Story by Faith 730
Written by Faith730 and Dan Joslyn (additional writing by CN Winters)
Produced by Susan Carr
Directed by CN Winters, Faith730 and Dan Joslyn
Editing by DragonWriter17
Sounds by CN Winters
Art Direction by Robert Kidman
Artists – Robert Kidman, Zahir al Daoud and CN Winters
Cover Art by Robert Kidman
Cleveland, May 2007
Bureau Nine HQ – Magical Security Vault – Night
Inside the room were a series of shelves – some were open while others were closed in, requiring a key to be opened.
At the very end of the long room was a large, in-wall combination safe. Tucked inside was a wooden box with a light green hue around it.
Bureau Nine HQ – Outside Magical Security Vault – Same Time
In the hallway outside the vault sat a guard with his feet propped up on a table, watching a television. Another guard arrived from a foot patrol of the area and took a few moments to watch the program the other guard was enjoying.
"What are you watching?" he asked as he casually swung his nightstick.
"The wedding of the century," he answered sarcastically. "Pretty boring so far. Nothing's really happening, and the cameras are so far away that you can't see anything."
The guard still on his feet leaned over to get a better look at the small screen on the table. "Are they on a boat?"
"Looks like it," he replied.
The guard who was standing righted himself. "Well, if anything super interesting happens, radio me. I'm going to make another pass."
"Don't plan on it," the other chuckled. "Chuck and Diane – now that was a wedding. I remember because my wife made me watch it over and over again when she was planning our wedding. I had to remind her our budget wasn't the same as someone who's the heir to the English throne."
His counterpart chuckled. "The divorce was more interesting than the wedding," he replied as he walked away.
"Mine or Chuck's?" the guard watching called out to the retreating form.
The other guard only laughed as he continued on.
The guard propped up at the table went back to watching as a still image of Rowena and Willow flashed across the screen before going into a commercial.
Bureau Nine HQ – Magical Security Vault – Same Time
Suddenly, inside the combination safe, the green glow that surrounded the Loathestone box went out.
Cleveland, Present Day
Watchers Council – Hallway – Late Afternoon
Skye was backed against a wall, a cane pointing dangerously at her chest.
"We didn't place you in there and give the Voice of Hell the plans to this building for kicks and giggles. We need information."
Lori lowered her cane to the floor and sighed. The hallway around the two women was empty and long, fluorescent lights fading into the distance along with their reflections on tile.
"Hey, I'm risking my life here!" Skye argued. "Respect would be nice. Or at least shutting up and going on your merry way, because at this point I'll settle for that."
"And why are you risking your life, Skye?" Lori asked her. "Because at this point, I haven't seen jack. Have you seen jack? Or Jill, even?"
Skye ran her tongue over her canines. Lori raised an eyebrow.
"What I would think you would understand, Miss Diplomat 2008," Skye finally said, "is that terrorist groups organize themselves into cells. I have access to one cell. I met the Voice once…she was kinda hot and gave a good speech. But that doesn't mean they're gonna tell me jack or jill until it's time for me to blow myself up in the slayer rec room, which, just so you know, I'm probably not going to do."
"Given that, can you justify continuing the operation?" Lori asked.
"Just give me some time," Skye pleaded. "This place needs to get a break one way or the other."
"And you want to make sure you're the one to give it to them?" Lori pressed. "Or maybe there's a different explanation. Maybe you're just biding your time, playing both sides until one looks like a winner…"
"Hey," Skye exclaimed. "I thought we were beyond that. I've grown as a vampire."
"Yes," Lori agreed. "You have grown. As a vampire. It's asking a lot for us to go to the trust place when you drink human blood."
"Only one human! Well, okay, actually two – but still!" Skye protested. Lori looked confused. "Never mind," Skye sighed, a serious look on her face. "Listen, I promise you on my soul's grave that I will bring you something you can use."
"And if not?"
Skye hesitated. "It'll happen." After a pause, she gestured toward the hallway and said, "Now if you don't mind, Dawn's waiting. We've got to finish packing for the watchers' retreat." Then she turned and walked away down the hallway, leaving Lori standing in her wake.
"There's a stake in this cane, you know," Lori called.
"Yeah, right," Skye smirked as she turned a corner.
Lori stood in place for a moment, twirling her cane lightly in two hands. Then she pressed a button and small wooden knife slipped from one end. She pressed the button again and the blade disappeared.
