"Twilight for Anonymous…"

 

Disclaimer: Not mine but thine...O, Joss!

Archived at the Cicelyverse page of the Buffy Rebecca verse, www.buffyrebecca.com or direct to story at http:/www.buffyrebecca.com/tfa.html...

General audience level...

 

Summary: In a past life of Buffy and William, a certain story- and scene-stealing vampire gets his much-deserved desserts…

 

London… 1599…

 

"Now…" shrewd look…From a dark-haired man who, leaning back on his stool, eyes his visitor…A large, rather buxom, ravens'-haired beauty…A beauty not only well-known to him, but desperately desired…

 

To the point of both the most fiendish evil and the most bitter jealousy…

 

"…I don't say I know who might be layin' claim to Will's work, lass…But…"

 

"Ben…You'll be tellin' me or you'll be pickin' splinters from that cup out of yer teeth…" the addressed woman notes, coldly…Advancing…

 

Hmmn…The man eyes his approaching foe…Brown eyes with that odd hint of green, flashing…Short, sharp hewn to a fine point, stake clenched in capable right hand…

 

And knowing as I do just how capable she might well be of doing that…

 

"Well…For the sake of me two dearest friends in this world of England…" Ben begins…

 

"Jonson…Cut to the quick of it…Or I'll be breakin' that money-makin' hand of yours faster than my Will could say 'Romeo, oh wherefore…'"

 

Ouch…Witch…She would rub it in about "her" Will's latest blockbuster…

 

Well, a silly romance always gets the groundlings blubbering…And throw in a couple of foolishly open-hearted, teenaged lovers…

 

"Now dearest Annie…" he eyes his dearly desired, the spouse of his great foe…

 

"…As your Will's closet friend…And an artist of the first rank…"

 

"'Oh…'" she begins, seizing his hand… "… 'Romeo'…"

 

Arggh… "DeVere…Edward DeVere…Anne, I and the world need that hand, girl…"

 

She releases, arch look…Followed by puzzled one…

 

"Oxford?...That twit?...The toff would-be poet who hired Will to write a sonnet for him?..."

 

"So they say…But hey, last week 'they' were saying it was Marlowe doing all of Will's writing…" Jonson notes…

 

"Ay…They did…" So thank God for the English Secret Service, its efficiently brutal chief, Walsingham, and our ruthless Queen eliminatin' that little problem…

 

No offense, Chris, but tis' a tough business…

 

"But…DeVere…?" she frowns… "I thought, perhaps Essex…Or one of the others in his circle…Everyone knows this fellow's a silly..."

 

"Not since he read that sonnet at Court…And I gather your Will kept his word not to say a word…"

 

"One…And one decidedly second-rate poem among his catalog of hits…Let out to that young dolt and some are ready to believe…"

 

"Eh…Last month, I told some fool in a tavern, as a joke whilst I was…A bit incapacitated, that it was the Queen herself writing my plays...And for the rest of that month…"

 

"I remember…Well, what you deserved then, knowin' they'd said the same last year about Will…"

 

"So, where is the lad?...Not willin' to stand for his work, he sends you here to take up for him?…"

 

"We discussed it…"

 

Cut to shot of William Shakespeare, bound and gagged in his London rooms…

 

"…But no way I'm lettin' him put himself at risk, confrontin' this sort of thing…He's the source of the family wealth, Ben…Can't have him in prison or worse for upsettin' some courtier with friends, who might not even be the right man…"

 

Besides…A bound and trussed Will Shakespeare is a faithful Will Shakespeare…For a day or two at least…

 

Hmmn…

 

"Anne…" Hopeful tone… "If that truly be the only reason…"

 

"Pish off, you…" frown… "Ben Jonson…You know I love Will alone…"

 

"Annie…After all we've meant to each other?..."

