Watchers Council – Cafeteria – Resume
Lex opened his eyes and crinkled his nose before starting to wipe water droplets from his face.
“Ohh-kaaaay…not the reaction I was hoping for,” Lex stated evenly.
“Sorry,” Jocasta said, trying not to laugh as she grabbed some napkins and attempted to mop up the mess.
“Hopefully, Toni’s reaction will not be similar.”
Jocasta forced a laugh. “Ha, ha, yeah. Hmm, so…marriage, huh? Good.”
Lex raised an eyebrow to her. “You’ve talked to her about this already, haven’t you?” he asked firmly.
Jocasta shifted her gaze to her water bottle as she bit her bottom lip. Lex sighed, knowing the answer. Jocasta lifted her head and gave him a helpless smile.
“She just needs time,” she assured him. “Something has her spooked, but I’m not totally sure what it is.”
“I wish she would talk to me about it,” Lex said. “After dinner last week, I tried to talk to her, but she left in such a huff. She’s hardly said two words to me since.”
Jocasta reached over and squeezed his hand. “So you really want to do this, ask her, I mean?”
Lex thought for a moment then looked into his friend’s eyes. “I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, but it wasn’t till after rehab that I knew, you know? So I had this special ring made for her. But my therapist thought it was too soon, so I waited. And now…”
Jocasta nodded knowingly. After a long pause, she asked, “So what now?”
Lex shrugged. “I keep waiting. Until I feel the time is right.”
“Even if you don’t know if she’s ready?”
Lex drew in a breath at the question and then let it out slowly. “Yes,” he said as he fiddled with the cap of his water bottle. “Because sometimes you have to seize the moment and see what happens.”
Watchers Council – Velika’s Office – Later That Morning
“Wanna tell me what’s going on?” Velika prompted as she watched Livia’s reaction to the information on the data pad.
Livia simply stared at the details of Mira’s transfer request on the screen. She didn’t say anything at first, and Velika waited patiently.
“What…what did she say?” Livia asked quietly.
“Said she needed a change,” Velika replied. “Is that true?”
“How should I know?” Livia answered abruptly, a little heat coming into her voice. She tossed the data pad back on Velika’s desk.
“Livia,” Velika said, rubbing her forehead as if she had a headache, “don’t you clam up on me too.” She pinned the slayer with a searching gaze. “What is going on with you two? It’s clear that something happened betw –”
“Nothing happened!” Livia interjected angrily as she stood to her feet. “Okay? We just…we just need a time-out. All right?”
Velika nodded in acquiescence, and Livia sat back down.
“So…who ya gonna stick me with?” Livia asked. “And please don’t tell me it’s Jenn.”
Velika smiled at that. “No, not Jenn. I’m not going to assign you to anyone, actually. You’ll be a floater, working alone on some things, joining other patrols on an as-needed basis.”
“Good,” Livia said, relieved. “That sounds good.” Livia stood up to go. “Anything else, ma’am?”
Velika came around her desk and stood in front of Livia. She reached out and clasped the slayer on the shoulder. “My door’s always open to you, Livia. I hope you know that.”
“Yeah. Course, I do. Thanks.” Livia moved out of Velika’s hand and headed for the exit. “See ya,” she said before leaving the office.
Velika watched the troubled slayer go. She shook her head and sighed deeply.
Watchers Council – Special Meeting Room – Same Time
“It’s a pleasure to finally meet you in person, Mr. Chairman,” Senator Cregg said as he shook Giles’s hand. “I wish it could be under more pleasant circumstances.”
A large room had been fitted out with three tables arranged into the shape of a “U”. Giles, Jocasta, and Travers were standing in a cluster with Senator Cregg, several other men in suits, and a few women in smart blazers in the center of the room.
“I am sure we’ll make some progress here today,” Giles said, though a practiced listener might have said his voice betrayed some reservations. “As for the situation outside, the Mayor assures me that it is under control, and I can personally vouch that we are in no danger here.”
“With all due respect, Mr. Chairman, that ain’t a situation,” said one particularly rotund man with a southern accent. “That is a riot waiting to happen.”
“Let us hope it doesn’t come to that, Senator Dalgren,” Giles said. “Gentlemen, I’d like to introduce a very distinguished colleague of mine, Colonel Jocasta Rosenberg.”
Senator Cregg shook her hand with gusto. “I’ve heard a lot about you,” he said.
Jocasta blushed a little. “Really?”
“Oh yes,” he assured her. “It would be nearly impossible for a girl like you to live up to her ancestors, but you’re certainly giving it a go.”
