parts 17 & 18
Kendra had flung herself into organizing activities for the children, helping build outdoor targets for archery, and testing the limits of the ‘reinforced indoor practice area’ that Erik and Charles had put together. She talked to Richard Kruchten about his contacts in history and university circles, and Brandon’s grandfather a few times, hoping that if there were Watchers, one of them might have some sort of connection. Historians who knew how to use the old weapons, experts in old folklore dealing with powerful warrior women… these were signs of Watchers in her own world.
Kendra stuffed the little doubt that perhaps these Watchers, should she find them, might not be of benefit to her into the back of her mind. Of course they would help a Slayer, of course they would try to make sure that she was well prepared for the dangers of this world. The whole purpose of the Watchers Council was to help the Slayer defend humanity from the dangers, from vampires and demons and dark magic. That worry settled in the back of her mind, right next to her worries that Charles had smelled of perfume.
Then one afternoon she overheard him speaking on the telephone, arranging to have dinner with Victoria that evening.
Kendra couldn’t have explained the feelings that surged in her at that moment, only that they were hot and tangled and slick, a confused, angry mess. She tried to reign in her emotions, having learned years ago that letting her emotions blind her to caution was a recipe for pain at best, perhaps even death. Unsuccessfully trying to convince herself not to be upset, she walked down the hall, more voices telling her that someone was behind the doors. Erik was in the sitting room, talking with Ms. Beaumond.
“I will be going to go into town for a while; I may not be back for some time,” Kendra commented.
Erik blinked, “Are you… isn’t it a bit early for that?”
“Not for all things,” Kendra replied. She didn’t think that Ms. Beaumond knew she was a Slayer, and doubted that it would reassure her to explain. For that matter, explaining that she would be looking for trouble in the form of vampires and demons would not go over well.
“Is Charles going with you?” Erik had a small frown.
Kendra shook her head, one hand clenched into a fist. “He is meeting Victoria for dinner, he will not be following me around de city.”
Kendra gave a small wave of her hand in acknowledgment. It was nice that he worried about her, though she wasn’t certain it was necessary. She was a Slayer, it was her destiny, her duty to go fight things. That in mind, it shouldn’t matter that Charles had a date with someone else.
Except that it did. It mattered a great deal to her.
She borrowed one of the cars, choosing one that was older and far less impressive to drive into the city. While she could drive now, her abilities were not impressive, though they were no longer an outright danger to other people on the road. She didn’t want anything that would attract too much attention in the less pleasant parts of town where she would be hunting.
She had been talking to Kruchten about old legends, tales of warrior women and heroes battling monsters. He’d mentioned writing to some of his colleagues about such stories, partly to get references to a few more of them. Kendra hoped that he might have a connection to this world’s Watchers Council. There was also the benefit that those stories might give her some warning about what sort of demons there would be in this world. And they helped prevent her from worrying about Charles and Victoria. Sometimes. For a while.
It shouldn’t matter to her. She shouldn’t be bothered by the fact that Charles had commented about Victoria’s pleasant singing voice or that he liked her red curls, he’d called them ‘pretty’. She was the Slayer, she shouldn’t let herself worry about relationships and dating and romance. That was a sure way to get herself killed even faster.
The first demon that attacked her found itself pummeled to death, listening to her growl in three languages that a Slayer did not need a boyfriend, had no time for romance, and Charles could date whomever he damn well pleased.
The second demon tried to run, but she was faster. It died quickly.
She prowled the city, feeling hundreds of eyes watching her, but nothing else was foolish enough to attack her until after the sun set. Kendra didn’t even realize that she was muttering to herself until a pair of vampires emerged from a warehouse, one tall and lean, with long tattered sleeves and long tangled hair, sneering “Poor confused woman upset by her boyfriend. We’ll make sure he never bothers your pretty head again.”
He stopped mocking when she kicked him across the alley into the wall, her own teeth bared in what couldn’t be mistaken for a smile. That was followed by a vicious punch to the ribs of his companion, shorter and equally bland looking, save for the ember like eyes and yellowed fangs.
“He is not me boyfriend,” Kendra’s growl was as menacing as anything the vampires could produce.
“Sounds like that’s been your problem, pretty. Don’t worry, he’ll be sad at the funeral,” long hair wheezed as he staggered up from the alley floor.
She couldn’t keep denying it any longer – she liked Charles. She found herself wishing that she could be the one he called pretty, the one he went out with on the evenings. She wanted to walk with him in the moonlight, to feel his arms around her and find all the appeal and mystery of kissing with him. She wanted to… Wanted all the things that as a Slayer, she would never have. Couldn’t afford to have. She liked Charles Xavier, had feelings for him. And Charles liked Victoria Grey.
