Dawn In Rome
They sound like very large mosquitos, only when they hit you, it hurts a lot more than being bitten. Only it means wasp, so I guess that should be being stung.
I totally had the right of way and it's not like England - Italians drive on the same side of the road that we do - but bagsnatchers don't care. I ought to know the Italian for scofflaw by now, but I don't. So much easier to learn dead languages.
Come to that, I don't know the word for bagsnatcher either.
Only if he'd been a good bagsnatcher, he would have grabbed my bag off my shoulder and kept control of his Vespa, but that's my luck - I get the amateur so crap that he has to knock me down to stand a chance of getting it.
I tried to grab his wrist as he bent down, but he kicked me, sharply, in the back of my grazed knee and I thought better of it. After all, there wasn't anything in the bag that wasn't replaceable - a couple of lipsticks that I actually paid for, so no sentimental attachment and a mirror that was probably shattered by now. And some matches for lighting cute boy's cigarettes in a cool way.
Or maybe for setting fire to thing that need setting fire to.
I may be the only girl on the block without superpowers, but I still get to have moments. As well as grazed knees, sometimes.
And then someone is charging past me at high speed and shouting 'Hoy!' in a very American way.
There is the noise of a Vespa going over on its side and of someone getting bitch-slapped, once, twice.
Then Kennedy pulls me to my feet and hands me the bag. It doesn't tinkle when I shake it, so I guess the mirror is OK.
'Thanks,' I say.
She looks at me with those annoying eyes. She thinks she is so cool, she thinks she is Faith or Cordelia or something.
'Any time, sweet thing,' and she smirks. Very annoyingly.
She is so not macking on me, is she?
And how come she was there for a convenient retrieve?
Obviously that is a question that shows up in my eyes, because she goes 'I was just out for a walk, and I saw you down the street a ways.'
She was so clearly walking behind me checking my butt.
And why do I find that very interesting?
So I say, 'Coffee?' because that's always the easiest thing to say in Roma when there is nothing else springs to mind. Because coffee - round every corner, and on most corners as well.
Bet she's an espresso girl.
But I'm wrong, because she goes for that ristretto stuff that's like espresso's butch sister.
I feel so inadequate sipping my mocha, then wonder whether it's tactless to drink what Willow always orders.
'When did you two get into town?' I say.
Remind her she has a girlfriend, that's such a classy move Dawn.
'Oh,' says Kennedy. 'I flew in yesterday. Willow had to go check stuff out in London. I don't know whether she is even coming on to Rome.'
She looks at me sharply.
'So you don't have to hang with me out of politeness to her. Anymore.'
And she has absolutely down pat that little puppy quirk of the lower lip that Faith does when she wants to remind Buffy that she used to carry this amazing torch for her.
'That's not fair,' I say. 'We all like you for yourself. As well. Really we do.'
'That is so not true,' she says. 'When have you ever hung with me personally? Ever. You don't know the first thing about me.'
'Yes I do.'
'OK, what's my name?'
This is obviously a trick question but I say 'Kennedy' because the trick might be to avoid the obvious.
'Yes,'- she smiles a got-you smile-' but is that my first name or my second name?'
She has absolutely cornered me there.
'OK,' I say. 'You're Kennedy. You're a Slayer. You're what? Three years older than me. You date, dated, Willow for the last year. You're in Rome drinking coffee with me. And you hit a bagsnatcher for me, which was sweet. That's important stuff, but I don't know anything else.'
'After all,' I go on, ' you were dating Willow like five minutes after you hit town, so I never got the chance to hang before.'
'And also,' she says,' you never hung with the pair of us. Because I wasn't Saint Tara, and it wasn't their pure love that ended in death, that you so grooved on.'
She has obviously thought about this a lot, and she really isn't that wrong, if I'm honest about it.
'Willow used to miss you,' she said. 'I'd try and play chess with her, and she'd say I wasn't you. She thinks it's because she broke your arm and tried to turn you back into green energy.'
Willow isn't wrong, I guess. These are hard to get back from things.
'You should get over it,' Kennedy says. 'She really likes you. It's like you're her sister too. Plus, it would help her be close to Buffy again, maybe.'
She's being all noble, and that makes me really like her.
'How long are you in Rome for?', I say. 'Because we could totally hang. I mean, Buffy has this Immortal guy she's dating and Andrew is doing this weird trying to be straight James Bond fantasy thing, with these two girls who are obviously doing the wild thing behind his back. So I am bored.'
'Don't you have stuff to do?' Kennedy says. 'Research stuff?'
'Sure,' I say. 'But there is a limit to how much time I want to spend in the Vatican a day. They look at you strangely if they see you too often. And I sometimes worry that they know who I used to be. You weren't around when I was being chased by these Crusader guys. No fun. And they probably have friends in Rome. Spanish Inquisition and stuff.'
Kennedy looks at me. She is being annoying again.
'I'd protect you.'
Which she will, and it would be personal service stuff, not just Slayer/Scooby courtesy.
'If you don't mind being seen with a big old dyke,' she says, ignoring the obvious fact that I am six inches taller and probably a few pounds heavier.
'Not as straight as all that,' I say, lying in my teeth, or then again maybe not. 'After all, Saint Tara was my constant walking around buddy.'
'Knew that,' Kennedy says. Or does she say 'Knew it'?
Roman traffic is so noisy.
Hanging with Kennedy has all sorts of plus points.
Apart from the whole ' is she trying to seduce me, and do I want her to be' side of things?
Which is not a minus, not exactly.
The thing is, she pays attention to me.
It's sweet, and it's kind of gallant.
I mean, I'm Buffy's kid sister and everyone's super-nice to me, and, in research mode, everyone listens to what I say. But they don't listen to me, just to what I say.
Kennedy, though. Well, maybe it's the cute bod and maybe I'm just another possible notch on some antique bedpost somewhere, but that's not how it feels.
Every time I catch her looking at me, she seems glad to see me.
There's this smile she does, like she is the smartest person in the world to have thought of looking at me just at that moment when the view was perfect.
Also, she knows this city really well, and I thought I'd got it sussed in all sorts of ways.
But not like her.
She keeps dragging me into cafes and saying you have to try this pastry here, the almondy one, or this particular sort of ham and cheese toasty which they get absolutely right here. And she is usually right, but she has Slayer metabolism to burn off all the extra special tasty carbs.
She spent years here when she was a kid, turns out.
We'll be walking down a street and she'll duck into a back alley and shout to me to join her.
I'm used to that meaning slayage or emergency, but with her it's thirty seconds of lecture on some guy who was stabbed there in the Renaissance.
It's all 'Cola di Rienzi set up his standard here' or 'Caravaggio fought a duel here'; it's like we are in a geek competition that I didn't even enter.
'Slow down,' I say to her. 'I've done enough sights today, and eaten enough snacks in neat little bars. I want to go home and lie down, by myself, in a dark room.'
