Act 4



Fade In:


Karaoke Bar – Moments Later

Rowena held out her microphone and, on realizing she had nowhere to set it down, turned to Robin and handed it to him. He reached out and took the mic, but pulled Rowena into a tight embrace which he held for a good few seconds. When he released her, she looked up at him with a curious and devilish look, then turned and smiled as she made her way off the stage and over to Faith. The dark-haired woman stood up and accepted Rowena’s hug.

“Sorry. I took your chair,” Faith said as she moved away.

“No, sit,” Rowena told her, as she pulled another chair over for herself. She motioned for Willow to slide down, which she did. Faith took a seat next to Willow, while Rowena sat down between Faith and Robin.

Xander turned to Buffy and whispered, “What did I just watch? You saw what I saw, right?”

“Yes, Faith sat down from out of nowhere,” Buffy replied.

“Okay, yes, that’s odd, but it’s not the oddest thing I just witnessed. We did both see the stage show, right?”

“We did.”

“I didn’t hallucinate Robin kissing Ro, did I?”

“You did not.”

Robin rested his arm on the back of Rowena’s chair, which didn’t go unnoticed by Becca. She motioned for Giles to look. Robin then asked his ex-wife, “So what brings you to town…unannounced?”

Faith looked at his arm and then back up at his face. “Work, actually.” She then turned to Willow. “This is for you.”

It took a second, but Willow noticed Faith resting something on the table. The witch looked at down at the table and saw an amulet, a circular design in metal with three red stones set in it.

Cut To:


Suburban Cemetery – Outside Crypt – Minutes Later

Maddie and Alex crouched out of sight behind another tombstone as the two vampires opened the creaking metal door of a smallish, boxy stone crypt and entered.

“So I guess that’s the nest?” he asked.

She shook her head. “Can’t be, no way five of them live there. It’s not big enough.” She sighed. “OK, so maybe they’re just–”

“Wait, who’s that?” Alex pointed.

The pair watched as a short teenage girl wearing what looked like a small camera attached to a hardhat crept up toward the door to the crypt the vampires had entered.

Maddie groaned. “Goddammit, Lexi.”

Cut To:


Suburban Cemetery – Outside Crypt – Same Time

“OK, everybody,” Lexi Chang said quietly to all the followers watching on her helmet camera. “We’re doin’ this in one…two…”

She slammed open the door to the crypt with a crash, where she found the two vampires sitting on a stone sarcophagus, one shuffling a deck of cards while the other waited.

“Are you bloodsuckers just, like, hanging out?” she asked with a slightly manic laugh. “This may be the lamest thing I’ve ever seen. This week.”

The image flipped wildly as Lexi somersaulted in their direction, kicking one of the vampires hard in the chest. He went sprawling. Then Lexi was on him, his snarling face filling the camera. She raised a stake to finish him off.

“Guys, guys, guys,” she crowed. “This is too easy. I’d say I’m sorry you’re not getting your money’s worth, but this is actually free for you guys, so– Hey!”

The vampire had grabbed her stake, and the two began to struggle. A moment later, the camera suddenly pulled away from the vampire on the stone floor of the crypt. When the image resolved again, the other vampire held Lexi against a wall. She struggled, but to no avail. A second later, the other vampire joined him.

“So listen, hey,” she said, her voice now sounding much more nervous. “You vamps are actually live to my ten thousand viewers on Twitch right now. Anything you’d like to say to everyone?”

The two vampires looked at each other incredulously. Then one turned back to Lexi and growled, “You tried to stake me live on the internet?”

“I mean…kinda?”

“So they can all watch while I drain you dry,” he said. He bared his teeth and leaned in toward her neck.

Before his fangs touched her, however, he exploded into dust. Maddie stood behind him, still holding up her stake.

“You guys, we have an unexpected special guest star on this stream,” Lexi hurriedly gushed. “It’s Maddie Allen, she is one of the best slayers on the West Side, and, you guys, she brought a boy.”

In the background, Alex stared, wide-eyed, into the camera lens.

The remaining vampire roared in anger.

“Oh yeah,” Lexi sighed. The camera swung wildly once more as she pushed him off her, then tackled him.

Cut To:


Crypt – Moments Later

Alex sat on the same sarcophagus the vampires had been about to play cards on a few minutes before, casually kicking his feet back against the stone. Maddie and Lexi were as far as they could get from him and still be inside the crypt, though this was not very far.

