St. Barbara’s Catholic School – Hallway – Day
Sixteen-year-old Kennedy’s face had a wicked, almost predatory grin on it as she walked down an empty hallway wearing a white blouse, plaid skirt and high leggings, in the long tradition of Catholic schoolgirls. Most of the lights weren’t on, but daylight seeped through the doors and outer windows. As she walked, she pulled the front of the blouse out of the waistband of her skirt and tied it under her bust, exposing her flat stomach in a way the proprietors of such a school would not have approved of.
A moment later, she found another girl, her bob-cut blond hair and pink headband framing an anxious face. The girl looked over both shoulders as Kennedy drew near.
“You’re sure no one saw you?” the girl asked.
Kennedy smirked at her. “This whole wing is closed off. Who would have seen me, Kelly?” She reached out to play with the collar of Kelly’s blouse, which seemed to settle the girl’s nerves a little. “Now, I don’t have that long until next class, so what do you say we, y’know…”
She let Kelly look into her big brown eyes for a second, and the blond girl seemed to melt into them. She looked Kennedy over appreciatively and managed a small smile. “You look, just…wow.”
Then Kennedy leaned forward and kissed the other girl. They continued enthusiastically kissing for several seconds.
St. Barbara’s Catholic School – Classroom – Moments Later
The door to one of the empty classrooms burst open, and the two girls pushed past the threshold, never separating from each other. Kennedy backed up against the nearest blackboard, her eyes closing as Kelly licked the nape of her neck. Gasping, she opened her eyes.
At that moment, she noticed for the first time that there was a body hanging from a noose in the middle of the room, next to a kicked-over chair, and her eyes went wide. Her mouth worked the air for a moment, as Kelly laid a series of kisses up the side of Kennedy’s neck.”
“Kelly?” she said quietly, not moving her eyes from the body. It was another girl, about their age, wearing the same uniform. Then, louder, “Kel!”
The other girl came up for air. Slightly angry, she asked, “What?” Kennedy pointed. Kelly looked, then screamed.
Kennedy took a few steps forward as Kelly kept screaming. She peered up at the face of the hanging figure.
“Bridget?” she asked, almost under her breath.
Nehantic, Connecticut – Main Street – Days Later
Still in her school uniform, Kennedy rode a skateboard down the sidewalk of a postcard-perfect small town main street. She expertly kicked her board to a stop outside of a small bookstore, with an engraved sign on the window reading “Jacobs Books.”
Jacobs Books – Minutes Later
Inside, piles of books covered every available surface and left only small aisles for potential patrons to walk through. Terence Jacobs replaced a series of books on a long shelf. Kennedy stood on the far side, moving so that he could see her face through the various openings in the shelving.
“I knew Bridget,” she said. “She was actually a really good kisser.”
Terence Jacobs didn’t look at her. He just cleared his throat meaningfully while he continued reshelving.
Kennedy threw up her hands. “Fine, sorry, I forgot, it’s not your business who I’m kissing. But the point is, I knew her well enough to know that she wouldn’t do that.”
Jacobs sighed and put down the rest of his stack of books when he reached the end of the shelf. “Kennedy, I’m sorry this happened, but people are…bottomless wells. We cannot know what is happening at the bottom.”
“I actually really liked Bridget’s bottom,” Kennedy sighed, leaning back against a wall of old romances.
“And in that vein,” Jacobs continued, “you hardly need me to tell you that angst is a particular specialty of girls your age, especially among those groups that might be forced to deal with…additional challenges.”
She glared at him and took a challenging step forward. “Are you saying Bridget killed herself because that’s just something lesbians do?”
He reached out and put a hand on her shoulder. “What I am saying is that when you’re a teenager, sometimes things feel like the end of the world when they’re, well, not. One advantage of our line of work, you actually know what an apocalypse feels like.”
Kennedy didn’t relent, raising a single eyebrow as she continued to stare him down.
“Fine,” he said, a small smile breaking through on his face. He held out the book he’d kept in his hands all along, opened it to a page showing a drawing of a demon with an elongated face and extended, thin claws emerging from its spindly fingers. “There have been rumblings in the underworld about the presence in this part of the state of a Lorazic demon. It feeds on human despair, drawing the emotion to the surface. If there is a supernatural cause…”
Jacobs trailed off as Kennedy snatched the book from his hands and examined it closely. After a moment, she looked back up at him and tersely asked, “How do I kill it?”
St. Barbara’s Catholic School – Hallway – Night
Kennedy slammed backward into the hallway wall of the closed, darkened wing of St. Barbara’s. The Lorazic Demon, big as life, stalked toward her, its claws extended. Metallic tendrils reached out until they were only a few inches from Kennedy’s forehead.
Just as the tendrils brushed her face, Kennedy pulled out a large kitchen knife and plunged it into the Lorazic’s right eye. It screamed, an unnatural sound, like an unholy pig being slaughtered. Its fingers clawed uselessly at its face for a moment, then the demon collapsed to the hallway’s tile floor.
She leaned over its body and spat, “That’s for Bridget, asshole.” She watched as the Lorazic’s body melted before her eyes, first to a grayish goo, then disappearing altogether. She raised one eyebrow. “That’s convenient.”
Then the lights suddenly switched on, and Kennedy found herself standing in the middle of the hallway, holding a knife dripping with unidentified red liquid, while surrounded by several security guards.
“Or not,” she said under her breath.
A moment later, the guards parted, and a particularly angry-looking nun, no more than four and a half feet tall at the most, strode between them.
“Kennedy!” she pronounced, multiple years of grievances behind the word.
St. Barbara’s Catholic School – Headmistress’s Office – Night
Kennedy sat sullenly, eyes downcast, in a chair across from the same woman, who now sat behind the desk of the school’s Headmistress.
“You’ve pushed my authority to the brink in the past, but never…” The nun sniffed. “You’ll be expelled, of course. I’ll call your father in the morning.”
Kennedy looked up, eyes wide. “Expelled!?! But Sister Agatha, you can’t, I-I was…”
“You were what, dear?” the Headmistress sat forward in her chair. “Fighting monsters?”
Both of Kennedy’s eyebrows went sky high.
“Yes, we heard about your little obsession from your father. I knew it was only a matter of time before it surfaced again, but…”
“No, you had a demon in the school,” Kennedy said. “I killed it!”
“You?” Sister Agatha laughed. “Oh, that’s a good one, actually. You stole the largest knife from the kitchen for a great and noble purpose. You’re doing the Lord’s work?” She contained her laughter, then called out, “Kennedy is ready to leave my office, Reginald.”
A large security officer entered and waited by Kennedy’s chair expectantly. She looked from Sister Agatha to Reginald and back, eyes wide. Then Kennedy sprang forward toward Sister Agatha, who pulled back quickly.
“You listen to me, you dried-up hag, I’m not crazy.” Reginald placed hands on both her shoulders and began to pull Kennedy away. She kicked her feet uselessly against the front of the Headmistress’s desk as he hauled her backward.
“I’m not crazy!” she shouted again.
Watchers Council – Watcher Rec Room – Minutes Later
“I’m not the one you should be worried about,” Kennedy said. The intervention participants surrounded her. “That thing that’s here with Kadin in the Council, it’s not our daughter. It’s…something else.” The group exchanged nervous looks for several seconds. “I’m serious,” she continued. “It’s not Vanessa, which means Vanessa’s somewhere else. We have to find her.”
