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 Post subject: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 30th July 2012)
PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2012 2:36 am 
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3. Flaming O
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azirahael

Thanks for the feedback – I’m so pleased you’re enjoying the story. All these mysteries will be revealed – but not yet! Soon though. And that’s a promise.

willowtaralover

Oh wtl! How could I ignore such a heartfelt plea? Of course I will update as often as I possibly can. I will not let you down.

I think you might have missed the last paragraph of Chapter 15. If you scroll down under the last three stars, it should answer one of your questions.

Thank you for all the lovely feedback x

BeMyDeputy

Great stuff! So pleased you liked the chapter :) Thanks x

Ok, the speed limit on UK motorways is 70 mph. This seems quite fast to me! I think it’s rather less on your side of the Pond?

We do indeed use a mix of imperial and metric measurements – it still confuses me sometimes. I think it’s a result of being part of the all-metric European community, but still trying to hang on to our imperial identity (in more ways than one).

I totally agree with you about cutting this line: “It did not occur to Willow to question how she could see such detail from a car speeding along the motorway.” It’s a POV break and should not be there. I’m going to edit it out.

They are on the M4 (see ch 13) and, as Giles pointed out, you can’t see Stonehenge. If they’d taken the A303, it would have been a longer journey. It’s not a good time for them to go the pretty way to London!

We do usually make the distinction between ‘motorways’, ‘A-roads’, ‘B-roads’ and so on. All a bit of a chore for me, Kate, as a non-driver!

“Tara had been unconscious from the time she had been drugged in the cafe, until the moment she had puzzled over the shadows on the ceiling in her prison. She could not give Willow any sense of the direction or duration of her journey.”

Ok, I can see that you didn’t need reminding and, had I written this as a complete story to begin with, I would not have put it in. But as ‘Highgate’ is being written episodically, I’m conscious that not everyone who reads it will have read it regularly. Also, not everyone will go back and read previous chapters. And, last but not least, I left one very big gap in posting last year. So I think it only fair that I put in the odd reminder where I think it would be of real use to some readers.

Yes, my beta, wayland/Clare, is going to be out of town. As in elsewhere. As in not here, beta-ing. I am not happy about updating before she has run her very fine tooth-comb through it, hence my haste to get chapter 16 up before she goes. I will be writing while she’s off gadding about god-knows-where. I will pounce on her when she gets back, and sod her jet lag, so that is when chapter 17 will go up.

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 Post subject: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 30th July 2012)
PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2012 2:56 am 
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TITLE THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS
AUTHOR Vivienne
RATING PG-13 ....a little strong language. Cheers, Spike.
DISCLAIMER All BTVS characters and certain other aspects of this story belong to Joss Whedon, Fox, ME and associates.
SPOILERS Diverges from canon somewhere early in season six.
THANKS To Wayland (Clare) for her unstinting beta-ing.
FEEDBACK Feel free!


The Highgate Tunnels


Chapter 16



Giles drank from his mug of coffee, put it down on the table, and waited patiently. I seem to be doing a lot of that, lately, he thought. Still, the coffee wasn’t too bad, for a motorway service station. He looked around at the brightly lit interior, all stainless steel, red leatherette and shiny advertising. It could be anywhere in Britain, he thought, or for that matter, anywhere in the Western world, with a few minor changes. Giles found this observation so depressing he turned back to look at Willow.

She sat across the table from him. In front of her was a plate of doughnuts and a large strawberry milkshake. Well, what remained of a plate of doughnuts and a large strawberry milkshake, which was not much. As Giles waited, he was relieved to note that the colour had come back into her face, and her eyes had returned to that delightful shade of green which seemed to belong to Willow alone. In the car, they had been like two oily black stones set in chalk. He had driven into the nearest service station, sat her at a table and put food and drink in front of her. Clearly, I did the right thing, he thought, looking at her fondly. He reached out an arm and absently brushed some sugar from a lock of red hair that had fallen forward over her shoulder.

Finally, Willow pushed away her empty plate. She sat back with a sigh. Giles looked at her. He pointed a forefinger at his mouth, rotated it, then pointed at Willow’s. She smiled and, picking up a paper napkin, wiped away the halo of sugar around her lips, dusted off her clothes and sat up straight, her face shining as she looked at him.

‘I was with Tara,’ she said, ‘She came to me at Stonehenge. Oh, Giles!’

Giles listened as the words tumbled out of Willow. He did not interrupt to ask her to slow down, or to clarify some point. Gradually, from crystal spider-webs and syringes, from lamp-lit rooms with curved walls and moonlit megaliths, he pieced the story together.

‘So,’ said Giles, when it appeared that Willow had finished talking, ‘It would seem that she is being held in part of an old tunnel. At least we got that bit right.’

‘Yes,’ agreed Willow, ‘But we still don’t know exactly where.’ She dabbed at the loose doughnut sugar on her plate with a wetted forefinger.

‘Surely,’ Giles said, ‘A simple location spell...?’

‘As soon as we get to London,’ Willow nodded firmly and sucked her finger.

‘More doughnuts?’ said Giles.

‘No, thanks. Rest-room and back on the road,’

Willow jumped up and, grabbing her purse, headed towards the back of the building. Giles watched heads turn at every table she passed. He smiled to himself, reached into a pocket and took out his cell phone. It was time to call Charley.

***


Steam rose into the air, misting the inside of Charley’s kitchen window as she drained spaghetti over the sink. Not that there was anything to see outside her cottage in the little mews off Earl’s Court Road. It was already dark when she'd driven home from work. The traffic had been light, so Charley estimated she’d have time for both a shower and a meal before having to drive over to Hampstead.

Now dressed in a robe, her hair wrapped in a towel, she tossed the pasta in bolognese sauce. She poured it into a bowl and, shoving a heap of papers and books to one side, put it down on the table. She fetched salad and parmesan from the fridge, a fork from the cutlery drawer and a paper towel from the roll on the wall. Finally, Charley sat down to eat.

I hope I get to finish this before Rupert calls, she thought. I’m absolutely starving. As she ate, she pondered on her day’s work. Try as she might, Charley could not figure out what Giles wanted with a list of disused railway tunnels. And why so urgent? she asked herself, and what does the American woman have to do with it all? She had printed the list, along with some maps. These lay inside a folder on the table in front of her. Resting on top of the folder was a memory stick. It contained additional data from Giles’s recent field trip. He’d asked her to bring that along, too. So is there a connection between his research and – and this? Charley showered more cheese on her supper. And what about the guy who phoned the office? He was very keen to speak to Rupert. Charley remembered the sound of his voice and blushed a little.

The phone rang. It was her landline, so Charley knew it wouldn’t be Giles. It was her mother.

‘Hello Mother, yes, yes I’m fine. No, no I haven’t,’

Charley managed to keep the impatience she felt out of her voice.

‘Yes, of course I will, don’t worry. Love you, too’

It was mercifully brief. Charley finished the remains of the salad and stacked the dishes by the sink. She considered saving a few minutes and started to wave her hand over them. Then she stopped. No, she admonished, you promised yourself you wouldn’t do that anymore. Besides, it’s plain lazy. So she ran hot water into the sink, misting the window again.

Half-an-hour later, Charley backed her VW Polo out of the garage and drove carefully down the narrow mews. She’d just finished dressing, and was brushing out her hair in front of the mirror when had Giles called from somewhere on the M4. Other than to agree a time to meet at his Hampstead address, Giles had said little. His tone had been guarded, which had only served to pique her curiosity. She decided that, one way or another, she would find out what all this was about before the night was over. As she turned the car right into Templeton Place, she felt light and excited. There was an odd pricking sensation in her thumbs, but Charley barely noticed it as she threaded her way north through the streets of London.

***


Spike lit a cigarette, rolled down his car window and thought about what he was going to do next. He had a problem. Having failed to get in touch with Giles through the girl at the British Library, Spike had driven up to Hampstead with the intention of breaking into Giles’s place. There was sure to be a computer in there. And on that computer there was certain to be a diary and an address book. The difficulty was that Spike had forgotten entirely, until now, that he had never been inside Giles’s apartment, and therefore never had an invitation to cross its threshold. From where he was parked in the darkness half-way between two street lamps, Spike could see Giles’s front door. It was frustrating.

Bugger it, thought Spike, that girl could have given me his number. I should’ve turned up the charm. Since when do I need a ridiculous sodding code word to talk to Giles, anyway? He blew smoke out of the window. The only other idea he could come up with involved getting into Giles’s office down at the library. It would be complicated and time-consuming, but it’s a public building, no invitation necessary, he thought.

He flicked his cigarette butt onto the road and wound up the window. In the absence of anything better, he decided to go with the library break-in. Spike hunched forward and reached for the keys. He was just about to turn them in the ignition when a small blue car pulled up, parking under the street lamp right in front of Giles’s apartment.

A pair of long, jean-clad legs hit the pavement, booted up to the knees. When Spike realised they were attached to a beautiful brown-haired young woman, he took his hand off the car keys and sat back to watch her. She fussed around for a moment or two, retrieving her purse and a folder from the passenger seat. Then she locked the car and went up the half-dozen steps to Giles’s front door. Her footsteps masked the slight creak of a car window being wound down.

Spike focused on her as she walked. She’s lovely, he thought. His vampire senses picked up her mood – curious, determined – and slightly pissed off, Spike smiled. I wonder with what, or who? He sniffed at the air coming in the window. It told him that she had recently showered, eaten Italian-style for supper, and that she favoured a rather old-fashioned French perfume.

She stamped her feet as she fumbled in her purse, eventually bringing out a small bunch of keys. It must be cold tonight, thought Spike. The girl put a key in the lock and then hesitated. She turned around, as though she thought she was being watched, or followed. For a moment, as she turned in his direction, Spike had the distinct feeling that she knew he was there. He looked at her even more acutely, closing the distance between them, caressing her with his eyes. Ah, I see, he thought. Now that is interesting.

