Lacey Chabert as Skye Talisker, Gale Harold as Jim Pollan, Caroline Dhavernas as Grace Hatherley, Elijah Woods as Jeff Lindquist, Michelle Rodriguez as Kadin Van Helsing, Laura Pyper as Casey Pierce, Alexis Bledel as Denise, Tessa Thompson as Chamique, Robert Picardo as Dr. Albert Miller, Thora Birch as Tracey Hausser, Laura Prepon as Lori Carew, and Gary Oldman as Mr. Jason Felix
Marcia Cross as Autumn O'Mara, Morena Baccarin as The Voice of Hell, Rhona Mitra as Alex Neel, Kristy Swanson as Joan Arkham and Freddie Highmore as Norman Hansen
Hazelton, WV – Rural State Highway – Same Time
Alex Neel drove her slick silver hybrid slowly between lines of protesters as Xander sat in the passenger seat. The protesters carried poster board signs, chanted…forming an unintelligible cacophony. They closed in on either side of the car, and Alex sighed. One sign read "Honk for Willow" in bright green marker.
A cheer went up, and the crowd parted slightly. Alex turned the car onto a drive and slowed to a stop at a high metal gate. A line of guards stood in her way, glowering. Alex pressed a button, and the window slid down. She held out an ID to one of the guards.
"I'm the lawyer. This is Rosenberg's best friend," she said as she motioned to Xander. "I called ahead."
The guard examined the ID briefly then nodded. The line of guards parted; then the gate opened with a mechanical whirr.
Alex drove up the road, and the guards closed ranks behind her. The shouts of the protesters faded into the distance. As the gate clanged shut, the sign hung on it rattled briefly. It read "Hazelton Federal Detention Center for Special Offenders."
Federal Detention Center for Special Offenders – Series of Shots
– Alex and Xander put their arms out so that a female guard could run a wand metal detector over every inch of them. It whined at Alex's wrist. She sighed and pulled off her Rolex, dropping it in a cup.
– Alex's eyes rolled as she bent over so a different female guard could frisk her.
– Her briefcase hit a metal table with a bang. Hands in white plastic gloves snapped it open.
– Another guard, this one an African-American man, carefully read a sheaf of papers that he held in his hands.
Alex's hands were on her hips. "It's not subversive material; it's an official legal brief."
– White plastic gloves screwed apart a fat black pen with gold trim, separating it into two halves. Each piece was carefully placed down on a metal table.
– A young man with purple streaks in his hair and far too much eye makeup shook a wood and feather talisman in front of Alex, making shapes in the air.
"Would it be rude of me to ask what they're paying you?" Alex asked. She got no response.
– The same young witch sprinkled some kind of dust over Alex's belongings as they spread over a table, the pen now in four parts. Nothing especially spectacular happened.
– The African-American man handed Alex her briefcase back. Her clothes were rumpled, and dust fell from her case.
"You're clean, folks. Thanks for your patience."
Alex gave him a jaded look. "You're welcome," she replied. As they walked away through a metal revolving door, she mumbled, "Like I'd be dumb enough to try and sneak anything spelled in here anyway…"
"Now, now," Xander said just as low. "They're doing their job of keeping the world safe from Willow – you know, the woman who helped save the world, like Faith."
Federal Detention Center – Visitation Room – Minutes Later
Alex and Xander sat on one side of the glass divider while Willow sat on the other. All three were holding phones to their ears.
"So, how's it feel to be Nelson Mandela?" Xander asked.
"Surprisingly enough, it kinda sucks." Willow, clad neck to ankle in a bright orange prison jumpsuit, flashed a smile from her seat. The holding area was pretty small, and they sat alone in the room except for a lone guard on each side.
"So…uh…what's your cell like?" Xander asked.
"Oh it's lovely – more roomy than the other cells I'm told. I wouldn't know because I'm in solitary. Just me, a sink, and a toilet. But on the upside the beautiful glowing green anti-magic bars keep me up most of the night with the light they give off so…you know…added bonus for not being rested."
