Act 4



Cut To:


Watchers Council – Hallway – Continuous

Rowena followed Willow down the hallway, who wasn’t moving exceedingly fast with her slight limp.

“Willow,” she called out, as she picked up her pace. “Willow!” she said with more urgency.

The witch stopped, but didn’t turn to face her. “What?” The word came out just above a whisper, filled with exhaustion, rather than annoyance.

Rowena pulled Willow to the side of the hallway and out of the flow of traffic. She looked around them and then quietly asked, “Are you okay?”

Willow whimpered. “I’m pretty freaking far from OK.”

Rowena didn’t wait for an invitation. She pulled her wife into a hug and held on to her. Willow didn’t return the hug, but Rowena still didn’t release her. “You don’t have to talk about anything right now, okay?” she whispered in her ear.

Willow didn’t say anything at first. When she did, she asked, “Who did you tell, about you a-and Robin?”

Rowena closed her eyes for a moment as she pulled back to examine her wife. “I’m not sure if this is the time–”

“Zorgy knew,” Willow cut her off. “Taunted me with it, even. So if you didn’t say anything and Robin didn’t, how could she know?”

“I don’t know,” Rowena said automatically.

“I think it’s magic, or hacking, or maybe both,” Willow offered.

Rowena looked like she was going to say something, but then stopped. “Wait. Faith. She was there.” Willow’s jaw dropped. “Not…then…she was there later, trying to save Grace.”

Willow started walking again, but didn’t say anything. Rowena followed along.

“Well, Zorgy knew about it.”

Rowena seemed unsure of what to say at first. “Maybe Faith told someone and–”

“Maybe,” Willow replied, not sounding entirely convinced. “She just knew a lot about us.”

“About me?”

Willow stopped and faced her wife. “About everyone. She knew everything about all of us. My Tamara crush. Jen’s soccer outbursts. Shannon’s impending deactivation. Emma a-and Buffy. All of us.”

Rowena thought for a moment, “Okay, but much of that is common knowledge that can be easily accessed.”

“Not Robin. Not Tamara. That’s stuff only our closest family knows. So how in the hell did she? Let me bottom-line it here: She knows us, while we know very little about her. A-and she beat me. Easily. So, if you ask me how I’m doing, I’m terrified. You’re a smart woman. A-and if I’m scared, then you should be, too.”

Willow started walking again, but didn’t say anything. Rowena let her move a few paces ahead, but still followed behind her.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Infirmary – Moments Later

Slayers on various gurneys filled the infirmary to bursting, along with Willow and Shannon, who lay next to each other in one corner. Rowena sat beside Willow, while Norman was seated next to Shannon.

Willow turned to Shannon and said, “Thank you for saving us.”

“Not all of us,” Shannon said distractedly.

“It’s not your fault,” Norman told her, taking her hand.

Upon seeing Grace enter the infirmary, Norman got up and moved toward the Chairwoman with purpose. Before she could get in too far, he took Grace by the elbow and pulled her aside.

Shannon and Willow both propped themselves up on their elbows to watch the exchange. The three women looked at each other as the conversation grew more heated.

“Yeah, I say your plan was shit!” Norman said loud enough for the room to hear. He pointed back toward his wife.

Grace said something that no one else could hear, but whatever it was, it didn’t seem to make Norman happy. In fact, he looked even angrier when he shouted, “And is that supposed to make Caitlyn’s family feel better? Or Cindy’s? For Christ’s sake, Shannon grew up with Cindy, and now she’s dead! My wife’s not even supposed to be on active patrol anymore, but you just had to drag her into this, and you nearly got her killed too!”

Grace didn’t reply. She walked away from Norman, over to the two beds where Willow and Shannon reclined.

“Have you heard from the doctors yet?” she asked the two women.

“Nothing broken,” Willow told her. “Mild hip subluxation that hurts like a bitch. Chiro is on the way.”

Grace nodded and turned to Shannon.

“Head’s felt better, that’s for sure. Waiting on the scans,” Shannon said.

Grace nodded. “This is normally the place where I would say rest up and come back when you’re ready. But you both know that I can’t say that right now. She’s in holding, so when you get the all-clear, please report to my office as soon as possible.”

Willow and Shannon both nodded, but didn’t say anything. For her part, Grace said nothing to Norman as she passed him on her way out.

At the other end of the infirmary, Buffy watched Grace leave without comment. The sound of Emma coughing brought her attention back to her slayer. Buffy rose, picked up a Styrofoam cup and offered it to Emma, who simply shook her head.

“Raise me up?” Emma asked. Buffy obliged and pressed the button to raise the back of the bed until Emma was more in a sitting position, but not entirely upright.

“Do you need anything?” Buffy asked.

Emma shook her head. “No, thank you.” After a few seconds, out of nowhere, she said, “You didn’t leave me.”

“Of course I didn’t. We’re a team.”

After a few seconds of silence, Emma asked, “Caitlyn and Cindy really died, didn’t they?”

Buffy nodded. “They did,” she said softly.

“Every time my mind drifts and then I come back to reality, it’s like I’m just realizing it again for the first time. Is that dumb?”

“It’s grief and all those pain-in-the-ass stages of it,” Buffy told her. “After my mom died, it was the first thought I had every morning for months – my mom’s dead.”

“Does it stop?”

“It does,” Buffy replied. “The void is always there, but the pain’s not quite as sharp over time. Getting to that point, though…that’s what’s hard.” The slayer-turned-watcher pushed some hair from her charge’s eyes. “Can I get you anything?”

