DANIELLE FRANCES DUCREST
characters/concepts belong to Joss Whedon, David Greenwalt, Greenwolf Corp., Kuzui Enterprises, Mutant Enemy, Sandollar Television, the WB, and Twentieth Century Fox Productions. Highlander
characters/concepts belong to Davis/Panzer Productions, Rysher Entertainment, and Gaumont Télèvision. Any copyright infringements were not intended. This story was written for entertainment and not for profit.
Spoilers and Timing: far, far into the future and very, very close by. Or not. Depends on where you live, I guess.
Summary: Mary and Wesley's first meeting in Los Angeles. Involves cottage cheese, green slime, and Angel with bad hair.
*****September 2014, Los Angeles
Mary should be stopping by today. The only problem is I don't know when. I got her answering machine message late last night and I don't know how to get in touch with her to arrange a good time. The problem lies in the fact that Angel Investigations is working on a very bloody case right now. Me covered in green slime is not the impression I want to give my only daughter whenever she shows up at the workplace.
Why oh why did I agree to keep running Angel Investigations? Why didn't I hand over the job to Gunn like we were discussing just last month? It's not like I have much time to dedicate to the detective agency, not as much as I once did. Ever since the council got blown up eleven years ago, Rupert Giles and I have been the oldest Watchers. We've trained others, certainly, but there was still so much to be done. The number of Slayers nowadays was in the hundreds. Although it would seem that, as each one is killed, however unfortunate that may be, another Slayer is not called, there are still a good number of them still around.
It's no wonder I never came to visit Mary before her graduation day. I've spent the past two decades working nonstop, it would seem, and there's still plenty more to be done.
I only hope that I'll manage to wash all of this slime off before she shows up. I know I kept a spare change of clothes around here somewhere…bloody old, damaged hotel. Angel never has to worry about repair bills, does he, and why? Because he never fixes anything when it gets broken. He just takes out the next available appliance and ignores the broken ones. What a sodden mess…
I somehow managed to get the shower running in my room and, miraculously, hot water came out. As I pulled on a clean pair of pants, I heard a knock on my door.
"Hey, Wes!" It was Gunn. "Where'd you put the Grouch head?"
I sighed before crossing the room and pulling open the door. There was Charles Gunn, standing on my stoop. Well, standing in the hallway. It appeared that he hadn't cleaned up yet and was dripping slime onto the floor.
"It's a Grochnar head and I put it in your bath tub along with the mold that's starting to look like Angel on a bad hair day."
Gunn gave me a look. "Very funny. I know for a fact that it isn't there." He muttered, "it was the first place I checked."
I just raised an eyebrow. It suddenly occurred to me that if an outsider had stumbled upon us right then, they wouldn't have had a clue what we were talking about. Not that was anything different than usual.
"I put it in the fridge in the kitchen," I told him.
I turned and crossed back over to the dresser where I picked up a clean shirt and started to put it on. As I began to button it, I stopped and sniffed near my armpits. Damn. I hadn't gotten all of the Grochnar smell out. Now where was that cologne I used on my date last week? I had it around here somewhere…
Listen to me. I'm thinking about cologne I usually wear on dates and I'm planning to wear it to impress my daughter. I think not.
Still, cologne was better than smelling like sewer and green slime.
Behind me, I heard Gunn say, "The kitchen? As in the kitchen downstairs? You know, the big one?"
"That's the one."
"Oh, man. Oh, man. Gwen is going to have our asses for breakfast if she opens that fridge and sees-"
"WHO THE FUCK PUT THIS HEAD ON TOP OF THE COTTAGE CHEESE?"
Both of us winced. "Too late," Gunn said, a panicked expression on his face.
We looked at each other. Neither of us wanted to face the wrath of a woman who could electrify both of us with only a touch of her finger. Neither of us even considered trying to reason with her. Normally, we might have managed it, but there was no point attempting to reason with a pregnant woman, electricity-controlling or not.
"Think she'd notice if we sneaked out the window?"
"What window?" I asked, staring at him as if he was the stupidest man alive. "We're on the second floor."
"Yeah, that would be a problem, wouldn't it?"
Fred suddenly appeared next to Gunn. "I think you should just get it over with."
"Fred! So not helping," Gunn told her.
Winifred Burkle Gunn shrugged innocently. "You know that if Gwen has to hunt you down that she'll just be even angrier."
"She does have a point," I said. "Besides, I can't go anywhere anyway. I'm expecting someone."
"We're going to have company?" Gunn exclaimed. "Man, why didn't you say something? I could have taken a shower."
"You still can."
"I think I will. Fred, you care to join me?"
Fred hastily backed away from him. "Two things, Charles: one, you need to clean your bath tub. Two, you need to clean yourself before I am getting anywhere near you. You are showering alone this time."
After watching Gunn plead and Fred still not giving in for a few minutes, I impatiently brushed by them and left them still arguing in the hallway. I carefully made my way downstairs, keeping an eye out for a raving Gwen.
She wasn't in the lobby. I could hear several exclamations followed by the clanking of thrown pots and pans in the kitchen, and I was pretty sure I heard one of the microwaves explode. Which one, the one for Angel's blood or the one for food for the rest us, I wasn't sure, nor was I in any hurry to find out.
As quietly as possible, I tiptoed down the stairs and across the lobby to my office door. Hopefully, I could hide in there until Mary arrived.
"Oh, no, you don't!"
