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I have been in a fairly unregulated place for the majority of Christmas as I found out just before Christmas that my contract will not be renewed - not because I'm bad or anything - but essentially because young people with disabilities are not considered a priority so all the frontline services related to SEND are not being renewed. So - no job come May. My lecturer has found a position as a Research Assistant for me to apply for working on a 2 year project about technology and how it can help people with disabilities - which sounds really good but is obviously not even close to a guarantee. I also need to get the application in by tomorrow...
I have had a very hard time balancing everything I am doing and feel like I am struggling to keep everything going. So unsurprisingly all the stress of this morning culminated in me having a quite spectacular meltdown when two police cars went past our house with the sirens going. I can tolerate sirens when I am regulated. When I'm not...it's awful. I feel very ashamed and embarassed about how such a stupid final sensory input can send me into a state of sensory overload - people seem to understand it more if you're a kid. Not so much when you're an adult.
I'm back to a state of relative self-regulation now - although it will take me a few days to be completely back to baseline - so that's a good thing at least. I also have the entertainment of JJ playing the new Binding of Isaac expansion pack and telling me about all the new things in it. There aren't many games where you would hear the phrase "This new pick-up looks like a scary demon vagina", so at least I can also rely on interesting conversation to keep me going...
Fandom: Malory Towers/Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Word Count: 5978 (in total)
Summary: Everyone has questions and sometimes the answers are not the ones you want.
“Did you get answers?”, Alicia grinned as she managed to make Marie jump by appearing beside her as the teacher walked through one of the fields near Malory Towers, “I see you’re not always on guard”.
“It’s the middle of the day, I am on guard as I need to be”, Marie replied and then after a pause continued, “Nonetheless that was well done - it’s not often anyone sneaks up on me”.
“Thanks”, and Alicia grinned despite herself, “So come on then, what did you find out?”
“I found out that you took Darrell out on patrol with you”, Marie continued with her walk and Alicia fell into step alongside her.
“Rupert’s already given me the lecture”, Alicia muttered, “Don’t know why he had to go and tell you”
“He didn’t”, Marie took their walk further away from the view from Malory Towers.
“Darrell?”, Alicia screwed up her face, not imagining that her friend would have revealed anything.
“Not intentionally”, Marie had a slight smile at the corner of her lips, “Unfortunately Miss Rivers is quite easy to read, and far too forthright to keep all of her emotions off of her face.”
“Are you angry?”, and Alicia was surprised to find that she was anxious to know the answer.
“You are both alright, although it could have ended quite badly. I would think you both realise now why her accompanying you is not a good idea?”, Marie stopped beneath a cluster of trees and faced out over the ocean.
“Yes”, Alicia scuffed at the ground with the toe of her shoe, “When all the skeletons rose at once I…”, she glanced out at then ocean and shrugged, “She can't defend herself and I can't keep her safe. It's better for me to be alone”.
“Is there something you need to talk about Alicia?”, Marie asked. Alicia thought -for all of about a second- about answering truthfully but eventually just shrugged,
“You know there is, or you wouldn't ask”, she said, “I just don't want to. So how was the Council?”
“Less illuminating than I had hoped”, Marie said, “I did visit a cemetery that had more answers for me - shame that the dead often offer more assistance than the Council”.
“I think I’m beginning to see why you took Rupert in”, Alicia grinned, “I see that streak of defiance”.
Marie gave her a quick glance but didn’t dispute the statement, “I found another entry concerning the Conduit”. Alicia forgot the teasing of her mentor in an instance,
“Do you know what it is?”, and she eagerly took the parchment that Marie took out of her pocket, relieved to find it in a language she could read this time - French.
“The Conduit didn’t just affect Greece?”, she asked.
“It did the second time it rose - this is the first time the Conduit was summoned”, Marie explained, “To say that the second summoning in Greece was more devastating would be an understatement”.
“Five hundred people died…”, Alicia said as she read down the page, “More died in Greece?”
“Many more…”, Marie accepted the parchment from Alicia, “I fear that the next time may see even more deaths. The skeletons were not a coincidence. They were called from their graves so that someone could search them”.
“Something was taken - something to do with this Conduit?”
Marie sat down in her chair with a sigh. She would be expected to put in an appearance at least in the teacher’s common room later that evening - with a convincing explanation for where she had been that did not involve cemeteries - but for now she was grateful for the opportunity to rest.