Alex sat in a chair next to Xander, wanly returning her smile as she shuffled through the papers in a leather binder.
"Anyway," Willow continued, "I've got a ways to go before I give Mandela a run for his money. I haven't been here that long. And people liked him."
"People like you," Alex objected. Willow raised an eyebrow. Alex pressed on. "I'm serious. You should have seen the protesters we passed on the way in here."
"She's right," Xander told her. "Big poster painted signs and everything."
Willow sighed and leaned back on her hands. "Were most of them women, by any chance? Possibly holding hands with each other?"
Alex looked down at the contents of her folder. "Some of them looked like men…but…yeah, mostly women."
"I'm sure everyone in Washington is rushing to help the lesbian," Willow sighed.
"Well, one woman is," Xander told her. "Rowena took Andy, Grace, and the kids and went to Capitol Hill to try to make some headway."
"Any luck?" she asked.
"Not as of yet," Alex replied. "But she just got there, so let's give it some time."
"I've been waiting for three months now – I haven't even had a trial yet. How much more time do I have to give?" she said, frustrated. "I'm sorry," she said immediately. "I know all you guys are trying. I do. It's just…" She let the sentence hang unfinished. "So, what'd ya bring me?" Willow asked brightly, trying to change her mood. "Is it a cake with a bomb baked into it, like on Duck Tales? That'd be helpful. Plus, hey, cake."
"Papers to sign." Alex pulled a particular sheaf from her stack and held them up to the glass for her to see.
"Papers with a bomb baked into them?" Willow asked hopefully.
"You realize they're listening to us, right?" Alex asked with a vague air of impatience.
"Oh, well, what are they going to do? Put me in jail without a trial? Oh, wait a minute. That's what they're doing now." She quickly read over the top page Alex held there. "Request for Expedited Hearing?" she read. "Didn't I already sign one of these?"
"Three, actually," Alex sighed. "The process isn't moving nearly as fast as I would like."
"How about what I would like?" Willow replied. She got to her feet. "It's been three months and no hearing. Nothing! I have babies. Little baby children who will probably forget me if they haven't already. Not to mention a wife and a life and a job that can mean life and death for people. And instead of being there, I'm stuck in solitary, wrapped in one mother of a power dampener, and practicing doing chin-ups. Chin-ups, Alex!" She ended her diatribe with a deep breath, taking her seat again.
"Welcome to Hazelton," Alex said darkly. "I've been working for exceptional people and…other beings, for a while now, and I've never seen anything like this. It's Guantanamo Bay for the magically inclined."
"So, the trial's still nowhere in sight?" Willow asked, running a hand through her hair.
Alex nodded. "Near as I can figure, they're not sure they have enough evidence to convict you, but thanks to the Patriot Act and Homeland Security, they want to keep you locked up as long as possible."
"Who's 'they'?" Willow sounded exasperated.
"We don't know," Xander admitted.
"Right," Alex added. "And believe me, if my bosses don't know…it's a really big secret."
Willow sighed. "So, what can I do?"
Alex pointed to the floor. "You can sign the paper. We keep trying. It's all we can do without a Presidential pardon."
Willow gestured for her to hand over the files. Alex turned and motioned the guard over, handing him the papers.
"Actually," Alex said, "we've been discussing alternative avenues."
"Yeah," Xander said. "Like the one Rowena's working on now."
"And?" Willow prompted.
"And…other stuff," Xander said.
"They've really tied our hands here, Will," he told her.
"Son of a…" Willow muttered as the door to her side opened and a guard walked in handing her the papers and a pen. She signed her name and gave the papers back, and the guard left as quickly as he came.
"Now what?" Willow asked.
"We hurry up and wait," Alex told her.
"Are the kids sitting up on their own?" Willow asked Xander. "When I left, they were trying."
He licked his lips nervously. "Yeah," he replied. "They're ahhh…yeah, but only if you prop them up. Otherwise they fall over to the side like a sack of potatoes."
