Watchers Council – Willow’s Living Room – Next Morning
It didn’t matter that Willow was only clicking the ‘off’ button on the T.V. remote – every click brought a new surprise. Click – the channel changed. Click – the T.V. shut off and immediately came back on. Click – the sound went off and the picture scrambled. Click – the sound went back to normal but the picture came through in green tones. Click – orange tones now and blaring sound.
Willow put a hand to her pounding, bandaged head as Kennedy walked in.
“Hey,” she shouted over the T.V., “are you alright?”
Willow half-shouted back. “I’m fine – but the T.V.’s not –”
The T.V. turned itself off.
“– working right,” she finished, in a softer, puzzled tone.
“Nothing’s working right,” Kennedy told her. “Giles gave everybody the day off and called recess a day early so he could go around and see what else is affected. Nobody’s complaining, mind you. But with Robin and Faith away, he doesn’t have anybody to boss around. And Rowena doesn’t get back from Nova Scotia until after the holiday. Which means he’s got no one to impress, either.”
Giles slowly rounded the turn into Willow’s doorway and stood, regarding Kennedy.
“So now he’s sticking his nose in everything else –”
“Ken…” Willow said, uncomfortably, trying to motion her to turn around.
“What? It’s true.”
Willow was about to say something else, but Giles lightly rapped on the doorframe.
Kennedy spun around to face him.
“Giles!” Willow chirped, “What a surprise! What brings you here – to my room. To visit. Me…”
“Oh, just thought, since I’ve no one to ‘boss around’ or ‘impress,’ that I’d ‘stick my nose in’ and see how you were feeling.”
Willow saw Kennedy gear up for a fast answer.
“Ken! Uh – you know what? I – um – I’d like some – uh –” She looked up at Giles and said the first thing that came to her. “Tea! Tea. Tea would be really nice. Wouldn’t it?” she asked Giles.
Kennedy rolled her eyes. “I can take a hint. I’ll get Andrew to make some. What about you?” she asked Giles.
“Yes, actually, tea would be quite nice about now. Thank you.”
“Yeah.” Kennedy started out of the room. “Hey,” she said, turning around to Giles, “don’t go making her headache any worse.”
“I don’t think I could,” he answered.
Kennedy smirked and left the room. Giles watched her go.
“Giles, she doesn’t mean anything by it,” Willow began apologetically.
“No offense taken,” he smiled gently at the witch. “Kennedy is a spirited young woman with a gift for quick retorts, which is a surprise.”
“Well, you always seemed to fall for soft-spoken people. And Kennedy is far from demure. In fact, she’s quite a force. Rather reminds me at times of –” Giles cut himself off and his smile faded.
“Buffy,” she finished for him.
He smiled at her, but she could see a sadness coming into his eyes. “Well, her too, I suppose. But mostly, Jenny.”
Willow looked down at the quilt over her legs.
“Jenny might not have been the perfect match for me, but I loved her just the same. I couldn’t explain it, but sometimes you can’t explain who you love.” Giles took his glasses off and began to clean them slowly. He sat down on the edge of the sofa, next to Willow.
The redhead shifted uncomfortably and adjusted the pillow behind her.
“So, how are you feeling? Somewhat sore and achy, I suppose…”
“Yeah,” Willow said quietly.
Giles looked at her downcast expression and placed his hand gingerly atop hers. “Well, I’m here to be Mr. Cheer-You-Up-Guy,” he smiled.
She looked up at him. “Giles, you’re terrible at Xander-speak.”
“Speaking of which…”
“We’ve narrowed down a location?” Willow asked hopefully.
“Unfortunately no – I got a call this morning,” Giles sighed. “I was hoping our contact in the FBI might be of some use, but even the Bureau can’t find him I’m afraid.”
“Maybe I should seriously start looking into that ‘find a sidekick’ spell I joked about. If the feds aren’t much use, I’m not sure what else we can do. It’s just frustrating. Some powerful witch I am, huh? I can’t find my best friend or my footing, apparently.”
“Willow, I know you’re – embarrassed – by your fall. But accidents do happen, even to the most sure-footed of us.”
“Yeah, but it wasn’t just being clumsy. And I’m not so sure all the other things going on around here are just coincidence or ‘technical difficulties’ either.”
