Lake Erie Waterfront – Continuous
Althenea looked at her friend, whose tears were beginning to spill over onto her cheeks. With a blush, Rowena wiped at her eyes and turned off the path, sitting down on a park bench. She held her face in her hands, her soft crying filling the warm air.
After a moment, Althenea joined Rowena on the bench and pulled a linen handkerchief from her hemp shoulder bag and handed it to the watcher. Rowena took it with a mumbled “thanks” and wiped her face. When she seemed composed, Althenea said, “Okay, so you’re not a lesbian. Then you have no feelings for Willow beyond friendship?”
“No, I do,” Rowena admitted.
“Strong feelings?” When Rowena nodded, Althenea continued, “Are you physically attracted to her?”
Rowena looked up from the ground into Althenea’s eyes, her expression confused. “I don’t know!” she said with frustration. “No one has ever made me feel the way she does. When she comes into a room, it’s like the sun has risen and her mere presence fills me with warmth. And when she touches me, even just a simple caress on the arm…it’s like an electric shock goes through my entire body and I just want to melt into a puddle at her feet.”
Althenea nodded thoughtfully, but a small smirk graced her lips. “Quite poetic. I’d say you’re definitely attracted to her.”
“Does that mean I’m a lesbian?” Rowena asked.
“It means you want Willow.”
“But…” Rowena paused and Althenea nodded encouragingly. “But what about Jordon? We were together for a while…you know, that way. Okay, so maybe there weren’t any electric shocks, but it was…nice.”
“Maybe with Jordon, you were just comfortable,” Althenea pointed out. “You’d known him almost your whole life, he was familiar and I remember he could be quite charming. Several girls in the Coven spoke of him. But Willow…she’s not comfortable, nor safe. She’s fiery and passionate and she shares your interests and your profession.”
“And there’s another point,” Rowena said. “We work together. It’s not ethical to get involved with someone you work with.”
“Why not?” Althenea asked with a laugh. “Maybe in certain areas of the corporate world, but the new Watchers Council is not your average organization. One of its strengths is the close familial ties your senior members share. Have there been any problems between Robin and Faith?”
“No,” Rowena shook her head. “They had a rocky patch in their relationship, but neither of them allowed it to affect their work.”
“And I know both you and Willow well enough to be certain that neither of you would ever let anything affect your work.”
“Okay, then…but what about Kennedy? I was her watcher,” Rowena pointed out heatedly. “She allowed their breakup to endanger herself and a lot of people and if Willow and I ever do move beyond friendship…”
“That was Kennedy,” Althenea said. “But tell me honestly now, did you play any part in their breakup?”
“No,” Rowena pouted reluctantly.
“Then I see no dishonor on your part,” the witch reminded. “People simply fall in love and you’re no different. Neither is Willow. She’s…”
“I know,” Rowena sighed. “She’s Willow.”
“Yes,” Althenea said. “She tells me she’s also confused. Sometimes she feels you’re receptive, but then she feels you’re not. Why do you think that is?”
Rowena shrugged and looked out at the lake. “She took me dancing a few weeks ago,” Rowena finally said and then chuckled. “Actually, both she and Xander took me out. When I was dancing with Xander, I looked over and saw her and Faith dancing. It was a slow song and at first all I could think was ‘Oh my God, there’re two women dancing together!’ And then the next moment, I desperately wished it was me dancing with her instead of Faith.”
“What happened then?” Althenea asked.
“When the song changed, Willow came over to cut in,” she answered. “At first Xander thought Will wanted to dance with him, but she meant with me. I didn’t even think about it, I immediately said yes and we spent the rest of the night dancing together. I completely forgot about Xander.”
“Did you have a good time?”
“Yes,” Rowena smiled. “Willow and I ended up walking home from the hall. We talked all the way about nothing and everything and it was…perfect, you know? She was perfect and when she walked me to my door I wanted so much to…”
“To what?” Althenea asked softly.
“I didn’t know,” Rowena admitted. “I just knew I wanted something. I realized I had just been out on a wonderful date with another woman and I guess I freaked. I mumbled something about being tired and slipped quickly into my room, leaving her standing there. I couldn’t sleep that night, so I buried myself in work, trying to forget the look on Willow’s face as I closed my door.”
