Mantis women and great uncle Gabriel
In which the author hopes his OC doesn’t become a Garry Stu… Chapter 9: Mantis women and Great Uncle Gabriel
Joyce woke warmer than usual, her pillow was much harder than usual too and yet she felt more rested. She reached for her contacts and encountered her glasses. She smiled, realizing just what she was lying on and why her glasses were there. She snuggled into the warm shoulder. Simon’s arm tightened around her and she sighed, content.
She felt his voice rumble in his chest. “We need to get up and feed the kids breakfast.”
She chuckled. “It’s Sunday. We can wait a bit.”
“You just want Buffy to walk in here and ‘wig out’.”
“Stop trying to be up to date, it doesn’t suit you.” She glanced at the clock. “Ah well, nine thirty. You want to shower first?”
“I’ll be ready in eight minutes.”
Joyce blinked. “Wow. Fast.”
“You learn to be fast in ‘Nam. Groton was worse. Wet towel tag is a great motivator.” He gave a mock shudder. “I’ve not had the urge to take longer shower for a very long time.”
Simon was down ten minutes later, heading out the door to get the bakery goods he wanted. Joyce took a longer shower and headed to her eldest daughter’s room. Buffy was awake, sitting on her bed cuddling Mr. Gordo, looking at Willow who was still sleeping holding a rather tatty teddy bear.
Buffy looked like she had been crying. Her eyes widened as she saw her mother. She rose rather shakily, trying to bypass Joyce, and head for the bathroom, but her mother took her arm and led her into her own bedroom.
“Buffy, what’s wrong?” Joyce asked gently.
“Simon stayed over…” It was not a question that Buffy asked, but a statement.
“Yes.” There was no use denying it.
“I just… You and dad are never going to get together again are you?”
Joyce sighed, cuddling her daughter and her stuffed pig. “No Buffy. That will never happen.”
“I knew that. But it’s just…” Buffy started crying again.
“I understand. Buffy…”
“I’m sorry Mom. I’m sorry. It’s all my fault…”
“Buffy Ann Summers!” Joyce pushed her daughter away, looking her straight in the eyes. “The divorce was not your fault. Your father and I had been growing apart for years; we were no longer the people we were when we married.” She hugged Buffy tightly again. “And I will not have you blaming yourself. You are not the cause; you were not even the catalyst.”
“For you as well as dad?” Buffy asked between her sniffs.
“What’s a cata whatsit?” Buffy asked ingeniously.
Joyce giggled, fully aware of her daughter’s habit of mispronouncing words for humorous effects. “Buffy you know very well what catalyst is. Stop talking yourself down.”
“Yes Mom. Mom?”
“I do like Simon.”
“I’m glad to hear it. Feel a bit better?”
“I love you, I don’t tell you that enough.”
“I love you too, Buffy. Now, do you want to wake Dawn or Willow?”
“Can I use a wet washcloth?”
Joyce poked her daughter gently. Buffy grinned. “No. I assume that means you pick Willow?”
“Yeah. Mom, thank you for letting her stay over so often.”
“No problem dear. She’s a lovely girl. But if I ever meet her parents…”
Buffy snorted. “Unlikely. They’re gone more than half the year.”
Joyce shook herself. “Well, if I need to wake Dawn before Simon gets back with the baked goods I need to get going.”
“So that is where he’s going?” Buffy smiled. “I wonder if we can get him to buy donuts…”
“Probably. Go wake Willow.”
“K.” Buffy gave her mother a last hug and went back to her room, Mr. Gordo in tow.
Joyce went into Dawn’s room, sitting down on the bed. She put a hand on Dawn’s shoulder and the girl slithered away grumbling.
“Wakey wakey Dawn.”
“S’too ‘rly. G’way.”
Joyce put a hand on her youngest hair. “If you don’t get up you won’t get scones and bagels…”
“Sim’n ‘ll save me s’m. G’way.”
“Dawn… If you don’t get up I’ll let Buffy have go. With a washcloth.”
Dawn peeled an eye open and glared at her mother. “Ugh.”
“Very eloquent. Get up love.”
“Yes Mom. But calling in the Buff-beast is not fair.”
Joyce had to stifle a giggle. “I shall ask Willow to do it, hmm? Now get up, Simon will be back soon.”
Dawn’s eyes flew wide. “Back?”
Joyce felt her blush rising at her daughters’ intense inquisitive gaze. *She’s going to be a terror when she’s sixteen…*
“Yes, back. Now get dressed.”
“”Kay. We going anywhere today?”
“Depends on your homework and if Simon has plans.”
