whoops.

Cut To:


Undisclosed Location

Shannon waited impatiently, one of her legs bouncing as she sat in her chair. It was one of only two in the room, across from each other at a central table. The room itself was all-white, the walls, ceiling, floor and the table itself all the same shade.

“Hey, I filled out all your forms!” she called out. “I still don’t know what this is. Maybe I could get, like, an update?”

Cut To:


Undisclosed Location

In another room, a man in a white lab coat watched a feed of Shannon on a small monitor. He was older, with a lined face, but he still had a bushy shock of light brown hair on his head.

Can anybody hear me?” Shannon called out.

The man in the lab coat turned to Kit, who stood behind him, and held up a form. “You know who this is, don’t you? This is Shannon Matthewson. Not only is she high up at the Council, she’s Faith Lehane’s daughter-in-law. Sure, she stays out of the spotlight, but if this…doesn’t work out, the Council is going to notice.”

“I just find ’em,” Kit replied, hands crossed across her chest. “What you do with ’em is your problem. You want to kick her out, I don’t care, as long as I still get my commission.”

“You won’t get any commissions if the Council comes in and shuts us down,” the man in the lab coat said. “We’ve got to be careful. I’ve…I’ve got to run this by some people.”

He pulled out his cell phone.

Cut To:


Undisclosed Location

Shannon turned her head when the door to the white room opened and Kit poked her head in.

“What the hell’s going on?” Shannon asked.

“It’ll just be a couple more minutes while they go over your paperwork,” Kit replied. She flashed an unconvincing smile. “Can I get you anything? The coffee may be a little, um, eccentric, but I’m pretty sure there’s a water cooler around here somewhere…”

“Kit,” Shannon said, her voice flat, “I’m gonna need you to level with me. Am I a prisoner here?”

Kit stared at her for a second, then she laughed, very loudly and for a little too long. “You’re funny, I like you!”

Shannon did not laugh. “I’m actually not funny.”

Kit sobered, a slightly desperate look in her eyes. “It’ll just be a second.” Then she closed the door again.

Cut To:


Undisclosed Location

The man in the lab coat spoke into his phone. “Yes, but…No, I’m aware that you are the sole funder for our research. I’m only pointing out…I’ll do my best. Yes, thank you.”

He pulled his phone away from his ear and ended the call, then sighed and turned toward the monitor showing Shannon impatiently tapping her foot in the white room.

Cut To:


Undisclosed Location

The man in the lab coat opened the door to the white room. “Ms. Matthewson?”

“Yes, I’m here,” Shannon said, annoyance in her voice. “I’m not sure where here is, but I’m here.”

The man chuckled nervously. “Yes, my apologies for the delay. I’m Dr. Pakula.” He sat down across the table from Shannon, placing a clipboard down in front of him. He gestured around them. “You’re at one of our intake sites for Pakula Labs.”

Shannon eyed him for a long beat. “You’re supposed to have, what, some kind of Cure for slayers losing their powers?”

“I wouldn’t call–”

Shannon held up a hand. “Doc, if you’re about to tell me you can’t help me keep my powers, I’m walking out of here, and I don’t think you can stop me.”

“You’re free to leave at any time,” Dr. Pakula said, gesturing to the door. “And perhaps we do have a Cure. A cure for the central condition of being a slayer…that it ends.”

“I’m not sure you’re the one to talk about the slayer condition,” Shannon said, crossing her arms over her chest.

“Before Willow Rosenberg activated all the potentials,” Dr. Pakula continued, without skipping a beat, “every slayer knew that their life was likely to be brutal and short. After…it turns out there’s still an expiration date, one imposed by magic. What we’re trying to do here is nothing less than change what it means to be a slayer.”

“Uh-huh,” Shannon said skeptically. “Very poetic. I’m not hearing a ‘yes’ in there.”

Dr. Pakula licked his lips, took off his glasses and put his clasped hands down on the table in front of them. “Then…yes. Here at Pakula Labs, we are engaged in cutting edge medical research that combines magic and science in ways never before attempted. We are currently testing a drug regimen that will, yes, allow slayers to keep their powers beyond the age of thirty. We are hoping you will participate in that trial.”

Shannon blinked twice. Then she said, “I take it, given the fact that I got here from talking to some girl in a bar, that this isn’t one of those fancy FDA-approved drug trials?”

