Collateral Damage

Act One

Starring:
Lacey Chabert as Skye, Michelle Rodriguez as Kadin Van Helsing, Gale Harold as Jim Pollan, Elijah Wood as Jeff Lindquist, Norika Fujiwara as Mia, Asia Argento as Marie, Laura Pyper as Casey, Tessa Thompson as Chamique, Alexis Bledel as Denise, Steffani Brass as Shannon, Thora Birch as Tracey, Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers, and Michael Shanks as Dr. Millenti

Guest Starring:
Gary Oldman as Mr. Jason Felix, Mitch Pileggi as James Vance, Brendan Fehr as Coen Vance and Christy Carlson Romano as Hope Lehane

Fade In:
Int.
Kennedy's Apartment – Bedroom – Early Morning

A Week Later

Kadin lay on her side facing the edge of the bed. She stirred slightly in her sleep, then rolled over to her other side, unconsciously reaching out for Kennedy. When her hand met only empty space, Kadin's eyes popped open.

She leaned up on her elbow and looked around the room, but Kennedy was nowhere to be seen.

Cut To:
Int.
Kennedy's Apartment – Living Room – Seconds Later

Kadin padded quietly out of the bedroom and into the living room. She found Kennedy standing beside the window, peering out into the early light of morning, with her arms wrapped tightly around herself.

"Hey…whatcha doin'?" Kadin asked softly.

At Kadin's words, Kennedy jumped slightly. She made the briefest of glances at Kadin before turning away. Hoping she was out of her lover's line of sight, she quickly wiped her eyes and cheeks to remove the tears that had been there.

"Nothing," she said, turning back to face Kadin. "Just watchin' the sun rise." She pasted on a smile.

Not buying Kennedy's façade of togetherness, Kadin walked over and placed a gentle hand on the slayer's arm. "It's okay to be upset, you know," Kadin said soothingly while stroking her arm. "She was your best –"

"I'm not upset!" Kennedy replied abruptly while pulling out of Kadin's touch.

The hunter's face showed at first surprise and then concern. She spoke Kennedy's name and started to reach for her again. But Kennedy took a pointed step back. Hurt filled Kadin's eyes. She pulled her hand back and didn't make another move toward the slayer.

A brief flash of regret showed in Kennedy's eyes before she dropped her gaze to her hands. When she looked back up, she said, "I've got to get ready for work." After a long sigh, she added, "And you've got a plane to catch."

At that, Kennedy left the window and headed for the bedroom.

Cut To:
Int.
Skye's Dorm Room – Same Time

Skye and Dawn were lying in bed together, embracing, their limbs intertwined as Skye held Dawn tightly to her chest. Dawn was crying. Skye gave her lover the occasional squeeze or kiss on the top of her head, but otherwise, she simply held her and let her cry. When Dawn was finally finished, she separated herself a bit and wiped her eyes.

"Sorry," she said, still sniffling. "I sneak over here to have some quality time with you, and all I do is bawl my eyes out."

Skye gave her a small smile and stroked her cheek. "It's okay, I understand."

"Do you?" Dawn asked softly but sincerely.

"I know how I would feel if I lost you," Skye said simply.

"It's just not fair," Dawn said, beginning to cry anew. "Here I am, can't even die if I wanted to, and Vi…she didn't have a chance. And Xander…poor Xander…it's just not right."

Skye spoke no words but merely pulled Dawn back into her arms.

Cut To:
Int.
Watchers Council – Slayer Division Offices – A Short Time Later

The first to arrive that morning, Kennedy flipped on the lights in the large office and headed for her workstation. When she got there, she found a large yellow sticky note attached to her monitor.

"Need those evals, pronto!" was scribbled on the note in Faith's handwriting.

Kennedy rolled her eyes and grumbled to herself before snatching the note off and setting it aside. She booted up her computer and logged onto the Council intranet. She accessed her email program and began scanning down the list of messages, deleting any emails that appeared to be spam.

"No, I don't want to buy any hot stocks. No, I don't want to be bigger and better. No, I don't want to watch your awesome –"

Kennedy stopped and re-read the last subject line: "Watch my awesome VI-deo." A worried look came over Kennedy's face. She opened the email.