“I was following those two back to their lair,” Maddie complained. “Now what the fuck am I supposed to do?”

Lexi held up a hand. “So, first off, thanks for saving my life.”

“I wouldn’t’ve had to save your life, bitch, if you hadn’t run in half-cocked like a–”

“And second, before we go any further, I should tell you that you’re being broadcast live to somewhere north of twelve thousand viewers at this point, and I’d appreciate it if you could keep the swearing to a minimum. My channel is rated for violence, not language, so…”

Maddie blinked several times. “Wait, you’re still streaming?”

“Well, I can’t cut it off now,” Lexi told her, as if talking to a child. “I’ve got twelve thousand people watching. Say hi!”

“I’m not…” Maddie shook her head. “Look, I get that you weren’t trying to step on my toes, but now the trail’s gone cold, and–”

“What I want to know is, who is that?” She trained the camera on Alex as he stuffed his hands in the pockets of his windbreaker. “You guys, if you knew Maddie, you’d know that the fact that she brought a boy on a Slay Date is a very, very big deal. So, spill the tea, how’d you two meet?”

“It’s not a date!” Maddie hissed. This got Alex’s attention, and he looked over at the two of them. She ran a hand over her face in frustration. “Look, I am not discussing my personal life with the entire internet watching.”

“C’mon, what’s his deal?” Lexi pressed. “You gotta give us something.” She looked over again at Alex, who had hopped to his feet and was running a hand over the nearest, heavily cob-webbed wall of the crypt. “I mean, clearly the boy’s got rizz, or he wouldn’t be able to pull a slayer.”

Alex tried to shake the cobwebs off of his hand and failed. Maddie rolled her eyes at him.

“He hasn’t pulled anyone. He has no rizz,” she insisted. “Really.”

“Then why is he here, girl?” Lexi crossed her arms over her chest, clearly very impressed with her own reasoning.

Maddie’s face grew still as she considered this. “I guess, well…he’s got at least some rizz, OK?” Lexi squeaked and clapped her hands. “But, just, y’know, a tiny amount. He has very low levels of–”

“Anybody know where this goes?” Alex called. The two slayers turned to look at him and saw that he had pushed open a small grate in the far wall to reveal a tunnel. “Maybe this is the way to the nest?”

Lexi turned to Maddie and said, “Cute and smart.”

“He’s not– Ughh!” Maddie put a hand to her head. “Fine, but I’m not splitting the fee with you. You can stream or whatever and that’s it.”

“Girl, I don’t need your money,” Lexi said indignantly, as the two slayers walked over toward Alex. “Do you have any idea what I make from these streams?”

“My Aunt said the crypts in Sunnydale sometimes had two levels,” Alex supplied, while Maddie peered into the dark. “But you’ll want to check for traps.”

Lexi rounded on him. “Wait…the Sunnydale in California that turned into the second Grand Canyon?” Alex, clearly and very suddenly realizing his mistake, nodded slowly. “Who’s your Aunt from Sunnydale who knows vamps?”

Maddie rose back to her full height, glaring at him. Alex looked like a deer caught in the headlights.

“My…Aunt Buffy,” he muttered quietly.

A moment’s silence ensued.

“Holy shit!” Lexi cried out. “I’m sorry you guys, you know me, that’s not who I am, I just mean…holy crap.”

Cut To:


Tunnel Beneath Crypt – Moments Later

Lexi scuttled on all fours through a very dusty tunnel, the flashlight on her helmet casting a thin beam ahead. Maddie and Alex followed just behind her.

“Quick update, everyone, we are crawling into a vampire lair through an ancient tunnel. Also I’ve got Buffy Summers’ nephew with me, because he wants to make out with my girl Maddie. He’s helping us out with the whole vampire deal…”

“Technically, she’s not really my Aunt,” Alex pointed out. “My moms just knew her from when–”

“Just…stop!” Maddie growled. “All I want to do is dust these vamps, get my money from a homeowners association, go home and sleep. Is that so much to ask? And I noticed you didn’t deny the part about wanting to make out with me.”

“I mean, I won’t lie, that was not zero percent of my showing up tonight,” Alex admitted. “But wait, your client is the local HOA?” He tried to turn his head to look at Maddie, and in doing so smacked the top of his skull on the top of the tunnel. “Ow!”

