Library – Same Time
“Xander, I think I’ve got something!” Buffy announced proudly.
“Oh, oh, oh. So do I,” Xander added. He gestured at her. “But you first.”
“That house used to be owned by an eccentric heiress called Helene van Gelder. She was pretty weird, even by nineteen twenties standards. Sorta obsessed with the occult.” She skimmed the documents in front of her.
“There’s more to it than that. I found the building plans. It turns out that she designed the building herself around what she called ‘mystic principles’,” Xander told her. “She oversaw everything from the wallpaper to the metal used for the rivets in the floorboards. The whole building is designed, literally, to be some kind of mystic circuit board.”
“Wasn’t that the plot of Ghostbusters?” Buffy asked.
Xander considered it a moment. “Well, yeah,” he replied before adding, “but this is, like, a billion years ahead of that. That was like an antenna, this is like a Xeon quad-core CPU,” Xander told her.
Buffy’s eyes narrowed slightly. “I think you’ve been hanging around Andrew too much.”
“Not the point,” Xander shook his head. “Bottom line: evil building, lots of wacky stuff going on, which I think adds up to really bad news.”
“It’s worse than that,” Buffy said.
“Well, according to this newspaper, Helene and her sister Ursula disappeared suddenly in 1929. They vanished off the face of the earth. Nobody ever heard from them again. No bodies were ever found. No ransom note. No nothing. Two rich, eccentric ladies don’t just disappear without people noticing,” Buffy told him.
“Well, that’s not so bad, is it?” Xander asked.
“Ursula was a medium,” Buffy continued. “A mystic conduit in human form. She had just got engaged when she vanished. So a conduit is one thing, but a woman scorned…?”
Xander looked at her blankly for a moment. “We need to call Willow,” he said finally. “She needs to know what – who she’s dealing with.”
Watchers Council – Parking Lot – Afternoon
Andrew blinked as a red sports car pulled into one of the building’s many parking lots. Without actually speeding, it seemed to move much too fast as it slipped into a designated slot that read “Slayer.” He began walking in its direction.
He slowed when the doors opened. From the passenger side emerged Lori Carew, laughing. The driver also came out, a young, coffee-colored woman wearing a black leather jacket. She had bright eyes, a wicked smile and was giggling.
Once Andrew got closer, he could hear part of the conversation.
“…so I told them,” the driver was saying, in a London accent, “they couldn’t watch T.V., or go on the Internet. Then I said MP3 players were out, too!”
“How loud were the screams?” Lori asked.
“Let’s just say I think they might have killed some poor innocent bats somewhere in the neighborhood.” Both women burst into laughter. “But most of them calmed down after a bit. What is it with these Council types anyway? Scared of the paperwork that goes with adding modern weapons to the inventory?”
“Excuse me.” Andrew had gotten closer. He stood up very straight. “Lori, you know the rules. That parking lot is for slayers. Your parking lot is over there,” he pointed to the slots, which read “Watcher.”
The girl who had been driving guffawed. “Oh. My. God. Let me guess.” She looked at Lori and pointed at Andrew. “This has gotta be Andrew. Am I right?”
Lori nodded, grinning.
“You’ve been telling stories about me, again. Oh, good.” Andrew didn’t sigh, but it sounded like he wanted to. “Not that that’s the point. The point is…” He faltered as the dark-skinned young woman invaded his personal space, not-quite-nose-to-nose. “Uh…”
“My name’s Siobhan,” she said. “Lori did say you were cute.” She wiggled her eyebrows.
“Thank you?” he said awkwardly after a moment.
“And don’t get your knickers in a twist,” said Siobhan. “See, I am a slayer.”
“Just got transferred from London.”
“Oh. Well, that’s okay then. Do you work with Althenea, then?”
“Althenea! She heads the Coven? Hello?”
Siobhan grinned further. Lori said “Stop teasing, Sio!” She turned to Andrew. “Siobhan Hartley is – was – with Bureau Nine. Actually, she’s been helping cross-train slayers in London. Now she’s in Cleveland, I’m gonna give her the tour.”
“Unless,” Siobhan stepped even closer, “you’d care to do the honors?” Two extra inches in height actually made her look slightly predatory, perhaps feline – and Andrew rather mouse-like.