“Oh. I have to do some maths. Do you know if Simon is any good at maths?”
“No idea, ask him.”
Joyce was in the kitchen, squeezing juice, when the doorbell rang. A tall, African American man in his late forties was standing on the doorstep, immaculately dressed in a dark suit, lightly graying curls cut closely to his head, a firm mouth and slender nose looking down at her from a height of at least six foot six.
“I am sorry to disturb you ma’am, but Dr. Meier did not sleep at home last night…”
Joyce felt her mouth twitch. “I assume you are Mr. Miller?”
“Just Miller ma’am.”
“Dr.Meier spent the night here. He’s on the bakery run.”
She saw the man relax, just ever so slightly. “Thank you. I will not disturb you any further. Have a pleasant Sunday ma’am.”
“Thank you,Miller. Miller…Have you had breakfast?”
“Yes,Ma’am. Thank you.”
“And I assume you won’t come in…”
“Dr. Meier was quite explicit. Dr. Meier knows how to reach me.”
“And I’ll make certain he does. Don’t worry Miller.” Joyce looked amused.
“Thank you, a’am. It will be a great relief.” He nodded in thanks and greeting and walked crisply away.
Joyce closed the door and went back to the kitchen, the three girls entering at almost the same time. Willow’s hair was in twin braids tied with green ribbon and it was obvious to Joyce Dawn had a hand in that.
Good mornings were exchanged and places set and Simon arrived with the baked goods, a box of Scones, another of bagels and third of donuts. He shrugged. “Xander expressed an interest in donuts. I hope they will find a good home…”
Each box was received with cheers. Joyce sighed. After breakfast Joyce and Simon would take Dawn back to the park and Willow looked at them with longing. Buffy winked at her and went into the living room and picked up the phone, calling Xander.
“Xand? Its Buffy. Look Will’s and I are going to the playground with Mom, Dawn and Simon. You can tag along. If you don’t mind hanging in the park, it’ll be nice to get some outside air. We can do some homework there too.”
Xander yawned. “Yeah sure. I’ll be there. Are there any bagels?”
“Indeed. Simon got donuts as well. I doubt not that the box will be brought.”
“The man is a marvel. Super Simon, Bringer of bakery goodness.”
“Ayup. By the playground, ‘k?”
“Yeah, see you there.”
Buffy hung up and walked back into the kitchen. “Mom, you don’t mind if Willow and I tag along? I mean, we can do our homework in the park, right? And if Xander comes too?”
Joyce laughed. “No problem dear. If you think you can handle adult affection…”
Buffy winced. “I’ll bring earplugs and a blindfold.”
Willow grinned, her delight clearly showing.
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Willow and Buffy were sitting on a park bench by an old stump, studying ants, as Simon explained the ways of insect communication. Dawn was running through the playground, chased by Xander. The skillful application of a small portion of her ice cream down his shirt during the study of a cricket had elicited an immediate reaction. Several of Dawn’s friends had joined in the Xander baiting and Joyce was still reading on the marks of silversmiths.
“Scent and touch are important ways of communication for all insects, but ants as social insects will leave trails of pheromones and other chemicals for the ants behind them to follow and excrete different scents if they want to communicate different things, like danger. Stepping on an ant will release chemicals that alert ants to danger, the formic acid they use when biting alerts other ants as well. Touch is less important than scent. Now for instance bees communicate with the bees’ dance that is still not completely understood.” Simon watched as three ants made their way over his hand, a mild expression on his face. “Ants are exceptionally useful scavengers of plant, insect and animal remains and some are also pollinators.”
“Pollinators? Like flower pollination?” Willow asked, taking notes on a small pad.
“Yes, but not North American species, that I am aware off.”
Buffy sighed. “Yay for the joys of insect communication.”
Simon laughed. “Anything else I might help with?”
“Can you tell us anything about the Founding Fathers?” Willow was still writing. “We’re doing a project and we can’t decide who to pick to do a special on.”
Simon started laughing. Buffy looked at Willow, who shrugged. “It’s not that funny! I mean, it’s hard to decide.” Buffy could see that Willow was getting uncertain and that her lip trembled. To be laughed at by Simon was doing wonders for her self confidence. “Look, we’re just asking ok? No need to make fun of us.”
“No, no, it’s just… Do you have your history book with you?”
Willow nodded, grabbing her book bag and dragging out the hefty American history book. Simon leafed through it quickly until he reached a large two page reproduction of Trumbull’s Presentation of the draft of the Declaration of independence by the Committee of Five
. He looked at it for a Moment and then tapped one of the delegates. “There. Simon Hendrick Coenraad Meier IX, signer of the Declaration of Independence.”
