Act 3



Cut To:


Karaoke Bar – Late Evening

Dusk was on the horizon. Willow sat in her car in the parking lot of a bar. She had the entrance staked out, with a vantage point on both sides of the building. Finally, she saw her target and turned off the ignition. She had to move fast, jumping out of her car so quickly that she left the door open. A moment later, she caught up to the woman walking toward the entrance.

“Rowena!” Willow shouted, trying to get her attention. The woman, who now appeared to have long blonde hair, did not stop moving. When that did not work, Willow tried again. “Blanche Rowena Allister Rosenberg!”

That stopped Rowena in her tracks. She turned to face Willow with a swift motion. Both women had bags in their hand decorated with ‘Happy Birthday’ and other party imagery.

“Not even my mother had the guts to use all of my names.”

“I just wanted to get your attention,” Willow replied, as she closed the distance between them.

When they were a few feet from each other, literally an arm’s-length away, Rowena said, “You have my attention. What do you want?” The tone was void of any emotion, positive or negative.

“I don’t even know where to begin.” Willow took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I haven’t seen you since…our kitchen conversation. Hell, I don’t even know where you spent last night. I had no idea what to tell the kids this morning.”

Cut To:


Allister-Rosenberg House – Kitchen – That Morning

The twins were bickering over the milk jug and a cereal box, while Sophie and Jake were trying to see who would be the champion of the last instant waffle. The noise was starting to reach a crescendo as Willow stood by the coffee pot, staring out the window, sipping her coffee. She seemed almost oblivious to the chaos behind her.

“Oww,” Jen winced, and then quickly dropped her spoon, making a clatter. “Quit making my spoon hot, you ass!”

“Quit hogging the milk!” Alex shouted.

On the other side of the table, Jake pulled the now mangled waffle towards him as Sophie yelled,  “I’m telling Mom when she comes down!”

“Enough!” Willow yelled, without even turning around.

Everything went silent for a moment. Willow cleared her throat and, in a much calmer voice, said, “Your Mom is not here. You are stuck with Ma. You are going to eat your breakfast. You are not going to fight anymore. When you are done, you are getting your shoes on and we are all going to school. Any questions?”

She finally turned away from the window to see Jen had gingerly raised her hand. “Where is Mom?” she asked.

“She left early. Any other questions?” When nobody said or did anything except lightly shake their heads, Willow took a deep breath and said, “I’m sorry for shouting. Please finish your breakfast and we’ll go.”

She picked up her coffee mug and walked out of the room. For a few seconds, no one at the table moved or even breathed.

“I never heard Mom come home last night. Did you guys?” Jen asked her siblings.

“She might’ve slipped in when we were talking about the show last night in your room?” Alex offered.

Jen looked toward the living room door, through which Willow had just exited. She didn’t turn back around when she started to speak to the others. She kept her eyes trained on the area where Willow had walked away. “If nobody here has seen Mom within the next twenty-four hours, I’m telling somebody at the Council she’s missing.”

“You’re not saying Ma hurt her, are you?” Sophie asked.

Jen turned around to give her young sister a reassuring grin.

“What I’m saying is this: if anybody here sees Mom today, make sure you tell everybody at this table. Agreed?”

Cut To:


Karaoke Bar – Present

“By the way, I hope you saw one of the kids,” Willow offered. “Because they kinda sorta think I might’ve killed you.”

“Jesus, I haven’t even been gone twenty-four hours.”

“The timeframe isn’t my biggest takeaway here. The biggest one for me is that they think that I-I could actually kill you. That makes me question…a whole bunch of things. But I’m not here to talk about that. I’m just saying, any information you’d like to offer regarding your whereabouts would be welcomed.”

“Based on our last conversation, I’m not sure my whereabouts are any of your business. But if you are concerned for my well-being, I stayed with a friend and I’m okay.”

“Of course I’m concerned. A-and obviously at some point you went home, because you’re changed, and you look great; beautiful, even. A-And no, I’m not trying to win you over with compliments. I’m…” Willow trailed off, but Rowena offered nothing in response. Finally, the redhead just asked, “Do I still have a wife?”

