act 3

Fade In:
Florist Shop – Evening

“Will that be all, sir?” the young salesgirl asked. Slowly, Ethan turned around to face her.

“Yes, but please include some of those lovely ferns you have over there…not those bloody awful ones you’ve been giving out.”

The flower shop manager, tending another customer, inclined his head slightly toward the well-dressed customer at the front of the shop.

The salesgirl frowned at the customer. “I’m sorry, sir, but those ferns come with that arrangement. I can’t substitute those. But I can offer you some –”

“Blast!” her customer said hotly. “I’ll buy the other bloody arrangement. Here!” he handed her a one hundred dollar bill. “Now, please take this rose, and those ferns from that arrangement and put a half dozen of those white miniatures in and make them all look…nice…will you?”

The girl quickly gave him his change and did as she was told, her face bright red the entire time. She did not look up at him. Ethan began to pace the store.

“Too bad you’re not here to see this, Ripper…me acting like a bloody schoolboy,” he sighed quietly to himself.

Within a few minutes, the girl had wrapped the special order lavender rose, taking extra care in arranging the ferns and miniature white roses around it.

The manager had finished with his customer and walked quietly up to the register as the salesgirl began to wrap the lavender rose with the fancy ferns and white miniatures in cellophane.

Ethan looked sternly at her and said, “A box, if you please.”

The girl complied, tying the pretty package with a beautiful lavender ribbon as he wrote a Valentine’s Day gift card, saying simply, “You had all my love at first sight. And ever more.” Then he signed it. He took the package from the girl and turned with a curt “thank you,” and began to walk away.

“Sir…sir…the-the other flowers…” the young girl stammered out, indicating the arrangement he had purchased for the ferns.

Ethan turned around slowly and smiled thinly. “Oh, you may keep them for yourself, my dear,” he said in a syrupy voice. “A small thank you for your…excellent service.” His smile quirked up a notch, then he turned again and left the florist shop.

“Jerk!” the salesgirl sneered.

“Let it go,” her manager shrugged. He handed her the purged arrangement. “And enjoy the flowers…” He smiled sincerely at her and turned to help another customer. The salesgirl smirked, plucked a vivid orchid from the arrangement and stuck it in her hair just behind her ear.

“Will that be all sir?” she asked the next customer.

Fade In:
Bureau Nine – Mr. Felix’s Office – Evening

Lori sat on the corner of the large desk, while Mr. Felix sat behind it. He leaned back in his chair and drummed the fingers of one hand on the dark green blotter. The video screen opposite the desk was showing CNN’s footage of O.P.R.A.’s press conference.

Lori shook her head in amazement as the anchor moved on to the next story. She turned to Felix and said, “This is crazy! I always suspected Rosenberg’s mother was nuttier than a squirrel’s winter stash, but this just proves it.”

Felix sighed. “Insane, yes. But also probably inevitable.”

“You think?” Lori asked. “I mean, crazy or not, this woman can do a lot of damage. What happens if someone gets hurt because they were trying to be politically correct?”

“That will almost certainly happen,” Felix agreed. “People make mistakes all the time, and often with terrible consequences. On the other hand, mistakes can also prove blessings in disguise.” He raised an eyebrow at the TV screen. “This disguise is as good as they come, I grant you that.”

Lori turned thoughtfully back to the screen and absently watched in silence for a few moments. Then she commented, “I wonder how Rosenberg is taking all this?”

Cut To:
Watchers Council – Hallway – Later
that Evening

Willow was nearly literally bouncing off the walls as she and Rowena walked down the hall toward Buffy’s apartment.

“Maybe she’s not my mother!” Willow exclaimed. “Yeah, that’s it. Maybe I was adopted. Oh, I know…maybe Jenny Calendar had two daughters, and I’m part Romany? That would explain the magic ability and the…”

“But not your coloring, dear. Face it, you’re Sheila Rosenberg’s daughter,” Rowena said. “Besides, if you were Jenny’s kid, that would make Kennedy your sister…and ewww!”

Willow groaned as they turned the corner.

