In a funeral home at night, we hear two men commenting on how good a woman looks as she lays in a coffin. Other coffins in the room are revealed as the men leave for the night, turning out the lights. In the now dark room, both of the other coffins slowly open, one right after the other. Xander is blinded by a flashlight-weilding Buffy, who hear a knocking. Walking over to a fourth, smaller kid's coffin, they open it up to let Dawn climb out, complaining about how she's not the smallest and shouldn't get the kid coffin. Xander thinks it's too much trouble to hide out for half an hour in coffins for one lousy vampire, but Buffy says "Vamprie by vampire, it's the only way I know how." Buffy muses about recent worries (approaching Big Bad, Willow's uneasy return, high school on Hellmouth, her new councelling job) as the three approach the dead woman in the coffin. They also remark that she looks peaceful, until her eyes pop open. "I am not peaceful." says the new vampire. Buffy offers to help and simply stakes the Vampire. Buffy closes the empty coffin and quips "I always thought closed caskets were more tasteful anyway..."
Buffy sits at her school counselling desk, arranging things, obvously nervous about the day. She over-excitedly greets a teen girl who arrives, saying she was sent there because a boy was teasing her. Buffy looks understanding.
"I don't want to talk to you, ok?" says a different boy in a rough tone. Buffy (in a second set of clothes) says it's ok. "I'm serious! i'm not talking to you!" He says after some silence.
A new, good looking teen boy sits in front of Buffy (in a third outfit) and is confused as to what to say. Buffy asks him what his worries are and suggests school, girls, and parents. The guy too easily agrees that his worries are with his parents.
The first teen girl tells of how the boy was cruel to her" Buffy talks to her about the bully being "insecure". "I'm tired of everyone being insecure" the girl says.
Silent, rough non-talking boy stares at Buffy, who calmly looks back at him... in silence.
Buffy remarks that divorce is always tough, but the good looking teen says his parents are happilly married. Then he admits that he's just bored and should leave for class.
Buffy lays it out for the teen girl, saying that she shouldn't sit back and take the bullying. "Let this bully know that you won't take any more of his sh--guff. Any guff." The girl smiles and is glad Buffy said that because she beat the crap out of this guy. Buffy is shocked, seeing the small girl's size, and she smiles a little. The girl is glad Buffy understands, then asks if she should beat the bully up some more.
Walking in a field, Willow and Xander walk and talk about Buffy and her councelling job, but talk soon turns to the now famous line "From beneath you, it devours." "It's not the friendliest jingle, is it? It's no "I like Ike" or "Milk: It does a body good."" Xander jokes. Willow says she knows it's going to be real bad, the upcoming months, and she wonders if she'll be able to control her magic to help out. Xander compares her magic use to using a hammer, with a person either having power or control when driving a nail, but not both. Willow then looks tired and comments that she doesn't know if she's ready. Xander says it will take time and looks ahead at something. Asked if she's ready, Willow nods yes and heads off.
Willow walks in the field and starts passing tombstones. After walking a distance, she stops and places a stone on a headstone, then kneels.
October 16th, 1980 - May 7th, 2002.
She traces the name on the headstone with her finger as she begins to weep, almost sitting on the ground, body between her legs. She then smiles slightly and chokes back her tears and touches the headstone again. "Hey... it's me."
The rough teen boy who was giving Buffy the silent treatment finally says "i'm scared" and his eyes become teary. Buffy looks at him sympathetically. He opens up to Buffy, saying he's scared that his brother, who's joining the Marines, won't come back. Buffy says it's ok to be worried about him. The boy is really upset and embarassed, trying to hide his crying. Buffy suggests he talk to his brother about it, but the boy says "I don't want to!"
Next up, Buffy faces a geek of a kid who smilingly says he's worried that he's gay. She starts to tell him it's ok, nothing to be embarassed about, but then he asks if he can be sure by going out on a date with him. Buffy rubs her nose, the pressure getting to her.
"It sounds like it's difficult for you" says Buffy to an unseen student. "Like maybe your sister makes it hard for you to establish your own identity. You said she's controlling, she doesn't let you make your own decisions..." We then see it's Dawn who Buffy is talking to in her office. "Yeah, and she borrows my clothes without asking..." Dawn says.
Back to Buffy's office, we see her seated across from a blonde teen girl. The girl has purple streaks in her hair and is dressed down in a t-shirt. Buffy confronts the girl about not doing her homework, and the girl says it's kinda pointless. The girl then says she's not going to graduate from high school. Buffy asks why, but the girl changes the subject, asking about Buffy's shirt. "Don't change the subject, Cassie" Buffy says. "Why wouldn't you graduate?"
"Because next Friday I'm gonna die." The girl answers.
