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A Day in the Life Of…

 

Project Paranormal

Season 4

Part 6

Author: Dark Star

 

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Summary: What's Martha's day really like?

 

**

 

A Day in the Life Of…

 

 

Beep! Beep! Beep!

 

A hand crept out from under the covers to clamp down on the chirpy greeting of the digital alarm clock. The covers folded back, and Martha sat up on the edge of the bed, her toes automatically searching for her pink slippers.

 

"It's not morning, is it?" a male voice groaned from the bed.

 

"I told you not to stay up all night watching those war films," Martha said, pulling something from the back of the door and tossing it to John, and not attempting to keep the smugness out of her voice.

 

"It wasn't films," John said patiently, grunting when his towelling dressing gown landed on top of the bed. "It was a film. And a damned good one at that."

 

"It must have been, to keep you up that late."

 

Smiling, Martha padded downstairs to the small kitchen and put the kettle on. She looked wistfully at the grill pan, and instead took some cereals out of the cupboard. John's blood pressure had been rather high last week when he'd gone to the doctor, and John, now in his mid-fifties, had expressed to her his worry about his health and they had decided to give up his normal bacon and eggs for breakfast in favour of the healthier cereals.

 

Milk and bowls were laid out next to the tea and John came down just as she was pouring tea into the pot. Ever since their anniversary trip to Paris a couple of years ago, when Martha had told him she felt they'd been drifting apart, he had tried to show her more often that he loved her. He wasn't a man of words, so to him, that meant an extra couple of hugs a day, and he went over to where she stood at the counter and wrapped his arms round her.

 

Martha smiled and leant back into his arms as she made the tea. John's idea of romantic and hers differed a wee bit, but he was a good man, and she appreciated his attempts to try. The hug done, John went over to pour cereal into his bowl. Small talk, mostly about family and the garden, followed over breakfast and then Martha hurried around the house doing little jobs like washing up, folding the laundry, watering her plants and dusting before scooting upstairs to make the bed and get ready for work. With her job, she was never quite certain how much time she would have to do her own chores, so she liked to have the house tidy before she left in the morning.

 

Arriving at Summerdown just before eight, Martha hurried into the kitchen to find Giles just finishing off his toast.

 

"Good morning, Martha. How are you today?"

 

"Cold," she said, pulling off her coat. "It looks bright out there, but the wind is chilly. I hope it doesn't rain, John wants to work on those new flower beds."

 

"It isn't supposed to," Giles called after her, as she carried her coat through to hang it up in the utility room. When she returned, Giles had retreated to the study. Martha fed the cats, loaded up the dishwasher and then went upstairs to collect the first batch of washing.

 

At nine, the builders arrived to continue working on the new house, and Martha's kettle was on again, making tea en masse for the crew. It would be nice for Buffy and Angel to have their own home - they certainly deserved it - but in the meantime, it fell on her to contend with all the mud and dust that resulted from the building site at the back of the house. She wondered if she was actually wasting her time trying to keep on top of it all.

 

Buffy's car arrived when she was talking to the builders, and Martha noticed that before she got out of the car she was zipping up her jacket. An odd thing to do when arriving home… unless she had something to hide. Cheerily trying to distract the foreman while Buffy scurried into the house, she wondered where the young girl had been so early.

 

She heard the postman's van arrive while she was hoovering the hallway, and she turned the machine off to go and see what he had. Opening the kitchen door, a young man with an unruly mop of dark hair stood waiting, three parcels and a package of letters tied up with string in his arms. Her usual postman, Mick, had taken his wife to Blackpool for a few days, and this younger employee was covering for him.

 

"Hello Geoff," she said, taking the packages out of his hand. "Anything to sign for?"

 

"Just one, Martha." the young man said, holding one package back and waiting while she deposited the rest onto the kitchen table.

 

"How's the new baby this morning?" she asked him, squinting at the screen because she had left her glasses on the drainer, before busily signing on top of the electronic device thrust in her direction.

 

"Loud. Didn't get much sleep last night," he grinned, beginning to retreat to the van. "But the girls are helping out now they're old enough."

 

"So they should," Martha agreed. "Tell Jane if she wants anything from the market to give me a call, will you?"

 

"Yeah, thanks, Martha." Geoff climbed into the van. "I'll do that."

