Watchers Council – Cafeteria – Late Afternoon
"What are we doing here?" Thorm asked as they followed Dianna through the cafeteria. "We should be keeping an eye on the scroll."
"Are you kidding?" Gredd replied. "This is better than those Mexican soap operas. An ingrate and a thief, joined by blood. No wonder the kid's a mess."
Thorm just shook his head and followed along.
"Mind if I join you?" Dianna asked, standing over the table were Grace sat alone, picking at her lunch.
"Well, as I came outta you and all, I guess I have to be obliging," Grace replied as she ripped a piece out of her sandwich with her fingers, popping it straight into her mouth.
Dianna gave a rather lackluster chuckle. "You put it so elegantly."
"It's one of my special powers."
"Special powers, 'ay? You always played and wanted to be She-Ra."
"No, mother, I wanted to be Catra."
Dianna frowned as she shook her bottle of orange juice.
Grace rolled her eyes. "She-Ra's arch nemesis? Force Captain of The Horde?"
Dianna shrugged her shoulders and took a swig of her juice.
Silence fell over the table.
"So…how's Polly?" Grace started.
"Better than Peggy."
"That was an accident."
"Grace, you set her on fire."
"Accidentally set fire to her. There's a world of difference. She was too close to the Catherine Wheel – and I'm not wrong in saying that pets and fireworks don't mix…she still look like a plucked chicken?" Dianna just gave her daughter a look. "Anyway…Polly?"
"She's fine." Dianna finished.
Grace gave a slow, silent nod. Dianna opened the plastic sandwich box, lifted up the slice of bread and gingerly picked out the pieces of tomato, casting them aside on her tray.
"You gonna eat them?" Grace asked. Dianna began to answer, but before a syllable could form into a word, Grace's hand leapt into action and swiped the tomatoes.
Dianna's look of surprise molded into a smile. "It's good to see you eat healthy. Not like those over there," nodding to the food counter, "piling their plates full of…well, crap."
"I don't take crap."
"No, you don't," she chuckled. "So how are you?" she asked, the question sounding slightly alien.
Looking to the food in her hands, Grace smirked a tad. "Pushing the boat ain't 'cha?"
"Grace," Dianna said in a motherly tone.
"Good, here it comes," Gredd said, "Give it to her!"
Grace looked up at her mother. "I'm…not bad."
"That's it?!" Thorm remarked. "I'm not bad? Where's the witty retort, the angsty banter?"
"I thought you weren't into-," Gredd started to accuse.
"Shhhh," he said. "I can sense an explosion coming."
They held their stare for a few beats until Dianna gave her a soft, warm smile. "Why 'not bad'? Why not good?"
"It's hella hectic 'round here. Especially on Tuesdays. Guess it doesn't make it any easier, moi being a chosen watcher rather than the regular run of the mill Joe Watcher."
Dianna shifted about in her chair, the smile curbed as she bit her bottom lip and gave her daughter a raised eyebrow and a weak grin.
As Grace took a drink of her soda, Dianna quietly muttered to herself, "Can't imagine the stress," followed by a cover-up cough.
"You doing…?" Grace started, her facial expression looking rather pained as she asked the question.
"I'm very well thank you," Dianna answered.
"Good. I'm…that's good."
"Hey, Grace," Jackson said hopefully as he appeared beside the table, holding his tray.
"Yeah, hey," Grace abruptly replied, not even looking up to Jackson.
Dianna glanced at Grace, and then to Jackson. "Hello, I'm Dianna Earl. Grace's mother."
"Oh hey! Hey! I'm Jackson, pleased to…" he tried to balance his tray to free a hand to give a shake, but it seemed too much trouble.
Dianna smirked. "Don't worry about it. Would you like to…"
Grace slowly shook her head just enough so it wouldn't register on her mother's radar.
Seeing her, Jackson replied. "No. Thanks! I've gotta talk to Markham about…about this project that Robin's got us working on. Catch ya later though."