I froze. Damnit. I looked around desperately for an escape route, but there wasn't one. Resignedly, I turned and faced a furious Gwen. No, I was wrong. She wasn't furious. She was pissed.
She held the green slime-covered Grochnar head in one hand and had her other hand on her hip. She stomped across the lobby and shoved the head into my face. I felt like groaning when I felt some of the slime splatter against my cheek and shirtfront. There were only so many clothes I wanted to get covered in slime.
"Did you just happen to put a demon head on top of my cottage cheese?" she demanded.
"It was Gunn," I said. I felt no qualms about ratting out on my friend. It was his fault, after all, and I certainly wasn't going to take the rap for it if I could help it.
Unfortunately, Gwen didn't look like she believed me. "Oh, really? Well, let me tell you something, mister. If I don't see that fridge cleaned of all green slime, along with a new carton of cottage cheese, in that fridge within three hours, there will be hell to pay!"
We heard a giggle. Gwen, looking more furious than ever, whirled on the sound, only to come up short. I stared over her shoulder, only to feel my cheeks turn red. There weren't many things that made me blush, not anymore, but this was certainly one of them.
It was Mary. From the looks of things, she'd just entered the lobby and was still standing on the landing. She had a half-puzzled, half-amused look on her face.
"Mary!" I quickly stepped around Gwen, trying my best to conceal the head, although I needn't have bothered. She would have gotten a great look at it upon arrival, wouldn't she?
"Hi," she said.
"Uh, Gwen, this is Mary Lindsay. Mary, this is Gwen. The head's fake. Not that it could be real. Um…"
"Wesley and Gunn thought it would be hilarious to put this thing on top of my cottage cheese," Gwen explained, glaring yet again at me.
I didn't want her to start in on me again, so I turned to Mary. "Why don't we go to the courtyard? It's just this way…"
Mary was looking very amused at my expense. Damn these red cheeks of mine. However, I'd take embarrassment over an angry pregnant woman any day.
I led Mary through the lobby, up onto the opposite landing, and through the doors into the small courtyard at the back of the Hyperion.
We sat down on the bench. For a moment, there was an uncomfortable silence. We had so much to say four months ago when she graduated that it seemed that we couldn't think of a thing to say now.
"What exactly do you do?" Mary blurted.
"Pardon?" I asked, startled.
She waved around the hotel. "I noticed a sign next to the front door. It said something about an Angel Investigations?"
"Right. I run a detective agency."
She looked surprised and intrigued. "A detective agency? Really? Cool."
I felt myself blush again as I grinned. For God's sake, Wyndham-Pryce, keep it together or she's going to think you’re a bumbling idiot.
"It gets pretty hectic sometimes, and a little dangerous."
"Does this have anything to do with the fake head Gwen was holding?" Mary asked, curious.
"No!" The last thing I wanted her to know was exactly what sort of cases Angel Investigations handled. "Gunn has a very strange sense of humor. We're all very worried about him. So, how's UCLA?"
"I haven't started classes yet," Mary admitted. "I just moved in yesterday. The dorm room's okay, although my roommate is a little eccentric. She's heavily into white candles and crystals, and I'm pretty sure I heard her chanting to…something earlier today."
I frowned. I didn't like the sound of that. Knowing my own luck with the supernatural, I only hoped I hadn't passed that luck down to the next generation. Hopefully, Mary's roommate was only a wannabe practitioner. Either way, it was worth looking into.
"Are you okay?" Mary asked, looking at me with awkward concern.
"Fine." I must have been a little too lost in my thoughts just then. "Listen, it's near lunch time. How about I treat you to a meal? I know this great Italian restaurant. Hopefully, Gwen won't follow us there."
The comment had the desired effect. Mary giggled again. As we stood up and headed back inside, though, she stopped me. "Um, not to sound rude, but shouldn't you get cleaned up first?"
I glanced where she was pointing and realized I hadn't wiped the green slime off of my shirt. One experimental touch told me that there was still slime on my cheek as well.
"Right," I said.
The meal was wonderful. Half of it was spent in uncomfortable silence, while the rest was spent making small talk. I did learn several interesting tidbits. For one, Mary twirled her salad fork when she was nervous, and she didn't like pie.
I couldn't help noticing some unusual habits as well. For one, Mary moved with grace, although it was more like a nervous sort-of grace. I recognized it as something that only someone good at maintaining his or her balance would be able to achieve, which was most often achieved through fighting. From what I knew of Anne, she hadn't seemed like someone who would have her daughter learning how to fight. I wondered how Mary earned that excellent balance, while at the same time I wondered if she noticed it in me as well. If she had my observational skills as I was beginning to suspect she did, she certainly would have.
One thing we avoided talking about was the past. I didn't ask her how she'd been in the past eighteen years, and she didn't ask me where I was during that time. For that, I was grateful. How do you explain to your daughter that her mother not only wanted you to stay away, but also that the reason why you never came to visit was because you were overwhelmed with apocalypses, trips to alternate universes, rebuilding the Council, and a number of other time-consuming events?
I'd never told anyone that I had a daughter. The main reason for that was because I didn't want anyone to know. I didn't want either Mary or Anne to be dragged into my world against their will, and didn't want the various enemies my associates and I have made over the years to use Mary or Anne to get to me.
When lunch ended, we made a lunch date for the next week. Both of us felt a little more comfortable with each other, although not much. Hopefully, over time, we will learn to trust each other. Perhaps then I can tell her why I'd stayed out of her life for so long.