Jamaica Blues Now for real
Thanks very much to my Beta’s, Letomo, Ellandrahsylver and Cordyfan. All mistakes are still mine. A delay in putting this up that is concussion related. Sorry about that. That is also the reason I did not keep my resolution to answer reviews as soon as they came in, I’m only allowed limited time behind the computer.
Many thanks to Aynot, Ishi, traveller and WSCII for recommending this story. Closing in on the top 25, wow!
Some things are referred to in here that are described elsewhere. I was hoping to get Queens’ Gambits chapter six up before this, but again, concussion.
I formated this as best I could and I hope this will be resolved one way or another, because it is getting really old...
Chapter 95 Jamaica Blues
Morning of Friday, February 9th 199
Kendra woke up when the sun struck her face, through a chink in the curtains. There was still a younger sister on either side of her. Dawn was clinging to her like some sort of comatose octopus, with a leg slung over Kendra's, while Kit was a foot or so away. She tried to remove Dawn's arms and move her legs from under the little girl, so she could go to the bathroom, but like Buffy always said, Dawn clung like a leech. Or octopus. Kendra wondered what she could do to get loose without waking the sleeping girl or even worse, hurting her, given that she still didn’t know the limits of her new strength.
There was a chuckle. “There's a trick to that. Wait a sec,” Joyce came into view and tickled Dawn's nose. Dawn frowned. The arm that was clinging rose and swatted at Joyce's hand, then she turned slightly and her leg moved away from Kendra's.
Kendra hurried out of the bed and Joyce drew the duvet back over the younger girls.
Kendra stood looking at the scene for a second, then headed to her bathroom. When she came back Joyce was sitting on the bed she had used, a very luxurious camp bed with a thick mattress that was better than the bed Kendra had had back when she lived with Mr Zabuto. “I'm going down to make breakfast. You don't have to get up if you don't want to,” she said softly. “But I would like to talk to you later. And Buffy wants to talk to you as well.”
Kendra nodded, looking at her bare feet on the sky blue carpet she’d been allowed to pick herself. “I'm sorry,” she whispered.
Joyce rose and kissed her forehead. “Don't worry about it, sweetie. You were scared and not thinking straight. It was straight out of your nightmares and right after Alley's dream attack, too. I understand. Come down when you feel like it, okay?”
Kendra wasn't sure if she'd ever feel like it, but she’d been raised to grasp the nettle firmly and had noticed that all her siblings tended to do that as well, when needed. “I'll be right down.”
Joyce nodded and left. Kendra took a deep breath and went to take a shower. She stopped for a second in front of the mirror and saw that the bruises and wounds from the day before were almost completely gone. She gulped. Then she went into the shower and tried to stop her tears.
Buffy was on a sofa in the great hall, at the foot of the stairs, leafing through a glossy magazine, obviously waiting for Kendra. The younger girl hesitated and Buffy jumped to her feet. She was wearing exercise clothing and an unusually serious expression. “Mom wants me to take you to the training room. C’mon.”
Kendra wanted to protest, but there was a sudden insistent nudge in her brain and Buffy looked as if she wouldn’t take no for an answer, so she followed.
She didn’t quite know what to expect, but she didn’t expect to see Giles and Esther, both in workout clothes as well, and both the bodyguards usually detailed to watch her. The petite French Colombe Devouton and the huge and hulking Klaas de Vries, who was bigger even than Bchenka and Bottley and had hands the size of ‘kolenschoppen’, according to Simon. Kendra still had to look up what that meant.
She froze. She had never consciously thought about Simon Meier that way. It had always been Dr. Meier.
*Interesting. I shall need to talk about that with someone.*
“Kendra,” Esther said in a soft voice. “We need you to try some tests.”
Kendra looked around the room. It was set up with a vast amount of equipment, from rowing machines to weights, exercise mats and all sorts of things. She knew there was an even better gym being constructed in the grounds, next to the ruins of the old swimming pool building, which was also being rebuilt. And that would be even more impressive, and Buffy would be using it, most of the time. But this would be the family gym, where all of them could try and keep in shape.
Willow had looked very sad when that was discussed, but Kendra had hardened her heart. Willow’s improved stamina had stood her in good stead and from what Kendra understood, she’d even be a better witch because of it.
“What kind of tests?”
“Endurance, strength, balance, all three together,” Giles stated neutrally. “We’ll begin with strength. If you would take the bench?”
He gestured at the weight bench. There was already a set of weights attached, her usual starting weight. Klaas took up position by it.
Kendra chalked her hands, lay down and took the weights. The big Dutchman stood by to catch it, as always.
She lifted it as if it were a feather. From the corner of her eyes, Kendra saw Buffy’s shoulders droop and Giles exchange a pained look with Esther.
“Add more weight,” her Watcher said but, unlike her brother, Esther’s voice wasn’t neutral. It was frightened.
Kendra slunk into the kitchen after her after workout shower. Her mother was at the island, mixing something in a bowl. It was a much larger island than the one in Revello Drive, but the kitchen in general was also much larger, having already been built on an industrial scale and merely upgraded with more modern equipment and décor.
Simon was sitting on a stool at the island as well, looking into the cup of coffee in his hands. Kendra could see that they were shaking. He looked up at her and the cup almost fell onto the island, but he caught it in time and merely splashed hot coffee onto his hands.
Kendra was so focused on the way he looked right then, that she didn’t notice her mother until her arms were around her. Kendra froze for a second. Then she felt the sob that shook Joyce. Then she felt the second pair of arms, bigger, stronger, smelling of coffee. And then she started to cry herself.
Angel wasn’t used to lucid dreaming. Vampires, even those with souls, tended to slumber during the daylight hours, a state of mind that might be filled with wild, unconnected images, a welter of bloodlust, rapine and murder. But often it was just empty of anything but memories, which was often the same.
Those who had not fed sufficiently sometimes sank deeper and deeper into this state, until they fell into torpor, from which they could not awaken without aid, even if their immortal bodies weakened every day.
Spike, very early on in his existence as a vampire, had once likened them to tardigrades, the little eight legged creatures that could exist for years in a dormant state in the most extreme of circumstances, seemingly dead until their desiccated bodies were touched by water and they would come to life and start to procreate.
Angel was really glad when the younger vamp had changed. If he'd had to deal with a supercilious, over-bred well raised Englishman for even a few more months, he would have staked himself.
The vampire shivered awake, the sound of that well-bred sissy voice that had invaded his dreams, its unconscious superiority over the ‘Irish peasant’ and the ‘Common whore’ had brought back memories Liam really didn’t want to think about.
His eyes had no need to adjust to the light, or lack thereof, a useful little trick that gave vampires an advantage in many fights. Angelus had trained himself to become instantly alert, his hearing, touch and smell active immediately allowing him to form an impression of where he was. Angel, even after his decades of living like a bum, maybe because of them, hadn't lost this skill.
So he knew he was in a room he didn't know, that a human had bled profusely in it, that he was covered in dried blood and that the human wasn't dead.
That meant that the latter part of his nightmare might be true, which in turn might mean that the earlier part, the part where he had bitten Buffy, was true as well.
Angel groaned and got to his feet. His clothes crackled with dried blood and he felt the stickiness of where it hadn't dried on his skin. There was a shape on the bed, and Angel was fairly sure it had once been a man. It was covered in a bloody sheet and was moving, slow breaths rasping and laboured, as if in pain or fear.
Angel shuddered. If his memories were true, what rested under that sheet was hardly a man anymore. Angelus was a master at keeping people alive long past the time where an ordinary vampire lost interest.
“Oh Mother of Mercy, what have I done?” He whispered, falling back into the platitudes of his youth, words that he'd spoken without faith as Liam, mockingly as Angelus and empty and bereft of hope as Angel.
He remembered fighting Buffy, turning her, feeding on her. He had enjoyed it, Angelus raging at his imprisonment and the horrifying notion of love, Liam insulted by his lack of success to get her to put out, Angel furious and hurt at being so summarily dismissed by one he loved so dearly, when he knew that what he had done, what he was doing was the best thing he could do for her, even if no-one else could see it.
He remembered fleeing, then seeing the man, who seemed unnaturally afraid of him, and grabbing him and dragging him over to the cheap motel room he had been staying in and then, starting to play, to make him say why he feared Angelus, Angel, so much.
