By Charles Kelly
DISCLAIMER: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel and the characters indigenous to those series are the legal property of Mutant Enemy Productions, the WB, UPN, FOX, et al. They are used here strictly for non-commercial purposes.
That also applies to the characters of Watchers: The Virtual Series, who are the brainchildren of CN Winters and Susan Carr.
DISTRIBUTION: Ask and I shall approve.
SPOILERS: Episode takes place after Watchers Season1 ep "Lessons Learned," long before Rowena admits she’s in love with Willow. Also takes place after the episode of "Angel" in which Fred dies, I forget the title. I simply could not resist a crossover.
COMMENT: First, I should perhaps warn you this story gets a little bit dark.
Second, the story was accidentally deleted from the Forum shortly after I finished writing it. Like a damn fool, I forgot to back up the first three installments. So segments 1, 2A and 2B are reconstructed from my faulty memory.
SUMMARY: Warren Meers suddenly materializes in the Council lobby and shoots Rowena, kidnaps Willow and leaves behind evidence implicating Angel. Kennedy finds out that Angel was the vampire who killed her mom and goes amok in search of revenge. Meanwhile, Angel’s new girlfriend has been kidnapped and he finds evidence implicating Rupert Giles in her disappearance. Former allies start gearing up for war. Meanwhile, Willow finds herself in a cage with a pretty werewolf just before the first night of the lunar cycle. After that, things get rough for everybody . . .
FIC: WATCHERS: BALLOON PAYMENTS
"The sins ye do, two by two
ye pay for one by one."
Int., Watchers Council lobby, evening.
Watchers and Slayers gathered round the combatants as Willow and Rowena played chess. For some reason, Willow kept glancing nervously at Kennedy.
Xander whispered to Andrew: "$10 on Willow."
"Rowena’s better," Andrew said. "You’re on."
Kennedy also put her money on Willow.
Jeff said he was betting on Rowena.
Faith and Giles rolled their eyes.
Rowena’s queen was vulnerable.
"I’m not falling for that gambit again," Willow said.
Rowena never got a chance to reply.
A swirling vortex of white light suddenly appeared in the Council lobby. When the vortex vanished, it revealed what looked like a man. A man with a mysterious tattoo on his right hand, between his thumb and forefinger. But the Watchers and Slayers probably didn’t notice the tattoo—the pistol in his hand was more important.
Andrew and Xander blurted out the man’s name: "WARREN!"
Willow stood up, knocking over her chair. Her eyes were suddenly pitch-black marbles without whites. She smiled wolfishly and said: "You must enjoy dying, you waste."
Warren, if that’s who it was, aimed his pistol at Kennedy as Slayers and Watchers mostly dove for the floor. Xander tackled Kennedy and covered her with his body. Faith tackled Giles and covered him with her body.
Andrew Wells—yes, that Andrew Wells—lunged at Warren Meers.
"Warren" fired at Rowena. The bullet slammed into her, knocking her backward and spattering her blood all over the chessboard.
Andrew Wells—yes, Andrew—tacked Warren just as he took dead aim at Willow—who was stalking toward him slowly, as if savoring the opportunity to torture him to death one more time.
A swirling vortex of light enveloped Willow—and she was gone. In her place, a scrap of paper with a sketch on it.
Andrew sank his teeth into "Warren’s" hand, destroying the tattoo.
Suddenly, Warren collapsed into a pile of glistening wet mud. The gun fell to the ground and discharged, punching a hole in the ceiling. Someone screamed in pain. The voice sounded like Marsha’s.
Andrew spat mud out of his mouth.
It was Xander who retrieved the sketch. "Angel did this! That’s the same sketch he made when he murdered Jenny Calender!"
Kennedy glared at Giles. "You told me Buffy killed the thing that murdered my mother!"
"I’m out," Kennedy said. She ran upstairs and Giles chased after her.
Faith scooped up the bleeding Rowena and ran with her.
Ext., dead end ally, Los Angeles, 3 A.M.
He looked like he was 20 years old. Whoever the blond man was, he was terrified. Tears ran down his face and drool glistened on his chin. He stumbled, fell in a puddle of water with a dead rat floating in it, climbed to his feet and continued running.
Close up of two feet in dark shoes walking slowly, steadily through the ally, altering course only to circle the puddle with the dead rat.
Whoever the pursuer was, he liked his shoes and pants and coat pitch black.
Ext., the ally, the man still running.
He reached a dead end—a concrete wall some 10 or so feet high. He leapt up without visible effort, grabbed the top and started to pull himself up—
When Illyria pulled herself up over the other side of the wall and, smiling gleefully, punched him. The blow made a loud, ugly cracking sound that indicated a lethal concussion.
The blond man fell on his ass. His forehead was suddenly lumpy, his teeth suddenly sharp.
A hand grabbed him by his shirt and pulled him up until his feet dangled from the air.
Angel, his own face as lumpy as his prey’s, snarled: "Where? Are? They?"
Int., a warehouse.
A door opened. The vampire slid along the ground for about 100 feet before he slammed into the base of the far wall. Chained to that wall were two naked humans: Ira and Sheila Rosenberg. Each had multiple pairs of fang-scars on their necks. Each of the Rosenbergs had a fresh pair of bite marks.
Four figures followed the injured vampire into the warehouse. Illyria, Spike, Wesley and Angel. Fred and Gunn remained outside, crossbows in hand.
Illyria said: "In my time vampires did not hunt in this fashion."
"You predate the dinosaurs," Angel said. "This was old when I first rose. Vampires take humans hostage, feed on them without killing them. You know how, you can feed on a human for about two, three months without hunting. Keeps Slayers ignorant of your presence."
"They smell familiar," Spike said, nodding at the humans.
"Willow’s parents," Wesley said.
Spike snarled at the newbie vamp. "You are in bloody trouble, mate."
The other vampire whined. "He paid me!"
Angel knelt beside him. "Who?"
"The human! He was British. Wore glasses. Polished them all the damn time. And tweed! He wore tweed!"
"His name?" Angel asked.
"Giles! Rupert Giles!"
Spike said: "I don’t believe it."
"Did he say anything else?" Wesley asked. "Did he tell you where to reach him?"
"He said something about Cleveland."
Angel grabbed the vampire’s head and with one jerk literally tore his head off his body. The vampire burst into a cloud of dust.
Ext., another warehouse, the following afternoon.
Int. of warehouse.
Int. of a large cage in the middle of an otherwise empty warehouse.
Willow’s eyes fluttered open.
A pretty blonde woman said: "Hi."
"Where are we?"
"I don’t know."
Willow extended her hand. "I’m Willow."
The blonde shook Willow’s hand. "I’m Nina, Nina Ash. You’re Willow Rosenberg?"
"Um, no offense—"
Nina smiled. "Angel told me about you. I’m his girlfriend."
"I see Angel still has a weakness for gorgeous blondes."
Nina colored slightly.
"We should be out of here soon," Willow said. "You might want to take my hands. Teleportation spells can be kinda disorienting."
Nina didn’t hesitate to take Willow’s left hand. Willow waved her right.
The two women were enveloped by a soft, blue light. When the light dissipated . . . the two women were still inside the cage.
"That shoulda worked," Willow said.
"Willow, what time is it?"
"Don’t have my watch. Why?"
"There’s something about me you should know," Nina said. "I’m a werewolf—"
"And tonight’s the start of the lunar cycle," Willow said. "F—"
Pretend you hear the way cool Watchers theme and continue to Act One . . .
"The sins ye do, two by two
ye pay for one by one."
Arial view, Cleveland, Ohio, day.
Int., Watchers Infirmary, Waiting Area outside Operating Room Two.
They were gathered together, anxiously waiting word on all their friends: Faith, Andrew, Xander, Violet and Rona.
Faith stood by the door, staring at it. As if her force of will could heal what the doctors could not.
Robin came in. "I’ve got good news and bad."
Faith said: "Not in a real good mood for jokes, lover. What’s the Cliff Notes version?"
"Willow’s missing—we don’t know if she left or if someone took her."
Xander said: "Someone took her. That old sketch Angel left was his calling card."
Robin said: "Kennedy’s AWOL. Giles’ arm will have to be put in a cast—"
Vi said: "What happened?"
"Giles didn’t say, but I think Kennedy broke his arm."
Rona said: "Why would she do that?"
Robin sighed. "Kennedy’s biological mother was Jenny Calender."
Xander closed his eyes and cursed himself. "And I blabbed that Angel murdered her mom."
Vi and Rona both slapped the back of his head.
Faith said: "Marsha?"
"The bullet hit her in the rear end—she’ll be in considerable pain, but there was no bone damage so she’ll recover and return to normal Slaying life."
"Any idea what happened to Ro?"
"The doctors are treating her . . . that’s all I know," Robin said. "The bullet apparently passed all the way through, but that means a lot of tissue damage, blood loss—and shock."
Faith turned and looked back at the door to the OR. "C’mon, Ro. Red
Arial view, Los Angeles, day.
Ext., LA offices of Wolfram & Hart
Int., Angel’s office.
Angel hung up the phone. He looked at his friends. "Our pals in the LAPD anti-terror unit are guarding Willow’s parents."
Lorne said: "Is it a good idea to trust policemen who work with Wolfram & Hart, Angelcakes?"
Wesley said: "Until we know if the vampire’s allegations are true, we may have no other choice. We cannot rely upon guards who might cooperate with the Council until we know—"
Spike said: "I’m no fan of any Watcher, but Rupert Giles wouldn’t do that to Willow’s parents."
Angel said: "He’s got power now, Spike. Humans crave power the way we crave blood."
Gunn said: "The warehouse was leased by someone using the name Rupert Giles over a month ago, right about the time the Rosenbergs disappeared."
"Why didn’t Willow tell us her parents were missing?" Spike asked.
"Willow and Giles aren’t talking to us any more," Angel said.
Wesley added: "Willow and her parents do not have a good relationship. It is possible she did not even know they were missing."
Angel scowled. "You wouldn’t notice if your father didn’t contact you in a month?"
"I would enjoy the silence."
Angel said: "If Giles could do this to Willow’s parents . . . he’s become more dangerous than the Senior Partners. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was behind Nina’s kidnapping."
Wesley shook his head. "I find it difficult to believe Giles would be this stupid. Leasing a warehouse is not an act of reckless abandon. This is cold, calculated violence."
"That’s what scares me," said Angel.
Ext., warehouse, the following afternoon.
Sign on side door of warehouse: Doleful City Enterprises.
Int. of warehouse.
Int. of the large cage in the middle of an otherwise empty warehouse.
Willow was on all fours, panting, sweating, blood dripping from her nose.
"Why [pant] can’t I get [gasp] us out of [wheeze] here? It’s a simple spell! Hecate, take us to another part of the world!"
Nina said: "Take a break, Willow. You may need your strength later."
"We have to get out of here before . . . you know."
"Willow . . . if you have to . . . promise me you’ll protect yourself."
Before Willow could answer, a swirling vortex of light appeared outside the cage. When the light vanished, Warren Meers stood before them, a gun in his hand. In his hand was a gun. The same type of gun he used to shoot Buffy and murder Tara. The same type of gun he used to shoot Rowena.
Willow glared at him. "Go back to Hell."
"Hi, Willow. I’ve got a message from the other side," Warren said. "Tara and Rowena say ‘hi, wish we weren’t here’."
"I swear, Warren—"
Another swirling vortex of light appeared. When it vanished, Tara McClay stood between Willow and Warren. Tara wore the same clothes she wore the day she died.
Warren aimed his gun at her back. And fired.
Tara’s blood spattered Willow’s face.
Tara said: "Your shirt!"
Tara fell forward, dead. Again.
Warren smiled and rubbed out a tattoo on the back of his hand.
He collapsed into a pile of wet, glistening mud.
Tears ran silently down the face of Nina Ash.
Int., interview room, LAX security area.
Kennedy sat alone. She seemed perfectly calm.
A man in an airport security uniform entered. He had a tattoo on one hand, just like the one "Warren" had. Perhaps Kennedy didn’t notice it. She’d had other things on her mind when Andrew bit "Warren."
The man said: "I’m Marc Legion, Homeland Security."
Kennedy nodded. "Got my stuff?"
He nodded. "Your rental car is waiting out front. The crossbow, stake and high powered rifle you requested, with subsonic ammo and attached suppressor, are waiting in the trunk."
It was s.o.p. for local Homeland Security personnel to provide visiting Slayers with the weapons they needed. That way, Slayers could travel light—and quickly—without having to get advanced clearance for taking weapons with them aboard U.S. planes or trains.
Legion extended his hand. Kennedy shook it.
"Good hunting," Legion said. "I don’t like vampires."
"Most humans don’t," said Kennedy. "I better get going. I’ve got a date with an Angel."
She got up and left the small room.
In the hallway, Kennedy whispered to herself: "And I’m gonna send him to Hell."
Int., the security office.
A swirling vortex of light appeared next to Marc Legion. He did not seem at all startled.
D’Hoffryn said: "Does she have Council authorization?"
Legion shook his head. "No, sir. We got a call from Cleveland a few hours ago saying she was suspended from duty and that we should not supply her with any ordnance. Fortunately, I took the call. As far as Cleveland knows, she can’t get any support here and hasn’t arrived yet. They’ll probably expect her to take a train or a bus to LA."
"I wonder if she would like to be a demon?"
Ext., Council Headquarters, Cleveland, Ohio.
Int., Council Library.
Faith and Giles stood behind a man who sat at the table, bent over, his eye pressed to a loupe.
The man at the table resembled Basil Rathbone. He used the loupe to examine and compare two sketches. Both were pen and ink sketches of a sleeping (or deceased) woman. The sketches were identical.
"I can tell you they were both done by hand," said the examiner. "Which is quite impossible."
Giles leaned over his shoulder, frowning. His arm was in a cast and that cast
was in a sling. "I don’t understand."
"The two sketches are identical. Precisely identical. Every line in the first sketch is identical in every respect to every line in the second. And that is quite impossible. The human hand cannot duplicate its own movements so precisely. To the naked eye, one of these sketches must have been mechanically reproduced. But under a 100X loupe, the sketches are clearly the work of a human hand. The same human hand."
"In point of fact the hand that made the sketch on the left was not human, but that of a vampire."
"That would make no difference, Mr. Giles. There is only one way this second sketch could have been created this precisely—magic."
Faith said: "Why would Angel bother with magic to copy a picture of Jenny C. when he coulda just made a brand new sketch a Willow?"
"That is valid question," said Giles. "One for which I have no answer."
"Look, I know you’ve got a real bad history with Angel—"
"You have no idea," Giles said.
The other man interrupted them: "I have no desire to know Council business. My wife paid dearly enough for her curiosity about such things. If you will be good enough to pay me—"
"Robin Woods will handle that. Ask for him at the information desk."
The art expert nodded and got up and left.
Faith said: "G, this really ain’t Angel’s style. Or Angelus’. That creep’d wanna see the look on Ro’s face—and yours—he wouldn’t’ve done it from a distance."
"That may be—"
"An’ if I’m right, we got extra big trouble with Ken on the warpath. You know she’s headin’ to LA to dust him."
"If he’s guilty, he needs to be dusted," Giles said.
"Big if there, G, and I don’t think an AWOL Slayer is the best chick to be making decisions that could plunge the Council into a head-to-head war with the Senior Partners, especially not when we’re still not up to a head-on fight with the damn Old Guard."
"What do you suggest I do?"
"Send Robin to LA, have him give Angel the heads up."
"If Angel has chosen to be evil, even with a soul—"
"We’re sendin’ Robin into danger, I know," Faith said. "But we gotta do something an’ quick because if Angel and Kennedy fight—"
"Kennedy is quite likely to die," Giles said. "Or Angel."
"I don’t think she could take him," Faith said. "He almost beat me, when he was Angelus." She frowned. "Come to think of it, Angel was a lot tougher to beat than Angelus—and Angel was pullin’ some of his punches when we fought."
"You do realize that even if Angel is innocent and even if we can stop Kennedy from killing him, her time with the Council is over. I cannot let her go unpunished for breaking my arm."
"You sure about that, Giles?"
"How can you even ask the question, Faith?"
