I got a lot of hatemail for the ending of this episode. I was pretty burnt out on the BTVS fan community to begin with and the enraged messages I received really did not help.
The passage Willow, Kit, and Tara stood in was deafly quiet as the light around them subsided. After a moment, Willow stepped forward and pulled Tara into her embrace, sobbing all over the Witch, letting the past three years of pain out. Tara put her head on the redhead’s shoulder, closing her eyes for a moment. Willow squeezed her harder which made Tara grimace for a moment, not being used to corporeal bodies anymore. She looked up at Kit who was standing about fifteen feet behind the embracing couple in shock, with her jaw near the floor. Tara winked at the girl, slowly pulling out of Willow’s embrace.
Before Willow could say anything, Tara put up a finger to silence her. “I see you found the Matrica, I am glad.” Tara paused for a moment, looking as if she was working something through in her head. Looking back at Willow, she took her lover’s hands in her own and motioned for her and Kit to sit down on the rock behind her.
Willow sniffled a few times as she sat down, still in complete shock over the events of the past ten minutes. Where were they? Heaven? Some place in between? She ran a hand over Tara’s own for the first time in three years and felt completely at peace. Looking down for a moment she whispered, “T-Tara, um, where—-”
Before she could continue, Tara cut her off. “I brought you here for something.” She paused, looking towards Kit. “Both of you. There is much that has to be done, Willow.” She chuckled for a second or two and then turned serious again. “I hate to sound like a rerun Willow, but if you think you know what is to come; what you are… you have not even begun.” Willow stared at Tara with a confused look on her face, which made Tara smile mischievously. She giggled loudly, pausing to stare up at the ceiling. “Willow there is much yet to be done, I have seen where your thread can go. A Phoenix will rise and erase the lie. For now, that is all I can tell you.”
Tara paused for a moment to let the prophecy set in and then stared into Willow’s eyes, leaning in to kiss her mouth gently. She wrinkled her nose for a moment, as if to shrug something off. “I have to go; if you need to contact me during your journey you can use The Matrica as a channel to the other side. I love you.”
With that, the orange light enveloped the two living witches again. After a moment, they were back in the library. Willow sat kneeling on the floor, staring at the tile. After a few seconds of disorientation, Kit blinked and adjusted to the new reality. “What the hell?” was all she could get out before crawling over to Willow and holding the crying Wiccan in her arms.
“Giles I have to tell you, I think something really fucked up is going on here.”
Giles grinned sadly at his friend Lilac. Leaning back in the chair across from her, he took a quiet breath to steady him before questioning what Lilac had just told him. “You say that suddenly your friend decided to get back together with her fiancé after breaking up with him. Further, that she is out of the blue cheerful and exuberant about the whole thing?”
Closing her eyes for a moment, Lilac looked up at Giles, jet-black hair falling out of her face as she moved. “Exactly. The whole thing seems suspicious to me Giles. Here was a woman who I thought was as much of a feminist as I am who worked at a clinic and considered herself blessed. Suddenly she decides to marry this male who treats her as if it is 1950 and stops working at the clinic because he disapproves. I am telling you, the Macy I know would have told him to piss off.” She leaned back and sighed heavily. “I wanted to talk to you about this because I trust you. I trust everyone else, well not all of them, but if I go to the inner circle with this, I feel as if they will not take me seriously enough. By the time they do, it could be way too late. As much as I care about Willow, there is part of me that does not think she would take this seriously enough. This all seems way too fishy to me.”
Giles nodded. “I understand. I still think you should go to Willow though, if anything just so they know. You could look into it on your own.”
Lilac closed her eyes for a moment, pausing in thought. Slowly she opened them again. “Thank you, Giles.” With that, He smiled at her again and left the Witch to her own demons for the evening.
The next morning freshly rested and caffeinated, the Inner Circle gathered for an early morning meeting. Giles, Willow, Faith, Lilac, Ashley, and Kit met in a backroom of the library to discuss what Willow had brought them together for, namely her and Kit’s experience the night before with Tara. Willow presented The Matrica, making sure that Ashley and Kit were able to take pictures and document the discussion for later examination. Ashley’s job was to record the minutes of their discussion, while Kit took digital pictures of the artifact. Willow relayed the story of their experience, leaving out the more intimate moments.
“The weirdest part was, she laughed and smiled at me as if we had been together the day before. A-a-and the Druid robes, I don’t get it.”
Faith looked away for a moment, remembering an experience from a few years before. “Could it have been The First?”