Xander smiled, as did Willow, but the expression didn't last long on her face.
"Hopefully I'll know more by the time they're walking, right?" Willow asked Alex.
"That is our goal," Alex said.
"What about Buffy?" Willow asked Xander.
"She's fine. She can sit up on her own," Xander teased.
Willow grinned. "I meant have you asked her out yet?" Xander anxiously rubbed the back of his neck. "I'll take that as a no," Willow continued. "You gotta do it, Xan. I see how chummy you guys have been lately. Well, you were…it's been a while since I've seen you guys together…Really, you shouldn't wait."
"Jeez, Will," Xander sighed. "You sound like you're dying, offering your last advice or something."
"Just because my life is on hold doesn't mean yours should stop," she told him. "Take advantage of the freedom you have and be brave. Don't waste the time you have, okay? Promise me?"
"I will promise nothing," Xander replied. "But I'll certainly give it serious consideration. How's that?"
"Is that the best I'm going to get?" Willow asked.
"'Fraid so," Xander replied.
Willow sighed. "Well, I'll take what I can get." She then turned to Alex. "So, lady lawyer extraordinaire…how long on this paperwork?"
"Their case is nothing more than hearsay. But getting a trial to prove that is our biggest problem right now."
"What's the bottom line?" the witch asked.
"I won't make promises, Willow, because as I said, this is something we've never encountered. But I'm doing all I can," Alex replied.
Willow nodded. "I know. I know. I'm sorry if I'm testy."
"It's understandable and justified," Alex replied. "I am too."
The guard brought the papers back to Alex. "Time's up, ma'am," he told her.
Xander put his hand against the glass. Willow seemed reluctant at first, but then she did the same. "Tell Ro and the kids I love 'em, okay? Everybody actually."
"Faith too?" Xander asked.
Willow groaned and looked away. "Just do it, all right?" she said, turning back to him.
"You bet, Will," Xander told her. "You hang in there."
Willow just nodded and then hung up the phone, looking doleful.
Washington, DC – Establishing Shot – Day
The white dome of the US Capitol building and the spike of the Washington Monument soared above the tree line, symbols of the old American power. The Potomac River flowed among cherry blossoms in the foreground.
Congressional Office Building – Hallway – Same Time
The thick oaken door slammed shut with a bang, leaving Rowena and Grace standing slightly stunned in the hallway. A brass nameplate on the door read "Rep. Joseph Ankiel."
"Well, that didn't work," Grace commented dryly.
Rowena sighed and shook her head. She took a moment to gather herself before beginning to walk down the hall. Grace hurried to follow.
"This isn't what I expected," Rowena said as they walked. "We've spent years building up these contacts. Robin and Jim and now with Oversight…this isn't the first time we've pulled these strings."
"Ankiel sponsored the Slayer Emancipation Act," Grace commented as she brushed past a scurrying intern. "The strings have decided they don't want to be pulled this time. And Oversight has to have a couple of stray senators in their pocket, but for whatever reason, there's not much happening on that front."
"Which leaves us with the question of why," Rowena continued. "It doesn't make sense. None of this makes sense. It's like some kind of…"
"Conspiracy?" Grace ventured. "My feeling is, conspiracies are usually ruled out by Occam's razor."
"Well, I don't see any simple explanation for any of this. I take it you have an alternative theory?"
"O'Mara's the rising superstar, maybe a president someday if you believe the polls. The race is on to see who gets to be the top flunkies. She needs to look tough on something – why not us?"
Rowena stopped in her tracks. "Speak of the devil."
Autumn O'Mara was walking quickly down the hallway in the opposite direction, a chunky female aide in tow.
"Let's ask her." Rowena broke into a run. "Congresswoman!" she called, and O'Mara came up short.
"Councilor Allister," she acknowledged guardedly. Rowena and Grace stood on either side of her, effectively pinning the Congresswoman against the wall. Seeing the worried look from her aide, O'Mara said, "It's all right, Darlene. I'll meet you at Ways & Means."