Because it is Rome, in late Spring, and I am hot and tired and there is no shade anywhere.
'But I've got' she says 'to show you this amazing church with a statue of St. Theresa being shagged by God.'
'Hey,' I say,' now that does sound interesting, as a concept at least, but we don't have to see everything today, or tomorrow. I'm not going anywhere. We're just hanging.'
'It's how I do Rome,' she says.
'No,' - I make a wild guess -'it's how your parents or whoever they hired to do Rome, do Rome. We don't have to; we won't win prizes for it. You already learned it; I can learn it from you at my own speed. Just saying.'
Kennedy looks sullen at me.
'You don't understand,' she says. 'It's this whole thing of being expected to be the best thing ever. I'm their kid, so I have to be special. So I'd get a good husband and give them good grandchildren. And when they found out I was a Potential, that meant probably no grandchildren - so it all got transferred into wanting me to be Superslayer. I had tutors before and now I had them for a whole bunch more subjects and my father would see me once a week and review my progress in demon languages or swordplay and offer treats if I did better.'
'Well,' I say, 'you are a Slayer now. And maybe one day you'll be as good as my sister, or Faith. But it's a job, not a competition. I was around when it got to be a competition before, and that really really sucked. I really like you as you are, so relax already.'
She smiles and pounces a kiss onto my lips, and grabs my butt. Which is tingly, in a good way.
'I love taking orders from you, Dawn.'
'And that's what it is,' I say. 'About the whole over-achieving thing. You treat being a dyke just the same way. Just relax. I know you want me and I just don't know.'
She starts to speak, and then thinks better of it.
'You won't get me by chasing, or by kissing me, nice as that was, just by waiting and seeing. No, I don't know what I want; when I know what I want, I'll tell you. So just wait and hang.'
She does that face again. The Faith face.
'Enough,' I say.
She smiles again.
'You said you might,' she says. 'You actually didn't say no.'
And she does cartwheels, five of them, in the middle of the street.. And jumps six feet in the air at the end of them..
It's her showing off, I guess, but I think it's cute. Especially because she is showing off just for me.
I can see how she bulldozed Willow into an affair, now those eyes are turned on me.
Obviously different, of course, we're just friends. Who hang.
Denial is so my friend here. Like I said another time to my sister, hey, I watch and learn.
And, like the woman said, tomorrow is another day...
Except that, when tomorrow comes, Kennedy has toothache. I didn't think that even happened, but apparently wisdom teeth aren't covered by Slayer Healing Power. Who knew?
I head off to the library, watching out for Vespas, because I do learn from experience. And I stop off on the way for a coffee in one of those little bars of Kennedy's.
Only watching for Vespas occupies the part of my brain that should have been watching for huge black Mercedes with smoked glass windows. And men with dark glasses and big guns.
These have not figured in my life, as a general rule.
'Get in the car', one of them says. 'This does not have to be anything more than business.'
Only he says it with an Italian accent, of course. Which means he thinks I only speak English. Which is insulting, but possibly useful.
'We won't harm you,' he says. 'We really love your work.'
So maybe this is a translation gig or something - I heard things like this happen to Wesley all the time. Except love is an awfully strong term.
Only when I am sat down on an expensive pink leather back seat between these two goons with guns and muscles, one of them passes me a cd and a pen and asks me to sign it for his kid brother. And that's spooky, because there is a photograph of me on the album, only with really silly highlights in my hair.
Why don't I think saying 'Guys, you've made a mistake' would be a good idea?
So I look cold and hard and say 'If this is business, you stand in line like the rest of my fans. At a signing. In a record store.'
Because people always understand the language of respect.
And they go, 'Of course signorina. We understand, signorina.'
And I glare at them from over the top of my shades, and hug myself inside.
They are going to be in so much trouble when Buffy finds out. And Kennedy, of course.
We drive round and round the streets of Rome and they keep playing the same record. Obviously they are huge fans and this is as much a fan thing as big crime, because it's very loud pop that no- one would listen to more than once if they weren't a fan, or, like, twelve.
They also keep pulling out cell-phones and looking at them expectantly.
When the cell phone of the guy on my left finally rings, the guy driving jumps so hard he swerves and only just misses hitting a bus.
'I don't do my best work with whiplash', I say.
It's not just Buffy I watch - recently I've been practising channeling pre-saint Cordelia.
Someone is shouting down the phone at left-side guy, and he is mumbling apologetically.
Irritatingly, I discover that, while I speak Italian, these guys talk some dialect in which I can only make out one word in three. So something with a lawyer, and something with an exchange, and something with a witch - or the lawyer is a witch.
The guy finishes his call with a lot of Scusis, and perdonos, and then he turns round and looks at me with the sort of look I've really never liked from store detectives and teachers.
That 'I'm very disappointed in you' look.
'So,' he says with that slownes and careful separation of words they obviously learn in Villain School, 'Miss Summers.'
The jig, I realise, is up.
'Hey,' I say, 'you abducted me. You didn't ask for ID or anything.'
He laughs. Not amusedly.
'As it happens,' - he goes all suave- 'we are not the only kidnappers who made a mistake this morning.'
That so doesn't sound good.
'It is so hard to kidnap people who change their routine,' he confides. 'Just our luck that we picked the day when you go to the trendiest bar in Rome for coffee and Celeste decides to go for her audience with His Holiness. People should be where they are supposed to be.'
'We've ended up with some teenage occultist,' he says to his companions in a version of Italian I can more or less follow, ' and a consortium of demons has Celeste.'
'Oh no,' says the guy on my right. 'They haven't hurt her, have they?'
The air of concern in his voice is kind of sweet, for a gangster.
'No,' left-hand guy says ' apparently the lawyer bitch rang their principals first and they hadn't even strapped her to the table. Which is lucky, given they were using Fyarrls.'
At this point, there is no point pretending not to understand.
'If you're going to hand me over to the retarded snotty minions of demon blood cults,' I say, 'you do need to remember that my sister is the Slayer and she'll take it kind of personally.'
'No, Miss Summers,' he says in what is meant to be a reassuring tone. 'Apparently the demons have been told to hand Celeste over to the lawyers, and we have to do the same to you. They have jurisdiction over the demons, and they also, it seems, have a claim on you. So both sides lose and the lawyers win, as usual.'
'You couldn't just, like, let me go.'
'No, Miss Summers', he says. 'That would not be a good idea. The lawyers will work something out. The demons will be allowed to leave town more or less unharmed, and not come back for a century or so. We will just have to think of some other way to meet Celeste. Ah well, the ransom money would have been useful. Maybe the lawyers will give us a percentage.'
Right hand guy says something guttural in dialect, which I interpret easily as meaning 'Yeah, right'. Sometimes you just get the rhythm of what people are saying.
Lawyer bitch may or may not be a witch, but she is really odd.
She is all clasp me into the swell of her enormous boobs and 'What must you think of us in Rome, Dawnie, carissima?' and is definitely copping a feel at the same time.