“I’m actually late. But thank you. I’ll…uh…see you later.” He walked away, a little faster than necessary. Once he glanced back and saw Siobhan looking at his butt, he picked up speed.
“You are so bad,” Lori said.
“What? He is cute!”
“Not that cute. Besides, he’s taken.”
“Oh, well. I prefer older men, anyway. And don’t you give me that look – I swore off going for Felix, right?”
“Good, although…” Lori stopped.
“I almost wouldn’t mind you seeing what you could do with – but never mind.”
“Oh no, you don’t! Spill!”
Lori hesitated. “You’ve met Hope?”
“Yeah. But I thought she was straight? Besides which, even if she isn’t, I am, so…”
“No, I’ve just got my suspicions about her boyfriend.”
“Really?” Siobhan managed to give that word about twelve syllables.
“Okay,” said Lori after a second. “In a nutshell. Hope is Faith the Slayer’s sister, right? Well, it turns out Jeff used to have this huge thing for Dawn, sister to Buffy Summers, another slayer –”
Siobhan held up her hand. “Is this going to be a long story?”
“No,” Lori said before continuing, “Dawn is a witch. On Jeff’s suggestion, Hope started learning magic. You see where I’m going with this?”
“I think I saw this in a Hitchcock movie once.”
“Point him out to me when we get inside,” she said with a wink. At that, Siobhan turned and looked at the headquarters. “Kinda looks…”
“It is. Been invaded who knows how many times. The last HQ was actually destroyed.”
“Not a good advert, that.”
“Well, according to the folks who were there, it was sorta kinda Satan who did it. Like THE Satan. Himself.”
“A likely story,” Siobhan laughed.
“Well, not too unlikely. Considering.” She started walking towards the entrance, leaning on her cane. Siobhan followed. “Still, their security procedures are on the lame side.”
“Me, I’m spoiled. You know what the main branch in England is, right?”
“An actual castle, I know. Classy.”
“We think so.”
“The thing is,” Lori’s voice went into a whisper, “I don’t think they’ve ever even spotted the arsenal I’m carrying every time I go through these doors.”
Her friend grinned. “The cane, am I right? How many weapons you got there?”
“Well – there’s the blade in the tip. The titanium rod in the center.”
“Very nice baton.”
“Oh yeah. And if I pull the handle off, there’s this neat little long range taser.”
“I gotta tell you, sometimes I am so tempted.”
“C’mon! The Council types can’t be that bad! Can they?”
“Not most of the time. Hardly ever, actually. But, well, there is this one slayer. Her name’s Lorinda.”
At that, they entered the front doors of the building.
Watchers Council – Cafeteria – Same Time
Giles watched as Mr. Felix carried his lunch tray, looking for a vacant spot in the crowded cafeteria.
“Mr. Felix,” he called out, making the man turn. “There’s space here, if you like.”
Jason gave him a warm grin and made his way over. “How are you, Mr. Giles?”
“Well,” he replied, “And please, call me Rupert.” He then produced a slight grin. “Practically no one here does.”
Jason smiled. “Yes, they use your last name only. Rather unusual.”
“Buffy always called me by my last name and the others, well, they followed suit,” he explained.
Jason nodded before taking a drink from his cup. “I must commend you, Rupert,” he said using his first name. “You’ve done a fine job here.”
“There’s still much work to do,” Giles told him.
“True,” Jason replied. “But I believe it will all come together.”
Giles smiled. “Looking back over the past five years, it seems as if we’ve moved light years already. Limited budgets, limited resources – both technical and human. You might be surprised to find out how…primitive…we once were.”
“Perhaps,” Jason agreed. “But no matter how archaic your true resources, the people who are still here have given you wonderful ground to build upon. Ms. Rosenberg, Ms. Allister, even Ms. Lehane, whom rarely sees eye-to-eye with my suggestions…” Felix grinned slightly “They all created a wonderful foundation. I admire their strength and resilience.”
Giles nodded his agreement. “Again, if you had known them when…” he said, letting the sentence hang for a moment. “All of them have grown to become fine women.”
“And Ms. Rosenberg was amazing last week. Speaking of which, how is your daughter?”
“She’s doing fine, given the circumstances. Thank you for asking.”
“Family is important,” Felix told him with a melancholy grin. “And she’s a beautiful young girl.”
