Apartment Door – Night
A feminine hand reached up and knocked on a closed door. After some brief rustling on the other side, the door opened. Rowena stood in front of Robin’s open door holding a bottle of wine. For his part, Robin was leaning on to the door and looking at Rowena with a sense of concern.
Rowena cleared her throat. “I know this may be presumptuous, but chances are you’re alone, since I just dropped off my kids at the Giles’s and saw Nikki. I came to drink wine and gossip, if you’ll have me.”
At first Robin seemed dumbfounded, not moving or saying anything, as he looked Rowena up and down from head to toe. But then he shook his head, as if to get his bearings, and opened the door wider.
“Your assumption is correct. Please come inside.”
Robin’s Apartment – Continuous
Rowena walked into the apartment and straight into the kitchen. Without having to be shown where to go, Rowena made a beeline for a particular cupboard, pulled out two glasses, and filled each one halfway from her bottle by the time Robin shut the door and managed to follow her.
“Would you like a glass?” she asked.
“Sure,” he replied with a nod. “I’m thinking maybe I might need it.”
With that, Rowena pulled another glass out of the cabinet and filled that one up, as well, and handed it to Robin. She turned back to the counter and grabbed the two glasses of wine that remained there and motioned for him to follow her to the couch. Again, Robin looked a bit dumbfounded, but he followed her, nonetheless.
“I have to ask…” he began tentatively, “…is there something wrong? Because you are literally double-fisting wine.”
Rowena placed one glass on the end table and took a deep drink for the remaining one in her hand. After half of it was gone, she took a deep breath and said, “After sixteen years of marriage, my wife wants to fuck her doctor friend.”
Robin, who had just started to take a sip of his wine, choked slightly. “What?” he asked in astonishment, sounding unsure of what he had just heard.
“Yeah. That was my reaction earlier tonight,” Rowena replied.
Robin held up a finger and then walked a few steps back into the kitchen and picked up the wine bottle before he came back over to sit on the sofa.
“You caught her with the doctor?’
“No. She told me tonight, after Becca picked up the kids and I was doing dishes. She swears nothing happened…at least not yet…but she wants something to happen with this woman, so she wants to be upfront.”
“Willow wants to leave?” he asked.
“Again, no, she says she wants to stay,” Rowena answered. “She loves me. Loves our life together. She just wants to…open the marriage to new experiences. She’s a wiccan, so it’s not weird, or some bullshit.”
“That makes two of us. She figures she can have her fun and I can have mine too, but the thing is, I’m happy where I am. And maybe she really isn’t looking to leave, but if she does this…thing…then maybe she will go because she’s happier with genius Dr. Tamara Goldman. I just…I’m floored. And I’m scared and I’m mad and I’m…in serious need of wine tonight.”
There was a long silence where neither of them spoke. Instead, they sipped their wine.
“You’re shocked too?” Rowena asked, as if knowing the answer.
All Robin could do was nod, at first. He then put more wine in his glass before he refilled the glass Rowena held. “We might need more wine.”
Rowena squinted and pinched the bridge of her nose for a moment, as if trying to release some tension. “I couldn’t stay there, or I might have said something I’d regret. Instead, I stopped by the store, grabbed some wine, and here I am. Speaking of, I’m sorry if I interrupted anything. I should have called first. And you might be on your way out, so I really…I should probably go. I shouldn’t drag you into this.”
Rowena started to get up, but Robin put a hand on her knee, stopping her. “You’re reeling right now. Just breathe.”
Rowena put her hand on top of Robin’s, giving it a pat. “Thank you.”
“No problem,” he said. “I’m glad you came to me. And you’re not dragging me into anything. This is what friends do. The only thing I had planned was to catch up on some shows. I could say it’s something like Cobra Kai but…I’ll admit it’s The Crown.”
“Ooh, where are you in your viewing?” Rowena asked, almost happy for the distraction.
“Chuck and Diana just divorced.”
“Ah yes, another fairy tale relationship that ends in a fiery crash…I’m not bitter.”
Robin had to grin, in spite of himself. “Look, although it’s not the same situation as mine, there was a time when you were there for me when I was in love with a confused woman. Least I can do is return the favor.”
“I know Faith leaving was rough.”