Buffy looks at Cassie very seriously as Cassie plays with her hair and asks to talk about something else. Buffy continues to press, wondering why Cassie would want to hurt herself. Cassie says she's not gonna kill herself, then shrugs off the reason, saying that she's just wasting Buffy's time. Buffy still presses further, asking if someone has threatened her? Cassie shrugs again, saying she just knows she's going to die on Friday, and that there's going to be coins around, lots of weird coins, and that Buffy is going to try and help. She also says that Buffy is going to go deep underground Buffy starts to question again, butCassie gets up to leave, Buffy tries to get her to stay. Cassie thanks Buffy for being so nice, and then oddly suggests that she like's Buffy's shirt, and that she should cover it with a sweater so it doesn't get stained.
"What am I supposed to do?" Buffy asks Principal Wood in his office. Seated at his desk, he says she did what she was supposed to, she reported it. Buffy isn't satisfied, but Wood tells her that kids talk big a lot of the time, saying stuff they don't mean. Wood pours them both a cup of coffee. Buffy says "But sometimes, sometimes it's not just talk, right?" to which Wood answers yes, but it's rare. Buffy asks what do they do then, and Wood sits back down, saying that they do the usual: inform teachers, search lockers." Buffy gets a little upset, walking over to Wood's desk and saying that she doesn't usually get a heads up when someone dies, but then backpeddals saying she has a chance to stop this from happening. Just then Buffy bumps the desk and spills her coffee on her shirt. She looks at the stain, slightly puzzled, remembering what Cassie said.
In the hallway, Dawn walks up to a locker, opens it up, throws some books in, takes some books out, and closes it to reveal Buffy behind the door. "I have a job for you..."
Now Dawn lurks between the stacks of books in the school library, watching Cassie talking to a hunky teen boy at a table. They talk about studying for tests and designing tattoos before she starts doodling in a notebook. The boy then wonders why they shouldn't go to "that dance" after all, but Cassie says she already told him she didn't want to go, that it would be lame. The boy urges a little, saying they hang out all the time, this wouldn't be any different, but then Dawn walks up and says "hey." She introduces herself, and Cassie recognizes her from ceramics class. Dawn says she forgot an asignment and wonders if Cassie had it? The boy grabs his stuff and nicely excuses himself, to which Cassie calls out "Mike, you're going to get a B." Mike yells back he's gonna get an "A plus, baby!"
Dawn and Cassie start to talk and get to know each other, commenting on a book Cassie holds (Kurt Vonnigut's "Slaughterhouse Five"), and how the Councellor is Dawn's sister. Dawn asks what Cassie went to Buffy for, but when Cassie's good mood dissapears, Dawn changes the subect to the boy that just left, Mike. Cassie says that Mike asked her to the dance tons of times, but she doesn't want to go.
In the Summers' living room, we find Willow at her laptop with Xander and Buffy behind her, pouring over Cassie's school records both on the laptop and in papers scattered around. They can't figure out what went wrong. Cassie was a good student and then bad grades and depression appeared. Xander asks if she had some sort of psychic vision, explaining both her knowing she's going to die and the coffee incident with Buffy, but Willow chalks it up to simple normal depression, saying they're searching. They mention Cassie's medical records, which show nothing abnormal. Willow then asks "Have you Googled her?" "Willow, she's seventeen!" Willow tells Xander about the search engine, then does a computer search, finding that Cassie has her own website. The site shows a lot of darkness, with drawings and a lot of poems. Willow reads as the others comment:
"The sheets above me cool my skin/like dirt on a mad woman's grave.
I rise into the moonlight white/And watch the mirror stare/
Pale fish look back at me/Pale fish that will never swim.
My skin is milk for no man to drink/my thighs unused, unclenched/this body is not ready yet/But dirt waits for no woman/And coins will buy no time.
I hear the chatter of the bugs/It's they alone will feast."
Dawn has entered and she silently listens to Willow finish the poem. Xander comments that this is real dark. "I don't know" Willow says, a lot of teenagers post some pretty angsty poetry on the web. I even posted a melodramatic love poem or two back in the day." "Love poems?" Xander asks.
"I'm over you now, Sweetie." Willow answers.
Dawn starts to tell them she thinks she knows why Cassie is scared. Dawn is convinced it's this Mike guy who was rejected by Cassie about the dance. Willow then comes upon Cassie's Father's Police report, which shows a long history of disorderly conduct and drunkenness. Thinking that's the problem, Xander and Buffy head out
At the front door of a small, house, Buffy and Xander ring the doorbell. Mr. Newton lets them in as Buffy introduces herself as someone from the school. He asks if Cassie has been screwing up her grades again. Buffy says she's become worried for Cassie and wonders if her problems aren't related to his drinking. Mr. Newton becomes very angry, having been accused of beating his daughter. Buffy and Xander listen as Mr. Newton starts off on a rant about his ex wife, child support payments, and how he's a good dad for the limited amount of time he gets to see Cassie, one weekend a month. Buffy questions whether he'll have her this coming weekend, but he says he just had her this past weekend. Humbled and slightly humiliated, Buffy and Xander leave when they are asked to leave his house.