“Well, there have been a few odd occurrences, I’ll admit,” Giles remarked.
“Water running hot and cold, but out of opposite faucets? My chair flying out from under me? Andrew was ranting about losing control of his electric mixer and splattering batter all over the kitchen walls … and the lights – on, off, flickering, exploding… this T.V. set…”
“Well, if you recall the power outage we had in August –”
“…the computers, Giles – all going buggy – and not just the usual buggy, I mean running all kinds of code… and – and the stairs… ” Willow weighed her words carefully and continued. “Giles, those stairs may be falling apart, but they never turned to rubber before.”
Giles’s look turned very serious.
“What is it?” she asked.
“Dear lord, I suppose – I – I – I mean – after all we’ve been through it seems a bit humorous, really…”
“There’s something funny? Well, tell me. I like funny. Funny is good. I could use funny right now.”
Giles shook his head. “I – I just wonder whether it could be a poltergeist. Lord knows we have plenty of youngsters around at just the right age to allow a poltergeist to manifest. When you factor in their innate supernatural qualities, and the fact that this is a place where mystical powers are being used in – and outside – class and… well, you must admit that Jeffrey alone has a rather volatile nature and quite a bit of potential supernatural energy…”
Willow thought for a moment and frowned. “A poltergeist can move things around. And it could throw things across a room. We learned that all too well when we moved in. But can it transform a concrete stairway into rubber? Can it make a handrail go soft and squishy?”
“Tea’s here,” Kennedy said, appearing in the doorway. She brought a tray loaded with oatmeal-raisin cookies, a teapot and cups into the room. She saw Willow looking pained.
“I knew it,” she said, setting the tea tray down. She took a slayeresque stance in front of Giles and put her hands on her hips. “Out,” she told him, with mock-severity. “Don’t make me get rough.”
Giles nodded, half-smiling. “We’ll talk some more later on,” he told Willow, patting her hand.
“Yeah,” Willow said, deflated. “Thanks.” She smiled up half-heartedly at him and watched him leave the room.
“What was that all about?” Kennedy asked.
“You don’t want to know.”
“You’re right – I don’t. What’s on T.V.?”
Kennedy grabbed the remote and clicked the on-button. The T.V. started up immediately with no trouble.
“… reminiscent of the power outage in mid-August,” a newscaster said. “It seems that early this morning, a problem began which Cleveland city work crews and Electric Company officials can’t seem to figure out. All of the city’s downtown traffic lights are malfunctioning. There have been accidents throughout the downtown area and off-duty police and D-O-T workers have been called in to direct traffic and put up stop signs until the problem can be fixed. Let’s go to Matt Lanner for a report…”
Kennedy snuggled into Willow’s arms, kissing her but getting no response. She looked back to the television that had Willow’s full attention.
“It’s not just us,” Willow muttered.
Regency Hotel – Ethan’s Room – Same time
Ethan turned off the television. He didn’t need to watch any more of the report, the same one Willow was watching, of the strange occurrences around town.
“So,” he said simply. “Chaos reigns.”
“Yeah,” Amy answered curtly. “R-e-i-n-s, not R-a-y –”
“You mean r-e-i-g-n-s,” Ethan rejoined.
“Bugger. We’re supposed to be spelling the Cleveland City Council not the City of Cleveland. And how on earth can we do that if you’re causing all this commotion?”
“And you call yourself a chaos worshipper.”
“I am a progenitor of chaos, not merely a worshipper. But good chaos takes good planning. And this, ” Ethan pointed at the T.V., “is no plan at all!”
“I didn’t use a plan. Just a spell. Just for fun. It’ll stop after a while. Then we can finish the job and go.”
“We should be going tonight! With all this happening, we’ll be lucky to get out before next week.”
“You know what I think? No, how could you know? You and your plain vanilla spellcasting and unoriginal schemes. Let me tell you exactly what I think, Ethan.”
“Don’t call me Ethan. I’m ‘Edward’ and you are –”
“Amy. Amy Madison, witch. And a far better witch than you are a sorcerer. But you knew that the minute you met me. ‘I work alone,’ ” she mocked him. “Yeah, because working with someone who knows what they’re doing scares you, doesn’t it?”