It had been enlightening, in a way, he had learned things he'd never expected to hear. If his nightmare was true, he now knew what would lift the curse on Angelus and release the demon once more. He reached out and drew the sheet back.
The man underneath was naked, but unhurt, covered in blood, all of it his own, yet alive.
And frightened out of his mind. He screamed until Angel managed to silence him with a powerful hand over his mouth, and still he struggled with the manic strength of a man driven by the way of fear deep into insanity.
Angel winced as he squeezed slightly on the man's neck, stopping the flow of oxygen to the brain, and the man lapsed into unconsciousness.
He ran a hand through his blood-spiked hair. “What the hell do I do now?”
The White House, Oval Office, morning of Friday February 9th
Richard Schumacher was sitting uneasily on the chair in front of the Roosevelt Desk as the President finished writing whatever note he thought more important than the Director of the FBI. Normally, Lassiter was the very personification of politeness and would never do such a thing without an apology.
This time, Schumacher had been told to sit and wait as the President wrote.
Schumacher remembered the last time he had been treated this way by the President. It had been after the whole debacle with Clarice Starling.
*God, what a fuck up that was. Why the hell didn't we catch that? How the hell did Fitzgerald manage to keep her reports from me, how did he keep them from all of us?*
He didn't know the answer and that was one reason he was currently in the doghouse, because the President wanted to know. The President wanted to know how deep the rot went, and Director Schumacher couldn’t tell him, dearly though he wanted to. If agents of the calibre of Clarice Starling could be brought down, he wanted to find out who did it and how, and how to prevent it from ever happening again.
His mind flashed back to the first meeting with the President after POTUS had heard about it.
He had known something was wrong the instant he entered the White House. The President had called earlier and demanded an investigation into the actions of Henry Fitzgerald, which Schumacher had tried to convince him not to do. Schumacher felt very strongly that the FBI ought to be run by its Director, and should not be interfered with by the Executive Branch beyond the appointment of directors.
That was when he'd been ordered to report to the President immediately, and had subsequently cooled his heels for half an hour, after being very thoroughly checked by security, far more thoroughly than the Director of the FBI was ever checked. The Secret Service had looked at him as if they were wondering if a body cavity search might not be in order. Schumacher could almost hear the snap of the rubber gloves, but fortunately the President’s watch dogs had apparently decided that wouldn’t be required after all. Still, his assistant hadn't even been allowed into the building, but had been taken aside, for separate questioning.
And he'd then been led into the Oval Office by three very large men, who hadn’t left, but remained, watching him with ominous expressions on their faces. Then they’d been joined by Clark Humble, the White House Counsel and the White House Chief of Staff.
Lassiter had sat in his chair, behind the desk, his hands folded on the Marine Corps Desk pad that sat on the old, burnished desk, looking at him as if he was a particularly repulsive insect he’d just stepped upon and was now wondering how to remove the mess from under his shoe.
Amos Harting gave the stony-faced President a look, then held a piece of paper out for Schumacher to take. “I assume you are familiar with the contents of this?”
Schumacher accepted the paper up and glanced at it. “Secret Executive Order Number One? Yes sir,” he replied cautiously. He was both wary and leery of the supernatural, and had not been happy at hearing it existed and that a group operated essentially outside the jurisdiction of the USA's law enforcement and judiciary.
“And you're aware of this?” Harting held out another sheet.
“Instructions with regards to members of the FBI who become aware of Hearts of Fire? Yes sir,” Schumacher replied easily.
“Good, after all SEO One was in place long before there was an FBI,” Harting said evenly. “And your Associate Deputy Director and the Executive Assistant Directors know about it as well?”
Schumacher nodded again. “Yes, sir.”
“So care to tell me why I was told that Special Agent in Charge Clarice Starling, yes, that Clarice Starling, has been railroaded into almost resigning because your Associate Deputy Director keeps telling her she is insane and that there is no such thing as magic or a vampire?” Harting leaned forward. “Which the President received a call about from a person who was not amused?”
His eyes flicked to the Schreyvogel sculpture of the cavalry man on the side board, the horse was placidly drinking out of he cavalryman’s hat.
Schumacher felt a bead of sweat running down his forehead, and heard it drip down onto his suit.
“And that means that a Presidential order was disobeyed, a Presidential order, mind you that was brought into being by Samuel Huntington with the knowledge of Franklin and approved by Washington, Adams, Jefferson and every President since?” Clark Humble leaned forward, his eyes hard. “That makes it quite possibly the oldest continuous piece of legislation in this country, including the Constitution, and yet… You do not think that an investigation into this man is needed?”
Schumacher tried to rub his sweaty palms surreptitiously on his trousers, cursing his decision to put on a light grey suit.
“I wasn’t aware of the actual reason you wanted this investigation, sir,” Schumacher directly addressed the President.
“And you didn’t think to ask before going into a spiel about how such an investigation might harm the Bureau and the position of the President?” Humble crossed his arms. “I think you’d better set that investigation in motion right now, Director Schumacher. Before we decide to look into you too. Or before the Concordat decides that they have to.”
“Do you know why Trueheart chose that sculpture to enchant, Director?” Lassiter spoke for the first time. “I wondered about it and asked. Everybody keeps telling me that we should fear that there’s another whole nation of people beside us, in the USA. That’s all stupid. There is no separate nation, no more than there is a separate nation of nuclear physicists. The statue symbolised that for the person who chose it. The man shares his last drop of water with his horse. The horse, in turn, will carry him until it, or both of them, perish.”
Lassiter rose. He had shrunk with age and slight liver spots were appearing on his hands, but he was still the man who had won the Medal of Honor in Korea. He glared down at Schumacher. “I fought next to men who had Hearts of Fire, Director. Volunteers, boys who were called up, they all came and died for this, their country. The reason I don’t go out in the world and capture crooks is because I’m too goldarn old and have no idea how to go about doing it. The reason why you don’t go out and try and take on vampires and demons and warlocks is exactly the same. We don’t know what the fuck we’d be doing.”
He put his hands on the desk, leaning forward. “I fought demons, I saw bullets bounce off them, I saw what it costs these people to protect us. And if this was an ideal world, yeah, everybody would know about them and we’d have plumbers and TV Repairmen and wizards all in the phonebook, and people would smile at the neighbour who can combust the shrubbery with a spell, and not try to burn them at the stake.”
He stopped. “But we don’t live in an ideal world. So we, the US Government, protect them, and in exchange, they protect us. They stopped this country being ruled by their kind at least twice this century, and they paid dearly for it, in blood and grief.”
He walked over to the side board and touched the horse. “More grief than you can imagine. They fought a war against their children, brothers, parents, for the rest of us. And we don’t even know,” his eyes went to the photograph that hung on the wall, small and unobtrusive. It showed an award ceremony, several young men getting medals hung around their necks by President Truman. A young Lassiter was among them.
“When there is a war, they will fight by our side, with whatever means they have at their disposal. And men and women are ill-used in war. I know all about that. But we, us, the Government, must do our best to stop that from happening. We will not use them more badly than we have to. We will not use any of our people more badly than we have to, and to me that would, in that ideal world, mean that all people would only be treated, and treat each other, well.”
He turned again, facing Schumacher. “Do we understand each other, Director?”
Schumacher had risen when the President had. He nodded. “Sir… Perfectly, sir.”
Schumacher was shocked out of his memories by the President’s voice.
“Rich, sorry about that. I was writing a letter to an old friend.”
Schumacher nodded. “No apology needed sir. You wanted to talk to me?”
“Yes. I need you to look, very discreetly, into the matter we talked about earlier. I’ve been a soldier long enough to know someone is lying through their teeth. And I called you here like this so they think you’re being raked over the coals again,” Lassiter smiled. “And since the chewing out has to take some time, tell me, how is Starling doing as Assistant Director in Charge of Special Operations West Coast?”
Schumacher smiled ruefully. “Wish I’d had her there five years ago, sir. Getting more info out of the Concordat than ever, including hints on normal human crime. And she hasn’t even fully recovered and isn’t working yet.”
Lassiter nodded, beaming. “Good, good. I was sorry to interfere with your appointments, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.”
Schumacher frowned. “Sir… Is there something special about ADC Starling?”