Willow spoke up first. “Kennedy, I…We’ve got so many wards on this place. You’ve even helped put some of them there. You know that if any kind of unauthorized demon or shapeshifter came in here, the alarms would go off before you could say ‘killer baby shapeshifter’.”
“Those wards have been beaten before,” Kennedy said. “By Skye, for one. Speaking of, where is she to deliver un-needed sarcasm?” Buffy mumbled something. “What?” Kennedy asked.
“She’s trying to catch my sister, who…kind of got accidentally turned into a bird.”
Kennedy said nothing at first. Then she shook her head and said, “Tell me again how nothing goes wonky ’round here magic-wise?”
“That’s just a fluke,” Xander offered.
Kennedy rolled her eyes. “My point remains the same. Flukes happen. Wards are breached.”
“That whole thing with Skye was a long time ago,” Willow pointed out. “We’ve learned a lot since then.”
“And we both watched Dr. Goldman draw Vanessa’s blood, and that came back fine,” Rowena put in. “So I have to ask…what makes you think that she’s been…replaced?”
Kennedy looked down at her hands and took a deep breath. “I’m her mother. I can just…tell.” She glanced up to see the looks the group was giving her, then continued hurriedly. “And when I look in her eyes, there’s something else there. And a few times, I’ve seen them…change color.”
Robin leaned forward. “When? Be specific.”
“The other night in her crib,” Kennedy said. “And when I was holding her after Marsha…she knew, too.”
Buffy threw her hands up. “So her eyes looked different when the room was on fire? What a surprise!”
“Buffy…” Willow chided. “Maybe we should move on to our ‘I statements’.”
But Buffy had already turned toward Kennedy. “Look, for the sake of your wife and your baby, I’m not gonna dance around this. You sound nuts.” She ignored somewhat reproachful looks from both Willow and Xander and pressed on. “You’ve gotta get your crap together, because they need you to. This…this is postpartum depression. I’m definitely not a doctor, but it seems pretty obvious. And it’s real, and it sucks, and I’m sorry, but whatever this is, isn’t gonna help. You’re not gonna get any better unless you do the work. And you’ve gotta do the work, because if you really hurt your daughter, you won’t be able to live with it.” She looked around at the group. “Am I wrong?”
Kennedy glared at her, but did not rise to the bait.
Willow shifted in her seat. “I mean…” She looked sheepishly at Kennedy. “You do need to get help, Ken.”
“Well, you’ll all be happy to hear, I’m getting it,” Kennedy said. “Kadin and I have an appointment right after this with Dr. Millenti. So while I appreciate that you all care, this is all unnecessary.” She stood up from her chair.
“Ken…wait,” Rowena called out. “Putting your daughter under the water…where did that come from?”
Kennedy sized her up for a beat, then pointed at Robin and said, “It was his daughter, actually. She decided to help me for her assigned research project, because she’s a good kid. And she found some things about fairy Changelings that really fit the profile the more I thought about it.”
“I-I’m sorry.” Xander raised a hand. “Fairies? I mean, I know all the things are probably real, but…we’re talking about fairies?” He looked around at the silent group, then finished, “I just wanted to check.”
“And she better not get in trouble for helping me.” Kennedy pointed around the room. “I swear to God, if I hear word one that…” She sighed. “It was all me. I did it. And I know that if I’m wrong I’ll have to live with it. That’s why I did it. Because I’m not wrong. And I’m not crazy.”
With that, she walked out of the room, slamming the door behind her.
Silence reigned in her absence. Then Xander held up a piece of paper with writing scribbled on it and said, “I didn’t even get to read my ‘I Statement’.”
Watchers Council – Hallway – Later
“So an entire building’s worth of slayers, that’s how many it takes to catch a pigeon.” On her tiptoes, Emma muttered under her breath as she craned her head and eyebrows up to the top shelves of the closet she found herself standing in the doorway of. “And witches. And watchers. And admin staff. Let’s just hope not the cooks…”
In the hall behind her, groups of people hurried past, some toting large nets.
“Here Dawnie, good girl, here Dawnie,” Faith’s words were interspersed with kissing sounds of various pitches as she stepped out of an adjacent room, pulling the door closed behind her with one hand and shaking a snack bag of sunflower seeds in the other.
Emma turned to Faith and blinked. “She’s a pigeon, not a dog or a cat.”
“Hey, maybe we need some of Ro’s new kitties?” Faith suggested. “She’s got enough.”
“W-why would we do that?” Emma asked. “That seems like a very bad and terrible idea.”
Faith shook her head slowly. “Oh, c’mon, dude.” She took a small pinch of the sunflower seeds and tossed them into her mouth. “Dawn is still immortal, right? The cat gets the pigeon. We take the bird to the Coven Room without a fight and Bam! We turn her human again.”
“And what if she’s only immortal in her human form?” Emma suggested. “If the cat kills the pigeon, it could kill Dawn.”
“Ehh, that could cause a problem,” Faith agreed.
“Let’s not kill my sister, okay?” Buffy asked, nowhere to be seen.
“Seriously though, do we need to call, like, a wildlife place? For backup? Because that would be embarrassing.” Emma’s eyebrows did all the work.
“No! No bird people!” Buffy barked, coming out of another room, which she immediately took a step back into to avoid the next hurrying group. She looked very much annoyed. “Will said that she seemed to know she was a pigeon, at least at first, so we just need to think like Dawn. And a pigeon.”
The three of them stared at each other for far longer than seemed necessary, the silence between them punctuated by the sound of squeaking sneakers further down the hall and people in the distance making different bird calls.
“Yeah, I got nothing,” Faith ran her hand through her hair, scratching her scalp.
Buffy rolled her eyes shut.
“So…” Both Buffy and Faith shot Emma a glance as she began to speak. “…oh, no, I have no idea, but the Council did go into lockdown, right?”
“Huh?” Buffy’s brow knit.
“I mean, I didn’t hear Skye say to close the windows…” Emma pursed her lips as she trailed off, her wrists circling one another.
Buffy and Faith just stared at Emma.
“Goddamnit!” Buffy whipped a hand behind her and took a walkie-talkie from her belt. “Skye?!”
After a bleep, they heard, “Have you found her?”
“No, but hey, all the outer windows are closed, right?”
Dead air ensued. Buffy looked at the walkie-talkie, to Faith, to Emma, then back to the walkie-talkie.
The crackle of the PA echoed down the hall, making Faith wince and her right eyelid flicker in response.
“Could all personnel please ensure that external windows are firmly closed until the pigeon sitch has been resolved? Thank you for your continued efforts,” Skye’s voice echoed through the hallway.
Buffy blinked and held down the walkie-talkie button. “Skye?”
“There’s a group of pigeons by the sign…” Skye’s voice was now devoid of its previous formality.
“Baby, I’m coming!”
“Wait, what sign? Skye?! Skye?!” Buffy hung up. Then her mouth moved, but no words came out.
“When you asked if I wanted to help catch Dawn, I didn’t have all…” Faith vaguely motioned around her, “…this in mind. This is kinda a lot.”
“Have you ever tried to catch a bird before?” Emma asked.
“Nah, my doctorate’s not in Ornithology. But I’m guessing it’d be easier if you could actually see it.”
“This is your friend’s’ fault,” Buffy said to Emma in frustration. “He better be looking, too.” She turned into another classroom without warning. “Hey Faith,” she called, “you want to make yourself useful and help me move this thing? We need to look into the hallway ceilings.”
“How is a pigeon supposed to get into the ceiling?” Faith asked, which garnered a sharp turn from Buffy, her eyes narrowing. Faith then cleared her throat and asked, “And your buddy’s where exactly?” She moved to help Buffy move a table out of the classroom and into the hall.