Amy walked up to him and said quietly, “You know, at first, I thought you were jealous. But now I get it. You’re just afraid that Cyril’s gonna see through your act and hire me in your place. I wonder what Cyril does with people he and the Organization are… finished using?
“I’m certain you’ll find out.”
“Yes, I will. And I hope it’s not too painful for you.” Amy smiled hatefully at Ethan and left him standing in the middle of his room.
Ethan bit his lip in frustration. “Bugger.”
Watchers Council – Willow’s Living Room – Same Evening
“Giles! Giles, c’mere, hurry!” Kennedy said, motioning him to the sofa.
Dawn and Kennedy were with Willow, staring intently at the screen.
“And as if electronic woes, mechanical malfunctions and lobster dinners crawling off their plates weren’t enough, there are still those who are finding time to pull a prank of major proportions. Matt Lanner is here to give us the report. Matt…”
“Thanks, Claire,” the reporter in the field began. “Well, it seems the Cleveland Museum of Art had a surprise joint-exhibit today when a valuable piece of terra cotta sculpture wound up in an unusual steel enclosure. The Head of Proserpina, sculpted in 1621 by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, went missing today. Security at the Museum was alerted by a visitor who wondered why the sculpture’s viewing pedestal was empty.
“A frenzied search went on for about three hours this afternoon, until a maintenance worker went to his supervisor in a panic over what the worker said were ‘evil eyes’ looking out at him from within a helmet in the Museum’s armor collection. The Armor for Man and Horse, a full-scale suit of actual medieval armor which covers both man and beast, is where they found Proserpina’s head.
“Someone took the fragile sculpture and put it inside the helmet. No one’s sure how it was done. In fact, one of the curators told me it should not have been possible to even remove the sculpture from its pedestal, let alone wedge it into the helmet. But as you can see from this footage, that’s exactly what happened. What’s left now for Museum officials are two questions: Who’s responsible and how can they get the Head of Proserpina out of the helmet. This is Matt Lanner at the Cleveland Museum of Art.”
Willow looked up at Giles.
“Don’t you get it?” she asked.
“Well, I suppose it is slightly humorous on some level… ”
“Giles. Think a minute. Who was Proserpina?”
“She was the Roman goddess of springtime, kidnapped by Pluto, brought to the underworld, then set free on Jupiter’s orders, but only after Pluto caused her to eat six seeds of the pomegranate, ensuring her return to the underworld for six months out of each year and I don’t see what this has to do with sculpture or some silly schoolboy prank and would be ever so grateful if you would enlighten me as to what you are talking about.”
“If it had been the Head of Hecate that was hidden in the armor, what would you say?” Willow asked.
“Obviously, it was not. However, I would say that someone was sending a clear message that there was magic afoot.”
“And in witchcraft, what goddess’s name – besides Hecate’s – is invoked a whole lot?”
Realization spread over Giles’s face.
“That was no schoolboy prank,” Willow continued. “The Head of Proserpina was used on purpose, and by one pretty talented witch.”
Dawn squealed. “This is so great, you guys!” Three sets of eyes turned slowly to her.
“I mean,” Dawn continued excitedly, walking around, “The whole ‘things-going-bump-in-the-night’ thing, the witchcraft thing, a city in confusion, dead things walking off dishes, slayers on patrol, the spewage of cake batter on kitchen walls… And you were worried about me being bored. I haven’t had this much fun since Sunny –” Dawn suddenly noticed their stares. “What?”
Hyatt Regency Hotel – Ethan’s Room – Same Night
“Of course I know what’s going on,” groused the angry voice on the telephone. “It’s been all over the BBC! ‘Cleveland in Chaos!’ was the headline in this evening’s London Times. Not to mention The Telegraph, which gave all manner of details about the ‘odd occurrences.’ ”
“Now, Cyril, I can assure you it isn’t me that’s –”
“Of course it’s not you! It’s chaotic, certainly, but I know your work, Ethan, and I know you aren’t daft enough to risk the ire of either the Organization or those to whom it answers. Now, tell me the truth – as though your very life depends upon it. Because it does.”
“Oh Cyril, do be frank, I hate it when you beat about the –”
“Enough. Tell me what you know.”
