So, for those who loved her story, here is my another chapter to enjoy.
A Gift from the Past
Christmas ficlet for debris4spike
The school bus lurched into motion carrying them away from the crater, from death, from love, from the past. Buffy sat with her arm round Dawn’s shoulders: her sister had fallen asleep at last, lulled by the swaying motion.
Buffy stared out of the window. She could see her reflection in the glass and was coldly amazed that she looked quite well. There were no tears on her cheeks, hardly a sign of the strain she’d been under the past weeks. Slayer powers at full blast. And as for her loss – she pushed the thought so deep into her mind that she hoped it would be lost forever. Everyone she loved left her eventually. So what was new?
A touch on her arm made her jump. Faith stood there, frowning. “Hey, B. Can you check out this girl?”
Buffy eased away from Dawn who whimpered, then relaxed again. “Which girl? I can’t remember who survived.”
Faith shrugged. “I know today has been a bitch, but I didn’t think I was losing my mind. We’ve someone on board I don’t recognise.”
Buffy pushed past her and walked to the back of the bus. The survivors were asleep in their seats, but not as exhausted victims. These were all Slayers now, resting, recharging their energy, ready for action.
Right at the back a small, thin girl was sitting, facing the window, hands and forehead pressed against the glass as if she couldn’t see enough. She was staring at the flow of emergency traffic racing past in the other direction, back towards Sunnydale. Overhead helicopters were clattering and she flinched as they passed.
The girl’s long brown hair was tangled and dirty. She was wearing what looked like dark brown woollen tights under baggy shorts. Her jacket was dark green, tightly waisted by a heavy belt. The stakes pushed into it were sharpened to wicked points and the dagger that accompanied them was definitely not ornamental.
Buffy recognised that dagger. She’d been aware of it being used, glittering, over and over again the heat of the battle, but just hadn’t noticed who was wielding it.
“Hi!” Buffy said, her eyes widening in fascinated shock as the youngster turned towards her. There was no mistaking that face – a little older, even thinner, rather dirty, the teeth crooked and marked, but the eyes still blazed with courage and intelligence. “It can’t be…it’s…you’re…you’re Maria!”
“God be with you, Mistress Summers. That was a fine fight, was it not?”
“OK, B. You two know each other, obviously. But how did she get on the bus?”
“Is that what this magical vehicle be called? One that travels without horses?” Maria asked, her eyes like stars. “A bus?”
“Magical vehicle – what the - ?”
“Faith, I’ll explain later. Give us a minute, OK?” She sat down next to the young Slayer, almost scared to speak. “Maria, how – what are you doing here?”
The girl had turned back to the window: now she faced Buffy once more. “I woz sent, Mistress Summers. My Watcher, Master Shakespeare, told me I was needed in the future. That great Evil was afoot in a distant land.”
Buffy stared helplessly. This girl – she could only be about thirteen – was the Slayer she and Spike had met when they were transported back to Tudor England to save Queen Elizabeth I from a vampire uprising. She could remember clearly how upset and worried she’d been when they got back to Sunnydale, wondering how long little Maria had lasted in that turbulent world, wondering why some one so young had been called in such a violent age.
She felt a flare of anger. “And you had no choice? Master Shakespeare had no right to do this to you! You’re so young! You could have been killed. What is it with Watchers desperate to send their Slayers to die?”
Maria frowned, looking puzzled. “But I’m a Slayer, Mistress Summers. Just like you, what else should I do but fight evil? Another girl will have been called to take my place in England.” She sighed. “She’ll be busy, God help her. There are so many vamps in London. A plague of 'em. But Watcher said I was needed here more.”
A dreadful thought crossed Buffy’s mind. “What do you mean, another Slayer will have been called? Didn’t your Watcher give you any way to get back? A charm, a potion?”
Maria shook her head. “No, indeed. The magic to get me here was very powerful, but I was told there would be no going home.”
She gazed out of the window again. The bus was travelling through a small town and Buffy could only guess at how weird Maria must find the scene outside. She could remember how peculiar Tudor England had seemed; the sights, the smells, the fleas! But at least she had known a little history and, more important still, she’d had Spike with her, fighting, laughing, loving. For a second, the door she had closed so tightly in her mind, opened and she slammed it shut again. No! She would not think about him. If she didn’t, then he wouldn’t be dead. He’d just be – missing. Yes, that was what he was, missing.
