Things Present – Things Past
By Estepheia and Marcee
Part 21 - House and Home
vampires stirred the moment the sun set. Darla was so old, her entire being had
learned to resonate with the incessant cycle of day and night, the way certain
ocean dwellers felt the pull of the tide even if they were held captive in a
fish tank. She did not have to check Angelus's pocket watch to know that it was
time to hunt. She just knew.
walked to the heavily shuttered windows, pulled back the bolts and pushed them
wide open. Fresh fragrant air caressed her naked body, soothing the burnt skin
on her face. It did nothing to soothe the rage that simmered underneath her
cold and calculating demeanor. Behind her, she could hear the sounds of Angelus
slipping into his elegant evening clothes. She took in the scenery before her,
enjoying the river and the way it reflected the last remnants of daylight. The
sky was still pink, but its glow was slowly fading. As the light waned, the
river that minutes ago looked like a fantastic mythological snake in all its
iridescent glory, became once more a sluggish, brown and stinking stripe of
water. The perfect place to let bodies disappear in, if one weighed them down
get up," Angelus ordered harshly as he stepped beside his sire. Darla didn't
acknowledge his presence. And he knew better than to disturb her when she was
admiring `the view'. When the last shade of pink was nothing more than a
memory, she turned to face him.
need to feed," she said, touching her ravaged face with her fingertips. "I
drank the innkeeper, but his blood was tainted, it had no healing power." She
laughed. "It's ironic, don't you think? Trolls have this great power of regeneration
and all that mindless strength, but the blood just makes us sick, even if it's
diluted by two generations."
"If you knew, why did you bother to go back and kill
him?" Angelus asked.
he could tell others about the way the Slayer staked our guests and almost
killed us? Innkeepers talk. They all do."
went to the wardrobe and chose a dress. Angelus watched as she slipped into
undergarments that were so expensive they could have fed a human family for a
year. "You think the innkeeper told the Council about our little... soiree?"
it matter?" Darla asked, already bored with the conversation. "Help me with
this," she said and turned her back to him. He approached her and expertly tied
the strings of her corset before moving on to Drusilla to do the same for her.
young vampire sat on the bed in her chemise. There were two bullet holes in the
fabric, where her heart was. The fat watcher had been a good shot. Drusilla
held a pack of playing cards in her hand. Several cards were spread out in
front of her. But she wasn't looking at them. Her eyes were closed and her gaze
was directed at things to come.
knew better than to disturb her when the sight was upon her. It was a useful
talent; one that had saved him and his women from harm several times. It was
one of the reasons why Drusilla was still travelling with him and Darla, even
though having to look after her and keeping her from acting upon every whim was
proving more and more tiresome. Darla, especially, was growing impatient.
"Crossroads, dark crossroads," Drusilla cooed.
you said so last night," Darla said condescendingly as she slipped into a
beautiful dress. "Is that all you can tell me?"
a tangled web of did not and must not and may be. Someone came who wasn't supposed
to, and someone will come, who isn't what he used to be. Things may change, but
I don't want them to."
"Who came? And who is coming?" Angelus asked.
"A friend of the other Slayer."
"What `other' Slayer? There is only ONE Slayer. "
"The Slayer that captured your heart last night."
hit her with enough force to send her crashing against the wall. "No one," he
said. "No one, no Slayer, can catch my heart. It is already taken."
walked to Darla, took her hand and lifted it to his lips. He kissed her
fingertips, ignoring Drusilla's wails. "And now," he said forcefully to his
insane offspring, "I don't want to hear any more nonsense about crossroads and
He touched Darla's ravaged face. "You will need a lot
of blood for that to heal."
caught his hand. "The Watcher who did this, find out if he is still alive, and
if he is, find out his name, where he lives, everything." It wasn't a request.
It was an order. Both knew it. "Find out if he's got family," she added with a
wicked smile. It was an ugly sight, because the burns made her mouth crooked,
and there was a hole in her cheek where the skin had disintegrated completely.
He answered her with a smile of his own.
he couldn't just go and drag a dozen people into their house for Darla to eat.
Too many disappearances and the Council would find them, it was as simple as
that. Angelus knew what it was like to be hunted by a determined opponent.
pondered for a moment, mentally going through a list of feeding grounds. Going
back to the baby farmer to buy some more children was out of the question.
Surely, the Council had already found her and taken care of her.
