Rating: PG-13 to R
Summary: The one witch that the Council could turn to never trusted them, and plans never to trust them again. But when Maureen McCulloch learns that she is the only one who can help the Slayer send a viral demon back to its dimension, she finds that there are those who can be trusted.
Warnings: Maureen has problems with men, and allusions to rape are made. Nothing graphic in the works.
Disclaimer: I own nothing and I profit only from comments. No money. Joss created the Watcher's Council and Slayers and all that good stuff.
My apologies, but this is not very near completion. I've had a lot on my plate, but I hope you will all enjoy what I've written so far. It's been a while since I've ventured into the land of original fiction (or semi-original), and I enjoyed every minute of writing this.
The music was loud—deafening, even. Maureen covered her ears and wished she could drown out the happy sounds; the sound of silver forks and knives scraping against fine china, the tinkle of false laughter and the occasional pop of a cork.
More champagne, Mr. Harman? Would your wife like a second glass of wine? Is everything to your taste, Mr. Harmon?
It was another charity dinner, sponsored by a man who knew nothing of charity. You had to heart to feel for others. Maureen wished she could kill him, she hated him so much.
Harry, this is simply a lovely event you’ve thrown together.
Thank you, but I do it all to help those less fortunate.
Of course! Such a generous man. You’ve even taken in that poor young orphan girl. From Scotland, am I correct?
Yes, her mother died in a fire. Her father was killed in a brawl before she was born.
Horrid, horrid. Good to hear things turn out for the best for some of the poorer folk! How long has she been with you?
Six months. Maureen… she’s a gem. A true delight.
Maureen tucked her knees under her chin and clamped her hands more strongly over her ears. She couldn’t make the sound stop, and she couldn’t leave. She’d hidden beneath the tablecloth of the table where they kept the hors d’oeuvres before the party had started.
Everything would be worse if they knew she was there.
Such a good girl, she is, Mr. Harmon was saying to the man. I wish I knew where she’d run off to…
Maureen let out a sob. A shaky hand flew to her mouth and her eyes widened when the sound of moving silverware halted.
What was that? Did you hear that sound?
I think it came from over there, Harold.
She couldn’t breathe. She was choking on nothing as the footsteps grew nearer and nearer.
Maureen sighed with relief when the feet moved away, having belonged to a server coming to retrieve another plate of hors d’oeuvres.
She’s a lovely girl, too, Mrs. Harmon gushed. Such lovely gray eyes. I’ve never seen such light eyes on a girl with dark hair like hers.
Beautiful hair. I adore—we all adore—her lovely curls.
How old is the girl?
She’s just fourteen. We’re thinking of presenting her next year.
Mr. Harmon coughed.
God, she wished he would just die! She wished he would choke on the air he greedily pulled into his lungs and keel over and die!
He coughed again.
A rustle of beads and lace. Mrs. Harmon had moved to her husband. He didn’t cough again.
Mrs. Harmon’s high-pitched cries for help were the last thing Maureen heard before she passed out. Before darkness overtook her, however, she knew that Mr. Harmon was dead.
* * * *
Seth heard her before the bell signaled her entrance to the shop. His tawny head turned and he regarded her stiffly before returning his attention back to the books he was arranging.
She responded with silence. When he looked back over his shoulder, he saw that she’d already removed her scarf and her coat and was helping herself to a cup of hot tea.
“We’ve still got inventory that needs doing.”
Her sharp eyes met his. “You’re joking.”
Seth shook his head and continued returning books to their proper shelves. “I’ll need you to finish that before you leave today.”
A book flew from the shelf and hit him squarely on the nose, sending his glasses askew. He dropped the book from his left hand and cradled his throbbing nose with the other, glaring at her bouncing dark hair as she stalked over to the ladder. At least she was doing what she was told…
For once. And of course she would do so grudgingly.
Seth lifted Melville’s Moby Dick from the floor and wished that Maury’d chosen a smaller volume to send flying at his face.
* * * *
He walked her home in silence. Maureen had never been a great talker, and Seth found himself making an arse of himself whenever he tried to fill the silence between them. Tonight was especially strained, however. He wish she’d get over it already.
They turned the last corner on the familiar path back to her flat and she stopped walking.
“Must you walk me home every night?” she asked in clipped tones.
“It’s not safe.”
This argument was old.
“I can take care of myself,” she replied, her boots crunching in the snow once more. Seth followed her.
“Did you ever think it wasn’t your safety I was referring to?”
He could practically hear her glower. She didn’t respond; she knew he liked it when she argued with him.
One block later and he couldn’t take it anymore. “I’m sorry.”
Maureen didn’t stop walking, but her pace slowed. “For what?”
“Don’t call me that.”
A smile threatened to form on his lips. “I’ve called you that since we first met.”
“And I hate it as much now as I did then.”
He touched her shoulder. She stopped again, and this time he felt her muscles tense beneath his hand.
