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Listening to Fear

Dawn, Joyce, and Buffy

The Summers women are gathered in Joyce's hospital room. Joyce complains about the hospital food, though Dawn likes the Jell-O. The doctor enters to announce that Joyce's surgery is scheduled for the day after tomorrow. Joyce can't bear the idea of staying in the hospital for another two days, plus she's concerned that Buffy is missing patrol. Buffy reassures her that Riley and the others are taking care of patrol for her.

In the cemetery (where else?), Giles, Xander, and Willow are fighting a couple of tackily dressed female vampires. Giles loses his glasses and almost hits Xander. The team works together, and Willow dusts both vamps. Afterwards, the team decries Riley for not showing up.

Riley is in a dilapidated old building, where a vampire sucks blood from his arm.

Buffy, Dawn, and Willow

Willow comes in with presents for the Summers women: a beer hat for Joyce, a spell book for Dawn (more history and anecdotes rather than actual spells), a book on history for Buffy, plus a fun yo-yo. Willow tells Buffy of an exam on World War I, and Buffy isn't sure if she's going to take it. Joyce blurts out that she'd rip up the test and put it in bed with her. The others in the room are concerned about the outburst, but Joyce then sweetly says she needs rest. The young women leave the room, and Dawn wonders what's going on with Mom. Buffy apologizes for not telling her earlier, but the outburst was probably a side effect of the tumor. Suddenly a middle-aged man sees Dawn and shouts, "There is no data here!" Naturally, Dawn is freaked, but Willow and Buffy comfort her. Ben the intern arrives and also tries to soothe the situation. He is annoyed because the mental ward is so overbooked that patients with families are being sent home.

Tara and Willow are lying on a rooftop stargazing. Willow starts naming some of the constellations, but Tara claims that the real constellation names never made any sense to her, so she started creating some of her own: the big pineapple, short man looking uncomfortable, moose getting a spongebath, little pile o'crackers. Suddenly the two witness a flaming meteor falling to Earth.

Something or someone exits the meteor and sees the mental patient that was released from the hospital, walking in the forest near where the meteor landed, rambling to himself. A small but ugly creature falls out of a tree onto the man's back.

In the emergency room of Sunnydale Memorial, another patient is admitted. Unbeknownst to anyone, the creature seen earlier crawls across the ceiling.

Joyce is trying to use the call button on her bed, claiming vehemently that it's not working. Buffy tries to reassure Joyce that it does function. The doctor enters, and Buffy informs him that Joyce wants to go home before her surgery. The doctor doesn't like the idea, but he sees how upset Joyce is. Only if Buffy will take full responsibility and care for Joyce will he let the elder Summers go home. Joyce is relieved, and Buffy asks what she needs to do. The doctor starts talking about giving medications and taking vitals, but Joyce wants to leave now. Buffy calms her mother, convincing her to get the medication and instructions first.

Out in the woods, Riley is glad the Scooby Gang called him in on this one. Xander rebuffs Riley for not showing up for their last mission. Riley apologizes as they find the meteor. When Anya warns of heat radiation and the risk of sterility, Xander backs off, but Riley says it's warm. The meteor is hollow, and the Scoobies theorize that something came down to Earth. Exploring the area further, they come across the dead body of the mental patient. Riley uses a pen to pull goo from the deceased's mouth, and the smell is terrible. The group is unsure about what to do, noting they can't call Buffy. Giles suggests investigating the woods more, but Xander counters, "Who votes research?" All the Scoobies but Riley leave. Riley prefers a good crime scene to doing research. After the others leave, Riley calls the military.

In the mental ward, a nurse makes her rounds, and one patient is quite vociferous, asking her not to leave. She turns out the light, shuts the door, and sits at her desk to do paperwork. The creature seen earlier climbs onto the patient and spits goo onto his face.

The doctor checks Joyce out, giving Buffy emergency phone numbers and Joyce's medications. Joyce says some weird things again, as the creature watches her from the ceiling. Buffy starts to explain Joyce's behavior, but the doctor understands. He tells Joyce, "We're all done here. Why don't you take your girls home, now?" The three women are seen leaving from the creature's point of view.

When Joyce walks in the house, the lights that are on are so bright they hurt her eyes. Buffy and Dawn turn off the lights, and Buffy takes Joyce upstairs.

A helicopter flies over and then lands near the meteor site. Riley greets Major Ellis, Graham, and others. Graham jibes Riley about calling the military rather than his girlfriend. Riley ignores him and points out the stuff in the victim's mouth. He tells the major it's some kind of protein alkaloid. Ellis asks if this fits the profile of any sub-terrestrial they know of. Riley informs them it's extra-terrestrial and should have a trace radiation signature. The group begins to track the being with Geiger counters.

