By Estepheia and Marcee
Part 35 - Going Places
He got up, washed himself thoroughly with the warm water the scullery maid had brought up. Then he pondered his wardrobe. Formal evening wear was out of the question. He was part of the inventory rather than one of the guests; not quite one of the servants, but not in a position to show off fanciful garments, either. Too bad his best suit for work had tea stains. It seemed he had to wear the light suit, gray waistcoat, best shirt and burgundy tie. Too light really for an evening occasion, but it would have to do.
Besides, Cecily was a refined young woman of grace and breeding, a discerning angel. Surely she would be able and willing to look past the accoutrements of his employment as a librarian and see him for the passionate and devoted soul he was.
William tiptoed down the stairs, patted the old dog and walked into the breakfast room. He was surprised to find Victoria waiting for him.
"There you are, William. I heard you get up and made you some breakfast," she said and kissed his cheek.
"You shouldn't have," he said, but he returned the kiss. He sat down and smiled when she poured him a cup of tea. He added sugar and cream and stirred. His sister pushed a plate with sweet pastries towards him. As he bit into the sugary confection he let her lively chatter wash over him.
"I wish I could be there tonight," she finally said. "Cecily must be a remarkable woman to have captured my dear brother's heart like this. I would like to meet her. Do you think we could be friends?"
He squeezed her hand. "Of course. I am certain you will enjoy each other's company. She is well educated. I am told she plays the piano and sings and..."
Victoria smiled. "Yes, yes, you have sung her praises before, William," she interrupted his enthusiastic reiteration of Cecily's virtues and accomplishments. "Will you finally talk to her? Could you not invite her over for dinner?"
"Yes, I was going to... uh... converse with her, like I promised," he said, trying not to let the prospect daunt him. *Courage, old boy, courage!* he told himself. *After all, you were well able to converse intelligibly with Penthes--, Miss McKenna last night. She even asked your opinion on philosophy.* He smiled at the recollection, drawing encouragement and confidence from it.
"Oh, I wish I could be there," Victoria repeated, "hidden like a little mouse, underneath a chair or in a crack in the wall..."
He pushed back his empty plate and rose. He bent over and bestowed a brotherly kiss upon her forehead. "I will tell you everything that happens, I promise. Tomorrow."
She gave him an indulgent smile. "I know you will."
120 years was a long time. You could forget a lot in over a century. But the hours spent in the seedier parts of London had quickly brought back memories of pub brawls, playing darts, cheap ale, and of the hunt. It was like putting on a very old, well worn coat - odd at first, but increasingly comfy. Speaking of which... *God I wish I had my coat.*
Standing in an upper class area like Kensington was a totally different vibe. Like prodding a prone dog with a stick. Is it dead or just pretending? `It' being his memories BD - Before Dru. Not something Spike liked to dig around in. To stay with the imagery, it was like donning an old suit, with stiff collar and cuffs - stilted, constrained and utterly awkward. Any familiarity was a definite no-no, because that was William. Never Spike. *Good lord, did I just use an extended metaphor?* Spike shuddered.
"What now? Stumped? I thought you knew where we're going," Xander complained, interrupting the vampire's thoughts.
"It's the right place," Spike replied absentmindedly. "The address Maeve gave me. Now, why the hell is everybody gone?"
"Spike, don't tell me we're both stuck here. I don't believe this! You come all this way, and then you don't know where we're supposed to go? Only you could..."
*Right, I met Maeve-when-she-was-Buffy, I remember that much. But where? Not here, I think...* He leaned out of the carriage window and squinted at the building. *Don't recognize this place...*
"...screw up like that. They called you Spike for that thing with the railroad spikes? They should have called you Screw, for screwing up all the time..."
*Dinner party. Didn't get many invites for those, that should narrow it down ...* He remembered Penthesilea's face, and her sad eyes. That, in itself, was remarkable, because he couldn't remember most of the other people he'd known when he was still alive. And he'd only met the girl a few times. He could recall most of their conversations, too. But where exactly those had taken place, that memory was blurry. *Dinner. Dining room. Books...*
"Spike, are you even listening? Spike!" Xander yelled.
"For god's sake, Harris, can't you just stop yammering for a sec?"
"I'm not yammering..."
*Books! Buried underneath tons of books...*
"... I never yammer. What kind of word is that anyway?"
* Library. Hartford.* "Bloody Hell!"
Hartford House was the last place on earth Spike wanted to see again. Ever. Or drop Harris off at. "Mother F-!"
