Disclaimers: Buffy the Vampire Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy & Fox. Numb3rs belongs to Cheryl Heuton and Nick Falacci…I think. (NOT me!)
AN: Many thanks to
NeverTooOld for beta-reading this chapter!

Warnings: Spoilers for BUFFY S3E3 "Faith, Hope & Trick."


A Call Away

Part II in Mathematics & Magic

By Jess S

Chapter 1: Siblings – Part I

0

The Bronze, Sunnydale, California – Wednesday, September 18, 1996

Buffy smirked as she claimed the seat across from Willow and Oz, shaking her head as she set two extra sodas down on the table in between them. "Don't let me interrupt."

"Thanks," Oz nods to her, claiming one of the soda's while Willow's busy blushing.

After a moment, Willow was able to shake the slight embarrassment she felt at the teasing off, and actually looked at her best friend, her eyes narrowing. "Are you—" shaking her head, she glanced at her boyfriend instead, jerking her head at Buffy. "Is she all glow-y?"

"I suspect happiness."

Buffy grinned, and shrugged before explaining. "I passed my English makeup exam. Now I'm hangin' with my friends," she nods, smiling brightly. "Hello, my life, how I've missed you!" she shook her head, "Now I just have to take the makeup for health class on Friday, and meet with the school guidance counselor next week, then I'm a normal high school girl again. Or as normal as I can be, anyway."

The other two nodded, chuckling before Willow's attention is diverted for a moment to something behind Buffy, and she sits up a little straighter, grinning. "Hi, Scott. What are you doing here?"

Buffy turns around slightly, shaking her head to raise an eyebrow at the new teenager.

The boy grinned and nodded to Willow, though his eyes were on Buffy. "You told me that if I came after eight o'clock, I could run into Buffy." When Buffy shot her friends a look, he shook his head. "Sorry. I'm a bad liar. It's not good for the soul." Then he shrugged and waved at his face. "Or-or my skin, actually. It—"

"Hi, Scott," Buffy cut in, smiling slightly at his nervous ramblings.

"Hi," Scott chuckled self-consciously, before glancing at the dance floor and asking, "Don't you love this song?"

Buffy blinked, and listened for a moment before nodding. "Yeah, actually, I do."

"Well, would you like to...?"

"Dance?" Buffy blinked, not really liking the idea, but at the look she could feel her best friend sending her way she nodded a bit uncomfortably. "Uh, yeah. I guess." She set her drink down and rose, deliberately not looking at her friends though she was sure Willow was grinning while Oz's face would be tactfully blank. "One dance 'd be fine."

"Great!" Scott nodded, smiling brightly as he held a hand out for her.

Buffy suppressed a sigh, really not remotely able to feel comfortable with this completely innocent, completely ignorant boy that Willow seemed to be set on fixing her up with, but she took his hand anyway, forcing her lips to form a small smile as she let him lead her out to the floor. "Right."

As they reached the dance floor, Buffy was surprised as her eyes were drawn to a younger girl that was dancing by herself in the middle of the floor and she was suddenly hit by a burst of familiarity. Her eyes narrowed as she studied the girl, trying to place where she knew her from. She was so intent in her inspection that she didn't notice when Scott stopped to turn towards her.

"Whoa!" Scott laughed as she walked right into him, "You okay?"

"Uh, yeah," Buffy nodded, stepping back a few steps and deliberately not looking towards the other girl again. "Sorry, thought I saw someone I knew." She forced a smile on her face again as she and started swaying to the beat of the song, "So let's dance."

She was able to keep her eyes away from the other girl for a few minutes of dancing, but wasn't able to ignore the familiar snarl of the Slayer as a vampire cross the floor behind her, headed to the center of the dance floor. A glance in that direction showed that the other girl was still there, dancing by herself as the vamp came up behind her and tapped on her should before starting to dance himself.

"Whoa, what's he doing?" Scott asked, bringing Buffy's mind back to her partner for a moment as he looked towards what had caught her attention, even as she continued to move to dance with the ease of long practice. "Actually, forget that. What's he wearing?"

Ignoring the dated dance techniques the vamp was using, Buffy took a closer look at him and saw that he was wearing slightly dirty, brightly-colored clothes that would have fit in better at clubs in the seventies. She frowned as the familiar brunette threw herself into dancing with the vamp, but shook it off and turned her attention back to her own partner, knowing the vamp would stay put at least until the end of the song, though keeping her slay-dar locked on him nonetheless.

As the song drew to an end, she felt the vampire moving away, and turned her head slightly to see that his victim-to-be was actually pulling him towards the club's back door. Blinking, she forced a bright smile to her face as she forced her attention back to Scott, and nodded to him as the song finally ended. "Thanks for the dance, Scott. I'll see you later, okay?"

"You don't wan—"

"Sorry, I've really gotta go. I promised to meet a friend of mine to help out with some things. But we might be back later. Maybe I'll see you then, or at school tomorrow?"

"Yeah, sure. Right," Scott nodded, also smiling though she could sense a bit of doubt and aggravation coming from him. "See you later."

Buffy nodded before moving away, quickly picking up the pace as she focused her Slay-dar on the vamp that had just left, hoping she found them in time. She looked around as she burst out the back door, frowning when she couldn't see either of the pair in sight, and closed her eyes for a moment, bringing the Slayer to the forefront of her mind and searching yet again.

She could feel two more vamps behind her, in the club. About half a dozen a good distance away from the club, but close enough for her to sense. And one that was not in the club but close by.

Before she could push the Slayer sense back, a vision overtook her.

Someone – a girl – running through a heavily wooded area, grief and terror dominating her mind. Her mind locking on two things: getting away from the monster that had minions chasing her, and getting to Sunnydale. To her sister. To the other Slayer.

Her eyes shot open and Buffy took off, running as fast as her feet could carry her towards the lone vamp and her sister-Slayer, ignoring the voice that was telling her that the younger girl could handle herself.

"Hey!" a girl's voice echoed out of a nearby alley, followed by the sound of someone hitting a wire-fence.