Maddie smirked at him. “What, you thought all my clients were shady business dudes? Turns out vampires are shit for property values.”

“I just…I guess I figured they would just report it to the Council.”

“Let me tell you something about your precious Council, loverboy,” Maddie said, as the two of them kept crawling along. “If the HOA goes to them, maybe the Council gets to it, eventually, or maybe they have other priorities. And if they do, there’s no guarantee they won’t blow up half the neighborhood while they’re at it. With me, the vamps get slayed, or I don’t get paid.”

“The Council would do it for free,” Alex pointed out.

“Yeah, and then it would be on record that there were vamps in this neighborhood, and the housing prices go down anyway. Not to mention–”

“Hey guys!” Lexi called, “I think I’m–Aaaah!” She yelped as the tunnel gave way under her and she fell several feet to a stone floor.

On her video feed, several vampires looked down at her. There were at least five of them.

“You guys are in for a treat!” she cried out to her audience, as she sprang to her feet.

Behind the vampires, her viewers could see Alex very awkwardly trying to climb down through the hole in the ceiling. He clung to the edges with both hands, his feet seeming to feel around in the air.

“Just let go,” Maddie chastised. “You’re fine.”

Then a vampire grabbed Alex by his legs, and he yelled out. Maddie groaned and jumped down after him.

Cut To:


Vampire Lair – Moments Later

There were only three of the vampires left. Alex hit a particularly tall, bald one with a gout of blue flame, and the vampire was immediately encased in ice.

“Hahahaha, awesome!” Lexi crowed. She pulled a truncheon out of her boot, then, with a snap, it telescoped out. She slammed it into the bald vampire’s frozen head, which snapped off from his neck and flew across the room. A moment later, both the head and body turned to dust. “Guess he just had to let it go. Get it, you guys, because he was frozen?”

Alex ignored her. Instead, he looked over to where Maddie was engaged in hand-to-hand combat with one of the last two vampires. She seemed oblivious to the fact that the other remaining vampire was running up behind her, ready to bring one of the several large metal candelabras lining the place down onto her head.

“Maddie!” he called out. She turned her head just in time for Alex to barrel into her.

The pair went sprawling onto the dirty floor of the lair, Alex on top, Maddie beneath him. Their eyes met, their faces inches apart. Both were breathing hard from exertion.

I died in your arms tonight!” played the music in Alex’s head. “It must have been something you said…

The sudden sound of first one vampire dusting, then another, cut off the synth backing track. Alex and Maddie both looked over to see Lexi throwing the candelabra onto the floor with a crash.

“Where do they get these things, HomeGoods?” Lexi complained. “Always with the terrible interior decorating skills.”

“Are you gonna get off me?” Maddie asked flatly.

“Oh, yeah,” Alex said, as if just realizing where he was. He scrambled to his feet, then offered Maddie a hand up. She just stared at him for a moment, then sighed and grabbed his hand, using it to pull herself back to standing.

A few seconds of silence ensued, then Maddie just quietly said, “Thanks.”

“Yeah, y’know,” Alex replied with a shrug. He scratched the back of his head. “So they do this formal dance every spring, at the Council. It’s coming up in a few weeks. I was wondering if maybe you might want to, y’know, go?”

Maddie swiveled her head toward him, eyes wide. “With you? To a dance? At the Watchers Council?” She sounded genuinely stunned. Then she shook her head. “No way in hell I’m doing that.”

“Girl!” Lexi almost screeched. “This boy knows his way around a vamp lair, and then he turned a bloodsucker into an icicle! What the hell are you waiting for? Say yes!”

Maddie blinked at her, then looked back at Alex. With a sigh, she just shook her head and walked away. Both Alex and Lexi watched her go for a moment.

Then Lexi launched back into her patter. “So, guys, first off, I want to thank all of you joining me on the stream tonight, and I want to thank my sponsors, BlackKnight Truncheons. You all saw how handy that came in tonight and…”

Cut To:


Karaoke Bar – Same Time

Rowena turned to Faith and asked, “Where are you staying tonight?”

“Haven’t figured that out. Angel literally handed me this thing and said, ‘Get it to Willow, personally. No UPS. No FedEx. No Council dropoffs’…so here I am. Oh, speaking of which…” Faith pulled out her camera and snapped a picture of the amulet in front of Willow. “Proof of delivery,” she said as she texted for a few seconds and then looked up with a grin.