 

"I'll be breakin' that hand now…"

 

"Anne…Fine, fine…" Jonson glares but pulls back hand…

 

Perhaps after she met that popinjay when she did tell me to never darken her doorframe again there was a hidden meaning there after all…

 

Well…Ben Jonson shall yet have his vengeance…Even if tis to be served both cold and rather late…300 years or so from now, in fact, if that damned pretty piece of a "justice demon", that sweet, if rather deadly, Anya comes through true…What was it now…He's to be reborn as the world's worst poet…And dear Anne cursed to doom him to unendin' suffering…

 

Nice…He smiled inwardly…

 

"What?..." Anne eyed his beaming, contented face…

 

Oops…That was meant to stay inwardly…

 

"Uh…Just thinking on how best to punish that worthless snot of an aristocrat…For my good friend's sake…" Ben, innocently…

 

Right…I believe that…Anne frowned…

 

After all, someone had to have smuggled Oxford a copy of Will's other works for him to be claiming authorship so boldly…

***

Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, stepson of Her Royal Majesty's beloved Robert Dudley, royal (currently ex-) favorite, pacing room…Pausing to eye his majestic self in a long mirror, feeling moustache acquired during his recent campaign…The only badge of honor in the sorry affair…Carefully and proudly…Pulling at stuck fold of sleeve, then smoothing…

 

My God, I'm beautiful…He turns and frowns at his guest, reclining on a long chair…

 

"Edward?...Are you sure this work will do the job?..."

 

Languid stare, shrug, off-hand wave of languid hand emerging from ruffled sleeve…

 

"My dear Robert…" Edward DeVere, taken by all to be the current heir to the Earldom of Oxford, rather than the sole and immortal holder of said title that he was in truth…Smiles gently…

 

Poor spoiled baby…Unable to see the wolves at your heels and the fiend traitor in your bosom…

 

"…Our friend Shakespeare's 'Richard II' will do for the occasion…An anointed king, foolish and rather disliked but hardly a brute tyrant, overthrown and deposed…It's just what we want to convince our people the old Queen can be shaken…"

 

"Yes…" Essex paces further… "Yes…But of course, shaken…I want her just shaken, you know…Forced to see that I am her only true protector and worthy advisor…"

 

"Of course…" Edward nods…

 

"Even if my very life weighs in the balance I should never violate my oath…"

 

Uh-huh…Somehow I wouldn't place great bets on ole Eliza's life if we should succeed…But, she'll probably offer him some equally worthless promises of safely and forgiveness, if it comes to that…

 

Either way blood will follow…To my benefit, both practically and of the spirit…

 

Ah, politics…I love it so…

 

"But when does the fellow come to receive our charge?...And the alterations we considered to add to the topicality of the play?"

 

"Shortly, Robert…Shortly…After all, the man is a hit playwrite…His time is valuable and his schedule, generally impossible…But for those good friends of ample coin and influence in the realm…"

 

"Are we, Essex and Oxford, two peerless high nobles of this isle, to await the pleasure of some nobody playwrite?..." Essex fumes…

 

"The crowds we hope to influence to our side wouldn't say so…" DeVere notes…

 

"Bah…You place too much faith in the crowd, Edward…It is a fickle mistress and will bite…Hard…When annoyed or perceiving itself spurned…"

 

Someone will, in any case…Oxford inwardly smiles…Brushing a loose hair down…

***

"Twilight for Anonymous…"

 

Disclaimer: Not mine but thine...O, Joss!

Archived at the Cicelyverse page of the Buffy Rebecca verse, www.buffyrebecca.com or direct to story at http:/www.buffyrebecca.com/tfa.html...

General audience level...