“It was,” he admitted. “But sometimes it’s rougher seeing her sporadically. If she was here, for Nikki I mean, I think our daughter would like that. But that’s ancient history. And for the record, you’re welcome to come here anytime you like, for any reason. My door is always open.”
“I appreciate that. Really, I do. I don’t mean to unload on you. But I’m not sure who else I can talk to about this. Perhaps Grace, but things are not the best right now between her and Willow.”
“I hadn’t noticed,” Robin said with a coy grin.
“Yeah, and as much as I’d like to talk to my bestie, I know that anything she says would not be unbiased. Hell, if anything, it could just add fuel to the fire that’s already there between them. And as much as my wife is confusing me and angering me now, I don’t want to make a difficult situation worse.”
“That’s completely understandable.”
“Oh! It’s like Peter and Marial on The Great!” Rowena exclaimed, her cheeks already getting a little red. “Catherine can’t go to her best friend to talk about her marital problems because her friend hates…are you watching that show?”
“No,” Robin said with a small smile. “Sorry.”
“We’ll work on that. Anyway, she says I can date someone too, but honestly, how is that supposed to work? I barely have enough time to ‘date’ her, let alone someone else. Who in their right mind would date a middle-aged woman with four kids for kicks?”
“If you wanted them, I’m sure you would find some very willing suitors.”
“But I have no interest in looking. Willow, however, has more freedom in her schedule than I do, and that’s not a complaint. It’s not a bad life. In fact, until an hour ago, I could say I was happy. But I guess she’s not. And if she’s not happy, then it’s hard for me to be happy.”
“Did she say she was unhappy?”
“No, in fact she said she is happy. Again, more confusion. This is just something she feels she needs to…pursue…Hell, I don’t even know if the two of them concocted this idea. Will says nothing’s happened between them, but still, I’m not sure what to believe. I…yeah, reeling. Reeling is the word.”
“The good thing is, you don’t have to have it all figured out tonight or even tomorrow…or this week. Take some time and decide what you want to do next.”
Rowena paused for a moment. “How about for now we drink wine and binge The Crown?”
“Netflix and chill, as the kids no longer say?”
Robin grinned. “That’s the first time you’ve smiled since you came in.”
Rowena’s smile stayed in place. “Again, thank you for listening.”
“Like I said, anytime.”
Sterling’s – Evening
“What are you doing here?” Jen asked. She held a bottle of water in each hand as she approached her Ma, Willow.
The room was filled with an assortment of people of different ages, races and genders. Some of them were seated at tables, while others gathered along the bar. Quite a few of them were by the stage at the far end of the room and appeared, by their clothing and demeanor, to be musicians with various bands. On the stage stood a big wheel with a pie chart, different words written upon each slice.
Willow looked slightly put out as she made her way toward her daughter. “Nice to see you, too,” she replied. “Parents are allowed to be here tonight for the Battle of the Bands, y’know?”
“Yeah, that’s fine, but I thought you were with Mom tonight?”
“I decided to fly solo. Besides, I wanted to see some of the stuff you guys have been working on lately.”
Jen wore a look which conveyed that she wasn’t quite sure she believed that answer, but she let it pass. “Fine. Just don’t embarrass me tonight.”
Willow grinned. “I’ll do my best, but no promises.”
It was then that Willow heard someone calling her name from behind her. She turned and saw Buffy waving her over to a table where she and Xander were seated.
She made her way through the crowd towards them, while Jen made her way toward the stage.
“Where’s Ro?” Buffy asked.
Willow didn’t answer the question immediately. “Hi gang!” She waved to Becca and Giles, who were just returning to their seats from elsewhere in the bar. She turned to Xander first and said, “How ya doin’, Xan? I’m gonna steal your wife for a minute – we’ll be right back.” She turned to Buffy as she led her away. “Come and get a drink with me.”
Willow whispered to Buffy as they walked. “So, I asked Rowena how she felt about opening the marriage to new experiences.”
“Let me guess. It did not go well, if the lack of Rowena here is any indication,” Buffy replied.
“It did not. She said she couldn’t be around me at the moment a-and left.”
“Where did she go?”
“I don’t know.”
“Did she say when she’s coming back?”
A silence fell between them as they arrived at the bar until Willow begged, “Please say something.”