Emma paused. “Yeah. I want a promise.”


“We’ll do everything in our power to end that hell bitch for good.”

“I promise,” Buffy told her.

Emma nodded. “I promise, too.”

Cut To:


Watchers Council – High Security Detention Area – Night

Buffy stared at the image of Zorgy on the video monitor. The demon lay back on the bed in her cell, red sneakers propped up on the end and hands behind her head, appearing for all the world to be completely unconcerned by her predicament. Buffy barely seemed to register Grace’s voice.

“Buffy,” Grace repeated, louder this time.

The blonde snapped her head around. “Yeah, I’m here.” She saw Grace, Willow, Rowena and Shannon all looking at her. “Sorry.”

Grace shook her head. “Anyway, I don’t think that we have any reason to think this is over just because we have her. The invasion will still be coming, one way or the other. Maybe even more likely now, because they have to get her back. So we need to know everything about it that we can get from her. Who, what, where, when, all the Ws. I want to know everything about her forces that we can get.”

“She loves to hear herself talk, I noticed,” Shannon put in. “She actually said something at the brewery that I think was true, which is that she knows everything about us and we don’t know anything about her. I think maybe we should find out about her, too. But…you can’t take what she says at face value. She lies.”

“She’s been right about a few things,” Willow said quietly, her eyes straying to Rowena. “More than a few, really.”

“It doesn’t matter what she knows about us,” Grace told her in a harsh tone. “Dwelling on what she wants to say is what she wants.”

“You think I don’t know that?” Willow shot back. “I’m not an idiot.”

Rowena put a hand on both women’s arms. “Guys, stop! Just stop! We are all on the same team here. Whatever this is, you two have to leave it outside of that room.”

Willow and Grace just glared at each other.

“So what’s the plan?” Shannon asked. “I assume there is one?”

Grace looked back at the monitor. “We work in teams of two. No one is ever in with her alone. We keep going, as long as it takes.”

Cut To:


Watchers Council – High Security Detention Area – Minutes Later

Zorgy looked up from her cot at the sound of a door opening. Grace and Rowena walked in. “Hey guys!” she crowed. “Can I maybe get my phone back? I gotta tell you, I’m not gonna give this AirBnB four stars unless somebody lets me take a shower.” She made sure to catch Grace’s eye. “I’d really love to wash some of this blood off.”

Grace and Rowena sat down in two waiting chairs on the other side of the bars from Zorgy. Her cell was more of a cage in the center of the room, separate from each of the walls, and its metal glowed faintly green. Grace held out a hand to a counterpart chair on Zorgy’s side, and the demon looked at it for a beat, then back to Grace, one eyebrow raised.

“You guys wanna talk? Let’s talk,” she said. She moved her red sneakers over to the floor and stepped over to the chair, then sank into it, crossing her legs as she did so. Before either Grace or Rowena could say anything, she continued, “Actually, I’m glad you guys are here, because I’ve been thinking. I’d like to make a deal.”

Grace and Rowena shared a quick, unreadable look. “What kind of deal?” Rowena asked, keeping her voice as uncommitted as possible.

Zorgy put both hands out and leaned forward conspiratorially. “Look, I’m in over my head here. I’m about to take over this planet and, y’know, I just…it’s a lot. I’m more of an ideas gal, y’know? So I was thinking, I’m gonna need somebody to run this place. What’s left of it, I mean. And I thought, why not you guys?”

Grace blinked. “You…want us to work for you?”

The demon pointed at her in affirmation. “You’re quick. I see why you’re in charge. Look, it’s a win-win. I don’t have to worry about destroying this place…” She gestured widely at the room around her. “…And you all, y’know, get to live. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’d never come work for me, I’m everything you’re against, I’m evil incarnate, blah, blah, blah, but look, we’re not so different. I also put on my skinny jeans one leg at a time. Trust me. So, whaddaya say?”

Grace and Rowena each stared at her for several seconds, eyes like saucers. Zorgy stared them down as long as she could, but then she couldn’t hold in the laughter anymore. Grace’s eyes grew stern.

“Oh shit, your faces,” the Empress cackled. She doubled over in her mirth. “Oh wow…” She straightened up, sobering as much as she could. “Yeah, there’s no deal. I’m gonna kill all of you, and everyone you love.” Grace’s features were hard. “That’s my whole thing. But come on, I had to do something. Like, Grace Hatherley. Wow. This is kind of a big moment, right?” This received no response. “Or, it would be if anyone actually listened to you.” She sighed. “But we have to deal with the Chairwoman we have, not the one we wish we had.”

Rowena opened a notebook, pen at the ready. “Let’s start at the beginning. How did you become the Empress of Vor?”

“Boooooring!” Zorgy groaned and looked up at the ceiling. “Seriously? Your Council gloriously marched into Vor and then left it in tatters without so much as a backward glance. And in that vacuum…well…” She made a sweeping motion from her head to her feet.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Hallway – Next Morning

Robin knocked on a closed door, and after a few moments it opened to reveal Faith.

“Do you have a few minutes?” he asked.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Faith’s Apartment – Continuous

She opened the door wider and said, “Sure. Come on in.” As he cleared the threshold and closed the door behind him, she asked, “Want somethin’ to drink? I’ve got water or tea.”

“How would you feel about taking Nikki? Full time?” Robin asked without warning.

“Whiskey it is,” Faith said as she went to the kitchen and began to pour two glasses. “Can I ask what brought this on?”

