Things Present – Things Past
By Estepheia and Marcee
Part 42 – Go!
Escape? Not exactly what Spike had in
mind – in spite of what he’d told Willoughby. The order to shoot had barely
left Hartford’s mouth when Spike shoved Xander to the ground, hopefully out of
harm’s way, and lunged with a feral snarl, fangs bared. He was half way to the
nearest three Watchers who stood between him and the Council director, when the
door crashed in and the lights went out. All of them.
Even Spike’s superior vision had no
chance of penetrating the magical blackness, but he could still hear and his
acute sense of smell was unimpaired. He just kept going, the reek of fear
guiding him like a beacon.
bolt whirred past him, missing him by mere inches. Several shots rang. A bullet
hit Spike squarely in the chest, the invisible muzzle flash exploding less than
a foot from his chest. The lightless fire burned a hole in his shirt and seared
his skin, almost setting his flesh on fire. Spike roared in pain and the impact
broke his stride, but he quickly caught his balance. Before the frightened man
could discharge his revolver a second time, Spike descended upon him with all
the savagery of a wild beast.
A sweeping blow shattered the Watcher’s wrist
and sent the gun spinning away. Spike picked him up and held him in a
bone-crushing feeding grip: one hand in his macassar-oiled hair, yanking back
his head and exposing the jugular, one arm wrapped around the man’s torso,
holding him in place. *Just like old
times,* Spike thought, relishing the ineffectual struggling of the man.
“God no! Help me,” the Watcher screamed. “No, please!”
Spike threw back his head and whooped with
“Marco!” the Slayer’s voice suddenly rose above
“Polo!” Spike answered.
Shards and splinters crunched under Buffy’s feet
as she ran towards the far end of the room, towards the screaming and the
laughter, where one of the Watchers was frantically firing his gun. But mostly
she was running to where she’d last seen Hartford.
There was a man with a crossbow to Buffy’s right,
and two more to her left, but she ignored them, intent to take on the Council
leader. They heard her pass and fired their weapons at the sound, but the
missiles didn’t even come close.
“Xander, get down!” she shouted.
After kicking down the door, it had taken Buffy
less than a second to take in the situation. So when the blackout came she
already had a mental map in her head and a plan ready. She knew where the
hostages were, and where all the Watchers were standing. *Thank you, Giles, for making me train blindfolded,* she thought as
she charged forward.
She’d almost reached Hartford, when he uttered
several incomprehensible syllables.
It was as if she’d slammed into a brick wall,
except that brick walls don’t crackle or zap you with electric shocks. Hartford
had magicked some kind of magical force field around himself. Buffy grunted as
she was violently propelled backwards against one of the dinner tables. The
sturdy piece of furniture splintered and collapsed under the impact and the
Slayer landed on a bed of sharp wooden fragments. The crash left her
momentarily stunned and still twitching from the energy discharge.
“Hey! That’s cheating!”
Buffy automatically tried to interpret the
cacophony of sounds around her. The Watchers were yelling all at once: “The
beast caught Roland”, “Dear god” and “Where is it?” At least they’d stopped
shooting, except for one man who was still blindly firing into the dark. “For
god’s sake, hold your fire,” Richard Hartford’s voice could be heard above the
“No! Please—“Suddenly the scream was abruptly
Everybody fell silent. The only sound was the
frantic clicking of a hammer falling on an empty pistol chamber.
“Spike?” Buffy called, feeling a chill.
“Right here,” his cheerful voice could be heard,
his speech slightly slurred by the fangs. His words were punctuated by the dull
thud of a body slumping to the ground.
Xander had no vampire reflexes or heightened
senses, only a dogged determination to throw in his weight. Maybe staying out
of the way was the smart thing to do. *Yeah,
and whoever said I do what’s smart?* So, when the lights went out he picked
himself up from the floor where Spike’s shove had sent him and headed straight
on, away from the door and towards the middle of the room where the long dining
room table cut the room in half. He tripped on some unidentifiable rubble, and
almost fell, unwittingly dodging a stray bullet. Behind him he heard the
coachman hustle the Watcher’s son into protective cover – probably behind the
overturned table. By the time Buffy called out his name and told him to get
down, Xander had reached his destination and was crouching next to the table
and groping around for a chair that might serve as a weapon.
momentarily tempted to answer her, but to give away one’s position in a room
full of enemies with guns? Dumber than dumb.
