Disclaimers:Buffy the Vampire Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy & Fox. Numb3rs belongs to Cheryl Heuton and Nick Falacci…I think. (NOT me!)


Warnings:None that I can think of…if you see anything I should've warned you about, please tell me. And if so, apologies in advance.


Author's Note:…And, strangely, I don't have much to say today…

So on to Chapter 1! Enjoy! :-)


Holiday Horrors

Part III in Mathematics & Magic

By Jess S

Chapter 1


3

Summers' House, Sunnydale, California – Monday, December 9, 1996.

Faith hated this dream.

'No.'

She knew it was a dream—a nightmare, really—because she'd had it before.

Many times before.

It was one of those really creepy ones, where you knew everything that was going on and even what was about to happen, but you couldn't do anything about it. (1)

'No.'

She was 'looking' through her own eyes, and knew full well what was gonna happen next in the dream. But she couldn't run away. Couldn't turn away. Couldn't close her eyes. Couldn't even blink.

All she could do was stare at the mound of a freshly covered grave, waiting for the vampire that was stirring underneath to finally pop out of the ground like a rabid, blood-sucking, human-shaped weed.

'Can't be.'

She could only keep staring as first one deceivingly delicate-looking hand shot up from the mound, and then a second one followed, both clawing around for barely an instant before the vampire gracefully pulled itself up from the grave. Surging up out of soil with a grace that most fledglings never had. Hell, most Masters didn't have it.

Faith had seen two different endings to this dream.

She wasn't sure which one was worse.

'No.'

This time, the Slayer's well-trained right arm shot forward to expertly plunge a stake through a fashionable summer dress, into and through the un-beating heart beneath.

And Faith could only watch in horror as the vamped-out features shifted back into Buffy's familiar, dismayed face, right before her sister's form crumbled into dust.

'No!'


0 1 9 3

Summers' House, Sunnydale, California –Monday, December 9, 1996.

Buffy's eyes snapped open and she was rolling out of bed before she'd consciously recognized what'd woken her. As realization struck, she sighed softly, then was exiting her bedroom and headed down the hall on swift feet for Faith's room.

"No." Faith mumbled, obviously totally asleep.

"Faith," Buffy spoke softly as she entered the bedroom, all the while struggling to keep her voice gentle and free of the terrible terror that was rolling off of her sleeping sister to assault her empathetic senses. She hesitated only a second before reaching out to gently grasp the girl's shoulder. "Faith, wake up."

Sometimes that was more then enough to wake her. The single touch would have the girl bursting up from her bed, ready for a fight.

Other times, like now, the younger Slayer seemed practically dead to the world as Buffy gently shook her.

Now Faith mumbled, "Can't be."

"It's just a nightmare, Faith," Buffy tried again, still struggling but managing to keep her voice calm as negative emotion after negative emotion surged off of her sister-Slayer. "Come on, Faith. Wake up."

"No." This time while softly hissing out the objection, Faith almost managed to jerk away from Buffy's grasp, but her sweat soaked skin slipped only a little in the older Slayer's firm grip before Buffy caught her other shoulder and shook her a little harder.

"Faith, it's only nightmare," Buffy shook the girl again, "Wake—"

"No!" This objection escaped on a shout as Faith finally surged upward off her bed.

Buffy barely managed to restrain the younger girl, but she was able to hold her in place. Which was fortunate, because she knew the girl would have instinctively attacked her and felt horrible about it afterwards.

She knew, because it'd happened before. On one of the previous nights Buffy had been awoken by the negative emotions storming out of her sister Slayer's room.

Faith had been miserable for days after the time she'd managed to give Buffy a black eye. More miserable then what's become the usual, at least. Because the nightmares she'd been having for several weeks now had managed to keep her miserable pretty much 24-7 anyway.

But that was why Buffy was so careful now.

While she didn't really care for bad bruises marring her face, seeing—and feeling—Faith flinch every time she glanced at it was considerably worse than having to expertly cover it with make-up and sunglasses for a few days.

Though, come to think of it, Faith had been flinching away from her a lot lately.

Buffy forced a small smile as she looked into her sister Slayer's eyes, struggling to keep the very real concern she was feeling from showing too much. That'd just make Faith close up more. "Hey, you okay? You with me now?"