“She comes from good stock,” Lassiter said after a moment’s thought.
Schumacher suppressed a shiver. He’d looked into a great deal of the Marigold mess, and one thing had become abundantly clear to him, he was shit-scared of the whole supernatural world. That Starling had some connection to that sort of power was not a thought he liked, not after seeing what magic could do. But seeing what science could do, what magic could do in the wrong hands? Marigold was a nightmare, and those involved were evil beyond his comprehension.
Then again, it looked like most of those involved were currently dead, comatose, decomposing while still alive, gibbering puddles of slurry and other things Schumacher did not want to think about. He had no idea who had thought up the punishments for those involved in the mass kidnappings and killing of children, but he had to admit that it sure as hell fitted the crime.
But he didn’t have to like it. There was such a thing as the rule of law, and to his mind the Concordat had broken that.
“You think they were wrong to do what they did,” Lassiter said quietly. “I talked to some people about that. Some who know. The one who voiced it best was Governor Bartlett.”
Schumacher’s brows rose.
Lassiter chuckled. “His family was there when that first Order was drawn up. Of course he knows.”
“I don’t know the Governor that well sir, but I’d think he’d be more interested in economics than ethics,” Schumacher opined.
“I can see that,” Lassiter agreed. “It might have to do with the fact that he once wanted to become a priest, and a Jesuit. We fell to talking at the memorial in the Capitol. He complimented me on being able to lie convincingly about the bastards we were commemorating, to find it in my heart to be able to say something good about them.”
“I doubt that the Concordat members agreed, sir,” Schumacher said.
Lassiter chuckled again. “Which is exactly what I said. He told me that evil men are rarely, if ever, born that way. They are made so by circumstance or choice, and each step leads them down the wrong road, but they can still firmly believe they’re taking the right one,” said Lassiter. “The road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions. Those people didn’t start out as monsters, Rich. They started out serving their country, but to do it they had to dirty their fingers, then their hands, soon their arms and finally their whole bodies. They took step after step in what they thought was the service of their country, and along the way forgot what their country was all about. There’s plenty of examples like that in this country of men, even without involving magic.”
“I can see that too, sir. But I fail to see how that explains why the Concordat…” Schumacher shrugged, “Why they did what they did, why they didn’t-”
“Go to the Police? The Courts?” Lassiter interrupted. “This was a magical crime, Rich, and they are the magical court, and they meted out the magical punishment. It may not sit quite right with you and me, but what non-magical court was going to try these people? Oh, the kidnappings might have been proven, and various other things too, but only after a long time and not without a bloody fight. And though some were doing it for money, a lot of these people were doing what they did to protect and aid the USA. And I sure don’t think that they stopped at just getting the magicals.”
Schumacher nodded. “I suppose you’re right, Mr President.”
“Do you trust Clarice Starling? As an agent?” Lassiter asked.
Schumacher nodded, after a moment of thought. “Yeah. I do.”
“Then trust her in this, too. I know and have met some of these people, who did this. They are not power-hungry fascists out to rule the country, not even close, They’re wives, husbands, fathers, mothers. If you wonder what gave them the right, ask to visit some of the kids that were rescued, especially the older ones, and ask them how they were raised. It’s gonna take a lot of work to break all that conditioning that was supposed to make them into the perfect tools for the job.”
Schumacher nodded again. “I may just do that, sir.”
New York Offices of MIC, morning of Friday February 9th
The office hadn’t been this quiet in Patricia Eglemore’s memory, and she’d come into the organisation at the same time as Simon, days after his father’s death, and before that had already been employed by the younger Meier for several years. And now she was retiring, and the centuries old presence of the Meiers in New York seemed to be coming to an end. She was looking forward to spending more time with her family. Being Simon’s Secretary for decades might have been exciting and allowed her to meet a lot of interesting people, and yes, to earn more money than she had ever expected when she first went to college, but she’d also missed a lot.
The phone rang, one of the internal ones. The external ones had fallen silent with the move to Sunnydale, most of those who had the numbers straight to her desk being fully aware where Simon was and how to reach him.
She picked it up. “Dr. Meier’s office, Patricia Eglemore speaking.”
“Mrs. Eglemore, this is John Lutrell at Carnegie Hall. I was wondering… Are you aware of the Valentine’s Day Concerts?”
Patricia blinked. “The Valentine’s Day Concerts? Vaguely? Why are you calling about them? They were cancelled decades ago, weren’t they?”
“Simon Meier XIII and Andrew Carnegie were quite friendly, and when Carnegie heard that one of the British Meiers had commissioned Bach to write the Six English Suites for his betrothed,” Lutrell’s voice almost dripped with satisfaction on the old-fashioned word, “He commanded that the pieces be performed on Valentine’s Day each year that a Meier was happily married or, as he put it, ‘involved’.”
Patricia blinked. “So that’s how they got started. I’d heard of them, but never like that. Si-. Dr Meier never talked of them. Not like that.”
Lutrell coughed. “Yes, well. But ummm…”
“Do you have time to do the performance?” Patricia asked.
Lutrell laughed. “It may have been forgotten elsewhere, Mrs Eglemore, but among pianists, it hasn’t. I have three lined up, all willing to play,” he assured her.
“You do?” Patricia frowned, then laughed. “Oh, of course, the New Year’s visit.”
“You have to admit that it was public enough to set tongues wagging,” Lutrell said.
“I suppose it was,” Patricia replied wryly. “Who’re the pianists?”
“Sviatoslav Richter, Murray Perahia and Daniel Barenboim,” Lutrell answered promptly. “Not to mention the dozen or so lesser luminaries and the hundred or so complete nobodies who also applied.”
“Are Mr Richter and Mr Perahia able to play?” Patricia wondered.
“Mr Richter said he’d even brave Carnegie Hall if he could do this for Semyon,” Lutrell assured her. “Though Mr Perahia really shouldn’t play yet, because of his hand. Mr Barenboim admits that the time would be short to prepare, with his duties as music director in Chicago.”
“Excellent reasons to ask them in future years, if they’re willing. Mr Richter, if he is able to overcome his aversion of Carnegie Hall, would be an excellent choice,” Patricia smiled. “Even if Simon is going to be hugely embarrassed.”
“I’ll send you some tickets. Do you think he’ll be there himself?”
Patricia pursed her lips. “He really should be. He can’t divorce himself completely from New York. I’ll call his LA secretary and see what we can do.”
“It will be recorded and broadcast anyway, that’s the tradition,” Lutrell assured her. “I’ll go and call the gentlemen.”
“Please do. And thank you, Mr Lutrell,” Patricia added, heartfelt.
Hilton Hotel, Los Angeles, February 9th
Quentin Travers really should have left for London again, because heaven knew he had enough work to do there. But it was oddly restful to be thousands of miles away from his duty for once, even if it also separated him from his wife and children.
*Have to get the girls out here and go to Disneyland,* he thought as he read a report he should have read long before, but hadn’t had the time for, and signed papers his secretary had stuffed into his bag and St. Claire-de Combercy had already sorted through.
He wondered how Lucius Bedell was faring with his brother. He hoped the reunion was going well. *Something good has to happen in this buggered up world sometimes.*
The phone rang, the room phone. He’d tried to get used to the mobile ones, but even with all four of his daughters helping, the bloody things were just too fiddly. He could see how they’d be enormously useful for future Slayers and Watchers, and had already given the order that every Potential would receive one, but he was damned if he’d make a fool of himself with them any more than he needed to. Maybe voicing the term ‘new-fangled technology’ would make him even more a figure of amusement to his daughters, but that’s still how he thought of such things.
“Travers,” he said picking it up. He didn’t recognise the number, but it wasn’t from inside the hotel.
“Sir? This is Esther Giles. Is it possible for you to come to Sunnydale as soon as possible? Dr Meier can have a car waiting for you in twenty minutes.”
Travers blinked. “Yes, do I need to bring anything?”
“Ready bag I’d say, sir. It may take a while,” Esther said apologetically.
Travers mind hurtled through the possibilities. He didn’t think it was a trap. Meier was a straight shooter in matters such as these. If he wanted something, he’d ask, or if he wanted you dead, he’d very regretfully have you killed, possibly without warning.
“Unsecured line, sir,” Esther added.
