Things Present – Things Past
By Estepheia and Marcee
Part 23 - If Life gives you Lemons...
first few minutes of the ride back to the Willoughby household were passed in
uncomfortable silence. Buffy sat
solemnly, picking at an errant cuticle and the exhausted Watcher gazed out of
the carriage window. *Wow, that was
fun! And I thought the Council guys in
MY day were tight-asses.* After
three hours of abuse masquerading as objective analysis, Buffy was emotionally
drained. Red tape had a whole new
meaning. *How did Maeve put up with this
Finally, Buffy turned to the Watcher and said, "It
wasn't all bad."
He didn't answer.
"I mean, they did say that I looked much healthier."
He turned to the Slayer, she was grinning
absurdly. He couldn't help but chuckle.
is it you can find anything positive to say after that...that..."he couldn't find
"That carnival of fun?" she suggested dryly.
puckered his lips disapprovingly. "I'm
sorry they were so hard on you," he told her, sounding genuinely regretful.
big. See, about halfway through the
meeting I decided to hone one of my Slayer skills."
"Oh?" he asked, sounding mildly amused. "Which skill
might that be?"
felt good to be able to make Willoughby smile.
Being so formal and orderly all the time must get unbelievably
tiresome. After the Council members
berated her for failing to kill Angelus, they went on to punish the Watcher for
not preparing her properly. If that
wasn't enough, they reprimanded him for failing to reprimand her for her
failure. Talk about jumping through
"Anyway, thanks for sticking up for me," she said.
He only nodded.
Willoughby. I know how hard this must be
for you," she said seriously. "This whole switched-Slayer thing. Especially not being able to talk to anyone
about it." She pondered for a moment.
"Well, actually, I don't know how hard it is because I've pretty much
always had someone to confide in."
*What is she trying to tell
"See, what I'm thinking is...maybe you should
bring some people into your world. I
guess it's a little easier for me because I have friends back home." She
smiled, thinking about the Scoobies. "I
feel better when I vent to them. They help me carry this awful weight, you
know? And they're always there for
me. To help patrol or research or just
to talk to. And I don't know why that
wouldn't apply to Watchers, too. Don't
you ever wish you could just talk about this stuff with someone?"
"I do," he answered, somewhat uncomfortably.
"You do wish or you do talk?"
"I speak with Director Bateley on a regular basis."
doesn't count," she answered. "I mean someone who's not part of the
Council. Someone who doesn't have an
agenda. Someone who's just there for
He shook his head, regretfully.
"Consider it," she told him bluntly.
few more minutes passed in silence. Edward Willoughby looked like he was going
to fall asleep any minute. Well, it had been a long and hard day.
glad Bateley will be okay," she said quietly.
She wasn't dealing well with the silences. At home, people were always talking - always
chatting. Those last couple of days in
Sunnydale she had gotten sick of everyone yapping at her. She had wanted to
tell them to go away - to shut up - to leave her alone, already! But now, after
enduring these seemingly endless moments of quiet, she would give her arm for a
bout of Anya's inane finance talk or Spike's ineffable charm. *Okay, maybe not an arm - but possibly my
"So what's next?" she asked cheerfully. "Training? Patrol? Breakfast, maybe?"
pulled out his pocket watch. "It is three o'clock in the morning! The sun will
not rise for hours, yet."
Buffy grinned. "Is there a rule in the
Watcher's handbook about eating breakfast early?"
was getting used to Buffy's sarcastic humor, so he answered, "Actually, I think
there's a whole section regarding the specific times meals are permitted." He smiled at his Slayer. "But that section is written in Latin."
chuckled. "After that little seminar,
I'm in the mood to break a few rules! Let's be explorers! Have you ever broken
into your own kitchen?"
carriage stopped and Buffy helped Willoughby dismount. The man looked tired and
in pain. Breakfast was fine, but he probably needed a brandy, first. He was a
few years older than Giles, which made him pretty old. Too bad she couldn't
share some of her healing powers with him.
"Dawson will still be up. Just knock," Willoughby told
hand froze on its way to the brass knocker. There was a small stain on the
door, no bigger than a pea, but visible enough in the pale glow of the street
lights. It was brownish red, like dried blood and it shouldn't have been there.