 

She carried the extra parcel into the kitchen and placed it with the others. Retrieving her glasses, she began sorting the post into neat little piles. As a matter of form she always checked the names on the post, but it was nearly always for Giles. Buffy got the occasional letter, usually from Italy, and Angel almost never got anything. Just then, Buffy burst into the kitchen, a blue shirt clutched in her hand.

 

"It's ruined!"

 

"Let me see," Martha said, reaching out for the crumpled shirt. Sickly green smudges streaked all the way down the front. "What is it?"

 

"Bas demon drool."

 

"Black or blue?" Martha asked. She couldn't remember which it was, but they used different remedies on different types of Bas.

 

"Black," Buffy said promptly. "When one of those pushes you down and sits on you, you don't forget what it looks like."

 

"I'm sure," Martha said, distractedly poking the smudge with her finger. "Leave it with me - I'll see what I can do."

 

Buffy grinned broadly. "You're a star, Martha! Thanks…" and the Buffy whirlwind was gone.

 

In a drawer under the unit in the utility room, Martha pulled out a list. It was her own record of all the peculiar stains she'd come across in the last couple of years. All the successes, and failures, she'd had in removing them had been methodically recorded. One day, she was going to write her own book on the subject and make a fortune. She started looking for the entry for Black Bas demon.

 

Going upstairs afterwards on her way to dust the bedrooms and change the sheets on Giles' bed - she would do Buffy and Angel's room later when it was vacant - she heard raised voices coming from their room. Or rather, raised voice. They were staying in the large room opposite the stairs and at the other end of the house from Giles' room. Buffy was shouting at Angel about something he hadn't done, but she couldn't hear Angel's quiet response. She hurried by, embarrassed that somebody might come out and think she was eavesdropping on them. She'd just reached the turn in the hallway when she heard a loud thump and she paused. Had somebody hurt themselves? Silence. She was sure they could look after themselves, but it wasn't in her nature to not help somebody when she had the power to do so, and she hesitated, uncertain what to do.

 

Buffy's moan was the next sound she heard and she smiled to herself before going on down the hall. It sounded like Angel had the situation well in hand, if that moan was anything to go by. Young love - what a wonderful thing that was, and it was so nice to see it in this house. She and John had been just like that when they got married - though perhaps not quite so aggressive - and she wondered where the couple they had once been had gone to. They were lucky if they got together more than once a week nowadays. She sighed, disappeared into Giles' room and began stripping the bed, putting more energy into it than she really needed to.

 

Later, standing in the kitchen just finishing off the ironing, the phone rang. Knowing that Giles had gone down to Westbury and that Angel and Buffy were probably asleep, she hurried over to answer it.

 

"Hello? Yes, this is Project Paranormal. All of our investigators are out at the moment. Can I take some details from you and we'll call you back as soon as we can?" Every phone in the house had a notebook beside it, for exactly this reason.

 

"Mrs. Emerson…" Martha added the caller's telephone number to her scribbled shorthand on the notepad. "Running down the walls, you say? That sounds nasty. Only happens on Tuesdays and Fridays…. Got it. Yes, I should imagine it does make a mess. Is the rug wool?  You could try a weak solution of borax, that might help." Martha stood up, and rubbed the base of her spine. Everything ached much more than it used to. "Thank you for calling us, Mrs Emerson. Mr Giles should be in contact with you later on to discuss what to do next.  Yes, it will certainly be today. Thank you for calling… Good morning." 

 

Pulling the client's details from the pad, Martha carefully transferred the details from her notes into longhand on another piece of paper. Giles would have been able to read the original but the others wouldn't; it was best to have them in a form available to everyone, and she took the revised version through to the study and dropped it into a little tray next to the computer. Returning to the kitchen, she put the ironing board away and then went to the collection of cookery books to select one. The recipe she wanted to make wasn't one she made very often. She couldn't resist turning the heavy book over to observe the stain on the back of the book. Angel had squashed a very large spider under this book during the paranormal activity that had taken place here two years ago, and no amount of scrubbing had managed to fade the nasty mark. She'd put a new dustcover on the book but creepily, the stain just seeped through, so she took it off again. Giles said that happened sometimes with supernatural happenings but it gave her the heebie-jeebies all the same.