Remembering the group of chairs on the other
side of the table Xander quickly threw himself underneath the table. Suddenly
there was a loud crash to his right. He didn’t wait to find out what it was but
hurriedly crawled away from the noise, shards and rubble cutting into his knees
and hands. When his hand brushed the leg of a chair he rose into a crouch and
grabbed the reassuring piece of furniture with both hands, waiting for an opportunity
to use it.
“Tell me you didn’t kill him, Spike,” Buffy
demanded and jumped to her feet.
A shot rang as one of the Watchers fired at the
sound of her voice. The bullet sang past her. He never got a second shot. Buffy
hurled herself at the sound, and barreled into the man, knocking him off his
feet. Both landed on the ground, Buffy on top. She didn’t waste a second.
Instinctively, she swung her fist against his head, knocking him out cold.
If Spike had intended to answer her, his reply
was cut off by syllables of power. “Tenebrae solvere!” Hartford’s voice boomed
in the darkness. Suddenly the room was bathed in a cold blue light that drowned
out the more natural lighting from the windows and lanterns. Buffy looked up from
the unconscious Watcher. The Council director was hovering in a shimmering
bubble of energy. Blue lightning was sluggishly dripping from his fingertips
and his cane and swirling briefly on the floor like little buzzing snakes
before they winked out. The man’s eyes were jet-black. Dark veins stood out
from unnaturally white skin.
staggered from the sheer force with which his darkness spell had been
shattered. “Good Lord!” he exclaimed at the sight of the unleashed sorcerer.
from the two Hartfords, three Watchers were still standing. They were just as
startled as Willoughby. Buffy took advantage of the distraction. In a flurry of
fast kicks she sent the one closest to her staggering backwards, where Harper,
Willoughby’s table-leg wielding coachman,
swiftly knocked him out. That left two.
of the Watchers was quick-witted enough to raise his loaded crossbow and level
it at the unguarded back of the vampire, who had his hand around another man’s
throat, effortlessly lifting him into the air. “Spike! Watch out!” Xander
shouted, quickly stood up and hurled his chair at the Watcher. *Score!* It knocked the weapon out of
his grasp, just as the vampire whirled around. The crossbow bolt missed Spike
by a mile and embedded itself in the wooden ceiling. “This one’s ours. If
anyone gets to dust him, it’s us,” Xander told the stunned Watcher.
grinned. He pulled his squirming captive closer, knocked him out with a quick
head-butt and dropped him like a sack of potatoes. “Cheers, mate,” he smirked
in Xander’s direction, then he aimed a vicious kick against the head of the
third Watcher just as the man’s fingers closed around the grip of his fallen
Director Hartford shouted and aimed his cane at Spike. Cold blue lightning shot
out of its tip to engulf the vampire with crackling sparks. It was like being
hit by a taser. Spike never got to land that kick. Instead he collapsed,
rendered help- and speechless by painful muscle cramps.
spared Watcher hastily swiped up his crossbow and backed away from the jerking
vampire. He tried to load the weapon but his hands were trembling too much.
“Carter, here! Give me that,” Richard snarled and snatched the weapon out of
the man’s hand. He quickly proceeded to load it, while his father focused on
don’t belong here,” Director Hartford stated coldly, his black eyes wandering
from Buffy to the American and back. “Neither of you. Who are you? You’re not
Maeve. I can see your real face.”
the Slayer,” Buffy said. “Just not your
Richard Hartford had finished loading the crossbow. Buffy was ready to deflect
or dodge the shot. However, the moustached Watcher had no intention of
targeting the Slayer, instead he strode towards the powerless vampire.
*No!* Buffy felt a sudden dread.
Wishing with all her being she had Willow’s telepathic power, Giles’ brain or
just a few extra seconds, she balled her fists. “Spike!” she called out.
“Please, you have to get up!”
Xander threw himself at Richard Hartford. The two men wrestled for the
crossbow, then staggered and without so much as a flash of lightning or a sound
they were both abruptly … gone!
and Hartford wrestled and staggered and tumbled, then tripped over something,
or rather someone and crashed to the ground. With a twang the crossbow released
its bolt. It embedded itself in the counter of the Magic Box.
