Act 4



Cut To:


Los Angeles – Faith’s House – Evening

Los Angeles, April 2023

Faith sat propped up in her bed, sheet lightly draped over her torso, flipping through the channels on a flatscreen on her wall. A twenty-something man with a well-chiseled jaw and large muscles displayed on his bare chest slept soundly next to her.

She stopped on a sports channel, which showed Grace, wearing full Cleveland Slayers gear, waving to the crowd before her ceremonial first pitch.

“I hope somebody taught Hatherley to throw,” she chuckled.

Without warning, a small red spurt came from Grace’s forehead, and she flopped awkwardly forward onto the ground. The baseball she’d held in her glove rolled a small distance away on the grass before coming to a stop. For a long moment, Grace’s limp form and the baseball were motionless and alone in the center of the diamond.

Then, just for a second, many things happened at once on the screen, one of which was a panicked, running Rowena sliding to a stop next to Grace’s body. Just as she got there, the feed cut back to a studio, where a dumbfounded anchor stammered an apology for technical problems.

Faith was already poking at the male figure next to her, who groaned in protest.

“Hey, uh, Justin, you need to go,” she told him. “Something’s come up.”

“My name’s Chris,” he grumbled, rolling over as he tried to go back to sleep.

“Whatever. Still gotta go.”

Cut To:


Faith’s House – Night

Los Angeles, May 2023

Faith paced in her extremely tacky living room, cell phone to her ear.

“Look, she had to have had some kind of plan in case…No, I won’t hold, I…This is Dr. Faith Lehane, and I am telling you to put me through to whoever is in charge right the fuck now or…what do you mean, portal? What portal?”

She walked to her front window, phone still to ear, and suddenly her sweeping view of Venice at night included several buildings on fire and occasional blasts of gunfire.

“Oh shit,” she said softly.

She realized then that Chris was in the room behind her, walking toward the front door.

She rushed over. “Hey, wait. you don’t want to go out there right now. Something really, really bad’s going on and I don’t–”

“I’ll be fine,” he told her. “I do my own stunts.”

“No, wait…” But he was already out the door.

Faith hurried back over to the window, where she could see Chris walking toward his red sports car in the driveway. He stopped just as he reached the door, then looked up quizzically.

Suddenly, two sets of enormous talons appeared out of the dark and snatched Chris, tearing deep gouges in his flesh as they did so. He let out a very high-pitched scream. This did not stop his attacker from carrying him up into the night, out of the range of the street lights, until there was no sign of either of them.

For several seconds, Faith stayed at the window, breathing hard. Then Chris’s bloody body dropped into view like a stone. He landed in the middle of the street in front of her house with a hollow splat and remained there, motionless.

Faith blinked, then put the phone back to her ear. “Ya still there? I’m gonna come to you.”

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Hallway – Day

Cleveland, August 2023

Faith took careful footsteps through the deserted Watchers Council. She was now much dirtier, with large holes in her jeans and a tattered jacket hanging over her frame. She had a large crossbow strapped to her back, along with an ax, and another, smaller crossbow held in front of her as she walked. Although she could see no physical bodies, she crinkled her nose as if she smelled something rancid. The only noise besides her footsteps was the sound of birds fluttering and tweeting. Twenty feet ahead of her, she looked up to find a gaping hole in the ceiling where she saw blackbirds coming in and out. Both walls of the hallway were stained with what appeared to be splatters of dried blood and along her path she dodged upended desks, chairs and papers.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Coven Room – Continuous

The Coven Room door was already open, and Faith gave a look to the left, and then to the right and to the left again before she stepped a foot inside. Once she did, she was immediately met with a very sharp sword-point held at her throat. She didn’t move a muscle, except for her eyes. At that point, she released the breath she had been holding.

“What happened, Slick?” she asked.

“It’s all gone” Kennedy told her. She lowered the sword. She didn’t look like she had showered in a few weeks, and she had a prominent scar over one eye. “But we’ve been waiting for you.”

Faith watched as Jake and Sophie stood up from their hiding places, then turned to Kennedy.

“Me?” Faith asked as she walked deeper into the room.

Kennedy nodded. “Only you can fix this.”

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Coven Room – Later

“So everyone’s gone? Nikki, Robin?” Faith asked. The four of them now sat on a motley collection of furniture. The Coven Room was only marginally less debris-filled in the rest of the Council. Half of it had been barricaded off with a combination of scraps of metal and destroyed couch frames. Behind the barricade were a handful of cots, blankets and a collection of magic supplies.