“I know that my little helper – whom you so kindly provided me – did an awakening spell in secret from me. I don’t know exactly what she intended to awaken, but I know the spell. It’s one that’s often used to jump-start, among other things, a Hellmouth, one of which is located here in Cleveland. I also know that she’s been in contact with you. And I know that she is behind the – how did you phrase it? – ‘odd occurrences’.”
“You will stop her at once,” Cyril told him. “You will stop her and I will arrange for her to be teleported back here. Leave off the remainder of the job, Ethan. Do not complete it. The Organization doesn’t want any more attention drawn to Cleveland or the Hellmouth. That woman has completely fouled this mission.”
“And has she fouled my pay, as well?”
“You’ll get your money. But only after Amy Madison is back in my office – and before anything else happens there.”
“I’ll find a way.”
“Ethan,” Cyril’s tone was flat and matter-of-fact, “you’ll never know what hit you if you don’t.”
“Really, Cyril, you must try to control these emotional outbursts.”
Ethan heard Cyril hang up. It was then that he allowed himself to look worried.
“How is Cyril?”
Ethan spun around. Amy was standing before him, looking at him with no trace of goodwill.
“What did he want?” she asked, her eyes cold.
Ethan read her deadly look and immediately raised his hand.
But he was too late.
Amy hit him directly in the chest with a burst of angry energy that sent him flying backwards into the writing desk. His back struck the desk sharply and a pained cry escaped him as he crumpled to the floor.
He gathered his feet under him and grimaced as he quickly moved to the side to escape the next hot burst of energy. But Amy was prepared. She threw a magic compound of herbs and roots in his face.
“Valerian,” Ethan murmured, barely conscious. “I’d know that smell anywhere.” Then he passed out.
Watchers Council – Grounds – Later that Night
Kennedy and Vi had just covered the perimeter of the grounds and were heading indoors to do a room-by-room check. They didn’t see the taxi park down the street.
Amy told the driver to wait for her and he offered to help her get her drunken ‘date’ to the front door of the distant building.
She refused the offer. “Come on, honey,” she said to an unsteady and incoherent Ethan as she helped him out of the cab. She slung his right arm over her shoulder and half-carried him down the road in the darkness. The driver shook his head once at the pair and cut off the cab’s engine.
As they neared the building, Amy chanted a low verse. They reached a small group of hedges alongside the main building just as the spell took hold and Ethan slipped into unconsciousness.
Amy let him fall in a relaxed jumble of limbs, hidden but discoverable beneath the hedge. Then she ran in short, little bursts back to the cab, darting her eyes this way and that at the shadows.
Watchers Council – Willow’s Living Room – Same Time
“This isn’t working,” Willow said.
“These are the wrong books,” Dawn added. “We have to get to the library.”
“I’ll go,” Jeff said. “I’m bored.”
Willow wrote down a list of books for him to retrieve. He went up to the library, watchful for the Slayers on patrol, and gathered all the books except one. He returned to Willow’s room.
“I got ’em all except The Satyr’s Song and Other Spells,” he told her, “but I know where it is and I can get it easy.”
“Well… I don’t want you going out –”
“Too late,” he said as he walked out the door.
Watcher’s Council – Moments Later
Jeff made his way to the front door of the Council and stole down the walk. From inside the School Wing, a light came on and Kennedy and Vi appeared in one of the exterior rooms. Jeff froze in his tracks. Vi was turning in his direction. He quickly ducked into the small group of hedges to hide.
He just made it, as Vi walked to the window and made a cursory scan of the grounds outside. Jeff dragged his butt along the ground, moving backwards on his hands, pushing as deeply into the hedges as possible. The ground was cold and hard under his palms.
Suddenly, it was fleshy and clammy.
Jeff stopped for a split second. Then he yelped.
Kennedy and Vi looked at each other and wordlessly ran out of the building, just in time to see Jeff backing up against the outer wall of the School Wing. His eyes were firmly rooted on the hedges.
Kennedy looked at him with an air of victory. “Gotcha!” she cried. “So, you’re the Big Bad…?” she smirked.
“I don’t think so,” Vi said, seeing the look of fear on his face. The two Slayers followed his gaze and saw a hand lying palm up extending from within the hedges.
Vi brought her crossbow around and cocked it. The tip of the arrow was less than an inch from Ethan’s nose. Kennedy walked around to the other side and nudged him hard in the ribs with the toe of her boot.