Cut To:
Watchers Council –
Buffy’s Apartment – Same Time

Buffy was curled up on the couch with a laptop resting next to her. She scrolled through pages of text and shook her head. Faith sat across from her with a bottle of beer in her hand, occasionally sipping from it.

“I can’t believe this!” Buffy said, looking up at the other slayer. “Do people out there think we really do this stuff?”

“Apparently so!” Faith replied. “Wait, you haven’t seen the threesomes yet. Personally I’m fond of the ones of us with Xander. Fanfic Xander is quite the stud.”

“Really?” Buffy asked. “You want a threesome with me and Xander?”

Faith looked at her for a moment, then said, “No, what’s wrong with you?”

Gredd and Thorm were eagerly reading the text on the laptop.

“See! I told you these two were going at it!” Thorm snickered.

“Well, Anya always said he was a Viking in the sack,” Buffy mused with a faraway look. “Was he?”

Faith thought for a moment while she sipped at her beer. “Yeah…for a virgin, the boy wasn’t half bad…once I taught him a few things.” Faith suddenly gave Buffy a sharp look. “Why…ya thinkin’ of finally giving ole Xan a try?”

“No!” Buffy said with a blush. Quickly, she changed the subject. “And why do so many of these stories have us paired up? What’s up with that?”

Faith shrugged. “I guess the thought of two hot chicks with superpowers gettin’ it on really gets the Fuffy fans going.”

“Fuffy? Fuffy?” Buffy blinked. “Is that some kind of sick joke?”

“Not in the world of fanfic, B.”

“That’s it! I’m canceling the next edition of Watchers Monthly. This is getting out of hand.”

“So does that mean I don’t have to go on tour?” Faith said with a grin.

“No, it doesn’t,” Buffy answered firmly, making Faith grumble.

The doorbell rang, and before Buffy could move, the door swung wide open and Willow and Rowena walked in.

“She’s doing it again!” Willow yelled, waving her arms in the air. Rowena had to duck to keep from being hit. Gredd and Thorm looked up in interest.

“Who’s doing what?” Buffy asked wearily.

“Wait, lemme guess,” Faith put in. “Lorinda’s using the neighborhood cats as crossbow targets again?”

“No…What?” Rowena did a double take. She blinked. “Is she really killing cats?”

“No, just teasing,” Faith answered. “Although I wouldn’t put it past her.”

“Well, that little serial killer in training better stay away from Marco and Polo! I gotta talk to Jeff…”

“Hello? My problem here?” Willow interrupted.

“Sorry,” Buffy answered for everyone. “What’s up?”

“My mother!” Willow replied. “She’s started an organization to protect the rights of demons.”

“What?” Buffy said. Faith just howled.

Gredd turned to Thorm and asked, “What are they talking about?”

Thorm shrugged. “Maybe it’s some kind of ritual prior to copulation?”

“One can hope,” Gredd answered.

“Wait, it gets better,” Rowena put in.

“Guess who her spokesdemon is?” Willow said and then didn’t wait for an answer. “None other than that vacuous vamp tramp herself –”

Harmony?” Buffy said aghast.

Harmony!” Willow agreed. She took a breath and began to explain.

“They don’t look like they’re very harmonious,” Gredd said. “I thought the redhead was with the dumpy blonde, not the skinny blonde.”

Thorm shrugged and shook his bulbous head. “I’m just wondering if they’re both natural blondes. I heard that humans here artificially change their hair coloring. They even have a saying about it.”

“Oh yeah?” Gredd asked curiously.

“Yeah, they say that if someone dyes their hair, the carpet doesn’t match the drapes,” Thorm answered.

“What’s that mean?”

“I dunno exactly, but I was waiting for the skinny one to shower to find out.”

As Willow finished telling her about O.P.R.A., Buffy’s face twitched, torn between amusement and anger. She asked, “Why is it that your mother can’t remember the name of your best friend, but she was able to remember and locate one of your most hated enemies?”

“I have no idea,” Willow said. She then turned to the still-chortling Faith. “Will you stop! You’re as bad as Skye.”

“Oh, come on Will, it’s funny,” Faith chuckled. “Ya gotta admit, just the thought of your mother trying to psychoanalyze Harmony is a hoot!”

