Stage 3 – Near Commissary Tent – Same Time
Xander, Buffy, Faith and Andrew were scanning the various passers-by as they walked.
“I think,” Andrew said, “Tracey said something about wanting to check out the costume department.”
“Good luck,” grumbled Buffy.
“There’re entire towns smaller than this place, guys,” said Xander.
“What we need is a map,” Faith offered. She stopped. “Whoa.”
“What?” asked Buffy.
“Do you see Tracey?” Andrew asked.
They looked in the direction Faith was staring. A procession of a dozen nuns – or women in nun’s costumes – walked by. One of them was smoking. Another seemed totally oblivious to the several large bullet holes in her chest. A third suddenly grinned and ran forward. She reached a guy wearing a Nazi uniform. He beamed and they went into an embrace.
“This place is so weird,” said Faith.
“Kinda like a slayer dream,” said Buffy. “Minus the whole cryptic meanings-slash-warnings thing.”
Screams and a crash caused the three of them to all look in a new direction at once.
“What the hel…heck?” said Faith.
“I don’t know. I’m just the writer,” Andrew replied.
“Guys!” Willow ran up to them from another direction. “We’ve got trouble!”
Just then, from the direction of the screams and bangs, several men came running at full speed. Some kept shooting terrified glances behind them. Others didn’t bother with looking, but kept running with all their might.
Buffy sighed. “Why can’t we ever go anywhere nice? With no trauma involved?”
“What, and break our tradition and long-standing record for the wacky?” Xander replied.
“There’s…a monster…” Willow began, short of breath.
“And three guesses where it is,” finished Faith. All five started in the direction the screaming men had come from.
Stage 3 – Summers House Set – Moments Later
Samuel L. Jackson had a chair in hand. Unfortunately, the Turok-Han had the exact same chair in claw. The two were wrestling for control of it. And the Turok-Han was winning.
Katie Holmes had pretty much run out of large things to throw at the monster. She kept looking around for more weapons. Robin finally handed her a crystal punch bowl. “Take your time,” he said. “Aim. Try to get him in the head.”
She nodded, lifted the punch bowl, and concentrated.
“Don’t take too much time, woman!” yelled Jackson.
Finally, Katie Holmes threw with all her might. The punch bowl didn’t hit the creature’s head. But it did hit its shoulder. That at least got its attention. With a hissing sound, it turned to look at Holmes, as Robin hobbled over beside her.
She looked at Robin questioningly.
“Get his attention! Do the acting thing,” he said with a nod.
She looked at the monster. She cocked her head and pushed her hair back, revealing her bare throat.
“Look, Mr. Nosferatu,” she said with fake cheer. “Blood! Lunch time!”
The thing wet its misshapen lips with a forked, gray tongue. It then pushed away the chair, knocking Jackson to the floor, and began heading for Holmes instead.
“This better work,” she said in a rush. Robin held her by the wrist.
As the Turok-Han got within two feet of Holmes and Robin, the latter pulled her out of harm’s way and she took off, but Robin himself moved to intervene and all-but-tackled the Turok-Han. The impact sent them both to the floor, and Robin found himself rolling around with the creature, its slavering fangs inches from his throat and its claws even closer.
They all screamed.
Jackson, who now had the chair all to himself, tried to take aim at the Turok-Han’s back as it pinned Robin. But before he could swing, the pair rolled over, putting Robin on top.
After another roll, the Turok-Han was on top again, so Jackson once more raised the chair, only to have Robin move to the top again.
“Damn it, man!” Jackson yelled. “Stay still!”
“Easy for you to say,” Robin grunted, as he tried to push the Turok-Han’s head away from his neck. “Now!” the watcher yelled.
Watchers Council – Library – Same Time
“No, it simply doesn’t make sense,” Giles said.
Kennedy heard him as she entered the library. Jeff and Rowena were there as well, all of them surrounded by books.
“What doesn’t make sense?” Kennedy asked, as she walked over and began to look on one of the shelves. She pulled out a cookbook that said Sushi in large letters on the front, with For Beginners and Professional Chefs beneath in smaller letters, then turned around.
The three watchers looked at each other for a moment. Finally, Rowena said, “On the set in Los Angeles, Willow says a Turok-Han is attacking people. But a Turok-Han is a vampire, and it’s broad daylight in Los Angeles.”