Faith started to try and pull back, but obviously thought better of it as she registered Buffy's careful, firm grip. After a long couple of seconds and a few deep breaths, she nodded. "Y-Yeah. I'm fine, B. I woke ya again, didn' I? Sorry 'bout that. I'm five by—"

"You're not fine, Faith," Buffy sighed, shaking her head as she smoothly shifted her grip, carefully pulling the other Slayer into a gentle hug. "And I told you not to worry about waking me. You're a Slayer, too. You know just about anything can wake us unless we're comatose. Hell, I sometimes wake up four or five times a night, 'cause of stuff that's happening outside. A loud car driving by. A raccoon wandering around the backyard. An owl 'who-ing'." She shook her head sharply when Faith opened her mouth to retort. "I don't mind. So stop apologizing, okay?"

After another long pause, Faith nodded slowly. "K."

"Okay," Buffy nods again, tilting her head a little to get a clear look into the younger girl's eyes again. "You wanna tell me what you were dreaming of this time?"

Faith looked away, worrying her lip for a second before shrugging. "Just something I don't want ta happen."

Buffy frowned at her. That was, basically, the same thing the other Slayer had said after every nightmare Buffy'd woken her up from. When she was willing to say anything at all. Though the past few weeks had clearly taught Faith that it was faster to just give the older Slayer answers rather then try to brush her off. "Something to do with slaying?" she prodded gently, worriedly trying to read the chaotic emotions that were coming off of the brunette, even as she scrutinized Faith's face for anything else it might offer that her empathy wouldn't give her.

Faith shrugged, but Buffy caught the quick almost-grimace that started on the corner of her mouth and around her eyes before she suppressed it.

Buffy sighed, deciding to go with another tactic even as she let the younger Slayer pull away a little, and let her hands drop down to the bed even as she continued to watch her sister.

The tactic was one that Charlie, surprisingly, had suggested to her the day before after she'd finished venting her worries to him via cell phone. Try to form some kind of connection that the other girl could—and hopefully would—latch onto.

"I used to have nightmares a lot more, when I first started out." Buffy admitted softly, carefully focusing on something across the room just before Faith's gaze jerked back to her. She continued before the other could say anything. "AboutMerrickdying. Fighting Lothos again. All the people I'd failed to protect..."

"What'd ya mean?" Faith questioned after a long moment of silence.

"At Hemery, I got most of the minion vamps in the gym with the fire, but not all of them. And even the ones I got there, some of 'em took several students with them." The older Slayer shook her head. "I felt bad about that, of course. But the others were worse." She waited a second for Faith to question her again, and was pleased when the brunette took the bait. Though she very carefully didn't let that pleasure show.

"The others?"

"The ones that got out of the gym, but didn't escape the vampires that'd also escaped." Buffy sighed. "The ones they just killed were awful enough, but they didn't kill all of 'em."

The silence was heavy between them as the other Slayer quickly caught what she was saying.

"They turned 'em?"

"Yeah." Buffy nodded, "They did." She was quiet a little bit longer, before going on. "They were kids I'd gone to school with, you know? I didn't really know most of them. We weren't friends likeWillow and Xander and Oz and you are my friends."

"But you'd known 'em forever."

Buffy nodded, still keeping her eyes focused away from the younger Slayer. She might be wrong, but she was pretty sure Faith'd shut down completely, again, if she tried for eye-contact too early.

Not that this was the easiest thing for her to talk about, anyway. She'd only ever talked to Charlie about it, when she'd been back inL. introducing him to what her Calling meant. Though they'd never actually visited Hemery High like Charlie had suggested, she hadn't been ready for that. Not yet. Still wasn't, really.

"Only four were turned. I checked the papers after. About two dozen were killed, but only two went missing. And only two of the ones killed rose again."

"You find 'em?"

Buffy nodded again. "Yeah. I got the ones that rose again the next night in the morgue. Found the other two and their so-called sire about a week later." She shook her head again. "It was after I got the last of 'em that I finally broke down. Tried to tell my mom and dad what'd actually happened."

She felt Faith's concerned, knew the younger girl was frowning as she asked, "What happened?"

Buffy shook her head sharply, finally turning her eyes back to Faith's and fighting the urge to wince as she knew it was the wounded depths of her own eyes that'd made the younger girl flinch ever-so-slightly. "That's a story for another time, I think." She closed her eyes for a moment, drawing in a deep breath as she forced the memories back, before letting her eyelids open up again so she could lock gazes with her sister Slayer. "You wanna tell me what your nightmares have been about yet?"