'We are such bad hosts - we leave you and your sister to play incognito and then things happen when we are not protecting you - such distinguished guests.'
'I'm sure your other guest is even more important', I say. 'Or at least worth more.'
'Huh,' she says and tosses her hair like she was slinging a rope with a grapnel on it. I speak as one who has watched ropes with grapnels slung reasonably often.
Her breasts wobble menacingly inside some very classy engineering - how is that even possible? 'She is - a popular singer - ' this gets said in a voice that suddenly sounds like lemons and ice and C sharp -' and you are what is left of the Key. No comparison at all. We will not speak of this further.'
She seizes me by the shoulder and I realize that she is all steel cable under the lushness, and she marches me through a series of vast rooms into a small room with a couch, a bar, some plates of cold meat and salad, and a very annoyed looking girl who looks like me, only with those silly highlights.
'Ilona...!' the girl starts in a high-pitched whine that is really so unbecoming.
'Isn't this nice?' the lawyer says. 'You girls can have a nice chat while I sort out what we are going to do with you.'
And suddenly I am in the room, and she is outside the door and there is the click of several locks turning securely at once.
'So,' says the girl, patting the couch next to where she is sitting 'I gather you get kidnapped a lot. How's this one stacking up for you? It's my first time and so far, it doesn't count as fun.'
'I'm Dawn,' I say sitting down next to her. The couch is strangely soft and I find myself sinking several inches into it, like the early stages of being eaten, but in a good way.. 'Dawn Summers.'
'I know that, everyone kept going on about you, but what I don't understand is why everyone seems to think you are more important than I am. I mean, my album went platinum last week and you'd think that would count for something.'
'Wow,' I say with a cheesy smile because I've always found you have to get on with people you're sharing a cell with. 'That's really umm. good. I heard your album in the car; my kidnappers are like your biggest fans.'
'And that's another thing,' she says. 'My kidnappers were wearing Armani, I could feel the weave, and I was mostly blindfolded, but what I saw of them was kind of weird. Like they were a funny shape and had horns and spines and things.'
We are going to have that conversation, I realize.
'OK,' I say. 'Here's the thing. There are demons and vampires and monsters out there, in secret.'
'Well, duhhh,' she says, ' I sort of got that. Already.'
'My sister and her friends fight them, and save the world. A lot.'
'So you're superheroes, right?'
I suspect her of humouring me.
'No, my sister is. And her best friends. Many of whom live with us in, like, this vast floating international commune of slayage and magic. But I'm just a girl. With no highlights in my hair. And no platinum disc.'
' Well, ' she says, 'lots of people don't have platinum discs. '
She is trying to be consoling, and niceness really doesn't suit her because she sucks at it.
'And you're the Key?', she says.
'Well,' I say, 'here's the thing. Apparently I used to be a primordial sphere of green energy that's a gateway between dimensions. But that was a while ago. Just no-one ever lets me forget it.'
'And why do you look like me?' she says. 'Only with hair no stylist has ever touched, which is nice enough in its way, I suppose.'
'Now that,' I say, ' is a mystery to me. The monks who created me were trying to make me look a bit like my sister, is all I ever knew. This was several years ago, so you weren't a famous pop singer then.'
'I used to be in a soap,' she says 'Maybe the monks watched it. I used to get a lot of fanmail from shutins.'
'That must be it,' I say , like I even remotely care.
'So,' she says, ' this losing your powers thing - was that some loss of virginity deal or something? That always strikes me as so unfair.'
'I never had any powers,' I say. 'And come to that...'
'Boy, your life sucks,' she says.
We seem to have exhausted topics of conversation and spend several minutes looking at the room's unappealing corporate decor and not being the first to go and eat any of the highly fattening food laid out for us.
Then she says, 'So you're still a virgin. That a matter of principle or just not getting laid?'
'When I meet cute boys,' I say, 'they usually turn out to be dead. And wanting me to join them. So I end up dusting them, or my sister does it for me. She's the only one in our family allowed to date the undead.'
'I'm sensing a lot of hostility,' she says. 'Not all of it aimed at me.'
'Oh,' I say. 'I'm sorry. Are we supposed to get along just because we're each other's not evil twin?'
'Well,' she says, 'most people who know me, don't like me. So it kind of stands to reason I wouldn't like myself, locked in a room. Must say, though, I find myself appreciating my own hotness more sitting next to me on a sofa.'
And she reaches out and runs her index finger down my cheek.
'It's softer when you're not feeling it from the inside,' she says.
I move several inches away, but don't actually get off the sofa. This is very disturbing.
'Oh come on,' she says. 'Don't tell me that the idea isn't crossing your mind. We're locked in a room for god no how many hours, and that sadistic Italian bitch has left us with enough food to make us go up two dress sizes overnight. We've got to do something to fill in the time, and distract us from high-fat mayo and salami and prosciutto and mozzarella and breaded veal and...'
Her lips are moistening in a way that wasn't even slightly sexual. She can only have been here a hour or so longer than me, but the sight of all that food is getting to her. Obviously I don't appreciate the pressures of being a famous pop star I'd never heard of.
'I've got a show to do in three days time,' she says. 'So I have to look my best. People work for me - I have responsibilities.'
'So,' I say, 'you want to do me as an alternative to pigging out. Some of us have self-control instead.'
'Some virgins,' she says with serious snark in the emphasis she puts on the word, ' would give anything to give it up to a famous rock star.'
'Oh, perlease,' I say. 'Where I come from, pop diva ain't the same thing as rock star. And my crushes tend to be on people who actually do something.'
'Well, pardon me,' she says. 'But last time I looked, none of them was actually in this room, now. So what's her name?'
'The girl you're crushing on?'
'I didn't say I was crushing on anyone.'
'I spend my working life playing crowds,' she says. 'And you can't do that without being able to read people. Plus, I know my own tells and how I cover for them. You're an open book to me, sweetie.'
I really don't like her, but the odd thing is, the more I know how much I don't like her, the more I am noticing her as kind of hot as well as being, well, me.
Thing is, I have issues, body issues. Comes of knowing someone made me up and wishing they had done a better job; comes of living in a household full of highly trained fighting machines without a spare ounce on them anywhere; comes of being the gangly beanpole dork sister of little miss perfect, and having little miss only-slightly-less-perfect macking on me.
But, Celeste? I look at her and I see that gangly can be coltish, which is a word Giles once used about me when he had been drinking, and which I always treasured because, damn, he may be way old, but he has taste and experience on his side. And hair I always thought of as mousy and kind of bleahh - on her it's subtle, except for the highlights which I still think are silly. I've always thought my face had character, which is a way of saying I'll never be glamourous but someone might want to do me for my mind - looking into her amused hungry eyes, I suddenly see that people might actually get lust for me.
Which is very strange.
And suddenly I realize that I might actually do this. Not because she is some allegedly big star, or because I like her, but just because it would be a very cool thing to do.