Twice Buffy opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. “Do not tell Xander about this,” she finally said. “I need to ask…where are you going with this? Do you even know?”
“Honestly, I don’t. And that’s part of the appeal. I just know the way that…” Willow sort of looked around to see whether or not anyone was within earshot of them and said, “Tamara makes me feel like I did years ago, when I really mattered. I can’t explain it. I just feel like I’m…somebody when I’m with her. And I haven’t felt that way in, well, years.”
“Okay, the fact that you have to look around like a criminal when you talk about this should tell you something.”
“I just don’t want the kids to hear and get upset.”
“My point remains exactly the same. Look, I know I mentioned this before, but have you talked to Doctor Millenti?” Willow put her face into her hands at the question, but Buffy continued. “I’m just saying maybe you need a little professional guidance here – you and Rowena – before everything goes fubar.”
“So you have all the answers to life?”
“You’re the one who asked me for advice,” Buffy countered. “But, no. That’s why I said go see Milletti. In fact, I find myself arguing more and more with my husband about what it means to be a parent. It took a lot for me just to convince him that we could come out tonight to support the nieces and nephews and let one of the many super strong babysitters look after Joyce.”
“Hell if I know. It’s like he’s fixated on this whole thing about not being like his parents, and I don’t know where it came from or what it’s all about. So no, I don’t have the answers. But for me, personally, the answer is not looking for somebody else.”
“I’m not looking to replace Rowena.”
“Does she see it that way?”
“I don’t know. She left before we could really talk.”
“Ro isn’t me. But if Xander suggested this for recreation and not procreation for my besties’ sake, yeah, I’d have an issue. I would feel like I wasn’t enough for him.”
“So Rowena is right and I’m wrong. Thanks.”
“I’m not saying anyone is right or wrong here. I’m just trying to understand.” Willow let out a heavy sigh and Buffy continued, “I love you. I will always be here no matter what. I just don’t want to see anybody get hurt, and it really feels like there’s a lot of people who are going to be hurt with this. So, what exactly did Rowena say when you suggested this?”
“Essentially what you’re asking – ‘why?’ And I tried to explain to her, without getting too much into how Tamara makes me feel, because that’d upset her.”
Willow turned as if she was going to leave, but Buffy grabbed her by the arm. “Please stay. Talk to me.”
Willow turned back around and faced the bar. “I don’t know what I’m gonna do.”
“How about nothing right now? Just…hang out tonight and order a drink.” Buffy then motioned to the bartender. “Whatever she wants, put it on my tab please.”
Sterling’s – Table – Same Time
Back at the table, Xander was on his phone, showing Becca and Giles a picture, when Alex came and sat beside him.
“Hey, Buddy,” Xander greeted him. “You ready for tonight?”
“Yeah,” the teenage boy replied. He rubbed the back of his neck, not appearing entirely confident.
“You’re nervous.” It wasn’t a question. “It’s kinda scary being on stage. I remember what it was like when me, your Ma and Aunt Buffy were forced into the high school talent show.”
“Forced?” Alex asked with a grin.
“Yeah, the principal was looking for any excuse to ax us and made it mandatory. Your Ma froze and then ran off stage, leaving us there. She’d battle a vampire with a number two pencil, but skedaddle from public performances. But…I’m sure you’ll be great tonight.”
“It’s not the band stuff. I do that really well. I just…How do you get a girl you like to notice you?”
Xander rubbed his hands together, and Becca raised an eyebrow at him. “Hey, what can I say, I’ve been waiting for this moment for the past fifteen years.” He turned back to Alex and said, “I find that if you act assertive, then she’ll see you as confident – a guy who knows who he is. Sometimes it helps if you don’t act too interested in her. In fact, just ignore her. But if you do engage, don’t be afraid to ask again later if she says no.”
Alex shook his head. “I thought that if they said no–”
Xander slung an arm around his shoulders. “You know what happened the first time I asked your Aunt Buffy out? I said, ‘you either feel a thing, or you don’t’, and she said ‘I don’t’.”
“What did you do then?” Alex asked with large eyes.
“I said, ‘Please try, I can wait’, and I did wait, and look at me now!” Xander raised both arms, and both Alex and Becca regarded him skeptically. He faltered slightly. “It helped that I went after her when I was possessed by a hyena, so she knew I could be assertive when I had to be.”