Buffy and Dawn are watching TV in the Summers living room. A nightgown-clad Joyce walks zombie-like downstairs to the kitchen. The girls hear noise and investigate. Joyce is making breakfast and makes another bad remark. Buffy and Dawn take her back upstairs. None of them notice that something is in the basement stairwell.


Buffy gives Joyce her medication. When Dawn tries to say goodnight, Joyce rejects her, and refers to Dawn is a "thing." Buffy calms Joyce and puts her to bed. Then she soothes Dawn who is feeling bad because so many people have been calling her a "thing."

Xander is trying to avoid working in the astronomy section of the university library, where the gang has gathered due to the extra-terrestrial nature of the incident, but Giles insists. They discover that other meteor landings have not occurred in the last week, but have fallen throughout history. Meteoric anomalies go back to the Queller Impact in the twelfth century. The meteor landed in Iceland, but the name is confusing because it didn't land near any place called Queller. Xander reads that primitive people believed the moon caused madness, and people would pray to the moon to send a special meteor to quell the madness. Willow finds a historical correlation between sweeping plagues of madness stopping just after a meteor fell. Tara points out that the Queller had to be summoned, but who summoned it? Xander votes for Glory. The Scoobies want to call Buffy, but know they can't. They call Riley instead.

Riley is at the mental ward of Sunnydale Memorial. Five corpses lead him to confirm Willow's news about the Queller demon. Riley doesn't tell her about the military involvement. He requests that if she finds information about how to kill it, she let him know. Willow suggests that the gang should go help him, but Riley hangs up before she finishes the offer.

Even though she's home, Joyce's condition is worsening. She stares at her bedroom ceiling and spouts gibberish. Across the hall, Dawn can't bear to hear her mother's ramblings. Buffy is washing dishes in the kitchen. She turns on the radio, and with this cover noise finally releases her pent up tears.

Upstairs, Joyce continues her ramblings, and we see the Queller demon just above her clinging to the ceiling.

Graham exits the hospital reading his Geiger counter. The trail of the Queller stops in the parking lot. The demon must have hitched a ride with a discharged patient. Riley realizes where it went and tells the group to hurry.

The Queller demon

The Queller demon drops from the ceiling and lands on Joyce. Dawn hears the commotion and goes to investigate. She sees the Queller has just spit goo on Joyce's face, and Dawn grabs a coat tree and knocks the demon off Joyce. Dawn allows the Queller to chase her out of the room, calling for Buffy in the process. Buffy, however, can't hear over the radio, the running water, and her own tears. Dawn runs back into Joyce's bedroom, shuts the door, and calls for Buffy again. The older sister has just turned off the water and finally hears the call. She goes upstairs, and Dawn informs her of the creature. Buffy instructs them to stay in the room and shuts them in. The Queller drops down on Buffy and the two fall downstairs. At the bottom of the steps, the Queller crawls away. Joyce and Dawn try to comfort each other as Buffy walks back into the kitchen and takes a knife. She continuously hears the Queller and is ever-alert looking for it. Spike comes out of the basement and asks if she heard a noise. She demands to know what he is doing there, and he claims to be stealing stuff from her basement. When she asks about pictures of her he's trying to hide in his pocket, Spike is attacked by the Queller. In the commotion, the knife is knocked out of Buffy's hand. Buffy attacks the Queller anyway, getting it off Spike who immediately grabs the knife and tosses it to Buffy. She stabs the Queller to death. Spike lends her a hand up, as Riley and the military boys burst in the house. When Riley asks if Buffy is okay, she responds by dashing upstairs. Spike informs Riley he missed a real nice time, as Buffy informs Joyce and Dawn that the creature is gone and dead.

Ben leaves the hospital, and discovers he's not alone in his car. Dreg is there and wants to know what Ben is doing. Why did he summon the Queller? Ben says he's cleaning up Glory's mess — just like he's done his whole damn life.

Buffy, Dawn, et al

The day of Joyce's surgery has come, and a nurse is putting an IV into her hand. After the nurse leaves, Joyce asks Buffy about Dawn. While she was feeling loopy, Joyce gained a knowledge that Dawn isn't her child. Buffy confirms this. Joyce knows that Dawn somehow belongs to them, and that she is important and precious to the world, as precious as Buffy is to Joyce. So Joyce asks Buffy to take care of Dawn and keep her safe. Buffy promises. Joyce is then rolled in to surgery as Dawn, Buffy, and the whole Scooby Gang look on.

Synopsis written by Lori Ann Curley.

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