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Like a tunnel that you follow

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This story is No. 4 in the series "That the autumn leaves were turning". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Buffy and Willow head into the Womble Burrow

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Literature > Childrens/Teen(Current Donor)vidiconFR15525,9101194,24517 Jul 1125 Mar 12Yes

Little Slayer lost

Author’s note:

This story contains references (again) to HM Queen, Elizabeth II of Great Britain and the Commonwealth.

It should be quite clear by now that this is an AU and that I’m completely ignoring the so called season 8 and onwards as published in Comics. Certi sunt denique fines. 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the property of Joss Whedon

The Famous Five are the creation of Enid Blyton

The Wombles are the creation and property of Elisabeth Beresford

A lot of the metaphysics behind the way in which Slayers function as a group I’ve lifted from ACS’s Portal girl and the Science lady who’s kindly given me permission to use it. (But pointed out it might not be original.) Anyway, my thanks.

This is the fourth instalment in this series, and the Wombles are back! 

Like a tunnel that you follow

It was large building, imposing looking, a rebuilt version of an older Georgian construction that had been almost completely destroyed by an explosion. The new version looked like its predecessor, but Wellington, through his contacts in town planning knew that it incorporated much more modern construction techniques, which it could stand up against five times the amount of explosives that had destroyed the former one and still be no more than superficially damaged.

Wellington Womble was not easily frightened these days, but the situation was getting serious. The Wombles needed help. He took a deep breath and walked into the building, noting the Latin motto over the door. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who guards those selfsame guardians., Or who watches the watchers? How very appropriate.

There were three young women in the hall and several young men in uniforms. It was obvious to the Womble who the more dangerous occupants were. He went to the front desk and cleared his throat.

“Good morning Miss, my name is Wellington Womble and I need to speak to Dr. Giles or another person in authority. It is a matter of some urgency.”

“I assume you have no appointment?” The young woman behind the counter was slim, brunette and gorgeous but she hardly registered on Wellington’s mind. Wombles held different standards of beauty after all.

“I’m afraid not, but it is urgent and he does know me.”

“Just a minute please.”

Just then the door opened and two young women came in. The second tallest, for she could not be called short, of them was a well built brunette with golden tinges in her hair. She was walking next to the tallest, a long legged svelte black haired beauty with dark brown eyes and a sun bronzed skin. Her hair was cut quite short but still her loose black curls enchantingly framed her spare oval face.  

“Look George, I realise things were different in the forties but you no longer need just a few pairs of trousers. You need some things to make you feel pretty.”

“I see no reason to be pretty. Boys don’t have to look pretty.”

“George, you won the equality wars ok? There’s a bloody chapter on you in the feminist history books, you can dress up and be a girl!”

“What if I don’t want to?”

“Look, I’m sure you’ll feel better about dresses once you’ve got a couple of pretty ones...” The shorter girl wheedled.

“I see no reason to own any whatsoever.” The girl called George said repressively.

“What about underwear that’s not tighty whities?”

“What I wear is comfortable.” George blushed slightly at the mention of her underwear.

“Yeah but hardly boyfriend snaring material.” The shorter girl pointed out.

George glared down at the shorter girl. “Why is everyone so utterly intent on getting me a boyfriend? My mother has been dropping hints like billy-o  about grandchildren and Julian and Dick have been talking about propagating Dad’s genes, whatever they are, as if I’m some sort of...race horse!”

Dawn sighed. “Look, I know all this is new for you, but you don’t have to fight everything anymore, we have your back.”

George looked at her as if she’d grown wings. Dawn sighed again. “I mean we’re here to help you.”

“Ah.” George turned towards the counter, taking in the small man in the furry overcoat and the neat hat and briefcase and blinked. Not a man. Not an overcoat. She took a step towards it and sniffed. She’d smelled something similar in Hyde Park.

“A Womble? How may we help you sir?”

The Womble made a bow. “Wellington Womble, Miss. At your service, I need to speak to Dr Giles about a matter of some urgency.”

Dawn grinned. “You’re the Womble archivist! I’m Dawn Summers, I’m the Council’s Chief Archivist, or at least I’ll be once I’ve finished college.”

“Indeed? I look forward to working with you. Have you ever read Stow’s Secret Survey of London? ”

George coughed. Buffy had warned her about Dawn’s tendency to veer off into tangents of research. Apparently it was an occupational hazard. “I assume you’re here with a reason Mr. Womble? Other than speaking about ancient texts?”

