Niven’s Apartment – Afternoon
Darkness. Then the refrigerator door opened, and light flooded over the remnants within: mainly leftovers, pizza and Chinese takeout, as well as a few things not readily recognizable. Also, there was beer.
Niven found what he was looking for and straightened up with a bottle of Rolling Rock in his hand. He walked out of the kitchen area and over to an old, beaten-up chair in the center of the main room. He plopped himself down, picked up a remote control, and turned on his TV while he popped open the cap of his beer.
“– show an increase in demon violence across the city,” a female newscaster began. “Police Chief Lee O’Malley told FOX 8 that –”
Niven flicked through the channels, soon settling on a rerun of a hockey game from the night before. He took a long swig of his beer and stared at the screen through tired, empty eyes.
Watchers Council – Hallway Outside Computer Lab – Afternoon
Hope looked both up and down the hallway, seeing no one. She put a hand on the knob of a door marked “Computer Lab,” pausing once again to try and make sure nobody was watching her. Still nothing. With an intake of breath, she turned the knob and entered the room.
Watchers Council – Computer Lab – Moments Later
She was halfway to the nearest computer before she heard her name.
“Hope?” It was Willow, glancing up from typing something on one of the computers. “It is Hope, isn’t it? Faith’s little sister?”
Hope froze in her tracks. She turned very slowly toward Willow and tried to force a laugh. It didn’t quite work.
“Yeah, that’s me! Working on the weekend, huh?”
Willow nodded. “It’s not like the bad guys take Saturdays off.”
“Right, that makes sense.” Hope looked back at the door for a moment, as if she were considering turning tail and leaving the room. Then she looked back at Willow and gave a small wave. Willow waved back.
“You here for something?” Willow asked.
“Um…no, not really. I mean, I’m just checking my email.”
“Okay,” Willow said, turning back to her work. “Well, if you need anything, just let me know.”
Hope let out a breath she had been holding in and slunk over to a computer in the far corner of the room. She sat down and entered her username and password. A small, cartoon Willow appeared on the screen.
“Hello, and welcome to W.I.L.L.O.W.,” the cartoon said. Hope looked from the computer Willow to the real Willow, and a small smirk appeared on her face. “Enter your search.”
“Okay then,” Hope breathed, and then she slowly typed “Council Archives Index” into the prompt.
“Searching,” W.I.L.L.O.W. hummed, and then a small icon marked “index” appeared on the screen. “Is this what you were looking for?” the cartoon chirped.
Willow looked up from her work for a moment and smiled at Hope. Hope noticed and attempted to smile back. She waited until Willow looked away and then reached inside her jacket, pulling out a slim, black flash drive. She slipped the drive into one of the computer’s ports and typed in a command.
“Copying…copying…” Hope bit her lip impatiently as W.I.L.L.O.W. completed the procedure. “…copying…download complete.” Hope let out an almost inaudible sigh of relief, pulled the FLASH drive out of the computer and logged out.
Hope hadn’t finished standing up to leave when she once again heard Willow’s voice, this time the real version.
Hope nearly jumped out of her skin when she realized Willow was standing right next to her. “Oh…hey. Look, this isn’t –”
“I just want to ask you something…about Faith,” Willow said.
Hope relaxed slightly. “What is it?”
“None of us really know what’s going on inside her head these days,” Willow admitted. “I thought maybe…do you think she’s okay?”
“You’ve spent more time with her lately than I have,” Hope said. “I mean, you went to Spain with her, right?”
“Yeah, but…it wasn’t really a talking trip.”
“Well, we don’t really talk much,” Hope told her while still trying to edge toward the door.
Willow nodded. “Is it ’cause of that one time that…” She trailed off.
Hope had gotten close to the doorway, but turned around. “What one time?”
Willow shifted uncomfortably. “Y’know, that one time that…you were sort of in a plot to kill her.” She said the last part very fast in a small voice.
Hope looked like she was thinking about it. “No,” she said finally. “It was like this before that.”
Then she walked out of the room, the flash drive securely in her pocket.
