Watchers Council – Rec Room – Later That Night
Tracey, Vi, and Faith were perched on the sofa before Rowena, each in their own style. Tracey was literally on the edge of her seat, head tilted up with a serene and expectant grin on her face. Vi, on the other hand, leaned back with crossed legs in black slacks and politely crossed arms. One eyebrow had fractionally risen higher than the other. Faith, meanwhile, was tossing back a beer with one leg slouched over the sofa leg. Willow sat in a chair near Rowena – not too close or too far from the action.
"Other than you," Rowena was reading from a card, "who does your fellah find the most attractive person in this room? Faith?"
Faith took a sip. "I think…nah. I’ll say Tracey. My boy likes brunettes."
"Oh, yeah," Vi sounded amused.
Rowena shrugged. "Okay. Tracey?"
"That’s easy. Faith!"
Willow scribbled down the answers as Rowena nodded and picked up another card. "Next question. Where is the kinkiest place the two of you have ever made whoopee? Vi, you’re first this time."
"The kinkiest?" Vi pondered for a few seconds. "The conference room during one of your briefings."
"Whoa!" said Faith. "You go, girl!" The two slayers slapped hands, grinning at each other. Then they noticed Rowena’s face. "C’mon, Ro, you gotta admit that’s one for the record books."
Willow and Rowena nervously glanced at each other before the watcher turned back to the slayer.
"Actually, I was thinking that everyone needs to pay more attention during my briefings. Including me, evidently." With a little cough she turned to Tracey. "Kinkiest place the two of you ever made whoopee?"
Watchers Council – Detention Block – Later
Skye opened her eyes as the door to the detention area swung open. She listened as the steps approached her cell and quietly shifted into her demonic face. Eyes went feral yellow, the brow furrowed, and her teeth extended into fangs. But she still waited. When the footsteps stopped at the cell door, she suddenly sprang up and hissed.
Jeff jumped, and Skye roared with laughter.
"You walked right into that!" she said between chortles. "You should have seen your face!"
"No doubt," said Jeff, voice neutral.
"I guess I should apologize, huh? Only...I’m not going to." Skye continued giggling, watching his face. When he didn’t react, she made little clawing gestures with her hands. "Grrr. Argggh."
"Getting a little old," he observed.
"Yeah, I guess. Still, a girl’s gotta have some kinda fun. And like I said—your face!"
Jeff nodded, then held up a wine bottle. "A deal is a deal, so Kennedy said to say."
Tilting her head, Skye asked, "What is that?"
"Merlot. Well, some of it is Merlot. Mostly its pig’s blood. But presumably this tastes better."
Instead of responding to this, Skye sat back down on her cot and stared at Jeff. For what seemed like an eternal several seconds.
"What else is in the bottle, Jeffy?"
"As far as I know, nothing."
"If you’re thinking I would try and poison you or something…"
"…all I can say is that you are wrong. Apart from the fact there just aren’t too many poisons that work on vampires, there’s the fact I didn’t prepare this bottle. Of course I can’t prove that. But it would be virtually impossible for me to give you this bottle without everyone knowing I had, so if anything happened, guess who would be blamed?"
"And the Council would be so upset at you having killed a vampire. Wow. You might even get grounded for what? A week?"
"More to the point," Jeff continued, as if he hadn’t been interrupted, "Dawn would blame me."
Silence. Then Skye got up from her cot, walked to the bars, and took the offered bottle from Jeff’s hand. "Better be a good year."
"That I can’t promise you. Like I said…"
"Right, you didn’t prep it. So why are you here, Jeffy? Getting in a good gloat before you try and lure Dawn back to the true path of heterosexuality? ’Cause you should know, I really wouldn’t mind pulling your spine out through your ear." She batted her eyelashes.
Jeff took a deep breath but otherwise didn’t move. "You know," he began, "I do love Dawn. And she loves me."
"Sure she does. I’m her pal. I’m the brother she never had. I’m a guy her own age who has some clue what’s going on in her life when most boys—or girls—her age would want to lock her up if they got a peek into her diary. I’m all those things to her, and she treasures me for it. Besides, we’re very very dear friends. I would rejoice if we could be more. But," and now he actually took a step closer to the bars, "we both know that isn’t going to be."