“Grace needs me in D.C. And since Nikki has built a community of friends here, I think she wants to stay, but she’s scared. And since you’re back at the Council, I just thought…”

“What?” Faith asked with a shrug. “That I would take her off your hands because it’s more convenient for you?”

“Wow,” Robin muttered. “She is your daughter and not some freeloader.”

Faith took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. “You’re right. She is. I don’t know why I said that. See? Nothing’s changed. I’m still the same angry mess.”

“OK, I’m gonna say something, and chances are it’s gonna blow up in my face. But why don’t you talk to Doctor Millenti? And if not him, maybe another psychologist?”

For a moment Faith didn’t say anything. “Would you believe that I’ve seen ten different doctors? Would you believe that I’ve tried countless medications? Nothing takes away this anger and these flashes of despair. Nikki doesn’t need to be around that full time.”

“She needs her mom,” Robin countered.

“In small doses, maybe. Thing is, her mom’s a bitter fuck-up. Trust me. I lived with someone like me. It’s terrible, and I love her too much to do that to her.”

“This is a time when Nikki is going to need a strong female role model, Faith.”

“Look around,” Faith said as she waved. “There’s tons of strong women around her, like Rowena for example.”

“Faith,” Robin groaned.

“Point is, you’re exactly what she needs, Robin, but if you have to take this job…presuming we all survive…how about I agree to stay, but she lives in the dorms? That way I’m close, but she’s still away from me. I can see her in small doses, on weekends when she’s not busy. You can take long holidays or come here. I’m sure Grace will make a suite here as part of your new contract and, if not, demand it.”

Robin grinned. “You’re a shrewd business woman,” he complimented.

“Just looking out for Nikki, because I want to keep her safe, more than anything, and I might really hurt her if she’s here full time. Truth is, I might hurt her anyway…but the less she’s with me, maybe the less damage I’ll do.”

“I think you’re selling yourself short,” Robin replied.

Faith took a sip. “You don’t know me.”

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Library – Later

Nikki was staring at a book when a hand appeared on her shoulder, making her jump. She turned back to see Liz standing beside her with a slight grin.

“Welcome back,” Liz told her. Nikki knit her brow in confusion at the comment. “I’ve asked twice already if I could borrow the second book there in your stack.” Not waiting for an invitation, Liz pulled the chair out next to Nikki and took a seat. “Are you nervous about what’s happening?”

“A little,” Nikki confessed. “Knowing Zorgy’s here doesn’t make me feel much better, but that’s not what I’m thinking about. Not really.”

Liz waited a moment, but Nikki did not continue. “Do you wanna tell me what you’re thinking about?”

Nikki paused for a moment and then said, “It’s not your problem.”

“Okay. But you didn’t answer my question. Do you want to tell me what you’re thinking about?”

Nikki grinned slightly. “You’re pretty good at that.”

“What’s that?” Liz asked.

“Getting answers. You’re not easily dissuaded.”

“And you’re not good at diversion. You haven’t said yes or no. Do you want to tell me what you’re thinking about?”

They both chuckled slightly, and Liz whispered, “Keep it up and the racist librarian is gonna come after us again, so you might as well spill it.”

Nikki began to chuckle more loudly and put her hand over her mouth. After a moment she said, “This is why I’m torn.”

“About what?”

Nikki shrugged shyly and said, “My dad wants to take a position at the D.C. branch, so if I go, I’ll miss times like this.”

“You’re leaving?” Liz asked.

Again, Nikki shrugged. “That’s the thing.  I don’t want to leave Cleveland, but I can’t depend on my mom sticking around because…” Nikki let the sentence hang and Liz only nodded in understanding. “If he goes to D.C., then maybe I can see him in the summers or maybe see my mom. Then during the school year I can stay in the dorms, here in Cleveland. Other students do it.”

“What’s stopping you from doing that? Your parents?”

Nikki shook her head. “If I stayed here, I would be all alone. Again, I can’t depend on my Mom sticking around. I just wish…I would like to be certain I have at least one friend here; then staying wouldn’t be so scary.”

“We’re not friends,” Liz said quickly. Nikki didn’t look at her, she just nodded quickly. Her lip quivered a little. “We’re family,” Liz finished. “…I sound sooo Vin Diesel right now.”

Nikki looked at her hopefully, and Liz continued, “Like it or not, you’re stuck with the Gileses and the Rosenberg twins. So by my count, that’s at least four. Six, if you count Jake and Sophie. I’d say they’re useless kids, but if you need a grade change in the computer system, Jake’s your little man. Sophie can keep the bullies away. She magically disarmed her Ma, head witch supreme, for God’s sake.”

“You really mean it?” Nikki asked.

“Yeah, we were there actually. That little girl snapped her fingers and blam-o!”

Nikki bumped shoulders with Liz and giggled. “I mean being family.”

“No, it’s all an elaborate ruse,” Liz said stone-faced and then grinned. “Here’s the deal: you’re not alone. If you ever feel scared or worried or whatever, come to me. If you feel safer texting, then text me. If you’d rather talk on the phone or you wanna talk face-to-face, it doesn’t matter. Just promise me you’ll talk to me. You shouldn’t feel alone because you’re not. So, do we have a deal?”

Liz extended her hand to Nikki, which she promptly shook.

Cut To:


Giles House – Living Room – Afternoon

Giles’s phone rang, and he looked down at it. Becca stopped the episode of Bridgerton with the remote, but he motioned for her to continue. “I’m not sure how long I’ll be.” He got up and went into the other room without immediately answering. She watched him leave, then hit the play button. However, she still got up and followed him once she seemed certain he didn’t notice her presence.