“Stay with us,” Rowena replied.

“I don’t want to put you out.”

“Not at all. We’ve got the extra room.”

“With all them kids?”

“The room is a den-slash-bedroom but it’s got a real bed in it, I swear.”

“Hey, can’t be worse than a prison bunk. Count me in!”

Cut To:


Willow and Rowena’s Spare Bedroom – Later That Night

Faith was lying on the guest bed when she saw Rowena walk in carrying a pair of sweats and a t-shirt. The watcher closed the door behind her and made her way to the bed. Faith lay on top of the covers, looking at the ceiling. Rowena set the clothes at the end of the bed and took a spot on the bed beside her, looking up at the ceiling too. Neither said anything at first as they lay side-by-side, staring upward.

“I always hoped Robin would move on,” Faith said, breaking the silence, “but I have to admit, I didn’t think it would be with you, Ro.”

“You mean the kiss tonight?”

“Yeah. I’d like to see him with a good gal, like you, who’d be good to Nikki and–”

Rowena held up a finger. “I’m going to stop you. Robin and I aren’t together. It was for show…Willow…” She trailed off, as if unsure where to start.

“Willow?” Faith prompted after a moment of silence.

“She wants to open up things…in the marriage…”

Faith shrugged. “Robin would make you guys happy. Man’s got skills. Just sayin’.”

Ro chuckled. “No, Willow…met someone and wants to explore…with her. Of course, I’m allowed the same privilege, finding someone, that is, so when I told Robin about how it upset me, he thought maybe she might have a change of heart if she sees me acting on it.”

“Ha. That sounds like Ace…What do you want?”

“I want Willow,” Rowena answered without hesitation.

Faith grinned. “I had an expression I used to say years ago. Want-Take-Have. If you want something, take it, then you have it.”

“I don’t even know how that would fit here.”

“Well, don’t be like Psycho Faith and go killin’ Red’s flavor of the month. Your problem is with Willow, so that means your solution is with her, too, I’d assume. Show her you still want her, take her and then you’ll have her; not this…who is this person anyway? New watcher? Slayer?!”

“No. A doctor she met who’s working on a demon virus cure before it jumps species and destroys humanity. You know, the usual.” Rowena grinned.

Faith chuckled. “So, another Friday night at the Council?”

Rowena laughed. “Pretty much. Here’s the kicker: this doctor, she…she looks just like Tara – Willow’s Tara – apparently, and…and I don’t know how to compete with a ‘ghost’.”

Faith thought for a moment. “That’s a tough one. I still say want-take-have, though.”

Rowena paused for a moment, then said, “Can I ask a question?”


“Why did you leave? Didn’t you want Robin and Nikki anymore?”

Faith thought for a moment. Rowena didn’t offer to fill the silence with words. She simply waited. Faith cleared her throat first.

“Short answer: I never stopped wanting them. I was angry and they deserved better.”

“Angry with who?”

“I don’t know who. That’s the thing. Do you remember that kooky congresswoman?”

Rowena thought for a second and then nodded.

“It wasn’t long after that,” Faith explained. “I just couldn’t shake this underlying anger that would just bust out. When I found out I was pregnant, I thought hormones, right? But it didn’t go away after I had Nikki. In fact, it seemed to get worse. I even went to therapy before the wedding, but again, pointless. I asked Robin if he was sure he wanted to go through with the wedding, and he said yes. Whatever it was, we’d work through it. So, the years passed. I was still angry and lashing out…” Faith got a far away look in her eyes. “It was a trip to the zoo that made me decide to leave,” she said softly.

“The zoo?”

“Yeah. Nikki was four and I thought I’d take her to the zoo – mom and daughter day. We were looking at the tiger in this outdoor exhibit and I turned to pick up Nikki so she could get a better view, and this guy steps in front of us. I pushed him out of the way, made him stumble even, and told him to get the hell away from us…” Faith paused, and unshed tears came to her eyes. “Nikki asked, ‘mama mad?’ And in that moment, that’s when I realized – she was noticing. It’s one thing when she’s small – she wouldn’t remember Robin and I arguing about how warm it was that day, but now…now she was starting to see it. I was impacting her. I didn’t want her to be raised around…hate…and Robin deserved better than me.”

