Disclaimers:Buffy the Vampire Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy & Fox. Numb3rs belongs to Cheryl Heuton and Nick Falacci…I think. (NOT me!)
Author's Recommendation:As this has become a fun, normal thing for me, I thought I'd give it it's own category. To those who are interested, this time I'm recommending one of the best fics I've seen so far for the new Star Trek fandom!
Atlas by Angel Baby1
Summary: Between what was and what will be stands James Tiberius Kirk, in all his fractured patchwork glory. Because saving the Federation was only the beginning. Eventual K/S. Complete.
Fandom: Star Trek: 2009
Warnings: Um…None here. I think. If you see anything I should of warned you about, please let me know. I will be shocked, but I'll correct it. If this does occur; you have my apologies in advance.
Author's First Note:Okay, I've decided to change everything up a little bit; or at least enough to overcome the huge block of concrete that's been blocking my creativity for too long. I've split up the chapters I'd outlined for A Call Away, and made them separate stories instead. Thus, shorter chapters but hopefully (much) quicker updates! Hope everyone approves.
Regardless, I am sorry it's been so long since I updated.
I know that, thus far, it's looked like I'm pretty much just going to go through each episode of Buffy and adapt it to fit my storyline. That's not the case. While I'll try to make sure I don't skip anything pertinent, some episodes just don't interest me, so I'll skip them. Which is what I've done here, and in the prologue of Holiday Horrors. Honestly, I tried to write both of the episodes, but it just wasn't working.
Sorry if you really wanted to see me trying to get Charlie into one of the episodes I've chosen to skip. :-(
And I hope you like the new chapters regardless. :-)
…Also, sorry for the very long note, though you're probably used to them by now.
Thanks to NeverTooOld for beta-reading once again! :-D
And now, enjoy the epilogue! :-)
A Call Away
Part II in Mathematics & Magic
By Jess S
Eppes House, Pasadena, California – Monday, November 25, 1996
Charlie shook his head as he finally escaped his concerned (and curious) parents for the evening, taking refuge in his bedroom to call Annie. Which was fast becoming a tradition for them; one that both their mothers thought was ridiculously sweet. He didn't mean to, but he let a sigh out just as Annie answered the phone.
"Charlie, hi!" she greeted him, then immediately afterwards; the sigh having registered, "You okay? You're calling a little late."
"I'm fine," he immediately reassured her, hoping he sounded honest. "Sorry I'm late." He glanced at the clock. "I could call back later, after your patrol, if—"
"Nah, Faith and I aren't headed out for another hour, at least. She's still scowling at the homework you sent her."
Charlie blinked. "I…I didn't think it was that hard."
Most of it'd been review of multiplication tables, mixed in with a lot of long division, a little geometry and some basic algebra. All stuff that someone Faith's age really should know.
Of course, the thing everybody kept telling Charlie was going to be hard for him when it came to teaching was trying to understand what it was that his students had difficulties with. Because math just wasn't hard for him, at all, and never had been; but he wasn't the norm.
Annie actually giggled, "If she cared to pay attention in many—or any—math classes before now, I'd be surprised, Charlie. I think her Watcher got her up to speed on English and some history, but she's still laggin' behind a some in math and science." Then she sighed, "Mom and I've been trying to help her, but you might want ta give her a call again sometime soon. You're a much better teacher then either of us'll ever be."
That made the mathematician's cheeks redden a little; though he had many fears that weren't soothed by the 'helpful' condescension of his soon-to-be co-workers, Annie always seemed to know what to say to make him feel a lot better. Especially since he knew that she wasn't fibbing even slightly. "I'll do that." And a moment of silence later, he asked, "Is everything okay with you? Is everything still okay with Vesta?"
"Vesta's good. Mom's happy she's not, um, eating the furniture anymore, at least."
For the first few days after they'd brought the fireling home, they hadn't known what to feed her. As a result, several pieces of wooden furniture had met their end as the fire-cat's meals. Thankfully though, only one of them had been an irreplaceable antique. Now they always made sure their mostly un-used fireplace always had a pile of wood in it, and had to regularly clean out the sometimes smoldering, ashy remains that the cat-like creature left behind.
