With Felicia Day as Vi and Angie, Norika Fujiwara as Mia, Rhona Mitra as Alex Neel and Lindsay Felton as Skye.
Guest staring - Catherine O'Hara, Michael J. Fox, Renee Zellweger, Brian Cox, Jeff Conaway and Peter Boyle.
Watchers Council – Lounge – Day
Giles poured the tea into four cups. After returning the teapot to its place on the tray, he picked up each cup and saucer. The first two cups went to Angie and her sister, Vi, while the third went to Xander. Giles kept the last for himself.
"I'm afraid you may have the wrong idea of exactly what we do here," Giles said to Angie. His tone was friendly, but firm.
"You help out slayers like my little sis, right?"
"Little sis?" asked Xander. He looked at both twins. Since he had managed to seat himself in between them, this meant a rather quick turning of his head. The gesture was really too quick to avoid being comic, and Giles raised an eyebrow but said nothing.
"Angie was born first," Vi explained.
"Which makes her my little sister," Angie finished, grinning. She loaded her tea with cream and sugar.
"Huh," said Xander. "Vi takes her tea...well, not black, but straight anyway."
"Twins," murmured Vi, "not clones."
"Yeah, right. Twins." Xander nodded. Then he swung his head back and forth again, grinning once more. He grinned so much that Giles had to clean his glasses.
"As I was saying," Giles continued, "mostly our efforts are limited to acquiring and organizing knowledge. We are, if I may say so, rather akin to librarians in many ways."
"But, you're doing it to help out slayers like my sis," Angie said. "Right?"
"Well, hey—that’s what I'm here to do." She nodded firmly, not a flicker of doubt in her eyes. "Sign me up!"
Giles sipped his tea. "It’s not that simple," he told her.
"I don't see what the problem is, Giles," Xander piped in. "We are definitely understaffed in the watcher’s area these days."
"Yes," Giles agreed, "and I'm not sure there is a problem. But might I suggest a period of apprenticeship first? That way, Angela, you can…"
"Excuse me?" Giles asked.
"People call me Angie."
"Oh. Yes. Sorry. Well, as I was saying, Angie, perhaps we should begin with your taking part in various activities, helping full watchers in their duties. This will allow you to discover for yourself whether this is the sort of work for which you’re genuinely suited. When classes resume, you may then enroll at the Academy, should you still wish to." He smiled.
Angie looked bemused. "Giving me a get-out-of-jail-free card? Just in case?"
"Now, now," Xander said, patting Angie’s hand, "Giles is just trying to do his job. Me, I have no doubts you'll do great."
"Really?" Vi asked.
She was leaning back on the sofa, with her arms crossed, listening to every word. She looked nearly amused, but mostly annoyed, and quite simply suspicious.
"Yeah," Xander said with a deliberate shrug and laugh. "I'm sure it'll be great having both of you. Around…having both you around. You know?"
Unlike her twin, Angie was clearly amused, and her snort showed it.
"This is gonna sound just too weird for words, but the fact is I was a twin myself for a little while," Xander announced.
"For a little while?" Angie repeated, her expression doubtful.
"Actually," Giles said, "that is essentially true."
Angie nodded. "Okay. This I gotta hear."
"Me, too," muttered Vi.
"Can't wait to hear this one myself," said a female voice from behind Giles. Everyone looked and saw Alex striding towards the party of four.
"Alex! Hi!" Xander's voice rose half an octave.
"Hello," she said, her head coolly turning from one girl to the other at Xander's side. "Aren't you going to introduce me?"
Xander hesitated just long enough for Giles to speak first. "Vi's twin sister is applying to join the Watchers Council."
"Twins. Obviously." She barely looked at Giles; instead, she continued to gaze at the two identical girls on either side of Xander, then at Xander himself, who tried not to smile. Then she offered her hand to Angie. "I’m Alex Neel."
"Angie," Vi’s sister replied as she took Alex’s hand and shook it.
Now Alex turned to Giles. "I was looking for Rowena’s help but this place seems almost deserted."
"Oh," said Giles, "Rowena and Willow went to Nova Scotia on holiday for New Years. Rowena has family there."