“He loved you. Still does, I think, though he’s never said as much.”

“Maybe. But I figured if I was out of the picture, he could move on, find someone who’d be good to him and Nikki. He could have the life…the life that I wanted, too, but couldn’t give him. So, I made my decision that day. I held Nikki and we watched that tiger moving back and forth. Every now and then, he’d jump at the glass for no reason. He looked mad, trapped. And that’s how I felt. Like that angry tiger in that damn cage, and I wasn’t going to raise another angry tiger…so yeah, I never stopped wanting them. I was angry and they deserved better.”

Rowena didn’t respond immediately. She heard Faith sniff and she reached over the bedside and handed her a tissue without looking at her. Faith took it without comment and blew her nose.

“How’s the anger today?”

Faith cleared her throat again before responding. “Better, but I still have my moments.”

“You could always come back, Faith. Try again.”

“Nah, it feels like it’s too late. Too much damage. I know when I left, it seemed sudden to everyone, but I went to a lawyer – drew up the papers giving Robin everything, including Nikki. I stuffed everything I needed in a duffle bag and hopped a flight to L.A. I spent time with Angel. He helped me before when I had…anger issues. But this time…this time was different. I couldn’t shake it, but he still, to this day, he trusts me. So, I don’t mind being his courier – even if the Council is the destination, because he still offers me anything I need.”

“The Council can be there too, Faith,” Rowena added. “We’d all help.”

“Not everyone.”

“Okay, you’re right,” Rowena confessed. “Robin and Kennedy especially feel betrayed.”

“And I don’t blame them one bit. I will say this, though: if it doesn’t work out with Willow and you find you have a lot in common with Robin and want to pursue that, I know you’d be good to him and Nikki. Not that you need it, but you got my blessing. Again, just sayin’.”

“Like I said, I still want Willow.”

“Then why are you lying in my bed now and not hers?”

Rowena grinned. “Because right now I’m mad at her.”

The two women began to chuckle. “I have to admit,” Faith began, “when I took this job for Angel, this is not what I expected tonight. Robin mackin’ on you at the bar and you ending up in my bed.”

“Welcome to the Hellmouth,” Rowena said dryly.

They both laughed again. “You need to sleep in here tonight,” Faith said conspiratorially. Rowena just smiled. “I’m serious. Hey you know what?” she whispered.

“What?” Rowena answered.

Faith moved to her elbows and faced the door. In a much louder voice, she called, “Oh my God, Ro! Right there! Don’t stop!”

Rowena covered her mouth with one hand to muffle her laughter and slapped at Faith with her free hand.

“That’s it! Slap me harder!” Faith cried out.

Rowena had tears in her eyes, trying to hold back laughter.

“Seriously,” Faith said in a quieter voice, “stay here tonight. She needs to wake up and see what she might lose, because, damn girl…you still got it goin’ on, you sexy thing you.”

“Right back at ya,” Rowena remarked.

Faith put her arm under Rowena’s head and led the woman to rest it on her shoulder. Rowena laid on her side and rested her arm across Faith’s stomach.

“Really, no matter what happens,” Faith told her. “You’ll be okay.”

“Promise?” Rowena whispered.

“Promise”,” Faith replied, as she rested her hand on Ro’s hip.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Garage – Day

“Em? You got a sec?”

Buffy stood over a pair of tennis shoes sticking from beneath the hood of a very beat-up, boxy white Camry, one of a line of cars in the Council garage.

“Yeah, uh, one minute,” came the reply. Buffy flinched at several loud bangs and clangs coming from beneath the car. Then Emma rolled out from beneath the vehicle, a couple streaks of black grease on her face. She tossed a heavy wrench onto the asphalt with a clang. “That oughta hold her for a few more weeks.”

“You know,” Buffy said, as her slayer hauled herself up to her feet, “you could get another car. One that worked for literally anyone else, for one thing.”

Emma swiped a hair out of her eyes, leaving another streak on her forehead. “Where’s the fun in that?”

Buffy looked at the slayer, then at the car, then back at the slayer. “We are very different people,” she said.

Emma smirked at her, then pulled open the passenger-side door and sat down, sideways. “You wanted something, Summers?”

Buffy sighed and walked around the open car door to face Emma. “We need to talk about what happened in DC.”

