Watchers Council – Willow’s Suite – Afternoon
Willow was bustling around her kitchen when a knock sounded at the door.
“Hey,” she said opening the door to reveal a freshly washed and shaven Xander. “Much, much better,” she said, running the back of her fingers over his cheeks. “The Grizzly Adams look just isn’t you, Xander,” she finished, patting him on the shoulder.
He gave a soft grin and handed her a bottle of wine as he stepped through the door.
“Thanks,” she said, looking at the label. “Wow, expensive stuff,” she remarked.
“Nothing’s too good for my Will,” he said. “Especially after all that money you stole for me.”
“I didn’t steal it,” she exclaimed, grabbing a couple of wine glasses and a corkscrew as he sat down at the kitchen table she had set for their lunch. “I…I…look, just consider it a paycheck from the Watchers Council for seven years of Scooby service, okay?”
“It was a lot more than just a paycheck, Will.”
“Then just think of the extra as bonusy,” she said happily as he took the glasses and corkscrew from her. She turned back to the oven. “You know, so much for every demon you killed, a big chunk for each time you brought the Slayer back to life…oh! A-and let’s not forget your single-handedly saving the world from utter destruction. That alone was worth an extra digit, Mister.”
“Yeah, and gas reimbursement for every donut run I made over the years,” he said as he poured the wine.
Willow smiled at him over her shoulder, but she quickly frowned when she saw no merriment on his face.
“We owe you so much more than simply money, Xander,” she said sincerely.
“No big, Will,” he shrugged. “I did what I had to. Every one of us made sacrifices.”
With her hands covered in oven mitts, she carried a small casserole dish and carefully set it in the center of the table.
“Hey,” Xander said, his tone bright, but his face dull. “This what I think it is?”
“Yep,” she smiled. She pulled off the mitts and tossed them back to the counter. “Charlie’s Surprise. Your favorite.”
“But no peas, right? You know peas make me hurl.”
Willow rolled her eyes. “No peas,” she said, sitting across from him at the small table. She picked up his plate and began spooning the steaming tuna casserole for him.
“Thanks,” he said, digging in. “Mmmm, as good as ever. Where’s Ken?”
Willow hesitated a moment and busied herself by taking a sip from her glass.
“With the girls,” she said. “Besides, this dish isn’t exactly something she grew up with. She’s had lots of chefs over the years, but I don’t think Boyardee was one of them.”
He gave a small grin that disappeared as quickly as it came. Willow silently watched him as if wondering if he’d make a retort but nothing came. Instead he pushed the food around on the plate rather than eating it, taking more interest in his wine than the casserole.
“Xander?” Willow asked softly, taking a deep breath. “Where have you been?”
He shrugged again, looking down at his plate.
“Here and there,” he said. “Wandered along the Cascade Loop Highway. But I didn’t want to get stuck in the mountains when the snows came. So I made my way east, crossing over into Canada on occasion. Taking my time, you know. But when I realized it was getting close to your birthday, I put the pedal to the metal and headed for the great state of the Hellmouth.”
Willow waited for a smile but it didn’t come. “Meet any interesting people?” she asked after a brief silence.
“Not really,” he said. “I came across our buddy Clem at a demon bar in Winnipeg.”
“Really?” Willow said. “A cousin of his lives here in Cleveland and helps us out sometimes.” She paused a moment and then her eyes flashed. “Hey! What were you doing in a demon bar?”
Xander didn’t answer right away. He picked up the bottle and silently asked if she wanted more. After she shook her head, he refilled his glass. “Just looking for information,” he finally answered. “That’s all.”
“What kind of information?” she asked, watching as he neatly drained the glass with one long swallow.
“Will,” he said, ignoring her question. “Do you still have that amulet D’Hoffryn gave you?”
“What…?” she asked, shaking her head in confusion. “N-no, he took it back after I summoned him last year. Xander, what –”
“I want you to do something for me,” Xander said, finally looking into her eyes. “Please?”
“Xander, you know I’d do anything for you, but what…” Willow stopped, a look of dread crossing her features.
“Willow,” Xander said. “I want you to bring Anya back.”
Watchers Council – Communal Dining Hall – Same Time
Faith entered the hall and looked around, taking note of Kennedy sitting alone at a table in the corner. Rather than waste time at the serving line, she made a quick detour and grabbed Andrew’s full tray just as he was settling himself at a table with Marsha and the other junior slayers.