Watch it!” Anya exclaimed indignantly, then: “Xander? Oh my god, Xander, is
that really you?” She let go of Tara’s and Willow’s hand and was out of the
circle faster than a flash.
portal wobbled precariously, as the connection was broken, its outline
fluttering. Sweat beaded on Willow’s brow and Tara grew pale.
“Hey Ahn,” Xander grunted. “A little help here?” Hartford Junior had
managed to land on top of him and was trying to choke him by pressing the
crossbow handle against his throat.
you’re back,” Anya squealed.
and Angel rushed closer to take on the Watcher. But Anya was faster.
off my fiancé!” she yelled. Like a wild cat, she jumped on the man’s back,
slapping, hitting, and clawing – even tearing at his hair. It took both Maeve
and Angel to separate her and the stunned Watcher.
who might you be?” Giles asked the newcomer, who was easily held captive by
man looked around, obviously confused and frightened by the sudden change in
scenery, but there was still a certain air of superiority around him, comically
at odds with the plucked-chicken look Anya’s rage had left him with. He raised
his chin. “Do your worst,” he said pompously. “I will not betray my calling by
talking to you.”
got to his feet and brushed a hand through his hair. “His name’s Hartford,” he answered
in the man’s stead. “And although he’s a Watcher he’s not really one of the
good guys. Or maybe he is, but just not too choosy about his means.”
was struggling against Maeve’s restraining grip. When the Slayer let go she
rushed into Xander’s open arms, crying.
wrapped his arms around that warm, sobbing bundle of joy and relief, squeezing
her as hard as he dared. “God, I missed you, Anya, I missed you so much!” he
muttered and kissed her lovely lips fervently.
cleared his throat, more than a dozen pertinent questions on his mind, all
pertaining to the hopefully swift and safe retrieval of his Slayer – but his
bid for attention was ignored by the kissing couple.
can’t hold the portal open much longer,” Willow suddenly spoke up. Her voice
was flat, almost lifeless. “I need more power.”
took a hesitant step towards the circle.
gave a small start, almost telling her not to, but he held his tongue. Cordy
would do what Cordy thought best. Somehow, he always fell for the stubborn
broke the kiss. Anya opened her mouth to drown him with a flood of questions,
but he put a gentle finger on her lips. “Later,” he said hurriedly. “Let’s just
get the rest of the rescue mission under way, okay? Then we can celebrate.”
nodded happily, but didn’t let go of her man.
stepped into the circle and took the place Anya had deserted. When her hand
touched Willow’s, she went rigid with shock. The fluttering slowed, but it did
was difficult to see what was happening on the other side of the portal. There
was a glowing blue sphere that filled up most of the flickering ‘screen’
turned to Giles to quickly fill him in: “The good news is: Buffy and Spike are
there,” he jerked his thumb at the portal. “The bad news is, they’re in the
middle of a fight and that one guy is working some serious mojo. If he doesn’t
run out of juice I’m not sure Buffy can take him. She needs help, Giles. I have
to go back and help her.”
someone has to—“
will go,” Maeve interrupted him with calm resolve.
need more power,” Willow said, louder this time. “To keep this portal open I
need more.” Her hair was writhing around her pale face like the snakes of a Gorgon,
her black eyes were staring blindly through the portal and into the past.
“Things are just getting exciting. That sorcerer sure knows his stuff. I
wouldn’t want to miss this show for all the tea in China. So. Give. Me. More!”
Maeve implored Giles, waiting for his consent.
he shook his head. “Fools rush, where Angels fear to tread. What if we end up
with both Slayers in the past? We have to consider--”
have power,” Dawn suddenly announced and stepped towards the circle. “I’m a green
blob of energy, right?”
wait!” Giles snapped. “We don’t know what will happen if you join your power
with Willow’s. If she takes too much, she might unravel the spell that binds
your human form and memories together. You might cease to exist!”
it means getting my sister back, that’s a risk I’m willing to take,” the
teenager declared and before anyone could stop her she rushed forward and put
her hand on Willow’s shoulder. The effect was quite amazing.
portal stabilized instantly, its outline became smooth and defined. The
darkness in Willow’s eyes faded and the strain seemed to leave her body. Tara
and Cordelia too lost their rigidity and also some of their pallor. Dawn looked
strained but unharmed and as far as Giles could tell his memories of her were
so. “Doesn’t anybody heed my advice anymore?” Giles asked indignantly.
can see them, I can see Buffy,” Dawn said excitedly, even though her eyes were
closed. “Spike’s there too. But he’s hurt.”
to be working,” Angel observed, but his habitually stony mien was showing
totally beside the point. We don’t know how long Dawn’s power boost will work.