Behind Jocasta, Travers cleared his throat.
“Oh, and this is Morgan Travers,” Giles said perfunctorily. He was distracted by Veronica Wyndam-Pryce, who was now standing at the entrance to the meeting room. She gave him a small nod. Giles raised his voice. “All right, everyone, I believe that our guests have arrived. Please take your seats.
Giles, Jocasta, Travers, and Veronica made their way to the center table of the “U”, as the senatorial delegation took their seats along the table to their left. All turned to see the door open. Two slayers, Janet and Lian, conspicuously armed with sleek, laser-sighted crossbows entered the room and stood on either side of the door. Closer inspection revealed that the arrows notched in their crossbows were tipped with silver. Behind them entered the werewolves. Two more slayers remained outside.
The first was a woman in the later stages of middle age, still beautiful despite a few lines on her face. She was followed by a man of similar age, with large, bristling eyebrows, and a small, younger woman with glasses and dark hair, who was glancing around the room uncomfortably.
The attention of the rest of the room, however, was focused on the other members of the party. On all fours strode two majestic wolves. Travers visibly bristled at this sight, as did a few of the senators.
The werewolves took their place along the table to the Council members’ right, across from the senators. The two wolves hopped onto cushioned platforms that had obviously been specially prepared for them, seating themselves at the table with the rest.
Giles pointed to the older woman and man in turn. “Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce our guests: Clan Leader Anita Devereux, and her Second, Oliver Worth. They will be negotiating for the werewolf clans at this summit.”
“You say we’re guests, but we’re treated like prisoners,” Worth stated. “Tell me, were the senators escorted here by armed guards?”
Devereux touched her colleague’s elbow to silence him. “We will of course acquiesce to any demands the Council may make for security’s sake. We would like to show you we are not a threat.” Worth looked unhappy, but said nothing more.
Giles turned to the younger woman. “And also in attendance is Dr. Meghan Ash, formerly of Brown University.” She nearly squirmed under all the attention.
Jocasta’s eyes widened in recognition. “I’ve read some of your work. It was amazing stuff, real possible medical advances. I didn’t know you were…”
“About a year now,” Dr. Ash said quietly without looking up.
“Oh.” Jocasta looked genuinely concerned, but said nothing further out loud.
“Also joining us today are Cooper Reed and Reese Magruder.” Giles gestured to the two wolves at the table, eliciting a salutary yip from each.
“May I say that I believe that we are very open-minded to participate in negotiations with those who are, to all appearances, animals,” said one of the female senators.
One of the wolves barked something in response. There was some laughter on the werewolf side of the room. Even Dr. Ash cracked a nervous smile.
“Am I missing something?” Veronica asked.
“Mr. Reed said,” Anita Devereux explained, “that we could say the same, but we’re too polite.”
Morgan Travers rolled his eyes towards the ceiling.
“Shall we begin?” Giles asked.
Watchers Council – Special Meeting Room – Later That Day
“I don’t think it’s asking too much,” said the large-bodied Senator Dalgren. “You cannot deny that people have been killed.”
The summit had been going on for quite some time now. Those who had been wearing ties had by now loosened them slightly. The Council representatives at the central table looked increasingly weary and put upon, while the tension between the two sides of the room continued to escalate.
“We will not be treated like second-class citizens!” Oliver Worth shot back heatedly.
“I’m not sure they’re citizens at all,” said another senator. “I mean, I think ‘human being’ is a pretty dangerous category to step outside of in terms of giving people rights.”
Oliver looked like he was about ready to jump over the table, but Anita placed a hand over his and he remained silent. “We are not dangerous. There have been altercations that involved deaths, this is true.”
“You admit it!” Senator Dalgren exclaimed.
The werewolf leader raised a long, graceful finger. “Let me finish. We are by no means unique. There are far more deaths from human-on-human crime in this country each year than there are from werewolves. There are unfortunate exceptions, unstable individuals, but that is the case in any large population. Even slayers have committed murder in the past, if I’m not mistaken.” She looked to the Council table for confirmation. After a brief hesitation, Veronica nodded.
“Surely you can’t be comparing yourself to slayers,” said Senator Cregg, his voice and demeanor calmer than his colleagues. “They put their lives on the line defending the human race from evil. Meanwhile, what are you doing?”
One of the two wolves made a long sound, somewhere between a howl and a whine.
“What did he say?” Senator Cregg asked.
“Reese is a she,” Anita explained.
“That’s not what I asked,” he insisted.
“Look,” Oliver interjected loudly, “we’re tired of being treated like we’re a menace to society.”