“Hey! That’s my lunch!” he protested, but Faith ignored him, walking purposefully to Kennedy’s table. “I hate it when she does that,” he muttered to himself. He sighed dramatically, causing the girls to giggle and went back to the line for another tray.
Faith dropped the tray on the table across from Kennedy with a bang, causing the other slayer to jump.
“Pay attention, Brat,” Faith said as she sat down and pulled open a carton of chocolate milk. “I coulda been a vamp tryin’ to eat you.”
“In the middle of the day?” Kennedy asked sarcastically. She watched Faith drain her milk.
“That all you’re eating?” Faith said, wiping her mouth with her hand and nodding her head at the bowl of soup on the table in front of Kennedy. The spoon resting next to the bowl was clean.
Kennedy shrugged and looked out the window, as if trying to ignore Faith.
“Gotta eat more than that,” Faith said. “Necessities of life, you know? The two Fs are the cornerstone of every Slayer’s mental and physical well-being. Speaking of which, where’s your honey?”
“With her honey,” Kennedy muttered. “Getting plenty of Fs I’m sure.”
Faith laughed as she bit into her sandwich. “Red and the Xan-man?” she asked. Kennedy didn’t answer, she just looked out the window, so Faith continued. “Nah, they gave that stuff up years ago when they were kids. And that’s all it was, kid stuff.” Faith paused to swallow. “Don’t be jealous over them being all touchy-feely this morning. Will’s just happy to see her best friend.”
“It’s more than that, Faith,” Kennedy said, her jaw clenching and her face turning red. “Willow…Willow told me this morning she’s going to have sex with Xander so she can fix his eye.”
Faith stopped her vigorous chewing and looked at Kennedy. She swallowed with a gulp, pushed aside her tray and leaned on her elbows closer to Kennedy. “Let me see if I got this straight,” she said. “Willow can use magic to replace Xander’s missing eye, but in order to do it she’s gotta have sex with him?”
“Yeah,” Kennedy shrugged and looked out the window again.
“And you think it’s a bunch of BS?” Faith guessed.
Kennedy picked up her spoon and nervously played with her soup. “I don’t know. She said something about how the spell requires a lot of energy and the only way to raise enough is to…well, you get the idea.”
Faith sat back and chuckled softly. “Man, I knew you could generate a lot of heat gettin’ it on, but that takes the cake!”
The older slayer stopped laughing as she looked at Kennedy’s pained expression.
“Oh, hey,” she began sympathetically. Kennedy didn’t say anything and looked back out the window. “What’s the problem, Kennedy?” Faith added.
Kennedy looked over at Faith’s use of her name. “What’s the problem? My girlfriend tells me she’s gonna cheat on me and you wanna know what’s the problem?”
Faith shrugged. “I don’t think Willow’s cheating on you. If that was the case she never would have mentioned it.”
“Faith,” Kennedy emphasized. “She wants to have sex with someone that’s not me. Sex with a man.”
“She’s a witch doing a spell, that’s what she does. We slay, she…” Faith paused, as if trying to find a single word for all that Willow did. Not finding one, she gave up and continued. “Hey, she learned her lesson when she was running around behind Oz’s back. But once they got caught, that was the end of the teen lust-fest. They never went back for more.”
“What?” Kennedy asked, utterly confused.
“You know, the Oz/Willow/Xander triangle thing,” Faith explained. “Willow making smoochies with Xander, until wolf boy caught ’em in the act?”
Kennedy looked like she had the wind knocked out of her and tried to take a deep breath.
“You didn’t know, did you?” Faith asked quietly, her face turning pale.
Kennedy snorted and started shaking her head.
“Oh damn,” Faith sighed. “I thought she told you about Oz.”
“Oh yeah, but that was one detail she left out. Here I was worried she wanted to live out a fantasy, but looks like she’s already had it and she’s going back for seconds.”
“No,” Faith insisted. “They never did it, Ken.”
“So now’s their chance, huh?” Kennedy started to rise but Faith reached out, making her stop.
“Hold up, Brat. Hear me out, okay?” Faith’s tone was firm, but compassionate.
Kennedy looked down at Faith, as if debating if she wanted to learn more or pound her into the ground. Reluctantly, she sat down, and Faith continued. “Willow and Xander just shared a few kisses. That’s all. But when they got over it they realized their friendship was more important. Besides, if you ask me, Red didn’t just hop the fence. She took a sledgehammer to it. You got no worries. Honest.”
