Thornkirk – Hotel Room – Moments Later
Rowena emerged from the bathroom looking both flushed and pale. “Sorry about that,” she said.
“That’s all right, dear,” Sheila Rosenberg soothed. “Pre-wedding jitters. How well I remember them!”
“Yeah,” said Skye. “That’s the reason. Got it in one.” Her eyes were just a little larger than usual as she spoke. No one who didn’t know her would have even noticed, however. Rowena gave her a quick look and a tiny shake of the head.
Skye stood with Dawn and Willow, not-so-subtly forming a cordon around Sheila’s guests. Harmony and Luna had moved to the center of the room. They were holding hands.
“Well,” said Sheila, “now that we’re all here, the summit can begin, don’t you think?”
“Okay, I’ve got to ask,” said Dawn. “Whose idea was it to call this a summit?”
“Mine,” said Luna. “Jealous ’cause you didn’t think of it first?”
“Now, now,” Sheila said before anyone could reply. “Petty little high school squabbles can wait.”
“We weren’t at school together,” began Dawn.
Sheila interrupted. “The point is, we’re all here now. Celebrating a happy event. Or what we hope will be a happy event. And in the interest of tolerance, of emotional growth, of a better future for all of us…I think Harmony has something she’d like to say.” Sheila practically beamed at her. Willow stared.
Harmony stepped forward. “Yes, Mrs. Rosenberg.” Beaming, she gave a little cough. “Willow,” she began, “I wanted you to know, in the spirit of my new life, that I forgive you for all the mean things you did to me, and that I wish you well. Sooooo, I’ve brought you a wedding present.” Then, she held out a small package.
Willow kept staring. At her mother. At Harmony. At the package in Harmony’s hand extended in her direction.
“Is it,” Willow said at last, “some kind of snake?”
“Hey!” Harmony scowled.
“Gotta admit,” said Dawn, “I was wondering the same thing.”
At that, Harmony tore open the package and pulled out the contents – a fine strand of gold dotted with tiny emeralds. “See! It’s something nice! Real nice! Which I got you out of the goodness of my heart and out of a desire to forgive you.” She sounded like she was about to cry.
“Oh honey,” Luna stepped up and put her arms around Harmony.
“Forgive me?” Willow did a series of takes. “You’re going to forgive me?”
“This seems like a very magnanimous gesture on her part, Willow. The least you could do is acknowledge it.” Sheila frowned ever so slightly.
“Harmony tormented me ever since middle school! And once we got into college – well, once I got into college, ’cause she sure as heck never got accepted anywhere – she tried to kill me! Whipped out her fangs and tried to turn me into a Slurpee!”
“But that was hardly her fault, Willow.” Sheila’s face assumed an expression of infinite patience. “She simply didn’t have the same academic skills as you.”
“I’ve gotta say,” said Skye, before Willow’s sputtering turned into actual words, “I’ve walked around Willow for months and months without once trying to bite her. Kinda telling, that.”
“Well, who’d want to bite her?” snapped Luna. “Scrawny little redhead. My poor Harmony, you must have been starving!”
“Uh…Willow is not scrawny,” Rowena began. “As a matter of fact…”
“Mrs. Rosenberg,” Dawn addressed Willow’s mother.
“Yes, Donna dear?”
“That’s Dawn, actually. You need to know that Harmony’s girlfriend here, Luna, she kidnapped me and was going to kill me.”
“I only said that because I was upset!”
“You hired assassins!”
“They were only supposed to scare you!”
“Oh, is that what you call drugging and kidnapping now?”
“I was still trying to cope with Mommy’s death.”
“You said you killed her!”
“Boasting! I was just boasting! Haven’t you ever boasted about something?”
“Not about that!”
“Luna,” Skye stepped forward. “How did your mother die?”
“She…fell. Out of a window.”
“And were you there?”
For several seconds, Luna said nothing. “I don’t see what that has to do with anything.”
“Neither,” pronounced Sheila, “do I. I think you and your sister really should try to be a little more mature about the endings of your personal relationships. Yes, it is upsetting when that happens, but you need to try and move on. To grow past the pain.” She made some waving gestures to make her point.
“Wait one sec,” said Skye. “Do you still think Dawn and I are sisters?”
“Ewwwww!” said Luna. “That is so gross!”
“Luna! You know Dawn isn’t my sister!”
“Mrs. Rosenberg,” Rowena stepped into the fray. “I want to thank you for supporting Willow, for coming to be with us on our special day. It means a lot. To both of us.” Willow opened her mouth, then shut it at a sharp look from her fiancée. “And thank you so much for caring enough to try and start the process of reconciliation. That process, I think we can all agree, has begun. But it is nowhere near complete. You’ve done what you could. And that is no small thing. For all that you’ve done, I thank you.”