“Matthew?” Emma replied, wrapping her arms around herself. Buffy got up onto the table with the help of Faith’s hand for a leg up. “He’s with Ned and the Detectorists Club, trying to find that penny in the underfloor air ducts.”
Balanced precariously up on the table, Buffy stopped and looked back over her shoulder towards Emma. Faith’s outstretched hands waited on either side of her, ready to catch. “Detectorists club?”
“Metal detectors? Metal detector enthusiasts? Detectorists? You look surprised, but you do know nerds go here, right? Quite a few, actually, that’s kind of the deal with a lot of watchers.” Emma shrugged her shoulders.
Buffy rolled her eyes to the ceiling, then stood straight up and pushed the panel open and to one side. She then attempted two small jumps before she was able to grip the interior of the drop ceiling to be able to peer inside.
“Not to lower the tone…” Faith said.
“But to totally lower it…” Buffy’s voice reverberated inside the drop ceiling.
Faith nodded. “So, you know how pigeons poop a lot, right? I’m just wondering, when Dawn changes back will everything… change back?” Faith looked to Emma with one brow raised. Emma pointed back at her in approval.
“Good God,” Buffy’s voice boomed overhead dryly.
“‘Cause the Council is gonna stink,” Faith pointed out.
“Faith…I—wait. Wait!” Buffy shouted, and then frantically descended from inside the ceiling, back onto the table, and with Faith’s help, back onto the floor. “Stink! I know how to find Dawn!”
Watchers Council – Dr. Millenti’s Office – Day
“Kennedy,” Dr. Millenti began, “Can you answer a few questions for me?”
The only sound in the room was a quiet ticking of a wall clock. Kennedy, Kadin sitting next to her on the couch, nodded her approval.
“Are you sad or experiencing severe mood swings?”
Kennedy didn’t answer at first.
“Ken,” Kadin said, “please be honest with him.”
“Yes,” Kennedy said softly.
“No. I mean, not often.”
“Difficulty bonding with your baby?”
Kennedy paused again and then cleared her throat. “Originally? No. Today? Yes. But that’s because she’s not our baby.”
Kadin closed her eyes and shook her head. “Still with this,” she muttered.
Dr. Millenti raised a hand. “I realize you’re frustrated, but let’s hear her out.”
“Thank you,” Kennedy said to the doctor, without looking at Kadin.
“Are you withdrawing from family and friends?” he asked.
“Well, my wife here is living at the Council, and I see people more on Zoom than in person lately, so kinda.”
“The reason Vanessa and I are at the Council–”
“Kadin,” the doctor said, holding up his hand again. He turned back to Kennedy. “Loss of appetite, or eating much more than usual?”
“I rarely have time to eat anymore.”
“Inability to sleep, or sleeping too much?”
“Vanessa cries constantly, so yeah. But now that she’s with Kadin, I’ve been getting more sleep.”
“Overwhelming tiredness or loss of energy?”
“Yeah, again, no sleep, but it’s getting better. Plus, I’m tired of people not believing me, except for some teenagers.”
“Kids,” Kadin muttered again.
Kennedy turned to her. “Yeah, kids. I’m getting more support from them than you, my wife. And if you remember, it was kids who saved the world many times over before the 2006 Crisis.”
Kadin opened her mouth, as if to reply, but Dr. Millenti ignored the banter and continued, “Less interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy?”
Kennedy focused on him again. “I have a screaming baby who’s not mine, so hobbies have taken a backseat in my life.”
“Intense irritability and anger?”
“Yeah, I’m pissed people think I’m nuts. Next question.”
“Do you fear that you’re not a good mother?”
“I think I’m being a great mother, because I’m trying to find my daughter. That… thing is not my daughter.”
“Kennedy,” Kadin sighed. The doctor simply held up his hand in a “stop” motion, and Kadin didn’t add more.
“Any feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy?”
“Reduced ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions?”
Kadin harrumphed, but the doctor and Kennedy ignored it.
“Restlessness, anxiety or panic attacks?”
“Recurring thoughts of death or suicide?”
Dr. Millenti paused and said, “My final question is what brings us here. Any thoughts of, or attempts to, harm yourself or your baby?”
“Like I said, whatever that thing is, it’s not my baby. So no, I would never hurt Vanessa or myself.”
“Well,” Dr. Millenti said with a sigh, “you have many of the signs of postpartum depression.”
Kennedy rubbed her temple. “Fine. So I’m depressed. Now what?”
“He’s trying to help you,” Kadin said sharply. “Help our family.”
“So am I,” Kennedy countered. “With everything we’ve seen and done over the years, you don’t think that maybe I’m depressed and right in thinking that thing is not our daughter?”
“Stop calling Vanessa a thing!”
“Stop calling that thing Vanessa!”
Kadin looked to Dr. Millenti in almost a pleading expression, while Kennedy looked away and toward the window.
“Marsha knew it,” Kennedy said, in a calmer and softer voice. “She knew it and you sent her away.”
“She tried to barbecue our daughter,” Kadin shot back. “You’re lucky Al took her, or otherwise she would’ve been euthanized.”
“You touch one scale on her and so help me–”
“See?” Kadin told the doctor. “She cares more about that dragon we can’t trust than her own daughter.”
“We can trust Marsha. She knows something is not right. She’s been fine for months – affectionate, even…bringing her blanket to you, curling up at the end of her crib at night to stand guard. She loves Vanessa, and she knows what I know…that’s not Vanessa. Marsha was protecting us.”
“Kennedy,” the doctor put in, “do you think you may be depressed?”
Kennedy seriously considered the question. “Maybe.”
“Okay, then we can see if some medication might…temper it, if you’re willing.”
“I’ll take the medicine. I will. But I’m telling you both right now, I might be sad, but I’m not wrong. And with everything I’ve been through over the last thirty-plus years, since the first watcher I ever met came to my house to tell me about my birthright…I’ve seen and done things that defy logic and reason. Hell, I fought an ancient ubervamp during my slayer days and turned into a flock of birds, literally. What I don’t know is why Kadin refuses to believe me – the woman who, if you piss her off enough, turns into the Incredible Blue Hulk.” Kennedy then turned to Kadin. “I think you’re being a hypocrite. There, I said it.”
“You think I’m a hypocrite?”
“Yeah, because you know that mystical and magical things are possible. And yeah, I had my doubts when I got to Sunnydale, even though I knew I had this ‘calling’. But when Willow did that spell and I became a slayer, any doubt I had was gone…I realized that anything is possible. I just wish that you did, because you defy explanation, too.”
The room went silent.
Watchers Council – Lobby – Later
“He’s not a bloody sniffer dog,” Giles’s face was the very definition of aghast as he stood on the outside of the glass lobby door.
“No, but he is a hound, right?” Buffy, standing inside, kept her chin low and eyes up. Then her sight shifted down in one sharp movement to the small red dog standing beside Giles’s left leg. Its eyes stared back up at her, its expression oddly reserved.
“W-well, yes, of course, he’s a dachshund. A-a miniature wirehaired dachshund, to be precise,” Giles reluctantly conceded.
The dog, staring ahead into the building, puffed his cheeks and audibly huffed as he seemed to watch Faith and Emma standing behind Buffy. Further behind them, two people were setting up a makeshift bird feeder by reception.