“No! We touched, she held my hand and I hugged her and…no, it was Tara. I would have sensed—”
Before Willow could finish Giles interjected. “But Angel’s experience with The First tells us it can be corpor—”
Willow narrowed her eyebrows furiously. “No.” She paused for a moment, letting the intensity of her conviction settle in. “Giles, it was Tara.”
Giles sighed and smiled at her. “Alright, I trust your judgment Willow.” Giles paused for a moment to clean his glasses. Looking around the room, he saw no disagreeable faces staring at him. Faith gave a nod of approval. Lilac nodded quickly, going back to playing with one of the buttons on her shirt. Seeing it was unanimous Giles turned back to Willow and grinned. “Is there anything else Willow?”
Willow smiled briefly and continued. “Yes, Tara said something about a prophecy. It was intended for me I think; she seemed intent on that. She said, ‘a Phoenix will rise and erase the lie.’ I think we should get Kit and Ashley on this one.”
After a moment of thought, Giles nodded. “Y-yes I have never heard anything like that.”
As Giles and Willow went back and forth discussing this for a few minutes, Kit and Ashley continued to take notes on the meeting and pictures of The Matrica. Suddenly, Ashley’s head popped up and she looked towards Lilac, nodding quickly to the Witch. Moments after their interaction Willow and the group turned towards Ashley. “Ashley, I want you on this one today, check through the computers and our archives for any mention of the prophecy.”
Ashley nodded. Touching Kit’s shoulder to get her attention, she started to move out of the room and into the library. After setting up the computer to upload the Matrica pictures, Kit followed Ashley into the library.
A few moments passed before Willow looked up again. “Anything else?”
After a moment, Faith was the first to speak up, “Ok, I will say what everyone is thinking. I think we need to take The Matrica seriously. Like, we can’t just use it all randomly to go see whatever dead friends we want to.” The Slayer paused for a second to look around the room, making eye contact with each person. “I know each of you has thought of someone; Jenny Calendar, Kendra, B’s mom, my old Watcher…I don’t think it would be right to abuse what we have been given. The prophecy Tara gave Willow is probably really important, but also is a gift, something which we shouldn’t use to our advantage.”
There was silence for a minute in the room as everyone let what Faith had said sink in, defeating any dreams they had of seeing loved ones. Finally, Willow spoke up. “Well said Faith, well said.” Faith smiled widely at her and everyone around her, proud that she had said the right thing.
Giles motioned for the meeting to end, but as everyone started to get up, he put his hand up, waiting for silence. “One more thing, I think that w-we should not discuss this quite yet with the others. Until we know more about the true intentions of the prophecy and The Matrica, this should stay amongst us.” The group nodded to each other and quietly moved out of the room and forward with their days.
On the way out of the library proper Lilac caught up to Willow and called to her, pulling her aside. Sitting down at a research table, the dark haired Witch conveyed the story of her friend Macy’s transformation to Willow, giving details and examples as she went.
When she finished, Willow paused in thought for a moment before speaking her opinion. “Lilac, maybe she just changed her mind? Sometimes people have sudden epiphanies and make an about face, it happens. You may not agree with her decision, but part of being a femin-”
Lilac furrowed her brow, biting her lip to avoid snapping at her friend. “Willow, I just don’t trust this. Her sudden conversion is way too convenient for her boyfriend and his creepy values.”
Willow stared at her for a moment before replying. “Do you think there could be foul play involved? Someone is trying to turn England into Stepford?”
After snorting in disgust, Lilac sighed. “I wouldn’t put anything past men. Humanity is ill and disgusting sometimes.” She paused for a moment and put a hand over Willow’s.
Willow smiled uncomfortably and squeezed Lilac’s hand. She took a sip of water before giving Lilac the okay to investigate. “Check into it tomorrow. Go see her, but be careful, okay?”
Lilac smiled for the first time in a long time. “Thank you ‘Madam’.” Laughing, both women got up and left the library.
At lunchtime, Willow and Kennedy met up near a tree in the shadows of Willow’s castle to eat. They spoke for a few minutes about The Academy, how Slayer training was going. Soon though, the topic turned to the emergency meeting that had roused Willow out of sleep after coming to bed late as it was.
“So…where were you this morning? You were out late; I thought you might sleep in.” Kennedy said as she stared at Willow’s pale neck.
Willow grinned, closing her eyes for a moment as the wind blew her hair into her face. “We had to have an emergency meeting about something, higher ups only.”
Kennedy’s curiosity was peaked. “Oh, secret meeting. An apocalypse coming soon?” “…again,” Kennedy added under her breath.