“You mean how Hatherley let that rich bitch get away, because–”

“No.” Buffy shook her head. She looked down at her shoes. “You didn’t listen, Em. I told you to stay with that girl and you didn’t.”

A small smile appeared on Emma’s face. “You were in danger, Summers. You know I’ve got your back.”

“See, that’s kinda the problem.” Buffy finally managed to look into Emma’s eyes. “You’re not here to have my back. I’m just one person. You’re here to protect everybody.”

The smile disappeared. “You forget, Summers, I’ve been listening to you. I know that you always protected the people you loved first. You can’t expect me to do any different.”

Buffy licked her lips and took a deep breath. She stepped back, hands on her hips, and looked at the roof of the garage for a split second. “Is that what you were doing?” She looked back at Emma. “Protecting the people you love?”

Emma swallowed, then said, “Yeah.”

Another car passed by at the far end of the garage. As it did, neither woman said anything.

“You said yourself, to Xander,” Emma finally argued, “slayers and watchers can be family.”

Buffy’s expression grew sterner. “How much of that conversation did you hear?”

Emma looked down sheepishly. “I mean, I might have waited outside the door. To be fair, you guys were talking about me, so…”

“Em,” the older woman pressed on, “if I tell you to leave me, you have to leave me. Even if it’s life and death. Especially if it’s life and death.”

The slayer stepped out of the car, getting to her feet. “Again, not even remotely what you would’ve done.”

“And that is the curse of being a watcher,” Buffy said. “I never quite got it when it was Giles, but now that it’s me…I made lots of mistakes when I was younger. A lot. What I’m trying to do is keep you from making them.”

Emma gestured widely with her hands. “We all make mistakes, Summers, but the world’s still here. Your friends and family are still here because you put them first.”

Buffy shook her head. “Not all of them.” She took another deep breath. “Not all of them. Look, it’s Spring Break, right?”

“Yeah, what’s–?”

“Go home, see your family,” Buffy said. “Stay there this time. And while you do, think about how you want to handle things.”

Emma’s eyes were big and suddenly wet, the slayer bravado gone. “What…what are you saying?”

Buffy sniffed. Once again, she found herself unable to look her charge in the eye. “I need you to be the slayer, and I’ll be the watcher. That’s how this has to work. If you can’t do that, we’ll need to figure out what’s next.”

Emma just kept staring at her.

“It’s up to you,” Buffy said quietly. “I’ll see you later, OK?”

As Buffy walked away, Emma sank back down to the passenger seat, her legs not quite working anymore. She ran the back of her hand under her nose as she blinked back tears.

Cut To:


Rosenberg-Allister House – Day

Willow crossed the threshold of her house and walked into the living room to see all four of her children putting together furniture of some sort.  Rowena appeared to be playing foreman in the various projects.

“Hey guys,” Willow said, announcing her presence. “Whatcha all doin’?”

Sophie came running over, excited. “We’re getting kitties!”

Willow didn’t exactly look angry, but she didn’t exactly look happy, either. “Is that so?” she asked, as she looked at Rowena. “I thought we talked about maybe making dogs our next animals after Marco and Polo.”

“I’m not sure you could make that big of a commitment…of time, I mean,” Rowena said, keeping her tone surprisingly chipper. “Cats are much more self-sufficient…less drama.”

“So when did we come to this decision?” Willow asked. “If we’re going to be getting another pair of cats, I would’ve liked a heads up.”

Jake turned to his mom and said disappointedly, “You told us we each could pick a cat.”

“And you will,” Rowena answered. “You get a cat. Sophie gets a cat. Jen gets a cat. Alex gets a cat. Everybody’s getting a cat!” She turned to Willow. “How about you?”

Willow paused a beat. “I’m good.”

“No pussy for Ma,” Rowena proclaimed. 

“Double entendre,” Jen whispered to Alex, who put a hand to his chest and opened his mouth in feigned offense, but then grinned immediately after.

Jake was working with his allen wrench on his cat condo. “Look Ma,” he told Willow. “I picked a black cat tree because I wanna get a big house panther.”

Rowena chuckled. Willow did not look amused.

“This seems like a big decision we probably should’ve spoken about together,” Willow told Rowena.

“Just consider this a new adventure for both of us. I know you’re big on those right now.”

Before she could reply, they heard Jen yell, “Done!”

