Meanwhile, back in the past---
Friday, October 31, 1879
Buffy had been back in time almost six weeks now, and each day it got a little easier to live in this century instead of her own. She wasn´t completely comfortable, but she could handle it better due to her new friends, and the living in her present time lessons that the Council had made her do.
"Buffy, you took absolutely wonderful," Becky said putting the finishing touches to Buffy´s hair, and standing back to admire her handiwork.
"You did a wonderful job, thanks loads. These hairdos drive me up the wall. What I wouldn´t give for hot rollers, and some mousee. At least the lemon juice mix has been working, my hair is more blonder than it was," Buffy told the other girl, looking at herself in the full length mirror she now had in her room.
Buffy´s Maid Marian dark green, and gold outfit was perfect. She looked like she was a 12th Century noblewoman, yet could hang out in Sherwood Forest if she needed to. The outfit had been cunningly made with Buffy´s fighting abilities in mind by the Countess´ dressmaker. So many hidden pockets, and tear away parts had be put into the garb that the slayer felt that she could have had a part on a 007 movie. Underneath she wore dark green tights, and sharp toed boots. All this was just in case Angelus, and his group showed up. It was too perfect a lure for them. Once inside the vampires would be lost in the sea of masked faces of the ball she was going to and have a free for all banquet and she wasn´t going to let that happen.
The original plans for going to see "The Magic Flute," had had to be postponed twice due to Buffy´s slayer duties, training, schedule conflicts, and other problems. Instead of the opera, they were going to a Masked Halloween Ball that the she and members of the Watchers Council had been invited to by Queen Victoria. Now was finally the night. It was All Hollow´s Eve, and her gut was telling her that the vampire trio would be there.
As to her costume tonight, she was going as Maid Marian, and William was supposed to be going as Robin Hood to match her. She had no idea what his costume was going to be like, but she was hoping he was going to be wearing tights. The thought made her grin. She knew what Spike´s muscular legs looked like so she figured that his would be just as sexy looking, though she had been trying very hard not to think in those ways about him. Since their talk almost a month ago they had managed to be just friends, and were getting along real well. They were still meeting for dinner every evening, and saw each other frequently. Buffy had gotten to go out on day trips into town with him as her tour guide to the British Museum, the Tower of London, and other points of interest.
Several times now MacAlastair had sent both of them to go to Angelus´ recent victims homes with a team of other watchers to investigate, and sort through the evidence at the scenes along with detectives from Scotland Yard who were also working on the case. The Watchers, and the Yard had teamed up due to the nature of the murders. They were also keeping a tight lid on them too so that the general public didn´t panic about the supernatural elements to the growing series of murders. Since he was working on research into the vampires that were doing this, it was felt he needed to see first hand what they were doing along with Buffy as current slayer. She had not ran into the trio face to face since that night in the private club. When they did get reports of the vampires it was usually after the fact, not before. The trio was managing to stay at least a couple of steps ahead of them and it was getting frustrating to all. She wasn´t quite out on nightly patrols yet, but those would start the next week since it was felt she could start navigating the streets of London with backup on a regular basis.
Though she had not been assigned a permanent Watcher she still reported to MacAlastair, and Foxworth, and discussed all her cases with William now too. Foxworth, William, and two other Watchers in training had gone with her on the few patrols she had done in areas where Angelus had been sighted on the streets. She had not turned up any leads to the where the trio were hiding, though she had managed to take out some minions after trying to get them to talk. The vamps, and demons she had run into had been very tight lipped, and frightened at the mere mention of the vampires´ names.
The first time William had seen her in real action he had been shocked by her voracity against two minions that tried to jump her. Especially her usual running commentary with the vamps. The others had had to pull him back out of danger because he was totally mesmerized by how effortlessly she moved, and fought. He had been privileged to watch her work out one time before they came out in the field as a team. It had been her idea to see how she would work with a group of Watchers since it wasn´t going to be the same as doing it with her friends back home. She wanted to know her new team´s strengths, and weaknesses so they could work on them before they were in battle conditions. MacAlastair had given her the okay, so she had met with William, Foxworth, Gainsbridge, and McCarty who had been assigned to her. The two men were mid thirties, built like football players, and had years of field work around the world with slayer trainees. William was like working with Spike once she got him over his initial nervousness of working with her because of their friendship. Foxworth had had no trouble attacking her with weapons, nor did the other men. Once she got William mad enough to fight her, he did, and very well. He didn´t have Spike´s super strength, or reflexes, but he was better then she thought he would be. She felt relieved that she wouldn´t have to worry that much about him after all.