For my first time. For days I've been getting my head round the idea that my first was going to be Kennedy rather than some notional cute boy I've yet to meet. And suddenly I'm getting excited over the idea of its not being Kennedy, of its being someone I don't really know, and never met before, and really don't like very much, simply because how hard can it be to make love to yourself.
After all, in the more usual sense, that's something I've been doing for years.
Also, if the thing with Kennedy is going to have a chance of working, maybe she shouldn't be my first, because I don't want to give her that much power, or that sense of getting to guide me round the turns.
And I am clearly so transparent, because Celeste doesn't say anything more, but puts her finger back on my cheek and kisses me on the lips, quite straightforwardly. It's one of the best kisses ever just because I wasn't expecting it to be simple. I was thinking of the sort of special kiss that pop stars give each other on award ceremonies, rather than the sort of kiss I've been giving boys, and cute friends, since I was nine.
And somehow I find myself relaxing into it with a slight shudder, because it takes my defenses down. I open my mouth and her tongue darts in, so not as innocent a kiss as all that. I'll show her, and my tongue slides all over hers and follows it back up between her lips. And I press my lips far harder on hers, because this isn't about her getting to be in control. Or me come to that. It's about sex, the thing itself, not games.
We're really going to do this, I think, and there's yay me going in there and also a touch of terror that gets sat on, and bubbles under gently in a way that helps the urgency of pulling back a second, and shucking off my top, and kicking off my flip-flops, and somehow getting out of my jeans in a hurry without getting either of my legs caught up and falling off the sofa.
And she's managing the same, and it looks better on her as she does it, which is only because she has more practice, not because I am some sort of enormous klutz and she is going to have second thoughts.
And here I am, naked with my mirror-self and thank god! she hasn't had any work done, because I don't think I could cope with that. On other women, maybe, because I always noticed Tara. and thought, nice!, but not on my body, where they so wouldn't belong.
And she leans over and kisses me again, only on my stomach, just below my breast-bone, and I guess she knows that is one of my places, so I guess that if I run a little finger lightly over the flat surface bit on the inside of her upper ear, I will give her the tingle in the sole of her left foot and the soft burn in the pit of her stomach and oh yes! my hand is on the small of her back and I know that sheen of sweat so well and we haven't even done anything much yet, so I pull back again and we sort of angle ourselves round and that must be what I look like there, which I never did with a mirror, but it looks just how it feels to the touch and sort of neat and a sheen there, not of sweat, but it tastes as salt and sweet as the sweat on my finger from her back and I bring the finger and the wetness together and trail them around together and she is doing something that is probably the same because it feels so good and my lips go onto her and she tastes like heaven and things are opening in me that I didn't know were even locked and my breathing is short and spasms and never quite as good at this before and this is what the fuss is all about and then it dies away a moment and comes back better and then I can't bear it any more and my mind goes blank for a wonderful long second of time.
And I swivel round so that I am looking into her eyes and they are my eyes and I see there what I hope is in mine. Which is a sort of contentment and a sort of naughtiness and a sort of wanting to see if we can do this again.
And suddenly there is a meaningful cough from the door.
And that overstuffed Italian bitch is there, with Andrew, oh god, of all people. Plus some large guy in a suit who looks like a corporate thug and has a headset, so probably Celeste's security.
And Andrew says, 'Umm, which of you is Dawn?'
And I look at him. It doesn't particularly occur to me to be embarrassed because I feel so good, if mussed, and hey, it's someone I've seen tied up and bleeding.
He says, 'Dawn, it's OK. You're safe now.'
And I look at Celeste and say ' See you around kiddo' and she is saying exactly the same thing to me at the same time.
Which is kind of sweet, but also kind of final.
I suffer from the delusion that I get away with things. I don't know why, when experience is against me.
I suppose it is the shop-lifting period and the long time in which I never got caught, most of which, of course, never happened.
So, first, Andrew is in the car back to the apartment, and is dying to have a girlie chat about what he just saw, only he can't because of his whole 'I'm straight, goddam it, straight' thing.
I told Kennedy it was a James Bond thing, and that's probably part of it, because he is such a big movie geek. Actually, I realize, because he is doing the stiff mouth thing and trying to sound ever more like Masterpiece Theatre, and wearing glasses he doesn't need, and maybe touching up his hair, it's a Wesley thing. He is trying to be Wesley, the way he used to try and be Spike.
He does know Wesley does boys sometimes, doesn't he?
Willow thinks so anyway, or that's what she told Kennedy, and Kennedy told me the other day. Apparently there is this cool black guy works for Angel, and this scientist chick with brains even Willow thinks are enormous, and Willow said, apparently, that when she was down there a year ago, you could cut the air with a knife.
And Faith said something similar, come to that. Which means two chances for gaydar to get things right.
Well, Andrew's seen him more recently, so maybe hanging round Angel gave Wesley a straight epiphany or something. Yeah, right.
Typical of Andrew, though, to pick a big bi ho for his straight role model.
But hey! looks like I can't talk any more.
Do they hand out a rule book, or do I have to wing this?
I really am not looking forward to having that chat with my sister.
Only when I see Buffy, I don't get the chance because she is in one of her 'you get kidnapped one more time and the Council will take it out of your salary' moods.
It really does not help when I try to point out that this particular abduction had nothing to do with demons and vampires, because she had to negotiate with Wolfram and Hart and Upholstery Woman to get me back anyway.
After a bit, she says 'So what's Celeste like anyway? I didn't like her last album as much.'
That confirms my sense that Celeste sucks as a diva. Because Buffy's taste in music? Not good.
I think of throwing in a comment like ' Well, her albums suck, but she is a really good kisser' and then I realize I actually said it.
Because Buffy says 'Oh, very funny.' And I remember that I have a sister without a clue.
The woman who slept through Willow's coming out crisis; the woman who thinks Spike and Angel were only ever enemies who screwed the same woman.
I am so not going to do this.
I've heard Willow do that embarrassing scene at parties too often. Does Buffy even know it's her party piece whenever Buffy is out of the room? Funniest coming out scene evvah.
And then Kennedy comes into the room and I stop thinking about Buffy because she looks at me like she always does, and I just know that I want her now as much as she wants me, and I can' wait to tell her.
Only maybe I shouldn't share about Celeste straight away.
Because maybe I am a bit of a big ho myself now, and I need to process that.
So I say, 'Kennedy, I need coffee. Now.'
As a way of leaving the room with my sister in it before jumping all over my girlfriend, because that is what Kennedy is, now, as of this moment.
As Andrew would say these days - Gosh.
Though, and this is why it would be too much information to share about her, there is a rebellious slut in me that says, well sure, but can't we find a way to have Celeste as well? Because she is only marginally more annoying than Kennedy and almost as hot.