 

Thrusting away thoughts of paranormal goings on, and young girls that used to live here, Martha started briskly pulling ingredients out of the pantry.

 

Around midday, Giles asked for some ham sandwiches to eat in the study so that he could carry on with his paperwork. Buffy came downstairs to raid the pantry for coffee and cookies and then withdrew back upstairs to be with Angel, and John came in to the kitchen to eat his tuna salad rolls and share his lunch break with his wife.

 

After lunch, Angel wandered into the kitchen and went to the fridge for his blood. Martha, coming in from the yard because she had been emptying the household bins, smiled at him as she went over to wash her hands. "Hello Angel. Did you sleep well?"

 

Shutting the microwave door Angel grimaced. "Hard to sleep with the row from the building site out there." He leant against the kitchen counter.

 

"Is Buffy all right?"

 

"Sleeping. She was exhausted." Suddenly realising how that sounded, he added hastily, "From staying up all night. And not from…" his voice trailed off when he realised he was digging himself into a hole. Martha tactfully changed the subject onto the standard British conversation topic - the weather. 

 

Angel sat down at the kitchen table with his hot breakfast. Martha made two cups of tea and sat down with him, just in time to see the last of the blood disappearing. There were faint bruises on Angel's cheek and down the side of his neck. Hesitating for a minute in case they were… personal… Martha said, "Those are nasty bruises. Did you have a fight last night?"

 

"I let my guard down," he replied. "Four vampires. I was fighting three but had forgotten the fourth…" Angel paused to take a sip at his tea. "He came at me from behind."

 

"Did you manage to get them all?"

 

"Oh, yes," Angel said softly, and his predatory expression made Martha's pulse quicken. "I got them." He was aware of Martha's discomfort and deftly moved the conversation onto more everyday subjects. He said, "How long do I have before our clients arrive this afternoon?"

 

Martha checked her watch.

 

"About an hour and a half," Martha responded.

 

"Time for a shower then," Angel said. "And wake Buffy." He smiled wryly. "Make sure you have the first aid kit ready."

 

Martha laughed, and when Angel went back upstairs on his perilous mission, Martha had armed him with a cup of coffee and a sandwich to give to the normally ravenous girl to help prepare her for this afternoon's client appointment.

 

Joanne Downing arrived exactly an hour and a half later for her children's vitamin supplements. Martha greeted her with genuine enthusiasm, took one of the cardboard boxes from the back of the car and carried it into the kitchen, where she placed it on the floor. Mewling sounds were coming from the box. Giles came out of the study to prepare the formula and when Buffy and Angel came down from upstairs, the kitchen was filled with loud yapping.

 

"Oh! Look how they've grown!" Buffy exclaimed, scooping up a particularly cute cub and hugging him close. Four cubs scrambled out of the top of one of the boxes and scurried across the kitchen floor, eager to explore their new surroundings, only to be rounded up by Angel and shepherded back to the others. As soon as he had done that, two cubs escaped from another box, and so it went on. The cubs' mother looked on indulgently, completely oblivious to Giles' irritation over her cubs unruly behaviour. Instilling discipline at such a young age was unheard of in her culture.

 

Joanne Dowling's litter consisted of seventeen cubs. Dowager babies did not have the ability to pass for humans as the adults did, and away from their native South America they were not able to use the local resources to build up the store of the right vitamins they needed. Giles was able to replicate the process and he administered the right concoction of vitamins every five months. It was a little awkward trying to smuggle seventeen non-human children into the house, especially with the grounds full of workmen, but they hoped that anyone seeing the plain cardboard boxes going in would not be suspicious - and any odd sounds could be explained away as them containing puppies.

 

Giles liked to have the whole team on hand to help with the cubs; it was quite a task keeping them all together while they took their vitamins, and Buffy liked to play with them afterwards. But she and Angel were very good at catching the cubs when they escaped - which was often - and Martha was very good at feeding them the vitamins through a little eyedropper, and usually managing to bypass the very sharp, but still tiny, teeth. They seemed to like her tending to them, and for anyone else they fussed and squirmed, making the job take twice as long to complete. They had a nice little routine running. Martha would administer the vitamins, and Angel acted as the shepherd to keep the cubs rounded up. Buffy and Giles were the conveyer belt, ferrying cubs from box to Martha to another box where mum stroked and soothed them. Both men found it interesting that to them, all the cubs looked the same, but all three of the women could tell them apart without any trouble. Giles speculated over whether it might be something to do with how the strength of the maternal instinct had managed to transcend the species or whether it was simply because women might be better at observation.