“And sniffing fulfills his purpose and makes him happy, as you keep telling us when a half hour walk takes, like, an age…” Buffy continued, slowly moving her head to catch Giles’s eyes, which had also wandered to the commotion behind her.
Giles blinked and turned back to Buffy, “My lord, you do listen…”
Behind Giles, Skye was running around the lawn, her attempts to catch pigeons clearly futile even with vampire speed. She dove at one, and it flapped indignantly just out of her reach.
“And, I mean, c’mon, it’s Dawn. He loves Dawn. Dawn loves him. It’s a literal win-win.”
“Only literal if he finds her,” Faith said through a mouthful of bread. She had a bagged loaf in her hand and was scattering small pieces around the lobby.
Buffy, her back to them, closed her eyes for a moment, “Yes, thank you, Faith. I’m so glad you learned what ‘literal’ means in college.”
“Skye looks like she’s freaking,” Faith pointed out, pitching a thumb in the vampire’s direction. “I would be, too. Unless feathers were, like, my thing. Hey, when did she last take a hit of Type D?”
“Type D?” Emma scrunched up her face.
“Type D. Type Dawn. Asking the important questions here. I’m just saying if she skipped breakfast she better get back inside quick. Last thing we need is a pile of former daywalker ash out front being pecked. Probably not good for the pigeons stomachs.”
Buffy ignored her, keeping her pleading eyes on her former watcher’s pleadingly, “Giles, please, it’s my sister. Again.”
“And what makes you think bird Dawn still smells of Dawn?” he asked, gripping the leather leash so tightly that it creaked.
Behind him, Skye approached the back of the building’s sign where a group of pigeons had gathered.
Buffy stood upright, “Well… she still smelt of Dawn right up until she didn’t, so there’s bound to be a residual trail, ’cause you know smells linger. Like baby vomit!” She raised a finger as she made her point.
Faith coughed. Emma bit her lip and stifled a laugh. Giles peered through the glass. The dog was now lying down. Skye threw a generous handful of seeds towards the pigeons. Some flew away, while some stutter-stepped in her direction.
“What? I can ‘watcher’,” Buffy said defensively.
With a sigh, Giles shook his head. “Your logic is… sound. Oh, fine, b-but you be careful with him.”
Skye had a look on her face, as if she had just had a great idea. Then she threw the seed back over herself and outstretched her arms.
Buffy’s face lit up as she began to unlock the door. “Yes…”
Faith and Emma looked up and around them, guarding the entrance.
“H-he mustn’t jump, and y-you need to carry him upstairs…and down.” Giles frantically added as Buffy continued unlocking the door.
“Not that it stops him. It-it’s like no one’s told him he’s not allowed to…” Giles readied the lead to hand over.
“Look after the dog, of course, I’ve got this…” The door now open just enough, Buffy reached out and grabbed the lead. “…and I’ve got you!” She quickly pulled the dog inside. He jumped up against her leg as she slammed the door shut again and locked it. His tail swept the floor while his tongue lapped at her hand. “Aww, hi Fwrank, if ooo find my sistur I give ooo chimken yes? Ooo’d like chimken?”
“No,” Giles tapped on the glass with the back of his hand. “No, no, don’t talk to him like that. He’s pedigree, he’s a gentleman. He only responds to the King’s English.” They all gave him a look as Frank continued to furiously lick Buffy’s hand. “I’m being serious, do not talk down to him, he won’t appreciate it.”
“Okay, yeah, gotta go, thanks, bye Giles. C’mon, Frank, let us ascertain the location of my beloved avian sister forthwith!” Buffy did a very bad English accent as she turned and ran off with Frank, Faith and Emma in tow.
“O-oh, I…” Giles attempted again, but his words fell into another sigh. He watched as they disappeared around the corner. Then he turned to see Skye on the lawn, now standing perfectly still in a T-pose, as three pigeons sat on her arms, and one on her head.
“Are you Dawn? Sweetie, is that you?” Skye asked the pigeons.
“Good grief,” Giles said, and he turned away toward the street.
Watchers Council – Cafeteria – Day
“This is nice,” Robin said, after swallowing a bite of his salad. “We should do this more often.”
Nikki sat across from him at a small lunch table in the cafeteria, a slice of pizza sitting half-eaten in front of her. She gave him a small smile. “Uh-huh.”
Behind them, along the wall by a closed window, two students appeared to be putting a pile of bird seed on the ledge.
“Your teachers tell me you’re doing extremely well,” he said casually.
“Well, that’s good,” Nikki said, though she didn’t completely sound like she believed it. “Y’know, just because all the watchers are tight or whatever doesn’t mean you have to check up on me so much.”
“I don’t have to,” Robin said, a smile growing on his face. “I just enjoy it.” Nikki gave him a wan look, then took a bite of her pizza. “Shayla Muhammad said she was particularly impressed with the results of your independent research project on Fairy Changelings.”
Nikki stopped mid-chew and her eyes went a little wide. She swallowed.
“Yeah, it was interesting,” she said guardedly.
Robin put down his fork and sighed. “I’m glad you have a good relationship with Kennedy. I really am. And you couldn’t have known how she would react to what you found.”
“Dad!” Nikki cut in forcefully. “I know you think Aunt Kennedy’s wrong about her baby. Maybe she is, I dunno. But even if she is, people don’t figure out they’re wrong just because other people tell them they are. If they did, a whole bunch of things would be way simpler. She has to figure things out for herself.”
Robin looked at his daughter, then a small smile appeared on his face. “I sometimes forget how grown up you are now.”
Nikki rolled her eyes. “OK, Dad.” She took another bite of her pizza. Then, with a full mouth, she said, “So acfully, Lif and I’d life to do to fer fouse tonid.”
“I don’t speak ‘Pizza’.” Robin blinked. “What was that?”
Nikki grinned slightly and swallowed. “Sorry. I said, Liz and I’d like to go to Aunt Kennedy’s house tonight. She’s invited us over for dinner while we show her the interface of the new WatchR app. I guess she’s lonely. Liz says she can drive us.”
“Look, Dad, do you really think Aunt Kennedy should be alone right now?”
Robin sighed again and went back to his salad.
Watchers Council – Coven Room – Later
His nose to the ground, Frank sniffed along the baseboard of the coven room. He dragged Buffy behind him as he constantly changed direction.
“It was lucky that Giles was nearby, huh?” Emma said, her eyes lit up like Christmas as she tracked Frank, a smile curling from the corners of her mouth.
“Yeah, he’s never far away, it feels kind of nice, you know?” Buffy called over her shoulder, while now lightly running behind Frank. “Like he’s here because he wants to be here and not because he has to be here.”
“You could say it was a…coo-incidence he was nearby?” Faith said, as she entered the coven room and threw Emma a shirt.
Emma caught it, taking her evident annoyance out on it by scrunching it up. “Have you always been this bad?”
Faith’s eyebrows shot up as she grinned. “You’re the one who’s heard all B’s stories. You tell me.” She popped a granola bar into her mouth.
“You get it?!” an unseen Buffy called out, having rounded a corner ahead of them.
“Yep. Man, it must be great being immortal, still being able to fit in all your old clothes…” Faith took a large bite. “Y’know, unless you’re suddenly a pigeon.”
“You keep eating the supplies and when we find her, what? Tempt the pigeon into an empty Amazon box like a snake charmer?” Emma remarked, dropping her hip but arching a brow. “I play the guitar, not the flute.”
Faith produced another bar and held it out. “It’s all good, I’m loaded.” She jiggled the bar, which Emma then snatched with a stifled smirk.