Travers relaxed. “I shall be waiting in twenty minutes, thank you Miss Giles.”
He limped over to his bag, quickly scanning the room to see if there was anything else he wanted to bring, then tossed his reports into his briefcase and clicked it shut. Picking up both his ready bag and his briefcase, juggling them both with his cane, he went down to tell the desk that he might be gone for a day or two.
Los Angeles, morning of Friday 9th of February 1996
Danielle Moritz was running through Beverly Gardens Park, trying to get her head around the things Simon had told her on the phone the night before. He’d been unusually disjointed and sounded incredibly tired, but the last few weeks had been terrifyingly hard on him.
Exercise had always helped her think, as well as keep in shape. She smiled slightly as she remembered the times she’d had to trick Willow into exercising with her, once the first exuberance of youth had passed. So she ran, her still short hair held back by a green sweat band and her stylish green and turquoise jogging outfit a sharp contrast to her once again vibrant red hair and pale skin. Several men eyed her appreciatively, something that hadn’t happened in many, many years.
She shook her head and sighed. Not a single one of the men held any attraction for her. With her rejuvenation had come emotions and desires she’d long thought under control.
“Damn Simon and his damn node,” She muttered, smiling.
She wondered if there had been advances in other types of technology as well, as her mobile phone weighed in her fanny pack. It might not be very stylish, but it was hard to steal and even during the day there were enough purse snatchers around that she wanted the extra safety.
The phone had a vibrating mode and her old ‘girl’s best friend’ had stopped working some time during her affliction, unneeded and ignored and filled with chemical sludge where once the batteries had been. She sighed as she saw a pair of older women walking by in decidedly staid dresses. Another thing to buy, her wardrobe was awful, totally unfit for a woman of her new age, or at least appearance. Maybe even some lingerie, even if the chances of anyone seeing it were minute. She huffed at her own wandering mind and speeded up.
Her doctors had been amazed at her incredible recovery and had suggested regular exercise, as well as lots of tests and monitoring. Simon’s lawyers had very firmly stated there would be no publication of any kind. Any protests had been stilled very quickly once the doctors found out just how much of their endowments came from various Meier affiliated companies or funds. The doctors had decided that Meier Medical had found a new drug, that she had been given it before FDA approval, and that they’d best keep mum about it and hope for the best.
But Danielle had taken the advice about exercise to heart and jogged every day, cycled to the supermarket and as many shops as possible, walked where others would drive and even visited a gym. She felt great, even if she did worry about her family in Sunnydale. Then again, they did seem to be able to deal with most anything, even possession and facing their worst fears. Frowning in thought she speeded up.
She approached a row of benches where people watchers often sat and she’d be damned if she would look bad. As she’d guessed the benches were filled with young and old, mothers and teens, pensioners and tourists. She ran past them, lightly and ignoring the occasional wolf whistles. For a woman her age, she was most definitely attracting a lot of so-called positive attention. She swerved off the main pathway to run between two rows of old rhododendrons, planted well back from the path.
That was when Danielle heard the sobbing. She stopped and moved carefully toward the sound. Cautiously approaching the source of the distress, she cast a few minor protective charms and drew in some earth power to be able to cast a more powerful spell quickly. She didn’t drop the power, even when she saw who the source was.
A petite young woman, maybe even a girl, sat curled up on the hard wooden bench, her jeans clad legs drawn up to her chest, face buried in her knees. Her hair was a mousy brown and Danielle noted that she really ought to use a better conditioner. A pair of glasses was clutched in the girl’s right hand and the other clenched around her drawn-up legs.
“Hello dear. Can I help you?” Danielle asked gently. Sitting down beside her.
The girl nearly fell off the bench and spun around, looking at Danielle with wide frightened, deep brown and red-rimmed eyes. She clasped her glasses so tightly that they creaked until the older woman gently took them from the young woman’s hand and put them on her nose.
“I’m Danielle Moritz. Would you like to tell me what’s wrong? Sometimes it helps to tell a stranger.”
The girl gulped in a sob. “I-I…No really, I’ll be fine,” She said in a heavy Texas twang.
Danielle raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Really?” She put a hand to the girl’s face. “Should I take you home? Where do you live”
“No! I mean, I’ll be alright,” the girl almost wilted.
“You didn’t run way from home, did you?” Danielle asked seriously.
“N-no. I’m from Texas,” The girl sniffled.
“I noticed, but I’ve known people to run farther than from Texas to California.” Danielle pointed out.
“I didn’t run away from home!” The girl repeated mulishly.
“I see. Had a fight with your boyfriend?” Danielle asked.
“No!” The girl answered angrily.
“Did he dump you?”
“He was having sex on my bed with my roommate! Okay? Is that enough information for you, lady?” The girl hissed.
“Yes. It clarifies matters considerably. It tells me why you’re here, why you were crying and why you don’t want to go back. So where do you live?” Danielle asked gently.
“Campus. UCLA. Why?” The girl stated belligerently.
“Well, I assume you’ll want to move out from your room. I must admit I don’t know if this sort of thing is sufficient reason to get assigned a new room, or room mate.”
The girl blinked. “Oh. Yeah. I-I don’t know.”
“What’s your name dear?” Danielle smiled kindly.
“Fred,” the girl answered, after some thought.
“Fred?” Danielle’s eyebrow rose ever so slightly.
“Winifred. Winifred Burkle. I prefer Fred,” The girl blushed.
“Danielle Moritz, as I said before. How long have you been here?”
“Since last night…” Fred looked at her feet and Danielle gave her a stern look.
“I see. Well, come on.” She firmly took the young woman be the arm and pulled her up.
“Hey! I’m not going with you! I don’t know who you are! You might be taking me to some dungeon of pain!” Fred rushed out, trying to free her arm.
“Finally, some sense,” Danielle smiled. “Here take this.” she handed Fred her mobile.
“Call someone you trust. You know my name is Danielle Moritz. You can keep that phone until we get to my home, then you can call them again and tell them where you are. Now, you look like you could do with a shower and some food. And sleep too, but it might be wiser to wait until tonight.”
Fred looked at the phone in bemusement. “Why are you doing this, exactly? I mean, I could be some sort of lure for an evil white slaver.”
Danielle lifted an eyebrow. “My granddaughters have a fondness for Romance novels. That’s a really bad plot, even for one of those.”
Fred blushed. “Hey! There’s nothing wrong with Romance novels!” then she realized what she’d said and looked down at her feet. “Not that I’ve ever read any. And you still could take the phone from me, then drag me off to some horrible room under a Pawn store and lock me up in a trunk and make me your gimp!”
Danielle sighed, rubbing her eyes with two fingers before assuming the voice that had made Simon quail well into his teens. “Call your parents. Now.”
Fred gulped at the tone of steel in the older woman’s voice and punched in her parents’ number with speedy and slightly trembling fingers.
“Trish Burkle,” came her mother’s voice over the phone.
“M-mom? This is Fred. I-I uh…” Fred looked uncertainly at Danielle, who motioned with her hands for the girl to continue. She took a deep breath, before continuing. “I caught Adrian cheating on me. With Sally. In our room. On my bed.”
There was a gasp. “Oh, Fred… I’m so sorry.”
Fred let out a little sob. “Yeah, me too. Mom? I don’t want to go back there…”
Trish sighed. “You have to sleep somewhere, Fred. You’ll have to go to back and tough it out until you can get a new room.”
Fred looked at Danielle. “Mom? There’s this lady who’s offered I can stay with her…”
“Do you know her?” Trish asked sharply.
“No, she doesn’t, but sitting all night on a park bench is not the safest thing to do either,” Danielle said, having heard the words.
There was a short intake of breath. “Fred!”
“Sorry mom,” Fred whispered. “I wasn’t thinking straight.”
“You can say that again! And we really can’t come over right now…” Trish sounded worried.
“May I?” Danielle held out her hand for the phone.
“Well, let’s do it this way… I’ll give you my phone number and address, Mrs. Burkle, and take Fred? Yes, Fred, with me and then she can call you again and I’ll make sure that she gets plenty of food and rest. Then she and I will go and have a few words with her boyfriend and her roommate,” Danielle finished viciously, thoughts of boil-causing spells fleetingly passing through her mind, before she forced herself away from that line of thinking. Magic really wasn’t supposed to be used like that. Not that they didn’t deserve it.