"The rest of us are 'bout as well as can be expected, I guess. What about you? Why were you so late? Are Lily an—"
"Everyone's fine up here," he quickly reassured her, before shaking his head. "It's just my parents are starting to get a little worried. Don—"
"Ah, big bro's still calling two ta three times a week?"
Charlie sighed again, "Yup. And seeing as he was barely calling every other week to keep Mom from worrying before, they're a little worried about why he'd be calling me so regularly now. Though I don't think he's mentioned anything about what happened in Sunnydale."
"No, Mom says they don't even know that I was in the hospital." Annie admitted, and Charlie got the distinct impression—undoubtedly at least partially influenced by their bond—that she was a little distracted by something. "Though your mom's apparently sick of hearing you're 'fine,' I'm 'fine,' we're all 'fine' and all that. Mom was laughing a little about it, but she feels a little bad, too."
Charlie laughed, "Yeah, Mom and Dad get the same line from Don and me all the time, so I think they hate that word."
But then again, if everything was 'fine' why had Don gone from talking to Charlie maybe once every three months or so to wanting to talk to him at least twice a week? And being considerably grouchy whenever Charlie missed his phone calls? Grouchy to Charlie after the fact, of course, never to Mom and very rarely to Dad.
"So how is your mysterious big brother?"
"He hasn't called yet, actually. I might just make it without a phone call tonight, since it's getting so late. But I'd hardly call Don a mystery. He doesn't even solve them. Mysteries, I mean. Though I think he may be leaving bounty hunting behind soon. Mom said he got a job offer inNew Mexico, as an actual agent, no less."
"Bet your parents are happy about that, at least." Annie laughed and continued before he could respond. "Maybe I'll finally get ta meet him if he's stayin' in one place for a little while."
"Maybe," Charlie agreed with a nod, though he had to roll his eyes, too. "And yes, all of us are happy with the idea," then he winced as something occurred to him; "Wait… there aren't too many demons inNew Mexico, are there?"
That made Annie laugh. "Compared to Sunnydale? Or even just California, as a result of Sunnyhell? There are probably some demons in the desert; and some probably pass through the cities and stuff, but he should be fairly safe there. Though you're the one that's trying to help Willow build that computer-program that tells us where the demons are all bumpin' around."
At that, Charlie winced. "Well, yes, but it's not even close to being ready yet. I need a lot more data to work with before I'll be able to draw up suitable search parameters. And it's not the easiest thing to discuss over the phone."
"More data, huh?" she sighed. "Do you want me to ask Giles? Again?"
It was nice of her to offer, especially since he knew it wasn't something she really liked talking to her Watcher about.
"Willowalready did, but thank you." Charlie shook his head again. "Sorry, it's just hard not to worry. Especially when Don doesn't even know what he needs to be careful of, and he's in a dangerous job already."
"I know," was the eldest Slayer's quiet reply.
"It just makes it all the worse, too, you know? I know one of the reasons he's calling so much is that he feels bad for not being here when I was 'mugged,' but even if he had been, he wouldn't have been able to anything."
"Not that you can tell big brother that, I know." Now she sounded tired, making Charlie wince.
Other than Don's long-distance, over-protective, big brother attitude, the last month had been fairly quiet for the Eppes family. Which was a decidedly good thing, as it'd taken Charlie more than a few days to recover from 'helping' Annie the last time she needed it. The only exception to his easy days had, of course, been pretty much Annie's life, as she'd dealt with much more stressful times as of late. Though that undoubtedly was a norm he should expect, given their personal vocations, chosen and otherwise.
But, all things considered, the start of the year's second-to-last month hadn't been too bad for the Sunnydale crew.
They'd gotten the results of their S.A.T.'s back.
Xander wasn't pleased with his, but Charlie had gotten the distinct impression that he hadn't expected to be.
Willow, also, scored lower then she'd liked, though Charlie had had no trouble pointing out that a lot of the questions on the S.A.T. were meant to trick the test-takers. Although none of the math problems had been at all difficult for Charlie (when he'd faced them years before), a few of the English ones had certainly confused him.