For a few seconds, Rowena didn’t answer. Then she asked, “Would it be easier if you didn’t?”

“Of course not,” Willow replied immediately, with no hesitation. “Nothing about what’s happening at the moment is easy.”

“There’s something we can both agree on. Now, had you asked me this question even three days ago, I would’ve had the answer: yes, you have a wife. But right now, I don’t know if I have one.”

“Yes, you have a wife,” Willow insisted. “A-And I love you enormously. In fact, I-I’m glad you came tonight.”

“It’s Becca’s karaoke birthday night. Of course I came. I love Becca.”

“Me too. It’s just, with everything going on, I wasn’t sure if you would feel comfortable–”

“First of all, I’m going to stop you right there. I’m comfortable being around my friends, regardless of what happens between us. They’re not the ones who make me feel uncomfortable right now. That would be you.”

“Do you want me to leave?” Willow asked in a small voice.

Rowena paused again and then shook her head. “No. Stay. I’m not going to tell you that you cannot see your friends tonight. Let’s just get through this. We can discuss, argue, throwdown, whatever, later. Tonight is about Becca and her birthday and singing cheesy karaoke music because that’s what she loves to do each year. Agreed?”

Willow just nodded.

“Here is the trade-off. Our conversation with each other is going to be minimal at best. I will sit wherever I damn well please, and that may not be next to you. We can give her both of these presents and tell her they’re from the family. Do you agree?”

“That sounds reasonable,” Willow answered.

“Fine. Wait five minutes and then you can come in. I’m not arriving with you, and I’m not leaving with you.”

Rowena did not wait for her to reply. She simply marched herself through the front doors and into the bar. For her part, Willow just leaned against the wall of the building and closed her eyes for a moment.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Grace’s Office – Same Time

The sole light on Grace’s desk did its best to illuminate a slice of her office. It cast a streak of harsh light across her face. She sat behind her desk, across from Tess Muller, who hadn’t put on makeup that day and had large, dark circles under her eyes.

“So you were actually in Vor?” Grace said. “Y’know, I’ve never been to another dimension myself. What was that like?”

“Nauseating,” Tess told her. “I threw up right away, and then when I came back. But that’s not the important part. How can I…have you ever seen Lord of the Rings?”

“I’m not going to dignify that with an answer.”

“I saw her army, and it was way bigger than that. Also less CGI was involved.”

“I get that part,” Grace said, waving her off. “But you met this demon, this Zorgrafilloraxtragor, what’s she like?”

“Hmm,” Tess contemplated. “She’s like Harley Quinn meets Elon Musk meets Kathy Griffin.”

“Got it. Evil on all fronts. What does Zorgrafilloraxtragor want?”

“Zorgy,” Tess corrected.

Grace blinked a few times. “What?” she asked flatly.

“Zorgy,” Tess repeated. “That’s what she calls herself and has all her underlings call her. And yeah, her name is long, but it’s not just…she comes off like she’s your pal. She gets under your skin. She pulls you in, and you can almost forget that she wants to tear your skin off. But she really, really wants to.”

“Did she say anything about specifics?” Grace pushed. “Battle plans? Dates? Locations? Anything?”

Tess shook her head. “Our relationship was one way. She wanted things from me, and in exchange I had to hope she wasn’t going to murder me and my entire family. Maybe I should’ve tried to push for more information, but honestly I was too petrified.” She sat back in her chair, dejected. “Took all this time to find out I’m a coward.”

Grace grunted. “I’m not the one to talk to. This job, even those of us who have families…the world always comes first. It has to.” She shook her head. “It’s easy to forget other people don’t have to live with that.” With a deep breath, she forged ahead. “Maybe she didn’t say anything, but anything you can remember, any detail could be important.”

“Well, she sure spent a lot of time on her cell phone,” Tess ran a hand through her hair. “She acted like she was tweeting? That doesn’t make any sense, though. Does it?”