Trish was silent and then sighed. “That might be the best solution for now.”
“I’ll take good care of her, Mrs. Burkle. Now here’s Fred again and I’ll give you my address,” Danielle reassured her.
Hooghwater, late morning of Friday, February 9th
Kendra hesitantly entered her mother's study, where her soon to be adoptive parents were currently waiting. They each had a separate one, but like at Revello Drive this one had become they mostly used to deal with matters pertaining to children.
Joyce and Simon were sitting on a couch by the window and looked up when she came in. “Hello dear. Come and sit down. Something to drink?”
Kendra stood ramrod straight. “I would prefer to stand,” her eyes flicked anxiously to Simon.
Joyce sighed. “Kendra? Will you please come and sit down?”
Kendra bit her lip, then sat on the couch opposite, her hands folded in her lap and her eyes downcast. “I am ready for my punishment now.”
There was a snort. “Over to you, dear,” Simon said.
Joyce glared at him. “This is not a joking matter, Simon!” she rose and sat by Kendra. “You’re not here to be punished, honey.”
Kendra looked up. She knew that three of her sisters had found themselves in considerable trouble, for breaking one of the ground rules and had fully expected the same consequence. Mr Zabuto would not have hesitated to apply his belt, had she broken his rules while still with him. “B-but I ran away! I put myself in danger!
Joyce rolled her eyes. “Kendra, you were scared out of your mind. That dream you got from Alley scared you badly, no matter how hard you tried to hide it and we tried to reassure you.”
“Alley?” Kendra asked.
“The First Slayer. Your very much oldest sister,” Simon added helpfully.
“Who was quite annoyed that you kept ignoring her,” Joyce sent Simon a warning glance.
“Ignoring?” Kendra asked, confused. “But I didn’t hear or see anything! Unless… Oh… the pats on my head, my brain. Like a kitten?”
“I think next time she might go for a pat from a Smilodon, but yes. That was her,” Joyce smiled.
“So you’re not angry?” Kendra asked tremulously.
“Enormously, but not with you,” Joyce assured her.
“That’s good. Are-are you angry with Si- Mr Meier, then?” Kendra shot Joyce a shy look.
Joyce shot another glare at Simon. “I’ll get over it.”
Kendra frowned. Simon did not look at all perturbed. “Mum? Did you lose another bet?”
Simon’s laughter was enough of an answer and Kendra started to giggle.
Hooghwater House, afternoon of Friday February 9th 1996
Quentin Travers looked up at the large house with appreciation. It was far more solidly built than the suburban home where he’d first met Buffy Summers, and that was an improvement. He preferred Slayers to live behind thick stone walls, for extra safety.
The door was opened by a tall, African-American man with slightly greying hair, before he could even mount the steps. “Mr Travers, you are expected.”
Travers nodded at the chauffeur of the car that had brought him over and the man drove away. He was a high-class driver for a high-class company and the tip would be taken care of by Meier’s people, he had been discreetly informed at the front desk of his hotel.
The tall man strode down the steps, grabbed his luggage and carried it inside, then placed it at the bottom of the stairs and waited for Travers to catch up. Quentin felt his knee and ankle joints twinge at the mere thought of climbing those steps.
“Ms Summers has instructed us to prepare a room on the ground floor for you, sir,” the man told him coolly. “My name, is Miller. This way, please, sir.”
Travers followed him, rather happy at the small courtesies shown him. There were five people in the room he was led into. Rupert Giles and his fiancée, his sister, Esther, and Dr Meier and Ms Summers. All looked grave.
“You wanted to see me?” Quentin looked around the room.
“Yes, please, sit down. Would you like some tea?” Joyce asked him.
Quentin sat. “Please. I do hope nothing has happened to your daughter?”
The pained looks that passed between them did not reassure him at all. “What happened?”
Joyce poured a cup of tea for him, fragrant Oolong. “It all started when a boy was beaten by his Little League coach,” she began.
Travers sipped his tea. He had asked the occasional question, but other than that had stayed silent. As the others looked at him, he put it down. “Interesting.”
“That’s all you have to say? Interesting?” Joyce growled.
Travers shrugged. “Ms Summers… I believe that things happen for a reason. Your daughter was called for a reason. And so, if I may be blunt, was your other daughter. She is here, at this time, on what is the most active Hellmouth in the world. None of the others come even close. The pervasive dark influence is such that no witch can function here without losing sight of their moral compass. Slayers are less affected by that. I will not deny that in certain circumstances I might ask you and your daughters if they, or one of them, would be willing to help with dangerous situations elsewhere, but they both have excellent support and training facilities…”
His voice trailed off at their looks. “What?”
“There’s two of them,” Giles pointed out, taking off his glasses and polishing them.
“Oh, that. It’s happened thrice before, that my study of the records shows,” Travers said with distaste in his voice. "The first two times, communication lags prevented anyone from realising it till long past any usefulness. The last time, well, there was a school of thought the last time it happened that wanted to see if there could be even more.”
“What?” Joyce growled.
“That was before the Council became what you knew it as,” Travers told her. “And none of the idiots in charge at the end knew about it, and not one of us who ever cared for a Slayer would tell them.”
Simon sat back, his face thoughtful. “Can you send us what information you have?”
Travers nodded his head. “Certainly,” he grimaced. “Even the stupid speculations that the Amazons might have been a tribe of Slayers.”
“They tried to kill Slayers to see if they could repeat it, didn’t they?” Joyce asked heavily.
Travers shook his head. “Much worse. They succeeded on the first. And failed on the second. Some think that the Cruciamentum was introduced as a way to try and keep the experiments going, but I think that was begun by the Thirteen to breach the faith, the bond between the Primus and the Slayer, so that they could exercise more control. A despicable thing.”
“You really care for them, don’t you?” Jenny said finally.
Travers closed his eyes. “With every Slayer, every Potential… I see Very.”
He felt a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Thank you, Mr Travers,” Joyce whispered.
Travers smiled slightly. “You’re welcome. But… I would like to see them spar, or better yet, fight something. Very was amazing, and I haven’t gotten a chance to see Buffy fight, but to see two of them?”
“There is poetry in battle?” Simon asked.
Travers nodded. “There is. And life, and yes, glory.”
“You’ll have to wait a bit. Buffy has taken Kendra on her first patrol,” Esther smiled proudly. “She already staked two vampires!”
Travers smiled slightly, recognising in the much younger Watcher the absurd pride he’d felt when Very made her first kill. “Why don’t you tell me about that while we wait for them to return?”
Esther grinned and launched into a blow-by-blow account of the fight she’d already been given by Kendra.
Danielle Moritz’s House, Los Angeles, Evening of Friday February 9th
Fred woke up slowly. The bed she was in was rather wider than her cramped one, in the room she shared with Sally. Memories, painful memories of what she’d seen, returned and she sat up immediately, wildly looking around the room.
It was a bare room, obviously a guest room, but a well used one. It didn’t have the empty smell that so many guest rooms had, though it did smell slightly of antiseptics.
She looked down at herself, sniffed and grimaced. She was still wearing clothes from the day before, and could smell that she’d obviously fallen in bed without washing. The last thing Fred remembered was Mrs Moritz, Danielle, pouring her a cup of Herbal tea and then she had started to yawn…
The door opened a crack and a green eye looked through it, then there was a short laugh. “She just woke up, Trish. I’ll give her the phone.”
Danielle walked into the room and handed the handset to Fred, who blinked up at her with wide, brown eyes. “What?”
“Who,” Danielle smiled. “Your mother. I had to practically carry you to bed and you weren’t even able to call her.”
Fred groaned. “I’m sooo sorry, I-”
“You were exhausted,” Danielle finished for her. “Now talk to your mother. You’re quite a bit taller than me, so I’ve got nothing much for you to wear, but I did go out and buy you some clean underwear. Luckily your mother knew your size. And preferences.”
Fred grabbed the phone and yelled out a mortified “MO-OM!”
“Serves you right for falling asleep in Danielle’s kitchen,” Trish sniffed. “Now, she’s offered to drive you to campus and pick up your stuff, or at least the portable things.”
“Aren’t you going to ask me if I’m alright and safe and not dressed in a leather zipper suit and locked into a gimp box?” Fred asked.