He watched distractedly as Drusilla began to play with
would like to use one of our hunting grounds," he told Darla. "We could make it
a great slaughter, this time. But not tonight. Before we go there, I should
like to make sure that the skinny little Slayer isn't already there, waiting
he mentioned the Slayer, Drusilla gripped the blond locks of one of her
porcelain dolls and tore its head right off. "I hate her, I hate her," she
whispered. There was a crunching sound and the doll's head disintegrated in her
and Darla exchanged an irritated glance. "As for tonight," he continued. "I
will just snatch someone off the street for us, someone who won't be missed.
Right now, we shouldn't draw any more attention to ourselves, not unless we
want to leave."
"I like London," Darla said. "I like the view."
we'll stay," Angelus said. *And when we
are all fed and strong we'll play a bit with that Slayer-bitch.*
Willoughby was in his room, studying, when his brother sought him out.
"What is it, Georgie?"
came in and carefully closed the door behind him. "Can I ask you something?" he
ventured earnestly. George was the quiet one of the two brothers. He rarely
initiated a conversation but he was a good listener.
"Of course," Charles said, putting his geometry book
you noticed that Maeve is somehow... different? I think there may be something
wrong with her."
"What makes you think so?" Charles asked.
things. Maeve always liked currants, but now she picks every single one out
before eating her cake. And have you seen the amount of coffee she drinks? She
moves differently, too. And she sounds strange. Do you think she is... maybe...
"Possessed?" Charles repeated the unfamiliar word.
the bookshop I tried to find literature on exorcisms and demonic possessions,
but all I discovered was that possessed people are supposed to be obscene and
violent and blasphemous."
said her coma might have affected her memory and her personality, remember?"
Charles said. "That would explain her strange behavior."
George looked doubtful.
*Possessed...* Deep inside Charles was
suddenly convinced that his brother was right. Maeve was not herself. *Does Father know? Of course he does. He
knows about... these things... The question is: What do I tell Georgie?*
cleared his throat. "George, there is something you should know about Father
and his work."
"Um... Excuse me, this probably sounds a bit,
well, weird, but could you please try to contact someone for me? Her name is
Maeve McKenna. Her address? No sorry, I don't know where she lives. And no, I
don't know what she looks like. I've never seen her before, but I know if you
just ask her to come here she'll recognize me right away. Trust me. Uh...What do
I know about her? She's about twenty years old and a girl, and she lives with a
guy called Willoughby, Edward Willoughby. Did I say `lives with'? Um... I mean
he's her guardian or something. No I don't know his profession, well, I do but
you wouldn't believe me anyway..."
shook his head. *This won't work.* He
had practiced expressing his request several times now and each version came
out more surreal than the one before. *I
think I'd better stick to the fake-amnesia.*
heard indistinct shouting and howling in the distance, coming from the other
patients. The sounds sent a chill through him. He had only been here for a few
hours and already the place was giving him the creeps. There hadn't been a
moment of silence since they locked him up in this cell.
resumed his pacing. He had been released from the cot and allowed to use a toilet
that could only be called disgusting, but after that, four thug like orderlies
had wasted no time putting him into an old fashioned straitjacket - a strange
contraption with leather cuffs and lots of straps and buckles. *Four orderlies! Who do they think I am?
perhaps they did. Not Hannibal the Cannibal of course, but a dangerous killer.
He suddenly remembered the dead body with the torn out throat. If the police
who had knocked him out had found the dead body in the hallway behind him...
"Oh no!" Could things get any worse?
*Wouldn't one of Willow's portals be so neat
right now?* He didn't know what it would look like from this side, but he
checked routinely, anyway. No, not routinely but obsessively. He was scared
shitless to miss his ride home should it ever appear.
heard the rattling of keys in the lock and the door was opened. *Dinner?* A number of orderlies came in
to drag him out of his cell. *Apparently
kind of lewd behavior is indicative of a mental illness," Dr. Burton was
saying, as Xander was rudely pushed into a large carpeted room. The `alienist'
was sitting behind a large desk, smoking a cigar. He was talking to three men
who Xander assumed were police detectives. Two bobbies stood quietly flanking the
door. "I do not think this man is a common criminal, I think he is a dangerous
lunatic. We at St. Luke's are much better equipped to deal with lunatics than
the best of prisons."
Xander smiled sheepishly. "Um... good evening?"
you are NOT going!" Mrs. Willoughby said with as much authority as she could
muster. Even as agitated as she was, she looked impeccable. Not a single strand
of hair was out of place. "No one can expect you to go out just hours after
this savage attack. You are in pain. You need to take your prescription and
then you need to rest. Please, Edward."
my dear, you know I find it hard to deny your wishes, but my presence is
them a note. Tell them you are unwell. It would be the truth. You're a scholar,
not a soldier. You cannot be expected to go to work with two broken bones.
Surely no translation can be that important. Tell them to find someone else!"