Kennedy nodded sympathetically. “Fairies killed Kadin and took Vanessa, again. All the Gileses and all the Rosenbergs are gone, except for who you see sitting here.” She motioned toward Sophie and Jake.

“She spared the kids?” Faith asked.

Kennedy grinned proudly. “No. They survived. Don’t let their size fool you.”

Sophie grinned and lightly placed her palms together. When she released them, she had a floating fireball. She wiggled her fingers and it dissipated just as quickly as it had arrived.

“Show off,” Jake grumbled, but then he smiled.

Kennedy nodded to them. “They’re both hella powerful. It’s gotta be those Rosenberg genes.”

“We miss them,” Jake said in a far-off sounding voice, but just as quickly he said, “but Aunt Ken’s been great at taking care of us. For real.” Sophie nodded her agreement.

“MREs aren’t home cookin’,” Kennedy added. “But it’s food and keeps us under the radar…How did you survive? And how’d you get here? I thought you were in California.”

Faith was quiet for a moment. “I found Andrew in L.A. Or I should say he found me. Tracey…she was gone. He cloaked us and we rode my cycle out here. Easier to hide than a car. For fuel we were taking food and siphoning gas along the way from abandoned vehicles. We, uh…there were some detours along the way.”

A silence passed between them until Kennedy said, “I see Andrew’s not here.”

Faith didn’t say anything at first. She didn’t even move. Finally, she cleared her throat. “We got discovered just outside of Toledo. He thought he was close enough to Cleveland to make a portal slash wormhole thing and…he sent me through and I got through…He didn’t. He had to hold it open for me and…they got him.”

“I’m sorry,” Kennedy said sincerely.

“Me too,” Faith replied as she played with her fingernail. “I wasn’t able to save him.”

Kennedy sighed. “Unfortunately, you’re looking at what’s left of the Watchers Council. Good thing is, you can set all this right, save everyone.”

“You keep saying that,” Faith said, and then ran her fingers through her hair. “Explain it to me again.”

“We’ve been living here in secret and casting spells, looking into different scenarios that could stop the events from unfolding. Each time it comes back to one incident. The assassination of Grace Hatherley. If we can prevent that, it’s quite possible this world, and the outcome, will never exist.”

“She got all Dr. Strange-y,”Jake added. Sophie nodded. Faith looked confused.

“It was nifty!” Sophie said excitedly, and then covered her mouth for speaking so loud. In a quieter voice, she explained, “Aunt Ken used magic after the attack to look at everything that could have been different, and she’s got a plan. But we haven’t figured out the painting.”

“Painting?” Faith asked.

Kennedy nodded toward the far wall. “After the attack, someone or something left it on our front doorstep. It’s magical, I can feel it, but I don’t know much more,” she said as she pointed to it. Faith’s eyes followed her finger over to a painting exactly the same as the one she would see from the Cleveland Museum of Art.

That was when Faith walked over and saw the painting closer. It looked like a god origin story with warriors, demons and a coven. Kennedy continued, “Maybe it means something or maybe it doesn’t. All I know is, I’ve run the scenarios to change the outcome, and it’s only you who succeeds.”

“Damn, you’re that advanced already? You can do that?” Faith asked Kennedy.

“You do what you need to survive.”

“She doesn’t sleep much,” Sophie said softly in a worried whisper. Jake nodded in agreement.

“That’s true,” Kennedy admitted. “But yes, I ran all the scenarios. The act of saving Grace could save the world. Grace is the key.”

“Isn’t it impossible to send someone back in time?” Faith asked. “I feel like I remember Will giving that lecture one time back in the day.”

“The physical body, yes. But it’s much easier to send someone’s life essence back. Well, easy is a little bit of an overstatement. A lot of an overstatement. It’s very, very hard, and I don’t know for sure if we can do it, but…If we send your essence from today into your body that’s in the past, you can prevent the event from happening. Nothing physical has to go anywhere, we don’t have to worry about the Earth’s orbit, or conversation of energy, or any of that stuff. Just very hard magic.”

“You’re pretty powerful with the mojo, so why don’t you do it?”

“Since I’m one of the casters, I can’t go back too. But I have the power to send someone. I think. And I’ve run this scenario with others who are left – I’ve talked telepathically to Jeff in Chicago. I’ve even tried scenarios with myself and the kids here as the spellcasters – but it’s pointless.”


