Lacey Chabert as Skye Talisker, Gale Harold as Jim Pollan, Elijah Wood as Jeff Lindquist, Steffani Brass as Shannon, Laura Pyper as Casey, Robert Picardo as Dr. Miller, Rachel Hurt-Wood as Lorinda
Robin Sachs as Ethan Rayne, Tracy-Ann Oberman as Cameron Kreswell, Kyle Gallner as Camden Kreswell, Freddie Highmore as Norman Hansen, Reba McEntire as Joelle Hansen, James Leary as Clem
Watchers Council School Corridor Later That Morning
"I told you she has a new pet," Lorinda sneered to Casey. The older slayer peered down the corridor and saw Shannon standing with her back to one corner of the wall and Skye with her back to the other corner. Shannon nodded very slightly, and Skye smiled. Suddenly, something quietly passed from Skye's hand to Shannon's. Then Skye walked away.
Casey strode over to her. "What's in your pocket?" the older slayer demanded.
Lorinda stood at Casey's side, smirking. "We saw you, Shannie! You and Skye just made an exchange. So show us whatcha got, Shannie Shannie Mega-Fanny!"
Shannon took a swing at Lorinda and missed as the girl leaned out of the way.
"Shannon!" Casey shouted.
"Casey!" Faith called from a short distance away. "What the hell is going on?" She turned to the two junior slayers. "Why aren't you two in class? The bell's rang."
Three sets of eyes looked at her. "Rung," she corrected herself. "What's going on?"
"She's makin' all nicey-nice with the vamp!" Lorinda cut in. "Vamp-Lover!" she spat.
"Shut up!" Casey said. "I'm in charge, I'll tell it."
Faith gave Casey a dubious look and folded her arms over her chest. "Okay, Chief. For the third and final time, what's "
"She's got somethin' going with Skye."
Faith blinked a few times. "She's a little young for what do you mean?"
"I haven't done anything!" Shannon answered curtly.
"Then what's Casey talking about?"
"I'll tell you what Casey and Miss Snitch over there are talking about," a new voice cut in.
Three slayers turned to face Skye, who walked up behind Shannon. Shannon stood defiantly, her fists clenched by her side.
"Me and Shannon over here got a little game goin'. We play each other for points. We keep track by trading off little white stones you know, those gravelly things that are outside on the driveway? Well...the one with the most stones at the end of game wins. Show 'em, Shaaaannie," Skye smirked.
Shannon sighed and reached into her pocket, pulling out a white stone.
Faith huffed at it and looked back at Skye, skeptically. "So, you carry rocks around with you all day?"
"I don't. Shannon does. She's great at this game."
"And what game is that exactly?" Faith asked, smoothly.
"Sudoku!" Shannon said. "We play off at Sudoku. She wins, it's a stone for her. I win, it's a stone for me. The person with the most stones after a series wins. She got all the stones before the the series was over and and I just won a game, so I get a stone back. I can beat her if I win "
Faith stared at Shannon, her mouth open in disbelief.
"What is wrong with you?" Casey breathed at Shannon.
Lorinda sneered and said to Skye, "I am soooo gonna stake you someday, Vampyra." With an ugly grin she added, "And I'll make sure Shannie's there to see it."
Skye laughed lightly. "No. You're not. Only Shannon gets to stake me," she smiled mockingly at Lorinda. Shannon spun around and looked at Skye as if Skye had gone mad. "Yup. I'm lettin' no one stake me 'cept Shannon." She slung an arm around Shannon's neck and leaned on her in a comradely way. "Right, little sis?" she asked.
Shannon shifted her eyes to the three dumbfounded slayers.
"Shannon, get to class. You too, Lorinda," Faith ordered.
"You heard her," Casey said. "Get go "
"Casey, enough." Faith gestured with her head, and Shannon and Lorinda quickly and quietly went off to their class.
"See you for the big tournament, Little Sis!" Skye called after Shannon. She smiled and waved at the departing girl.
Faith stepped directly in front of her. Skye was still grinning as she lowered her hand. "No, you won't. No tournament. No games. No stones. I see you near any slayer, including Shannon, for anything other than you gettin' an ass-kicking, and I'll stake you myself, little sister."
Skye pursed her lips at Faith and made a long kissing sound.
Casey reached around to her back, where she kept her stake tucked in her pants waist. Faith stopped her with a hand to her arm.
"Who's gonna know?" Casey asked, looking around. "We're alone, and all it'd be is a little dust. We could open the double-doors and watch it blow away."
"No," Faith said, staring narrowly at the grinning vampire. "Not now. Not yet."
"I don't get it, Faith! Ro's done with her! She's just making a nuisance of herself and smelling up the place!"
"I said no!" Faith turned on her. "Now get to wherever it is you need to be. Don't you have a class somewhere?"
Casey huffed, then looked hard at Skye. Skye batted her eyes at Casey.
"You're gonna get yours," Casey told her calmly. "And I hope it's not a staking. I hope it's a long, slow burn in the sun. I hope you scream for hours. And that your girlfriend's there to hear you."
Skye's face fell. Casey smiled then, but Skye remained quiet.
Faith waited. Seeing that the vampire was not taking Casey's bait, she said quietly, "Go on, Casey."