“Faith, tell me this…how would you feel if Robin called and said that he can get that sweet contact in Washington he’s spent all week trying for, but in order to close the deal, he’s gotta sleep with her?” Kennedy snapped.
“It’s not the same thing,” Faith argued.
“Why the hell not?”
“Because Robin would find another contact, one he didn’t have to screw,” Faith said, certainty in her voice. “DC is full of politicians. This is Xander, and if Willow says it’s the only way, then it’s gotta be the only way.”
“How can you be so sure? You a witch now?” Kennedy challenged.
“Hell no!” Faith chuckled, before turning serious. “But Willow knows her stuff. And she’s not my lover, so I’m not blinded by petty jealousy. I mean, c’mon, you saw Xander this morning; is that the same guy you first met in Sunnydale?”
Kennedy looked back down at her bowl. “No,” she said softly, as if reluctant to agree.
“No, he’s not,” Faith agreed. “He tries to talk the same, but…it’s like inside he’s not. I’ve known both of ‘em a long time, Ken. We weren’t always friends…hell, we were mostly enemies…but one thing I know without a doubt is that they love each other.” Kennedy looked up and met Faith’s eyes as she continued. “But not the hot, naked kinda love either, that went out the door with their teenage hormones. But if Willow can save Xander, she’s gonna do everything she can. She won’t let you get in her way and if you try…well, I don’t think it will be very pretty for either of you, and that’d be a shame.”
Kennedy exhaled. “So I should just sit down and shut up, huh?”
“No. You should calm down and THEN go talk to her. Let her explain it and,” Faith leaned closer and paused, making sure she had a reassuring grin in place, “here’s something that’s gonna be really hard for you to do ‘cause you’re so damn headstrong – don’t just hear her, listen to her.”
“I did listen,” Kennedy protested.
“Oh yeah?” Faith asked rhetorically with a smile. “I seriously doubt that.”
“You weren’t there. You…”
“Lemme guess…she told you about the spell. You snapped. She snapped and then you saw her lips moving but most of the time your head was focusing on some smart ass comeback? Am I right or wrong?”
Kennedy didn’t say anything and instead folded her arms across her chest.
“Look, take a walk, cool off and then talk with her. Find out why this is so important to her. And don’t get defensive when she tells you,” Faith advised.
“Pot calling the kettle,” Kennedy muttered.
“Yeah, I know. I got walls too. But the more patience Robin shows me, the easier it gets. Not just with him, but with everyone,” Faith let out a sarcastic laugh. “Fact that I haven’t killed Andy yet just proves that. So look deeper, okay? And think about this…are you really angry because the spell uses sex, or is the truth more that you’re kinda hurt and scared and, just maybe, a little unsure about your whole thing with Willow? Be honest with her, but more importantly, be honest with yourself, Ken.”
Kennedy looked at Faith a moment more. She stood up and slowly walked away, leaving her cold soup behind.
Watchers Council – Willow’s Suite – Same Time
Willow looked at Xander’s hopeful expression, her face slowly crumbling and her eyes filling with tears.
“No, Xander,” she said. “I can’t.”
“What do you mean, you can’t?” he said. “You brought Buffy back. Why not Anya? Demons killed her, so it was a mystical death, right? It’s not like Joyce and not like…not like…”
“It’s not the same, Xander,” Willow said. She reached a hand out towards him, but he pulled his hand back sharply. “I…I just can’t.”
“You mean you won’t!” he said bitterly. He shot to his feet and paced around the kitchen. “What? You failed to bring back your own lover so no one else gets a shot? Is that it, Willow?”
Willow opened her mouth but quickly shut it and took a deep breath, as if to calm her rising anger at the remark.
“Xander,” she began. “I couldn’t because it was Tara’s time to go. Just like it was Anya’s. A-And the truth is, she’s in a better place…I ripped one person out of heaven and I can’t do that again.”
“No,” he said. “That’s bull, Willow. Why? Just because she’d been around over a thousand years it was her time? She deserved to live out her normal human life, Willow. She deserved the chance.”
“She had that chance,” Willow said, standing and approaching him. He retreated into the living room, as if afraid of her comfort. “She even had a second chance when D’Hoffryn agreed to release her from being a vengeance demon the second time around.”
