Things Present – Things Past
By Estepheia and Marcee
Part 41 - Ready
“Crawford?! What in God’s name are
you doing here?”
“What business is it of yours?” Spike
answered automatically, while he sized up the opposition. Three measly
Watchers. He could snap one guy’s neck like a dry bone, hurl the second against
the wall, and rip the moustached Watcher’s throat out for breakfast. They might
not even get to fire their guns.
*Guns! They’ve got guns!* A panicky voice in
Xander’s head babbled. Guns were bad news. If Spike got perforated he could
just laugh it off, but what about Xander Harris, intrepid time-traveler? And
what about Buffy? Even super-strong Chosen Ones weren’t bulletproof.
The Junior Watcher pursed his lips
in distaste. “If you value your employment in my father's house, you would do
well to remember your place, William.”
Spike’s eyes widened as he realized
that the man standing before him was none other than Mr. Richard Hartford:
All-Around Prick and now, it seemed, General-in-Charge Bastard…with a gun. Only
the last time Spike had seen the man, he’d been nailed to a wall with a dozen
or so railroad spikes, squealing like a slaughtered pig, until a spike between
the eyes had silenced his screams and literary criticisms forever.
“Oh um Crawford? He’s with me,” Xander
interjected hurriedly, tapping into a talent to obfuscate that had enabled him
to cover up six years’ worth of scoobying and world-saving in front of
classmates, parents, teachers and co-workers. “We’re friends.”
“What?” Spike whipped around to
stare at his companion. Normally, disbelief and obstinacy would have coalesced
into a loud and indignant “Like hell we are!” But the vampire caught on before
the words slipped out. “Oh, um…Yeah, I mean, yes, old friends,” he muttered
Xander winced inwardly. Considering
that the vampire was evil and all, he sure was a bad liar. “So, um…do you think
you can put the guns down now?” Xander asked timidly.
“Actually, I was going to ask you
both to kindly lift your hands in the air.” Hartford readjusted his weapon.
Xander and Spike exchanged a quick
glance. Xander: ‘They’ve got guns!’ Spike raised his eyebrow: ‘So? Vampire
here.’ A panicky look from Xander: ‘Yeah, no superpowers here. Play nice.’ An
indulgent almost-smile from Spike: ‘Okay, you nit, your call.’
It was testimony to their
familiarity that their silent communication took only about a second and went
unnoticed by the three Watchers. As one, they raised their hands in the air.
The Watcher raised his lantern and
came closer to get a better look at his captives. “What happened to your face?”
he asked, noticing the half healed burn-marks.
“Oh, um…the maid,” Spike said with a
sad shake of his head, slowly easing back into William’s role. “Such a
frightfully clumsy girl, she dropped the sod-- the tea pot on my plate last
night, ruining a perfectly good suit, not to mention Mother’s favorite china.
As you can see she also scalded my face. Fortunately, it is not a serious
“Yes, quite,” Hartford interrupted
the poet impatiently, fooled by Spike’s - genuine - embarrassment, then he
turned to Xander who’s jaw had dropped at Spike’s suddenly cultured accent.
Xander recovered and smiled
awkwardly. “Yup. That’s me.”
“I must confess, I am rather
surprised to find you here in the company of my father’s librarian,” Hartford
went on, gun still held at chest level.
“You are friends, you say? Have you known each other long?” He let his gaze
wander from one man to the other and back.
“Four years,” both men said without
hesitation. They exchanged another look, thinking the same thing: the longer
they kept the Watchers busy and distracted, the more time Buffy had to act.
“Yes indeed,” Spike continued with a
sidelong glance. He raised his voice slightly, “It was after a … an evening
lecture on … uh…education. Ang-- a
mutual friend made the introductions and suggested to have Harris for dinner.
Unfortunately, my friend backed out at the last minute.”
“Yeah, it was the beginning of a
wonderful friendship,” Xander said, unable to keep the sarcasm out of his
“But are you not from the Americas, Mr. Harris?” Hartford asked.
“Oh, yea, uh, I was on a
sabbatical,” Xander answered quickly, hoping fervently that ‘sabbatical’ was
the correct word. “William,” he
pronounced emphatically, “was kind enough to take me and a lady friend in when
all our funds got stolen and we had no place to stay. We didn't want to impose
on his hospitality, but he insisted.”