Niven’s Apartment – Late Afternoon
At the sound of a knock on the door, Niven opened his eyes to the deep pink rays of a sunset peeking through his window. With a groan, he got to his feet, accidentally knocking a half-finished beer over onto the floor. There was more knocking, more forceful this time.
“I’m coming!” he shouted, flustered. Leaving the beer on the floor, he made his way over to the door and opened it. There stood Volek’s hulking red and yellow assistant, along with an equally large blue counterpart, with goat horns poking upwards from the top of its skull. Niven just looked at the two of them for a moment, especially the large, toothy grin the blue one was giving him.
“Sorry, guys, Niven’s not home right now. Try back later –” The red and yellow demon grabbed the door with his hand, preventing Niven from closing it in his face. He pushed it open, sending Niven stumbling backwards, and the two large demons entered the apartment.
“Very funny,” the red and yellow demon said. “I heard you were a funny guy, Mr. Niven. Ain’t he a funny guy, Rick?”
Rick just grunted. While this was going on, both of the demons were slowly walking forward, while Niven had retreated far enough that his back was now to his refrigerator.
“I think maybe you know why we’re here, Mr. Niven,” the red and yellow demon continued. “It seems you are overdue with some kittens that you owe to our employer.”
“I don’t have the kittens,” Niven said. He had reached an arm over to the kitchen drawer nearest to the refrigerator and was fumbling with the handle. “I just need some more time.”
Niven managed to get the drawer open and work his hand inside before Rick reached over and slammed the door closed on Niven’s hand with a metallic tinkle of silverware. Rick chuckled while Niven howled in pain.
“That’s too bad, Mr. Niven,” said the red and yellow demon.
Niven pulled his hand out of the drawer, cradling it close to his chest for a split second before Rick grabbed him by the back of his hair and pushed his face down onto the counter. Niven groaned at the impact.
“Boss needs some kind of payment, Mr. Niven,” the red and yellow demon explained. “What say we start with those ears?” Niven’s eyes widened as Rick’s chuckle turned into a high pitched, barking laugh.
“Hey!” A loud female voice cut through the entire scene and brought everyone to a halt. Niven tried to look up from his position squashed against the counter, but couldn’t see who it was. “Get away from him!”
The red and yellow demon turned around to see Denise holding up her Council badge like a shield. “In the name of the Watchers Council, I order you to get away from him.” An air of authority hung on her like a poncho…it didn’t quite fit right, but it was at least partially effective.
The red and yellow demon took a menacing step forward. “Helping demons now, are they?”
Denise held her ground, but the badge was shaking a little in her hand.
“I don’t think so,” the demon continued. “I think you’re here on your own. Maybe for a little late afternoon roll in the sack?”
Denise shook her head, lowering the badge to her side. “No, I –”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Did I embarrass your pretty little self?” the red and yellow demon said. “You want Rick here to get away from him, you’re going to have to do it yourself. Because let me tell you something, sweetheart: I’m much more afraid of my boss than I am of you.” He leaned forward, his face less than a foot from Denise’s wide eyes.
Rick held the struggling Niven against the counter with one big hand and watched the proceedings with interest. “Denise…” Niven groaned.
“You’re…not afraid of me?” she asked. The demon slowly shook his head. There was a long, silent moment in Niven’s kitchen.
Then the corners of Denise’s lips quirked upward. “Then you’re dumber than I thought.” Then she rammed the empty beer bottle she had been holding upwards into the red and yellow demon’s face. The bottle shattered, leaving Denise with only the broken-off neck left in her hand. The demon screamed, reaching for his eyes. While he was defenseless, Denise kicked him hard in the knee, sending him howling to the floor.
Rick took his hand off Niven’s face and made a growling leap in Denise’s direction. She ducked and grabbed the demon by the leg, sending him flying into a pair of closet doors that broke under the impact. Niven rose to his feet, shaking his head to clear the cobwebs. He watched with a mixture of surprise and awe as Denise took two quick steps and launched herself with an incoherent yell. Her small body rammed into Rick as he tried to extricate himself from a combination of broken wood and clothes, sending them both to the ground.