Willow’s eyes grew very wide. Buffy gaped, speechless. Willow looked at the reproduction, then at Simon. “He looks just like you…”
“No, I look just like him. I believe he had a rather ugly scar and was badly pockmarked but apparently Trumbull got his good side.” He snorted. “Probably got paid handsomely to pretty him up.”
Buffy had gone very pale. “Oh god. Does Mom know?”
Simon scratched his nose, suddenly uncertain. “Well, it never came up. Umm.” Buffy jumped up; dragging her mother, book still in hand, to where Willow was still gazing at the history book.
“Buffy, what’s wrong, did anyone get bitten?” Joyce looked alarmed.
“No,Mom, just, Simon told us something.”
Joyce looked at the picture. “Oh. Is this about the Founding Father thing?”
Buffy let out a sigh of exasperation. “You knew!”
Joyce ruffled her hair and then knelt next to Simon, putting an arm around his waist. “You told me there was a book about his family. I went to your High School and asked the librarian if I could borrow it, he was quite helpful. If a bit amused,” she gave her daughter and houseguest a look. “You might have read the thing; half of it seems to be about him.” She pointed at the stern looking man in the wig in the painting.
“Yah. That might have saved us some embarrassment.” Buffy grinned at Simon. “Sooo…can we bring you in for show and tell?”
“BUFFY!” Joyce glared at her daughter. To her surprise Simon and Willow let out almost similar giggles. Simon waved at Joyce.
“I don’t mind. But no. I’ll help, but I have no desire to get prodded in a history class.”
Joyce sighed. “So, can I get back to my reading?”
Simon shook his head, trapping her against him. “Nope, you’ll have to pay a toll.” Buffy groaned, closing her eyes and putting her hands over her ears. “I’m not seeing this! Or hearing this.”
Willow looked a bit uncomfortable. “Oh, look an ant. I’ll just follow it and see what it eats…or drinks. Umm, Buffy? You want to follow the ant? I’m sure it will be really educational and umm, away from umm…”
Buffy rose immediately. “Yeah. Follow the ant. Good idea, Wills. Let’s follow the ant really, really quickly. And far, far away.”
The girls left almost at a run and Joyce looked at Simon. “That was naughty.”
Simon grinned, kissing her lips as they turned towards him. “Effective though.” He kissed her thoroughly. “Toll paid. Still want to read?”
Her face was a bit flushed and her lips swollen with kissing. “Want, no, should yes. If we continue we’ll get picked up for public indecency.”
Simon grinned. “A valid point. I’ll go track the ant, help the girls with picking a Founding Father to study.”
“Simon…Uhmmm.” She reached up to him as he rose and kissed him, gently. “Now you can go.” He nodded, running a thumb over her lips.
“I’ll go after them, and then pin down Dawn and Janice. They’ve got to calculate the size of the original Spanish settlement as compared to the current size of LA. I rather like the way Ms. Mellowes thinks.”
“Hmm. Dawn loves her. She’s really settling rather well. Want to stay over again tonight?”
She said it as he walked away. He turned and smiled widely. “Yes, please.”
“Just don’t forget to tell Miller this time.”
“He called?” Simon looked annoyed.
“He came by while you were buying bagels. Simon, he really was worried.”
“I know. It’s just…” He shrugged.
“Just call him. If you want vengeance, have him babysit. Have him tell Buffy and Willow about Simon IX.”
Simon chuckled. “Actually he might enjoy that. He knows more about the family than I do, I sometimes think. He was ecstatic when I told him I was going here. Less happy when I told him he should stay behind. We compromised with him staying in a hotel in Sunnydale.”
There was a terrible yell from the playground. Joyce smiled fondly. “That sounds like Xander. I’ll go rescue him. You go find Willow and Buffy.”
“Miss Summers, perhaps you can tell me how insects, ants in particular, communicate?” Dr Gregory’s voice cut through Buffy’s mental fog and she recalled the ant that walked over Simon’s still hand.
“Touch and scent, scent being the most important. They release different types of chemicals depending on the situation; they make trails the other ants follow, finding food.”
Dr. Gregory gave her a slightly amazed, if happy glance. The rest of the class was gaping. And Willow was looking at her as if she was the greatest thing since sliced bread, so broad was her smile. The bell rang.
“Alright, chapters six through eight by tomorrow, people. Can I see you for a Moment Miss Summers?”
Buffy nodded, resigned, waiting until the others had left the room. Buffy
leaned against a lab table. Dr. Gregory idly looked at some slides
“I gather you had a few problems at your last school?”