One night after almost getting killed by a minion because of her petticoats, Buffy had told MacAlastair in no uncertain terms that she was not going to do street patrols in skirts. He had looked shocked, and asked what she had in mind. She had smiled, and came back a half hour later in working class boy´s clothing she had borrowed from the gardener´s son, with her long hair braided, and tucked up under her large cap. He was impressed with her outfit of loose pants, suspenders, boots, and long coat which did hide her curves. She had also changed her manner of walking so it would not give her away. Buffy also pointed out that the vampires also knew there was a slayer stalking them. They had seen her, but looking like this with a group of men would not rouse the suspicions of lookouts, or the vampires as a lone girl with the same men. He still wasn´t too taken with the idea, but he agreed to let her try one night to see if the ruse would work. In other social settings she would have stay dressed as a girl, and so a compromise was reached.
Her slaying companions hadn´t been told of her new wardrobe changes. When the petite slayer walked up to them waiting for by their coach to take them into town, they had not recognized until she spoke. The four men all looked at her as if they had been shot, so stunned were they by her wardrobe change. Once they understood why she dressed the way she was, they still weren´t happy, but nervously got over it once she told them that MacAlastair had okayed it, and they could go check with him if they didn´t believe her. Later that evening when ten vampires jumped them, they were amazed at how much better she could move, since she could now do flips, climb, run without tripping, and other things her heavy skirts hadn´t allowed her to do. She had seen Drusilla watching the fight, staring strangely at her, and at William who was tackling a vampire and didn´t see her. Before all the minions were dusted, the dark haired vampiress had vanished into the shadows so that Buffy couldn´t go after her.
When Buffy gave her report to MacAlastair he had been worried too as to what Drusilla´s watching might mean since she told him how Dru´s strange gifts might work. What worried Buffy was the possibility that Dru could see the alternative future with William being her childe, and might try to go after him. This worried William too, and he made sure he had extra crosses about his person when they were out, along with holy water. None of them were taking chances with this situation now.
"Are you nervous?" the red haired girl asked Buffy, snapping her out of her thoughts.
"About what?" Buffy replied innocently, raising an eyebrow as she checked her stakes, and adjusted the jewel hilted knife on her belt that was hidden to appear as part of her belt. The final touch was her dark hooded cloak for the chill evening air.
"You knowWilliam," the girl giggled.
"Why should I be nervous about him? I see him everyday, and we go out on patrol together now. This is just another assignment. Undercover work, that´s all," Buffy said causally, feinting innocence.
Yes, but there will dancing, and moonlight. The two of you," she hinted with a deep sigh, having a crush on the handsome man.
"Who is also my friend, and who I work with. I like William, but I can´t let myself be more than a friend to him for both our sakes. Then I´m there to work the crowd not to have too much fun," Buffy sighed, really hating her job at times.
"But don´t you sometimes wish you could be more than friends with him?" The younger girl asked, sitting on Buffy´s bed, looking up at her, and wishing she could be going too.
"Every once, and a while I do, but then I´m not sure if it´s him, or Spike I´m getting the feelings for. It´s not fair to him if I´m still in love with his other self. It´s all real complicated, and I´m afraid of making it more so. It´s bad enough what I have to do with Angelus. When I destroy Dru then there won´t be any chance for a future Spike. But these murders can´t keep going on. MacAlastair is getting pressure from the Queen which means I´m getting even more pressure to find, and kill them," Buffy told her.
"You´ll find them. I know you will, and you will destroy them because it´s the right thing to do."
"Becky, if, and when you are called I hope you can keep that kind of focus, because you´ll need it out there. Trust your instincts because you can believe in them more than any of your other senses. That´s why when I heard about the Ball, I knew we had to go. If I don´t make it back it´s been good having you as a friend," Buffy said giving the girl a hug.
The red head looked at her worriedly, and shook her head. "Buffy, don´t say that. You will be back, I know it. You´ll beat those vamps. Maybe after that you, and William can get together, or maybe you´ll find your way homewho knows?" she added.
"Yeah, who know?" Buffy smiled sadly in agreement. "I better get downstairs, or they´ll leave without me," she said, looking at her pocket watch. A present from William since she had complained she never knew what time it was, and was always late it seemed.
"Have fun!" her friend wished her as they left Buffy´s room, and she watched the older girl vanish down the staircase.
Running through the halls, Buffy lifted her skirts, and made it to the front entrance in record time. In the front foyer Foxworth, the Countess, William, Gainsbridge, McCarty, and another couple who appeared to be Miss Penrose and Mr. Abby waited for her. Foxworth was pacing, checking his watch again, and shaking his head when Buffy came bounding in almost sliding across the slick polished wooden floor into them. William caught her with a grin on his face.
"You all right?" he asked glad to see her as well as amused by her entrance.
"Yeah. I´m sorry I´m late. There´s just too many halls in this place," she said catching her breath, and smiling at him then stepping back to get a good look at his outfit and liking very much what she saw.