“Which means it can’t be a Turok-Han!” Giles argued.
“Maybe it’s some other kind of vampire that looks like a Turok-Han?” offered Jeff.
“Impossible,” Giles replied.
“But everything, except the sunlight factor, points to it being a Turok-Han,” Rowena said.
“Maybe it’s just a guy getting his jollies in a rubber Turok-Han costume,” Kennedy said idly. “They make pretty realistic stuff out in Hollywood.”
Giles, Rowena and Jeff all looked at each other and then back at Kennedy.
“Yes, that…” said Giles after a few moments of absolute silence, “…is an eminently viable theory.”
“Glad to help,” she replied. She waved the book. “If you need anything else, I’ll be at my place making raw fish for Kadin.”
They watched as Kennedy casually left. Rowena turned to Giles. “It can’t be that simple.”
He closed the book in front of her with a snap. “Call Willow again.”
Stage 3 – Summers House Set – Same Time
Xander, Willow, Buffy, Andrew and Faith all entered the set at a dead run, weaving as best they could through the human traffic.
“Nooooooo!” yelled Faith, when she saw Robin lying on the floor beneath the body of the Turok-Han. She slowed down within a few feet of the actual scene and then stopped.
Samuel L. Jackson tossed the broken chair to the floor and began helping Robin up, causing the unconscious Turok-Han to flop limply to the side.
“Man, that was something else!” Jackson told him.
Robin smiled. “Well, it wasn’t worthy of Shaft or Mace Windu, but it worked.”
“Hey, I’m just a make-believe hero. I know that!”
“You did good, though,” Robin complimented. “Most everyone else just screamed and ran.”
“I wanted to,” Katie Holmes said shakily from where she was hovering nearby.
“But you didn’t,” Robin told her. He put a hand on her arm, making her smile.
“Uh…Ace?” Faith interrupted. “What’s going on?”
With a grin, Robin held up his taser. “Never leave home without one. The only trouble is, you’ve gotta get real close to use it. As in smell-its-breath close.” He shuddered in mock nausea. “Which was actually the worst part.”
“And a chair helps, too,” Jackson put in.
“Yes, it certainly does,” Robin agreed.
Buffy and the others by now had reached the fallen Turok-Han. They were staring intently at it, while Buffy had her stake out and ready.
“Buffy? Wait a second, okay?” Then Willow concentrated, moving her hand over the sprawled-out creature. She muttered some arcane words under her breath. “In the name of Janus, let the door open. Let Mara be appeased. Begone be the glamour. Begone be the mask. Return. Return. Return.”
On the floor, the Turok-Han changed. The skin changed texture, from leathern flesh to plastic. The lolling, forked tongue vanished. Lines appeared in what had looked like seamless skin moments before. Its weight and shape subtly altered to seem both more and less natural.
Buffy reached down and pulled off the mask of the so-called Turok-Han. Underneath the mask was an ordinary-looking man, albeit unconscious.
“Okaaay,” she said with a shake of her head.
“You know that stunt man who disappeared?” said Andrew, watching all this. “They were complaining because he was wearing a monster costume at the time. Those things don’t come cheap .”
“But that was real,” said Robin. “I was close enough to see his tonsils, and believe me, a couple of minutes ago, this was no mask.”
“Yeah,” Willow agreed. “Past experience tells me this is a case of unintentional magic. Somebody accidentally turned this guy into his costume. For a while, anyway.”
“Magic can do that?” Katie Holmes asked, horror in her voice.
“Yeah…but it usually involves things like turning green frogs into pink frogs or freezing glasses of water. Stuff like that. This, though, is another order of magnitude. Somebody with a lot of power did this.”
“A lot of power but not a lot of skill,” Andrew pointed out.
A groan came from another part of the set. Everyone looked around. Jocelyn sat up from where she had been lying. “What…what happened?” she asked.
“I knew it!” said Buffy.
Just then Willow’s phone rang. “Hello?” she answered.
“I’ve got a theory,” Rowena told her.
“A guy in costume?” Willow asked.
At first there was silence. “How did you –?”
“We’re allll over it,” Willow replied.
Stage 3 Lot – Later that Day
The paramedics rolled the former-Turok-Han away, while Willow and Jocelyn, who was on a stretcher of her own, watched.