Instantly, a media file began to load. Within seconds, a video started playing on Kennedy's screen. Her eyes widened in horror as sounds and voices began playing over the speakers in accompaniment to the images she was watching:

Vi teasingly saying, "So, how are you going to show me how glad I am to be alive?" Then Xander replying, "I think I can come up with…" After a pause, a crumpling thud. "Vi? Vi, what's wrong?" Wracking, wet coughs followed by limbs thrashing. "Oh God, oh God, oh God…"

"Bitch!" Kennedy spat before fumbling blindly for the phone, not taking her eyes off the screen.

Cut To:
Int.
Watchers Council – Meeting Room – Later That Morning

When Buffy came in the room, all of the other primary Council leaders were there: Rowena and Willow on one side, Faith and Kennedy on the other, with Robin and Jim on the end. Buffy had a grim expression on her face as she took her seat.

"Have you all seen the video?" Buffy asked.

Everyone nodded ruefully except for Kennedy, who sat stock-still with her arms crossed tightly. The muscles in her jaw clenched over and over.

"I'm assuming that footage was shot from one of the cameras we found in the sweep after," Buffy said. "But did we ever have any luck tracing the wireless signals for all those cameras Heli had tucked everywhere?"

Robin shook his head. "No. By the time we found the cameras, she had severed her connection with them."

"What about the email itself?" Faith asked. "Can't you trace where it came from?"

"We're working on that now," Willow answered, "but it's tough. Heli really knows what she's doing. She's hidden her tracks through layer after layer of false IP addresses. It's going to take time, and even then, I can't promise anything."

"What about Xander? Has he seen it?" Buffy asked.

"No," Willow said. "He hasn't exactly been in a check-my-email kinda mood lately, thank goodness. I went into the server and got it from his mailbox before it was opened. Of course, that doesn't mean she can't try to re-send to him."

"We should warn him," Buffy said to Willow in softer, gentler voice.

"I did," Rowena answered. "When Ken called Willow at our place, I shot over to Xander's until Willow gave me the all-clear that it was deleted."

"Good," Buffy said, relieved. Then she turned back to Willow for a moment. "We should check on him, though. After the meeting?" Willow nodded.

Buffy turned to Jim Pollan. "Jim, what about the media angle? Do we need to rethink the strategy there?"

"I don't think so," Jim replied. "For the most part, honesty is the best policy. As you know, we've admitted that a bomb went off, that two slayers died (one by poison and one by bomb), and that other Council members were injured, and that the perpetrator of the crime is a slayer herself. We've coordinated with the FBI and released Heli's photo and personal history to the media."

"Plus, we've put up that hefty reward for Heli's capture," Rowena reminded.

"We have not revealed, nor do I recommend that we reveal, the details of the case regarding the 'fun house', the vest bombs, and especially not the highly unethical questioning of Marly prior to her unfortunate…detonation." Jim cast an accusing glare in Willow's direction. She shrank down in her chair.

"Back off, Jim," Rowena told him defensively.

"He's right," Willow replied to Rowena.

"There's no need for nose rubbing here," Rowena replied, although she continued to look across the table at Jim.

Then Jim went on. "Point taken. Anyway, we're getting enough heat as it is for letting a psychotic with super powers get away."

"Agreed. Thanks, Jim." Buffy turned to Faith. "How are the slayers holding up? I mean, we've hired extra counselors, but still…it must be hard. Two of their own, dead at the hands of, well, one of their own."

"They're hanging in there," Faith said. "And the counselors are helping, I think. But that damn video set us back. Half of my slayers are scared to death that they're next on Heli's list and the other half are ready to form a lynching party."

Willow and Buffy glanced over at Kennedy. The younger slayer looked back at them and then around to the rest of the table.

"What?" Kennedy asked.

Buffy turned back to Faith without replying. "Just make sure everyone is going to their counselors. No exceptions." Buffy looked around the table. "Including us." Everyone nodded in agreement except for Kennedy.

"I'm just glad Xander's finally going," Willow said.

"Yeah, me too," Buffy added.

Cut To:
Int.
Watchers Council – Dr. Millenti's Office – Late Afternoon

Dr. Millenti looked at Xander, seated across from him. Xander looked back at him, but with as much attention as he might give a wall or empty bookcase.

"Mr. Harris, why are you here?"

Xander's reply began a beat later than would seem natural. "Everyone said I should. And…" He stopped.

"And what?"

"I don't know." His face did not change expression.