"It's not him" says Cassie, outside of the house as Buffy and Xander walk. Cassie thanks Buffy for trying to help, but says it's no use and she shouldn't have bothered. Xander asks if she's thinking of killing herself, to which Cassie laughs. Buffy says it sounds like someone who really doesn't wish to live, but Cassie takes offence and starts to tear up:
"How can you say that? You think I want this? That I don't care? Believe me. I want to be here, do things. I want to graduate from high school. I want to go to the stupid Winter Formal. I have this friend, and it would be fun to go with him. Just to dance, hear lame music, to wear a silly dress and laugh and stuff. I'd like to go. There's a lot I'd like to do. You know, I'd love to ice skate at Rockefeller Center. And I'd love to see my cousins grow up, see who they become... cause they're really mean and I think they're gonna be fat. I'd love to backpack. Or, I don't know, fall in love. But I won't... I just... never will."
Buffy pleads with Cassie, saying she needs to help them to help herself and give any information she has, but Cassie says she doesn't know, she just knows something out there is going to kill her.
In the dark, nighttime school library, red-robed figures chant and walk slowly in a circle, holding candles. The dip the candles into the center of the circle which sets a small fire. The circle is ringed with strange, old coins. At the center of the fire is a now burning picture of Cassie.
Principal Wood startles Buffy at her desk. Buffy was deep in thought, distraught and tired. Buffy looks at her computer's screen which show's Cassie's website. Buffy starts to read one of her poems, which is taken over by Cassie's voice in a voiceover montage:
I sit alone at my window sill/Trees crackle, sunshine blares,
and children laugh like death/
Cassie eats her lunch with Mike and Dawn. Everyone is laughing and having a good time.
Their sharp happiness is a knife to me/ One jealous snake on a window sill/
In the Summers living room at night Buffy, Dawn, Willow and Xander sit at the table, eating, going over books and looking at pictures of Cassie, deep in research.
They will be here, trees and sun/and children with canes and pruney skin/
Cassie sits on her bed at night, smiling to herself as she writes in a notebook.
when I am but a memory/A laugh in the trees of time.
I sit alone and try to love them/I sit alone, a snake/
I sit alone and try to love them/I sit alone and laugh.
In the dark basement of the high school, Buffy searches for Spike. She finds him stairing off into the distance, sitting emotionless. Spike says that if he doesn't move, he won't hear the voices. Buffy starts to ask, then plead with him for anything he knows about a girl, Cassie. Spike repeatedly says he can't hear her and tries to ignore her. Buffy asks if there's something evil in the basement, which sends Spike pounding his fists into the walls. "There's evil. Down here. Right here. I'm a bad man. William is a baaaaad man. I hurt the girl." he says as Buffy grabs his arms, stopping his hitting frenzy. "I hurt you Buffy and I will pay. I am paying. Because I hurt the girl." he says, but Buffy says it's not her, she wants to know about Cassie. Buffy is trying to be understanding to Spike, but she is pressed for time and worried. Seeing he can't help, she turns to go, but Spike pleads with her to stay, saying it will help keep him quiet. Buffy decideds it's better if she leaves.
Daytime in a school hallway where Mike is stopped by a confrontational Buffy. Buffy asks him if he's upset or mad. Mike says he is a little, that he only got a B on a history paper. Buffy then cuts to the chase, wondering if he's mad because he can't get a date to the dance. Mike is flustered, saying that yeah, he got rejected by this friend of his, but it happens, she's a girl. Mike then recognizes Buffy as Dawn's sister and says he might ask Dawn to the dance instead. Buffy's mood changes from confrontational to slightly peeved: "You're asking my sister to the dance? And she's your second choice?"
In the background we hear the sound of coins clatter to the ground. Buffy walks away from Mike and over to Principal Wood and a Janitor doing a locker search, coins lay scattered on the ground from an open locker. Buffy glances up at the locker number, 281.
Buffy now sits in her office confronting the owner of locker 281, a slightly geeky teen boy, who is nervous when confronted with the coin and the name Cassie. Buffy presses him for information, even to the point of threatening him, but he says he doesn't know much. He says he knows some guys want to "mess" with her mind.
Exiting the school, Cassie says goodbye to Dawn, but Dawn doesn't want to leave her. Cassie says she knows that Buffy probably told Dawn to follow her and pretend to be her friend, and Dawn does admit to the mislead, saying Buffy was scared and wanted to help her, but also that Dawn became her friend. Cassie smiles and says she knows, she's not dense, and that she is her friend.