As her aide walked away, O'Mara turned back to Rowena and Grace. "Is there something I can help you two ladies with?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact," Rowena replied. "I'd like to speak to you about my wife."
"Your wife in a marriage that is unsanctioned by the state of Ohio," O'Mara commented. Rowena visibly stiffened, and Grace's eyes widened. "I suppose you can't get a pardon from an overstuffed actor this time…Miss Rosenberg's crimes are federal."
"Alleged crimes. Willow has never been convicted of anything," Grace protested. "And yet they seem to be able to keep her locked up until judgment day without a trial…"
"I'm sorry," O'Mara said. "But I can't help you."
"You're the Chair of the Supernatural Relations Committee," Rowena pointed out. O'Mara turned to face her. Seeing she had her attention, Rowena pressed on. "I know there's been a rift between your office and the Watchers Council. I'm not sure how it happened…we bring jobs to your district, keep it safe, we've even made a few contributions to your campaigns, but you go on national TV and act like we're the villains here."
"I can only act according to my conscience…" the Congresswoman answered stiffly. "…especially in light of recent events just brought to my attention."
"Faith Lehane," Rowena began.
"Not Miss Lehane," O'Mara cut her short. "This is something far worse, and you know what I mean."
Rowena sighed. "Look, I'm offering a clean slate here. I think it'd be advantageous to both sides not to have the other as an enemy. All we need is someone to get us time with the President so that we can ask him for a pardon. Truce?"
Rowena held out her hand. Autumn O'Mara stared at it for a long moment, her breaths surprisingly short and nervous. Grace raised an eyebrow. Finally, O'Mara said, "I'm sorry. I have a committee to get to."
She didn't take Rowena's hand. Instead, she edged away from the two women, making sure not to touch them as she extricated herself. She then walked briskly away down the hall.
"What the frak is her problem?" Grace asked, exasperated.
Rowena stared after the Congresswoman's retreating back and finally lowered her extended hand.
"I wish I knew," she said softly.
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Later
Faith, Robin, Kennedy, Jason, and Lori sat at various points of a too-large conference table. The room was a little too dark and a little too quiet. Kennedy drummed her fingernails on the table. Lori clicked the top of her pen repeatedly. Faith yawned.
Kennedy turned to Faith, a little too quickly, and asked, "Are you feeling okay?" Everyone in the room turned to look.
"Sorry?" Faith asked softly.
"You've got…circles." Kennedy pointed to her own eyes.
"Five by five," Faith told her. "Just…"
"What?" Robin asked.
Faith turned and looked at him for a beat. "Achy." She rolled her neck and grimaced.
"Maybe you're coming down with something," Kennedy suggested.
That brought a headshake from Faith. "No. I've never been sick since I became a slayer…ever. A little run down? Sure. Besides, Norman's in town, and you know how he likes to run in circles. Maybe I'm just not cut out for motherhood."
"Maybe you should –" Robin began to venture, but he was cut off when the door banged open and Buffy strode in.
"Sorry I'm late," she announced before she'd even sat down. "Just got off the phone with Xander in West Virginia and Ro in D.C."
"Any luck?" Lori asked, sitting forward in her seat.
Buffy just shook her head. "Willow signed some papers, Xander said. He and Alex should be here in a few hours."
Faith slumped in her chair, the circles under her eyes looking particularly dark.
"Ro had no luck either?" Robin asked.
Buffy again shook her head.
"They're headed back to the hotel and'll get back late tonight, so…" She looked up to see Joan enter the room carrying a sheaf of papers. Joan had a blue wrist brace on one arm and hand.
"You forgot these," Joan said. "Mission reports from last night?"
Buffy bobbed her head. "Right, right. Thanks."
As Joan handed the papers over, Felix asked her, "How is your…carpal tunnel, is it?"
Joan nodded. "Getting better, I think. It's all her fault." She jerked her good thumb towards Buffy. "This lady never learned to type."
"I was kinda busy, saving the world and all," Buffy said defensively, but Joan was already on her way out the door with a final wave.