For a slight change though, Annie had been pleasantly surprised by her combined score of 1430. Charlie had been much less surprised, having known that Annie was much smarter than she tended to think of herself, often a bit too caught up in the blonde-stereotype she focused on portraying. (1)
Mrs. Summers had been thrilled. And, by extension, Charlie's parents had been also. Alan and Margaret Eppes now talked to Joyce Summers via phone on at least a weekly basis, since they'd really hit it off when they actually met. Of course, Charlie and Annie were well aware of the fact that the main source of conversation between the two parties were, undoubtedly, their children and 'their just budding relationship' (as Charlie's Dad had dubbed it). Still, neither was apt to deny their parents such simple pleasures, and it kind of reassured Charlie that an adult who knew about the supernatural was now kind of helping make sure his parents didn't somehow end up wandering to the Hellmouth for surprise parties or anything of the sort. As those were the thoughts of determinedly suppressed nightmares.
By comparison, Charlie knew that Annie was more than a little concerned at the idea of leaving Sunnydale and all of the main Slayerly-duties to her sister-Slayer. While Faith was shaping up to be a great Slayer, the responsibilities were still more than a little staggering for one girl to shoulder, as Annie herself knew well. And having already lived through the death of one sister-Slayer, Annie was more then a little fearful of not being there when Faith needed her.
Still, it would be nice if Annie could get away from the Hellmouth on a semi-regular basis. And it wasn't like going to school inLos Angeleswould put her too far away from Sunnydale. It was barely a two hour drive; and much less if they involved any of the many witches they were now on friendly terms with.
Annie had also been worried for her friends,Willowand Xander, whom she knew felt back enough about their prior disloyalties, even without the repercussions they'd bring. Though she did know that nothing significant had happened between her two BFFs since she confronted them with her observations. She'd been rather relieved when she and Faith had been invited to go bowling with the two couples, hoping that the fun-filled atmosphere would ease the tension that was building up between the couples.
Not that that'd turned out anywhere near as well as they might've hoped…
Charlie released his lip from between his teeth to ask, "How is everyone doing? Xander's back in school, right?"
On one hand, that night had been decidedly awful; first resulting in everyone worrying forWillow, and eventually ending up with Xander badly injured.
On the other hand… well, Spike had apparently been insanely drunk. Which had been an eye-opener in and of itself; who knew vampires could even get drunk? Charlie'd theorized that such things might be possible if, say, they drank the blood of a drunk person. But no, apparently vampires could get drunk off of just plain liquor, too. Though, if they'd all understood Spike's ramblings correctly, it took a lot of alcohol.
"Yeah, he's a bit better, I think." Annie replied, still sounding subdued. "They let him outta the hospital on Sunday, and he skipped Monday, but he was in today."
Charlie nodded slowly. "And how are they doing?Willowand Oz, and Cordelia and Xander?" he actually felt her wince over the bond.
"Cordy tried to interrogate me yesterday."
He raised an eyebrow at that. "Oh?"
"Yeah. Guess she's finally caught the somethin's goin' on vibe. Not that that's hard, since Willow already confessed to Oz and he called a time-out and everything. But…yeah."
"So Cordelia suspects, or…?"
"I told her she should talk to Xander. She won't while he's recovering, I think, because he looks really pathetic right now, and he's still pretty out-of-it 'cause of the painkillers, but…yeah."
Charlie paused a second as he heard the house phone start ringing, but immediately decided on ignoring it as both his parents were home and he was already on his cell phone with Annie. Plus, he was pretty sure it was his brother calling, again, and he didn't feel like talking to him now. "Did you warn him?"
"…No. I wasn't sure I should—"
"Charlie, are you still on the phone with Annie?" his mother's voice rang up the stairs with a slightly expectant edge to it. She knew he was, because he'd only just started talking to her, but she was humoring Don by asking for him. Which was made all the more obvious by the slightly irritated amusement that he could sense from both his parents downstairs.
"One second, Annie," he pulled the phone away from his head, covering the speaker with one hand, before yelling back. "Yes, I am!"
"Okay, thank you, dear." And then she wasn't shouting anymore, he could just barely hear the distant mumble of her voice as she, undoubtedly, started talking to Don again.