“And then when I accidentally forced our witch friend Amy to magically make every girl at school fall in love with me, I didn’t take advantage of her, so I think I got big points for that.”
“A-actually–” Giles raised a finger.
“Uh oh,” Buffy teased as she and Willow walked up to the table, “Looks like you two are conspiring.”
“Not at all,” Xander remarked. “He was just asking for some guy advice.”
“Again, uh oh,” Buffy said. “What did he tell you?” she asked Alex.
“Ummm…I have to be assertive, but at the same time act uninterested. Don’t give up if no is the first answer. Oh, and, uh, something about hyenas?”
Buffy shook her head, “Yeah, you don’t want to do that. That’s creepy. Especially the no means no part. I only took him seriously once he dumped that creepy stuff.”
“I thought it was just a matter of…timing?” Xander replied.
“Ha! No.” Buffy and Willow both said at the same time, and then smiled at one another. Then Buffy blinked a few times. “What was that about hyenas?”
“Oh, you know, when I lost my memory…” he began.
“No!” she said, pointing a finger at him. “When we were sixteen and you said you forgot about pushing me against the vending machine and trying to sniff my neck and…probably other stuff when you were possessed by a hyena, it was cute, but now I’m done with it.”
“Oh!” Willow pointed her own finger, “and remember that time when I gave you a whole message to give to Buffy when she was going to fight Angel to save the world, and you just told her ‘kick his ass’?”
Giles, Becca and Alex all turned to look at Xander. He shrunk down in his chair a little.
“Oh my Goddess, were you trying to get with her then!?!” Willow flailed her arms, losing it a little bit. “The world was ending! And you were with Cordelia at the time, who I can’t believe I’m defending, but–”
Buffy put a calming hand on Willow’s shoulder, then took a deep breath, briefly closing her eyes.
“Seriously, Alex,” she said when she opened her eyes again, “just be yourself. You don’t have to act cool. You are cool. You’re smart. You’re talented. And a kickass witch. Plus, you’re in a band, for God’s sake. Girls dig that. Guys too, if that’s where your flag flies. Ask your Ma.”
“Oz was in a band,” Willow mentioned casually. “I dated a guitar player. It was cool. He was cool,” she said proudly, until the smile started to fade. “Well, until he got wolfy, ran away and then tried to eat my girlfriend when he came back…So, don’t do that. J-Just play guitar, and be you.”
“Yeah,” Buffy added, “it’s too hard to continuously try to be something you’re not just to impress someone. Besides, those kinds of fleeting relationships never last over the long haul.”
The last sentence, spoken to Alex, wasn’t lost on Willow, but she said nothing.
“Just go out there and have fun tonight,” Willow told him. “The right person will find you. And if they don’t want you, they’re just not the right person. Just walk away and find someone who is right.”
“Thanks guys,” Alex said with a smile as he left and headed back to the stage.
“I wasn’t creepy!” Xander finally said defensively. “When was I ever creepy?”
Giles, Willow and Buffy all chuckled. Becca stared at them.
Buffy sat down in the chair Alex had just vacated, took a sip of her drink, then said, “You one hundred percent remember being possessed by a hyena.”
“I—” Xander opened his mouth to protest, but when he saw the way his wife was glaring at him, he just said, “Yeah, I do.”
“Yeah you do.” Buffy took a much larger swig of her drink.
Sterling’s – Stage
Liz stood on the stage with four other people and another figure, around the same height. Though the latter was dressed primarily in business attire, his appearance was not human. Next to them was a white board with three phrases – ‘Sing-Along Song’, ‘Not in this century!’ and ‘Love/Hate Title’.
“Alrighty,” the demon said, putting his hands together and rubbing them in excitement. “Platypus you’re the last to spin. Liz, have a whirl.”
Liz did as she was instructed, and the wheel spun around and began to slow down until it came to rest on the words ‘Laryngitis lead’.
Joe pointed at Liz and said, “You’re shelved tonight.”
Liz laughed. “Can I sing back up, Joe?”
“That is acceptable. But somebody else has to take the lead vocals. Now remember any song tonight must have at least two components for a win. The more you can check off, the higher your score. Good luck in your battle tonight.”
As Liz exited the stage, her bandmates excitedly waved her over.
