Speaker-to-Customers (speakr2customrs) wrote,

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Life, Resumed - resumed!

It has been a long time since I have updated my post-NFA fic ‘Life, Resumed’ but I have returned to it at last. Not Jossed yet, although I could be when further revelations about the comics emerge. 3,500 words this time. All spellings are in UK English because of the POV. Rating still PG-13, although it might become R eventually. Previous chapters are HERE

Life, Resumed

Chapter Seven

William turned his head from side to side and stared. He was overwhelmed at the sight of so many people scurrying hither and thither. A vast throng all of whom were about to travel, or had already done so, on huge machines that flew through the air! “I am absolutely awestruck by all of this,” he remarked to Shannon. “I fear that I shall say ‘remarkable’ so many times that it may quite drive you mad.”

“Hey, no problem, I’ll understand,” the Slayer said. “I know this must be a big deal for you.”

“All these people seem quite blasé about what is a miracle to me,” William went on. “I hope that I shall not draw too much attention to myself.”

“A lot of people are nervous about flying,” Shannon told him. “Uh, not that they have any reason to be, of course. But nobody will take any notice of you. Seriously.”

Even as she spoke her assurance was contradicted by events. A party of people who were heading out of the airport set eyes upon William and reacted with apparent recognition. “Hey, hunter guy,” a girl greeted him. She was very fair, with straight blonde hair cut in a fringe that hung above piercing blue eyes, and she wore a shirt with a man’s necktie. Her mouth had been set in a severe straight line but suddenly curled up in a broad and warm smile. “You keep up the good work, okay?” She held a guitar case in one hand. The other hand came up in a salute, one thumb held upwards as if she was a Roman emperor giving the signal for a defeated gladiator to be put to death, and then was lowered again.

“Keep the faith, brother,” a bearded man in a broad-brimmed hat added. He too carried a guitar case. “Right on.” A man who bore a violin case waved and smiled.

William was taken aback. He glanced around to see if anyone else could be the subject of their greetings and gestures, saw no-one reacting, and turned back to them with a polite smile and nod. The musicians, apparently satisfied, moved on.

“Hey, that was Aimee Mann,” Shannon said. “How come she knows you?”

“I have absolutely no idea,” William replied.

“All know of Spike, Vampyre with a Soul,” Andrew declaimed. “Uh, she played a gig in Sunnydale back before it sunk. Maybe she saw you there.”

“I am utterly perplexed,” William said. “Her pollice verso gesture was somewhat ominous, and yet her manner appeared friendly.”

“Gesture? You mean the thumbs-up?” Shannon frowned. “But that’s a good thing. Like, Siskel and Ebert use it for ‘it was a great movie’. It means, ‘Yay, go you’, you dig? ‘Let the gladiator live’, right?”

“Good Lord,” William said. “The meaning has completely reversed since my day. Pollice verso was the signal for a gladiator to be slain. That is clear in all the sources that I have read. Although it was portrayed in the opposite fashion in Jean-Léon Gérôme’s painting by that name, I believe, and that was rather popular. You say, then, that the young lady was signifying approval?”

“Well, duh,” said Shannon. “Totally.”

“How shall I cope in this world if the very gestures have changed their meanings?” William wondered.

“Don’t worry about it, Will,” Shannon told him. “We’ll keep you straight.” She glanced over her shoulder. “Well, I’ll keep you straight, and Dawn, and Buffy. I wouldn’t pay too much attention to Andrew if I were you.”

“Hey!” Andrew protested. “I am totally capable of acting as a wise mentor to Spike.”

Shannon ignored him.

- - - - -

William turned his head away from the window at long last. “How high did the captain say that we were?” he asked Shannon.

“Thirty-five thousand feet,” Shannon told him.

William shook his head. “More than six and one half miles! Astounding! I must confess that I cannot understand the scientific basis of our flight, and it seems against all natural law to me, but the evidence that it works is incontrovertible. Remarkable! Oh, dear, I had resolved to limit my use of that word. My apologies.”

Shannon smiled. “Totally understandable. I guess that this is a pretty big deal for you.”

“I find myself hardly able to believe it,” William said. “Up above the world you fly, like a tea-tray in the sky. Truly I am in Wonderland.”

“Uh, like Alice in Wonderland? I guess it has to seem that way to you.”