“Everyone fails. Except you. It’s only you who succeeds in saving Grace,” Kennedy told her. “I figured out most of the parts, like the where, the when and a few parts regarding how it happens, but we need a vessel to complete the task in the past. That’s where you come in.”

“There’s no active slayer who can save the multiverse?” Faith asked. She turned to Sophie and Jake with a small grin, and said, “Yes, I know about the multiverse. I’ve seen most of the movies.”

“Of all the scenarios I ran and witnessed,” Kennedy explained, “it’s just you. We’ll endow you with slayer strength to help you. It’s like what the Devon Coven did when Giles went up against Willow in Sunnydale – borrowed magic, essentially.”

Faith took a deep breath and nodded once. “OK then, juice me up and send me back.”

“It’s not that simple,” Jake told her.

“Right,” Kennedy confirmed. “You’ll need some supplies to be able to stay in the past undetected.”

Faith sighed. “OK then, give me what I need.”

Kennedy had an awkward grin. “You can’t take anything physically with you. Remember, it’s your essence that’s being transferred, not your body.”

“You’re not making this very easy,” Faith said.

“Mom would say nothing worthwhile is easy,” Jake said. “Ma’d say, for everything else, there’s magic.”

Sophie and Jake shared a sad smile.

“So there’s a way to do it with magic,” Sophie said optimistically. “The stuff you need will be at places in the past. You just need to remember the list and know where to look.”

“So you know where I’ll find the things I need?” Faith asked.

Sophie nodded enthusiastically. “I know where Ma kept everything. Even the stuff she didn’t want me to know about but I found anyway. Just don’t rat me out to Ma in the past, okay?”

Faith smiled in spite of the grim situation. “I don’t wanna get burned up by a fireball. Your secret’s safe with me, Small Fry.”

“Yeah, speaking of that,” Kennedy added. “You can’t tell anyone about this mission, for two reasons. One: they might commit you for being schizophrenic since there will be ‘two Faiths’ in your head – the Faith standing here now and the Faith from April. And two: you might rip the fabric of time and destroy the universe.”

Faith looked around at all the destruction surrounding them. “I’m gonna ask, if problem two happened, would anyone notice? Ya gotta admit, Earth is on the darkest timeline right now.”

Kennedy shrugged. “Anyway, like Sophie said, you’ll need to commit the list and spells to memory because, again–”

“I can’t bring a physical list,” Faith finished. “Got it.”

“However,” Kennedy said, “as soon as you’re there, write down a list of what you need, where to find it and the spells you’ll require. You can use the notes app on your phone, since you’ll be back when the electricity and cell service still worked. I can’t say that your knowledge of this future won’t fade over time. We’ve never done this before. We really don’t know what to expect to be honest.”

“You really gotta work on your sales pitch, Ken,” Faith told her with a rueful grin. “You sure it’s really me who does this?”

Kennedy nodded confidently. “So the question now is, are you ready to start training to save the world?”

“Sure. But only after all of you have gotten some sleep,” Faith told them. “I’ll stand guard. I want you all at full strength if you’re shooting my essence here, there and everywhere.”

As Kennedy and the kids went to the back of their make-shift barracks to sleep, Faith reached into her pocket and pulled out a tattered picture. It was an image of Robin with his arms around Nikki.

Flash To:


Dilapidated Cleveland House – Present Day – Night

“And that’s the truth,” Faith told him quickly. She closed her eyes and then winced, as if waiting for something bad to happen. When it didn’t, she relaxed, opened her eyes again and said, “The universe is still here. Good. Like I said, maybe you are supposed to know and you’re part of the scenario that saves us all.”

Robin took an unsteady breath and exhaled slowly. “So…if you succeed, what happens to…second Faith…is she just stuck in there forever? Does she disappear?” He motioned to her head.

“We don’t know,” she replied. “All I know is, I have to do this for the people I love. Present company included, Robin. I know you probably think I’m lyin’ about all this, but–”

Robin cut her off, shaking his head. “No. I believe you.”

“You do?”

He nodded. “I do. You’ve told me things I never wanted to hear, but you never lied to me. I can take you at your word. Your actions, on the other hand, well, that…” He trailed off and rolled his shoulders. “This isn’t the time or the place. Look, what do you need from me?”