She rounded the corner into the alley and frowned as she saw the vamp had the younger-Slayer's armed pinned against her sides in a hold that the girl really shouldn't have any trouble breaking as he held her up against he fence.

"Stop struggling," the vampire snapped, "This won't hurt."

Buffy pulled a stake out of her jacket as he leaned down bite the girl's neck, opening her mouth to distract him. But she paused as the other slayer finally made an effort to break his hold, punching a fist up into his jaw and forcing him to back up, giving herself enough room to kick him back all the way.

The brunette turned towards her and grinned when she saw the stake in the older girl's hand. "It's OK, I got it. You're Buffy, right?" She was distracted for a moment as the vampire came up behind her, but the brunette just slammed her head back into his face, before grabbing his arm and flipping him over her shoulder. "I'm Faith." She nodded towards Buffy's stake before spinning around to kick the vamp into another wall when it tried another attack. "Can I borrow that?"

Buffy blinked, but shrugged and tossed it to her as the vamp rose again.

Faith stepped back as the vamp ran at her again, spinning around to kick him into a wall again, before rushing forward and grabbing his shoulder to flip him around, her stake raised and then quickly jammed into his chest, through his heart, and pulled back just in time to avoid it also turning to dust with the vamp. The brunette looked down at the pile of dust for a moment before shaking her head and turning back towards the alley entrance, tossing the stake back to Buffy. "Thanks, B. Couldn't have done it without you."

Buffy reached out and caught the younger—but irritatingly taller—girl's shoulder as she went to brush by her, forcing her to stop. "Faith?"

"That's my name," the brunette confirmed, taking a step back to shrug out of Buffy's hold. "I'm a Slayer, too."

Buffy couldn't suppress a grin at that, though her eyes narrowed as she sensed lingering fear and pain emanating from the brunette, emotions she could sense empathetically but not see in the younger girl's demeanor at all. "I'd noticed. What took you so long?"

"Huh?" Faith blinked, clearly confused.

"To get here. I've been waiting for you for almost two weeks." Buffy continued quickly, not giving the other Slayer a chance to respond, "What happened on the sixth?"

The younger Slayer drew back, her shoulders tensing as her eyes widened. "Wh-What?"

"Early morning, probably a patrol you started on the fifth, went past midnight into Friday, September sixth. What happened?"

"I-I don't know what you're talking about," Faith protested, shaking her head sharply as she half-heartedly tried to brush by the older Slayer again, only to be stopped as one of her arms was caught.

"Do you have visions, Faith?" Buffy asked, forcing her tone to be as gentle as she possibly could. "'Cause I do. Usually they don't make sense until I know who or what the new big bad is, but this one did. I could see an old vamp, torturing an old woman. I was struggling. I was terrified. I escaped. And I ran. Sound familiar?"

"I—I," Faith shook her head, her eyes lost as she drew back into herself.

Buffy frowned as she felt the formerly suppressed and well hidden fear the girl was feeling increasing as her description clearly brought back highly unpleasant memories. After a moment, an inner voice—that sounded strangely like Charlie—told her that this really wasn't the place for this discussion and she sighed, stepping back and directly into the younger girl's path before releasing her. "We really should talk about this somewhere, else. Ok?" After several long seconds the girl nodded hesitantly, and Buffy asked, still keeping her tone gentle. "Have you got a place to stay?"

Faith bit her lip and then nodded again. "Y-Yeah. Found a motel on the edge of town. They rent out rooms long-term."

Buffy's frown returned, this time more pronounced as she shook her head. "No, that won't work." At the startled look the younger girl shot her, Buffy raised an eyebrow. "You don't know who's been invited into those places before you. And you don't have any control over who can be invited in by the owner. An actual apartment would be different, but..." she paused a moment in thought. "How about we stop by there to grab your stuff and then you can crash at my place for a while?" When she felt a surge of half-protest, half-longing crash through the other girl, she hurried on before Faith could say anything. "It won't be a problem. My mom and I live by ourselves. We actually have two guest rooms. And," seeing that the younger girl still wasn't sure, "I'd kind of like having someone else around. Demons kinda target my house at random times, and I'd hate myself if anything ever happened to my mom. She's already been attacked by vampires two or three times."

After another moment of silence, Faith nodded. "OK. I guess I could do that. Y-Your're sure—"

"Mom would love having another kid around for awhile. She's always nagging me to bring my friends around more often, oh, and she knows about me being a Slayer now," Buffy added quickly, shaking her head at the brunette's curious look, "Long story, I'll tell you later, if you want. But at least none of that will be a problem." Stepping back, Buffy finally waved towards the entrance of the alley. "Shall we?" then she winced, shaking her head. "I just spoke British, didn't I? I have definitely been hangin' 'round Giles way too much." She smiled as the younger girl giggle, then gently locked elbows with her and started leading her out of the alley, sure that she'd done the right thing as she felt relief coming off the younger girl in waves.

0

Eppes' House, Pasadena, California – Wednesday, September 18, 1996

Charlie sighed, shaking his head as he erased part of his notes and re-wrote part of the expression he was working on. Though the mistake he had made wasn't one that most people—even most mathematicians—would be able to spot, it wasn't the kind of mistake he made. Ever. He never made mistakes with numbers. Sometimes there'd be errors in the data he was working with, or the data could be incomplete, leading to errors in his findings. But he never made mistakes himself. He knew numbers and math much too well for that. Much of what most people learned by memorization he knew instinctively. He'd needed to learn the conventions and the standards to express his numbers in forms that other mathematicians understood, but he'd always understood them on his own.

Of course, he rarely had trouble focusing his mind on anything, math least of all. Usually he could just disregard the world around him for hours on end, giving all of his attention to the problem. This past summer had changed that. He'd ignored his surroundings for the sake of math just a few months ago—in early July—and had been attacked by vampires. Vampires that had probably targeted him because they'd seen that he was awake and alone. That catastrophe had been accompanied by the great blessing of meeting 'Annie'—or Buffy Summers—but it had also made him a bit wary of getting too involved in his numbers when he was home alone.