"Well, let’s see . . . Red tried to kill you . . . I tried to kill Angel . . . and Buffy . . . kidnapped Red . . . "
"All that was before the New Council formed. We have to have a chain of command, Faith. We have to have discipline."
"OK, I get that. I really do. But maybe we should table the discussion until we get Brat back. If we can get her back."
"You’ll forgive me, Faith, if I am more concerned with the possibility of fighting an all-out war with the Los Angeles office of Wolfram & Hart under the command of history’s most ruthless vampire and a former Watcher."
Ext., a warehouse, Los Angeles, daylight.
Int., interior of warehouse.
Int. of a cage in the warehouse.
Willow looked deathly pale. She knelt in a corner of the cage and stared at the corpse, or what looked like the corpse, of her Tara. "Like watching her die all over again."
Nina Ash, Angel’s werewolf girlfriend, said: "She was your first love, wasn’t she?"
"That was Xander," Willow said. "Tara was the one I was born for. Only time I didn’t feel like a pile of poop was when she smiled at me."
Nina, standing behind Willow, rolled her eyes. She clearly had no sympathy for Willow’s pity party. "That guy, the one who shot her?"
"Warren. He tried to kill my best friend but he was a lousy shot and he killed Tara instead."
"And you killed him."
Nina gagged. "Th-then he wasn’t made of mud, right?"
Willow shook her head. "No, he was human." Willow frowned. "With a soul." As if she had never realized before that Warren had had a soul.
"So that wasn’t really him," Nina said.
"Hey, I was raised on a Hellmouth. All nightmares are possible."
Nina whispered: "And I thought Puppet Angel was creepy." To Willow, out loud: "So that probably isn’t your Tara over there."
"Looks like her. Looks exactly like her the day she . . . "
"Willow, how would you make a copy of someone? Magically, I mean?"
"I don’t understand."
"After that mud-person shot the other Tara--"
Willow whined, as if she’d been shot herself.
"Warren rubbed the back of his hand and made himself turn into a pile of mud. I don’t know anything about magic but--"
"A golem," Willow said.
Willow turned to look at Nina. "It’s kinda like a robot, only made with mud and magic instead of high tech hardware and software. You fashion a human shape from the mud, perform the rituals and write the name of God in Hebrew on one hand. Whoever writes the Word on the golem’s hand controls it with his or her thoughts. The golem legends probably inspired the first science fiction books about robots."
Nina nodded and ran her hand lightly over Willow’s hair.
The Wiccan continued: "Long before the damned Nazis murdered Jews, there were pogroms. And in one ghetto, a Rabbi named Levi combined the mysteries of the Kabala with his own ideas to create the first golem, a warrior-robot to kill those gentiles who would murder Jews. The golem is kind of a low-tech terminator. The golem legend inspired an X-Files episode."
"I remember that one. A grief-stricken woman created a copy of her fiancé to go after his killers."
"Except a real golem wouldn’t look that much like the original person. That’d take some pretty sophisticated Magicks on top of the golem-creation ritual. And a pretty damned good sculptor too." Willow frowned.
"Who would know how to do that? Make a golem, I mean."
Willow shrugged. "Was a time when the study of the Kabala was restricted, but nowadays a lot of celebrity gentiles have become fascinated by the Kabala. And anyone into powerful Magicks or mysticism would know how to do the research. Truth is, if you can read you can steal from any religion and twist it to your own ends."
"Is there an advantage in using a golem that you wouldn’t get from using some other magic weapon?"
"They move faster than zombies, they won’t betray you like vampires, they’re impossible to kill unless you can physically erase part of the name of God from their hands--"
"Why else would they use a golem against you?"
Willow shrugged. "I’m Jewish. Maybe our kidnapper wants to use my heritage against me."
Nina nodded. "Okay, so why am I here? No offense, Willow, but I don’t see any connection between us."
"Your boyfriend and I are friends. Maybe that’s enough in the kidnapper’s mind to justify making you a target, too."
"Whoever did this must really hate you," Nina said.
"Kinda figured that, Nina."
Of course, at that moment a vortex of swirling white light appeared. When the light vanished, another Warren and another Tara stood there.
Warren said: "Time to choose, Willow." He placed his gun on the floor and kicked it over to the cage. "The bullets are silver. You can shoot Angel’s bitch—"
Warren ignored Nina. "Or you can watch me kill Tara over and over and over again for the rest of your life."
Nina knelt behind Willow, touched her shoulder. "If the sun sets before we can escape, I want you to know it’s okay to shoot me."
Willow picked up the gun. Willow thumbed back the hammer of the pistol.
And put the gun to her own head.
Nina reached for the gun.
Willow squeezed the trigger.
The gun disappeared from Willow’s hand and reappeared in "Warren’s" hand.
He shot Tara again. And she died as exactly as she had died the two previous times. "Your shirt." And Tara’s blood spattered Willow’s face again.
Nina said: "God damn you."
Then Warren shot himself in the chest. But nothing happened to him. Oh, yes, there was a noticeable hole in his shirt and in his chest. But there was no bleeding, no blood spatter and no visible sign he felt any pain. He smiled at Willow. "You can’t hurt me anymore, Willow, but I can torture you forever."
And then Warren rubbed the back of his hand again and became yet another pile of mud.
Willow banged her head against the cage bars. She slammed her forehead into the bars a second time, this time drawing a little blood.
Nina grabbed her and pulled her away. Willow screamed and tried to pull free. But Nina would not let her go. "I WON’T LET YOU HURT YOURSELF, WILLOW!"
The two women continued fighting as the light outside began to fade.
At sunset, Nina Ash would become a werewolf and Willow would have very hard choices to make.
Ext., Watcher’s Council Headquarters, Daylight
Int., Watcher’s Library
Faith, Xander, Andrew and Giles were gathered together around the table. Everyone stood.
Faith said: "Robin landed at LAX a few minutes ago."
Xander said: "I reached Riley Finn and got some good news: Buffy, Dawn and Oz are safe. All three of them were attacked by a whole series of vamps, almost every day for a couple weeks. Buffy called Riley-- "
"Why on Earth didn’t she call us?" Giles asked.
"I am large with the not knowing," Xander said. "Thing is, Riley’s anti-Demon Brigade got wind of the attacks and took all three of them into protective custody. Riley and his wife will make sure they’re all safe."
Andrew said: "I called our contact in the FBI. He called his contact in the California Attorney General’s office. He called—"
"Please get to the bloody point, Andrew."
"The Los Angeles Department of Animal Control has put out a special Capture-Only order on a werewolf named Nina Ash."
Faith shrugged. "So what?"
Giles said: "Most municipalities have a policy of killing werewolves."
"Not werewolves protected by Wolfram & Hart," Andrew said. "When she’s human, she’s dating a certain Vampyra. The unofficial word is that Angel has terrorized half the demon population of Los Angeles looking for her."
"At least he’s over Buffy," Xander said.
"His first love?" Faith said. "Don’t kid yourself. She owns a piece of him for eternity."
"Do they have any leads?" Giles asked as if the other two had not spoken.
Andrew shrugged. "Our sources in LA dried up around the time you had your last teleconference with the vampyra."
Giles sighed. "Angel wanted me to send Willow to Los Angeles. I refused to tell him where she was and hung up on him."
Xander said: "So maybe he did it."
Faith shook her head. "I still don’t think so. None of this is his style. Especially not if he’s desperately seeking his wolfgirl. He wouldn’t waste time with us."
Giles said: "He might if he thought we were responsible. If your theory is correct, Faith, and someone wants Angel and the Council to fight one another, it is likely they have manufactured evidence implicating us in the disappearance of Ms. Ash."
Xander said: "Then why the hell isn’t he here, tearing up Cleveland?"
Becca entered the room. She looked grief-stricken.
"What is it, Becca?" Giles asked.
"Willow’s parents are in the hospital. They’re being protected by the LAPD Counter-Terrorist Unit and the LAPD does not give away information to civilians."
Faith said: "That proves Angel didn’t do it."
Giles said: "It only proves Angelus is not responsible." He looked at Becca. "Angelus would have made sure Willow found their lifeless remains and waited for her to begin weeping before he feasted upon her. He left Jenny in my bed, surrounded by candles and roses."
Xander looked at Faith. "And you wonder why I hate the guy?"
"Angelus ain’t the same guy who saved your life, Xan."
Becca scowled. "Angel saved Xander from another vampire?"
Faith blushed, a fact that startled everyone else present. It was one of the few times, perhaps the only time, the dark Slayer had ever blushed. "Angel saved Xander from me."
Andrew coughed. "Giles? I really don’t like Angel. He’s not a good soul like Spike—"
Xander gagged, loudly. Faith punched his arm.
"—but I think Faith’s right. Angel has power, resources, experience and intelligence. He could mount a coordinated, all-out attack on all of us simultaneously, a demonic Tet-like attack. Whoever our enemy is, he or she probably doesn’t have the resources or the skills to attack us all at once. For all the intelligence of our enemy, he or she is . . . lame. Much more like Gollum than the Dark Lord. Like when Warren and Jonathan and I all tried to take over Sunnydale."
Andrew sat down. "And if Faith’s right, I’m partly responsible for this whole tragedy."
Faith slapped the back of his head. "Bull. You aren’t the first human being who followed a creep. Hell, no one would ever get elected if good people didn’t follow jerks."
Giles sighed. "Does anyone have a suggestion?"
"Call that Wicca chick in England," Faith said. "Maybe her coven can use the mojo to locate Red or maybe they can send a telepathic message to Angel—"
"Vampire-human telepathy is impossible," Giles said.
Xander shook his head. "You’re wrong, Giles. Willow used telepathy with Spike the whole summer Buffy was in her grave."
Giles looked at Xander with astonishment and wonder. "I should have known Willow would achieve yet another supernatural first."
Faith said: "If Red can do it all by herself, I’ll bet a whole coven could pull it off if they combine their powers."
Xander said: "I hate to ask, but shouldn’t Willow have sent us a telepathic message?"
Faith said: "She may be preoccupied with staying alive."
Giles nodded. "Agreed. In the meantime, Xander, would you be good enough to help me look through Dracula’s diaries? I believe I may be able to make Angel a peace offering he can’t refuse."
And Xander Harris shocked everyone with one word.
Ext., LAX, daylight.
A small cubicle.
The "man" who called himself Marc Legion led Robin Woods through the door.
Robin stopped dead in his tracks. "Who the hell are you?"
Standing on the opposite side of the room was a tall demon with round horns.
"A pleasant afternoon to you, too, Mr. Woods. I am D’Hoffryn, Director of Vengeance for Hell. I would like to offer you a job."
Robin turned to find Legion pointing a gun at his face.
"Please forgive the creature’s crude technique," the demon said. "We cannot allow you to leave until either Ms. Kennedy has killed Angel or Angel has killed Kennedy. Now, about that job offer—"
END ACT ONE
"The sins ye do, two by two
ye pay for one by one."
Ext., Los Angeles Skyline, evening
The setting sun.
Nina was on her back, her arms and legs wrapped around a thrashing and shrieking Willow, when her shouting changed to howling and her words changed to growls.
Willow, apparently oblivious, continued shrieking.
Then Nina’s right hand tore Willow’s right sleeve.
Willow suddenly ceased screaming. Her eyes went wide and she pulled away from Nina just as the blonde woman rolled onto her belly and then curled into a ball.
Willow looked at her torn sleeve and saw that her skin was unblemished.
The witch sighed. "No scratches! That’s a relief."
She heard the sound of tearing cloth.
Nina’s clothes were immediately shredded by the violate mutation of her body. Her face stretched to show a long, elegant snout.
Willow said: "OK, not so much a relief."
"Sure you don’t wanna shoot her?" Warren asked.
Willow glared at the thing that looked like Warren. He held up the gun again. "Silver bullets. One shot, you’re safe."
"I won’t kill my friend," Willow said.
"It would be self-defense, Willow," Warren said. "Unlike my murder. Tell me, was that your Big Oh, flaying me?"
Willow waved her hand. Nina’s ruined clothes disappeared from her body and reappeared undamaged and neatly folded in a corner of the cage. She smiled – and flung a lightening bolt at Warren.
Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to bother him much. His shirt was scorched, badly, and his chest smoldered somewhat. But that was the only visible effect. "Sorry, Willow, but your magic isn’t very strong beyond the bars of the cage. But fixing her clothes was a nice touch. I’m sure she’ll appreciate your kindness . . . after she stops weeping over what’s left of you when she becomes human again."
Willow waved her hand again. If she accomplished anything by the gesture, it was not apparent to the naked eye.
Then Werewolf Nina looked at Willow, drooled and growled.
The Werewolf slammed into an invisible barrier, yelped and dropped to the floor with a nasty thud. Willow flinched at the sound. "Sorry, Nina."
The Werewolf lunged again and again and again.
"Lower the barrier, Willow," Warren said.
She looked at him and said, quite softly, "Bored now."
Warren aimed the pistol at Nina. "I’ll kill her."
Willow blew him a kiss and waved her hand again.
Warren fired six shots at the Werewolf.
All six bullets passed through the bars of the cage, then slowed down enough in their flight that they were easily seen by the naked eye, then stopped, then turned, then flew right back at Warren.
They hit him and for a moment it looked like he might loose his balance, but that was the only visible effect the bullets had on him. "Bullets can’t hurt me, Willow! I’m like superman!"
Willow said: "There are only so many silver bullets in the world and I can keep this up as long as you can."
"You sure of that, Willow? I’m not gonna bring either of you any food or water until one of you dies."
If that threat bothered Willow, she gave no sign. Perhaps it was enough, for now, that she did not have to kill her new friend or kill herself to frustrate the golem of Warren Meers.
"How long can you protect yourself from Nina without food or water or sleep to keep up your strength?"
Willow blinked at him.
"I’ll bet you can’t keep up that force field if you go to sleep."
Willow still did not respond.
A new swirling vortex of light appeared and when it was gone, Tara was standing before her.
Willow sighed. "You’re no more real than he is," Willow said.
Warren asked: "Then you won’t mind watching her die again."
Willow closed her eyes and turned her back.
Something that sounded like Tara’s voice screamed.
Tears ran down Willow’s face and she flinched with each agonized shriek, but Willow did not look at whatever "Warren" was doing to "Tara."
She whispered one word. "Stalemate."
The screaming continued behind her and Willow, trembling, sank to her knees and wept.
A small cubicle.
The golem who called himself Legion stood at the door with a 9 mm pistol in his hand. Robin and D’Hoffryn sat on opposite sides of a table. In one corner of the ceiling above them, on D’Hoffryn’s side of the room, a security camera surveiled and recorded the meeting.
If anyone in Homeland Security or the LAX Airport police knew that a demon was interviewing one of their prisoners, there was certainly no overt indication that this was a cause for alarm.
Robin Woods and D’Hoffryn sat opposite one another. The "man" who called himself Marc Legion stood behind Robin with a gun in his hand. Neither Robin nor the demon paid any attention to the third party.
"What makes you think I want to be some sort of demon?"
"A vengeance demon," D’Hoffryn said. "Or justice demon, if you prefer."
"I’m a teacher, not a terrorist."
D’Hoffryn looked genuinely hurt by the comparison. "I’ll have you know the Bush administration asked for my advice when the Twin Towers fell."
Robin glanced up at the security camera. "That explains a lot, actually."
D’Hoffryn nodded and said in a very sad tone of voice: "I didn’t say the administration was very good at following advice."
"That also explains a lot," Robin said. "But I still don’t want to work for you."
"Why ever not?"
"I don’t betray my friends."
"You betrayed Ms. Summers when you attempted to kill Spike. And I needn’t remind you that had you succeeded, the First Evil would rule the world and you humans would have gone the way of the dinosaurs."
Now it was Robin who looked hurt, and perhaps also nauseated. "Still not interested."
D’Hoffryn shrugged and shoved a business card across the table. "If you ever change your mind—"
"What have you got against Kennedy?"
"Nothing. I don’t know her."
"Ah, now Ms. Rosenberg is someone quite special. No one, least of all Ms. Rosenberg herself, has ever quite seen her true worth or full potential."
"But your client wants to kill her."
"That was the original idea, but I persuaded my client to change their mind."
Robin frowned. "Their mind? Their is plural, client is singular."