Cut To:


Giles House – Afternoon – Continuous

Giles ran his fingers through his hair. “Of course she doesn’t know, and I don’t want her to know right now,” he said softly into his phone, as if not wanting to be heard.

Just on the other side of the doorway Becca stood listening as a worried and confused look appeared on her face. He hadn’t shut the door, simply walked into the room, so she had the means to hear him quite clearly. He paused, listening to the other person speak.

“I’m not comfortable doing it now. But soon. I promise.” Giles looked annoyed but then grinned. “Yes, I love you, too.” Becca’s face fell at the confession. “No, I do. In light of everything, I just…I just wish things were different,” she heard her husband say. There was another long pause, until he said, “Okay, a-all right. You make a good point. Let’s try to meet at the bar. In the morning or early afternoon before opening would be best. Less likely to be spotted there that way.” Giles then snorted with a grin. “That’s true, too. I’ll call you soon with the details…Yes, you too. Speak to you soon.”

Realizing the call had ended, Becca quickly made her way back toward the living room so Giles was none the wiser to having been overheard.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – High Security Detention Area – Later That Morning

Zorgy had a spoon full of Cheerios perched by her lips when Buffy said, “I’ll ask again. Where were you planning to attack next?”

“Hello! Can’t you see I’m busy eating this bowl of cereal that’s part of a delectable and complete nutritious breakfast,” Zorgy scoffed from behind the bars of her cage. “I don’t really feel like telling you. ”

“Well, tough,” Buffy glanced over at Shannon, who gave her no feedback whatsoever. “Because…you’re gonna.”

“Well, I’d rather talk about your whole deal, because I have so many questions,” Zorgy said, gesturing in Buffy’s general direction with her spoon. She paused for a moment to chew before she continued, “Like, are you seriously calling yourself a watcher now, because…that might be the saddest thing I’ve ever heard. And I’ve literally heard a mother scream as she watches her children get slaughtered in front of her.”

“I don’t think you get it,” Shannon stated flatly. “You’re not on your throne. You don’t have any minions to order around. You’re in a cage eating cereal.”

“No, I think you’re the one who’s not getting it. All I have to do is wait here and enjoy the fine Council hospitality along with these toasted whole grain oats. My army will come for me. And when they do, they’re gonna come straight through you.” The Empress shook her head. “And it’ll be…pretty traumatic. Content warning, all that.”

“We could just kill you,” Shannon commented casually. Buffy couldn’t quite conceal her concerned glance over.

“Good cop, bad cop now?” Zorgy snorted derisively. “You won’t kill me. You’re the good guys! Even if it kills you. Which, y’know, it’s gonna. You all wouldn’t bend the rules playing Scrabble, much less execute a prisoner. And anyway, it wouldn’t matter. All that would mean is that, when the demonic horde gets here, there wouldn’t be anyone to tell them who to let live. In the end it would all be the same. Y’know, from your perspective.”

Cut To:


Watchers Council – High Security Detention Area – Later

“The invasion plans are already set, then?” Willow asked.

“Yeah, you’re really insightful, you’ve got me beat,” Zorgy replied sarcastically. Then she sighed, glancing between Willow and Grace. “I was really looking forward to this. Finally, somebody on my level, y’know? I spend all day with fuckboy minions and whimpering sycophants, so I kinda thought it would be a nice change of pace, but…this is kind of pointless.”

“Sorry we’re not entertaining enough,” Grace said, her voice rising slightly. “But we’re kind of busy being not evil. So you’re going to tell us when the invasion starts, and we’re–”

“What?” Zorgy pushed her. “You’re gonna what? Ban my Insta? I have, like, seventy alts, so…”

She was met with just silence. Willow and Grace studiously looked away from each other. Zorgy’s eyes went between the two of them briefly.

“Wow, feel the love,” she quipped, folding her arms over her chest. “I gotta say, you guys are humanity’s last hope and…wow. Humanity is really, really fucked.”

Willow shook her head. “I just…you know what I really want to know? Why are you doing this?”

Cut To:


Watchers Council – High Security Detention Area – Later

“Doing what, girl-bossing all day, every day?” Zorgy smirked. “I can’t help it, I just wake up like this.”

“You’ve said it yourself, over and over,” Rowena said, from her seat next to Shannon. “You don’t want to conquer the humans, you want to kill them. All of them. Why?”

Zorgy looked between her two interrogators, genuinely confused. “Sure, I know, I’m a real see-you-next-Tuesday gal myself but…have you met humans? Have you seen this place you call a world? What’s the point of any of this shit?”

“It’s called life, dipshit,” Shannon said quietly.

Zorgy kept going. “Just look at all of you. Spend five minutes in the comments section of a random subreddit and tell me this whole planet doesn’t deserve to be slaughtered. You’re all so worried about me, but you’re doing exactly nothing about the fact that your ecosystem is dying. Dying because you fucking killed it, to be clear.”

“Let’s get back to–” Rowena attempted, but she didn’t slow anything down.

“As far as I can tell, all any of you with the slightest bit of power or money or anything are doing is to make everything just a little bit worse, every day. You’re all going about your lives like everything’s the same, when you actually can’t bear to be here anymore. You’re all like frogs in boiling water. If humans had any sense, you’d all be lining up to be put out of your misery.”