Except for the initial attack, it hadn't been a problem this summer. He'd spent almost all of his time with Annie nearby. Whether she'd been asleep in her room upstairs—next door to his—or wandering around the house, the yard, or just with him, watching him work—something she did occasionally—her presence had always made him feel completely safe.

But now she was gone. She was moving on. And he was home alone again, though this time his parents were only out at dinner and a movie.

Still, he couldn't concentrate on his math. He couldn't bring himself to trust the sanctuary of the house he'd lived in for all nineteen—nearly twenty—years of his life.

Looking around the living room he shook his head. Maybe he had to figure out a different place to work. In a few months he'd have an office at CalSci, but even then he should probably have some kind of designated workspace here at home. Obviously that workspace couldn't be the living room, not for a good long while. Not when that's where he'd been working there on the night of June 2nd, into the early morning hours of the 3rd. Just feet away from where he'd nearly become a snack for three hungry vampires that had looked like junior-high cheerleaders.

*KNOCK* *KNOCK*

Charlie jumped as a knock resounded through the front door, and his head snapped around towards it, his eyes wide. He glanced out the window, and wasn't comforted by the lack of sunlight. The sun had set a few hours ago.

*KNOCK* *KNOCK*

After a moment, Charlie shook his head and took a deep breath before forcing himself to walk towards the front door, forcing himself to take solace in the fact that vampires wouldn't be able to enter his home un-invited.

~ * FLASHBACK * ~

"That's a big no, no," Annie told him, her tone firm.

She raised a hand, stopping him from protesting that he obviously knew now that he shouldn't have let strangers into his house to use the phone, no matter how harmless they looked.

"I mean the invite. Never verbally invite anyone inside your home, especially at night. Say something like 'it's open,' or 'are you gonna stay out there all night?' not 'come in' or 'welcome.' Or, if you can manage it, don't say anything. Just open the door and step aside, that's the easiest one. That way your visitor knows you want them to come in, but a vampire won't be able to since it's not an actual invite."

Charlie nodded, seeing the logic behind this. Though he still didn't quite understand what it was that kept vampires outside of a home they haven't been invited into. Still, it wasn't worth arguing with the logic of using the fact as a security measure.

"Also," Annie added, drawing his full attention back to her as she shrugged, "Welcome mats are evil. Don't ever let your parents put any out."

~ * END OF FLASHBACK * ~

Since then, he'd made his parents replace their outdoor welcome mats three times. The first time, he just convinced them that the mat was old and should be replaced. Of course, this was after Annie has spent almost the entire summer hiding the mat all around the front yard, confusing his parents to no end, though they'd found the 'game' rather funny after a while. The second and third time he'd managed to destroy them by 'losing control' of experiments near them. The first had been with fire, which hadn't been a good idea since there were so many plants near the front steps, and because the house was made of wood. The third time his mother had thrown the brand-new mat away when he'd spilled a chemical solution on it that had completely ruined the artfully designed 'WELCOME' only thirty-six hours after she bought it and three hours after she'd set it outside the door.

*KNOCK* *KNOCK* *KNOCK*

Charlie shook his head again, and sighed as he stepped up the door, before unlocking it and cautiously pulling it open.

Lily was standing there, a concerned expression on her face that disappeared as the hand she'd raised to knock again dropped down to her side and a smile lit her face. "Hey, Charlie! How are you?"

"Lily," Charlie blinked, before shaking his head and returning her smile quickly. "Good, good. Uh, is everything all right?"

"Yeah, yeah. Everything's been great at Angel's, oh, and look!" she reached into the pocket of her jacket and pulled out her wallet, flipping it open to slip out a small plastic card, which she then handed him as she let herself in, letting Charlie close the door behind her.

Charlie smiled as he took it, "You got your license?" he asked, looking at her smiling picture on the card before his eyes ran over the data.

Lily O'Connor

872 Hunter Street

Pasadena, CA

Sex: F Hair: BLO Eyes: BLU

HT: 5-05 Wt: 132 lbs DOB: 08-30-75

He looked up at her, an eyebrow raised, "August thirtieth? Why—?"

"That was when my life here really started." Lily cut in with a shrug. "When I became Lily O'Connor." Then she shrugged again. "Well, my other choice was July nineteenth or twentieth, but we're already planning celebration at Angel's for those days—officially as our founding days—"

"And unofficially as the day all of us escaped from hell," Charlie nodded, before shaking his head again, frowning at the license. "How'd you even get this, though? You can't have a birth certificate that says this is your name, and—"

"Deborah and Constance helped me," Lily cut in again, smiling all the more widely. "I officially joined their coven yesterday, and Lily O'Connor is the name I'm recognized by in the coven, so they helped me get a license under that name. It's still real and everything. I still took lessons, and it's part of the state databases," she added with a shrug, "It just has a little spell to make sure I don't have trouble with the name-change."

Charlie sensed there was a lot more to the story behind her name and getting the license then she let on, but sensing her discomfort decided to drop the subject, handing the ID back to her. "Well, congratulations," he offered, shaking his head ruefully. "Maybe I'll have my license by the time I'm twenty-one."

"Somehow I can't see it." Lily laughed, shaking her head and smiling widely. "I'm sure you could if you put your mind to it, but you'd have to learn to ignore distractions—even your numbers."

"Yeah," Charlie nodded, with a sigh, "I guess I would have to learn to ignore my numbers." Then he shook his head after a long moment of silence. "Umm, did you need something or is this—"

"Oh, yeah," Lily smiled, cutting in to his rambling before he could embarrass himself. "I was wondering if you'd eaten dinner yet? I made lasagna, but I made a little too much for myself."

"A little too much?"

"Hey, I'm learning to cook at the shelter! It's not my fault the batches we cook in are for twenty to thirty people at a time." She wrinkled her nose a bit in exasperation. "I tried cutting the measurements, but I think I still have enough for eight to ten people."

