"I don't understand." The young man's face was terribly serious, and also expectant enough that Wesley knew this conversation
would not end until he did understand.
"Yes, I can imagine that you wouldn't." Wesley rubbed his temples and wished that this pounding headache would end.
"Mr. Wyndam-Pryce." Oh, dear, now that was a tone of voice. It would appear he had pricked this Mr. Hornblower's
rather starchy pride. "I am your second in this matter. In order for me to discharge my duties, I do not need to understand
every minute detail, but it is necessary that I know why you refuse to become familiar with the weapon you will be
"All right," Wes sighed, capitulating with as much grace as he could manage. "Essentially, Mr. Hornblower, it is because
under absolutely no circumstances may I kill this man tomorrow."
Hornblower stared at him. "You do understand that he will be doing his best to kill you."
"Yes." And that was extremely nerve-wracking, but hardly shocking, given the nature of the misunderstanding that had
led them to this point. "But as long as he doesn't make an instantly fatal shot, I should be able to return to my own time,
where the doctors can repair the damage."
"Yes," Hornblower said, his expression showing exactly how much he did not believe any of it. "Your future time. The twenty-first
century. You do understand why I cannot permit you to leave until after the duel?"
"You certainly made your point about matters of honor, yes," Wes muttered sourly. "It really was't necessary to hold a sword
to my throat, though."
"It also wasn't necessary, or indeed acceptable, for your manservant to use such language in front of a lady."
"The lady was using similar language," Wes pointed out, "and I must ask you again to not use that term when referring
to Charles, Mr. Hornblower. He takes it rather personally and I cannot be held responsible for his actions if-"
"I don't understand that either," Hornblower interrupted. "He's your slave, of course you're responsible-"
"It's rather more complicated than that," Wes said with growing desperation as the door opened. "Oh, Fred, thank goodness."
"We're all set, Wesley," she said, smiling and bobbing an awkward curtsy at Mr. Hornblower, who had jumped to his feet when
she entered the room. "We explained to Mr. Kennedy what we need him to do, and he thinks it shouldn't be a problem."
"It's reading words from a book," the gentleman in question said dryly, peering around the edge of the door. "I should hope
I could manage that."
"You're participating in a ritual of the dark arts?" Hornblower demanded. "Archie, are you sure that's wise?"
"I've seen Macbeth and The Tempest enough times, Horatio," was the cheerful reply. "It doesn't scare me."
"He really has a knack for it, I think," Fred said, beaming at Kennedy, who smiled back. "We've been practicing for the last
For some reason, this caused Hornblower to sit up very, very straight and flare his nostrils like a carriage-pony. "Mr. Kennedy,
I certainly hope you have not put yourself in a situation where there could be intimations of impropriety!"
"Calm down, Horatio," he said, rolling his eyes. "The manservant was there the whole time."
"Yes, we're not using that word-" Wes winced, before turning to Fred. "There wasn't any impropriety, was there?"
"No," she said with a slightly wistful glance at Kennedy. "I was good."
Kennedy was still soothing Mr. Hornblower's ruffled feathers. "Tomorrow our friend Wesley here will manage not to
kill his however-many-times-removed grandfather, they'll go back to when they came from, and that'll be an end on it."
Hornblower shifted his glare to Wesley. "He's a relation?"
Wes nodded. Hornblower huffed.
"Duelling is forbidden within families, he explained irritably. "We'll have to call the whole thing off."
"He doesn't know we're related," Wes objected, "and he can't know, because it will introduce an irreparable temporal paradox!"
"Besides," Gunn added, sauntering into the cabin and leaning against the wall next to Fred. "It took so damn long to explain
the situation to you guys, we don't have time to go through it again."
"Then I shall have to fight in your stead," Hornblower said, setting his jaw obstinately.
Kennedy rolled his eyes again. "Don't be such a martyr. Let Wesley here get himself shot, we'll do our little spell, he'll
get patched up in his own time, everyone's happy."
"It's the principle of the thing-" Hornblower began, but Kennedy had a trump card.
"Besides, by standing second you've come terribly close to breaking your word to Captain Pellew, do you really want
to go all the way?"
Hornblower went a little pale.
"That's what I thought." Kennedy studied Wes with a critical eye. "You'll have to loan him a shirt, Horatio, that one's a
"But he won't get it back," Fred pointed out.
"I've one with the laces missing," Hornblower muttered, glaring at his copy of the Code Duello. "It falls open all
down the front, but that hardly matters for a duel, I suppose."
"I'm going to look like an extra from a 1980s music video," Wes moaned, burying his face in his hands.
"Bet you wish you went to the gym more often back in LA," Fred said without a trace of sympathy. "Is it teatime yet? Archie
promised crumpets, so I'll have to take my corset off."
"Miss Burkle!" Hornblower gasped, as Kennedy grinned. "Honestly, Mr. Wyndam-Pryce, I cannot imagine how an Englishman ended
up in such company."
"It was all the fault of a Miss Buffy Summers," Wes sighed.
"Buffy?" Hornblower's nose wrinkled. "What an unfortunate name."