Starring: Norika Fujiwara as Mia, Felicia Day as Vi, Carly Schroeder as Marsha, Laura Prepon as Lori, and Lindsay Felton as Skye
Guest Starring: Claire Forlani as Cynthia, Alyssa-Jane Cook as Gil, Robert Picardo as Dr. Miller and Bianca Chiminello as Jena
Arena – Underground Cell
The demon took a purposeful stride toward the cell. "You will come with us."
"Like hell!" Faith snarled, advancing on the armored demon. "If you know what’s good for you-."
"Be silent!" the demon rasped, its voice filling the cell, seeming to blanket all other sound.
"Make me!" Faith shot back, regaining herself after a momentary hesitation. The demon waved a hand toward her and she convulsed, bending over half-backwards, her muscles straining against some unseen force. At a gesture from the demon a form coalesced around Faith, a jagged mass of shadows that held her motionless, its dark, gaseous limbs clamped firmly around her neck and shoulders.
At the sight of it the other slayers started forward, only to be halted as Faith cried out in agony, the shadow wrapped around her lifting her off her feet and twisting her body almost to the breaking point.
"Be still!" the demon rasped. "Or she dies. Choose."
Mia, at the front of the group of slayers, glanced to either side, meeting the gazes of the other girls in the cell, then looked at Faith, who was staring at her from where she was held, her eyes narrowed against the pain. Turning a furious glare on the demon, Mia took a small step backwards, unclenching her fists.
"What do you want?" she growled.
"I am Imbethit," the demon said. "I am the master of this place. You have spilt the blood of my children. In return I will exact vengeance upon your kind until the debt is repaid."
"Those assassin demons?" Faith managed to choke out.
"Your ‘children’ were cold-blooded murderers!" Mia added.
Imbethit gestured toward Faith and the shadow form vanished, leaving her to fall awkwardly to the floor, striking her head against the stone. The demon turned its eyeless gaze on her as she looked up, wiping away a smudge of blood from a cut above her eye.
"And you shall be murdered in turn," it said. With that it turned and swept out of the cell, again passing through the bars without effort. Faith sprinted forward, slamming her hands against the bars, but they proved quite solid.
"Damn it," she muttered to herself. Mia appeared at her side, and she glanced at her.
"How’s your head?" the Asian slayer asked quietly.
"Still attached," Faith shrugged, "so, could be worse." She sighed and turned her back on the bars, resting against them and wincing as she gingerly felt for wounds on her head. After a moment she turned to Marsha. "Spread the word to the girls in the other cells back there," she instructed, "make sure everyone knows who Sir Gloats-a-lot is, and what his ‘children’ can do. Get them to pass it on to the other connected cells. Make sure we’re all in the loop."
"On it." Marsha nodded
"Faith," Mia began, "there’re girls here we don’t know. Probably unfound slayers, brought here same as us but…"
"But what?" Faith asked.
"Those guys that went after Becca…All they had to do was touch her and boom she was one of them. If they plant someone in here..." Mia glanced toward the back of the cell, and Faith followed her gaze, to where a young dark-haired woman was sprawled near the wall, unconscious.
"Gotcha. They might do some hocus pocus to make us kill each other." Faith nodded. "Okay, make sure everyone knows what this guy’s kiddies can do: the shapeshifter act, and that trick they did on Becca. No physical contact with anyone we don’t recognize, or anyone we do who starts acting strange, just…ugh," she groaned as she found a sore spot on her head. "Have the girls explain the situation to them, just don’t touch them. We’re in enough trouble already, we don’t need more assassins turning us against each other."
"Faith," Mia said hesitantly, "that shadow thing touched you…"
"Yeah, I know," the senior slayer grimaced, "didn’t look like one of Imbethit’s boys, but you never know…" she glanced around ruefully, "doesn’t look like there’s any handy tubs full of holy water. If I go nuts like Becca did, you take care of it, right?"
"It won’t come to that," Mia said quickly.
"If it does," Faith repeated, "You need to take care of it."
Mia paused but then finally nodded nervously. "I will."
Rowena’s Apartment – Morning
Willow slipped inside Rowena’s apartment to see she was talking on the phone. Rowena turned and smiled at her girlfriend, giving her a short wave.
"No, Mom," Rowena said into the phone. The watcher turned her back to Willow and nervously twisted the telephone cord in one hand. Willow frowned at Rowena’s tense posture.
"No, Mom," Rowena repeated. "I just can’t spare the time away from work right now…No, I’m not dating anyone…that’s not it at all. I’m just real busy."
Willow’s face paled and she just stood there while Rowena said her goodbyes and hung up the phone. As she turned and saw Willow’s hurt expression, her face crumpled up.
"Oh god, Willow," Rowena said. "I’m sorry."
Willow looked at her sternly. "Sorry? How can you be sorry to someone who doesn’t even exist?"
"No, Willow, you don’t understand," Rowena said, moving closer to the redhead. She winced as Willow took a step back. "You exist - you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me."