All of her instincts screamed `Danger!'
Come down here," she called the coachman. She climbed back into the coach and
dug into the secret compartment. "Take this, and look after Mr. Willoughby,"
she said authoritatively and handed him a crossbow and ammunition.
hesitated very briefly. But he took the weapon and loaded it expertly.
Something about him suggested that he had handled combat situations before.
Willoughby stammered, finally catching on. "Oh dear Lord!" He blanched, looking
like someone had knocked the wind out of him. "I have to... oh my god..."
slung her arm around him, not just to steady him but also to give him some
moral support. "There's nothing you can do, Willoughby. But maybe I can. Trust
me." *God I hope I'm not making empty
"Harper, where's the back door, you know, the door the
servants use or whatever?"
The coachman told her and gave her the key.
I will go inside. Wait ten minutes. If I'm not back by then, take Mr.
Willoughby back to the club, you know, the one we just left."
minutes later, Buffy was quietly slipping through the service entrance into the
basement of the house. All of her Slayer senses were reaching out, searching
for the unmistakable tingle that meant a vampire was nearby. So far, nothing.
The house was deathly quiet.
readied, Buffy quickly checked the kitchen and the servants' dining room. Both
were lit but empty save for signs that the servants had been interrupted: half
full tea cups, chairs not pushed in...
checked every door, even though she had no idea where they would lead. Various
pantries. Closet. Closet. *Oh, a meat
room, ew.* There were hooks in the ceiling from which to hang sausages and
hams. That's where Buffy found the lifeless body of Mary, the shy serving girl.
The gag was still in her mouth, even though she'd never make another sound.
Ever. Her skin was almost white. There were knife cuts all over her body, but
hardly any blood. A sheet of paper was pinned to her. It was the sketch Buffy
had given the butler, with Angelus's portrait.
Buffy felt cold dread and a sick revulsion.
continued her search until she came across a door she couldn't open. It was a
sturdy door, but someone had tried to break it down. She strained to listen for
sounds on the other side, hoping that if there were people behind this door,
they would still be alive. She thought she heard someone sobbing, so she
started to bang on it. Half crazed with
hope, she began yelling and pounding on the door. "Is there anyone in there?
Please! Please tell me if there's someone in there?"
"Miss Maeve?" she heard a small frightened voice
"Yes, yes. It's me. Who's in there? Is everyone
are four of us, Miss Maeve," a second, more confident voice could be heard.
Buffy recognized the cook. "We're alive, Miss. Just scared. Should we come
No," Buffy said. "Just stay where you are.
I'll be back for you when it's safe, okay?"
"Yes, Miss Maeve," was the muffled reply.
silently crept up the stairs to the main floor. The door at the top of the
stairs had been broken down. The hall was dark, but Buffy could make out the
shape of another human body, sprawled on the floor, near the main door. She
tiptoed closer. Dawson, the butler. She bent down and felt for his pulse. There
opened the door and slipped outside. Harper lifted his crossbow but then he
recognized her. He was guarding Willoughby who was sitting in the carriage.
walked to the worried Watcher. "Dawson's dead, so is Mary." She quickly
outlined the situation.
"Angelus," Willoughby said.
"Yes," she said simply. "I'm sorry."
send Harper to alert the Council," he stated flatly, trying to deal with the
crisis rationally. "They need to get here before the neighbors get curious and
someone calls the police."
wrote a note and sent the coachman off. He drove away at a reckless speed. When
Buffy had suggested Willoughby should leave with him, the Watcher had refused.
He came inside the house but agreed to stay near the door while Buffy continued
her search of the premises.
quick inspection of the ground floor brought no discoveries, so Buffy quietly
door to George's room was slightly ajar. She peered inside the room. It looked
undisturbed. Charles's room was next. She was shocked to find the door in
splinters. She walked inside, trying to steel herself. The room was wrecked, as
if someone had vented his anger on the furniture, but there was no blood, and
next room was hers. There was a jagged hole in the door, near the handle, about
the size of a football. She tried the door. Locked. She listened for a moment.