“Okay, great…” Buffy, now out of breath, both audibly and visibly, emerged from behind a partition with Frank as pilot. “So I guess we just get him to sniff it and…yeah…”
Emma crouched down and held out Dawn’s scrunched up shirt. “Hey, hey Frank, what’s this? What’s this?!” she said, excitedly trying to garner his attention.
Frank kept on sniffing the floor.
“Okay…umm…right…Frank, would you mind coming to have a look, please?” Emma asked politely.
Frank stopped, his nose to the ground, paw raised mid-step. Then he veered toward Emma, his tail lightly wagging.
“Oh… hi…ugh, hello, little sir, thank you…” Emma said gently, as Buffy came to a stop behind the dog.
Frank buried his nose in Dawn’s shirt, taking large, deep breaths, his small head darting from side to side as he huffed. Emma stroked the back of his head and looked up at Buffy with a big toothy grin.
Then, with a sharp intake of breath, Frank jumped back from Emma’s hands and bolted for the door, catching Buffy off guard and sending her stumbling forward. She managed to grab the doorframe and briefly look back to Faith and Emma, “So this works, ah!” Her arm wrested forward and she let go of the doorframe and disappeared.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Moments Later
Low to the ground, Frank galloped ahead, his harness pulling upwards as Buffy desperately held onto the leash.
“Ugh, heel, boy? Sir?” Buffy panted as she ran at full speed behind him. “Frank, slow down!”
Faith and Emma kept pace not far behind.
“You keep up pretty good for an old slayer,” Emma called to Faith.
“Yeah, I still work out…” Faith muttered as they watched Buffy practically being dragged down the hall. “Unlike B, apparently.”
“No, she’s too busy helping me work out,” Emma shot back.
Buffy took a hard left and skidded on one leg into the next hall, her left kicking high into the air to maintain balance. Frank kept on going.
“Ugh, door. Door! Stop!” she shouted and Frank stopped, his short back legs lowering to the ground and his behind slowing his approach like a curling stone.
Buffy came to a stop an inch away from the door. She doubled over, catching her breath. Her hair fell forward as she haphazardly reached down, searching for his head to pet. She found it and lightly patted him while he pawed the door, his nails clanging on the metal.
Faith and Emma came up behind, the former blowing out a puff of air to get an errant strand of hair out of her face.
“Maintenance?” Emma said, wiping her forehead with the back of her hand.
Faith pointed to the sign on the door. “Spooky shenanigans either begin or end in maintenance, it’s just how it is,” she said over Buffy’s very labored breaths. “Who’s-a good boy, huh? Who’s-a good boy?”
Frank arched his head back to look at Faith. He showed no evidence of a lolling tongue or smile, just reserved calmness.
“Want some jerky?” she asked and threw a small piece from her pocket. He caught it effortlessly, chewed and swallowed it, and then looked back at her, blankly, with a lick of his lips.
Hand on the door, Buffy regained herself and sighed. “Wow, okay, so, Em, the door please?” She stuck out her bottom and shook, the sound of keys rustling in her back pocket.
Emma nodded and then reached in and retrieved the set of keys. She put the key into the lock, turned the handle and, before she opened it, looked at Buffy and said, “You ready?”
Buffy blew a raspberry, rolled her eyes and nodded.
Emma twisted the handle and opened the door to the maintenance hallway. Instantly, Frank took off full pelt through the door and down the hall, his harness coming loose as he pulled away.
“Giles’s gonna kill me…” Buffy put a hand up to cup her forehead.
“He just got out of his cute lil’ harness, that’s all,” Emma said. She stood from picking up the hunk of tweed fabric, the leash dangling from it.
“No…there are stairs at the end of the hall.” Buffy dropped her hand over her eyes.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Same Time
“I know that I’m still just a WIT,” Liz said. She walked side-by-side with Willow as they briskly moved down the hall together. “But I will be a Junior Watcher soon. I’ve clocked field time and helped archangels.”
Liz stopped talking and walking at the same time, the folder she had been clutching to her chest falling to her hip in frustration. However, she kept it firmly in place in her hand. In fact, she used it to motion toward Willow, who had now stopped and turned to face the younger woman.
“Of every single person in this building,” Liz said, waving the folder towards Willow, “I honestly thought that you would listen and give what I had to say serious consideration, Aunt Will.”
“Are you trying to emotionally manipulate me?” Willow asked, with a slight grin.
Liz didn’t seem amused. “I’m trying to get you to help Vanessa, who is in danger, along with Kennedy and yes, even Kadin. If you’re feeling emotional, that’s not my doing. Maybe on some level you know this is worth exploring, because Nikki’s work here is solid.”
Willow walked back toward Liz and held her hand out. Liz gave her the folder, and Willow began to flip through it, pausing now and then to read.
“It appears there’s only three options,” Liz explained. “Kill the baby. Burn up the baby. Drown the baby. Aunt Ken went with the best option, but she didn’t get a chance to finish the ritual before she got interrupted.”
“You want us to drown a child?”
“No. I want the Changeling to think that I’m drowning the child, which means I have to hold it underwater for forty seconds. That’s not enough to kill a baby, but it is enough to bring the Changeling out.”
“Says the Internet. I did a lot of research on this.”
Three people ran past, the large nets that they were carrying billowing behind them.
“Here’s a newsflash. The Internet isn’t always accurate.”
“Exactly. That’s why I found several sources in the Irish section of the library. I also found references from the Mayo Clinic, and not web doctors are us dot com, about how long a human can be underwater before brain damage. I hope the feds don’t find my search history or they might think I’m a baby serial killer.” Both women grinned for a few seconds.
“Well,” Willow sighed, with a wave of the folder, “I’m not going to kill, drown or burn up the baby, but let me do some reveal casting.”
“Magic won’t work,” Liz insisted. “You can read more about it in there.”
“I have some pretty serious mojo, so it’s that or nothing. Take it or leave it.”
“When?” Liz sighed in defeat.
“Tomorrow. In fact, why don’t you and Nikki both come, and you can see for yourself what happens?”
Liz paused. “Jen too?”
“Sure,” Willow agreed.
“Fine. If that’s the best I can do, I’ll take it.” Liz replied. She began to back away, nearly hitting someone holding a bird net. “Keep the folder. There’s some important info in there.”
Watchers Council – Maintenance – Hallway – Later
His nails clipping the floor, Frank bolted down the stairs and hopped to the floor, his nose hovering as he picked up the scent.
As he ran forward, a shadow passed ahead of him, causing him to come to a halt. Then a coo resounded in the silence.
Frank reared his head back and let out a surprisingly loud bark for such a small dog before he sped off.
Watchers Council – Maintenance Hallway – Same Time
Emma ran ahead, with Buffy and Faith trailing behind.
“And why couldn’t we have got your shit wizard guy friend, or any other witch, to do a locator spell? For internal pigeons?” Faith blurted.
“Because…” Buffy managed to get out, now holding her side, “…I don’t know, my sister’s a pigeon, no one’s thinking!”
Frank’s barks echoed off the humming pipes.
“C’mon!” Emma shouted over her shoulder.
Watchers Council – Maintenance – Boiler Room – Moments Later
The shadow 0f the bird loomed large, backlit from one of the service lights, which also glinted off of Frank’s collar and tag.
Intense flapping preceded Frank rounding the corner, and he immediately slowed, creeping into the room, his head low and gaze fixed, tail straight up.