Giles’s front door closed behind her with a decisive thud. I’ll give her a few minutes, thought Spike. He was lighting another cigarette when a gray Citroen, going rather too fast, came down the street and squealed to a halt behind the little blue Polo.

My luck must have changed, Spike said to himself. And about bloody time, too. He smiled.

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The Highgate Tunnels A Vampire Is Not Just For Christmas The Things We Say


Last edited by Vivienne on Mon Jul 30, 2012 8:22 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 30th July 2012)
PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2012 3:35 am 
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5. Willowhand
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Dibs!!! YAY!!!

So I know I haven't commented on this story much, but I come out of lurking!

Quote:
Finally, Willow pushed away her empty plate. She sat back with a sigh. Giles looked at her. He pointed a forefinger at his mouth, rotated it, then pointed at Willow’s. She smiled and, picking up a paper napkin, wiped away the halo of sugar around her lips, dusted off her clothes and sat up straight, her face shining as she looked at him.


One thing these two can really have a conversation silently even if it's about doughnuts, Giles and Willow always had a unique relationship no matter what the circumstances.

Charley sounds interesting, I can't wait to see what she will do in all this.

And Spike, never really liked him...and his luck changing dunno if it's luck but we'll see lol

I am loving the story so far, and I can't wait for more!!

~AS~

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Last edited by AstronSoul on Mon Jul 30, 2012 12:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 30th July 2012)
PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2012 11:38 am 
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10. Troll Hammer

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Kind of glad I've never thought too hard about what a vampire's sense of smell can tell them (closest I ever came in a fic was mentioning Harmony's tasting the air.
Speed limits vary a lot here; I'm sure some Western states have posted 70 and 75 mph speed limits.

That is one thing's been bothering me - where Spike fits in. He hasn't really been acting like a good guy earlier.

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 Post subject: Re: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 30th July 2012)
PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2012 11:53 am 
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Excellent. That update was a little of a tease but everything seems to be pulling together with Willow getting some sugar and caffeine so she can talk to Giles and do some work. Then Spike and Charley. So Charley's some sort of recovering magic user, huh? She could be useful. I'm looking forward to reading more (soon).

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 Post subject: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 30th July 2012)
PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2012 7:52 am 
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8. Vixen

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Hi Vivienne

She sat across the table from him. In front of her was a plate of doughnuts and a large strawberry milkshake. Well, what remained of a plate of doughnuts and a large strawberry milkshake, which was not much.

I see Willow still love's to get sugared up, just this time with the mocha's.

I loved your use of the words 'gadding about' in your reply to Kate. It's such a British phrase it definitely marks you out as someone from the U.K.

So it seems that this Charly has had similar problems to Willow as regards becoming too overly reliant on magic

There was an odd pricking sensation in her thumbs, but Charley barely noticed it as she threaded her way north through the streets of London.

Oooh, sounds like a bad guy may be following or spying on Charly. Or is it a way of saying that Charley has some witchy power about her?

It sounds, to me at least, that Spike as been in London for a while now. Is he unofficially helping Giles there, after all being the sociable vampire that he is Spike would be in contact with members of the demon underworld making him a perfect source of info for Giles.

For a moment, as she turned in his direction, Spike had the distinct feeling that she knew he was there. He looked at her even more acutely, closing the distance between them, caressing her with his eyes. Ah, I see, he thought. Now that is interesting.

Does this mean that the woman (who I presume also works for Giles or the Watchers) is a vampire herself or a being with the ability to detect vampires and possibly other supernatural creatures?


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 Post subject: Re: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 30th July 2012)
PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2012 3:21 pm 
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Viv,
I'm afraid this will have to rather brief, as I just got back from vacation, and am now off to drive across 3/4 of the US. Ugh.

I can't believe Clare was busy pootling about somewhere without internet access! I know she can edit my stuff from 5.5k thousand miles away, so one would think that she'd be able to help you out wherever she was. Unless, of course, you're too spoiled to get your stuff beta-ed long distance like us plebs. ^_^

Anyway, my inbox is once more full of moaning about the crappy Devon weather, so it seems she's made it home once more. I do hope that we'll be getting our updates back.


I loved the scene with Willow and Giles. I've always loved the relationship between the two of them. When I finally stop writing a season four story, I'm hoping to explore it more.

I particularly liked the description of Willow's eyes gone black--not just for the description itself, but because of Giles' emotional reaction (i.e. minimal). It's an image that evokes a particular response given the canon version of events, but this Giles hasn't been through those. It helps set this apart from the canon story, just like the other tiny details you've sprinkled throughout.

Of course Giles would have a witch for an assistant. I wonder if he knows--I presume not.

Spike is lovely, as always.

Ugh, must pack.

Cheers,
Kate

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 Post subject: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 29th August 2012)
PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2012 8:46 am 
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AstronSoul

Hi Astron, thanks for the compliment – I always liked the way Giles and Willow related, too. I’m glad you’re enjoying the story, here’s a whole chunk more . . . . :applause

DaddyCat ALSO

I hadn’t thought too much about it, either. Then I figured a vampire’s sense of smell would be as acute as their other senses, like their hearing and eyesight. I refuse to think about the way your average vampire must smell. :grin

JustSkipIt

Hi and thanks x I’m pleased you are liking it. This chapter is much longer and might answer a question or two, though I reserve the right to tease . . . and probably go on teasing for some time. :eyebrow

willowtaralover

Hi wtl! Thank you, once again, for reading the latest chapter and for taking the time and the trouble to comment. You always manage to ask interesting questions. :hmm Chapter 17 should answer some of them – and maybe raise a few more! x

BeMyDeputy

Yes, I’m afraid Clare has rather spoiled me, but it did give me time to write a double-length chapter, so it’s not all bad.
Hope you had a good vacation, although it sounds like a heck of a long drive. It’s raining here, btw.

I’m glad you like the Willow\Giles stuff, I’ve always liked it, too.

I m now in possession of a small tin bearing the legend, ‘Altoids’. I believe it came from across the Pond. I might frame it. :geek

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 Post subject: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 29th August 2012)
PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2012 9:12 am 
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TITLE THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS
AUTHOR Vivienne
RATING PG-13 ....mild language in this one – yep, Spike again.
DISCLAIMER All BTVS characters and certain other aspects of this story belong to Joss Whedon, Fox, ME and associates.
SPOILERS Diverges from canon somewhere early in season six.
THANKS To Wayland (Clare) for her unstinting beta-ing.
FEEDBACK Feel free!



The Highgate Tunnels


Chapter 17


Charley rummaged in her handbag for Giles’s spare keys. She stamped her feet to keep them warm and wished she hadn’t left her woolly gloves at home. When she put the key in the lock, she had a strong sense that she was being watched. She turned, looking up and down the quiet tree-lined street. Why would anyone be watching me? There wasn’t anyone around on foot, so Charley peered at the cars. Some of them, parked between the street lamps, were in darkness. Like that Mini over there, thought Charley, is there someone inside it? But she couldn’t see. Feeling thoroughly unsettled now, she quickly unlocked the door, went in and shut it behind her with a sigh of relief.

Now that she was inside, Charley left her momentary paranoia outside and gave her attention to switching the hall lights on and the security alarm off. She went down the hall, past the guest bathroom and into the stainless steel and white tile kitchen. This wasn’t the first time Charley had been to Giles’s London home. She was quite used to coming here to bring him a book or a file, and had even on occasion stayed to discuss some work-related topic over coffee. He was friendly, he was courteous – and generous with his support. But he had never revealed more to her than was necessary for the dry, bread-and-butter academic work that they both did. She had always suspected that there was far more to Rupert Giles, and to his ‘work’. Now, as she turned on the heating and filled the kettle, she felt a thrill of excitement run through her because it seemed that, at last, tonight she would find out.

She went through to the lounge, pausing to look down the hall. There were four doors at the far end. Charley presumed that two of them were bedrooms and one a bathroom, but she couldn’t guess what the fourth might be. Giles’s lounge was as minimalist as his kitchen. Neutral, unadorned walls, plain rugs on a polished wooden floor, and a low coffee table surrounded by three white leather sofas created a room curiously lacking in personality. Charley leaned against the radiator, waiting for the warmth to seep through before she took off her coat. Why do I get the feeling you don’t spend much time in here, Rupert? she wondered.

She was hanging her coat on the peg behind the kitchen door when she heard the front door bang, and the sound of footsteps and voices in the hall.

‘Ah, there you are Charley. Uh, well done,’ Giles unburdened himself of various bags and, unwinding his scarf from his neck, ushered a beautiful red-headed young woman towards her.

‘This is Willow,’ he said, ‘Willow, meet Charley.’

My age, maybe a couple years younger, thought Charley. So this is the American. What an interesting face she has. She noted the slender figure encased in brown leather jacket, boots and jeans, the lustrous hair and arresting green eyes. No wonder he likes you, she thought. Who wouldn’t?

The woman held out her hand. Charley took it. A split second later she was fighting to conceal her reaction. Such power! She caught her breath, swallowing a gasp.

‘Hi Willow,’ she managed, a little shakily.

This woman had more power than Charley knew existed. And so controlled, she marvelled. Who is she?

‘Hi Charley,’ said Willow, ‘thanks a bunch for doing all that tunnel stuff, and for bringing it over here, it’s a real big help.’

‘Oh, it was my pleasure,’ said Charley. A big help with what, exactly? she thought, her patience now near breaking point.

‘Can I get you some coffee?’ she asked, ‘I’ve put the kettle on.’

‘Great, I mean, yes please,’ said Willow, ‘Though I think Giles would most likely prefer tea.’

Charley smiled back at Willow, ‘Oh yes, I’m sure he would.’

