Things Present – Things Past
By Estepheia and Marcee
Part 32 - Pigeon on the fence
stifled a sigh as he glanced at the 15-year-old who was absentmindedly doodling
in one of her notebooks. It was obvious
Dawn wasn't concentrating on her studies, but the Watcher refrained from
scolding her. Giles knew she was worried sick about her sister.
to tell the truth, so was he. He was simply better at hiding his feelings under
a veneer of professional detachment. Unfortunately, he had no idea how to cheer
up a sad and frightened teenager. He felt another one of those unprofessional
surges of emotion that habitually threatened to cloud his better judgment. He
still wasn't comfortable with the way his paternal feelings always manage to
sidestep his rational composure. Perhaps a few words of encouragement were in
flinched and looked up from her pad.
to worry," Giles said, loud enough for Anya to hear, too. "I'm certain we'll
have all three of them back in no time."
relaxed visibly, but her heart was still racing. For a moment she'd thought
he'd somehow found her out, read it in her face or something. She nodded and
forced a smile. "Yeah, I know," she said, when really she was so scared it made
her want to scream. Scared of being caught; scared of being pushed away, if she
were exposed; scared of losing Buffy again, for good this time; scared of
losing Xander and Spike, too; scared of so many things. It all boiled down to
one big knot of fear and resentment. If Giles or the others really cared about
her, shouldn't they somehow sense that something was wrong? *I'm being blackmailed and he doesn't even
good," Giles mumbled, already focusing on other things, namely an idea that had
just popped into his mind. While he didn't think that it was a smart idea to
leave Dawn and Anya marinating in their gloom, there was still one more avenue
of investigation he felt he ought to explore. He stood and collected his
printouts. As he tidied the pile and placed it neatly into a folder, he called:
with Maeve to keep you company, would you be able to look after the shop and
take care of Dawn for a while? Something just occurred to me and I would like
to check it out right away..."
is it?" the young woman asked. "If it's to do with a spell, maybe I can help."
of the sort," the Watcher replied hastily. "I should think there's been enough
spellcasting already. Anyway, this shouldn't take long. I trust you and Maeve
will be fine for an hour or so."
followed the exchange with growing resentment, feeling left out and annoyed at
how everybody talked as if she weren't there. It was so unfair. No one gave her
anything useful to do. No research, no magic for her. When the door chime
marked the Watcher's departure, Dawn was actually relieved.
longer pretending to do her homework, she checked on what Anya and Maeve were
doing. Anya was squatting behind the counter, organizing books and paperwork on
the shelf below the cash register.
Occasionally, Dawn could see the top of the ex-demon's head, but mostly
she just heard her rummaging around. Maeve was crouched on the floor near the
new window, carefully arranging crystals on glass shelves, where the light of
the afternoon sun made them sparkle alluringly.
Anya nor Maeve were paying attention to Dawn. Even so, the teenager had the
disconcerting feeling, no, the knowledge that she was being watched. From one
of the shelves, the replica of a human skull seemed to be staring at her
maliciously. It was hard not to scan for the hidden camera she knew was there -
or thereabouts. Hard to keep from staring straight at the spying headpiece. *How long have they been watching?* she
wondered. *What else have they seen?*
surreptitiously closed her notebook and wandered about the shop. She let her
fingers drag lightly over random items on shelves and tables as she glanced
over her shoulder. *Now, where is that book?* She remembered that Giles had taken it
with him to the shop this morning. But he hadn't taken any books with him just
now, only his folder.
thought stopped her in her tracks. *Where
else do they have cameras? In my house? In my room?* She shuddered. When
the creepy guy had shown her the photos she hadn't really been thinking
straight, but now she remembered that two of the shots had been taken in Willow
and Tara's room. *If there's a camera in
their room... ew! I have to tell them!* Except she couldn't. Because then
she'd have to tell them how she knew about the spyware, about the pictures and
Willow's scarf and Anya's earrings. No way! *The
book. Concentrate on finding the book!*
were two places she could think of, Giles's secret drawer behind the counter,
where he used to hide his notes, or the office.
the book was in Giles' office, she'd have to pass both Anya and Maeve to get
there. *And what good excuse can I use
for going in there?* She's stolen
plenty of stuff before; it was never a big deal. But if they outright asked her
what she was doing, she'd actually have to lie to their faces and it would have
to be believable. Buffy was easy to
trick, but Anya might be harder to convince.
Dawn suddenly felt a flicker of doubt. She paused in her scheming, a
pang of guilt seeping into her conscious.
*If I get Buffy back, I promise I
won't ever lie to her again,* she pledged silently. She felt wetness in her
eyes and took a deep breath.
*They're watching me. I have
to take it. It's no big deal. It's just a book,* she tried to convince
herself. But her usual
nobody's-gonna-miss-it attitude didn't work in this case. This was different.
The book WOULD be missed. She tried to push the thought away.
wandered toward the office slowly, internally devising a reason for going there
just in case she was asked. *Cleaning.
