Dark Cell – Moments Later
Willow banged on the cell door, screaming in frustration, with tears streaming down her face. After one final bang, she winced in pain, tucked her arm against her ribs and sank to the floor. She cried a few moments more, then angrily shook her head, roughly wiping the tears from her cheeks.
“Get a hold of yourself,” she reprimanded herself. “Crying isn’t going to help anyone.” She glanced at the door. “Pounding and screaming apparently doesn’t work, either.”
Willow struggled back to her feet and stood in front of the door. She closed her eyes and concentrated. When she opened her eyes, she held her palm towards the door.
“Resera,” she commanded in Latin. Nothing happened. “Resera!” she repeated, louder. Again, nothing happened.
Willow touched the door and closed her eyes, moving her hands across the surface. After a few seconds, she shook her head and stopped.
“Beautiful,” Willow concluded in a mutter.
She left the door and walked to the center of the room.
“Come on, think, think!” she said, looking around the room. “You had a brain long before you ever had magic, so use it!”
Willow examined every inch of the room, but saw no avenue of escape. Then a glimmer at the far right corner of the room caught her attention. She walked over and kneeled down.
She picked up a paper clip and examined it in the palm of her hand. Then her eyes flicked back to the door.
Cleveland Street – Late Afternoon
With the sun quickly fading, an unmarked van drove slowly along a dark street and pulled to a halt in front of a nondescript apartment building. The van’s side door opened and Bonnie and Heli emerged, with Marie following from the driver’s seat. The two slayers kept the former real estate agent between them, not bothering to hide the caution with which they regarded her.
“UV light,” Bonnie said quietly, holding out a hand to Heli. The slayer pulled a tiny, modified flashlight from her belt and handed it over, with maybe a trifle more force than necessary. Bonnie pointed it toward the roof of the building and flicked the switch on and off several times.
“Is he there?” Marie asked. Just as she spoke, a blue-green glimmer of light glinted from the darkness of the rooftop.
“Let’s go,” Bonnie instructed.
Apartment Building – Fourth Floor Corridor – Moments Later
The three women walked quietly down the hall, past broken wall lamps and random graffiti. They arrived at a door marked “413” and waited as Bonnie pressed the doorbell. It gave an unpleasant buzz.
The door opened a fraction, held by a safety chain. Through the slit, an insectoid form was barely visible. They could see black chitin, with green and blue highlights, a head with mandibles on either side of its mouth-parts and compound eyes composed of thousands of tiny cells.
“Kin,” Bonnie said quietly. “These are slayers, and they’re armed. We can be in the Council in ten minutes.”
The door closed, there was a rattle of the chain, and then it opened again, fully. The insect resembled a scarab with human proportions. Its legs and forearms were thick, compared to its torso, though a pair of thin mid-limbs stirred at its waist. Behind it, from above its shoulders down to its knees, it was protected by a dark, thick carapace. Beneath that, their edges just visible from the front, iridescent wings were folded neatly away.
At its side stood a woman with short blond hair, her hand tugging subconsciously on the hem of her shirt. She regarded the three visitors nervously, shifting a little further behind her armored companion.
“A-are you sure we’ll be safe?” she asked, looking from Bonnie and the slayers to the insectoid.
“The Council’s kept me safe for months,” Bonnie offered.
“You risk yourself in meeting us, then,” the insectoid said. Its voice was surprisingly genteel, with just a hint of clicking buried within it.
“Yeah, I’m sure they’ll give me a medal when we get back,” Bonnie replied. “If we’re going, let’s go.”
“Do you need to bring anything?” Marie asked Jacinta.
“The Council can provide you with what you’ll need,” Bonnie said, before the woman could reply. “Unless there’s anything here absolutely vital and irreplaceable, it’d be better to just go now and travel light.”
“Right,” the woman said, “let’s go.”
