[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] Ongoing...
 

Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer

'And then it was all decided. I was going to have an abortion and that would be the end of it. And I could have protested, I could have fought, but I just kept flashing back to that look in my parents' eyes and knew that I couldn't bring myself to hurt them any more. So I just meekly went along with it and I killed my baby.

'What kind of a person does that make me?

'We moved here and I was enrolled in a new school, somewhere where nobody knew me. And I was just expected to start over, like nothing had happened. But how was I supposed to do that? Tell me, how am I supposed to pretend it never happened when I can hear him calling to me when I close my eyes at night?

'You're a justice demon, right? And that means you grant wishes?'

'That's pretty simplistic, but basically yeah.'

'So if I wish to have my baby back you could do it?'

'Honey, power over life and death isn't something to be trifled with.'

'But you could do it, couldn't you?'

 

 

Episode Five - Secrets and Lies

The rain fell heavily from the sky, but still didn't fall as heavily as Chrissie Sandsmark's tears.

She had not stopped to grab a coat and her black T-shirt provided little protection from the elements. Chrissie didn't even notice. She was hiding inside her own head, replaying the scenes of the last few hours over and over and over.

'How could you, Chrissie? How could you do this to me?'

Her feet led her through the dark streets, illuminated only by flickering orange light. She had no set direction, no plan other than to get away and maybe find whatever lurked on the other side of the rainbow.

'You'll come with me to see the doctor in the morning. If we act quickly no one else need ever know.'

A homeless person, hiding from the storm in a cardboard box, spotted her and called out for some spare change. Oblivious, Chrissie didn't even pause, didn't turn when the woman in the box spat after her.

'I can't believe any child of mine could be so stupid.'

And then, at the end of their seemingly random wandering's, Chrissie's feet led her to my door.

'Who's calling at this time of night,' Dad complained, pulling on a robe as he hurried down the stairs. 'Just wait till I give them a piece of my mind.'

His anger evaporated, however, the moment he saw Chrissie standing in the rain, soaked to the skin, her eyes red and swollen and her cheeks stained with tears. He hastily ushered her inside, into the warm.

'Dawn!' he yelled, unnecessarily because I was already on my way down.

'Chrissie,' I said, 'what is it? What's wrong?'

'Keep it? You want to keep that thing? Are you insane?'

I put my arms around her, not caring that I was getting as wet as she was.

'It's Mom and Dad,' Chrissie explained, her voice breaking. 'They threw me out.'

* * *

Trix sat at the bar of the Fish Tank, a line of shot glasses in front of him. Some of the glasses were still full, but most had been emptied long before. He reached for the next glass in line. The base of the glass had stuck to something on the top of the bar - Trix neither knew nor cared what - and he had to give it a sharp tug to free it. In doing so, he spilled some of his drink. He swore.

'Here, let me buy you another,' a man said sidling up beside him.

'Don't mind if you do,' Trix slurred.

He turned to regard the man who was settling down on the stool next to him. He didn't look like your usual Fish Tank customer. He was wearing a suit for starters and looked like he'd probably had a shower at some point that day. He had a round open face surrounded by a lion's man of golden baby curls. And he smiled far more than was natural.

'My name is Gideon,' he said, extending a hand to Trix.

'Trix,' Trix responded, accepting the hand.

'Well, Mr Trix,' Gideon said, 'you look to me like a man with some problems. Want to talk about it?'

'Not particularly,' Trix replied.

'Go on,' Gideon coaxed. 'I'm a good listener. And I am paying for the drinks.'

Trix shrugged.

'Guess you've got a point,' he agreed.

Gideon waved the barman over and asked for their drinks. Rather, he asked for Trix's drinks, but nothing for himself.

'So tell me, Mr Trix,' he said, 'what's on your mind?'

Trix shrugged again.

'Let me guess,' Gideon continued. 'Is it about a girl, perchance.'

'Well, yeah, as a matter of fact it is,' Trix admitted. 'I mean, I've known my fair share of women - hey, I'd like to think more than my share - but this one was different, you know. This one is probably the only one I was ever really in love with.'

Trix paused in his story to down another glass and Gideon took the opportunity to ask, 'What was her name?'

'Anya,' Trix replied. 'Anya, Anya, Anya. For a while I thought we had something special.'

'So what happened?' Gideon prompted.

'She was in love with someone else,' Trix said morosely. 'Even when she was with me she was thinking about this other guy. And in the end, just like in the stories, they rode off into the sunset together and I got left behind.'

'I'm sorry,' Gideon commiserated. 'It's not easy losing something you love.'

'But I could have fought for her, you know,' Trix insisted. 'I could have tried to hold on to her, but instead I just stepped out of the way and let them get on with the business of breaking my heart. I did this to myself.'

'You did what you thought was right,' Gideon consoled him. 'You should be proud of yourself, not drowning your sorrows in a dive like this one.'