Dr. Pakula sighed. “This is a controversial issue. The decision was made to keep this study, well, under the table for as long as possible.”

“This…drug regimen…” Shannon hesitated. “Is it safe?”

“Well, that’s what we’re trying to find out,” Dr. Pakula said quickly. “So tell me, does this sound like something that interests you?”

Shannon sat back in her chair, her face unreadable. She remained silent for several beats. Then she said, “I gotta say, I feel like I need more information.” It was her turn to gesture at the room around them. “I’ve never heard of you, which makes me think somebody else is actually paying for all this.”

“We’re…independently funded,” Dr. Pakula said. Shannon said nothing, just continuing to look at him. Finally, he said, “I can see you’re still on the fence. How about this? Come by our lab tomorrow at nine.” He pulled out a business card and slid it across the table. “I will personally show you how the sausage is made.”

Shannon picked up the card and looked at it. “I thought you weren’t supposed to ask how sausage is made.”

“Yes, well…” Dr. Pakula said, “in this case it’s a metaphorical sausage.” He stood up. “Take the evening to think about it. If you don’t come by tomorrow, you’ll never hear from me again.”

Shannon looked up from the card at the man standing across from her.

Cut To:


Undisclosed Location

Shannon exited the industrial park building to find Kit waiting for her astride her red Vespa.

“So, where to?” Kit asked. She tossed Shannon the helmet.

Shannon caught it but hesitated to speak.

“Are you staying somewhere?” Kit pushed.

“No, not yet,” Shannon finally said. “Can you recommend a cheap motel? I don’t need much.”

“Recommend is a strong word, but sure,” the other girl replied. “Get on.”

Shannon pushed the helmet down over her hair.

Cut To:


Washington, DC – Tidal Basin – Day

Pink blossoms surrounded the Tidal Basin. Dozens of small trees, all in bloom simultaneously, circled the water. Around the trees moved throngs of people, many taking selfies or snapping photos of loved ones in front of flowers. The round white marble dome of the Jefferson Memorial hovered, particularly picturesque, over one end of the Basin.

Cut To:


Washington, DC – Jefferson Memorial – Same Time

The interior of the Memorial was also filled with tourists. In the center of the domed chamber stood a nineteen-foot bronze statue of the former president. Around the room, long passages of Jefferson’s writings were carved into the walls.

Buffy stood below a quotation from the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, her gaze moving back and forth. She pulled the top of her blouse up slightly toward her mouth as she spoke. “Does anybody see her?”

A small smile appeared on Emma’s face as she paced around the opposite end of the chamber. “Not yet. And you don’t have to talk right into your button. It’s magic.”

Allie was making her way casually through the throngs, her Nationals hat pulled low over her face. “Well, she wanted public. There are tourist crowds and then there’s…whatever this is. Usually I avoid the Mall like the plague this time of year.”

“Well, keep an eye out,” Buffy said.

“For this girl or for the people she’s so scared of?” Emma asked.

Buffy had opened her mouth to answer when she heard a voice next to her. “Act casual. We’re just two people standing next to each other.”

She stole a glance to her right to see a woman in her thirties wearing a blue Georgetown University hoodie, a few dark hairs sticking out from her raised hood.

“Don’t look!” the woman hissed, and Buffy quickly obeyed.

“I’m here, just like you asked,” Buffy said, sticking two hands in her jeans pockets in an attempt to look casual. “For somebody who wants to talk, you sure do make it hard.”

“You’d be careful, too, if you’d seen what I’ve seen,” the girl said edgily. “These people don’t care who they hurt. They decide to murder people like us with the same casual attitude I had this morning picking what I wanted for breakfast.”

“These people,” Buffy repeated, leaning back against the wall of the Memorial. “Who are we talking about?”

The girl hesitated. “I don’t…” She sighed. “Tell me what you know, and I’ll tell you whether you’re on the right track.”

“I’m not playing games here,” Buffy said, frustration showing through in her voice. “I get that you’re scared, but we can protect you.”

The girl shook her head. “You really can’t. But these people have to be stopped. This drug, it…they’re preying on people’s hope, and they’re going to use it to tear down everything.”

“So it’s true, then,” Emma commented from the far side of the room, her eyes still scanning the crowd inside the Memorial. “There’s a drug that can give slayers their powers back.”