Denise managed to land on top and slammed her fist into Rick’s face. He just growled in response, seemingly unphased. So she hit him again. And again.
Meanwhile, the red and yellow demon was trying to get to his feet, though he stumbled when he tried to put weight on his knee. Niven tried to hold him back, but with a twist of his torso, the red and yellow demon sent Niven backwards against his refrigerator. Niven watched as the other demon limped toward Denise. She didn’t notice, since she was still busy punching Rick in the face.
“Denise,” Niven yelled, “behind you!” He reached into the silverware drawer he had gotten his hand caught in earlier and pulled out a steak knife. “Catch!”
Denise caught the knife out of the air and plunged it deep into the red and yellow demon’s chest with both hands.
The demon looked down at the knife. “Oh…ow.” Then he collapsed to the floor and didn’t move again.
Moments later, Niven helped Denise to her feet. “Is he…?” He gestured toward Rick.
“He won’t be bothering you again, either,” Denise said.
Niven cocked his head as he examined Rick’s body. “Was that his face?”
Denise’s cheeks flushed crimson. “I saw him hurting you and…I might have gotten a little carried away.”
“Well, thank you,” Niven told her sincerely. “You saved my life. Or at least saved me from dismemberment. Anyway, life would have sucked after that, so…” He trailed off, looking more closely at the nice dress Denise was wearing. “What are you doing here again? And why are you dressed so nice?”
Denise nervously brushed her hair behind her ear with a blood-covered hand. “Actually, um…the thing is, there’s this party tonight at Jackson’s.”
“Yeah, I heard about it,” Niven nodded.
“Right, well, um, I was hoping maybe we could go,” Denise looked up at Niven hopefully. “Y’know, like, together.”
Niven blinked a few times. “You just saved my life, and now you want to go on a date?”
“Uh-huh,” Denise nodded. “There’ll be lots of slayers there. Volek won’t try anything.”
Niven just looked at her for a few seconds and then said, “Right, just let me get my coat.”
Watchers Council – Jackson’s Apartment – Evening
Hip-hop beats throbbed through Jackson’s packed apartment, the bass turned up so high that many of those in attendance might have felt their kidneys vibrating. Teenage slayers gyrated to the beat, putting on their best sexy dances. Each girl held a red plastic cup in her hand. Meanwhile, a couple of young watchers were filling up their own red plastic cups from the big metal keg.
Jackson himself looked slightly rumpled, but in a happy way. He walked over to two slayers who were dancing particularly close to one another. “Hey, you girls having a good time?”
They managed to turn and look at him without stopping their bump-n-grind. “Mmm-hmm,” one of them purred. She gave him a small, dollsome smile.
“That’s…that’s good.” Jackson couldn’t stop watching as one of the girls cupped the other girl’s rear end.
“You like what you see?” the cuppee asked.
Jackson just nodded. The girl leaned forward, reaching out with a single slender finger and resting it lightly on the end of Jackson’s nose. “Then why don’t you…go get me another beer?” Jackson set his jaw as both girls giggled at him.
“Sure,” he sighed. He grabbed the girl’s red plastic cup and moved away through the throng.
Nearby, Jocelyn O’Hara was talking to a watcher in his twenties with strawberry blonde hair. She handed him a couple of green bills, and he handed her a small plastic bag.
“That’s good stuff now, so don’t go using it all at once,” he told her. Jocelyn nodded and skipped off to join a group of girls sitting in the corner of the room.
The blonde watcher felt a firm hand on his shoulder and turned around to see Marie looking down disapprovingly at him. “Can you please not do that?” He looked surprised. Marie sighed. “Look, wait until after they promote me and then maybe I can help you out. You know, if you help me out.”
Jackson was trying to balance three beer cups despite Markham’s arm around his shoulder. “Mark my words, good man,” Markham proclaimed. “Tonight, I am going to hook up with a slayer!”
“What?!” Jackson yelled, unable to hear over Jay-Z.
Markham didn’t notice, instead pointing his red plastic cup in Marie’s general direction. “Hey! LeBouchard! Would you do me the honor of a dance?”
Marie didn’t look up from putting a small plastic bag into her purse. “No.” She walked off into another room.