Skye smiled, menacingly, and reached a finger forward without warning. Not expecting such a move, Casey and Faith stood transfixed until the vampire had already tapped Casey gently on the tip of her nose. "Ciao," Skye said lightly, then turned and walked away.
Casey started toward her, but Faith put one arm out and blocked her.
"Go on," she told Casey. "Get to your own class."
"Okay, I'm going..." she left muttering.
Faith frowned, still looking down the hallway where Skye had departed.
Watchers Council Buffy's Office Later
"Look, B, I get the whole slayer-in-love-with-vampire thing. It happens, I get that. But this chick ain't no Angel." Buffy shot Faith a baleful look at the comment, but Faith went on, unmindful. "And she ain't no Spike, either."
"And Dawn is not me," Buffy said simply.
"Yeah. Y'know, B," Faith said nodding her head and crossing her arms, "you're right. Dawn's not you. What happens when Dawn has to dust her? She's not a slayer. Hell," Faith said with toss of her head, "she's not even a very good watcher."
"You realize you're talking about my sister, right?" Buffy said defensively, then smiled tightly.
"Listen, B, all I'm sayin' is that your little sister, and her slayer, are both being taken in by Skye. And even if nothing comes of the whole thing except Skye finally gets dusted, it's gonna go down hard with the two of them. You ready to see your little sis go down heartbreak row like you? And what about Shannon? Think that kid's ready for a guilt trip like that if she winds up stakin' that warped vampire?"
"Faith, I'll talk to Dawn."
Faith held her hands up and shot Buffy a rueful smile. "None o' my business," she said. "Catch you later."
"Yeah, later," Buffy smiled blandly and waited until Faith left the room. Then she huffed a sigh and picked up the phone. She dialed a number and waited, impatiently tapping her foot. "It's Buffy. I'd like some advice No, actually it's about Dawn Well, I love them but they'll be too distracting no offense and we need some 'serious-time.' Two o'clock works for me. Thanks, Giles."
She looked out the window and sighed.
Skye's Room Same Time
Skye plopped the white stones into the large glass jar. It was nearly three quarters full. Dawn watched from the doorway, leaning against the frame with her arms folded.
Skye held one white stone above the jar and then let it drop onto the rest within. "Almost there, Dawn," she said quietly. "Just a few more stones, and it'll be time."
"Stop it, Skye."
"Hey, it's not like we have to fill another one."
"Faith told me what happened out in the hall between classes today," Dawn said, approaching the vampire.
Skye smiled and screwed the lid on the jar, turning it slowly. The scraping sound grated on Dawn, and she caught Skye's wrist with her hand. "Skye! You shouldn't be hanging around the school during the day. It's an open invitation to get staked! And what if someone decides to suddenly open a door or a window and the sun hits you?"
Skye looked up at her, the smart-aleck smile gone. "Well, then I guess you'd be done worrying about me, wouldn't you?"
"Look, I don't want a lifetime an eternity of remembering who you were or what we had together. You're immortal. I'm immortal. Let's keep it that way. Forever."
Skye laughed. "Are you serious? You keep trying to off yourself! Well, maybe if someone stakes me or I go up in a puff of smoke, that'll give you the incentive to finally succeed."
Dawn shut her eyes tightly for a moment and pressed her lips together. "Why are you doing this?" she asked flatly.
"I like to collect little white stones?" Skye said innocently.
"Why are you trying so hard to hurt me?" Dawn looked squarely at her.
"Because you're trying so hard to hurt yourself. You need someone to hurt you, Dawn, because nothing can touch you now. Not sickness, not death you're more than immortal. You're indestructible. You need someone to help you get some feeling back. Because when nothing can hurt you "
"Everything does," Dawn said quietly, tears welling in her eyes. "I don't need you to hurt me, Skye. I just need you by me They can destroy you," she whispered.
"Hey, what's the score, little sis?" Skye grinned at Shannon who stood just within the doorway. The slayer held a jar, similar in shape and size to Skye's with almost as many white stones inside it. Shannon glanced at Dawn, who quickly wiped her eyes.
"I I put a couple more in," Shannon told the vampire hesitantly and keeping her eyes on Dawn. "One for Casey. And a big one for Lorinda."
Skye lifted the jar out of Shannon's hands and hefted it up to eye level. She shook it, and the stones rattled in it. "Gettin' heavy," Skye said. "Almost as heavy as mine."
Dawn grabbed the jar from Skye's hands. "What the hell is this with the stones in the jars?" she demanded of Skye. "Is this some kind of spell or "
"Spell?" Shannon cut in rudely. "This isn't magic. It's...it's..."
"It's scorekeeping," Skye said. "Shannon and I have been keeping score. See," she picked up her own stone-filled jar, "whenever someone gives us a hassle, we don't get mad. We don't even 'get even,' " she laughed. "Shannon just goes outside, picks up some of those nice little white stones they put on the driveway, and drops one in the jar." She grabbed the jar and rattled it, biting her lower lip and smiling up at Dawn wickedly. "The more hassles we get, the more the stones go in!"
"I thought " Dawn said, blinking. "I thought you were doing this to keep count of the days you've been in captiv "
Skye snorted at her. "It hasn't been that long not as long as these rocks would indicate."
