All About Spike
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Things Present Things Past
By Estepheia and Marcee

Part 7 - High Stakes

"So, those herbs really worked, did they, old boy?" Horatio Bateley drawled, studying the red-haired Slayer before him. She still looked pale, and he certainly didn't like the defiant look she was giving him. She hadn't said much, so far. He had been prepared for recriminations, a common reaction among Slayers after the Cruciamentum . He had been prepared for an unwillingness to continue in her sacred duties, for an unfitting display of emotion, even tears. What he received was an almost imperceptible frown from an unusually self-confident Slayer.

Perhaps it would have been better if she had never woken up.

"The herbs and Charlotte Bronte", Willoughby replied. "I read to her every day."

"I always knew that English literature is foremost in the world, but didn't know Charlotte Bronte was THAT good," Hartford said in an attempt to be witty. He winked at Maeve. "So, dear girl, how do you feel? What do you remember about the last four months?"

"I'm fine, thank you," Buffy said, trying hard to sound like one of those repressed frilly girls out of old Sherlock Holmes movies. That was roughly the right time, wasn't it? The so-called Victorian age? Besides, it wasn't so hard being snooty when the corset she was wearing was making it difficult to breathe. She had also decided to add a touch of Giles to the mix, to disguise her accent.

She caught Willoughby's approving glance.

"Of the four months of coma I remember nothing."

"What is the last thing you DO remember?" Director Bateley asked.

"You mean, do I remember that per orders of the Council my Watcher lied to me and drugged me so that I had to take on a vampire without my powers? Do I remember that the Council that is supposed to watch over me put me in danger just to test my 'resourcefulness'? You bet!"

She saw Willoughby cringe. But this was something she could not keep quiet about. She touched the scar at her throat that was so similar to the bite marks her own body was marred with.

"It is not for you to question the Council's methods, Miss McKenna," Hartford said in a polite tone, but nonetheless firmly. "You are our instrument, our weapon to fight the forces of evil, nothing more and nothing less. It is our duty to hone that weapon, like a fine blade, and if it proves itself brittle we have to find another blade that will not shatter under duress. I am sorry, my dear girl, if these words sound harsh to you, but that is how our duty has been defined. These rules are much older and greater than each of us."

"Not as old as the Slayer. The first Slayer, she was there long before there were men in tweed wielding syringes," Buffy said, unable to control her rage. She was sick and tired of being manipulated, whether by humans or by superior powers. And the self-righteousness of these watchers really ticked her off. She doubted if the real Maeve would be able to stand up to these overgrown bullies.

"Without Slayers to train and watch, you guys would be without a job," she continued, only just remembering not to use the 'colorful metaphors' Willoughby had asked her to avoid. "Because I sure as hell can't see you risking your bu- um, your skin, patrolling the cemeteries yourselves."

*Oops, I guess that was a little too colourful ,* Buffy thought when she saw three pairs of eyes widening in shock. She tried to look apologetic, without great success.

"Harsh words from someone so young and inexperienced," Hartford said, in an uncle-ish tone. "Believe me, when I tell you that we have all sworn to help you in your duty, and that you can always count on our help." Buffy decided she preferred Bateley, he at least wasn't playing Mr. Nice-guy.

"Mr. Hartford's limp is the result of what one might call a field-injury. I think you underestimate us, Maeve," Bateley said, putting down his tea-cup absentmindedly. "Edward, I wouldn't mind a brandy, if you'd be so generous?"

Willoughby rang for the butler.

When the drinks had been served - no one had offered any to the young woman - Bateley got up from the leather chair he had occupied and walked towards the Slayer. "What did the doctor say?" he asked, looking down at her.

"He was amazed at her recovery. He called it a miracle. But he has declared her healthy in body and mind. Apart from a few lapses of memory, which should restore themselves in the foreseeable future, she is - I quote - 'as good as new'," Willoughby answered.

Buffy looked up. She met Bateley's gaze unflinchingly. "Are you ready for active duty, Maeve?" he asked gruffly.

"I thought you'd never ask," Buffy said, lifting her skirt. She drew a stake out of her boot and twirled it playfully like a baton. Two more stakes were visible, tied to her thighs. The men looked shocked.

Bateley was the first to recover. He laughed. "Your enthusiasm is commendable, Maeve."

"But we need to test her. We can't allow her into a fight before we have ascertained if she is indeed able to," Hartford objected, trying desperately to look away from her legs.

Willoughby, too, looked like he was about to protest.

Bateley silenced him with a gesture. "There is no time. Every night we waste, innocent people die. Simple mathematics, Hartford. If she says she's ready, well, then she is. If you want to test her skills, do it now. I am sure Maeve would oblige you."

*Oh yeah, and if I'm not ready you get yourselves a nice brand new Slayer ,* Buffy thought, *a Slayer who is putty in your hands. Well, think again!*

Buffy got up. She still felt a bit wobbly on her feet, but every bit of exercise strengthened her weakened muscles and tendons. She knew she'd soon reach normal human efficiency. A few more decent meals, a good night sleep and her body would be shipshape again. Mentally she was as fit and alert as she had ever been.

"No more tests," Buffy said. "Let's just get to work." Whether she was slaying vampires in London or in Sunnydale didn't really matter to her. She just hoped Willoughby would soon find a way to reverse the spell that had put her here. Until then she'd play along and perhaps break a lance for women's lib. Having watched all three "Back to the Future" movies several times, she wasn't sure if she wasn't just meant to be here to do exactly that. *I'm a doer, not a thinker. Gimme something to slay and I'm a happy camper. Well perhaps not exactly happy,* she amended inwardly, *but at least then I know what I'm doing. Slaying? Simple. Life, that's the hard bit.*

Director Hartford nodded in acquiescence. Bateley poured himself another brandy and sat down again. He opened a leather briefcase and removed a few sheets of paper. They seemed to be drawings. "According to my sources, one of the most vicious vampires to date is roaming the streets, together with his brides, picking off the stray and helpless. He usually avoids areas with active Slayers. Though, I am sure rumors of your helplessness has drawn him here. News of your recovery should not yet have reached him, it should be possible to surprise him, if we strike soon. It is time someone put a stake into the infamous Angelus."


Continued in Part 8 - Demons are a Girl's Best Friend

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