“Right now? Keep my cover. Let me do what I need to succeed in this assignment. Tell no one. Not Grace, not my daughter-in-law or any of her slayers…keep my movements here in Cleveland a secret. I’ve been given explicit instructions and I’m gonna follow them. The less people who know about this, the better because, again…the more people who know, the more likely we’ll blow up the universe, maybe. So…let’s try not to do that, okay?”

Robin looked at her from head to toe and met her eyes. “Okay.”

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Robin’s Apartment – Later

Robin stood in his kitchen getting drinks, while Faith meandered around the living room. She examined the pictures that appeared on his wall. One featured Nikki dressed for Halloween with the Giles and Rosenberg children. Another featured herself with Nikki on the teenagers’ last trip to L.A. The one that caught her eye was the image of Robin, his arms wrapped around their daughter – both of them smiling. It was the same image she had kept in her pocket in the future. She grinned for a moment, but then a pained look came over her and her eyes watered up. She sniffed, wiped her eyes and continued to look around the room.

“Nikki seems to really love it here,” she called out to him.

“I’d say she’s happy overall,” Robin called out toward the living room. “Her dad is an utter embarrassment to her, though.”

“Hormones,” Faith said.

“I remember how uncool my mom’s watcher was at that age,” he chuckled.

“Is she…seeing anybody? Basically I’m tryin’ to find out if I’m going to be a GILF again.”

Robin grinned and shook his head. “No guys or girls to speak of now. She talks about Liz Giles a lot. I’m not sure if it’s admiration or a romantic crush. I haven’t pushed for details. I figure she’ll talk to me when she’s ready. And if not me, there’s Rowena. Ro’s been there herself – finding a woman who she admired that grew into much more.”

Robin brought in two glasses. He outstretched one to Faith.

Faith took the offering. “Seems lately that Ro’s taken with someone tall, dark and handsome.” She gave Robin an appraising eye as she licked her lips. “I gotta say, I can’t blame her. You’ve kept it tight.”

“Is that so?” he said coyly.

They seemed to admire each other for a moment until Faith spoke.

“You two looked…friendly…at Karaoke,” she said casually before she took a drink.

“She’d been feeling down…I thought I could pick up her spirits.”

“Looked like you could pick up more than her spirits,” she countered with a knowing grin.

“If I didn’t know better, I’d say you’re jealous, Ms. Lehane.”

Faith looked at Robin longingly for a few seconds. “Maybe I am a little. Maybe…I wished things were different.”

“But they’re not,” Robin countered, his tone darkening slightly. He took a drink.

“You’re right,” she sighed. She took another drink herself, then set the glass on a coffee table coaster. “And if I don’t figure out this shit, then no one’s gonna have a bright future.”

“Well, you told me what’s going on and the world didn’t end. Maybe if you fill me in with what you know, we can try to work out the rest.”

Faith nodded. “Here’s the short version…” Faith began, as Robin took a seat on the sofa and motioned her to do the same. “Grace is shot at the baseball game. I saw it. A month later, Zorgy attacks.”

“When does this happen?” Robin interrupted.

“Grace dies this week, the invasion is next month, in May. We fought back, but the forces were too much for the Council to bear, and Zorgy destroyed practically everything on earth. I’m not talking about world domination. I’m talking about total decimation. Scorched earth, destroyed satellites. No resources, no communications.”

“The darkest timeline,” Robin muttered.

Faith waved a finger at Robin. “That’s how I described it to Ken, too. It was just…devastating.” She paused and then took another drink, almost as if calming herself. “Ken…from the future, not…Ken…”

“I follow you,” Robin said and motioned for her to continue.

“Ken used magic to learn that Grace’s assassination at the game was the key turning point, but she also said a painting was left at the Council after Zorgy did her stomp-about. The creepy part…’it’s the same one I saw with B and Mini-B at the art museum.”


“Sorry, Emma,”

Robin smiled in spite of himself. “Okay, go on.”

“Anyway, Ken couldn’t figure out the painting, other than it’s magical. So when I saw the painting here, I knew there was something about it, magicalness aside. Maybe it’s a clue of some kind. Maybe it will tell me the identity of who killed Grace.”

“You don’t know who killed her?”

“No. Just the shooter’s location,” Faith replied. “Ken had all the common knowledge of how Grace died, but she couldn’t pinpoint exactly who did it. I need to figure that out and stop them at the ballfield.”

“So we tell Grace?”