“What are we gonna do about this?” Willow asked, ignoring Faith.

Buffy sighed and ran her hand over her face. “Let’s not deal with it tonight,” she finally said. “I’ll talk to Jim and we’ll decide tomorrow. In the meantime, I suggest you go home and get some rest.”

“Rest?” Willow said. She looked helplessly at Rowena. “How can I rest when my mother’s out organizing a love-in with evil demons?”

“Then go do some work to get your mind off of her,” Buffy suggested. “Oh I know…Jeff’s translating some ancient scroll or something. Why don’t you give him a hand? Ancient scroll…dead languages…possible apocalypticy prophecy…tell me that doesn’t tempt you?

“Well, it does sound kinda fun,” Willow conceded.

“See, what’d I tell ya?” Buffy answered. “In the meantime I’ll get back to catching up on my romantic conquests online.”

“Fanfic?” Rowena asked.

“You’ve heard of it?” Buffy asked.

“Who hasn’t?” Willow countered.

“Hey,” Rowena began, “did you get up to the one with me, Will and Al yet?”

“The one at the retreat in Devon?” Faith asked. “Called ‘The Rule of Three’?” Faith asked.

“Yeah! That’s the one!” Rowena replied, then promptly blushed. “It was a bit racy, I’ll admit. It came out after Al did her column in Watchers Monthly.”

“That’s it,” Buffy said. “We definitely are canceling that magazine now.”

“Again, does that mean –?” Faith began.

“No…again,” Buffy replied.

“I’m surprised you didn’t see this before, Buff,” Willow remarked.

Buffy turned to answer Willow, but then her phone began to ring. Instead of picking up the receiver, she simply hit the speakerphone button. “Hello?”

“It’s Skye.” The vampire’s voice sounded concerned. “Are you watching CNN?”

“No, but Willow told me about her mother,” Buffy said. “Are you still enjoying yourself?”

“Not so much,” Skye answered. “At least, not anymore. Turn it on, now.”

Buffy picked up the remote from the table and flipped on the large screen TV. She turned to the headline news station and once again the network was re-running O.P.R.A.’s press conference, but this time Harmony was answering questions. She was just demonstrating her vampire face for the reporters.

“I don’t believe this!” Buffy muttered.

Faith laughed.

“Ms. Kendall!” a reporter called, getting her attention. “What qualifications do you have for being O.P.R.A.’s spokesvampire?”

Harmony cooed. “I was a cheerleader in high school, and you know how important they are in building community spirit. Plus, I’ve been a vampire since graduation and I’ve had lots of vampiric experiences since then. Plus, I’ve taken the Pledge.”

“The Pledge?” Rowena asked. “What’s that?”

As if answering her question, Harmony answered. “I’ve promised to not harm humans. And as proof of my commitment, I’d like to announce that I’m in a loving relationship with a human. Would you like to meet my significant other?”

The reporters clamored their assent and, with the exception of Faith, the women watching shook their heads.

Harmony held out her hand and another ditzy blonde moved into the view, both of them preening for the camera. She wore her most business-appropriate blouse, diamond earrings and a practiced, smug grin.

“Oh…” began Rowena.

“My…” said Faith.

“Goddess…” whimpered Willow.

“Luna?” finished Rowena, blinking. “I thought she was in jail!”

“Luna?” Gredd asked Thorm. “Who’s Luna?”

Thorm shrugged. “No idea. But hey, maybe they’ll all show up and have some big lesbo-ritual orgy thing. Ya think? No?”

“I doubt it.”

“Wait a minute,” said Buffy. “Luna…I know that name…”

Cut To:
Watchers Council – Lobby – Later
that Evening

Dianna, Grace, Ro, Jim and Willow walked across the lobby to the main doors.

“So how long are you in town for?” Jim asked.

“Well, I’m supposed to fly back next Tuesday, but…” Dianna looked at her daughter and gave a small smile, “…I’ve got no rush. My cats are well looked after, TiVo’s taking care of my shows, I’ve got no one to rush back for, so I think I might stay for a while. A couple of weeks at the most.”