Millenti continued to study Xander for what seemed like an eternal several seconds. "You should know," he began, "that I have seen people in much the same state you are now. Their whole world seems destroyed, in meaning if not physically. I can recognize the signs. Perhaps it might help you to know others have gone through what you're experiencing. Even more importantly, you should know – and I do mean 'know' – that it can get better. It will get better."

"I know that." Xander's voice might as well have been saying the time.

"Ah, but do you feel it?"

Silence.

"You've experienced the loss of a loved one before, am I right?" Millenti asked.

This time Xander at least blinked. "Don't you already know that?"

"I do, yes. Honestly, I was trying to elicit a response."

"Oh."

"And I succeeded. In a way."

More silence.

"Xander – may I call you Xander?"

He shrugged. "Sure."

"To be perfectly frank, you are not alone. From what records I have, it seems clear you are not close to your biological family, but on the other hand it is also clear you have what amounts to a very loving adopted family right here in Cleveland. I refer to people like Miss Rosenberg, Miss Summers – both Miss Summers I should say – Miss Lehane and Mr. Giles just for starters."

"They…"

"Yes?"

"Nothing."

"I don't think whatever you were going to say was nothing."

"Not important."

"Maybe. Or maybe vital. I respectfully ask that you tell me. Remember – it is my job to make the pain better."

"My pain better? My pain is pretty good right now." For a few moments, Xander said nothing, and neither did Dr. Millenti. Then Xander took a deep breath. "They didn't love her."

"Not the way you did."

He nodded his head.

Millenti said, "Forgive me for saying so, Xander, but no one is in any kind of contest over who loved Violet Joston the most, and if they were, you would win. The point is, all those people I mentioned, and more besides, they love you. Part of love is sharing the pain. Or – putting it still another way – you strove, did you not, to be as supportive as possible to Vi when her sister was killed?"

"Yeah."

"Do you regret that?"

"No."

"Do you imagine she regretted your support? Or welcomed it?"

Xander said nothing. His eyes left Dr. Millenti's face by a fraction of an inch. He seemed to be gazing at something else. Millenti looked behind himself, noting what was on the shelf behind his desk. A photograph of his wife. A small tennis trophy. An icon of the Archangel Michael.

"I'm going to make a suggestion," Millenti continued, turning back to Xander. "Consider this as something of an assignment. A choice you need to make, not this second but by the next time we see each other."

Without looking at the doctor, Xander asked, "What?"

"There's a drug called seroquel. Among other things it is an anti-depressant. Our minds are more than simply chemical reactions in the nervous system, at least that is my belief, but part of our minds is indeed exactly that. Seroquel can help make the chemistry of your mind a little bit more normal, a little less traumatized. Think of it as the mental version of a Band-Aid, something to help your system heal itself."

"You want me to take drugs."

"For the time being I think it might help, yes. But the decision is yours. I'll be honest with you – there are side effects. The biggest is drowsiness. You should only take seroquel before you go to sleep, and with a relatively heavy meal. Sometimes there is dizziness, but not usually with the dosage I have in mind. Again, I don't want you to decide yet. Let me know your decision the next time we see each other. But keep in mind – an anti-depressant only takes the edge off the worst of what you're feeling. It isn't a cure. Nor is it some kind of brainwash. You'll still feel everything you're feeling now, but less severely."

Xander seemed to consider what Millenti was saying. And his eyes kept straying to the icon of the angel behind the doctor's desk.

Cut To:
Int.
Faith and Robin's Apartment – Bedroom – After Midnight

As Robin slept soundly beside her, Faith lay awake in bed, gazing at the ceiling above her. Her right arm was draped over the pillow above her head; her eyes were wide open and alert, as if she'd never been able to go to sleep to begin with. After a long moment of staring, she blinked and sighed and looked over at Robin. Then she eased back the covers and slipped out of bed, being careful not to wake Robin.

Cut To:
Int.
Faith and Robin's Apartment – Living Room – Moments Later

Now in her jeans and t-shirt, Faith took her heavy hooded jacket out of the closet and pulled it on over her clothes. After zipping up her jacket, she headed for the front door.

Cut To:
Int.
Liquor Store – Moments Later

Faith handed over some money to the clerk behind the counter. As he put her purchase into a brown paper bag, she put her wallet back into her coat pocket.

"Are you her?" the clerk asked in a hushed voice as he took the money.

Faith looked around to see they were the only two people in the store. Her face wore an expression of confusion as to why he was whispering when she turned back to face him.

"What?" she asked.

"Are you Faith Lehane, that slayer?" he asked. "Because you sure look like her."