The man with the gun raised his
Warming to the tale he was spinning,
Xander continued in the same vein. “Yes, William was so kind. He even shared
his poetry with me. He’s some great writer, huh?” It was hard for him to
conceal his chuckles.
gave him a murderous look, “Enough about me, Alexander. Tell Mr. Hartford about
the novel you've been writing.
Fascinating piece. A sort of
fantasy, like the writings of Jules Verne.
It's about this silly American from the future who travels through time
to the present, and winds up getting into all sorts of scrapes, due mostly to
his general stupidity and lack of....”
“Enough!” Hartford interrupted them.
He turned to one of his hench-Watchers. “Peters? Search them.”
Moments later, Spike was relieved of
two handfuls of jewelry that had made a bulge in the pockets of his coat and a
considerable amount of cash, most of which was in coins.
“My winnings,” Spike lied
perfunctorily. “We played cards all night.”
But the big surprise came when it was
Xander’s turn. His pockets yielded a
loaded gun, a cross and a wooden stake. Even Spike looked startled.
“Well well, Mr. Harris. What do we
“Would you believe me if I told you
I have no idea how that got there?” Xander said with a forced smile.
Peters spotted Spike’s bag under the
bed and pulled it out. A quick search unearthed burglary tools and an expensive
leather folder holding deeds and other official looking documents. He showed
his findings to his superior.
“Where is she?” Hartford asked,
losing his patience with the two men before him.
“Who?” Xander played dumb. *Buffy,
where are you? Now would be a good...*
Before he could finish his thought,
the barrel of the gun hit the side of his face, shocking not just Xander but
Spike and the other Watchers as well.
“I will not be made a fool of,”
Richard Hartford snarled, civilized veneer gone.
Xander stumbled backwards and
touched his aching cheek. There was a crimson stain on his fingers. *Blood!*
Next to him, Spike tensed, bloodlust
rising, ready to break a few faces and decorate the room with splatters of
bright Watcher blood.
“William!” Xander snapped. Spike
“It’s alright,” Xander said calmly
and wiped his face with the back of his sleeve.
Under the watchful eyes of the three
Watchers, Spike relaxed.
“Enough of this,” Hartford said, his
gun aimed at Xander’s chest. “Gentlemen, let us go downstairs now. Peters?
Bring their belongings. Jenkins? If they make one wrong move: do not hesitate
“Yes sir,” the two Watchers
Spike and Xander were herded along
the corridor. When they came past the room Buffy had chosen to sleep in, the
door was open. Spike stole a quick look, but there was no sign of her. The
stairs offered no opportunity to make a break for it without risking a bullet
in Xander’s back, so the two companions went where the three Watchers told them
to: into the big dining room downstairs.
The curtains were still drawn,
keeping out the morning light and hiding the interior from anyone who might
look in from outside. Several thin shafts of sunlight stabbed through little
openings and holes in the curtains and painted circles of light on the filthy
floor. The Watchers had brought half a dozen lanterns with them and set them on
the floor, where they cast a sickly yellow light.
When the group walked in, the room
was occupied by five more members of the Tweed Brigade, bringing the total to
eight. Two men were armed with revolvers, two with loaded crossbows. They were
holding Willoughby, his son and the coachman, Harper, at gunpoint. The fifth
Watcher present was the Head of the Council of Watchers himself, Director
Arthur Hartford. He stood in front of the fireplace, leaning on his cane, his
thin body rigid with intense irritation.
The sight of ‘the American’ elicited
a satisfied smile, ‘William Crawford’s’ unexpected presence a frown. When
Hartford noted the absence of the Slayer, his face reddened in anger. Richard
Hartford hurried over to his father and reported his findings.
Meanwhile, Xander and Spike
wordlessly took their places next to the other three captives. Unarmed and
outnumbered, there was little the five prisoners could do, except try to
eavesdrop on what the two Hartfords were discussing.
“The old man wants to do a some kind
of mojo,” Spike murmured. His hearing was good enough to pick up most of the
“A spell?” Xander whispered.
Spike nodded and replied in kind.
“Something French, to do with a curtain, by a guy called Cloutier.”
“Cloutier’s Tirer la couture?” Willoughby asked.
A nod. “He knows she’s not Maeve. He
wants to know who or what she is.”
“We cannot allow that to happen,”
“Can you do a spell to change the
odds a little?” Xander whispered. *And no, I haven’t forgotten that it was a
spell that got us all into trouble in the first place.*
“Be quiet,” one of the Watchers
snapped and the prisoners fell silent.