Then she stuck her hand through the hole to feel if the key was in the lock on
the other side.
felt the splash of a liquid on her hand, and instinctively pulled away. At
first, she had assumed it was blood, but when she glanced down, there was
nothing there. She reached through again, more cautiously and suddenly
something was pressed against her hand. She snatched it back through the hole
in the door and, to her surprise, found a wooden cross in her hand. One of many
that she kept in a trunk at the foot of her bed. Who could possibly be in her
room? "Charles?" she asked, tentatively. "It's me, B... Maeve. Are you in there?
Where's George? Are you alright?"
"Maeve?" the relief in the boy's voice was evident.
heard the sound of a key being turned in the lock and of a heavy object pushed
across the floor, then the door opened.
is the vampire?" Charles asked. "Did you kill it?" His face was contorted with anger and there
were traces of dried tears on his cheeks. There were black smears on his face
and his clothes were filthy. He was holding a stake in his right hand.
"It's gone," was all Buffy could muster.
George was curled up on the bed, clutching his bible.
He, too, was covered in soot.
noticed that her trunk was opened and the contents scattered around the
room. Holy water bottles, crosses and
stakes littered the floor.
"Are you hurt?" she asked Charles.
He shook his head no.
"He's... he's fine."
didn't look fine to Buffy. She approached
the bed and sat down next to the terrified child. "George?" He didn't move. "George, your father's downstairs. We
should go to him."
"Mother," he mumbled almost inaudibly.
She heard Charles take a deep breath.
and I, we were talking, in my room," Charles began, slowly as if he couldn't
believe all this had really happened. "And then we heard Mother screaming, so
we went to look, of course, and then we saw him, he wasn't human. He... it had
fangs and yellow eyes. It..."
demon," the younger boy interrupted, sounding dazed. He was still holding on to
his bible, as if his life depended on it.
shouted at me, told us to hide in my room and lock the door, I wanted to help
her, but I had to protect my brother..."
saw the doubt in his eyes. "You did the right thing," she hastened to reassure
him. "There was nothing you could have done. If you hadn't listened to her you
would both be dead by now. What happened next?"
told us to come out, otherwise it... otherwise it would kill her. I... I looked
through the keyhole... it..." Charles paused, looking sideways at his brother. That
was something George did not need to know, how that vampire had held their
mother in an almost perverse embrace, one hand under her skirts, the other
muffling her cries; how his fangs had pierced her neck so he could drink her
blood, and how that creature had reveled in her fearful struggles. But the
worst thing had been the look on his mother's face, the abject terror in her eyes.
He balled his fists so hard the perfectly manicured nails were cutting into his
palms. "It was a lie, because she was already dead."
Buffy squeezed his hand.
heard someone talking..." Edward Willoughby's uncertain voice startled them. "I
couldn't wait... Charles, George!"
watched Willoughby embrace his sons, awkwardly because of his bandaged arms. He
was touching their faces as if to make sure they were real. He was crying.
Embarrassed, she stepped outside the room to scan the hallway. By now she was
pretty certain that Angelus was long gone.
door to the Willoughbys' bedroom was slightly ajar. A shaft of yellow light
stabbed into the dimly lit hallway. A strange sense of foreboding filled her.
Listening with one ear to Willoughby asking them more or less the same
questions she had asked, and hearing Charles repeat his narration, she slowly
walked towards that light.
knew she didn't want to see what was behind that door, but she had to anyway.
She put her hand against the door and gave it a slight push.
bedroom was lit by dozens of candles. Angelus must have collected them from all
over the house. Louisa Willoughby was intentionally positioned in a sexually
enticing pose. Her head was propped up on her pillow so her dead eyes were
staring at Buffy, accusingly. Her hair had been undone, the blonde curls
loosened and artistically draped around her head to give her a slightly wilder,
almost dissolute look.
noticed a little object lying on the pillow next to the body, the way hotels
put pieces of chocolate there, for their guests. This wasn't candy, though,
this was a little figurine made from carved stone, a cheerful little cherub. An
wasn't really surprised to find Mrs. Willoughby like that. She remembered the
death of Miss Calendar too well. She also remembered its effect on Giles, when
he had found her in his bed. For a moment Buffy felt like she was trapped in an
endless series of reruns, cursed to relive the same tragedies again and again.