"And what happens when the jar is full?" Dawn asked.
A slight smile passed between Skye and Shannon. "That's a secret," Skye said quietly. "Right, little sis?"
"Shannon!" Dawn said. "I never gave you permission to visit or talk to Skye. I never gave you permission to have anything to do with Skye at all!"
"That's another stone, Shannie."
"No!" Shannon laughed. "Dawn's not hassling me. Not on purpose, anyway. She just thinks she's lookin' out for me."
"Yeah, she's real good at looking out for everyone but herself, isn't she?" Skye said, quirking an eyebrow. "Unfortunately, that's always gonna end badly for her now that she's indestructible. Everyone's gonna come to some kind of end before she does."
"Shannon, go to my place and wait for me. Now!"
Shannon reached forward to take her jar from Skye.
"Leave it!" Dawn said. "I'll bring it with me. Just go."
Shannon frowned, but left quietly.
"And do your homework!" Dawn called after her.
"Oh she has," Skye said seriously, turning and looking at the stone-filled jar. "She really has..."
Watchers Council Dining Hall 7:30 p.m.
Jeff sat across from a miserable Dawn at the supper table.
"So what will you do?"
She looked across in annoyance at him. "What can I do? I can't keep Skye under lock and key."
"More's the pity. Dawn, I this is gonna sound harsh, and I'm sorry, but Skye probably should have been staked right after Ro's blood-fasting experiment on her. You're not doing yourself or Shannon any favors hanging around with a vampire."
"It's Skye, Jeff! Yeah, she's a vampire. But if I forbid Shannon to see her...I'll only make things worse. Shannon'll dig in her heels. She's really pretty stubborn."
Dawn rubbed her forehead, trying to ward off a headache. "Shannon has to find her own way, but I don't know if I can be the influence on her that Skye already is. Skye's all about living for the moment and doing what you want and screw the rest of the world."
"And Shannon's thirteen, and that's about the right mindset for that age. Except for one thing. Shannon's a good kid, Dawn. She's got her issues, and she does tend to get a little mopey sometimes, but..."
"...but she always comes around to what's right. Right?" He smiled at her warmly, and it drew a tiny smile out of her. "Besides, she also knows who's got her back. And, sorry, but I don't see Skye as having anyone's back. Not even yours. Shannon knows who she can count on. And she needs you to be the voice of "
Jeff and Dawn both looked to the side. Buffy was standing with a tight smile on her face and her arms folded in front of her.
"Jeff," she said with stilted cheer. "All done?"
Jeff smiled and blinked at her. "Uh...yeah, sure...Just..." He looked at Dawn as he rose. "Don't worry so much about Shannon," he told her. "Remove the vampire from the equation, Dawn, and you'll both be a lot better off."
He stood up, lifted his tray, nodded to the two women, and left.
Dawn sighed heavily as Buffy sat down in Jeff's place. "So, looks like Jeff is all with the good advice today." She smiled. "Oh!" She reached over and took a French fry off Dawn's plate. "You're not eating this, are you?" she asked and chomped it.
"Buffy..." Dawn began.
"Oh, hey!" an overly bright voice said.
"Hi, Will!" Buffy greeted. "Join us for supper?"
"Don't mind if I do," Willow said, sitting down with a full tray. "So, how's everything going?"
"I'm good," Buffy said. "You?"
"How 'bout you, Dawn?" Buffy asked.
Dawn glared at both of them. "You guys are so lame. You think I don't know when I'm being tag-teamed?" She stood up suddenly, her chair scraping the floor hard and making some of the slayers at a nearby table look over.
"Dawn, sit down," Buffy said, suddenly serious.
"Dawnie...we only wanted to talk to you," Willow added. "Please just hear us out. Okay?"
It was an order, and Dawn obeyed her sister by plopping back down disgustedly in her chair.
"Wow," Willow said. "Pouty-face."
Buffy shot her a look.
"I said 'pouty.' "
"Dawn..." Buffy began. "Dawn, I we have to talk about your relationship with Skye."
"What's to say? I have a relationship with Skye. End of story. Thanks for the talk."
"She means," Willow said, stopping Dawn as the girl rose, "what the ultimate outcome is going to be for your relationship with the vampire known as Skye."
"No one can predict the future," Dawn said coldly. "Especially a never-ending one."
"Wrong," Buffy countered. "This is not about the future. Because there is no future, Dawn. Not with a vampire. Souled or unsouled, blood-fasting or not, well-meaning or evil no future. Except one."
Buffy brought her hand up from behind her and put something on the table with a soft clack. She lifted her hand. Mr. Pointy, her old stake from Sunnydale, lay on the table in front of Dawn.
Dawn stared at it, incredulously, then blinked back at Buffy.
Willow shifted uncomfortably in her seat. "Dawnie...you've said yourself that the vampire calling herself Skye really isn't Skye. That everything you've experienced up until this point tells you that that Skye is gone. Gone forever. Sweetie, you're only torturing yourself by holding onto a demon."