Dawn futilely tried to pass through the glass pane set in the door, hitting her body and wings against it. Then she dropped to the floor and waddled about for a moment before stopping. She doddered around on the spot and blinked, her neck receding into her down as she stared at Frank.
His nostrils flared as he came to a stop. Dawn meandered around aimlessly, puffing her wings, as if unsure where to go. Frank’s tail wagged to the right, and he sat down.
Hurried footsteps came from down the hall, and Frank barked once again. At the sound, Dawn jumped and began to flap. She took flight and headed for the door behind Frank.
As she reached it, Emma appeared and immediately recoiled, throwing her hands up. She dropped the harness and leash, screaming as Dawn flapped into her face.
“Get her!!” Faith shouted, as she slid to a stop behind Emma.
Dawn was like a writhing bundle of feathers, and she flew backwards at the appearance of the new intruders.
“Dawn, no!” Buffy screamed as she finally arrived, double-taking as Dawn unknowingly backed into a spinning air vent. She watched the pigeon back up closer and closer to the swiftly rotating blades.
A sharp screech was quickly followed by a slew of feathers spewing out from the rotating fan.
Buffy slapped her hand over her mouth. Emma’s eyes bulged out of her head. Faith turned away as she put her head in her hands. Frank whimpered.
Unknown – Time Unknown
A breeze billowed through the white haze. Gentle, assured, deep beats thrummed, almost like a heartbeat.
Particles in the air glistened as a shaft of warm light shone through the mist. Coming into focus, two tiny black eyes slowly opened. A beak parted for air. Dawn floated forward in the white void, wings held close to her body.
“Coo…” echoed through the space.
“Coo?” Dawn replied softly.
Slowly, Dawn looked upwards. The clouds gently parted to reveal the shimmering head of a large, glowing pigeon. It looked down on Dawn affably, as affably as a pigeon can.
Dawn closed her eyes and slowly began to float backwards. “Coo.” Back into the light, back into the clouds…
Black – Time Unknown
From the darkness, a small glow faded into being, blurred and subdued. Sounds, talking and movement were all muffled. Hearing a bark and hurried footsteps, the blurred light dimmed.
“Holy shit, you guys, she’s moving!” Emma exclaimed.
“Told ya it would work,” Faith said.
“You are the worst,” Emma growled.
“Thank the Goddess,” Willow sighed. “Hey, don’t, touch her!”
“When I got out of my grave, I wanted some air,” Buffy said. “Sorry…”
The four women stood over a large cardboard box on a table at the side of the Coven Room, the top of which was entirely covered by a towel except for a small gap. The sides of the box were crossed with torn Amazon Prime tape.
“It’s…it’s fine,” Willow said. She gingerly reached out and adjusted the terry cloth cover. “The towel calms birds down. It’s a thing. What’s not fine is this whole thing.” She turned and walked toward the center of the room. “Matthew, if you wanna pass this class, you turn her back right now.”
In the corner, Matthew and Ned sat on the floor with legs outstretched, the tips of their shoes touching, as Frank lay across both of them, belly up.
“But I…we…we didn’t find the penny,” he bleated.
“I don’t care!” Skye shouted from her chair in the other corner of the room. “The penny doesn’t matter! Fix it! Fix my girlfriend, dumbass!”
“Matthew!” Willow raised her voice. She took a deep breath, eyes closed, and as she exhaled, she opened them and smiled. “Matthew, Skye’s right. The penny doesn’t matter. The transmog enchantment,” this garnered an honest smile from him, “didn’t work. You said it would transmog her into you, and you just straight up transformed her, and that’s…that’s a lot. That’s impressive. Impressive and…lucky, very lucky…”
“Yeah, lucky.” Skye scowled.
“…that Dawn’s immortality transferred over. You got performance anxiety, you goofed. You don’t think I’ve goofed before?” Willow’s brow dipped. “You got this, ‘kay?”
“Will, I dig the whole teacher encouraging their students thing,” Buffy interrupted, coming over, “but if he has trouble…magicking it up…”
Ned snorted, much to Matthew’s horror, and looked away, covering his mouth with his hand as he silently chuckled.
“…then what if he turns Dawn into a dinosaur?”
Willow tilted her head back, considering Buffy’s words, then shook her head. “It’s okay, I’ve got it. Dinosaurs can’t get through windows. Matthew?”
“Unless they go on a rampage,” Ned muttered quietly to himself, but Willow’s eyes shot to his, and he covered his mouth again and looked away.
With a visible gulp, Matthew carefully scooted Frank over into Ned’s lap and pushed himself up and brushed himself off, straightening his clothes and shaking out his hands. As he stepped forward, Willow placed a hand on his shoulder.
She moved to stand beside Buffy and watched as her student took center stage. “You just wanted to play with retirement puppy, didn’t you?”
“It was a bonus,” Buffy answered, “but it’s nice when you can give ’em back, you know? I’m so tired.”
Willow grinned as she fed her arm through Buffy’s and rested her head against hers.
Matthew closed his eyes.
“Get on with it!” Skye snapped from the cheap seats.
He opened his left eye, then his right, then rolled his shoulders and neck. “Okay…okay…Em?”
Emma skipped over and gripped the towel lightly in her fingers. They held each other’s gaze for a moment before Matthew nodded, and, like pulling the tablecloth clear off from under plates and cutlery, she snatched it back in one pull and Dawn flew up into the air.
Matthew jumped back slightly, but dug his heel into the carpet, threw out his hand, palm outstretched, and shouted, “Mutare retro!”
His eyes flared a light blue once again and, over the flapping and shouting commotion, the whizzing sound filtered through, building and building, and then, “Pop!” Dawn exploded back into her human body without any fanfare, smoke or glitter.
With a thud, she fell to the floor on her behind. She was very naked.
“Dawn!” Buffy cried as she immediately ran over.
“Baby!” Skye quickly rose from her seat.
Dawn rolled over on the carpet with a groan. Then she gasped as Frank’s tongue met her cheek. “Ah! Wha—?! Hey, buddy, thanks for finding me!”
“Goddess, are you all right?” Willow asked.
With the help of Buffy and Emma on either side, Dawn slowly made her way to her feet. “I…I’m OK, I think?” she said, though she didn’t sound too sure. She stretched her arms over her head. “Goddess, it’s good to be back in my normal body again.”
She didn’t seem to notice Faith staring at her with wide eyes. Emma quickly took a step away, coughing awkwardly.
Skye quickly arrived to take her place. “Oh baby, I was so worried.” The vampire laid a hard, slightly desperate kiss on Dawn’s lips, hugging her naked girlfriend close to her.
Neither Skye nor Dawn paid much attention to the increasingly uncomfortable reactions of the rest of the room. Buffy looked away furtively and tried to clear her throat in a futile attempt to get her sister’s attention.
“It’s times like this I wish I had glasses so I could clean them,” she whispered to Willow. The witch, for her part, had not turned away, and was in fact watching the proceedings with interest.
Ned made a sitcom-style “Wooooo!” noise, and the pair finally broke apart.
Dawn looked around, a small smile on her face. “Sorry, everybody. Between being a bird and our Skyclad rituals…I forget it’s weird when I don’t wear clothes.”
“I mean, I’m not complaining,” Faith said enthusiastically. Buffy slapped her in the shoulder, but Faith showed zero remorse. She cocked her head to get a better view of…some things.
Skye first offered Dawn a robe, then led her to the door, leaving a silent room in her wake.
A moment later, Faith turned to Buffy, whose cheeks were very red. “So, do you think I can get Dawn’s number?”
Buffy just shook her head and sighed. “Faith, I can’t right now.”