Faith stared at her for several long seconds, her emotions bouncing all over the place behind a rather impressive, if clearly guarded, mask. Then she shook her head. "No. Not yet, B." She bit her lip for a moment, then added, "But thanks."

Buffy nodded slowly in acknowledgment, before she rose to her feet. "Like I said, not a problem." She moved swiftly on silent feet to the door, "See ya in the morning."

"Good night," Faith returned, just before Buffy gently closed the bedroom door behind her.

The older Slayer stood there in the hallway for several long seconds, memories of times she didn't like to think about now bouncing around her head. Finally she shook her head, shooting a pained glanced down the hallways towards her mom's room, before turning and heading back to her own.

Hopefully that'd been enough of a heart-to-heart to help Faith open up a little more in the near future.

Because Buffy really didn't want to talk about her parents' response to their daughter's Calling. If she was honest with herself, part of the reason she'd been so unwilling to bow to her mother's ultimatum was because of what'd happened the first time she'd told Joyce and Hank Summers about what goes bump in the night.

She hadn't really had a choice when it came to telling Charlie, with their bonds opening their brains up to each other more and more.

Didn't mean she really wanted to talk about it anymore any time soon. That time was a bit of a taboo subject in the Summers household anyway.

But she'd probably talk about it again.

Especially if it was something Faith needed to hear about.

Still, she could hope that that never became necessary...

Buffy started as the familiar sound of her phone vibrating hit her ears as she stepped into the room, and moved swiftly over to where it was charging. She didn't really need to glance at the screen, she already knew who was calling as she flipped it open, "Hey Charlie. She wake you up, too?"


3

Eppes' House, Los Angeles, California—Monday, December 9, 1996.

Charlie bit back a sigh as the weary worry in his girlfriend's voice echoed as clearly across the phone as it did through their bond. "Yeah. She okay?"

Annie did sigh then, "Not really. She still won't tell me what's troubling her so much. I know it's probably not a vision or anything, 'cause if it were I woulda Seen something too, or Sineya would have."

"That's likely," he agreed mildly, not that he really needed to. They'd already discussed this several times before now.

"I tried talking about Lothos and Merrick, and all of that a little," Annie confessed, before sighing again. "I think she almost opened up to that, but I mighta shot her down when I didn't wanna tell her how my parents reacted to my telling them about vampires not long after I burned Hemery's gym down."

Charlie nodded slowly. "She'll talk when she's ready. All you can do is be there for her." Then he paused a moment, thinking over another idea that'd chosen that very second to pop into his head.

"Charlie?" Annie clearly felt his thoughtfulness over the bond.

The long distance empathy between the two of them seemed to be becoming clearer and clearer by the day, but it was especially clear when they were talking over the phone. Maybe because it worked with whatever it was hearing in each of their voices? Or maybe not.

"You know, neither of us are really trained to deal with this kind of thing. We may be going about it the wrong way."

"I know, but what are we supposed to—"

"You could try talking to your school counselor. He came back, didn't he?" He was pretty sure that Annie blinked, though it was still a bit disconcerting that he actually knew that when he was talking to her over the phone and she was quite a ways away.

"Dr. Platt?"

"Yeah. He knows at least a little about the supernatural, you said he'd mentioned that his accepting some of the supernatural had actually helped him connect to some of the Sunnydale students a lot, didn't he? And he is trained for this kind of stuff, Annie. Especially if he has a doctorate in it. He probably has a business outside of the school that deals with more serious problems. Like this."

She was biting her lip slightly as she mulled the thought over, but then she nodded. "I guess so… and he did say that. Do you really think it'd help?"

The genius nodded immediately. "Yes. Absolutely. I know when I talked to a psychologist back atPrincetonand M.I.T. it did wonders for me." He was a little surprised at how easy admitting that rolled off his tongue, but then again, this was Annie. And she already knew a bit about his unusual college career anyway.

"Okay. I'll try to talk to him today."

"Good," Charlie approved, even as he struggled to bite back a yawn. He'd been woken up earlier by the surge of fear that'd shot through their bond, sending a surge of adrenaline through his system. Whether he'd been feeling Faith's fear through Annie or Sineya, or possibly both, he didn't know, but already that was fading since all those involved recognized that the danger had past. And it was just past three in the morning.

"Sorry we woke you, Charlie," the Slayer offered unhappily, before sighing. "We should probably work a lot more on that shielding stuff."