"I get that a lot," Faith replied as she picked up the bag. "Keep the change," she told him as she walked toward the door.

Cut To:
Ext.
Cleveland Waterfront – Moments Later

Faith made her way quickly down the street to the waterfront. As she grew closer, she slowed her pace and began anxiously scanning her surroundings. Although she saw no one, she put her hood up and tightened it around her face. Satisfied that she was alone, Faith approached her destination.

There, on the shoulder of the road, was the place where Faith had died. In every way, it was an ordinary street with parking spaces and cars, potholes and trashcans. But on that spot was something unusual: a tiny shrine. With more than a little hesitation, Faith drew near.

A small piece of wood had been propped up, and tacked on it were pictures of Faith, along with various icons of the saints. On the ground in front of the board were candles and flowers, some looking like they had been there a while, others looking newly placed.

Faith's brow furrowed in confusion as she took in the sight. She looked at it for the longest time before finally turning away. She glanced around the empty street and then up at the sky, a lost expression on her face.

"Yo, Gabs," she said, looking a little embarrassed as she spoke aloud. "Are ya there?"

She received no answer.

Faith reached into the bag. She held up the bottle in a gesture of offering.

"I know you like orange juice," she said, her eyes hopeful.

Once again, however, she got no reply.

Faith sighed heavily and put the bottle of juice next to the other offerings. Then she just stood there in the dark and stared out at the lake.

Fade Out

A Week Later

Fade In:
Int.
Hope's Apartment – Morning

Jeff opened his eyes, then blinked himself into wakefulness. He took a deep breath and looked around.

He was on a sofa/futon, still folded up, in the center of a studio apartment. The TV screen opposite him was dark now, while light was streaming in from the windows.

"I'm sorry," he mumbled as Hope entered from the kitchen. Jeff sat up, making some effort to straighten his rumpled clothes.

"You were wasted," Hope noted, handing him a cup of coffee. "I know you need to be at the Council before too long, so I was gonna wake you. Glad I didn't have to."

"Thanks." Jeff sipped the coffee. "Where did you sleep?"

She shrugged. "On the floor."

"Oh, no…you…"

"Hey, it's carpet. I've slept on concrete."

"But you should have woke me!"

At that, she shook her head. "No way." Something about the way she said it stifled Jeff's answer. He sipped, then took a gulp of the coffee. Hope, watching, smiled.

"You hear from the University yet?"

"Nope, not a word."

"You should have heard by now…"

"Let me ask you something."

"What?"

"Vi."

Jeff stopped drinking mid-sip. The nascent smile on his lips vanished. "Yeah?"

"What was she like? I mean, I hardly met her, but everyone is just – I dunno – wrecked."

"Fun," Jeff said after a moment. "A really good heart. Goofy and brave and kind. Kinda lonely, at least that's how she came across to me. Nervous a lot of the time, until she actually had to fight. Then she was like this little redheaded ninja Jedi berserker." He grinned at the image, as did Hope.

"She sounds cool."

"Yeah. She and I, we even went on a date once. Kinda." Hope's eyebrows rose. "Once. And it wasn't really a date. I was just her escort. Truth be told, she was using me a little bit to make Xander jealous. They weren't together then, not yet."

"Maybe it worked, then." She said this quietly.

Jeff nodded. "Maybe."

"Another question?"

"Sure."

"What are you going to do about Heli?"

"That's for the Council to decide."

"Okay, but what do you want to do about her?"

"Me? Personally…" Jeff paused, then continued. "Personally, I'd like to cut off her head with dull knife."

"Wow."

"I wouldn't do it, because – well, I wouldn't. But, that's what I feel. And to be honest, I wasn't even that close to Vi. We were friends, but not close. Xander and Kennedy – they must be in shock."

Her hand reached out and touched his cheek. "So are you. That's why I let ya sleep."

With a smile, he reached up and pressed her hand, closing his eyes in the sensation for a moment. "People will be spreading so many rumors," he said, voice low, "when I come back this early, or late, or whatever."

She chuckled, leaning down and pulling his face into a kiss. "Let 'em."

With that, he put his arms around her waist, and she sat in his lap, straddling him. The kiss didn't last that long, but the embrace – the holding of each other, the leaning against one another, the resting of heads against one another's throat and shoulder – that went on and on.