Alicia - as she perhaps should have expected - had practically drilled her for every last piece of information about the Conduit, and had seemed quite unsatisfied with the limitations of Marie’s knowledge. Marie smiled to herself; it had at least prompted Alicia to return to the books from the vampire nest to look for more information herself.
“Come in Rupert”, she called as she heard the floorboards outside her office creak. The door opened a moment after.
“Showing off are we?”, Rupert asked, “I take it Alicia was quite energised by your findings - I saw her rush off down to the cottage”.
“She seems to be throwing herself into the Slaying with perhaps a bit too much vigour”, Marie said, “but you aren’t here to discuss Alicia are you?”. Rupert smiled, and was it Marie’s imagination or was it almost ruefully.
“Your visit to the Watcher’s Council got me thinking - along with an encounter whilst you were away”, Rupert took a seat in what was usually Mademoiselle Dupont’s chair and leant back.
“No need to be subtle - although your discretion is admirable - I have already established that Alicia had Darrell accompany her on a patrol”, Marie shook her head to herself, “I am quite aware of the sorts of trouble those two are capable of getting up to when together. I suppose it must have been quite sobering for you? To see Alicia put a friend in such danger?”
“You could say that”, Rupert looked away from her with a frown, “I found it unsettling to be on the other side of that conversation - to be the responsible adult. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about it actually”.
Marie waited patiently, giving Rupert the space he needed to find his words. Seconds ticked into a minute and the young man seemed almost conflicted as he stared out of the window. When he finally spoke his voice was soft,
“I don’t think I should be a Watcher, Marie”
Marie found herself both surprised to hear the words come from Rupert’s mouth, and equally surprised that he hadn’t spoken them sooner. She fought the instinct to respond immediately, experience telling her that he had more to say that would be lost should she jump in too quickly. Sure enough Rupert continued,
“I had forgotten about them all until your visit”, Rupert finally looked back at Marie, “Managed to keep their smug faces out of my head. I joke about and tell you that you’re the only decent Watcher I’ve ever met, but for me it’s not a joke. How can I ever be a Watcher when they stand for so much that I despise?”
“I could give you an answer”, Marie kept her tone soft, “I could list off your good qualities - though I think you would just wave them off - or I could talk about how the sort of man you will become is exactly what the Watcher’s Council needs, but I don’t think that would help would it?”
“Not really no”, Rupert got to his feet and shoved his hands into his pockets, “Why do you do it? Stay a Watcher? I know it’s supposed to be a calling and everything just like the Slayer but let’s be honest - either of us could walk away at any moment”.
“A few months ago I would have said I didn’t know”, Marie hesitated before deciding to be a little more honest, “I considered retiring. Then Alicia was called and I decided that I couldn’t trust any of the Watcher’s at the Council to mentor her. She’s...a difficult personality at times”.
“Then they lumped you with me as well”, Rupert almost managed a grin, “Bet you really do wish you’d retired”, then he sighed and shook his head, “Thanks for the talk but it’s getting dark and I feel like I need to do some Slaying”.
Marie wasn’t sure that she had been of any help at all.
“Everything okay?”, Darrell realised that Sally had stopped and was patting down her pockets.
“I don’t think I picked my necklace back up after you untangled it when we sat down - it must still be on the log”, Sally frowned, “I’ll run back and get it”. Darrell glanced at the horizon through the trees. The Autumnal evenings were growing darker ever earlier, and Darrell had no desire to be outside after the sunset. She had even less of a desire to let Sally walk around alone as it got dark.
“I’ll come with you”, she said immediately.
“Don’t be daft, it’s just a few minutes if I run”, and Sally had turned back and started to make her way quickly through the trees. Darrell clicked her tongue in frustration and scrambled back up the bank to follow her. Of course Sally would think she was being over-protective but Darrell could live with that.
She moved quickly through the trees, reminding herself to breathe in and out slowly so that it didn’t feel like her heart was about to burst out of her chest. Sally was quicker than Darrell had given her credit for. When she heard a cry up ahead she broke into a sprint.
“Sally?”, she slowed to a jog as she ran into the clearing and allowed herself a sigh of relief when she saw Sally at the centre, “Is everything alright? Are you bleeding?”. Darrell closed in the gap between them to get a better look at Sally’s wrist.