I'm going in there to dust. Yea, like they'll believe that.* She
reconsidered, *I left a book in there
that I need for math. That's not bad.*
looked up at her as she passed. The girl-who-looked-like-Buffy smiled. Dawn
smiled back, but it took great effort. *Buffy
trusts me. She has no idea. If I don't give them the book it'll all come out
and everybody will freak and tell her when she comes back and then Buffy will
freak too, and I'll be grounded till forever...* The Slayer's sister paused,
took a deep breath and looked down at her sneakers. *But what if I give them
the book and they do something with it, like, make sure Buffy never comes
back...* A tear slipped from her eye and plopped gracelessly onto floor.
was at her side in an instant. "What is wrong? Are you hurt?" she asked.
wrong? What's wrong?" Anya was out from behind the counter almost
instantaneously. "Dawn, are you okay?"
fine," she answered quickly. She didn't want the spies to think she had changed
her mind. Dawn looked up into the concerned faces of her friends and used all
of her effort to keep from breaking down into tears. Quietly, and with her back toward the skull,
she said, "There's something I have to tell you guys..."
is it?" an anxious voice could be heard.
name is Rupert Giles. We met the other day, when you delivered a letter to me."
door was opened. "I would like to inform you that I'm not going to invite you
in," Charlie Willoughby said. He was holding a cross between him and his
visitor. Giles made the mental arithmetic.
was here." It wasn't a question.
eyes were wet with tears she refused to let fall. She'd told Anya and Maeve
that there was something important she needed to tell everyone but she wasn't
ready to spill just then. After Giles returned, she suggested they meet Willow
and Tara at the ice cream parlor.
just didn't want to go where people could..." she lowered her voice, "spy on us."
do you mean?" Willow asked.
know where we live. They know where we work. They're watching."
what are you talking about?" Giles sounded concerned. "Who's watching?"
were sitting in a neon-lit ice-cream parlor. Not the one they usually visited,
close to the Magic Box, but one they hadn't been to before. The only one who
was still eating was Maeve, but only because Anya had insisted that she mustn't
return to her own time without having tried both a chocolate sundae and a
banana split first. Maeve had stared into the cold glass cases, mesmerized by
the sheer number of flavors and colors available before Anya made the decision
guy," Dawn answered. "He came up to me on the street. He knew things."
did he look like?" Willow asked.
creepy. About that high," Dawn held out her hand, "beady eyes, almost bald. He
looked kinda familiar. A bit like that big-eared barkeep on one of those Star
Trek series Xander used to watch, the one with the space station, except
without the ears and stuff. I mean he looked human."
beg your pardon?" Giles said.
guy with the big ears, his name is Quark. Xander owns a signed picture of him."
She blew her nose, once again overcome by worry over the fate of her
remember," Willow suddenly said. "He showed me the autograph. He'd only bought
it because he thought it was neat how much the guy looked like Principal
Snyder. At least that's what he said." She smiled wistfully, knowing that
Xander owned a lot more merchandizing stuff than he liked to let on, like Star
Wars models and Klingon dictionaries, not to mention a Backstreet Boys
lunchbox. Xander wouldn't be Xander without his geek-y treasures, she thought
fondly, before the sobering memory of his current situation made her
concentrate on the problem at hand.
Snyder! But he's dead!" Dawn exclaimed. "Mayor Wilkins ate him when he turned
into a big snake demon, right?"
he's dead." Willow said. "The whole class of `99 was there when it happened -
plenty of witnesses."
the guy who's blackmailing me didn't look very dead to me."
he's a zombie," Anya offered. "Or someone resurrected him. Snyder could have a
twin brother nobody knows about. Or..."
you still haven't told us what he is blackmailing you with," Giles said gently.
"It was very brave of you to come forward and tell us. I can't tell you how
proud I am. But if we are supposed to find out who the man was and what his
motives are, we need to know everything he said and we also need to know what
he's threatening you with. We can't afford to take any risks. With the
necessity to summon the temporal portal on time to get Buffy and the others
back we have to eliminate all possible threats."
then there was a necklace from that boutique in the mall..."
she started her confession, the words spouted out between blubbers, sniffles
and tear-wipings, but after a few minutes, Dawn began ticking items off at a
pace that rivaled the most experienced auctioneers.
and a few lipsticks and nail polishes from the drug store. Remember that one
with the sparkles?"
Scoobies listened to Dawn's laundry list with growing horror. That horror turned to rage when Dawn began
reporting the items she'd taken from the Magic Box.
was a medallion and a crystal..."
stole from me?" Anya shouted.
shrunk into her seat. "I...I'm sorry."
Anya chastised. "You stole! From me! You're a thief and a liar!"
calm down," Giles cautioned, although he too felt intensely disappointed.
stole from us, Giles. From us!"
and she just told us about it, which I'm sure wasn't easy," Tara interrupted
sharply. Everybody looked at her in varying degrees of surprise. Only Willow's
face showed a proprietary smile and Dawn's showed extreme gratitude.
It's not like we're all without fault ourselves," Tara continued, hunching her
shoulders under the weight of everybody's attention. "Remember when I cast that
spell on everybody, made you demon-blind? I mean, sometimes you just do dumb
quite," Giles admitted, not entirely without embarrassment.
looked like she was about to protest, but Tara cut her off: "I'm not saying we
should ignore what she did, all I'm saying is: we should skip the shouting and
finger pointing and concentrate on catching these creeps."
nodded. He looked at Dawn with obvious displeasure and said, "This is not over
yet." Then he turned to the others. "But Tara is right. We have more pressing
matters to attend to."
are we gonna do?" Willow asked. "I can't trace someone I've never met."
quietly wondered if she meant trace as in computer-tracking or as in
witchcraft-tracking. "Well, it seems we must meet them."
how?" Anya wondered.
must prepare to commit her last criminal act."
Dawn's eyes were wide with surprise.
corners of Giles's mouth turned up slightly. "You're going to steal our book."
Continued in Part 33 - Watchers' Counsel