 

Summary: In a past life of Buffy and William, a certain story- and scene-stealing vampire gets his much-deserved desserts…

Part II…

London…

 

City lodgings of a certain famed playwright…Currently indisposed…

 

Anne Shakespeare, striding rather fiercely…Stake in hand…As Ben Jonson, having followed her at her "request" watches her from a stool…Occasionally eyeing the currently indisposed William, still bound and trussed in chair…

 

"It's the cause…It is the cause…Name it not, will I, bein' a good wife and mother…" she pauses, eyeing William in his chair…

 

Hmmn…He eyes her back…

 

You know, that rather makes for a nice scene there, with the pacing and touch of a frenzied…

 

"…Nor in front of company…" she frowns at Jonson…

 

Hey…You brought me here, lass…

 

"…If I ever thought…" she glares at Will… "Any of them tales were true…About those women…"

 

Lord…Burbage's been shooting his mouth off again…Will sighs inwardly…

 

Tries soulfully innocently look…Annie…

 

"Anyway…" she nervously waves… "We've more to concern with here…How could you be lettin' some twit noble be stealin' your work and passin' it as his own, Will?..."

 

Think of the family in any case…Our girls…Little Hamnet…The potential loss of all their future hopes…

 

"Will?...A man like Oxford?...You'd let him lay claim to your work?..." she fumes…

 

Hmmn?...He tries exaggerated puzzled stare…

 

Oxford?...Steal…?

 

"Everyone in Strafford's heard tell of the claims…It's humiliatin', Will…Why else…Apart from missin' ye (and the natural desire to be sure me London-based spouse is really spendin' 24/7 on nothing but the family business during the theatrical season)…Would I be spendin' the dear moneys for such a trip…Leavin' Hamnet and our girls with me parents…Abandoning the Hellmouth of Strat…"

 

Ummn…She pauses, blinking at the puzzled Jonson…

 

"…abandoning them to the hell of Strafford, alone…" she lamely and hastily corrects… "Unless it was so dire for the family cause…What were ye thinkin', William?..."

 

Well?...She eyes him…

 

Oh, right…Pulling cloth from mouth…

 

"Sorry…But what be ye thinkin' Will?...What moneys could he offer so worth giving away yer birthright…?"

 

And if ye have a figure, lets have it…With breakdown of all costs to be met, includin' Hamnet's tuition at Cambridge…She eyes him with frown…

 

"Anne…" William gasped, a bit out of breath… "I've not…"

 

"No?..." she eyes him…Beaming look… "Not betrayed me with the easy-virtued ladies of London and yer own foul stage?...Or not sold our future?...Or…(even better)…Both?…"

 

Hmmn…Well…Definitely not #2 but as to #1?...

 

Still, no need to get bogged down in detail…

 

"Uh, no…Dear…" he replies…

 

Which said, could naturally cover either/or…

 

She eyes him squarely… "Truly?..."

 

"I've never sold Oxford anything but that little sonnet…"

 

Frown…Boy, you know damned well that wasn't the question I had in mind…

 

Still, the practical must take precedence here…

 

"Right then…I've need to speak a word in the ear of one Edward Dever then…"

 

"DeVere…" Jonson, helpfully…

 

"Whatever…"

 

"Ben?..." Shakespeare looks over… "Why the devil are you here?..."

 

"Why who else would dear Anne turn to in the circumstance?..." Jonson, snidely… "You being occupied…"

 

Will eyeing a now somewhat-tables-turned Anne…She, a sheepish expression…Ummn…

 

"Man does know about me other profession, Will…" she tries…

 

"Exactly…" Ben, smugly…

 

"No reason to bring him along to see me trussed like a goose…Or a patient for the stone cut…" Will, frowning…

 

"He'll say naught…If he knows what's best for him…" Anne, grim nod…

 

"Already forgotten, friends…" Ben, spreading hands, benevolent smile…

 

"But as to Oxford…I don't think Anne should be charging in to threaten him…He's a powerful man with connections at Court…"

 

"Connections of dubious worth now…" Will notes

 

"Queen still loves Essex like the idiot son she (probably) never had with Dudley…" Jonson shakes head… "She'll not tolerate his friends abused by the ordinary folk…However extra-ordinary they may be…" he adds hastily to Anne's glare…

 

"What?..." Anne stares… "Is he in trouble with the Court now as well?..."