"Yeah," Grace hastily added.
"Oh and yeah, are we still on for Wednesday evening?" Jackson asked coyly.
"Umm hmm," Grace nodded.
"Great! See ya then! Bye!"
"Bye, lovely to meet you," Dianna gave him a little wave as he walked away. When there was a fair distance between them and Jackson, Dianna turned to Grace with a sly smile, "Well done."
"Well done for snagging a sweetie like him! A little…geeky for my taste, but I guess if that's your thing…"
"First of all, I didn't snag him. He's not a fish. And second, ewww," Grace sounded offended, disgusted even. "Me and…and him? Nun-uh. Nothing there. Nope."
"Oh come on, you're going red."
"Here it comes!" Thorm said excitedly.
"Yeah, 'cus you're embarrassing me!" she started to raise her voice causing a few heads to turn. She leaned forward and quieted down. "I am so not into Jackson!"
Dianna didn't look like she believed her. "You're babbling dear. Along with the redness, you're convincing me otherwise."
"We play…" Dianna's eyebrows shot up. "…Jackson, Niven, Denise and I play cards. Cards…" she emphasized, "…on a Wednesday evening. And no, not strip poker or kinky assed Rummy!"
Her mother stifled a laugh. "So you haven't found a nice boy here, then? Or a nice girl," she said seeing two slayers holding hands as they walked toward the door. "Not that I have…"
"Okay just…stop. Please," Grace sighed and Dianna put up her hands. "No, I haven't found a guy, or a girl. At this point in my life I'm not looking. But to stop any further talk of – I'm only into guys. Although working with Rowena everyday, I feel like I'm the minority in these parts."
With a smirk and a nod, Dianna backed down and for a few moments conversation did too.
"So…how long you staying?" Grace asked.
"How long you want me to?" Dianna replied receiving a wide-eyed glare from Grace. "Don't worry, I won't cramp your cred."
"Mother, please – stop with the thing you're doing with your mouth."
"The talking thing," Grace replied.
"The beauty of having a pension; fair bit of money and my health means that I've got all the time in the world. I like it here, I really do and I'd love to stay a little longer."
"Why? To make up for lost time?"
"Grace, don't spoil it. I don't want to get into this now."
She waited a moment. "Fine," Grace said bluntly, picked up the remainder of her sandwich and ate.
Thorm and Gredd both groaned in frustration.
Watchers Council – Library – Moments Later
Dawn was sitting at one of the computer terminals typing furiously as Andrew entered with a thermos and a mug. He set them on the table next to Dawn and pulled up a seat before she noticed his presence.
"Oh, Andrew," she said, rubbing her eyes. "Is that coffee?"
Andrew nodded and filled the mug for her. "Just like you like it."
"How did you know I needed it?"
"It's my job to anticipate my watchers' needs," he said. "Besides, it's after four…your usual time for hitting the coffee urn."
Dawn glanced at her watch. "I didn't realize it was so late." She took a deep breath of the coffee and then a huge gulp. "Gods, that's good!"
"Thank you," he said and glanced at the computer. "So…what are you working on?"
"I'm double checking that information we got from Bureau Nine," she replied.
"Find anything interesting?" he asked.
"One thing so far," she said and typed a few keys. "There's a reference to a heritage bestowed upon a mortal family."
"Heritage?" Andrew repeated, his eyes moving rapidly as he scanned the text on the screen.
"Yeah – every generation will be tested, fighting the forces of darkness, yada yada yada, birthright, yada yada some more. Also, this family is supposed to be Dutch."
"Sounds like our very own Van Helsing."
"It does," Dawn agreed. "But there are some details that don't match up…" She looked at the screen, shaking her head.
"Well, there's this: A fragment of a prophetic dream that says 'Love will keep them together.' And a medium trying to learn more just kept getting the same phrase repeated by the spirits over and over again. 'Strangers in many ways, yet love may grow.' I gotta tell ya – creeps me out."