"Ah. Meeting the parents? That kind of thing?"
"Something of the sort. They left late last night and should be back Monday at the latest. Possibly sooner."
"Depending on whether the Allisters like their daughter's girlfriend?" Alex inquired.
"And...whether they even figure out that's what Willow is," Xander added.
Comprehension lit Alex's face, while Vi gave Xander a tiny kick.
Nova Scotia – Thornkirk Ferry – Day
Willow leaned on the railing as the ferry approached land. The sky was a patchwork of bright blue and mottled gray. Gulls flew overhead. Rowena winced a little as she leaned on the rail beside Willow, her still-healing gun-shot wound making itself known.
When she saw Willow exhale a misty breath and shiver in her coat, Rowena asked, "Cold?"
"Yeah," admitted Willow. "Southern California gal here."
"You're in luck, actually. This is relatively warm for January."
At this news, Willow made a mock sound of fear.
Rowena giggled then sighed. "I hope we're ready for this."
"We are." Willow grinned at her, then leaned over to touch forehead to temple. "We are," she repeated.
Rowena leaned against her weight slightly. "I love you," she whispered.
"I know." At Rowena's snort, Willow asked, "What?"
"You were channeling Andrew just now. When Princess Leia says 'I love you' to Han Solo for the first time, he says back..."
"I get it. And since when are you a Star Wars fan, missy?"
"Andrew insisted on watching the entire DVD trilogy with me when I was recuperating."
"A captive audience, huh?"
"Yeah, but I have to admit…it wasn’t bad."
Smiling, Rowena kissed Willow gently on the lips.
"I love you, too," said Willow.
Grinning, Rowena replied. "I know."
Nova Scotia – Ferry Landing – Later
A simple wooden sign read "Welcome to Thornkirk." Willow and Rowena passed it as they came off the ramp, each carrying one large piece of luggage. Their left and right hands, respectively, were entwined.
Rowena sighed again and gestured with her head. Before them, right at the car park, stood a middle-aged woman waving with a big grin on her face.
"Mom," was all Rowena said.
"It’ll be fine," Willow murmured as she released Rowena’s hand and took her bag from her.
The woman came directly up to them, smiling so much it looked as if her face would break.
"There you are! I was so worried you might have missed the last ferry! But here you are! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Sweetheart! Oh!" She blinked at Willow. "And of course...HAPPY HANUKAH!" She pronounced it "hah-noo-kah," but Willow only smiled as the older woman prattled on. "I'm Mrs. Allister. I suppose you guessed that already, eh? Oh, do get in the car. I've left it running because Rowena mentioned you were from down south. California was it?" Mrs. Allister didn’t wait for an answer. Instead she grabbed one of the luggage bags and hurried it to the trunk of her car as Willow put in the second one. "Get in, get in!" she insisted as she shooed Willow away with her hands.
Willow eyes were bulging a little as she obeyed. Once inside the car, she found the interior quite warm. She slipped into the back seat, with Rowena beside her, holding gloved hands and sitting as close as possible without actually sitting on each other.
Mrs. Allister blinked as she got into the driver's seat.
"Why ever are you in the back? You are, after all, our special guest!"
"I...I didn’t want to take the front..." Willow said.
"Besides, we wanted to sit together," Rowena said suddenly, unblinking.
"Oh," Mrs. Allister replied, saying it in such a way that it became "Aw" at the end. Her smile twisted into a new shape, as if she were seeing a kitten trying to leap inside a mirror for the first time. "It’s good to know you're finally making some special friends, dear. I know it can be lonely when you're the bright one. Don't you think?" She addressed the question to Willow from the rearview mirror.
With a firm nod, Mrs. Allister put the car into drive. "Only Mary Grace and Joseph are with us this year, I'm afraid. Even so, we still don't have a bedroom for everyone. Willow—it is Willow, yes?—I’m afraid you'll have to share a room with Rowena. Her old room, as a matter of fact. You two work together, though, right? Go on expeditions and things? You must have bunked together before now?" Her relentless cheerfulness was now tinged with apology.