D’Hoffryn looked startled, although it was impossible to guess just why from his facial expression alone. "English is not my first language," the demon said. "In any event, I convinced the other party that Ms. Rosenberg’s death would not be satisfactory. I like her, you see, and I think she would make a fine demon if she chose to become evil again."
The demon stood up. "I will leave you here in Mr. Legion’s fine clay hands. I was hired only to consult in this matter and as I have not been paid to destroy you I see no need to do so at this time."
Legion said: "If my masters want him dead—"
"I understand your commitment to your employers," D’Hoffryn said. "More importantly, I respect it."
With that, the demon vanished in a wisp of steam.
Robin turned toward Legion.
"Slowly or I’ll kill you."
"No hurry," Robin said. "I’m a student as well as a teacher."
Legion frowned. "What’s that mean?"
The educator did not speak. He simply looked Legion over from head to toe. "What are you, anyway?"
"A dead man," Legion answered. "But it’s only temporary."
Robin nodded and continued looking at Legion. "What’s that?" He pointed at the letters on Legion’s gun hand, etched on the flesh between his thumb and forefinger.
Legion thumbed back the hammer of his pistol.
Robin’s hand lashed out and grabbed the barrel of the gun. Legion fired and the bullet slammed into Robin’s chest, but Robin managed to grip Legion’s gun hand with both his own and he bit Legion’s hand, sinking his teeth into the Hebrew letters.
Legion collapsed into a pile of mud and Robin collapsed, bleeding and gasping, onto the floor.
The security camera overhead.
From somewhere off screen came the sounds of men shouting and pounding on the door.
Ext., Los Angeles skyline, night
Ext, Wolfram & Hart
Building opposite Wolfram & Hart
The rifle had a long cylinder mounted on the barrel. It looked like a Hollywood version of a silencer.
Kennedy raised the assembled bolt-action .300 Magnum rifle to her shoulder and placed her right eye against the scope mounted on top. Through the scope she could see Angel and Spike talking. From their gestures and facial expressions, they seemed to be arguing.
Kennedy placed the crosshairs on the vampire and whispered: "Pow!"
A male voice said: "I take it the Watchers do not provide firearms training to Slayers."
Kennedy spun around and aimed her rifle at a tall, horned demon. She had never met him and did not know his name.
He smiled and bowed from the waist. "D’Hoffryn, at your service, Kennedy."
"Willow told me about you. Gimme one reason why I shouldn’t shoot you."
"One: I would not die. Two: The silencer will fail and the shot will alert your enemies to both your presence and your intentions. Three: I have some friendly advice."
"Sure, demons help Slayers all the damn time."
"Certainly more often than I would like," D’Hoffryn said. "But I really do want to advise you: Don’t ever place your eye against the riflescope. If you pulled the trigger, the recoil would drive it into your eye."
"Mr. Legion said—"
"The same Mr. Legion who suddenly became unavailable to assist you in leading Angel into a death trap?"
"The same gentleman who provided you with that weapon and the silencer attached to it?"
"A true silencer will only work if the ammunition is sub-sonic."
"The bullet cannot travel faster than the speed of sound if the sound is to be suppressed. That weapon is a .300 Magnum rifle. The bullet is too fast. The silencer would fail."
"Then why— "
"Mr. Legion’s employer wants revenge against everyone who has ever loved Willow Rosenberg. They do not merely want you to kill Angel, they want you to be killed in the process of killing him or shortly thereafter."
"And your telling me this ’cause . . . ?"
"As I am growing very weary of telling everyone, I really do like Willow Rosenberg."
Kennedy snorted. "Sure."
"I believe she could alter the balance of power between good and evil," D’Hoffryn said. "As she has indeed already altered that balance."
"For a demon, you don’t seem too upset about what she did."
"I saw how close she came to destroying the world," D’Hoffryn said. "I rather expected that when she tried to atone for her sins she would overcompensate."
"Legion’s really a demon?"
"A neo-golem, actually."
"A golem created to resemble an actual person, fused with the soul of the original."
"What the hell is a golem?"
"You do not recognize the term?"
"You know nothing of Judaism?"
D’Hoffryn whispered: "No wonder you and Rosenberg parted ways."
"What was that?"
"Oh! Nothing! Nothing at all!"
"What do you want, D’Hoffryn?"
"Revenge, of course. My client did not pay the contract in full."
"So kill your client."
"I am afraid it does not work quite that way for vengeance demons. There is a saying in the Kalderash clan: ‘Vengeance is a living thing.’ It is a profound truth. We who call ourselves vengeance demons are merely midwives to the bastard children of humanity: Vendettas. Even if I wished, I could not prevent or stop these events. And I frankly have no such wish. I like Ms. Rosenberg enough to hope she lives. I do not like her enough to protect her from her suffering."
Kennedy stepped toward the demon. "You trying to get killed, mister?"
"I am simply passing along some information. I wanted you to kill Angel, or vice versa, in the hope of sparking a length vendetta between the Council and Wolfram & Hart."
"By now, Angel is in possession of information that could lead to a peace treaty. If that happens, I am afraid the Council will not allow you to kill Angel."
"They can’t stop me."
"If they cannot do that, they will either imprison you or kill you."
"Slayers don’t kill humans."
"But Watchers do." D’Hoffryn waved his hand and the night sky appeared to tear. Within the tear, there appeared the shimmering image of men with semi-automatic weapons shooting up a Los Angeles street. A close up appeared in the rent in the sky: The crest of the Old Council on a man’s shoulder.
D’Hoffryn waved his hand again and the sky returned to normal. "They were after Faith. She had betrayed and, more importantly, humiliated the Council. That earned her the death penalty. They will punish you, Kennedy, for carrying out your own vendetta."
"He murdered my mother and that SLUT and her damned WATCHER let him get away with it."
D’Hoffryn simply shrugged and vanished.
"Damnit! Now what the hell do I do?"
She frowned. "What did he mean, he didn’t like Willow enough to prevent her suffering?"
The rogue Slayer didn’t ponder the question long. She turned her eyes back to the Wolfram & Hart building and sighed. "I won’t let you get away with killing my mother, Angel. There’s got to be a way to take you out."
Kennedy placed the rifle at her feet and turned away from it. She appeared to believe what the Head Vengeance demon had told her about the weapon. If she believed or heeded anything else he said, she gave no outward sign.
Int., a demon strip club
Bar inside the club.
A Toth demon tended the bar. A human-looking fellow in a GQ-quality suit shook his head. "I understand how you feel, sir, but the law is the law. You cannot serve alcohol and allow any nudity. Now, I could just shut you down— "
"Wolfram & Hart— "
"The new CEO is not a fan of drunken brawls— "
"Well, the ensouled creep’s got a point, but I don’t see why I should be punished— "
"Pull the booze or pull the girls or put the girls in bikinis or I will come back tomorrow with a warrant and the cops."
Before the Toth demon could answer, a Chaos demon’s head flew over the bar and smashed the glassware behind the bartender.
Everyone turned to face the source of the disturbance.
A small, lovely, human female. Kennedy.
Three male, one a vampire, demons rushed the girl.
Kennedy kicked the vampire in the chest. He flew back; fell on a table that collapsed under the impact. Kennedy literally tore the head off the second demon. His body dropped to the ground. His head screamed in pain. Kennedy used the screaming head to crack the third demon’s skull. The third demon fell, bleeding.
The vampire rushed her again, but Kennedy just staked him. The third demon staggered to his feet. Kennedy strode to him and broke his neck.
"Hi, everyone! I’m a Slayer."
The Toth bartender said: "You do know you’re outnumber, Slayer."
Kennedy yelled out: "Wrong! I’m not THE Slayer, I’m A Slayer. One of many. There’s thousands of us now!"
The Toth shook his head: "Into each generation there is a Chose ONE. Just ONE."
"Rules got changed, buddy. Big time magic. There’s a whole freaking army of us now."
"Not for Wolfram & Hart! That dead creep who says he’s got a soul? He got somebody to let loose with a spell and, BOOM! Slayer Army!"
The bartender/demon said: "Why should we believe you?"
"I AIN’T HAPPY ABOUT BEING DRAFTED! I DON’T WANT TO FIGHT EVIL! I DON’T GIVE A RAT’S RUMP ABOUT HUMANITY!"
The demon said: "I don’t get it."
The (apparent) human at the bar said: "I get it. She wants out of the war and she thinks the demon community will let her live if she sells out."
Kennedy laughed and yelled: "CLOSE, BUT NO CIGAR. I WANT OUT! I WANNA BE A NORMAL GIRL AGAIN. BUT EVEN A SLAYER CAN’T FIGHT WOLFRAM & HART! NOT ALONE! BUT A WHOLE ARMY OF DEMONS— "
The Toth said: "Why should we help you?"
"ENOUGH OF YOU RAID WOLFRAM & HART, YOU CAN FORCE HIM TO RESTORE THE STATUS QUO AND YOU ONLY GOT ONE SLAYER TO WORRY ABOUT!"
The demons at the bar looked at each other. No one spoke.
The Toth asked the (probable) human: "Think it’s true?"
The man shrugged. "No way to tell. Then again, that Angel guy’s been killing the blood trade. Even if she’s lying, maybe the idea’s a good one. Enough of us storm the palace, this town could go back to business as usual."
The Toth said, loudly, "The girl’s my guest. Let her siddown and talk a bit. Maybe we can reach an agreement. What’ll you have, miss, um— "
"Jenny. Jenny Calendar. Coke if you got it, Pepsi if not."
"A Cola for the lovely Slayer."
Kennedy sauntered over to the bar and sat down as the Toth demon poured her a cola on ice.
Int., same club.
Booth in rear of club.
Partially concealed by dim lighting, partially concealed by a lap dancer, sat D’Hoffryn himself. He smiled and nodded and said, quite softly, "Why do you suppose Ms. Rosenberg broke up with such a delightfully vindictive and manipulative young woman?"
Ext., Wolfram & Hart, night
Int., Wolfram & Hart
Scores of demons, maybe a couple hundred, poured through the front doors and into the lobby of the law firm. Most carried weapons — crossbows, axes, scythes, swords, etc. Human and demon employees of the evil law firm died quickly. Even the vampire invaders dispatched them with blunt force or sharp blades or by manually strangling them or breaking their necks.
Ext., Watchers Headquarters, night.
Clock on wall. The time: 11:35
And the defenders of humanity were gathered together around a black walnut table, yelling so loudly at one another that nothing specific could be heard above the din.
The argument appeared to be dominated by Xander and Giles, who were very nearly nose-to-nose and livid.
Then Marsha walked into the room on crutches and everyone fell silent. Behind her stood a man who might have walked out of a Lord of the Rings convention.
Jeff whispered to Andrew: "Friend of yours?"
Andrew said: "What makes you think I know him?"
Marsha said: "Hi, everybody."
Faith said: "The doc say you could get out of bed?"
"A bullet in the butt is a pain, but it isn’t like a serious injury." She tilted her head to indicate the man behind her. "He says he has an important message to deliver."
The man stepped forward and said: "I am Drogyn. Is there one among you called Faith?"
The brunette Slayer stood. "Me."
Drogyn bowed. "I regret that I bring you unfortunate news. Your beloved is injured and under the care of healers in Los Angeles."
"Who sent you?"
Xander snorted. "This lying creep works for Wolfram & Hart."
Giles said: "They would never hire him. He is incapable of lying. Literally incapable. I am told he will kill to keep a vow of secrecy but is unable to tell a lie to keep that same vow."
Drogyn said: "That is correct. But I would kill only if honor compelled me to preserve that secret at so high a price as a human life."
"A friend of yours, Giles?" Xander asked.
"No, but I have heard of him. He would not say anything that he does not believe to be the truth. Which is not precisely the same thing as the truth."
Xander said: "You work for Angel, but you have honor?"
Drogyn said: "I am not his servant, but I do count Angel a brother."
Xander groaned. "This day just keeps getting better."
Faith said: "What happened to Robin?"
Drogyn said: "He was shot with a weapon unfamiliar to me." The ancient warrior held up a videocassette. "I am told this instrument has captured the dreadful moment for you to witness. Angel asked me to deliver it to you, along with a promise that he believes you innocent of involvement in the attack on the Rosenbergs."
The Slayers and Watchers all glanced at one another. Giles took off his glasses. "What attack?"
Drogyn said: "The Rosenbergs, husband and wife, were set upon by vampires. Ira Rosenberg was apparently held for one month in a prison held under a deed of title which bears your name, Rupert Giles."
Xander said: "A-Are W-Willow’s folks OK?"
Drogyn said: "If you mean the Rosenbergs—"
"They’re her parents," Xander said.
"So I am told. I saw them in a place of healing. They have the look of those who have suffered much at the teeth of vampires. I am told, told mind, that Ira Rosenberg was held for over a month by one before Angel liberated him."
"We’ve only got Angel’s word for that," Xander said.
"Yes, and Angel extracted from me a promise to take his life with my own hands should I learn he has betrayed any who have ever called him friend. Prove his treachery to my satisfaction and we will battle him together. In such matters, my word is as important to me as the truth."
Xander said: "Could Angel beat you in a fight?"
Drogyn said: "That would be very difficult, even for him, but it is within the realm of the possible. I am long lived, but I am not immortal and can be killed if severely weakened. I take it you fear Angel extracted my promise in the belief my word would cost him little?"
"Um, if you just said what I think you said, then, um, yeah."
To Xander, Giles said: "Drogyn was part of the army that first defeated The Judge. Angel would not make Drogyn promise to kill him unless he was quite sure Drogyn would never feel compelled to keep his word."
To Drogyn, Giles said: "This young man helped the Slayer, I mean a Slayer, bring down The Judge yet again."
"How many of your comrades fell in that great battle, young man?"
Xander said: "None. Not once we got there. I don’t know how many people died before we got there. Maybe 20, 30?"
Drogyn said: "I would hesitate to go into battle against you and your fellows if what you say is true."
Faith said: "Excuse me, I know this honor and battle stuff is important, but WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO MY MAN?"
Drogyn said: "He was held by one pretending to be a jailer of lawbreakers. I believe his service is called Homeland Security? Your man confronted the imposter and was injured by something called a bullet. The healer I spoke to said it would be many hours before a realistic prediction could be made of how long his healing would take, if he can be healed at all."
"The cops arrest the creep who shot him?"
"His assailant turned to mud when your beloved bit his hand."
Andrew said: "Just like the thing that shot Rowena."
To Giles, Drogyn said: "The one who calls himself Wyndam-Pryce said it might be some new race of golem."
Giles said: "No, that is impossible. A golem just barely resembles a human shape. The creature we saw looked precisely like a man who died a few years ago."
Drogyn said: "Are you certain he is dead?"
Xander said: "I saw . . . someone send the murderer to hell." Xander frowned. "I’ve been hanging with guys like you way too long."
To Giles, Drogyn said: "Would the creature you call a golem posses a soul?"
Giles shook his head. "No, it is not a true life form. Only a living body or mystical container can hold a soul."
"Illyria said— "
Giles snapped: "You allowed THAT BEAST to escape the well?"
"No, Rupert Giles, I did not. But if you wish to see one who has helped her to remain at large, look at your own reflection."
"I don’t understand."
"Is not the Willow this young man mentioned a great sorceress?"
"That might be a slight exaggeration," Giles said.
But in perfect unison, Faith and Xander said: "Hell, yes!"
Drogyn said: "You refused to dispatch Willow to Angel’s side when he called for her aid in preventing both Illyria’s rise and the death of his friend Winifred."
Giles sat down. "My Lord. Willow might have been able to put Illyria back in the Deeper Well without collateral damage."
Drogyn said: "Pondering what might have been is a waste of time you cannot afford. If what Illyria told me is true, then someone has found a means to place the souls of dead men in bodies fashioned from the Earth and such beings are apparently quite difficult to kill unless one gets close enough to be injured or killed in the process."
Giles said: "But that violates one of the most fundamental of all laws, a law as old and fixed as Free Will. Only a living body may house a soul."
Xander said: "That rule pretty much went out the window when the Gypsies cursed Angel."
Drogyn said: "Look at the tape. Call upon your most skilled scholars and seers. I believe you will find answers to your questions."