'Maybe,' Trix conceded, 'but what am I supposed to do instead. Anya was my life. Without her…well, I don't know what I'm supposed to do.'

'You're missing something in your life, aren't you,' Gideon deduced. 'Purpose. Direction. Something to believe in. Maybe I can help with that.'

'What are you, a Jehovah's Witness or something?' Trix mocked.

Gideon smiled enigmatically.

'Something like that,' he replied.

* * *

It was white.

That was Tara's over-riding impression of the room. She was surrounded by brilliant white, like an advert for washing powder. Maybe there was a hint of a Corinthian column in the distance or an art deco feature. Or a tree. But everything was hidden by the light.

'Do you know what this is about?' Lairel whispered to her.

'I should,' she replied. 'I called the meeting.'

'You called it?' Lairel said.

'Uh-huh,' Tara agreed.

Another angel stepped forward. He had the head of a lion and his wings were bronze in colour. This was Hedriel.

'I am pleased to see that so many of our number could attend today,' Hedriel said. 'We are here to discuss two recent developments. First, I yield the floor to the newest member of our order, Mistress Tara.'

'Thank you, Hedriel,' Tara said. 'What I have to say is simple. I've found Zauriel.'

'You found Zauriel?' several of those gathered echoed. 'Where is he?'

'Safe,' Tara replied. 'I have discussed the matter with Hedriel and we have agreed to keep his location a secret for the time being.'

'Tara speaks the truth,' Hedriel confirmed.

'It's not that we don't trust you,' Tara insisted, 'but what you don't know you cannot reveal under torture and I am under no illusions as to the methods our enemies would use to extract information.'

'But why isn't Zauriel here himself?' Lairel asked.

'Because he is still recovering from his injuries and cannot travel,' Tara explained. 'As you all know, Zauriel was engaged in a spying mission on our behalf. Unfortunately, his presence was detected. He was able to evade his pursuers, but not before they had injured him severely. While we have been searching for him, Zauriel has been convalescing.'

'While I am sure we are all relieved to hear that Zauriel is safe,' Hedriel interjected, 'what is perhaps of more immediate concern are the results of Zauriel's mission.'

'The enemy are building a device,' Tara said.

'A device?' someone asked.

'Zauriel believes that it's a weapon,' Tara clarified.

'And I,' Hedriel added, 'believe it is much more than that. Given Zauriel's description, I have reason to believe that this device could unmake the world.'

The room erupted in noise as everyone tried to speak at once. Hedriel shushed them.

'Calm yourselves, please,' he insisted. 'The situation, while grave, is not as disastrous as it first appears.'

'Zauriel was able to remove a vital component of the weapon before he was detected,' Tara explained.

'And,' Hedriel added, 'the weapon will not work without it.'

* * *

'Hi, Mrs Kowalski,' I said when Drew's mom opened the door. 'Could we have a word with Drew please?'

'Of course you can, Dawn,' Mrs Kowalski replied cheerfully, inviting Chrissie and I inside. 'I'll just go and find Andrew for you.'

I liked Mrs Kowalski. She was a big woman, but she carried her weight with grace and, so Drew told me, she wore it as a statement of the quality of her cooking. 'Never trust a skinny cook,' was a favourite saying. She had a pleasant face and she spoke with slightly accented English, but what I liked most about her was that she never had a bad word to say about anybody. Ever. It wasn't naivety either. She knew that there were bad things going on in the world, but she had made a personal decision to focus only on the good and I had to admire her for that.

Drew came bounding down the stairs.

'Hey,' he said.

'Hey yourself,' I called back.

'Drew,' Chrissie began. 'There's, um, something I need to tell you.'

'And this I think is our cue to leave these two alone,' I said to Mrs Kowalski. 'Is there something I could help you with in the kitchen, Mrs Kowalski?'

'Ah, so it is one of those sort of talks, is it?' Mrs Kowalski chuckled. 'Follow me, Dawn, and we shall find something to occupy our time.'

* * *

Lydia was running the vacuum cleaner around the house. Hank had offered to do it for her, but she enjoyed it. It was relaxing and gave her time to think.

She still hadn't worked out where she and Hank stood anymore. Back in Spain everything made sense. He was sweet and romantic and unattached and she was really warming to the idea of married life. And then he had dragged halfway around the world to raise a daughter he had abandoned seven years previously.

She wanted to like Dawn, for Hank's sake. But why did the child have to make everything so difficult. Then again, how would she feel if someone had waltzed in as a mom replacement? Actually, Lydia probably wouldn't have batted an eyelid since she and her mom had never got on, but that was beside the point. The point was that she was trying and Dawn…wasn't. Hank had found a way to get through to her so why couldn't she? Or perhaps the answer to that was just really simple: Lydia wasn't a big fan of kids.