"Probably," the mathematician agreed with an echoing sigh. "Not that'd probably make all that much of a difference, since the bond still seems to be getting stronger all the time. But it couldn't hurt to make sure our shielding abilities get stronger at roughly the same rate, too."

"Uh-huh," the Slayer agreed again, and he was sure she was frowning now. "You should get back to bed."

"So should you," Charlie retorted, then kept going before she could reply. "But not before you finish telling me what's bothering you now. I know it's not just Faith. I can feel it, remember?"

Annie sighed yet again. "Yah, sorry 'bout that. I was just thinking about the magic-side of all this. Giles is pretty anti-magic, and apparently Slayers are always discouraged from learning it, but…"

"But it's as much a part of what you are as the super-strength, healing, and all that?" He finished, nodding his agreement. "Yeah, I've wondered at that. Though Dr. Giles did seem to shy away from the topic."

"I know he got involved in some pretty dark stuff when he was around our age, but I really think that magic might be something we need to learn more about. Especially with the bond, since that's from the completely magical-side of the Slayer package."

"I agree," he nodded again, before shrugging. "Lily's been taking more lessons, and I've met with Madam Ward a few times already, for her help controlling the bond. Do you want me to talk to her about this some more?"

Annie was quiet for several long seconds, before she agreed, "I think that might be a good idea…"


0 1 9 3

The High School, Sunnydale, California—Monday, December 9, 1996

Buffy was more than a little relieved to see Dr. Platt's office open later that morning. If he hadn't been in, she'd have an excuse to put this off, and she didn't want that. Not really. Stopping just inside the doorway, she shook her head slightly, suppressing a grin at the sight within.

Dr. Platt was apparently trying to fix one of the window shades that'd been put in not that long ago, and not having much luck. Which really did go to show just how cheap Snyder was, since the things were only a few weeks old and already misbehaving.

Her grin did force its way out just a bit as her enhanced hearing picked up the counselor's muttered swears. But then she decided on calling his attention to her. "Knock, knock. Need a hand, sir?"

Dr. Platt started, but thankfully not enough to throw himself off his rather precarious perch on his chair. A clear look of surprise flashed across his face before it was replaced with a small grin. "Miss Summers, good morning." He shot the still crooked shade a disgusted look, before carefully stepping down to the floor and rolling his chair back fully behind his desk, though he didn't sit down. "What can I do for you? I don't remember getting any more notices about you…"

"Nah, Snyder hasn't been able to pin anything on me yet. Not with Mr. Walters following him around all the time."

"Yes," the counselor chuckled. "Fortunately, the Superintendant's Assistant does seem to be quite good at keeping our aspiring despot in line." Then he shook his head before slowly dropping down into his chair, leaning back a bit so he was looking up at her instead of down. The posture was decidedly unthreatening—not that she could really feel threatened by him as a Slayer, but the change did make her relax a little bit. "So you're here on your own prerogative, then?"

"Yeah, but," Buffy looked down then, sighing before she continued. "It's not for me. I was wondering if you'd mind talking to a friend of mine."

"Another student?"

"Uh—no. She's… homeschooled, kind of." Actually, she should probably start pestering Giles about that some time soon, someone should've shown up before now to start teaching Faith. "She's been living with my mom and me for a couple of months now. You saw her, actually when—except you probably don't want to be reminded of that, sorry—"

"The brunette?" Platt cut her off gently, and she looked up to see he was eyeing her with clear concern. "I know Miss Rosenberg's a student here. So that only leaves the brunette that followed you out the window. …I take it she's like you?"

"Yeah, yeah she is." Buffy sighed, then blinked as she heard footsteps coming down the hall; other students starting to wander in before school started. Realizing that she probably shouldn't be talking about this where just anyone could overhear, she stepped fully into the room to shut the door behind her. "Her previous guardian was killed, and she's been havin' nightmares a lot lately." She shook her head, sighing again. "I've tried talkin' to her, but…"

"It's not easy," the counselor put in gently, offering a soft smile when she looked up again. "I'd be happy to talk to her, see if I can help." Then he winced slightly, "Though, given the fact that you two had to fight to save my life in here, this may not be the best place to try it. Do you know if she'd be comfortable meeting at home? Or I have another office at a nearby clinic, if that'd be better."

Buffy thought about it for a second, before nodding. "At home, I think. We've had to fight some stuff there, too," there were few places in Sunnydale where they hadn't fought and slain something at some point, "but I know she's comfortable there."