Cut To:
Int.
Watchers Council – Meeting Room – Later That Day

Buffy sat at the head of the table. On her right were Willow and Rowena. On her left were Robin and Faith. At the end of the table, Kennedy was somewhat slouched in her chair, as if this was the last place she wanted to be. After officially opening the meeting, Buffy turned the floor over to Willow.

"Okay…I've got good news and bad news," Willow announced.

"Well, give us the good news first," Buffy suggested.

Willow shook her head. "Sorry, I gotta start with the bad." After taking a deep breath, she said, "The bad news is…we think Heli is attempting to hack into the Council mainframe."

Kennedy shot up in chair. "What?!"

"The good news is," Willow interjected quickly, "she hasn't been successful."

"Thank goodness," Buffy said in relief.

Willow nodded then went on. "The additional good news is the more she tries, the better the chance we have of tracking her."

"Good," Faith said, crossing her arms.

"The bad news is…" Willow paused and then continued in a very flustered voice. "…the woman is a freakin' genius! I'm doin' everything I know to do – and you know me, not exactly the slacker hacker here – and I just can't catch her! Every time I think I've got her, she's suddenly three steps ahead of me."

Buffy gave Willow's arm a sympathetic squeeze. "Will, we know you're doing everything you can. Just keep trying." Willow nodded in reply.

Robin leaned forward to address the group. "With Heli still out there, we need to keep the schedule reporting and buddy system in place. We let the front desk know where we are at all times. And unless absolutely necessary, no one ventures off grounds alone."

"Heli managed to nab all of us on grounds," Rowena muttered, scratching absently at the still-healing burns on her arms. Willow leaned over and silently scolded her with her eyes. Rowena did a double-take, then sat on her hand to stop herself.

"Yeah, I know," Buffy said, "but she's not here anymore, so that scenario doesn't seem likely to be repeated. She's out there now, so I think that's where we need to be most careful." Rowena shrugged and nodded in agreement. Buffy then turned to Faith and Kennedy. "Speaking of where Heli is, how's the search coming?"

"Well, we've gotten thousands of tips on the hotline," Faith said, "but none of them have panned out. Profiler seems to think she's hightailed it, that her work here is done. She'll probably just taunt us from afar, like some country with no extradition treaty."

Rowena looked at Faith intently. "And what do you think?"

Faith just shrugged uncertainly. Everyone stopped to ponder the matter for a moment. It was Kennedy who broke the silence.

"I think she's right here in Cleveland," Kennedy said. "Right in front of our faces. Just thumbing her nose at us, daring us to find her." Kennedy looked around the table, meeting each person's eyes. "She's not done with us. Vi and Marly, they were just the beginning and – "

The sound of the door opening stopped Kennedy from going on. Everyone looked to see who was interrupting the meeting. All eyes widened in surprise when they saw Xander coming into the room. He was wearing fresh clothes and was cleanly shaven. Although he was pale and a bit thin, he appeared to be a little more like his usual self.

"Xander!" Willow exclaimed in surprise.

Buffy was equally shocked and blurted out, "What are you doing here?"

"It's the daily meeting, right?" he said with a small smile. "Well, unless you've changed the invitation list…"

"No, no, of course not," Buffy said. "Are you sure you're up for it, though?"

"I-I-If you're not, that's okay," Willow added instantly. "We don't want you do anything you're not ready for."

Xander shook his head as he walked toward the table. "I'm ready," he told them. "I hit rock bottom after Anya died and stayed there for months and what good did it do? It didn't bring her back. It just made me miserable." His voice was tired, tinged with a mixture of sadness and bitterness. "I can't bring Vi back, so I might as well work." He put a big grin on his face. "'Sides, all those would-be stakes aren't gonna sharpen themselves, are they?"

Everyone forced a chuckle, then Buffy motioned him to a seat. Once he sat down, everyone looked around the room nervously, with no one speaking. Buffy finally turned to Kennedy.

"You were finished with your report, right?" she asked the slayer pointedly.

Kennedy glanced at Xander a moment, then looked back at Buffy. "Yeah. Right. That's all I had."

"Okay, then," Buffy said. "Let's move on to watcher training. Robin, Ro, you've got some cross-Council training coming up next week, don't you?"

Fade Out.

A Week Later

Fade In:
Int.
Cleveland Airport – International Terminal – Early Morning

As Casey stood watch near the entrance, Willow followed Rowena to the ticket desk. She waited as Rowena checked her luggage and got her boarding pass. Then she slowly walked her girlfriend to the security entrance. The two indulged in a long, somewhat needy hug. When they pulled apart, they leaned their foreheads together.