"I have no choice in the matter. I am sorry, dearest."
"Well, so am I, Mr. Willoughby..."
Buffy withdrew from the open door. *Oops, better not walk into THAT minefield.*
argument concerned the official debriefing that was scheduled to take place
later that night at the Council's headquarters in Russell Street. Hartford had
wanted to hold it as soon as possible, but he also wanted as many Council
members to attend as possible and had therefore chosen to hold the meeting at
11.00 p.m. *At least the meeting takes
place AFTER dinner. I'm glad I didn't miss that meal. Although...*
had been great, but it had been an uncomfortable event, once the Watcher had
announced his intention to go out that night. Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby had been
barely civil towards each other. Charles and George had talked about meeting
Mr. Crawford and his sister at a bookstore, -*Wow! He has... um... had a sister?* - in an attempt to lighten the mood. They had
also mentioned that they had invited the Crawfords over for tea.
*William...* Buffy found her thoughts
drifting, but was saved by a rumbling in her stomach.
*Jeez, shouldn't have thought
about dinner, now I'm hungry again. I miss my fridge with cold pizza and Slayer
size cartons of Haagen-Dazs.*
opened the door to Willoughby's office and walked in quietly. The desk was
tidy. There was a neat filing system. It didn't take her long to find what she
was looking for. *Bingo!* She folded
the papers and - for want of pockets - slid them into her sleeve. She tiptoed
back into the hallway, past the drawing room, where the marital argument was
growing more heated.
never said a thing when you went out at ungodly hours, supposedly to work."
Mrs. Willoughby said. It was the first time Buffy had heard her raise her
voice. "I have never asked you where you were going and what you were doing. I
just hoped that whatever you did would be done discreetly and would not shame
our family or place you in danger. But it seems your clandestine... activities
have precedence over the sanctity and safety of this house."
now you are asking me to adopt some unknown child, an infant I know nothing
about. What am I supposed to say to that? What will people think?"
was weird listening to them argue. Weird, because it bothered her. After all,
she had only known them for a few days, they were strangers to her. *Sure. So, how come they remind me of Mom
and Dad?* Her parents had been fighting all the time, before the big D.
Largely because of Dad keeping secretary shaped secrets from Mom. *Gee, pattern much?*
hadn't really occurred to her until now, that being a Watcher wasn't exactly
about leading a normal white-picket-fence life either. *Sure I have no life,
but I guess Giles doesn't either.*
course he couldn't burden his family with his job, ergo plenty of secrecy. But
now it looked like Willoughby's lies and secrets had finally blown up in his
face. And he had to pick up the pieces. *Boy,
can I relate. Just like it was with Mom, when she found out I was the Slayer.*
quickly walked downstairs, where she presumed the kitchen was and caused quite
a stir when she walked into the servants' dining room. The butler, the coachman
and two maids were sitting there; the other servants were probably busy taking
care of the dinner aftermath. *And the
award for `The invention of the century' goes to... the dishwasher, yay! Sure
beats space flight.* She felt a slight pang of guilt, thinking about the
enormous pile of dirty dishes each family dinner produced. Buffy briefly
considered offering her help, but realized the servants would probably just
Miss Maeve," one of the maids (Buffy had forgotten her name) exclaimed
nervously. The butler jumped up from his chair, and hastily buttoned up his
waistcoat. He had a glass of sherry sitting in front of him and had been
reading the morning paper, now that the master and mistress of the house were
long finished with it. The other servants stared at Buffy, clearly not
comfortable with her sudden appearance.
Maeve," Dawson said with greater dignity. "You should have rang. Can we help
sat down on a wooden bench with a sigh. "I know, know," she said, waving her
hand dismissively. There were bell cords all over the place, but she still
wasn't used to having servants cater to her. "But all I want is a nice hot cup
of coffee. Can I just sit here for a second?"
course, Miss Maeve." Dawson sat back down, passing on Buffy's request by
nodding at one of the maids. The girl curtsied and rushed into the adjoining
kitchen. "And maybe a sandwich or two?" Buffy called after her.
the fact that she had eaten well at dinner time, Buffy felt like she was
starving. She always ate a lot, even in her own time. Her fast metabolism burnt
up anything she ate almost immediately. *Comes
with the Slayer package.* Maeve's body, however, was much slimmer than
Buffy had ever been, probably because of her coma or catatonia or whatever, but
also because this century frowned on women with a large appetite.
body still had a lot of catching up to do, so the least Buffy could do was feed
it adequately. *To hell with convention!*
Besides, the Willoughbys had a
really good cook.