She opened the door to Dawn's room, intending the give it a quick once over with the vacuum. She paused on the threshold, taking in what she could see.

'Hank!' she finally shouted. 'I think you should take a look at this.'

* * *

'You're what?' Drew demanded.

'Drew, please,' Chrissie said, trying to calm him, 'I…'

But Drew did not want to be calmed.

'Who's the father?' he asked.

'It's complicated,' Chrissie said.

'How complicated can it be?' Drew replied acidly. 'Or is there a really long list of guys you've slept with. A list I'm not on.'

'Drew, it's not like that,' Chrissie insisted.

'So tell me what it is like?' Drew snapped. 'Make me understand how this is okay because from where I sit this is far from okay. I trusted you, Chrissie. I loved you. And yet you do…this?'

'There was this guy and, well, I didn't know what I was doing, but I thought it would be okay…'

'You thought it was okay to cheat on me?' Drew roared.

'This was two years ago,' Chrissie protested tearfully. 'I hadn't even met you then.'

'So why are you telling me this?' Drew protested. 'I didn't ask to be subjected to the history of your sordid sex-like. How many others have there been?'

'There weren't any others,' Chrissie said.

'So what, this guy suddenly comes back into your life and you decide to pick up where you left off,' Drew mocked, 'with no thought for your boyfriend.'

'No!' Chrissie said. 'I haven't seen him for two years.'

'Do you think I'm an idiot?' Drew demanded. 'You expect me to believe that you had sex once two years ago and as a result you're now pregnant?'

'It's hard to explain,' Chrissie said.

'You think this is hard for you?' Drew said. 'You think you're the victim here? You're the one sleeping with someone else, Chrissie. Not me.'

'I'm not…'

'Get out, Chrissie,' Drew snapped. 'Just get out.'

* * *

'Is Halfrek in?' I asked, sticking my head around the door of Wesley's apartment. I did a double take. 'What on earth happened?'

'I take it you're referring to the hurricane that passed through here,' Wesley replied, gesturing to the debris around him.

'Someone broke in,' Trix explained. He was helping to straighten the place out again.

'Did they take anything?' I asked.

'No,' Wesley said, 'but I think that has more to do with them not being able to find what they were looking for.'

'And that would be?' I prompted.

Wesley tapped the side of his nose then went and collected four troll-like statuettes from around the room. Then he placed them on the floor, facing one another, carefully measuring out the distance between them. He stood well back. The trolls' jaws fell open and four beams of green light shot out. Where the intersected a ripple effect formed in the air. Wesley shoved his hand into the effect and his arm disappeared up to the elbow. When he withdrew his hand he was holding the cube Zauriel had stolen from the angels' doomsday weapon.

'Pocket dimension,' Wesley explained. 'It has its uses.'

'You figure whoever broke in here was working for the evil angels?' I deduced.

'For want of a better description, yes I do,' Wesley agreed. He put the box back through the ripple.

'Speaking of which,' Trix said, 'what did Tara tell you?'

'Not much,' I replied. 'And even less of that. She seemed more interested in talking to Zauriel and when the two of them were finished she vanished.'

'But she will come back, won't she?' Wesley asked.

'I hope so,' I told him. 'Well, if the two of you have got this covered, I'm going in search of your girlfriend.'

'She's not…' Wesley began, but I had already wandered off looking for Halfrek.

'What can I do for you, honey?' she asked when she spotted me.

'For a start you can tell me what the hell you thought you were doing,' I said.

'Sorry, sweetie, not following,' Halfrek admitted.

'You did bring Chrissie's baby back to life, didn't you?' I said. 'The one she aborted.'

'So she told you,' Halfrek said.

'Yes, she told me,' I repeated. 'Your dirty little secret is out.'

'You think this was my idea?' Halfrek retorted. 'I didn't have a choice.'

'What do you mean you didn't have a choice?'

'She wished it,' Halfrek explained. 'She made a wish and I was compelled to grant it. That's how this gig works. And sometimes, honey - a lot of the time, if I'm being honest - don't I just wish it didn't.'

* * *

'That was your sister on the phone,' Mrs Penshaw told Janice. 'Some hot shot firm in L.A. have invited her for an interview.'

'Cool,' Janice murmured half-heartedly as she picked at her breakfast.

'Something on your mind, Janice,' Mrs Penshaw asked, pulling up a chair.

'It's Chrissie,' Janice explained. 'She's pregnant.'

'I heard,' Mrs Penshaw replied.

Janice looked up at her mom from beneath the curtain of hair that had fallen across her face.

'News travels fast, huh?' Janice said.

Mrs Penshaw shook her head.

'You know what you kids need?' she asked. 'A switch we parents can use to turn off your hormones until you're old enough to control them.'

'You could be right about that,' Janice conceded.