They both fell silent for a while, only the cheerful chirping of birds and the rumble of a distant lawnmower filling the gap. Finally Althenea turned again to her friend and asked, “Are you afraid of people thinking you’re gay?”
“We’re in the States, Al,” Rowena snorted. “Let’s face it, Americans are not exactly the most tolerant of people when it comes to homosexuals.”
“True,” Althenea said, “but things will change. Hopefully for the better. And even if they don’t…you are Canadian. I’m sure Willow wouldn’t mind a trip across the border for a June wedding.”
“Stop!” Rowena chuckled, playfully swatting the witch on the forearm.
“Seriously, Ro,” Althenea said. “What is it? Are you afraid that Willow will hurt you?”
“There is that whole trying to end the world thing,” Rowena said, but sarcastically, as if she didn’t really believe it.
“Willow’s learned so much about magic, Wicca and herself since then,” Althenea said patiently. “She’d never hurt you.”
“You can’t know that,” Rowena said. “She hurt Kennedy.”
“From what Willow told me, she believed she would end up hurting Kennedy so much more if she hadn’t broken up with her,” Althenea said.
“Probably,” Rowena said, leaning over and plucking a tuft of the new green grass and holding them to her nose to sniff the fresh scent. “I don’t think Willow would ever intentionally hurt me, no,” she finally answered.
“Then are you afraid because of what happened at the Academy?” Althenea said, her voice compassionate, but strong, as if she believed this was the root of her friend’s problem.
For a moment, fear entered Rowena’s eyes as she threw down the grass leaves and jumped up from the bench. She walked a few feet away, her arms crossed as if the temperature had just dropped a few degrees. “No,” she said, still facing the lake, her voice cracking a bit.
“Are you sure?” Althenea pressed. “Because I seem to remember us having a similar conversation when things started heating up between you and Jordon.”
“No,” Rowena repeated and then turned back to the other woman. “Look, we should get back. It might be Sunday, but I still have lots of work to do.”
Althenea looked at Rowena a few moments and then nodded. She picked up her bag and slung it across her shoulder as she took Rowena’s elbow in a friendly gesture. “I obviously struck a nerve, as they say over here. And I apologize.”
“Don’t be silly,” Rowena answered, brushing her off.
“I wasn’t being silly, just concerned. Remember I’m only a phone call away – any time, day or night.” Rowena just nodded. “Come on then,” the witch said. “I need to make sure Willow’s properly transcribing my Book of Shadows.”
“As if she’d make a mistake,” Rowena smirked, relief evident in her eyes as the two women began to retrace their steps. “But knowing Willow, she’s probably scanning it into her computer rather than copying it by hand.”
“She better not if she expects me to raise her to high priestess,” Althenea chuckled. “We’re going traditional all the way.”
Rowena laughed and then asked, “Which mythos are you doing?”
“Ishtar and Tammuz.”
“Hmm,” Rowena said thoughtfully. “Interesting…”
“Do you have a problem with that?” Althenea asked.
“Me?” Rowena asked. “Why?”
“For one thing, you just admitted to me…and to yourself, I might add…that you have feelings for Willow,” Althenea said. “An it harm none…remember? If you were to be hurt, then we’d do the initiation another way.”
“Don’t change things on my account,” Rowena chided. “Besides, this is important to Willow.”
“Just remember…so are you.” Althenea patted Rowena’s arm and they continued walking along the quay.
Watchers Council – Lobby – Next Day
Andrew looked frantic as he pressed the next button on the reception desk’s multi-line telephone system.
“Watchers Academy, this is Andrew. How may I help you?” he said into the boom microphone of the headset he was wearing.
“Yes? Yes? Oh, I see,” he said. His eyes rolled in their sockets. “Yes, I understand madam. Please hold a moment.”
He pressed a button and looked helplessly at the flashing lights on the system.
“What’s going on?” Willow asked, coming into the lobby and seeing Andrew’s frustration.