“Not fair,” Alex said. “You’ve got slayer speed and dexterity. Plus, mine’s one rung higher than yours. I had more to build.”

“Then it sounds like you probably shouldn’t have raced me,” Jen told him, her hands on her hips. “Because now you’re the loser and I won.”

“Not everything is a competition,” Rowena told them.

“Is too!” they both said at the same time, and then smiled broadly at each other.

“After we finish here,” Rowena told Willow, “we’re heading to the cat shelter. I already got us pre-approved. I mean, if you haven’t already made plans with Dr. Goldman…or someone else, you’re welcome to come join the family.”

“Am I?” Willow asked with a hint of skepticism.

“Absolutely!” Rowena said, with a bit more cheer than was necessary.

Reluctantly, Willow nodded. “I guess we’re getting cats.”

“Oh, I gotta change my shirt,” Jen said, and then started to make her way upstairs.

“No cat shirt about stabbing people or being violent,” Rowena called after her.

Jen paused at the bottom of the stairs for a moment, as if in consideration. “No promises, but I’ll see what I can do.”

“They will probably take our picture, so yeah, if I don’t approve, you’re staying home and no cat for you.”

“That is so not fair.”

“This house is not a democracy,” Rowena told her.

Willow snickered. Then she muttered, “You can say that again.”

Cut To:


Furry Friends Cat Rescue – Later that Day

The kids rushed into the shelter, closely followed by Rowena and Willow. A volunteer greeted them and said, “Welcome to Furry Friends Rescue.”

“Hi, I’m Rowena, and this is my wife, Willow. I have to say, this place has changed a lot since I was here last. You’ve expanded.”

“You’ve been here before?”

Rowena nodded. “I adopted my two cats about seventeen years ago – Marco and Polo, or at least that’s what I named them.”

“Oh, that’s right! I remember seeing your file. The tabby and the tuxedo.”

Rowena nodded. “We lost them during the pandemic, six months apart, but enough time has passed. I’m ready, and we’d like to make the family bigger again.”

“There sure are a lot of kitties,” Willow remarked, craning her head down the aisle at the full cages.

“Oh, yeah, there are a lot of strays in Cleveland, especially lately,” the volunteer answered. “We get dropoffs nightly, which is both weird and concerning and…well, is there anything in particular that you’re looking for?”

Rowena smiled. “Last time I was single, so I picked the cats. Now it’s the kids’ turn to pick a cat, so whatever they want works for us.”

Jake spoke up first and said, “I want a panther.”

“I’m looking for somebody unique,” Jen said.

“Me too,” Alex said. He looked over to see two kittens in a kennel, one of which didn’t have a tail. “Hey, like him. What’s his story?”

“He’s a Japanese bobtail mix,” the worker answered, “and his stub is actually a genetic mutation that doesn’t impact his health in any way.”

“He’s like Deadpool,” Jen said.

“However,” the worker added, “he is part of a sibling bonded pair, so he has to go with the other kitty there.” As he explained, he pointed to the orange tabby that was also in the cage.

“If I get him,” Alex told his sister, “you could get that one. They’re twins! Like us!”

“But then I won’t have a unique cat,” she replied. “Orange tabby tomcats are everywhere.”

“Actually,” the worker interjected, “that orange tabby is a girl and not a boy. And only twenty percent of orange tabbies are girls, so she is actually unique. And there’s something else about orange tabby girls — they are real spitfires, while also being incredibly lovey.”

Jen called over to her mother, “She’s a ginger like you, Ma! We found our kittens. We’re ready to go home.”

“Wouldn’t you like to look around a bit more?” Willow asked.

Jen turned to the volunteer and said, “It’s love at first sight. And I’m going to humor my mother by looking around, but we’re gonna end up with these ones.” Alex nodded his agreement.

“You’re all welcome to look around and go into our roaming areas. Over there we have our older kitties and our mama cats. But if you have any questions, let us know.”

Sophie was already dragging Rowena into the free roaming cat room, while Willow and Jake went in search of a black cat. Once they were in the free roaming room, Sophie found a tortoiseshell cat she really liked, who ran over to her and began to rub on her legs. She took a seat on the floor as Rowena went to the wall and started to read the cat description.

“I like this one,” Sophie declared. “and she seems to really like me. You said it’s best when the cats pick you.”