“As I was telling your brother,” Jen said, “bless your mother for making us learn Rock Hall artists.”
“You found the perfect pre-2000, sing-along love song?” Liz asked.
“Sis found the perfect hate song,” Alex replied.
Liz cocked her head, intrigued.
Park – Night
Rustling, snapping twigs and crunching fallen leaves could be heard at first, but then these came to a sudden stop. Some fumbling and beeps closely followed.
On a screen, in portrait mode, a petite Asian girl, her bubbly eyes framed by large round glasses beamed a massive smile, accentuated by the flash of a camera. Atop her head, she wore a hard-hat with a GoPro and flashlight attached, and the top part of a utility vest could be seen hanging from her shoulders. An ever-scrolling chat window and animated sprites of the girl herself and emojis adorned the corners of the screen.
“‘Sup guys, it’s me, back on another stake out, and have I got some major vamp cramp’age going on? Check these deadheads out!”
With another fumble and a hard tap on the screen, the image switched from selfie-mode to show a gang of vampires bundling blood transport boxes out of a battered van into an equally battered car.
The image flipped back to the young girl. “‘Mom, can we stop off and drink the entire Wendy’s?!'” she bleated sarcastically. “‘No, we’ve got blood at home,'” she kept on, impersonating the Mom. She shook her head with a pout. “Tragic. C’mon, let’s goooooooo!”
She charged, fumbling with the camera.
Park – Same Time
The bushes parted and the camera bobbed as she rushed over to the van.
“What the fu—” one of the vampires shouted as she closed the gap. “Dude, watch out!”
As the closest vampire turned around, an ax appeared in the lower right part of the screen, then swung upwards and sliced through his neck.
She veered off course, the thud of his head meeting the ground and the crumbling of his form could barely be heard off-camera over her panting and giggling.
The next vampire ahead snarled and closed the gap, ready to attack, but she dropped into a slide right between his legs, spun on her back, then threw the ax straight at his head.
Lexi barrel-rolled on the ground, avoiding the clutches of a couple of vampires trying to catch her. As she did so, she threw out a firecracker that caused them to step back in surprise, giving her the time to get back to her feet. In the same movement, she produced two stakes, both appearing in each hand in the lower part of the screen, and stormed forward through the sparks from the firecracker.
The vampires shielded their eyes from the fireworks, but dropped their hands at the sound of her running at them. But it was too late, and she thrust the stakes into each of their chests in unison as they stood with stunned looks on their faces.
Then a hard thud could be heard on the video, and Lexi fell forward to the ground, hard. She looked up to see one of the blood transport boxes tumbling to a stop in front of her, the packets spilling out. She turned back to see a vampire readying another box, but she flipped to her feet and ripped something off of her vest. She flung out her hand, unfurling a metal pole with a stake at the end.
With another brief moment of fumbling, she mounted her iPhone on the pole, about a foot down from the stake. With the audible tap of a button, the image switched from her head-mounted camera to the iPhone – it showed her holding the selfie-stick, determined. She ran forward, holding the stick as if she was jousting with a lance.
Off-screen, there was a crunch as the stake connected. Then a gust of dust filled the screen. The particles began to part and the vampire’s rib cage could be seen beginning to decompose. The camera kept on moving. With a final explosion, the dust parted as she ran through the cloud, the second blood transport box under her free arm, hysterically laughing.
She screeched to a stop when she reached the vehicles and found more of the blood transport boxes. She then cast a glance down to the one under her arm. A bottle attached to her vest dangled on top of it.
Outside Warehouse – Later
The camera bobbed with Lexi’s breathing as she lay in wait opposite the industrial metal door to a warehouse. Several of the blood transport boxes were stacked directly in front of it.
The large door dragged to one side.
“Oh, look, look!” she excitedly whispered.
A man appeared in the doorway, confused. He looked up and down the road and then down to the boxes, which he dragged inside.
As the door pulled shut with the sound of grating metal, Lexi broke out of cover and dashed to the window.
Her fingertips appeared on the screen as she carefully lifted herself, and the camera, to see what was going on inside.
The man threw out blood-bags to various other people, their faces contorting to their vampire forms as they tucked in.
“Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God…” she panted.