The warrior handed the video to Faith. "I promised Angel that, if you wish, I would bring you to your beloved’s bedside. Angel has arranged private transport."
Faith looked at Giles.
"Give me the tape, Faith. But be careful. Drogyn is incapable of lying, but Angel— "
"I remember when he and Buffy fooled me pretty damn good, G. I know better than you what Angel’s capable of, him and Angelus both."
She walked over to him and handed him the videotape.
To Drogyn, Giles said: "I would like you to take a message to Angel. I have Dracula’s diaries. In them is a spell that will allow a vampire to rise again even after he has been staked. If he wants the spell, I will give it to you."
Xander shook his head in disgust. "I know nobody’s listening to me, but I still think this is a hugely bad idea."
Faith said: "Angel may need it. A Slayer is hunting him."
Giles said: "I think we can trust the guardian of the Deeper Well. More importantly, we have to trust him."
END ACT TWO
"The sins ye do, two by two
ye pay for one by one."
Los Angeles skyline, just before sunrise.
Ext., Wolfram & Hart
Part of the vampire horde was still outside when the sunrise caught and incinerated them. The demons screamed in agony as flames consumed them.
Int, Wolfram & Hart lobby.
Dead bodies piled four corpses deep held all the elevator doors open, rendering them useless to either the invaders in the lobby or any potential rescuers on the floors above.
Then again, the fact that the only creatures fighting against the horde of demons were Angel and his allies suggested that no one on the upper floors really cared about the outcome.
Illyria grinned as the stiletto knives she held in each hand neatly decapitated demon after demon. She cut through them the way a shark’s fin might cut through water. For this, she appeared to have been born.
Angel and Spike fought alongside Illyria. Angel didn’t fight quite so quickly, and had none of her enthusiasm, but he punched and kicked and staked and killed and advanced. Here and there he paused to grab a head and break a neck or paused to drive his right heal into a kneecap. As if he wanted a few of his attackers left alive.
Spike simply killed everything in sight. Chaos demons, apparently, die more quickly if you break one of their antlers than if you decapitate them.
Illyria said: "I thought your race weak and cowardly, vampire! They have courage!"
Angel said, "Good thing they don’t have brains— " as he shattered a Chaos demon’s kneecap "—or we’d be in trouble!"
Lorne wasn’t doing so well. He staked one vamp, but was bitten by a second and third. Harmony saved him, staking the other two, then pulled him back up the staircase.
Wesely (barely) held the staircase in the center of the lobby. His flame-thrower looked a bit over the top but, even with the firepower (no pun intended), he was nearly overwhelmed as 50 and 60 vampires at a time rushed him.
The vampires fell back and started to circle the ex-Watcher.
Spike yelled: "How come the sprinkler system isn’t working?"
"Why?" Spike grabbed a 4-foot-11 vampire by his neck and snapped it like a twig.
Illyria muttered something about poor sportsmanship as she halved a K’jd’lk demon. The K’jd’lk was only four inches taller than Spike’s victim and probably weighed only half as much as the late Fred Burkle.
Wesley yelled to Spike: "I found out this morning that the sprinkler system was filled with Holy Water — something Eve apparently arranged shortly before she left the firm!"
Angel yelled: "Holy Water would help right now!"
Spike yelled: "ON IT! WHERE?"
Wesley yelled: "BASEMENT!"
Angel yelled: "SAVE THE P-O-Ws! I WANT INTEL!"
Spike fought his way to a fire exit and disappeared.
Ext., Watcher’s Council Headquarters
Andrew Wells picked up the phone. "Hello? . . . Mr. Lorne, the Watcher’s Council doesn’t rescue vamp — What? Really? Um, I’ll have to get back to you on that. What’s your phone number, sir? . . . I don’t use that kind of language when I talk to you guys."
Andrew hung up, then ran toward the library. "Giles, Giles! Angel needs our help!"
Ext., private jet somewhere over the Midwest.
A man in a uniform joined Faith and Drogyn. "Excuse me, Faith?"
The Slayer nodded.
"There’s a call for you from a gentleman named Lorne?"
Faith picked up the in flight phone. "What’s up?"
She nodded twice, then said: "Be there. Hang in." To the co-pilot: "Have a helicopter waiting for us at LAX. We’re goin’ straight to Wolfram & Hart after we land."
"My orders, miss— "
"Your orders just got changed, pal. W and H is under attack."
Nina Ash put on her clothes as Willow quivered and sobbed in another corner of the cage. Outside the cage, another weeping woman could be heard.
From somewhere behind Nina, Warren said: "C’mon, honey, gimme your hand."
The other woman said: "I w-w-wanna g-g-g-go— "
Warren sneered: "Buh-buh-back, I know! Geez, you ever see a doctor about that speech defect?"
Willow yelled: "They’re not real!"
Nina turned to look at the "man" and "woman."
Tara, if that’s who it was, still wore the shirt in which she had been murdered. Her face was battered. Warren’s hands showed no sign of injury.
Warren said: "We can always bring Joyce back for me to play with if you don’t— "
Tara wailed "NOOOOOOOOO!" and gave Warren her right hand.
He rubbed his thumb over the back of her hand and Tara turned into a pile of mud.
Warren looked at his watch. "Just in time." He rubbed the back of his own right hand and turned into another pile of mud.
Nina crossed the cage to where Willow knelt and dropped down beside the weeping redhead. The blonde woman held the redhead close and let Willow weep on her shoulders.
"We’re going to beat them, Willow."
Ext., Watcher’s Headquarters, day.
Int., Watcher’s Infirmary.
Rowena lay on her bed. Sunlight touched her face. She opened her eyes. "What happened to me?"
Xander sat on the edge of her bed. "You were shot by a dead man."
"Did I hear you correctly?"
"You’d think a Watcher living on a Hellmouth couldn’t be surprised anymore, but— "
"It gets better. I think Angel was behind this, but Giles thinks he’s innocent."
"Angel or Angelus?"
"I don’t make distinctions. He’s a demon, he needs killing."
"Remind me not to leave you alone with Brell."
Xander smiled: "You don’t have a crush on him, do you?"
Ro smiled mischievously. "I prefer my romantic partners to be a bit more fair skinned than Brell."
Xander frowned, as if the answer bothered him. "What do you know about golems?"
"Very little, I’m afraid. Why?"
"Working theory is you were shot by a new design of an old monster."
"He looked human to me."
Xander nodded. "Warren."
"Warren Meers? Tara McClay’s murderer?"
Xander nodded again.
Ro tried to sit up.
"Stay there, Ro. We don’t want you to start bleeding again."
"True enough." She frowned. "I think Giles might be right about the vampire. He’s been the subject of many a Watcher thesis — "
"— and he would have done something entirely different. Besides, no vampire would waste blood by spattering it indiscriminately. Unlike humans, vampires generally don’t waste food. It may be their only claim to moral superiority over us. More important: Why would Angel want me shot? I never met him."
"Willow flipped out when Tara was murdered. Seeing him shoot another friend of hers might bring her over to the dark side."
"Then perhaps we need to look for someone who wants Willow to become evil."
Xander frowned. "D’Hoffryn tried to recruit her a couple times."
"He does not have a history of taking rejection in a sportsmanlike fashion," the blonde Watcher said. "Where is my Willow?"
"I mean my friend, an-and yours, of course, Willow."
"Missing. No one can find her, not even the Coven."
"Perhaps you are all looking in the wrong dimension?"
Los Angeles skyline, day.
Ext., Wolfram & Hart
Int., main lobby of Wolfram & Hart
Faith and Drogyn charged through the doors and began killing anything demonic that came within arm’s reach. Vamps burst into dust clouds and Chaos demons screamed. A few demons attempted to escape but none made it past the Slayer and the Guardian of the Deeper Well.
Or Wesley. Or Angel. Or Illyira.
Faith got close enough to catch Angel’s eye. She shouted, "Hey, big guy!" and dusted a vampire. From the look on her face, you’d’ve thought she’d brought her boyfriend to the prom.
Angel smiled, yelled, "Hi!" and dusted two vamps at once.
Then the sprinkler system came on.
Vampires screamed and smoke rose up from all of them, including Angel.
The ensouled vampire leapt up and somersaulted over the demonic horde and landed behind a reception desk near the front entrance.
Wesley put down his flamethrower. Illyria scooped up two vampires as if they were no more than scraps of paper and leapt into one of the open elevators.
Drogyn and Faith finished off the few remaining attackers, killing and slashing at those who did not run for the doors.
Willow sniffled on Nina’s right shoulder.
"Willow? Is there any chance that really is what’shisname and your Tara?"
"Can’t be, I told you— "
"I don’t know much about magic . . . which sounds very strange coming from a werewolf . . . but I’m pretty sure piles of mud don’t have personalities and that sick creep has one. It’s a disgusting personality, but it’s a personality."
Willow sobbed: "Oh, Goddess!"
"That’s h-how they . . . they cursed the golems with souls!"
"That means what?"
Willow looked into Nina’s eyes. Her face, already pale, became deathly white as the redhead whispered: "That means he’s real . . . and he really has been k-k-k—KILLING my T-Tara over and ov— "
Willow’s sobs stopped her from finishing the sentence.
Nina said: "I wish I could lure that guy into this cage — right before sunset."
Ext., Watcher’s Council Headquarters, Day
Int., Watcher’s Infirmary
Xander sat on one side of Rowena’s bed. Giles sat on the other.
Rowena said: "There are millions, even billions, of them and if you can’t find Willow in this one then it follows that she may not be in this reality."
Xander shook his head. "If interdimensional travel were that easy, anybody could do it."
"Xander, you really do have to stop looking for the commonplace if you are going to be a Watcher."
"Technically, I’m more a builder than a Watcher."
Giles said: "False modesty ill becomes you, Xander. The fact is, you have played as important a role in defending this world as any Slayer. It was your plan that stopped The Judge."
Rowena smiled. "I’m impressed, Xander. I heard you saved the world from Willow—"
"Actually, it was Willow I wanted to save. The rest of the world was just a small bonus."
Ro tilted her head. "A pity for you that Willow prefers women."
"I don’t know, Ro, if I’d left Will at the altar, I’m not so sure the story would have had a happy ending."
Rowena suddenly glared at him.
Giles coughed and whispered: "Never speak to a woman about leaving another woman at the altar."
Ro said: "If I may make a suggestion?"
Giles and Xander said, "Sure/Certainly!" just a little too quickly.
Ro said: "Contact Riley Finn. I’m sure the government’s spy satellites would have detected any unusual radiation patterns — of the kind normally caused by interdimensional passings."
Giles sighed. "Even if Mr. Finn were willing to help—"
Xander said: "He likes Willow; he’ll help."
Giles said: "If the military allows him to help. Government workers have responsibilities that sometimes conflict with friendships."
Ro said: "The same is true of Watchers."
Xander said: "Riley will help."
Giles said: "I fail to see the value in the information we would be seeking."
Ro crossed her arms. And flinched at her own movement. "Don’t you, Giles? If someone wanted Willow dead, a simple assassination would be sufficient. She was abducted for some reason. Unless that someone wishes to be incinerated by an extraordinarily powerful and angry Wiccan, I suspect they may have Willow imprisoned in one dimension while they are in another. They would have to re-open their interdimensional portal every now and again to make sure Willow had not escaped."
Xander and Giles looked at each other. Xander said: "Could Will escape when the portal opens?"
Giles said: "If she realized she was looking at an interdimensional barrier. If not . . . I am afraid she would remain trapped in another reality."
Rowena said: "That means we can safely eliminate any dimension that is terribly different from this one."
"How many dimensions does that leave for us to search?"
Giles sighed. "Millions."
Ext., Los Angeles Office of Wolfram & Hart
Faith turned away from the window. "Can’t quite get used to lookin’ at you in sunlight, Angel. Damn, but you’re pale."
Drogyn said: "I did not care for the castles of my day, but this structure is a work of art. Your masons are to be commended."
Wesley said: "Masons?"
Angel said: "Give him a break, he’s more out of date than I am."
Illyria said: "This idle chatter wastes time. Come sunset there may be another attack. A counter-attack is in order."
Wesley agreed. "Unfortunately, it is extraordinarily difficult to mount a counter-attack on an unknown enemy."
Illyria tilted her head. "It should be a simple matter to root out and exterminate all the vampires in this province."
Spike said: "I am so glad you are not a Slayer."
Faith said: "Was a time I’d’a agreed with you, Ill."
"You dare mispronounce my name, human?"
"That’s Slayer to you."
Illyria scoffed. "A vampire Slayer. One might as well boast of being a dragonfly slayer."
Faith looked at the ex-Watcher and the two ensouled vampires. "She for real?"
"Yes," said Wesley. "As much as we might wish otherwise."
Angel said: "You sure you don’t wanna see Robin?"
"More than I can say, Angel, but duty’s gotta come first. Any clue what gives?"
Wesley said: "Our contacts in Homeland Security— "
"Wolfram & Hart have contacts in Homeland Security?"
Spike said: "Apparently the brainchild of the Senior Partners themselves."
Faith shuddered. "Coulda lived a long life without hearin’ that. OK, what do your contacts tell you?"
Softly, Angel said: "Did you see the tape Drogyn brought the Watchers?"
"Not real eager to watch my guy get shot."
Illyria said: "Sentimentality does not win wars."
Wesley said: "I realize you don’t care about human feelings—"
To Faith, Spike said: "Little Girl Blue here—"
Illyria struck him. The blow sent the vampire flying to the far side of the room. He slammed into the wall back first and then fell to the floor. Face first. He groaned. "BLOODY HELL!"
Illyria said: "Speak of me with respect, half breed."
To Faith, Angel said: "Wesley thinks Robin was shot by a golem. Illyria thinks it had a soul, which isn’t supposed to be possible—"
Wesley said: "But which would explain how such a creature could actually impersonate a human being well enough to become a member of LAX security."
Faith said: "Pretty much fits in with everything we know, except — who in hell would have it that bad for Willow?"
Angel said: "I think I’m the target, Faith."
The look on Faith’s face suggested she did not agree with him. "Any clues about who masterminded the vamp invasion?"
Angel looked at Illyria. She said: "Our prisoners claimed they were following a vampire killer named Jenny Calendar. Wesley said they were lying, so I executed them."
Faith sighed. "They were probably telling the truth."
Spike, still on the floor, got up groaning. "Doubt . . . it."
Angel said: "Vampires usually don’t team up with Slayers."
Everyone stared at him as though he’d spoken in tongues.
The stares seemed . . . more intense.
"Normal, soulless vampires," Angel said.
Wesley said: "Spike made an alliance with Buffy against you."
"Against Angelus," Angel said. "And that was to save Drusilla. No way vampires would attack Wolfram & Hart for a Slayer."
Faith said: "I wouldn’t bet on that, Angel. Jenny Calendar? She was— "
"A woman I murdered," Angel said in an irritated voice. "I knew her."
"Did you know she was Kennedy’s mom?"
"Willow’s dating the daughter of a woman I murdered?"
"They broke up," Faith said. "And neither of them knew about the connection until pretty recently. Once we settled in Cleveland, Ken asked Red and Giles to help her find her birth mother, a chick named Kalderash— "
The vampire sighed. "And the rest is my history."
Faith said: "Whoever snatched Will dropped the sketch you made of Jenny at the scene. Giles recognized the artist and Xander blurted out the rest. Ken broke Giles arm and lit out for LA."
Illyria said: "I take it you are here to locate and execute the fugitive."
Faith paled. "Th-the C-council wouldn’t do that."
Wesley said: "The Council once tried to kill you, Faith."
"The Old Council, Wes, not the— "
Angel said: "Giles can’t let Kennedy get away with what she did. He has to come down on her, HARD, to maintain his authority. It would be bad enough in a normal organization, but he has to maintain authority over teenage Slayers. He’d have to make an example of Kennedy. A memorable example."
Faith said: "I know she wants you dead, Angel, but if there’s a way— "
Illyria said: "We are wasting time. We must find the one who ordered this attack and kill her."
Wesley said: "Did the vampires say why they were so willing to follow this alleged Slayer?"
"They claimed she credited Wolfram & Hart with, I believe the word was ‘activating’ all the Slayers. I dismissed the words as the gibberish of the tortured."