“That’s actually a myth,” Rowena said. “Frogs don’t actually…” Her eyes went between Shannon and Zorgy, and her cheeks reddened. She glanced down at her lap. “Frogs jump out of slowly boiling water.”

“Well, congratulations on being stupider than frogs, humans!”

“For someone who hates humans so much, you sure spend a lot of time on their Internet,” Shannon pointed out.

“Ya got me,” Zorgy nodded. “Honestly, the number one thing I’m going to miss when all this is over is checking Tik Tok when I should be trying to sleep.”

Cut To:


Watchers Council – High Security Detention Area – Later

“Who are you?” Buffy asked, shaking her head in disbelief.

“You know…” the Empress replied, leaning forward. “There’s a reason I’m probably the worst thing you guys have ever faced. It’s not because I’m more demony than all those other demons. It’s because I’m more humany than all those other demons. It’s the humans you have to watch out for.”

“Then I’ll ask specifically, again,” Grace said, her tone even. “How did you become the Empress of Vor?”

Zorgy sat back, almost primly. “OK, sure. Well, my father was a drinker, and a fiend. And one night he goes off crazier than usual. Mommy gets the kitchen knife to defend herself. He doesn’t like that. Not one bit.”

Buffy had rarely appeared more confused. “What’s happening now?”

Grace sighed heavily. “It’s the origin story the Joker gives in The Dark Knight. One of them. He’s probably lying. Because she’s lying. Because of course she’s a fucking Joker person.”

“We live in a society,” Zorgy supplied.

Grace ran a frustrated hand over her face.

Cut To:


Apartment – Living Room – Afternoon

The front door crashed back against the beige wall, splintering and shearing off the top hinges and swinging in the threshold.

In the doorway, Crystal lowered her leg and slowly marched into the apartment, the reverberation giving way to the sound of her heavy heels and that of someone running into the next room.

“I asked to make this easy,” Crystal said, her voice barely above a whisper.

Her eyes staring straight ahead into the void, she casually reached and took a knife from the block in her periphery as she rounded the kitchen counter, moving onwards to the next room.

“Please, just make this easy.”

As she crossed into the bedroom, a boot shot out from behind the door frame and connected with Crystal’s upper right arm, sending her crashing into the dresser. The knife clattered to the floor.

Hunched on the floor, Crystal furiously flicked her hair out of her eyes, then looked up to see a fist bearing down on her. She launched herself up, ducking under the incoming attack, and wrapped her arms around the assailant’s waist, tackling them toward the bed behind them.

As she did, the attacker elbowed her hard in her back several times before using their weight to pivot Crystal just enough to sweep her leg and throw her off.

Stumbling before recovering her balance, Crystal brought herself upright and threw several punches. The attacker blocked them all until the last one, which sent her flying across the room, shattering the door to the wardrobe.

As Crystal bore down on them, they did a low forward roll past her. She sighed and turned to see them now brandishing the knife. She rolled her eyes at the weapon and kicked it out of their hand.

“I said make it eas—” Her words trailed off as she blinked back evident surprise. “I-I know you…”

Panting and sweating profusely, with a cut lip, a woman of Middle Eastern descent lazily looked up at Crystal. “Yeah…”

“The Stake and Crossbow…”

“I don’t drink there anymore…”

The cogs turned behind her eyes. “Muna?”

She spat out the corner of her mouth. “Crystal.”

“‘Y’know, you could have just answered the fuckin’ door.”

“And you could have just not come knocking.”

Crystal sighed. “If it’s worth anythin’, you can still hold ya own.”

“Should think so.” Holding her side, Muna propped herself up. “You lose the power, you don’t lose the skills.”

“Look, I get it, times are hard. You lost your power, your livelihood, so you turned to Tanner for money.”

Muna stifled a laugh. “You think it’s money?”

“Well, he wants me to collect.”

“Collect what, exactly?” She motioned around her broken apartment.

After a beat, Crystal reached into her top pocket of her jacket and pulled out a strip of paper, unfolded it and read, “Ketshien? Said it was some kind of treasure. Guess you withheld it on a job. I don’t really care, just give it to me and I’ll clear out.”

“Bitch, if you think you’re taking him…”

Dead-eyed, Crystal took a second. “Him?”


Both Muna and Crystal looked toward the doorway. A small boy, human but with ears that tapered to a point and two tiny fangs that pushed his lower lip forward, stood clutching a teddy bear. No tears loosed from his eyes but his brow creased in the middle.

“Kets, go back to the closet. Now!” Muna commanded.

Her mouth hanging open, Crystal glanced momentarily back to the other woman. “Wait, I don’t…”

“My son. Ketshien. It means ‘treasure’ in Eledrest. His father’s language. He’s all I have left of him after…after the attack.”

Crystal’s eyes went wide, and she staggered over to sit on the bed.

“You know what I do now, Crystal?” She didn’t answer, but Muna continued. “I’m a cop. Or will be, in a few weeks. I didn’t go to Tanner for a fucking loan. I never even worked for him. But a former Lancer turned cop? Shit, he’d have an in, but only if he had something over me.”

Crystal hung her head. Silent tears fell from her eyes.

Slowly, Ketshien approached her, ignoring his mother’s outstretched hand warning him off. Now in front of Crystal, he gulped and then gingerly said, “Y-you can have Barry Bear.” He held out his teddy. “He’s my treasure.”

Her forehead knitted, the slightest of smiles showed through on Crystal’s face, but then she swallowed hard and burst into tears.

An awkward tension filled the space, punctuated by her tears and gasps for air. Ketshien still held the teddy forward, then he carefully placed it on her lap.