“I just want to know how she got cell coverage in Hell,” Grace said. “I can’t even get it in this building half the time.”

She stretched in her chair, holding her arms above her head. She twisted her torso, grimacing as she did so.

“Back problems?” Tess said knowingly.

“You know what the public doesn’t know about my glamorous lifestyle? How bad it is on my spine,” Grace agreed. “Carolyn ordered me this new chair a couple months ago that’s supposed to be ergonomic, but…I don’t feel like it’s making any difference.”

“Have you tried a standing desk?” Tess suggested. “Everyone thinks they’ll hate it until they try it, but–”

“Don’t,” Grace cut her off, her voice suddenly harsh.

Tess blinked. “Don’t…what?”

“Don’t talk to me like we’re peers,” Grace said. “I’ve gone out on a limb here, but I didn’t do it for you. If you think you’re going to charm me like your other rich friends because we both eat at the same restaurants, we went to the same fancy private schools, that you’re just gonna skate by on this, you’re not. I agreed to try to keep you alive, but I didn’t agree to treat you as anybody but the criminal that you are.”

Tess stared at Grace for a second, then sat back in her chair, running her tongue over her lips.

“Shall we start again?” Grace asked, her tone completely back to business.

Cut To:


Outside Suburban Cemetery – Night

Alex slid his bike to a stop outside the gate to a small cemetery. Maddie leaned against one of the stone gate-posts, her arms crossed.

“Hi!” he managed, though he definitely sounded out of breath.

Maddie regarded him, the night reflectors on his bicycle wheels and his blue windbreaker skeptically. But all she said was, “Hi.”

“So, what are we doing?” he asked, as he leaned his bike up against a tree outside the gate.

Maddie raised a single eyebrow.

“I kind of thought it might be bowling, you seem like a bowling girl,” Alex said. But then couldn’t keep a straight face any more and grinned. He pulled a wooden stake out of the pocket of his windbreaker. “Yeah, between it being ten at night, you giving me the address of a cemetery and, y’know…” He waved a hand in her direction. “Your whole vibe, I kinda figured out what was up.”

Now she raised her other eyebrow, slightly more appreciatively, then gestured to the open gate.

“Oh, yeah,” Alex agreed eagerly. He walked past her and into the cemetery, the stake clutched in both hands. Maddie sighed and walked in behind him.

Cut To:


Suburban Cemetery – Moments Later

Maddie and Alex walked over wet grass, past rows of identical tombstones, in silence for a few minutes.

Then Maddie said, “I wasn’t sure you’d come.”

Alex looked at her incredulously. “You weren’t sure I’d come?”

“Yeah, I mean, you tell most guys to come kill monsters with you in a cemetery in the middle of the night, and they tend to bitch out on you,” Maddie said. “You’re…actually the first one that didn’t.”

“It’s not like I’ve never been slaying before,” Alex pointed out. “N-not that I’ve, y’know, staked a vampire personally or anything like that, but in more of a support capacity– Wait, how many guys have you invited to go slaying with you?”

Maddie’s smile was small, but with a wicked edge to it. “Jealous?”

“No, but I mean…is this, like, your move?” She shrugged. “But why would you keep doing it if it doesn’t work?”

“Oh, it one hundred percent works,” she replied, “at getting dudes to back off and leave me alone. Until tonight, at least.”

Without warning, she grabbed him by his lapels and dragged him behind a nearby tombstone. Alex’s eyes grew very wide for a moment until he figured out that this was more of a strategic move than a romantic one. He slowly peered over the top of the tombstone and saw two men with bumpy foreheads standing several rows away.

He sank back down and whispered, “So, what’s the plan?”

“We follow them,” she whispered back. “Somewhere around here, there’s a nest of at least five. I’ve been hired to take it out.”

“Got it, recon.” Alex nodded. “I can do recon.”