“It’s fine - my own fault”, Sally said immediately, and she tugged her sleeve down to cover the cuts, “I...think I caught myself on some of the brambles or something”, and she waved vaguely at the bramble bush nearby.
“Let me look”, Darrell insisted, holding out her hands and after a moment of hesitation Sally complied. Darrell turned Sally’s arm over to look at the cuts and frowned.
“This looks awfully deep for bramble bush cuts”, Darrell said, and she squinted at the peculiar pattern of wounds.
“I tripped coming over the ridge”, Sally replied, pulling her arm back, “Put one hand right in the thorns. Look can we get back to school so I can wash up before dinner?”. Darrell was quite taken aback by Sally’s tone and gave her friend a glance over. Sally’s cheeks were a little red and flushed, and Darrell realised that her over-reaction to a simple trip and fall was probably embarrassing her.
“Sorry, Did you get your necklace?”, she asked and Sally dug one hand into her pocket and pulled it out to show Darrell, “Alright - come on then”. The walk back to school was quiet, not peppered with their usually easy conversation. As they closed in on school, Darrell noticed Alicia walking in from across the fields - probably returning from the cottage. Sally, of course, noticed her attention shift and a strange something crossed over her face when she saw who Darrell was looking at.
Darrell was quite sure that Sally didn’t realise that Darrell was watching her out of the corner of her eye - otherwise she surely wouldn’t have practically tracked every one of Alicia’s movement across the field as they walked.
“Sally?”, Darrell asked eventually, feeling a little unsettled.
“Hmm?”, Sally finally looked away and turned to look at Darrell. Darrell stopped walking and stared at Sally’s eyes. Darrell blinked heavily and looked again - whatever she thought she saw was gone, Sally’s eyes were the same dark blue they always were, she must have seen a reflection of the sunset.
“Is everything okay?”, Sally was the one to ask this time and Darrell shook herself.
“Fine - must just be tired or something”, Darrell started walking again. Alicia had reached the school before them so Darrell was spared any awkwardness between the three of them. Sally dashed off to the dorms to wash up and change her shirt before dinner; Darrell waited at one of the bay windows in the corridor, one overlooking the woods.
It was strange how so recently she would have felt quite comfortable sat gazing out at the countryside, charmed almost by the beauty that surrounded the boarding school. With the added knowledge of the monsters that crawled out at night, it became much less enchanting. Darrell couldn’t see the graveyard from the school which was probably for the best. The sun was low now, and not being able to see what was outside made Darrel a little uneasy.
A slow tingle crept up her spine and she just knew something was watching her. She tried to remember what Alicia had said about all the spells and wards around the school - practically impenetrable was how Alicia had made it sound with how often she talked about it. So where then was she being watched from? No - not watched - hunted. She felt like at any moment she was about to become something’s prey...
She wasn’t too proud to admit that she actually squeaked when she turned around and found Sally behind her. Sally seemed to study her for a moment,
“Are you sure you’re okay?”, she asked, looking past Darrell and out of the window.
“Never better”, Darrell said, hoping that she didn’t look even half as terrified as she felt. She was very grateful when the bell sounded for dinner.
I am very happy.
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“What the hell are you doing?”, Darrell jumped at the sound of Alicia's voice and looked up guiltily from her position lain on her front next to the lamp, not where Alicia had left her.
“I couldn't keep reading this in the dark, and I need to move around a bit”
“Then you wait for me to come back and help you”, Alicia shot as she put down the water and food she had gathered, “You shouldn't be crawling around the cave, you'll get hurt.” Darrell bit back the retort that it was more dragging herself around than crawling, as she imagined that would only serve to make Alicia more irate.
“You look really pale”, Alicia sat down opposite Darrell and took a drink from the metal container then offered it to Darrell, “Have you hurt yourself?”
Darrell took the water and took a few sips, “You need to stop treating me like I'm so fragile”.
“Are you hurting?”, Alicia passed over some of the fruit and leaves that they had found to be edible, and Darrell rolled her eyes at the blatant ignoring of her question.
“Of course it hurts Alicia, I have a constant headache and when I can feel my leg, it's agony”, Darrell pushed herself up into a more comfortable position, “But lying around and waiting to die of my injuries isn't going to help either of us.”
“Don't say that”, Alicia's words came out as a sharp bark that made Darrell jerk back in shock, “You're not going to die, don't say things like that”.