 

With the job complete, and having loaded the cubs back into the car, Mama Downing paid her bill using a small diamond instead of money. Giles had never asked where she could lay her hands on so many of them, but he suspected she had important - and probably non human - contacts with plenty of money.

 

As the Dowlings drove away, both Martha and Giles collapsed onto the kitchen chairs. Buffy put the kettle on and produced a flowery tin from the pantry that contained Martha's latest batch of cakes. Angel carried the diamond through to the study and locked it in the safe, to make sure that it didn't get misplaced. Giles had a variety of uses for the diamonds Mama Dowling gave them, not least the fact that the gem on its own would fetch a tidy sum to the right buyer.

 

The next half hour was spent in comfortable companionship, with all four of them seated around the table, hot drinks in readiness. Speculation was made on the future of the Dowager cubs and the clan's future in general. Buffy recounted her adventure with the Bas that morning, Martha told them stories about her family exploits on their annual holidays and Giles talked about how pleased he was that the Project Paranormal website was doing so well. It had brought in extra work, made some interesting new contacts, and he had been able to offer advice and solve many strange phenomena problems, all without leaving the office.

 

After the break, everyone started drifting away from the kitchen. It was a cold day, and Martha sometimes liked to heat up some soup for her husband to warm him in the garden. There was no rule about him not being able to go indoors, but he was, by nature, an outdoorsy person. He'd loved to go camping and fishing in his youth, and he lamented the fact that children had lost the freedom to roam the countryside as they had once done, and instead had to be ferried everywhere by car. An innocent age lost, he'd often said.

 

Martha carried the hot soup through the family room and out of the back door. She could see her husband working on the new beds over on the other side of the lawn, and she left the patio to cross over to him. John looked up as she approached, and smiled when he saw what she had in her hand.

 

"How is it going?" she asked.

 

"Grand," John said, rubbing his back as he attempted to stand up. "But I'm getting too old for this."

 

Martha chuckled as she handed him the steaming mug. John cupped it in his hands, fingerless mittens keeping the worst of the cold at bay. "Neither of us are getting any younger, love." She nodded at his mittens, a Christmas present from their eldest child. "How are the gloves?"

 

"Very warm," John said, blowing on the liquid and wrinkling his nose when steam spiralled upwards. 

 

"Yes, she's a thoughtful girl," Martha responded.

 

"Are you finishing on time tonight?" John asked hopefully.

 

"No - Giles has been called away and he's got a client coming later." She lowered her voice. "One of those… other clients… and he asked me to hang on until he gets back."

 

Disappointed, John said, "What time is the client coming? Very late?"

 

"About six. He has to come late so the builders don't see him. Giles hopes to be back before then."

 

"Not too bad, then." He sipped his soup, enjoying the warmth in his fingers and on his lips. "I'm almost done here. Have you got anything you want me to do?"

 

Martha folded her arms over her chest and wished she had put her coat on. "I've got some things to go over to Alice, if you wouldn't mind taking them." She frowned, certain there was some more, and she added, "If you could get me a loaf of bread that would be helpful… oh… and Angel's torn his favourite jacket again. Would you drop it off at Maggie's and tell her it's for me? We'll get a discount if you do that."

 

"Of course, love," John said, feeling more optimistic. He liked to be kept busy and it looked like he might get his dinner at a decent hour after all. "What kind of loaf do you want? Brown?"

 

Martha checked her watch. "Whatever you can get at this late hour. We have some white, which will do, but Giles prefers wholemeal or granary. And get it from Dixon's. The chap who's taken over Badger's place usually leaves it in too long."

 

"Yes, ma'am," John grinned, bowing a little with mock servitude. "Whatever you command."

 

"A week in Hawaii might be nice," she called back over her shoulder as she headed back to the house, smiling at the mental picture of herself in a hula skirt.

 

Returning to the kitchen, Martha found a ginger cat sitting hopefully next to the cupboard where the tins of cat food were kept. He jumped up and started rubbing on the cupboard door when he saw her.