Watchers Council – Slayer Gym – Same Time
Mia hesitated as she entered the Slayer Gym, looking around the room. She waved at several of her fellow slayers as she entered. Eventually, her eyes found Kennedy on the far side of the gym. She was draping a towel over her shoulder and heading for the showers. Mia hurried over.
Mia caught up to Kennedy just as she entered the locker room. “Hey,” she said, reaching out and touching her girlfriend on the shoulder.
Kennedy turned around and smiled when she saw Mia. “Hey, yourself,” she said. “What’s up?”
“I-I-I wanted to see you,” Mia said.
Kennedy pulled Mia to her. “Well, if you follow me to the showers, you can see all of me you want,” she said, waggling her eyebrows suggestively.
Mia grinned and blushed, but then forced herself to pull out of Kennedy’s embrace. “As inviting as that sounds, what I really want to do is…talk.”
Kennedy’s face sobered, and she took a step back. “Sounds serious,” she said evenly.
Kennedy chuckled nervously. “Should I sit down for this?”
“No,” Mia replied, a forced lightness entering her tone. “I mean, I don’t think so.”
“Okay, now I’m really worried. So, out with it.”
“Okay. I just want to ask you something. And I want you to be straight with me.”
Kennedy crossed her arms and nodded. “Shoot.”
Mia looked at the floor, took a deep breath, then looked back up at Kennedy. “Did you sleep with Kadin when you two were in Bucharest?”
Kennedy looked away and sighed, then walked over to Mia and stood in front of her. “No,” Kennedy told her emphatically. She held Mia’s gaze for a moment. Then she touched Mia’s arms, smiled and said, “Okay?” When Mia returned her smile and nodded, Kennedy gave her a kiss and headed for the showers.
As Mia watched her girlfriend walk away, she frowned. Then she, too, turned and walked away.
When Kennedy got to the line of sinks in front of the entrance to the showers, she turned around to look back at Mia. The slayer was already gone.
Kennedy put her hands on the sink and leaned against it, dropping her head. She growled in frustration, then lifted her head. When she did, her eyes caught her reflection in the mirror above the sink. She glared at herself, long and hard, then stalked off to the showers.
Watchers Council – Dawn’s Room – Same Time
Dawn and Skye were sitting next to each other on the single bed, leaned against the wall, their laps covered with books and notebooks. Every few minutes, Skye stopped her studying and stared over in Dawn’s direction. After about the umpteenth such glance, Dawn set down her highlighter and turned to face her girlfriend.
“Okay, what is it?” Dawn asked. “You’ve been burning holes in the side of my head for the last half hour.”
“That obvious, huh?” Skye replied sheepishly.
“Uh, yeah,” Dawn answered, a playful grin on her face. Then she sobered and said, “Is something bothering you? You can tell me, you know.”
“Well, there is something I’ve been wanting to talk to you about,” Skye admitted. “I just didn’t know how to bring it up.”
“How ’bout this? You just blurt it out. Don’t worry about the how. Just worry about the what.”
“Well, it’s not so much a what as it is a who,” Skye said.
“Is it a Who from Who-ville?” Dawn asked with a chuckle. When Skye didn’t share her laugh, she cleared her throat and said, “Sorry.”
“It’s Jeff,” Skye announced in a serious voice. “You do know he’s got the hots for you, right?”
“Um, can we go back to the silent staring, ’cause, frankly, I’m –”
“Dawn…” Skye warned.
“Okay, okay,” Dawn conceded. “Yes, I know how Jeff feels about me.”
When Dawn didn’t elaborate, Skye prompted her. “And…”
“And what about you?” Skye asked, dropping her gaze to her hands. “How do you feel about him?”
“Boy…tough questions,” Dawn commented.
“I want the truth, Dawn, even if it’s something you think I don’t want to hear.”
“Okay then,” Dawn said with forced enthusiasm. Then she paused for a moment, before speaking again with extra care. “I like Jeff a lot, and I have to admit that there has been some strong attraction.”
Skye swallowed hard and looked away.