Wellington nodded vigorously. “Indeed I am. I wanted to discuss the matter with Dr. Giles.”

Dawn nodded. “We’ll take you up. Kathy, thanks.”

Kathy had been looking at George with a very intent expression and blushed. “Sure thing, Miss Summers.”

George squirmed before striding away to the elevator leading the others. They exited on the 9th floor, the Executive level of the Council building. Most of the old one had been filled with records and the intention was that the new one would be as well. As of yet the main archives were still in a hidden location in Cornwall.

A young Slayer stared when George walked by. George flinched under her gaze and scooted into the Executive offices. Meredith looked up and then down quickly. “You may walk right in Miss Kirrin, Dawn.”

Giles rose as the three entered. “Dawn, Miss Kirrin, Mr. Womble, what an unexpected surprise. How may I help you? Have a seat. Can I offer you tea?”

Wellington sat in a comfortable leather armchair, his short legs dangling, and then moved back so only his feet were off the seat. “Tea please, no sugar or milk but a dash of lemon.”

Giles set water to boil in his little kitchenette and filled a tea egg with loose tea. George sat in a corner of the room while Dawn faced Wellington with curiosity on her face.  

Giles turned. “I assume you’re here with a reason Mr. Wellington. So let us get to it.”

Wellington took a deep breath. “About twenty five years ago we had to abandon our Burrow on Wimbledon Common because of the noise and vibrations caused by the local traffic and some of us moved into a deeper burrow on the Common while others, most of us, moved into a large Burrow in Hyde Park. The latter had been abandoned for many years, centuries. It had obviously been long in use. We never found out why it had been abandoned…until recently.”

A knock at the door interrupted the tale and a young Slayer brought in a box of confectionery. She put the box down and looked at George. Giles cleared his throat and the girl moved backwards out of the room, her eyes never leaving George, not even when she stumbled over the sill. George shrank in on herself.

Wellington continued, bemused by the by play. “About two months ago my cousins Bungo, Alderney and Orinoco while investigating a draught in one of the chambers on the lower level came upon a bricked in door set with certain signs and runes.” Wellington opened his briefcase and retrieved a small sheaf of papers. “I reconstructed them as best I could, I’m no expert but to me these look like protective seals.”

He handed the papers to Giles and Dawn. Giles nodded thoughtfully. “Standard protective seals, modifications of Ogham as well as Futhark… Dawn?”

“I think some of these may be Sumerian in origin, but again they’re just a bit different.”

Wellington sighed. “We think they were made by a Womble and since Wombles aren’t human the basic form would have to be different.”

Giles leaned forward. “A Womble magic user? Is that common?”

“Most of our magic is innate; we have talents at hiding and obscuring which are useful, camouflage and such. Demon summoning, wards and portals, much less so.”

“And you don’t know why the seals were set?”

“My cousins have no knowledge of magic, even the little magic we do use, mostly only our Elders practice, and we can’t ask them because they are missing.”

“Missing?” Giles was startled.

“Yes. All three of my cousins are missing, as well as several others, including Madame Cholet and Great Grand Uncle Bulgaria. We are not equipped with dealing with such matters and were hoping that you’d be willing to help us?” Wellington turned hopeful eyes to Giles, his black eye enlarged by his glasses and making him look like a pleading puppy.

“By all means, I will assign a Slayer…”

There was a knock and Giles looked up, disturbed. “Enter.”

A young Slayer, no more than fifteen, entered carrying a brief. “The Connemara case, sir…”

“There was no hurry about that Fleur.” Giles noted the intent gaze the girl turned on George. The older slayer rose, walked past the younger one and left, slamming the door behind her. There was a second thud as something struck it.  Giles gave the young Slayer an angry glare. “Fleur…”

Fleur blushed and looked close to tears. “I’m sorry sir, it’s just…”

Giles let out a deep sigh. “Fleur…please let the others know…again…that it is impolite to stare.”

Fleur nodded and ran off.

“Mr Womble…I’ll be sending a team to investigate. If you would meet them tonight at Hyde Park Corner? You can inform the team of the further specifics there.”

“I will be there. Thank you.”

“Dawn, would you be so kind as to show Mr. Wellington out?”

Dawn nodded. “Of course. Why don’t I get some particulars of the case…”

Giles smiled. “Very well Dawn. Mr Wellington, Miss Summers will be part of the team. Will she do as a liaison?”

Wellington nodded, pushing his glasses further up his nose. “That will be fine.”