Nonchalantly, Skye sat on the cot and started to pull the cork from the bottle. "You could still try," she said, not looking at him.
"And rub salt into the wounds caused by your existence?" was Jeff’s instant response. "Like I said, I do love her."
Skye sipped her blood, tasted it, and nodded her head in approval. "Not too sweet, just enough body to make it palatable. I think if I’d had my druthers there’s another vintage that would be my choice, but overall—not bad. Not bad at all."
"But I did volunteer to bring you this."
"Okay," Skye said, leaning back. "I’ll bite. Pardon the expression."
He shrugged. "I wanted to thank you."
"For what? Oh! I’ll bet I know!"
"You probably do."
Skye nodded. "Bonnie."
"Exactly. You killed her. And I wanted to thank you for that."
"Kinda sorry you didn’t snap her neck yourself?"
"Oh I wanted to. Or, more accurately, I wanted to do things that would eventually have left her just as dead. But what I had in mind would have hurt more. Taken more time. A lot more time."
"Keep this up, Jeffy, you might start to look like me," she said with a wink, still in her demonic face.
"Doubtful," Jeff said. "I wanted to kill her, but I didn’t do it. Maybe the best way to put that is to say I didn’t want to be her killer, but I wanted her dead. And being sorry she’s dead isn’t on the menu. Being grateful to the person who actually sent her worthless soul to hell, however, is."
The two of them looked at each other until Skye lifted her bottle in a mock toast. "You’re welcome. Hey, if she comes back from the dead somehow, I’ll see if I can kill her again for ya."
"Let’s hope that doesn’t happen," he said quietly.
And the smile left Skye’s face. "Yeah. Let’s hope."
With a nod, he turned and walked away. Skye didn’t watch him go. She just took a sip of the blood and wine, making the tiniest grimace.
Cleveland Mansion – Night
Grey was in a dark robe while several others were in red. The ridge-faced demon was in red, and carried a bundle in a blanket. They filed into a room where an elaborate circle was inscribed onto the floor. Ethan was waiting for them, watching over a brazier in one corner.
"Ethan," intoned Grey as Cyrano came in behind him, "the fire is precisely as specified?"
"To the last pinch of parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme," he answered.
Cyrano stopped. "Theeessse not sssspessified ingredientssssss!"
With a wave, Grey bade him be quiet. "Ethan is having a little joke."
The long-nosed demon sniffed at this, then went to take his position at one of the points of the star.
"I have no doubt the correct herbs and salts have been scattered in the flames in the correct order and amounts," noted Grey. He gestured to the ridge-faced demon. "Our guest of honor."
The demon stepped into the center of the circle. Careful not to touch the actual edges of the circle, he then knelt with his bundle, placing it on the floor. The blanket was peeled away, revealing a timber wolf. She moved but not readily. Instead, the creature’s paws twitched and her head lolled. Once the blanket was removed and the ridge-faced demon started to back away, the wolf managed to lift her head and look around her.
"Extraordinary eyes," noted the woman on Grey’s left—a plain woman with big hair wearing a blood-red robe.
"Yes," murmured Grey, "she’s extraordinary in every way. After tonight, she may even desire to step forward and lead the Fellowship. Should she do so, I shall willingly step aside." The various robed figures in the room muttered, while Ethan’s eyebrows lifted nearly three centimeters. "Oh, yes, my friends," continued Grey. "I am not so vain as to fail to recognize genuine power and ability that surpasses my own. Cassandra is our rightful leader, if she so wishes, and we must all obey her should she choose to lead."
"Ahem," said Ethan after a moment. "Shall we start then?"
"Indeed yes," Grey said.
From the floor, the wolf simply watched, eyes steadily brighter.
Watchers Council – Rec Room – Later
There were now two sofas occupied in the rec room. To Rowena’s left were the ladies—Tracey, Vi, and Faith. But the sofa to Rowena’s right held the gentlemen—Andrew, Xander, and Robin.