"Sorry, Annie. Don called again."
The Slayer chuckled softly, and he had the distinct impression she was shaking her head on her side of the phone. "Didn't he call yesterday?"
"Yes." The mathematician confirmed with an irritated sigh. "I'm not sure he's gonna let this go, Annie. I mean, I hope he does, because…well, because—"
"Your family has enough to worry about with Don fighting all the bad humans in the world. We don't need to drag him into the war with monsters, demons and everything else, too."
"Yeah," Charlie winced. "Sorry, it's just—"
"Don't apologize, Charlie." Annie's voice was as firm as firm could be, all amusement gone in the wake of total seriousness. "If I could keep you, my Mom and my friends out of… my world, do you think I wouldn't?"
At that, all his nervousness and irritation also vanished, to be replaced by concern, "I'd hope you'd trust us to do what we think is best, Annie. No matter how much you care, you don't have the right to take the…" he trailed off as he realized what he was saying, and winced as her sigh came over the line.
"To take your choice from you? No, I don't. But it's not that easy, is it?"
He looked down, and also sighed. "No. No, it's not…"
Again, he sensed her shake her head through their bond, this time allowing his own head to follow the slow motion in response, finding it somehow a little soothing to do so; though if asked to explain why, he couldn't.
"But we're getting a bit serious now. It's something we should, probably, talk about, if your brother keeps it up. But not now."
"Yeah," he agreed, nodding now. "Yeah, thanks."
"So you think I should?"
Charlie blinked, a little thrown. "Should what?"
"Warn Xander? About Cordelia?"
Both the return to the previous discussion topic and the question made the mathematician wince. "Umm…I'm not sure, either. Why don't you ask your Mom?"
"I would," Annie sighed again. "But that'd probably result in my Mom giving Xander and Willow disappointed looks for a while, and they'd notice."
"Oh, true." Charlie thought for a second. "Uh, I could ask my Mom?"
"Oh, would you?"
He sighed, "Yeah, sure. I just have to head downstairs, okay?"
"K…you know you can take the phone—"
"Yes, I'm taking the phone with me, so you can eavesdrop," he rolled his eyes, as he reached his bedroom door, passing through and heading down the stairs. "It'll just take me a minute to get down there…and she might be on the phone with Don still."
He honestly wasn't surprised that Annie was so concerned about the situation her friends had worked themselves into. The last few weeks hadn't been easy on any of them, and Annie had already had more than her fair-share of heartache. Though she'd never cheated on someone she loved, she had killed him. She hadn't had a choice, but that didn't make the emotional effects any easier.
"Oh… Right. Okay."
Charlie chuckled softly, shaking his head as he reached the bottom step, stopping and listening for a second as he tried to figure out where his parents were, since neither one was in the living room.
As he wandered down, he couldn't help but think back on the most recent drama the Scoobies had survived. Some of it still seemed rather strange to him.
For example; how had Annie and the rest of the Scoobies found out thatWillowhad been kidnapped by Spike in the first place?
It wasn't because she'd somehow managed to escape and gotten the tale from the witch-in-training first-hand. Oh no.
No. The intoxicated vampire had actually decided to pay a visit to Annie's mother. Since they'd apparently met before, when Angelus was trying to get the world sucked into a Hell dimension and all that…
"—your brother's fine, Donnie. Really," Margaret Eppes' slightly aggravated voice came from the backyard, and her younger son headed slowly towards it, not overly eager to face her wrath, even for Annie. "I don't understand why you're so worried. I know Annie's his first girlfriend, but… Well, yes, but… Donnie!" this time his brother's nickname was edged with a definite note of admonishment, and Charlie bristled instinctively as he wondered what his brother had said about him.
Faith hadn't been interested in bowling with the Scoobies, and had actually stayed home that night to specifically work on some of the math problems that Charlie had sent her. So when Annie returned home specifically to collect Faith for an emergency patrol/search forWillow, she'd found the younger Slayer brawling with the familiar master vampire. They'd been in the Summers' living room when Annie arrived home, Faith pretty much beating the crap out of Spike while Joyce watched in wide-eyed horror.