“That’s cool, maybe next time,” Markham called after her. Then to himself: “Bitch!”
“Dude, don’t talk that way,” Jackson admonished, while trying to subtly shake off the other man’s arm. “She will kick your ass. Seriously.”
“Maybe you’re right,” Markham agreed. “It’s the booze talking.” He held up his official red plastic cup and looked around. “Man, this is an awesome party!”
Watchers Council – Jeff’s Apartment – Same Time
Hope was in Jeff’s bathroom, wearing a nice blouse and trying to put on a small earring, when the sound of Jeff calling her name made her jump. She cringed in pain as she poked herself with the earring.
“Hope?” Jeff called again. “Are you still in there?”
“I’m coming!”she called back. She finally snapped her earring into place and took a long look at herself in the mirror. “Okay,” she whispered under her breath. “Okay, okay, okay.”
Jeff stood very close to the other side of the door, waiting impatiently. “We’re gonna be late.”
Hope opened the door with a flourish, a smile pasted on her face. “Fashionably late,” she corrected, as Jeff helpfully held out her purse. “I take it, you’re ready to go?”
“Just one more thing,” he said, and then he leaned in to give Hope a quick peck on the lips. “Okay, now I’m good,” he grinned. Then he noticed that Hope’s own smile had faded. “Everything okay?”
“Huh?” she asked, as if she hadn’t quite been paying attention. “Oh, yeah, I’m great. Let’s get this party started.”
“You know it hasn’t been cool to say that for at least two years, right?” Jeff chided as the pair headed for the door.
“You’re going to tell me about what’s cool now?” Hope rejoined.
“I resent that.” The two voices faded as they closed the apartment door behind them and walked off down the hall.
Watchers Council – Jackson’s Apartment – Same Time
“BODY SHOTS! WOOOOOO!”
Frannie stood on top of Jackson’s kitchen table. Her slinky halter-top was threatening to shrug off her shoulders and her red plastic cup was held up high.
Chamique looked up at the girl on the table, one eyebrow raised. “I don’t think that means what you think it means.”
“What?” Frannie asked, in the way people say that word when they’re trying to hear over the music, with several As.
“Body shots,” Chamique explained, raising her voice a little over Gorillaz.
“My body is totally hot, and I am totally drinking shots!” Frannie proclaimed, more to the room at large than to Chamique in particular. She took a long swig from her cup.
“Technically, shots aren’t usually beer,” Chamique noted. “Also, it usually takes more than what you have there to drink a slayer under the table. Or onto the table.”
“Go to hell!” Frannie yelled, a little more venomously than the situation called for.
“Fine…valley girl,” Chamique shot back.
Frannie scoffed and put a hand on her chest. “I am so not a valley girl! I’m, like, from Oregon.”
Chamique shook her head and walked into the other room, where Jackson was standing in the middle of a group of slayers.
“Okay!” he said, his voice stern. “Who knocked out Kat?”
The small, blonde, Australian slayer lay still on the floor in the center of the group, a large red welt forming over one eye.
“She fell,” said one of the girls, stone-faced.
“She was drunk,” said another.
“Drunk?” Jackson sounded incredulous. “She’s getting a black eye! I am a trained watcher, you can’t…” His attention was distracted by the sight of Niven and Denise arriving at the party. Jackson sighed. “Just take care of her.” A couple of the girls nodded.
Denise waved as Jackson walked over towards her and her date, picking up a couple of red plastic cups on the way. “Hey!”
“Glad you guys could make it,” Jackson said. “Um, keg’s over there, there’s soda in the kitchen, um…chips and stuff too. There was pizza but…y’know, then slayers were here.”
Niven looked distracted. “There’s a girl on the table.”
“Niven and I are here on a date,” Denise blurted out of nowhere. Niven looked down at her in surprise, while she grabbed his arm with both hands and grinned back up at him.
“That’s…good,” Jackson eventually replied. “Isn’t she a little young for you, Niven?”
“Denise is…very mature,” Niven replied.
Jackson shrugged and proffered his plastic cups. “You guys want a drink?”