Giles had disappeared down the hall. Two of the doors now stood open, Charley noted as she showed Willow into the lounge. So, separate rooms, okay. In the kitchen, she busied herself putting together a tray of tea, coffee and biscuits. After a moment’s thought, she used china from Giles’s best Spode service and found white linen napkins. As she folded them neatly, placing them on the tray, she worried that Willow would have sensed her own ability when they shook hands. But it’s so small compared with hers, she thought, and I’ve buried it so deep. There hadn’t been any reaction on Willow’s part either, she reassured herself.

Willow, she thought, lovely name. The strain on Willow’s face despite her smile, had been obvious to Charley. So had the deep anxiety that burned behind her friendly eyes. And yet she still took the trouble to say hello properly, Charley thought, and to thank me. She felt a surge of warmth for the young woman. She took biscuits from a cupboard and carefully arranged Giles’s favourite Garibaldi, some chocolate digestives and some shortcake on a plate.

So, she wondered, who is she to Rupert? She rather hoped that his feelings were more paternal than romantic, although it was obvious they were close. Anyway, she thought, he’s far too old for her. Charley glanced at the shiny work-station where she’d left her handbag and the file. Now, she thought, now I get to find out. Her hands trembling with excitement, she picked up the tray and carried it into the lounge where Giles was telling Willow how he’d put her bags in the spare bedroom. He looked at Charley with a smile.

‘Tea – perfect! Thank you Charley. You did bring those notes?’

‘Yes of course,’ said Charley, ‘They’re in the kitchen.’

She hurried out to get them. When she returned, her anticipation peaking, Giles and Willow were sipping their drinks. The third cup remained empty on the tray. Charley put the file and the memory stick on the table. She reached for the coffee pot.

‘Ah, thank you Charley,’ said Giles, picking up the file, ‘You know, I really appreciate you doing all this.’

Willow nodded her agreement enthusiastically.

‘But look,’ Giles went on, ‘I think we’ve disrupted your evening quite enough. There’s no need for you to stay.’

Charley was horrified. She took her hand off the coffee pot and stood up straight.

‘Oh that’s alright,’ she said, ‘I’m really glad to help. If there’s anything else I can do, I mean I’d be very happy to . . . .’

‘No no, we couldn’t possibly impose any further.’ There was no mistaking the tone in Giles’s voice. It was a dismissal.

She looked at Willow for help, but her eyes were on Giles. Desperately, Charley played for time.

‘Oh, okay. I’ll just use the lavatory, and fetch my things,’ she said.

On the way up the hall she tried hard to think of ways of delaying her departure, but by the time she emerged from the bathroom, she still hadn’t come up with anything remotely workable. Furious and disappointed, it seemed as though there was nothing for it but to fetch her coat and handbag from the kitchen and say her goodbyes.

As she started back down the hall a sound caught her attention. It was coming from outside. Charley went back to investigate. When she reached the front door, the noise resolved itself into a soft, persistent tapping. Charley opened the door.

‘At last,’ said the man on the doorstep, ‘I thought I was going to be knocking all bloody night.’

‘You could have tried knocking a bit louder. Or even rung the doorbell,’ said Charley, pointing at the prominent brass fixture.

‘Well you know how it is, love,’ he said, ‘I don’t like drawing attention to myself.’

Charley took in his white-blond hair and long, black leather coat.

‘Really?’ she said acidly.

The man looked bored. He lit a cigarette and exhaled a long plume of smoke in Charley’s direction.

‘So,’ he said, ‘Are you going to invite me in? Or do we stand here freezing our tits off?’

Cheeky sod, thought Charley, who does he think he is? She folded her arms in front of her.

‘You’re the guy who phoned me earlier,’ she said.

‘Aw, you recognised my voice,’ he said, ‘How sweet.’

‘What do you want to talk to Mr Giles about?’ said Charley.

His gaze flicked over her, and then suddenly he was right up close.

‘Now girlie, that’s between me and Giles,’ he said softly, looming over her.

His breath was on her face. Charley’s spine tingled. He’s damned attractive, she thought. And he’s dangerous, she recognised. Really dangerous. Coolly, she raised her chin and looked him straight in the eye.

‘You didn’t know the code-word,’ she said.

He stepped back, glaring at her.

‘Code-word? Bloody code-word?’ He threw his cigarette down and ground it under his foot. ‘Have I walked straight into an episode of ‘The Hardy Boys?’ He cocked his head to one side. ‘And I suppose you’ll be Nancy bleedin’ Drew.

Charley said nothing. She was not amused.

‘For Christ’s sake woman, it’s not like I’m asking you to show me your knickers, although . . . .,’ he leered.

Charley raised an eyebrow and, stepping backward, started closing the door.

‘No, don’t do that!’ The man was back on the door step. ‘Look, I’m sorry,’ he went on in a plaintive tone. ‘Please, all you have to say is “Spike, come in”.’

Charley paused. Slowly, the door swung back open. ‘Why the hell didn’t you say so in the first place?’ she said through gritted teeth.

‘You’d better come in’ She turned her back on him and marched down the hall.

She heard the door slam shut, then the flick of his cigarette lighter as he caught up with her.

‘You should put that out,’ said Charley, ‘Mr Giles won’t like it.’

There was a low chuckle from behind her, ‘Oh yeah?’ said the stranger.

‘I hope this is okay,’ said Charley as they entered the sitting room together, ‘He did give me the code-word.’

‘Aha,’ said Giles, looking at the man, ‘I wondered where you’d got to.’

Willow grinned, ‘I didn’t know you were in England!’ She turned to Giles, ‘You didn’t tell me?’

Giles looked sheepish, ‘We have been a little busy, Willow. I’m sure it would’ve come up – well, it has come up.’

‘Will someone please tell me what it is with this bloody code-word?’ The man looked at Charley. ‘I’ve been trying to get hold of Giles all bloody day and you wouldn’t give me his number because I didn’t know the code-word. I’ve just spent ten minutes arguing with you on the flaming doorstep because I didn’t know the code-word. You finally invite me in, and I still don’t know what the stupid word is!’ He took a final puff of his cigarette before stubbing it out on one of Giles’s best tea-plates.

‘But you gave me the code-word. That’s why I let you in,’ Charley felt somewhat confused.

‘Spike,’ said Giles.

‘What?’ said the man.

‘Spike,’ said Charley.

‘What?’ said the man again.

‘Spike. It’s Spike,’ Willow’s grin had expanded.

‘What, you mean . . . seriously?’ said the man.

‘Yes, the code-word is “Spike”,’ said Giles, coughing slightly. ‘It’s short and . . . .’

‘ . . .to the point,’ finished Willow helpfully.

‘You might have told me,’ said the man.

‘Yes, I should have given it to you, of course. I’m sorry. Been a bit rushed,’ said Giles.

‘You mean Spike is your name?’ said Charley.

‘Yes,’ said Spike, offering his hand, ‘I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced,’

‘Charley,’ she said, taking it. His hand was pleasantly cool to the touch, his skin smooth. Spike looked into her eyes. He smiled. She felt her knees wobble. He knows, she thought. Oh God, he knows. Who is he? What is he?

Spike dropped her hand, took off his coat and threw it over the back of a sofa.

‘So,’ he said, ‘I have news for you. Interesting news.’ He sat down and lit another cigarette.

He looked at Charley. ‘Come and sit with me, love,’ he said, patting the space beside him.

‘Oh, Charley was just leaving,’ said Giles.

Charley saw him flash a warning look in Spike’s direction.

Spike did a double-take. ‘You mean she isn’t . . . you haven’t?’

‘No,’ said Charley, feeling suddenly very fed up with being excluded. She sat down next to Spike. ‘I’ve done piles of research that I don’t know the purpose of, I’ve run around London, I’ve worked late and I even know the damned code-word. But I’m not to be part of it. Am I?’

‘No,’ said Giles decisively, ‘I’m sorry Charley, it’s not possible.’

‘Doesn’t seem fair,’ said Spike, ‘After all her hard work.’

‘I appreciate that,’ said Giles, ‘But Charley isn’t exactly qualified for this sort of thing.’

‘Really?’ said Spike. He crossed one leg over the other and looked at Charley through narrowed eyes. ‘With her talents, hidden though they are, I’d have thought she was eminently qualified for this sort of thing.’

Giles looked startled.

‘You didn’t know? Tut-tut, we are slipping, aren’t we?’ Spike sniggered.

‘Why so hidden, Charley?’ said Willow.

Charley looked at her. So she knows, too. Of course she does. She must’ve known all along, she thought.

‘It caused a lot of trouble,’ she said in a small voice, ‘In the family.’ She felt exposed, vulnerable.

‘So you stopped,’ Willow’s voice was gentle.

‘Yes,’ said Charley.

‘It’s not easy though, is it?’ Willow went on.

‘No,’ Charley whispered.

‘I think we have a new member of the Scooby gang,’ said Spike.

The what? thought Charley, Scooby gang? What the hell is that?

‘No, I’m sorry,' Giles shook his head, 'Charley, you aren’t trained in this work, it’s far too dangerous. Out of the question.’

Willow and Spike looked at him. Charley held her breath. Giles sighed, took off his glasses and used a napkin to polish them.

‘It seems I’m outnumbered,’ he said, ‘Very well, but I’m not happy about it.’

Charley smiled at Giles, then at Willow and Spike – her new allies. So, it was going to be dangerous and she might – no, probably would – have to use abilities she had turned her back on. So be it. She felt excited and strangely confident.

‘Spike,’ Willow was talking, the underlying strain surfacing in her tone. ‘You said you had news. Tara?’

‘Tara?’ said Spike, ‘Tara came with you?’

‘Yes,’ said Willow, ‘They took her. This afternoon. They took her away from me. Spike, tell us you have something that will help me get her back.’

‘Who – who’s Tara?’ said Charley.

Willow looked at her, her face full of grief. ‘My wife,’ she said.

Her wife. Tara is Willow’s wife. Slowly, Charley absorbed this piece of new information. For the first time, she noticed Willow’s wedding ring. How did I miss it? She glanced at Giles. He was looking at Willow with heart-breaking concern. That, together with Willow’s sorrow, brought tears to her eyes.