Silence. Then Sheila said, “You’re very welcome.” Everyone took a step back.
“One other thing,” said Luna. The room tensed again. “For the record, Skye, I am now totally over you.”
“Besides,” she said, pulling her grinning girlfriend closer, “as my Harmony can tell you, blondes really are a lot more fun.”
Skye snorted. “Are you really pretending to be a natural blonde now?”
“Oh, like she is?” Luna pointed to Rowena.
“I never claimed to be…”
“Well, I’m proud to say I am blonde!” Harmony yelled. “All the way down to my bones! And beyond!”
Dawn collapsed into giggles. Then Willow joined her. Skye chuckled, then cackled. Rowena managed not to chortle. Almost.
Luna and Harmony glared at them.
“I don’t get it,” said Sheila. “What is so very amusing?”
“Never mind,” said Rowena. “Just tell me something, please? Do you have protection? Against mystical threats, I mean? Not all vampires have taken the ‘Pledge,’ you know.”
“Oh. Well, yes my husband did insist upon my having something. The problem is, we’re not Christians, of course, and wearing a cross…”
“Let me lay your mind at rest,” said Rowena. “Christianity took the cross as a symbol because it had mystical properties, not the other way round. The early Church used a fish, or sometimes the image of a lamb. But I’m also concerned that…other elements…might threaten you. You are making yourself something of a target, after all.”
“We must do our social duty, Rowena.”
“Of course. But you can’t pursue your duty as you see it if you’re assassinated, can you? For now, this town has plenty of experienced slayers and magic users to act if anything…” She paused and gave the slightest glance at Luna. “…unfortunate happens. Later, though, you should take the time and effort to find some first-rate private security. In fact, I’d be glad to recommend some.”
Sheila smiled. “That is very thoughtful of you, dear.”
Willow, Skye and Dawn smirked as one at Luna, who scowled back.
Himalayas – Monastery – After Midnight
Big Frank approached the mountains with considerable speed, coming down to land on a flat area next to the sprawling building illuminated by the helicopter’s powerful floodlights.
As the machine’s engines whined down, a side door slid open. Lori was the first to emerge, followed by Felix and then Isabel. All three took some time to simply look at the white-washed complex surrounding them.
“Sir?” A security guard stepped from the helicopter.
“The rest of you stay here,” said Felix. “Just we three will explore.”
Felix, Lori and Isabel took out powerful flashlights as they approached the monastery.
“According to our records,” Lori said, “this place is at least a thousand years old. For all that time, it was peaceful. No reports of any violence. No crimes. Not even a pie fight.”
“That is too bad,” mused Felix. “Sometimes a pie fight can be enormous fun.”
“I never imagined you saying something like that.”
“Good to be at least a little unpredictable.”
By now the three of them had reached what was an entrance of some kind. Within the door was a carved relief of a female figure, the blue paint still visible, albeit faded. The figure had four arms, two of which carried swords. Another held a severed head. She wore a long necklace of skulls and an ornate crown upon her head. Below her was a male figure in white. She seemed to be standing upon him.
“Kali,” said Felix, his voice low. “And her spouse, Shiva.”
“Not much of a marriage,” muttered Lori. Isabel giggled.
“In this aspect, she is the symbol of the fifth chakra,” Felix said. “The point where forms cease to be an aid to understanding, but become instead a hindrance. Where the face of God is seen as a mask to be torn away.”
The three of them proceeded into the building.
Calcutta – Train Station – Same Time
“This,” Venugopal assured Kennedy and Kadin as he guided them toward the waiting train, “is only the first leg of the journey, you understand. When we reach the airport, a private plane will take us north, where a helicopter will go the rest of the way.”
“More commuting. Just what the doctor ordered,” said Kennedy.
“This is the fastest possible route,” Venugopal said.
“She’s just grumpy,” said Kadin as they stepped on board.
Calcutta – Train Compartment – Moments Later
“Bureau Nine will be there ahead of us, I’m afraid,” Venugopal continued as he guided them to a seat. He sat across from the two young women. “On the other hand, the monastery is quite large. At its height, it was home to over two thousand people. Unless they know precisely where to go, the odds are fair we will arrive before they have completed their mission. Whatever that might be.” The unasked question lingered in the air.
“You wanna tell him?” Kadin asked.
“Nah. You go ahead.”
Kadin shrugged. “Somebody stole things from Watchers HQ in Cleveland.”
“Not somebody. Bureau Nine did.”
“You said for me to go ahead. Didn’t you?”
With a sigh, Kennedy nodded. “Yeah, yeah.”
Turning back to Venugopal, Kadin continued. “The long and short of it is, Bureau Nine is up to something. Someone we know on the inside sent us information about what Felix is doing, but no explanations. So we’re here to find out.”