Kendra found herself wishing that they’d been too late to save the red haired woman. Except that it made her feel guilty to think that way. She was the Slayer, she was supposed to save people from the vampires. Even if they did get involved with the people she was close to after that. Even if…
She buried the wistful images of Victoria dead down in the depths of her mind. Beside them, she tried to stuff the fact that she liked Charles, wanted impossible things with him. It wouldn’t happen, couldn’t happen. Given that, and his obvious interest in Victoria Grey, the last thing she wanted was for the too desirable telepath to read the wistful longings in her mind. He would only feel pity for her, and that would be intolerable.
She could feel another vampire to the south, and started towards it. Hunting and Slaying would be far simpler and less confusing than pondering her feelings. This was the reason that Mr. Zabuto had tried to teach her not to feel, to think of emotions as a weakness and distraction.
It was a very bad night for the vampires of New York City.
End part 17.
Kendra made her way back to the Xavier mansion late, just a few hours before sunrise. She had bruises and scrapes from fighting the vampires, though most had been rather ineffective. There had been several demons, thankfully nothing that couldn’t be handled with wooden stakes, a steel knife, and the abundant application of force. She wasn’t certain what two of them had been, though she felt no guilt about Slaying things that had attacked her first. A tiny part of her wondered what had happened to the young couple who had gone away with the child vampire.
To the best of her knowledge, her battles had gone without any credible witnesses. There had been a few street bums, and some prostitutes, but those were not credible witnesses, and they might very easily convince themselves that they didn’t see anything unusual. What Buffy had called ‘Sunnydale Denial’ wasn’t limited to Sunnydale, or to Hellmouths. It was a part of human nature, to explain away or forget the horrible things that shattered the normal order of life as someone knew it.
She left the car in front of the garage, not trusting her ability to park it after a long night of Slaying. Maybe if she’d been driving for years, maybe if the light was better… As it was, she didn’t want to risk hitting the other cars.
Kendra made her way to her room and sighed. She took just long enough to put a fresh, still-sharp stake on the bedside table and to make certain there was a clean knife under the pillow. Cleaning the one she’d taken on patrol would have to wait until she’d had a bit of sleep. Kicking off her shoes, she collapsed into the bed, not even stirring until well past the time when the others had eaten lunch.
Kendra woke feeling much better, and frowned at the smears of blood and other things that had been left on the sheets when she’d collapsed into bed this morning. Changing into clean clothing, she bundled the dirty sheets and the dirty clothing into a mass and dragged the whole mess to the laundry room, making a mental note to grab some clean sheets later. She cleaned the knife from patrol and went towards the kitchen, intent on food. Perhaps it would be a good idea to start keeping a fruit basket or something similar in her room for when she returned from a late patrol, or when she first woke up.
“Kendra? We missed you at breakfast,” Charles commented, lurking near the coffee pot with a mug in hand. “And at lunch, now that I’m on the subject.”
“A late patrol,” Kendra shrugged. She wasn’t certain that she wanted to hear the answer, but gathering her courage, she asked anyhow, “How was your dinner with Victoria?”
“It went…” Charles paused, pouring himself a cup of the steaming coffee as he searched for the right words. “Quite well until she mentioned that her brother just put her favorite niece into a mental institute. That rather put a damper on the evening.”
“Such t’ings take enough effort that deter must have been some reason, even if it was not a good one. What caused him to do that to de girl?” Kendra asked, an assortment of possibilities flitting though her mind.
“Apparently, one of her friends was killed in an automobile accident, she died right in front of Jean. Unsurprisingly, Jean was quite devastated, and has been quite unresponsive since then. Her father had her placed in the asylum, claiming that she’s gone mad from grief,” Charles sipped at his coffee. “Victoria was quite distraught, and was hoping that…”
“You are a telepat’, it would be very easy for you to sort out if de girl is truly mad from grief or if there is something else going on. I have heard many stories of young women locked away to prevent them from telling about terrible t’ings, or to gain inheritances. Or perhaps you could help her to recover if it is grief,” Kendra offered. “At least, it seems to me that you should be able to do such t’ings, if the minds of the insane are not too much for you to bear.”
“You raise some valid, if uncomfortable, points,” Charles sighed. “The minds of the insane can be… very disturbing. But the idea of someone locked away among the mad for other reasons is quite dreadful. Much as I wish that I could say you are worrying too much over things that belong in overly dramatic books…”
“You know better than most that dere are people who would do such a t’ing,” Kendra finished. “I would not wish such a fate on Victoria’s niece, but it would be wise to check de truth rather than rely on second or third hand information.”