“Indeed. We fly in a craft of metal, without even a visible screw propeller, six miles above the ground. Moving pictures are presented for our entertainment, or we can play games where tiny figures perform at our command,” William gestured across the seats to where Andrew thumbed the buttons of his Game Boy Advance, “as we travel thousands of miles at the speed of a bullet. Anyone who foretold such things would have been dismissed as a madman. Not even Jules Verne could have dreamt that such wonders would come to pass.” His tongue touched the tips of his teeth. “I am eager to see what changes have taken place in London, and yet at the same time I dread what I might find.”

“Well, I only know it the way it is now,” said Shannon. “I guess a lot of it is pretty new. But hey, you’re just gonna have to wait and see.”

“Indeed I am.” William turned again and stared out of the window. “There is surprisingly little to see. Only the tops of the clouds and the ground so far below that I can make out nothing of the details. Perhaps I shall avail myself of some of the entertainment on offer.”

“Or catch some sleep,” Shannon suggested.

“Sleep?” William’s eyebrows twitched. “In such circumstances? Impossible.”

- - - - -

William staggered slightly as he stepped down from the train. For a moment the ground seemed to sway beneath him. He had slept for some considerable time as the aeroplane traversed the Atlantic Ocean, despite his confidence that he would do no such thing, yet he had awoken feeling as if he had not rested. Now, despite it being no more than late afternoon, he felt more than ready to retire to a real bed.

“You okay?” Shannon asked him. She reached out a hand towards him. “You should let me take that case.”

“Oh, no, it’s quite all right,” he assured her. He had been told that Slayers were many times as strong as a normal man, and his observations during the journey seemed to confirm that the weight of a suitcase would be absolutely nothing to Shannon, but he still could not bring himself to allow a young lady to carry his luggage. “The hours of motion seem to have had a slightly adverse effect upon my sense of balance, perhaps, but I am perfectly recovered now.” He resolutely ignored the sensations of vertical motion and strode towards the platform exit.

A railway station was something with which he could cope unassisted. Locomotives might now be sleek fish-nosed contraptions or else almost indistinguishable from carriages, and they no longer belched out clouds of smoke, but the differences between the trains of this time and those of his own era seemed minor indeed compared to such fantastical contrivances as aeroplanes. Why, the railway company was even called First Great Western! Perhaps the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway had also survived.

“Uh, Shannon, you can carry my case,” Andrew said. “I’m tired too.”

“Stop trying it on and carry your own damn case,” Shannon said. “If you’re weighed down with video games it’s totally your own fault. And hey, Giles is gonna be waiting right outside the station.”

Giles. William almost missed a step at that reminder. The man who had withheld desperately needed help from Angel and his colleagues.

Shannon spotted his near stumble. “You sure you’re okay with that case?”

“Yes, thank you, Shannon,” William assured her. He transferred his case to his left hand and strode on. There was more than one person waiting beyond the station exit, but only one was a man on his own, and William guessed that the smartly dressed man of perhaps forty was Giles. His guess was confirmed when Shannon headed directly for that man and exchanged greetings.

There was no welcome in the man’s eyes as he extended his hand to William. “I gather that you do not remember me,” Giles said. “Rupert Giles.”

Once within arms’ length of the man William decided that his guess at the man’s age might have been an underestimate. It was hard to be sure because it seemed that people of this time lived longer than in his own day and aged less quickly. “William Pratt,” he responded, and shook the offered hand. “Rupert Giles? I had been under the impression that Giles was your Christian name. For that matter, I had been led to believe that I was to meet you in London, and I would not have regarded Bracknell as part of the city.”

“Remarkable,” Giles muttered almost inaudibly, and then a trace of a smile appeared on his face and he spoke in a normal voice. “These Americans do not draw such distinctions. There was no intention to mislead you, ah, William. Well, I expect that you will be looking forward to the end of your journey. The car is just outside.”

- - - - -

“Our premises in Central London were destroyed more than a year ago,” Giles explained, as he navigated the vehicle through the streets of Bracknell. “It was far more efficient to sell the land for development, and to relocate outside the City, than it would have been to rebuild. Especially with Ken Livingstone’s blasted congestion charge. I would have preferred to move to Bath, actually, but this is more convenient for international travel.”

William ran his fingers over one of the strips of highly polished wood that embellished the interior of the motor vehicle. There was something indefinably English and reassuring about it. “It still seems incredible to me that one can travel between continents in mere hours. I am accustomed to steamships taking more than a week to cross the Atlantic. A rail journey from Bath to London would be of no consequence at all compared to that.”