“Sure, thanks,” Denise said, reaching out and taking one of the cups. “Ah yes, red plastic cups. The universal symbol for a wild drunken party.”
“Aren’t you a little young?” Niven echoed.
“What the heck, y’know?” Nothing was able to dampen Denise’s ebullient tone. Finally, after a moment, her smile began to spread to Niven’s face.
“That’s it!” Jackson yelled suddenly. He raised his hand, holding a small, furry, beaked animal by its beaver-like tail. “What’s with the platypus?”
Jocelyn raised her hand tentatively from somewhere deep within a giant nearby beanbag chair. “Oh…my bad.” She followed that with a high-pitched giggle.
“Oh man, is she high?” Niven asked. “Maybe we need to get her out of here, somebody might get hurt.”
Denise shrugged. “I just hope the platypus isn’t someone I know.” She raised her cup to take a sip, but stopped short with it just under her nose. She scrunched up her cheeks.
“What is it?” Niven asked.
Denise hesitated. “Does the beer…smell funny to you?”
Niven lifted his cup and took a long sniff. A confused look appeared on his face. “Yeah…yeah, it does.”
Behind them, Hope and Jeff walked through the door. “Jackson’s parties are awesome,” Jeff said, his voice raised over the music. “Well, except for last time.”
Hope gave only a perfunctory nod as she glanced around at the craziness.
“You sure you’re okay?” Jeff asked. “You look…nervous.”
“I just…don’t know these people,” Hope said.
“Sure you do,” Jeff reassured her, tenderly brushing a strand of hair out of Hope’s face. “Look, there’s Denise and Niven right over there. You guys are friends, right?”
Hope nodded. “Yeah, I guess…is Kat unconscious?”
The wheels were still turning in Denise’s head. “I can’t figure out where I remember that smell from. Uhh! It’s so frustrating.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Niven told her, and he was about to finally drink from his beer when…
“You!” Marie came striding angrily across the room, pointing a finger straight at Niven. “I know you.”
Niven played it cool. “Yeah, I know me too. We have many things in common.”
“You’re the demon who’s trying to sabotage my chances of being the new Number Three,” Marie accused, loud enough to grab the attention of many of the surrounding partygoers.
“Marie!” Denise exclaimed.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Niven maintained. “I’m just on the cleanup crew.”
“I’ve worked for this for years,” Marie continued, poking a long finger at Niven’s chest. “This is my life. I’m not going to let you screw it up.”
“I’m not trying to –”
Niven was cut off when Marie hit him with a hard right-handed uppercut, sending him flying into the wall. The wall cracked under the blow as Niven fell to the floor, dazed.
“Marie!” Denise shouted again, grabbing the angry girl in an attempt to hold her back.
“Get off me!” Marie shoved the younger girl hard, and Denise stumbled backwards. “I’m not gonna let you screw it up!”
Denise lost her hold on her beer and dropped her cup on the carpet. Nobody else noticed.
Casey appeared out of the crowd. “No, you’re doing a perfectly good job of that yourself, aren’t cha, LeBouchard?”
“I thought I was screwing it up,” Niven groaned from the floor.
Marie turned towards Casey. “Listen, bitch. You’re not gonna be in charge. You know why? Because I can’t let that happen.”
Denise was still looking at her beer on the floor. She looked from her red plastic cup to the red plastic cups in the hands of Marie and Casey.
Casey took a step forward. “You don’t get to call me bitch, you bloody slut. I helped build that branch in London. What’ve you done?”
“You know who else showed up here from London?” Marie yelled.
Denise’s eyes suddenly widened. “Oh God! Everybody, don’t drink the beer!”
No one paid her any attention. Most of the room was holding its breath to see if Marie would finish her sentence. “Heli.”
Casey slammed her fist into Marie’s jaw. Marie’s head snapped back and then jerked forward again. She wiggled her jaw, as if trying to fit it back into place. There was an audible pop. Then Casey punched Marie in the face, someone else kneed Marie in the side, Chamique took a swing at them to defend Marie, and things began to spiral rather impressively out of control.