Buffy smiled nervously. “Well, what teenager doesn't?”<br> <br>
“Cut school, get in fights, burn down the gymnasium... Principal Flutie showed me your permanent record.”<br> <br>
Dr Gregory walked to the front of the class, followed by Buffy.
“Well, that fire, I mean, there was major extenuating circumstances. Actually, it's, uh, kinda funny!”
“Can't wait to see what you're gonna do here.” He stressed the last word.
Walking to the closet, he retrieved his other glasses from his coat and cleaned them.
Buffy looked down, a little shaken. “Destructo Girl. That's me.”
Dr. Gregory smiled at her. “But I suspect it's gonna be great.”
Buffy blinked her surprise “You mean, 'great' in a bad way?”
Dr. Gregory looked at her and then his glasses, pensively. “You have a first-rate mind and you can think on your feet. Today I finally saw what you can do if you do the…”
Buffy smiled. “...the homework thing.”
Dr. Gregory grinned. “Yes, the homework thing. I understand you probably have a good excuse for not doing it until now.” He walked back to the closet, adjusted his coat and closed the door. “Amazingly enough, I don't care. I know now you can excel in this class, and so I expect no less. Is that clear?”
Buffy nodded enthusiastically “Yeah! Sure.”
“Don't be sorry, be smart.” He looked at another slide. “And please don't listen to the principal or anyone else's negative opinion about you. Let's make 'em eat that permanent record. Whadaya say?”
He looked up at Buffy and gave her a little smile. She smiled back.
He nodded his head, Buffy grabbed her bag.
Dr. Gregory called after her. “Chapters six through eight!”<br> <br>
Buffy looked back, smiled and winked and Dr Gregory chuckled, smiling to himself as he went through his slides, selecting what he wanted to use.
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Buffy and Willow slunk into the kitchen to be welcomed by Joyce. “Hello dears. I’m not going to ask how your day was.”
“You know?” Buffy swallowed convulsively.
“The murder of a teacher gets around dear. The school counselor called to say you discovered the body. I’m so sorry love.”
Buffy started crying again, burying her face in her mother’s shoulder, heaving great sobs. Willow’s lips started trembling and Joyce gathered her in before she could protest or wonder. She held the two crying teens until the tears dried and she sat them on the kitchen stools.
“Would you like something? There’s some donuts and tea, juice, coffee, milk, soda…” While she was speaking she absentmindedly put the donuts on the island and a glass of apple juice for Willow and a coke for Buffy.
Buffy smiled a watery little smile. “Mom, why do you ask what we want if you know what we’re going to ask anyway?”
Joyce blinked, looking at what she had been doing. “Oh. Ummm. Sorry. Did you want something else?” She gave the girls a sheepish look.
Buffy grinned. When her mother got nervous or upset she got all, well, motherly. “No Mom, it’s perfect. Thanks. You’re home early, and I see no Simon?” She glanced around.
“Simon’s watching the Gallery, which is nice of him. I wanted to be home for you and otherwise I’d have had to close, Marianne’s got the flu.”
Buffy reached out and took her mother’s hand. “Thanks Mom.”
Willow looked at the apple juice. Her own mother did not know that it was her favourite and Ms Summers had just put it there for her without thinking. Her own mother forgot her birthday. Her own mother did not go to PTA meetings, know what classes she took. Ms. Summers came home to be there for Buffy. Tears started again and Joyce moved to her and hugged her tight. “There, there. It will be alright love, I’m here for you.”
Joyce couldn’t see the effect her words had on Willow. The girl’s eyes widened in shocked surprise and then squeezed shut as a beatific smile appeared on her face. Tears still ran down her face but her sniffles lessened and she tightly hugged Joyce back. “Thank you.”
Joyce smiled. “Don’t worry Willow; I’ll be here whenever you need me.”
Buffy smiled at Willow over Joyce’s shoulder, her own smile almost as wide as Willow’s.
Willow sniffled. “I’m sorry. It’s just you’re so nice to me.” She hiccupped.
“I understand Willow. And it is my very great pleasure.” She gave the girl a final squeeze and Willow hiccupped again. “Now drink something for those hiccups.” She said mock sternly. Willow nodded, obeying quickly.
Joyce sat listening to her daughter and her daughter’s best friend as the told her about the nice kind man whose headless body they had found and wondered into what sort of town she had moved her family. If she’d wanted gruesome murders she’d have moved to Detroit. She helped mourn a man she had never met for the kindness he’d shown both her girls.
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The faculty lounge was filling up and principal Flutie was talking to a statuesque woman, his hands and chins fluttering as she smiled at him, her dark eyes and hair riveting the gazes of many members of the faculty. The males looked in admiration, the females in exasperation.