"I'll miss you," Rowena said.

"I'll miss you, too," Willow said as they leaned their heads back but stayed in each other's arms. "Four days is too long."

"I wish I didn't have to go. Everyone is still so upset…"

"Yeah." Willow shrugged and sighed. "Still, you know what they say…the devil doesn't take a day off. I guess that means we don't get to either." Willow expression grew serious. "Be. Careful. Okay?"

"I will. You too," Rowena said. Then she glanced at the clock on the wall. "You better get going. I know you've got a busy day: classes this morning, tutoring Kennedy, meetings."

Willow nodded ruefully, then kissed Rowena soundly. "I love you."

"I love you too."

At that, the two separated, and Rowena backed away toward the security line, giving Willow a final wave.

"Say hey to Al for me!" Willow called out.

"I will!"

Cut To:
Int.
Watchers Council – Coven Room – Early Afternoon

As Willow watched nearby, Kennedy sat cross-legged on the floor, focusing her attention on a rose floating above a small square cloth in front of her. Sweat was beaded on her forehead, and her eyes were narrowed in intense concentration. Slowly the flower sank a few inches. Then just as slowly it climbed back its former position.

"Good, good!" Willow praised. "Now see if you can pull off one of the petals."

Kennedy grimaced. "It's hard…"

"Believe me, I know," Willow commented. "I may make it look easy, but it's –"

Willow's statement was cut off when the rose suddenly went berserk, shooting up to the ceiling, where it crashed bud-first, sending a small rain of petals down on the two women.

"– not," Willow finished. She picked up the bare rose stem that had just fallen and sighed; then she added it to the stack of similarly deflowered stalks beside her.

Kennedy rolled her eyes, then growled in frustration as she smacked her face into her hands. "I hate this," she grumbled. "It's not like slaying at all." She looked up at Willow. "I don't have to work at that," she complained. "It just comes naturally."

"That's not true, and you know it," Willow chided. "Even though some of your abilities do kick in on their own, you still have to practice and hone your skills. Magic is the same way. Sometimes, you have to just give in and follow your instincts, but at other times, you have to really work hard to get the result you want."

Kennedy looked away thoughtfully, seemingly considering her words. After a long moment of contemplation, she turned back to Willow.

"Got another rose?" she asked the witch.

Willow grinned. "I certainly do."

Cut To:
Int.
Watchers Council – Lobby – Afternoon

Kadin came into the lobby, carrying her worn leather duffel bag over her shoulder. She went straight to the front desk.

"Hey," she said, greeting the receptionist. "Do you know where Kennedy is? I've been calling, but she's not answering her cell."

The receptionist pulled out a large appointment book, flipped a page, then settled her finger on a particular spot. "Says here she's in the Coven Room with Willow, Ms. Van Helsing."

For a split second, Kadin froze, then she blinked. "Oh," she said, trying not to sound irked. She gave a sheepish grin. "Guess that explains the no cell phone, huh?"

"Yep," the receptionist agreed. "Is Kennedy expecting you?"

"Actually, no," Kadin replied. "I thought I'd surprise her." She flashed a bright and slightly mischievous smile, which the receptionist returned. Then she headed for the elevators.

Cut To:
Int.
Watchers Council – Outside The Coven Room – Moments Later

As they came out of the Coven Room, Willow gave Kennedy a sincere pat on the shoulder.

"You're doing very well, Kennedy," she said. "It took me months and months to get where you are now."

"Thanks," Kennedy replied. "I'm really trying."

"It shows," Willow complimented.

At the end of the hallway, Kadin came around the corner. When she saw Willow and Kennedy talking, she stopped and quietly backtracked. She eased her bag to the floor, then peeked around the corner to watch and listen.

Kennedy was looking down at her hands. "You know…Vi always used to nag me about the magic. Said I should stop fighting it and give it try." Kennedy glanced up at Willow for a moment; sadness was in her eyes. She dropped her gaze to her hands again.

Willow reached out and touched Kennedy's arm. "She was right, a-a-and she'd be really proud of you." When Kennedy still didn't look up, Willow pulled the slayer into a warm hug.

Kadin frowned at the embrace and stepped back around the corner. She closed her eyes and leaned back against the wall.