Charlie blinked, "Well, I don't think I'm hungry enough to eat enough for six or eight people, but I could eat a little bit. I'll—"

"Great!" Lily nodded, turning on her heel towards the door. "I'll be back in about ten minutes, okay?" At his confused expression she sighed, "We can't eat in my dining room—the table's being repaired, remember? And I got a little carried away in the kitchen."

"Oh. Oh! You want to eat over here?" Charlie realized, looking towards his parent's clean dining room table.

"Yeah. Is that okay?"

Charlie thought about it for a moment, glancing at the clock. It was half past six, so even if they made a mess they'd have plenty of time to clean up before his parents got back from their movie, and even if they didn't, his parents' would probably be too glad to see Charlie eating dinner with a girl—who he really had no romantic interest in, but they'd never notice that—to care. "Yeah, I guess so. So I'll set up the table." He nodded, turning his eyes back to hers. "My mom baked some bread yesterday, do you want to try that with it?"

"Sure, that'd be great!" Lily agreed, opening the door. "I'll be right back."

"OK," Charlie nodded, carefully leaning out the door and watching as she hurried back to her house. Both of them—aware of all that goes bump in the night—were suitably wary of it, but he only bothered with a quick glance around the neighborhood after she entered her house and closed her door. After all, Annie had patrolled all around here regularly while she'd been here, and Angel's Watch was doing so now, also. More because Charlie and Lily lived here though, then any real reason. They'd never seen anything dangerous in Pasadena. With a sigh he closed the door firmly, but didn't lock it, hurrying into the kitchen.

Once there he grabbed two sets of plates and serving utensils, napkins, placemats, hotplates and glasses, gathering them all on one of the trays his mom kept handy for this purpose before moving into the dining with them and carefully setting up. Once finished he returned to the kitchen with the tray—and the still empty glasses—setting all three on the counter. Then he hurried into the living room and quickly skimmed over the calculations he'd been struggling with in his notebook, before nodding as he decided that he was at an okay stopping place, and quickly gathering all of his materials into the drawer his mom had set aside for him in the living room.

A glance outside the window just then confirmed that his 'ten minutes' were up, as he could see Lily coming up the front steps, and large dish carefully balanced in two hands, and he hurried to meet her at the door, holding it open so she could just come through and make her way to the table, smiling as the smell of lasagna reached his nostrils while he closed and locked the door behind her.

0

Summers House, Sunnydale, California – Wednesday, September 18, 1996

Buffy shook her head as her Mom set a plate of freshly-baked chocolate cookies on the table in front of them, and quickly joined Faith in snagging one to enjoy with the mugs of hot chocolate and marshmallows they'd already been given.

"So you're a slayer, too?" her mom asked Faith, sitting in the chair closest to the couch and picking up her own mug of hot chocolate from the side table. "Isn't that interesting. Do you like it?"

"Oh, I love it," Faith replied immediately.

Buffy frowned as she sensed a bit of discomfort from the other Slayer, though she couldn't see any from looking at her.

"You know, Buffy never talks that way." Mrs. Summers shook her head, taking a sip of her cocoa, then asking, "Why do you love it?"

Faith shrugged as she finished off her second cookie and grabbed a third from the plate. "Well, when I'm fighting, it's like the whole world goes away and I only know one thing—that I'm gonna win and they're gonna lose." She finished after taking a bite of her third cookie, "I like that feelin'."

Buffy shrugged, also grabbing another cookie. "Well, sure. Beats them winning and you losing."

Faith shook her head. "I don't let that kinda negative thinking in."

Buffy frowned at her, as she sensed Faith's discomfort growing. Now she knew she was definitely right, Faith wasn't nearly as positive about Slaying as she wanted Buffy's mom to think. But why bother with the deception? Sure, Buffy herself glossed over all the details of the slaying as much as possible, but she didn't hide the fact that it was dangerous for her, and didn't try to pretend she enjoyed it.

"Right. Right," Mrs. Summers nodded, That could get you hurt. Buffy can be awfully negative sometimes. See, honey, you've gotta fight that."

Buffy shook her head. "I'm working on it."

Mrs. Summers glanced at Faith's empty mug as it was set down and rose, "Oh, Faith, can I get you some more hot chocolate?"

"You bet, Mrs. S." Faith smiled brightly, handing the older woman her mug and watching her leave the living room. Glancing at Buffy she asked, "She's really cool, huh?"

"Best mom ever," Buffy nods, smiling slightly. Then she sighed. "You ready to talk yet?" She shook her head as Faith looked away, instantly uncomfortable again. "You gotta get it out sometime, Faith. And I can't help you if you don't talk to me." Seeing the younger girl was still unsure, she sighed. "How about we start with something simple? I'm Buffy Summers, my mom's Joyce Summers, my dad's name is Hank but I haven't seen him in nearly two years. My watcher is Rupert Giles, who also works in the school library. My best friends are Charlie Eppes, Willow Rosenberg and Xander Harris. Willow is dating a werewolf and guitar player named Oz, and Xander is dating Cordelia Chase." After finishing she raised an eyebrow, "How about you?"

Faith nodded, and started a little shakily. "M-my name's Faith, Faith Lehane. Don't know who my dad was, never met 'im. My mom was," she licked her lips and shook her head, "My mom wasn't the best of moms. My watcher had me removed from her care when I was eight, and adopted me."

When Faith didn't continue, Buffy interjected gently. "What was your watcher's name?"

"D-Diane. Dianne Dormer. She was a professor at Harvard. Had tenure and everything." Faith looked down, shaking her head.

Buffy opened her mouth to continue, but paused as she heard her mom returning from the kitchen, a new mug of hot chocolate in hand. She watched as her mom paused in the doorway, frowning at Faith's downcast expression before forcing her face to clear and crossing the room to the couch, handing Faith the new mug with a warm smile.

"Thanks, Mrs. S." Faith murmured as she accepted the cup and quickly took a sip of the steaming-hot liquid.