“I’m so sorry.”
“You see, that is why you need to do your exercises,” Willow told her. “Believe me, I know what I’m talking about here. When my powers awoke, I caused all kinds of problems. Not because I wanted to! Because I didn’t have the control I needed. The control you need.”
“I promise. I’ll do my exercises. Every day. Twice! Once in the morning and again at night! Without fail!” Jocelyn was going on about that while the paramedics wheeled her away.
Willow watched her go. Then she returned to where the rest of the Council group was standing, off to the side of the flashing lights.
“I think this has been a wake-up call for her,” Willow told them. “Sometimes people really need a hard slap in the face, you know?”
Both slayers nodded.
“Where’s Andrew?” Willow asked.
“Tracey showed up,” Robin answered. “He was going on about how he’s through with Hollywood, but then she got upset because then he won’t be in Los Angeles all the time, and well, they were discussing things at length.” He sighed. “Young love.”
“How come I feel old?” Faith wondered.
“No romantic drama,” Robin offered. “We’ve moved past that. Besides, we get enough excitement in our lives in other areas – love should be easy.” He took her hand in his as they began to walk away.
“I just wanna go back to Cleveland,” Buffy said. “Vampires. Demons. Ancient secrets and world-threatening conspiracies.”
“Reality,” said Willow.
They all nodded in agreement at that one.
“And I miss my big gun,” Willow said dejectedly, as she kicked a pebble along the way.
Los Angeles – Private Airport – Day
“What’s taking so long?” Xander said, staring out the large window of the small airport’s terminal. He looked at his watch impatiently and fidgeted in his seat.
“What’s wrong with you?” Faith asked, picking up on his mood.
“Nothing,” he said quickly, turning away from the view of the tarmac. “Everything’s great. Thanks for asking.”
Faith simply rolled her eyes. “They’re probably just doing some kinda special FAA requirement thing. You know, since 9/11? I’m sure you’ll be back to your slayer sweetie in no time, Xanman. Chill.”
Moments later, a man wearing a dark suit and reflective sunglasses walked up to the group.
“Ms. Rosenberg?” he called out in an official voice.
Xander grinned and seemed to relax. “About time,” he muttered to no one in particular, though it did make Faith quirk an eyebrow in his direction.
“I’m Willow Rosenberg,” she said, raising her hand.
“Daniel Motter, L.A. Coven,” he said before taking off his sunglasses.
“Oh hey,” Willow said, getting to her feet and pulling him into a hug. “Sorry, I didn’t recognize you with the shades. I meant to stop by, but we just ran into a few slight problems.”
“Well,” he began, as he nervously rubbed the back of his neck. “That’s kind of what I hoped to talk to you about. Do you think you could postpone your trip back? Just for a day or two?”
“I was really hoping to get back home but…okay. Let me make a quick call to Rowena,” she said, simultaneously pulling out her cell phone. “What’s the trouble?”
He ignored the question. “Actually,” he began, as he took her by the hand and led her to the large window, “I have a message from Ms. Allister.” He pointed out something in the distance.
The rest of the group got up and walked over to look for themselves. Within seconds, a small plane flew by with a banner that read, “Willow, will you marry me?”
Willow’s hand cupped over her mouth in surprise and her eyes widened in shock.
“I-I-I don’t know what to say,” she stuttered.
“Jeez, Red,” Faith teased her as she chuckled. “You better say yes. The woman closed down an entire airport for you.”
“Oh my Goddess,” Willow said, getting her senses about her. She turned away from the window to dial her cell phone. That was when she looked up and saw Rowena standing in front of her. She dropped the phone.
Rowena looked at the phone on the ground, then back up at Willow.
“Can I take that as a yes?” Rowena asked.
Willow and the rest of the group were struck speechless, except for Xander, who wore a large grin. The witch was trembling and looked like she might fall until Xander put his arm around her to steady her. Rowena closed the distance between them and got down on one knee, taking Willow’s hand in hers.
“This might not be exactly what you imagined when it came to a proposal,” Rowena began, “but with a life like ours – always on the road at a moment’s notice, going from place to place – it seemed fitting. Point is, Willow…I’ve lived with you and I’ve lived without you. I know what both are like, and the latter is unbearable. You bring a meaning to my life and make me a better person every day I’m with you. I need to share the rest of my life with you, and I’ll want you until the day I die and beyond. If you feel the same way, then please say yes.”
