The living room was completely dark, save for the flickering of the television screen. A movie was playing, obviously old and, judging from the quality, not one created with the highest of budgets. Xander and Willow sat on either ends of the couch, their attention riveted to the images. Dawn was seated in the middle, the giant bowl of popcorn in her lap within easy reach of the others. Her face was twisted in a sneer as she watched the movie with considerably less interest than her friends. A small bowl of his own popcorn on the end table nearby, Giles had claimed the chair, watching with an almost morbid curiosity.
"Tell me again why we agreed to this?" Dawn asked, clearly unimpressed.
"Question not the chlorophyll-laden goodness that is Triffid," replied Xander without looking away from the screen. "This is classic sci-fi, Dawnster. Don't they teach you anything in school these days?"
Dawn tilted her head, examining the screen critically. "They might've taught me how to dissect one of those last week."
"Pfft," Xander scoffted. "That's not an education. Makes me wonder why I pay my taxes."
"Y'don't," remarked Willow, also not taking her eyes away from the movie.
Xander grinned. "Ahh yes, Willow and her magic fingers strike again, defrauding the government for a brighter tomorrow."
"That, an' you're not workin', ergo no paycheck upon which to not pay taxes."
"A valid point," he conceded, jabbing his finger at Willow before turning to Dawn. "Well, if I were a tax-paying citizen, I would be extremely disgruntled." He shrugged and grabbed another handful of popcorn before turning back to the television. "Instead, I'll have to settle for mildly disappointed."
"It's like I can't look away ..." muttered a transfixed Giles. Nobody acknowledged him.
"So, again," restated Dawn, "why did we agree to watch this?"
Willow tossed a couple of pieces of popcorn in her mouth before answering, "Cuz it's Xander's turn."
Giles tilted his head to one side, staring at the screen. "... I keep trying, but it pulls me back ..."
"And all's fair in love and Scooby Movie Night," Xander declared. "Now I'd thank you to sit quietly and watch the giant killer plants maim and destroy like a good little girl."
Dawn waved her hand at the movie as she exclaimed, "But this sucks! I mean, come on." She turned and watched for a moment. "It's a plant. And it's eating people. That's completely unbelievable."
"It's sci-fi. If it were on Fox as 'When Plants Attack!' I could maybe see your point, but ... " Xander shrugged.
"... I mean, what is it supposed to be? ..." Giles puzzled.
Willow seemed happy to keep watching the cinematic events unfold and remained staring at them while she spoke. "Besides," she inclined her head to Dawn, "it's no worse than the last thing you picked."
The gasp was full of horrified disbelief. "What a Girl Wants is a great movie!" protested Dawn.
Xander had turned back to the screen, watching as a Triffid lumbered across and claimed another victim. "Bet it would've been better with a few hundred self-propelling homicidal carnivorous plants."
"I hear they make everything better," Willow agreed. "Sorta like cheese."
Giles was still off in his own little world. "... How is it even possible that it's consuming human flesh? Is that a head or just a really big flower? ..."
"Oh like you were even paying attention," Dawn accused, poking Xander's knee. "You were too busy checkin' out Kelly Preston." Willow snickered at Xander's guilty look and Dawn rounded on her. "You too!" The snickering died out to be replaced by a nervous cough. Willow suddenly found something very interesting across the room, far away from Dawn's scrutiny.
"... And why are all these blind idiots out wandering around aimlessly anyway? ..."
Kennedy entering the room saved Willow from further discomfort. The Slayer leaned across the couch and grabbed a handful of popcorn, completely missing Dawn's irritated glare, and stole a quick kiss from Willow on her way back up.
"Hey there, sexy," she greeted.
"Hey," smiled Willow. "How was patrol?"
Not answering right away, Kennedy waved her hand at Willow, who got the hint and scooched over on the couch to make room. Forced to move as well, Dawn did so reluctantly, shooting no small number of poison-tipped daggers at Kennedy. They all went unnoticed. A space cleared, Kennedy flopped down next to Willow.
"Ugh," she finally answered. "Dull, dull and oh yeah, dull. It almost wasn't worth me goin' out at all."