Faith yawned again, drawing glances from everyone else.
Robin cleared his throat. "It will be nice to get a few more friendly faces around here. I feel like we've been running with a skeleton crew the past couple of days."
"I think the watchers' retreat is important," Lori said. "We've just been working them so hard with…everything."
"But there's only a few more days," Kennedy asked eagerly. "Right?"
Buffy gave her a suspicious glance before replying. "Jim'll keep them out of trouble. He's good at…shepherding."
"And I'm sure he's keeping an extra-close eye on Dawn and her bestest vampire friend," Faith said, an unsuccessful attempt at a wry grin on her face. She had opened her mouth to continue when she winced and put a hand to her forehead.
"Okay, that's it," Kennedy told her.
"What's going on?" Buffy asked.
Kennedy looked over her shoulder at Buffy. "Faith's sick."
"She's sick?" Buffy repeated. "How can you be sick? You're a slayer."
"I'm not sick," Faith insisted.
"Faith," Robin said firmly, "I get it, I do, but we've all been under a lot of stress lately, especially you."
"Yeah," Buffy agreed. "The only time I can remember feeling flu-y is that time when I felt guilty about…" She saw Kennedy looking at her quizzically. "…stuff."
"I'm not feeling guilty!"
"Maybe," Robin said, "but you definitely need rest."
Faith looked around the room and suddenly had no more energy to argue this. "Yeah, okay."
She sniffed loudly and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. She looked startled when her hand came away smeared with blood. "What the –"
Kennedy saw the blood on Faith's face, coming from her nose. "Oh, jeez. Does anybody have a Kleenex?"
Lori dug in her bag and produced a small pack, sliding it across the table. Kennedy pulled out a white tissue.
"Lean your head back," the slayer said.
"No, that's the worst thing you can do," Lori said. "Keep her head straight."
"I think she should –" Kennedy began again.
"Guys!" Robin said, quieting them.
"What's happening?" Faith asked worriedly as Kennedy helped press the tissue under her nose.
"You've just got a bloody nose," Kennedy told her. "My half-sister used to get them all the damn time…just hold still."
"That never happened to me," Buffy pointed out.
"Maybe we should get you to Dr. Miller," Robin suggested.
"No," Faith said as she pulled the tissue away. "I just need to lie down for a while…"
"Well, I think it's stopped," Kennedy told her. She handed Faith the pack of Kleenex. "You should probably take these with you."
Faith nodded and took them. She got up, then stumbled, holding her head. Buffy looked genuinely worried now.
Faith turned to Robin. "Little help here?" she asked sheepishly.
Washington, DC – L'Enfant Plaza Hotel – Later
Andrew removed his hands from his face, revealing a big smile. "Hellllllooooo!"
Baby Alex laughed hysterically in the portable crib, while Jen just stared, wide-eyed at this strange man. Andrew put his hands over his face again.
"Where'd I go?" he said in a voice pitched high for baby ears. "Where am I?" Then he pulled his hands away again. "Here I am!"
More wild laughing came from Alex, distinguished by his blue diaper. Jen's was a light pink.
Andrew turned when he heard the door of the hotel room open and close behind him.
Rowena sighed and slumped against the wall.
"I guess I don't have to ask how it went," Andrew said.
Grace didn't even look at him. "I need to pee like a racehorse that drank a lot of Gatorade." She closed the bathroom door behind her.
Rowena rolled her eyes then asked tiredly, "How are they?"
"Doing just fine, thank you, though I think Jen's a little jet-lagged," Andrew replied as Rowena walked over.
"We're in the same time zone, Andrew. Jet lag isn't possible."
"Still, you could have left them with us at the Council for one night, you know."
Rowena picked up Jen just as the baby girl began crying. "I know, I know. You're hungry," she cooed. As she patted Jen on the back, she said, "I can't leave them. Not when they're already down one mother. Shh, shh."
"I can't believe no one would help you," Andrew sighed as he picked up Alex. "What'd they say?"