“Master Spike’s dead, isn’t he,” Maria said smashing her stupidity with brutal clarity.
Buffy’s fists clenched. “I don’t know,” she managed to say.
“I did hear one of the girls say he was dead. That he did choose death to help defeat the Evil One.”
“He might – he might – “
“You are quite right, young lady – he made his choice and he died.” Giles’ quiet voice cut into her pain. The Englishman had been listening and was quite determined that Buffy should not go on believing that Spike was still alive, that in some miraculous way he was going to reappear. She had to concentrate now on what lay ahead of her, not look back on what had always been a disastrous affair.
“Giles – this is – ” Buffy hesitated. Jeez, explaining this was harder than fighting the First! “Her name’s Maria, she’s, well, I suppose you could say she’s a gift from the past. It’s a long story. Her Watcher sent her to help us. But Giles, there’s no way to return her to her own time!”
Rupert Giles stared down at the child from a different age, vamp dust still smeared across her face. He smiled gravely. “Good Lord! Then we will have to make her welcome in ours. A job for you, Buffy. You and Dawn together, perhaps?”
Buffy tried to smile. Maria gazed up at her as Giles continued talking about starting a school for Slayers; that girls from all over the world would attend, that Maria would soon forget her past and learn to fit in. Buffy’s attention wandered: Maria was another responsibility she didn’t want, but turning her back on her was obviously not an option.
At last Giles went back to his seat, busily writing in a little notebook. Buffy sighed. At least there was one happy person onboard the bus. She jumped as a small hand crept into hers. “Your Watcher is a mortal kind gentleman, Mistress Summers. He would get on well with my Watcher, I think. They both spend many hours making notes.”
Buffy found herself smiling. So far she hadn’t allowed herself the luxury of telling Giles the name of Maria’s Watcher!
“Master Giles has many plans for the future.”
The Tudor Slayer’s gaze was shrewd and far older than her years. “You are there, written into all his schemes, but I sense you will not be.”
Buffy looked at her, startled. “I – I’m sorry, Maria. I know I’m the only person you know in this time, but teaching in a Slayer School, killing vampires, demons, monsters – starting all over again. On my own – without – no! I just can’t.” The pain of her loss swirled up from behind the walls she had built in her mind.
“Master Spike would not want you to be so unhappy,” Maria said softly.
“Then he shouldn’t have sacrificed his stupid self!” Buffy snapped. “And he wouldn’t listen to what I wanted to say. I left it too late. He didn’t believe me when – oh, what’s the point. You wouldn’t understand.”
She fell silent and Maria slowly got up and returned to her own seat. This was a strange, frightening world she had helped to save. She was sad that Master Spike had died and could only guess how Mistress Summers was feeling. As young as she was, she had seen and realised the depth of their feelings for each other when they had arrived in Tudor England.
“Well, we must introduce you to the other Slayers,” Giles sat down next to her.
Maria nodded, then said hesitantly, “Mistress Summers is fair distressed over Master Spike. She loved him so much, I vow.”
A hardness settled on Giles’ face. “Love? No, I don’t think so, my dear. A fascination, a compulsion to rebel, even an affection for a fellow warrior, but love for a vampire, no, I don’t think so. She will recover, probably sooner than she thinks. But don’t you bother about all that. It’s past and gone. ”
Maria looked at him shrewdly. How could he not see the pain his Slayer was feeling? “Sir, I am a stranger in your world and all is weird and miraculous to my eyes. And although I am young, I do recognise love.” The expression on the man’s face didn’t alter. Obviously he would not accept her opinion as important, but perhaps he would listen to her Watcher.
“My Watcher writes many fine words, Sir. I don’t fully understand all of them, but he said in a play about two fine Italian lords, ‘Thou wouldst as soon go kindle fire with snow as seek to quench the fire of love with words.’
And Maria was never to know that it was not the words themselves that caused the fine gentleman’s eyes to widen in shock, but the realisation of the identity of her Watcher!
PS. Apparently there is no record of Two Gentlemen being performed in Shakespeare's lifetime. It was one of his earliest plays. But perhaps we don't need to mention this!
Thanks so much, lilachigh... Very poinant, but lovely.