“To say I adore her would be an understatement,” Giles replied.
Felix gave him a brief nod as they each took a bite of their food. As they chewed, Giles looked up at the television on the far wall.
“What do you know of her?” Giles asked, nodding over.
“Ah, yes, Autumn O’Mara,” Felix said, as he looked at her picture on the monitor. “She’ll be present here shortly.”
“Is that so?” Giles asked. “As Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on
Supernatural Affairs, I’m surprised she has time to stop at the council,” he joked.
Felix gave a non-committed shrug. “She seems a likable person. I think she’ll do well on the committee.”
“Another person in B9’s pocket, perhaps?” Giles asked.
Felix just gave him a coy grin.
Watchers Council – Jeff’s Apartment – Same Time
Hope sat on Jeff’s couch with a shocked expression on her face.
“I-I-I don’t know what to say,” she stuttered.
“Say yes,” Jeff said as he held the box with the engagement ring, moving it just a fraction closer to her.
Hope still seemed to be stumbling for something to say. “This is just…are you sure? I mean, we just moved in and I just joined the Coven and –”
“I realize that,” Jeff told her. “But whether I do this now or a few years from now, it’s not going to matter. I know what I want and it’s you. But if you don’t feel the same way –”
“No! Gosh no,” Hope answered. “It’s just…” She paused again, as if looking for something to say. “Oh what the heck, yes.”
Jeff smiled broadly before kissing her passionately on the lips and pulling the ring from the box. He slipped it on her finger and they examined it together.
“A perfect fit,” he told her.
She smiled and pulled him in for another kiss. “I love it, Jeff. I do, but…”
“What?” he asked, concerned.
“For the time being, can we just keep this between us? I’m still trying to find my way in the Coven and with my sister as one of the heads at the Council…it’s just a lot of pressure right now and I don’t want to deal with what some people might say right now. It’s not you, it’s not the ring,” she stressed. “Let me try to find my place there on my own first, and little by little we’ll let people we care about know. Okay?”
“Anything you want,” Jeff told her. “You said yes, so that’s all that counts.”
They kissed once more.
Watchers Council – Faith and Robin’s Apartment – Same Time
Sitting on a stool in the kitchen, Faith moved a piece of charcoal over a large sketchpad. The image had yet to take shape, but the speed with which she drew indicated that she had something clear in mind. Behind her, the apartment door opened and closed. “That you, babe?” she called without looking up from her work.
Robin came into the kitchen. “Yeah,” he said with a sigh, as he walked to the refrigerator and removed the orange juice. He spotted Faith’s activity. “That’s new.”
“Willow dropped it off,” Faith replied. “It’s the same kind Norman uses,” she added with a smile.
“How is it?” he asked, pouring himself a glass.
“Oddly cathartic, and a great escape from the boring world of paperwork.”
Robin raised an eyebrow at her verbiage. “Cathartic?”
“She also got me a word of the day calendar. Tomorrow I’ll have to thank her for her munificence.”
Robin let out a loud guffaw. “Thanks. I needed a good laugh today.”
Faith looked up. “Bad day at the office?”
Robin turned to put away the juice and sighed. “Yeah. I’m not really up to talking about it at the moment, though.”
“Care for a mid-afternoon color?” she said, holding out the charcoal piece. “I’m using it as my escape, but you’re welcome to join me.”
“Thanks, but I’ll pass,” he told her.
Faith digested that and then hopped off her stool. “I have an idea.” She rounded the island and placed her arms around Robin’s neck. He caught on pretty quickly as their mouths met in a short, but sweet, kiss. “Feel better?” she asked when they broke apart.
“Getting there,” he replied, just before kissing her with more force. He spun her around, pushing her back into the fridge with a small thud. Several magnets and take out menus fell to the floor, but neither noticed as the intensity of their second kiss strengthened.
Faith pushed Robin back, without breaking the kiss, attempting to steer them out of the kitchen. Robin acquiesced and they fumbled past the island, knocking over Faith’s sketchpad, eventually making it to the couch.
The standing lamp in the living room was the final casualty as Faith’s plan moved on to “stage two.”
Outside Summers Residence
“Willow, let us in!” Xander yelled, as he pounded on the door. “Come on, Will, it’s important!”
“Stand back, Xander,” Buffy said, as she braced herself to kick in the door.