It took a couple of jabs, but Ethan began to stir. His eyes fluttered open, Amy’s spell dissipating quickly. The hazy shape of something long and pointed danced before his eyes and then the crossbow and arrow came into sharp focus.
A little screech escaped the sorcerer and Kennedy and Vi looked at one another, amused.
“Is that a vampire?” Jeff asked, still scared.
“No,” Kennedy almost laughed. “Whatever this is, I don’t think we have to worry about it. Jeff, you go get Giles and tell him we found somebody.”
Watchers Council – Lobby – Moments Later
Giles entered the room. Vi and Kennedy, crossbows trained, and Dawn were assembled around someone sitting on the sofa with his back to Giles.
“Jeff said you found some –” Giles stopped dead in his tracks when Ethan turned to face him.
“Hal-lo, Ripper. Give us a kiss.”
Giles moved with such speed that Kennedy and Vi had no chance to react. Before the two slayers could move, their prisoner was on the floor and being pummeled by a two-fisted watcher with an unsettlingly blank expression on his face.
Ethan took a few blows before curling up and covering himself with his arms. Only then did Giles let up.
“What are you up to, Ethan?”
“I don’t remember,” Ethan answered, only to receive another punch. “I don’t remember…”
“Answer me, damn you!” Giles hit Ethan hard across the mouth, knocking the side of the sorcerer’s face against the floor.
The sound of Ethan’s cheekbone hitting the parquet surface made Dawn cry out. Even Kennedy and Vi stood in disbelief at Giles’s cold brutality.
“Giles, stop it!” Willow entreated from behind him.
“Not until he tells me what I want to know.”
Giles raised his hand for another blow. He began to bring his fist down, but something stopped it in midair. Giles turned his head around fast. He found Willow standing and grasping his bleeding hand in both of hers.
“Giles,” she said simply, locking eyes with his stone-cold stare, “please stop. This isn’t the way.”
His face showed no sign that he’d heard her. Then, his shoulders appeared to relax and, bit by bit, he stopped pulling against her hand. Finally, she let go and he sat back on his heels. The look on his face was still hard, but he seemed ready to listen to her.
“Giles, this isn’t like Ethan,” she said.
“Yes it is,” Giles growled. “And, as usual, he got caught only because he loves to gloat.”
“He may be responsible for some of it, sure” Willow replied, “but… the kind of magics that are going on – just not very… Ethan-y. ”
Ethan sat up slowly, his hand to his jaw, listening to the red-headed witch’s analysis of his style.
“I mean, it’s way too obvious for Ethan. All of it. Too… high-profile. Lobsters and crabs walking off restaurant plates? ATM machines giving out Monopoly money? A sculpture in a suit of armor? Giles, those sound like college pranks, not the work of a master warlock. I mean, these magics are lacking his, well, style, sophistication –”
“And don’t forget charm,” Ethan mumbled through a swollen, split lip.
Giles looked at her, incredulous. “Style! Ha! The man brought Eyghon o-o-on our heads, turned you and the others into – into – Halloween creatures, transmogrified me into a Fyarl demon, a-a-and sent Sunnydale into a seventies flashback with a-a-a bit of cheap chocolate.”
“Yes,” Ethan preened, “that was rather a good one, if I do say so myself.”
Giles glared at him and raised his fist again.
Ethan held one hand up. “Just saying… ”
Willow bit down on a smile, but Giles saw it.
“Don’t.” He told her. “Don’t encourage him.”
“But he’s good, Giles.”
The Watcher’s eyes widened.
“I mean, evil, yes but in a – twisted, chaotic, evil-sorcerer kinda way he’s one of the best… ”
“The Little Red Witch is almost correct, you know,” Ethan jumped in. “I am the best. I’ve been at it for more years than all these children’s ages put together. Well, maybe not that many… But enough to have honed my craft to a fine and well-polished edge – not like some watchers who turned their backs on it. Or little stage-magician’s assistants who think that a few flashy glamours make them as good as a Master Sorcerer.”
Giles was on Ethan again. He gripped the sorcerer’s throat with his right hand and brought his left hand around for two quick punches. “Who’s working for you, Ethan? Who’s this assistant? And who are you working for?