And she found herself wishing Willoughby's spell had never brought her here,
into this century and into his family.
sometimes I wish I could just walk away," she sighed, putting into words what
she'd often thought since she'd been resurrected. "Let others deal with all
this. Why do these things always happen to Buffy?"
sound of her own voice stopped her in her tracks. Spoken out loud, her thoughts
sounded so... so... self-involved. She knew exactly what Spike would say to her, if
he'd been here to hear her say something like that: "Yeah right, Slayer, so
this is YOUR tragedy?"
And he'd be right, as usual. Damn him.
grief and anger and outrage she felt at Mrs. Willoughby's death was nothing
compared to what Edward and his sons were feeling right now. This was THEIR
tragedy, not Buffy's. Not. Everything. Was. About. Buffy.
realized there was at least one thing she could do to make things better for
them. She could make sure that they didn't get to see the body looking like
that. So, she turned back to the body and took a deep breath to steel her
resolve. *This is not the right time to
go `ew' and be squeamish girl,* she told herself. She reached out and
gently closed Louisa Willoughby's eyes. She bent over the body and rearranged
the limbs. Finally, Buffy grabbed the sheet and pulled it over the naked body.
Now it looked like Louisa was only sleeping. She blew out the candles and hid a
few under the bed, she'd try to remember to see about disposing of them later.
She grabbed the figurine and tucked it into one of the sashes of her dress.
with what she had achieved, Buffy left the bedroom and went back to Willoughby
and his sons. Charles was just telling his father how he and George had crawled
up the chimney, hoping that the narrow passage would lead to a flue that also
served the hearth in Maeve's room. He had known that Maeve kept weapons in her
they had landed in Maeve's room Charles had tiptoed to the door and quickly
turned the key in the lock. The vampire had been furious. He had smashed a hole
through the door, but when he stuck his hand through it Charles had hit him
with a cross.
told him I had enough Holy Water in here to fight a whole army of hell spawns
like him," Charles said, not without pride, but he was still shaking with the
after-effects of shock, fear and grief.
pulled the boy into a tight hug. "You were both very brave," she said. Then she
did the same to George. "I am so sorry I wasn't here to protect you."
Crawford's favorite book was her atlas. She knew the names of rivers, mountains
and deserts, of countries and cities she would never get to see. Sometimes she
wished she had been born a man. Men were free to travel, to go wherever they
wanted. Men learned how to fence and shoot rather than play the piano or to
crochet. Men were free to lead a life of
romance and adventure.
not all men, obviously, but those who were well-to-do and who didn't have a
mother and a sister to look after.
sipped her breakfast tea and glanced fondly at her brother, who appeared to be
deep in thought. There was a faraway look in his eyes. The buttered bread roll
on his plate seemed forgotten. As usual, he had an open book lying on the table
next to him.
wonder how much of the ancient legends is really true...," he mused, images of
war-like Amazons fighting on the shores of Troy in his head. "I would very much
like to see Greece and Turkey, walk where the Ancients fought..."
"You will," Victoria said. "One day we both will. We
could be explorers."
looked startled. He hadn't been aware that he had uttered his thoughts out
loud. He tried to picture his sister in tropical clothes with a sun helmet on
her head and smiled indulgently. "So, you want us to dig up old treasures for
our livelihood?" he asked teasingly.
He took off his spectacles to clean them.
smiled back. "I should prefer unearthing Egyptian mummies to marrying an old
mummified bank director for his money," she said bluntly, referring to her
mother's tenacious attempts to turn her into a suitable and desirable young
know Mother only wants what is best for you," he mumbled without great
I should dress up like a man, with an artificial beard, like Queen Hatchepsut,"
Victoria said with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes, knowing full well that
her brother had read everything he could about the woman pharaoh.