Venugopal considered what she’d said. “I feel secure in vouching for the Bureau Nine personnel I know. Most of them, anyway. But I’ve never even met anyone at their headquarters. So what do you think is their goal? What are they trying to do?”
“We don’t know.”
He thought some more. “They stole things? What kinds of things?”
“Some files – well, copied rather than stole, but still – and a weird relic.”
“What kind of relic?”
“This orb, what does it do?”
“Nobody knows. Or at least, no one who knows is telling.”
“Hm.” Again, Venugopal pondered. “If you’ll forgive me…” He paused. Neither young woman said anything, so he continued. “This doesn’t seem the most vital of missions. Valuable, certainly. Possibly important, very very important. But there’s precious little evidence to back up such an assertion. Yet here is one of the most senior slayers in the world, accompanied by a demon hunter of considerable experience and, if I may say, prestige. You are both doing rather basic reconnaissance. I cannot help but wonder…what other issues might be at work here?” He fell silent.
“Nothing,” said Kennedy. “We were free. And everyone in Cleveland agreed this might be more important than it seemed.”
“We might be overkill,” Kadin agreed, “but that’s the safe way to go.”
For a few moments Venugopal said nothing. Then he nodded. “I see. No hidden personal agendas then. Good. I feel much more relieved.” He took a deep breath and smiled. “So, are you sorry to be missing the wedding?”
Thornkirk – Allister Home – Early Evening
The members of the wedding party and family had gathered around the house after the rehearsal dinner. Various groups were scattered around in various areas of the Allister home.
“You did a wonderful job at the rehearsal tonight,” Rowena complimented Andrew.
“Thanks,” he said bashfully. “And I promise, no sci-fi analogies. I’ve been warned.” He gave her a warm smile.
Rowena leaned over and kissed Andrew on the cheek. “In case I don’t get the chance to say it tomorrow, thank you, Andrew. Willow and I are both honored you’ll be doing this. I’m sure you’ll do wonderful.”
“Well, I’m taking my Dramamine just in case,” he warned her. “I’ve never gotten sick on a boat before, but better safe than very, very sorry,” he added.
Rowena smiled and ran her hand down his arm. She noticed Willow over his shoulder and said, “Excuse me,” as she made her way over to her.
Mary stood next to Faith and Robin as Rowena passed behind them.
“Can I ask you both something?” Mary said tentatively.
“Certainly,” Robin replied. “But if it’s about a wedding date for us…that’s a bit in the air right now.”
“Why?” Mary asked impulsively. “I mean, you don’t have to tell me if it’s private. I-I was just curious,” she added quickly.
“No, it’s not private,” Faith replied. “I figured if Will and Ro, sorry, Blanche…if they can’t walk into the City Hall in Ohio and get a marriage license, we shouldn’t either. It’s not right. So, when the day comes that they’re allowed to get hitched there, then we will, too.”
“Is that what you were wondering?” Robin asked. “It seems to be the question we’re asked the most.” He smiled at Faith, making her grin.
“Actually, no, I was wondering if…if you face troubles for being, well you know, an interracial couple.”
“No,” Faith replied coldly. “Most people know I’m strong enough to kick their ass from one ocean to the other.”
Mary’s eyes went wide. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean any disrespect. It’s just…it’s a bit unconventional, you have to admit. And unconventional couples face problems. I mean, look at my sister. My mom’s been living in the bedroom for the past week.”
“Speak of the devil,” Robin said, nodding toward the stairs. All three of them looked over to see Betty quickly make her way into the kitchen.
“I thought your mom was cool with Willow?” Faith asked.
Althenea walked up and handed Mary a drink, which the blonde woman accepted with a shy smile. Althenea smiled in return and proceeded to answer the question.
“That was when she still had hope that Ro was going through a…phase. Getting married is much more…permanent.”
“Ahh,” Robin and Faith both replied.
In the far corner, Ira Rosenberg was talking to Jacob Allister.
“White marlin,” Ira said, before taking a drink, “Eighty-one inches.”
“That’s pretty decent size for a first catch,” Jacob complimented.
Ira chuckled. “I thought that fish was gonna kill me,” he said. Jacob chuckled too. “Of course, I’m sure it’s nothing like you go through on a regular basis. I’ve seen that show, The Deadliest Catch. I have to say, my hat goes off to you.”
“Knock on wood,” Jacob said, knocking on the door molding beside him. “We’ve never lost a man. But yeah, it can get pretty hairy out there sometimes.”
Rowena’s eyes scrunched as she watched Althenea and Mary laughing shoulder to shoulder as they continued to talk to Faith and Robin.
“Mary Grace is acting weird,” she told Willow.
Willow had a glass perched to her lips. She halted for a moment as she watched them and then took a drink.