"Those sound like cheesy '70s love song lyrics."
Dawn's eyes were intense, frightened. "I know." She stared back at the screen. "I know."
Both of them stared at the screen for a long, silent minute and a half.
"Have you told Kadin about this yet? Or Kennedy?"
"No, not yet," Dawn replied. "I want to do some more research before I mention anything to either of them."
"Do you think they'll be able to handle this?"
"I don't know. And at this point I'm not sure that there's anything to handle so I think it's best to keep this quiet for now."
"Good idea. My lips are sealed," Andrew said, making a zipping motion across his lips. "See ya later, Dawnie."
"Thanks for the coffee, Andy."
Watchers Council – Coven Workshop – Same Time
Jeff and Grace were slowly lifting carefully wrapped contents from the crates as Thorm watched anxiously. Jeff slowly removed the bubble wrap from a bronze statue and he whistled in appreciation.
"Nice!" he said and showed the figure to Grace.
Grace looked dubiously at the object. "Is that a snake or his penis?" she asked.
Jeff laughed loudly. "Well, I can see what you've got on the mind right now." Grace gave him a light push before he went on to explain. "It's an Aksumite bronze figure of a male with his head encircled by a halo and body entwined with a snake. It probably represents Angabo, who is said to have come from the land of the Sabaeans and freed Ethiopia from the tyranny of a giant serpent-dragon named Wainaba. The tale is told in the story of the Queen of Sheba."
Grace grimaced. She looked closely at Jeff's head and gave his temple a light poke. "How do you know all this and where do you store it?" she asked.
Jeff grinned. "Part of my training," he answered. "You know, for a chosen watcher, you don't know a lot of stuff, do you?"
"I know lots of stuff," Grace said. "I can name every episode of Battlestar Galactica and I can tell you exactly how many times Lucy Lawless killed herself."
Jeff looked at her. "Did she die more in BSG or Xena?"
"Xena," Grace answered without pause. "But the new season of BSG's just started so she's not done dying yet I'm sure."
Jeff nodded and shrugged. "Fair enough."
They continued their work in silence until Grace asked, "So…what's up with Hope?"
Jeff sighed. "She's still not answering my calls, but at least now she's letting her voice mail pick up instead of just picking up the receiver and hanging up. I'd say that's progress."
"What did you do?" Grace asked.
"Nothing," Jeff replied.
"Maybe that's the problem. Lots of relationships end not because someone did something but because they didn't," she remarked.
"Oh, like you're all experienced girl? Tell me Gracie, how many beaus have you had?"
"None of your business Harry Potter!" she answered shortly. "Look, just because you've got a hot girlfriend who won't return your calls, don't think you're all that and then some."
"Oh is that it?" Jeff crooned knowingly. "You're jealous I've got a hot girlfriend and you don't. Why didn't you say something Grace? After all, this is the Council…aka Lesbian Central. Isn't that what Jon Stewart called us last week on The Daily Show?"
Grace rolled her eyes. "First mom and now you…Hate to burst your bubble Jeff, but I'm not like the other women around here."
"Not all the women here are gay," Jeff said in a complete reversal of his previous statement. "Councilwoman Summers isn't."
"I'm not what?" a voice said from the open doorway and Grace and Jeff turned toward the source to see Buffy standing there.
"Not yet!" Grace muttered under her breath. "But obviously it's in the genes somewhere."
"Uh, not retired from slayerdom even though you don't…you know…slay anymore," Jeff stuttered and Buffy's eyes lit in amusement.
"Nice save," she complimented and then turned to Grace. "And if living with Willow all those years didn't change my mind, I doubt anything will. Plus, having a Sapphic sister hasn't…actually Sapphic sister makes it sound like Dawn and I…okay, away with the darkness and only happy thoughts now, happy thoughts."
Jeff grinned. Grace, however, blushed hotly and put down the scroll she had finished unwrapping. Thorm rushed forward and inspected the scroll closely without touching it.