“But nothing has happened between us, and nothing is going to happen between us,” Dawn said assuredly. She took Skye’s hand in her own. “I told him flat out: ‘I’m with Skye, and I’m going to stay with Skye, because I love her, and I won’t do anything to hurt her.'”
A smile filled Skye’s face. “You said that?”
“Well, I kinda said something to him too,” Skye admitted with an embarrassed shrug.
“Yeah and I kinda wish I hadn’t.”
“What did you say?”
“Well, I’m not sure of the exact words, but it was sort of like, ‘You may think you love Dawn, but I know I do, and if you try to take what’s mine, you’ll regret it!’ Or something to that effect. Give or take a threat or two.”
“You threatened him?”
Skye looked Dawn in the eye and said with a grin, “Darn tootin’.”
Dawn smiled widely, then pulled Skye to her for an earnest and thorough kiss, which Skye eagerly returned. As they pulled away, Dawn asked, “So, what did he say?”
“What he said wasn’t important, but…I don’t want him coming to you and saying I think I own you. I know you’re your own person and all, but…I don’t know…I’ve got a lot invested here and I don’t want him using anything against me.”
“He won’t. I know how you feel about him and yeah, he’s immature at times but one, he’s a teenage guy and two…he hasn’t been around like I have. He’s had his troubles, no doubt, but after six years of living with life and death situations, it gives you the chance to grow up a little quicker. Besides…I kinda like the idea of being yours,” Dawn said, ending with a smile. Skye returned it with one of her own.
Apartment Building – Second Floor Stairwell Landing – Moments Later
Bonnie, Heli and Marie surrounded Kin and Jacinta as the group moved quietly down one of the apartment building’s stairways. Marie, in front, came to a stop when she saw a large shape marching up the stairs below them.
“What’s that?” Jacinta asked, peering around her. “I-I-Is it one of your –”
The shape walked through the dim shaft of light from a grubby window, revealing the details of its hulking, mutilated form.
“Run!” Marie ordered. Bonnie grabbed Jacinta by the arm and hauled her back up the stairs, while the insectoid Kin followed slowly, watching the two slayers draw their weapons and stand their ground against the towering demon slowly advancing on them.
“What the hell is that thing?” Heli hissed. When Marie made an unenthusiastic groan, Heli asked, “You know it?”
“Vutch demon,” Marie growled. “Don’t slice, no matter what. Stabs might slow it down, and you can try to mess up its joints, but do not cut any bits off.”
“Okay, I’ll distract, you stab,” Heli decided. “Watch yourself.”
“Come on!” Bonnie insisted, pulling Jacinta back.
“Kin!” Jacinta cried out, as the two women disappeared onto the floor above.
“I don’t suppose you can breathe fire, by any chance?” Marie asked Kin.
“I cannot,” he said.
The two slayers and the insectoid scattered as the Vutch demon leapt the last few steps and charged them, shouldering a chunk out of the corner of the wall as its targets dodged. Marie flipped one of her sais to hold it point-down and leapt at the demon’s legs. Scrambling beneath the swing it aimed at her, she drove her weapon into its knee with all the force she could muster. She rolled away, barely avoiding the Vutch demon’s fist as it slammed into the floor, punching a hole in it.
The demon staggered as it tried to put weight on its damaged leg, but then, to the slayers’ dismay, it simply stomped forward, the sai’s metal blade splintering as the demon’s joint crushed it.
“It’s going for the stairs,” Heli said. She waved her arms desperately. “Hey! Ugly, over here! C’mon!”
The Vutch gave her a baleful glance, then turned away and moved back towards the stairwell. Both slayers started forward to intercept it, but before they could, Heli was knocked off her feet by a tremendous rush of air from behind her. Kin flew at the Vutch with his wings buzzing, tackled it around its thick waist, and sent both of them tumbling down the stairs and crashing through a window.