"What?" Xander barked anxiously. *Don't let us be stuck here. Don't let us be stuck here.* was his silent mantra.
Irritated, Spike shoved the carriage door open, with enough impetus to force a muffled "oomph" out of the human. "Shut up and get your ass back in."
"There has been an incident."
"What do you mean?" the Slayer asked with a frown. Upon their return to Hartford House, Buffy had headed straight for the breakfast buffet and stocked up. Now she fished a puff pastry roll thingy out of her jacket pocket and tore off a piece, not really caring about the crumbs that rained on the plush Afghan carpet. The disapproving glares of the two Watchers present were easily ignored. *Mmmh, good. Yummy.*
She was sitting in Director Hartford's tobacco-smelly study, under the old man's scrutiny. Hartford Junior (who made Wesley Wyndham-Pryce look competent by comparison) hovered uncertainly at her side. What he lacked in slayage clock-time he more than made up for in suck-up-age. *Slimy bastard.* However, his long-winded account of their boring stakeout had been cut off in mid-sentence.
"What kind of incident?" Richard Hartford echoed.
"Word has reached me that last night a pack of vampires invaded the hospital of St. Luke's to prey upon the patients. Apparently, they killed dozens of innocents. I already sent some of our people there to investigate and to make sure that the newspapers do not get hold of the whole horrifying story. Thank heavens for Lethe's Bramble."
"Three cheese whatsie?" Buffy said. She popped another piece of pastry in her mouth, but in light of Hartford's account, it tasted stale.
"Lethe's Bramble. It is the basic ingredient for spells that control the mind or affect memories, Maeve," Richard Hartford elaborated in a don't-you-know-anything tone.
"You mean you use that weedy-forgetty thing and fiddle around with people's memories?"
"Not exactly how I would describe it, but yes."
"Oh. Wow," Buffy added in a tone that was the exact opposite of awe."
"Richard, I want you and your Slayer to drive to St. Luke's at once. See what you can find out from the witnesses before the forgetting spells are cast. Find out who did this."
*Hey! I'm not his Slayer!*
The younger Watcher nodded. "Yes, sir."
"If it should transpire," Hartford senior continued, "that the vampires in question were Angelus and his hideous get, then the blood of all those poor wretched souls is on your hands, Maeve, and yours alone. Had you succeeded in killing Angelus when you had the opportunity, these pitiable people would still be alive, not to mention Mrs. Willoughby."
Buffy could only stare at the old man. *How dare he!*
"When you are done at St. Luke's you will drive to Russell Street for some extra training. We cannot allow for any more mistakes. That will be all. I suggest you make haste."
The old man sat down behind his desk and ostensibly picked up a handful of documents to read. Still speechless, Buffy was herded out of the room, out of the house and into the waiting carriage, which drove off at a breakneck speed.
*Okay, that does it. Manipulative bastards! I know I make mistakes. We all do. But I don't need a bunch of tweedy know-it-alls to rub it in.* Anger coursed through her like fire. If Hartford thought he could get her to jump whenever he snapped his fingers, well, then he had another thing coming!
But even all that adrenaline could not prevent the clatter of hooves and the rocking of the carriage from lulling her to sleep.
The contrast between the dreary gray-in-gray of the poverty stricken East End and the gaudiness of the affluent West End was unbelievable. As the carriage made it's way from Kensington to Primrose Hill, past Hyde Park and Regent's Park, Xander got a good look at fashionable houses and lots of people in striking clothes. He thought of all those times he'd watched `Mary Poppins' with Willow, when they were in second grade. * Wish you were her, Wills...* he thought wistfully.
"This the right place?" Xander asked, when the carriage finally stopped. He eyed the tall building. It spelled `stinking rich'.
"How do you know?"
The answer was so clipped that Xander squinted suspiciously at the restless vampire. Spike fidgeted around with a cigarette, breaking two matches before he got it lit.
It was then that Xander got it. "You've been here before," he stated. Spike shifted uncomfortably. To Xander that was proof enough. He grabbed the vampire by the lapels of his coat. "Info, Now!" he snapped. "You're keeping something from me and I wanna know what it is! What am I going to walk into, huh?"
"Hey, Harris, keep your soddin' hands off me. It's not what you think," Spike scoffed.
"Oh yeah? Tell me what I think."
"Look here, it's not a trap or anything. It's ...oh bollocks!"
Xander twisted his neck to follow Spike's glance as the vampire shrunk in his seat. And that's when he saw...