Buffy turned to the antique collection spread on the tables. "So, what do we have here?" she asked.
Jeff looked grateful to have the subject move away from their conversation. "Um, we finally received that shipment from our watcher in Ethiopia," he explained. "Looks like a collection of artifacts from one of the Council's archaeological digs that took place decades ago. Ms. Nikahywot said this stuff has been sitting in a leased warehouse in Addis Ababa for years. No one had even catalogued it."
"Any progress made on getting the Council diplomatic immunity?" Grace asked.
Buffy sighed. "We're working on it," she said. "Funny how the United Nations is as slow as Congress when it comes to getting things done."
Thorm kept walking back and forth in agitation past the table where the scroll was resting. Every time he passed, the scroll moved a bit closer to the edge.
Jeff nodded in sympathy with Buffy's problems. "I bet back in Sunnydale you never thought you'd have to address the UN?"
"No," Buffy said. "Sometimes, I'd rather…" Buffy broke off as the scroll finally fell off the table. "What's this?" she said and caught it in midair.
Grace looked on in appreciation at Buffy's superhuman speed in catching the scroll. "Just some writing, I'd guess," she shrugged.
Jeff took the scroll from the councilwoman and examined it. "It seems to be similar to the Gorgon scrolls I've seen before," he said. "If it's okay, I'd like to translate it."
"Have at it and I wish you a load of fun," Buffy said sarcastically.
Unseen to the others, Thorm whooped in delight. Gredd rushed in and looked around for danger. "What? What?"
Thorm pointed to the scroll in Jeff's hand. "The boy is going to translate it. We're almost there, Gredd!"
The two demons gave each other a high five and then Thorm asked, "Where have you been?"
Gredd turned around and pretended to examine the other artifacts. "Nowhere."
"Gredd?" Thorm persisted. When the other demon didn't answer a knowing look came over Thorm's face. "Oh, I get it!"
"The slayers' shower, right?"
Gredd refused to answer.
Watchers Council – Willow and Rowena's Apartment – Evening
Willow and Rowena snuggled on the couch as they watched the local news on the large-screen television. The remains of their dinner rested on the coffee table in front of them. Rowena sipped from a glass of wine as Willow paged through a Bridal World magazine.
In the back, Gredd and Thorm looked on, listening.
"What about this one?" Willow asked and showed Rowena a photograph of a rail-thin bride in an elaborate dress.
"For you, right?" Rowena asked. "'Cuz frankly, dear, I don't think I could get my figure in that! Correction, I know I couldn't get my body into that."
Willow laughed. "Yes, for me," she replied. "And for the record, I love your extra bits. I just wish I had a few more extra bits of my own." She looked down her own top.
"You're perfect, darling," Rowena said.
Skye walked behind them making a gagging motion with her finger in her mouth as she passed. Thorm chuckled at the gesture but no one except Gredd heard it.
"But what's with the dresses?" Rowena continued, oblivious to Skye's actions behind them. "I thought you wanted to wear a tux?"
"Yeah, but the more I think about it, the more a dress is appealing to me so I-I haven't really made up my mind. But I was thinking about the ceremony itself."
"What about it?" Skye asked as she came up behind them, butting into the conversation.
"Can we help you?" Rowena asked annoyed.
"Yeah, where's my blood? I went to the fridge but nada."
"Oh," Willow replied. "I moved it to the door behind the soy sauce. But you should really think of getting a new container. Xander almost drank it the other morning because it says tomato juice."
"Eww…" Rowena and Skye both said, making Willow nod.
"Xander would drink tomato juice?" Skye asked. "That's gross."
"Anything else?" Rowena asked Skye. "Can you move along now?"
Skye rolled her eyes and walked back toward the kitchen.
"Anyway," Rowena sighed. "What about the ceremony?"
"Ceremony? Oh, yeah! How about that grove we used for the full moon the last time we visited Thornkirk?" Willow asked throwing the magazine on top of a pile of others.