“Where do you get those ideas? No, I’ve been talking a bit with Danielle and she gave me her home number and such, and has been checking on you all day. She says she even got some pictures,” Trish said blithely.
Fred groaned. “Mom!”
Trish laughed. “So, are you where she says she lives?”
Fred got up, noticing that she wasn’t wearing her jeans, shoes and socks and that they’d been neatly folded over a nearby chair. She moved to the window to see if she was still in the house she barely remembered entering. “Yeah, I am. Room is nice too, larger than the one on campus, and woah!”
“What?” Trish asked, suddenly worried.
“En suite bathroom! Shower and toilet!” And a built in closet!” Fred gushed. “Way better than campus!”
Trish laughed again. “And possibly even rent free.”
“What? Why?” Fred wondered.
“Apparently Danielle had a stroke and her son, or step-son, or son-like person, wants to have someone closer than two hours away who knows her and can call 911 if it’s needed. She’s also wearing an alarm,” Trish told her. “It’s an actual job offer.”
“B-but that would mean that I’d need to do an interview!” Fred wailed. “I can’t do an interview! He’ll ask all sorts of stuff and I’ll get nervous and say the wrong thing and end up in jail!”
Trish laughed. “It probably won’t be as bad as that, honey! Now go and have some food, Danielle promised to cook enough for three grown men when I told her how much you eat.”
Hooghwater, evening of Friday February 9th
Joyce was more than jittery, she was nervous enough to start chewing her nails, a habit she’d gotten rid of in her teens. Simon reached out and took her hand in his. “They’ll be fine. You know Buffy has been doing this for a while, they’re both well trained and there’s two cars with two bodyguards each following them, just in case.”
“Really?” She glared at him. “Then why are you still up and not sleeping? You look dead on your feet!”
“Because I’m an idiot and don’t trust my own reasoning,” he told her with a half-smile.
Joyce snorted. “Well, that’s nothing new.”
The phone rang. It was early enough in the evening that it wasn’t rude to call, but few people did so, unless they were family. Joyce looked at the number on the display and picked up.
“Good evening Joyce. I saw you called several times, but I was on the phone to someone in Texas,” Danielle said in a worried voice.
“Kendra was called,” Joyce said soberly.
Danielle let out a harsh breath. “Dammit. Well, all we can do is support her. Is she out on patrol?”
Joyce squeezed Simon’s hand. “Her first, with Buffy.”
“I’m sure they’ll be fine,” Danielle assured her. “I’ve never seen anyone fight like Buffy.”
“I wish they didn’t have to,” Joyce muttered.
Danielle sighed. “I understand. Could you put me on speaker? I assume Simon is not in bed, like he should be?”
Joyce snorted. “I should chain him to it.”
“Kinky,” Simon smirked.
“Simon!” Joyce hissed as Danielle laughed.
She put the phone on speaker.
“What did you want to talk about, Nanny?” Simon asked.
“You remember you told me to get someone to move in with me?” Danielle began.
“Yes. Did you find someone? I’m still quite willing to pay for it,” Simon said, relieved to be able to think about something besides his two daughters out on patrol.
“Yes, a girl, sitting on a park bench, who was cheated upon in her bed by her boyfriend and her roommate, a very sweet child. Eats like Buffy,” Danielle smiled indulgently.
“Really?” Simon looked at Joyce, who seemed quite amused. “Can you send me some particulars? I’ll have her checked out and a contract drawn up and such and come over to talk to her.”
“If you do, send over some of the bodyguards to help her move, would you? I doubt she’ll want the bed, but I’m sure we can arrange something,” Danielle asked.
“Particulars, Nanny?” Simon prompted, pen and paper at the ready.
“Winifred Louise Burkle. That’s-”
“BU-R-K-L-E. Is she a theoretical physics Major?” Joyce asked.
“Yes, she is. How do you know that?” Danielle sounded guarded and surprised.
“Because Simon asked me to help him look at the candidates for the Meier Scholarships for Excellence and she’s among the nominees,” Joyce told her. “We have her information here, then.”
Danielle chuckled. “Well, that saves some work.”
“I’ll send someone over to help move tomorrow,” Simon promised. “Or we’ll come by to see Miss Burkle ourselves.” Then he yawned.
“I suppose telling you to get some sleep would be futile? You could both use it,” Danielle urged.
“Not until the girls are home safe, Nanny. Not until the girls are home safe,” Simon answered as Joyce’s hand squeezed his own.
Home of Charlotte and Harry Penkowski, night of 9tth/10th of February
The phone rang and Harry swore softly, his long, lean arm reaching for it, knocking down a box of tissues and a glass of water, which shattered on the floor. He swore even more, but still softly. He finally grabbed the still ringing phone and managed to untangle his long legs from the duvet and carried the phone out of the room.
“Whoever the hell you are, this had better be important,” he growled into the phone.
“Harry? This is Arlene. Can you get Charlotte?”
“Get Charlotte? Why? What's wrong?” Harry asked anxiously. “Is it really important? She only just managed to get some sleep.”
“Harry, who is it?” Charlotte asked from the bedroom.
“Arlene. She wants to talk to you,” Harry answered, resigned.
“Oh,” Charlotte whispered. “Something bad, isn't it? Something went wrong? Is it Evy?”
“Put me on speaker, Harry,” Arlene said.
Harry pressed the button and put the phone down. “You're on speaker.”
“Okay,” Arlene took a deep breath. “I was called by Sarah, Jack's ex, who had been called by a little girl, who used to live in her neighbourhood.”
“And you call us about this in the middle of the night? Dammit, Arlene!” Harry groaned.
“Marigold got Lucy,” Arlene added.
Charlotte sobbed and Harry swore again. “We know that, Arlene!”
“No, they didn't kill her and steal her soul, they took her,” Arlene clarified. “The Healers did the test.”
“Lucy?” Charlotte whispered. “Is she alright?”
“As far as I know. She's the girl who called Sarah. Somehow she ended up at the Milwaukee Meier House, but she lived in Colorado until the Night of Retribution.”
“Milwaukee? How the hell did she get there?” Harry raked a hand through his curls. “Dammit, never mind. Can we get her?”
“I'll call Simon and have him put the machinery in motion,” Arlene assured them. “And don't go mad and drive there, okay? He'll probably have some tickets for you on the first flight out.”
“Yes, call him. We'll pack,” Charlotte said anxiously. “Thanks, 'Lene.”
Arlene laughed. “Try and get some sleep first, Lolly. I'm sure that you don't need that much for only a day of travel. Good night.”
They sat looking at the phone for at least a minute after Arlene hung up.
“Lucy,” Harry whispered.
“We've got to tell Celia,” Charlotte decided. “Let's wake her up.”
Sunnydale Peace Cemetery
Buffy sat on the tombstone and watched as Kendra fought a Fledge. It wasn’t much of a fight. Kendra had been well trained in the classic forms by Zabuto, and even more in the rough and wild style of Special Forces by the BG’s and even by Esther, to fight dirty. Buffy smiled slightly as she remembered Giles’ face when Esther calmly told them of the effects of a ‘good hard kick to the nadgers’ as a way to take down most vampires and all men.
Kendra might have had trouble with the two older vamps, but this Fledge was no match for her. Buffy was using him for demonstration purposes, and between her and Kendra beating up on it, she almost felt sorry for the thing.
Kendra finally decided to try Esther’s advice and kicked the already battered vamp hard in the crotch. It wailed and fell to the ground, clutching at its manhood. Or demonhood. Then Kendra leaned in and swiftly staked it.
“That was invigorating,” she noted, breathing slightly fast, flushes on her cheeks.
“Yeah, took me a while to get used to that. C’mon we’ll hit the Bronze and check the Fish Tank, then swing past Willy’s,” Buffy leaped off the tombstone and led the way out of the cemetery.
“Should we not hide the fact that I am…” Kendra wondered what she should say. ‘The Slayer’ wasn’t true. “Also a Slayer?”
“Unless I get things wrong, Mom and Papa are gonna insist we patrol together, ‘cause two are stronger than one,” Buffy smiled. “And it’ll be nice to have someone to talk to, without having to worry about them getting bitten all the time.”