“Again, Ken said no. Every scenario where Grace avoids the game or I tell her she’s killed, earth falls to Zorgy. Think about it like this: Right now, I know exactly where and when the bad thing is gonna happen. I tell Grace, she changes her plan, they change their plan. I’ll lose the only advantage I’ve got. Everything needs to be the same, up until I stop this.”

“But this time you’re here, in Cleveland,” Robin pointed out. “I take it you weren’t last time. So that’s different already.”

“You think I don’t know that,” Faith shot back. “Hell, maybe even by telling you this I might have just screwed the pooch, but I think you’re part of this plan. All I know is ‘Grace’s death was a snowball that got huge because Grace had a plan to save the world.”

“What’s Grace’s plan?”

“Again, Ken couldn’t see it,” Faith said, frustrated. “She’s not exactly the most specific with the different timelines. I kinda got the sense she was wingin’ a lot of this. And maybe Grace here doesn’t even know the plan yet, and if I tell her what’s on her shoulders, then maybe she won’t end up doing it, so again…less is more.”

“So there is an outcome where Earth defeats Zorgy, and Grace is vital to that outcome, but Ken doesn’t know exactly how. Yeah, that’s not…helpful.”

“Right?!” Faith ran her fingers through her hair. “All I know is I have to save Grace so she saves the world, but I can’t tell her anything about anything because it might prevent her from coming up with the plan that works.”

Robin thought for a moment. “That painting is more than a coincidence.”

“Agreed,” Faith acknowledged. “When I walked in and saw the damn thing, it took everything for me to not lose my shit. Thankfully, I kept it together, and B was a good distraction.”

“How so?” Robin asked curiously.

“She thinks I’m single white female-ing her slayer. She thought the same thing about her friends in Sunnydale. I’m not, she’s just insecure, but that doesn’t matter.” Faith shook her head. “Anyway, thankfully Red came along and took the painting with us on a second visit without Buffy. Of course Will brought Ken and…well…she still hates me. The me who’s from the future spent so much time with Slick there that she almost forgot about it. The other me…never forgot.”

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. Hate means Ken still cares. Just have patience.”

“Yeah, well, in order to save Ken and everyone from the apoco-future, I have to figure out who’s going to kill Grace and what that painting is trying to say.”

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Buffy and Xander’s Apartment – Day

Buffy walked through her front door with a sigh, cricking her neck as she did so. She looked around, not seeing anyone in the front room.

“Xan?” she called.

“I’m in here!” came the stage whisper from the kitchen. “Keep it down, I just got her to settle down.”

She walked into the kitchen to find Xander standing next to a couple of reusable food containers on the table. The couple greeted each other with a quick kiss.

“I got you some stuff, ’cause I figured you might not have time to eat otherwise,” he explained, his voice still low, gesturing to the containers.

“Well, I appreciate it,” she said, “but I’m gonna have to wake Joyce up, because this is my only shot to give her lunch. So–”

The sound of the apartment’s front door opening and then slamming interrupted her, closely followed by a female voice yelling “Summers?!” Immediately thereafter, the sound of a baby crying came from the nursery.

Buffy and Xander shot each other a look. “You didn’t lock the door?” he whispered in an accusatory tone.

“Why would I do that?” she shot back in a whisper. “Demons can’t get past the wards without specific permission, and vampires can’t get in unless you invite them, anyway. You know this!”

“It’s not the vampires I’m worried– Hi, Emma!” Buffy rolled her eyes at Xander’s complete change in tone and turned around to see her slayer standing in the doorway to the kitchen. Xander pitched a thumb over his shoulder. “I’m just gonna…” He left the kitchen in a hurry to check on Joyce.

“Hey,” Emma said to her watcher. “Oh, fries!” She reached past Buffy and grabbed a handful of fries from the container on the table, then stuffed several in her mouth at once. She didn’t notice Buffy’s nostrils flaring behind her as she did so.

“You’re always welcome here, Em,” Buffy began, “but–”

Emma swallowed and then spoke as if her watcher hadn’t said anything. “So, I can’t stop thinking about this painting,” she said. “I really feel like it’s a clue to somebody, something, somewhere, but I can’t put my finger on it. Who are those demons? And the witches act all Stranger Things when they get near it, what’s up with that?”

“Those all sound like things you should ask Willow,” Buffy said with a forced smile. The crying from the nursery trailed off and Xander singing softly could be heard in the background.