“Alright, alright, stop before you hurt yourself,” Ethan choked out.
Giles loosened his grip on Ethan’s throat, but did not let go.
Ethan hesitated and Giles raised his fist again.
“Cyril!” Ethan blurted out. “Cyril Rodham.”
Giles made a disgusted face at the name. “And who is Cyril working for these days?”
“I don’t know. Really! Really I don’t. All I know is that I’m paid well for a job well done, but that job doesn’t include the childish pranks running rampant in the city.”
“Look, old man, just because I drink the milk doesn’t mean I know the cow. Cyril’s been sending me out on little projects – nothing too extreme – and he’s got some big backers who have, I think, even bigger ones behind them. But I really don’t know who they are or what they’re up to. I don’t ask and they don’t tell.”
“Then just tell me what you’re up to.”
Ethan looked into the hard-set face of his old ‘mate.’ “Well, actually I was just doing a little casting on a couple of Cyril’s… associates. All the rest was the idea of the assistant Cyril assigned to me. She’s the one causing all the trouble. You know me, Ripper. Quick, clean and on my wa –”
Giles’s look silenced him.
A look of dread came over Willow’s face; her skin turned pale.
“Is she alright?” Ethan asked.
“I smell a rat,” Willow said. “An old, familiar rat… ”
Giles blinked. “Surely, you don’t mean –”
Ethan looked quickly from Willow to Giles. “I see Ms. Madison has endeared herself to you, too,” Ethan smiled.
Giles turned on him again.
“Now, just a moment,” Ethan said, shielding himself from a possible blow. “Let’s think about this like two adults, shall we? We both want what’s best – That is, well… our Ms. Madison has caused quite a bit of trouble for both of us. I can’t do my job and you can’t – well, whatever it is you can’t do – so, why not…”
“Pool our resources!” Willow caught on.
“Yes! Ow!” Ethan’s attempt at a grin ended in him putting a hand to his mouth in pain.
“Well… ” Giles thought for a moment. “No. NO! Absolutely not!”
“Could be interesting,” Ethan said, pretending to ignore Giles. “And fun,” he added seductively to Willow.
“I won’t have this,” Giles stated, flatly.
Willow looked at the two slayers and Dawn. “You guys could snag Amy and keep her busy, while Ethan and I do a-a binding spell on her.”
“Absolutely out of the question!” Giles voice rose an octave.
“It’ll probably take that many of us.” Willow was fast-planning, rattling the words off. “Amy’s fairly strong, which I’m thinking you already know,” she said to Ethan, “and she’s –”
“Devious, perverse, deceitful, manipulative?” Ethan suggested.
“I was gonna say slippery, but yeah.”
“Nor will any of us engage cooperatively with Ethan –”
“So, it’s settled then?” Willow looked at the group.
” – under any circumstances –”
“I’m good,” said Kennedy.
“Me too,” added Vi.
“I’ve got your back,” Dawn smiled.
“And I got Dawn’s.” Jeff said.
“It would be a pleasure,” Ethan smiled.
“Yeah…” Willow said. “I think it will.”
” – and that’s final!” Giles’s raised voice made them all look at him. Ethan smiled innocently at him.
“Bollocks.” Giles muttered.
“Done,” Willow beamed. “Jeff, go tell Andrew we have a patient for him to clean up.”
Giles looked down at his bloodied knuckles. “No need. I’ll be alri –”
“And once you’re all bandaged up, Ethan,” Willow said, “we can figure out what kind of binding spell and reversals we want to use to stop everything Amy’s done. We have a good solid library that’s getting better every day. ”
Kennedy easily helped Ethan to his feet.
“Ethan,” Giles warned, “if you don’t behave yourself –”
“What, are you going to punish me?” he grinned back lecherously.
“C’mon, you two kids,” Willow said, pulling Ethan by the hand, “Play later. Work now.”
She teetered a little then, and Ethan steadied her with a hand to her arm.
“Thanks,” she said. “Still a bit dizzy. I had a bad fall yesterday.”
“Yes, the bandages were a dead giveaway. What exactly happened?”
Giles watched them leave, conversing with each other politely.
“How much can we trust Ethan?”
“You can’t. But he knows he can trust me to kill him should he bollocks up the plan.”