Kendra smiled back. “It will be much different from what I imagined being a Slayer would be like.”
The Fish Tank
The Fish Tank was the bad bar, on the baddest side of Sunnydale. Which wasn’t saying much. It catered mostly to the older clientele, the ones who weren’t going to college. It had been one of Tony Harris’ favourite bars, according to Xander.
It was not the sort of place where Joyce wanted her children to go. Had Buffy and Kendra not been there on ‘business’, their mother would have had a few sharp words and a few weeks of chores and grounding for them.
As it was, the girls weren’t too happy to be there either.
“This place smells,” Kendra whispered. “I do not know how it is they manage to retain their license.”
“Probably bribes,” Buffy pointed at the buxom blonde in the very tight top, who was standing behind the bar and serving drinks with a false smile that never reached her eyes. “Or blowjobs.”
Kendra let out a shocked giggle. “Buffy!”
Buffy smirked. “Hey, apparently all the guys like them, so I’m sure inspectors would too.”
Kendra frowned. “How do you know that all the guys like them? Did you and Liam, I didn’t think that-”
“No!” Buffy blushed. “Locker room talk. I’ve never done anything like that.”
“Oh. I thought that maybe it was like those things Mum warned us about, that older boys would want us to do-”
“No, sheesh, I was just joking,” Buffy groused. “And as if I’d let him talk me into that.”
“Wise,” Kendra nodded sagely.
“Of course, Morgan has those dextrous hands, so I’m sure that if you choose to experiment you would have lots of fun,” Buffy continued, slightly irked.
“Buffy!” Kendra hissed, blushing.
“Sorry,” Buffy grinned. “So, d’you sense any vamps?”
Kendra gave her a glare, then looked around. “I think… those two in the corner, with the two worried-looking young women.”
“I agree. The girls are probably slumming and are now seriously freaked. Let’s go break up the party, shall we?” Buffy pushed her hair back, unfastened her jeans jacket and pushed it back so it showed more of her chest, pulled down the bottom of her shirt and then looked at her sister critically. “And we just have to hope they go for the innocent schoolgirl look. Pigtails Ken? Really? And they make great handles during a fight too, so you might want to rethink them.”
Kendra glared again. “Dawn put them in.”
“That, I could see,” Buffy smirked, as she sashayed by the table with the vamps.
She sat at the next table over, taking off her jacket with an exaggerated move.
Kendra sat opposite her and frowned. “What are you doing?”
“Baiting the trap. Those guys aren’t just looking for a meal,” Buffy replied softly.
“You are altogether too fond of making out with the undead,” Kendra muttered.
“Hey!” Buffy crossed her arms, then leaned over to whisper, even as she smiled coquettishly at one of the vamps. “Only one, and that was a total disaster. And I’ve no intention of making out.”
The two young woman, who weren’t being as easy as the vamps wanted, made use of the distraction that Buffy and Kendra had provided and quickly rose and left. The vamps exchanged glances and then moved to sit by the sisters.
“Haven’t seen you two here before,” one said.
“Oh, this is our first time. Heard that this was the place to go if you’re looking for some… fun,” Buffy’s tongue-tip ran lightly over her upper lip.
The vamps grinned. “We can show you some fun, lots of fun even…”
“That would be nice, wouldn’t it, Shawon?” Buffy slithered out of her seat. “C’mon, let’s go have some fun.”
She led them out, hips swinging, and into the dark alleys that Sunnydale’s town planners seemed to have placed beside each and every bar and club.
Sitting down on a crate, another Sunnydale staple, she smiled winsomely. “Come and show me a good time, handsome.”
The bigger of the two vamps stepped up to her, grinning, moving to stand between her legs. Kendra gaped at the scene, right until the other vamp grabbed her, moving its mouth down to hers.
*My first kiss is not going to be with a vampire!* Her hand found the stake in the pocket sown into her jacket, and then found its way up to the vamp’s chest. She heard a fwoosh, and then coughed as the ashes caught in her throat.
Looking around, she saw Buffy dusting herself off. “See how easy that is? Seems like as vamps, they think even more with the small, lower down brain.”
Kendra nodded. “It’s an effective method of hunting I’d not considered. Does Mum know you do it?”
Buffy snorted. “Are you kidding? If she knew the only place I’d be allowed to slay would be in a retired nuns’ home!”
Kendra smiled. “Let’s not tell her then.”
“Let’s,” Buffy agreed.
“Shawon?” Kendra asked.
Buffy shrugged. “Dunno, just wanted something not Kendra and slightly slutty sounding.”
“I’m not slightly slutty!” Kendra protested.
“Ah, so you’re a big-” Buffy teased.
“Do not finish that or I will tell Mum!” Kendra threatened.
Buffy sniggered and led the way to the bikes.
“I’ll take my turn as the bait in the Bronze,” Kendra said after they had mounted.
Buffy eyed her critically. “The innocent schoolgirl look works better there, yeah. More actual innocent schoolgirls, for one. I’ll make a passing patrol outside first. See if there’s anyone there.”
“I’ll just sit at the bar until you’re done,” Kendra answered. “Willow says their Shirley Temples are quite nice.”
Vampires loved the Bronze. It was filled with High School and College students, almost none of whom knew what was going on in the world, and many of them were easy to drag away and have a tasty meal of, sometimes after having a bit of fun.
All that had changed with the arrival of the Slayer. The days of easy hunting were over and there was a new top predator in town. Some of the older, smarter vamps had even decided to leave and head for greener pastures.
But that had stopped when the Master started recruiting. Even though he was caught in his underground lair, he was still old and powerful and his servants were frightening and that meant that the number of vampires leaving had dropped rapidly after the Order of Aurelius had cracked down. But even the Master could not keep an eye on all of his minions all the time, and this night a sizeable group of them had left their barracks and headed out for some fresh, night air and blood they’d hunted for themselves. But they had to be careful if they didn’t want to be spotted by the Master’s enforcers, or the Slayer and her Witchly cohorts.
But even with all that going on, there was still the occasional lucky strike, like with the girl sitting at the bar, looking uncomfortable, her clothes showing she didn’t know much about dating and her dark hair in pigtails.
Two vamps, newly risen in the dark catacombs of Sunnydale, approached her. “Hello. Come here often?”
The girl shook her head, ducking it as well. “No,” she whispered.
The vampires grinned at each other over her head. “Want us to show you around?”
The girl shook her head, slipping off the stool. “No-no I have to leave. I-I need to get home…”
The biggest vamp put a hand on her arm and smiled. “Let us walk you there.”
“I-I can manage!” the girl protested.
“No true gentleman lets a girl go out unaccompanied,” the smaller vamp said virtuously.
“I’ll be fine!” she tried again as the two led her out. No-one paid attention, too many scenes like this had played out over the years and none of the customers wanted to risk whatever it was that made them fear the night.
The vamps led the girl into an alley and then through a door that a few hours ago had been locked. Inside was a group of about ten more, all lounging about. “Got another one!” the smallest vamp said cheerfully. “That makes four.”
“Yeah, great, that’s barely enough for all of us. Well, at least we get them freshly killed, not pre-drained by the Master’s hunters,” a bored looking vamp, dressed in leather, with piercings in his nose and ears and lip and a shaved head strolled over. “Hey, wait, I know this one!”
“Really? You know me, too? Whaddaya know, Ken! We’re famous!” a cheery voice spoke from atop a pile of boxes and crates.
Then Buffy jumped, a sword in one hand and a stake in the other. Golden-white light trailed the sword as it cut through the air and the light grew brighter as the blade sliced a vampire’s head in two. The vamps gaped at her.
Buffy calmly stabbed the stake into the vamp she landed next to and with a back-handed stroke, took off the head of another. The vampire with the split head was bubbling and gurgling on the ground.
The vampires who’d brought in Kendra had now let her go in shock. It was a fatal move, as she drew two stakes and promptly stabbed them both through the heart.
The seven remaining vamps reacted then. The bored looking vamp jumped at Kendra, one hand closing around her throat, the other chopping down hard on her left wrist.
Kendra cried out in pain and shock and dropped the stake, then tried to pierce his heart with the other, but the vamp intercepted the attack, the stake piercing the fleshy part of its lower arm. It drew its arm down, hissing in pain as it forced Kendra’s arm down with his.