They were interrupted by the arrival of Mrs. Crawford.
closed his book and rose to his feet to pull out her chair. Mrs. Crawford took
her place at the table and unfolded her napkin in carefully executed movements.
conversation turned to social events and this afternoon's invitation to the
Willoughbys. Mrs. Crawford was of the opinion that such an invitation was not
to be taken lightly and tried to draw her daughter into a discussion on which
dress to wear.
finished his breakfast in a hurry. He took his leave from his mother and sister
and was about to step outside when there was a knock at the front door. It was
a coachman who was delivering a calling card and a letter.
William tore the envelope open and read the contents.
no," he exclaimed, "Mr. Willoughby sends his regrets, but there has been a
tragic death. It seems Mrs. Willoughby had a weak heart. She died last night."
He passed the letter to his mother.
felt more than a twinge of disappointment. He had to admit to himself that he
had been looking forward to that visit. The prospect of seeing that strange
girl again had occupied his mind ever since young Willoughby had invited them.
He sighed and tried to put all thoughts of Penthesilea
out of his mind.
were lucky the Council guys arrived before the police did," Buffy said,
stirring some sugar and cream into her coffee. *I wonder if Angelus saw us coming home and alerted the police then...
just to see a Watcher involved in a murder case.* "Harper must have driven
like a bat out of hell."
"He's a good man," Willoughby replied absentmindedly.
was afternoon. Neither of them had had any sleep. Painful self-recriminations
and strong black coffee had kept them awake.
going to happen now?" Buffy asked.
Willoughby sighed. "We will do what needs to be done."
were sitting in Director Hartford's study. He had offered his hospitality to
the whole Willoughby family, Maeve included. His house was large enough to
accommodate them and three more families besides.
and Buffy were currently alone, because Hartford was overseeing Council matters
and George and Charles were being looked after by Mr. Hartford's
surviving servants of the Willoughby household had been given paid leave, after
two somberly dressed Council operatives had put the fear of God in them. The
men had claimed to act on behalf of Queen Victoria Herself and had told the
servants under pain of death never to divulge to anyone what had happened last
Council operatives were busy at the Willoughby residence, putting up magic
wards in order to de-invite Angelus and removing all traces of last night's
murders. The bodies had been removed already. Four in all. Louisa's, Dawson's,
Mary's and that of another maid, who had been found murdered in her bed. In
each case, a doctor in the Council's employ had certified natural causes as
cause of death.
Willoughby's insistence the Council had agreed to pay a small lump sum to the
relatives of the killed servants.
could ask my sister to live with us," Willoughby pondered. "Catherine has a
little cottage in Sussex but I think she'll come if I ask her to. She is very
fond of the boys. I would send Charles and George to visit her, but I'm not
sure..." he petered off uncertainly.
would find them, and neither of us would be there to protect them," Buffy said.
"I think even your sister might be in danger."
both knew that given half a chance, Angelus would finish what he had started:
the complete destruction of the Willoughby family.
"I will sell the house."
"I will get private tutors for the boys. I am not
sending them back to school next term."
nodded again. It was good that Willoughby was making plans. "Will you teach
them how to defend themselves, you know, tell them about the Council and all
sighed. "Council membership is more or less hereditary. I was going to have
Charles initiated, but now I am not certain if that is a good idea."
me, it is. He already knows you're fighting vampires. Maeve must have told him.
You saw how he handled himself. He'll make a fine Watcher."
*And I hope all that training
doesn't turn him into a complete asshole.*
"Who will?" a voice sounded.
and Willoughby started. They'd been too tired to hear the sound of the door
being opened. Mr. Hartford stood there, leaning heavily on his cane. He limped
inside and took his seat behind the large desk.
*Speaking of assholes...*
disliked the man intensely, even though he was a generous host. He gave off the
same sanctimonious, condescending I-know-what's-best vibe she had always hated
about Quentin Travers.
"We were talking about my son, sir," Willoughby
yes a bright young man, indeed. His initiation might indeed be in order, to
make sure he does not go off on some foolish vengeance mission on his own. We
can't have civilians attempt vampire hunts without proper supervision."
*Blah blah blah.*
caught Hartford's disapproving glance and realized she'd actually moved her
you guys, I'm gonna hit the sack," she said, way too tired to concentrate on
what she was saying and most of all how she was saying it, "I really need my
beauty sleep now, if I'm supposed to go on patrol later tonight. I mean, we all
know the world's gonna come to an end if I don't, right? Any prophecies I
should know about? Cause if there aren't, I'm just gonna call it a night." She
frowned. "Or afternoon. Whatever." She got up and gave Willoughby a quick hug.