Cleveland Street – Moments Later
When the two slayers emerged from the apartment building, they looked across the street and saw the battle between the Vutch and Kin continuing. The enraged Vutch picked Kin up and hurled the insectoid with all its strength into a lamppost, which buckled from the impact. Kin fell to the ground, moving feebly. Various cracks and craters in the asphalt testified to the brutality of their duel.
“Check him,” Heli ordered. “I’ve got an idea! Keep back!”
She ran for the Council van and leapt into the driver’s seat, starting it up. She then drove the van up onto the sidewalk, knocking trash cans out of her way. Picking up speed, she then swerved directly across the street, colliding with the Vutch demon and sending it to the pavement. With a glance in the mirror, she backed the van up quickly, running over the prone demon again as it began to rise. Leaving the van on top of the demon, Heli quickly grabbed a steel-tipped stake from the glove compartment and scrambled out, just as a shuddering thud on the van’s underside signaled the Vutch’s refusal to remain where it was.
“Nice try,” Marie said to Heli, shrugging as she supported the injured insectoid on her shoulder.
Heli sprinted back to where her fellow slayer was standing and turned. “I’m not done yet,” she said.
The van rocked over onto its side, and the sound of tearing metal came from within it. Heli raised the stake, aimed carefully, and threw it with all her strength.
The stake punched through the van’s lower body, just behind its back wheel, at the same moment that the Vutch’s claw punched through the side door from within. Before the demon could emerge, the fuel tank punctured and ignited, and the whole vehicle was consumed in flames. Heli watched with some satisfaction as the Vutch crawled from the vehicle, stumbled to the edge of the inferno and collapsed, lifeless, disintegrating into dust.
“Well…fought,” Kin said, speaking with some difficulty.
“Thanks. Radio?” she asked Marie, who handed it over. “HQ, this is Heli. We’re at the site, and we need a fire crew here. And a vehicle.”
“Roger that, what’s your status?” came Robin’s voice.
“We’re okay, but we’ve got an injured demon.”
“Where’s Bonnie?” Marie asked.
Heli glanced around. “Damn,” she said. “HQ, looks like Bonnie might have –”
“I’m here,” the former real estate agent called from the building’s doorway. Jacinta followed her nervously, then caught sight of Kin and rushed to his side.
“What was that?” Robin asked over the radio.
“Never mind,” Heli replied.
“Okay. ETA ten minutes,” Robin said.
“Thanks. Out.” Heli handed the radio back to Marie and glared at Bonnie. “I’m sure when we went over this, the words ‘don’t go out of my sight under any circumstances’ were mentioned.”
“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” Bonnie shrugged. “Besides, where would I run to?”
Heli frowned at her, then shook her head. “Okay,” she said. “No harm, no foul.”
Babies R Us Department Store – Early Evening
Giles pushed a nearly-full shopping cart at a snail’s pace, with Becca waddling beside.
“What about Alice?” Giles asked.
“Alice?” Becca replied unenthusiastically.
“Alice is a right and proper English name,” Giles defended.
“Yeah, but it’s so…blah,” Becca countered. “Why not Alissa or Alyson?” When Giles didn’t jump on the notion, she continued. “And why are we focusing so much on girl names anyway? It could be a boy.”
“Well, i-i-if it’s a boy, then I think we should consider, um, naming him R –”
“Not gonna happen, mister,” Becca warned.
Giles pursed his lips in annoyance. “I was going to suggest Rhys,” he informed his wife. After a moment of thought, he stuck out his chin. “I don’t see anything wrong with ‘Rupert’. It’s a perfectly fine name. It means ‘bright and shining.’ And unlike its progenitor, Robert, it is decidedly uncommon.”
“Yeah, well, there’s a reason for that,” Becca said, giving Giles a playful nudge.
Giles smiled and chuckled, then wrapped his arm around his wife and hugged her warmly.
“All that really matters is that we have a healthy baby and a healthy mother when it’s all said and done.”
“That gets my vote,” Becca agreed happily, as she rested her head against Giles.