"The ones that would talk to us said they're still working on relief efforts for the Southwest and don't have time for my cause célèbre," Rowena told him. "The others were less polite. O'Mara wouldn't even shake my hand."
"That's a new kind of rude," Andrew said as he sat down on one of the room's double beds. Jen's crying was starting to quiet down as she began to nurse. "Who does that woman think she is?"
After a moment of relative silence, he turned to see Rowena looking about as pensive as one can look with a baby in her arms.
"What are you thinking?" he asked.
"Something's going on here," Rowena told him. "Something more than a politician running off at the mouth, I mean."
Andrew's brow furrowed. "Like what? The Congresswoman's a lot of things, but she's not Emperor Palpatine. Well…she's prettier, anyway."
Rowena shrugged. "I don't know. But I have a feeling we need to find out."
The tense moment was broken by the loud noise of flushing coming from the bathroom. Rowena sighed.
"Having fun rooming with Grace?" Andrew asked.
"The weird thing is, that girl's a sponge."
"She's a what now?"
"A sponge – she soaks up everything going on around her. I wouldn't be surprised if she's running things someday."
Andrew looked from Rowena to the bathroom door and back. "Nah," he finally said. "Her hair's not shiny enough."
For the first time since arriving, Rowena smiled.
Congressional Office Building – Autumn O'Mara's Office – Later
Autumn O'Mara squirted an unnecessarily copious green blob of hand sanitizer onto one palm. She leaned back in the large leather chair behind her desk as she compulsively rubbed the goo all over both hands.
Her office was dimly lit, the curtains drawn over the lone window. Trophies and citations cluttered the shelves. A panoramic photo of a flooded downtown Cleveland covered one wall. "Never Forget," the caption read. A young female aide shifted nervously on the far side of the Congresswoman's desk.
"Where are we on the press conference?" O'Mara asked as she continued to spread sanitizer over her hands.
"Um, Gerald prepared another draft of your statement, based on your comments," the aide said, placing a sheaf of papers on the desk. "He added the, uh…new information."
O'Mara glanced over the papers. "Good," she commented. "Very good. Darlene, I want to thank you, Gerald, and the rest of my staff for your hard work these past few months."
Darlene looked startled. "Thank you, ma'am."
"I understand it's been difficult on everyone," O'Mara continued as she reached over for another squirt of sanitizer. "Great things don't come easy. But we're so close now…" She looked directly into Darlene's eyes. "After the events of the next few weeks, no one will challenge us. There will a place for you, Darlene, a place for all of you, in the new administration. That's the sort of job security not many can count on these days. Are we on the same page?"
Darlene looked down at her shoes. "Yes, ma'am," she said quietly.
O'Mara went back to rubbing her hands raw. "Good. That will be all, Darlene."
After Darlene meekly left the office, closing the door behind her, O'Mara reached up to the cord around her neck. She pulled out an uneven black stone from where it had hung inside her pantsuit. She fingered it for a moment, staring deeply into its dark interior.
Then she laughed. It was a giggle at first, growing into a loud cackle that filled the room.
Faith and Robin's Apartment – Later That Day
As laughter faded to an echo some strange place in the distance, Norman walked through Faith's apartment.
"Hey, Faith!" he called. "The door was unlocked…" He was greeted by nothing but silence. "You said I should stop by for your famous Cheez Whiz and ketchup sandwiches."
Still nothing. Norman kept walking until he entered the living room and saw Faith, eyes closed, sprawled over the couch. Her head rested on a sweatshirt that had been made into a makeshift pillow.
Norman rolled his eyes. "Boy, you slayers sure are deep sleepers," he commented. He walked over to the couch and shouted, "Hey, Faith!"
Faith didn't move.
"Faith, wake up!" Norman shouted, a look of concern growing on his face. He shook her by the shoulders, but this still failed to rouse her.
Norman spoke through the lump in his throat. "Faith?…Mom?"
Faith appeared to be resting peacefully on her old, ratty sweatshirt.
End of Act One
On to Act Two