‘Oh Willow,’ she said, ‘I’m so sorry.’

‘Willow,’ said Giles, very gently. ‘I’m not sure Spike will have the answers we need.’

Willow’s head fell forward, she put her hands to her face.

‘We’ll find her,’ he said consolingly.

‘How?’ Willow’s voice was savage.

‘It’s alright, love,’ said Spike, ‘I know exactly where she’ll be.’

For a moment there was silence as the meaning of his words sank in. Then all three looked at him. Spike extinguished his cigarette on the Spode and lit another.

‘Spike,’ said Willow, her voice cracking, ‘Where?’

Spike leaned back into the white leather of the sofa, half-closing his eyes. He exhaled smoke.

‘The Highgate Tunnels,’ he said.





------

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 Post subject: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 29th August 2012)
PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2012 9:10 pm 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light
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Viv,
I happen to recall the first time Clare told me she had to stop chatting because her beta was arriving for lunch. I was deeply jealous. I feel a little better now that she and I edit over Skype, but it’s not quite the same. Still, I am pleased that Clare’s veritable abandonment of you (and us!) has led to a longer chapter.

My vacation was excellent, though it turns out that Detroit to San Diego (via stops for friends and family) is a LONG. FUCKING. WAY.

That’s funny about the Altoids tin. They would have to be from this side of the pond, unless they’re over a decade old, if I recall correctly. ^_^ Still, truly a gesture of love and affection, I’m sure.

Chapter 17
As I may have mentioned . . . somewhere or other . . . I’m kind of a nut about point of view. So it really delighted me to see how effectively you used Charley’s POV here. You’ve used hers spottily in the past-- for example, when you needed it last chapter to show us that she’s a witch. But the segments laid the groundwork for this chapter, and I really enjoyed it.

Since I have learned that Charley’s name is indeed pronounced “Charlie,” rather than some French-sounding thing, I cannot help but think of Long Kiss Goodnight when I read her name. Particularly the thing with the shot glass. Yum. Fuck, I don’t even drink and I really need to learn to do that with a shot glass.

I loved the description of his minimalist kitchen and lounge—such a contrast from his Sunnydale flat and his Devon home. We know what Charley suspects: that this is not at all how Giles decorates his real space. Yet watching an outsider think it through is sweet and charming, not dull.

Charley’s reaction to Willow is wonderful: first the hints of Charley having at least (as Dan Savage would put it) a touch of the bi, then the “holy crap I’ve just been introduced to the magical equivalent of a nuclear reactor and she’s going to see right through me fuck fuck fuck.” Then her trying to decipher if Giles and Willow were together. Very adorable.

Quote:
Two of the doors now stood open, Charley noted as she showed Willow into the lounge. So, separate rooms, okay.


Hopeful, much, Charley? Couldn’t they be sharing a bedroom, and Giles just opened the main bathroom door, rather than expect Willow to use the guest bathroom? It’s actually what I would have assumed. Maybe she can see into the rooms now that they’re open, but that’s not what’s on the page—just that the doors are open.

FYI, I had to look up both “Spode” and “digestives.” Spode was pretty clear, but “chocolate digestives” sounds like some sort of stomach-soothing thing you’d find with Pepto Bismol and laxatives.

I know Willow has to work at holding herself together, but I do wonder at all if she called Giles out on excluding Charley from the discussion. British reserve aside, it was clear that Charley expected to be included—the third cup and all. Plus, we have Willow knowing Charley’s a witch but she doesn’t know that Giles is in the dark about it. Wouldn’t Willow expect Charley to be included? Not that we should know about any such conversation, since Charley was gone. I still wonder.

The part with Charley and Spike at the door was magnificent. I would have been homicidal by the end of the discussion, after the frustration with Giles. And Spike’s frustration over the code word is just so in character.

But, because I’m a total dork, I have some issues with you here.

Why are they even having this conversation in the first place? You end chapter 16 like this:
Quote:
[Spike] was lighting another cigarette when a gray Citroen, going rather too fast, came down the street and squealed to a halt behind the little blue Polo.


It would have cost us some lovely scenes, but I don’t see why Spike didn’t just walk up to Willow and Giles, who he knows will recognize and trust him, while they’re getting out of the car. It’s not like he’s waiting to finish his cigarette or anything. Given that there are, to Spike’s knowledge, three people in or going into the house, two of which know him and one of which doesn’t, why risk getting shot down again?

Quote:
His breath was on her face.


Vampires don’t breathe. Even if he did make the effort to breathe (as he presumably does while smoking, lest it be an expensive and unfulfilling habit), how would Charley have distinguished it from the wind? It would be air temperature.

Quote:
‘Please, all you have to say is “Spike, come in”.’


Two things. First, I’m guessing that either you punctuate differently on that side of the pond, or you wrote that after Clare got her hands on it. Okay, or she’s out of practice, what with the gallivanting in parts unknown (but not at all due to my abject failure to send her the 500 weekly words I owe her for the past several weeks. Nope. Not one bit. *cough*). I would punctuate it like this: ‘Please, all you have to say is, “Spike, come in.”’ (Technically, I would swap the single and double quotation marks, but I already know you do that differently over there.) Second, this statement is not true; furthermore, Charley’s invitation shouldn’t have worked. You have to live somewhere for your invitation to be valid (see “Real Me,” where Xander cannot invite Harmony into the Summers’ house, but Dawn can.) You’ve clearly established the type and quality of time that Charley spends there, so I don’t think you can argue that she “lives” there more than Xander lived at the Summers’ house. But you’ve also established that Giles is here enough that Spike shouldn’t be able to just waltz right in—if a dorm room counts as a place that Spikes needs an invitation, it seems like this house is sufficiently a “home” to require an invitation.

Okay, done nitpicking. For now.

The part with revealing the code-word is very well done. One of the things I love about your writing is that you don’t front-load information. We’ve known since the first chapter that there is a code word, but you’ve waited all this time to let what it is pay off. What’s more, it’s something where I wasn’t sitting there wondering to myself what it was, which I think made the payoff even better, because I wasn’t expecting it. Plus, in the discussion where it gets revealed, you’ve done a wonderful job avoiding anyone calling Spike by name before you pay it off. Very nice.

Charley losing it was very amusing. And British. Like, after all that’s she’s been through, that’s her losing her temper with the whole thing? We Americans must seem so overdramatic.

I think the final nail in the coffin for me for Charley certainly being into Willow was her reaction to the knowledge that she is married to Tara. Of course, I could be totally wrong; I see the world through bi-tinted glasses, after all, and am not always able to correctly account for said tint. But I think I’m right here.

This puzzled me:

Quote:
‘We’ll find her,’ [Giles] said consolingly.

‘How?’ Willow’s voice was savage.


What about the location spell? The one they agreed would work once they got to London? Did she already try it and have it fail? If so, wouldn’t she have mentioned it here—expanded it to ‘How? The spell didn’t find her!’ or something like that? It has been explained to me that I have no concept of how large London truly is, but if I were Willow, I would have made Giles get off the motorway on the first exit off the M25, found a place to do yoga, and cast myself a tinkerbell to find my wife. And if I knew or discovered that it was too far, I would have made him drive towards central London until it worked. So the idea that she has arrived at the house without trying the spell doesn’t add up—why would they need Charley’s research until they knew the right direction to go? At the same time, Willow doesn’t seem distraught over their best bet for finding Tara (the spell) not working, and neither she nor Giles mention to Spike that they tried and failed to find Tara with it.

Now, yes, all of this stuff is off-camera relative to Charley, so maybe you’ll answer it all next chapter. Or maybe you have answers that you can explain to me, but don’t fit in the flow of the story. But it doesn’t fit right now, and I can’t think of why you wouldn’t want it to fit (there are certainly times when writing things that don’t fit makes sense, I’m just not seeing why you’d want to do it here).

The ending bit is nice, very dramatic and all title-y. You and Clare have this same style where you cut off the chapter right as all the pieces are in the air, without letting any of them fall. Then the opening of the next chapter tends to jump forward, leaving us to figure out how many of the pieces landed for ourselves. It has a distinctive feel to it.


As I’m sure you can tell, I really enjoyed this chapter (have I mentioned that I love the security of knowing that nitpicking is understood as praise?). Between the length and the pulling together of Spike, Giles and Willow, and Charley, there’s a real sense of forward motion, even before the reveal that Spike knows where Tara is. I’m eager to find out what he knows about who (and what!) the other players are, particularly if he knows anything about Jones.

Cheers,
Kate

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 Post subject: Re: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 29th August 2012)
PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 6:12 am 
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Excellent chapter. One of the gifts I feel like you really express in your writing is an economy. Each chapter truly moves toward the subsequent ones and toward where I assume the story is going. It allows the reader (or at least me) to believe that you have a plan. I can imagine that you have a chapter-by-chapter outline and you know exactly how many more updates it will take to finish this off and that it will finish strong rather than sort of fizzle out.

Here I especially enjoyed the meetings and interactions of each character with the others. Charley & Willow, Charley & Giles, Charley & Spike, Spike & Willow... Giles researching and working throughout all that. It did a lot to move the action while also setting up the characters for the next installment. I'm glad Charley clued in about Willow's wife when told rather than going "huh? what? but I thought..." Nice that she could come along for the ride.

I quite eagerly await the next installment.

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 Post subject: Re: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 29th August 2012)
PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 7:12 am 
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The woman held out her hand. Charley took it. A split second later she was fighting to conceal her reaction. Such power! She caught her breath, swallowing a gasp.

Does this mean that Charley is a witch herself because outside of the Scoobies only Tara realised how much power Willow had in 'Hush'.

Why does Charley so willingly do what Spike says? She doesn't know him and it's not even her home, It's Giles'.

‘Yes, the code-word is “Spike”,’ said Giles, coughing slightly. ‘It’s short and . . . .’