“I like Willow fine,” Emma said, “but I’m not sure we’re, like, random talking buddies. But you and I–” She trailed off at the raised eyebrow from Buffy. “Look, I know I’m a slayer, and it’s just supposed to be all ‘crush, kill, destroy,’ but I have brain stuff. I mean, when you were a slayer, you did brain stuff. You had to, right?”

Buffy took a breath, as if to attempt a serious answer to this question. But she never got that answer out, because the front door of the apartment opened and immediately thereafter slammed shut. Joyce started screaming again.

“Hey B!” Faith called. “Your door was open!”

Buffy rubbed her temples, as if trying to massage her brain.

“Oh, Emma,” Faith said as she appeared in the kitchen. “It’s good you’re here – you’re why I stopped by, actually. I wanted your opinions. I was just thinking about this painting, and I couldn’t get it out of my head, and my head is very full already, what with everything, but–”

“Everything about what?” Buffy asked.

Faith blinked, then said, “Nothing, but I think this is about more than it seems. There are weird demons. Weird demons are a red flag for me right now.”

“OK,” Buffy agreed with a sigh. “But why is any of this happening here? In my apartment. With my crying baby.”

Faith blinked and seemed to hear Joyce’s bawling for the first time. “Huh. I keep forgetting you have a kid, B, sorry.” Then she shook her head and said, “I know Red is on this, but I wonder if she’s thinking about it wrong. She’s doing magic and science. I think maybe what we need to figure out is what the artist was trying to tell us.”

“Oh, I was wondering what the magic circle might symbolize,” Emma put in eagerly. “Circles can represent the cycle of death and rebirth, right?”

“Sure,” Faith agreed, leaning back on Buffy’s fridge. “But you’re assuming it’s using a human, euro-centric system of symbology. Which…why would it? Willow thinks it’s from Vor. What do we know about Vor? I don’t mean just a list of species and their strengths and weaknesses in battle. What about their religion? What do they dream about?”

Buffy groaned and sat down, as Joyce quieted down somewhat in the other room. “Don’t you know, Miss Art Doctor?” she asked somewhat abrasively.

Faith turned to her, one eyebrow raised. “I’m sorry, B, I forgot, what was your doctorate in?

“I’m a doctor of kicking Faith’s ass,” Buffy shot back, “or don’t you remember?”

Emma’s muscles tensed as she watched the fingers in Faith’s right hand start to curl into a fist. But then, with visible effort, the dark-haired woman stopped herself and relaxed. Then she laughed and turned to the younger slayer.

“Y’know, I gotta give her that one. She did put me in a coma.”

Buffy crossed her arms and barely suppressed a smile. “You deserved it.”

Faith nodded. “True.”

Emma looked between the two older women, then shook her head. “OK, I gotta say, you two’s whole vibe…” She waved an open hand in Buffy and Faith’s direction. “…is very weird. I mean, I’d heard the stories, but in person…it’s very weird.”

Buffy uncrossed her arms and put her hands wide in a ‘Thank You!’ gesture. “Right?”

Faith, however, had gone back to ignoring her, instead concentrating on Emma. “I don’t know where to start here, but you might? They’re covering demon semiotics in colleges now, right? Some of ’em, anyway.”

“I guess?” Emma bit her lip, thinking. “I mean, they’re pretty literal. Not to paint with too broad a brush here…”

“I get it!” Buffy said, a little too forcefully. The other two women both looked at her blankly, and Buffy shrunk into her chair.

“…but talking to a lot of demon artists is a little like talking to Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy. Their use of metaphor is, uh, tenuous. I know that sounds racist, I don’t know what to tell you.”

“Let me let ya in on a secret, kid, we’re all a little bit racist,” Faith replied.

“Don’t tell my slayer that!” Buffy protested.

Faith rolled her eyes, then stopped in thought. “But Slick says it’s like something is hidden, happening under the surface. So there’s a deeper layer in there somewhere.”

For a moment, the only sound was Xander singing a very strange version of “All the Single Ladies” to Joyce in the next room.

Then Emma snorted a laugh. The two older women looked at her, and she had a brief deer-in-the-headlights moment. “Oh! I just, um, had the thought, if it really were literal, there would be another secret painting underneath that one, like in The Da Vinci Code. It’s too bad we’re not in a movie.”

“Yeah,” Faith agreed with a nod. “It can’t be that easy.”