"Grove?" Rowena turned to Willow in confusion. "What? Huh?"
"For the wedding?" Willow said. "That grove we did the Esbat in? It seemed nice, for all of the snow on the ground. I expect it'll be wonderful in summertime. Uh, it does get warm in Nova Scotia in the summertime, doesn't it?"
"Yes, but, I thought we decided on an indoor ceremony?" Rowena said.
"But…indoors is so…indoorsy," Willow said. "And let's face it, with Al presiding over the ceremony, she'll want it to be outdoors."
"But I want Al to be my maid of honor," Rowena argued. "She's my best friend and if she's my maid of honor, then she can't preside."
"Andrew!" Willow exclaimed.
"You want Andrew to be my maid of honor?" Rowena asked.
"Noooo," Willow chuckled. "He can preside. I'm sure he'd love to do it."
"Fine, just no…Star Wars analogies about love. Can we agree to that?" Rowena asked.
"I can talk to him," Willow told her. "He's a fine high priest and Tracey told me that he's even applied for his clerical license – valid in Canada – just so he can officiate at our wedding should we need it. I see nothing wrong with Andrew doing the ceremony."
"Like I said, if he starts to talk about the force I'm having my dad march me back up the aisle," Rowena teased.
Skye wandered back into the living room and stood behind the couch where they were sitting. She was carrying a bowl and spooning something into her mouth as she watched the television.
"What's that?" Rowena asked. "Looks good."
"Peaches and blood," Skye replied as she looked at the television.
"And again, ewww!" Rowena said.
"I'll second that ewww," Willow added.
Skye shrugged. "Hey, don't knock it till you try it." She held out the spoon but both women turned away in disgust. "Suit yourself," she replied. "Needs more peaches though."
Skye headed for the kitchen again when a commercial came on. Rowena turned to Willow.
"What about kids?" she asked. "I know I brought this up before but maybe it's something we need to consider more closely."
"For the wedding? I think Liz is too young to be a flower girl."
"No, in general," Rowena said. "You, me, parenthood. Little people…like Liz and Marty, only Rosenberg slash Allister instead of Giles slash Montague?"
"You still want kids?" Willow asked.
"Yeah. We have talked about this before, remember?" Rowena asked. "The close encounter with the tornado? Baby-sitting Liz? Ringin' any bells?"
"Isn't it kinda…I don't know…soon to be talking about kids?"
"Willow, I'm thirty," she said. "Time's a-wastin' here."
Skye wandered back into the living room and stood behind the couch again.
"Can you get me another glass of wine please?" Rowena asked Skye.
Skye looked at her with a scornful look. "I'm your pet vamp, not your maid. Get it yourself."
Rowena sighed and looked mournfully at her empty wine glass and turned back to Skye. "I could move you back into your own place, or better yet, the slayer dorms."
"Red or white?" Skye asked as she took the empty glass.
"White, please," Rowena replied. As Skye left, the watcher said, "Thank you," but all she got was a grumble in response.
"I know I don't need to remind you how old Becca is," Willow pointed out picking up their conversation again.
"And they've had to deal with the possible complications from her age each time," Rowena said. "It was extremely dangerous for both her and the babies, especially Martin. I don't want us to face that if we don't have to. I want our kids to be healthy if we can help it."
"So do I!" Willow said. "I'm totally on the healthy baby bandwagon with you. I just think it's kinda early to be talking about this, that's all."
"I just don't want to wait too long," Rowena said.
"Nothing wrong with waiting a while…oh, I don't know…two, three…hey! Let's think about five years."
"Five years!" Rowena exclaimed. "Willow, I don't want to watch our child graduate and then pick up my social security check the next week."
"Relax, that won't happen," Willow told her. After a beat she said, "Social security will be long gone by then." Rowena made a motion to get up but Willow put a hand on her knee making her sit. "I'm teasing, okay?"