“I suppose not,” Giles said. He glanced across at William briefly and then returned his gaze to the road. “You really have no memory at all of anything that has happened since some time in the Victorian era?”

“From my point of view only a few days have transpired since the Underwood’s party,” William confirmed. “That was in the summer of 1880. I still find it hard to believe that I am not dreaming.”

“I don’t blame you. It must seem very strange to you, certainly.” Giles flicked another glance at William. “I can hardly believe it myself. You seem to be very different to the Spike that I knew.”

“I fear that I am no hero,” William agreed. “I shall do my best to fill his place, of course, but I may be but a poor substitute.”

“That wasn’t exactly what I meant,” Giles said. “This isn’t really the time to begin serious conversations, however. I think that we should wait until you have had a chance to get over your jet-lag.”

“Jet-lag?” William echoed.

“Ah, yes, you won’t be familiar with that term. It’s what happens when you travel across eight time zones in a single day,” Giles explained. “Your body clock is eight hours ahead of the real time. It’s afternoon here but you’ll feel as if it is late in the evening.”

“I do indeed,” William confirmed. “Although I was able to sleep upon the aeroplane I still feel as if I could retire to bed this very moment.”

“It’s probably best if you don’t. You’d wake up in the early hours of the morning,” Giles advised him. “I would recommend that you stay up until a reasonably late hour.” He used one hand to flick a lever that protruded from behind the steering wheel and a light began to blink among the array of dials upon the vehicle’s control panel. He turned the wheel and the car turned off one road and onto another.

“That seems eminently sensible,” William agreed.

“I am afraid that I rather took it for granted that you would be staying with me,” Giles said. “Spike and I had our differences but we knew each other well. It hadn’t really occurred to me that you would be so different and that we are, in fact, strangers to each other. We have a house that serves as a residence for Slayers, which is where Andrew and Shannon will be staying, and you could stay there if you prefer, although of course you would be very welcome at my home.”

William pursed his lips. He found the company of the American girl agreeable, certainly, but Andrew merely irritated him. Mr Giles had the air of a gentleman of William’s own class and in other circumstances he would have accepted an invitation to stay in his home without hesitation. However there were matters that he had to raise with Mr Giles that carried the potential for some unpleasantness. It would not be seemly to become involved in an argument with one’s host. Perhaps it might be best to decline the invitation and stay at the Slayers’ residence.

“Yeah, stay with us, Spike – uh, William,” Andrew urged. “I’ll show you around the town, okay?”

That settled the matter. William turned his head towards Giles. “I would be delighted to accept the offer of hospitality at your home, Mr Giles, and I thank you for your kindness.”

- - - - -

Giles, although as yet unmarried, did not live alone. His fiancée lived with him as if they were already man and wife. Such arrangements, William had learned, were by no means uncommon in this day and age. The lady in question, Olivia, was a tall and elegant woman of obvious African descent.

William had once attended a function at which the recently exiled Zulu king Cetshawayo was present. The king had been gloomy, perhaps unsurprisingly, and had had little to say for himself. That had been the only occasion on which William had had any social contact with someone of a different race, unless one counted Illyria, and for a moment he was slightly taken aback when introduced to Olivia. However it was immediately apparent that she was no savage Zulu but a person of education and good social standing. With that established it was easy for William to mentally categorise her as a lady of his own class, who happened to have a trace of a Northern accent, and whose skin was a rather fetching shade of brown.

“I met you once, you know,” Olivia told him, as they sat at dinner. “Or rather I met Spike.” She glanced aside at Giles and the corners of her mouth turned up. Her eyes seemed to twinkle. “A rather pleasant young man, I thought.”

Giles frowned at her. “At that time he was still an unrepentantly evil vampire,” he said. “He changed later, and perhaps earlier than I recognised, but there had been no change at that stage. He was held back from tearing out your throat only by a computer chip implanted in his brain.”

William gulped. Angel had made brief mention of Spike’s early activities but had dwelt mainly upon his later career as a champion of good.

“Possibly,” Olivia said, “but he didn’t act that way. He was very polite, or at least as much so as was possible when we had all been magically deprived of our voices, and I rather liked him.”

“You were deprived of your voices?” William was intrigued, and was also relieved to hear that Olivia’s opinion of his vampire self had been favourable.

“It wasn’t pleasant,” Olivia said. “There were monsters. I didn’t have any idea that such things really existed, still less that Rupert was involved in fighting them on a daily basis, and it was a pretty big speed-bump in our relationship.”

