All About Spike
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Things Present Things Past
By Estepheia and Marcee

Part 9 - Upstairs, Downstairs

Buffy was listening with only one ear to Bateley and Hartford as they listed Angelus's crimes, waved unflattering pencil drawings of him and Darla around and talked about how their sources had traced the wave of disappearances back to them. Her face was unreadable, but on the inside she felt like pounding something until either it or she herself crumbled into nothingness.

*Angel! No, not Angel, Angelus.* As far as Buffy knew, the curse of the gypsies had been cast close to the turn of the century. *Angelus. Here and now! It's so not fair.* She was beginning to feel like a puppet in a brutal play, where the callous authors tried to come up with ever more twisted ideas to make her twitch and dance and hurt. She had done it before, had killed the man she loved, had even killed herself to save an artificial sister.

And whenever she tried to get away from it, when she quit, even when she died, she was forced back into her Slayer role, like a lab rat was dropped back in the maze it had escaped from.

*I mean I tried. Tried to pick up the pieces. Tried so hard to carry on.*

She nodded mechanically, when Bateley asked her if she was certain that she'd recognize Angelus and his companion Darla on sight. "Absolutely certain. Believe me."

Would you believe it? Those engineers of fate or whatever had found a way to top it. Because what could be worse than having to decide to either allow events to take place the way she remembered them or to change history. Who was she to decide?

She could save all those lives Angelus would take before the curse turned him into Angel. And then there were the victims of those he turned into vampires, and their offspring's victims. So many lives! Jenny Calendar was just one of them.

*A Slayer has got to do what a Slayer's got to do?* Well, it sounded a lot less cheesy when John Wayne said something like that.

And what about the lives Angel had saved? What about the ones he might still save?

And as painful as loving Angel had been, all the heartache and the bitter knowledge that it just wasn't meant to be, did she want to undo it? Lose even the memory? Or worse, if she changed time would she be the only one to remember how it had been, like Marty McFly?

She had to get back into her own time, ASAP, before any confrontation with Angelus could take place. She was not prepared to have her strings pulled. She was through with being a brave little Slayer. There had to be a way to reach her friends in the future, to tell them to pull her back. *Now would be good!* Giles! He'd find a way, Spike would see to that. And Willow! Okay she did too much magic, but this was not the time to quibble about that. Willow had the necessary power. They probably didn't know what had happened to her, where she was, but there was a way to let them know. But first she needed to gain the Council's trust, and she needed to get back into shape.

She reigned in her hostility, and if she seemed slightly distant and none to enthusiastic about anything, the Watchers didn't comment on it. After a few polite exchanges they excused themselves and left.

Buffy hid her relief. Instead, she expressed her desire to train. The clothes she was forced to wear made her restless and uncomfortable. *They must have been designed by the Spanish Inquisition. No fun, all pain.* But when she had asked for pants Willoughby had looked at her as if she had lost her mind. She sighed with resignation. *Crap! Do I really have to fight looking like Scarlet O'Hara, can't I go out looking like a slut?* The last time she had been dressed like a doll, Spike had almost killed her. *Not a nice memory.* And her last fight in a long skirt... *Well, that outfit is forever ruined.*

It seemed Willoughby was a pretty wealthy guy, because he owned a big town house. On the ground floor there were many rooms with strange names - *What's a drawing room anyway? Where are the crayons?* - upstairs there were several bedrooms.

Maeve had a large room of her own (not the office in which Buffy had woken up in), with bookshelves, a desk, a large bed and a huge wardrobe full of clothes. Buffy studied the book collection for a moment and was unpleasantly reminded of high school. An old and chipped porcelain doll with dark curly hair, in a faded lacy dress sat on the bed. It gave Buffy the creeps because it looked exactly like Drusilla. So, she put the doll into the bottom of a trunk.

