Same Time, Same Place
Same Time, Same Place
-- Quotes --
Written by Zinna
Buffy, Xander, and Dawn wait anxiously as the passengers from Willow's return flight (from England) are let out into the airport terminal. Xander sports a large sign, presumably welcoming Willow home, but I can't read it because it's in yellow crayon (you should get that reference if you watched or read the summary for Grave). Xander seems to be optimistic about Willow's return, while Buffy feels the reunion will be at best, a little weird. After all, they did see Willow skin a person, among other things. Xander assures Buffy that Giles wouldn't let Willow return home unless Willow had completed her anti-become-veiny-Willow training in England. Buffy makes a face that lets Dawn and Xander know Willow didn't complete her training. Buffy fidgets and tells them that Giles said it was important to send Willow back early because of the perky Hellmouth situation (Beneath You and Lessons). Soon the gang realizes that all of the passengers, including the flight crew, have exited the plane and there's no Willow in sight.
Meanwhile at exactly the same time in exactly the same airport terminal, Willow exits her plane along with all the other passengers (we just saw Buffy, Dawn, and Xander watch them leave the plane). Willow walks right past the spot where the gang was standing, but her waiting friends are nowhere to be seen, so she welcomes herself home.
On the Sunnydale High campus (it's night time), a young man spray-paints graffiti on a surface. He hears a freaky voice (that is rather reminiscent of the Gollum from "The Lord of the Rings") taunt him, telling the young man he's all alone. The young man is thoroughly spooked and stops to look around just as a demon attacks.
The mutual invisibility thing carries on into the evening. Willow returns to a seemingly empty Summers' household while Buffy & Co. return a little after Willow, but they have no idea that Willow's in the house. Apparently it took the gang longer to get home because they stopped off to ring Giles and inquire as to Willow's where-abouts. Giles, of course, doesn't understand where Willow could be. He tells Buffy (as we hear from Buffy) that he saw Willow leave. After looking around the house for Willow, the gang sits on the couch and deliberates on where Willow might be, when in actuality Willow is laying on the very same couch at that very moment wondering where her friends could be. Does the title make sense now?
The next morning, Willow wakes and rings Giles to find that Giles is in a council meeting and is unreachable for the duration of the day. So, Willow goes looking for her friends on the street. She runs into Anya at the magic shop. Anya is, of course, still very upset with Willow for wrecking the shop, trying to end the world, etc. Willow apologizes but this does very little for Anya. Anya wants to spout off mean, hurtful statements, but as soon as she realizes that Willow is accepting them (Willow feels she deserves to be yelled at and much more), Anya doesn't see the point. So, they sit down on the curb and catch up on old times. Anya tells Willow all about Spike being loony, the new high school, Xander's company being the one to rebuild it, and Buffy's new job. Anya suggests Willow will find Spike, Buffy, Dawn, and Xander at the high school.
Willow goes to the construction site on the school campus looking for Xander, instead she finds a completely flayed person. Willow is thoroughly disturbed (the body looks almost exactly like Warren's in Villains) and instantly flees the scene. Guess who else was at the scene at the very same time? That's right - Buffy and Xander are there at the same moment surveying the damage. You could probably also guess what they were thinking… that Willow's really back (in a flaying-humans way).
Willow goes to the school's basement in search of Spike. Spike greets her with some non-sensical statement. Willow refocuses his attention by telling she found a flayed corpse. Spike wanders away to talk to someone else. Willow assumes it's just more crazy talk, but in actuality he's talking to Buffy and Xander, who have also come to inquire about the body. Spike tells Buffy that she's glowing and wonders why she went away. Buffy tentatively explains that she's stayed away because she was little wigged by his performance at the church. Spike gabbers on to people (and Willow) that are not there or so Buffy and Xander think…
Buffy and Xander dismiss Spike's gibber gabber (when he is talking to Willow) until he says something about a witch - Spike figures out after a minute or so that someone he's talking to is a hallucination because Willow, Buffy, and Xander aren't acknowledging each other. This is when he deliberates out loud as whether or not the witch is really there. Buffy realizes he's talking about Willow and wonders if he's seen Willow. Spike's gibberish doesn't commit either way. Then Spike says something about having to run off to check some slips because there are things there without permission. Eventually, both parties (Willow and Buffy and Xander), unbeknownst to each other, have to leave feeling no more informed then when they arrived.
Willow goes to Anya's, where Anya helps her do a demon locating spell. The spell reveals that there's a whole mess of demon activity at the Hellmouth (like we didn't already know that) and there's a lone demon in a cave in the woods. Willow figures this is her guy. She tells Anya to teleport to the cave and see if her suspicions are correct. Sadly, Anya cannot teleport unless she's on official vengeance duty - her punishment for undoing the dog-eating worm vengeance wish (Beneath You). Willow goes on the hunt alone.