"How can I be when you won’t even tell your mom you’re seeing someone?" Willow asked. "I mean, okay, my dad still hopes I’ll marry Xander one day, so I try not to discuss things with him if I can but..."
"Like I said, you don’t get it," Rowena explained. "If I even mentioned to my mother I was seeing somebody, anybody, it would become a game of twenty questions. Since I don’t wanna drop the bomb over the phone it’s best that I just avoid it for now…Believe me, this isn’t about you," Rowena answered.
Willow held up her finger. "I realize that you don’t want to tell them about me when you’re like, thousands of miles away. I get it."
"Thank you," Rowena sighed.
"But I gotta be honest here…it hurts…I feel like a shadow."
"You’re not a shadow and if I could prove it I would," Rowena said.
Willow shrugged with a small nod but appeared to be unconvinced. In response, Rowena paused a moment before she strolled purposefully over to the phone again and dialed.
"Hey, Mom," she said. "I uh…I think I can get away over New Year’s…I might be bringing a fellow watcher from the Council if she can get away, okay?"
Willow’s eyes widened as Rowena continued. "No, don’t worry about the space, we can both stay in my room…Sorry but I refuse to bunk with Mary. She snores too loud…No…Because she wouldn’t get any sleep and would probably no longer be my friend afterward. Trust me. She’ll be fine staying in my bed," Rowena winked at Willow. "No, we’ll rent a car in Halifax – I’d like to show her a bit of the island first. Yeah, I’m sure. Okay, tell Dad I love him. Bye Mom, talk to you soon."
Rowena smiled at Willow as she hung up and then blushed.
"So what do you say? Wanna spend the New Year in the Great White North?" For a moment her expression turned serious. "If you don’t, that’s okay. You might not want to be present when it’s bombs away and I know the thought of going further north in the dead of winter probably has little or no appeal for you but-."
Willow silenced Rowena’s rambling with a kiss. When she pulled away, the blonde’s eyes fluttered open.
"I’d love to go home with you, Ro," she replied.
"Okay then," Rowena said with a touch of nervousness in her voice. "New Year’s. We’ll go. I’ll see them. And I’ll tell them."
Willow ran the back of her fingers over Rowena’s cheeks. "No matter how it turns out, we’ll be okay."
"Promise?" Rowena asked still looking unsure.
Willow’s Living Room – Moments Later
Willow walked in to find Marsha still sleeping and she gave her a gentle smile before walking toward the kitchen.
"Hey sleepyhead," Willow called out. "Waffles are on the way so you better get moving."
Arena – Underground Cell – Same Time
"What’s the count?" Faith asked as Mia and Marsha knelt beside her. On the other side of the bars Faith was sitting against, in the adjoining cell, Vi was crouching nearby, keeping an eye on the other girls as she listened.
"Final word hasn’t come back yet," Mia said, "more then thirty cells on my side, five or six girls to a cell."
"Same on my side," Marsha nodded. "So that’s…"
"Three hundred thirty approximately," Faith muttered, "plus the six in our cell… what?" she demanded, as Mia and Marsha exchanged a glance, "I can count. How many of our girls?" There was an uncomfortable silence before Vi spoke.
"At a guess, all of them," she said. "We haven’t accounted for everyone yet-"
"But if the cells extend much further," Mia continued where Vi paused, "and they’re full like the ones we’ve got reports back from, they might have got the whole Council."
"But only slayers," Faith mused. She looked up as footsteps echoed through the dark corridor.
"Him again?" Vi whispered.
"Different footsteps," Faith said, "not Imbethit."
On the tail of her words a misshapen demon stepped out of the shadows in the corridor between the cells, glaring through the bars at Faith.
"Slayer leader," it growled.
"Yeah, yeah," Faith grinned, getting to her feet and advancing. "Your boss too lazy to come down here and gloat in person?" The demon ignored her.
"You and your kind are slaves of the Presidium," it said. "They have given you to my master Imbethit, the Assassin. In payment for the debt you owe for the death of His children, you are sentenced to fight in the Arena until such time as He declares the debt paid, in the blood of your kind."
"Hey, ugly," Faith spoke up, "tell your boss we’re not a traveling circus, and we don’t fight on cue just to give him his jollies. ’Kay?" The demon gazed at her with the darkened pits of its eye sockets. "What, am I speaking too fast?" she asked. "I can dictate a note, if you can’t remember all that."
"You will stand in the Arena," the demon said levelly, "and your kind’s blood will flow. If you choose not to fight, so be it. That is the only choice remaining to you."
Slayer Rec Room – Same Time
Robin walked into the Slayer Rec Room to find Faith asleep on the sofa next to Mia. As he rounded the arm he saw the note stuck on Faith’s forehead and read it. He began to grin and removed it. With a shake of his head, disregarding the distraction, he patted her on the knee.