A beat later, both the dark-haired women’s eyes widened.

“Mini-B, I think you might be a genius,” Faith said, pushing off from the refrigerator. “We gotta talk to Red.”

“OK,” Emma agreed as she moved to follow Faith out of the kitchen, “but to be very clear, we’re not calling me that.”

“Well, sure, you’re not.”

Buffy watched the two other women leave the room, then called out, “Wait, what’s happening?”

A moment later, Faith came back into the kitchen and grabbed a handful of french fries from the container on the table, stuffing them in her mouth.

“Get out of my kitchen!” Buffy almost yelled.

Faith shot her a potato-y grin and then complied. A moment later, the front door of the apartment could be heard closing behind her.

Xander walked through the other door of the kitchen, carrying a significantly quieter Joyce in his arms. “How’d it go?” he asked.

Buffy shook her head ruefully. “How is Faith still so thin?” she wondered under her breath. “She still eats like a slayer.”

“What was that?”


Cut To:


Watchers Council – Magic Clean Room – Later that Day

Norman stood, wearing a pair of gloves, with a rag in one hand and a bottle of polymer dissolver in the other. He stood in front of the easel set up in the Council’s all-white magic clean room, facing the painting from the museum. A safe distance behind him stood Emma, Faith, Willow and Kennedy.

He took a step forward and then stopped to ask, “How much did the museum pay for this?”

“You don’t wanna know,” Willow told him.

He nodded, took another step and then stopped again. “We’ve got a picture of it now, right? In case I need to recreate it.”

“Yes,” they all answered.

He took another step, then stopped once more and turned back to them.

“Do I have to sign an indemnity clause or something? I’ve got a kid to send to college someday and…”

“Norm!” they all said impatiently, in unison.

Willow added, “The Council will eat the cost if we ruin it. I promise.”

“Okay, fine,” he said. Finally, he completed his journey to the painting and began to rub the cloth on one corner. “Here goes nothing.”

Everyone stepped closer as he began to rub the painting with the rag very delicately and lightly scraped with a chisel. After a few seconds, he said, “There is something under this.” He turned back to the group. “Keep going?”

“Yes!” they all practically yelled at him.

“Sheesh,” he muttered and then went back to wiping. “Forgive me for not wanting to be the next Council member destroying precious art.”

Cut To:


Coven Room – Later

The five of them still stood in front of the painting, but it now showed an entirely new scene. The prior scene that looked like a god origin story now had another appearance. It looked more like a scene from the Middle Ages, with a blindfolded princess on a high mound, with the same two warriors at the bottom, apparently engaged in combat. None of the faces of the figures had much detail to them.

“Why is there another image under this?” Kennedy asked.

“Maybe the artist abandoned the first concept and started over,” Emma said.

“Or they tried to hide it because they didn’t want it to be seen,” Faith offered. 

“Like Adrian Vanson,” Emma put in. Faith nodded.

“What?” Kennedy and Willow both asked.

Faith explained, “Vanson did a portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots that he covered with a portrait of Sir John Maitland after all the political turmoil that followed with her execution. It was lost for centuries.”

Everyone turned back to the painting. Norm scrunched his eyebrows and looked closer.

“Oh Shit. Hey gang,” he called out, pointing. “Is it my imagination, or did those two warriors change directions?”

Emma looked at the photo she’d taken on her phone of the original and then back at the new painting.

“You’re right,” she said. “It’s changing.”

“Well, there’s your magic,” Faith muttered. “But why?” she wondered out loud. “Why was it at the Council?”

“Uh, ’cause we brought it with us?” Kennedy offered.

“Right,” Faith said absently, still staring at the image.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Coven Room – Later

“Where have you been?”

Willow heard her wife’s accusatory voice from the doorway, but she didn’t turn around. She was still looking through her collection of books along the wall.

“Working,” she answered. There was nothing confrontational to her tone. If anything, she was more focused on the tomes in front of her than her partner closing the distance behind her.

“All day?” Rowena asked incredulously. “You couldn’t pick up once?”

“First, I haven’t gotten a call from you today. Second, I didn’t know I had to ‘check-in’ with the missus. Third, I’ve been busy. Remember our last fight? In fact, I’m still busy – on top of everything else, Faith now has me dealing with a painting that may or may not be from Hell…Hence the books,” Willow said as she pulled one book down, still not looking at her wife.