Anyway, once we are outside, I shove Kennedy up against the nearest wall, because while I may not have Slayer strength, I have tall girl pouncing leverage, and I dip my face into hers like I was hungry for her soul.
Only, of course, this moment of the ultra-butch is really really ill-timed because Kennedy just got back from the dentist and goes 'Ow, ow' like a big girl.
I jump back and get all flustered and go 'sorrysorrysorry' and 'I am a bad girlfriend.'
And she says 'Did you say girlfriend?' and stops going ow at once and has this enormous smile like she just got given chocolate kisses.
I'm sure Celeste will never ring me anyway. What would she see in me except for a convenient way of not eating Wolfram and Hart's hospitality table?
And I think hot coffee, that's bad for sore mouths and I drag Kennedy across the hall into the kitchen and sit her down at the table and put the electric kettle on and make her chamomile tea, only without honey because I do think things through sometimes. 'You're being so good to me', Kennedy says in a tone that a few hours ago I would have found sickeningly cute and now just warms me up inside.
And also pings a little bit on my guilt meter.
Which means I probably shouldn't let this go anywhere very much tonight, because two hot chicks in the same half of the same day - that would go beyond ho all the way into slut.
And it is just as I am handing Kennedy her cup of tea, and thinking things through some more, that the doorbell rings.
And of course Andrew answers it because somehow he is always the one nearest the door.
He shouts down the hall. 'Dawn, there are lots of flowers here for you and a man who says you have to sign.'
Actually there are about ten men, each of them carrying vases as big as they are, plus a whole bunch of bundles of dried ferns and things and more flowers than I ever saw.
People say someone bought out the florists, but Celeste, she really did it.
Which just about blows it for just saying 'Celeste and me, we're sort of buds.'
The men come into the flat and start arranging everything as if they were synchronised - Buffy starts jumping up and down, trying to get their attention to say we have enough flowers thank you very much, but they are doing this intense focus thing. It's like flower arranging is a martial art, which for all I know it is.
But these guys look Italian.
Kennedy looks at me with a smirk. 'Something you haven't told me yet.'
'Well,' I say. 'If you were locked in a room with your own way way cute predatory double...'
'Oh,' she says, 'I'd totally do her.'
'You're sure you're cool...'
'I guess so. Because it's totally turned you into an enormous dyke in seconds. Which I've been trying to do for days. So respect to Celeste. I guess.'
She looks sort of wistful and sort of turned on at the same time.
'What is it,' she says, 'about women I like and their thing for their evil twin? Everyone assumes that what broke me and Willow up was her going on about Saint Tara all the time, which was vexing, but hey?!.. No, but what really really bugged me was her telling the story about her evil vampire twin, over and over. Willow is really fond of a very few funny stories, you know, and I've heard them all, lots.'
'Oh, I know,' I say. 'But you've got to admit the one about her trying to come out to my sister is a classic. No matter how many times. Honestly, my sister can be so clueless...'
'Standing right here,' says Buffy. And she is.
Then she says, 'Is there something you two need to tell me?'
'Well,' I say, 'this thing happened when I was at Wolfram and Hart.'
'The evil lawyers turned you gay?', says Buffy, and I think she is being sarcastic, only then I realize that she is actually asking a question.
'No,' I say. ' I'd been thinking about it for days. But there was this thing with Celeste, like I told you. And also, I really like Kennedy. I mean, really really like and she likes me.. Though Celeste sends me flowers, so I guess she likes me too.'
' I don't know,' Buffy says, in her irritatingly smug what is the world coming to except for me voice 'where all this lesbianism suddenly comes from. First there was Willow and Tara, and now there's you and godknows who, and Rona and Violet apparently, and...'
'And then,' I say, because I am not letting her get away with this unscathed, 'there was you and Faith and how much trouble would you have saved everybody if you'd just slept with her instead of running round town breaking into weapons shops and stabbing each other in the gut? Get a clue, sis.'
She looks all flustered; we've so needed to have this conversation before now and I am experiencing it as huge relief.
'Oh don't tell me you don't know,' I say. 'Like I say, clueless.'
And then the phone rings, the big red phone that connects us with Watcher Central.
Giles really isn't happy.
Because all his computer links went down half an hour ago, and when they went up again, all of them were plugged into a looped video feed of me and Celeste, from a lot of artistic angles.
And then he checks, and it's all over the net. Like Paris Hilton or something.
I never get away with anything.
Of course, the scary thing is how nice everyone is about it.
It turns out to be my welcome to the scary adult world of extreme embarrassment.
And being mocked.
Like your grownup friends mock you when you are one of them, not a kid.
Willow rings up almost immediately, because she is on line, and does the whole toaster oven routine, again. She never tires of some jokes, bless her. And then Kennedy goes on the phone and says Hi and tells Willow that she and I are in a relationship now.
Which sounds terribly pompous put like that.
But Willow thinks it's cute and says she is very happy for us, but what about this Celeste? And I say I don't know and Willow sounds slightly shocked, but in a happy way.
And hardly has she rung off, but it's Xander calling in from Lusaka, and he is being male about it.
'Oh, well,' he says. 'I knew the crush on me wasn't going to last.'
And I blush a bit, because actually that went on for far longer than he knows and gave me many happy hours, though some of them kind of involved Anya now I think about it.
But Giles is all serious and talks to Buffy on the speakerphone and says he doesn't get why Wolfram and Hart would be playing spiteful pranks; he thought better of Angel than that, even after Giles refused to help him.
I didn't know about any of this.
And Willow - because now it's a conference call - says 'You shouldn't have done that, Giles. I know the arguments, but it was Fred. And you'd all have liked her. Besides, incredibly brilliant scientist tricked into working for evil lawyers is better than demon hellgod working for evil lawyers with a happy song on her lips, don't you think?'
Giles gets all harrumphy. The way he does when he is in the wrong.
And Buffy says because she is always the sensible one when it's to do with other people's sex lives that we should all go to bed and deal with it in the morning when things are clearer. Which sounds like a good idea to me, especially because it means that I can finally go and snuggle with Kennedy even if we aren't actually going to do anything tonight.
And we end up in my bed because her bed has weapons all over it waiting to be cleaned, because she travels with a whole load of swords and bows and things that have to be shipped and only arrived today.
She doesn't trust the airlines to keep them in proper atmospheric conditions, apparently, so everything has to have oil smeared all over it, which means that now they have to have oil smeared off them. I guess this makes sense if you are serious about weapons.
But at least she is not insisting on sitting up all night doing it.
Buffy obviously wants to say something snarky about me and Kennedy going off to bed together, but she clearly hasn't anything that especially springs to mind.
Because that would mean actually dealing with girls having sex, which she so cannot cope with. For reasons about which, on the whole, I don't want to think myself.
And Andrew is smirking a lot, because he finds sex so embarrassing.
It's because it never looks like it does in movies or comic books, I guess.
And sleeping with Kennedy - I mean, actually sleeping, is very comfortable because we sort of fit together quite well, which is a good sign about what we'll do when she hasn't got a sour mouth.