“N-no, no apocalypse this week at least it seems. We had to discuss some recent events, nothing you should worry about.”
This made Kennedy frown. “Oh sure, top secret stuff…,” she said, trailing off at the end.
Willow nibbled at the apple she had brought with her, taking little bites. “Yes, secret stuff I cannot talk about right now, Giles’ order.”
Kennedy noticeably tensed and squinted. “Why? What can be that important that it needs to be kept secret?”
“We’ve been over this before Kennedy,” Willow replied with a sigh. “Sometimes there will be things I cannot discuss with you because it is for administrators only. Nothing against you, things just have to be this way.”
Before she could catch herself Kennedy blurted out, “are you hiding something from me?” Realizing there was no going back, she continued, brow narrowed. “Why are you pulling rank on me again? Willow tried to get a word in edgewise, but Kennedy got up and started to stomp off, turning once to hiss at her, “See you later, ‘Madam’” sarcastically.
“So, what was that big meeting about this morning?” Dawn Summers asked as she and her lover walked through the business section of the town the Academy was adjacent.
Kit turned to her lover and smiled, staring at Dawn for a moment, taking in her beauty. “I can’t really say anything. Giles told us to keep quiet for now, top secret stuff.”
Dawn shoved her lover gently, smiling. “Oh sure, ‘top secret’. Take you out of bed at six am, making me have to play with you in the shower.” The new Watcher pouted in jest and whispered to her lover, “You know I hate when we have to play in the shower.” She stroked Kit’s arm as they walked into a restaurant, hoping to get some food before they make their way back to The Academy. Kit purred silently, not wanting to bring attention to the lovers before they had fully gauged the town’s tolerance of homosexuals. She would have to make up for displeasing Dawn.
The Witch and Watcher found a table in the corner where they could have a little bit of privacy. The post lunch crowd was small and quiet, but Dawn insisted on privacy. Ordering two coffees and agreeing to split today’s special, they settled in. As they sat, they played footsie under the table while waiting for their food.
A few tables over, a teenage girl watched them mindfully. She was happy Mummies’ training had assisted her in tracking the Witch and Watcher to this establishment. The girl wanted to go over and immerse herself in them, but Mummy had said to just track and observe for now. Later on, there might be time for playing. Sighing contently, she pulled out her sketchbook and began to draw the beautiful Watcher with the shiny hair across the room.
In the early afternoon Faith led the daily Slayer training session. They had the morning off but beginning the next morning they would begin having training sessions twice a day. Faith had her Slayers stretching under the supervision of Vi and Caridad. All of them were obediently following the lead of the Alpha team Slayers. All of them except for the new girl Adicia who was a bit behind in her stretches, seeming to be off in her own little world. Faith made a mental note to speak to her later.
One other Slayer was not following Vi. Kennedy, who was doing her own stretching exercises. Normally, working on her own would be fine with Faith, but the head Slayer had specifically ordered all Slayers to follow the Alpha Team’s lead. Faith turned to speak to another Slayer as she walked up and down the rows Kennedy would look up, a scowl on her face.
After speaking to Mary Ellen and Persephone for a moment Faith whistled loudly, bringing her Slayers to attention. The dark haired Slayer made her way to the front of the lines, slowly nodding her head as she took in how quickly they fell into line.
“Alright ya’ll, I am glad you already understand discipline. I’m not really big on a lot of the gung ho stuff B is into, but I do expect you to follow orders and obey me.” She paused for a moment, the English wind blowing her hair in her face. “I will do my best to earn your trust, I want ya’ll to be the best Slayers possible. I am the best there is right now, and I do not feel arrogant saying that. But I don’t want to be, I want you,” Faith paused to point at a young Slayer in front of her, “and you,” she pointed towards Vi, “and you.” The last girl she pointed at was Adicia, who stared back at her, burrowing a hole through her eyes. Faith would have to speak to her definitely. Finally, Faith stepped in front of Kennedy. Grinning, she pointed down at her. “Even you brat.” As Faith walked back to the front Kennedy muttered, “bullshit,” just loud enough for Faith to hear.
With her back still turned Faith smiled and sighed softly. Time to get the brat back in line. With a wave of the hand, Faith motioned for all of her Slayers to come towards her and form a circle. “Alright, today we are going to work on sparring.” She turned for a moment towards Kennedy, pointed at her. “Kennedy, over here, let’s show them what the experts can do.”