“You’re telling me there really is a serum that can restore slayers powers?” Buffy asked the girl. “Why hide it? Why not sell it and make all of the money?”

“It doesn’t work,” the girl replied, her eyes flitting around anxiously at her surroundings. “At least, not for most girls. I watched my friend practically puke up her organs and die in front of me. It happened so fast. I was about to inject that shit. They said her body rejected it.”

“Fuck,” Allie commented sympathetically under her breath.

“You’re saying there’re other dead deactivated slayers we don’t know about?” Buffy asked. “How many?”

“I don’t know,” the girl said. “But I know she wasn’t the– hey!”

The girl in the hoodie protested when she was jostled from the side by a bald-headed man dressed in a cheesy Washington, DC t-shirt with the outline of the US Capitol on it and with a camera hanging around his neck. The man just kept walking, as if he completely hadn’t noticed the collision.

“Asshole,” the girl commented, pulling her hoodie back into place. “I miss when I had my powers and could’ve wrung his neck.”

“Uh, let’s get back on track,” Buffy said hurriedly. “You were going to tell me who we’re dealing with here.”

“No, I told you–”

Buffy turned to the girl, angry. “Look, let’s stop the nonsense here. Women are dying. We don’t have time to beat around the bush.”

“You don’t–” the girl began again before being cut off by a coughing fit. She put her hands to her throat, her eyes widening, the coughs turning to choking noises.

“Are you okay?” Buffy asked. She watched as the increasingly panicked girl took a few more wheezed breaths, then the sound was cut off entirely. The girl’s knees gave out, and she collapsed to the marble floor.

“What can I do?” Buffy asked. “What’s happening?” She hurriedly knelt next to the girl, whose hood had now slipped off her head as her mouth futilely attempted to bring in air. Buffy looked around in terror. “Help!” She called out. “This girl needs help!”

Everyone around them just ignored her.

Within moments, Emma and Allie skidded to a halt next to Buffy and the choking girl.

“What happened?” Emma asked.

“I-I don’t know,” Buffy said, panic in her voice. “One moment we were talking, then there was this–” She looked up, almost startled by a realization. “That bald guy.” Buffy shot to her feet. She looked through the crowd and barely glimpsed the bald head of the man who had just jostled the girl as he exited the Memorial in the direction of the Tidal Basin. “You guys stay with her. Help her.” Then she took off after the man, shouting, “Hey! Hey!”

Buffy found herself having to struggle to make it through the crowd in the Memorial. “Everybody out of the way!” she shouted, but nobody made way for her. She eventually pushed a woman out of the way, saying “Sorry!” as she ran past.

She made it to the top of the steps leading from the Memorial down to the Tidal Basin. The man was now a few steps from the bottom. She looked down and shouted, “Stop!” He looked back at her, and they locked eyes, just for a second. Then he turned away, threw his camera off to the side, where it shattered into several pieces against the marble steps, and took off running at a full sprint into the crowds around the cherry trees.

Buffy groaned then took off down the steps after him.

Cut To:


Jefferson Memorial – Same Time

Allie tried to hold the girl still since she had started to thrash on the floor. “What the fuck is wrong with her?”

Emma seemed distracted, stealing a glance over her shoulder. “Summers just took off after that guy. What if he does the same thing to her?”

Allie’s attention was on the girl in the hoodie. “Try to relax,” she said. “Has anybody…” She looked up to see that Emma had taken off after Buffy and into the crowd. “…called nine-one-one.” She sighed and yelled after her. “Summers said to stay put!”

Cut To:


Tidal Basin – Same Time

The man ran through the crowds beneath the bright pink blossoms, along the path beside the Tidal Basin. He barely paused to push a teenage girl out of his way and into the basin itself. Buffy followed him at what was now her top speed, arms pumping, breaths coming hard.

“My phone’s gonna be ruined,” Buffy heard the very wet teenage girl complain as she sprinted past.

The man stole a glance over his shoulder to see that she hadn’t seemed to gain much ground, still running hard.

Buffy kept running after him, people, flowers and water flying by at a blur.

Then a female voice piped up from her wrist. “Your heart rate indicates you’re working out. Would you like to log this workout?

Buffy pulled her Apple Watch toward her mouth as she ran. “Shut…up…!” she gasped out.

I’m sorry, I didn’t quite get that.

Buffy ignored this and kept running past a small Japanese-style stone pagoda situated alongside the water.