"What's wrong?" Annie's concerned voice echoed faintly from his cell phone, since it wasn't quite pressed up to his ear, and her concern also resonated across their empathetic bond, making him realize he'd let his annoyance cross over to hit her.
Charlie quickly brought the phone back to his ear, and murmured quietly into it. "Sorry, my mom's still talking to Don… about me."
That made her chuckle again.
She hadn't been laughing when she'd found Spike in her living room. Though it wasn't a fair fight at all, as Spike had already been very, very, very drunk at the time. And thus Faith was more than capable of holding her own, and basically just beating him into a bloody pulp because she was mad that he'd come anywhere near Joyce.
Still, Annie had, understandably, been more than a little surprised when she'd sensed that Spike was actually telling the truth when he claimed he'd just been dropping by to talk to Mrs. Summers and had no real interest in hurting Annie's mom.
But that wasn't what had made Annie stop Faith from staking the master-vampire. No, it was his announcement that he had their 'little red witch' and that said witch—Willow—would surely starved to death where he left her, but that he was perfectly willing to let her go, right after she'd cast a spell for him. A love spell, to make his Sire, Drusilla, love him again.
"Donnie, your brother's quite capable of looking after himself. He's legally an adult now. And Annie's a very nice girl!" his mother's chiding voice intruded on his recollections.
And somewhat surprisingly the Eppes' patriarch's voice also chimed in a second later, "If you'd visited any time over the summer you would've met her and seen for yourself…"
"…We know you were busy, dear, but family is one of those things you have to make time for. How else can…No, no. I'm sorry, dear. We're both sorry. But we do worry about you, your father and I, and Charlie. Your life is considerably more dangerous than any of ours are."
Charlie winced as he sensed that his parents honestly believed that wholeheartedly. Though they'd be right, most of the time. As long as he wasn't doing anything with Annie or Angels' House.
"Ooh, that one hurts a bit." Annie's sympathetic voice came over the line, followed by a wave of warmth through the bond. "It's lines like that that make you really not want to tell them, huh?"
"Yup," he agreed, even as he hovered outside the kitchen door, waiting for their phone call to end. He'd figured out that both of them were outside on the patio and he'd could hear them through the kitchen window, so it was undoubtedly open. But if he went through they'd see him, and that'd make not-talking-to-Don hard, even with his still active cell phone in hand.
The love-spell thing had, justifiably, thrown both Slayers more than a little. It was a soulless member of the Scourge of Europe who was whining about his lost love and wanting a love spell cast to get her back, after all. All of it'd actually made Charlie a little interested in meeting the strange vampire, but he very carefully hadn't mentioned that to his girlfriend.
But back to the adventures in Sunnydale itself; the Slayers had reluctantly agreed to let the love spell be cast on Drusilla.
In the meantime, Oz, Xander and Cordelia had managed to follow Oz's nose to the abandoned factory whereWillowwas trapped. All agreed that the werewolf's ability to sniff someone out even while in his human form was a bit creepy, though Giles believed that it only really worked as well as it did because the wolf-side recognized Willow as Oz's mate and therefore it was only to be expected that Oz would be particularly sensitive to her scent.
Oz had managed the perilous stairs to get to where Willow was handcuffed to some of the pipes, and it'd been fairly easy for him to break a segment of the extremely rusty piping off so that they could slide the handcuff free and break them off of Willow's wrist later: something easily done by an over-eager Faith the moment they met up with the Slayers. Apparently the younger Slayer had wanted to try breaking handcuffs for a while now, which had made Annie sigh, but she'd determinedly refused to ask the 'why?' that Faith's eager display had all but demanded.
No, freeingWillowwasn't really the problem with the group at the factory, though it was hard to get her out safely.
No, the problem was that while Buffy, Faith and Spike were fending off a large gang of minion-vamps sent by a vampire named Trick to kill Spike, Xander hadn't fared as well on the stairs as the considerably more dexterous Oz had. He'd put too much weight on a rotted wooden step and had fallen straight through the stairs, landing in just such a way to be impaled on piece of rusty rebar sticking out of rubble-covered floor below.