“No, I’m serious. Unless you’d get jealous of Dawn, I’m definitely thinking I need to complete the Summers Sisters set.”
“Faith!” Buffy growled. It was a warning.
“The Summers Sisters set?” Emma asked as she walked over. “What does that–” She stopped, her mouth halfway open for a beat. “Wait.”
Willow grinned and shook her head. She turned away from the group to find Matthew stepping forward with his finger raised.
“So, umm, Mrs. Rosenberg-Allister? Ma’am? High Priestess? Did I… did I pass?”
Ned appeared over his shoulder, pressing his glasses back up his nose with a nervous grin.
Kennedy & Kadin’s Cabin – Backyard – Night
Kennedy sat next to her firepit, a robust blaze lighting her face orange. She held her phone in front of her, with Nikki and Liz both hunched over her shoulders.
“OK,” Kennedy said, “but how come when it talked to you, it called you by your name?”
“Because you have to set up your profile,” Nikki explained. “You have to tell it your preferences. Look, go to the thing up in the corner.”
Kennedy clicked her screen and opened her mouth.
“Not that corner, the other corner,” Liz corrected. Kennedy sighed and tried again.
A great deal of painstaking back and forth followed. Finally, Nikki said, “OK, now try it.”
“Hey Tabitha,” Kennedy said, enunciating as clearly as she could. “How are you today?”
“I’m doing very well, Kennedy,” replied Helen Mirren’s voice. “How can I help you?”
Kennedy grinned at the use of her name.
“Um, how do I kill a werewolf?” Kennedy ventured.
“Kennedy, you are a highly experienced slayer,” Tabitha told her, “So I’m guessing you already know. What specifically do you really need help with?”
Kennedy raised an eyebrow at Nikki, who grinned back at her. “And when she says ‘highly experienced’,” the teenager pointed out, “she means–”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m old.” Kennedy dismissed her with a wave, and the two girls looked at each other and laughed. Then they retreated back to their respective chairs around the fire and sat down again. Several seconds of silence ensued, as Kennedy seemed transfixed by the fire. Both teenagers shifted awkwardly.
“If you want, we can show you how to keep track of your Book of Shadows in there,” Liz offered. “That way you always have your spells ready. Or you can post them to Tik Tok, if you want. Or, y’know…whatever you’re on.”
Kennedy managed a small smile. “Maybe some other time.”
After a few more moments passed, Nikki cleared her throat and said, “It’s so quiet here without Marsha.”
Kennedy stared into the flames. “Yeah,” she said softly. Then she shook her head and looked back up at the two girls. “You guys didn’t have to keep me company. I know you probably have fun stuff to do.”
Liz and Nikki exchanged a significant look, and Liz gave Nikki a small nod. Seeing this, Nikki turned back to Kennedy.
“We…sort of came here for another reason, too,” she said. “I’ve been looking into what we talked about, and then I ran it by Liz, to make sure it wasn’t, y’know, off-base.”
Kennedy sighed. “Nikki, I…I appreciate your help with all this more than I can ever tell you, but I really don’t want to get you in trouble. Either of you.”
Liz leaned forward, putting her hands on her knees. “But you do believe that the Vanessa that Kadin has is somehow not the real Vanessa, right?”
Kennedy looked over at her, and, very slowly, nodded. “Yes. I’ve never been more sure about anything in my life.”
“So, we have to get her back, right?” Nikki said. “I mean, that’s the most important thing.”
“Sure,” Kennedy replied, “but how do I even start? I just…I feel hopeless.” She ran both hands over her face. “She could be literally anywhere, in any dimension. Do you guys really think you know where she is?”
“Bet!” Nikki said excitedly.
Kennedy just looked at her, nose wrinkled in confusion.
“That means yes,” Liz translated.
Kennedy & Kadin’s Cabin – Living Area – Moments Later
Kennedy finished moving her last few days of unwashed dishes off of the kitchen table so that Nikki could spread out a folder’s worth of papers across it. As she returned, she asked, “We’re really still thinking fairies?”
“We really are,” Nikki nodded. “So here’s something we learned the other week in watcher classes: if you’re stuck, try assuming your premise is true, and working backwards. Who else could do this? Lucifer has the juice, maybe, but why Vanessa now, and never any of the other Council kids? Hell, why not me, right? Vor had Shapeshifters back in the day. They even replaced my mom with one. But all the Council wards are designed against them now. And…”
“Nik,” Liz chided gently. “I take it you haven’t gotten to the lesson on making the main point first during a presentation yet?”
“I got a C on that part,” Nikki admitted. “The point is, only fairies make sense. Changelings are a tool fairies commonly use, and Changelings cry constantly. They want the humans to come and take care of them.”
“It’s too bad Kadin stopped the ritual early,” Liz mused, “because it probably would’ve reverted to its true form.”
Nikki nodded. “And the chance of you getting another opportunity is now slim to none.”
“Yeah,” Liz added. “If you try again, the others will think you really are trying to murder her. Then they’d be forced to take, uh, actions. Nobody wants you to, like, y’know, go to prison.”
“All great points,” Kennedy replied, “but why did they take her anyway?”
“Easy,” Nikki said. “They take the most powerful, the most beautiful. Vanessa is the daughter of two hot chicks and the true heir to the Van Helsing legacy, not to mention a deactivated Slayer. The kid is the total package, is what I’m saying. Plus, states of transition are more vulnerable to fairies. New brides, new homes…or, let’s say, one of the first daughters of two women?”
“And,” Liz put in, “they’re basically immune to most human magic, it turns out.”
Kennedy sighed and sat down in one of the chairs. “A lot of that going around lately.”
“So again, our list of suspects who could actually pull this off is pretty short, and fairies are definitely on top. I’m just riffing on this one,” Liz continued, “but I was wondering if they could even be doing it the same way as the Vamp King Lady. Like, what if they’re keeping these babies and taking their power for themselves?” She noticed Nikki looking at her and gestured to her friend. “Sorry, please continue.” Liz sat down.
Nikki pointed at a detailed drawing of a beautiful woman with long hair, clad primarily in strategically-placed vines, meeting a knight on horseback. “Back in the day, like, way before the original Full House, fairies lived on Earth, but as humans and their technology advanced, they were pushed back into the wildest spots, and eventually out of our world entirely. If they took Vanessa, she’s in the Fairy Realm.”
“Which, to be clear, is a whole other dimension,” Liz said. “Like Vor. But…more people have come back from Vor. Like you, for instance.”
“Girls,” Kennedy put in, gesturing with both hands. “This is really interesting, I’m sure, but all I gotta know is, how do I get there, how do I get back and how do I kill a freaking fairy?”
Nikki gestured widely at everything on the table. “So, everybody and their mom has some theory about how to get there. But there’s only one everybody agrees on, and that’s the Tuatha Dé Danann.”
Kennedy blinked. “The what?”
Nikki pointed to another paper, this one showing blondes, beautiful men and women, riding on horseback, their gold banners flowing behind them. “They’re Gods. Or, they were Gods, way back when, like eons before VCRs were a thing. But they were the Fairy Gods, and when the fairies left, they were out of a job. So, uh, they turned into horses. As you do.”
“Obviously,” Liz said, with a comical level of conviction, like it was common knowledge to everyone in the world. She and Nikki smiled at each other.
Both girls seemed somewhat surprised when Kennedy perked up at this. “I can ride a horse,” she said.
“These are more like…magic flying horses,” Liz pointed out. “And as you might imagine, you can’t just hop on one down at the stable.”