"I thought we had this worked out but if you don't want kids then…maybe we shouldn't get married at all?"
"H-hold on," Willow stuttered. "How did we go from picking bridal gowns to let's not get married?"
Thorm turned to Gredd and said, "This marriage ain't happening."
"Shh," Gredd said. "This is getting good. Now it's the lesbian soap. I want to hear this."
"I do want to get married. More specifically, I want to marry you," Rowena told her. "I want to keep building the life we have and I want it to include kids. But if you don't want to be a mom…"
"Right now, Ro," Willow replied. "I don't want to be a mom right now. I like the idea of it just being us, alone," Willow replied. At that moment Skye walked up with Ro's glass of wine. "And her," Willow added with a grin.
Rowena grinned too as Willow turned around to Skye. "I hope you didn't leave your bloody bowl on my computer again," she warned the vampire.
"Don't worry," Skye answered. "I licked it clean." The vampire disappeared into the kitchen again.
Willow sighed and said, "And how are we gonna work this anyway? The baby getting part? Yeah, I'm a powerful witch but I'm not that powerful."
Rowena grinned and thought a moment. "I hate having to do a donor thing with someone we don't know."
"Well, we know Giles is quite the stud still. Just get him drunk enough some night. You're blonde, so he might not notice a difference," Willow said with a smirk.
"Oh yeah, Becca would love that idea," Rowena said with a smile, but then grew serious again. "Look, whatever happens we don't need to decide right now. Like I said, a few years of waiting is fine but five…that might be pushing it, for me anyway. I just need to know that it really is something you won't mind doing someday – not next week or even next year but someday before I'm 35."
"Ro, I promise it is something I want to do…someday…" Willow began and then they both noticed that Skye had returned, this time carrying another bowl of peaches, her eyes fixed on the television. Willow glared at her. "What are you doing now?"
The vampire shrugged and answered, "Looking at your mom." She noisily slurped up another spoonful. A drop of blood rolled down her chin.
"What?" they both exclaimed and turned toward the television.
The classic trappings of a press conference were being displayed on the screen. Standing behind the podium was Sheila Rosenberg. The sign on the podium read O.P.R.A.
"Turn it up," Willow said and Rowena reached for the remote.
"Mrs. Rosenberg! Mrs. Rosenberg," a reporter from off-screen yelled. Sheila pointed and the camera turned toward the reporter.
"Mrs. Rosenberg, why have you taken the step to form this organization?"
The camera returned to Sheila and she smiled. "I have decided that in this time, now more than ever, we need to fight discrimination on all levels. We need to remind people that anti-demon discrimination cannot and will not be tolerated. Our era is no time for any special 'isms."
Willow groaned as the news ticker at the bottom of the screen read: "The mother of the Council's head witch forms the Organization for the Protection of the Rights of All (O.P.R.A.) in an attempt to avoid another Inquisition."
"I don't believe it," Willow muttered. "She's doing it again!"
"Oh my god!" Rowena exclaimed.
They both missed the next question, but as Skye laughed in delight, they re-focused their attention on the screen.
"Yes, it is rather ironic," Sheila said, "but in a show of solidarity with my daughter, I have selected one of her best friends from high school to be O.P.R.A.'s vampiric representative."
"What?" Rowena said.
"What?" Willow said in horror.
"Oh, this is gonna be good," Skye said and scooped up some more peaches.
Sheila held out an arm a la Vanna White and into the frame walked Harmony Kendall.
"WHA-A-A-A-AT?????" Willow screeched. Skye laughed so hard she sputtered blood over the two of them.
"She was your girlfriend in high school?" Skye asked. "Wow, you do like blondes."
"But…I…no…she…I didn't…and she…NO…and just…and…and…" Willow's mouth continued to move but she said nothing as her eyes, somehow seeming twice the size they'd been, focused on the television screen where Harmony Kendall stood beside Willow's mother on the podium.
"And the plot thickens," Thorm said dryly.
End of Act Two
On to Act Three