His voice was soft, barely a whisper. When she turned to look at him he saw so much in those gray eyes he’d come to love. It was amazing how she seemed so comfortable and uneasy around him at the same time.
“You don’t have anything to be sorry for.”
“Yes I do. You’re upset that I took Jenny Bingham to the party on Saturday. I didn’t think anything of it, but I knew if I’d asked you to join me you would’ve said no.”
“I don’t like parties,” she said, blinking for the first time since looking at him.
He touched the side of her face. “I know.”
They merely looked at each other for a long time, neither saying a word until Seth leaned towards her.
“I-I should be going. Flat doesn’t warm itself.”
She was gone before he could protest. Seth watched her walk the remaining few meters to her door and disappear behind it. It began to snow softly before he turned and headed in the direction of his own flat, prepared for another lonely night.
Someday he’d figure her out. Then she wouldn’t drive him so bloody crazy.
* * * *
Maureen removed her scarf and her hat mechanically, her eyes staring ahead as she thought of what happened between her and Seth. He was always trying to get close to her, but she was so scared. She dreamed of being with him—knew that it would make her happy—but the dream lacked the fear she had when reality approached her. She wished she could explain it.
She’d just hung up her coat when the light switched on in living room. Maureen lived alone, save for Medea. She didn’t think her cat had learned to flip switches, though.
Maureen pulled the small knife she kept in the inside lining of her coat and approached the doorway. What she saw inside dispelled her fear of any potential danger, but she kept her knife raised nevertheless.
“Miss McCulloch, such a pleasure.”
Ian Rafferty hadn’t improved in time. She’d always known the Council of Watchers would turn him into boffin, but she’d hoped some of his former personality would remain intact. She wasn’t surprised that it did not.
“Is that really necessary?” he asked, staring haughtily at the dagger she held in her hand.
Maureen approached him slowly and held it to his neck. He wasn’t afraid—she had no reason to harm him. She kept the blade as steady as her gaze.
“It was the last time we crossed paths.”
Ian’s lips curled upward. “You won’t need it, I assure you.”
Maureen never took her eyes from his as she lowered the blade, her body tense. She hated that he was still so bloody beautiful. It made it harder to distrust him, although experience reminded her that he couldn’t be trusted.
“So, Mr. Rafferty,” she said casually, dropping the blade to her side and sending him a glare that could wilt flowers. “What brings you to my home?”
Ian looked around the room appraisingly, obviously not thinking much of her little home. “The Council has an assignment for you.”
“I don’t take assignments from them. Not anymore.”
“The Council is not inclined to accept your refusal.”
“Bully for the Council.”
Ian’s stiff demeanor wavered for the first time since they’d spoken. “Maury, please.”
“Don’t call me that.”
He smirked and approached her. Her knife tensed around the handle of her dagger, but she did nothing to stop him from coming closer. She saw a bit of the man she used to know as his dark eyes lowered to her lips.
“Come now, Maury,” he whispered, moving her hair from her face. “Let’s not quarrel over the past.”
For a second she couldn’t move. All she felt was his hand in her hair, and remembered what it felt like when she was young and naïve and he was just a beautiful man who made her feel something other than fear.
The sensation didn’t last. Maureen raised her chin, and in a voice shakier than she would’ve preferred, said, “Tell me what your Council wants with me so you can leave.”
Ian stepped back, flinching slightly at her callous tone. He straightened his waistcoat before speaking in a more formal tone. “The Head of the Watcher’s Council wishes for me to escort you to the Headquarters for a meeting of some urgency.”
Maureen scoffed at that. “I’m not going to London.”
“You will do as the Council asks.”
“Or what?” she asked, her anger compelling her to return the blade to his throat. “You’re just supposed to deliver a vague story and hope my curiosity will get the better of me?”
Ian appeared nervous now. “I’m not—I’m not well-informed of the meeting’s subject. I was sent to retrieve you.”
“Ah,” she said, as if she were impressed. “Good to see I’m the next step up from crumpets and tea.”
Unexpectedly his hand flew out and knocked her arm away, causing the blade to fly across the room and land with a dull clatter on the carpeted floor.
“Don’t try any of your tricks, Maury. The Council needs you otherwise I wouldn’t be here. Do you think they’d really ask for your help after what happened last winter?”
“Oh, so they’re still blaming the fire on me, are they? Good to know I’ll be in friendly waters.”
His expression changed. “So you’ll come willingly, then?”
Maureen diverted her gaze as she thought it over. “Willingly wouldn’t be the proper word. I assume they gave you a car?”
“We’re to catch the train at half past ten.”
She smiled wryly. “Not quite there, yet, are we?”
His eyes narrowed, but Ian didn’t say a word. Instead he walked into the next room and retrieved her coat, which she snatched from his hands rather than have him help into it. Before she fully realized what she was doing, Maureen was on a train to London with a man she no longer trusted, soon to meet with the people who had turned her away from her former life. She didn’t want to remember what had come before, but a large part of her couldn’t wait to be back.
She wouldn’t admit it to Ian, but she missed being feared.