“Oh, so that’s it?” he asked. “Only one favor allowed from Willow the Great?”
“No, that’s not it!” Willow said, finally getting angry. “I would have taken the blow for Anya, and you know it, Xander. All of us would have died for each other. But as it turned out, Anya died for us. She’s gone, Xander. It’s not fair, it’s not right and it’s going to hurt for a long, long time.”
Xander finally collapsed on the couch and cradled his head in his hands. “It does hurt, Willow,” he cried. “It hurts so much.”
Willow sat next to him and held him until he finally controlled himself, her own tears staining his shirt as she rested her head on his shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” he sniffed, wiping his face. “I’m so tired of crying, Willow.”
“Your secret’s safe with me,” she said, and smiled a pained smile at him. “I’ll take extra care to make sure it doesn’t get anywhere near Andrew, ’cause if he knew you had a sensitive side, we’d never hear the end of it. When my slayer hid his video praising your window sashy abilities, I only pretended to chastise her about it.”
Xander chuckled sarcastically. “I’m afraid my window repair days are over,” he sighed. “Tried finding a job, but not exactly employable, and then there’s that whole depth perception thing. My thumb got really sick of getting hit with a hammer. You know, I helped build a multi-million dollar school, but now I can’t even make a bird feeder. Tell me, how pathetic is that Willow? Honestly?”
“Xander,” Willow said, scooting back a bit on the couch so she could face him directly. “I…I’m sorry I can’t bring back Anya for you, but there is something else I can do for you.”
“Look, Will,” he said putting up a hand. “I know I’ll always have a home and a job here with you, but we talked about this before. I don’t…”
“No, Xander,” Willow shook her head. “Not a job, not a home, but I’m glad you know that, ’cause the door is always open. No, I mean…I can help you, Xander.”
“Help me? Willow you’ve already given me more money than I could use in three lifetimes,” he said.
“No!” she said, seemingly more frustrated at her own communication disabilities than his misunderstanding. “I can heal you, Xander. I can help restore your eye.”
Xander’s single eye blinked at her in astonishment. “What?” he asked. “You can do that? Oh! Wait. No, no way. No thanks.”
“Why not? Xander…”
“I never wanna see the black-eyed Will again. I don’t want you going down that road.”
“No, Xander,” she shook her head. “It’s not black magic. In fact, it’s very much the opposite. It’s more of a ritual, rather than a spell,” she said. “B-but the healing spell is part of the ritual.”
“Why a ritual?” he asked.
“To ask for the blessing of the Goddess and the God,” she explained. “Without their blessing, no healing.”
“But you still have to cast a spell during it?” he asked. “And no snakes or slashed up skin, right?”
Willow grinned. “No snakes or slashes,” she promised. “And it’s more like you cast the spell, I just help raise and direct the energy necessary for your body to heal itself.”
“Okay, but how do we raise the energy?” he asked.
“Well…heh…yeah, that’s the catch,” she stammered.
“Catch?” he asked. “Not likin’ the sound of this again.”
“Um…well, remember when you used to tease Tara and I about our ‘spells’?” she asked, and he nodded, a ghost of a smirk on his face. “Well, it wasn’t just foolin’ around. Yeah, there was a lot of that,” Willow admitted with a blush. “But never during ritual. Tara was very serious about that, a-and we only did that kind of magic when it was necessary. Just like it’s necessary now to heal your eye a-and…”
“Will, stop,” he said. “What are you talking about? What kind of magic?”
“Sex,” she answered softly. “The spell requires us to raise energy from the Earth and through your body to me where I can channel it back to you to rebuild your eye. Sex is the only method powerful enough to generate that kind of energy a-and we…we need that connection so I can d-direct the flow. Okay?” she said, giving him a small smile.
“Wait a second,” he said, closing his good eye. “Just need to finish processing that visual.”
Willow grinned wryly as a variety of expressions played across his face. Finally, he opened his eyes and said, “Oh boy, I don’t think so.”
Willow let out a deep breath. “Funny,” she muttered. “That’s the same thing Kennedy said when I told her.”
“Always knew she was a smart girl, Will,” he said, standing up. “So I’m just gonna forget all about this and move on. Thanks for lunch and I’ll be…”
“Xander, wait,” she said, stopping him before he could reach the door.