“So what do I do?” Kennedy asked. Liz and Nikki looked at each other, each looking like they were hoping the other would take that one. “Guys, you can’t just stop there. What do I do?”
Nikki took a deep breath. “So, you kinda sorta maybe…” She said the next bit very fast and quietly. “…havetojumpoffacliff.”
“What was that?” Kennedy pressed.
“You have to jump off a cliff,” Liz said, her voice louder and slower. “And if your faith is true, and you’re worthy, the Tuatha Dé Danann may decide to allow you to ride them to the Fairy Realm.”
“And if it isn’t?” the older woman pressed.
Liz and Nikki looked at each other. The older watcher-in-training nodded to Nikki.
“You get squished?” Nikki said with a shrug.
Kennedy looked down at the drawing of the riders. After a moment, she quietly said, “OK.” Licking her lips, she looked back up at the two teenagers. “So that’s the getting there part. What do I do when I get there?”
“Well, they do have a weakness everybody knows about,” Liz said, “which is iron. It’s like the opposite of nature and the forest and puppies or whatever. But…if you have any iron on you, the Tuatha won’t come. That’s…pretty clear.”
“And they’re immune to human magic,” Kennedy said, thinking it through. “Any ideas?”
“Theories, maybe?” Nikki answered. “You’re in the Coven, I was sort of hoping you could come up with something. You’ll have time on the flight.”
Kennedy rubbed her forehead with one hand. “Sorry…flight?”
“Yeah,” Nikki explained apologetically. “See, we know you have to jump off a cliff in Western Ireland, but we don’t know the exact spot, since it’s not just any cliff. It’s just the one. And, like I said, that one’s kind of in Ireland.”
“I hear it’s nice there – picturesque, even,” Liz offered helpfully.
Kennedy shook her head. “And if I can figure that out, how do I get back?”
“Well, that’s sort of the hard part,” Nikki said.
“We didn’t get to the hard part yet?!” Kennedy almost yelled.
Nikki looked over at Liz, who half-grinned at her. “Hashtag Watcherlife, girl. Nobody ever appreciates your exposition.”
Outside Kennedy & Kadin’s Cabin – Later That Night
Nikki closed the creaking passenger door of Liz’s 2013 Grand Caravan and settled back into her battered seat, staring straight ahead into the cool Ohio night. Liz sat in the driver’s seat, both her hands on the wheel, but she wasn’t moving.
“So, whaddaya think?” Nikki asked, without looking anywhere but out the windshield.
Liz let out a breath through pursed lips. “I think she’s right. You?”
Nikki shrugged and turned her head toward the older girl. “Yeah. I just…Kennedy’s never been this wrong before. I believe her when she says she saw something. And everything we found tracks.”
Liz sighed. “Yeah, I was hoping it was just me.” She reached down and turned the key, bringing the car to life. “Vigilante Shit” by Taylor Swift began on the radio.
“So what do we do now?” Nikki asked, raising her voice a little.
“I’ll let you know when I figure that out,” Liz said, as the car trundled down the cabin’s long driveway.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Next Day
Nikki and Liz walked side-by-side down the hallway, with Jen following behind them.
“So, what’s the plan?” Jen asked.
Liz answered, “We let them do their spell.”
“So what do we do when the spell doesn’t work?” Nikki asked Liz. “This thing’s immune to human magic, remember?”
“Did you get it set?” Liz asked Jen, ignoring Nikki’s question for the moment.
“Yep. Sophie’s standing guard.”
“Isn’t she supposed to be in class?” Nikki asked.
“Yeah,” Jen replied, “but she’s a juvenile delinquent, like Liz.”
All three of them laughed. The joyous nature of the conversation quieted down as they stood outside the Coven Room and watched Kadin walk inside with Vanessa.
“Seriously,” Nikki said, “What do we do?”
“You can back out at any point, Nik, but Jen and I are going with Plan B,” Liz answered. Jen nodded her agreement.
Watchers Council – Coven Room – Same Time
Liz crossed the threshold first, with Nikki behind her, followed closely by Jen. As they entered the room, Jen stayed closer to the door, while Nikki and Liz moved closest to the circle that Willow had constructed on the floor out of salt. A scowl appeared on Liz’s face when she saw Wilton walking over toward her.
“Why are you here?” Wilton asked.
“I don’t see how that’s your business, but if you must know, we were invited. Call it a class field trip.”
“I get the impression you don’t like me too much,” Wilton said, as the scowl on Liz’s face still held.
“You would be right.”
“And why is that, exactly?”
Liz seemed to consider the question for a moment. Then she turned back to Wilton and, without flinching or looking away, said, “I love my Aunt Rowena.”
Wilton blinked several times, obviously taken aback by the response. Without responding, she simply walked away toward the shrine Willow had constructed for their spell.
“What did that mean?” Nikki asked curiously.
“I know, if given the chance, that bitch of a witch would get her hooks into Willow,” she said, just above a whisper.
Liz looked over her shoulder and watched Jen march towards her, which made her grimace. “Shit. Slayer hearing.”
Jen put her hands on her hips. “What did you just say about Wilton and my Ma?”
“Nothing. I just don’t trust Wilton. Call it watcher’s intuition. Besides, we need to focus on the plan.”
“Fine,” Jen said before she stomped back towards the door again.
“Attention everyone,” Willow began. “We will be starting shortly, so we ask that you stand at least five feet back from the sacred circle.”
Liz and Nikki were probably a single inch away from the circle. The other occupants of the room included Kadin and Vanessa, Shannon, Skye and Rowena. They all watched as Wilton and Willow walked into the circle, holding hands.
“Mother Gaia and divine goddess Hestia, we implore you to be with us today as we enter this mother and child to the circle.”
Willow nodded toward Kadin, and the woman stepped in forward with Vanessa in her arms.
“How do you come to the circle?” Wilton asked.
“In perfect love and perfect trust,” Kadin answered.
Willow motioned again and Kadin placed Vanessa in a circle within the circle and stepped away. Kadin locked hands with Willow and Wilton.
“Goddesses! We beseech you. Uncast any veils upon this child and show us its true form.”
Everyone in the room seemed to collectively hold their breath and looked at one another. After a few moments that turned into a minute, the only thing happening was Vanessa making gurgling noises and small coos.
Willow released everyone’s hands and sighed. “You appear to have a perfectly normal baby.”
Liz and Nikki looked at each other and rolled their eyes simultaneously.
“You know what this means, don’t you?” Kadin asked.
“W-well, maybe Kennedy is right a-and this spell just didn’t work?” Willow offered. “There are other spells I could try.”
“I can’t keep pretending,” Kadin answered. “Kennedy tried to kill our daughter.”
While Willow and Kadin went back-and-forth, Liz casually picked up Vanessa and began making her way towards the exit under the guise of dancing around with the giggling baby.
When Liz was a few feet from the door, Shannon asked her, “Where are you going?”
“Away,” Liz said calmly. Then she darted past the threshold, with Nikki following close behind. At first, Shannon stood rooted to the floor, her mouth open in shock. A moment later, she recovered and moved quickly to the door, but it slammed shut in her face.
“Go Teen Titans! Go!” Skye yelled, and then laughed.
Jen Rosenberg’s face appeared in the small window in the door. Shannon tried the knob, but Jen held it from the other side, keeping it closed and preventing their escape.
Shannon looked back up at Jen through the window and watched the young slayer’s expression harden in an instant. Shannon’s eyes went wide.
End of Act Two