Kennedy didn't return Willow's hug, but she didn't pull away either, at least not at first. But it wasn't long before she cleared her throat and backed out of Willow's arms, tucking her hands into the back pockets of her jeans.

"I gotta go," she mumbled, barely meeting Willow's eyes. "Still got a full day ahead of me."

At that, Kennedy walked away.

Cut To:
Int.
Watchers Council – Hallway Near Coven Room – Seconds Later

When Kennedy rounded the corner, she immediately ran into Kadin. Startled by the sudden collision, they both jumped. While Kadin seemed to be a bit flustered, Kennedy's face brightened in pleasant surprise.

"Hey, what are you doing here?" she asked with a smile. Then she planted a kiss on Kadin's lips. "I thought you were in Costa Rica."

"Well, I'm supposed to be," Kadin said. "But I, um, I wanted to be here more, so I canceled. I was hoping we could get together."

Kennedy smiled briefly, then frowned. "Today?" she asked with a wince. "'Cause I am so booked. I just got done with Willow, then it's following up on Heli tips until I patrol with Mia tonight."

Kadin took a step back. "Oh. First Willow, then Mia. Must be Bond-With-Your-Exes Day," she said sarcastically. "I should have checked my calendar."

Kennedy saw the disappointment behind her girlfriend's sarcasm. She took a step forward and put her hands on Kadin's hips, then she pulled the hunter close. "Tell you what," she said, "after patrol, it'll be just you and me. No exes allowed. I'll even take tomorrow morning off so I'm all yours."

Kadin couldn't help but smile at that. "All mine, huh?" Her smile became a sexy smirk. "Does that mean I can do anything I want with you?"

"Ohhhh yeeeeaaah," Kennedy eagerly agreed before kissing Kadin once again, this time hungrily, passionately.

When the two finally came up for air, Kennedy reluctantly pulled away. "I gotta go," she apologized as she backed away. "But…hold that thought!" Kennedy turned and ran down the hallway, leaving a grinning Kadin behind.

Fade Out.

Fade In:
Int.
Watchers Council – Dr. Millenti's Office – Late Afternoon

"So," Dr. Millenti asked, "anything in particular you'd like to mention about the meds?"

Eyes half open, Xander waited before answering. "The…uh…that side effect you mentioned."

"Drowsiness."

Xander nodded in slow motion. "Feel like I'm gonna get my wisdom teeth out."

"That passes. Usually within a week. Although odds are you will sleep longer and deeper."

"S'okay."

Millenti looked at Xander. He sat in the chair before him, leaning back as if exhausted after many hours of hard labor. Although his eyes were open, they seemed held open by an act of will. "Xander…you mentioned dreams before."

"Yeah."

"About Vi?"

Xander waited almost five full seconds before answering. "Yeah."

"Do you feel like talking about those dreams?"

Again, there was a long pause before answering. Then, "She is an angel."

"In your dream?"

Very slightly, Xander nodded.

"You know, that doesn't seem outside the realm of possibility. Especially in light of recent events. It is even possible your dreams are something more than just a dream."

Xander lifted one finger and pointed to his face. "Eye."

"Excuse me?"

"Magic eye."

"I don't understand."

"Psycho bastard poked out my eye. Willow grew me a new one. Didn't know if it'd work, but she tried. Wasn't easy, she said. But it did."

"That's…quite amazing. And quite a testimony to friendship."

"But it had magic." Xander pointed to his face again. In context he clearly was pointing to his eye. "Could see things. The future. Not very much, just a couple of seconds. For a while anyway. Worked less and less."

"So maybe you were able to perceive something, see something, others would not. Dreaming is part of being a slayer, so I understand. A slayer dream is not simply a confusing interplay of unconscious images but a genuine insight into mysteries."

Now Xander shook his head. "Doesn't work anymore."

"Maybe it does."

"No." Xander's voice was hollow beyond words. "Not a lot of miracles to go around. Faith. Just Faith. No one else."

Millenti leaned forward. "I don't claim to know anything for certain, but it seems to me that if you don't know, then it is wrong to call a hope false. From all I've ever heard or read about Vi, she was someone who would become an angel. Wouldn't you agree? Don't you believe it at least possible that your dreams might be a little bit more than dreams? That perhaps, in some mystical sense, Miss Joston – Vi – is still with you? That her love still reaches out to you?"

At that, Xander opened his mouth, but no words came out. He moved his tongue, but there was no sound. Lips moved, but still no voice. Finally, his eyes opened to their normal size. Then, larger.