Buffy gave everybody an awkward smile. The servants
looked at her expectantly.
Buffy said, when she had devoured two sandwiches and some cake and downed her
coffee, "there's another reason I came down here. I need to talk to you. Could
you get everyone in here, please?" she asked the butler.
all the servants were gathered, she took the drawings out of her sleeve and
unfolded them. *Okay, Angelus, you're not
coming in here, not if I can help it.* She handed the sketches around and
launched into the little speech that she had rehearsed, knowing that she had to
sound as authoritative and serious as possible.
want you to look at those faces. Look closely. These people are enemies of the
Willoughby family. They are dangerous crea- uh... criminals. Don't ever let them
in the house. Do not invite them in - no matter what they say! They will murder
every person in this house."
looked at her, shocked and frightened. But she noticed that the butler and
Harper, the coachman, looked like they had an idea what she was talking about. *Well, Harper keeps driving us to cemeteries
and stuff, so I guess Willoughby had to sort of put him in the loop.*
took the sketches from Buffy's outstretched hand and looked at the drawings of
Angelus and Darla. Then he studied Buffy for a moment. Finally he exchanged a
glance with the coachmen, who simply nodded. "I will make sure your
instructions are obeyed to the letter, Miss McKenna." He offered the papers
back to Buffy.
but keep the pictures. Hang them up somewhere so nobody forgets," Buffy said.
"These people may come tomorrow, or next week or in five years- but I'm willing
to bet that they WILL come. Don't ever forget. And now listen carefully. There
is usually a woman with them. Very thin, with dark curly hair and dark eyes.
This is very important: don't ever look into her eyes..."
was 10:30 when Angelus stepped out of the carriage that had brought him to
Kensington. Looking every inch a well-to-do gentleman he paid the driver and
took a stroll that would take him inconspicuously past the house in which the
Slayer lived with her Watcher. And the Watcher's family.
out their names and address had been easy. Angelus had several contacts in
London and enough of a reputation to make even reluctant informants talk.
walked around like a man deep in thought, studying the building and the
neighborhood. There was a little park not far from the house. The street lamps
were lit, but the park was dark enough to provide cover. Angelus found a
suitable spot and watched the house, smoking a cigar. When the injured Watcher
and the red haired Slayer walked out the front door and got into their carriage
to drive off, the vampire smiled. He waited another quarter of an hour then
made his way to the front door. He put on his most charming smile and rang the
the short drive to Russell Street, Willoughby was very quiet. He looked gaunt.
His lips were pressed into a thin line. Buffy didn't know how the argument
between husband and wife had ended, because Mrs. Willoughby hadn't been around
when Buffy returned upstairs, but the Watcher's pale and harried face spoke
*I wonder, did they have divorces
in 1880? Or was marriage kind of a life sentence?*
She suddenly felt sorry for him.
They had almost reached their destination when he
think you should know that I do not have any idea how I am supposed to send you
back where you belong."
That wasn't what she had expected him to say. *His marriage is going all kablooeee and he's worried about how to send
spell that brought you here," he tried to elaborate. "It should have worked. I
did everything according to the Grimoire. I made no mistake. And, as far as I
can tell, there is no counter-spell. At least, the Grimoire does not mention a
possibility to dispel the effects. That may be because it is itself a
counter-spell, meant to repair what has gone wrong."
alright," Buffy said with a shrug. "My friends will get me back. They're good
at that kind of thing."
If he believed her it didn't make him look any
"I think you should tell them," she declared.
he gave her a disbelieving stare she hastily added, "Your family. You should
tell your family about, you know, being a Watcher and all that. No more
secrets." *Says the Slayer whose middle
name is secrets. Buffy Secrets Summers,* she thought with a sudden flash of
Willoughby sighed and silently shook his head.
The carriage slowed and stopped.
"My Watcher got fired once," Buffy said suddenly.
Willoughby looked at her, startled at what seemed to
be a total change of subject.
looked through the curtains. The carriage stood in front of a large sturdy
building. She noticed a brass plate outside that read "Diogenes Club - Members
She looked at the Watcher.