Watchers Council – Dining Hall – Same Time
Faith and Robin came into the dining hall pushing their own large cart. On it were multiple coolers filled with ice and drinks, as well as boxes and boxes of subs, sandwiches, salads and chips. The junior slayers at work in the dining hall looked up at the noise.
“Okay, you worker-bees,” Faith called out. “Dinner is served!”
As Faith and Robin set out the food and drinks, they were overrun by a mob of starving slayers. After placing the last box on the table, the two adults wriggled their way out of the crowd to a place of safety a few yards away.
“Damn! Are we not feedin’ these girls enough, or what?” Faith asked.
Robin laughed. “Yeah, for a minute there, I thought I was gonna lose a limb.”
“Say, how did the thing with Bonnie go?”
“Good,” Robin replied. “Both the witness and her protector are safe and sound, for the most part. The scarabite was a little beat up, but he’ll be okay. And Bonnie actually came back. I think that last one’s a good sign.”
“That’s debatable,” the slayer quipped.
Dark Cell – Same Time
Willow knelt in front of the doorknob, beads of sweat forming on her forehead. She wiggled the paperclip around in the lock in every possible direction, her tongue pushed through the corner of her mouth in concentration.
“I swear I paid attention in class that day, Giles,” she muttered to herself. “Now why isn’t it working for me?”
Out of thin air, Shadow instantly reappeared before her, a Styrofoam cup in her hand. Willow instantly jumped up and picked up the chair that sat behind her. With her good arm she rushed Shadow, roaring as she swung the chair in the sorceress’s direction. Before Willow’s blow could reach its target, Shadow gestured nonchalantly, magically deflecting the intended blow and sending Willow and the chair to the floor.
Willow grimaced, holding her side once again, but she managed to yell at Shadow.
“What have you done to her?!” Willow demanded. Shadow just laughed in response and took a sip from her drink. “Where is she?!” Again, Shadow just laughed. Then Willow calmed down very slightly and shook her head. “Rowena’s not even here, is she?”
Shadow grinned. “I could have her here in a snap,” the sorceress said, snapping her fingers to illustrate the point. “But I got thirsty instead.” Shadow held the cup out to Willow, as if in invitation. “Cappuccino?”
Willow let out a deep breath, then forced herself to her feet. She straightened and looked her captor in the eyes. “What exactly do you want from me?”
“I thought I made that perfectly clear,” Shadow replied. “I want you to suffer.”
“Fine! Then do it!” Willow spat back. “Make me suffer! Just get it over with! God, when I was evil, at least I was efficient! But then again, like brother like sister, I guess. All Rack cared about was playtime, no matter who he hurt. Even if the person was his sister.”
Shadow bared her teeth and snarled. Suddenly Willow found herself magically yanked across the room to where Shadow stood. The sorceress grasped Willow’s head in her glowing hands. Willow bit down on a scream, gritting her teeth and forcing herself to act through the pain. She stared into Shadow’s eyes, then grabbed Shadow’s head with both hands and pushed away.
Shadow broke the connection between herself and Willow, then waved her arm to fling the redhead against the far wall. Shadow thrust her fist against her temple and grimaced in pain. Then she turned furious eyes toward Willow.
“How dare you talk to me like that! You don’t know anything about me!” Shadow shouted. “He taught me everything I know! Everything I am!”
Willow pushed herself up from the floor and leaned against the wall.
“Oh Gods, who are you kidding?” Willow asked in a choked voice. “He destroyed you…can’t you see that? He molded you, robbed you of your identity…like he tried to do to me, but failed. So maybe it’s not revenge you want from me. Maybe it’s knowledge. Maybe you want to know how I got away.”
“No!” Shadow denied in a rage, and she rushed toward Willow. Before Willow could even attempt a defense, Shadow shot magical lightning bolts directly from her hands into Willow’s body, sending her into violent convulsions.
Watchers Council – Dining Hall – Evening
As Andrew got the junior slayers back to their respective tasks, Faith began boxing up the scant remains of the sandwich supper. Robin came up behind her, resting his chin on her shoulder and wrapping his arms around her waist.