"Alright. How about this Saturday morning, then? Or would sooner be better? I know she's not in school, but I'd prefer to visit with either you or your mother present."

The Slayer mulled that question over for a moment, too, before sighing. "Saturday's good. Is the later morning okay?"

"How about 10 o'clock?"

"Perfect, thanks," Buffy grinned in relief, before wincing as the start-of-day-bell clanged through the air, assaulting her sensitive eardrums as she started to turn towards the door. "I gotta go, but thanks again, Dr. Platt."

"You don't have to thank me, Miss Summers. I'm more than happy to help. Given all you've done for this town, it's the least I can do."

Buffy stopped again, to turn and blink at him. "I'm sorry?"

Dr. Platt chuckled. "Remember, I said my near-death experience opened my eyes a bit to what really goes on in this town? It has really helped me connect with many of the troubles the students here have. And you've come up in more than a few stories." He shook his head at the surprised look still on her face. "They may not know how to express it, Miss Summers. But don't ever think that everyone you save isn't grateful."

Buffy blinked again, this time to suppress the slight burn of tears that wanted to rise to her eyes as she nodded. "Thank you, sir. I'll see you on Saturday."

"Take care, Miss Summers."


3

Pasadena, California—Tuesday, December 10, 1996

Charlie shook his head in aggravation as he huffed out another almost-panting breath.

"Ya alright there, doc?"

The genius couldn't help but roll his eyes a little, even as he bent his head forward as he determinedly kept the same pace, putting one foot in front of the other as they headed towards his home. "Fine, Gunn."

The gang-leader let out a little laugh, clearly nowhere near as out of breath as the mathematician was. "You did a lot better this time. Gettin' inta much better shape."

"Thanks, I think," he huffed out, and couldn't suppress a sigh of relief asHunter Streetcame into view. (2)

"Not a problem, doc, not a problem," Gunn laughed again, smirking slightly as he followed just a few steps behind the geek.

While Charlie wasn't in bad shape, one of the things Annie had asked Gunn to do for Charlie was get him into really good shape. Not only teach him how dodge, how to fall, etc., but to make sure he had to the endurance to last in a fight if he found himself in one. So, in addition to the lessons they had two-to-three times a week, which were just starting to move into actually teaching him martial arts and boxing, Gunn had started dragging Charlie out to run at least a mile every other day. It'd confused and worried his parents a little, the first time Gunn and a few of the others had shown up, but they'd recognized them from the House, and eventually gotten used to the idea that Charlie really was finally developing a circle of friends that cared about him. The first several runs had been awful, and they'd all but had to carry him home, but at least Charlie was able to do the run on his own now.

All of it was also helping Charlie's self-confidence a lot, though he made sure he never told Don about any of it. He'd heard from their parents about the running, but they didn't know about the martial arts or the boxing. Charlie still didn't quite understand what use boxing would be against vampires or demons, but it definitely was a good form of exercise, and if Gunn said it'd help build up endurance, he was sure it would. But he was never telling Don about any of it if he could help it…

"Whoa, doc," Gunn's hand on his shoulder suddenly jerked him to a stop, making him stumble before the strong man steadied him. "We gotta stop ta talk to Lils an' the others, remember?"

Charlie blinked at him for a second, still panting slightly, before his memory caught up with him. "Oh, yeah. Sorry. I think I need more caffeine."

Gunn snorted, "Yeah, yeah. Water first, though, doc."

"Yes, sir." Charlie chuckled even as he let the Watch's leader drag him into Lily's house.

"There you guys are!" Lily greeted them with a smile and several cold bottles of water. "How was your run?"

"Great, Lils," Gunn answered before Charlie could, all of them accepting the bottles of water gratefully. "Thanks."

"Sure," the blonde agreed, smiling gently even as she pulled Charlie over to the nearest chair to push him into it.

Charlie drained half the bottle before he really felt up to talking. As the soothing liquid sped down his throat, he was surprised when his sixth sense was suddenly assaulted by growing resentment from both Gunn and Lily. He'd noticed while out running with Gunn and the unofficial bodyguards that he pretended to not notice following them around whenever Gunn could get away with it, that all three were unhappy about something. He'd made a few inquiries early in the run, but Gunn had shrugged his question off and sped up each time he tried, his agitation growing and the others caught between amusement and nervousness, so he'd eventually given up. Mostly because he'd known that Gunn would tell him what was bothering him eventually; which apparently happened to be now. "What's going on?"