Faith said: "That might get vamps to put aside their differences with a Slayer."
Wesley said: "It does sound plausible, but I think some form of mind control may be at work. According to LAX security cameras, D’Hoffryn offered Robin a job."
"And when he said no, he got shot?"
"That occurred after D’Hoffryn left," the ex-Watcher said.
"D’Hoffryn couldn’t have done it himself," Angel said. "Vengeance demons aren’t allowed to attack humans unless they are fulfilling the expressed desires of humans."
Faith said: "Kennedy must have expressed a pretty serious desire to kill your ass, Angel."
Angel sighed. "Call Giles, Faith, tell him we’re looking for Kennedy. Do NOT tell him about what happened here today."
Drogyn said: "Angel— "
"And keep our truthful friend here away from the Watcher until I can think of a way to protect both me from Kennedy and Kennedy from the Council."
Ext., Wolfram & Hart, day
Kennedy put down her binoculars. "Damn! Can’t anybody kill that lousy vampire?"
"Surely you didn’t expect that assault to work," D’Hoffryn said.
Kennedy did not bother to look at the demon. "Did I at least hurt him a little?"
"I believe he and Spike were both sprayed with some Holy Water, so I imagine they have second and perhaps even third degree burns on their faces."
"Not good enough."
"Would it comfort you to know the local vampire population has been significantly reduced?"
"I only want to reduce the population by one particular vamp."
"Unfortunately so many humans died— "
"H-humans?" Kennedy turned to face him. Her face was suddenly very pale.
"Twelve by present count. Seven others are in ICU. Most are expected to recover."
Kennedy slowly sank to her knees. "I’m a murderer."
"And damned for all eternity, in my— " The demon smiled. "—expert opinion."
"What do I do?"
"Well, you might want to consider hiding. Angel will certainly want to kill you—it would hardly benefit him to spare you—and the Senior Partners of Wolfram & Hart will want to kill you. I also imagine the Watcher’s Council will want to kill you."
"The Council doesn’t kill humans," Kennedy said.
"That rule applies only to Slayers," D’Hoffryn said. "And your friend Faith violated that rule. I suppose that is why the Council sent her here. You did notice she was in the conference room with Angel and the others, didn’t you?"
"The Council would never kill a Slayer," Kennedy said. "Not even if she . . . I . . . deserved it."
The demon laughed. "Did Ms. Rosenberg ever tell you about Miss Summers’ 18th birthday?"
Kennedy’s head snapped up. Her eyes were wide, frightened.
"I can protect you from the Watchers and the Senior Partners. I can even protect you from Faith and Angel. For a price."
"What the hell do you want, demon?"
"A trade. My protection for your soul."
Int., Angel’s office
Illyria turned away from the others, as if bored with their conversation, and said: "We are being observed."
She pointed to the window. Everyone else rushed to the window to see whatever it was the ancient demon saw.
Standing on a nearby rooftop was D’Hoffryn and a small woman with long dark hair.
Faith said: "Kennedy."
Wesley said: "I don’t suppose you or Spike can hear them, Angel?"
Illyria said: "The glass is a barrier to my hearing as well."
Drogyn said: "I can read the lips of the demon."
Angel snapped: "So translate already!"
"You are quite mistaken, Ms. Kennedy. Your soul is not automatically damned for the human lives lost in the law office. As much as it pains me to say so, your soul is not yet the unquestioned property of hell. Sell it to me and I will protect you from the Council, the Senior Partners and the vampire."
Faith said: "Ken wouldn’t— "
On the distant rooftop, they saw Kennedy slap D’Hoffryn and stomp past him.
Drogyn said: "A brave and honorable young woman."
Wesley said: "A foolish young girl, you mean. She’s just added D’Hoffryn to her very long list of enemies."
Angel said: "Spike, go down to the infirmary and ask Gunn to talk to the Conduit."
Wesley said: "What for?"
Spike said: "You want to implicate the First?"
Faith said: "You guys wanna provide subtitles?"
Spike said: "First time the First made a run at Sunnydale, it impersonated Jenny Calendar. Wolfram & Hart provided Angel with the amulet that I used to bring down the Sunnydale Hellmouth. They wouldn’t have done that if the Senior Partners and the First were pals. Set ’em at each other’s throats and that’s one threat to Kennedy scratched off the list."
Angel said: "And, as a bonus, two of my enemies hurt each other a little."
Wesley said: "Illyria, would you be willing to follow Kennedy? Follow and protect her?"
The blue demon answered: "I would advise killing her. There is no such thing as a safe enemy."
Angel said: "Protecting her serves my ambition."
Illyria looked at the vampire and favored him with a predatory smile. "But do your ambitions serve my ambitions?"
Angel said: "You need Wesley until you learn enough about this world to live in it. And you might get a chance to fight something . . . more challenging than the vampire horde."
Illyria tilted her head, then nodded. "It amuses me to observe your plan, half-breed. I will seek and protect this Mosquito Slayer."
She ran to the door, so quickly that anyone who had blinked in that moment missed her exit.
Drogyn said: "Why did she call a Slayer of Vampires a Mosquito Slayer?"
Spike said: "Racial slur against vampires."
Angel said: "Spike . . . "
"I’ll talk to Gunn." He went to the door.
To Wesley, Angel said: "Find me a way to let Giles save face and bring Kennedy back into the Slayer fold. And look up memory spells. I don’t Kennedy to remember what she did here. Creatures with souls— "
"You never fail to surprise me, Angel." It was impossible to tell from his tone of voice or from his facial expression if Wesley had complimented or insulted his friend. Wesley left the room.
Angel looked at Drogyn. "You say Giles gave you a reconstitution spell?"
"Do you want me to give it to you?"
Angel shook his head. "Too damned dangerous for any vampire to have that kind of knowledge. Can you cast the spell without my knowing anything about the rite?"
"I possess the knowledge, but I have no experience in performing magical acts. If I make a mistake, your life will be forfeit beyond the power of any known being to recover. And if you die outside a state of grace — eternal damnation awaits your soul."
"I earned my eternal damnation a long time ago, friend," Angel said. "I just want to buy a few nice people a chance to escape their own damnation."
Drogyn said: "I take it you despair of Salvation."
"Not like I’m a good Catholic anymore. Not that I ever was."
"I imagine Holy Communion would present difficulties for you."
"Was that a joke?"
"Was not the remark amusing?"
Angel smiled. "Not quite, but you’re delivery is improving."
Ext., Watcher’s Council Headquarters, sunset.
Giles said: "We bloody well will NOT! Have you any idea how extraordinarily dangerous that would be, Rowena?"
The blonde Watcher spoke calmly to the livid Englishman. "To find our Willow it would well be worth the risk."
"Have you lost your mind, woman?"
Andrew said: "Giles? I think maybe I—"
"It would be dangerous for someone with Willow’s experience."
Xander said: "Willow used astral projection to find Buffy when Faith hijacked her body."
Rowena said: "H-hi-j-jacked her body?"
Andrew said: "The Dark Slayer used Black Magic to place her spirit within the body of Buffy— " He pronounced the name "boo-FAY." "—and Buffy’s spirit within her own body."
Rowena paled. "That is the moral equivalent of rape."
Xander said: "Let’s all promise never, ever, to share that insight with either Faith or Buffy."
Andrew said: "Or Angel. Even if he hasn’t lost his soul, he might want to avenge any deed done against the first true love of his eternal life."
To Giles, Rowena said: "Did Angel try to punish you for performing the 18th birthday ritual?"
Giles started. "No. He never did. I wonder why?"
Xander said: "Buffy made him promise not to. I’m not sure, but I kinda got the impression Joyce sided with Angel in that fight."
Giles coughed and said: "If we may return to the problem of finding Willow— "
Rowena said: "I realize astral projection has risks— "
"One error, either by Andrew or by you, could leave you in a permanent coma. It would be the equivalent of brain death."
Rowena said: "How long has Willow been missing?"
Xander looked at his watch. "Day and a quarter, maybe a day and a third."
"Whoever took her may escalate. They wanted the Council and Angel at war and that war hasn’t started. If they don’t get what they want from Willow, and they won’t— "
"Can you be certain?" Giles asked.
Rowena smiled. "I have faith in Willow. I’ve read her dossier. I believe she would make a formidable enemy. But we need to act quickly. If the enemy doesn’t get what they want soon, they may change tactics. We need to gain the upper hand. Finding Willow achieves that goal."
Xander said: "The risk sounds pretty ugly, Ro."
"I am willing to die fighting vampires and other demons. I am willing to risk my life and my soul for our lovely friend."
Xander said: "Brave girls are so hot!"
Giles sighed. "I could forbid you."
Xander said: "I could show you my Resolve Face."
Giles smiled. "You have a resolve face?"
"Hey, I’ve known Willow since she was 5. You didn’t think I picked up a couple tricks?"
"Having seen Resolve Face used on Angel . . . I think I will permit this. But I, not Andrew, will serve as Rowena’s anchor. I have some small experience with the Black Arts."
Rowena said: "I’d like to hear more about this Resolve Face."
Giles said: "Quite formidable. I honestly believe it frightened Angel more than any cross."
Someone knocked on the open door. The Watchers turned to see Rona flanked by two tall, bulky, middle aged men in sports coats. One of them held up a badge. "Cleveland Homicide. Which one of you is Rupert Giles?"
The Englishman said: "I am."
"We’d like to talk to you about an unsolved murder . . . in Sunnydale, California."
Ext., Los Angeles Skyline, late afternoon
The swirling vortex of light appeared again. Nina and Willow both sighed, exhausted and resigned to the appearance of golem-Warren Meers.
"Hi, Willow. Sunset’s coming in, oh, about an hour?"
Willow gave him with a look of murderous hatred. "You better tell me what you want right now, Warren"
"You gave me the same look the night you killed me," he said. "Too bad you can’t hurt me."
"Not physically, but I can read your mind—"
"Go ahead and try."
Willow’s eyes turned into two black marbles. She stared at him. Then she looked at Nina Ash. The blonde woman shivered. Willow looked back at Warren. "What the hell do you want?"
Another swirling vortex of light appeared and, once again, golem-Tara McClay appeared.
Warren put his pistol to the side of her head.
Warren said: "Bring me back to life."
Nina Ash growled. Literally.
Los Angeles skyline. Sunset
"The sins ye do, two by two
ye pay for one by one."
With a wave of her hand, Willow removed Nina’s clothes and left them folded neatly in a corner of the cage. The blonde woman was quickly transforming into a werewolf. A shimmering wall of light stood between the werewolf and the redhead. A small fog enveloped the werewolf—as if Willow wanted to shield Nina’s form from Warren’s eyes.
Warren said: "Damnit! I wanted to see her breasts!"
Willow said: "I shouldn’t’a flayed you. Your skin was the only part of you that was really human!"
Warren thumbed back the hammer of the pistol and pressed it hard against the side of Tara’s head.
Willow said: "Tara? Baby? Can’t you escape him?"
Tara said: "Ou-our m-mistress w-wo-won’t—"
Warren said: "She’s a neo-golem, too, stupid. She can’t do anything without the permission of our creator. No more than I can." Warren smiled. "Fortunately, the mistress and I have the same goals."
"Only as long as she controls you, right?" Willow asked.
"That’s true. When I’m alive again— "
Nina Ash said: "Never happen."
Once again, Warren turned the gun on Nina. This time, Willow just looked at the path bullets they took and they slowed, stopped, and turned back on the former human.
Unfortunately, the bullets still didn’t hurt the creep.
Warren said: "You haven’t had food or water for over a day, Willow. Be 48 hours come 11 a.m. How long can you continue to defy me?"
To Tara, Willow said: "Is your mistress a vengeance demon?"
"Hu-human." Tara pointed to the Hebrew letters on her hand. "Only a human can use a Divine name for evil."
Warren shot Tara in her head. The golem dropped to the floor along with all her other doubles.
Warren said: "My creator will bring her back so I can kill her again unless you— "
"I couldn’t bring you back if I wanted!"
"You brought the Slayer back!"
"She died a supernatural death!"
"You flayed me with magic, not a knife!"
"I incinerated your body, too! There’s no living body to put your soul in!"
"Take the werewolf’s soul and replace it with mine," Warren said.
"Go to hell."
"Been there, done that. Not going back, bitch."
Tara reappeared again.
Warren pushed her to the ground and kicked her.
Willow closed her eyes and turned her back and covered her ears. She wept.
You could hear Tara scream.
A trash littered ally.
Kennedy had a brand new problem. Vampires. Four and 20 vampires, set to drink a Slayer dry.
D’Hoffryn leaned against a graffiti covered wall, sipping a creamy looking drink with a little umbrella through a purple straw.
Kennedy said: "I thought you wanted my soul."
"Since you so rudely declined my offer, I thought it might be better to have you lose your soul — and your life."
The vampires slowly advanced, encircling the little brunette Slayer.
A female voice, Illyria’s, said: "I wish to see a Vampire Slayer fight. I did not know your kind when I ruled."
D’Hoffryn said: "You seem familiar. Are we acquainted?"
One of the vampires snarled: "Go chat someplace else. This bitch said she wanted to kill a vampire with a soul and instead she got hundreds of normal vampires dusted."
Illyria said: "Would it comfort you to know that human lives were also lost in that battle?"
"Doesn’t matter," he said. "She’ll be one of us soon. D’Hoffryn promised."
Illyria said: "His promises may mean little. I do not believe he has power to act on behalf of other demons."
Five of the vampires behind Kennedy lunged. She leapt up, kicked out with both feet. Her shoes connected with two chins. Kennedy landed just in time to drive her elbow into one vampire’s neck and to give another a right cross. He staggered back and then stood, wavering on his feet, useless to his companions. The fifth vampire grabbed her from behind, but Kennedy gave him a nasty head butt. Then she spun around and staked him as the other four rushed her again. She kicked one, then another, elbowed a third and staked the fourth. The three rushed again. Kick, elbow, stake. The last pair rushed. Kennedy pulled a second stake and took them out.
All but one of the other vampires fled.
That one drew a gun from the waistband of his pants. He raised his gun hand—but Illyria lunged forward and tore his head off his body. He collapsed into a pile of dust. The gun fell, discharged, but the bullet slammed into a trash bin and harmed no one.
"That entertain you, skinny?" Kennedy asked.
"For a mere human it was an acceptable display. Had those vampires the courage of the ones who attacked Wolfram & Hart, I doubt you would still be here."
Kennedy shrugged. "Woulda been an expensive victory for them."
Illyria nodded. She looked at D’Hoffryn. "This one is under my protection until her feud with the vampire Angel is concluded."
D’Hoffryn laughed. "And who are you, dear?"
"I am Illyria."
D’Hoffryn’s jaw dropped, his drinking glass fell and shattered. He vanished in a swirling vortex of light.
Kennedy gaped at the spot where D’Hoffryn had stood. Then she looked at Illyria. "Why would a demon protect a Slayer?"
"I gave my word. And I was curious. My curiosity is satisfied. My word, however, still binds me to protect you until your feud is ended."
"By treaty or by a decisive victory. I personally do not care which, but I want your feud ended. I do not care to be obligated to something so small and frail as a human — even if she is a warrior." Illyria spoke the word "warrior" with . . . feeling, with respect.
"Gimme a shot at the vampire and I’ll kill him."
"He and a Slayer named Faith want to protect you from a Council of Watchers."
Kennedy snorted. "Bull."
Illyria lunged at Kennedy and punched her jaw hard. The Slayer collapsed.
"I am impressed. An ordinary human skull would have shattered."
Illyria scooped up the Slayer, flung Kennedy over her shoulder, and carried her back to Wolfram & Hart.
Ext., Cleveland skyline, night.
Int., police station.
Rupert Giles sat alone, his right wrist cuffed to the table. He appeared calm. He might as well have been watching a silent movie.
The door opened.
Giles said: "I told you I would only speak to my solicitor."
A man said: "In America you don’t need to hire a solicitor to hire a barrister. It may be the one way in which the American legal system is better than the British."
Giles looked at the man. Hamilton, liaison between Angel and the Senior Partners. "And you are?"
"I work for the Senior Partners."
"A friend of Angel’s, I take it?"
"Personally, I’d like to kill him. But the Senior Partners ordered me to carry out his wishes in this matter — so you and I are stuck with each other, Watcher."