"Xander?"

From out of Xander's mouth now did come a sound, something like a moan but also a sigh. It had no words. It barely consisted of vowels. The pitch was high, although the volume was low. And it did not end, not soon. Rather, the sound coming out of Xander got deeper in pitch and at the same time louder. He didn't seem to be making the sound, not deliberately. Instead, this sound seemed to be escaping.

And it went on and on and on. Even after his eyes began to water, and the tears began to flow. Xander gasped for breath, but the sound didn't stop, merely changed in timbre and pitch.

Unblinking, Xander had no choice but to let the sound escape – eyes wide, unblinking, and red. Until at last it began to fade, reducing into something like a croaking gasp.

He closed his eyes, and his body half-collapsed forward. Both shoulders slumped, in between shudders. His hands slowly rose up to cover his face.

Dr. Millenti handed him a Kleenex and kept one for himself. His own eyes were moist.

Xander quietly wept, his nearly-silent sobs the only sound in the office, muffled by his hands.

Fade Out.

Fade In:
Ext.
Cleveland Side Street – Night

Near the end of their patrol shift, Mia and Kennedy walked idly down a small side street off one of the main avenues. The muffled booming of music could be heard coming through the walls of the nightclub they were passing. They scanned the few clusters of people outside, but seeing nothing out of the ordinary, they kept walking.

"Feels good to hang out again," Mia commented. "You and me, I mean."

"Yeah, it does," Kennedy said sincerely. Then her expression changed; she started to add something but didn't.

Mia noticed. "Don't worry," she told her. "I'm not gonna cause any trouble between you and Kadin. You two are together now, and I get that. I may not like it, but I get it. I'll deal." She flashed a small smile, which Kennedy returned.

The two slayers walked on in silence till they reached the end of the block. Just as they started to turn the corner, someone stepped in front of them. They jumped back in surprise and assumed a defensive position.

Then the man spoke. "Kennedy? Are you the slayer named Kennedy?" he asked, pointing at her and moving purposefully toward her.

Kennedy eyed the man warily. "Maybe. Who wants to know?"

"Leonard Lance, Fox 8 News," the man announced, moving even closer.

Before Kennedy could reply, she was suddenly blinded by the bright lights of a video camera being directed at her by the reporter's sidekick. She lifted her hand to shade her eyes.

"Can you tell us what it was like to lose your best friend, Vi Joston, to one of your own fellow slayers?" the reporter asked with complete lack of sensitivity.

Kennedy dropped her hand, her face now tightening into an expression of barely-repressed fury. "What it was like?" she parroted back as she stalked over to Lance. Though fear flashed in his eyes, he held his ground.

"Kennedy…" Mia called out, but the angry slayer ignored her.

She grabbed the reporter by the front of his coat and threw him against the wall, then moved in closer.

Fade Out.

Fade In:
Int.
Kennedy's Apartment – Later That Night

Kadin looked at her watch for the fiftieth time since Kennedy's shift had been scheduled to end. She glanced at the door and sighed impatiently. Marsha was curled up next to Kadin on the couch; she looked up at the hunter questioningly.

"Don't look at me," Kadin told the little dragon. "I don't know where she is."

Kadin sighed again and reached for Kennedy's phone. This time she dialed the number for the patrol desk. When the slayer on duty answered, she asked, "Hey, this is Kadin. Has Kennedy checked in from her shift? I've tried calling her cell, but it keeps going straight to voice mail."

"Let me check," the slayer replied. "Nope, not yet," she said after a few seconds. "That's not uncommon, though. Sometimes –"

"Thanks," Kadin said, cutting off the slayer's explanation. Then she hung up the phone.

Marsha gave a sad whine and snuggled closer to the hunter. Kadin reached down and petted the dragon. "I know," she told the small beast, "I know."

Cut To:
Ext.
Cemetery – Same Time

Kennedy sat on the ground with her knees pulled against her chest and her arms wrapped around her legs. In front of her was a white headstone tucked among many others.

On top of the headstone was the statue of a young cherub. With her wings spread out behind her, the child-like angel was looking down at her gown, which she had draped to carry what appeared to be a clump of flowers. Carved into the front of the headstone were the following words: "Violet Joston, beloved."

Kennedy stared silently at Vi's name in the stone, tears trickling down her face. Then she dropped her head to her knees.

Fade Out.

End of Act One
On to Act Two