"And," Buffy said, "in a kind of a funny way funny weird, not funny ha-ha you're actually torturing the vampire by letting it live as a prisoner surrounded by slayers. I mean, not that vamps don't deserve that kind of treatment but...you're not a torturer, Dawn." She looked at her younger sister grimly. "Put it out of its misery, Dawn. Out of yours." Buffy pushed the stake. Mr. Pointy rolled toward Dawn and stopped when it hit the edge of her tray. "I wouldn't hand that to just anyone," Buffy said quietly, "nor for just any old staking."
The color drained from Dawn's face as she stared at the stake. Then she reached her hand forward slowly and wrapped her fingers around it. She lifted it and brought it into her chest, holding it there as she stood slowly.
"Thanks," Dawn said with quiet contempt. "This is one thing I hadn't thought of." She turned without another word and walked away and out of the dining hall.
Buffy blinked after her, then turned to Willow as she snatched another French fry from Dawn's abandoned supper. "Well," she said, brightening. "That went better than I thought it would."
"I'm not so sure..." Willow said, looking worriedly after Dawn.
"Hey, you eating that?" Buffy asked as she took a dinner roll from Willow's tray.
Dawn's Apartment 8:30 p.m.
Xander knocked on Dawn's door again. "Dawn? Dawn, I brought the bolts for Shannon's new crossbow. Just in time for tomorrow's training. Hey, special delivery by your favorite delivery guy! Dawn...?"
Xander frowned and impulsively tried the door. It was unlocked. He turned the knob and gently pushed the door open. "Dawn? Dawn are you here?"
He entered and walked into the living room, then looked around. Shrugging to himself, he took the bolts out of his pocket and laid them on the coffee table. One of them rolled to the far end and onto the floor. He went after it and followed it as it rolled just a little farther and hit something. He stopped dead in his tracks at the sight of a foot sticking out from behind the couch.
Coming quickly around, Xander stared down in horror at the sight of Dawn with a very familiar object embedded in her chest. "Oh my god..."
Watchers Council Infirmary Waiting Room 10:00 p.m.
Willow and Xander were in the waiting room when Giles arrived. "How is she?" he asked.
"Buffy's in with her," Willow replied. "And Faith."
"What happened exactly?"
"I found her," Xander said grimly, "with Mr. Pointy driven into her heart." He swallowed.
"Oh, Xander," Giles sighed sympathetically.
"I'm okay now," Xander replied. Willow rubbed his arm in support.
Buffy rounded the corner, Faith on her heels, wearing a look that Giles hadn't seen on her in ages. He took an involuntary step back.
She said nothing but picked up her coat and pulled it on calmly. Faith stood by, arms folded in front of her, waiting. The look on Faith's face was just as cold and purposeful as Buffy's.
"Buffy, where are you going? Is Dawn all right?" Buffy looked up at Giles, and realization crossed his face. "I see. Very good. Does she know what you're planning?"
"I'll tell her later," Buffy said.
Willow stood up suddenly. "Buffy, you can't! You can't just go and do that! Dawn's not ready for it "
Buffy turned slayer eyes on Willow.
"You want help?" Xander asked.
Buffy eyed him narrowly. "Yeah. Let's go." She turned and walked down the hall. Xander brushed past Willow, following the slayer.
Willow looked from Giles to Faith, but Faith just gave her a long, hard look as though daring her to try to stop them. Then she walked casually after Buffy and Xander.
"Giles..." Willow began.
"It's for the best," he cut her off sternly.
"Whose best?" Willow asked. "I'm as much for dusting vampires as anyone! But Dawn's gotta live with this, for the rest of her ever."
Giles turned his head and looked sideways at Willow. "Unfortunate though it is, the sooner the better," he said as he walked down the hallway, "the more time she'll have to get used to it." He continued out of the infirmary, leaving Willow looking after him.
Rowena and Willow's Kitchen Moments Later
Rowena had a microwave TV dinner in her hand and jumped slightly when she saw Willow standing there.
"Jeez," she said, putting it on the counter. "I thought you had a dinner date with Buffy. What are ?"
"We've got trouble," Willow told her.
Rowena paused. "Big trouble or little trouble?"
"A bit of both," Willow said as she waved Rowena to follow her.
Skye's Room A Few Minutes Later
"But I have three of a kind!" Shannon said as the vampire pulled the chips toward herself.
"And I have four. You lose, little sister."
Shannon was about to protest when they both heard the sound of approaching footsteps. They turned to see three figures blocking the doorway Buffy flanked by Xander and Faith.
Shannon's eyes grew wide at the purposeful stare of the slayer. She stood up and moved in front of Skye, who sat smiling in amusement at the group. Shannon's hands balled into fists, and she shifted her stance, ready to spring.
"Relax," Skye said in a low voice. "Don't give 'em anything to work with."
Shannon's eyes flickered at Skye's comment, and she loosened up a bit and sat back on her heels.
"Shannon," Buffy said quietly, "come out of there."
"But I'm in the middle of a card game." Shannon smiled innocently.
"Let's go, brat," Faith said over Buffy's shoulder.
Xander moved around Buffy and entered the room.
"But I'm winning," Shannon countered, smiling even more innocently.
"And we wanna keep it that way," Xander said, extending his hand to her. "Come on," he coaxed. "I'll take you out for ice cream."
"Ooooooooooooh, goody! Ice cream!" Skye said sarcastically as she rose up to stand behind Shannon.