"Careful!" Mrs. Summers protested. "It's hot."

Faith shook her head, grinning slightly. "'Nother plus to bein' a Slayer. We don't burn easily. And when we do get hurt," she shrugged, taking another sip.

"We heal fast," Buffy nodded, then raised an eyebrow. "Doesn't mean we should try to get hurt."

"'Course not," Faith nodded, setting her mug down to cool for a bit before grabbing another warm chocolate-chip cookie.

"Can I get you anything else?" Mrs. Summers asked, hovering over the two of them.

Buffy shook her head before Faith, who'd just taken a bite of her cookie, could reply. "We're fine, mom. You should get to bed. You said you have an early client tomorrow, don't you?"

"Well, yes, but—"

"I remember where the guest room is, Mom. We already gave Faith the tour anyway. And we'll help ourselves to the kitchen if we need anything," Buffy finished reassuringly, rising to catch her mom in a gentle hug. "We'll see you in the morning, alright?"

Mrs. Summers returned the hug, before sighing and nodding her head as she stepped back, clearly tired. "All right. I'll see you girls in the morning."

"'Night, Mrs. S." Faith replied, while Buffy echoed her.

"'Night, Mom."

"Good night." Both teenagers watched the older, clearly tired woman leave the room and head up the stairs.

Buffy waited till she heard her mom's bedroom door close before turning to Faith again, watching as she took another sip of hot chocolate. She waited until Faith had finished swallowing, then spoke. "He killed her didn't he?" she asked, as gently as he could. "The Master Vamp I saw in the vision. He killed Diane Dormer?"

Faith shook her head, taking another sip of hot chocolate and swallowing before she replied, her voice barely audible as she stared unseeingly into her mug. "They don't have words for what he did to her."

Buffy took the half-full mug of cocoa from the other girl as her hand started to shake, setting it down on the coffee table before moving around it to sit next to her, slipping a gentle arm around her tense, trembling shoulders. "Who is 'he'?"

Faith sighed, shaking her head but not pulling out of Buffy's hug. "A big daddy vampire out of Missouri. Used to keep alligators as pets." She bit her lip, shaking her head. "D-Diane said he had them under some kinda spell. Made 'em smarter than normal alligators. We had to fight our way through them to get to him. An' these things were huge, I had to wrestle with one that was at least twelve feet long." She shook her head again, "An' that was before we even got near the damn vamp's nest."

"He was pretty old?"

Faith shrugged. "Old, yeah. Diane said he'd been around when Alexander the Great was conquerin' the world. The council thinks he followed the armies. Don't know much about that, but it was a pretty long time ago, right?"

"Yeah, I think so." Buffy nodded, frowning in thought for a moment. "So he was Greek?"

"Huh?"

"I think Alexander the Great was Greek. Was this vamp Greek, too?"

"I-I don't know. Didn't really pay that much attention," Faith blinked back tears, shaking her head. "Just heard old vamp. Big following. Smart alligators. Big problem. Picked some weapons, and went out with her backin' me up. She didn't want me to go alone."

Buffy nodded, remembering how she'd felt when Lothos had killed Merrick right in front of her. How guilty she'd felt for freezing in the first place, and needing to be saved, and for not listening to him more. For not being better prepared to face Lothos. "What's his name?"

Faith was silent for so long that Buffy almost asked again, but finally she got the name out. "K-Kakistos. He's called Kakistos."

"OK. Ka-toa—never mind. You'll have to tell Giles the name." Buffy shook her head slightly. "What else?"

"What'd you mean?"

"Tell me what happened."

"I, uh," Faith seemed to shrink in on herself, her shoulders somehow tensing even more. "I was there, when he killed D-Di—my watcher. A-And I saw what he did to her—what he was gonna do to me." She shook her head harshly. "I tried to stop him, but I—I couldn't. And I—I ran." Her head snapped around to meet Buffy's concerned gaze, her expression desperate. "I—I tried t-to stop him. I w-wanted to help her, but she—"

"It's OK," Buffy shushed her, gently pulling her into a tight hug, rubbing her back as she remembered her mom doing when she was little, or Charlie doing the few times she'd broken down in front of him this past summer. "You're OK, Faith." After a few minutes Faith's tremors and sobs subsided, and Buffy drew back a bit to meet her eyes again. "Faith, first rule of slaying—don't die." She shook her head as Faith looked away, gently catching her chin to turn her eyes back towards her. "You did the right thing. OK? You didn't die."

"But—"

"And I'm sure Diane didn't want you to die with her. She probably didn't want to die, either, but she went with you willingly, didn't she?"

After a moment Faith nodded, "Y-Yeah. She always went with me if I was goin' after somethin' big. I shouldn't of let—"

"That was her job, Faith. That's what watchers do. Yeah, the slayers are the ones that are 'sposed to do it every night, but the watchers are our back-up and go-to-guys, right? And they all chose to be that." Buffy added gently. "We didn't get a choice, they did. OK?"

After a moment Faith nodded, bringing one hand up to her face to wipe away what remained of the tears that had fallen there.

"OK. Now I think we should head to bed for now, alright? I've got class in the morning, and—" Buffy paused as another thought that sounded exactly like Charlie broke her train of thought. "Hey, what year are you in school? Tenth?"

"Uh, no." Faith shook her head. "I dropped out when I became a Slayer a few months ago. Just finished ninth, though."

Buffy nodded, "So we'll have to see about getting you back in school," she shook her head and continued before Faith could protest. "I know a lot of the classes seem stupid, but I have actually learned a bit from school that's been useful in Slaying. And who knows, you might actually want another job some day, which you'll need your diploma for." She waited a moment for Faith to respond, but continued when she didn't. "Anyway, we'll head into school early tomorrow, talk to Giles about kissing-toast—"

"Kakistos."

"Yeah, taquitos," Buffy nodded, suppressing a smirk as she won another small smile from the other girl. "We'll tell Giles about him and he'll get in touch with the Council about getting you back in school. But right now, we should get to bed, OK? Do you remember where your room is?"