"How'd you get them through the House without them seeing anything supernatural, anyway?"
Charlie winced at the memory, before replying, "Very carefully. And they never saw the main office…or most of the weapons."
"…He's on the phone with Annie right now, Don. ...No, we can't," again there was a sharp note of rebuke in Margaret Eppes' voice. "How would you like it if we made you to talk to him when you were on the phone with a girlfriend that lives several hours away?"
A pause, and then their Dad answered Don. "She's looking at schools inL. she'll be around next year." Then a shorter pause, followed with; "Who can tell, Donnie?"
"And you've no right to say anything against a girl you've never met, over-protective big brother or not." Now Charlie was honestly surprised at just how much of a scolding his older brother was getting, especially since he could sense their mother's irritation quite clearly. But then it was explained. "And I honestly can't believe you didn't call and tell us that Charlie's girlfriend was in the hospital once you realized that she was."
"Uh-oh," Charlie winced yet again.
"Mom knows you were in the hospital now."
"…Yes, Annie's his girlfriend, but your brother's always been a bit forgetful and he had more than ample reason to be distracted!"
Charlie wasn't entirely sure if he should be relieved that he was apparently at least somewhat off the hook with his mother, or miffed that he was only off the hook because she considered him 'a bit forgetful.' Though, after a second of thought, he couldn't really deny the charge.
"…You mean she just found out?"
"I think so. I mean, I probably would've heard something from one of my parents before now if they'd already known. And they definitely would've called your mom about it. Don must've mentioned it this time."
"…It would've taken barely two minutes, Donnie! If that! And you certainly had the time, since you said you had to leave right after!" Heavy disapproval there, too. Obviously Mrs. Eppes didn't like Don's boss telling him to get out of Sunnydale shortly after Annie'd been hurt.
Charlie couldn't help but back slowly away from his mother's annoyed voice, slowly inching himself back towards the stairs that led to his bedroom…or maybe to the front door, through which he might actually stand a chance of escaping his mother's reaction to all this. "Umm, Annie?"
"Do I have to ask my Mom tonight?"
"…I guess not. Is she really that mad?"
"Mad? No. Annoyed? Yes, very much so."
Again she just chuckled. "Well, I guess you can hide up in your room if you'd prefer."
"Well thank you ever so much." Charlie replied sarcastically, but let a flare of humor shoot across their bond at the same time.
All the while, thoughts of his girlfriend's most recent 'adventure' on the Hellmouth continued to circulate.
The master vampire, Spike, had received a very clear display of just how well two Slayers could work together when in the time he was beating and finally staking his former minion, Lenny, the two Slayers had staked almost all of the attacking vampires. Only a few of the dozen got away, and that was really only because neither Slayer had felt like chasing the cowards at that time. Not when they wanted to know whereWillowwas.
Somewhat amusingly, it'd been while Spike was beating Lenny up that he'd come to the realization that the only way he was going to get Drusilla back was if he became the man he once was again; the man she loved. Which certainly wasn't the weepy drunkard that'd stumbled back into Sunnydale, but the master-vampire that most other vampires and many lesser demons feared. That was when he'd bid the Slayers farewell, telling them where 'little red' was chained up, before heading out of town, his last line to the bemused Slayers as he dashed off being: "love's a funny thing!"
Strangely, the whole incident had been a good thing for Annie and Charlie. Because the comments and the whole experience of essentially assisting in the relationship-troubles of two vampires had led to Charlie and Annie discussing their own relationship a lot more.
The math-genius had taken a bus ride to Sunnydale a few days later, on Saturday, so that they could go on their first, actual date. He was also considering trying, again, to master driving so that he could get a license and a car, which would make going to Sunnydale and taking his girlfriend out on dates, considerably easier.
Anyway, Annie and Faith had arrived at the factory mere moments after Xander had fallen through the stairs, rushing into the building in response to Cordelia's terrified shrieks. Upon finding that the problem wasn't something they could slay, both Slayers had been more then a little panicked, but it was Faith who immediately pulled out her cell phone and called Charlie.