“My chances are much better if we get back home”, Darrell nibbled on the edge of one of the pieces of fruit, was it even fruit if it existed before anyone had been around to name it? She felt her thoughts start to drift and she refocused them on Alicia.
“How it going anyway?”, Alicia nodded towards the notepad and Darrell was grateful for the change of topic.
“I think I know how to force an anomaly to open, well the codes to set the device to do it anyway”, Darrell put her fruit to one side and lay back down, resting her forehead on her folded arms, “I just don't know how to set a date.”
“We could just open one and see?”
“I think there's only going to be enough charge for one, maybe two anomaly openings”, Darrell closed her eyes and breathed slowly through the pain before she continued, “It hasn't been plugged into the mains for weeks, even if it's been turned off. I don't want to risk ending up somewhere worse”.
“Worse than here?”
“Remember the predators from the future?”, Darrell moved her head to one side so she could see Alicia out of one eye. Alicia grimaced and nodded,
“Okay, so we'll wait. You need to eat something”
“You are unbearably attentive at the moment Alicia, when is the real you making a reappearance?”, Darrell groaned.
“You nearly died Darrell, it's going to take a while”
“I nearly died at that abandoned warehouse estate a few months back, you weren't like this afterwards”, Darrell wasn't sure what response she was trying to goad out of Alicia, did she really want to have to deal with whatever it was Alicia felt for her when it was just the two of them, stuck here?
“That's because I was an idiot”, she hadn't expected that response, “I got you caught up in all this and I've nearly got you killed twice.”, Darrell felt guilty as she raised her head and watched Alicia sit, body tensed and eyes focussed on the floor.
“I didn't mean...it's not your fault Alicia...”
“I should have just accepted it when you turned down the journalist job. Then none of this would have happened.”
Darrell didn't have a response to that and dropped her head back onto her arms, no longer having the strength to keep talking.
Alicia spat water out as she dragged herself up on the shore. Her throat burned where she had choked on the water in the lake. She clawed at the sandy mud and dragged herself away from the water, as images of some of the sea creatures they had dealt with before came back to her. Her legs wobbled as she staggered to her feet, and she tried to scan for the dinosaur that she had been running from.
She struggled a few more steps and collapsed onto her knees, and coughed until she was certain she would be sick. As her head pounded with each breath she took, she fought against her body's desire to fall onto her front and lie in the dirt. That would be certain death. If she collapsed out here, if she died, then she condemned Darrell to the same fate.
That thought was enough to get her back on her feet, and once she started to walk, it got easier to put one foot in front of the other. The sky hung dark overhead, and the air felt heavy on her back, but she kept walking.
It had gotten easier to pretend that things were going to be okay; having Darrell awake and talking to her made it seem like losing her was less likely. Of course, rationally, Alicia knew that was a load of rubbish. You could have talked to someone on the phone and hear the next day that they'd dropped dead of a heart attack an hour after you hung up.
Alicia leant heavily against a nearby rock and struggled to catch her breath, trying to make herself just focus on getting back to the cave instead of all this preoccupation with death. She tried to push away the thoughts that Darrell was so much weaker than Alicia had ever seen; that the grey of Darrell's complexion made her look half-way towards death already. Alicia briefly considered smacking herself in the head in her frustration at her own train of thoughts but instead clenched and unclenched her fists as she pushed herself off the rock and back into a determined walk back towards the cave.
She would have been a prime target for any predator that had happened upon her, and Alicia stopped just short of thanking divine intervention for the fact that the carnivore that had driven her into the water in the first place had decided she was far too small for too much effort. Still, intervention from higher or not, Alicia was grateful when she finally crawled back through into the cave. She slid the rock across behind her, just in case something had caught her scent, and staggered forward towards the small glow of the lamp.
She crumpled. The dull thud of her knees hitting the stone floor echoed around the cave and in the meagre light she saw Darrell glance around, and then try to move.
“Don't!”, Alicia cringed at the sharpness of her own voice, but it did stop Darrell in her tracks. Alicia took a few deep breathes and then forced herself back to her feet, “I'm fine”.
“You are a truly awful liar”, Darrell replied as she carefully manoeuvred herself around to face Alicia. Alicia sat down beside Darrell and squinted at her friend against the faint glow of the lamp.
“You look really...”
“I know how to get us home”.