parts 24 and 25
Kendra had just left the dining room after dinner when Richard Kruchten called to her, “Miss Kendra, a few moments?”
Kendra gave a small nod, “Perhaps in your classroom?”
As they walked towards the History classroom, Kendra found herself pondering her chances of borrowing one of his swords. He had a splendid example of a broadsword, perfect for fighting large demons in an open area. Or perhaps one of those wonderful maces, which would have a much smaller chance of being melted by corrosive demon blood… He made idle comments about the recent weather, words that needed no response or even real consideration, but apparently would seem polite to observers. She was more worried about the way that his left hand kept twitching, as if he wanted to fiddle with something that he wasn’t carrying.
Once they reached the classroom, he closed the door, though he did leave the shade up, resulting in all but the top four inches of the window being clear with only a few fingerprints. Anyone walking by could see that they were only talking, but might not be able to hear what they were saying. She wondered if he was worried about her reputation, or what her reaction to whatever he said might be…
“I’ve been writing to my friend. The one who said that you couldn’t be the Slayer,” he began.
“Did this friend offer ways I could prove me claim?” Kendra asked, curious just what the reaction would be from a Watcher who was continually told that there was a second Slayer.
“Several,” he smiled back. “Admittedly, some of them wouldn’t be full proof by themselves. You could prove that you know how to use the weapons, that you know how to fight, which I’m already convinced. That doesn’t make you a Slayer.”
“This is true. Most who have the potential to become Slayers are trained from an early age in the skills that a Slayer needs. Many who become Watchers are also taught these skills, as dey are the ones to teach Slayers,” Kendra agreed, her accent thickening just a little. She’d been trying to work on concealing her accent, certain that it would only draw attention in this place. Attention that could easily help vampires and demons to find her, to attack when she was not as ready, or to attack the children instead. It wasn’t an easy task.
“He mentioned that only certain types of sensitivity can detect vampires and demons without seeing them, or identify a vampire that is in their human mask. Some traditions of mages, so he claimed, could do this. I’m not sure if I believe in magic, but I do know that I don’t want to get into that discussion right now,” he settled at his desk and began to rummage through one of the drawers.
“Magic does make things more complicated,” Kendra agreed.
“I think that Charles might be able to do it, what with his abilities and all, but I doubt that Quentin knows anyone like Charles. He said the ones who have the greatest chance of feeling demons and vampires are Slayers, potential Slayers, and certain families that carry the potential.”
“I was told that many Watchers are drawn from families that carry the potential. That the potential can rest through generations before being strong enough that a daughter might be Called,” Kendra mused. She’d wondered occasionally what happened to the girls who trained their potential and were never Called, if they became Watchers, or married Watchers, or if they just left to try to build a life on their own. Mr. Zabuto had told her once that if she wasn’t Called by twenty, then she wouldn’t be Called at all unless the end of the world threatened.
“You’ll understand, I hope, if I’d rather not go out looking for demons and vampires to see if you can feel them before they attack us,” his voice suggested that the words were almost a joke, though the subject was too serious to be amusing.
“That would not be a wise idea. If we found too many, you could be in great danger,” Kendra agreed.
“I think the easiest thing would be to test your strength and reflexes. I know that you’re strong, but that doesn’t always mean Slayer strong. Especially here, you could still be a mutant, but it would definitely prove that you could do things that ordinary humans couldn’t.”
Kendra pulled up her sleeve, revealing the gauze that was wrapped around her arm, and pulled a roll of fresh gauze from her pocket. “I was injured on patrol, and I do not wish to do t’ings that would strain dis arm while it is healing. As a Slayer, I will heal faster than an ordinary human, but it will still take some time.”
Producing a small knife, she sliced away the old bandages, which she could see were ready to be changed. There were small spots of reddish brown, and a few more that were almost a yellow. As the gauze fell down into his round metal trash can, Richard Kruchten’s face took on a paler, almost greenish cast and his eyebrows rose higher while his mouth tightened.
The last of the gauze fell away, revealing the ragged bite that swept over her forearm, now framed by a slight swelling and dark purple bruising. The stitches were a pale tan that showed up very well against her skin, even where it wasn’t purple from the bruising. To Kendra’s relief, there was no pus, no foul odor, and only a little swelling from the bruising, and no more pain than she’d expect from having such a large and deep bite wound.