Denise knelt down next to Niven. “Are you okay?” He nodded groggily. A small vase shattered against the wall inches from Denise’s head. “We need to find cover.”
Niven looked confused. “What? Denise! What the hell is happening?”
“I think maybe I know,” Denise yelled over the sound of fighting. “C’mon!” She pulled Niven to his feet and held him close to her body. Very quickly, the two made their way through the increasing violence.
Jocelyn was hiding under the table Frannie had been dancing on, her eyes wide. “I think I’m freaking out.” She jumped and almost hit her head on the underside of the table when Markham hit the floor in front of her.
“I am not interested!” a girl yelled.
Denise ducked behind Jackson’s drab gray couch, pulling Niven down with her into the cramped space between the couch and the wall. They found Hope and Jackson already there.
“Hey guys,” Jackson said unhappily. For a moment, the four of them hunched pathetically next to the wall, listening to the sound of violence all around them.
“Where’s Jeff?” Denise asked Hope.
Hope looked genuinely scared. “I think he’s trying to break it up. Niven, what’s happening?”
Niven moved his hand from cradling the bump on his jaw just long enough to point at Denise. “Ask her. She seems to know something.”
Everyone looked expectantly at Denise. She shrank a little under the attention. “I think maybe they’ve been…I don’t know, drugged or something? I thought the beer smelled funny, and then I realized where I’d smelled that before: it was this little bottle I found in Jaye’s dresser earlier today. I was looking to see if I could find anything that might tell me what made her…y’know, snap.”
“You think she was on some…new drug?” Hope asked. Denise nodded.
“And you’re saying someone spiked the beer with the same drug?” Niven asked. Denise nodded again.
Jackson snapped his fingers. “Jaye was the one who sent me to the place where I got the keg.”
“Where was that?” Denise asked.
“It was this abandoned school on the East side,” Jackson told her.
“Abandoned school?” Niven exclaimed. “That’s one of Volek’s places.”
“Volek?” Hope asked.
Niven tried to think through the throbbing in his head. “Volek’s been distributing this drug. He’s the one that’s been making the demons attack the slayers and get themselves killed.”
“And now he’s making his move on the Council,” Denise said grimly. “Everybody who drank beer tonight is on the same drug that made Jaye try to kill me.”
Everyone looked very small for a moment. “Oh…hell,” Niven said quietly.
“We have to go back out there,” Denise said. “Try and calm everyone down.”
Jackson gave her an incredulous look. “Are you nuts? There’re several dozen extremely pissed-off girls out there who just happen to have super-strength, and unless you have some sort of antidote, I don’t see how –”
“That’s it!” Hope suddenly had a huge smile on her face. Everyone looked at her. “Sunny D,” she told them as if that explained everything.
“The artificial orange juice?” Niven asked, confused. “What about it?”
“It’s the antidote,” Hope told him.
Denise was unconvinced. “What? How do you know?”
Hope’s grin faded. “I, um, I’ve had a lot of time to study.”
Watchers Council – Jackson’s Apartment – Moments Later
When the lights in Jackson’s apartment were turned on and the music suddenly was turned off, everyone stopped fighting long enough to register what had happened. In that moment, Jackson stuck two fingers in the corners of his mouth and produced an incredible shrill blast of noise. The entire room turned to see him standing by the stereo. Marie had her hand around Casey’s throat and was holding the girl a couple of inches off the ground. Both girls’ faces were covered with bruises.
“I need everybody to just listen to me,” Jackson said. “I need everyone to stop trying to kill each other for two seconds and listen. Why are we fighting? Everyone here works at the Watchers Council. We are slayers, we are watchers, we are witches, and we are…other things.”
A ghost of a smile crossed Niven’s face on the far side of the room. Hope just looked down at the floor.
“The bad guys are afraid of us,” Jackson continued. “You think they’re only scared because of Faith and Willow? They’re afraid of everyone in this room. But they won’t be if we destroy ourselves.”
Marie looked like she was trying desperately to control her breathing. Ever so slowly, she lowered Casey to the ground.
“Now, we think there was something in the beer, something that’s making you…really angry,” Jackson announced. “We think we can counteract it. So what I need everyone to do is to try and chill for just a moment until we’re able to get the antidote to everybody, okay?”