The household was run by almost a dozen servants, who lived "downstairs". One of which, a maid named Lucy, had helped her dress this morning. Buffy would have refused except that she hadn't had a clue what to wear and how to get that bleedin' corset on and she was beginning to sound like Spike, at least in her head. Which only served to show that she seemed to miss his obnoxious but pertinent company. *And I can hardly believe I just thought that. Spike's not company, Spike is...a resource. Yup. And I am so not missing him.*

He wasn't the only one she missed, now that she thought about it. She felt as if she had spent ages near the deafening sounds of a construction site, numbed by power drills and other intrusive noise. But when the sounds suddenly stopped, the silence was just as numbing. Her friends had been crowding her, looking at her full of expectation, longing for her to show signs of cheering up, when it already required great effort to simply get up every morning and face the meaningless chores of domestic life. But now that they weren't around, being alive was even less fun.

Buffy had looked into the mirror of Maeve's vanity while the maid had combed her hair and done up her corset *much too tight*, and an unknown girl had looked back. But the sullen pout in Maeve's face had been pure patented Buffy. *Yuk.*

"This is where we train," Willoughby said, as he led Buffy into a large ballroom.

"Wow, look at that! Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the toughest of them all?" Seeing herself reflected by the multitude of mirrors that lined the walls, Buffy felt slightly crowded.

She tied her hair into a plain ponytail and began to pace around, warming up, stretching her limbs, tripping over the hem of her dress and almost unable to bend properly because of the corset. "Wow, you Victorian guys must really hate your women to put them into those horrible things. How am I supposed to slay in this?" She mimed a staking motion, but was so stiff she couldn't follow through.

"Didn't you ask Lucy to loosen your... um your, well... corset for you?"

"Huh?"

"In the afternoon, when you're at home, you can loosen it a bit. Are you telling me you don't wear...hm... fishbone anymore in your century?"

"Why didn't anybody tell me?" Buffy exclaimed, ignoring his question. She moved to her Watcher. "Go on, loosen me up!"

"Certainly not! That would be highly improper." He sounded truly horrified.

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Who'd know?"

"The maid would know, of course."

"Huh? How?"

"She'd know...um... if someone undid her knots. Well, um...I'd certainly notice it if someone else tied the knots in my wife's ...corset."

"Let me get this straight," Buffy asked. It was her turn to be horrified. "You put your women into these things so you know it if they take their clothes off? This is the Victorian chastity belt?"

*Please, can I go home now?*

Willoughby didn't look as if he was prepared to discuss the issue. Buffy snorted. "Never mind, I'll train like this. It's not like I can ring for my maid to loosen the knots every time I am about to kick a bit of undead butt."

Under Willoughby's watchful eye, Buffy attempted a few somersaults. Then she launched into her one-handed handstand, but she couldn't maintain it for long. Maeve's body had been inactive for too long. Also, she felt silly with the skirt blocking her sight.

She got back to her feet. "Come on, Willoughby," she said, shadow boxing, noticing that there wasn't a punching bag anywhere. "Show me what you're made of." Half an hour later she knew that unarmed combat was not among Willoughby's strengths. They moved on to armed combat. There was a weapons trunk with several blades, throwing knives and a bow. Willoughby turned out to be very proficient with the rapier and sabre, more than Giles had been.

Two hours later both had a pretty clear idea of each other's fighting abilities.

"How long have you been in training and active?" Willoughby asked curiously.

"I was untrained when I was chosen," Buffy explained, bending over and stretching the tendons and muscles of her inner thighs. "I was fifteen when I was told that from now on I had to concentrate on slaying, rather than cheerleading."

"Really?" the Watcher sounded surprised. "You have remarkable concentration and an ...uh... interesting technique. How long have you served?"

She knew he was referring to what she thought of as street fighting, some of the tricks she had picked up fighting against and alongside Spike. *Spike. Why do I wish he were here?* She sighed. "I've been a Slayer for over five years."