"Well, look at this," Faith smirked. "Big bad vampire hiding behind a little-bitty slayer. Pretty pathetic."
"Shannon, I'm not asking again," Buffy said quietly.
"Not asking you to ask again," Shannon shot back snottily.
Buffy sighed and looked at Faith. "You got her?"
"Good. I got Vampyra."
"No!" Shannon snarled and grabbed her crossbow, aiming it directly at Buffy.
"Whoa! Hey!" Faith cried out. "Settle down, Runt. We just wanna talk to Sk "
Shannon's jittering finger released a bolt that sailed between Buffy's and Faith's heads. The startled slayers looked at one another in surprise. Shannon's expression mimicked theirs, but she quickly reloaded the crossbow.
Xander stepped in front of them as Shannon brought the crossbow to bear on them again. He held his hands up in a calming gesture at Shannon. He could see her tremble slightly.
"Easy, Shannon. No one's angry or anything. Buffy and Faith need to speak to Skye. Alone. Why don't you and I go out for a little while and give them some time to talk? C'mon. I'll even play you a couple of hands of poker if you want." He stepped forward.
"Stop!" Shannon said, a little shakily. "Don't. Please don't."
He stopped and put his hands down slowly. Then he tilted his head and looked at her, smiling softly. "Okay. I won't come any closer than this. So how about if you come a step toward me? Okay? Just a step. Nothing's gonna happen. I prom "
"Damn straight nothing's gonna happen," Skye said. "Take it easy, Shannie. They're trying to scare you 'cause they think you're just a kid. They don't know just how mean a slayer you really "
"If you don't shut up, I'll show you how mean a slayer I am," Buffy said, "and Shannon won't need to budge an inch."
Realization crossed Shannon's face. "Skye! Sit down. Behind me."
"Shannie, they just want you to think "
"You're taller than me, Skye! She's got a clear shot. And she's faster than I am. She can hit you from here with a stake. And I can't stop her! Skye, please!"
The smirk on Skye's face eroded, and she quietly sat back down behind the young slayer.
"All right, Shannon," Faith said, her patience gone and moving forward quickly. "Let's go."
Shannon's foot shot out and caught Faith in the knee, sending her down to the floor in pain. "Son of a "
Xander rushed Shannon, bending low and reaching out to tackle her by the waist. Shannon brought the butt end of the cross bow across his brow, knocking him back along the wall.
Buffy was already in motion as well, stake drawn and pulled back. She was about to whip it at Skye when something stung her upper arm. She threw the stake anyway, but it was slower than she intended, and Skye faked left quickly, just avoiding it. Mr. Pointy bounced off the far wall and fell harmlessly onto the bed just beside Skye.
Buffy pulled a crossbow bolt out of her bleeding arm as Faith rushed Shannon.
"Noooo!" Shannon cried, tears flying off her eyelashes as she tried to fight Faith off with another kick. Faith deflected it easily and knocked the crossbow from Shannon's hands. She reached out to grab the girl by the shoulders when Shannon was yanked violently backwards and into the arms of Skye. The vampire stood protectively over her.
"What the hell?!" Rowena yelled from the doorway. She and Willow both looked winded as they stood there. Everyone stopped for a moment and turned to the noise behind them.
Skye hissed, her face ridged and her eyes glowing. "You want to come at me? Fine!" she shouted at the slayers. "Let's do it! But just who do think you're terrorizing? Huh? She's not the enemy," she said, pointing at Shannon. "From the looks of things, neither am I. Guess that leaves you guys, huh?"
"You " Faith started.
"No!" Xander said, standing. "No more! Let it go!" He looked at Buffy. "Just let it go! Not tonight."
Buffy looked back at him and snorted, then looked aside angrily.
"Not tonight " he said gently, to Shannon. He looked over at the stake lying on the bed.
Shannon reached over, still hugged from behind by Skye, and picked it up. She held it out to Xander, and he reached forward slowly and took it from her. He handed it to Buffy, who took it wordlessly and tucked it back inside her jeans waist behind her back.
Faith backed away and stood at Buffy's side.
Shannon looked sullenly at them all.
"Someday," Buffy said calmly to the young girl, "you're gonna realize you can't have it both ways. Slayers and vampires were never meant to be friends or teammates. That's just the way it is. The sooner you get that, the less it's gonna hurt."
She turned and exited the cell, Faith and Xander with her. She walked two steps and stopped. Without looking back at Shannon, she added, "But either way, it will hurt. What you decide will determine how much." Without another word, she walked away down the hall, Faith by her side.
Xander hesitated, looking back at the little slayer, the vampire's arms still around her. She met his gaze head on, defiantly.
"She's right, Shannon. She knows. She she understands."
Shannon made to reply, but Skye tightened her hold on her, stopping her.
"Riiiiight," Xander smirked at Skye. "You'll take care of her." He shook his head and walked off down the hallway after Buffy and Faith.
"Skye " Rowena began, taking a step further into the room, Willow following.
"You had no idea, right?"
"I swear I didn't," Rowena began. "Willow just got me an "
"It's okay Go on," Skye said as she nodded toward the door. "We'll talk later."
Rowena lingered a moment, but Willow took her by the hand, pulling her from the room.
After the footsteps died away, Skye released Shannon. The girl turned and looked at her. Skye's face was normal again.