From the way Hamilton pronounced the word "watcher," you might have thought he meant "pedophile."
"Roughly two years ago, the Sunnydale coroner sent a body to Los Angeles. They thought a murderer had left his fingerprints on the skin of his victim. Unfortunately, the Sunnydale police did not find the body until too much time had elapsed. Fortunately, one of the employees in the LA Coroner’s office worked for Wolfram & Hart. He took the corpse back in time and, using an ion-argon laser, lifted your right thumbprint off the side of the young man’s nose. We arranged for copies of the report to be mislaid so no one within the LAPD, or the Old Watcher’s Council, could see the evidence. You can imagine what Travers would have done if he’d possessed the information."
Giles sighed. "Yes, I’m afraid I can imagine."
"We also arranged for the Sunnydale police to handle the information with their usual efficiency. The Senior Partners planned to use the information for blackmail, in the event you actually became a threat. Or even a nuisance."
"And now you people want something?"
"Actually, Angel arranged for your arrest without authorization from the Senior Partners. Your new council is certainly nothing close to a threat. Arranging for your arrest now pretty much ruined our best opportunity to exploit you."
"Yet here I am, in jail."
"For a murder that took place in a city which no longer exists," Hamilton said. "You will be delighted to know the charges will probably be dropped within 72 hours or so."
"Because Wolfram & Hart is so generous."
Hamilton coughed and said, sadly, "I’m afraid Angel altered the original reports to make it look as though an unqualified, a grossly unqualified, man collected the evidence against you. I’m sure you’ve heard of the odd scandal involving forensic experts who were not actually qualified to do their jobs? Who exaggerated evidence in murder and rape trials? The Senior Partners have at least one in every law enforcement agency on Earth. Angel has arranged to expose one of ours in Los Angeles. By the time someone genuinely qualified to identify your fingerprint is located, the fingerprint will be replaced with that of a man named Doyle — who died long before you committed that murder."
"And the catch?"
"Your Council, your Slayers and your, um, Scoobies? They won’t know you really are guilty of murder—provided you agree to spare Kennedy."
"She went AWOL, she broke my arm—"
"You ordered her to do that so it would look as if she went rogue. So the Council could have, quote, ‘plausible denial’."
Giles graced Hamilton with a cold smile. "Even if I could make people believe such an absurd story . . . why should I want to? I doubt my friends will take the word of either the Senior Partners or Angel or anyone else involved with Wolfram & Hart."
He held up three fingers. "One: You want to save face. Two: You want to spare Kennedy. She only wants what you have always wanted: to kill Angel. I can relate. Three . . . " Hamilton held out his palm. "Angel gave me this." A swirling blue globe of light appeared in his hand. It spoke familiar words in familiar voices:
Buffy: "We are NOT talking about killing Dawn!"
Giles: "We bloody well are!"
Hamilton closed his fist. "Dawn Summers would be devastated if she heard that."
Giles glared at him. "Kennedy must be punished. I am willing to let her save face in public, but she must be punished."
Once more, Hamilton held out his palm. This time, the swirling blue globe of light spoke new words in a single familiar voice:
Angel: "Faith punishes Kennedy. And Kennedy lives to bitch about the punishment."
Giles said: "How do I know the Senior Partners will allow Angel to keep his part of the bargain?"
Hamilton said: "We think the First Evil might be responsible for attacks on both your Council and our LA office. Think of this as a necessary alliance, like the U.S. alliance with Stalin against Hitler."
Giles sighed, clearly defeated. "Where do I sign?"
"No need to sign. Just swear to the little blue ball that you swear on your soul to abide by the terms of the contract. If you break your word, you lose your soul. Just like Angel did when he drilled your precious Buffy."
Giles tried to lunge at the man, but that wasn’t possible with his hand cuffed to the table.
Hamilton held out his hand. Giles spoke into the ball: "I swear by my soul I shall agree to the terms you have stated, assuming they are complete and truthful terms. I also swear, sir, I will kill you unless someone beats me to it."
Hamilton shrugged — and vanished as if he’d never been there.
Giles said: "I wonder if he realizes that was a memory ball — not a recording device."
The room was dark, but decorated and illuminated by countless candles. Andrew saw cross-legged on the foot of Rowena’s bed, chanting from a large and ancient book. Rowena lay on her back, eyes like glass aimed at the ceiling. Near the door, Xander and a doctor stood watching.
The doctor said: "I want to officially protest."
"I want to officially agree with you," Xander said. "But we gotta try this."
Xander stepped into the hall. Vi was leaning against a wall.
Xander said: "Get everyone together except Rona and Marsha. Rona’s gonna have to guard this whole place while the rest of you head to the airport. You want for my call."
"If we don’t hear from Giles by morning, or we can’t get Rowena back, we’re heading to LA. I still think Angel’s behind all this and I wanna take the fight right to him now, while Buffy’s not around to protect her high school love interest."
Vi said: "What if you’re wrong, Xander?"
"Then a lot of innocent people are going to die needlessly." Xander sighed. "Man, war sucks."
Andrew continued chanting. A Council doctor took Rowena’s pulse. Rowena continued to gaze mindlessly at the ceiling.
Los Angeles skyline, night.
A semi-transparent Rowena Alistair appeared in one corner of the cage. She seemed a bit confused for a moment, but then her attention was riveted on something happening outside the cage. She either didn’t hear, or chose to ignore, the sound of the werewolf as it growled and snarled and leapt against a mystical barrier that halved the cage.
She heard a woman say: "P-p-please s-s-st-stop hurting m-my W-Willow!"
Rowena whispered: "So you’re the ghost Kennedy had to compete with. Poor kid never had a chance."
Rowena turned toward the sound of yet another weeping female. Willow.
Rowena knelt, or appeared to kneel, beside the redhead. She touched the redhead’s shoulder, but her hand passed through the body. "Willow?"
Willow’s head snapped up and she looked around. "Rowena? Are you really here?"
"In spirit, yes. In body, no. Or that man over there would be in considerable pain."
"Warren Meers, my victim. Goddess forgive me, I want to kill him all over again."
Rowena nodded. "I don’t blame you. I don’t think I could be so calm if I were forced to witness you or someone else I cared about being mistreated."
"Rowena? Last time I was this calm, I went on a rampage. Only thing holding me back is that I don’t know how to nail the Big Bad. Or why I can’t get out of here. I couldn’t even use telepathy to—"
Rowena said: "I think I know why you’ve been trapped here. In this form I can see things I couldn’t see with my real eyes. This cage isn’t real. It’s some sort of interdimensional bubble. A world, if you will, created by someone who wanted to keep you in his or her power. Because as powerful as you are, Willow, I think your magic is largely limited to one world at a time."
"That’s how come I could turn the bullets but couldn’t hurt him. When the bullets entered this cage, the fell under my jurisdiction."
If her words puzzled Rowena, the transparent Watcher gave no overt sign of being confused. Rowena said: "You can break out now that you know."
Willow shook her head. "Not without letting Nina loose. But . . . " Willow closed her eyes and whispered a word. "Involvre." The warehouse outside the "cage" vanished. The cage suddenly seemed surrounded by an endless white space—like the South Pole, but without cold or wind. "The warehouse is still there, but we can’t see or hear it and Warren thinks I’m still crying." Willow swallowed. "I don’t want to give Warren any more advantages."
Rowena scowled. "Who exactly is Nina?"
Willow nodded toward the werewolf. Rowena looked. The werewolf flung itself with all its might at the shimmering barrier.
"Any idea who is controlling the golems?" Rowena asked.
"You know about them?"
Rowena nodded. "Some sort of blend of the golem rite with the curse that ensouled Angel."
"D’Hoffryn’s the Big Bad of this adventure," Willow said.
"But a vengeance demon can’t act unless a human wishes for vengeance."
Willow nodded. "Yeah, but to want vengeance you gotta know someone wronged you. Even if you could believe someone would want to avenge Warren—"
"Becca suspects his mother."
Willow nodded. "Makes sense. Ted Bundy’s mom never stopped defending him."
"A soul only a mother could love."
"Doesn’t speak well of maternal instincts, does it?"
Rowena said: "But you’re saying that Warren’s mother couldn’t have known you killed Warren."
"How could she? The only witnesses were my friends and the vengeance demons."
"The Old Council knew."
"Because Giles told them. In case I went all black veiny-and-homicidaly again. But you can bet Travers and company wouldn’t’a told D’Hoffryn."
Rowena nodded. "What’s D’Hoffryn’s motive?"
"He was looking forward to the First Evil’s rise. When we scrunched the First, we didn’t make points with D’Hoffryn. And he wants me to become a demon. What better way to make me insane and evil than to make me relive Tara’s murder? Only thing is—"
"He needed humans to wish for vengeance, humans with a grudge against everyone close to you as well as a grudge against you. Motive, opportunity and means."
Willow nodded and smiled. "He probably went to the Kalderash clan first. They’d be plenty miffed that I rensouled Angel and besides . . . they might know something about golems."
"Golems are part of Jewish folklore, not Gypsy folklore."
Willow sighed sadly. "Hitler sent both Gypsies and Jews to the camps. Gays, too. A lot of groups that would never have met shared the Holocaust experience. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone in the Kalderash got to know a few Rabbis during that time."
Rowena said: "Such mystical power, wasted on hatred."
"Well, now we’re gonna make darn sure no one we care about is attacked by any of these people ever again. Then . . . I’m gonna ask you to take care of Warren."
"Because I don’t trust myself. That’s really my Tara that Warren is torturing."
"We’ll find a way to rescue your ex. But, Willow, I have to remind you that—"
Willow whimpered. "I can’t resurrect Tara. Not that I could, but . . . Oh, Rowena, it is going to be so hard to say good-bye again."
"Try to remember that this time, you will actually have the chance to say good-bye."
Willow tried to smile, but didn’t quite manage it. "I’d kiss you if you were solid."
"I’d wipe your tears if I were solid—and then I’d kick Warren’s butt. On second thought, his groin. Do you have a plan?"
"Find Angel. And about Warren—"
"I promise you, Willow, he will receive only justice and nothing more or less."
Ext., Los Angeles office of Wolfram & Hart, night.
Int, Wolfram & Hart—a holding cell normally used for werewolves
Kennedy lay unconscious on the floor.
Outside the cage, Faith, Angel, Lorne, Wesley, Giles, Spike and Illyria stood waiting. The two vampires drank blood from 8-oz. glasses. Spike’s drink had ice.
Angel shook his head in disgust. "Like mixing white and red wine. You never did have any class."
"Sod off, mate."
Neither of them really sounded like he had much energy for a squabble. It was if the mutual snarking was simply a way for the two ensouled vampires to pass the time until . . . something happened.
Illyria said: "Why do you not kill her and be done with your feud?"
Angel ignored her. To Spike, he said: "What’d Gunn say?"
"The Conduit bought the story. Seems half the demons in LA heard that it was Jenny Calendar who wanted you dead. The Senior Partners seem convinced it’s the First Evil and not a Slayer that attacked this office. So Kennedy’s safe from them."
Wesley said: "Hamilton called a few minutes ago. Giles appears to accept the terms. But he is angry and he will retaliate at the first opportunity."
Angel shook his head. "No. He learns from his mistakes, unlike most humans. He’s not gonna lash out at me in anger. Not again. He’ll bide his time, move when he sees an opportunity to get me without Buffy tracing it back to him. He knows she’d never forgive a third betrayal."
Lorne said: "So what’s the plan?"
Angel said: "I am clueless."
Wesley said: "We had best devise a plan quickly. I received word from a W&H contact in Homeland Security. The New Council has chartered two private planes and filed a flight plan for LAX. It appears every Slayer and Watcher in Cleveland will be headed our way very soon."
Spike said: "I thought Giles was pacified."
Angel said: "Most likely its Xander Harris’s doing. He wouldn’t believe I was innocent if Christ Himself said so."
Faith groaned. "I shoulda given him the heads up."
Angel said: "Too late now, Faith. If I’m right, the Slayers will come here first. Where’s Drogyn?"
Lorne said: "Sent him up to your penthouse. Apparently they didn’t have showers in his day. Or indoor plumbing for that matter."
Angel looked horrified. "Promise me you showed him how to work the toilet?"
A female voice said: "If you’re flirting with him, I think you should know he has a well documented history of heterosexual relationships."
Everyone turned to face a semi-transparent blonde.
Lorne said: "Why does everyone assume I’m gay?"
Angel gave him a shocked look.
Spike groaned. "Another bloody ghost!"
The woman said: "I’m not a ghost—I’m a Watcher! Rowena Alistair." To Wesley, she said: "Are you Angel?"
The real Angel said: "That’s just embarrassing. I’m Angel."
Angel swallowed. "N-Nina?"
"The werewolf is also alive. Willow’s put up a force field to protect herself from the wolf."
"How are they?"
"They haven’t had food or water for over two and a half days. A golem that looks like a man named Warren Meers—"
Spike said: "The bloody wanker Willow skinned?"
"—has been torturing and murdering a golem that looks like a woman named Tara McClay over and over again."
Angel said: "More of D’Hoffryn’s work."
Rowena nodded. "Willow has a theory . . . "
Angel & Co were seated around the table. Rowena stood with her arms crossed. She seemed fascinated by the necromancer glass. "I would love to devise a counter-measure against this."
Angel said: "You’ll forgive me if I don’t wish you well?"
Harmony entered the room with two pieces of paper in her hand. "Here, boss. A copy of a business license issued to a real estate company called Calendar and Ash—"
Wesley sighed. "We should have thought of name variations."
"—and the title deed to a warehouse that Mrs. Estelle Meers took out in her maiden name."
Spike jumped up. "Let’s go."
Angel shook his head. "Not until Kennedy’s awake. We need her."
"What the bloody hell for?"
Rowena answered: "He will only come if called by someone who wants vengeance. Do you think she’ll agree to kill him for you?"
"She will if I promise to let her stake me afterward."
"She won’t believe you, Angel."
"She will believe me if I really mean it — and I do. Can you tell Willow when we’re in position?"
"You’d better surround the better part of a quarter mile, Angel. Whoever is controlling these golems must be nearby. If we can’t find their location—"
"Tara McClay may have to suffer being murdered again and again for damn near eternity," Angel said. "I won’t let that happen. Lorne, I want you to supervise evacuating this building. If the Slayers come, I don’t’ want any casualties. Not any. Not on either side. Clear?"
"Clear," the green demon said. "Unrealistic, but clear."
Ext., Watcher’s Council Headquarters
Xander Harris took out a cellphone and punched in a number. "Tell the pilot to take off, Vi. . . . Yeah, Giles is still in jail, Rowena’s still astral projecting and I’m in charge. . . . Try to keep the civilian casualties to a minimum."
Xander hung up.
Marsha entered the lobby, still on crutches. She said: "Don’t worry, Xander, we’ll win."
"I know we’ll win, Marsha. I just hope we’re still the good-guys when we do."
"Could I ask a dumb question?"
"Um, first, could you not throw that word around? My butt still hurts from that bullet."
"Who’s gonna protect Cleveland with all the Watchers and Slayers headed for LA?"
"Damnit! The Hellmouth is totally vulnerable!" Xander pressed one of the speed dial buttons on his cellphone. "Get me Agent Finn. I’ve got a Hellmouth-level security problem. Yes, I’m a civilian, so what? . . . Listen, private . . . "
Two large passenger planes with no visible logo took off. For Los Angeles.
Violet and Rona sat side by side on the left side of the plane. Rona, peering out the window, seemed relaxed. Vi clutched the armrests. Rona glanced at her friend.
"God’s sake, it’s only been, what, a little under an hour?"
Vi turned an ashen face to her friend and spoke through clenched teeth. "Longest. Hour. Of. My. Life."
"Next time? Tell Xander you’re afraid of flying, okay? You’re way too stressed to do any good in combat."
"How? Much? Longer?"
Rona glanced at her watch. "Maybe 10, 15 minutes if we they clear us to land right off."
"Looking. Forward. To. Killing. Vampires."
Rona said: "OK, that’s just wrong. Vampires kill people everyday. Airplanes don’t kill very often."
"I. Can. Fight. I. Can’t. Fly."