He made a small noise.
“It will heal. I can show you a few feats of strength and of reflexes, but I would prefer to avoid flips or much use of this arm for a few more days. If you could hold the end of the gauze just on the inside of me wrist, please?” Kendra let the end of the gauze dangle. His dismayed expression convinced her that he’d taken a far closer look at the injury than he’d wanted, and was now quite convinced of its severity.
With just a little bit of assistance from Richard Kruchten, Kendra re-bandaged her arm. “We can go to the gym, and I will lift some t’ings, as much as possible wit one hand. Perhaps you could toss a knife towards me, catching knives is a normal test of a Slayer. If you can catch a thrown knife, you can probably block a demon fist.”
“You’re asking me to throw a knife at you?”
“So long as it isn’t when I have me back to you, there should be no trouble. Shall we go to de gym?” Kendra gave a small smile.
“Are you certain that if I throw a knife, you can catch it?” He picked up that letter opener that looked like a miniature broadsword from his desk.
She wasn’t pleased by the way he looked so shocked when she did catch the little sword. Had he thought that she was joking about her abilities?
In the gym, she lifted a variety of things, and used her good arm to lift the weight bar, which currently held somewhere a bit past four hundred pounds. “I t’ink much more than dis an’ I would need to help balance wit me other hand.”
“You’re holding four hundred and thirty pounds up with one hand. No ordinary woman could do that, certainly not while making it look so casual,” he was staring, eyes shifting from her gauze wrapped arm to the hand on the bar, to the weights on the far end before slipping back towards her injured arm. “You’ve certainly convinced me about your strength and reflexes.”
“Good to know,” Kendra smiled at him, lowering the weighted bar to the ground.
“If I tell him about this, maybe Quentin can come here and help figure out how this happened? How you ended up here, maybe even a way to get you home?” his words were soft, and his eyes fixed at the weight, suggesting that he was still trying to understand how she could do that.
“An explanation would be appreciated,” Kendra murmured. When she’d first awakened in this world, she would have jumped at the chance to go home… as much as her injury would permit, at least. Now the idea was not quite as appealing. She would miss debating with Charles and Erik, and she’d promised to help teach the students to fight, to not be as easily injured. To teach Jean and Misty how to meditate. She would miss Charles, though that might make things much simpler.
“I’ll write to him.”
End part 24.
Kendra left Richard Kruchten to his thoughts and efforts at composing a letter to his associate the Watcher, this Quentin. As she walked away, it occurred to her that she didn’t know how long it would take him to compose his letter, or how long for the letter to reach his friend. Or even if his friend would come to Westchester, New York in response. Let alone a timeframe for such a visit…
She walked along the hallway, trying to focus on what she could do while still injured. Meditation lessons for Jean and Misty, encouraging running and basketball for all the children…
“Good evening Kendra. I’m surprised you aren’t preparing to go on another patrol,” Charles spoke from one of the rooms further down the hallway.
“Not tonight,” she offered a thin smile. “I was bitten by a demon last night, and need to give me arm time to heal.”
“A demon? Are you certain that it wasn’t simply a mutant who couldn’t pass for human?” he looked quite alarmed, his eyebrows rising as he spoke. Perhaps he was still reluctant to believe in demons, though she’d forced him to see that vampires were deadly real… and apparently he couldn’t read their minds.
“I head a scream first. By the time I reached them, it had killed the man, and was chewing on his liver while the woman was attempting to hide in a doorway. It then tried to kill me. As I said before, killing and eating people makes a demon, and demons must be slain,” she countered. Kendra focused on the memory of the demon, crouched over Vanessa’s boyfriend, and on the memory of her arm after that fight. She wasn’t certain if the memory of decapitating it and kicking the severed head into the building across the street went to Charles or not. “I lost count of the stitches in me arm, and do not think I will be patrolling for perhaps a week.”
“Ahh… yes, definitely quite hostile. Your arm… are you certain that it will be healed enough in a week to resume patrols?” Charles stammered, his gaze dropping to the gauze before rising to meet her eyes.