 

Just what we need…The family business shut down because some fool drags our work into his mud…

 

"They say…And 'they' are pretty well placed to know…" Will notes… "That he and Essex are up to no good…Trying to gain sole access to the Queen, possibly even more…"

 

"More?...How much more…?"

 

Jonson portrays chopping of head with head… "That much more, if they're caught…"

 

"Holy Jesus…" Anne crosses herself… "Will, what have you got us mixed up in?..."

 

"Me…?" Shakespeare blinks…

 

Say could you?...He holds up bound hands…Really can't express the emotion without the hands…

 

She frowns, but undoes rope…

 

"As I say…I've done nothing of the sort…Sweetheart, you know I'm not political, excepting of course…"

 

"Will!..." Anne, hastily…

 

Since they know I know about the Undead killin' thing and all that, I'd guess it's the closet Catholicism she's in a dither about…Jonson thinks, watching contentedly…

 

All grist to me mill, that's for sure…

 

"…Well, I'm not political…I've done nothing for or with Oxford to give cause for the Court to be angry with me…No more have I done for you, girl…" solemnly innocent look…

 

"I'm sure I'm wantin' to believe that, William Shakespeare…" she begins…

 

A sharp knock at the door to the rooms catching her in mid-chastisement…

***

Wardrobe room of the Chamberlain's Men at the Globe Theater, Southwark district of London…

 

"Tis fine stiching…Here…" toss of coin, caught in mid-air…

 

Quick bite of said coin…Ah, the real thing…Warm smile…

 

"Thanks for your custom, Master Hemings…" hasty pocketing of coin…

 

"Miss Jenkins…" Hemings, bow with flourish suiting a lead actor of the company…

 

Anya Jenkins, seamstress to the company, a position secured by both her talent and her friendship with Anne Shakespeare, nodding in return…

 

"Wilt it be Sir John for you this next time?..." she asked…Hemings shrugging…

 

"Lord knows lass…But our Will is at work on something…Hope it's more of Falstaff…That fat knight is a sure box office draw…Still, with Master Shakespeare, who knows…He's been getting' temperamental of late…Wantin' to do more in the line of Art I hear…"

 

"I'd thought he'd done such…" she blinked… "That last one with the Italian kids was simply beautiful…"

 

"One might've hoped the lad would've purged such sentiments from his system with that…" Hemings sighed… "He's a practical man generally, is our Will, but the craze for his stuff may be going to his head…He talks till one might be tempted to go drown oneself in a butt of wine about the need to 'go further'…Further, he says…As if we've put all thought of profit and security to rest and have sacks of gold and silver in the cellar to allow us indulgence of any whim we so desire…"

 

"Still, the man is a genius, John…" Anya noted…

 

"So he tells us…Constantly…Though…" smile… "A bird or two have said…Confidentially…That all his inspiration comes from other sources than the bottle…"

 

"I should hope so…" Anya, frowning… "Wait?...You're not giving precedence to the rumors about someone else…?"

 

"And kill the goose before the eggs is laid?...Girl, give me credit…" Hemings frowned… "I'll just be sayin' there are…Rumors…"

 

"Well, I'm not believin' 'em…And if you know what's best for you, John Hemings…"

 

He put up his hands in a peaceful gesture…Lass…

 

"I've no wish to see such tales spread…I'm merely sayin'…Where there be smoke…Sometimes…There be...A fellow puffin' on the Indian pipe…"

 

She shook her head…Hemings, grinning, turned and left…

 

Hmmn…She sighed…

 

Well, not my job to dispel rumors about the authenticity of Mr. Will Shakespeare's works…

 

In fact, rather more my job to encourage such, I suppose…

 

Though, I am here for now merely as an observer…D-H having been clear on the set-up of Mr. J's revenge portfolio…No action till 1858 when Mr. Shakespeare's reincarnated self takes the earthly field…

 

Just have to see no one gives warning…Say some victim of Mrs. S's stake with a desire to win points with the Slayer by alerting her…Or some well-meaning psychic or soothsayer…One can't be too careful in a long-term project like this…