Unraveling the deepest secrets of the movie completely forgotten, Giles' entire attention focused on Kennedy. "Do you suspect it's indicative of something larger?"
Kennedy chewed on the question for a moment. "No. I think it's just indicative of way too many Slayers and not enough baddies to go around." She glanced at the television for just a moment, but seemed to get sucked in. They all watched in silence for a few minutes before Kennedy finally commented, "Though if we had a couple of those to fight? Significantly less dull. Man, I don't know if I'd even know where to start killin' one of those things." She started at the Triffid, frowning. "Is that its head?"
"If you figure it out, let me know," said Giles.
Xander glanced over at Kennedy. "They die pretty easy, actually. Salt water."
"Salt water? That's it?" Xander nodded and Kennedy looked disappointed. "Huh. Well that's sort anti-climactic, isn't it?"
"Great, now you ruined the ending," Dawn groused with just a hint of sarcasm. "Just when I was briefly toying with the idea of maybe getting slightly interested in it."
Without announcement, Kennedy put her hands on her knees and stood up, looking at Xander. "We're on for training in a couple days, right? My girls are really looking forward to kickin' your ass."
"And yet despite that, or perhaps even because of it, I'll be there," smirked Xander.
"Cool," Kennedy replied, and then turned to Willow. "I'm heading up. You coming?"
Willow shook her head. "Not just yet. Can't miss the salty conclusion. I'll be up after."
Kennedy nodded and turned to leave, catching one last glance at the movie. "Death by plants. That's somethin' you don't see every day, not even on a Hellmouth."
Raising his fist in an articulate yell, the young man laughed long and loud into the night air, nearly tripping over his own feet as he looked over his shoulder back towards the fraternity house. The music was so loud that it was doubtful anyone heard him, but he didn't seem to take it personally. He took a few swaggering steps, trying to regain his balance. He managed to stay upright, but at the expense of his drink which sloshed all over both himself and the ground.
He swore and crumpled up the plastic cup in his hand before throwing it to the side and trying lamely to wipe the excess liquid off of his letterman's jacket. He was so intent on the task at hand that he nearly walked straight into one of the many trees lining the street. He put his hand out instinctively and avoided a nasty collision, giggling to himself with drunken glee.
As he braced himself to push away from it, something caught his eye and he instead peered closer. Carefully inspecting the bark, he soon made out the unfinished but unmistakable engraving of Greek letters standing out against the dark surface.
"Damn Sigma Nu buttwipes," he growled, searching his pockets and pulling out a butterfly knife. He flipped it open with an elaborate series of moves, quite impressive given his obvious intoxication, and set to work on the tree. "Ain't nobody better'n Tri Kaps!"
He worked for several minutes in silence, tongue sticking out from between his lips as he concentrated. He seemed to have blocked out everything around him, until he heard a rustling of leaves nearby. He stopped carving, standing up straight and looking around. Seeing nothing, he shrugged and kept working until he heard the sound again. The man peered more intently this time, trying to see through the darkness that enshrouded the foliage around the tree.
"Hello?" he called out nervously. "Someone there?"
Receiving no answer, he slowly raised the knife again to the tree when the rustling returned, louder and somehow angry. He spun towards the bushes, brandishing the knife defensively. Taking a few tentative steps toward the sound, he peered forward, trying to see.
A gasp tore itself from his throat as the knife slipped from his numb fingers, bouncing harmlessly on the ground. He turned to run, slipping at first on the grass but never completely falling, and tore across the open space, back toward the light and safety of the fraternity house.
He wasn't able to get more than a few yards before his steps began to falter and he found his feet no longer wanted to move. Nearly falling over from the waist, he looked down. His bottom jaw dangled open, uncomprehending as he saw that where he once had feet, he now had roots – thick, dark roots that had taken firm hold in the ground. He pulled and tugged, tried to kick, but his feet remained solid and unmovable.
As he watched, the substance coating his feet spread upwards at an alarming speed, covering his legs, his waist, his chest. He tried to wipe it off, panting heavily in fear as he thrashed about to get away, but it was relentless. As it reached his face, he screamed, but his cries were drowned out by the sounds of the nearby party.