“Exactly,” Charles nodded, and took another swallow of his coffee. “I should go today. If Jean is traumatized, I may be able to help. If she’s been imprisoned to keep her silent, I may be able to rescue her.”
Kendra watched as Charles left the kitchen, and all she could do was sigh. “He wants to be the brave knight, rescuing damsels in distress. What happens if the damsel can save herself?”
She spent the rest of the afternoon keeping the children busy and active outside. It was almost enough to keep her from dwelling on things best avoided, and it did keep them out of the way while some of the rooms were being worked on, with doorways being knocked out of what had been solid walls.
When Charles returned an hour before sunset, he had a young red haired girl with him. She looked to be about twelve, with two red braids and a very somber expression, and a single suitcase that she dragged behind her. Kendra was certain that this had to be Jean.
“Charles? Is she feeling better?” Kendra walked towards them, uncertain of the best way to ask. It would be rude and upsetting to ask if the girl had been falsely imprisoned, and likewise rude to ask if she’d become sane again. “Perhaps I can help her wit’ de suitcase, it seems a bit heavy for her.”
“That might be a good idea,” Charles rubbed at his chin, and then added, “It seems that young Jean is also a telepath. She didn’t just see her friend die, she felt it.”
“Papa didn’t believe me,” the girl whispered. “He said it would be okay, but I heard him, going on about how I was a problem, and a burden, and how much this was inconveniencing him… except that he said he didn’t say those things. That I wasn’t right anymore, and that he had to put me somewhere that they could fix me, only I heard him saying keep me out of the way, and make sure the neighbors didn’t find out…”
“I can only imagine how upsetting it must have been for you,” Kendra picked up the suitcase, blinking at the weight of it. Far more than she would have expected the girl to carry. “You will be joining us at de school? I think I will soon be your least favorite teacher, I will be the one telling you to run laps, and to try falling again.”
“Do I have to wear ugly gym shorts?” Jean wrinkled her nose, an image of a group of children in baggy shorts and shirts of a dark blue with no longer white stripes down the side inserting itself into Kendra’s mind with the question. “Mr. Xavier said that I had a special ability, that he’d make sure I learned how to use it. What does that have to do with running?”
“Not’ing,” Kendra admitted, leading the girl into the house and up a flight of stairs. “Charles wants to change de world, to make it a better place, one where people who have such abilities and people who do not have dem live together. But change does not always come peacefully. Someday, someone may attack you, or you may see someone being attacked in front of you, and I want to make sure you know how to react, how to be safer when danger finds you.”
“Like the civil rights protests in Alabama?” Jean asked. “I know that there’s been a lot of people getting hurt down South…”
“Somet’ing like. Why should the color of your skin, or your hair, or which church you attend make others count you as any less a person?” Kendra replied. “But many people fear what is different, and you are different. People will fear you, and what people fear, dey may attack. I want you to be able to survive.”
“Why do those people have sharp teeth? And their eyes…” Jean whispered. “You were fighting… with a sharp stick?”
“I fight vampires. Dat is why they have sharp teeth and ember eyes,” Kendra glanced at the girl, realizing that she must have gathered the images from Kendra’s mind. “I kill vampires before they can kill other people. To keep others safe. It is why I know how to fight, why I can teach you. Before you ask, I do not expect you to fight vampires, you are too young, and not strong enough.”
“Ohh,” Jean murmured. She followed Kendra down the hall to an empty room. “Do you ever get hurt fighting vampires?”
“Sometimes. It tells me where I need to improve my skills,” Kendra looked at the girl. She suspected that what Jean really wanted to ask wasn’t about injuries, but about death. “One day, I will die. You will die. Everybody dies eventually. The better question is what do you do wit’ your life before dat happens. When your soul faces de Creator, what will you have done, have fought for, have spent your life doing? I will be able to say I tried to protect people, to save those who could not save demselves. And I hope to move dat day as far into the future as I can.”
“Annie was afraid,” Jean offered. “She was afraid, and didn’t want to be alone.”
“Many people fear death, and it would be worse alone,” Kendra agreed. Part of her wanted to say that Jean was too young for such a discussion, but her friend had died, would stay dead. Events had raised these questions, and they wouldn’t go away just because the girl was young, or from a sheltered background. “I think she must have been glad to feel your presence, and I do not think she would have wanted you to suffer for trying to help her.”
Jean looked very thoughtful, and tugged the suitcase behind her into the room. Her expression said that she had a lot of thinking to do.
Kendra left the girl to her thoughts. Some things couldn’t be made better with words.
End part 18.