“Look, Willow, I’m flattered to know I still have that much appeal, but…”
“Put your male ego on the shelf for a minute, Xander Harris,” Willow fumed. “If I wanted you, I’d go about it in a different way a-and believe me, you wouldn’t stand a chance. I’m not the shy computer geek I used to be.”
“No,” he agreed softly, taking her face in his hands and placing a gentle kiss on her forehead. “You’re an amazingly beautiful and sensual woman, but you’re still my Willow and I could never…”
“Why is it that men and slayers only think below the waist?” Willow asked with a fond grin.
“You expect an answer to that?”
“No.” She rolled her eyes, then took his hand and led him back to the couch. “Now, sit,” she ordered. “Okay, let me guess. You’re afraid this will ruin our friendship and getting your eye back is not worth it, right?”
“See?” he said, throwing his hands up in the air. “Beautiful, sensual and smart, too.”
“I’m not going to lie to you, Xander,” Willow said. “It will change things between us, but it’s not going to ruin us. If I even thought that for a second, I never would have suggested it.”
“But like you said, Will, it’s gonna change things, and I love us just the way we are,” he protested.
“It doesn’t mean it will change us in a negative way, Xander,” she said. “B-but it will bring us closer – move our friendship up to yet another level, yeah, but it won’t change our basic relationship. We’re not going to become lovers, because…hello, gay now.”
“Okay, this is where I have a problem,” he said. “You’re gay. Yeah, I know from Oz, what you and he had was good…” She raised an eyebrow at him. “Oh! No! Oz never talked…he was a total gentlemen, okay? I just mean that, once you jumped ship, you’ve never looked back.”
“You’re right, I never did,” she said. “Believe me, I’m very secure and very satisfied with my sexuality. This is not a threat to that.”
“But…” Xander said, screwing up his face. “But doesn’t that mean if we…you and I…you with a man…it won’t be…you know…for you?”
“You’re thinking below the waist again, Xander,” Willow sighed. She looked up for a moment, as if thinking of a tactful way to explain. “I won’t have a problem with this. It’s part of who I am as a Wiccan priestess. The Charge of the Goddess, one of the most sacred of the Wiccan writings, states: ‘all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.’ If the spell was anything less than that, then it would be…like an abomination to the gods, and they would never give us their blessing.”
“So,” he questioned, his hands painting figures in the air as if helped him formulate his thoughts. “Even though this is just a…say, a mechanism for healing my eye, it’s still an act of love? And you will…? And I will…? And we’ll…?”
“Yeah,” she said, nodding at him.
He wiped a nervous hand down his face. “Oh boy,” he said. “I thought you were the one who said there would be no more fluking?”
“I did,” she said. “A-and this is not fluking. There will be no fluking in this. And anyway, we survived the fluke…this oughta be a piece of cake.”
Xander raised his eyebrows in disbelief.
“Okay, maybe not cake. But at least this time there’s no teenage angst working against us.”
“Are you sure this will work, Will?” he asked after a moment of contemplation. “I mean, yeah, getting my eye back…wow, but at what cost? I mean, magic always has a cost, right?”
“Again, I’m not going to lie to you, Xan,” she said. “There’s no guarantee it will work. But if it does, then yeah…gifts from the gods usually come with a price tag, but you’ve done so much for the world, I think, if there is a price, that it won’t be something you and I can’t pay.”
“This is not just magic, then, is it?” he asked.
“No,” she said. “It’s just as powerful as what we did for Buffy, but…more natural, not forced and without all the nastiness. So again, no snakes.”
“Wow,” he breathed, looking down at his hands. “I…I don’t know, Will. I mean, I think I understand everything you’re saying, but…”
“Would it help if you talked with someone else?” she asked. “Giles, I mean.”
“He knows about this?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she said. “He’s been helping me research different methods for a while now. I’ve been at this since we left L.A.”
Xander squeezed Willow’s hands in thanks and looked as if he might break down again, but held it back. “Well, what about Kennedy?” he asked. “I’m grateful that you want to help me, but again, not at the cost of giving either one of you grief over this.”
“Her reaction was less than favorable, but she doesn’t understand the process,” Willow explained. “But I’ll talk with her again and it’ll be okay.”
Xander began to shake his head. “I’m not sure,” he told her again. “I don’t wanna screw things up for you, Will. I remember what you were like before Kennedy came along. You never thought you could move on, but she…”
“No,” Willow retorted. “I had this illusion I planted in my head saying that someday Tara would come back. But yes, you’re right, Kennedy broke through that and helped me pick myself back up. I’ll be grateful to her forever, a-and given time, I think she’ll understand why I’m doing this.”