‘ . . .to the point,’ finished Willow helpfully.


Right, so Giles and Spike are working together so that makes sense but shouldn't it be the home owner who invites Spike in?

I really loved the comedy dialogue as Giles and Chaley explain to Spike that his name is the code-word. There was something in it that was typical BtVS dialogue.

A nice moment when Willow asks about Charley's power and is so sympathetic towards her. I know the story veers from season sucks but I can see Willow empathising after her own troubles in using her power.

Willow’s head fell forward, she put her hands to her face.

‘We’ll find her,’ he said consolingly.

‘How?’ Willow’s voice was savage.


Ok, I have to agree with Kate here, why can't Willow do a locations spell, she's done them in the past and with Tara being a powerful witch to it shouldn't take as long to locate her.


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 Post subject: Re: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 29th August 2012)
PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2012 8:44 pm 
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Hey Viv...Great chapter!

I really love what you did with showing things from Charley's perspective. As an outsider, I'm sure their situation would look fairly odd. She seems to hold Giles in high esteem or she has a major crush on him, lol. Hopefully she really is on their side and not another Jones. If she has any power, I'm sure it will come in handy when they head into battle. I'm very excited to see how this is going to end!

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 Post subject: Re: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 29th August 2012)
PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2012 11:16 pm 
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Finey_McFine wrote:
Hey Viv...Great chapter!

I really love what you did with showing things from Charley's perspective. As an outsider, I'm sure their situation would look fairly odd. She seems to hold Giles in high esteem or she has a major crush on him, lol. Hopefully she really is on their side and not another Jones. If she has any power, I'm sure it will come in handy when they head into battle. I'm very excited to see how this is going to end!


Oh, sure, read it as Charley crushing on Giles and not on Willow.

Pfft.

Just because it works at least as well . . . .

Shutup. I like my way better.

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 Post subject: Re: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 29th August 2012)
PostPosted: Mon Sep 03, 2012 6:37 pm 
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No, you shut up! lol

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 Post subject: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 29th August 2012)
PostPosted: Fri Sep 07, 2012 8:23 pm 
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I guess i'm too slow, everything i wanted to say has already been said.

However i really am curious to see what's going on in the story: who are the bad guys? who is Jones? are there faeries? (Faeries are cool!)

And the writing quality is superb.
I mean most kitten stuff is good, but this is a cut above.
My friends tell me of the horrors of the internet/fanfic and i kinda don't see any here.

But i loved the clock/tree... THAT was magic.

Please sir, may i have some more? :bounce

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 Post subject: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 29th August 2012)
PostPosted: Sun Sep 09, 2012 4:10 am 
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Let me join in to the praise of this story! It is so beautifully written and manages to keep us on edge every update. So my assumption that Giles' clock was the big bad was really wrong, I'd like to offer a formal apology to it, lol. The acorn communication was cool, good that it lifted at least some anxiety for both of them and that they even had the chance to connect physically (or at least feel as if they did). Pippa is still a complete mystery for me. She seems evil and one can only fear that she wants Tara for some evil reasons, but then she is so considerate to desinfect the wound after the last injection. She reminds me of the Mayor a bit who though being a demon acted so jovial.

What I also really love about your story is how you give us little glimpses of differences from canon (and the future we would expect after canon) and your universe but leave us wondering how big the differences really are (for example: which incident brought your Willow to England, when and how did Tara and Willow reunite, was there just no Warren shooting in your universe or was Tara just spared, was there the unhealthy Buffy/Spike relationship in season six or did she just turn to Angel instead?). I'm hoping some of my questions will be answered along the way (maybe you even give us some flashbacks?).

Your Charley seems to be an interesting character and I'm glad for her that she is allowed to join them. I also think she might have a little crush on Willow (totaly understandable, I have too, lol). To the theory that she has her sights on her employer instead...I can't imagine it. Just my feeling, I have no facts for it apart from these thoughts maybe:

Quote:
My age, maybe a couple years younger, thought Charley.


Quote:
Anyway, she thought, he’s far too old for her.


Following this logic Giles had to be far too old for Charley too...

Now please, PLEASE update again soon so we can learn what (and how) Spike knows about all this...


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 Post subject: Re: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 29th August 2012)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 12:21 am 
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A little bird told me that there might be an update soon.

Color me excited.

^_^

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 Post subject: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 13th November 2012)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 9:35 am 
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Kate,
I’m glad you liked the POV; I wanted to write one chapter from Charley’s perspective, just to show how a relative outsider would react to the gang. Poor girl, I’m not sure who she’s attracted to more – Willow, Giles or Spike! She’s being pulled every which way. And yes, I think she’s just indulging in a bit of wishful thinking with the rooms, she can’t really tell who’s sleeping where. As you quite rightly say, Giles knew nothing of Charley’s witchiness. His determination to exclude her was out of protectiveness, and continued that way after he found out. Willow’s reaction to that will probably come out in her thoughts at some point.

McVitie’s Milk Chocolate Digestives are a British institution, the ultimate in comfort cookieness. I can’t imagine Giles being without a cupboard full. Or most of us. Probably.

Ok, so why doesn’t Spike just get out of the car when he sees Willow and Giles? Well, from what I’ve seen, vampires don’t last very long. Most of them seem to get dusted or suffer some fatal post-fatal mishap sooner rather than later. My theory is that this is because most vampires are very, very, dumb. A few, however, are smart. Really smart. Spike falls into this category. He is one of the few outstandingly smart vampires. You can probably think of some more. Not so many though, are there? You don’t get to be around for as long as Spike without exercising both your brain and a great deal of caution. Charley goes in, he gets her figured for a witch. Hmm, interesting. He’ll wait awhile, see what happens. She might have been followed by something undesirable. Willow and Giles show up. Great. He’ll wait awhile, just in case. Alright, seems ok. He’ll go to the door. Don’t forget, there is STUFF going on not very far from Giles’s place. In the Highgate Tunnels. Spike knows something about this. So, care must be taken.

Opinions vary on the question of vampires and breathing. It does seem like a contradiction, I know, but I have come down on the side of practicality. Not only would smoking be an effort, but speech would be laboured and difficult. Also, without circulation, inhaled smoke would have no effect, as the bloodstream would not carry the nicotine to the brain. And - uh, hum , without breathing/circulation, certain activities would not only be unpleasant, they would be impossible. And I think Buffy, for one, would confirm how warm and upstanding a vampire can be.

I’ve heard it argued that you have to be the home-owner or occupier to issue the invitation. I don’t think that’s very practical. Living there, yes, that makes sense. Ok, she doesn’t live at Giles’s place, but she has been a regular visitor. Over and above that, she does actually work for Giles, so it makes sense to me that she’d be able to invite him in, in the same way that a housekeeper would.

For the location spell thing, see Chapter 18. Tinkerbell, even in its’ tinkered with form, couldn’t work on an area that size.

I’m really happy that you enjoyed 17, Kate. Thank you for the nit-picking.

Viv x

JustSkipIt

These are very kind words, and I appreciate them. I do have a plan, yes, but not too detailed. I know where it’s going (Highgate) and how it will end (happily), but much of the plot detail and characterisation is figured out as I go along. That’s the fun of it. A strong finish is absolutely what I’m aiming for. I owe that to myself, to Clare and to all the amazing kittens :kgeek My original thought was that it would run to about 25 chapters, but we’ll see how it goes.
Thanks x

willowtaralover

Yes, Charley is indeed a witch. She has been very quiet about it up until now, but I think she finds meeting Willow such a relief, she’s willing to use it to help the Scoobies.

I think Charley feels the power of vampire glamour. Of course, she doesn’t know that Spike is a vampire, but she feels the attraction all the same.

Have a look at my response to Kate on the invite thing and the location spell. See what you think.

I’m glad you enjoyed the comedy dialogue. I had some help from Wayland on the fine-tuning of that, so it works really well, I think.

Thanks a lot for your feedback – always a pleasure to read.

Finey_McFine

Hey! Glad you enjoyed 17. I wanted to try something a little different, just to show the gang from someone else’s viewpoint. She does think a lot of Giles, yes – and Spike, and Willow, too. Her hormones must be working overtime, poor thing. Now it’s back to Willow’s POV for a couple of chapters. Thanks for your comments, Finey, I hope you like chapter 18.

Azirahael

Thank you! I’m very happy that you like the clock/tree thing, it was a real pleasure to write.

It’s kind of you to say you like the way I write, thank you and, OF COURSE you shall have more.

Wills redemption

Thank you very much for liking my writing. No need to apologise over the clock thing. I take it as a compliment that I managed to keep you guessing.

I don’t make too many references to canon in this story for fear of bogging it down. I’m trying to focus more on developing Willow, Tara, Giles and Spike in terms of their characters, bearing in mind that they are all a little older than they were. Also, and perhaps more importantly, on making sure they all stay true to the characters we know and love. So, while some things relative to canon might come out in the story, most of it probably won’t. I take the view that they are here and now, and although some of the bad stuff happened in the past, some of it didn’t. A bit like a parallel universe really, rather than an alternate one. If that makes sense. Hell, what do I know? I’m just making it up as I go along :banana

Anyway thanks for your comments on 17. I hope you enjoy 18.

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 Post subject: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 13th November 2012)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 9:50 am 
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TITLE THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS
AUTHOR Vivienne
RATING PG-13 ....for the moment!
DISCLAIMER All BTVS characters and certain other aspects of this story belong to Joss Whedon, Fox, ME and associates.
SPOILERS Diverges from canon somewhere early in season six.
THANKS To Wayland (Clare) for her unstinting beta-ing.
FEEDBACK Feel free!



The Highgate Tunnels


Chapter 18



Willow was on her feet. She looked at Spike. ‘The Highgate Tunnels? Is that in London?’ she demanded, ‘How soon can we get there? How do you know Tara will be there?’ Without waiting for him to answer she looked at Giles, ‘Equipment, Giles. Let’s go get her.’ Then she turned on her heel and left the room.