"Holy Molly Malone!"
It was a man in his mid-twenties, dressed like a gentleman. He was slim, his unruly hair a honey colored blonde. He was walking towards them but obviously absorbed in thought, because he seemed to be mumbling to himself. *Great googlie mooglies, He looks like Spike, only ... not so much, softer maybe. And kinda bookish, what with the glasses...* A sound somewhere between a gasp and a chuckle escaped Xander's lips.
He didn't notice when Spike tore free of his grasp and scuttled into a darker corner of the carriage, out of the man's line of sight.
"That's..." he blurted.
"That's one of the reasons I can't show my face around here," Spike said trying to sound dismissive but his voice betrayed his intense embarrassment.
Xander nodded without taking his eyes off the approaching man. "But I always thought..."
"This is your chance," Spike said hurriedly. "He can take you to Willoughby." He gave the hesitant human a shove.
"What am I supposed to say?" Xander asked, but he got out of the carriage, stepping into the man's path.
"I... uh...," Xander stammered, unsure what to say. "You're..."
"May I help you?" Soft-spoken voice, polite tone, educated accent - so unlike the soulless thing who was currently hiding in the carriage.
"I am employed here. If you tell me who you are looking for, perhaps I can help you. Do you have a calling card?"
*Employed?* "Huh?" Xander gaped, then closed his mouth with a snap. "I'm looking for... uh, a Mr. Edward Willoughby."
"Then you have come to the right place. Mr. Willoughby and his family are guests of Mr. Hartford, the owner of this residence. If you wish, I can ascertain if he is willing to receive guests. You are here to express your condolences?"
"Con--- uh, sure. I mean, yes."
Behind him the carriage pulled away.
When they arrived at St. Luke's the horses were foaming and sweating. *Poor little horsies,* Buffy thought as she stepped out of the carriage. She stretched her limbs. As usual, even the brief nap had brought her restorative rest - though it had done nothing to dampen her anger. Hartford, on the other hand, looked like death warmed over.
Buffy sized up the well-dressed man who had been awaiting their arrival. *Every inch a foot-soldier,* Buffy thought dryly, as the man eagerly led them inside.
There were bloody handprints streaked across the walls. Droplets of dried wine-colored blood speckled the floor. The young Watcher *well, younger than Giles, anyway,* beside Buffy doubled over, gagging. She grabbed his elbow to keep him on his feet.
"You okay there, Richie?" she asked dryly.
"Certainly," he assured her, dabbing his lip with a handkerchief, then grooming his bushy moustache back into shape.
"Just wait until we stumble on a victim."
Buffy turned toward the Council operative. "Have all the wounded been attended to?" she asked.
The man was surprised at her authoritative tone but he nodded curtly.
"I should hope that those with bite marks have been correctly disposed of?" Richard questioned.
"Of course, sir."
"Disposed of?" Buffy shuddered.
"That is not your concern, Maeve. Your task is to perform a thorough inspection of the premises to ensure the beasts have not remained," he informed her.
"Just who do you think..."
Richard interrupted, "If they have already departed, you must track the monsters back to their lair and destroy them."
"Look, Hartford Junior," she put the emphasis on `junior'. "You do what you have to do, but let me do my job." She turned the other man. "Are there any survivors I can speak with?"
The man turned toward the Watcher wearing a questioning look. Hartford nodded.
"Follow me, Miss."
"Follow me, Sir."
Between *Wow, a real live English butler!*,*Human Spike is such a dork* and *Can't wait to tell Dawn about this,* Xander was led into a large room and politely but firmly told to wait.
The place was crammed full of furniture: a large pool table, a cue rack, little tables for playing chess or cards, chairs that had their legs covered by funny little skirts, a large grandfather clock that was ticking loudly, and several glass cabinets, cluttered with all kinds of weird stuff: porcelain elephants, rocks and crystals, strange fossils, a mummified cat and several unidentifiable objects.
Restless, Xander picked up the cue ball and fiddled around with it. *I can't believe I just met William the Bloody when he was still alive.* The fact took some getting used to. His first impulse was laughter, but he sobered at the memory of last night's encounter with Drusilla. He'd thought he'd sicked her on a thug or killer, not on an innocent man. He gave the cue ball an angry shove that sent it criss-crossing across the pool table.
Xander was relieved when the door finally opened. *Buffy?*
"Mr. Willoughby," the butler announced.