Watchers Council – Felix's Office – Moments Later
Felix heard a knock at his office door and looked up.
"Come in," he called out.
Lori walked inside and made her way over to his desk. "We need to talk," she said.
"Certainly, have a seat," he motioned.
"No time," she replied. "It's about Talisker. Have you seen her reports? Or I should say lack of reports?"
"Yes, not as fruitful as we hoped," he agreed.
"The question is what are we going to do about it?" Lori asked.
Felix tapped the pen in his hand against his desk.
Three Days Later
Atomic Lanes Bowling Alley – Evening
Faith pulled at the strings on her hooded sweatshirt as she leaned against the shoe rental counter. She tapped her fingernails against the Formica top and quickly adjusted a pair of large black sunglasses.
Norman, wearing a new Red Sox baseball cap, laughed at her. "We can go back if you want."
"No." She removed her sunglasses and squinted at the harsh fluorescent lights above. "This was my idea. I just didn't realize how 'out-in-public' it would be."
"No one's recognized you yet," he assured her. "Besides, you look more hung over than famous."
Faith glared at him. "Funny guy." She pulled the bill of his cap down over his face and turned to the waiting rental attendant. "Seven and a half for me and…" Her eyes glanced down at her son's rather large feet. "Eleven?"
"Twelve," he corrected as he righted his hat.
She turned back to the attendant. "And a size twelve for my wickedly big-footed son here."
"You got it, lady," the attendant called as he headed toward the racks of shoes behind him. A tall blonde stopped him.
"I've got this, Chester. Why don't you head over to the concession stand." While her tone was soft, her dark brown eyes were quite clear. Chester scurried off as the blonde descended on Faith. "Ms. Lehane! I'm Monica Long, manager of Atomic Lanes. I hope you and…" Her eyes glanced over to Norman before quickly settling back on Faith. "…your friend are enjoying yourselves thus far."
Faith's eyes narrowed. "We were." The pair shared a quick stare-off. "Look, Monica, we're just here to enjoy some nice low-key bowling. Emphasis on low-key."
"I completely understand, Ms. Lehane." Monica nodded importantly. "A celebrity of your stature…" Faith rolled her eyes. "…must run into all kinds of wackos."
Faith nodded, looking right at Monica.
The manager went on, "I'll put you at an end lane so that no one bothers you. There's an exit close by, too, in case you want to leave quickly. Let me just get your shoes for you. Seven and a half, you said?"
"And a twelve," Faith added.
Monica nodded and turned to leave. She stopped mid spin, puffing up her chest. "Thank you for choosing Atomic Lanes. Your safety is paramount to us."
After she was gone, Faith turned to Norman and mouthed, "Paramount?"
Norman pointed up. He laughed when she looked at the ceiling.
Atomic Lanes – Lane 30 – Moments Later
"Do you get that a lot?" Norman asked as they reached the last lane of the dark bowling alley.
"Sadly, yes," Faith replied as she sat down on the hard plastic seat in front of the lane's computerized score keeper.
Norman was already removing his sneakers. "I think it's kind of cool being famous."
Faith sighed. "Not really, kiddo."
"Well, maybe not for actors and stuff, but for you it's different. You've saved the world. A lot. I bet people line up just to meet you and, I don't know, say thank you."
"It hasn't been that friendly recently."
Norman finished tying his bowling shoes. "Because of the book or because of Willow?" Faith didn't answer. "Have you read it?"
Faith pulled off her own boots. "Norm, this isn't my favorite subject right now. Can we not talk about this? Especially here."
Norman frowned but acquiesced. He stood up and moved to a rack of bowling balls, examining them carefully. "You know, besides the prison stuff, the book's pretty complimentary."
He smiled. "Okay, I'm done." He selected a ball and placed it on the return rack. "So why bowling? Did you join a league?" His last question was said mostly in jest.A small grin tugged at the corner of Faith's mouth. "I've bowled a few times. It's surprisingly fun."
"Spoken like someone who bowls a 300 every round." He sighed audibly. "It'd be fun to win every once in a while."
"Spoken like someone who's dating a slayer," she teased.
"Shannon and I are not dating," Norman corrected her. "She's more interested in guys who can drive right now," he said, defeated. "And who can grow facial hair, too."
Faith chuckled. "Ah, unrequited young love, huh?"
"Like you said, new topic please."
