The boys left the next morning, grumbling about aches and stiffness from his rather limited hospitality. While he’d tried, the flat hadn’t been intended to be the home for more than one man, and there were limits to what he had been able to do. The aftereffects of their fear and the shock of first being attacked by a vampire and then having that event confirmed, with additional warnings, had left them unable to sleep well. While the sun was fully up before they left, they wasted little time in departing.
Wesley wondered just what they might say about their misadventure at the club, and if they would remember just how close they’d come to disaster, especially Manuel. Only time would tell him that. Another part was wondering if they’d been spotted leaving his flat, and if so, what appalling rumors might start. The mere thought was enough to make him want to bury himself in old tomes and hide. But that wouldn’t save him.
As he considered the tempting idea of hiding, Wesley concluded that while his books of prophecy and demonology were familiar, they wouldn’t shield him from this. For that matter, hiding among the books in his flat could only make him look guilty, and perhaps inspire rumors if there were none floating about. No, if he was going to hide, it should be in a way that didn’t look like hiding. Perhaps in his office, or one of the benches near the pond. The view was lovely, and the surroundings generally tranquil and scenic, as well as being rather in view of a large area, but they weren’t frequented during the week, being rather far from the classes. Yes, an ideal way to hide, especially if he had a stack of papers and some red pens – he’d simply look like he wanted a bit of fresh air while grading papers.
Thus Wesley found himself on one of the benches, intermittently grading papers and letting his mind wander as the swans drifted past. He couldn’t do anything else about possible rumors, though he’d seen more than a few students meandering by, in a position to see him. This would establish that he was out in the open, theoretically approachable, and not appearing to hide anything. Neither of the young men had come to permanent harm last night. And while he wanted to go forth and rid the area of the vampires before any of the students here could be harmed, he would need a plan if he was to do more than wander around with a crossbow – and how would he explain that to the police? – and possibly become another casualty.
His stomach was making a strong case for lunch when a shadow fell over the pages in front of him. The shadow had decidedly feminine curves, causing one eyebrow to lift as he glanced up to see who had walked over to him. Emma Frost arched an eyebrow back at him, one hand resting on her hip, the knee length skirt slit almost to the top of her thigh, and seeming far more solid than the wispy camisole she wore, both of them naturally white. For a moment, his mind wandered off, wondering what, if anything, she had beneath the camisole, and if her motives in approaching him might be half as carnal as the daydreams that she inspired.
Trying to stuff those musings to the back of his mind, Wesley could feel himself flushing as he stammered, “Madame Frost… ahh… good afternoon… erm… Was there something that you wanted?”
“Answers.” Her voice was cool, and the half smile suggested that either she wasn’t angry at him or he was about to be torn to quivering bloody shreds. Either one was possible with that expression.
“Perhaps you should ask me then? I can hardly give you the right answers unless I know the questions,” Wesley reminded himself to breathe, fought to keep from stammering and babbling. He didn’t know what was going on, but he hadn’t done a single bloody thing to be ashamed about.
“Haroun and Manuel’s night out.” She moved to sit on the end of the bench, the skirt falling to reveal more of her leg in a tantalizing display of feminine flesh. “What happened, and how did you get caught up in things?”
Wesley sighed, and forced himself to look upwards, at her face instead of that lovely pale leg. “You must understand that I wasn’t there for the first part, and had to piece together from what they said and didn’t say. As near as I can tell, Manuel decided that they should go to this club, and he convinced or manipulated Haroun into going with him. At the club, Manuel beheld a buxom woman in a close-fitting dress and sought to gain her attentions… Unfortunately, she was a vampire and bit him. Not terribly deep, and I do hope the antibiotic will prevent an infection, but it might leave a scar. They fled the club, and… wound up back on campus, almost bumping into me as I left the offices. They wanted some medical help without being told they were delusional boys who only thought a woman had sprouted fangs because they’d been drinking too much. I had a medical kit at the flat, patched them up, and neither of them wanted to set foot out in the dark after that experience. They left this morning, muttering that my sofa and recliner make terrible beds.”
He wasn’t certain, but it looked rather like Emma Frost was attempting not to giggle.
“Most people don’t choose their living room sets by their sleeping merit,” Emma Frost was definitely fighting back giggles.
While a part of Wesley’s mind boggled at the sight of Emma Frost giggling, another part focused on the larger picture. “Dare I ask what brought this to your attention?”
“Manuel was acting oddly… humble, I suppose you could say. Between that and the bandage peeking out from his shirt collar, I knew that something unusual must have happened. When I pressed for answers, I got a jumbled mess about a blond woman, cinnamon schnapps, big teeth, and you having answers. Considering that he wasn’t very helpful, I was hoping that you would be less confused,” Emma had finally managed to smother her giggles.