"Faith? Weekly Tuesday meeting, Babe. Gotta get up," he called softly. He looked over to Mia to make sure he didn’t wake her. "Faith?" he said again, this time shaking her leg more forcefully. His face frowned and he took a closer look at her. "Faith, you gotta wake up," he said louder. Not getting a response he moved to Mia and gently shook her but she wouldn’t wake up either.
Robin rose to his feet with a frightened look.
Willow’s Living Room – Moments Later
As Willow moved the waffles and bacon to the dining room table she noticed that Marsha still slept on the couch.
"Come on Kiddo," she called over. "Rise and shine." When she got no response she walked over and looked down at the girl. "Marsha?" she said louder.
With a look of uncertainty and fear Willow pressed her fingers to Marsha’s throat and checked for a pulse. After releasing the breath she held Willow gave Marsha a firm shake but still the girl didn’t move.
Hallway – Moments Later
Rowena opened her door to see Willow standing in the hallway looking worried.
"What’s wrong?" the blonde watcher asked.
"I can’t wake Marsha."
Without asking more Rowena crossed her threshold and closed the door behind her.
Arena – Underground Cell – Same Time
"Where the heck are we?" Mia mused, gazing up through one of the barred skylights in the stone ceiling, through which a murky blue light filtered down into the cavernous cellblock.
"Triskelion," Vi said glumly, earning vacant stares from the slayers around her. "Triskel- you know, the brains in jars? Captain Kirk and that girl in the silver bondage outfit…"
"I thought it was Imbethit who possessed people," Marsha said, "not Andrew."
"I showed up for one of his Trekkie nights!" Vi protested. "Just trying to lighten the mood."
"Option A," Faith said, "brains in jars. What- no, I don’t want to know," she said quickly. "Are we even still on Earth, or did they haul us through a portal somewhere?"
"Maybe you’re just dreaming that we’re all here," Marsha suggested.
"If you’re dreaming," Mia said thoughtfully, "then everyone else here is an extension of yourself."
"What?" Faith asked.
"Freud, Interpretation of Dreams, you know?" Mia shrugged. Faith still appeared confused. "Look, ask someone here a question about you they don’t already know. If they can answer it then you know you’re dreaming."
Faith shook her head as if trying to catch up to the conversation before she turned to Vi. "What in the world is she talking about?" Faith asked Vi.
"Ask Mia what your first boyfriend’s name was," Vi answered. "Or something like that."
"Oh, I get it now." Faith nodded. "Okay, what did my mom get me for my seventh Christmas?"
"I don’t know," Mia said promptly.
"What does that prove?" Marsha asked.
"I don’t know the answer," Mia said, "but if I were just a figment of her imagination I could answer the question."
"What if her imagination knows that you don’t know the answer?" Marsha interrupted. "Wouldn’t that throw off the test?"
"Okay, ya know what, screw Freud," Faith said. "Hands up all those who think they’re real people." All the slayers in the cell, and those in the neighboring cells listening in, raised their hands.
"Good enough for me," Faith said firmly, "we’re all here, wherever here is."
"What did you get?" Vi asked.
"Your Christmas present?" Vi asked.
"Oh," Faith grinned wryly, "a boom box she lifted from one of her ex’s. But he took it back on New Year’s, so nothing I guess."
"I think we’re in Vor," Marsha suggested in the ensuing silence. "It doesn’t feel normal – you guys remember the Engineer, when he brought the dimensional walls down for a moment during the battle?"
"I occasionally have happy moments when I don’t remember that," Faith offered.
"It felt like this," Marsha went on. "Don’t ask me how I know, I just…you know, it’s a feeling."
"If you’re right," Mia said, "that means the Presidium kidnapped nearly every slayer on the planet, all at once according to what’s being reported by the cells down the line."
"Could they do that?" Vi asked. "I mean, I don’t remember anything, no one else here does – wouldn’t someone have noticed, raised the alarm before they got all of us? They’d have had to go all over the place, break into every branch of the Council…"
"Maybe they didn’t have to get us," Faith suggested.
"What are you saying?" Vi asked.
"Maybe Mia’s right, and this is a dream – but all of us, in the same dream."
"Wes Craven has a lot to answer for," Marsha frowned.
"So we’re still asleep back home?" Vi asked. "We just have to wait for someone to notice, and wake us up?"
"They might not be able to," Faith said, "if I was in charge, I wouldn’t want to lose prisoners that easily. But it does mean we’ve got our guys on the case – they figured out how to beat Imbethit before, so it’s just a matter of time."
"Unless we’re already dead," Vi said quietly.
"Imbethit threatened to kill me," Faith said quickly, "that means I’m not dead yet. We’re alive – we just have to stay that way until the watchers figure things out."
"Providing that they aren’t captured somewhere too," Mia chimed in.
"Or dead," Vi added again but this time more softly. "With no slayers there to protect the council…"
Faith walked away slowly and looked outside the bars of their cage.
Marsha glanced at the slayers standing around her before she walked up behind Faith. "What do we do then?" she asked.
"Like I said Kiddo," the elder slayer replied. "Just stay alive."
End of Act One
Onto Act Two