Faith nodded and slowly rose from the couch, smiling as Buffy rose with her before releasing the hold she'd had on her shoulders. "Yeah, I do."

"Okay. The bathroom is at the end of the hall, the linen closet is right next to it. Mom probably already put towels in your room, but you can help yourself if you need anything. K?" Buffy smiled, nodding towards the stairs. "I'll be up in a few minutes, after I clean up here."

"I can—"

"Don't worry, it's fine. Besides, you're the one that's been on the road for almost two weeks, you need sleep more then me."

"Ok, um, good night."

"Good night," Buffy nodded, leaning down to grab the cookie plate and carefully balancing the three empty mugs on it as Faith headed for the stairs. She paused as she heard Faith call her quietly.

"B?"

Turning back towards Faith, Buffy raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, Faith?"

"Thanks," the younger Slayer murmured with a small smile, before heading up the stairs.

0

Eppes' House, Pasadena, California – Wednesday, September 18, 1996

Charlie shook his head, smiling as he nodded to the large—and still quite full—dish of lasagna on the table before them before grinning at its creator. "This is great, Lily. Definitely way too much, but it still tastes good."

"Thank you," the blonde nodded, before taking another bite of her dinner.

After a few more minutes of silent chewing, Charlie asked. "So are you gonna take the rest of it into the shelter tomorrow?"

Lily shrugged, "I don't know. Maybe." Then she shook her head. "But probably not. Tomorrow's soup night. Lasagna night is Sundays, and I'm under strict orders not to mess with that schedule."

"Orders?" Charlie grinned, curious.

"From the cooks," Lily nodded. "Martha, Elise and Joanne—they're very protective of their kitchen, you know."

"I'd heard that," Charlie nodded, taking another bite of his lasagna and chewing thoughtfully before continuing. How are things going at the shelter?"

"Good," Lily nodded, smiling slightly. "We're getting more and more people every night. The coven did an expansion spell on our rooms, to make them just a little bigger, when they added their wards to the blessing Lorne received from The Furies."

Charlie frowned, "Won't the health inspectors-?"

"They put cloaking spells around it, to make sure it wouldn't be noticed, but even without them it wasn't something anyone not-in-touch with magic would notice." She told him with a shrug. "For one thing, very few people can imagine the way you see the world mathematically, so they aren't as likely to notice the difference. For another, most people avoid noticing the supernatural as much as possible. I'm sure you've noticed that?"

Charlie sighed, but then nodded. "Yeah. Annie explained that to me," he didn't add that he'd spent weeks after that trying to determine whether his parents noticed anything or not.

Sure, they knew that he'd been attacked and hurt, they rushed home from France and stayed in his hospital room for hours, after all. But after the drugs the doctors gave him initially started to wear off, letting him stay awake longer and think more, they never asked to talk about it. They wanted to know if he was okay. If he needed any kind of help. What he was doing awake at whatever-hour-in-the-early-morning he was attacked on. But they didn't want to know anything about the attack itself.

They must have talked to the police at some point. Annie had called 911 and even if she hadn't said he'd been attacked, the paramedics probably would have reported it. Maybe. But apparently the supernatural-avoidance-syndrome extended to law enforcement, too, because the police had never interviewed him.

"...Charlie? You okay?"

Charlie blinked and shook his head as he realized he'd apparently zoned out for a bit there. "Sorry, thinking. So everything is going well with the House?"

Lily nodded, smiling brightly. "Yeah. It's great." She shrugged slightly. "The location probably helps. Ken—or whatever his name actually was—definitely picked an ideal location for attracting homeless people. Course, word seems to be getting around that we're a safe haven from demons and vampires."

"Makes you wonder how that happens, doesn't it?" Charlie asked, taking a sip of his soda before continuing. "How 'word gets around' like that when no one wants to talk about the, uh, supernatural?"

Lily shrugged again, "I guess. The Watch helps, I think. I know a lot of the gangs noticed that, and pretty much tied it back to the shelter."

Charlie was silent for several moments, blinking, before he repeated, "...gangs?"

"Oh, yeah, didn't I tell you?" Lily frowned in confusion, before shaking her head with a sigh. "I think I've met with a leader—or maybe representative—from every gang in LA now. They wanted me to know that Angel's House is considered neutral territory, safe for all. And that the Watch has a free pass through all gang territories." She continued hurriedly before Charlie could say anything in response to that. "It's a good thing, really. I mean, yeah, it could cause a bit of trouble with LAPD or something like that, if we aren't careful, but we will be. And in the long run, its just about keeping our people safe. They're not asking for anything in return. Just telling us they like what we're doing and to keep it up."

Charlie was silent for several more moments, munching on lasagna thoughtfully as he considered this new development. Finally, he swallowed and nodded. "Yeah, I suppose that's good. How many gangs are there?"

"In LA?" Lily blinked, then shook her head. "I really don't know. Joanne's gonna be acting as their contact with us for the Watch and House, she grew up here in LA and knows more about them. She should be turning some kind of summary about all this in soon, I'll send you a copy." She took a sip of her soda and then started slightly, before hurrying to say what she'd just remembered. "Oh! One of the gang leaders—from the, uh, the 23rd Street Syndicate, I think—is trying to set up a meeting with another group for us though."

"Another group?"

"Yeah, I think it's a gang that isn't really involved with the other gangs, at least it sounds that way. Mostly, they're vampire hunters."

Charlie blinked again, "Vampire hunters?" at Lily's nod he sighed, "Well, yes, we should probably exchange notes with them. They haven't set a meeting yet?"

"No."

"Well, let me know when, I'd like to be there." Charlie told her, before asking, "Do you know anything else about them?"

"Umm, I think the gang's leader's name is 'Gunn,' but I don't know if that's a first or last name, or just an alias. Sorry."

"Don't be," Charlie shook his head again, quickly finishing off the lasagna on his plate as he thought about what he was going to say next. Finally he decided on an earlier topic. "So you joined a coven?"