She rubbed her shoulders, annoyed at the frills. *Shower. Now!*

Willoughby seemed to be on the verge of asking more questions, but then he turned away and began to pack the weapons into the trunk. "Why don't you retire to your room and freshen up a bit," he said. "Have Lucy help you with... you know, dress you up for supper. Afterwards some rest will do you good. And then, if you honestly feel that you are able and willing, I would like to take you out, just to show you the local cemeteries. You should also familiarize yourself with the neighborhood."

Buffy nodded, utterly exhausted. Her body was aching all over, her muscles were stiff and sore. But she knew in a few hours the effect would wear off. Part of the Slayer deal. "Hang on! Freshen up in my room? Please, say you have a shower!"

A few minutes later she was finally alone in her room. *Jeez, can't even get out of my clothes by myself.* And a jug full of lukewarm water poured into a porcelain bowl was what she got instead of a shower. *If anybody up there can hear me - could I please get my own century back?*

***

At least dinner was good. Since her resurrection, Buffy had eaten so much pizza and pasta that she'd felt like she'd soon start singing Italian opera or talk like the Godfather. So when soup and roast and all sorts of vegetables were served, she really dug in. Willoughby and his family stared at her, shocked at her table manners, or her appetite. Or both. Or maybe she folded the napkin wrong, used the wrong fork. Whatever. Buffy didn't really care. She didn't intend to stick around in this cringeworthy epoch long enough to pick up all that manners stuff.

Although, Willoughby's research `pertaining a method to nullify the sympathetic effects of the spell that had drawn her here' - his words not hers - hadn't led to any interesting discoveries. *He should get himself a few helpers. If Willow were here, I am sure she'd come up with something in no time.*

She listened only with half an ear to the polite conversation taking place around her. Mrs Willoughby was talking about parties and lots of people Buffy wasn't even slightly interested in.

"What do you think, Maeve?"

"Huh?" Buffy looked up from her third slice of roast beef.

Mrs Willoughby's lips pressed into a very subtle expression of disapproval. "We were discussing Mr. Hartford's invitation."

Buffy dimly recalled that the Watcher had mentioned a dinner party or something at his house and that the Willoughbys had been invited long ago. "You mean I have to go too?" Buffy asked, unable to hide her intense apprehensions.

"Your written invitation was delivered by a footman while you and Mr. Willoughby were... studying."

*Studying? So that's what he calls the training sessions.* She turned to look at her Watcher. He just gave her a minute shrug.

"I'm not sure I should," Buffy. "I'm not yet fully recovered."

"Fiddlesticks!" Mrs Willoughby said with determination, daintily touching her napkin to her lips before lifting her glass to drink.

"It will be good for you to meet other people. Charles will be your escort."

The young man blushed. "Yes mother."

"Mr. Hartford is a man of note and influence, Maeve. It is rumored that he has been nominated for a knighthood. To decline his invitation is inconceivable."

"Okay," Buffy said, listlessly cutting her meat into ever smaller pieces. She didn't see Mrs Willoughby and her husband cringe at the expression and exchange worried glances.

After dinner, Buffy tried to sleep, but she felt restless. In the end she got up, rang for Lucy to help her with the corset *Again!* and sat down at her desk. She wrote until there was a polite knock at her door.

"Come in."

"What are you doing?"

Buffy looked up. Her Watcher walked up to her and squinted at the sheet of paper she was writing on. He obviously found her hand difficult to decipher, and she was pretty sure that the words he did manage to read wouldn't make much sense.

"I am writing a letter to my friends," she said. "And in my millennium letters are still, you know, private? So, do you mind?" She knew she was being rude, but the way Willoughby was constantly watching her, annoyed her no end. *Watcher, watching...yea I get it.*

"Are you ready?" Willoughby asked, his irritation evident.

"Sure," Buffy said, picking up a handful of stakes, and a purse.


Continued in Part 10 - Teacher's Pet

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