The door swung open to reveal Jessica. She was dressed in a plain black dress, which extended to the floor. Her hair was tied up in a tidy little bun, and her hands were clasped loosely in front of her. “May I help you?” she said politely, her voice soft.
Xander looked at her, stunned. “Jessica?”
“No,” the young woman said, her posture straightening as she looked at the pair. “My name is Annabel, maid to Miss Helene van Gelder and Miss Ursula van Gelder. Have we met?”
Xander looked at her for a moment, taking in her attire and demeanor. His eyes scanned her perfect posture, plain black shoes, lightly clasped hands, and tidily bound hair. “Actually, I’m gonna go with no,” he said finally.
“Annabel, who is it?” Hank Summers appeared at the top of the stairs that led into the main foyer.
“Dad?” Buffy’s eyes widened. He was dressed in a perfectly pressed, black and white suit. The high collar he wore pressed up against the curve of his jaw, and his back was so straight he seemed as if he would topple over with a particularly strong wind.
He looked the length of her body, as if sizing up her attire, and his spine almost seemed to stiffen further, if such a thing were possible. “Do I know you?”
Buffy visibly recoiled from him, a hurt expression on her face. “I’m…I’m your daughter,” she said softly, as if the word were one her lips were unaccustomed to uttering.
“I beg your pardon?” Hank demanded. “I could never have fathered such a common tramp.”
“Tramp!?” Buffy shrieked. “You missed the whole ‘Buffy’s not gettin’ any’ rant a few minutes ago. If you knew how much I spent on double –” she started.
“Get over it, Buff,” Xander interjected. “Just look at this place for a second.”
Buffy scanned the room around her. The rusted, tarnished brass chandelier they had noticed now shone with a brilliant polished luster, and dozens of candles flickered as it rocked gently back and forth at the end of its chain. The water-damaged wood paneling was now a beautiful dark walnut color, the years of neglect that the house had experienced seeming to have evaporated in mere hours.
“Okay, what’s going on here?” Buffy asked.
“In my day,” a new voice, a woman’s, interrupted them. They turned to see a dark shape at the top of the stairway pushing her way past Hank Summers, “a lady would not have spoken in such a manner.” A wide, fixed smile adorned the center of her face as she glided down the stairs.
“That’s Helene van Gelder,” Xander whispered from behind Buffy.
“Of course,” the woman said, the smile still fixed on her face, her eyes staring unblinkingly at them. “Who else would I be?”
Buffy looked at her. Still, an unnerving smile was fixed on van Gelder’s face. “Look, I don’t know what’s going on here,” she said finally. “But I’m really on board with my usual kick ass now, ask questions later approach.”
“A lady should not speak in such a manner,” van Gelder replied.
Buffy mirrored her smile. “Funny thing,” she told the woman, “in your day, I wouldn’t have been a lady.” She punctuated the statement with a hard punch aimed across the woman’s jaw.
Helene van Gelder’s left arm snapped upwards, blocking the strike. Her still-unblinking eyes looked almost curiously at the young blonde woman, the same smile remaining plastered to her face. “I’m sure we can discuss this more rationally,” she insisted.
“You know, I really don’t think so,” Buffy attempted to follow with a backhanded strike at van Gelder’s right temple.
Helene effortlessly brushed it aside and followed with an uppercut that caught Buffy under the jaw.
Buffy stumbled backwards, as much from the shock of actually being hit as from the force of the blow. She blinked a few times and shook her head sharply. “What the hell are you?” she demanded. She threw a flurry of punches that the much older woman brushed aside, still with an unnerving smile on her face. Finally, a strike landed across Helene’s jaw, and the woman stumbled and fell to the ground.
Buffy rushed forward, gripping the specter by the front of her dress. She pulled her fist back, ready to deliver a brutal blow to the woman’s nose.
The face that looked up from the ground was Willow’s. She still wore the plain black dress that Helene had worn, and Helene’s dark brown hair was fading to Willow’s dark red.
“Run!” Willow yelled. “Get out of here!”
Then, as abruptly as she had appeared, her features reverted to Helene van Gelder’s. She looked at Buffy as she stood up, brushing herself off. “That,” she told the slayer, “was positively rude.”
The manic smile reappeared on the woman’s face.
End of Act Three