Council thought he had his priorities all wrong," she continued. "He stayed
with me, anyway. And two years later we made the Council take him back, meeting
our conditions and everything. He even
got paid radioactively." *Or was it
retrospectively...whatever, he gets my point.* She smiled at the memory of
putting the whammy on Quentin Travers. "Make your own rules. It's safer for
your family, too."
didn't answer. He let her help him out of the carriage. With his arms injured
the simplest actions were difficult.
was surprised when a servant clad in a crimson livery opened the door for them
with a flourish. There were several mirrors in the brightly lit entrance
passage. A butler took their coats and hats. "Mr. Hartford and the other
gentlemen are waiting upstairs," he informed them gravely.
followed the Watcher up a grand flight of stairs and along a red carpeted
about the Council's Headquarter radiated wealth and tradition. Dark wood
paneled rooms, leather upholstered furniture, darkened portraits of stuffy old
men painted in styles long past and the musty smell of books combined to give
it a strange mixture of age and agelessness. Buffy could easily imagine that it
looked and smelled just the same in her time, except perhaps for better
now she was standing in a large room with many little tables and comfortable
chairs. It smelled of tobacco and was full of men in conservative suits.
There were at least twenty of them. Not one woman
Hartford waved Willoughby and Buffy inside.
a few welcoming words and some introductions, and after everyone present had
been equipped with the drink and smoke of his choice, Director Hartford asked
Willoughby to describe last night's events with as much detail as possible.
Buffy sipped her coffee. It would be her turn to talk
soon enough. *Yay.*
"Good evening, Mr. Kent," the doctor said. "How are you feeling?"
a little tired," he said. *Terrified,
maybe.* "Not really thrilled with my living arrangements." *Although this is probably better than
prison.* "Oh, and the jacket, not a fan of the jacket. It's not really my style and makes it kinda
hard to move around." He smiled
awkwardly at the nodding doctor. "But
other than that," he shrugged. "I'm great."
you remembered your address or perhaps where you were staying during your visit
remember a thing. My mind's absolutely
glanced nervously at the detectives. They studied him like he was a wild
animal, no, a cockroach that had just crawled out from beneath a rock. Their
disgust was palpable.
"Do you perhaps remember how you arrived at the
Kent," the doctor said as he leaned forward in his chair. "We found two dead bodies at the scene where
you were discovered. What can you tell
me about them?"
*Oh no!* he thought in dismay. And: *Two? There were two?* "I was robbed. So...um...I guess maybe the robbers killed those
"Can you fly,
the watchmen approached, you told them..." he glanced at some paperwork on his
desk. "You told them that you arrived by flying."
"Um... I did?" *Sure you did, Xander. You flew. Right over
the Cuckoo's Nest.*
There was a knock at door. One of the guards opened it slightly and
Burton, your presence is requested in the East Wing," he said formally after
closing the door.
doctor nodded and stood. "I am regretful
we have to end this session so quickly, Mr. Kent. I am sure we can learn much
from each other. Although, I am also certain we will be speaking again soon."
He smiled cordially.
"Please be sure he is returned to his room," the
doctor said as he left the office.
detectives glared at Xander as he was lifted out of his chair by the
bobbies. They practically dragged him
out of the office and dumped him into the arms of three waiting orderlies. Now, it was their job to drag him through
halls that may have originally been painted white but were now yellowing with
age. As they took the hospital's newest
loon back to his cage, the orderlies talked.
that's the third this month, right?" the younger man asked.
right. Not a pretty sight, son."
"Really? You saw `er?"
that I did. Poor creature, lyin' in `er
blood with `er clothes all torn," the older man said, without sincerity.
younger orderly remained silent for a moment, obviously trying to picture the
on the other hand tried very hard NOT to think about dead violated women. He
was feeling slightly queasy. He didn't really want to hear what these men had
to say but found himself listening, anyway.
of it. One of these madmen gettin' out
at night?" the older man said. "I'm glad I go home at 8."
"But if he can free `imself, why don't he just try an'
he's a madman! Like this one, `ere," the man laughed.
*Oh just great. Like being locked up in an asylum in 19th
Century London isn't bad enough. Now
I've got to worry about being pegged a psycho-snack food, too.*
later, Xander was literally thrown back into his cramped room. He looked around
his concrete prison and tried to figure out what to do next. He made an attempt to stand, but lost his
balance without the help of his arms to support him. Besides that, he was severely uncomfortable
and his left bicep was starting to cramp.
would Buffy do?" he mumbled. *She would
have ripped right out of this stupid contraption and kicked everyone's ass.*
I can do this," he said to himself and began squirming around in his
jacket. "Just...need...to..." He was trying to
bring his arms down and around his bottom.
"Ow! Owowowowowowow! Crampcrampcramp! Owowowow!" *Okay,
well it was worth a try,* he thought as he stretched out on the floor.
staring at the yellowing ceiling in his tiny cell, still cramping inside his
straitjacket, he thought, *Maybe I really
died. Maybe this is hell.* He considered that for a moment and then
snickered. *Nah, if this were hell, some version of Cordelia would be here
insulting me for all eternity.*
Continued in Part 22 - Attack of Conscience