“You are a menace to society!” Senator Dalgren insisted.
“And you are an idiot!” Oliver responded.
“I STILL WANT TO KNOW WHAT SHE SAID!” Senator Cregg shouted.
Giles and Jocasta cast each other a baleful look, as more howling of various origins filled the meeting room. Giles rubbed his forehead as if trying to massage away a headache. Dr. Ash slid further down into her chair.
Watchers Council – Slayer Briefing Room – Later That Day
While several teams of slayers milled about waiting for their briefing to begin, Mira stood talking with Janet, Lian, Damesha, and Natalie.
“Well, you two have certainly racked up the infirmary time,” Natalie teased Mira and Janet. “Haven’t you earned yourself a free toaster or something by now?”
Mira and Janet shot twin glares at the blonde slayer, who continued to grin unrepentantly.
“What Natalie is trying to say is…it’s good to have you back,” Damesha stated while giving the blonde an unexpected elbow in the ribs.
Natalie gave out an exaggerated “oomph” then croaked, “Yeah, yeah, what she said.” Once she had straightened up, she gave Damesha a nudge back.
“It’s good to be back,” Janet said emphatically. “I was about to go stir crazy in there.”
“Yeah, me too,” Mira chimed in but without much emotion.
“Nat and I are doing south-side tonight,” Damesha said. “What’ve you guys got?” she asked Lian and Janet.
“Don’t know,” Lian said. “We did werewolf duty earlier, but I haven’t had the chance to look at the patrol board for tonight. What about you and Livia?” she said, passing the question to Mira.
“Actually…Livia and I won’t be patrolling together anymore,” Mira said. “I’m, um, I’m getting a new partner.”
All four slayers responded with a shocked expression. Then, as one, they turned and looked across the room where Livia stood alone. She met their gaze for the briefest of seconds then turned away. The surprised slayers turned back to Mira.
“What…? Why…? Who…?” Janet said, having difficulty formulating a complete question.
Just then, Finola popped into the group. She sidled up to Mira and swung her arm playfully over the brunette’s shoulders. “Guess who got the lucky draw, eh?”
Mira forced a smile and said, “Yeah, lucky you.”
Finola snorted. “I meant you were the lucky one,” she said teasingly, pulling away and giving Mira a smart-ass grin. Unable to resist the Irish slayer’s infectious attitude, Mira rolled her eyes and laughed.
Across the room, Livia had returned to watching Mira. When she saw Mira and Finola laughing and horsing around like longtime buds, her face grew sad, and she turned away once again.
Not far from Livia, Katherine stood waiting with Brianna and Jenn. While Jenn rattled on about the previous night’s patrol, Katherine watched Livia and Mira. She sighed helplessly when she saw Livia turn away sadly.
A rapping on the podium drew everyone’s attention to the front of the room where Velika was starting the meeting.
“All right, girls,” the commander called out in loud voice, rapping the gavel a little harder to quiet the rowdy group of slayers. “Settle down, now. We’ve got a lot to do today. With so many slayers out with the flu, I’m going to need everyone to pull a double-shift tonight. Again.”
The group let out a collective groan.
“I know, I know…deal with it, okay?” Velika said.
As Velika moved into her briefing, Brianna leaned over to Katherine and whispered into her ear. “You know, after a few hundred years or so of medical advances, you’d think we’d be able to annihilate one lousy virus.”
“Tell me about it,” Katherine agreed. “Between the werewolf conference and the flu bugs, I’m earning enough overtime to take all of next year off.”
Jocasta and Katherine’s Apartment – Later That Night
With a sigh, Jocasta plopped down at her desk in her apartment. Looking a little tired, she punched a code into her phone and, after a few rings, Dixon Osbourne’s face appeared on the screen.
“Hey, Jo!” he said. “Good to see you.”
“Good to see you, too,” she said. “Sorry I haven’t called since…” She trailed off.
“Since I tried to help my evil employers put the Council out of business?” he supplied. “Don’t know what else to say about that except, y’know, sorry, won’t do it again.”
“Better not,” Jocasta admonished mockingly. “So how’ve you been?”
“Great, actually,” Dixon said. “I’ve got a new job at Tetsumo Robotics…but you didn’t call to catch up, did you?”
“You definitely know me,” Jocasta sighed. “You’ve heard about this werewolf conference, right?”
“It’s all they’re talking about on the Link,” Dixon nodded. “And you wanted an insider’s perspective? I’m not a wolf, y’know.”
Jocasta frowned. “Yeah, but…I remembered that you told me you had a few in your family, and I didn’t know who else to call.”