He was in matching tones to her dress since the Countess´ dressmaker had also did his outfit. He was wearing tights, ankle boots, but had a loose gold tunic that came to mid thigh underneath his dark green doublet. It was belted with a wide belt with pouches holding stakes, and crosses, along with a short sword in a simple scabbard hanging from it. There was a quiver of arrows, and a bow across his shoulder. On his head was perched a hat with an ostrich feather sticking down. He was gorgeous, she thought.
Foxworth was trying to be Caesar as best she could tell. The beautiful Countess was dressed as Cleopatra, while Miss Penrose was supposedly a very modestly dressed Dancing Girl, and Mr. Abby was dressed as a sultan. At least the couples all matched one another. Gainsbridge was a Highway man, while McCarty was pirate so they could carry weapons too as part of their outfits.
"Buffy, you look charming," Countess Rothchild cooed delightedly with a warm smile coming over, and checking out Buffy´s outfit.
"You look wonderful too. Very authentic looking with the hair, the jewelry, and the dress," Buffy told her remembering watching Cleopatra´ the movie with Liz Taylor with her Mom on cable once, and loving the costumes.
"And do I mean your approval?" asked Foxworth striding forward in his fancy gold gilded Roman armor, sword, and red cape.
"Very period," she said politely, knowing he was showing off to get a rise out of William.
"And me," William asked a little shyly, his blue eyes twinkling, trying to look dashing.
"Better than Kevin Cosner, or Errol Fynn in the movies," she said smiling, and meaning it with a inner sigh at how sexy he did look and hoping she could keep her hands off him.
He smiled in return knowing she was giving him compliments, and held his arm out for her to take it. "Milady," he said wanting to escort her their coach.
"My Lord," she giggled in return, and slid her arm in his. Foxworth did the same with the Countess and Penrose and Abby walked by themselves while the two single men took up the rear.
About an hour later they pulled up to Buckingham Palace. The Masked Ball was a charity event, so the cream of society had been invited. Queen Victoria, and some of her children would also be in attendance, along with other visiting royals from Prussia, France, Italy, and Russia. It was the´ event of the season, and only because of their being Watchers, and her as the active slayer, and they all were to be acting as body guards in the case of Angelus showing up, had the group been invited. Members of Her Majesty´s Secret Service, and Scotland Yard were also in attendance undercover to watch for trouble both real, and supernatural.
In the carriage those who didn´t already have their masks on put them on before they got out. Their invitations were checked by the guards, and then they were allowed to enter. Their names were announced to the room as they entered. William had never been to such a spectacular affair, or had Buffy. They both looked around in awe at the huge ballroom that was all bright, and glittery, and filled with people just as opulent as the room. The room was decked out in streamers, and traditional holiday decorations dating back to the Middle Ages. The place was quite crowded too, more than what the group had expected which meant it was going to be harder to find the vampires if they were here.
For the first hour the group split up into couples, and mingled with the crowd. William held Buffy´s hand so they wouldn´t get separated as they did a swept of the area. She didn´t mind it at all, enjoying his nearness, and the warmth of his human touch, trying not to think of the same cool hand in hers. A waiter came by with Mulled Cider, and they each got a glass, but were careful not to drink too much so they could remain alert. In the second hour William asked her to dance, and she let him lead her out on to the floor where she saw Foxworth, and the Countess dancing too.
"Are you enjoying yourself," he asked as they waltzed.
"Very much," she blushed, feeling his arms and his nearness.
"Is this anything like the dances you went to?" William asked, spinning her around, grateful for the Countess thinking of lessons for him.
"In size a little like my High School prom, but the dancing itself, no. It´s way looser, and wilder along with the music. I do miss my rock music, and MTV, though I do like some of the ballads I´ve heard in some of the inns, and on the streets. I even recognized a few of them because people have revived them, and they´re popular now," she told him.
"Like when we were down in the West End, and heard the women singing while they were working. Yes, that was quite beautiful, and stirring. It´s a pity that such talents will not be recognized so others can hear," he commented.
"Maybe when they do get phonographs invented they will. That way the music can be heard by anyone, any time," Buffy told him.
"I look forward to such a thing. I envy you that you have seen such marvels, but it seems you are adjusting to not having them," William said, hoping he was not saying anything to upset her.
Buffy smiled, "I have to. The longer I´m here the more my life before seems like a dream, while this is becoming more and more real. Just being here is changing me, making me see things differently. If I am here too much longer, it´ll be too hard to go back, or even want to go back at all," she told him truthfully, trying to see what his reaction to her words were, but the mask hid his eyes too well, or he did, she wasn´t sure.
Before William could reply there was a tap on his shoulder, and he looked up to see a man he didn´t recognize. He glared up at the stranger, mad about the intrusion.
Buffy looked startled too, and then her senses went on high alert, and she knew the tall, dark haired, broad shouldered man dressed in finery of the last century was a vampire. He was wearing a half mask, rather than a full face one, but she knew those lips and jaw anywhereit was Angelus. He had come to her.