“I’m still hungry,” Robin stated.
“Well, I think you’re outta luck,” Faith replied. “Looks like the slayerettes have scarfed it all up.”
Robin leaned closer and whispered into her ear, “Not that kind of hungry.”
“Ohhh…that kind of hungry, huh?” Faith said, turning around.
“Mmm-hmm,” Robin said.
Faith grinned. “In that case, I may have just what you’re looking for.”
Faith took Robin’s hand and walked toward the exit. “Yo, Andrew!” she called over her shoulder. “We’ll be back!”
Andrew, surrounded by a gabbing gaggle of slayers, raised his hand in a vain protest. “But –”
Watchers Council – Lobby – Same Time
Vi sat at the reception desk, taking her turn at manning the phone. With the lines completely lifeless, she entertained herself by doodling on a notepad. She had written her own name multiple times in different scripts. Then she had written Xander’s name several times. She was just into a complicated and fancy version of Xander’s name when she heard his voice.
“Hey, whatcha doin’?” he asked, as he approached the reception desk.
Vi quickly shut the notepad. “Nothing,” she said, way too abruptly. “Just working, you know, the usual.”
“Mind if I keep you company for a while?” Xander asked. “I brought snacks.” He held up a bag containing Twinkies, chips and sodas.
Vi grinned. “Sure, come on in.”
Dark Cell – Evening
Shadow stood in the corner, her arms wrapped around her body and her back to Willow, who lay face-down on the floor nearby. Willow’s eyes were closed, and she wasn’t moving. Finally, she blinked a few times and came to, then grimaced as she pushed herself up to a sitting position. She panted repeatedly until the pain subsided, then turned her eyes to Shadow.
“It’s not your fault, Shadow,” she whispered hoarsely, “what he did to you…He was clever. Seductive. I know first hand. He offered you the world and unlimited power, didn’t he? Had to give a little to get a little, huh? I get the appeal, I do, but there’s more to life.”
Shadow started shifting her weight from foot to foot.
“Don’t judge the world by one selfish man, no matter how much you loved him.”
“No!” Shadow cried, spinning around to face Willow. “He loved me!”
“He hurt you, he violated you, he made you into something that –”
“You’re wrong!” Shadow said, pointing a finger at Willow. She began to pace in front of her. “He set me free. He-He made me see who I really was. He gave me his power.”
“No, he took your uniqueness,” Willow countered. “He made you his clone. The question now is, do you want to stay a shadow forever?”
“Shut up!” Shadow shrieked, sending a bolt of energy in Willow’s direction.
Willow ducked as the bolt slammed into the wall, leaving a black starburst on the brick.
The Palace – Dining Room – Same Time
Rowena looked at the hostess station one more time, then opened her cell phone to try Willow once again. She punched in Willow’s number and waited. The line rang twice before Willow’s answer message began playing. Rowena listened dutifully until the requisite beep.
“Hey, honey, it’s me again,” She said into the phone. “It’s late, and I’m really worried, and you’re not answering your phone, so I’m going back to the Council. If you get this message, call me. Please.”
Rowena closed her phone and stuck it in her purse. Then she got to her feet and waved at her waiter to get his attention. When Sammie arrived, she put her hand on his arm.
“Sammie, I’m sorry, but I have to go find Willow,” she told him. “I don’t know why she’s not here.”
“Don’t you worry about it,” Sammie assured her, giving her hand a pat.
The arrogant rich woman who sat in front of Rowena made a loud harrumph and tossed her head back. “Typical,” she said. “A promiscuous and unreliable lot.”
Rowena’s eyes narrowed, and she stomped past Sammie to confront the rude woman at her table.
“That’s it!” Rowena said, pointing at the woman. “I’ve had about as much as I’m going to take from you!”
The older woman put her hand to her chest and grasped her companion’s hand, her mouth opening slightly in an appalled expression, as if she were suddenly the victim.