"Cops have been stoppin' by the House a lot lately," Gunn spoke up when it looked like no one else would.

Lily shook her head. "That's not really the problem. Cops had been dropping by before, every once and a while. And most of 'em have been really nice." She shrugged. "I mean, I've gotten the impression that a bunch of 'em think we're idiots, but, all in all—"

"Detective Lockley wasn't all that nice," Gunn snorted.

"She wasn't," Lily sighed, "But she's just doing her job, Gunn. Honestly, I wish we could help her."

"The cops want to know why so many gangs like the House, and that's really not something we can afford for them ta look into. Too many cops start hangin' around, a lot a the gang bangers are gonna trust us a lot less."

"I know that!" Lily snapped, matching Gunn scowl for scowl. "But—"

"Whoa, whoa!" Charlie set his half-empty bottle down on the nearby side table while frowning at the pair, "Both of you calm down. Whatever's wrong, yelling isn't going to help. And I can't help if you don't clue me into the problem." As his friends exchanged slightly sheepish looks—well, Lily looked sheepish, Gunn more rueful, but the turn their emotions took was the same—he kept going. "Now I know cops have stopped by the House before, for various reasons. Don't most of the beat cops that patrol the area make a point of stopping by at least once a shift?"

"Yes," Lily confirmed with a nod before Gunn could say anything, both of them becoming a little more agitated once more. "It's always bothered Gunn and most of the others, but now—"

"Now you've got a DT droppin' by a' all hours of the day, tryin' ta nail a Watch member for those people that were whacked." (3)

Charlie cut in again before Lily could explode, "So you're worried about a homicide detective that's hanging around Angels' House? Investigating a murder—or was it murders?—that happened nearby?" He frowned as he tried to think back, "I don't remember hearing anything about that." He was—yet again—surprised when he sensed a small stab of guilt from Lily as she winced slightly.

"Umm, yeah. A body was found in the dumpster of the club D'oblique a little over a week ago. The papers barely covered it. And…well, you were still recovering from—from helping Buffy. So I didn't tell you."

Charlie couldn't help but wince as an even sharper stab of guilt shot out of Lily. No matter what he said, he couldn't convince her that she wasn't to blame for his foolish use of astral projection back in October. But, given the shape he'd been in after the fact, that wasn't too surprising. At least she no longer felt guilty and angry—at herself—every time she saw him. The first few days after he was up an about again, he'd had a headache whenever he was near her. Knowing he wouldn't be able to change her mind about any of that—not after the number of times he'd already tried and failed—he ignored it and focused on the issue at hand again. "D'oblique is one of the clubs the Watch covers, isn't it?"

"Yah," Gunn replied, shaking his head. "We keep an eye on 'em all, a course, but it's one a the ones we pay more attention to, 'cause it's just a few blocks away from the House. Not sure you've been there. It's one a those ones that's terminally stuck in the eighties?"

Charlie thought about it, but he was pretty sure he hadn't been there. Though Gunn's description wouldn't have helped him narrow it down much. Still, he was almost certain that he only knew the name from going over the Watch patrol schedules, maps and reports these last few months. "No, I don't think I have." Then he raised an eyebrow, "How does a body found in a dumpster at a nearby club bring a homicide detective to the House?"

Lily sighed, but Gunn let her explain when she glared at him. "That was the first one. There've been three so far."

"Why weren't they in the reports for—"

"They were," Gunn rolled his eyes. "Blondie just didn't show those ones to you."

The mathematician frowned at his friend, "I know you just want to protect me, Lily. It's something that most of the people I care about have in common, whether I like it or not. But you can't hide stuff like this from me. If I don't have accurate data when I'm working on stuff for the Watch, the results I give them won't work as well as they should."

"I know," Lily sighed again as she sank down on the nearest chair. "It was stupid and I'm sorry. I—"

"Doesn' help us right now," Gunn growled. "Maybe if you'd told him, we wouldn't be in this mess!"

"Why?" Charlie asked before Lily could snap back at the other man.

"She didn't tell you about the stiffs, she just changed the patrols herself. Put a lot more of 'em around—and in—the club."

"I thought it might help!"