She stopped, sniffed and then put the teddy on the bed beside her. “Baby boy, I ain’t takin’ you or your Barry Bear.”

“Y-you’re not?” Muna asked, defensively getting to her feet and closing the gap between her and her son.

Crystal looked up. “Course I’m not. I-I know what it’s like when someone takes your treasure.”

She didn’t have to respond. The look of sympathy on Muna’s face said it all.

With a sharp intake of breath, she sniffed and cleared her throat, wiping her eyes on the back of her hands. “It ain’t much, but I am sorry, so very truly–” Her voice broke. “—and I have no right, but I need you to do me a favor.”

“An-anything,” Muna offered cautiously, Ketshien now in her arms.

“You need to go. Now.” Crystal looked around the room and found the back of an envelope and a pen. She wrote something down. “Be low-key. Stay off the streets. Cash only; no cards and get a burner phone.”

“Where would we go?”

“That’s your choice, but I know where I gotta go.” Crystal motioned to the paper she handed Muna. “Text me at that number once you’ve got a phone. Only say ‘It’s Barry’. That way I’ll have your number. I’ll call when it’s safe to come back home.”

With the same slow march, Crystal went for the door. Then she stopped, hand on the door frame, and looked back over her shoulder, to the boy, to Ketshien. Then she looked away and made for the broken front door.

Cut To:


The Stake and Crossbow – Afternoon

“Hello Lisa,” Giles said as he entered The Stake and Crossbow.

“Back again, are we?” she said, as she continued to stack glasses at the bar.

“Seems I can’t stay away,” he replied with a slight grin, one which she returned.

She motioned toward the bar, and he took a seat, watching her work.

“I have to admit,” Giles spoke up, “seeing you again brought back a lot of memories.”

Lisa didn’t reply, but she pulled back the Guinness tap handle as she poured a glass and then rested it in front of Giles.

Her eyes narrowed, with a slight smile curling in the corner of her mouth. “You trying t’hit me with a bit of the ol’ sentimental?”

“No,” he answered after taking a sip. “Just remembering. I find I do that quite a bit lately. Thinking of all the things I’ve done wrong, but also right, in my life. You were right about the Council. And I venture to say you care about all the slayers, not just the ones that enter this bar.”

“Your point’d be what, Rupert?”

“I have someone that I’d like you to meet for more than just a photo op, if you’re interested.”

Lisa leaned forward, intrigued.

Cut To:


Becca’s SUV – Minutes Later

Becca sat in her car across from The Stake and Crossbow bar, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses in an effort to look as incognito as possible. She watched as her husband came out of the front door of the building with an older woman, a bottle blonde with a stocky build. They seemed rather friendly with each other, given how close they were standing to one another. She watched as Giles took her hands in his. Becca picked up her phone and took some pictures of the couple. When she watched him lean in and kiss her, she continued to shoot. The pair parted ways, heading in different directions. Becca put down the phone and closed her eyes with a slight whimper.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – High Security Detention Area – Later

“How do you know so much about us?” Rowena asked.

Zorgy raised an eyebrow and looked between Willow and Rowena across from her, then shrugged. “Everybody knows everything. If you think you have ‘privacy’ or whatever you want to call it, you’re an idiot. Everything you’ve ever written online is being combed by AI as we speak, so that it can teach itself to be a better Willow Rosenberg than Willow Rosenberg herself. Or at least a cheaper one, which is all the people who matter care about.”

“It’s fine, I’m used to computer versions of me,” Willow commented blandly, but Rowena shook her head.

“I don’t think that’s it,” she said. “You know things I would never put online. Is it magic?”

“Speaking of things you would never put online because you’re a hypocritical prude,” Zorgy replied with a smile, “I’m surprised they put the two of you in here together with me. Y’know, with all the drama.”

“We are not talking about this,” Willow said darkly.

“Weeell, that depends on what you mean by ‘we,’ Sabrina, because I’m definitely talking about it.” The demon turned toward Willow. “Look, I get it. I don’t want to be tied down, either. There’s a reason there’s no Emperor of Vor, right? Well, that and I don’t like sharing. The two of us, we’re just not built that way.”

“You don’t know anything about me,” Willow said angrily, pointing a finger.

“Let’s not–” Rowena tried again.

Zorgy laughed. “Are you serious right now? All I’ve done so far is show just how right I am about you. You’re here acting like you’re Bulls Michael Jordan, when you’re really Wizards Michael Jordan, which is kind of ironic if you think about it, given that we’re talking about how much you suck at being a wizard.”

“At least I’m not a…” Willow trailed off and sat back in her seat, breathing hard. “Nope, not doing this.”

“Not a what?” Zorgy pressed. “Not a murderer? Because that’s…another thing we have in common, actually. We both know there’s more than one way to skin a human.” She suddenly turned to Rowena. “And I gotta say, for somebody who was so opposed to banging other people, you sure were quick on the draw with the banging of the other people. At first I was confused, but now that I’ve actually seen Robin Wood, I completely get it. Do his abs have abs? Because it feels like they probably do. And when the leg comes off, the wig comes off too, gurl amirite?”

Rowena looked down at her notes and took a deep breath, glancing only briefly to the side to see Willow looking at her intently. Finally, she looked back up at her prisoner and simply repeated, “How do you know so much about us?”

Zorgy was calm for a moment. She turned to Rowena. “They put you in charge of Elizabeth Giles. She should be here. Wouldn’t that make for better training? I’d love to teach her a thing or two.”