Jim beamed a smile. “Sounds good to me.”

“I’d really like to catch up with Grace, and if I’m not imposing, I’d love to pop in and help out. I do miss my job, and plus I would really like to go over the notes from your vampire study, Rowena, and also see where Grace’s thesis goes. Both sound fascinating.”

“Of course, we’d love to have you around,” Rowena said. Grace kicked the back of her foot. “…oww, and-and, it’ll be good to get another set of eyes to go over the notes.”

“You make me sound like a seasoned veteran,” Dianna chuckled. “Thank you.” She looked over her shoulder and saw her taxi waiting outside. “Well I’d best be off then.” She looked over at Grace. “It’s lovely to see you again.” She wrapped her free arm around her daughter, her travel box in her other hand.

Grace reluctantly reciprocated the hug. “Yeah…”

Dianna pulled away and smiled at the group. “Lovely to meet you all, and I’ll see you…tomorrow?” she said with a smirk.

“Tomorrow it is,” Jim said. He walked forward and held the door open for Dianna. As she walked past him, she tiptoed up and gave him a peck on the cheek, then turned and waved to the others before heading for the taxi.

Moments later, the taxi pulled away from the front of the building. Grace let out a sigh of relief. Rowena put her arm around her.

“See, it wasn’t that bad,” she said.

“It could be worse,” Willow offered. “You could have had my mom, who’s now destroying everything we’ve worked to build in the last, oh…four years.”

“Again,” Rowena said, this time putting her arm around Willow. “It’s not that bad.”

“Dear, no disrespect, but the only problem you’ve got with your mother is the fact she hates me for corrupting her little girl into a godless heathen.”

“At least you don’t live under a watcher’s shadow,” Grace put in.

“Or have one siding with the enemy.”

At first, Rowena said nothing but then she turned to Jim. “Wanna grab some coffee?” she asked.

“I don’t drink caffe –”

“Fine,” Rowena said, grabbing him by the arm. “A glass of milk, a bagel, anything,” she said, leading him away. “Just get me out of here,” she whispered.

“You owe me big time, Allister,” he whispered back.

Grace and Willow just watched them depart. Willow then turned to Grace. “Mother bitchfest in the Watcher Rec Room?”

“You’re on,” Grace said with a grin.

Cut To:
Bureau Nine – Ethan’s Bedroom – Evening

Ethan woke up with a start. He caught his breath a couple of times, his heart pounding and sweat streaming down his face. Trembling, he reached out to his nightstand and picked up his shot glass. Then he took the cut crystal carafe next to it and poured some of the liquid into the glass. He took a slow steady drink of the tepid water, then lowered the glass, sighing. His breathing steadied and his hands shook a little less. “Bloody withdrawal…” he muttered.

As he returned the carafe and the glass to the nightstand, his knuckles brushed against something that made a crinkling sound, like a candy wrapper. He made a puzzled face, then snatched the item without thinking.

“Ow! Damn!” he hissed as he pulled his hand away in pain. Something needle-sharp had jabbed his finger. He sucked the blood from the puncture wound, then turned on the lamp.

There in his lap lay a paper and cellophane package. Ethan began to smile as he realized what it must contain. He bunched his bed pillows up behind him and carefully undid the bow and the wrappings on the cone-shaped package to reveal a single white rose on a bed of deep green ferns. He began to reach for it to lift it up, but seeing just how thorny it was, stopped. He lowered his hand and stared at the white rose where it lay, stark and elegant and full of promise.

“Innocence…” he mused aloud over the rose’s color. “And purity…? Just what are you trying to tell me, besides…”

He noticed the small gift enclosure card, took it from its envelope, and held it up and squinted at it. The smile on Ethan’s face faded a bit as he lowered the card to his lap. He turned and looked off blankly to one side for a moment, then turned and regarded the rose again. He picked it up gingerly, almost pinching it between his fingertips to avoid the thorns. He lifted it up and inspected it carefully.

Ethan shut his eyes and brought the white velvety petals to lightly touch his lips.

Fade to Black



End of Act Three

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