"How many stones go in the jar for what just happened?" Shannon asked.
Skye looked at the jar and then at Shannon and said seriously, "Enough to fill it, little sis. And then some."
"They wouldn't have tried that if Dawn was here."
"I know," Skye said. "But they're making her stay in the infirmary tonight."
Shannon frowned, then sat down on the floor. She pulled her crossbow to her, loading it with another bolt. "It's okay," she told Skye. "I got your back."
Skye smiled down at her and joined her on the floor, sitting cross-legged. She nudged the serious girl playfully. Shannon nudged her right back. Skye nudged her again, and so forth until Shannon was laughing.
The Next Day
Watchers Council Infirmary Private Room Morning
"I can't believe you did that, Buffy." Dawn looked straight into her sister's eyes, hurt but calm. "How could you do it to me and to Skye?"
"Because," Buffy replied, "at the end of the day literally Skye is a vampire."
"But she's neutral "
"There are no neutral vampires," Buffy replied quietly.
"Do you hear what you're saying? After Angel and Spi "
"After Angel and Spike I shouldn't have to say it. Skye is not Angel. She's not Spike. They had one thing she doesn't."
"You're right," Dawn conceded and folded her arms loosely. "Maybe she doesn't have a soul. But she does have me. And right now, I'd give her my soul if I could."
"I think you already have," Buffy said, nonplussed. "And that's unfortunate. I'm sorry, Dawn."
Dawn bit her lower lip.
"Look, staking Skye is the humane thing to do," Buffy said, trying to sound reasonable. "Think about it. We can't hold her here forever. At some point, she's going to try to make a break for it. And the spell she's under may or may not hold, but that's not what's got me worried. It's the hold she's got on you. Not to mention Shannon. It's just not " The look on Dawn's face stopped her.
"You're..." Dawn stared at her, looking as though she was trying to figure something out.
"What?" Buffy asked.
"You're jealous," Dawn said softly. "Jealous because I have Skye. Because I have her and you lost Angel and Spike. Jealous because Skye is more important to me than " She stopped short of what she was going to say. Then she drew in a deep breath, and her face was set and serious. "Jealous," she said more strongly, "because you can't have what I have. And now you no longer have me, either."
"What?" Buffy blinked at her.
"The truth is, you're not my sister, Buffy," Dawn said matter-of-factly. "You never were. You were my caretaker. The monks put me, The Key, in your care. And that's all."
"That's all, Buffy," Dawn said softly. "Leave now."
Watchers Council Rowena's Office 9:30 a.m.
Lori Carew placed the box on Rowena's desk, then sat down again.
Rowena looked for a moment at Lori, then at the box with Bureau Nine's logo embossed on it. Then she looked back at Lori.
The former slayer raised her eyebrows. "You want me to open it?"
"No," was Rowena's answer, nearly one full second later. "I will." The box top slipped off easily enough, revealing the several dozen computer disks inside. Each had a label, also with the Bureau Nine logo, along with a listing of files.
"Apart from general information we've gathered over the years," Lori said, "these also give an overall history of Bureau Nine itself. Case studies, general personnel files of prominent individuals, field reports, that kind of thing. Along with a catalog of all species of demons we've encountered and what is known about each."
"Is your file in here?"
Lori blinked. "If you want it to be, we can send that over. Do you?"
"That's okay." Rowena was skimming over the labels of the CDs. Her eyes also flickered over at Lori.
Eventually, Lori spoke. "This is a gift. A sharing of information for mutual benefit. Mr. Felix says that we are better off as allies, and that it would be easier if you know more about us." Rowena said nothing. After several more moments, Lori added, "So Heli didn't pan out?"
"Was it all just a coincidence, or had she been there?"
"She was there, all right. Emphasis on the past tense. Was. We were too late."
"Damn." She opened her mouth to say something else, but in the end all she did was repeat herself. "Damn."
"Yeah." Rowena stopped looking at the CDs, fixing her gaze on Lori. "Tell me something."
"If I can."
"Why Bureau Nine? Why did you start working for them?"
"Ro I was a Slayer. Then, all of a sudden, I wasn't. What was I supposed to do? Go work at an IHOP? Be Robin's secretary? Or the girl who makes the coffee? The other slayers, they looked at me with a mix of pity and fear, like I was contagious."
"I'm sorry," Rowena replied.
"No offense, but you watchers weren't much better. In a couple of seconds I went from valuable asset to extra mouth to feed, that is, when I was noticed at all. Mostly, I went invisible! Hey, Willow at least asked me if I wanted to learn magic. But after it turned out I've got zero talent in that direction, I was back to being invisible. I'm an experienced demon fighter! I've led people in combat! I helped save the world! But then I was nobody!"
"I defy you to name one person who even hinted at such a thing."
"I'll take that bet." Lori's eyes flashed. "How many times when I came into breakfast did the subject change? Everybody was talking shop, then boom! The pathetic ex-slayer came into earshot. Think I couldn't figure it out? Girls I thought were my best friends, like sisters to me " She stopped suddenly, eyes wet. After a moment, she continued, voice lower. "I wanted to keep up my combat training, but somehow there was never any time, at least not for me. If I scheduled time in the gym, anyone and I mean anyone could bump me off the schedule. And did. I volunteered to be backup. I volunteered for Black Ops training. I constantly asked was there anything I could do. So they had me make coffee."