Rona took Violet’s left hand in both of hers. "We die, we die together."
Vi seemed a little embarrassed. "Look. Gay."
Rona shrugged. "Long as Willow doesn’t hit on me, I don’t care what anybody thinks."
"Don’t? Like? Willow?"
"She’s cool for a lesbian, but I don’t wanna deal with a jealous ex—especially not a jealous and ill tempered ex like Kennedy."
"Fix her. Up with. Mia?"
"I’m afraid Giles’ll kick her out for breakin’ his arm."
Vi frowned. "Think?"
"Not the worst thing," Rona said. "This was the army, she could get the death penalty for breaking the general’s arm and going AWOL."
Int., Wolfram & Hart holding cell.
Faith unlocked the cell door. "She shoulda recovered by now, Angel."
Faith opened the door, stepped slowing inside and knelt beside the apparently unconscious form of Kennedy.
From somewhere behind the Slayer, Angel answered. "Careful. She might be fak—"
Kennedy gave Faith a head butt, followed by an elbow to the neck. Faith sprawled to the floor, a look of surprise on her face. Kennedy jumped to her feet. Faith did too, but not quite quickly enough to dodge a kick in her chest. Faith fell on her butt.
"BITCH! TRAITOR! VAMPIRE WHORE!"
Faith smiled. "You’re the only Slayer here who slept with a vamp."
"THAT BASTARD MURDERED MY MOTHER!"
Angel stepped inside the cage. "Then stop taking it out on Faith, kid." Over his shoulder, he said: "Spike, you and the others go on without me. Tell Rowena that Kennedy and I are still . . . talking."
Faith stood up and stepped between the short Slayer and the tall vampire. "Angel, the plan—"
"Just changed. Go with the others. Make sure Nina, Willow and Tara get out OK."
"If I don’t make it, you make sure Giles honors his part of the bargain."
But Faith didn’t move. She stood in a fighting stance, her fists clenched. Kennedy’s pose mirrored her own.
Kennedy spat on the floor. "Shoulda known Giles would side with you. Creep told me his precious Buffy killed you."
"Sent me straight to hell."
Faith stepped toward Kennedy, through a right at her jaw. Kennedy blocked and aimed a kick at Faith’s midriff. Faith slid back, avoided the blow.
"I told you to go, Faith."
"No offense, Angel, but Slayers don’t take orders from vampires."
Rowena’s voice said: "But they do take orders from Watchers. Stand down, Faith. Let Angel and Kennedy work this out in private."
Kennedy scowled, clearly confused. She looked around but apparently didn’t see anything. Not that there was anything for the Slayer to see.
"If she kills Angel—"
Rowena’s voice said: "We’ll protect her from Buffy as best we can."
"You heard your Watcher, Faith. Go. Thank Rowena for me."
"This ain’t a smart move, Angel."
"Tell Giles that all Hamilton had was a memory ball. Only Giles could ever hear what it said."
Faith backed away from Kennedy, never lowering her fists or taking her eyes off the other young woman. Angel stepped aside and let her leave the cage. He grabbed a vertical bar and slammed the cell door shut. Then Angel took something from his trench coat pocket, reached out between the bars and opened his hand. Two things dropped to the floor.
A key to the cell door.
And a wooden stake.
Far wall on other side of the cell door.
Drogyn, watching, whispered: "I pray I did not err, brother."
Ext., another warehouse.
Sign next to rear entrance: "Doleful City Enterprises"
Smaller sign below the first: "Only Humans Allowed"
Int. of this warehouse.
The warehouse appeared to be divided into three distinct sections. Cots for 15 people filled the far end. Next to it was a crude kitchen with a plastic tub doing duty as an ad hoc sink. Three long folding tables marked the boundary between that area and a work area in which a lonely woman with white hair manually shaped adobe mud into a roughly human shape. Not far from that spot, in an area marked by a thick blue line of paint on the floor, several men and women stood before completed statues and softly spoke the language of the "Rom"—Gypsies as the Gadja call them.
On a shelf above two of the statues were small glass bottles with narrow necks and wide bottoms. Each had a cork in the mouth. Each bottle had, swirling within it, a mist that resembled fog—but fog does not sparkle and the mist in these bottles did sparkle.
One of the Gypsy men, a man who bore a resemblance to a man Angel had murdered long ago, stepped back from one of the statues. It was suddenly enveloped by a white light. The Gypsy man covered his eyes.
The mist in the bottle overhead vanished as if it had never been in the bottle.
The light disappeared and Warren Meers dropped to his knees, panting.
"Damn, that hurts."
"You always say that. You always complain. Be grateful anyone wants you back."
"You always say that."
The woman on the other side of the thick blue line said: "Come to me, Warren." She looked a bit like the actress Lena Olin.
Warren obeyed. At first his movements were awkward, but by the time he reached the woman he seemed comfortable with his new body.
A Gypsy woman with hearing aids in her left ear stepped back from the statue she had been chanting over. It was shorter than the Warren statue had been. A white light enveloped it, too. The Gypsy woman closed her eyes and muttered softly in Latin—a prayer, perhaps. She looked up at the bottle just in time to see the mist vanish from it.
The white light vanished again and now Tara McClay dropped to her knees, sobbing. "STOP TORTURING HER!"
Warren’s mother shouted: "Silence, golem! I keep telling you not to speak unless it is to beg the witch to give my son back to me."
Tara continued to move her lips, but no sound came out.
The Gypsy woman chucked and whispered: "You are lucky the Cadja cannot read lips."
Tara mouthed some choice words at her, too.
To the man the Gypsy woman said: "I need to eat. Husband?"
The Gypsy man nodded. "This vengeance is hard work."
"You know how little I think of vengeance. I only agreed to this because the Witch might resurrect your brother."
"We cannot control these events. Vengeance is a living thing."
"All living things die. I still believe this vengeance has outlived its time and should be allowed to die peacefully."
"Only when the vampire himself is dead will I consider this affair finished."
"I love you, but you are a damned fool."
The man smiled. "That is why God gave you to me, wife."
"And here I thought our parents simply made a good arrangement."
"Parents can make good contracts, but only God makes a good marriage."
If either of them thought it odd to speak of God while using curses and ancient rituals to raise a damned soul and set it loose to torture three women, neither of them gave any outward sign that they were aware of their astonishing hypocrisy.
Ext., the warehouse where Nina Ash and Willow Rosenberg were held.
Int., the cage
Nina Ash wrinkled her nose. "The worst part of being a werewolf is the heightened sense of smell. I small like manure."
Both women sat on the floor. They trembled violently, as two women might after over two without food, water or sleep. Willow looked particularly bad. Bags hung from her eyes.
Willow sniffled, wiped her nose, gave Nina a weak smile. "You just smell like a pretty woman who hasn’t had a bath in a couple days. Like me."
Nina smiled. "Are you flirting with me?"
"No! No way am I gonna piss off a vampire with anger management issues."
"I never noticed that about Angel."
"When we get out of here, I’ll give you chapter and verse on Angelus."
"Um, long story." Willow nibbled her lower lip. "Wish Rowena would get back here. I need to know everyone is in place before we make our move."
"I still don’t see why we can’t just go now."
"I need the golems here so they can lead me back to their Mistress. I really wanna make damn sure this never happens again."
Nina squeezed Willow’s hand. "I don’t mean to be insensitive, Willow—"
"You just wanna get the hell outta here ASAP, like any sane person."
The blonde woman nodded.
Someone coughed. "I hope Tara doesn’t see you holding hands with another woman."
The werewolf and the Witch turned to see, once more, the semi-transparent form of Rowena Alistair. Rowena said: "Change of plans. Angel and Kennedy are, um, discussing things."
Willow said: "She hates him more than she wants to help us."
"We never got the chance to bring up helping you. Kennedy started fighting before Faith could explain—and now she and Angel are locked in a cage together."
Willow shook her head sadly. "Like Buffy with brunette roots and a trust fund."
Rowena frowned. "That remark . . . bothers me . . . for some reason."
Nina whispered to Willow: "Jealous lesbian?"
Willow whispered back: "Not sure." To Rowena, out loud, Willow said: "Let me know when everyone’s in place."
"We might have a problem," Rowena said. "The sign outside says, Only Humans Allowed."
Willow laughed. "Big dummies. Anyone who lives here can invite anyone they like. I invite Angel, Spike, Lorne, hell even Harmony, as long as they help me kick some Kalderash-Meers-D’Hoffryn butt."
The hangar doors were open. A passenger plane slowly taxied in.
Men in airport security uniforms stood guard over a series of folding tables. On the tables were crossbows and wooden stakes. Homeland Security, as always, was providing weapons to Slayers on active duty for the Council.
Ext., Wolfram & Hart
Int., the Wolfram & Hart holding cell.
Angel still had his back to the cell door. His fists were raised and he stood positioned like a bare-knuckle fighter. His knuckles, lips and nose bled.
Kennedy also held herself in a fighter’s stance. Kennedy was bleeding from the same places as Angel. She had sweat stains under the armpits of her t-shirt.
"Not impressed so far," Angel said.
"Came to kill you, not impress you."
"I don’t see you doing either anytime soon, kid."
Kennedy aimed a left jab at his face, but Angel blocked the blow. "I’m no kid."
"To something my age, you’re a kid."
"Didn’t bother you when you boffed the slut."
If the remark bothered Angel, he gave no sign.
"I can understand her boinking one of you creatures, but why didn’t she dust you when she had the chance?"
"Dusting me would’ve destroyed the world," Angel said. "Long story."
"Too bad you won’t live to tell it."
"Kill me or stand down, but don’t talk me to death, kid."
Int., Wolfram & Hart lobby.
Slayers and Watchers poured through the doors in slightly smaller numbers than the vampire horde of the previous day.
But where the vampire horde met with heavy resistance, the Slayers and the Watchers met . . . not a huge, empty, silent building.
Rona yelled: "Fan out! Teams of five. Remember the Rules of Engagement. Kill all obvious demons, capture anything that looks human. Hold fire if you’re afraid of hitting civilians! DO NOT FIGHT ANYONE ALONE! We’re looking for Angel and Willow or both. Kill the big vamp, rescue Willow."
Int., the Wolfram & Hart holding cell.
Kennedy kicked at the vampire, but Angel grabbed her ankle and flipped her. Despite the tight confines of the cell (8 ft. high and 5 ft. by 5 ft.), Kennedy rolled over in mid-air and landed on her feet.
"You telegraph your kicks," Angel said. "But the flip was a good save."
She looked in his eyes. "You’re not my teacher, killer."
Angel kicked at her and drove his heal into her chin. She hit the rear wall of the cell. Her eyes looked glazed over and she panted rapidly. She staggered forward and threw a clumsy right cross at him.
The vampire dodged the girl’s fist. "The only reason you’re alive is that I promised Faith I wouldn’t kill you if I didn’t have to—and the way you fight, I don’t think I’ll have to."
Int., warehouse in which Nina and Willow were held.
Int., the "cage"
From offstage, Warren Meers shouted: "You like that, don’t you, bitch? You know you like it!"
A female voice screamed in reply.
Willow and Nina sat on the floor trembling. "Remember, when I say go, you lay down on the floor. You’re in no condition to run and I can’t levitate both of us just now. Sorry." The tears running down her cheeks were the only sign she heard the screaming. She closed her eyes. "It’s so damn hard to feel guilty about killing him."
Nina said: "He’ll get what he deserves once we’re out of here, Willow."
Rowena’s voice said: "Ready."
Willow asked Nina if she heard that.
Willow smiled. "Lay down."
Nina did just that, curling into a fetal position. Willow turned her entirely black eyes to the bars of the cage. "JERICO!"
The warehouse was filled with sound—the sound of a hundred trumpets playing "CHARGE!" in perfect unison.
Close up of Warren Meers’s face. His smile fell away and Warren looked terribly frightened.
A blue light enveloped each and every one of the vertical and horizontal bars of the cage.
The light vanished a moment later and, a heartbeat after that, the "metal" bars also vanished. The warehouse shook as though it were the epicenter of a 5.0 quake.
Willow, sitting cross-legged, floated up off the floor and toward Warren.
The golem of Warren Meers ran to the door and managed to get it open before something struck him and sent him flying into the opposite wall.
Through the door stepped a man clad in a dark leather jacket and a motorcycle helmet. He took it off and tossed the helmet to one side.
"Never thought I’d be happy to see you again, Spike."
The vampire yelled over his shoulder: "Medics! Two!" He looked at Tara, who was curled into a fetal position of her own and sobbing.
Her face looked as though she had been battered for hours.
"I th-think so."
Spike’s head became bumpy and his fangs appeared. "I’ll kill him."
Willow seemed startled that he would care enough about Tara to want to avenge her. Then again, Spike also seemed startled.
Willow said: "Not yet, Spike. Did you bring it?"
Spike took a wooden stylus out of his pants pocket. It floated out of his hand and over to the far side of the room. Where Warren Meers, or an incredible simulation, lay quivering and whimpering.
"Please don’t hurt me."
No one spoke, as if they were pretending he hadn’t said anything.
The stylus approached one hand, but stopped just above the place where the Hebrew letters for YHWY were etched up what looked like human flesh. The stylus floated over to the other hand—and quickly carved those same letters on the other hand.
Spike said: "Why are you—?"
Willow said: "A golem can be controlled only by the person who writes the name of the God of Abraham upon his skin."
The stylus suddenly flew to the other hand and skewered one of the Hebrew letters.
Willow said: "Take me to your former mistress, Warren."
Warren jumped to his feet and shuffled reluctantly to the door.
To Spike, Willow said, "Take care of them," nodding toward first Nina Ash and then toward Tara.
"To the end of the world," Spike said.
Ext., the "Doleful City Enterprises" warehouse.
Willow, still in a lotus position, floated to a corner of the building. Golem-Warren Meers knocked on the door.
Using telepathy, Willow told Warren: "Once you’re invited in, grab the first person you see by the throat and demand that your creator show her sorry butt."
Mr. Kalderash himself answered the door. "Back so soon, golem?"
"Please let me in. She’ll kill me if I don’t come in," he simpered.
"What your mother sees in you is beyond me. Enter if you must, golem." The Gypsy man started to step away from the door.
But Warren grabbed his throat and lifted him off the ground as he stepped into the building. Warren shouted: "Show your sorry butt, mom!"
"How dare you speak to me that—"
Willow floated into the building just behind Warren. She floated to the ground and sat there as armed men in flack jackets and riot gear poured through the doorway. In all, 50 members of the Wolfram & Hart black ops team leveled their weapons at the 18 or 20 people who worked in the golem factory.
Wesley and Illyria followed behind them. Wesley held a 12-gauge shotgun in his hands.
Willow pointed to two bottles on shelves above two not-yet complete adobe mud sculptures, one of a man and one of a woman.
Two shotgun blasts destroyed the bottles.
Willow said: "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust."
The mud statues exploded, spattering nearly everyone with wet and reddish soil.
Calmly, coldly, Willow said: "Put Mr. Kalderash down, Warren."
Mrs. Meers said: "You don’t give him orders, Witch!"
"Do now." To Warren: "Explain."
Warren sighed as he let the Gypsy man drop to the concrete floor. "She wrote the word on my other hand and erased the word you wrote, mom. I can’t disobey her anymore than I could disobey you."
"Not that you wanted to disobey your mommy," Willow said.
"Hey, it was her idea to—"
"To torture Tara over and over?"
Mrs. Meers said: "You deserved to suffer for what you did to my only child!"
"But Tara didn’t."
Mrs. Meers spat on the floor. "As far as I’m concerned, your damned lesbian—"
Spike rushed over and clamped his hand over her mouth. "We’ve had enough of you, woman."
Mr. Kalderash said: "Vengeance is a living thing. It feeds on guilty and innocent alike."
Willow rolled her eyes and said: "Well, I’m gonna make sure your vengeance against Angel dies tonight."
The brother of the man Angelus murdered shook his finger at Willow. "You kept it alive when you restored that beast’s soul. You had no right to interfere—"
"You interfered plenty when you punished Buffy for loving Angel and me for being their friend."
"That is why we cast the curse as we did, so that anyone who loved the vampire would suffer as we who hated him suffered at his unholy fangs!"
