RATING: R (for violence - eventually)
FEEDBACK: Estepheia@aol.com, Marcee@aol.com
DISCLAIMER: Most of the characters and institutions depicted in this story are property of mutant enemy and Joss Whedon. No infringement of rights is intended.
AUTHORS's NOTE: This is a response to the following challenge posted at Death Marked Love:

Challenge 13
Buffy and one other scooby learning about William/Spike's past.
It must of course be a B/S fic and preferably have a happy ending
It also must include:
An office
A leather-bound book
A stone angel
A phone call from Angel
A coffee
The spirit of the slayer from 1880


By Marcee and Estepheia

PART 1 - Hanging by a Thread

London 1880

Edward St. John Willoughby snapped the leather bound volume shut, closed the iron bindings meticulously and produced a jagged iron key that hung on a silver chain round his neck to lock the grimoire. He rose from his comfortable armchair and put the book down on the leather seat to walk to the huge four poster bed that took up most of the room. The girl that lay among the frilly cushions was deathly pale. Her eyes were closed but her chest was moving. There was still life in her. But not much.

Willoughby brushed red curls away, vaguely noting that they looked as dull and lifeless as the girl herself. He lightly touched the healed scars that disfigured her throat, but there was no reaction. He hadn't expected one.

He had known that he would lose her. That after a handful of years of duty he would stand at her grave and mourn her. He had read the Journals, studied the Council's history, and had striven for professional detachment. But nothing could have prepared him for the heart-wrenching pain that accompanied the loss of her. And she wasn't even dead, yet. He took her limp hand into his and kissed it lightly.

There was a light knock at the door. It was the maid. She curtsied and held a silver tray out to him. There was a card lying on it. "There are some gentlemen to see you, Sir," she said with a thick Irish accent.

He took the card but he didn't need to read the name. "Thank you, Mary. How many guests?"
"Six, Sir."
He nodded. "Very well. I will receive them here. They will want to see her. Have the cook send up tea and sandwiches for six, and tell Dawson to serve Brandy."

The maid curtsied again and left quietly.

Willoughby let go of the unconscious girl's hand and picked up the grimoire. He couldn't let his visitors see it. He hid it in the only place where they wouldn't dream of looking, underneath the blankets.

Edward St. John Willoughby braced himself for the scrutiny of his superiors. Dealing with the council directors was scarier than encountering demons and vampires.

Half an hour later there were seven empty tea cups scattered all over the room and the cucumber sandwiches had been eaten. Four of his guests were roaming the house, searching the library and questioning the servants, as if a sudden change of allegiance of the house's owner was somehow reflected in his surroundings. Perhaps it was, Willoughby podered, while hiding his disgust and self-loathing from his distinguished guests.

His other two guests, Horatio Bateley, a beefy man in his late forties, and Arthur Hartford, a gaunt man in his early sixties had accepted his offer of brandy. Hartford was leaning heavily on his cane and there was a pronounced limp, whenever he walked around. Bateley was sitting comfortably in Willoughby's armchair. Both had made it quite clear, that Willoughby had no real choice in the matter and that the Council expected him to comply. As always.

"So, Edward," Director Bateley said condescendingly, while swirling the brandy in his glass, "we have to put a stop to those disappearances. We can't allow those creatures to hunt directly under our noses. The Council has a reputation to uphold. We need a new Slayer, old boy."

"I can't tell you how sorry I am, Willoughby," Director Hartford added, with more sympathy but similar determination. "I know this is hard for you, but as long as she remains that way, the world is without a Chosen One. She has been like that for 4 months now, and the forces of Darkness know that the Council is without a Slayer. Bateley is right, a new Slayer needs to be called."

"It's a shame, old boy, but you must admit that she didn't pass the Cruciamentum. Not to our satisfaction," Bateley continued.

Willoughby just stood there, outwardly calm, nodding as if his reason forced him to agree with their words. But inwardly his rage was building. How dare they talk about Maeve like that! She had fought for the Council for almost five years, one of the youngest Slayers ever to be called and she had fought and studied well. And still they had subjected her to the Cruciamentum. And he had obeyed their orders unquestioningly, taking her powers away. Even without her superior strength she had managed to vanquish the vampire that had been unleashed on her. After the test Willoughby had rushed into the mansion where she and the vampire had been locked up to congratulate her. He found her bleeding from a gaping wound at her throat. He had managed to still the bleeding, managed to save her. He had told her how proud he was of her, but she had only stared at him for a long time, then she had turned away and closed her eyes.

The wound was long healed, but she had never opened her eyes again. Willoughby was convinced that it was his betrayal that was still festering in her, that kept her hovering between life and death.

"Give me one more week, Sir," he pleaded. He poured himself another cup of tea, trying to look collected. If they had an inkling of the desperation he felt, they would refuse anything he asked for. "I think she can still hear me. Farnham sent me some herbs that Cheyenne shamans use in their vision quests. I believe they may help me get through to her."

He saw Hartford and Bateley exchange glances. Hartford nodded slightly. Bateley shrugged. "One week," he said gruffly.

"And if it should come to the worst," Hartford said not without kindness in his tone. "you don't have to do it yourself. We will send someone. There is no need for you to go through that. And afterwards you'll get leave. Take your family on a trip to the continent. Italy is nice at this time of year."

The Watcher nodded. "Thank you, Sir."

They searched the house for 4 more hours. Willoughby invited them to Dinner, and they accepted. He introduced them to his wife Louisa and his sons George and Charles. He listened to their polite, non-Council related conversation. He smiled when Hartford discussed the latest plays with Louisa, he smiled when Bateley complimented him on his cook. He was still smiling when they finally left.

A week was all he needed to cast the spell.