 

I mean Livia's vengeance scheme for the Roman Empire took nearly 1500 years to bring to fruition…With plenty of opportunity to throw the whole thing off-track…

 

Seems a shame though about these rumors…Denying poor Will his just due as a great author and handing the laurel to some jerk with a fancy old name…Not to mention it could lessen the effect of our own scheme…I mean if he never becomes the world's most famous author, what's so bad about being reborn as the world's worst poet…

 

And the current seeker for the mantle…That dork DeVere…

 

Slimy little wuss with that phony soulful manner…Well, he'd best never let Annie catch up with him…That glam of his will never fool a Slayer as capable as she…

 

"Seamstress!..."

 

"Comin', Mr. Burbage…!" she called…

 

Never a break in this job…D-H should award me extra credit…

***

"Twilight for Anonymous…"

 

Disclaimer: Not mine but thine...O, Joss!

Archived at the Cicelyverse page of the Buffy Rebecca verse, . www.buffyrebecca.com or direct to story at http:/www.buffyrebecca.com/tfa.html...

General audience level...

 

Summary: In a past life of Buffy and William, a certain story- and scene-stealing vampire gets his much-deserved desserts…

 

Part III…

 

London lodging of William Shakespeare…The city base and home away from home of England's most popular (subject to (often violent) dispute by rivals) playwright…

 

The knocking at the door proving not to be as feared, agents of the Queen, intent on ferreting out any potential threats to the blessed stability of Elizabeth's reign…But as the surprise visiting (fretting over reports of rumored attempts by mysterious well-placed persons to claim credit for her husband's work and over reports of Will's 'activities' among London's fair sex…) Anne Shakespeare noted, first inwardly, and then with impatience (What, am I the dim serving wench now?) to her closet-concealed husband and his colleague/competitor (tis best till we know what's about here, girl…And we haven't finished untying Will yet…), Ben Jonson, potentially far worse…

 

In the form of a rather foppish clerical emissary of the Earl of Oxford, with an insistent note demanding several small but vital scene changes for a previously requested private performance of a slightly older, yet still successful on revival, play, "Richard II"…

 

"And His Highness the Earl would like these alterations by when?..." Anne asked, innocently…

 

"By tomorrow night…Can he do it?..." the clerk eyed her…

 

Hmmn, not bad…A bit of a country wench by her browned skin and those firm arms but with a little carriage and reasonable diction…

 

This fellow Shakespeare likes his serving lassies buxom and dark as well as clever I see…And a little spirit in those brown eyes…Yes, a nice armful…And old enough to know a thing or two…

 

"Oh, without fail, sir…" she smiled, bowing head slightly…

 

Hmmn…The clerk looked her over again…She struggling to hold smile at his taking inventory…

 

It's not who the little twerp is but whom he represents…For Will's and the kids' sake…She told herself…

 

Not bad, the clerk summed up…Perhaps before I take my leave I might indulge in a little indulgence…No doubt my gracious Lord would approve it as one of the perks of my position…

 

Still, should actually confirm things with the fellow…The Earl was rather insistent this be ready on time…

 

"You're sure Master Shakespeare is unavailable…?"

 

"I'm afraid so, sir…But I will see he gets your letter within the hour…"

 

Shakespeare frowning in the closet…Fellow sounds a bit…Forward…

 

Hmmn…Hour?...Thought the clerk…

 

Pshaw…Doesn't leave much time for indulgence…Ah well, set things up and when I pick up the completed project, I see to my own fringe benefit…

 

"All right then…You seem a clever lass…" smile… "And a comely one…" chuck under chin…Pressing small coin in her hand… "Here's something for you now…And a promise of more for us both, later, eh…" wider smile…

 

Anne, pasting extremely false smile… "Oh, thank you, sir…" slight curtsy…

 

I'll tolerate a kiss for the greater good but if he goes for the breasts, I'll break his neck and send a boy with my regrets for the sad accident on our dark stairs and a promise as to the work…

 

("Will…Not now…" Jonson hissed as Shakespeare made for the door…

 

That little…)

 

"I must return to the Earl…Til tomorrow, sweet lass…" the clerk turned to go, pausing… "What be thy fair name, girl?..."