“The phones are ringing off the hook,” he stated, showing her the panel. “Callers are either demanding we stop the celebration tomorrow or they want to know how many virgins we’ll be sacrificing.”
“Oh gods,” Willow said, rolling her eyes in an imitation of Andrew a few moments earlier.
“What should we do?”
“I have an idea,” she said, holding her index finger up. She moved the phone forward and reached behind, unclipping a large connecting wire. In an instant the entire panel went dark. “There,” she said, wiping her hands together. “That solves that. If anyone like Buffy needs us, they have our private cell phone numbers.”
“Okay,” Andrew said. “Thanks!”
Municipal Community Auditorium – Same Time
Bonnie watched from behind the stage curtain as Reverend Gottlieb strode confidently up to the podium and faced a crowd consisting of most of the members of the congregations of the area surrounding the Watchers Council. The various leaders were sitting behind the podium, looking stern and imposing.
“My friends,” Gottlieb said in a deep voice trained from years behind the pulpit, “a dark and sinister force is threatening you, your children and your community.”
Bonnie nodded to her vampire minion and he spoke into a walkie-talkie phone. Seconds later, a group of men and women started handing out flyers to the people in the audience.
“When I first learned that a new private school was opening up in our neighborhood, I was thrilled!” Gottlieb continued. “Knowledge should be shared by everyone. But some knowledge is best left buried! That school is teaching those children ancient pagan practices that burned out long ago, when mankind was given the gift of enlightenment. Those children are being taught to run around naked! To honor pornographic symbols and to indulge in the corruptions of the flesh!”
As the crowd read the flyers and listened to Gottlieb’s words, the noise level began to rise. Angry faces replaced confused ones and Bonnie’s smirk grew wider.
“We cannot allow this to happen!” Gottlieb cried. “We must stop them.”
“But it’s their property! They have a right to do whatever they want,” someone from the crowd called out. Gottlieb looked irritated at the interruption and Bonnie’s vampire spoke softly into his microphone.
“Yes, but we must protect our homes!” Gottlieb said. No one around the man who had spoken seemed to realize when a couple of figures lifted him from his seat and dragged him out the door. “Think of the children!” Gottlieb continued, his amplified voice booming through the auditorium. “Think of those poor innocents in that den of iniquity.”
“What can we do?” someone else called out.
“We can save them!” Gottlieb said triumphantly. “Tomorrow at noon, I want everyone here to go to the school. Bring your signs protesting their nefarious practices. We shall raise our voices on high until the trumpets of the angels themselves drown out the blasphemers.”
“Reverend,” another woman near the front of the auditorium stood up. “These things have a tendency to get out of hand. What if things get out of control? What if some of the children we’re trying to save get hurt, or worse?”
“God will take care of his own, my child,” Gottlieb smiled beatifically down at the woman. Again, no one seemed to see her being dragged away.
Presidium Cave Lair – Evening
“How is your progress?” Larmin asked Bonnie.
“Things are going to plan,” the real estate agent answered. “The flyers are doing their job well. By tomorrow, the good people of Cleveland will be so worked up over the Council’s activities, they’ll do exactly what we need them to do.”
“You sound like you’re surprised,” the demon pointed out.
Bonnie sighed. “Amy Madison had more magical talent in her little finger than the boy has in his whole body,” she answered. “I didn’t know if he could enchant them properly.”
“It worked,” Larmin said. “That’s all that matters. And your vampires? Do they know what to do?”
“Yes,” Bonnie said. “Once the sun sets, they’ll mingle with the crowd and point them in the right direction.”
“Excellent,” Larmin said. “Just remember…no harm to the witch. And make sure that, in all the chaos, nothing disturbs the ritual. It is vital to the Engineer’s plan that she reaches the height of her power. The Presidium has waited many years for the right convergence of events to occur. Nothing must stop us now.”
“It shall be done,” Bonnie replied.
Ginoette’s Restaurant – Same Time
Willow, Rowena, Althenea, Xander, Giles and Becca paused as the waitress laid their dishes on the table and then they resumed their conversation.