“You can’t keep avoiding me,” Rowena told her.

Willow put the book down on the table and turned to her wife. “You have my attention. So what do you want?”

“Before I walked in here, I was happy–”

“Then there’s the door. Go be happy,” Willow said, pointing.

Rowena seethed, taking deep, hard breaths while her fingers curled into fists at her sides and then uncurled. “I was going to say, I’m happy to announce that I decided I’m taking on Liz’s fellowship as her senior watcher.”

“Yay! You finally made a decision! Good for you!” Willow’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “Nice to see you listened to me for once. That’s rare lately.”

“Hey, for your information, Liz convinced me. Not you. And just because I have reservations about fucking someone you want to fuck doesn’t mean I can’t make a decision or I don’t ever listen to you. I’ve spent the last twenty years of my life listening to you.”

“So you hated brunch, then?” Willow countered.

“Not at all. I just don’t have an overwhelming desire to sleep with her like you do.”

“She’s not good enough for you?”

Rowena let out an exasperated groan, followed by, “It’s not her I want!”

“Maybe Xander? In fact, that’s probably why you mentioned having another baby at New Year’s. It’s another chance to sleep with Xander.”

“That’s not why I suggested that and you know it,” Rowena growled.

At first, Willow said nothing, but then, more quietly, she responded, “Maybe Robin?”

Rowena threw her hands up in the air. “Maybe! Why the hell not? You sure don’t want me. I might as well find out if someone else here might!”

Willow motioned expansively toward the door. “Then have at it!”

Rowena said nothing further and just marched from the room. Once she was gone, Willow picked up the book she had left of the desk and threw it hard against the wall. It fell to the floor with a thunk, leaving silence in its wake..

“Damn it,” she muttered in the empty space. 

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Norman’s Office – That Evening

Norman was working on his tablet, uploading some pictures of demons into a database, when he turned to look at the painting, which had now been moved to his office for convenience. He glanced at it and then returned to his work. But a few seconds later he paused and glanced back at it again. He stood up to get a closer look.

There appeared to be another mound across from the princess, who was no longer blindfolded. Norman looked even closer and then suddenly moved back.

“No way,” he muttered.

He turned back to get his phone to take a picture and then when he turned back toward the painting, the two warriors were now going in different directions – one toward the princess and the other toward the second mound, which now had a demon upon it.

Norman quickly took a picture and then two others that showed the princess and the demon up close. He sent the images and then immediately placed a call.

“Hey Norm,” Faith answered.

“Check out the pictures I sent. The painting changed. The princess has more definition now. I wanna know if you’re seeing what I’m seeing.”

“Okay,” his mom said, concerned. She paused for a moment and then said, “It looks like Grace Hatherley.”

“It’s not just me that sees it,” Norm replied. “But I don’t know the demon. Should I run it in W.I.L.L.O.W., the database, not the witch, and see–”

“No,” Faith said quickly. “I’ll get with Allister. I-I trust her more than the AI of her wife. If it changes again, let me know.”

“Will do,” he told her.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Robin’s Apartment – Same Time

At the sound of a knock on the door, Robin put down his glass of scotch on the kitchen counter and made his way over.

When he opened the door, he found Rowena on the other side. He began to smile and opened the door wider.

“This is a pleasant surprise,” he told her happily. 

With a look of determination, she reached up and brought his lips down to hers. Wordlessly, she stepped forward, not breaking the connection. After the briefest moment of hesitation, Robin returned the kiss. Once Rowena had made it past the doorway, he closed the door behind them, all the time keeping his lips on hers.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Robin’s Apartment – Living Room – Night

“This is a very pleasant surprise,” he repeated as Rowena led him toward the sofa. Once there, she began furtively fumbling with his pants while keeping her eyes on his. She tugged them down and, once she had them at his ankles, he fell back and landed with a slight plop on the couch.

Rowena smiled and pulled Robin’s pants away. He looked down at his artificial leg nervously. She reached down and unbuckled the latch and then pulled his prosthesis away and rested it off to the side. As she kissed his knee where the apparatus had been, she began to take off the wig she wore and rested it on top of the faux limb.

“If you’re natural, it’s only fair that I am too,” she told him.

She rose up his body, her hands making a trail toward his face. Robin’s fingers tangled in her short hair when she was close enough. Once he had a hold on her, he pulled her in again for another searing kiss, which she returned in kind.

Black Out

End of Act Four

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