Cut To:


Jefferson Memorial – Same Time

The girl in the hoodie’s thrashing had, for the most part, stilled. She lay on the floor, her swollen tongue lolling from her mouth, wide eyes staring upward. Allie, meanwhile, was frantically looking over the girl’s body, trying to find anything that might help. She grabbed the girl’s hand and noticed a small, skin-colored patch stuck on the back, similar to one that might be used to quit smoking.

Allie pulled the girl’s hand up so that she could take a closer look. Then she stopped and blinked. She took in a couple deep sniffs through her nose.

“Peanuts,” she said under her breath. A moment later, her eyes went wide, and she raised her voice. “Please, does anyone have an EpiPen?!?”

Cut To:


Tidal Basin – Same Time

The bald man ran past the rough granite walls and bronze statues of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, plowing over anyone in his path. Buffy, her breaths now coming in gasps, still ran after him.

“I can…still…do this,” she panted as she picked her way around the crowd surrounding a statue of the former President, his small dog at his feet.

The two of them exited the Memorial, one after the other, and the bald man ran off the path among the trees. Buffy followed. She had slowed somewhat since the start of the chase, but so had he, and the crowds kept both of them from moving at top speed.

A sudden gust of wind blew through the trees, sending Buffy’s hair into her face. She pulled the strands out of her eyes without breaking stride, and when she did so she found that both she and the bald man were now running through a rain of falling pink blossoms. She kept going, the flowers becoming pink blurs. In front of her, the bald man tripped on a tree root. Buffy was nearly on him, but her legs seemed reluctant to keep moving.

“Stop…Watchers Council,” she gasped out.

The man, however, scrambled to his feet and kept running. Buffy found herself slowing down. “C’mon,” she urged herself under her breath, “C’mon.”

The man burst out of the trees and found himself at a busy road passing through the parkland. He scrambled down an embankment toward the sidewalk, putting his hands down on the ground to steady himself. A moment later, Buffy reached the top of the embankment. She realized the lay of the land just too late, and her attempt at skidding to a halt turned into her rolling down the embankment. She hit the sidewalk at the bottom hard.

Gritting her teeth at the effort, Buffy looked up to see the man running away down the sidewalk, about to disappear into the distance. She growled in frustration and pushed herself to her feet.

Just as Buffy was about to start running again, she saw Emma appear out of the trees some distance away and plow into the side of the bald man, tackling him to the ground.

“Gotcha, asshole!” Emma crowed.

Buffy, her breath still coming in heaves, ran down the sidewalk toward the two of them. “I thought…I told you to…stay with her,” she said.

Emma shrugged as she got to her knees on top of the man, easily holding him down on the sidewalk. “You seemed like you could use my help, Summers. Allie’s still there.” She looked down at the man lying beneath her. “What did you do to her?” she growled. The man just stared at her. Emma ground her knee into his stomach, and he groaned. “Tell me!”

“Em, stop,” Buffy said, hands on her knees as she tried to get her breathing under control. “Please, listen…”

“No!” Emma said sharply, looking up at her watcher. “You can’t just take off like that! I’m the slayer, you’re the watcher! I-I can’t do this without you.”

Buffy and Emma just looked at each other for a long few seconds. Then the bald man took advantage of Emma’s distraction and pushed her once, hard in the chest. She fell backward off of him, landing on her behind on the sidewalk. Before she could recover, he was on his feet.

The man surveyed his surroundings for a split-second, then took a quick few steps off the curb and into the street. He turned and looked back at the two women with a look of resolution on his face.

“No!” Buffy yelled, but it was too late. A bus struck the man head on. He went flying, limbs flailing, as the bus screeched to a stop. He slammed to the pavement with a sickening smack.

Buffy and Emma both ran over to where he now lay, motionless, in the road. Emma knelt down next to him, and then a moment later turned to face Buffy. “He’s dead,” she said quietly.

Buffy stood in the road for a second, looking at the body and her slayer, then took a step back and sat down on the curb.

A moment later, Allie’s voice came over both women’s buttons. “Well, I found an EpiPen,” she said. “I-I tried…I tried to…” She stopped, and there was another pause. Another breeze came through the trees, and pink blossoms floated down into the roadway around the two women. Then Allie finally said, “She’s dead.

Buffy put her head in her hands.

Black Out




End of Act Four

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