“But you don’t know that,” he argued.
“Please, Xander…Kennedy is my concern, not yours. Whatever you decide will not have an impact on my relationship with her.”
“No,” Xander began. “But it might impact her relationship with you.”
“I’m willing to take that chance,” Willow insisted. “I know where I stand with you a-and with her. It will work itself out. I think you also understand that this ritual is just that – a ritual, and nothing more. So it’s really your decision to make in the end.”
“My decision?” he said.
“Of course!” she exclaimed. “My days of casting spells on the unsuspecting are over, Xander. Well, my unsuspecting friends that is,” she teased. “But talk to Giles. He can give you a more…masculine view.”
Xander gave her a wry grin and nodded.
Watchers Council – Lounge – Late Afternoon
Willow and Xander walked into the large and comfortable lounge to find Giles and Rowena relaxing on the couch in front of the large screen television.
“Wow, Will,” Xander feebly joked. “Now I know I’m on a Hellmouth, where the strangest things happen. Giles is watching TV.”
“Oh please,” Giles rolled his eyes. “If you took a moment to look, Xander, you’d see that we’re watching a documentary on the mating rituals of the San tribe of Africa.”
“Yes,” Rowena nodded. “And it only took him ten minutes to find something less embarrassing to switch the channel to if anyone came in.” With that, she grabbed the remote from his hand and hit the ‘back’ button. The screen immediately changed to Judge Judy.
“Killjoy,” Giles muttered.
“Shoulda seen him ten minutes ago when she reamed some guy a new orifice. He was actually cheering,” Ro added, nodding toward Giles.
“I was not,” Giles protested. “Much.”
Xander let out a bark of laughter. “Oh I like her. Where’d you guys find her?” he asked Willow.
Willow shrugged. “She’s a stray – showed up on our doorstep one day and we haven’t been able to get rid of her.”
“I resemble that remark,” Rowena replied with a grin.
Willow grinned, too, before she crossed her arms, shifting the green-colored folder she was holding under her arm. Then she looked at Giles for a moment.
Giles, it’s your turn, Willow called out with her mind.
His attention snapped quickly to her and his face went blank for a moment. Willow nudged her head ever so slightly in Xander’s direction.
“Oh right,” he said, standing up. “Grab your jacket, Xander. Let’s go for a ride. I love to show off my car.”
“Not another red, shiny and shaped like a penis import?” Xander asked.
“Er, no,” Giles stammered.
“This one’s silver,” Willow quipped to Xander, trying to hide her lips behind her hand.
“I heard that!” Giles hissed at Willow as Xander followed him out of the lounge. She smiled weakly at him.
Rowena watched Willow a moment as the redhead stared blankly at the television.
“I miss something there?” she finally asked.
“Hmm?” Willow asked, distracted. “Oh! No, just a little trick we picked up fighting in Sunnydale. Xander needs to talk with Giles and I thought he might feel uncomfortable asking with, you know…”
“A stranger here,” Rowena completed. “Sorry, I’ll…” she quickly stood up and headed for the door.
“No!” Willow said, stopping her with a hand on the blonde’s arm. “No, that’s not it and besides, I need to ask a favor.”
“Oh?” she asked. Willow handed her the folder. Rowena settled on the arm of the couch as she opened it and began to scan through the papers inside.
“Xander hasn’t agreed yet, but if he does, we’ll do the ritual tomorrow,” Willow explained.
“His eye, I’m assuming?” Rowena asked. Willow silently nodded, giving her a few more moments to study the file. “Fascinating!” Ro exclaimed. “You’ve modified the Halderanne codex and combined it with the Lonwyth Gael Coven’s ritual to create something completely new.”
“Yeah,” Willow said, just a touch of pride in her voice. “It was necessary because in Xander’s case it’s not merely an injury. The entire organ has to be mystically recreated. Xander isn’t a Wiccan, but he has shown some magical ability from time to time.” A grin began to take residence on her face. “One day he just absently uttered an incantation and set a book on fire,” she chuckled.
Rowena seemed engrossed in the notes, but did manage a grin as she read. “Very impressive,” she said, closing the folder and turning her attention to Willow. “Now, what’s the favor?”