 

("For God's sake and our careers, Will!…" Jonson, desperately clutching an arm…)

 

"Anne, sir…"

 

"Well, Anne…I must return to the Earl to report…Tomorrow night we'll toast your master's success in pleasing mine, eh…?" smirk…

 

Warm smile...Well, you saved your life for one more day at least, bastard…

 

Though I'd never say no to a free pitcher of good ale…And a chance to make the Mister Shakespeare shake a bit with jealousy…

 

"Good night, sir…"

 

"Anne…" elegant wave…Flourishing sweep of cloak on turn, modeled on his master, DeVere's, style…Slam of door on departure…

 

"All right, the little twit's gone off…!" she called to the closet…

 

A furious Shakespeare, followed by Jonson, emerging…

 

"What?..." she regarded Will's angry face…Repressed grin…

 

Nice to see a little of the ole green-eyed monster there, eh?...

 

"You told that…#$%#!...of a messenger boy…That puffed and perfumed popinjay scrivener to a…Popinjay…"

 

"That you'd be finished by tomorrow night with these alterations…" she offered the letter calmly… "And I'd expected better from my Shakespeare…Really, Will…Popinjay to a popinjay?..."

 

"Anne, you know what I mean…He thinks you're…"

 

"Unmarried?..." she asked, innocently… "He never asked, you know…"

 

"Anne…Married or un-…The man will be expectin' you to..."

 

"Every man lives on expectin'…" she airily shrugged…

 

I know I do…Jonson thought…

 

"Come now, Will…Since when can't I handle the likes of that?..." she shook her head… "Have I ever given you cause?…I mean since we were plighted, of course…?"

 

He frowned but shook his head… "Always a first time, girl…"

 

"And I might be askin' the same of you, you know…" she noted, a bit grimly…

 

"You didn't even ask…You simply tied me up…" he replied, equally grim…

 

"That was for yer own and the family's protection…"

 

"So will I say tomorrow…" he eyed her…

 

"Will…"

 

"Let me see the damned thing…" he pointed to the letter in her hand…Which she handed him…

 

"Changes to my 'Richard II'?…Who the devil does that idiot kid DeVere think he is?..."

 

"He'll be takin' it as his own in a minute if we're not defending your work, love…As I've been tellin' ya…" she noted… "But we need to go along this one time and find out what his game is and what dangers it might pose to us, the innocent bystanders…It could be political, Will…"

 

"A play about a king forced to abdicate…I'd say it was…" he nodded…

 

Hmmn…All three regarded each other…

 

Not something one wants to take lightly in Tudor England…Even if old Eliza's not the maniac her father Henry was…

 

Spymaster Walsingham at least being inclined to extreme prejudice in defense of his Queen and realm…Particularly with upstart writers and playwrights…And perfectly content to use them…Or their dead or tortured bodies…To send a little warning to that troublesome noble backer who's a bit tough to bring down without a lot of fuss and feathers…

 

Nice as it was to be taken seriously by important types…Not something even a playwright protected by a Slayer might want to fool with…

 

"Those two young idiots Essex and Oxford could drag us down to the abyss…Or the chopping block…Or worse…" Shakespeare noted…

 

"The 'worse' I'd say for the likes of us…Drawing and quartering at least for commoners implicated in treason…" Jonson nodded thoughtfully…

 

Hmmn…Well, while it would be nice to see a competitor removed from the chessboard, it would increase the risk for us all…And probably take dear Anne as well…And perhaps muck up my own latter-day revenge…

 

Besides, it's one thing to triumph over my rival in Art and Love on my own, with a bit of supernatural assist…Come to think of it I ought to have demanded a love spell from that vengeance lord…Quite another to see our profession trampled on by some effete aristo