Willow strode down the hall, feeling calmer and more purposeful with every step. Since Stonehenge, her emotions had been on a roller-coaster ride. It was a relief to get off. Being with Tara in that strange and magical place had been both wonderful and heart-breaking. Wonderful to be together in spirit, heart-breaking to be torn away, knowing that Tara was drugged, captive somewhere underground. A location spell had seemed to be the answer. Easy – light the candles, fill the goblet, look into the water and, hey presto! Willow, full of doughnuts, coffee and confidence, had settled back in her car seat and tried not to harry Giles into breaking the speed limit.

As they approached London, that confidence had begun to ebb. Mile after mile of suburban, then urban sprawl reminded Willow of how large and densely-populated the capital city was. By the time they passed Heathrow airport she realised that the goblet was not likely to show her any more than Tara had been able to, back at Stonehenge. Brick walls running with damp, an arched ceiling, flickering light - but little else. Giles had done his best to reassure her, but by the time they had arrived at his apartment in Belsize Avenue, Willow had begun to despair. The size of the file Charley had brought only disheartened her further. Spike’s presence had seemed to offer hope, but when she realised he hadn’t even known Tara was in the country, Willow’s feelings hit a new low.

Now she opened the door to Giles’s home office and went in, only dimly aware of footsteps behind her. She hadn’t stopped to get answers from Spike. He could fill them in while they were on the move. For Willow there was only one thought, one feeling, and one purpose now. Tara.

The footsteps caught up with her as she paused to snap on the lights.

‘Willow,’ Giles was behind her.

‘I know what you’re going to say,’ Willow spun round, glaring at him. ‘Planning, preparation, yada-yada-yada. No, Giles. We get tooled up and we go. Spike can tell us everything we need to know on the way.’

‘It may not be that simple. Willow, we don’t even know what we’re up against. We need to hear what Spike knows before we do anything,’ said Giles, matching her glare for glare.

‘Giles, we don’t have time for this! Come on, open up the armoury,’ she looked around at the book-lined walls as if willing one of them to slide back of its own accord.

‘Why don’t we ask Spike how much time we have?’ Giles said.

‘A couple of days,’ said Spike, who was lounging against the door and looking decidedly bored.

‘How can you be so sure?’ said Willow.

‘Full moon,’ said Spike, examining his fingernails.

‘Oh,’ said Willow.

Willow took a deep breath, then another. Okay, okay, she thought. Calm, calm, I need to be calm. She remembered how she had felt when, hours before, she and Giles had left for London. She hadn’t been afraid then. No, she had felt the kind of self-possession that she hadn’t felt in years. Or maybe never. I wasn’t scared because I wasn’t scared of me. I knew what had to be done. I lost sight of that so quickly, now THAT’S scary.

Willow looked around. No-one had moved. Charley stood in the doorway, hugging the files to her chest. She looked pale and apprehensive. Spike had stopped admiring his fingernails and was watching her intently. Giles’s face was tense. He too was studying her. Oh no, no, thought Willow. There was a small, gilt-framed oval mirror on the wall near the door. Willow went over to it. Her reflection confirmed to her what she already knew. Her eyes looked enormous. They were as black as coals – and not in a good way. She lowered her face into her hands. Breathe, breathe, she thought.

Tara’s face swam up in front of her. Pale-soft, blue-blonde, gentle-strong. Tears trickled through Willow’s fingers. The fear returned. It began in her pit of her stomach, turning into panic as it rose in her chest and finally to anger. She let herself feel it, wash over her. Although her body shook, she didn’t move from the spot in front of the mirror, didn’t take her hands from her face. Wave after wave surged through her. There had been a time when she would have ridden those waves, whipping at them until mere anger turned into a maelstrom of fury.

That was then. Now, she let it go. She took one slow, deep breath after another. Gradually, the waves grew smaller and quieter, and then they stopped. Now there was room for the feelings that really mattered. Her love for Tara. Her love for her friends – and for herself. Gratefully, she felt the return of her earlier calm resolve. Willow stopped shaking, took her hands away from her face and looked in the mirror. She gave a shaky breath. Green. She grinned at her reflection.

‘Alright?’ Giles sounded wary.

Willow turned around. ‘Yes,’ she said. ‘I-I’m sorry, I’ll be fine now, really. I didn’t
mean to – ‘
‘Good,’ said Giles.

Spike, who had been standing on the balls of his feet, poised as if ready to spring, straightened up. The furrows in his brow stopped deepening and smoothed out. His eyes widened.
‘Good,’ he said. It was a warning.

Willow cleared her throat. She looked at Spike. ‘Two days, you said?’

‘Until the ceremony,’ he said.

‘Ceremony?’ said Willow and Giles together.

‘Yes,’ said Spike, sighing with affected boredom, ‘Ancient rites, old magic, scary vampires, blah, blah.’

‘V-v-vampires?’ Charley, still pale, came all the way into the room. Spike looked amused. Giles looked at him sharply over the top of his glasses.

‘Nice of you to play it down, Spike, but I rather think there’s a lot more about this that we need to know,’ he said. ‘I think we should sit down, share what we do know and decide on our next move.’

Sitting down was an adventure in itself, Willow concluded as she picked up a heap of paper from a chair and looked for somewhere to put it that wasn’t already occupied with yet another mountain of paper. The room was as unlike the rest of the apartment as it was possible to be. Heavy drapes covered the window opposite the door. The two remaining walls were book-lined from floor to ceiling. There was a large wooden filing cabinet in one corner. A small oak desk stood close to the window. The rest of the floor space was taken up with several worn chairs, a small sofa and a battered coffee table. And of course, every available surface was covered in papers, books, files and various small artefacts from four continents.

‘Here,’ said Giles, relieving Willow of her burden, ‘I um, I really need to ah . . .not had much time,’ he murmured, trying to find a space on his overcrowded desk. An orrery teetered dangerously as he pushed aside the pile of books it was perched on. Charley, who was closest, caught it as it fell.

‘Perhaps you could use some help in here . . . after . . . ?’ she said, putting the orrery safely under the desk lamp.

‘Oh, yes, that would be . . . now that you . . . thank you, Charley,’ Giles smiled at her. Charley blushed.

Willow hid a tiny smirk as she finally curled up in one of the comfortable old chairs. Giles has no idea, she thought. She watched as Charley cleared the sofa, eyes glancing towards Giles as she sat down. But Giles took a chair, and it was Spike who swung himself lazily into the space beside Charley. Oh-ho, thought Willow, noticing the immediate tension in Charley’s body, so now she’s reacting to Spike. As if to confirm the thought, Charley’s hand went up to flick back her hair in an unmistakably coquettish, if unconscious gesture. A rock and a hard place, poor girl.
Willow recognised Giles’s feelings as obviously paternal and, as for Spike, there were few more dangerous places for a beautiful young woman to go. Except of course, Charley was a witch. Willow recalled the moment she’d met her. She’d liked Charley instantly, seen the power buried within along with the accompanying feelings of sadness and isolation. Family stuff, she said. Yeah, I can relate to that. Willow knew that Charley had felt the strength of her own power straight away. No wonder she’s so eager to help, it could be the first time she’s been valued for what she is, instead of condemned. Willow was thinking that Charley reminded her a little of someone else, when Giles cleared his throat and opened his mouth to speak.

At that precise moment the doorbell rang.

‘Are you expecting someone?’ said Willow, but Giles’s face looked as surprised as she felt.

‘No,’ he said, ‘And certainly not at this time of night.’ He got up and strode over to one of the book-lined walls. It slid back at the touch of a hidden switch to reveal shelf upon shelf of every conceivable weapon, both conventional and strange. He rolled back his left sleeve and with swift, economic movements, strapped a dagger to his wrist. Willow, hardly registering Charley’s gasp, was at his side in an instant. She selected two sharp stakes, shoved one in the top of her boot and followed Giles up the hall with Spike and Charley close behind. Giles carefully opened the front door. Two very short men stood there, wearing anxious expressions.

Willow’s mouth fell open, ‘Jones! Shorty?

‘What the . . . . ?’ said Giles.

Spike’s lips drew back in a snarl, his teeth extended, his brow furrowed and his eyes narrowed. With a roar, he leapt toward the open door. Willow barely had time to drop the stake she was carrying before catching Charley as she fainted gracefully into her arms.


[center]***[/center]

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Last edited by Vivienne on Wed Nov 14, 2012 12:04 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 13th November 2012)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 10:17 am 
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9. Gay Now
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Dibs!

Also the mystery continues!

I love it!

I have to say, you do a very mysterious England.
Sometimes people forget how old and strange the place is.
And you do it very well.

I look forward to more. :bounce

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 Post subject: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 13th November 2012)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 10:15 pm 
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Viv,
What a lovely addition to my morning.

Quote:
Poor girl, I’m not sure who she’s attracted to more – Willow, Giles or Spike! She’s being pulled every which way.


This made me laugh, as it reminded me of a comment my fiance made as we were watching Buffy: "Wait a second, this must be like . . . soft core porn for you." The delights of bisexuality. Still, I'm not sure if "poor girl" is how I'd describe her: I don't think being surrounded by intelligent, gorgeous people is pitiable.

Thank you for the information on the digestives; I've looked them up, and apparently they can be purchased at a store not far from where I live, as can Cornish pasties. As I expect it will be a while before I can finagle my way across the pond, I'll have to make do.

The explanation for why Spike doesn't get out of the car was excellent: I hadn't been thinking that there was STUFF in close proximity. In fact, I was too busy thinking "London is huge" to think "the Highgate Tunnels might be near Hampstead." Now that I've done some poking, it seems that they are quite close to the tunnels, by London standards at least. On a related note, I see the tunnels are now a bat sanctuary. How apropos.