A thin man and a boy of about fifteen or sixteen years entered. The man's left wrist was in a cast, the other arm was in a sling. He was dressed in somber black, the boy likewise. "My name is Edward St. John Willoughby. This is my son Charles. You asked to see me?"
"My name is Xander. Alexander Harris. I...uh... I'm looking for my friend. Her name is Bu--- uh, well no, it's Maeve."
"My apologies. But Maeve is not in right now." Willoughby gestured at a small table. "Why don't you sit down. Would you like some tea, Mr. Harris?"
Xander nodded vigorously. "Yeah, please, I kinda missed breakfast..." As if on cue his stomach rumbled audibly.
Willoughby winced. "Peters?"
"Right away, sir," the butler replied and departed.
"You are looking for Miss Summers," the man stated.
Xander sighed, relieved. "Yeah. So you know," Xander said.
"I made arrangements for a certain letter to be delivered. Am I right in deducing from your presence here that it reached its destination and that you are indeed come from the future?" Willoughby's tone was a mixture of awe and disapproval.
*The letter...well, duh!* "Yup. I'm the cavalry, um... make that 50 percent of the cavalry, come to the rescue, to save her from fishbone and other outdated stuff. And don't take this personally, but I so like my own time better. Okay, now where is Buffy? I was hoping to see her."
"She is away on Council business. Are you her Watcher? You do seem a little young, if you don't mind my saying so."
"Nope, not a Watcher, just a good friend."
"And yet you know of her...duties."
Xander nodded. "Yup. A bunch of us kind of found out by accident, and now we help her out. With the staking and the research and stuff."
"Hmm, very interesting," Willoughby considered. Then, "Tell me please, how is..."
"The real Maeve? Oh, she's fine. Anya, my fiancée is looking after her. They get along really well." *Fiancée. Sounds good.* Especially after having been strait-jacketed, beaten up, half starved *okay, slight exaggeration here...*, almost eaten, almost turned and almost gotten stuck in this century. Okay, the latter thing could still happen. *Don'teventhinkaboutit!*
"So she is awake? Did you talk to her?" Willoughby asked eagerly.
"Don't worry," Xander assured him. "She's with friends. She's a nice girl, plus she's ready to come back. But I guess when she does, you're probably gonna see some changes."
The look of relief on the Watcher's face was almost too much.
"You do not look like a necromancer." The young boy interrupted suddenly. He had been following the whole exchange silently.
"Charles!" Willoughby snapped.
"I don't look like a what-now?"
"A sorcerer who raises the dead. She said that you, her friends, brought her back." The boy continued. "That you pulled her out of heaven and raised her from the grave."
"No!" Xander said raising his hands defensively. "Not big with the necro-whatsit. Yeah, we brought her back, I mean, it was mostly Willow, who did it, but Buffy, I mean, she was in some kind of hell dimension, not in..." *'She reeks of Angels'* he suddenly heard Drusilla's voice overlapping his thoughts. *No way! Only...* A flurry of memories: Buffy staring into empty space. Buffy hardly talking to them. Buffy thanking them for her resurrection... *`I can't tell you what this means to me.'* Suddenly everything took on a whole new meaning...
"Oh God," he stammered, crestfallen. "Did she really say...What have we done? No wonder she acted so strange..."
It didn't take Buffy long to discover that the vamps who were responsible for the carnage were long gone. No danger-tinglies. Instead, she felt nauseated by what had felt like a tour of the dungeons. *This is a hospital? Looks like castle Dracula. Martha Stewart would, of course, add a few more manacles and branding irons.*
"I did not know you visited Romania," her watch-dog observed. "Who is Martha Stewart?"
*Oops. Brain to mouth, save quips for later.* She waved her hand dismissively, hoping to deflect further questions.
"I think we're done here," she told her stand-in Watcher. "Angel and his crew already left."
"So, the Scourge of Europe was indeed responsible for this outrage," Richard stated with a frown.
"It seems there were three of them. So unless you can think of another local evil trio... Oh, and one of the vamps wandered through the corridors singing. That sure sounds like Dru to me." Buffy frowned. "What I'd like to know is what happened to that guy who went all Alamo in the women's ward. Apparently he's MIA, disappeared along with a couple of women inmates. Too bad, I would have liked to have a little chat with him."
"He is a lunatic. Surely, if he is still alive he will soon be apprehended and brought back."
"I hope not. Anyone with enough balls and brains to kick Darla's ass is a hero. He deserves a medal, not shackles." *Good luck. Wherever you are...*
Continued in Part 36 - Look who's talking