Robin looked in deep thought. "You know," he said finally, "questions like this are a lot trickier than they seem at first. An immediate answer springs to your imagination, and then you start second-guessing yourself, thinking but what about this or what about that. Yet when you get right down to facts, to actual truth, you have to take into account your first impulse. I’m going to go with Vi."
Vi couldn’t help grinning at that.
"I knew it," said Faith with a mock roll of her eyes. "I was thinking Vi, but then I got distracted by the whole brunette thing. My bad."
"Hey, we’re on the same wavelength," assured Robin. "If we were playing yesterday, I think I’d’ve gone for Tracey, but tonight…" He smiled at Vi, who beamed back.
"Xander?" said Rowena.
He didn’t respond, but was staring at Robin.
"The question is—other than your honey, who do you find most attractive in this room?"
"Oh, right. You." Xander resumed his staring at Robin, who looked amused.
"Another point for Team Vi-Xander," noted Rowena to Willow sitting next to her, "who are in the lead, I think?" Willow nodded to the pair with a grin. "And thank you, by the way. Andrew?"
"Ready, oh captain of the starship Watcher!" Everyone looked at him. "Okay, I’ll stop."
"Other than your honey, who do you find most attractive in this room?"
Tracey giggled. "That’s what I said!"
"Oh, yeah. I mean, it’s obvious. Other than Tracey, of course, easily the most attractive person in here is Robin."
"WHAT?! " Tracey and Faith said it together. Robin stopped looking amused, and Xander swung his head around at Andrew.
Willow and Rowena looked at each other and began to giggle.
"What?" asked Andrew.
"Robin?" Xander asked.
"Well, the girls are all sexy too," Andrew tried to explain, but Xander continued.
"Yeah, but you’d pick Robin over me?" Xander asked, sounding hurt.
"You’re great guy," Andrew assured him. Xander harrumphed. "No, really. I love watching Stargate with you and stuff like that, but Robin’s got..."
"Sex appeal," Faith purred.
"Exactly!" Andrew answered.
Xander rolled his eyes and folded his arms across his chest.
"I think you have sex appeal, Sweetie," Vi whispered across to him.
"But not like Robin, I’m sure," he muttered back.
Robin scooted a little closer to the arm of the sofa. "Let me give you guys some space." He looked up to Rowena. "Can we just get on with this?" he begged.
Both Willow and Rowena looked at him deadpan and said, "No," at the same time and started giggling.
"Obviously, we like watching you squirm," Rowena added.
Willow licked her pencil tip. "That was no points on the last one, right?" she asked facetiously.
"No, no points," Rowena replied as she continued to chuckle.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Continuous
Jeff walked along the shadow-filled corridor, head declined. He looked as if deep in thought. Still, he responded when a shape became visible at the other end of the hallway. A female shape. Quite short.
The blonde slayer stepped into the light. "Hi."
"Um…hi. Is anything wrong?"
She shrugged. "No more than usual."
He took this in. "Looks like you were waiting for me."
"I was," she nodded. "We need to talk."
"My slayer training." Lorinda stepped closer to Jeff, a little closer than he expected. "I figure, the best way for me to be as good a slayer as possible is get the very best training. Wouldn’t you agree?"
"That makes sense." Jeff’s face held no expression whatsoever.
"I think that really calls for some on-hand experience. Something that’ll really make sure I’m ready for what’s out there, ready to be a perfect slayer matched up to—well, whoever they decide will be my watcher." She grinned, almost shyly.
"Skye," she said, seemingly shifting gears. "Have they decided what’s going to be done about her yet?"
"I…no. Not yet."
"Me, I figure sooner or later she’s going to give up all she knows—or all she’s willing to share. Then she’ll need to get staked."
"That is a real possibility."
"I’d like to do it."
Jeff blinked. "Excuse me?"
"When the time comes, I’d like to volunteer to stake her. That would be really good experience, don’t you think? To actually stake a real live—well, undead—vampire? Get me used to it, I mean?"
"You want to kill Dawn’s girlfriend?"