"Yeah!" Lily grinned, nodding again. "The Aquelarre de Plata. Do you remember Marlene? You met her last week?"

"Her coven?"

"Yeah." Lily nodded, smiling slightly. "I've only been to two gatherings so far, but I really like it. Much more then when I was sister-sunshine for that traveling-preachers, and way more then when I was in Lewisbu—" she stops herself abruptly, her smile vanishing as if it'd never been there.

"Lewis what—?" Charlie paused, shaking his head as the ring of the nearby phone broke into their discussion. "Excuse me," so saying he rose and made his way over to the phone to answer it. "Hello?"

"Hey Buddy, how are you?" a familiar, much-missed male voice came over the line.

An excited grin broke out across Charlie's face, "Don?"

"Yeah, it's me, Buddy," his big brother replied, clear amusement in his voice as he added again.

"Hey, nice to hear from you," Charlie continued, unable to keep a bit of the excitement behind his grin out of his voice, but then he frowned slightly. "Sorry, Mom and Dad are out tonight. They should be in their movie by now."

"Oh, so you don't want to talk to me?" Don teased him, making his grin come back a bit.

"No! No, but you usually call to talk to Mom."

"Well you're usually working on something or out when I call. Actually, you were out a lot this summer. Mom said you were going clubbing? Since when do you do that?"

"Uh, since this summer, I guess. A friend of mine wanted to go."

"A girl friend?" Don asked, his tone against taking a teasing turn. "Anyone I know?"

"Uh, no. I just met Annie this summer. Didn't Mom tell you—wait didn't you get a voicemail from Annie when I was in LA General?"

"Voicemail? No, I didn't hear about your accident until Mom told me later that week. I was working a case before that, but I didn't—Oh sXXt." Don swore as he remembered. "I'm sorry Charlie, I was working a case then and my cell was destroyed on May thirty-first. The Bureau replaced it with a different cell and a different number. I didn't find out you'd been in the hospital till I called Mom after wrapping that case up later in the week. What happened, anyway?"

"Charlie?"

Charlie's eyes flew over to Lily, and he winced as he saw the table was already clear. "Can you hold on a second, Don?"

"...Uh, sure."

"Thanks," he replied, before turning his attention back to his dinner guest. "I'm sorry, Lily—"

"Don't worry about it," Lily smiled, shaking her head. "I know you haven't talked to your brother in a while. I'll see you tomorrow night, okay?"

Charlie nodded a bit absentmindedly as he tried to figure that out, before nodding more decidedly as he remembered that today was Wednesday. He visited the House every Thursday for the House and the Watch's weekly meeting. "Yeah, yeah. I'll see you tomorrow. Thanks for the dinner."

"You're welcome," Lily nodded, still smiling as she nodded to the closed container she'd brought the lasagna in. "I put some left-overs in your fridge: I wouldn't be able to finish it all by myself." She told him as she headed towards the door. "I'll just let myself out. Tell your Mom and Dad I said 'hi', ok? And your brother, too, even though he doesn't know me."

"Yeah, sure," Charlie laughed, returning her smile as she reached the door. "Good night, Lily, and thanks again."

"'Night, Charlie," the blonde replied, before stepping through the door and closing it behind her.

"Charlie shook his head, smiling slightly before remembering his brother was still waiting on the phone. "Hey, sorry, Don."

"No problem, Buddy. Who's 'Lily'?"

Charlie winced at the teasing tone he could hear in his big brother's voice, shaking his head ruefully. "No, she's just a friend. She lives next door now. The Parkinsons moved to Miami."

"Florida, really?" Don asked, and Charlie could almost hear his head shake.

"Yeah, I think Mr. Parkinson got a job at Disney world, and Mrs. Parkinson can work in any hospital, really."

"Oh. Well good for them, I guess. So who's 'Lily'?"

"She's just a friend!"

Don snorted, "The first time Mom and Dad have probably left you alone since you were hurt, and you invited a girl-who-is-just-a-friend over for dinner?"

"Well, no. She cooked too much lasagna so she offered me some," Charlie explained, frowning in confusion at his brother's focus.

"...How old are you again?"

As his brother's tone somehow became even more teasing, Charlie frowned and didn't repress his instinctive response, "Shut up."

Don laughed, "So are you dating 'Annie', then? Or is she just-a-friend, too?"

"U-uh, no. She's just a friend, too. She's not in LA anymore. And who are you dating, anyway?"

"Huh?"

Charlie shook his head, "Well, if you're gonna hassle me about not having a girlfriend, I'll return the favor. Besides, I'm only nineteen. The average age of marriage for American men is twenty-seven right now*. That gives me eight years before Mom and Dad can really say anything. You've only got three."

"'Average' doesn't mean you have to be married at that age, Charlie. Shouldn't a math genius know that?"

"I do know that, but statistically speaking—" Charlie shook his head and changed his question as he realized his brother might find an excuse to hang up on him if he started his 'math babble' as Don had dubbed it in high school. "Are you dating anyone?"

"Not right now." His brother admitted, and again Charlie could almost hear him shrug. "But I'm on the road for work all the time. You're not."

"Yeah, but you're five years older than me, so Mom and Dad are gonna be expecting grand-kids from you, first." Charlie insisted, before admitting. "Though I think they were trying to set me up with Annie this summer. I'm not sure how dating would really work with someone you're already living with—"

"Whoa, whoa, wait a minute. Back up. Living with? What'd you mean?"

"Uh, Mom and Dad didn't tell you?" Charlie blinked, shaking his head. "Annie stayed with us for a few months this summer. She just went home last week."

"Your 'Annie' is the same 'Annie' Mom was always talking about this summer? I thought she was just one of Mom's mentees." Don replied, a little incredulity in his voice.

"She's not my—"

"Yeah, yeah." His brother cut in with a laugh, before asking more seriously, "So what was she doing staying with you guys?"