Then he tried to turn again and smacked his forehead against the tombstone with a loud “Thud!” Both vampires immediately turned and looked in his direction. Maddie grabbed him and pulled him down into the grass, face first. A moment later, one of the vampires shrugged, and the two of them turned and began to walk off in the opposite direction.

Maddie gave Alex a dirty look as she got to her feet. Alex scrambled to follow, spitting out a blade of cemetery grass as he did so.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Grace’s Office – Same Time

Skye had a large binder open on her lap. She sat on the hot seat across from Grace in the Chairwoman’s office.

“So one thing Regina Rich said sent me down a rabbit hole,” Skye was saying, as she rifled through the pages in her binder. “This Zorgafrax called herself–”

“Zorgy”,” Grace corrected her, sounding and looking very tired. Skye looked at her with raised eyebrows, and Grace shrugged. “Apparently she has all her minions call her Zorgy.”

“That’s surprisingly My Little Pony for somebody who wants to destroy the world,” Skye said. “Though honestly, somebody who can tell a 12-foot-tall Behemoth Demon to call her ‘Zorgy’ has to have some extremely big girl cojones. Or guy cojones, no judgment.”

She shook her head and continued. “No, her title.” Skye cleared her throat and read off one of her papers. “The Queen of Ashes, the Mistress of Shadows, the Grand Duke of the Seventh and Twenty-First Hells, and the Twelfth Scion of the Thirty-Eighth House of Ralkess.” She looked up from the paper at Grace. “Whatever happened to people just calling themselves ‘the Great’ or ‘the Magnificent’ or, hell, ‘the Bloody’?”

“Demons like to boast,” Grace said, her tone indicating she did not think much of this lead.

“No, listen!” Skye insisted. “‘The twelfth scion of the thirty-eighth house?’ Doesn’t exactly sound like she was the heir apparent. So I looked up the House of Ralkess, and there’s not a lot…” She was paging through her binder again. “…and what there is isn’t, y’know, written by people who enjoyed life, but as far I can understand it, the terminology’s pretty straightforward…”

“It’s late, Skye,” Grace begged. “Please.”

“Not for a creature of the night,” Skye replied smoothly, without looking up from her search.

“I am a creature of the day,” Grace said, “and this is my office, so–”

Skye found what she was looking for in her papers. “Zorgy was approximately one hundred and forty-sixth in line for the leadership of the House of Ralkess. Give or take a couple Demon Princes. And that’s one House, out of at least several dozen that were competing for power in Vor after the Presidium, y’know, got exploded.”

Grace sat back in her chair and looked at the ceiling. “So what happened to all those other demons?” she wondered, thinking things through out loud.

“It’s not really from reliable sources, but…” Skye turned another page. “Mostly they are very dead now. But here’s the thing, she didn’t kill them.”

“Then what–”

“Well, maybe a few of them she did, like maybe she picked off the stragglers like a lion picking off a sick wildebeest or whatever, but mostly…” Skye closed her binder and waited for Grace to look her in the eyes. “They did it to each other.”

Grace sat there for several moments, saying nothing. Then she cricked her neck, first to one side, then the other. “Thanks for burning the midnight oil with me. I know you’d rather spend time with Dawn.”

Skye shook her head. “Nah, it’s Dancing With the Stars night for Dawn. I’ll pass.”

“You don’t like reality TV?”

“You know your bestie Lorinda Sheparton’s on it this year, right?” Skye said flatly. Grace nodded. “You couldn’t get me to watch that bitch do the cha-cha for all the blood in Transylvania.”

Cut To:


Karaoke Bar – Same Night

“The highlight for me so far tonight?” Buffy began, “Watching Giles sing ‘Gangnam Style’. I think large tracts of hell froze over this evening.”

Everybody at the table laughed. This included Xander, who sat next to Buffy, who was next to Giles and Becca, who was next to Rowena and Robin, with Willow on the end.

“And pray tell, Buffy, what will you be singing that I can make fun of?” Giles asked.

“Undecided yet,” she replied.

“Will?” Xander asked. “What are you going to sing?”

“Ha. How about something that’s spoken word? Maybe that sunscreen song that came out our senior year.”