“Most people are rather shaken when they first find out about vampires and demons,” Wesley murmured. “They should either calm down and accept it or start repressing very soon.”
Emma made a noise remarkably like something that should have emerged from a large beast, given her penchant for white, perhaps a snow leopard. “My students will not repress their troubles like common ignorant fools!”
“It is a normal response, and not one determined by education or wealth,” Wesley observed, thinking back to some of the centuries of historical observations held in the old Watcher libraries. “Repression is a very common reaction to stress. Sometimes it wears away, and sometimes they remember after other, similar stresses. There have been assorted psychological papers written about the matter.”
“I hold my students to a higher standard than that. The world is neither kind nor forgiving, and not facing the facts can be fatal or worse,” Emma frowned before looking at him. “It seems that I shall have to implement a general self defense series among all of the students, and a more detailed program for my special students. I think you should assist with the material.“
“The special students… these would be the mutants?” Wesley tried to make it sound like a question, but really… She had told him Manuel was a mutant, Haroun had admitted to being able to create something like plasma, and she was having them learn sword work. If not for the lack of languages and demonology, he would have half expected them to be Watchers in training. Then there was that one girl he’d seen about, the one with the purple hair. He’d been trying to see her reaction to dandelions for weeks, to determine if she was a mutant or a Pardalis demon. Or perhaps demons could have mutants as well, he didn’t think Pardalis demons normally came in light purple…
Her eyes looked different, less readable as she spoke a single, soft word. “Yes.”
Wesley only nodded, having been expecting something like this since he’d started the sword lessons. Between that and her rather protective reactions to those special students, he strongly suspected that Emma was a mutant herself, not that it made much difference. Someone might as well take an interest in protecting the mutants from the rest of the humans. “Had you been making plans about the vampires before today, Ms Frost? As I told the boys last night, few vampires and demons would differentiate a mutant from a human, unless they were rather different physically, and then they’d likely assume them to be some sort of demon. To vampires and many types of demons, humans are little more than food.”
“Various thoughts, but I lack sufficient information to prepare for all the possibilities. I’ve been sorting out what to do if one of my students were to be attacked, but I’d hoped it would remain theoretical,” she sighed, “Rather optimistic of me, wasn’t it?”
“The world won’t be harmed by a little optimism, as long as it’s accompanied by a dash of sense and realistic planning. In the event of a student being attacked, the normal methods of tending wounds would work for physical injuries, depending on the nature of the encounter they might need a carefully chosen therapist. Other than bad memories and therapy, the problem would be if one of them were turned,” Wesley shook his head, absently gathering up the papers. “A vampire retains the memories of the person they used to be, and some of the habits, but they lack the moral character, the sense of ethics, the… I suppose the best word is humanity. A vampire lacks a soul, and without that soul they are without conscience or remorse. They kill, torture, and terrorize, and if the victim is someone who knew and trusted the human that they used to be, that makes it so much easier for the vampire.”
She looked horrified, one hand raising towards her lips. “Are you certain? Is there no other option, no way to… to restore their sense of appropriate behavior?”
“There is an imperfect gypsy spell that allegedly restores the soul, but even if I could cast it, which I can’t, it has some rather large problems. Learned behavior and social mimicry will lose to the bloodthirst. No, the best, kindest thing to do if one of them were turned would be to kill them before they rise. Cremation before interring the ashes, perhaps. It spares the family the hope of thinking their loved one has come back followed by the horrors the demon inflicts.” Wesley sighed, and murmured, “This is why most Watchers opt for cremation. Too many stories of what could happen if we’re killed by a vampire, or the sort of vile rituals that could be done with bodies. I may not be part of the Council anymore, but what has been learned is not so easily forgotten, and the reasons are distressingly sound.”
“I would appreciate if you would help with the specialized defense. Cremation… might be a very good idea,” She shook her head, and then murmured, “You’re right, it would be a very bad idea for you to go hunting vampires alone. And should anything happen, I’ll make certain your remains are cremated.”
“Thank you,” Wesley murmured. The lovely pond no longer seemed quite as soothing, or the sunshine as comforting. “I’ll have to see if I can teach the students a few useful spells. I’m not a mage, but I do know a few useful tricks. Including that temporary mental defense.”
“Of course.” She stood up, her hands smoothing the skirt over her legs, and she glanced at him. “Wesley? You may call me Emma, when we aren’t in a formal setting.”
As he watched Emma walk away, he reflected that the day did have a bit of good to it after all. Emma. He could feel himself smiling.
End part 7.