Kendra drew her stake out, but the vamp was too close. She had to give up what little cover she could give herself and the vamp took advantage and punched her in the sternum.
She gasped, sure she felt her breastbone crack. *This is not a fledgling.*
The vamp smiled. “That hurt, bitch, but not as much as this will!” He brought his knee up and slammed it hard into Kendra’s abdomen.
Kendra felt the air being forcefully expelled from her body and the pressure on her neck increase as she was bent forward, and the air stir as the vamp leaned over to bite her. She heard Buffy scream her name. *Mr Zabuto would say to break his hold, to use Aikido…*
Instead she used her position and took a leaf from the vamp’s own book and punched him hard, with her injured left hand. *Or as Esther would say, a good hard blow right to the nadgers.*
She smiled in satisfaction as the vamp howled, obviously not having expected her to be able to resist any further. As he was doubled over, she brought up her right hand and drove the stake into his back.
The vamp fell into dust.
Buffy had seen the vamp move for Kendra. It didn’t move like a fledge, which worried her. But she couldn’t do anything, since there were six vamps coming for her. And she hadn’t noticed, but all the vamps were similarly dressed, in jeans and leather jackets and all had bald heads, tattoos and plenty of piercings. That might mean they knew how to fight as a team.
“Oooh, matching outfits,” she smiled. “And based on that guy from the Village People too!”
Two of the vamps reacted, charging her. She brought up the sword and stepped out of their path, chopping the head of the one nearest to her as it passed by her, then dodged the blow from a third, bent herself nearly into a half circle and kicked up and out and slammed her foot into another’s jaw. Then she popped back upright like a Jack-in-the-box and punched her stake into its chest.
She saw Kendra’s position and fear gripped her. *Shit! Still four left, and they’ll be on guard now and if she dies… She can’t die!*
The four remaining vamps were wary now, even the one who’d been amongst the first to charge her.
*I could try and by-pass them and help Ken, but that might open both of us to attacks. Dammit, why did I think this was a good idea? Why didn’t I call in the BGs? A couple of crossbows would be really useful right now.*
She blocked the clumsy strikes from two of the vamps with her stake and then lashed out with the sword. Two vamps screamed as the unnaturally sharp blade cut through flesh, bone and gristle and took off an arm at the elbow, and a hand at the wrist, respectively. Dodging another blow, Buffy’s sword flashed again and found a neck, nicely in reach as the owner had fallen to its knees, clutching the stump of his arm.
The one without a wrist had fallen back and was wailing. Buffy was not impressed. She felt a tightness in her chest relax when she saw Kendra, pale and shaken, hand pressed against her chest, covered in ashes, but with the vamp she’d been fighting nowhere in sight.
Buffy grinned. “You know, you guys really are dumb?” she ducked another clumsy blow, stabbed with the sword and got the attacking vamp in the stomach, laying it open from side to side. At the same time, she kicked at the vamp she sensed was coming at her from behind and knocked him backwards, causing him to stumble over the one who was still clutching his wrist and sobbing.
Buffy took the head off the one who she’d just disembowelled and then turned to deal with the last two enemies. They were still on the ground, trying to disentangle themselves, the wounded one screaming in pain and rage.
Rolling her eyes she stepped up and took the unwounded one’s head, then staked the other one, who was actually gibbering with fear. The one with the split head…
She looked at it thoughtfully. “We could take him home, you know, see if he recovers…”
Kendra joined her, looking more than a little wild-eyed. “Mum would make you take care of it if you do.”
“Take it for walks and clean up after it?” Buffy sighed. “The woman has no respect for my scientific interests.” She bent down and staked it.
Meier Free Clinic, night of February 9th/10th
“Okay, that didn’t go as we planned,” Buffy sat swinging her legs on one of the examination tables, as Esther and Simon gave Kendra a thorough examination. The x-rays taken earlier were still hanging on the light-box.
“What happened?” Esther asked.
“I didn’t resist the vampires because I was sure I would be able to take on both of them, but I did not expect there to be so many more,” Kendra admitted.
“And I probably should have insisted she come on the passing patrol with me, instead of letting her go sit alone in the Bronze,” Buffy admitted.
“Well, you did manage to stake twelve vampires in a single night, and you came through it more or less unharmed…” Esther’s voice trailed off at Simon’s expression.
“I do not call a fractured wrist and a broken sternum ‘more or less unharmed’,” he growled. “Nor does your mother, and she’ll want a word with both of you.”
Buffy and Kendra winced.
“Word?” Buffy ventured.
“Just a word, since this was a mistake. And then, extra strategy and tactics from Bchenka and Hurst,” Simon put the final touch to Kendra’s wrist bandage. “You could shower with this, but I want you to limit your movements until we’re sure that your breastbone has healed, so someone else will have to wash you.”
“Sim- Sir!” Kendra whined.
Simon gave her a look. “None of that, young lady. If you weren’t a Slayer, you’d be practically confined to bed with these injuries for at least two weeks. As it is, I want to hear the second you have even slight trouble breathing, or feel light headed or anything like it. That CT scan may have shown no lesions or contusions on your lungs and heart, but they might be too small to be seen, or your Slayer healing may have dissolved them without dealing with the underlying problem yet. Do you understand?”
“Yes sir,” Kendra whispered, quailing under the unusual paternal reprimand.
Simon closed his eyes and sighed, then kissed her forehead. “Sorry, sweetheart, I didn't mean to snap at you. But neither your mother nor I were very happy to get that call.”
“I understand, Sim- Dr Meier. I was just being…” Kendra shrugged as if she wasn’t quite certain.
“A normal, teenage girl, annoyed at the notion that someone else would have to help her wash and dry herself?” Simon teased.
“Dry too?” Kendra whined, then blushed as she realised what she was doing.
Simon laughed. “Yes. Sorry, but at least the first few days. And you can consider yourself lucky that you do have Slayer healing. Like I said, a normal teen would have to suffer at least two weeks of it.”
Kendra nodded again.
“Well, let’s get the two of you home, before your mother decides to pack everyone in a car and come see for herself how you’re doing,” Simon started to usher his daughters out of the room.
Angel was really, really grateful for the fact that Sunnydale was filled by what possibly were the dumbest, or least observant, people in the United States, if not the world.
Not many other places would allow a man to walk across the street with another man, naked and incompletely wrapped in a blanket, slung over his shoulder without at least someone asking about it, even if only to inquire where they got the blanket, or what the address of their SM club was.
In Sunnydale, people probably just thought it was a new ‘blanket with real feet’ or something.
That meant that Angel had no trouble reaching Hooghwater and was now standing outside the gate, had just rung the bell and was hoping that the entire household hadn’t gone to bed yet.
And that none of the Family would kill him on sight, starting with Buffy, if what he thought he dreamed had actually happened.
There was a slight noise and two of the bodyguards stepped into sight. “Mr O'Connell. How may we help you this evening?”
“I need to talk to Dr Meier, and possibly Miss Jenny,” Angel fell back into the old-fashioned terminology that he hadn't since his youth, when servants were common.
“It is rather late, Mr O'Connell,” the bodyguard pointed out.
“I know, but it's important,” Angel pleaded.
“I assume this has to do with the gentleman currently over your shoulder?” the guard sounded resigned.
“Yes,” Angel admitted. “I couldn't get here earlier.”
“We'll call the house,” The big guard stood aside and the gate opened, controlled from the guard house some distance away.
Angel stepped in.
“Who might the gentleman be?” the guard asked.
“A man called Enyos Kalderash,” Angel said. “I believe he is Miss Jenny's uncle.”
Bach’s Six English Suites, according to Johann Nikolaus Forkel, were written for an English Gentleman of rank. However, like many of Forkel’s claims, there is no actual evidence for this, but I like the notion. So there you have it.
Murray Perahia KBE (born April 19, 1947), is a famous pianist and conductor who suffered a bone abnormality in his hand that threatened his career and stopped him from performing for several years. He recovered in the mid-nineties.
Daniel Barenboim KBE (born November 15 1942) is a concert pianist and conductor who at the time this is set was Director of Music of the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra.
Sviatoslav Richter (March 20 [O.S. March 7] 1915 – August 1, 1997), was in my opinion, one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century. He found it unpleasant to play for larger groups and retired early in 1995.