 

"All you've to do is alter a few lines, eh Will? Not a big problem…" Anne insisted…

 

Jonson eyed Shakespeare…Lord, laypeople…They think this stuff just comes rattling out of our brains, writing itself…

 

"The hell you say, girl…" Will frowned… "This is an intricate work…Pull out or modify one line and the whole structure can crash to the ground…"

 

"Indeed, Annie…This is no slight task…" Jonson agreed… "And the whole thing is in verse…It's like a fine timepiece, carefully wound…"

 

"Exactly…Thanks, Ben…" Will nodded, pleased at the support…

 

Artists…Anne rolled eyes…Especially, male artists…They sure stick together…

 

"Fine…But can you make the changes and reset the 'timepiece' by tomorrow evening…?"

 

"Well…"

 

"Good…Off to it, love…" she pointed to a room in back…

 

"But…Anne…"

 

"What?...There's much to do, Will…You've your work…I'll need to be about finding out what my people know about DeVere and Essex and their plans…And if there's another reason besides sheer vanity that DeVere might be seeking to claim your work as his own…"

 

Shakespeare frowning…Anne…

 

Anne, likewise…Will…

 

Still, tis a proper division of labour, one must concede, he had to admit to himself…

 

Lord, all this nonsense over one stupid poem commissioned by one stupid young twit of an earl…

 

Though it did bring Annie to London…A den of iniquity, however profitable for the family fortunes, she constantly swears never to come to, especially whilst the Stratford Hellmouth and her kiddies demand her attention…I owe that fop DeVere thanks for that at least…

 

Jonson, seeing an opening, spoke up…

 

"Mistress Shakespeare is right, Will…Best for her to go out and about…I can provide an escort if you like…"

 

Anne rolling eyes…I can imagine the help he'd be…

 

"Anne…You yourself said it might be political…Who's to say it might not be best for me to just leave it be and tell that fool I'm too busy…Besides, you just got here…And tied me up…And left me here to go chasing down Ben here…"

 

Indeed…Jonson nodded, pondering…

 

Could be there was some double meanin' in that…

 

"Will, I came because you didn't write back to my letter about the rumors about your work being claimed of another…"

 

"You haven't even told me how you and the children are faring…"

 

"Now, love…Hamnet's well, Judy's got a little cold…Suzannah's done a drawing for you…" she reached into the folds of her dress... "Here…" she handed him a scrap of paper…

 

"She's talented, our Sue…" he beamed at the drawing…

 

"And they all send Papa their love and want him home…As do I…And thank ye for askin' about me as well…For once…" wry grin…

 

"Annie…Well…Soon as the season ends, tell them…Did you leave them with Mother and Dad or your people?..."

 

"The way your dad is these days?…" frown… "My people, of course…"

 

"He has his troubles, Dad does…But I don't see that…"

 

"Troubles, indeed…" eye roll… " You know the customs agents found another of his wool shipments…He just barely evaded jail this time…And he got mixed up in that oath-taking business again…He'll be the ruin of us one day for sure…"

 

"Anne, Dad is a man of faith…The old faith…When not stretching the law on wool marketing…"

 

People…Jonson sighing inaudibly…Our careers (particularly that of England's greatest playwright, me) and lives on the line?...Can we play "family catch-up" another time…?

 

"He couldn't just be happy with that coat of arms you got for him…Live in quiet retirement and practice his old faith in secret...As I practice my old profession?..."

 

Shakespeare, suddenly cautious, glance at Anne…

 

"You know Ben knows about me work ever since that night I had to save you both in Stratford…" she shrugged… "No worries there…He knows I'd shut his mouth for him if he ever breathed a word…"

 

"Aye…" Jonson, slight frown…Picturing the moment of said threat, following a late night rescue of the utterly wasted Jonson and Shakespeare returning from a writer's brainstorming session/drunken carouse...