"Go get some sleep," she whispered in his ear. She swept out of the room,
leaving two slightly confused Watchers in her wake.
found herself in the hallway of an unfamiliar house. She'd been led through the
place upon their arrival, but at the time she had been quite caught up in other
things to memorize the general layout of Hartford House.
*Bed. Food.* Buffy told herself and
nodded. *No, wait. First food, then bed.
Yes.* It was close to five o'clock, surely there was a nice buffet full of
cake and other comfort food waiting for her, somewhere. If only she could find
the dining room.
opened a random door. No. Another one. *Ooh
library!* She took a few steps inside. "Hello?" There was no answer. Too
bad. She was pretty sure that Mr. Crawford would have been able to show her the
way to the dining room.
turned around with a flourish but the hem of her dress caught on some piece of
furniture and when she pulled, it tore, causing her to stumble against the
library door. She heard a muffled cry of surprise and pain and the sounds of
various fragile objects shattering on the ground.
no," Buffy sighed, pulling the door open. "Oh no," she repeated in dismay, as
she took in the mess. The broken porcelain, namely cup, saucer and plate, the
blob of cream, the wet stain and the white little puddle, that were ruining the
carpet. "Oh no," she said a third time, when she recognized the person she had
stood aghast. When the door had hit him, it had upset the tray he was carrying.
Not only had he dropped everything he'd been carrying but he had also spilled
hot tea all over his jacket. *Ouch.* Tea stains were hard to get out.
And surely his employer would be cross with him.
he said, as he recognized the ephemeral red head as the cause of his collision.
"Oh." He found himself quite at a loss for words. He also realized that this
was the second time a meeting with this girl resulted in an embarrassing
then they were talking at the same time.
oh my god, I'm so sorry," - "Oh dear, how clumsy of me." - "Sorry, what did you
say?"- "I beg your pardon" - "Huh?" - "Goodness me!" - "Here, let me help."
both knelt down simultaneously to pick up the mess. He held the tray awkwardly
and Buffy scraped the cream off the carpet with a porcelain shard and ladled it
on the tray.
He looked at her earnestly. "I heard what happened,"
he said gently.
did?" Buffy answered warily. She picked up a squashed little cake and put it on
cannot express how sorry I am," he continued. "My sister and mother send their
condolences, too. It must be especially awful for the boys."
*Sister? Oh yes, Charles
"We didn't know Mrs. Willoughby had a weak heart."
*Heart? Weak? Oh, right.* "Yes, well, it came as a
shock to everybody," she answered noncommittally. *God, I so don't want to talk about this.*
seemed to sense her reluctance to dwell on that sad subject, but he had to ask,
anyway: "Is there something I can do?"
"What?" It came out sharper than intended. She was
stood up, almost causing him to drop the tray again. "No. No helping. I mean,
yes. Um... where do I find the dining room?"
decided to overlook her nervousness and escorted her to the dining room. He
pulled the bell cord and while he was waiting for a servant to come, he
surreptitiously watched as Buffy started piling up enormous amounts of food on
sat down and started munching on a sweet little cake. She was absolutely
ravenous, having missed several meals since the big dinner party. *Two days ago, was it really just two days
ago?* It was hard to believe..
parlormaid arrived. William quietly exchanged a few words with her and handed
her the tray to dispose of the broken china. The girl left, but she returned
several minutes later. He took the smaller tray out of her hands and dismissed
her with a friendly nod.
had almost forgotten that she wasn't alone when he put down the little tray
have taken the liberty of having this prepared for you. It always helps me when
things look grim," he said awkwardly. He gave her a fleeting smile and left the
looked at the little silver pot and the porcelain cup then at the door through
which William had just left. She lifted the lid. When she recognized the aroma
she found herself smiling, not broadly but smiling nonetheless.
"Thanks," she murmured and poured herself a cup of hot
Continued in Part 24 - With Plans Like These...