Meanwhile at the Summers' house, Dawn does some demon research on her computer while Buffy and Xander wonder if all the research is in vain since there's a possibility that their flaying demon could be veiny-Willow. Xander is pretty sure that it isn't Willow, but Buffy can't count out the possibility. Luckily, Dawnie comes through with some wicked accurate information on a likely demon candidate. Dawnie deduces that they are probably looking for a demon called Gnarl. Gnarl is a predator that paralyzes humans and then eats their skin in little strips while the victim is alive; the process is supposed to take hours. She also explains that Gnarl laps up the victim's blood like natural beverage. Xander confirms that the corpse they saw wasn't lying in puddle of blood, so Dawn must be on the right track. Buffy figures they should get Spike to act as their blood-hound.
Spike leads them to the same cave where Willow suspects the demon is hiding. Buffy, Xander, and Dawn go in and hear the demon's taunting voice. All the while Willow is in the cave trying to think of something to do now that she's found the demon - apparently the demon is immune to magic. Suddenly the demon attacks Dawn, scraping her stomach with his claws. The scratch instantly paralyzes Dawn. Buffy and Xander decide to take Dawn home and barricade the cave's opening so the demon can't get out. They don't realize that they've also trapped Willow in.
The demon doesn't know that Buffy and Co. can't see Willow, so he tells her that they left her as gift for him, among other hurtful statements. Willow tries to magically strengthen herself so she can fight the demon but the demon scratches her before she gets to take a swing. Willow is instantly paralyzed. Gnarl then lays her on her back and begins to cut and eat strips of skin from Willow's stomach. (You had to know the series was going to karmically pay Willow back a little bit for flaying Warren in Villains.)
At home, Buffy sets Dawn down on the couch and consults Dawn's web page on the Gnarl for more information. Buffy finds that the paralysis is permanent until the creature dies. Buffy and Xander decide to go back and kill the Gnarl, but they are afraid to leave Dawn alone (she might throw up on herself or something). Xander suggests Anya can watch her.
Anya arrives shortly after they call for her; Anya tells them that Willow went to the cave looking for Gnarl, not the Gnarl. Concerned for Willow, Buffy tells Anya to come with them since she knows what Gnarl is. They leave posable Barbie, I mean Dawn (Dawn has a type of paralysis that allows Buffy and Anya to comically pose her - this makes for great fun until Anya tells them that Willow may be trapped in the cave with the demon), with the TV remote in her hand.
In the cave, Anya can see that Willow is badly hurt. She tells Buffy and Xander, who still can't see Willow. Buffy can see Gnarl, however, so she fights him. Anya tells Buffy to go for his eyes and Buffy thumbs Gnarl's eyes to goo. Down the goes Gnarl and up comes Xander's lunch (he didn't actually vomit but he did seem thoroughly disgusted). Anya leaves Buffy and Xander with invisible Willow, so she can get an ambulance or something. Buffy and Xander express how glad they are that Willow is back even though they can't see her - at the same time Willow expresses how glad she is they didn't leave her to be eaten by the demon and somehow the mutual invisibility barrier collapses. Willow suddenly appears and she can see Buffy and Xander. It's a very happy and relieved moment for all involved except that Willow's bleeding and there's skin missing from her stomach.
The next day, Buffy visits Willow in Buffy's old room (Buffy moved into what I like to call the deceased good-character room. First it was Joyce's room then Joyce died. Then Tara… will it ever end? Is Buffy next?). Willow appears to be meditating, but welcomes a break when she sees Buffy. Willow explains that she is using the earth's energy to heal herself, but it takes a lot strength and will. Unfortunately, Willow's running low on strength. Buffy needs to confess something. Willow is all ears. Buffy says that for a while she thought it was Willow that flayed the young man on the construction site. Willow is really understanding, and lets Buffy know that it was a logical thing to think. Buffy still feels bad because Xander never believed it. Willow explains that Xander isn't a slayer. A slayer doesn't have the luxury of the believing what she wants to believe. Xander, however can believe in whatever he wants. Willow also assures Buffy that Xander probably did believe that Willow was the flayer for a second or so, hell, for a second there Willow thought she was the flayer herself. She tells Buffy that it's ok if Buffy doesn't think Willow will recover from the whole magic stuff because Willow isn't so sure of herself. Buffy doesn't say anything. So Willow starts meditating again. Buffy says that she thought Willow was too weak to meditate. Willow tells her that it hurts too much when she's not. So Buffy offers to give some of her strength so Willow can heal faster. Willow accepts and the friends join hands and meditate together.