“Taylor Swift!” Becca said to Willow in a light bulb moment. “You Need to Calm Down is pretty much spoken word.”

From the stage, another patron was finishing up warbling through “Closing Time” by Semisonic.

“Oh, they have it,” Rowena said, as she showed Robin the song book on her phone.

“Cool,” he remarked, then he added, “Can I sing the backup, since that will count as me singing tonight, right?”

Rowena nodded excitedly. “Neither one of us has to be up there alone that way.”

Becca leaned forward and said, “For the record, gang, no one has to sing tonight. Not you. Not Willow. We just want everyone to have fun.”

“Oh, we’ll have fun with this song. Or at least I will,” Rowena said, as she got up and made her way toward the Karaoke DJ. They spoke for a moment, then Rowena called out to the table, “Robin,” and waved him over. Robin stood and made his way toward the stage as the current “act” ended their song.

“Okay gang, we have…” the DJ paused and then spoke to Rowena for a second. “Rowena and Robin about to take the stage. So let’s give a big round of applause and lots of luuuurrrrvvvvvv for R and R singing Paloma Faith!”

Rowena chuckled as the music began, and she handed Robin the other microphone.

“We’re officially a group – R and R,” she told him.

He chuckled, then leaned in and whispered down to her, “Do you trust me?” Rowena just nodded. “We need to show her you’ve got options. You game?” Again, Rowena nodded, but this time she had a curious expression. “We’re gonna leave ‘em wondering, what is this world comin’ to,” he added.

The first verse began, and Rowena sang:

How’re you goin’ do love this way?

I work so hard for you everyday.

While you’re out, late night,

Doin’ what you do

Chillin’ with who?

While I’m sittin’ at home

Come on with it!

Rowena kept her eyes trained on Willow. Robin tossed up his hands and sang, “I don’t know what this world is comin’ to,” then pulled her closer by the waist before backing her up during the chorus.

I just can’t rely on you (just can’t rely on you)

I just can’t rely on you (just can’t rely on you)

Yeah, you got that good stuff but that don’t last,

So I just can’t rely on you (just can’t rely on you)

Giles and Becca spared a quick glance at each other while they watched the display, but didn’t say anything. Buffy tried to look everywhere but the stage, while Xander spared her a glance before looking at Willow for a reaction.

Willow didn’t seem to move a muscle or even breathe as she watched them on stage. She didn’t smile. She didn’t frown. She just…watched. Rowena went into the next verse without missing a beat, putting her arm around Robin’s back.

Oh, Lord

How am I to ever explain,

How my melted heart went right down the drain?

‘Cause if you don’t want me (Release)

Repeat (Believe)

Want some (Want some)

Take me

He will take me right out your way

Come on with it!

This time Robin moved to face Rowena as he said his line, “I don’t know what this world is comin’ to.”

Immediately following the line, he put his arms around Rowena’s waist, dipped her slightly back, and planted a slow burning kiss on her lips. The onlookers and strangers in the bar cheered on the display. When he righted her again, she seemed tongue tied, the scrolling words on the machine ignored for a moment. She smiled.

Rowena reached out and stroked Robin’s cheek as she tried to pick up the chorus where she left off.

Yeah, you got that good stuff, but that don’t last,

So I just can’t rely on you (just can’t rely on you)

All eyes at the table immediately fell on Willow, but she didn’t look in their direction. She continued to watch Robin and Rowena on stage, though her face betrayed no reaction. It was only then that Rowena looked over at Willow for the first time since Robin kissed her. She did not turn away, instead making sure to lock eyes as she sang:

Change your ways

Don’t I deserve it, babe?

Looky here

‘Cause that’s why you drive me outta my mind.

The only thing that ended up tearing everyone’s eyes from the stage was the woman who sat down in Robin’s chair with a slight thud and said, “Well, ain’t that a helluva thing. Blondie driving stick now?”

Everyone turned to see Faith sitting there, watching the show.

Black Out




End of Act Three

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