Kennedy’s facial expression visibly changed. Suddenly, the bored pout was gone; she was all game now. Her game face on, she began to circle around Faith stalking at her. Amusement spread through Faith’s mind at Kennedy’s sudden interest, but she kept a stoic face. Around and around they went, trying to pick a spot to attack, trying to find a way to win. Both got in quick punches, trying to knock the other off their guard. After a minute or two of scrapping, the Slayers grappled, Faith landing an uppercut right on Kennedy’s jaw. Kennedy fell backwards into a group of Slayers, including Lauren, who shoved Kennedy back towards Faith. The brown haired Slayer threw a punch across her body towards Kennedy, but Kennedy ducked before she could land it, rolling away from Faith, and somersaulting to her feet. Before Faith could completely turn around, Kennedy’s boot connected with her chin, knocking her to her knees. Ignoring the pain in her face, Faith shot forward and upward delivering an uppercut to Kennedy’s face.
At this point, in the “sparring,” a few Slayers started to mutter to each other that something was wrong but a few looks and quiet words from Vi silenced them. The Slayers watched as Kennedy recovered from the uppercut to throw a roundhouse punch, which Faith dodged easily. As Kennedy turned back, Faith grabbed her by the back of her head and planted her body into the ground. After standing over her for a moment, Faith leaned down and whispered something in Kennedy’s ear. Turning back towards the assembled Slayers, she ended the session.
“Dearest morsel dinner is ready. Now freshen up.” Drusilla watched her girl run into the bathroom to wash her hands and face. She smiled as the girl shut the door, proud of her little princess. Ever since she had found her, the girl had never made her cross or displeased her. Her other precious child Adicia had come into her life shortly after. Both of them were equally special to her, but she felt an especially strong bond to Adicia. Adicia was her eyes and ears near the Witch. Adicia would figure out why the pigeons kept telling Drusilla about the phoenix.
Willow could not remember ever being this angry with Kennedy before in the time they had been together.
“It is only the third day the Academy has been open and already you are disrespecting Faith and attempting to usurp her authority. This is unacceptable Kennedy.”
Kennedy scoffed at her lover. “Oh please, I gave Faith a good fight. She needs to know there are others here who can stand up to her.” The Slayer threw her hands up in disgust. “I can’t believe you are siding with her.”
Kennedy moved to storm to the other side of the room but Willow caught her by the arm with a surprising amount of strength. “I am not siding with her; I am siding with my duty as Head Mistress of this academy. Those Slayers were placed in Faith’s jurisdiction by…” Willow stopped for a moment and stared directly into the eyes of her girlfriend. “…Me…” She paused again to let that sink in walking across the room to sit down on the bed. After a few long moments she continued. “Giles didn’t make that choice, Buffy didn’t, Lilac didn’t; I did. Faith is the best there is, hell she might be better than Buffy on her best day.”
Willow went to say something more but Kennedy cut her off. “This is unbelievable! No matter what I am never first with you. Whether it is a dead girl or Fai-”
Before Kennedy could finish speaking, she found herself pinned against the wall, an angry Witch holding her there. Willow looked down for a moment, as though lost in thought. She suddenly looked up and spoke in measured and quiet tones. “Didn’t we have this discussion already? Didn’t I tell you not to speak of her?”
Kennedy broke the grip Willow had on her and shoved her away. “Oh please, fuck you Willow. First I can’t compete with a dead girl, now I can’t compete with Faith.”
Willow stuttered out an angry laugh, shaking her head. “No Kennedy, at the end of the day, you can’t compete with her. Never will be able to, just why are you jealous?”
Kennedy ignored the question and pointed a finger at Willow. “What about you and Faith?”
Willow stared at the girl. “What do you mean?”
The Slayer moved towards the red haired Witch, accusation ridden on her face. “I saw you with her, she held you for hours. What’s the deal Willow, one Slayer not enough?”
After a moment the only sound in the room was Willow laughing. After tiring of that, she walked over to the bed and sat down, staring at the heel of her boots. When did I start wearing heels? She thought to herself, remembering her softer side of Sears years. Sighing, she answered her lover’s question. “Kennedy, Faith was holding me because, unlike you, she understands what I have been through. She gets it in ways you never will or could.” Willow stared down the Slayer in front of her for a moment and then looked away. She finally whispered, “Are you going to be jealous every time I make a friend, every time I am close to someone?”
Kennedy cut her off, stammering out. “I lost my Watch-”
This time Willow cut her off. “I lost my soul mate. Look, Kennedy, is this going to be a reoccurring theme? Every time something happens that you don’t like, are you going to disrespect me and this academy?”
Willow got up and started towards the doors. As she opened the door to leave she looked over her shoulder.
“If so, then maybe you shouldn’t be here.”