“We’re talking about my ancestors here,” Dixon said. “And my grandfather, later in his life. But I can try.”
“Tensions are running high at the conference,” Jocasta explained. “Is there anything you can tell me that might help to cool things off a little?”
“Well, werewolves are a tight-knit group,” Dixon said. “They value loyalty very highly. If you stick up for them, they won’t forget it. By the same token, they’re experts at holding grudges. They offered my grandfather clan membership, but he turned them down. Some werewolves wouldn’t even speak to him after that.”
“The whole clan thing is a little confusing,” Jocasta said. “I’m not even sure who to talk to.”
“If you want to get things done, go to the Clan Leader,” Dixon said. “Things might be a little different at your conference, since multiple clans are being represented, but whoever’s in charge of the delegation should have the unspoken loyalty of the others.”
“That makes sense,” Jocasta said, thinking out loud. “Devereux was able to keep Worth in line just by looking at him.”
“Normally, the Clan Leader has a Second,” Dixon said, “somebody who’s ambitious and may take over after the leader dies. If you can’t work things out with the leader, talk to them; they may have some pull with the others. It might be difficult, though, because, like I said, loyalty’s pretty high on their list.”
“Okay…” Jocasta said, entering some notes into her computer. When she was finished, she looked up at Dixon. “You’ve been real helpful, Dix, thank you.”
“Anytime,” he said. Jocasta reached to break to connection, but before she could, Dixon spoke again suddenly. “Jo?”
“Yeah?” she asked.
“Is Katherine treating you right?”
Jocasta smiled. “Katie’s the best.”
“Good.” Dixon broke the connection. Jocasta sat back in her seat, a wistful grin on her face.
Jocasta and Katherine’s Apartment – Later That Night
Having finished her patrol shift, Katherine crept quietly into the apartment. She eased her weapons bag to the floor and shrugged out of her coat. When she turned to move into the living room, she found Jocasta sticking her head out of the kitchen doorway.
“Hey,” Katherine said, surprised. “What are you doing up? You’re not poring over spells from the database again, are you?” Katherine had her hands on her hips and gave the redhead a chiding glance.
“No,” Jocasta proudly denied in response to her girlfriend’s raised eyebrow. “I came to get some water, thank you very much.” Jocasta came out of the kitchen carrying the bottle she had just retrieved from the fridge. “To go with these,” she added, holding out her hand to show Katherine the aspirin tablets in her palm.
Katherine gave a sympathetic pout and walked over to join Jocasta. “Aww, my sweetie’s got a headache?” She kissed Jocasta on the forehead and pulled her into a warm hug.
“Yes,” Jocasta whined. “This whole werewolf thing is making my brain hurt.”
The two separated, moved to the sofa, and sat down next to each other. Jocasta set the water and tablets on the coffee table.
“I talked to Dix tonight, and that helped. Sort of.” Jocasta stopped and sighed heavily. “There’s just so much to think about, a-a-and when I get home, I can’t make my brain stop thinking about it. I need an off button.”
Katherine chuckled. “I know what you mean. I can’t stop thinking about Livia and Mira. I don’t what’s gonna happen with those two.”
“They still in post-kissage avoidance mode?”
“Pretty much,” Katherine answered. She paused for a moment and then said solemnly, “Mira formally requested a new partner.”
Katherine nodded ruefully.
“Oh my god!” Jocasta said unhappily. “Not good. Not good. This is not of the good.”
“It really isn’t,” Katherine agreed.
“What are we gonna do?”
“Well, first of all…no ‘we’. You’re not even supposed to know, remember?”
“Right. I know nothing of the passionate kiss before the almost-dying.” Jocasta crossed her heart, turned an imaginary key at her lips, and tossed the invisible key away.
Katherine rolled her eyes and went on. “And secondly, I just need to find a way to get them talking. If I can get them talking, they’ll get past this, I just know it.”
Jocasta snorted. “Perfect. Immovable object meets…well, another immovable object.”
“I’ll just have to be the irresistible force, then,” Katherine announced in a determined voice. “I-I-In a totally subtle and non-intrusive way, of course,” she quickly added.
“Well, I can certainly vouch for your irresistibility,” Jocasta said, changing her tone and beginning to nuzzle at the slayer’s neck.
Katherine giggled. “What about your headache?” she asked as the redhead started nibbling at her earlobe.
“Seems to have vanished,” she murmured against Katherine’s throat. “Okay?” she asked after pulling away to look in the blonde’s eyes.
“Very okay,” Katherine answered huskily before planting a heated kiss on Jocasta’s lips.
End of Act Three