"We prefer it, actually," was Rowena's reply. She didn't say it loud, but neither did she whisper. Willow held onto her hand tighter.
"Oh good, then it’s all for the best! I know our little town must seem like such a backwater place to you after coming from L.A."
"Well, I’m not from L.A.," Willow answered. "My hometown wasn’t a booming metropolis. Cleveland’s the biggest place I’ve been to next to London."
"Did you study at the Academy too?" Mrs. Allister asked.
Willow paused as if unsure how to answer. "I, uh, I trained in California, but I spent a summer in England…honing my skills."
"Well, even though we’re small here, there're all kinds of little dramas happening all the time, let me tell you. Joseph actually bought out the boat dealership. Did you know?"
"Really?" Rowena asked, surprised.
"Yep, he's self-employed! It was such a piece of good fortune. He was able to get your father a good deal on his new fishing boat. And I do know your dad will want to thank you in person for helping out, dear. Oh speaking of which..."
Rowena gave Willow a look of apology, but the witch only smiled and patted Rowena’s hand in support as the watcher's mother continued to ramble on.
Watchers Council – Giles’s Office – Later
Vi and Angie knocked and then entered Giles’s office. He was at his desk, with Alex seated before him. They both looked up as the twins came in.
"Ah! Angie!" Giles said in a pleased voice. "As it happens, something's come up which may interest you. It’s something in which you can indeed be of considerable help while 'getting your feet wet,' I believe is the phrase."
"Really?" Angie tilted her head. "Got an assignment for me already?"
"Not so much an assignment as an interesting errand."
"Isn't that what they said to Clarice Starling when she went to meet Hannibal Lecter?"
Giles blinked. "Perhaps." He looked at Alex.
"Yes," was her amused reply. "It was. But this shouldn't involve interviewing any serial-killer cannibals."
At this, Giles blinked again. "No, it certainly should not. Well, one hopes, at any rate. Alex, could you explain?"
With a nod, Alex gestured to the other chairs in the office. Both sisters sat. "Barlow College is just outside Cleveland, and it wants to give away one of its library collections for tax purposes. It has a lot of obscure stuff that's been sitting around forever. As it happens, they are clients of my firm, and I recommended the Council as a good recipient."
"Uh-huh," Angie said. "And what do I do?"
"The fact is," Giles said, "no one has ever actually catalogued this library's contents. We need someone to go over there and conduct a preliminary examination so that we'll have some idea of what to do with it—the books and papers and things."
"So, you want me to write down the contents of a library?" Angie did not sound thrilled.
"Not just you. There's one other person here who is both qualified and available. He would be spending New Year's with...well, the fact is he's available. So it would be the two of you. Vi tells me you almost have your associate's degree in library science."
Angie looked skeptical, ready to pass if she had any choice, but before she could say a word, another knock came at the door. Everyone turned as Robin entered the room. He wore gym shorts and a sleeve-less t-shirt, with a towel in one hand.
"Giles? You needed to see me?"
"Ah, Robin, yes. I didn't mean to interrupt..."
Robin waved away any objections. "Just getting a workout is all."
"Well, I was hoping you'd take Angie to a library at Barlow College. There's a collection they're giving away. That is, if Angie agrees to go?"
"Sure!" Angie replied instantly, having not taken her eyes off Robin since he came in.
"Uh...Angie," Vi began.
"Just tell me when," Robin said amiably.
"Tomorrow, if possible," was Giles’s reply.
"How big is the collection?" Robin asked.
Alex answered. "A least a couple of cases, but I think Giles just wants a simple overview. Something so he'll know how to handle it, how many trucks to hire, any special circumstances, that kinda thing."
"I don't have to tell you," Giles continued, "how important it is that we explore every avenue for further knowledge. And what's at stake."
Robin nodded again then addressed Angie. "You be here for dinner?"
"Bet on it." Angie replied enthusiastically.
"We'll talk then and make a plan," Robin said to Angie before turning to Giles. "Okay?""
"Good." Robin left the room, with Angie continuing to stare after him.
"I knew it'd be a good idea to come here," Angie murmured appreciatively.
Alex laughed. "Or not," she said, almost under her breath.