 

"Meow?"

 

"Too early," she chuckled. "Come back later!"

 

Ari rolled over on his back in the hope of provoking her. When that didn't work, he tried rubbing against her legs and attempted to trip her up. Martha reached down to scratch the cat behind the ears, and eventually he wandered off down the hallway in search of somewhere to sleep, where he could dream of fat mice in his bowl for tea.

 

Angel sauntered into the kitchen, passing Ari in the hallway, and his bruises had almost all faded away now. "Is Buffy about?"

 

Martha shook her head. "She went over to Trowbridge to do some shopping. She said something about needing new clothes." She smiled when Angel groaned.  "And Giles is out on a case. He's hoping to be back about six."

 

"That's when the client arrives, isn't it?"

 

"Yes, Giles has asked me to stay on in case he doesn't get back in time."

 

"Maybe he'll be back before that. I'm sorry that I can't take this meeting Martha, but the client doesn't like vampires."

 

"That's all right, Angel. I've done it before - though I haven't met this one yet." 

 

Angel started to turn to go back upstairs and said, "But you know I'm only upstairs if you need me. Call and I'll be down faster than superman."

 

"Thank you," she said gratefully, not letting herself consider the possibility that even Angel might not be able to get to her in time if she was really in trouble.

 

Six o'clock dawned and neither Buffy nor Giles had returned. Both cats had been let out to the garden and well away from demon client as Giles had asked her to do. Martha listened nervously as a car came up the drive, hoping that it would be Giles. But when it pulled up at the front of the house instead of into the yard, her heart sank.  People she was happy to cope with, but Giles' non-human clients still made her uncomfortable. She pulled a piece of paper out of her skirt pocket and re-read it for the hundredth time. Heir to the ninth house of Gelbath.

 

The ring at the front door made her jump even though she was expecting it. She made her way quickly to the door and opened it up.

 

"Giles?" a baritone voice asked uncertainly.

 

Careful not to meet the eyes of the client, Martha said carefully, "I'm afraid he has been called away. Would it be acceptable for you to enter and wait for him?"

 

The Heir to the ninth house of Gelbath grunted, but entered the hallway and Martha stepped to one side to allow his tail to swing round in the hall unhindered. From the corner of her eye she thought she could see movement at the top of the stairs. If she could see Angel, then he was trying to reassure her of his presence, and it gave her more confidence. "Giles asks that you wait in the room at the bottom of the hall."

 

The visitor swept down the hall without a look at her, making Martha bite her lip and think to herself, 'You're welcome' but she said nothing, and followed him down the hall, deferring to his culture's protocol and being careful not to get any closer than two foot behind him.

 

In the kitchen, the guest waited for her to join them and said, "You know who I am?"

 

"Yes." She took a deep breath and said, "You are the Heir to the ninth house of Gelbath, and we welcome you to the residence of the third Heir to the house of  Summerdown. Could I offer you something to drink?"

 

While the ninth heir considered that question, Martha was thinking, Please ask for some herbal tea or ice water, and not…

 

"Bleach," he responded. "If you have some that would be acceptable."

 

Ugh.

 

A response was not required, and Martha struggled with her natural urge to answer him. But an Heir was not expected to converse with the servants, and Martha turned away to get his drink. It made the hair prickle on the back of her neck to have a demonic creature standing behind her, knowing he could tear her to pieces if he so chose. But Giles had assured her that it would be awfully bad form for him to do so, not to mention terribly expensive, but the thought made her extremely anxious and she fumbled with the cupboard door, knocking furniture polish onto the floor. She bent down immediately to pick it up, acutely aware that she was carrying a few more pounds than she ought to, and that the view to the client was definitely not very glamorous.

 

Shoving the polish unceremoniously back into the cupboard, and picking up a bottle of good quality bleach instead, Martha stood up quickly and poured the liquid into a cup, trying not to think about why she was pouring it out. While she was doing that, she heard Giles's car pull into the yard. Thank you, Lord.

 

Handing the unlikely beverage to the client, Martha looked up as Giles strode into the kitchen and watched as he greeted his guest, and asked him to accompany him to the study. Afterwards, Giles smiled at her.