Giles let them out and looked at Meredith. His secretary sighed. “She just ran out, she didn’t say anything where she would be and…” She held up a badly broken mobile phone. “She threw this at the door.”

Giles looked over his shoulder and noted that one of the panels was badly dented. He took of his glasses and his handkerchief and started polishing. “Oh dear… Meredith, would you call Buffy please?”

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Buffy Summers was packing a suitcase for a trip to Scotland with the door to the sitting room open. Admittedly Scotland in November was not an ideal holiday location but as Willow pointed out this meant more time spent indoors. They expected the Insleyfarn matter to take a day at most and the rest of the two weeks would be spent in Edinburgh and Glasgow dealing with minor vampire infestations and then shopping and exploration.

The local Slayers had had an embarrassing run in with a Cat Sìth which had diminished the respect in which they were held by local demons and vampires. Being given the run around by a mischievous housecat and respect were not mixy things. The Cat Sìth had even got away. That was another matter that needed to be addressed.

Willow was searching through colour swathes and types; she wanted to look at soft furnishing materials in Scotland so that the two of them could fit their new apartment in a suitable style. She was already packed, as always being more organized than her girlfriend. Girlfriend. The relationship was new enough to make both of them giggle and tingle at the term.

They’d asked Giles to assign them a three bedroom apartment, a bedroom for each of them for now and a magic room for Willow, though they had noticed they slept better when they shared a bed. Buffy had a deep seated need to be near Willow and Willow felt safer near Buffy.

There was a knock at the door and Xander came in carrying his personal tools. Though now the Director of Operations he still liked working with his hands and insisted on doing most of the work on their apartment personally.

“Heya Wills. No Buffster in the buff?” He winked and looked ridiculously disappointed.

Both women groaned. Dawn had been unable, and unwilling, to hide the manner in which she had discovered their relationship. At least she’d limited herself to telling Giles and Xander. So far. Xander grinned, well pleased with their reaction.

“So, how goes the planning for the trip?”

“Well I’ve got most of the bigger shops I think we should visit down and Buffy’s agreed to visit Glasgow to see Rennie Mackintosh’s work, ‘cause I think it’d look really good for the living room and she says I totally need to do my room in William Morris design and she would look completely gorgeous in a pre Raphaelite dress, but that’s not the point, and I want to visit the Willow tearooms and Buffy thinks that Art Nouveau is neat and she wants it for the hall as well but I think that may be a bit much…”

Xander grinned. Willow had been babbling her happiness for a week now. In his long experience Willow babbled more when she was happy than at any other time and it had been a long time since she’d been this happy which meant an almost constant stream of babble. He loved it.

“No of course not. I meant getting the accent down. You can’t walk around Scotland without sounding like Scotty!”

A pillow from Buffy’s bedroom hit him dead centre on the forehead.

“Is there a reason you’re here, Xander?” Buffy stuck her head around the doorjamb looking like a fierce blonde angel.

“Just dropping of the ole toolbox. I’ll be working on the rougher bits we discussed while you’re gone so you and Wills can start work on the soft furnishings. I brought some sketches and colour schemes you should both like.” He dug in his tool kit and brought out a folder which he handed to Willow. Buffy joined her on the couch. The girls looked at the drawings. Willow’s eyes widened and then she looked up.

“These are dated two days after I broke up with Kennedy!”

“Well I didn’t know Buff was doing the Honey trap thing with the Immortal, but I did hope she’d come to her senses and then you’d both come to your senses.” The one eyed man shrugged.

The girls exchanged looks. They rose and hugged Xander tightly. “Xander Harris…you’re one of a kind…for which I suppose we should be glad…”

Xander smiled widely, hugging both of them back. “What can I say? I notice things.”  Willow smacked him lightly on the back of his head.

“Twerp.”

Xander grinned again. “So if you two love nest building love birds are ready for me to work on your bower, you’ll let me know?” He waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

Buffy and Willow both lightly tapped his head at the same time. “Ow!”

“Double twerp.”

Buffy’s mobile went. “Y’hello?”

“Miss Summers? Dr Giles needs to speak to you, it’s urgent, I’ll put him on.”

“Buffy? This is Giles?”

“Giles? What’s wrong?”

“It’s George…the girls have been staring at her again and she’s run off, without her phone.”

“Oh damn. I’ll try and find her…Giles?”

“Yes?”

“Go kick Andrew for me.”

“Most certainly. Buffy, be careful, and please hurry…”

“Don’t worry Giles, in this case I’ll have Willow cast a locator spell.”