“You have nothing to teach her,” Willow replied.

“I think she’s not here because you don’t think she’s up to the task.”

“I don’t care what you think.”

Zorgy ignored the outburst and continued, “You’re concerned about what will happen in the future because, let’s face it, she’s just a silly kid. You’re to her what the old Council was to you. What’s it like to be… irrelevant?”

“Again, you have nothing of value for Liz Giles,” Willow repeated.

“Don’t be so sure,” Zorgy said, as she kissed her finger. She then pointed skyward over her left shoulder and an image appeared. “I think she’d probably get a lot out of seeing what was going on in Vor when she was being born.”

It was a much younger Willow struggling to breathe on the floor of the Citadel as the Lover stood over her. Willow said, “You wanted to protect the innocent against all this, and instead you’re going to destroy innocence forever!

What choice do I have?!” the Lover snarled. “You? Your Council? You fail and falter, and lose your way. Once you are gone, what you leave behind will become corrupt, and evil, just as it was before. Everything fails.

When I’m gone,” Willow insisted, “there’ll be others…you have to trust us. We have to trust those we leave behind. We have to teach each generation, before we go, about what’s right…that’s how it has to be. With your way, there’s no one to take over for you, so you better learn from your mistakes now…

No one can replace us,” the Lover said.

And that’s why you have to go,” Willow whispered.

Zorgy waved her hand, and the image disappeared.

Willow’s brow knit in concern. “How are you able to–?”

“Security vid I saw. Memory conjuring’s considered pretty innocuous, since it doesn’t hurt anyone…physically,” Zorgy replied. “Warding against it uses up vital magical resources in a cage this size. But I digress. You made so many promises to the Lover that, as far as I can tell, you’ve been pretty laid back about keeping. You’re all so powerful and believe no one can replace you…and that’s why you have to go.”

Willow looked over to Rowena, who was studiously examining her notes. Finally, Rowena looked back up at Zorgy and simply repeated yet again, “How do you know so much about us?”

Cut To:


Watchers Council – High Security Detention Area – Afternoon

The five interrogators, Grace, Willow, Rowena, Shannon and Buffy, had gathered together in a security room, in front of several monitors showing Zorgy in her cell from various angles. Judging by their unkempt appearance and exhausted faces, it had been a very long day.

“So, who’s next?” Shannon asked in a raspy voice. She leaned back against the security console, bags under her eyes.

Grace grimaced and shook her head, her hair falling in her face. “I don’t know. Do any of you think you’ve gotten anything useful so far?”

This was met with silence. After a long moment, Rowena cleared her throat.

“If I could make a suggestion, I think we should take a break,” she said. “Let her stew overnight again, see if she’s still looking at things the same way in the morning.”

Grace gave her a hard look. “Her army might be here before the morning.”

“If that’s true, then we’re screwed regardless, because we’re not ready,” Willow replied darkly. “Even if she told us everything right now we would need more time than that.”

Grace threw up her hands. “So you just want to throw in the towel, is that it? I’m looking for actual ideas here, not prophecies of doom.”

“I’m with Ro,” Buffy put in quickly, before Willow could shoot back an angry reply. “Grace, as far as I know, all of us are on day two of doing this interrogation. None of us are at our best now. I don’t think we’re about to get real answers like this, do you? Let us all take a break, see our families, recharge. Please.”

Grace let out a long sigh, and finally, without meeting anyone’s eyes, said, “Yeah, OK.” This was met with several exhalations of relief from the group. She turned to Shannon. “But I want her under double slayer guard the whole time. I don’t care if she’s asleep. OK?”

Shannon just nodded and moved to leave the room.

Seeing Buffy move to follow her out, Grace spoke up again. “Hey, Buffy, are you planning to check on Emma?”

Willow raised an eyebrow. Buffy just turned around, met Grace’s eyes levelly, and said, “Yeah.”

“If you see her, please tell her I’d like to talk to her when she’s feeling up to it,” the Chairwoman said. “I’ll go to her, if she needs me to. But she’s a slayer, I have a feeling she’s already up and at ’em.”

Buffy nodded and left the room.

Willow looked at Rowena and just said, “I’ll see you at home,” before she walked out. This left only Rowena and Grace. The pair gave each other one last tired, sympathetic glance, before the blonde watcher followed her wife.

Cut To:


The Stake and Crossbow – Evening

“Hello, sweetheart, y’right?,” Lisa asked Crystal as she entered the establishment.

Crystal wordlessly made her way to the bar. Inside, four patrons were seated between two tables, along with an out-of-costume Kelly Kinnie, who sat at the end of the bar with a plate of fish and chips. As she took a seat, Lisa cocked her head to examine the new arrival and rested a beer glass in front of her.

Softly, the barkeeper asked, “What’s wrong, luv?”

“Remember Muna?” Crystal asked, just as quietly, before she took a drink. Lisa reflected for a moment and then nodded.

“Don’t see her much ‘ere lately?” Lisa remarked.

“After losing her powers, she fell out of the circle here. She’s graduatin’ from the police academy soon.” Crystal took another long drink.

“Good on her,” Lisa said sincerely.

“Yeah, single mom now, and she’s got a kid from a demon relationship. Dad was killed by speciesists.”

“Not so good on her,” Lisa offered.

Crystal was quiet for a moment and took another long drink. Then she said, “I didn’t know at the time, but Tanner sent me to Muna to ‘collect Ketshien’. At first, I thought it was some kind of artifact. No. It’s her son that Tanner wanted me to steal.”