"May, I have a dance with the lady?" Angelus asked William, his voice cultured, and rich with a touch of Irish brogue. He bowed to her, his dark eyes glittering with anticipation behind his black half mask.
"I say, good fellow, the lady is spoken for," William said indignantly, drawing himself up to his full height to look at the taller man while not relinquishing his hold on Buffy´s hand which she then squeezed it hard to get his attention. He turned, and looked at her and knew that something was wrong, but couldn´t tell him.
"I´m sorry to rain on your parade, sir, but as my husband´ has said, I am spoke for," she told Angelus, and his eyes flashed hot anger, and his mouth twitched in annoyance, but he kept his temper, and only appeared to be disappointed.
"Pity," he said, his eyes raking her up, and down with barely disguised hunger, and lust. "I shant disturb your evening further, good night, gentle people," he said and melted back into the crowd.
Buffy was shaking now as she stared after the vampire, while William was just angry. "Blighter," he murmured then turned back to Buffy, and noted her pale look. "I´m sorry he disturbed us. But I do say you handled that rather well," he smiled, being secretly pleased she had called him her husband, not yet understanding their close call with death.
"That was Angelus!" she told him, wanting to get them off the dance floor, and to find the rest of the team.
"Are you sure?" he asked shocked, looking around to see if he could spot the man again.
"Positive! Remember I know himall too well. That was him, and he´s stalking us. We all have to be careful now," she warned him dragging him through the thick crowds at the edge of the dance floor. "Do you see any of the group?" she asked worriedly, looking around trying to spot any of them.
"No one yet," he said his own panic matching hers now.
"They´ve got to be here someplace. Let´s try over where the Queen is receiving people, maybe they´re over there," Buffy said still holding on to his hand as they pushed their way through the crowds that were lining up to meet the Queen, and four of her children that had come to the party.
Close to the dais were Foxworth, and the Countess talking to some of the guards for the Queen. In the line about ready to step up, and meet the Queen Buffy sensed vampires, and quickly scanned the people waiting in line. Cold chills ran through her when she recognized Darla, and Drusilla together chatting comfortably with a regal looking couple behind them. Both women were dressed in 17th century clothes, probably to match Angelus´ outfit. If Darla had been dressed similar to this when she met Liam it would have been no wonder he had been taken with her dressed in ivory, gold, and rose. Dru was in deep red with white lace trim, her dark hair done up in ringlets. They exhibited none of the awkwardness that most vampires had fitting in with humans. No wonder they had been so difficult to detect. Of Angelus himself there was no sign.
"Shit! It´s Darla and Dru!" she told William as they tried to get to Foxworth, and the guards to stop the vampires before they got near the Queen.
"Where?" he asked, surprised.
"Therein line!" she frantically pointed them out, and told him, "I have to stop them now! They´re next!" she cried panicked now. "You go warn Foxworth and the guards. I´m going to try and take then down!" she said letting go of his hand. She tuned out his shouts to stop, to wait for him to push even more through the tightly packed people, ignoring the shouts of indignant dignitaries as she concentrated on trying to reach the Queen, and the vampires. The vampires´ plans were all to clear to her now.
Before she could reach her goal she was tackled by two of the guards, and thrown to the hard floor almost knocking her out.
"You´re under arrest, Miss!" one of them told her grabbing her hand and pulling it behind her back.
"No! I have to stop them! You have to stop them! They´re after the Queen, and her children," Buffy shouted desperately, afraid, and angry now, trying to get loose from the men holding her down.
"Who´s after the Queen? It looks like you were," one of the uniformed men said.
"Those two women! The ones dressed in 17th century clothes. They were next in line!" Buffy told her captors, struggling to get free.
"There´s no one like that there now! And because of you the Queen is going back to her apartments, and doesn´t look too happy," The man informed her. "I didn´t see women like that at all in line," he said, talking like she had been imagining things.
"Look again! I know I saw them, and they were going to hurt the Queen!" Buffy protested.
"Sure it wasn´t you now, Miss? What´s you doing with all these pointy things, and crosses, and whatnot?" The guard asked with a suspicious sneer after finding her clothes had weapons in them.
"I´m with the Watchers Council, and working with Scotland Yard. Find Inspector Robinson, he knows me. He´ll tell you who I am," Buffy told the man.
"That´d be a right trick seeing that he was found dead upstairs not a half hour ago," the man answered back.
Shit!!´ Buffy thought, Angelus, or one of them must have taken the man out.´ "Is there anyone I can speak with from Scotland Yard?"
"I´ll see if I can find someone. But you ain´t going nowhere until this mess is sorted out," he told her, and motioned to two of the guards to pick her up, and carry her off to a room back beyond the stage.
End Part 51
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