Vi looked at her twin sister and shook her head.
"What?" Angie asked. "Lemme guess. He’s gay?"
"No," Vi answered. "But I would suggest not getting on his girlfriend’s bad side."
"How tough can she be?"
"She’s a slayer," Vi answered.
"So? You’re a slayer, and you’re not that tough," Angie jabbed.
"Fine then. Go for it," Vi said with a shrug. "Just don’t come crying to me when you need dentures because she’s knocked every tooth out of your stubborn head."
Alex and Giles both tried not to laugh.
Nova Scotia – Allister Home – Dining Room – Night
Willow and Rowena sat beside each other. At the head of the table sat Rowena’s father, a tall man with graying hair and a barrel chest. To his left was Mrs. Allister's chair, currently unoccupied. Beside it sat a thin young man, close to Rowena's age, who had introduced himself with a grin as Joseph Allister, professional salesman of high quality watercraft.
At the foot of the table, beside Willow, sat Mary Grace, a somewhat heavyset blonde woman who looked tired. She looked a few years older than her sister, Rowena.
"You keep looking at me," said Mary Grace to Willow at her left. "Is there something wrong?"
"No!" was Willow's instant reply. "It’s just…I saw an old picture of you once. When you were a teenager. I'm making an adjustment in my head that you're not that girl any more."
Mary Grace paused before replying. "No one is." Then she fell silent.
"Well!" Mrs. Allister said, as she entered from the kitchen and put the last of the dinner dishes onto the table. "Here we are—and Willow, dear, I made a special effort. Everything you see is indeed kosher, so feel free to dig in!" She smiled with the same determination as ever.
"Oh." Willow managed to smile back. "Thank you. That's very kind. But you shouldn’t have. I really don’t practice Judaism anymore. I’m a Wiccan, actually."
"A Wiccan?" Mrs. Allister asked. "Does that mean you don’t believe in God?"
Willow looked to Rowena, who suddenly looked concerned. "I believe in Gods and Goddesses. I just don’t believe there’s one entity that controls everything."
Rowena quickly spoke up. "It’s not much different than the fishermen that dad knows who pray to Poseidon or the patron saints. Not really," she added.
Mary Grace let out a long exhalation, but her face remained still. Mrs. Allister cleared her throat. "I suppose so…Anyway, Mary Grace, will you lead us as we say grace?" Mrs. Alllister looked pointedly at her eldest daughter, and then oddly enough, winked at Willow.
Mary Grace took a breath. "Our Father," she intoned, with all the enthusiasm of a child forced to recite a memorized speech, "in all your various names and forms of worship, we thank thee for thy generosity, and we shall strive to do your will as we best understand it, based upon whatever holy books with which we have been raised. Amen."
Joseph echoed his mother's cheerful 'Amen' while everyone else pretty much emulated the almost-whisper of Mr. Allister. Dinner itself was a pot roast with mashed potatoes and gravy as well as several different kinds of vegetables. It wasn’t elaborate fare, but good, and cooked to simple perfection. Willow ate with increasing gusto.
"This is really good, Mrs. Allister," Willow said after just a few bites.
"Well, thank you, Willow dear. Every cook likes to hear a compliment!"
"You should try Mary Grace's cooking, too," Joseph said. "She doesn't boast much, but her baking is nothing less than spectacular!"
"I taught her everything she knows," Mrs. Allister interjected with a laugh. Mary Grace remained silent.
After nearly a full minute of silence, Mr. Allister suddenly spoke. "Willow."
"Do you drink?"
"Do I...? Sometimes. Not much. Not often."
"I have some Guinness from last week if you'd like some."
"Oh! Well, thank you! But that's all right. I don't want to deprive you of what you like. Besides, I hardly ever drink at mealtime. Just socially." She said this with a shrug and what was designed to be a winning smile.
"I wouldn't mind a Guinness, Dad," said Joseph.
"We'll help ourselves after dinner. Mary Grace?"
Mr. Allister again turned to Willow. She stopped chewing.
"Do you like to fish?"