Willow’s head bobbed. She seemed tongue-tied for a few seconds until she finally blurted out, “Yes! Oh my Goddess, yes!”
The group around them, including a few other travelers and some airport employees not too far away, began to cheer and applaud.
Willow pulled Rowena to her feet, and the watcher gave her a passionate kiss, which the witch returned. She pulled away slightly before resting her forehead on Willow’s. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a bracelet of red amber and yellow jasmine.
“I thought I’d go with this instead of a ring,” Rowena told her. “But if you want a ring –”
“No, it’s beautiful,” Willow said, as she held out a shaking wrist.
“Not as beautiful as you,” Rowena countered. She closed the clasp on the bracelet and pulled Willow in for another kiss.
“Oh my Goddess,” Willow muttered. “This was the last thing I expected when I woke up this morning.”
The group collectively chuckled.
“I helped pick that out,” Xander proudly announced.
“Did-Did you guys know about this?” Willow asked the group.
Robin, Andrew, Tracey and Faith all shook their heads, while Xander and Buffy nodded.
“I didn’t know about all this,” Buffy said, waving her hands around the airport, “but I knew Ro and Xander had gone jewelry shopping.”
“Well, I did know about ‘all this’,” Xander said, mimicking Buffy’s gesture. “Ro called me this morning and told me to make sure we didn’t take off before I saw Daniel here, which is why I was getting nervous.” He lightly punched Daniel in the arm. “What took you so long?” he asked.
“All the rumors you heard are true: L.A. traffic’s a bitch,” he said with a shrug.
“You were giving me a heart attack,” Xander replied.
“Don’t even talk about heart attacks, okay?” Rowena countered, and the group chuckled. “I stood in the back office for God knows how long before Daniel came to tell me he was here and everyone was waiting.” Rowena then turned to Willow. “I guess I succeeded in surprising you, then?”
Willow pulled her into a hug and kissed her neck, making Rowena moan ever so slightly. “This is the most romantic a-and elaborate thing anyone’s ever done for me,” Willow confessed. “I’m blown away, totally blown away.”
“Well, it’s not over yet,” Rowena told her.
“Yep,” Rowena nodded. “I’ve got us booked at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel, in the Panorama Suite.”
“Sounds fancy,” Willow replied.
“Floor-to-ceiling windows with a view of the brand spanking new Hollywood sign, which I paid for, by the way, and a baby grand piano so you can play a few tunes for me tonight.”
“Will you roll around on the top of it and sing?” Willow asked seductively.
“You said yes. I’ll roll around on anything you want, Will.”
Willow growled and pulled Rowena into another kiss.
“Man, girls, get a room. Or actually, just get to the room you’ve got,” Faith teased.
Everybody chuckled, and Rowena pulled back and held a finger up to Willow, then walked over to Xander. She pulled him into a tight embrace.
“Thank you,” she told him sincerely.
He pulled back but held onto her arms. “This is where I give the speech about treating her right but…in this case I don’t think it’s needed. I’ll just say ‘go enjoy yourselves’ instead.”
Rowena reached up and stroked Xander’s face before walking back to Willow.
“We’ll see you guys later this week,” Rowena told the group. Willow just gave an enthusiastic wave goodbye as the two women walked away, their hands slipped into each other’s back pockets.
“I’m depressed,” Robin muttered.
“Why?” Buffy asked.
“Yeah, why?” Faith said, equally surprised. “It was a little corny for my taste, but still, Blondie went to a bunch of work to pull that off, and Red obviously loved it.”
“Exactly,” Robin replied. “She set the bar pretty damn high for the rest of us.” He slapped Xander in the arm. “Am I right?”
“You’re right. I didn’t really think of it that way,” Xander said, a slight whine in his voice. “How are we gonna ever top that?”
Buffy and Faith both looked at each other with a small grin, then simultaneously sighed and rolled their eyes.
“Men,” the two women grumbled in frustration.
Special Guest Starring:
Samuel L. Jackson, Katie Holmes, Sara Rue, Jason Biggs and Orlando Bloom
End of Based on a True Story
Next on Watchers…
Rowena’s continued experiments on Skye have unexpected consequences that lead both the vampire and Dawn down the rabbit hole.