Charlie frowned as he tried to think of the best way to explain Annie's situation this summer, not wanting to try explaining anything about the supernatural—or that might sound suspicious—over the phone, but wanting to put her in the best light possible. Even though he hardly ever heard from or saw his brother anymore, his opinion still meant the world to him. "She, um, found me. She was out walking the night I got hurt and got me to the hospital."

"Really? And she called me from there?"

"Yeah, with my cell phone. I had your number stored there."

"I should've gotten the voicemail then, what number did she call?"

"1-XXX-XXX-XXXX." Charlie replied immediately, his knack for remembering numbers assisting him in not needing to actually go looking for his cell phone to know that number was there.

Don was silent for several seconds before he replied. "Charlie, that's not even my old number. That's the one I had in college. Didn't Mom tell you I switched phone companies 'cause the coverage sXXked?"

Charlie frowned, shaking his head. "No, uh, I don't think so."

Don sighed, "Well my number's XXX-XXX-XXXX, now, okay?"

"Yeah, XXX-XXX-XXXX,"* Charlie repeated the number back, shaking his head as he wondered just how far out of touch he would have gotten with his brother if he hadn't been attacked—giving his parents a reason to have Don check on him the first time they left him alone after the attack. Though it didn't sound like he knew that Charlie was actually attacked. Which, again, could be his parents subconsciously suppressing the link to the supernatural. Something Charlie's logic-orientated and detail-focused mind hadn't been able to do. "Got it." After another moment of silence, he asked. "So how have you been, Don?"

"Great. Fugitive Recovery's much more interesting then answering phones in Detroit."

"Yeah," Charlie chuckled, "Mom said you didn't like that."

"No," Don sighed, "she—oh, hey Charlie, I gotta go. Got another call comin' in."

"Oh," Charlie shook his head, hoping it didn't sound like the sudden stop bothered him. "Okay. I'll tell Mom and Dad you called. Take care of yourself, Donnie."

"You too, Buddy. Bye."

"B—" Charlie stopped as he heard his brother hand up, before hanging up the house phone himself. Making his way into the kitchen, he shook his head as he saw Lily really had cleaned everything up already. Even his half-empty cup of tea that had gone cold on the counter hours ago was gone. Still shaking his head, he took a bottle of water out of the fridge before making his way back to the living room to start working on his math again.

It was nice to hear from Donnie. He wasn't lying when he told his mother that he did miss his brother. He hadn't even seen him since the Christmas before last, when Donnie was still playing baseball. Then he'd joined the Bureau and had ended up working all through December on a case—that he couldn't talk about—in Detroit. He finished the case before Christmas, but by that time the ticket him his parents had mailed him was no good as he'd missed that flight and he hadn't been able to find another for a reasonable price.

That didn't seem right. Living so far apart from his brother that he hadn't seen him in nearly two years? His parents had flown out to visit Donnie a few times, but usually at times when Charlie couldn't travel. He was consulting on something. Or finishing his doctorate. Or...something.

The last time Charlie had spoken to Donnie was when both of them were still in college. It didn't seem that long ago. But really, the day he and Donnie had both left for college—almost six years in the past—was the last time he'd spent any consistent amount of time with his brother. Some of that 'time' and its quality in high school could be debated though.

So Don had decided to call him. That was nice. It would've been even nicer if his big brother had returned any of the calls Charlie's had tried in their first few years of college, and when he'd started working for the FBI. But no, Don's usual response was to tell one of their parents: 'Tell Charlie I got his message and I'm sorry I missed him. How is he doing?'

Charlie couldn't help but wonder if this was permanent. Some time in the future, would they only see each other around holidays, when they wanted their families to connect a few times a year? Would they be living hundreds of miles apart forever? Would Charlie have to wait another six years for a call from his brother? And more importantly, was there anything he could do to change that?

The mathematician sighed as he sat down by his computer, opening his email with the ease of long practice and starting an email to Annie. As strange as it seemed, he always felt better when he turned to her for advice. Even if she just repeated what he'd already said to her about something back at him, just the act of telling her about some of his problems usually made him feel loads better. He supposed, given her recent phone calls and emails, the same could be true for her.

A part of him wasn't sure he wanted to ask the big question in his heart right now. From what Annie had told him, the whole world seemed to work on a system of balance. The beings that governed the supernatural adhered to that balance, and it made sense that the scientific world would too. After all, 'supernatural' was really a misnomer: everything that was not man-made in this world was, logically, 'natural,' so vampires and demons and magic—parts of this natural world—really should not be labeled 'supernatural,' and only were because mankind couldn't accept what it did not understand as natural.

But if that was the case, did he want to know what would it take to bring the Eppes family back together?

What price or consequences would balance that out?

And would it, in the end, be worth it?


End of Chapter 1: Siblings – Part I.


AN: Well, here's the first part of Siblings, which will be continued in Chapter 2. I hope the title makes at least some degree of sense to everyone.

For the most part, contact between Buffy and Charlie in this part of the series will be by phone or email. Thus, the title A Call Away. But they will see each other in person a few times, too.

Sorry for the wait on this, I wanted to post it at midnight last night, but after watching the ball drop—and an afternoon of watching my four-year-old niece and her almost-one-year-old sister—I was just too tired to finish editing it.

Good thing, too. My beta-reader returned it to me tonight and I had a whole bunch of holes that I'd forgotten to fill in. When I'm writing scenes, if I don't know specific pieces of information I want to include I write a description in bold and parentheses, to remind myself to look it up afterwards. Well, this time I forgot to do that before sending it off. -_-*

My beta also found a bunch of numbers I could have used as Don's contact numbers, but I've left the X's instead, because it's supposed to be Don's cell phone: not an FBI office where someone would definitely be able to find Don in an emergency. I thought about putting random, possible cell phone numbers in, but decided against it on the off chance that the use of the number might offend a real person who owns the number.

Anyway, I hope everyone likes it so far. The next chapter should be along soon.

Once again, many thanks to NeverTooOld for the rescue!

Bye for now! ^_^

Jess S


NEXT: Chapter 2: Siblings – Part II.