Marie turned to see Denise gingerly holding out a cup. She snatched it from the younger girl’s hand and began to gulp it down. After a second, she stopped, pulling the cup away from her mouth and looking at it quizzically.
“Is this Sunny D?”
Watchers Council – Jackson’s Apartment – Night
A while later, Casey and Marie sat on Jackson’s couch, not quite able to meet each other’s eyes.
“I’m sorry I compared you to Heli,” Marie said.
Casey sheepishly looked down at the floor. “That’s okay. I’m sorry I tried to gouge your eyes out with my thumbs.”
Jeff walked up to them, donning his winter coat as he did so. “I don’t know what you guys were fighting about, anyway. Neither one of you’s gonna be Number Three.”
Casey looked up. “Wait, what?”
Jeff shrugged. “I’m sorry, but they’re gonna announce it tomorrow, or whenever Kennedy gets back from Heli-hunting. They’re giving the job to Mia.”
Marie’s jaw dropped, and it took her a couple of tries to speak. “A Black Ops girl?”
“She’s not even…she’s like a failed Black Ops girl,” Casey protested. “What’d she do, sleep with the bloody boss…again?”
“A Black Ops girl?” Marie repeated.
“Sorry,” Jeff said again, and he walked away to join his girlfriend.
“A Black Ops girl?” Marie called after him.
By the door, Niven was helping Denise into her coat. “Some party, huh?”
“Yeah,” she agreed, turning around to face him. “We make quite a team.”
“And now that we have proof Volek’s screwed with the Council directly, you can sic the slayers on him, right?” Niven asked hopefully.
“Definitely,” Denise agreed. “I’m sure they’ll send the teams out first thing in the morning. You should stay with me tonight.” Niven gave her a look. “For safety,” she explained.
Niven scratched the back of his neck. “I dunno, I mean…It’s not that I don’t like you, Denise, but it’s just that…you’re not 18 yet and I…”
Denise joshed him playfully in the stomach, and Niven looked like he’d had the wind knocked out of him. “No, silly, I didn’t mean like that. You can have Jaye’s bed.”
Niven nodded and smiled.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Day
Hope and Jeff walked side-by-side down a dormitory hallway. “I just don’t see how something like that could happen,” Hope was saying.
“It was the drugs,” Jeff told her. “That demon guy laced the keg with –”
“I get that.” Hope shook her head. “I think it’s more than that, though. What I saw…Everybody here is so focused on the little things, their own little personal lives, personal stuff. Cliques, promotions, prejudices, fears…” She turned to look Jeff in the eye. “What if the Council just can’t get the job done anymore?”
Jeff smiled wanly. “Well, we better figure out a way. Who else is there?”
Hope stopped, looked down at the floor. She let out a long, slow breath. When she looked up, she shrugged and gave Jeff a quick peck on the cheek. She pulled back and looked directly into his eyes, her pupils moving like she was searching for something.
“I love you,” she said softly.
“I love you too,” Jeff replied, not having to think about it.
She nodded in the direction of a nearby door. “I’ll see you later, ‘kay?”
Jeff nodded. Hope left him and walked through the door to find Denise, Niven, and Jackson all already sitting around a square table. Niven was shuffling a deck of cards in his nimble hands. Hope closed the door behind her, walked over to the empty seat at the table, and sat down.
“Nice of you to join us,” Jackson said, but he didn’t sound angry.
Hope smirked and turned to Denise and Niven. “So I hear you guys are, what, dating now?” Denise gave her a coy smile. “Can I just ask, how does that work? I mean, you guys aren’t the same species, are you?”
Niven smiled, but didn’t answer. Instead, he began to deal the cards and said, “The game’s seven card stud. Nothing wild, and the sky’s the limit.”
Fade to Black
Special Guest Starring:
Mia Maestro as Isabel Ortiz
End of From the Bottom Up
Next on Watchers…
The, let’s say, non-traditional relationships and friendships between Dawn, Skye and Shannon bring tensions between the three women and the Council at large to a boiling point.