“Fuck me,” Lisa groaned.

Crystal took another long drink and then shrugged. “Guess he figures a slayer to do his biddin’ ain’t enough. He wants a cop now, too.”

By this time, Kelly surreptitiously slid over, plate in hand, several seats closer to Crystal. “Lisa,” she cut in, speaking a little louder than she otherwise might have. “Where’s the malt vinegar?” Kelly looked at Crystal with a slight smile and said, “Can’t have fish and chips without it.”

“Is that so?” Crystal asked as Kelly resettled herself even closer. Kelly simply nodded as Lisa gave her a bottle. She still didn’t move, staying close to hear the conversation.

“Anythin’ else?” Lisa asked.

“All good now,” Kelly told her, then she turned to Crystal. “Tanner sounds like a real piece of shit,” she told them both.

Crystal looked worried, but Kelly brushed her off. “Everyone’s gotta do what they gotta do,” she told her. “So you draw the line at stealing kids, huh?”

Crystal looked like she might cry. Instead of letting the floodgates open, she told Lisa, “Yeah, I know where to find him, so that’s why I’m gonna kill him.”

“Tanner?” Lisa and Kelly both exclaimed in surprise and then lowered their voices. “You know where Tanner is?” Kelly added.

Crystal stared at her suspiciously. “I’m sorry, I don’t recall meeting you before.”

Kelly wiped a greasy hand off on her shirt, then extended it. “Kelly Kinnie, Channel 3 News.”

“A reporter?!” Slight panic in her tone, Crystal turned back to Lisa. “You didn’t tell me there was a reporter here!”

Lisa just turned to Kelly, arms crossed over her chest, and raised a single eyebrow.

“No, I mean…I-I’m not on the clock,” Kelly stammered, shifting her eyes between the two women. “I haven’t been in before, but this place is just down the block from me, and I hadn’t had the chance to get to the store and I thought maybe…” She signed, relenting under their stares. She spoke the next part quietly. “And I’m a slayer.”

Crystal visibly relaxed at this admission, though Lisa didn’t seem especially surprised. “Sorry,” Crystal said. “I get jumpy. You can guess why. Maybe lead with that next time?”

Kelly shrunk slightly. “I mean, I don’t…I don’t usually tell a lot of people. It’s not what I do for a living. But…I keep in shape.

Crystal took a deep breath and nodded decisively. When she spoke, it was to both Lisa and Kelly. “I sent Muna away ’til I can finally end this. I can’t let him steal another person’s kid. Since I didn’t do the job, I’m certain he’ll have someone else doin’ it.”

“What are you talking about? There are other stolen kids?” Kelly asked.

“That bastard has my son. I don’t work for Tanner willingly.”

“What?” Kelly asked, her dinner now forgotten. She cast a glance at Lisa, who nodded briefly.

Crystal nodded, too. “It’s always one more job and I’ll get him back, one more job and one more job and one more job. Now Tanner is making my boy a mule…I’m not puttin’ Muna and Ketshien through anything me and Dylan are goin’ through. And if he finds out I tipped off Muna… well… Dylan’s in greater danger every hour that passes. I’ve got ’til Monday to report in. So I need to hit Tanner before he learns about Muna.”

“Look, I get why you feel like this…” Lisa began.

“Lisa, I respect you,” Crystal said, “but until a loan shark steals your flesh and blood and holds it over your head, you really don’t.”

Lisa lowered her head for a moment. “You’re right. I don’t understand.”

“You don’t, but I know you care, so thank you…here’s the bottom line, ladies: I’m a slayer and my own kid is locked in Tanner’s fortress, but that’s gonna change, starting now.”

“Exactly,” Lisa said. “It’s a fortress and y’know if there’s something I do understand it’s Tanner. I know men like ‘im and you are just one person.”

“I know,” Crystal answered, “but I can’t keep doin’ nothin’. I can’t keep doin’ bad things in the hope that my son will stay alive. Something had to give and, at this point, I’d rather give my life tryin’ to save him from captivity then continuin’ to live like this.”

“Tanner needs to be the one to go away,” Kelly said. “Not you. If you kill him, your son will be alone.”

“But we’ll both be free of Tanner,” Crystal replied.

“But you won’t,” Lisa countered. “You’ll be in jail and your son’ll be in bleedin’ foster care.”

“I told you, I’m ready for the consequences. Killin’ him ain’t gonna break the bank. I need to do something,” Crystal stressed again.

Lisa and Kelly shared a long look at each other without saying anything and, very slowly, Kelly gave a tiny nod. That’s when Lisa said, “Crys, I know a, well, no other way to say it, a superhero who is gunnin’ for Tanner. What if you joined forces?”

“I don’t know any superheroes,” Crystal replied. She was looking at the beer that had been poured in front of her and didn’t see Kelly and Lisa smirking at one another.

“Yeah, but we do,” Kelly remarked. “Let us help.”

Crystal didn’t seem too convinced and took a sip of her beer. She swallowed, then blinked a few times. Then she turned toward Kelly. She looked at her for a moment and then looked closer. “Are you Slaygirl?” she finally whispered.

Kelly avoided the question. “How about this?” she began instead. “As a reporter, I have connections. Give Lisa and me three days to put a plan together before you do anything. Lisa is right. You cannot go in there alone.”

Crystal downed the last of her beer. “Dylan’s in danger. You’ve got forty-eight hours starting now.”

With that, she got up and left the bar.

Fade Out


End of Act Four

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