“Why don’t you take your narrow mind and your wide hips back to wherever the hell it is you live…I think ‘Boy-Toys R Us’ is calling!”
The woman gasped in shock. “Well-well…I never!”
“I can see why!” Rowena stated emphatically, before stomping off towards the foyer.
While Sammie giggled openly, the woman’s companion tried unsuccessfully to suppress a chuckle. She whipped around and sent icy daggers straight into the young man’s eyes until the amusement left his face. Then she stood up, yanked her mink from the chair and strode towards the exit, her nose in the air.
“Pookie?” the young man called after the woman. “Pookie bear?” When she didn’t answer, he hurried after her.
The Palace – Lobby – Moments Later
As Rowena stopped in the foyer of the restaurant to get out her phone, the rude rich woman shoved past her, her companion right on her heels. Rowena looked angrily in the couple’s direction, then gave them a wave of dismissal. She pulled out her phone, opened it, and punched in the Council’s main number.
As the telephone rang, the blonde watcher took a deep breath and let it out. When the phone wasn’t answered on the second ring, she rolled her eyes and groaned.
“Come on!” she half-yelled at the phone, as it rang a third time.
Watchers Council – Reception Desk – Same Time
Vi was giggling as Xander made monster sounds while threatening her with a half-eaten Twinkie. He shot his hand forward with the Twinkie, leaving a dollop of white cream filling on her nose. Then he tossed the Twinkie dramatically over his shoulder into the trash can.
“You have been stunned by my paralyzing venom,” Xander said in a growling voice. “Now you are helpless before me.”
Xander reached for Vi with both hands, tickling her mercilessly. She squealed with laughter and tried, half-heartedly, to push his hands away. Suddenly, one good goosing sent her flying from her chair, with Xander right on top of her. When they fell, Xander bumped faces with Vi, and they both ended up with cream filling on their noses. When Xander leaned up, Vi looked at his nose and burst into laughter.
“What?” he asked, unaware of the addition to his nose.
“Looks like it’s your turn to be paralyzed,” Vi said, with a smirk and a sexy tone to her voice. She reached up to Xander’s nose and caught the dab of Twinkie filling on the tip of her finger. Then she stuck her finger in her mouth and slowly sucked the sweet cream off.
Xander never moved or took his eyes off Vi. When she popped her finger out of her mouth, Xander’s gaze stayed right on Vi’s lips. He leaned closer, this time looking into her eyes. Vi put her hand on his neck and returned his stare. He leaned down even more. They were both breathing hard, and their lips were nearly touching, when…
“Oh crap!” Vi exclaimed, as she struggled to get out from underneath Xander and to the ringing phone.
Vi finally made it to her feet and leapt for the phone. When she reached for it, the receiver went squirting out of her grasp.
“Damn it!” Vi swore, as she finally got her hands on the receiver and punched the talk button on the console. “Watchers Council!” she barked into the phone.
“Hey, this is Rowena,” said the voice on the other end, the tone carefully modulated.
“Hey, Ro,” Vi said, trying to catch her breath.
“Who’s this? Vi?”
“Uh, yeah,” Vi replied.
“Is Willow around?” Rowena asked from the other end.
“Willow?” Vi said, looking around the lobby and then at Xander, who shrugged and shook his head. “Nope, we haven’t seen her.”
“What about Giles?”
“Yeah, he and Becca just came in from shopping a while ago. They’re upstairs.”
“Can you ring them for me?” A hint of impatience finally entered Rowena’s voice on the phone. “It’s important.”
“Ring them?” Vi asked. “After that, are you guys gonna go for tea and crumpets?”
The Palace – Lobby – Same Time
Rowena grabbed the bridge of her nose, taking deep breaths. “Violet…” she began, a slightly dangerous edge to her tone.
“Sure, I’ll put you through!” came the quick reply over the phone. “What’s up?”
“Willow’s missing,” Rowena said, in a worried voice.
End of Act Three