Willow tried to process the question. "I, uh, I've never really gone fishing before." She paused and then nodded. "Well, last fall I did but it was more...work related than sport you could say."
"I was going to go out tomorrow," Mr. Allister began, "see if I can catch something special. Go out, relax, listen to the football game. You're welcome to come."
Willow blinked. She finished chewing quickly, then swallowed. "Thanks, but Rowena was going to teach me to ice skate." She sounded apologetic.
He hardly reacted. "Enjoy yourself." His tone was totally neutral.
"That is such a good idea," Mrs. Allister piped in, "especially if you're someone who hasn’t tried it. Rowena is an excellent skater. Right, Joseph?"
Mary Grace stabbed at her pot roast with a scowl as Rowena and Willow bent over their dinner and ate quietly.
Watchers Council – Library – Later
"Okay," Andrew said to Jeff, "let’s just go over this again, okay?"
Jeff leaned back. Andrew looked over the table and studied the cards. They were laid out in a pattern, and most were face up. One card only—the topmost in a four-card column at the right—was face down.
"Do you think The Chariot was the right significator?" Andrew muttered for the second time in twenty minutes.
"You agreed with the choice, remember?"
"I know, but still..." He touched the two cards laid atop The Chariot. One showed a man in motley stepping off a sheer cliff. "I really wish that wasn't there."
"The Fool is not a bad card, Andrew," Jeff insisted. "It just indicates a journey whose exact nature is unknown and unsuspected by the traveler. In other words, something is up, and we don't know all there is. What's new about that?"
"But look at this one!" The card that crossed the first showed a man and woman embracing. Yet the card was upside-down. "The Lovers, reversed! Romance gone wrong, love giving way to lust, broken hearts. Betrayal. Jealousy. Don't tell me that's what you wanted to see there!"
"It could be worse." Jeff didn't sound completely convinced. Then he spoke forcefully. "There," he said, pointing to the cards directly above and to the right of the three they'd been discussing. "That’s worse. The Mage reversed and The Five of Cauldrons." The former showed someone who seemed to be a mighty wizard, but since the card was upside down, there was something sinister about the figure. And the latter, which was above the first three, portrayed a cloaked figure staring at three spilled cups, his back to two upright vessels directly behind him.
"Don't cry over spilt milk," said Andrew. "Yeah, I get that. And odds are The Mage refers to the Presidium, don't you think?"
"Or one of us."
He considered this. "Nah. The Presidium. But this one I just don't get at all." He pointed to the card directly to the left of the first three. This card portrayed a man tossing two large coins in the air. This card was also upside down. "Our money is out of balance? Our physical needs are out of whack?"
"Some kind of duality that's unstable, or could be," offered Jeff. "Unresolved tensions between paired opposites." He paused. "When you consider The Lovers and The Five of Cauldrons, don't you think this might mean the end of a love affair? And that someone might take the wrong direction because of it? Maybe?"
For a few moments, Andrew turned away. Then he looked back at the cards. "Let’s cut to the chase," he said suddenly. Pointing to the four cards in vertical column to the right, he began to say their names. "What we fear. Ten of Swords."
"Kinda too obvious for words."
"Yeah. What others feel. The Knight of Swords."
"Heroic youth going out to fight the good fight."
"Then what we hope for." He tapped the next-to-last card. It showed an angel standing astride a river, pouring liquid from one cup to another.
Jeff said the card's name. "Temperance. All things in their proper place. The natural order working as it should."
"God is in heaven, all's right with the world," agreed Andrew. He hesitated before revealing the last card, the only card that was face down. "And the solution," he said as he turned it over.
They both leaned in to stare.
This card portrayed a tall structure rising against a storm-filled night sky. From the heavens a bolt of lightning was striking the side of the building like a laser beam. Cracks were appearing in the stone where the lightning bolt struck. Bits of masonry were falling away, thrown aside by the impact. It looked like the start of some horrible cataclysm, an apocalypse beginning with the fall of this tall and proud structure, struck down by the heavens themselves.
"The Tower," breathed Jeff, worry creeping into his voice.
"Oh darn," said Andrew. "Just...darn.
End of Act One
Onto Act Two