"She’s not really Dawn’s girlfriend anymore, is she? Not with the fangs and being a demon and all. She’s a vampire. I’m a slayer. What I’m saying is—I’m available for doing what comes naturally." She looked directly into Jeff’s eyes as she said this. And smiled. It was actually a quite pretty smile, seemingly lacking all guile or darkness, as if it had accompanied the news of a kitten being born or a favorite actor being chosen in a plum movie role.
It took a moment, but Jeff coughed. "I promise to bring up your offer to the Council, Lorinda. To tell the truth, this brings to mind some thoughts I’ve been having. About you."
"Really?" Now the smile, and the eyes, grew even brighter.
"Oh yes. Ever since our chess game, in fact. My advice to you, if you want to hear it…"
"…is to leave this with me. There are a lot of things on everyone’s agenda right now, but believe me when I say, you are on my mind. All right?"
"Absolutely!" She was almost breathless saying that.
"Meanwhile, I need to get some research done, and it’s not too long before lights out. So you’d probably better get ready for bed."
For a fraction of second, Lorinda hesitated, just looking at Jeff and grinning. "Yes, sir," she said at last and headed down the hallway towards the residential wing.
Jeff watched her go, a frown hovering on his lips and his eyes far more intense than they had been with Lorinda moments ago.
Cleveland Mansion – Later
Ethan tossed the opera gloves into the fire, watched long enough to make sure they caught flame, then turned again to the ritual taking place.
All seven of the other Fellowship members had their hands outstretched from their sides. Eldritch traces of power swirled about and between them. Several looked uncomfortable. One or two looked as if they were enjoying themselves.
"Proteus, in thy name," gasped Grey.
"In thy name," echoed the other seven.
"Proteus, by thy will!"
"By thy will!"
"Proteus, lend us your power!"
"LEND US YOUR POWER!"
"HECATE, IN THY NAME!"
"IN THY NAME!"
"HECATE, BY THY WILL!"
"BY THY WILL!"
"HECATE, LEND US YOUR POWER!"
"LEND US YOUR POWER!"
Now the swirling energy gathered inward, forming a gyre of greens and purples around the wolf, who began to growl. Then, she whimpered, ears flattened against her skull.
"Let the Fellowship," intoned Grey, eyes fixed on the wolf, "welcome our new member. Let us greet she who has become all that we have sought to become."
The wolf began to bark and growl as the glowing light surrounded and enveloped her.
The glow took on the shape of a wolf, then reformed. It roiled and twisted, pulsing in different colors as a wind began to whip its way through the room. The robes of Grey and his fellows flapped in the sudden gale for several seconds before the wind began to dissipate. Likewise, the pulsing glow began to subside.
Soon, the pulsing gave way to a shape. A seemingly human shape. That of a woman.
A naked woman. With dark hair.
She looked up. Her expression was precisely that of someone awakened by strangers.
"Where…? Who…?" she said, voice low.
"The Fellowship of Shadows," said Grey. "We are those who have returned you to your right form and stand ready to serve you in your claim to power. The Council may have tricked you once, Oh mighty Cassandra of Bruges, but the Fellowship is at your command. Your vengeance shall be our pleasure, our duty, our joy."
"Laying it on a bit thick," muttered Ethan under his breath.
Cassandra was simply looking around her. Her eyes didn’t seem to focus too clearly. With a single gliding gesture she rose up and stood, naked but still regal. Her gaze fixed on the ridge-faced demon. She approached him.
"I know you," she said.
"We have never met, great one," he assured her.
"You were at the zoo."
"Ah! Yes, yes I was. Mine was the honor of rescuing you." He smiled proudly.
She reached up and put her hands on his shoulders. He looked as if he would burst with pride and joy. One of her hands dug deep into a shoulder.
"Ow! My lady?"
"Uh-oh," said Ethan. No one heard him.
Cassandra reached up with her other hand to the top of the ridge-faced demon’s head. Without a moment’s hesitation, she drove her fingers into his skull. His screams and struggles didn’t last long, but then she paid them no attention. Instead, she simply ripped his face directly off his skull and tossed it to the side. He collapsed in a gory mess at her feet.
Then she turned to the others.
Grey’s eyes had grown by a factor of ten. "Oh, fu—!"
End of Act
Onto Act Three