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.
would have been better if she had never woken up.
herbs and Charlotte Bronte", Willoughby replied. "I read to her every
"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
"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.
Willoughby's approving glance.
the four months of coma I remember nothing."
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'?
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?"
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
"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.
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