“She looks happy,” Willow commented.
“Like I said, Mary Grace is acting weird,” Rowena answered.
Willow giggled. “Al’s been here a few days, and you know how she can bring anyone out of their shell. Maybe she uncovered the secret to Mary Grace?” she offered. Willow watched Rowena as the watcher scoped out the pair. “Are you jealous?” Willow asked.
“What? No!” Then she asked, “What do I have to be jealous about?”
“Nothing, unless you’d rather have Al waiting for you at the altar.”
“No!” Rowena exclaimed. “It’s nothing like that. I just…it’s weird to see Mary Grace actually…smiling.”
“Here.” Willow handed her martini glass to Rowena. “Have a few of these, and I promise you’ll be smiling too.”
Rowena chuckled and leaned down to give Willow a sound kiss. “Wish I could.”
Willow grinned and raised her glass. “I’ll have a few more for you, how’s that?”
“Just don’t expect me to carry you out of here,” Rowena laughed.
“That’s what slayers are for,” Willow shot back and took another drink.
In another area of the room, Buffy and Xander stood watching Rowena and Willow with a grin.
“I’m happy for them,” Buffy said. “But I have to admit,” she said in a soft voice, looking around them to see if anyone was nearby, “I’m not sure about the baby business.”
“What do you mean?” Xander asked just as softly. “I think they’ll make great moms.”
“I’m sure they will, but I don’t know if now’s the right time,” she replied. “I mean, I’d like to just be married for a while before jumping into parentdom. You know?”
“Parentdom isn’t a word, Buffy,” Xander corrected her. “But I do see what you mean, like enjoying the honeymoon phase and all that.”
“Yeah, I mean, how romantic can it be when you’ve got to deal with getting sick constantly, then getting ready for the baby to get here, then midnight feedings, and on and on and on?” Buffy and Xander both sighed in unison. “It’s gonna be an uphill road, and it’s already taken them quite a trip to get to this point.”
“But they got here,” Xander pointed out. “That’s all that matters, in the end.”
“True,” Buffy replied. There was a brief silence, and she began to shake her head. “I feel like I’m falling behind,” she admitted.
“Look at everybody. Giles has kids, Will’s gonna be a mom, technically you’re gonna be a dad, Faith’s engaged, and…then there’s me.”
“Well, I don’t really consider myself a dad just yet. Yeah, sure, I’ll be around when they want me, but really, this is their show. Not mine. I just gave them a helping hand.” Buffy just looked over with a smirk. “Okay, maybe more than a hand,” he admitted with a slight chuckle.
Buffy laughed, too. “Pinky swear,” she said, holding up her hand. Xander wrapped his pinky around hers.
“What am I swearing to?” he asked.
“If we’re both forty and still unattached, we agree to get married and have kids,” she told him with a grin.
“You mean I have to wait…” He paused, as if doing math in his head. “…fourteen years?”
“Oh god, it’s only fourteen years until I’m forty?” Buffy asked. “Are you sure you did the math right?”
“1981, right?” Xander asked. She nodded. “Give or take a few months, yeah.”
“Damn,” she sighed. “Well, take it or leave it, Xander. That’s my offer,” Buffy said with a grin.
“Fine,” he said, pretending to be annoyed. Then he shook pinkies with her. Soon after, though, he began to grin.
Thornkirk – Houseboat – Same Time
Two journalists stood on the dock outside the houseboat they had rented when a robed figure approached them. Under his arm was a large box. The two men looked nervously at each other as the figure approached closer.
“Are you sure about this?” the shorter man asked his partner.
“It’s cool,” the other one told him, although his appearance and voice betrayed the words he spoke.
When the figure was within a few feet, he asked, “Are you the one known as Williams?”
“I am,” the taller man answered.
“I am Morzebub,” he replied. He lowered his hood to reveal his burning red eyes. The robed figure held out the box, but when Williams tried to reach for it, he pulled it back.
“I believe you owe me something in return,” the figure told him.
“Yeah, it’s over here,” Williams replied, and walked to the ship with his partner. They both returned quickly with two large-handled carriers. “Fifty kittens now, and the other fifty once we know it works, right?”
The sound of meowing could be heard from the boxes. “Correct,” he told them. “I’ll contact you to make the connection after the…festivities.”
“Don’t you want to just wait? It will just take a minute,” Williams said.
“I want nothing to do with the Watchers Council or their slayers,” Morzebub answered. “I’ve already lost a dozen clutch-mates to them. As I said, when this is over and the Council is gone, we’ll make arrangements.”
Picking up the two boxes, Morzebub swiftly walked back down the dock.
The two men opened the box at their feet and smiled.
“You really think this will work?” the shorter man asked.
“Like a charm,” Williams said with a growing smile.
Fade to Black
End of Act Three