“Where do you get the personal item? You can’t break down her door. What little trust she has in us would be lost.” Giles sounded alarmed at the notion.

“I gathered up a few good chunks of hair when she went to the hairdresser.”

“Sneaky.” Xander said from his place on the couch. Giles coughed on the other side.

Buffy stuck out her tongue at Xander.  “I’ve learned from the best. We’ll find her Giles, don’t worry.”

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Buffy walked quickly. The tall, slim figure was sitting on the railing of the bridge in away that worried her.

“Go away, Buffy.”

“No. We don’t leave our sisters when they’re hurting.”

George laughed, bitterly. “Sisters? Is that why they all look at me as if I’m a freak? I thought I’d get at least a little acceptance…” Her voice was devoid of hope.

Buffy hopped onto the rail beside the other girl tactfully ignoring the tear tracks down her face.

“Yah…that’s partly ‘cause of Andrew.”

“Andrew? The guy in charge of Demon recognition? What the Hell has he got to do with anything?”

“Well he’s part of the Archive staff…and he went to the Deep archives, you know the ones in the mine? And he dug around for everything the Old Council had on you.” Buffy looked almost embarrassed.

“Oh lovely…so all my crimes have been help up to the light? The blood on my hands?”

“You broke the legs and arms of those men, George, they all survived. And regrettably lived to kill two other slayers. No blood on your hands.” Buffy pointed out gently.

“Kittbridge-Johnson died.” Buffy could hear the girl’s voice breaking as she mentioned her watcher.

“You just broke his jaw and four ribs.” *And kicked him in the nuts hard enough to make him sing soprano for the rest of his life, however short that might have been…* Buffy though to herself very quietly.  “The Council killed him and put the blame on you.”

George stiffened. “How the hell do you know all this?”

“Well, they wrote everything down. They were mad for keeping records.”

“So why do they all look at me as if I’ve got three heads?” George asked belligerently.

Buffy snorted. “Remember when I told you about the pecking order?”

“Yes...”

“Okay…first, we’re not used to having other Slayers about, so there’s this whole Queen Bee thing with the younger ones, they establish the order by kicking butt on the exercise mat and killing stuff. The older you are, the more experience, the higher your standing is. Number of Apocalypses successfully prevented and with what back up. You served in Sunnydale or fought the First, you get extra credit, like the Medal of Honour or something. A Victoria Cross if you’re a Brit.”

George smiled in spite of her black mood. “Yes, strength, skill and experience equal standing. We covered this before.”

“Yeah, bear with me. Okay, Faith: She was called in 1998, went dark for a bit, we all know that. She’s tough, very tactically sound, an excellent leader, fought in the Battle of Sunnydale. Very strong, we think that the Chosen Slayers are all stronger than the Awakened ones. We won’t know that until and if someone gets called when Faith dies, which we hope won’t be for a long time…”

George nodded. “Yes indeed. “You can tell the difference?”

“Willow can, I think I can too, now that there’s two of you for me to sense. We’ll see if you and Faith can pick it up as well. But anyway, I’m top dog, lots of experience, been dead and the Line was Awakened through me, we don’t know how that affects things but they get really weird around Dawn.”

“She smells like you a lot, more than any sister I know.”

“Another thing, your Slayer senses are really, really scary. Your hearing and smell are way of the scale even for one of us. So that’s probably your special. Like Faith’s Sensing things and Vi’s speed.”

“Hmmmm…I see.”

“But to get back to the point, you. You were called when you were just fifteen and you served for three years with and almost another eight months without a Watcher. Also Andrew compiled a list of the things you killed and did. Two apocalypses averted; that guy who wanted to open the closed gate under Stonehenge.”

“Crowley, yes. Annoying guy. He had those weird tentacle demons with that yellow mucous. It took Annie ages to devise something to get it out of our hair.”

“And then there was the girl who opened the Blood gate in the Tower using the dug up body of Anne Boleyn.” Buffy grimaced. “Which was way yuck to read about, by the way.”

“That was hardly an apocalypse, she was completely ineffectual. All she had were a couple dozen fledglings and that thing that I pushed of the Big Ben.”

“Couple dozen fledglings, yeah. Which you took on alone. We think the thing on Big Ben was a Surtsey demon by the way. Aat any rate those apocalypses, the Hag of the Mists in Wales, the Beast of Bodmin, the Dullahan of Kent, the Grey Monk of Rievaulx, that guy who called himself the Son of Dracula, Slaying Queen Cordelia, the thing you did with burying the mermaid of Padstow and the strangling of the Black Dwarf of Islay. And that Turok Han you took down in the ruins of Amesbury.”