Rupert Giles eyed her with clinical detachment. He had been with many women in his disastrous youth and felt no particular attraction to this one. She was a tad too cold, too calculating in the way she treated the teachers she shook hands with, she sniffed the air a little too deliberately. Her manner was a touch too…forward. No matter how physically attractive she might be, she was not…quite right. He saw the lithe form of Jenny Calendar in the corner, sipping coffee, glare fixed on the fawning men around the substitute and the others who merely stood gazing in silent admiration.
He remembered the pleasant conversations he’d had with Stephen Gregory and the fact he’d sought out himself and Miss Calendar when they both started at Sunnydale High. Gregory had often joked with her and helped her with her problems controlling her more boisterous pupils. With a pang he realized he would miss the man’s gently humorous presence. And the young Comp Sci teacher would feel the lack even more. He decided a little comfort might be in order, it was not often the unflappable young woman was this affected by well…anything.
Jenny Calendar sipped her coffee and looked at the woman and felt the wrongness
about her. All the senses her grandmother had wanted her to train, all the things she had learned and had so desperately tried to avoid were coming back to her. She cursed the elders of her clan for dragging her out of her comfortable existence and forcing her to perform this so called sacred duty. She’d been perfectly happy in Massachusetts, writing code and now here she was, watching a dead guy walk around and teaching kids the basics of computing. Admittedly the last bit was more fun than she expected, but still! And the other teachers were almost technophobic in the way they treated computers.
Everyone was watching the French woman… Even the oh so staid and proper librarian. The most technophobic of them all. Suddenly the man turned toward her and walked over.
“Not going to introduce your self to the new substitute, Miss Calendar?”
“I already shook hands.”
“I notice that many members of the faculty seem very eager to be in her company.”
“I cannot imagine why.” Jenny tightened her fingers around her mug of coffee.
“It is a strange thing that the mere form, shape of a person mesmerizes so many.”
“You don’t think she’s attractive?” Jenny was honestly surprised.
“As I said, her form is attractive, in a common sort of way. From what I’ve seen her demeanour is less so. I much preferred Dr Gregory.”
“Oh. So what do you look for in a woman?” Despite her self Jenny was interested what this man would find interesting. *Probably bigger breasts* *She really is lovely. A pity she’s so young. No, a pity I’m so old. A pity I lead the life I do.*
“Intelligence, vivacity and a kind heart. If you will excuse me, I should be in the library.” He gave her his slight bow and left. Jenny stood looking after him in some confusion.
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Simon was seated on the hood of his car when Buffy, Willow and Xander came out of Sunnydale High the day after the demise of the Mantis woman. He was wearing jeans and an old tight fitting t-shirt with the nearly washed out face of John Lennon on it. Giles was sitting beside him and they were discussing Greek epigrams, as far as Willow could tell.
“Hello all. Ready to visit a building site?”
The three looked at each other. “Yeah, sure.”
He waved them into the back seat and Giles got in next to the driver. Simon pulled away smoothly and drove off. “So, what can you tell us about the house?” Giles asked with genuine curiosity.
“Not very much I’m afraid. It was never used by the main branch; it was built in the early 1850’s for a younger son named Gabriel Alexander Fillmore Meier, who lived there for a few years before dying of pneumonia. He was a little too fond of wine, women and song, so how true that is I don’t know. Syphilis is a good possibility. Apparently we kept it in the family because of the rather extensive water rights that come with the property as long as there is a habitable house on it. The Estate workers’ cottages are rather dilapidated, roofless and mostly collapsed, but being repaired and renovated this time round. The house sits in a park and farm estate of about 6000 acres, mostly wild woodland by now. The place is….rather overgrown.”
“6000 acres? Good lord…” Giles blinked rapidly.
“It’s one of the larger estates, but again mostly for the water rights. The house is much like an Old South manor, I think, but I don’t believe we ever kept slaves here.”
Willow squawked. “Y-you kept slaves?”
“It was quite the done thing back in those days. Our cotton plantations in the south housed several thousand at the peak of the family’s slave ownership.” Simon shrugged apologetically. “Slaves, tobacco and firearms as well as stealing land from natives and small farmers. That’s how we got rich.”
“Oh. Well I suppose that you’re not the only one…”
Simon smiled into the rear view mirror. “Hardly. Were driving by the park now, they’re fixing the wall.”