I get a really good night's sleep. Until my cellphone goes off at five in the morning.
I'm half awake and I don't recognize the voice at first.
'Umm, Dawn,' she says.
I say something that may be yes, but sounds more like 'Unggh'.
'It's me,' she says, unhelpfully.
'Sorry, ' I manage to say more or less articulately. 'Who is this?'
'Harmony,' she says 'Harmony Kendall. I was at school with your sister.'
'Yeah, yeah, ' I say. 'I remember. Why would you think I want to talk to you? The whole congratualations on bonking a pop diva thing is getting really old. Especially when it's some bird- brained vampire who tried to kidnap me.'
'Well,' she says. 'I really liked you, when I sort of kidnapped you. And you've never said that you will kill me if you ever see me again. Unlike your sister and Willow and nasty mean Xander. I really need to talk to one of you.'
Then she goes on. ' Besides, everyone kidnaps you all the time. It wouldn't be fair for you to hold a grudge against me, because I haven't kidnapped you for simply ages.'
'What is it, then?', I say.
'Well,' she says. 'you might say please. I'm trying to do the right thing here, and claw my way back to redemption after another little slip into the dark side. So you might say please.'
I really hate doing this, but it might be important.
'Please, Harmony,' I say.' Tell me what this is about. And I am glad you're trying to be in recovery from evil. You really must meet my friend Andrew sometime.'
Because I have a dark side of my own.
'Oh him,' she says.' Tucker's brother. He's quite cute, isn't he? In a looks like a hobbit sort of way. Do you think he'd go out with me? I dated his older brother once.'
Is there any boy who went to Sunnydale High so brain dead and so socially inept that he never got to date Harmony?
'So,' I say, 'what's the crisis?'
'Oh, yes,' Harmony says. 'Something enormous is going down in LA. Angel and Spike and Wesley and everyone are probably going to get killed. There's some enormous plot against them - and they've killed a load of people, bad people of course. I was their spy, only I got my head turned for a while, as any girl might because Hamilton was so very very hot. Only not you, I guess, because I saw that tape, by the way. I don't do that sort of thing, myself, but it looked very tasteful.'
'And when exactly is all this happening and where?'
'Well, duhh, now I guess. And somewhere near that old hotel of Angel's, I think.'
And then I say, 'Spike?'
'Oh,' she says. ' He's back. He was a ghost for a bit, now he isn't. I thought Buffy knew. She might keep track of people's boyfriends when she steals them, and take better care of them. Honestly, she's so inconsiderate.'
By this stage in the call, I am in the hall and banging on Buffy and Andrew's doors and shouting emergency. And Kennedy has got enough of the conversation to be trying to raise Giles and Willow and Xander on the phone.
And in the middle of all this, I get a call waiting signal, and I put Harmony on hold for a second, and it's Celeste.
'What is it?' I say, because I am feeling a bit testy, because I get the feeling that I've been played and maybe she was played too, and maybe she was the player.
'Turn on the TV,' she says. 'I thought you guys were supposed to stop things like this.'
And so I turn on the TV and the world is ending, or something.
'Fuck,' I say, because what else do you say when there is a dragon flaming downtown LA on the news.
'I really can't talk about this now,' I say to Celeste. 'And I really need to be told you weren't in on any of this.'
'I wasn't.' she says.
'Well,' I say.'Friends of mine are probably dead. So I am a bit upset right now. We'll talk later.'
And I hang up on her, but Harmony has hung up on me, so there wasn't much point.
Kennedy looks sharply at me.
'That wasn't a very romantic way to be talking to your other girlfriend,' she says. 'You can be quite mean to people when you set your mind to it.'
Buffy is staring at the television like she could switch it off with her mind and make the flames and screams go away, and Giles is shouting down the speaker phone that a helicopter is coming for her straight away, because he needs her to brief someone called Blair. And then I realize who he means.
I suppose this changes all the rules for all of us.
No pretending that this didn't happen. No more gangs on PCP.
I grab Andrew by the lapels of his silk dressing gown.
'You were in LA,' I say. 'You knew Spike was alive. You didn't tell us.'
'I thought it best.' he says sounding more British than ever. He really is turning into a Watcher boy. ' And so did he.'
'Men.' I say.
Buffy is in her room putting on the nearest thing she has to a smart suit.
And someone on television is talking about the National Guard taking heavy casualties and I look at the screen and there's a fucking demon army marching through South Central and people are throwing Molotov cocktails at them and firing automatic weapons at them and quite a lot of demons are going down.
And Riley is on television, suddenly. He says to the interviewer that there has been a secret war against subterrestrials going on for some years, and the interviewer is nodding like he knew this already, and government agencies were involved, and also an international NGO called the Watcher and Slayer Council.
And the interviewer says, 'But isn't that mostly little girls?'
And Riley says 'Sir, I've fought for my country with the best men it has. And those little girls are the best men I ever fought alongside.'
He is a dear.
And Buffy glances at the screen and blows a kiss at him and is out the front door, down the stairs and out into the square outside.
And there really is a helicopter. Already.
Giles says, 'Dawn, Andrew, Kennedy. Until we know what's going on, you'd better sit tight until I get you reinforcements. There's obviously an enemy plan, and you're obviously on their radar. So sit tight.'
And then he says, 'From what Harmony says, and she is far too stupid to lie, even to order, I was wrong about Angel. And the rest of them. God rest their souls.'
And he hangs up without saying goodbye. Being all business.
Only when I look around, Andrew is there, but Kennedy isn't. When I go to her room, neither are her three best swords.
I love that girl, I guess, I really do because worry is acid in my throat. But this really was not the time for her to go off and do something brave and crazy. She may be small and dark-haired, but she doesn't have to try to be Faith.
That got old even for Faith eventually.
I check all the rooms, and bang hopefully on the bathroom doors, and I go up on the roof in case she is brooding philosophically there the way action heroines do at the end of the second act/.
She is in none of those places.
So I stand in the middle of the hall and I must have sobbed because Andrew sticks an awkward arm around me and makes consoling noises. He isn't good at this, but at least he tries.
'Where do you think she's gone?' Andrew says.
'Wolfram and Hart,' I say. 'They're the enemy. She'll want to hit someone. Hard. It's what she does.'
'Surely they won't be open,' he says. 'Not this early.'
'Andrew,' I say. 'This isn't a law firm like you'd use to sue somebody. This is Mordor; it's the unsleeping lidless eye. Pay attention.'
I go to my room and put on a pair of old jeans and a t-shirt. No point in getting formal when we're probably going to our deaths. I try ringing Celeste, only she isn't picking up, which, I guess, I can hardly blame her for.
More bits of LA are burning, but the dragon is down. Someone rode it into the air and cut its head off with a sword, a reporter from a traffic helicopter says. So maybe not everyone I know in LA is dead. Oh god, I hope they're not all dead.