"You could have said something "
"Haven't you been listening? I did. Again and again and again. Guess what? You didn't listen then, either. You know what I do at Bureau Nine?"
"Well, apart from delivering packages "
"I'm a member of a Project Team. All field operatives and senior management are; it's a requirement. Each team is cross-section of people with different skills who train and plan on objectives together. You can't believe how impressed they were when I joined them. A real slayer. Someone who'd proven herself, powers or no powers. And they never once asked me to go get the donuts. Now I'm deputy leader of Alpha Team. We work directly with Felix on matters of highest priority. Like this." Her finger jabbed at the box of computer disks. "That is how important the Bureau sees good relations with the Council. So important they sent me." She breathed hard, swallowed, looked away.
Rowena said nothing for several seconds, then began with "I'm sorry "
"Listen," Lori interrupted. She looked back at Rowena, but her eyes were dark, shut off. "Mr. Felix requests that you examine these files. Verify them. Frankly, he really hopes you'll reciprocate in kind. Nothing sensitive but general information, which would help us do our jobs. That has got to be in everyone's best interests."
With a half smile, Rowena said, "Looking to buy us out?"
Lori just stared at her, face mostly still but with an echo of old hurt. She refused to respond.
"We'll get back to you. I promise."
Now Lori rose. "Thank you." She turned to leave.
"Would you like to pay your respects to Vi's grave? I can have someone show you the way? This is a new facility after all."
"I didn't wait for your permission."
She shut the door as she left, making just a little more noise than need be. Rowena stared after her.
Watchers Council Library Reference Section That Afternoon
"Hi," Robin said as he approached the table where Shannon sat typing on her laptop.
She pulled her hands away from the keyboard and sat back, looking warily at him.
"Mind?" he asked, indicating an empty seat.
She said nothing, and he sat down carefully, hooking his cane over the back of the chair. It swung a little, and she stared at it.
"Writing a story?" he asked. She quickly turned her head to see him peering at her laptop screen. "A veterinarian!" he smiled. "That's a great thing to be. Is that what you want to do when you're older?" Shannon said nothing, blushing. She bowed her head and looked away. "Look, Shannon," Robin said gently, "I know you're you're having a rough time of it right now, and that things seem pretty bleak..."
"No, I'm not." She looked up at him. "And no, they don't."
Robin looked back at her, surprised. "You're not...?"
"I'm okay. I mean, I'm on active patrol learning new slayer skills everyday. I'm learning how to handle myself better in fights and tight spots. I have a good watcher. I've got friends...my grades are improving two B's and the rest all A's last time...Everything's pretty okay."
Robin nodded his head at her earnest self-assessment. "If things are so 'okay,' then tell me why you're hanging out with a vampire instead of your friends?"
Shannon broke into a smile. "Oh. That just kinda happened," she shrugged. "One afternoon, I was coming out of the computer lab, and I turned the bend in the hallway real quick by the water fountain, y'know? And then all of a sudden I ran into Skye. Or she ran into me. I don't know why I didn't sense her, but some of the other slayers say they don't sense her so well anymore either, now that she's been around here for a while."
Robin nodded at her to continue.
"Well, so anyway, I almost got knocked down and I stepped on her foot, but it was an accident. And then she got all vampy with the face, y'know? She backed up real fast and she she hissed at me." Shannon gave a slight giggle. "Y'know all glowy-eyed and fangy and I I couldn't help it...I didn't mean to, but it was just funny. She was funny. So I laughed. Not mean or anything. It was like when you scare a cat you know when they arch their backs and hiss?"
"So what did Skye do?"
"She...um...un-morphed. And then she looked at me scary-like and said, 'You aren't scared of me?' And I said, 'Nope. I'm a slayer. You're a vamp. Be pretty stupid for me to be scared of you.' And then she got this really scary look and said, 'So what are you scared of, little sister?' And I said, 'Mrs. Dinsmere, my math teacher.' And then all of a sudden she looked at me kinda funny, and then she asked me if I wanted her to go put the bite on Mrs. Dinsmere for me. I said I'd like to put the bite on Mrs. Dinsmere myself."
Robin bit down on a smile.
"And then she laughed and said she could give me lessons, and then I laughed and said it'd be pretty funny if Mr. Pollan had to go on CNN and explain that one of the slayers at the Watchers Council put a vampire bite on the math teacher."
Robin grinned at her.
"After that, we just talked for a while about different things," Shannon continued. "She said I could come and visit her in her room, if I wanted. I figured she must be kinda lonely if she was asking a slayer to come and visit her."
"So I went down a couple of nights later and I brought her this bubblegum it's sooooo cool! It's like all regular colors on the outside, but when you bite into it, it squirts out this juice that's totally red like real blood! And it gets all on your teeth and your tongue and your lips and it doesn't come off unless you really brush your teeth real hard."
Robin held his hands up to stop the girl's runaway narrative. "So," he said, "you and Skye began to hit it off. As...friends?"
"Yeah. She really liked the Blood Blasts. That's the gum that "
"Yes, I get that..."