The two are interrupted by Peter (the guy from earlier who was with Buffy to avoid class), who asks Dawn if she's got a date for the dance. Shy, Dawn says no. Peter smiles and says "Oh yeah? i was just doing a poll. See ya." and walks off, laughing. Distracted, Dawn turns back to where Cassie was, but Cassie is nowhere in sight.
It is now nighttime at the school, and in the lirary several red robed figures sit outside a circle of coins, each holding a lit candle. One pulls his hood back to reveal Peter, who tells another of the boys there to stop giggling, then asks a third if the fire exits have been booby trapped, which they have. No one can get in or out.
Peter then walks over and from behind a bookcase he pulls Cassie, hands and feet bound, duct tape over her mouth, scared and crying. Peter picks up a large meat cleaver and holds it to Cassie's throat, saying that everyone in the school thinks she has this "weird death chick" vibe going on, and no-one would really miss her. The rest of the red-robed boys look on in shock, but continue the ritual. "Extinguish" says Peter as they each snuff out the candles one by one. Peter then begins a summoning spell to call "Avilas", a demon that will give them riches for their sacrifice. He threatens Cassie again with the cleaver and says "We kneel before you with your gift of flesh..."
"Okay, that is going on your permanent record." says one of the robed figures, who stands and take the robe off to reveal BUFFY! Peter is shocked and starts to threaten Buffy with the cleaver, telling her to get back. Buffy kicks the crap out of him easily, sending him to the ground. Buffy looks around "Okay, do you know how lame this is? Bored teenage boys trying to raise a demon. Sorry it was a no-show. You know, I bet it's because you forgot the boom-box blaring.some heavy metal thing like Blue Clam Cult? I think that's the key to the raising of lame demons--"
"Like that lame demon?" Peter says, looking behind her. Buffy spins to see Avilas!
Avilas starts towards Cassie, drooling, but Buffy picks up the meat cleaver and throws it into the Demon (who looks like Skip from AtS, but not as shiney and metal). The demon easily pulls the cleaver out and sends it clattering towards Peter, then turns to Buffy and the fight starts, with Buffy getting thrown across the room! The rest of the robed boys scatter. Avilas has the upper hand, standing on Buffy's chest as Peter threatens Cassie again with the cleaver, but then Avilas howls in pain and releases Buffy. Spike stands behind the demon with a large torch. "Here to help. No hurting the girl."
Spike runs off to save Cassie as Buffy fends off Avilas with the torch. Spike knocks Peter to the ground and hovers over him. "Who are you?" asks Peter. "I'm a bad man" say Spike as he punches Peter hard, each time gripping his head in pain with each punch thrown. The pain doesn't stop him, though, and he continues to punch Peter. Spike then grabs the cleaver, looks menacingly at Peter, but turns to go and cut Cassie loose.
Weaving and dodging, Avilas tries to avoid the firey torch, but Buffy jams it into his chest and he starts to burn. Flames cover the demon as he falls to the ground, a big charcoal lump.
Spike cuts Cassie's bonds with the cleaver and takes the duct tape off of her mouth. Cassie looks releived, then looks at Spike with some sort of recognition. "She'll tell you. Someday she'll tell you" Cassie say to Spike in a caring voice. Buffy runs up to Cassie concerned as Spike slowly backs away, confused and stunned by what Cassie just said.
"You can't be dead! Where's my infinite riches?" says Peter as he crawls over to Avilas's remains. Avilas then snaps at Peter... one last gasp... biting Peter in the shoulder. "Aaaahh, it bit me!" Avilas then explodes into a firey burst and then into nothingness. Peter begs Buffy for help, but Buffy walks out of the library holding up a scared, crying Cassie "Sorry, my office hours are ten to four." Buffy says.
Walking out of the library, Buffy says everything's ok now to Cassie, who opens a door and sets off a booby trap. A crossbow bolt fires, aimed right at Cassie's head, but Buffy catches it in mid air, inches away from the girl's forehead. Buffy snaps the crossbow bolt in two, saying "See? You can make a difference." Cassie looks at Buffy and sees something which makes her smile. She reaches up and brushes aside some stray hair that is in Buffy's face "And you will." Cassie then gasps for breath suddenly, the collapses. Buffy kneels down, calling Cassie's name, trying to revive her.
The mood is somber at the Summer's living room. Buffy, Willow, and Dawn sit on the couch and Xander sits across from them. Willow asks how Cassie's mom was. Buffy says her mom said Cassie's family had a history of heart irregularities, but she never told Cassie. Xander says she was destined to die. Buffy says she was special and that she failed her, but Dawn, now crying, shakes her head. "Uh huh, you didn't because you tried. You listened and you tried. She died because of her heart, not because of you. She was my friend because of you. I guess sometimes you can't help."
Buffy stares off "So then what? What do you do when you know that? What do you do when you know maybe you can't help?"
At the school, Buffy enters her office, silent. She shuffles papers, the sits and thinks quietly.