Director Hartford walked towards
them, his son at his heels. The floor was strewn with glass shards, wooden
splinters and pieces of cracked plaster that crunched ominously under their
expensive shoes. The old Watcher scrutinized his prisoners before resting his
cold eyes on his subordinate. “I am tired of your deceptions and lies,
Willoughby. Your selfish treachery will not go unpunished. Whatever it is you
are so at pains to conceal from the Council’s rightful eye - I will discover
it, and then you will learn that I am not a man to be trifled with.”
“I am not a traitor, sir!”
Willoughby exclaimed in righteous indignation. He turned to look at the other
Watchers. “Roland, Gerald, you know me. Surely you must know that I serve the
Council to the best of my abilities. It is my sworn duty to protect, advise and
aid the Slayer so she may perform her sacred duties. Peters, Elliot…”
None of the other Watchers was
prepared to meet his eye, to defy the Head of the Council.
“Silence!” Hartford thundered. “You
are a disgrace! Who knows what hellish creatures you are in league with. Soon I
will know the full extent of your treachery and then - by God - you will pay
dearly for your disloyalty.”
Willoughby fell silent but stood his
ground, facing the irate director squarely. It was Hartford who broke the
eye-contact. He turned and moved to the cleared space on the floor, where
Willoughby had previously performed his cloaking spell.
The prisoners watched Director
Hartford light incense and pour out a ring of brightly colored sand on the
floor. The old Watcher knelt in the middle of the circle, his cane by his side,
and began to meditate. Richard Hartford stood next to the circle, ready to
assist. A pungent resinous smell began to spread.
“That spell, what’s it do exactly?”
Spike murmured nervously.
“It reveals the true nature of
things,” Willoughby explained just as quietly.
Xander saw Spike’s lips move and
recognized the expletive even without the sound: ‘Bugger!’
*They’re gonna dust him.* Xander realized. The
Watchers wouldn’t think twice about taking out a vampire in their midst, even
if said vamp played nice. *Crap!*
He couldn’t see Spike going down
without a fight, so he let his eyes roam over the trashed dining room. There
had to be something he could do once the free-for-all started. The room was
dominated by a long dinner table, formed by three separate tables, one of which
was overturned. Almost a dozen chairs - some rickety with previous damage -
were clustered around the table, just waiting to be grabbed and used as
Next to him, Spike was growing restless.
Xander could feel it without even having to look at him. Thankfully, the
Watchers missed the subtle signals. Their attention was divided between their
prisoners and the spell-casting Director.
The smoke from the incense holders
began to waft around the old man in spiraling tendrils.
Spike and Xander flinched when
suddenly a non-corporeal voice echoed inside their heads, but then they
recognized the Watcher. ///Gentlemen, please, do not be alarmed, it is me,
Willoughby. Can you hear me?///
The two men nodded almost
imperceptibly, recognizing the same mind-speak Willow had used this past
summer. ///How ‘bout you? Can you hear me too?/// Spike thought back.
///I can indeed, Mr. Spike.///
///Hartford is an experienced
sorcerer. It shouldn’t take him more than a few minutes to complete the spell.
Spike, If I were to create a diversion, would you be able to effect an
///Depends on the diversion, but
I’ll give it my best shot./// Spike answered.
Willoughby glanced at his son, his
face impassive. ///Charles, when I tell you to, I want you to throw yourself
on the floor. You too, Harper.///
The boy looked frightened but nodded
briefly. The coachman looked unfazed.
///Very well. Mr. Harris?///
///Yeah?/// Xander answered, barely
remembering not to speak out loud.
///You’ll have to--///
“Good lord, he’s a vampire!” a voice
suddenly exclaimed. Hartford! The old sorcerer stood in his magic circle,
pointing his cane at Spike. “Shoot! Now, dammit!”
Then several things happened at
once. Willoughby uttered three Latin syllables of power, just as the door flew
out of its hinges and crashed into the room. That’s when the shocked and
frightened Watchers pulled their triggers.
Less than a second later the room
was plunged into darkness. Shots rang, but there was no muzzle flash. The
darkness was complete.
Continued in Part 42 – Go!
Author’s Note: Many thanks to
Mikelesq – because he never stopped asking for this chapter and because he
helped with snarky Spike.
Sorry about the long delay. I took
me ages to arrive at the right amount of familiarity between Spike and Xander.
Also, at first Spike refused to pretend to be William. I had to threaten him
with serious bodily harm.