“Slayers heal quickly,” Kendra reminded him.
“You did mention that when you first came here,” he admitted.
“Have you and Erik been making progress with your mutant scanner?” Kendra hoped to change the subject away from her injury, away from patrols.
Charles gave a smile and a chuckle, “A bit. We put it together, plugged it into the socket, and promptly blacked out the basement. So after we replaced the fuse, we put in a generator for the Cerebral Scanner, and there were no sparks, no smoke, and no scents of scorching wiring.”
“A bit of progress then. Have you tested to see if it actually works?” She smiled back at him.
“Well,” Charles fidgeted a little, before admitting, “We thought about it. But Erik said that the electrical current running through the helmet to amplify innate detections was strong enough that it could be harmful…”
“So you need to make a few more adjustments, so that you do not give yourself an electric shock when you attempt to use it?”
Charles nodded, “Without removing the enhancing effect. It seems to be a tricky balance.”
“Most t’ings that are worthwhile are hard. If it is not worth fighting for, bleeding for, then why go after it? If you are not willing to work, to fret and fail and try again, then how will you know you have accomplished anything? You and Erik are trying to build a tool to change de whole world. Why should it be easy?” Kendra spoke slowly, trying to keep her accent from surfacing.
“I suppose it does seem more understandable when you put it into that perspective,” Charles admitted.
“I think your school will be a faster tool to change de world. It does not matter how far away you can find mutants unless you can get to them and teach them to work towards a more peaceful future. To give dem the tools they will need when they face adversity and danger, fear and anger at them just for being different. To persuade them that the future you want is a good goal, one worth working and fighting and maybe even dying for,” Kendra offered. “An’ de school is less likely to give you electric shocks.”
She didn’t expect him to sigh and slump against the wall, rubbing his temple.
“Charles? You look… more den electrical shocks are bothering you. Will you talk t’ me about your problems?” she moved closer, reaching out to place her hand against his shoulder.
“You understand how important the school is to me. Why I want to change the world, and teach young mutants to build a better tomorrow,” he leaned against her, and whispered, “Why can’t Victoria understand? Why does she keep expecting Jean to go back to the way she was before?”
“She does not understand what happened to Jean. She knows that her friend died, but not that Jean was with her, that their minds were touching. Victoria does not understand how much somet’ing like that would hurt. Jean will never be the same as she was before her friend died. She might gain control over her power, she might stop having nightmares, but Jean – like the rest of us – can only go forwards wit her life,” Kendra whispered. “Death is hard to understand, and it hurts the first time.”
“When does it stop hurting?” Charles murmured.
“Eventually, the pain of her friend’s death will lessen. The same will happen for those she will lose in de future. But if it ever stops hurting to lose the ones around you, then you have lost a part of yourself, of your soul,” Kendra remembered the long talks about death and sacrifice and compassion that she’d had with Mr. Zabuto, and with Mr. Giles in Sunnydale. About how it was part of what made her human to ache when she couldn’t save someone, that it was natural that it hurt worse to see a friend’s face on the dead instead of a stranger. That she should pray that it never stopped hurting.
“Another example of those things that are worth it not being easy?”
“Very much so.” She touched his cheek, wondering if he knew that the pain was visible in his eyes. Wondering if he talked to Victoria like this. “But you do not need to be alone wit such pain. Jean does not need to be alone. Part of this is to teach people how to be together, to help each other and work together.”
“Of course,” Charles gave a weak smile. “We’ll need to make sure that the students of our school know that. Hopefully without learning in quite such a blunt and bloody way as you did, Kendra. Your Mr. Zabuto was not very sympathetic.”
As she found herself pulled into the library to look over the plans for his scanner again, Kendra wondered just when it had changed from her listening to Charles and Erik planning their school to her being such a strong part of it. He wouldn’t have called it ‘our school’, including her in that ‘our’ if she was merely a fighting and fitness instructor.
Taking a seat in one of the chairs and watching as his finger traced over blue lines, Kendra decided that it didn’t really matter when things had changed. She had a place here, one that wasn’t dependent on her ability to kill demons. She had people that enjoyed her company… possibly even people that might become friends. She was the closest to happy that she could ever recall being.
End part 25.