 

The Undead lass serving at the tavern having been all too willing to follow along with them after closing…

 

A furious Anne having destroyed said pretty tavern's assistant and her gang of Undead rogues and highwaypeople equally angry at Jonson's leading her husband on a orgastic drinking binge as at the Undead threatening her husband…

 

…And making it perfectly clear while holding the suddenly sobered Jonson by one hand off the ground that she would indeed keep her promise to disembowel him with that sharp piece of wood in her hand should he ever breathe a word of her abilities…

 

…Or bring Will home in such a state, again…

 

"But if he'd be so good as to leave us be a moment…We should be discussin' the household accounts before I go…" she eyed Will…

 

"Thought you sent me the household accounts last week…" he replied…

 

Will…For the Lord's sake…Eye roll…

 

Well, at least it bodes well against them rumors of his doin's here in the City…

 

"Aye, but you should be seein' them in detail…In your workroom…"

 

"Oh?..." innocent confusion…

 

By the Lord's Mass, for an educated man and England's leadin' playwright, you're quite a dense fellow sometimes, William…Anne fumed…

 

"In…Full detail…Full and naked detail…" she tried, staring…Slight pull at her chest stays…Shaking of fair locks…

 

Come on Adonis…Venus been without it in Stratford too long…

 

Oh…Yes…Right…Will eyed her…

 

"Yes, we should go over those accounts, in back…" Will nodded

 

"Thought you'd never ask…" Anne, archly… "Just be a few moments, Ben…Family matters…"

 

Oh, please…Jonson sighed…Watching the two happily hurrying to the room in back…Pausing at door…

 

"Just take a minute, Ben…" she called back…

 

"Anne?...Have I lost any more…?" Will bent head for her observation…Opening door…

 

She peered…"No…Well…P'rhaps a bit…But not much…" she lied… Pulling him into the room, closing door with slam…

 

The thanks I get for all my help…Jonson eyed the closed door with smoldering look…

 

Well, I shall be revenged…

 

It's guaranteed…

***

An alleyway near Whitehall…A frowning Anne carefully avoiding several muckholes and trying to fan away the stench with her hand…She paused by a stretch of what seemed to be brick wall…

 

"The sign?..." A male voice issued from within, via a slot created by the removal of a loose brick…

 

"Piss off and open, tis' the Slayer!…" Anne replied…

 

"Yes?...And how would I be knowing it's the Slayer, missy?..." the sharp reply…

 

"I can dust you through this slot, arse's bastard vampire…Don't you be putting on fal-der-ol airs with me…Tell yer damned (and I mean that literally) boss I've come…" she whacked her stake at the opening in the wall…

 

Sound of noises from within…Faint sound of argument…

 

The wall suddenly opened, bricks carefully cut and attached to a wooden door…

 

"Mistress Hathaway the Vampire Slayer…" another male voice, that of the one arguing with the vampire doorkeeper… "Welcome…"

 

"Mistress Shakespeare, Willie…" Anne replied…Stepping in…Eyeing the frowning tall gaunt figure frowning at her sourly from the side as the slight and genial Willie took her free hand and gave it a gallant kiss…

 

"Don't mind Hector…He's a good un, strictly cow's blood…My brother-in-law, a sad and tragic case…"

 

"You've a lot of brothers- and sisters- in-law, William…" Anne frowned at the little man(?)…

 

"London's a dangerous place, Ma'am…" Willie sighed… "Me relations are forced to remarry frequently…Hector, a chair for the lady...Will ye have ale, good Slayer?..."

 

"Twouldn't be sayin' no, Willie…" she nodded, taking seat from the still-frowning Hector…

 

"What's the bug up his Undead arse?…" she tilted head at the vampire, quaffing a long draw from the mug Willie set before her… "I kill some close mate or one of your innumerable sisters, his spouse?..."

 

"You're Shakespeare's wife…" Hector replied, suddenly…

 

"Bastard cheated me on the last oats crop…"

***