And I notice I'm not thinking oh god, let them all be all right.
Michael Moore's saying, 'Everyone knows the Bushes have had contracts with Wolfram and Hart since the thirties. Why aren't these Senior Partners around to answer questions? They let them fly out ahead of time, like the Bin Laden family did. You should read Greg's articles, man; a shitload of demons were bused in to vote in Dade County. Get a clue - it's not oil they're pulling out of the ground.'
If we live through all this, the rules have changed.
Andrew clearly wants to be very formal in death, because he is wearing the very sharpest of the sharp black suits he's been buying since he's been in Rome. Not tweed at all.
'Dawn,' he says. 'You need to stay here. Because we shouldn't both confront the enemy at once. I'm more expendable.'
He's actually being quite impressive, sort of Frodo being gloomy on the slopes of Mount Doom instead of Pippin macking on Merry. I'd swear his voice dropped a bit, or maybe he's been crying and it's gone husky.
I guess he's mourning his role model.
' Besides,' he says, 'I'm an official representative of the Watcher's Council. If they hurt me, it's war. There are peace treaties which go back to the dawn of time.'
The fake English accent somehow doesn't seem silly anymore. It's a shield for him.
And I am all the more impressed by him because he is even more scared than he was when we closed the Hellmouth. I walk over and give him a big hug.
'You think they're going to kill me, don't you,' he says.
'Well,' I say. 'They might not.'
Of course once he is out of the apartment I follow him.
He manages to get a cab straight away.Probably has to do with the fact he has a sharp suit.
The first two taxis that stop for me do that whole 'why don't you ride in front and talk about how we pay your fare' thing. Which I suppose might happen to Andrew, as well, but not so often.
When I eventually get to Wolfram and Hart, the two gangsters who kidnapped me before are standing in the street.
'Ah,' the one who talked more says,' Miss Summers. Ilona said you would be here shortly and we should escort you to her. Some colleagues of ours have gone to your apartment, just to be sure, but Ilona said she knew you'd be here.'
'I thought you boys were freelancers,' I say.
'Ah,' he says, ' we were, but Ilona made us an offer. We come to work for her, and she doesn't have us eviscerated.'
His pronunciation of hard English words is weird, but impressive.
'I suppose she knew you'd say yes,' I say.
'She is a strega,' he says. 'She knows everything that is going to happen.'
That could be tricky, I think.
In the middle of the marble-paved atrium of Wolfram and Hart Rome, there is now a gaping pit with an Art Deco spiral staircase leading down into it, with a tasteless motif of sharp-toothed dolphins on each of the bannister supports.
'She's down there,' he says. 'And so are your friends.'
'Aren't you supposed to take me down there?' I say.
'Are you crazy?' he says. 'That is the Wolfram and Hart War Room. You don't go there unless you are called for, and you probably don't come back even then.'
So I head down the stairs with a jauntiness I'm not feeling and my sandals go pat pat with a slow echo on each step. This is one of those staircases on which sound and space go ominously weird. Big Evil always has to show off - that's one of the reasons why I am glad to be more or less good.
Upholstery Woman is waiting for me at the bottle of the steps wearing a red leather cat suit that shows off just how many curves she has managed to acquire. It has black plastic darts that point to the cleavage and the crotch. Just in case any passing trade fails to notice she's a girl.
When she turns round to gesture expansively at the banks of television screens and computers and the various unpleasant looking beings standing around with automatic weapons, it has a slogan on the back which says 'Evil but cuddly.'
And she creaks, quietly, like old buildings in the wind.
'Dawn,' she says. 'I've been expecting you.'
And she smiles one of those smiles that remind you that evil has good dental, and the spotlights that make the room a pattern of dazzle and dark cast shadows that make her cleavage seem like another deep dark place.
She obviously went to the sexiness class at the college of intimidation.
'So I hear,' I say. 'How's that seeing the future thing working out for you? Don't you miss getting surprises?'
'No,' she said. 'They are - how does it say itself - over-rated.'
Most of the screens are showing dying fires in LA, and a few left-over demons being muscled into paddy wagons and hit over the head with night-sticks.
'That's not a very impressive apocalypse anymore,' I say. ' You always know they're fizzling when the army of ultimate doom becomes a victim of police brutality.'
'Ah,' she says. 'It didn't go as well as if I had planned it myself, but it got the job done. Your sister's undead lovers are no longer around to plague us. No more shanshu prophesy.'
'Going over my head, here' I say. 'No one tells me these things.'
'Poor little Dawn,' she says, intruding into my personal space and creaking ever louder. 'Here all alone with the scary evil woman. Your little friends are already in chains, my dear, and soon you are going to join them.'
At least she didn't say 'join them - In Death' and go bwahaha. Important to look on the bright side.
Over to the left of the screens, there is a dungeon, a really retro dungeon with chains hanging from stone walls with damp running down them. Andrew is already there hanging by his wrists - that nice suit will never be the same. So is Kennedy, who has a fetching mouse on her left eye and so, rather more to my surprise, is Celeste, and one of her bodyguards. He looks dead though.
'Hi guys,' I say. 'Dawn to the rescue.'
Then I turn back to Ilona.
'I wasn't expecting Celeste to be here. I rather thought she was working with you on your little diversion.'
'No,' Ilona says with an angry toss of her hair. 'Why would we employ a singer of popular music? She is like a gypsy, not worth spitting on.'
Only she spits anyway. At least the floor doesn't sizzle
'Can you imagine? She had the arrogance to march down here and complain that we'd upset you and you probably wouldn't want to go out with her anymore, boohoo. She isn't even my client, and I had to take over this apocalypse at the last moment.'
Nice to know that evil lawyers have problems too.
'Ah,' I say,' poor Hamilton.'
Because I do pay attention, even when the Harmony Kendalls of this world are babbling at me.
For a second, I get to see that perfect gloss crack, because I'm clearly not supposed to know this stuff.
'You know,' she says,' I was thinking of keeping the three of you around afterwards. I always have a use for cute little girls. But perhaps...'
'Oh,' I say,' I think we'll pass. Don't you think, ladies?'
Kennedy isn't looking too well, but she manages a Bronx cheer and Celeste joins in only half a beat behind.
Ilona narrows her eyes. 'Don't screw with me, little chickee. I can have people killed ' - she snaps her fingers like a Spanish dancer -' just like that.'
She speaks into the mike.
'Thirty-seven,' she says. 'Kill that little girl for me that you're observing.'
'Yes, ma'am,' says a military sounding voice over the speakers that hang suspended above the screens.
And then there is a silence, and then there are screams and sobs.
'You know,' she says, 'all we have to do know is find all your little Slayers and kill them. And that is that, finito. No more problem.'
And then she says, 'Thirty-seven?' in a voice that is a little less certain.
'This is forty-two, ma'am,' says a more tentative voice. ' Thirty-seven can't talk right now. The little girl hit him in the face with a baseball bat and then she broke my gun-hand. And then she ran away.'