“For the first part of the ritual, Giles will be there for Xander’s support,” she explained. “I was wondering if you would assist me? I’d like to balance the masculine and feminine energies and, although close, Andrew doesn’t have the knowledge that you have. I want to make sure everything goes right.”
“You don’t think Xander will mind?” the blonde asked. “We just met this morning, and although Giles and I won’t be there for the entire ritual…”
“I don’t think he’ll mind,” Willow said as Rowena tapered off. “That little jibe you just pulled on Giles earned you a lot of points in Xander’s book. He might be off his game, but he still respects humor.”
“I understand,” Rowena smiled. “Yes, I’d be honored to assist you, Willow. I’ll study this more carefully tonight and begin my preparations tomorrow,” she said. “What time will you do the ritual?”
“Around noonish, I think,” Willow said. “It’ll give us enough time to rest tonight and get ready.”
“You said he hasn’t agreed yet,” Rowena noted. “What, is this about sex?”
“Partly,” Willow admitted. “He’s afraid it’ll ruin our friend-y relationship.”
“I only met the man today, Willow, but from what I’ve witnessed so far, you two have a strong connection. But I have to ask…what about Kennedy?”
“Still on the thorny side,” Willow admitted with a small pained look. “I need to find her and talk to her again. She…she wasn’t too happy with the idea.”
“I’m sure she’ll come around, Willow,” the blonde watcher assured. “She’s young, very headstrong like most slayers, but, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, she doesn’t seem to understand much about Wicca.”
“I know,” Willow agreed. “And no you’re not wrong. That’s why I need your help. You’ve got the knowledge I need for this ritual. So, thanks, Ro. For everything.”
Rowena nodded and watched Willow walk out of the lounge.
Cleveland Alley – Evening
Seward leaned against the rough brick of an apartment building. He waited patiently while Gretz talked with a ragged young runaway, shivering in the night. Snatches of the pair’s conversation floated back to the master vampire, his mouth curling up in amusement as Gretz’s lies and promises to the boy got more and more outrageous. Finally, the two approached him.
The teenager looked at Seward warily. “You a cowboy or something?” he asked.
“You a pony?” Seward purred in return.
The boy shrugged. “Yeah, whatever,” he said. “Just gotta get off the street tonight, ya know. Temp’s dropping like crazy.”
“Of course,” the vampire said soothingly. “And I just need a little something in return first.” With that he put one arm around the boy’s shoulders and led him deeper into the shadows.
Gretz turned up the collar on his coat and lit a cigarette. As he stood waiting for his master, he heard soft footfalls enter the alley.
“Gretz,” the woman said, moving into the dim light coming from the first floor apartment.
“Hey,” the minion replied. “What…what’s going on?” He looked nervously towards the sounds of his master’s feeding.
The part-time real estate agent ignored Gretz’s question. The minion puffed nervously on his cigarette, the glow from the tip flaring in the occasional breeze that whipped through the alley. At last, Gretz heard a soft thump as the boy’s body dropped to the ground and Seward approached.
“Bonnie,” he said jovially, carefully wiping his lips with a red bandana. “To what do we owe this pleasure?”
“Just making sure you’re following the rules, Seward,” she replied.
“Of course,” the vampire replied. His minion shivered at the sarcastic tone of his voice. “On a night like this I should be dining on the crop of Cleveland’s best, but instead I’m reduced to sucking on society’s rejects.”
“Right, and I just want to remind you to continue to lie low,” she said. “Especially the next few weeks. The Engineer has a very important test to conduct, and we can’t have a mob of hungry vampires running around stirring up trouble.”
“And just what are we supposed to do?” Seward growled. “Sit in the lair and starve while the Presidium oh so happily works its own agenda?”
“You’ll be compensated,” she said. “I’ll have the blood bank make a delivery tomorrow. That’ll hold you for a while.”
“Bagged blood?” he snarled, reaching for her. “You call that cold ersatz compensation? Perhaps you’d like to come back with us, and we’ll feed off of you for a while. You may be a lackey, but you’re still human.”
“Not even you would dare, Seward,” Bonnie spat, pulling her arm away from the vampire’s grip. “Just be a good boy and do what you’re told.” With that she turned on her high heels and strode from the alley.
Seward’s eyes narrowed in thought for a moment. Finally he jerked his head back toward the corpse. “Take care of that,” he ordered Gretz, and quickly walked away.
End of Act Two