One of them suddenly spit out a mouthful of blood, screamed and threw his bag down. The other vampires’ hands also reached for their faces, as steam began to erupt through their lips and out of their nose and ears. A moment later, the screaming vampire exploded in a mix of dust, blood and steam.
Then another exploded. And another. And another. And another.
While they all combusted, Lexi continued to maniacally laugh her head off.
Sterling’s – Stage – Later That Night
Martin started with a basic rhythm all by himself on the drums, then nodded to Jen.
“Alright everybody,” Jen began from behind the Yamaha keyboard. “We know you got beautiful voices and you can sing. You’re real good at that. Now it’s those hands — we wanna hear ‘em, okay? We’re gonna clap…Can you keep a beat? Here we go now.” As the crowd began to clap in time with each other, she nodded. “Alright, perfect. Yeahhh. Alright then, pick it up.”
Martin quickened his pace behind the drum kit.
Jen smiled. “This one’s real good for dedications, so pick out somebody special…a one, a two, a one two three!”
Liz smiled and then broke into the main riff. Alex stood beside Liz, playing his bass, while his brother and younger sister were on saxophones. They stood behind him, near the drum kit where Martin was seated. The older members of the audience roared their approval, including Joe Sterling, along with a few younger folks who recognized the song from the opening riff. Jen started to sing, with an angry growl.
Midnight, gettin’ uptight, where are you?
You said you’d meet me, now it’s quarter to two
I know that I’m hangin’ but I’m still wantin’ you
Hey Jack, it’s a fact, they’re talkin’ in town
I turn my back and you’re messin’ around
I’m not getting jealous, don’t like lookin’ like a clown
I think of you every night and day
Liz and Alex leaned forehead to forehead as they played – Liz with her six-string and Alex with his bass. Three girls stood at the front of the crowd. Nikki clearly recognized one of them. After a moment’s confusion, a look of realization came to her face. She walked up between the three girls, taking a spot next to one Maddie Allen. Jen continued to sing on stage.
You took my heart, and you took my pride away-ayayayayayayayayay.
When she got to the chorus, Jen put her hands in the air and the room followed suit. They began to clap and sing along with her.
I hate myself for loving you
Can’t break free from the things that you do
I wanna walk, but I run back to you
That’s why I hate myself for loving youuuuu.
Back on the floor, Nikki asked the other two girls, “That bass player’s pretty cute, huh?”
“He is!” one of them said.
“Dude, he looks twelve!” another remarked.
“Is he dating the guitar player? ‘Cause they seem pretty cozy.”
“Like that ever stopped you,” the other girl told her. They both laughed.
Nikki cast a glance at Maddie, who was now watching Alex with more interest. Nikki smiled and turned back to the show. The would-be groupies weren’t the only ones who seemed to notice the display between Liz and Alex. Jen found herself grinning as she watched the two of them acting out the song on the stage as they played.
A few moments later, while Jen continued to sing, Liz motioned slightly to Alex to check out the gals at the left side of the stage taking an interest in him. She nodded her head toward them, and he moved over closer and gave them all a smile. As his sister sang, he turned his attention to Maddie. He kept his eyes on her as he sang along, as if singing directly to her.
I think of you every night and dayyyy
You took my heart, and you took my pride away-ayayayayay
He turned his nose up and walked away back toward Liz, who was still riffing. Maddie grinned and started to shake her head at his antics. On the last chorus, the band sang the first part of each line, then let the crowd take over the end.
“Can’t break free…” “…from the things that do.”
“I wanna walk…” “…but I run back to you.”
Maddie and Alex shared a smile, before everyone together finished the song with, “That’s why I hate myself for loving you.”
As the band closed the song, the crowd went crazy. Over the cheers and applause, Jen shouted in the microphone, “Thank you very much. That was Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Check ‘em out…Thank you.”
Sterling’s – Stage Left – Same Time
Alex wiped his head off with a towel, then left it draped around his neck as he started to make his way off stage.
Nikki waited at the bottom of the stage stairs. “You guys were great,” she told him.
“Thanks, Nik,” he replied sincerely.
The two groupies followed close behind her. “Yeah, I really liked that song. I don’t think I heard it before,” one of them said.
“Well,” the other piped up. “I have heard it, and I liked it. I’d say you guys won.” She appeared quite pleased with her attempt at gaining points with Alex.