A great wall, seven or eight feet high, made of rough stone and mortar was being rebuilt part by part, workmen stacking stone, and they drove by it for a mile or so as on the opposite side of the road the apartments and houses that looked onto the park marched by. The three teens and the librarian fell silent as the Volvo turned between to great pillars. There were no gates and builders were putting in place bright steel hinges. Others were replacing the window frames of a sizeable house that stood next to it. A long, two storey brick building with half Doric columns set against it and a slate covered mansard roof was visible through the trees about half a mile way to the right. Xander whistled. “Big.”
Simon glanced aside. “The Home Farm. Most of the casual labour and the farmhands were housed there. It was mostly empty except for harvest time.”
Willow gulped audibly. “T-that’s not the main house? I always thought…”
“Oh, heaven’s no. Hooghwater is much more…ostentatious.” Simon rolled his eyes and grimaced.
Silence filled the car as the three teens exchanged wide eyed glances. Giles polished his glasses. The car drove on, the beech lined driveway being cleared here and there of the overgrowth of decades, the pedestals of statuary visible between them. Giles cleared his throat. “Might cost a bit to replace the statues.”
“They’re in the great barn; I seem to recall a report that they were stored there in the 1850’s but the house never really had my attention. Also Uncle Gabriel’s taste in decorating might be called…questionable.”
“Questionable?” Buffy asked with a smirk.
“For one, he owned the largest collection of printed pornography in the western hemisphere. I’ve still got it somewhere.” Xander perked up, interested.
Buffy felt her face grow red. “Y-you do?”
He gave her a wry grin. “Can you imagine trying to sell that? Or donating it to the Congressional Library?”
Giles laughed. “Good lord, I can just imagine the uproar. So the statuary… Secret museum stuff?”
“Very much so.”<br> <br>
A gleam of white became visible and a large house, red brick with white Corinthian columns and a broad portico, with a balcony cutting it in two, rose before them, the green slate roof a contrast to the white columns and weathered brick. Two banks of windows rose and large basement grilles were visible, the dormers on the roof being repaired by several carpenters and roofers. The great paneled wooden doors, between carved stone pillars stood wide under a great half moon of stained glass, showing a two faced being, probably Janus. Simon stopped the car and got out, glancing around critically. A tall African American, hard hat in hand, exited the house and walked onto the portico, stopping at the top of the five broad steps to the stone patio.
“Dr Meier, welcome home sir.”
Simon sighed. “Miller. I should have known.”
“Indeed sir.” The man bowed slightly at each of the others in turn. “I assume these are Miss Summers, Miss Rosenberg and Mr. Harris? And this would be Dr. Giles?”
Buffy bounded up the stairs. “Hello, I’m Buffy. And you are?”
“Miller, Miss Summers.” He appraised her coolly, if politely.
“That’s your first name?” Buffy crossed her arms, gazing right back at him.
“No, Miss Summers, it is not. It is however, how I’m supposed, and prefer, to be addressed.” Buffy looked rebellious and Giles put a calming hand on her shoulder.
“Buffy, if Miller prefers it…”
Willow tugged on Simon’s arm and whispered at him. He nodded. “Miller’s official title is House Steward or Estate manager; he’s in charge of all of my estates and private homes, though he tends to take a personal interest in my well being.” He gave the other man a fond if exasperated look.
Giles could have sworn he saw Miller’s lips twitch. “I see that someone else has done so recently sir? Jeans sir? And the Lennon t-shirt?” He sounded slightly disbelieving.
Simon flushed. “Joy… Ms. Summers expressed an interest in seeing me in denim. The shirt is… comfortable.”
“Indeed sir.” He raised an eyebrow. “I’m certain she finds it very becoming” Buffy released a sound halfway between a snigger and a groan. Simon glared and stalked up the stairs, Willow and Xander in tow.
“Shall we have a look at the place?” Miller nodded and preceded them, gesturing to a pile of variously coloured hard hats on a work table. He handed a dark red one to Buffy, a green one to Willow, a blue one to Xander and two white ones to Simon and Giles, putting on his own rather battered polished metal one.
Buffy put the helm on as she gazed around the huge entrance hall. “Wow. How big is it anyway?”
Miller answered her. “The main house has a basement, a ground floor, a second storey and an attic. A central building and two wings, about 30000 square feet in all. The house servants were once housed in the attic and basement. In its current incarnation it has eighteen double bedrooms and a master bedroom on the second floor, each with two dressings room or walk in closets and full bath. The servants’ rooms are rather smaller and share five bathrooms among them. The basement contains a wine cellar, the kitchen, the butler’s apartment, the housekeeper’s apartment, the pantry and the plate room, as well as the boiler. There is electricity and heating, but both were installed in the early ‘30’s and require replacement. We’re looking at moving the heater to the attic, to improve the fall of water and use solar heat to warm the water.”