“It says here that she’s seven years old, and she came to the shelter when her owner passed away. You may not have as much time with her if you pick her. She’s not as young as some of the other cats.”

“I was reading a cat book. The average life of a cat is fifteen, but some cats can live over twenty years. I might even have her longer than the young kitties that Alex and Jen are looking at. We don’t know. She thought she would live with her family forever, but they didn’t live. But we could bring her home and give her a new family to love. Besides, old cats need love too, right?”

Rowena leaned over and kissed Sophie on the top of the head. “You’re a real sweetheart, and she deserves that.”

Sophie smiled and continued to pet the cat sitting in her lap.

Cut To:


House – Morning

Seattle, Washington

Rain drummed on the wide windows of a modernist house. Its furniture looked more fashionable than functional, and the hardwood floors were only occasionally covered with throw rugs. A primly-dressed Asian woman, lightly threw her shoulder-length hair back over her shoulder and pulled on a second sensible sneaker as she made her way toward the front door.

Yeobo!” she called out. “Have you seen the receipt for the dry cleaning?”

“It’s in the dish by the door,” a male voice replied from upstairs.

The woman found the receipt exactly where he’d said it would be, then grabbed her keys off a hook helpfully labeled “keys,” and finally selected one of several identical black umbrellas from a rack next to the door.

That was when she heard a knock on the front door, and her forehead wrinkled in confusion. She put one eye to the peephole, then sighed and opened the door.

Emma stood on the front porch with her guitar case slung over one shoulder and a backpack over the other.

“Hi, Omma,” she said quietly.

“Sorry, Emma, I’ve gotta get to work,” her mother replied. “Emma’s here!” she called up the stairs.

Emma’s mother walked past her toward the driveway, opening up the umbrella once she got past the roof. Emma watched her go, then turned around to see a portly balding man with a peppered beard walking down the stairs toward the front door.

Appa,” she said with a nod.

He replied with a curt nod of his own. “Emma.” After an awkward beat, he continued, “You should come in and dry off. You’ll get sick.”

“I won’t,” Emma said, as she stepped over the threshold and closed the door behind her. “You know I have the heal–”

“Remember to leave your shoes by the door,” her father interrupted, before she could go any further.

“I know.” Emma already sounded annoyed.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Classroom Wing – Day

Rowena didn’t look at the laptop open on her desk. She stared off into the empty classroom, eyes unfocused. She jumped slightly at the sound of a video call coming through on the laptop screen. She blinked and took a deep breath, then clicked her mouse.

Kennedy’s face appeared on the screen from the cabin, her clothes rumpled and her unbrushed hair hanging limply around her face. In the background, a baby could be heard crying in another room.

“Ken,” Rowena greeted her with surprise in her voice. “What’s going on? Is everything OK?”

I just…” Kennedy looked down, then continued with a raspy voice. “I know that you’ve got a lot going on right now, and I don’t necessarily know all of it, but…” She looked back at the camera. “I need a really big favor.

“Do you need help with Vanessa? It sounds like…is everything OK?” Rowena prodded. She shook her head. “You know you can name it. Whatever you need.”

Are you sure?” Kennedy asked, quiet enough that it was hard to hear her over the baby. “I don’t want to be a burden.

“Yes, I’m sure,” Rowena said. “Anything. Actually, it’s Spring Break, so I could use a breather from lesson planning the next quarter.”

Kennedy gulped, then said, “I need you to go with me to take Vanessa to see the doctor. I think something might…there has to be something really wrong.

“Well, that’s no problem, but why doesn’t Kadin–”

Let’s leave Kadin out of this for now,” Kennedy said quickly. “Please. I just need to go see Dr. Goldman, and she’ll figure out what we need to do.

Rowena froze. She blinked several times, taking several quick breaths through her nose. “I thought you meant her regular pediatrician,” she replied. “Why Dr. Goldman?”

Kennedy was shaking her head, “Her pediatrician didn’t find anything wrong, and I think maybe this is…genetics related?” She ended the sentence as if trying to confirm she was saying things correctly. “If you can’t go, I understand. I–

Rowena squared her shoulders. “No, I’ll go. In fact, I’d like to meet the woman with whom my wife spends most of her days. It’ll be…educational.”

She began to smile.

Black Out


End of Act Four

Go Back   Next Act