Okay, so, Spike wants to smoke or talk, and to do that he needs to breathe. Sure. And you want to attribute his capacity to enjoy the finer side of naked playdates to a circulatory system (rather than, oh, I dunno, magic). Whatever. That still doesn't mean he's warm. I mean, maybe Xander likes Spike being all cold down there: fanfic writers certainly seem to think so.

Er, Buffy.

*cough*


I still don't think Charley's invitation should have been valid. Okay, she works for Giles, but Xander essentially worked for Buffy, and yet his invite wasn't sufficient at the Summers' home.

This is, of course, me being ornery, as you're certainly allowed to set up whatever damn rules you want for your world.

Always happy to nit-pick. Not only does it come naturally (one of my favorite books when I was ten was the Nitpicker's Guide to Star Trek: The Next Generation, in case you hadn't already discovered I'm a total nerd), but know a thing or two about British reserve: including that simply heaping praise usually causes rapid subject changes or outright fleeing.


Chapter 18
Quote:
It was a relief to get off.

You couldn't have said "step off"? ;) (Sorry, I spent the long weekend working on a sex scene, and now my head is trapped in dirty places.)

I really liked how the "Oh, remember that location spell? Not the panacea Willow thought it would be," bit worked out. Whether it was writing yourself out of a corner or planned or somewhere in between, I think it works. Because we left Willow's POV behind last time, we needed to catch up with her and how things had changed since the doughnut stop, to know where she was emotionally when Spike walked in with his news.


Quote:
Spike’s presence had seemed to offer hope, but when she realised he hadn’t even known Tara was in the country, Willow’s feelings hit a new low.


and

Quote:
‘A couple of days,’ said Spike, who was lounging against the door and looking decidedly bored.

‘How can you be so sure?’ said Willow.

‘Full moon,’ said Spike, examining his fingernails.


These are useful in understanding why it is that Spike stayed in the car: he needed to get in touch soon, but didn't have reason to believe that a few minute delay would cause harm. He had the breathing room to sit and wait and see what happened.

I loved the bit with Willow losing, and subsequently regaining, mental control. Throughout the story, you've done such a wonderful job of showing us where Willow is in terms of her recovery. This story certainly has a 'big bad,' and there is certainly a conflict between our heroes and said external forces. But, as in BtVS, what drives the story isn't the man versus man conflict, it's the (wo)man versus self conflict. (Must . . . resist . . urge to launch into debate of the value of examining stories through the lens of the Joseph Campbell . . . whew, that was close.)

You have an extra line break here:
Quote:
Willow turned around. ‘Yes,’ she said. ‘I-I’m sorry, I’ll be fine now, really. I didn’t
mean to – ‘


This left me unclear:
Quote:
‘Good,’ said Giles.

Spike, who had been standing on the balls of his feet, poised as if ready to spring, straightened up. The furrows in his brow stopped deepening and smoothed out. His eyes widened.

‘Good,’ he said. It was a warning.


Is the second 'good' Giles again, or is it Spike?


Quote:
Willow hid a tiny smirk as she finally curled up in one of the comfortable old chairs. Giles has no idea, she thought.


This made me giggle. I mean, really, Willow, you're one to talk.

Giles' armory, practical as though it is, reminded me of the Mayor's wall.

Poor Charley, first rudely attacked by the existence/relevance of vampires, and then seeing Spike vamp it up.


When the little bird told me I should be on the lookout for an update, I (after declaring I was already excited), asked if I should be excited. She told me 'yes.'

She was right.

Cheers,
Kate x

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 Post subject: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 13th November 2012)
PostPosted: Wed Nov 14, 2012 12:08 am 
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Whoops! :blush Line breaks corrected. x

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 Post subject: Re: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 13th November 2012)
PostPosted: Fri Nov 16, 2012 6:59 am 
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Hi Viv
It's good to see you back on the board but why the long gap between chapters?

I know that Willow is desperate to get Tara back but surely she wouldn't want to risk everything, especialy her wife's life by just rushing into danger. As she says to Buffy in S2 E1

'What about the rest of the note...The part that says P.S. this is a trap.'

It's interesting to see how Willow deals with the darkness that lies within her. Presumably she still does lots of meditation to work on it so that it is never unnecessarily released and has a great deal of help from Tara in that respect.

Reading Willow's thoughts on Charley I'd lke to know more about her and why she apparently is in some kind of isolation from her family.

Well well, so Jones is back after vanishing out of Giles country cottage, but is he there to mislead our heroes in some way? Spike certainly doesn't trust him so I'm guessing that he's a demon of some sort but who is the other very short man?

Wonder if Charley realises just what she has let herself in for after having seen Spike vamp out and GIles and Willow get tooled up with weapons.


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 Post subject: Re: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 13th November 2012)
PostPosted: Fri Nov 16, 2012 8:40 pm 
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So glad to see an update on this fic. I think I'm about as on edge as Willow and anxious to go get Tara back. I mean, hasn't she been gone long enough? For them it's been a few days, but for me it seems like forever! lol

Spike is always interesting because he never does anything for anyone without there being something in it for him. I felt a little bad for Charley, she sure did get an eye opening!

Jones is back! And he'd better watch his ass, because he now has to face one pissed off redhead, a vampire and Giles...nuff said.

Can't wait to see what happens next!

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 Post subject: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 13th November 2012)
PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2012 7:17 am 
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Yay, you're back! :applause :bounce :applause :bounce :applause :bounce
I think Willow's first "gut reaction" to Spike's revelation, just wanting to rush to the tunnels immediately to save Tara, was very understandable. And we learn that she still has that darkness in her which can rise to the surface in times of intense emotional turmoil but that she has learned how to regain control. That was very beautifully writen:

Quote:
Tara’s face swam up in front of her. Pale-soft, blue-blonde, gentle-strong. Tears trickled through Willow’s fingers. The fear returned. It began in her pit of her stomach, turning into panic as it rose in her chest and finally to anger. She let herself feel it, wash over her. Although her body shook, she didn’t move from the spot in front of the mirror, didn’t take her hands from her face. Wave after wave surged through her. There had been a time when she would have ridden those waves, whipping at them until mere anger turned into a maelstrom of fury.

That was then. Now, she let it go. She took one slow, deep breath after another. Gradually, the waves grew smaller and quieter, and then they stopped. Now there was room for the feelings that really mattered. Her love for Tara. Her love for her friends – and for herself. Gratefully, she felt the return of her earlier calm resolve. Willow stopped shaking, took her hands away from her face and looked in the mirror. She gave a shaky breath. Green. She grinned at her reflection.


Now that Jones and "Shorty" have shown up I hope we'll get some more infos from them and Spike the next chapter. I believe they are good guys and that Jones just tried and failed to protect "his lady Tara".

This last bit made me chuckle:
Quote:
Willow barely had time to drop the stake she was carrying before catching Charley as she fainted gracefully into her arms.


Okay, Charley had many intense revelations to stomach in the last halfhour or so, but the little damsel fainting into the arms of the hero just feels so" classic-adventure-movie-style", just with the twist of it beeing a heroine here...

Oh, before I forget:
Quote:
No wonder she’s so eager to help, it could be the first time she’s been valued for what she is, instead of condemned. Willow was thinking that Charley reminded her a little of someone else


I guess the someone else is Tara, before "Family", still convinced that she'll turn into a demon and at the same time elated that she is part of the good guys and loved by Willow...

I hope we won't have to wait as long for chapter 19 than we had to wait for this one...although it was definitely worth the wait...


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 Post subject: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 13th November 2012)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 20, 2012 1:15 pm 
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Alright, I just found and caught up with this fic.

Damn! This is amazing! You do so well in setting the scene and developing the story that I can see it.

I hope there is an update soon, I must keep reading! :banana :eatme

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 Post subject: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 3rd December 2012)
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 8:33 am 
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Azirahael

Thank you :)

It’s true, I am old and strange. Wait a minute, you said England . . . (cough)

BeMyDeputy

Hi Kate,

I’m pleased to hear that digestives are available in the colonies. Very civilised. However, I would like to strike a note of caution over the purchase of Cornish (or Devon) pasties anywhere other than outside their native counties. While I like to think I’m open-minded enough to entertain the possibility that the correct recipe is being followed half a world away, it would be wise to refer to an expert before buying. Please write down the ingredients and provide a photograph. Consultations are free, and could save you from a bad experience.

Vampire physiology is never going to be an exact science (or magic), and will always be fun to debate. I like mine breathing and slightly warm – tepid, anyway. At least mine don’t sparkle.

You might well be right about the finer points of inviting said vamps over thresholds, though. I’ll give you that one, pilkunnussija :grin

willowtaralover

Hi, thanks for the feedback:)

Willow is desperate to rescue Tara, for sure. There have been times when Willow has taken the risk – remember Glory?

I think one of the reasons that Willow is sympathetic toward Charley is her understanding of how witchcraft can set someone apart from their family.

‘Shorty’ first makes an appearance in Chapter 5, where Willow describes how he looks and how she and Tara met him. There are a couple more references to him between then and Chapter 18.

I’m getting the feeling you like Charley :heart

Finey_McFine

Tara’s only been gone for less than a day, but I am catching up with her briefly for this next, short chapter. I don’t think it’s going to allay your fears, though . . . .

Ah yes, Spike’s self-interest-at least we always know where we inferior mortals stand, eh? Not even upright, in Charley’s case.

Yes, it will be interesting to see how the incident at Giles’s door turns out. In Chapter 21.

Thanks so much for commenting :flower

Wills redemption

Terrific, thank you :banana I’m glad you’re enjoying this story. Hooray for classic adventure and fainting damsels! Charley realising that Spike was a vampire was one surprise too many – but she is made of stern stuff!

Yes, how difficult for Willow to hold back on the urgency of finding Tara. In this next chapter we catch up on what’s happening with Tara. It’s a short piece, just to keep us all going while I work on what’s going on in Belsize Avenue. Chapter 20 will be a lot longer, and should answer a few questions.