“Then I wish you ladies were the judges,” he told them. He pointed to three people seated at a rectangular table nearby, talking to each other: a young woman, a middle-aged man and a man who could have been older than his father. “Plus, you’re much more attractive.” He turned his attention to Maddie, who was just standing nearby, watching the interaction unfold. “I’m surprised to see you here tonight.”
“Why? You think I don’t like music?” she shot back.
“I didn’t think you liked fun,” he retorted. “It’s all about being the lead dog, I thought.”
“I like fun, but I think we’ve got different ideas.”
“Well, you’ve seen mine,” he said, gesturing around them. “If you’re feeling brave, maybe you can show me yours sometimes.” Alex didn’t flinch. He didn’t stutter. He put it out there. When Maddie didn’t say anything after a few seconds, he shrugged. “Suit yourself.”
“Tomorrow,” she told him quickly.
“Excuse me?” Alex said as he leaned closer. “Can you repeat that, because I thought you said ‘tomorrow’?”
“Nevermind.” Maddie sighed and turned to leave.
Alex smiled and reached out, snagged her arm. “Again, I’m just having fun.”
Maddie looked down briefly at his hand holding onto her arm, which he slowly released.
“Fine. Gotta phone?”
At first Alex was confused. He saw her hand outstretched and waiting, so he fumbled in his pocket and pulled out the device, handing it to her. She did some typing and then handed it back to him.
“Meet me at ten. I’ll text you the address.”
“Ten P.M.?” he asked.
“Yeah. Is that a problem? Will you turn into a pumpkin or somethin’?”
“You’ll just have to find out tomorrow, I guess.”
They both grinned at each other.
Sterling’s – Table – Same Time
Liz arrived at the table her parents were sharing with their friends and accepted congratulations from several members of the group. She noticed her mother sitting more soberly, Liz’s phone sitting on the table in front of her.
Becca nodded toward the device. “I wasn’t prying. I saw it when it lit up while you were doing your sound check. We can address this with the school as harassment if it gets to be too much.”
Liz picked up her phone, then quickly frowned and rolled her eyes. Jen, arriving behind her, took the phone from Liz without asking and read the tweet.
“‘Just heard Liz Giles is dating a demon now. How mid do you have to be that human boys won’t swipe right on you even when your dad is famous and they know you’re DTF? Guess now we know,'” Jen read out loud. “Who the fuuuudge does Trina think she is?” she said, barely stopping herself from being vulgar.
Buffy and Willow’s eyes both widened slightly, then they exchanged significant looks. Xander had a sudden coughing fit.
“Whatever that means, I gather it’s intended as an insult. I don’t know why she needs to behave in such a fashion,” Giles said absently.
“She’s a bitch,” Jen muttered. Everyone looked at her. Willow raised an eyebrow and shook her head at her daughter. “Sorry. Did I just think my thoughts out loud again?”
Becca grinned. “You’re right. She is a bitch.” She then turned to Liz. “Again, if her antics are too much, please tell us. We won’t fight your battles, Lizzie, but we will protect you. That’s what family does.”
“Anything for the Nepo Baby, huh?” Liz asked.
“You don’t really think that, do you?” Giles asked his daughter.
Liz nodded. “Sometimes.”
“You are where you are because of who you are,” Becca stressed. “Nothing’s been given to you at the Council.”
“Precisely. You’re earning it,” he added.
“Thank you,” Liz said sincerely. She perked up slightly. “I find ignoring her works best. It bothers her way more when I do that.”
It was then that Jen saw Trina walking past about two tables away.
“Hey, CUNTingham!” she shouted.
Becca’s mouth opened and then she smiled and just as quickly covered her mouth to try to hide her reaction. Willow put out a hand to grab a handful of Buffy’s top, as if needing the support to keep from falling over. Buffy patted her hand supportively but couldn’t quite suppress a small, wry smile.
Trina turned slightly in their direction, then said, “What did you just say?”
Liz let out a sigh and turned towards the adults at the table and said, “So much for ignoring her.” Turning to Jen, she said, “Don’t do this. Especially not here. Not tonight.” She leaned in and whispered, “In front of all of our parents.”
Trina, however, was already marching towards them, a scowl deeply embedded on her face.
End of Act One