The teens huddled closer together as the description went on, taking in the wide, sweeping staircase, the marble floors, the paneling and carved lintels, the decorated plaster ceilings being restored as they looked.
“Installed in the thirties? I thought no work had been done…” Simon stopped mid sentence, his face twisting in distaste. “Oh. Of course. Is there any furniture?”
“In quite good condition, it is currently being stored in the barn, which has a good solid roof. It is of sometimes questionable taste.”
Buffy looked up at the putti cavorting on the ceiling. “One guy lived here?”
Simon pursed his lips. “Well, him and his servants and his concubines and catamites I would think. At least that is what his diaries say. Very explicit.”
Buffy gawped. “C-concubines? Cata whats?” Willow blushed at the same time. Xander grinned, his eyes wide.
Giles cleaned his glasses. “He kept a harem? Of both sexes?” Xander bright grin changed into a light flush, Willow blushed even deeper and Buffy’s face grew red as well.
“That might be an appropriate description, yes. Very forward thinking in some ways, Uncle Gabriel.”
“Good lord. The furniture…?”
Simon snorted. “Think the nineties are ready for me to sell of some of the more debauched works of the 1840’s?”
Miller cleared his throat. “I do not think the family reputation would recover sir.”
Simon raised both eyebrows, and then looked at the teens, eyeing Xander especially. “Lock the barn.”
“Indeed sir, I have taken the liberty of doing so. And some of the basement rooms as well.” Simon winced. “Wise man. Show us the less…salacious parts of the house please.”
They explored the house which was in amazingly good condition for its supposed neglect, the main building and the two great wings in excellent state of external repair, the inside more modern than might have been expected. Some of the additions looked to have been made in the nineteen sixties and fifties and Simon’s face darkened as he realized this.
The rooms were spacious and light and being re upholstered in a simple style. The bedrooms on the family floor all had access through French doors to the great balcony, separate areas having been created by trellises on which potted roses had once grown. The roses had long ago been removed or died.
A large library which was two stories high with a circular metal staircase in it and great built in bookcases. A huge dining room, a ballroom lined with mirrors that took up the ground floor of one of the wings, a set of water closets, a large cloak room, a gun room, three separate studies, an old style recreation room, a smaller dining room, and several rooms of uncertain purpose that Simon called drawing rooms.
The basement held several closed doors, a large kitchen and servants’ hall which was being upgraded to modern standards, and two basement apartments, the whole lit by clerestory windows. The wine cellar still held wines and spirits in the bins and racks when Miller dragged out a key and showed them round. The last had been laid down in 1970. Simon scowled blackly at that. The three teenagers walked with ever more dazed expressions on their faces while Giles seemed relatively unimpressed.
They left the house and wandered around the huge tract of woodland and overgrown park that surrounded it. Giles felt the presence of leylines, quiescent and placid, weaving their way through the area. A waterfall thundered down a steep hill, the center of a great mana point, untouched and unspoiled. Unlike the house, which made him feel edgy in ways he had not felt since his encounters with Eyghon, the park was restful, quiet, a vast reservoir of the strength of the earth in three of its elements. He breathed deeply as he stood in the heavily scented pine copse where a great monolithic rock, carved in Native American petroglyphs, stood a permanent marker to the power that rested there.
He heard a noise and felt the power before him answer it, whisper to it, felt a soothing murmur of love and affection absentmindedly bestowed yet no less meant as its master approached. He felt the peace around him deepen, the unease that lay on his mind from the atmosphere of the house finally leaving him.
“You do that very well.” He turned, leaning against the monolith.
“Practice. My grandfather started teaching me when I was very young.”
“Not your father?”
“My father was far too disappointed in my lack of power to bother with my magical education. For which in retrospect, I am very glad.”
Giles nodded, understanding what the other man did not put into words. “It is a great skill, soothing the earth.”
“Not singularly useful whilst combating the forces of Darkness.” Simon pointed out.
Giles smiled, grimly. “Perhaps. But if it keeps others from abusing this place…”
“So, what happened?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“This week, what happened? What killed the teacher?”
Giles sighed. “A creature called a Mantis Woman. They erm…”
“Use virgin males to fertilize their eggs, while devouring the heads of their partners. Sometimes leave the corpses for the young to feed on.” Simon nodded thoughtfully. “Nasty things.”
Giles blinked and gawped. “Y-you know of them?”
“My great-grandfather killed one that was preying on young society men in New York.” He pulled his chin. “Anyone injured?”