Missocki

A new reader, wooo :bounce I’m so pleased you like the story. Thanks for commenting. I hope you enjoy the next bit.

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Last edited by Vivienne on Mon Dec 03, 2012 8:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 3rd December 2012)
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 8:49 am 
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TITLE THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS
AUTHOR Vivienne
RATING PG-13 ....for the moment!
DISCLAIMER All BTVS characters and certain other aspects of this story belong to Joss Whedon, Fox, ME and associates.
SPOILERS Diverges from canon somewhere early in season six.
THANKS To Wayland (Clare) for her unstinting beta-ing.
FEEDBACK Feel free!


The Highgate Tunnels


Chapter 19



Tara tried to sit upright on the wooden chair. Her head hung forward, shoulders slumped. With an effort, she placed one hand on each side of the seat and, gripping tightly, she forced her back straight. The room swam in front of her. She felt her stomach shudder unpleasantly as a wave of nausea swept through her. Beads of cold sweat broke out on her upper lip. She concentrated on sitting very, very still. Keeping her breathing slow and even, she waited for the sickness to pass.

The chair was next to the small bed on which she had lain, paralysed. Tara had no way of knowing how long she had been kept there, drifting in and out of consciousness. Her mind threw up the image of Pippa approaching her, syringe in hand, smiling. Tara fought to control another wave of nausea.

She banished Pippa’s face and called up Willow’s. Willow. Her face warmed with excitement. She remembered the last time – was it the last time? – Pippa drugged her. As she was going under, she’d heard the ticking of a clock, and then she was soaring, free of her body, flying over rooftops and chimneys, across fields and hedges. As true as a well-fledged arrow finding its mark, so she had found Willow, waiting for her. Tara closed her eyes, recalling their meeting. She smiled as she cradled Willow in her arms, kissed her, talked to her, and loved her in the moonlight, among the glittering stones.

So she isn’t here, she’s with Giles. Relief washed over Tara as she realised Willow was free. So, why DID they take me and leave her? Tara didn’t know, but guessed it wouldn’t be too long before she had the answer. Jones was another puzzle that, for the moment, she put to one side.

Her stomach felt better. She opened her eyes and looked around, examining her prison properly for the first time. The lamp was there on the little table, casting its soft light on the dank brick walls and the arched ceiling. Tunnel! Tara thought. It’s an old subway tunnel. But where is it? She shut her eyes again and tried to reach out through the walls with her mind. It was no use. A fog, obviously of magical origin, enveloped the room on all sides. Pippa’s work, she supposed. She focused hard. It should have been easy for her to sweep it away, but in her weakened state, she simply didn’t have the strength. Tara fell back, sweating and nauseous once more.

Her mouth was very dry now. Thankfully, there was a glass of water on the table. The movement needed to get the water and bring it back made her want to retch, but she managed to ignore it. By the time she’d drunk half the glass – in slow sips – she felt a lot better.

The light began to flicker. Tara saw that the oil in the clear glass base of the lamp was almost gone. The faltering flame threw the brickwork into sharp relief and made strange shapes out of shadows. That one looks like a door, she mused. Huh, it IS a door. Made of plain wood, it was set into the wall on one side of the room. Its construction of vertical planks matched both the curve and the gray-green-brown colour of the bricks. Good natural camo, so maybe no surprise I didn’t notice it, she thought.

She finished the water, put the glass on the floor and got up to examine the door. The liquid sloshed around inside her, threatening to defy gravity. Tara sat down quickly just as the door juddered open. Pippa stood there in a glow of orange light that emanated from the space behind her. She ducked her head back and called out something that Tara couldn’t hear clearly, then, with a wary eye on Tara, she came in.

Moments later, one of the ‘young men’ from the cafe in Exeter entered with a can of oil. A vampire. Of course, thought Tara. He looked at her with a predator’s eye as he replenished the lamp. Tara had begun to lift her head to give him a defiant look, and then she stopped, looking at the floor instead. I’m in no shape for a fight, she thought. Not yet.

Pippa perched daintily on the end of the bed. When the creature had finished his task and shut the door behind him, she gave Tara an appraising stare.

‘So, how are we feeling now?’ she said brightly.

For a long moment Tara said nothing. Then, deliberately slurring her words a little she asked: ‘What have you done with Willow? What is it you want?’

Pippa replaced her wary expression with a pearly-toothed smile. Good, thought Tara.

‘Please,’ said Pippa in a tone Tara assumed was meant to be soothing, ‘Don’t worry about your little red-headed friend. She’ll be perfectly safe.’

I know, thought Tara savagely, and no thanks to you. But she was careful to keep her face bland.

‘As for what we want . . . .’ Pippa slid her hand into an inside pocket of her ski jacket and brought out a small package. She hopped off the bed and came over to Tara, unwrapping the tiny parcel as she walked. Tara caught the scent of apples as Pippa drew near. She stopped in front of Tara and held out the object for her to see.

‘The other half of this,’ she said. ‘Now, if you please.’ Her voice had hardened, all pretence of reassurance gone.

Tara looked at Pippa’s open hand. It held what was unmistakably a Tartaria tablet. It was smaller than the one Shorty had given Willow, and carved with different symbols. Inside a circle, a trio of vertical wavy lines were intersected by three identical horizontal ones. That was all. She remembered Shorty’s words. He said to get the other half. This is it. And Pippa thought Tara had it. But she must’ve searched me when I was out cold. Does she think I’m hiding it magically? She has to have cast a reveal spell. She thinks I’m more powerful than her. Maybe. Maybe I am. Tara longed for the opportunity to find out.

‘Do you know,’ said Tara, still slurring, ‘do you know that thing is more than seven-and-a-half thousand years old?’

Pippa leaned in closer and stroked Tara’s hair with her free hand.

‘Oh yes,’ said Pippa softly, ‘I do. I know that. And I know you have the other half. They belong together, don’t you agree? I really do think you should give it to me. I think you should do that right now.’

Tara stared at the tablet resting in Pippa’s outstretched palm. For a moment it seemed to her that the waving lines trembled and the circle glowed. Something deep within Tara stirred, like a long-forgotten memory. Something deep and ancient, and utterly benign.

Pippa was still stroking Tara’s hair. Now she stopped and cupped Tara’s face in her hand. She raised Tara’s head and looked into her eyes. The smell of apples was overpowering.

‘Right now,’ she said, ‘After all, I’m sure dear Willow’s continuing safety is your top priority.’

With difficulty, Tara maintained her vacant expression and muttered; ‘T-tablet.’

‘That’s right,’ said Pippa, ‘Tablet. Give me the tablet.’

The air in the room seemed to change. The lightest of breezes danced through, taking away the apple stench and replacing it with the scents of high-plains grasses, clear cold water, and fragile mountain blooms. The lamp flame bent and stuttered, but Pippa seemed not to notice any of it. Tara took a deep breath and sat up straight. She studied Pippa for a long moment.

‘No,’ she said.




***

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 Post subject: Re: Re: THE HIGHGATE TUNNELS (updated 3rd December 2012)
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 8:59 am 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light
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Location: San Diego, CA
Yay! Go Tara!

More later.

ETA:

Quote:
pilkunnussija

A badge I wear proudly. Hell, I kind of want a t-shirt that says that. (Thanks again for the great word. Such a useful addition to my collection.)

I will take care in selecting pasties--I have discovered at least one place in San Diego that sells them that is run by an ex-pat from North London. Which is, admittedly, outside of Corning and Devon. I'm sure he'll understand if I tell him I've been instructed to verify the composition with a resident of the proper county. I have cousins from Leicester that visit the area frequently: would they be sufficient taste testers?


Chapter 19
Quote:
She thinks I’m more powerful than her. Maybe. Maybe I am.

A long time ago, a friend was teaching me about game theory. One of the things I remember was about determining the information available to to another player based on his actions. I can't help but think of that here: that it's Pippa's treatment of Tara as the more powerful one that tips her hand and guides Tara towards her conclusion. Hee hee. Sucker.


Quote:
For a moment it seemed to her that the waving lines trembled and the circle glowed. Something deep within Tara stirred, like a long-forgotten memory. Something deep and ancient, and utterly benign. ... The lightest of breezes danced through, taking away the apple stench and replacing it with the scents of high-plains grasses, clear cold water, and fragile mountain blooms.


Tara's interaction with the Tartaria tablet here started me thinking about why Shorty gave the other one to Willow. If Tara is activating and/or activated by the tablet without her needing to take any special action, it might have been in Shorty's best interest to keep Tara and the other tablet apart. And if that's true, then Jones and Shorty would have to know different things about the tablets than Pippa does; otherwise, Pippa would simply have demanded the tablet, rather than give it a chance to interact with Tara.

Also, the "long-forgotten memory" line is making me consider placing my money on 'reincarnation of the shaman' rather than only being 'decedent of shaman.' But magic and memory and heredity can mix in interesting ways, so I'm not sure yet. Not that it, you know, strictly matters which flavor of 'Tara--ancient magical connection--shaman' you've selected. It's just a fun game.


Back to of Jones and Shorty: I'm curious to see if they'll point out that the absolutely last thing that Willow should do is charge in to save Tara while wearing the other tablet. Pippa presumably needs them both to resurrect the shaman using Tara's life force/by taking the reincarnated soul that's currently Tara and putting it back into the shaman/other magical mumbo-jumbo that means 'Tara dies. Shaman lives.' But because you have these two scenes operating independently, it will work if they don't; dramatic irony is great for building dread, and the whole 'hero charging in with the maguffin that the villain needs' bit is a classic. I'm just looking forward to seeing which way it plays out. Or if I'm wrong, of course. ^_^


I have always loved the scene with Tara and Glory on the bench: it tells you so much about Tara in so little space. This ending of this scene is a great nod at that, playing on that same kind of strength from Tara. Nicely done.

_________________
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I'm from Iowa, we drive four hours for a high school football game.
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Last edited by BeMyDeputy on Wed Dec 05, 2012 11:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

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