William had no idea what a ‘speed-bump’ might be but deduced from the context that it was an obstacle of some sort. He raised his eyebrows and nodded slightly.

“I wouldn’t even speak to him for the next year and a half,” Olivia went on. She sighed. “I regret that now. We wasted a lot of time. And closing my eyes to the truth was pointless. Those things exist, whether they are acknowledged or not.”

“I’m glad that I was able to change your mind, my dear,” Giles said. “I should have been more honest with you right from the start.”

“True,” Olivia said. “Although I might never have taken up with you in the first place if you hadn’t used that line about being one of the original members of Pink Floyd.”

There was a moment of silence. “My own first experience of the supernatural was rather traumatic,” William said after a while. “I gather that I was turned into a vampire before I had even a chance to realise that such creatures exist.”

“And you recollect nothing of your vampire existence? It must, then, seem to you almost as if you have travelled through time,” Giles said.

“Exactly,” William confirmed. “It took some considerable time before Angel was able to convince me that vampires were not just the fanciful inventions of storytellers. Yet within a day or two such things seemed almost normal to me compared with all the wonders of this age that I discovered. So much has changed.”

“I can imagine,” Giles said.

“The mechanical marvels are almost the least of it,” William went on. “The Empire has vanished, there have been wars in Europe of inconceivable ferocity, and England is now in a union with France, Germany, and other lesser nations. Yet some things have not changed. I saw, for instance, that the train upon which we travelled here was still operated by the Great Western Company. Tell me, do you know if the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway still survives?”

Giles raised his eyebrows. “I think it became part of the LMS, London Midland and Scottish, and of course the railways were nationalised in the nineteen-forties anyway. The present Great Western isn’t the original company, as far as I know. They are just re-using the name. Why do you ask?”

“My grandfather was among the original investors in the Bolton and Leigh railway,” William explained, “and acquired a substantial shareholding in the Lancashire and Yorkshire upon the merger of the companies. I inherited that holding and became a director of the company upon the death of my father.”

A furrow appeared on Giles’ brow. “Lancashire and Yorkshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire – why does that sound familiar to me?”

“Newton Heath football club,” Olivia put in. “You know – Manchester United.”

“Good Lord,” Giles exclaimed. “Spike’s great passion. I always thought that it was rather an odd choice for a Londoner.”

“Newton Heath? Oh, I remember,” William said. “The railway workers formed a football club. I approved. A healthy workforce is a productive workforce. I made a donation of five guineas towards balls and sporting kit, if I recall correctly. Are you telling me that the football club survives to this day, although the railway itself is gone?”

“Good Lord,” Giles repeated. “Oh, yes, it survives. One of the most famous and successful clubs in the world, in fact. Well I never. Spike continued to support it for more than a century. Quite remarkable.”

“It seems that vampires have more in common…” Olivia began, but she was interrupted by a melodious chime.

“Oh dear,” Giles said. “I hope that’s not… her. I told her not to come…” the chimes sounded again, “until tomorrow.” The chimes were repeated. “Oh, blast. It must be her. Although if we are lucky it will be Dawn.”

Olivia’s eyes were trained in the direction of the door and William deduced that the chimes were a doorbell. “I’ll get it,” Olivia said, as the chimes sounded yet again. “You’d better fill William in.” She stood up and began to walk towards the door.

“Thank you, dearest,” Giles said. “Ah, William, I must admit to having ordered Andrew and Shannon to mislead you slightly. They told you that Buffy Summers was in Italy, I take it?”

“And that you intended to use me to lure her away from an unfortunate, ah, entanglement,” William confirmed.

“That wasn’t strictly true,” Giles revealed. “The girl in Rome is a double. At the time we wanted Buffy to be visible in one place when she was really somewhere completely different.” William could hear conversation from the doorway, although the words were unclear. “The real Buffy Summers…” Giles went on. A fair-haired young woman rushed into the room as he spoke. Olivia followed behind her.

“Spike!” the girl cried. “Spike. It’s really you.”

Giles raised his eyes to look at the ceiling as he completed his interrupted sentence. “…is here.”

Continued in CHAPTER EIGHT

The characters in this story do not belong to me, but are being used for amusement only and all rights remain with Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, the writers of the original episodes, and the TV and production companies responsible for the original television shows. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER ©2002 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. ANGEL ©2001 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. The ANGEL trademark is used without express permission from Fox. All Rights Reserved. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer trademark is used without express permission from Fox.

Tags: fic, life_resumed
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