Ah, I think with quiet satisfaction, the first three lessons of Slaying. Hit the guy, hit the other guy, run like the wind.
'Never mind,' she says testily. 'Eighty-six.'
And this time there is a shot and a voice says 'Das Madchen ist tot.'
Which is heart-breaking, because it's some girl I never met, but I feel like I know everyone who survived the Bringers, except I see Celeste twitch involuntarily, and I see Kennedy watching her with a guess in her eyes. That's interesting, I think, with the same guess. Maybe Willow's spell is even smarter than she planned it to be.
And if Ilona didn't see that coming, maybe she can't foresee Big Magic. And there is a thought trying to follow that one, or not a thought. Something that part of me knows.
'I think,' Ilona says, 'that we are done here.'
She points her hand dramatically, and the chains disappear and everyone ends up on the floor.. The way the bodyguard falls, he really is dead. Andrew lands in a heap and goes ouch. So do Kennedy and Celeste, but not as convincingly - Celeste can be forgiven, because hey! new to this, but Kennedy really needs to work on that.
I am not even a bit uneasy that my mind seems to have come into high focus.
'So,' Ilona says. 'Your heads will be a useful warning to this new upstart Council.'
'I really really wouldn't threaten us,' I say, with a cheesy smile.
The focus is like a gentle building warm purpose in my brain.
Ilona laughs, and it isn't bwahaha, but a sort of high tinkle with a touch of throatiness behind it, and it's still a good villain laugh, which she has obviously worked on for years.
'Oh, how pathetic,' she says. 'You think you can bluff me. Little Key, you may have been power once, but you have none.'
'Probably not,' I say and point my hand in a way that I hope looks almost as cool as her.
I am probably going to feel really stupid for about ten seconds before I feel really dead.
Only suddenly Ilona is dangling upside down by one of her ankles which is caught between the jaws of something which looks a bit like a Hellmouth beast and a bit like a Venus-fly-trap, which is sticking out through a small hole in the air. And a hot wet wind is blowing past it.
And a couple of the things with guns get off a round or two before disappearing with gentle pops like champagne corks, and the bullets suddenly stick in the air and get sucked back into the guns that fired them, which are the last things to go.
It's almost unfair that the other things are all looking at Ilona, because Kennedy springs up and does this cartwheel thing from where she is lying and sends a bunch of them flying like she was bowling. Then she dashes for the weapons she brought with her, which are just lying around untidily.
And her guess about Celeste is obviously right, because Celeste picks up the rhythm almost as quickly as the Bronx cheer. She has a natural gift for mayhem, I guess, as well as for sex. Makes up for the singing.
I'm almost jealous watching them double-team it, but then there's the thought of them double- teaming me, which is a very interesting thought to carry with me until I can get them back to the apartment.
'She's very good,' I say.
'A natural,' Kennedy says, staking two vampires and beheading a gargoyle.
'It's all the dancing for my videos', Celeste says, kicking a Fyarrl in what passes for a crotch.' But damn I'm good.'
'And she does the banter well, too' I say.
'Without inspirational training sequences to teach her.' A big lizard lunges at Kennedy with a cutlass and she takes its head off with a backstroke of one of her swords
Andrew just ignores all of this, and goes over to a desk and starts rummaging through papers and stuffing a selection of them into a large bag he has pulled from somewhere in the ruins of his suit.
'Now,' I say, because I have always wanted to say this, ' we can do this the easy way...'
Ilona is so improved by hanging upside down.
The cat suit is creaking ever more ominously as gravity does things to those curves that even high-fashion engineering can't wholly put right.
'I'll kill you,' she says.
'Umm, no,' I say. 'Don't think so.'
'But you had no powers,' she says. 'You were famous for it. This isn't fair.'
'Yeah,' Kennedy says. 'What's with that, Dawn?'
I don't lose that exhilarating sense of something new and clear in my head, but I have to say 'Dunno.'
And a stitch bursts somewhere on Ilona's left thigh with a distinct twang.
Celeste finishes kicking a Fyarrl in the head - of course, she has issues there - and says ' I know this one. I know this one'.
So we look at her, and even Andrew looks up from his stack of memos.
'She got you laid,' Celeste said.
'Don't be crazy,' Ilona says.' Powers go when you stop being a virgin, everyone knows that.'
'I guess the monks had a sense of humour,' I say. 'Years of chastity, prayer and soap operas will do that for some guys.'
And I walk over to Ilona and look down at her upside down face and I say, ' And what have we learned from this?'
Andrew says, 'Never mess with the Summers girls.'
And Kennedy says, 'Fuck yeah.'
And Celeste says 'Is Dawn's sister as cute as she is?'
And Kennedy says 'No' and Andrew says 'Yes.'
And I say 'We're done here.'
I look up at the maw which is gradually chewing Ilona's foot off and has almost entirely dissolved a very nice red Manolo Blahnik with its drool, and I say 'Good plant, good plant. Now drop her.'
She is even worse at falling than Andrew and there are several more twangs from somewhere inside her clothing.
Next time she drops people, she'll know what it feels like.
I try snapping my fingers, which I need practice on, and the plant disappears, leaving just a few scarlet tendrils as a memento.
Ilona lies in a bedraggled heap, muttering what are probably curses.
I pull her head up by her hair and slap her more for the form of the thing than to hurt her.
'You're a killer,' I say. 'I'm not. Yet. Be very very glad of that.'
We dash up the stairs - no gangsters waiting, which is useful - through the big stone doors, down some steps and out into the street.
Andrew starts trying to hail a taxi, and I was right about it's being the suit, because not having so much luck now he's in an ex-suit with a cuff torn off.
Then there is a crackle of blue energy that misses me by inches. Ilona is standing at the top of the steps with her hair all frizzed out with energy and bits of lush brown flesh peeking out of the catsuit at her left thigh and under her right arm, and that shoe is definitely a write-off.
'You don't get to walk away,' she shrieks. 'I am Ilona. You don't turn your back on me.'
That feeling of focus comes back all at once and I look back up at her.
'OK,' I say. 'The hard way.'
And I point again.
'Wow,' Kennedy says.'Remind me never to get caught between you and Willow.'
Between the buildings on either side, there is a pool of green obsidian where Wolfram and Hart used to be.
'We'll have to watch out for that one,' I say. 'Because she'll come back from there someday and boy is she going to be pissed.'
'From where?' Celeste says.
'Don't know.' I say. 'I'm the Key. Not the name-plates on the door.'
My two lovers snuggle up to me in the back-seat of the taxi. It's like they've been talking to each other while they were hanging in chains, because they somehow manage to fit round me and stroke my neck and kiss my ear and are so very much together as well.
Which is a nice thought to doze to, I think as I drift into sleep between them.
And a better thought than the alternative which bobs along in its wake. Which is how am I going to explain all this to my sister?