“I visited with Robson while in London before catching my flight here,” Althenea said as the group dug into their meals.
“How is the old chap?” Giles asked.
“Sharp as ever,” Althenea reported, “but physically still weak. The slayers take good care of him, but he still has a hard time. It’s a lot of responsibility for just one man.”
“He promised to send us as many slayers as he can spare,” Willow said, biting her lip. “I’d hate to leave him without help.”
“He’ll be fine,” Althenea assured. “He has the staff you’ve hired to assist him with the more mundane tasks. It’s just that he refuses to take the pain medication the doctors have prescribed and it takes its toll.”
“I wish we had more watchers trained to help him,” Rowena said. “But we won’t have anyone near enough ready until after summer.”
“We might be able to send one or two before then,” Willow pointed out.
“Not fully trained, though,” Giles said. “But on the other hand, I hate the thought of slayers out there without watchers to help them.”
The group fell silent for a few minutes, simply enjoying their meals. Finally Becca asked, “How are the preparations for tomorrow’s celebration coming along?”
“Fine,” Willow said, putting down her wineglass after taking a sip. “Jeff and Andrew showed me their outline. I think everyone will have a good time. Have you ever attended a Beltaine celebration before, Becca?”
“Unfortunately not,” Becca said. “Ohio is rather conservative, as you all know, so before you Californians came along, Wiccans kept a pretty low profile. However I have read a lot about it. Will you and Althenea be jumping on your broomsticks?”
Althenea laughed. “Oh! That reminds, me,” she said, reaching down and pulling a small tissue-wrapped package from her bag. “I heard about your car, Giles and I brought you a present for it.”
“For my car?” Giles said, surprised, putting down his fork and taking the package. Becca leaned close and rested her chin on his shoulder as he unwrapped the gift. Inside was a vinyl bumper sticker with ornate writing over sheaves of wheat.
“I’d Rather Be Swiving,” read Xander, who was sitting on the other side of Giles. Everyone except him laughed heartily, while Giles simply blushed. “Okay, spill it,” Xander said, pointing a finger at everyone. “What’s the joke?”
“Swiving means to make love in the fields to encourage the crops to grow,” Althenea smirked, obviously enjoying Giles’s discomfort.
“And I take it this practice was done at Beltaine?” Xander asked, smiling.
“Oh no,” Willow said. “Any time during the growing season.”
“But women who conceived at Beltaine were considered blessed by the goddess,” Althenea said.
“Which explains the modern tradition of June weddings,” Rowena put in.
“Indeed,” Giles said, tucking the bumper sticker in his jacket pocket. “Thank you, Althenea. Next time I speak with Miss Hagness, I shall be sure to tell her your sense of humor hasn’t changed one bit.”
“Thank you, Giles,” Althenea said, an impish grin on her face.
Watchers Council – Lobby – Same Time
Tracey was putting on her jacket when Andrew ran into the lobby from the direction of the kitchen.
“Tracey!” he called.
“Hey Andy,” she said. “I was just leaving.”
“Oh,” he said, seemingly disappointed. “I was kinda hoping you’d stay over tonight.”
Tracey’s face mirrored regret. “I’d like to, but you know I have an early class tomorrow.”
“I know,” he said. “You will be back after class, right? We need you at the grill.”
“As soon as I finish my exam, I’ll be here,” she promised. “Where’s Jeff? You two have been thicker than thieves these past couple of days.”
“We’re pretty much done with the preparations,” he said, his sneaker toeing the marble floor. “Jeff’s exhausted, so he went to bed early.”
Tracey looked thoughtful for a moment. “You know what? It is still early,” she said. “Up for a game of Cy Girls?”
“Yeah!” His happiness radiated from his expression. “Cool!”
Tracey smiled as he led the way to his room.
Watchers Council – Lindquist Apartment – Same Time
Jeff’s face was wet with sweat as he moved restlessly on his bed. With a jerk, his body convulsed, throwing the bedcovers to the floor. His flannel pajamas were plastered to his body as he tossed. Suddenly, he sprang upright, his face mirroring fear and terror.
“MOM!” he cried in a strangled voice.
End of Act Three