Faith took off his cap and tousled his hair quickly before stuffing it back on again. Norm tried to get away from the onslaught but failed. Faith then pulled on her left bowling shoe.
"If you're gonna fall for a slayer, though, just remember they're good at every-OUCH."
She pulled off the bowling shoe. "I think there's a rock or something in here." She shook it upside down in hope of dislodging the offending pebble. Nothing came out.
"Wear your boots," Norman suggested.
Faith shot him a look and stood up. "I'm going to run back and get a different pair. Why don't you put our names in the computer?"
Norman slid onto the chair she had just vacated. "What should I call you?"
"Anything but my real name."
"Faith Summers it is," he smiled. "Congrats by the way on your upcoming nuptials to Buffy."
"Not funny," she called back to him. "And stop reading the tabloids."
Faith and Robin's Apartment – Living Room – Later That Night
Robin lay lengthwise across the sofa reading a novel by the light of a small table lamp behind him. He ignored the low volume of the TV that was tuned to the local evening news.
"The O'Mara-Holton Disease Control and Prevention Act, which goes into effect tomorrow, marks the latest of Congresswoman O'Mara's recent legislative pushes and has fueled further speculation of a possible presidential campaign someday," droned the anchor. "At an early morning press conference, O'Mara had this to say."
A clip of the press conference filled the screen.
O'Mara spoke, "This legislation is not what some have called a 'ticket' to the White House. For too long this country has been vulnerable to external matters of public health. As a representative of the state of Ohio, it is my duty to protect its citizens as well as all those who proudly call themselves Americ –"
Robin turned off the TV at the sound of jingling keys. He closed his book and sat up in time to see Faith and Norman enter.
"Hey," he said with a smile. "How'd it go?"
"Great!" Norman said. "I'm off to get some victory Rice Krispies treats," he said. "Even though she took it easy on me, a win is a win," he added before scampering away.
Faith closed the door, locked it, and sighed. She shuffled over to the couch and fell back next to Robin. "He beat me." She paused. "Twice."
"That's not even the worse part," she added in a whisper. "He thinks I let him win."
Robin raised an eyebrow. "Did you?"
"Well, originally that was the plan," she continued, "but then he hit a strike and bet me I couldn't do the same. Thing is, I couldn't. And the more I tried to hit one, the worse I got."
"I'm sure you're exaggerating."
"I bowled a 34 the last game."
"Eww, that's bad."
"Thanks, you know I hate it when you sugar-coat it," she teased. Faith closed her eyes.
"Tired?" Robin asked as he nudged her shoulder ever so slightly.
"Yeah," she yawned.
"Okay, you head off to bed." He stood up, pulled her to her feet, and guided her to the bedroom. "I'll get Norm over to Buffy's for the night."
"B's stealing my kid," Faith muttered.
Robin gave a light chuckle. "She is not, and you know it. Norm just wants to get to know everyone here a bit better. The revolving door sleepovers are a great way. Besides, if anything, you should be happy he wants more of a connection to the people around here." Faith yawned again. "Anyway, try to stay awake. I'll be back soon," he said, leaning down and kissing her soundly.
"Giving me a reason to stay awake, huh?" Faith asked.
"You know it," Robin replied before heading toward the kitchen.
Faith and Robin's Apartment – Bedroom – A Short Time Later
Robin disappeared into the walk-in closet. "You in the mood for a game?"
Faith grinned and pulled off her sweatshirt. "As long as it's not bowling."
Robin emerged with a black silk tie. "I had something different in mind."
"Nice," she said, eyeing the garment. "Blindfold's kinda kinky, isn't it?"
"You've never complained before." His eyes were feral as he leaned in and covered her eyes, securing the blindfold with a loose knot. "Lie back."
Faith kindly obliged, sliding her body up the center of the bed. She let her head fall back as Robin's fingers tugged at the bottom of her tee-shirt. Once removed, he rested his hands on her jean-covered hips and attacked her neck.
"S'good," she mumbled as he sucked at her clavicle.
Robin kissed his way down her chest, ignoring her bra in favor of unbuttoning her jeans. He paused. "Should I keep going?" he teased.
"Mm hmm," was her near inaudible reply.
Sitting back, Robin removed his sweater and undershirt. He was about to unzip his own jeans when a strange noise escape his supine girlfriend.
"Babe?" He looked over.
Faith let out a low snore and rolled onto her side.
End of Teaser
To Act One