"So anyway, she tried one, and she really liked it, and we showed each other our teeth and it really looked like we bit someone, and we were jokin' about how we could walk the halls and show everyone our teeth with the gum blood on them and make everyone think she'd vamped me and then they'd be tryin' to stake us both."
Her grin faded a bit as she saw the funny look Robin was giving her.
"So what else have you done? Besides chew bubblegum with Skye?"
"Different stuff. Talk, play cards, watch TV. Mostly she helps me with my homework. She's super smart. And she really listens to what I say. You know, she doesn't get all bossy or tell me what to do or how I should be or what I should be or "
"So you can confide in her?"
"Like what, for instance?"
"I dunno. Like...like what I want to be...someday. If..."
"If I live long enough. Skye says only the lucky slayers get to grow up. So, she said if she was me and she wasn't sure if she would get to grow up, that she'd write down all the things she'd want to be and what it'd be like. And I do." She motioned with her head toward the laptop.
Shannon smiled sheepishly. "It's kinda stupid, I guess. But it's kinda like I am those things when I write them. Like I I am grown up and doing everything I write. Or somethin' I dunno."
"So you write stories about yourself being something you'd like to be when you grow up?"
Shannon's mouth twisted. "Told ya it's stupid."
"Does Skye think it's stupid? These stories?"
"No," Shannon said quickly. "Skye thinks they're pretty cool. She says I have a good imagination and that if I can imagine it happening, then I can probably make it happen."
"Skye's right. You can."
"And so are you," Robin added.
"About Skye. She's very smart."
"Yeah..." Reluctantly, she added, "And she's a vampire."
"Well, we'll try not to hold that against her too much. Okay?"
Shannon scoffed. "Better tell that to your honey," she added.
Robin looked back at the laptop. "Veterinarian only has one 't'," he said.
Rowena & Willow's Living Room Same Time
"Please, Willow. I don't know who else to go to now."
"Dawnie, I can't. Buffy said "
"Do you always have to do what Buffy says? Last night you didn't."
"Rowena had a right to know what Buffy had planned. Skye is her test subject."
"Keep telling yourself that, Willow, but we both know there's more to it than that. Just stop following Buffy around like she's the valiant leader and start thinking for yourself again."
"Dawn, it's not that I'm doing what Buffy says, but she has a very valid reason for not wanting you to continue with Skye. She thinks you're thinking with your heart."
"I won't deny that! I love Skye."
"But this isn't Skye. It's the vampire in Skye's body," Willow stressed.
"And this isn't Sunnydale. I don't have to do what Buffy tells me to. And neither do you."
"I'm sorry, Willow, but sometimes...sometimes, with Buffy here, it's like being stuck in Sunnydale all over again."
"Dawn, that's not fair."
"Is it fair that Buffy hands me a stake to kill the one person I love most in the world?" Willow looked aside and sighed. "All I am asking for is your help," Dawn continued, "so that I can get Skye away from here and out where where the two of us can just live in peace, in seclusion. So far from anyone that there's no need for spells or curses or stakings. Willow, I'm not asking for anything more than a chance." Dawn looked soberly at the witch.
Willow gave Dawn a sympathetic look in return. "And what about the Council? What about your position here? Your job, your life?" she asked earnestly. "What about your slayer?"
"Shannon'll be okay," Dawn said calmly. "She can be reassigned to Robin. He should have been her watcher in the first place."
"Do you think Shannon will see it that way? That it's okay to be reassigned to Robin? Dawnie, I don't think you know how far along you've brought her. Or how fond she is of you. You've really created a great watcher-slayer bond with her and I think it'd be well, cruel to just abandon her. Remember how Buffy felt when Giles left? And she was a grown woman, not a kid."
Dawn heaved a heavy sigh. "I don't mean to just leave her. But Skye and I need to get away from here, for a while. Maybe I can come back for a visit or ?"
"Dawn, running away won't solve this for you or Skye. And once you run, it's gonna be hard to just drop in to say hi. Dontcha think?"
"It's not running away. It's running toward toward something Skye and I can have together a little happiness. We can maybe build a semi-normal life together."
"Build a life with the undead. How ironic," Willow sighed.
"Look, I have an eternity to live. But Skye's days are numbered here, no matter what anyone thinks, because she is a vampire. She could be dust tomorrow, or in five hundred years, or anytime in between. But when that happens that's when my eternity really begins."
"Goddess..." Willow sighed. The two sat quietly for long moments, neither looking at the other, both lost in their own thoughts. Then Willow looked up at Dawn, decisively. "All right." Dawn stared back at her. "All right, Dawn. I'll talk to the Council heads, but I need you to tell me what you have in mind where you want to go, how you're going to live, and most importantly, how you're going to manage Skye. Even if the spell holds, I have a bad feeling about Skye being anywhere in the outside world "
Willow cut herself off as she noticed Dawn blink. Big tears fell from Dawn's eyes, wetting her face and dripping off her chin as Dawn sat, tall and quiet.
"Oh, Dawnie..." Willow got up and crossed the space between them. She knelt in front of Dawn and pulled her forward into a gentle hug. Dawn laid her head down on Willow's shoulder.
"Thank you," she said. "For giving us a chance."
Willow hugged her a little tighter.
End of Act One
On to Act Two