Charlie, himself, wasn't sure how he felt about the fact that the younger Slayer's choice to call him when faced with an emergency. Surely Dr. Giles or Mrs. Summers, given their much closer proximity and positions of authority in the girls' lives would make more sense, but he thought he'd reacted rather well, nonetheless.
He'd told Faith to have Buffy call the nurse at Sunnydale General that was also in the employ of the Watchers Council. Nurse Robert's cell phone number had been programmed into all three of their cell phones, though Charlie hadn't yet met the woman. He'd actually procured the number with a little bit of difficulty from Dr. Giles—not that the man hadn't been happy to give it to him, it'd just taken him a while to find it in his own records and had thus made Charlie glad he'd asked for it.
He'd also had Faith call Dr. Giles, for further instructions and the Watcher's peace of mind, and asked that they call him back as soon as possible afterwards, stating that he would let Mrs. Summers know where they were off to, knowing the poor woman was undoubtedly quite petrified given the last time she'd seen either Faith or her daughter they'd been leaving in the company of a vampire whom they'd told her was not the safest being to be around.
The Watcher nurse's response was quick and efficient. She'd apparently arrived with an ambulance mere moments after a friend of hers, a witch, arrived and used magic to safely extract Xander from his perilous placement. He'd been taken to the hospital, a frantic Cordelia going along for the ride while Oz,Willow, Faith and Annie had followed in Oz's van. Giles and Joyce had met them at the hospital.
Thankfully, Xander had not only survived the fall, but had actually not hit any of his vital organs, either.
However, the relationship troubles of the two BFFs had come to a head with the whole episode, as Willowhad felt even more guilty with the combined reasons of their secretly suppressed passions and Xander getting hurt while trying to help her. When she professed as much to her boyfriend, Oz had understandably reasoned that as the two were best friends it only made sense that they'd worry for each other. ButWillow had finally broken down then, and admitted to the growing attraction between her and Xander.
Oz had, rather reasonably, called a time out on their relationship, saying he'd give her a little while to think about who she wanted to be with—despite her protests. The werewolf had then gone to talk to Annie about it, and was unsurprised when she admitted she and Faith had both noticed and confronted the pair before then.
But Annie was almost certain that Oz, himself, had had his own suspicions before that.
"You still there, Charlie?"
"Yeah, I'm still here," he replied, smiling slightly as her amusement hit him from across their bond as he gently closed the door to his bedroom behind him, part of him wishing it had a lock as he did so. "…So everything's been mostly quiet?"
"Yeah, other than the Scooby gang's inner drama, of course."
"Of course, though thankfully it's not like a little teen angst is capable of ending the world," the genius offered, letting a bit of humor slip into his tone, smiling as it stole another laugh from his girlfriend.
"True," she agreed, and he could both hear and feel the bright smile that was stretching across her lips right then.
"Charlie?" his mother's voice suddenly echoed up the stairs again, making him wince.
"One second, Annie," he told her again, before once more covering the cell phone's receiver to shout back, "Yeah, Mom?"
"When you and Annie are done, your father and I need to talk to you," was her reply, and he winced again as he caught the definite edge of irritation in her voice.
Not that he needed to hear it, as he'd already felt it radiating from the lower floor of his home, along with many other potent emotions—like fear and worry—for the last several minutes.
"Sure, Mom. I'll be down soon," he called back, before turning his attention back to his girlfriend again. "Sorry, Annie, I don't think I should keep them waiting."
"Yeah, don't want 'em to stew," the Slayer agreed, before sighing. "I should probably be gettin' ready to go on patrol anyway. Good luck."
"You too. And both of you be careful out there."
"Always," was Annie's smiling reply.
A Call Away.
NOTES FROM WITHIN THE CHAPTER:
(1) Apparently we have just the one. This probably isn't necessary, but I thought I should add in a reminder that Buffy's score on the SAT's of 1430 is actually pretty good, because this is set in 1996, which means she took the old SATs, which means her score was 1430/1600 NOT 1430/2000.
Author's End Note: I know this is short, but it covers what I felt needed to be covered before we get into Holiday Horrors.
And I'll say, again, that I'm sorry for the wait on all this. Hope it turns out to be at least somewhat worth it…
To Be Continued in…