And what about that Watcher Xander brought with him? How are we supposed to
deal with him and what he’s seen here?” Giles was clearly agitated,
uncomfortable with all the unknown variables. “After all, we can’t just wipe
everything from his memory.”
but we can. It’s quite easy,” Anya interrupted. “All one needs is a crystal and
a twig of Lethe’s Bramble. Do you want me to get some?”
we do not play with people’s memories,” Giles exclaimed. “Not while I’m here to
stop it. And what if we’re not supposed to send him back? What if he
disappeared in 1880 without a trace? Unfortunately, there’s no time to consult
my journals. Frankly, I--”
Giles, can I—“ Xander telegraphed the ‘talk to you in private?’ with a nod of
his head and headed away from the prisoner. Giles followed him. Anya stayed
glued to Xander’s arm, acting like his Siamese twin.
a moment Xander struggled with his conscience. He remembered what Hartford had
said at that party: ‘I’d rather have a railroad spike through my head…’ Xander
knew that if they sent the man back through the portal he’d get brutally
murdered not long afterwards – one of the first victims of William the Bloody.
Sending him back was as good as killing the man himself. Hartford was human, a
Watcher. Not exactly equipped with what Xander considered an endearing
personality, but he hardly deserved being tortured for ridiculing a man’s lousy
have to send him back, Giles. Keeping him here could seriously screw up
urgency and discomfort weren’t lost on the Watcher. “Do go on,” Giles said.
“What is it you know?”
just think I kinda know what’s going to happen to him. I don’t think he’ll get
to tell anyone. Or as Spike might put it: his number’s up.” Xander felt sick in
nodded in understanding. “You have to remember, whatever happened to him, it
happened more than 120 years ago and is not your responsibility.”
the course of time is always a complicated business,” Anya chipped in. “I
should know, I did it at least a hundred times, before I answered Cordelia’s
wish and Giles smashed my pendant. People often wish things had turned out
differently. Did you know that the Confederacy lost the Civil War just because
this Colonel from Georgia lost his wife’s family baubles in a card game?”
silenced her with a gentle squeeze of his hand. Whatever Giles said, Xander
felt responsible. But he nodded. “Yeah, let’s send him back. But trussed up
like a turkey.”
can you quickly get us some rope, please? Then Angel can tie him up,” Giles
pouted, not wishing to be parted from her man, but went to fetch the requested
I guess this is goodbye,” Giles told the Slayer quietly, so the prisoner
couldn’t hear him. “You will have to carry our friend here through the portal.
Once you are back in your time all you have to do is touch Buffy’s hand. That
should reverse the spell and both you and Buffy should be returned to your own
Slayer nodded. “I am ready, Mr. Giles. And thank you.” She smiled shyly. “It
has been a pleasure getting to know you all.” She exchanged a meaningful glance
ex-demon smiled warmly. “Bye Maeve. Don’t forget the things I taught you.
Especially page 109.”
Maeve blushed and nodded. Then she turned
around, and walked over to Angel just as he finished tying the knots around the
Watcher’s wrists. “That should keep him secured,” Angel said, uncomfortable
under her gaze but not enough of a coward to look away. “And this should keep
him quiet.” He pushed a gag into the man’s mouth.
you,” Maeve said and hoisted the bound man over her shoulder. She paused to
look at her distraught murderer. “Beannacht Dé leat!, Mr. Angel.“
one last glance at the people she had come to see as her friends, Maeve stepped
through the portal.
Continued in Part 43 - High Five
Dé leat” is Old Irish and means “God's blessing with you”
Thank you, dear readers for your patience
and loyalty. And for your lovely and encouraging feedback. Special thanks to
Kimi615 and Mikelesq for their support.