"We're supposed to deal with demons, not—"

"Given the shape this monster left the bodies in—"

"Lily," Charlie cut her off again before another argument could break out. "The Watch can not become a bunch of vigilantes for human-crimes." He shook his head. "That's one of the main reasons we don't like to put too many patrols together, as we keep them as small as possible. After talking to Gunn and the others, and Annie—"

"I know I messed up!" Lily snapped, now glaring at him. But her emotions were screaming much more grief and guilt than anger. "But I was just trying to help—"

"And now that DT thinks that three different members of the Watch could be the killer! 'Cause you put them in that club!" Gunn growled at her.

Charlie's frown turned from the blonde to the bald. "They were taken in for questioning?"

"Yah," Gunn sighed, finally sinking down on the couch a few feet away. "None of 'em were arrested, since they didn' do anything…but none of 'em were willin' ta talk without lawyers, so the DT's suspicious, and keeps comin' back to 'em. Since they hang out at the House a lot, tha' led 'er there."

"This is one detective?" Charlie asked, confused. "Don't they work in pairs?"

Lily answered him, though her tone was still short. "She has a partner, but she doesn't always drag him with her. I don't think he's as suspicious of us as she is…Constancethinks it might be because Detective Lockley is more sensitive to the supernatural than her partner. So he's ignoring us, which is probably making her more obsessed." She sighed again. "Apparently that's something that happened a lot back when there were a lot of witch-hunts."

"Oh, that's just great," Gunn growled again, his tone strongly sarcastic. "So if she sees one a the nice coven ladies, she migh' wanta start a bonfire?"

"I don't think—"

"No, you don't!"

"Okay, both of you, shut up!" Charlie finally snapped, momentarily letting the intense irritation he was feeling—his own combined with both of theirs—take over. When they looked at him in surprise, but obediently shut their mouths, he sighed. "Now, when did this all start? And how many murders are we talking about?"


3

Summers' House, Sunnydale, California—Wednesday, December 11, 1996

Sleep had quickly become a pastime that Faith didn't like, once these nightmares had started. She still wasn't sure which ending was worse, but the two versions of this dream just weren't letting her psyche go.

'No…'

Even knowing what was coming, she still couldn't get away. Couldn't run, couldn't hide. Couldn't turn, could blink.

She just kept staring down at the fresh grave of her sister Slayer, waiting for the monster that'd killed her to shoot up into the night, ready for the hunt. The kills.

'No.'

Again, that deceptively delicate-looking hand shot up out of the thickly-packed earth, a second dirt-covered one following.

Again, they clawed around for just a second, before the older Slayer turned vampire surged up out of the soil with a grace that most could only envy.

Faith had seen two different endings to this dream.

She still wasn't sure which one was worse.

'No!'

This time, she could only stand there, staring in horror as a smirk stretched the vamp's game-face, an instant before the vampire sprung at her, shoving her back and to the ground, pinning her with impossible strength as sharp fangs plunged into her neck and began greedily slurping her liquid life out of the oh-so-important artery...

End of…

Holiday Horrors

Chapter 1.


NOTES FROM WITHIN THE CHAPTER:

(1) If you haven't had that kind of nightmare before: where you're just watching everything that's happening around you, but can't effect anything yourself, I envy you. In my case, it's not even anything particularly bad happening most of the times in the dream/nightmare, it's just that wherever I originally start in the nightmare is where I'm going to stay, until I finally wake up. As in literally the only thing I can move is my eyes/line-of-sight. Can't turn my head or move any of limbs. It really is disconcerting. I've looked into some so-called 'dream guides' and 'dream dictionaries' to see exactly what my subconscious might be trying to say with these kinds of dreams, but thus far I've drawn a complete blank.

…If you haven't had a dream/nightmare like this before and end up having one as a result of this, I sincerely apologize in advance. I had to use it, it just seemed like something that'd work particularly well fitting into Faith's (and Buffy's, maybe eventually any Slayer's) psyche. Slayers are beings of action, champions who exist to effect positive change, so I think not being able to change something—or being stuck in a dream like this—would bother them a lot more than it does me.

(2) 'Hunter Street' is where the Eppes live… or at least, that's the name I gave the street in First Meeting, I don't think I could actually find an address anywhere. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure I just made it up.

(3) DT = street slang for "Detective" (URL: )


Author's End Note: Well, I hope everyone liked it.

…Though I'm having a little trouble with this "short-but-sweet" thing. Thus far, it certainly makes finishing chapters easier, but somehow it doesn't seem quite as satisfying when I finish a chapter and see its only sixteen pages long, instead of over fifty. Hopefully the end result will be worth it… *sighs*


To Be Continued in…

Holiday Horrors

Chapter 2.