 

"Thank you for staying, Martha. Have a nice evening, and I'll see you tomorrow."

 

Gratefully, Martha thanked him, grabbed her bag and hurried out of the kitchen door. John was getting into the car, and she knew he had been lurking at the back of the house in case she needed help with her unhuman guest. Her coat was already in the car, lying across the back seat, and she slithered into the passenger seat and belted up.

 

On the journey back home, Martha recounted her recent experience to her husband, still finding it hard to believe that she had just acted as a hostess to something that most people didn't even know existed.

 

While John parked the car in the garage, Martha set about preparing dinner. Giles had said that she and John were always welcome to stay and share dinner with him, and sometimes she did - especially if she had been working very late and didn't want to cook a second meal when she got home. But in truth, she preferred to have dinner at her own home, with just John for company. She glanced at her watch. She had forty minutes to get it done - that ought to be enough to make a quick pasta meal.

 

It took thirty; Five minutes later, husband and wife were seated comfortably on the settee, dinner and pudding adorning decorative trays perched over their laps. Martha breathed a sigh of relief; not a moment too soon, the familiar theme music of her favourite television programme wafted over them, and for the next half hour there were no vampires or demons, just the escapades of the human inhabitants of Albert Square.

 

Later, rested and refreshed, Martha got up to carry the dirty dishes out to the sink. The phone rang and she answered it. "Hello?"

 

"Martha?" It was Giles. "You haven't moved the bag with my potions in, have you? I can't find it."

 

Martha sighed. "You left it on the hall table, and I put it under the stairs before your last client arrived."

 

"You did?" She could hear the relief in his voice. "That's wonderful! Thank you, Martha. Have a nice evening."

 

Martha began to reply but the phone went dead. "You can answer the next phone call," she told John as he carried his tray out to the kitchen. "I'm on strike."

 

She had just finished loading the dripping crockery onto the drainer when John came into the kitchen to help her wipe up. He turned to get a fresh tea towel from the drawer, and for some reason, Martha was reminded of the sounds coming from Buffy and Angel's room this afternoon. Her John was still such a fine looking man…

 

"Are you all right?" She blinked, realising that John was looking at her in concern. "Not having hot flushes, are you?"

 

"No, I…" her voice trailed away and she wondered when it got so hard to tell him how she felt. Go for it. She took a deep breath. "Do you remember when we were younger, and we…"

 

Briiiiiing….

 

Sigh.

 

John was closest to the phone and went to answer it. Martha's heart sunk. It had to be one of the kids. Their sense of timing had always been impeccable, and even at a distance, they seemed to know when their parents might be getting up to mischief.

 

"Hello, love! How are you?"

 

Martha's suspicions were confirmed as she heard her husband's pleased exclamation. "You are? That's wonderful!" There was silence as John had apparently exhausted his stock of conversation. When he could get a word in, he muttered, "I'll get your mother."

 

Martha chuckled, leaving the things on the drainer for John to take care of, and took the phone from her partner's hand. She put the phone to her ear, recognising her daughter's excited chatter and carried the phone into the lounge.

 

"Hello, Katie. What have you been up to?"

 

"I'm in love, mum!"

 

"I'm pleased to hear that," Martha replied, wondering who this week's Mr. Right was. Gordon? Or was it Adam? "So… Adam's in your good books, is he?"

 

Katie's sigh was loud over the phone. "Adam was weeks ago, mum. Andrew is The One."

 

"What's this Andrew like?"

 

"He's wonderful." Martha curled her feet up onto the settee to get more comfortable. Her youngest daughter's accounts of her love life had a tendency to be time consuming. Katie was already well into her account of how mature/rich/clever this Andrew was. How he had been so gentlemanly when she had met him…

 

Martha looked up and smiled her thanks when John deposited a welcome cup of tea on the arm of her chair and withdrew quickly. Women's talk always made him a bit uncomfortable.  He decided he'd be better off in the kitchen, and if the call lasted for a bit he'd get the football scores off of the internet and leave them be.

 

And so winds down a normal day in the extraordinary life of Martha Louise Fletcher - mother, wife, friend and housekeeper to Rupert Giles and the team at Project Paranormal. Tomorrow… now that could be a different story…

 

End.

 

 

Thanks to Jo, as always, for the beta.

 



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