“I-I almost forgot some of those. And that was a Turok Han? You took on an army of those things?!” George lifted her shirt, looking at a vicious scar on her abdomen and shuddered. “Thing almost got me too…”

“Yes. Almost. George, you’re not only way up there…” Buffy waved her hand above her head. “To most of those girls…Faith thinks that way about you as well. That makes you number two.”

Buffy took a deep breath. “They don’t stare at you because they hate you George, they do it because they stand in awe of you.”

“Oh…” The younger girl seemed shocked by the notion.

“George, when I did my Cruciamentum…I almost kicked out Giles and told the Council to go stuff themselves, but I was too scared, too many tales of Slayers failing without their Watchers or the Council.” She looked at the little waves lapping against the bridge pier below them and shivered.

“I was terrified as well. It was mostly my temper…” George shrugged, looking embarrassed.

“Whatever the reason, you did it. And well, Faith and me, we’re very glad to have you. We all are.”

“Can you get them to stop staring at me?” George sounded plaintive.

Buffy grinned. “Well, not the gay ones. You got legs all the way up to that firm round ass, girl. ”

“BUFFY!!!” George blushed furiously.

Buffy almost fell of the bridge with laughter. “Thought you’d gotten used to that what with Anne and Susan making out at the Ball…”

“Not to mention the fact you almost buried your face in Willow’s cleavage.” George added nastily, still blushing.

“Hey, it’s not my fault someone spiked the cider!”  Buffy flushed.

“You weren’t drunk. At least not on alcohol.” George said snarkily.

Buffy flushed. “What, you kept track of what I drank?”

George tapped her nose. “No, I didn’t smell any alcohol. Just… other things. You two were almost as bad as Anne and Susan.” The blush on George’s face had travelled down her neck and Buffy was sure covered her from head to toe. George might have known about such things, discussing them this freely was still new to her.

“Only almost? Holy…” Buffy swallowed audibly, suddenly very hot.

“Yeah…” George somersaulted onto the bridge deck, the hood of her jacket flapping. “I need to kill something. Is there anything to do in London these days?” She asked with annoyance in her voice.

“Well, Wills wants to see that Womble burrow. Dawn has been gushing about that Wellington guy. So I volunteered to go check into some missing Wombles and a formerly warded portal. We could do with another Slayer, one with more experience than Heidi.”

“Heidi? The little blonde who should be labouring under permanent back pains?” George looked down at her modest bust almost automatically.

Buffy sniggered. “Yeah. Faith’s made a book on when she’ll knock herself out.”

George rolled her eyes. “Oh, very well. It’s probably the only thing to do in London right now. Even the docks had no vamps. The docks always had vamps!” She whined plaintively. Not that George Kirin would ever admit to whining.

Buffy grinned. “Slayer central now George…or one of them at least. C’mon lets go,Will’s been aching to get underground.”

“Well let’s go then, wouldn’t want to keep your little witch waiting. I thought you were going to Scotland?”

“Snowstorm. And you. We won’t miss much.”

“Oh. I see. And Buffy? Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

The two broke into an easy run that no normal human could have matched. They weren’t even breathing hard when they arrived at Hyde Park Corner. There were three persons waiting there. George’s sensitive nose recognized Willow, Dawn and Heidi.

“Dawn? What are you doing here?” Buffy asked.

George grinned. She didn’t know how Buffy had known it was her sister, but her tone of voice made her displeasure clear.

“Heya Buff…”

“Dawn, we agreed that you’d stay away until we gave the all clear.”

Dawn sniffed. “No, you decided.”

“With good reason! You never get through these things without me having to rescue you at least once. And last time you vomited on my shoes.”

“I can’t help it that that possessed Merry-Go-Round went so fast!”

“You could not have gotten on the stupid thing in the first place!”

“But it was a Merry-Go-Round!” Dawn whined.

“You’ll stay here! Or at the very least in the safe part of the Burrow. If the Wombles don’t lock you up.”

There was a polite cough. Wellington Womble stepped from the shadows and bowed politely. “That won’t be needed. I’m certain Miss Summers will be quite happy in our library. No need for her to go into the deeper tunnels.”

“But…” Dawn started to protest.

“Dawn Frances Summers! It’s that or I’ll tell Giles to assign Andrew as your permanent assistant!”

Dawn shut up.
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