Giles shrugged. “One man killed beside the teacher. Xander’s pride. He had to admit he was a virgin after it captured him. Willow was a bit…” He shrugged his shoulders, unwilling to explain how the redhead’s words had only aggravated Xander’s loss of masculinity in his own eyes.
Simon smiled and ran a hand through his hair. “I’ll have a word with him later. Reassure him.”
Giles blinked. “About what?”
“Not being exceptional about still being a virgin at his age. Did you get the eggs?”
“Err, yes, there was a large number of them in her basement.”
Simon scratched his nose with the back of his thumb. “I thought the teacher died in the school?”
“We think so. He was found in the kitchen.”
“Then there will be eggs there. Either where he was killed or found, most likely the first.”
Giles blinked “Oh dear. I’ll have Buffy look tomorrow.”
He gave the older man a thoughtful look. “You have
fought demons, haven’t you?”
“On occasion. I do try to avoid it, like I said. Many of them are basically harmless, or not dissimilar from humanity. And those that aren’t…Lets say I do my best.” He sighed. “Do you want anything else here? I promised Joyce I’d help with the cooking.”
“No, thank you. Except…” He looked around, breathing deeply.
“You can come here whenever you want. It is nice and restful is it not?”
“Very. I never imagined such a place could exist anywhere near the Hellmouth, let alone on it.”
The two men walked back to the car in companionable silence.
BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS
Xander was sitting reading his science homework for the next day when Simon held out a large box with two donuts in it. “What say you we steal outside and scarf these down?” He winked conspirationally and Xander chuckled. “Lead on!”
They sat on the porch swing and ate their donuts. “I spoke to Giles. About what killed Dr. Gregory.”
Xander winced. “Oh, joy.”
“It’s nothing to worry about you know.”
Simon smiled at the bristling tone. “Being a virgin. It does not reflect on your masculinity in any way.”
“Oh, it doesn’t? Easy for you to say. When did you loose yours?” *That’ll shut him up.*
“The family fortune lost its virginity at fifteen. Me? I’ve had to wait a very long time.” He said it with a sad and bitter note in his voice.
Xander blinked. “Errr what?”
“Xander, my family is wealthy. My prospects at age fifteen were immense. Women have been throwing themselves at me for years. Not for who I am, but for the money that I have, stood to inherit.”
“Yeah, but at least you’ve had sex. Lots of it probably.”
“True. I’ve had quite a lot of sex. And far too little of making love.”
“You may not believe me now Xander, but casual and thoughtless sex, mere lust, is never as fulfilling as making love. If you really want to remember the first time as special, do not be afraid to wait.” He shrugged. “I realize you’re sixteen and full of hormones…And that the notion of a harem or a wild and wanton woman with no strings attached appeals to you. But there is always a price to pay for that sort of thing.”
“Personal experience?” Xander looked thoughtful.
“Yes and no.”
“Yes. I was part of his price. So was my mother.”
“It’s just…” Xander shrugged, unable to express his mortification in words.
“Don’t worry so Xander. No matter what your classmates say, most of them have not done anything beyond second base.” He smiled, a little whimsically. “Bragging in the locker room notwithstanding. And another very important lesson I’ve learned through hard experience is that a gentleman
never, ever kisses and tells.” He reached out with his clean hand and ruffled the boy’s hair. “Shall we go in? I’ll help with the science homework.”
Xander smiled. “Thanks. With both you and Willow there I even get some of it.”
Simon put an arm around his shoulder. “Xander, you’re not stupid. You have a very good mind; it merely runs in more practical channels.”
“Sorry?” Xander looked honestly surprised.
“I’ll show you sometime. But homework first.” The teen nodded and they went back inside. End note: Secret museums or secret rooms used to house such parts of the collection that could not be shown to the public as they were in conflict with public decency laws or morality. Noted examples include Roman and Greek statuary and pottery which depict graphic scenes of a sexual nature. Oddly enough the scenes of graphic violence were always displayed… Any student of American Colonial and revolutionary history will realize that there is no Simon Meier, numbered or otherwise, among the signatories of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitutional convention. There is also no Patroon Simon Meier among the Dutch settlers of Nieuw Amsterdam, so it shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. This is an AU after all… The actual signers were: 1776: 1787: William Floyd Alexander Hamilton Philip Livingston John Lansing Jr. Francis Lewis Robert Yates Lewis Morris Simon Meier IX can be added to both of these delegations. It is not my intention to detract of any of these men. The reason for a Meier addition is not just so as to make Simon cooler, and I will get to them, eventually. Complaints may be directed, in the form of reviews, at the management.