Willow said: "ROWENA!"
The semi-transparent Watcher appeared and said: "I call D’Hoffryn, seeking justice. I call D’Hoffryn, to feed my anger and my hate."
Willow said: "I call D’Hoffryn, seeking justice. I call D’Hoffryn, to feed my anger and my hate."
A flash of blue light appeared and when it vanished, the golem of Tara McClay also appeared. "I-I c-call D-D’H-Hoffryn, s-seeking j-justice. I-I c-call D-D’H-Hoffryn, t-to f-feed m-my an-anger an-and m-m-my h-hate."
D’Hoffryn appeared, clad only in boxers. "I do wish you people would use the traditional incantations! This is hardly the most dignified apparel to wear in public!"
Willow pointed at the male head of the Kalderash clan. "He hurt my Tara and my friend’s girlfriend. I want to punish him."
"Well, I could make you a demon, Ms. Rosen—"
"I wish the entire Kalderash clan lost all memory of non-English languages and non-Christian rituals."
Mrs. Kalderash protested. "You’ll cut us off from our heritage! An-and my grandmother does not speak English!"
"You used my heritage against me and mine, so you lose your heritage," Willow said. "And chit chat with grams."
D’Hoffryn sighed. "That’s rather tame vengeance—but your wish is granted."
Mr. Kalderash stalked toward Willow. All the armed men in the room aimed their weapons at him.
Willow said: "Kalderash—Antarctica!"
Every Gypsy in the warehouse suddenly vanished.
Spike asked Mrs. Meers to remind him never to piss off the witch. Warren’s mother rolled her eyes.
Rowena said: "My turn."
"I’m sorry, I don’t work for ghosts, miss—?"
"Rowena Alistair and I am not a ghost."
"I apologize, it is difficult to distinguish between the two. What is it you wish?"
Rowena pointed a transparent hand at the golem of Warren Meers. "Vengeance for the heartache this former man did to my Willow, I mean my friend Willow."
The tall demon chuckled. "Do you think that backpedal fooled anyone?"
Rowena ignored the jibe. "I wish for him to be reincarnated as a petite woman for the life of this world—and I wish him to remember vividly all his sins in this life and after this life."
"Would you like him to have a conscience also?" D’Hoffryn asked.
Willow said: "Wesley."
The ex-Watcher walked up to Warren Meers, who dropped to his knees and covered his head with his hands. Wesley said: "Mr. D’Hoffryn?"
"I also have a wish, that this foul excuse for a man remember all his deaths in his dreams every night of every incarnation he knows."
Wesley aimed his shotgun at Warren’s hands and fired twice, shattering his head as well as both his hands.
Adobe mud spattered Wesley as Warren turned into a mound of wet soil.
"BLOODY HELL!" All eyes turned to Spike and Mrs. Meers. Spike’s hand bled and his blood dripped off Mrs. Meers’ chin.
Int., Doleful City warehouse.
Wesley aimed his shotgun at Warren’s hands and fired twice.
Adobe mud spattered Wesley as Warren turned into a mound of wet soil.
"BLOODY HELL!" All eyes turned to Spike and Mrs. Meers. Spike’s hand bled and his blood dripped off Mrs. Meers’ chin.
D’Hoffryn was suddenly enveloped by a swirling vortex of light.
Mrs. Meers made a dash for the door. No one, oddly enough, made a move to stop her. She opened the door—
—and fell on her butt, blood dripping from her nose.
The swirling vortex disappeared—but D’Hoffryn was still standing in the same spot, still in his boxers, and he now looked quite confused.
Faith stood in the doorway, smiling contentedly. "Damn good thing for you I don’t kill people anymore, lady."
Mrs. Meers pointed at Willow. "She murdered my son! She—!"
Faith kicked her face and Mrs. Meers collapsed, unconscious. Faith said: "One of your pals shot my man."
Wesley knelt beside the woman and touched her neck. "She’s alive."
Faith frowned. "Wish I knew if I was relieved or disappointed." She looked at the master vengeance demon. "Now killing demons, that’s what I was born for."
Illyria said: "With your permission, I would like to beat him myself. I can go far longer without sleep, food, water or waste evacuation than you, Slayer."
Wesley said: "If you would be good enough to beat him for 72 hours straight, I believe that would be sufficient time for us to devise a way to kill him."
Once again, D’Hoffryn was suddenly enveloped by a swirling vortex of light. Once again, the swirling vortex disappeared but D’Hoffryn still remained in his place. He looked genuinely frightened. "Why am I trapped here?"
Willow smiled. "I cast a little spell. It keeps you here for as long as you live. Tara’s idea. I’ll bet all your minions are gonna try to steal your job. Stuck here, you won’t be able to stop them."
To Illyria, Faith said: "I wanna get in the first punch, then you can do whatever you like with him."
The blue demon smiled. "That is an agreeable arrangement. I shall enjoy beating him far more than ever I enjoyed beating the half-breed. And I loved hurting him."
Spike fetched his motorcycle helmet and walked to the door. He stopped to kick Mrs. Meers’ leg. "Humans are not supposed to bite vampires, you stupid woman." He put on his helmet and left.
Faith strode over to D’Hoffryn. She punched him. He flew all the way to the far end of the warehouse. "He’s all yours, Illyria."
Wesley said: "We’ll be outside, Willow. Call us when you’re ready to go."
Illyria strode slowly toward where D’Hoffryn lay bleeding from swollen lips. "I shall begin with your castration, D’Hoffryn."
The ex-Watcher and the Slayer joined the vampire outside.
Exhausted from so much deprivation and so much spell casting, a sweat-soaked Willow crawled over to where the golem of Tara stood. Tara knelt. Both women appeared to be weeping.
"I’m so sorry, Tara."
"It isn’t your fault, Willow."
"If I hadn’t murdered him—"
"His mother would have found some other excuse to abuse someone else. I doubt we were her first victims. Remember, she was in control of the golem of Warren the whole time he was . . . hurting me. No normal woman would let any man, not even her own son, do that."
"If I could take away the memory—"
Tara shook her head. "You know how I feel about memory spells."
Willow hung her head in bitter shame. "I messed up heaven for you."
She shook her head again. "There are a lot of murder victims in heaven, Willow. We’re all happy there. You didn’t ruin heaven for me. Warren didn’t ruin heaven for me. Neither of you has that kind of power—no offense, my love."
Willow reached for Tara’s hand, the one with the Hebrew letters etched upon it. But she stopped short of touching the animated and ensouled statue of her late lover.
Tara said: "I know it’s hard, Willow, but I promise we will have a real goodbye someday."
"Promise?" Her voice was that of a small child.
"Promise. I will always find you."
"You never broke a promise to me yet." Willow touched Tara’s hand and erased the letters.
"Tara" collapsed into a pile of glistening adobe mud. Willow lowered her head and sobbed.
About 10 minutes later, Faith came back in and scooped the sobbing Witch off the floor and carried her outside into the daylight.
Ext., Wolfram & Hart
Int., Wolfram & Hart
Slayers and Watchers, in teams of five each, moved from room to room and floor to floor. But the law office of evil was entirely empty.
Int., the Wolfram & Hart holding cell
The fight had apparently continued for quite awhile. Both Angel and Kennedy sported ugly bruises on their faces and both had blood spattered all over their clothes.
"Question?" Kennedy asked.
"Why did you feed on my mother?"
"I didn’t feed on her, I broke her neck. Your mother wanted to restore my soul and I stopped her."
"Why didn’t you try to stop Willow?"
"It didn’t dawn on me that she could—until I got back from Hell."
Kennedy’s jaw dropped. "From where?"
"Buffy killed me, sent me to Hell."
"I . . . I think I believe you. Damn! Damn! I’ll be damned. I thought they lied when they said Buffy killed my mom’s killer."
"They left out a lot of the truth," Angel acknowledged.
"I suppose you’d like me to forgive you."
"None of my other victims ever did, I don’t see why you should be the first."
"And you’re not gonna ask?"
"Not my place. There’s nothing I could say or do that would give you justice. There’s nothing you could say or do that would give you justice. I took something you can never get back and we’re both stuck with that fact."
With those words, Angel dropped his hands to his sides and stepped away from the door. "You want your shot, you take it. But I warn you—"
"About time you started talking like a normal vampire."
"—I already sent word to Buffy. You try to punish her because I’m still alive, she and Dawn and Riley Finn and the entire Council will be on your ass for the rest of your life."
"Not like I can go back."
"Giles promised me that Faith would be in charge of your punishment if you went back."
Kennedy snorted. "I killed people, Angel."
"No one needs to know that. No one. Once this done, no one in Ohio will know it."
He sat down in the corner and pointed at the door.
Kennedy, clearly suspicious, kept her eyes on him as she edged to the cell door. She knelt, her eyes still locked on the vampire, reached out between the vertical bars and groped until she gripped the wooden stake. She picked it up and stepped over to the vampire.
He looked up at her and said: "You give me your word it ends when you stake me, you can go back to your old life."
Kennedy shrugged. "You expect me to believe you?"
"Ask Faith. My friend Drogyn is in my office. He’ll take you to Faith."
Kennedy staked him.
Angel exploded in a cloud of dust.
The Slayer dropped the stake at her feet. Kennedy turned to the cell door, knelt again and groped for the key. She stood up, unlocked the door and walked out.
Out of sight of the cell, another door could be heard opening and closing.
The dust on the floor turned into a light, foggy mist that rose from the floor, assumed the shape of a man—and solidified into the face and body of Angel, fully dressed in the same clothes he’d worn when Kennedy dusted him.
He fished his cell phone out of his jacket pocket and hit a speed dial. "Lorne? Angel. She dusted me. Don’t tell her I’m alive again until Wesley puts that memory spell on her . . . "
Hall outside Angel’s office
Vi, Rona and eight other Slayers stood at the door. Rona read out loud a memo taped to the door.
"To the Watchers Council: Am at the address below, see the map on back, rescuing Willow Rosenberg and my girlfriend from D’Hoffryn and his pals. Rescuing people is supposed to be your job, remember? Hurt any human beings and I’ll kick all your asses. Ask Faith if she thinks I can’t back that up. Tell Xander Harris that Giles will be furious when he gets out of jail. Giles and I had a treaty all worked out. Harris nearly got you all killed. If you want confirmation, Drogyn’s inside. He’s human, or he used to be, so remember that Slayers aren’t supposed to kill humans. Leave murder to Vampires, Watchers and other monsters. Angel."
Vi said: "Now what?"
"Go inside and talk to Drogyn," Rona said. "Damn Angel. I hope Kennedy kills him—slowly!"
Ext., Hospital, Downtown Los Angeles
Int., Hospital room, night
Robin Woods opened his eyes and smiled. "Hey. Where you been?"
"Cleanin’ up Kennedy’s mess," Faith said.
"What will Giles do to her?"
"Officially? Nothin’. Just between us, I’ve arranged for her punishment. Now, let’s talk about somethin’ else." Faith smiled salaciously. She leaned forward and kissed his lips lightly. "Can’t wait ’til you’re fully recovered."
"Willow could help with that."
"I ain’t willin’ to risk you getting’ some kinda cancer, lover. Now, let me tell you what we’re gonna do once you’re all better . . . "
The Deeper Well
Drogyn leaned against the railing of the narrow suspension bridge. Above him and below, stretching on endlessly, the cylindrical and vertical cavern with coffins embedded in the walls.
Straddling one coffin: Kennedy. She lay face down on top of it and, with one hand, scrubbed one of the brass handles of the coffin with a toothbrush.
Illyria sighed. "You disappoint me, D’Hoffryn. I expected you to be stronger."
The corpse, its parts scattered at her feet, did not reply.
Int., Wolfram & Hart holding cell
Werewolf Nina Ash howled and flung herself at the cell door.
Angel sat on the floor. He spoke into his cell phone: "The best way to punish Xander, Giles, is to simply say I tried to defend him. That’ll eat at his gut for days. . . . As much as I hate to say it, you did the right thing . . . Turns out Willow couldn’t restore Fred’s soul anyway . . . And Willow is definitely the first person Angelus would hunt down if he ever gets loose again. . . ."
As he spoke, Angel leafed through a computer print out entitled: "Career of Angel, AKA Angelus, AKA Liam: A Freshman Thesis by Willow Rosenberg, New Watcher’s Council."
". . . No, Kennedy wasn’t responsible for a single human death. That was all D’Hoffryn’s doing. . . . If the Kalderash survive their trip to Antarctica, I doubt they’ll be able to do anything for a while. None of the elders can remember their own language anymore."
Int., an apartment in Los Angeles
Mrs. Meers flung a photo album across the room, grabbed another and hurriedly leafed through it, ripping some of the pages in her haste.
Tears ran down her face as, one by one, she saw the same thing.
Every photograph of Warren was flawed. In every photograph there was only a vague blur where Warren’s head should have been. There was nothing to show what Warren looked like on "first day of Kindergarten" or on "Prom Night" or one moment in between.
Mrs. Meers whined: "That damn bitch took away all my memories."
Ext., Watcher’s Council Headquarters, morning
Int., a holding cell
Xander Harris lay on a cot, staring up at the ceiling, muttering angrily to himself.
Int., Rupert Giles’ apartment
Int., Rupert Giles’ bedroom
Becca rolled over in bed and nuzzled Giles’ neck. "It’s not true. Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. Not that it really could, in my case."
Becca said: "I’m glad you decided to keep Kennedy’s punishment private. I think part of her problem is that she felt publicly humiliated."
"I just hope she understands that she has quite exhausted the last of her so-called second chances. If she had killed a human— "
"Angel said that was D’Hoffryn’s doing."
"Angel has been known to lie," Giles said.
"A lying killer, how shocking."
Giles didn’t answer.
Giles sighed. "I suppose I always knew I might have to confess my sins to you . . . Debts which cannot be repaid ought to at least be acknowledged . . . "
Int., Watcher’s Infirmary
Rowena sat up in the hospital bed, the back of her hospital gown undone, her hands holding up the gown so that her breasts were covered. Willow sat behind her, her right hand on the back of Rowena’s shoulder blade.
"You sure about this, Rowena, because the risks—"
"I would trust you with my life, Willow. From what Nina Ash said about your ordeal—I think I would trust you with my soul." Rowena grinned. "Not that I wouldn’t have before—"
"I didn’t do anything special."
"Willow? No one on Earth, not even Angel or Nina, would have thought any less of you if you had killed Nina to protect yourself."
"I don’t think I could kill Angel’s girlfriend. He falls for the nicest women."
"The loveliest, too, I’ve noticed. Are you sure she is strictly heterosexual?"
Willow giggled. "I’m sure. Far as I can tell, Nina’s as straight as you and Buffy."
Rowena Alistair frowned.
Andrew knocked on Giles’ door.
"Who is it?"
"Oh for the love of—" A moment passed and then Giles opened the door. "You couldn’t give me my mail when I came down?"
"It’s almost Noon, Giles." Andrew held up a cardboard box, a bit larger than an encyclopedia. "It’s for Willow—"
"Then give Willow’s mail to Willow!"
Giles snatched the box from his hands and tore it open. "You did not see me invade Willow’s privacy."
"But I just did, Giles."
Giles rolled his eyes as he removed a sheet of paper and an accordion file from the box. He read the letter and then turned the accordion file upside down. To himself, he said, softly: "My lord." To Andrew, he said: "Destroy the cover letter and give the folder to Willow. Tell her Angel sent it with his love."
Giles slammed the door shut.
Andrew read the letter out loud: "Dear Giles: I know you opened this mail and you ought to be ashamed. That’s twice now you’ve let your hatred for me lead you to violate Willow’s free will. Enclosed is a one-of-a-kind folder. According to Wolfram & Hart archivists, it isn’t possible to shred or burn W&H files—which means this folder can’t be empty. But it clearly is. I’m not sure, but I think it means Willow has paid for at least one of her sins. I envy her. As for you, take my advice—go and sin no more. Angel."
Andrew frowned, clearly puzzled. "Paid for her sins? . . . I don’t underst—oh! OH! OH, GODDESS! OH, MY GODDESS!"
The way his face lit up, you might have thought it was Andrew’s own sins that had been paid for.
Andrew ran down the hall shouting Willow’s name over and over and over.