Watchers Council – Giles’s Living Room – Minutes Later
Giles sipped at the cup of tea Andrew had brought to him. The muffled voices of Ethan and Willow lofted up to his living room as the two conversed in the lounge downstairs.
“I have some fresh-baked chocolate-chip cookies, straight from the oven,” the apron-clad Andrew said, trying to cheer him. “And nothin’ says lovin’ like somethin’ from the…”
Giles’s withering look deflated Andrew’s spirits.
Suddenly, Giles and Andrew distinctly heard Willow say, “What a bitch.”
Giles recoiled and took another sip of tea.
“You know –” Andrew hesitated as Giles glared at him. “You know, you could use another man to help with this Ethan guy.”
“You can’t even hold onto an electric mixer without splattering the walls with cookie dough–”
“It was cake batter.”
The sound of Willow’s laughter came through the wall.
Andrew pursed his lips as he watched Giles’s temple pulse visibly. Another sound traveled up, distracting both of them. Willow and Ethan were having a fit of giggles.
“Pillock,” Giles said aloud. He walked to his stereo and pulled out the first record album his hand fell upon. He didn’t even look at it, angrily spearing it on the spindle and cranking the volume up. Instantly, the strains of a very young Eric Clapton’s energized voice and raucous guitar filled the room.
“What’ll you do when you get lonely
And nobody’s waiting by your side?
You’ve been running and hiding much too long.
You know it’s just your foolish pride…”
“Oh, bloody priceless,” Giles moaned.
But the rock and wail of Derek and the Dominoes wasn’t enough to drown out the sound of laughter. Giving up, Giles made his way downstairs.
Ethan and Willow looked up as he entered the lounge.
“You know, old man, you have excellent taste for a cradle-robber!” He indicated Willow.
“Hey!” Willow giggled, more at the look on Giles’s face than Ethan’s remark.
“I’ll ignore that lewd statement and cut right to the chase.” Giles’s eyes were fixed on Ethan. “Have you two made anything resembling progress?”
“Giles, working with Ethan is so… great! He’s a real master. More than I ever thought. Why didn’t you tell me he could –”
“Willow…” Ethan, cut in looking straight at Giles, “Ripper’s well acquainted with what I can do… everything I can do … Right now, I think he’d like to know about our plan.”
“Oh yeah, the plan is perfect. Well, if there could be such a thing as the perfect plan –”
“We’ll lay a little trap for Ms. Madison,” Ethan picked up. “I’ll set it in motion with a little head-game –”
“Your specialty,” Giles grumbled.
“– and we’ll get her here and pit her against your two best… sssslayers,” Ethan hissed in distaste.
“Spoken like the snake you are.”
“The Little Red Witch and I will put her in a binding spell. I’ll have an arrangement set up to teleport her back to London. There’s someone who’d like very much to speak with her about her little rump. Oh, sorry. I mean romp.”
Willow giggled again, sound like she was back in high school. Ethan smiled at her before turning to Giles, giving him a sly look and a cocky smile.
Giles’s eyes turned murderously dark.
“Now, Ripper,” Ethan approached Giles affably, and placed a hand lightly on the watcher’s shoulder.
Willow caught her breath, anticipating Giles’s violent reaction.
“Why don’t you go into your study or ‘playroom’ or whatever, take off those detestable shoes, put your feet up and have a good stiff one?”
Giles’s eyes widened.
“Drink. Good stiff drink. Besides, the Little Red Witch and I need to collect some materials for the spell.”
Giles gave Ethan a vicious look and glanced once more at Willow, now on her feet.
Ethan let his hand slide off Giles’s shoulder and Giles stepped into the hallway. Willow followed.
“Don’t get any ideas,” Giles warned him.
Ethan glanced at Willow. “Why Rupert, I get all my ideas from you.”
Giles simply glared as Ethan walked over and steadied Willow with a hand to her shoulder. The two of them walked away, still talking and laughing. Clapton’s guitar sang wistfully against the rambling piano-riff, but Ethan’s voice could still be heard.
“When we get back,” Ethan told Willow, “remind me to show you a photo I have of the Ripper in his heyday.”
Giles sighed. “Bloody hell.”
Fade to Black
End of Act Three