'What was she thinking?' Mrs Penshaw continued. 'Still, I guess she wasn't thinking, was she? Doesn't she realise how much a kid's going to mess up her life?'

'Gee, thanks a lot, mom,' Janice said.

'Oh, I didn't mean you, Janice,' Mrs Penshaw explained, 'and you know it. I meant that she shouldn't be having a kid at her age. She's still got a lot of growing up to do first.'

'Her parents want her to get an abortion,' Janice told her mom.

'An abortion?' her mom echoed. 'She's not going through with it, is she?'

'She doesn't want to,' Janice assured her, 'but I thought you said a baby would screw up her life.'

'But it's still a living thing,' Mrs Penshaw replied. 'You can't just kill it. That's murder. I think Chrissie made a mistake getting pregnant, but now she's got to live with the consequences. You can't just undo something like this and pretend it never happened.'

* * *

'Is that her?'

Chrissie walked down the corridor on her way to class, trying to ignore the finger-pointing and whispering going on around her.

'Uh-huh. You hear she's pregnant.'

'No, really? Hasn't she ever, like, heard of protection?'

Chrissie clutched her books closer to her chest, hunched over a little more and pressed on.

'You hear she did it with Grant Eden?'

'I hear she did it with just about every guy in school.'

'Slut.'

Chrissie could feel tears burning at the back of her eyes, but she would not cry. She would not.

'Can you imagine what her kid's going to look like?'

'Probably pop straight out of the womb with bad hair and black nail polish.'

'And aren't you supposed to play whale song to babies while you're pregnant? Not that Goth rock crap.'

Laughter. Wherever she turned, Chrissie could hear laughter. She glanced around, but she couldn't see who was laughing at her because now the tears did come, washing her way like a chalk drawing on the sidewalk. She felt her books slip from her grasp, heard them bounce away across the floor. And, drowning everything else out, she heard the laughter.

She ran.

* * *

'I didn't think you'd come,' Gideon said.

'It's not like I had anything better to do,' Trix replied.

'Come in out of the cold and meet the others,' Gideon said, inviting Trix inside.

'Nice place you've got here,' Trix said as the walked down the long hallway. The ceiling was lost somewhere in the darkness high above.

'The house has been in my family for generations,' Gideon explained. My ancestors were terrific hoarders of wealth.'

'And you?' Trix asked.

Gideon paused at the door to the main hall.

'I'm trying to give something back to the community,' he replied.

He threw open the door.

The hall was filled with light, light that came from the crystal chandeliers dotted above the room. The room was crowded with people in evening dress sipping champagne.

'I suddenly feel a little underdressed,' Trix told Gideon.

'Don't worry about it,' Gideon replied. 'The people in here will judge you for who you are, not what you wear. But lose the cap. We have no secrets.'

Reluctantly, Trix took off the baseball cap he used to hide the horns that sprouted from his forehead.

'You don't think they'll be put of by me being a…well, a demon?'

Gideon grinned.

'We've seen demons,' he replied. 'You don't even come close.'

Gideon walked into the room and the conversations halted as everyone turned to look at him. He looked embarrassed and scratched the back of his neck.

'Uh, hello everybody,' he began. 'I'd like you to meet somebody who I hope will become a good friend. Trix.'

* * *

'Hello, Dawn,' Dad said.

He had caught me by surprise, opening the front door before I had had a chance to find my key.

'Um, hi Dad,' I replied.

'I think we need to talk, don't you?' he said, closing the door behind me.

'We do?' I asked.

He guided me into the living-room, where Lydia was already waiting.

'Care to tell me what all this is?' Dad asked.

Even if I had wanted to, I couldn't. My mouth had dried up. The table in the centre of the room was covered with things from my room. Crystals, artefacts, books. Things that had belonged to Buffy and which I had inherited when I decided to continue where she had left off. Things that were going to be pretty difficult to explain to Dad.

'Well, I'm waiting?' Dad prompted. 'What is this stuff?'

'Where did you find this?' I asked, stalling for time.

'Lydia found it in your room,' Dad explained.

I rounded angrily on Lydia.

'You were in my room!' I shouted. Then I turned back to my Dad. 'I thought we agreed that was my space.'

It wasn't Lydia's fault, not really. I had anticipated one or the other of them might take a poke around inside my room, despite our agreement, and I usually made sure that all of my spooky stuff was well hidden. But what with everything with Chrissie, this morning I had been careless. Thank god I'd locked the weapons' chest or I'd have been in a whole different world of trouble.

'That's not the point,' Dad was saying.

'I trusted you,' I shot back.

'And I trusted you,' Dad retorted. 'I'll ask you again: what is all this stuff. Does this have anything to do with that tutor of yours? What's his name - Mr Pryce?'

'It's none of your business,' I yelled at him.

'You're my daughter,' Dad said. 'That makes it my business.'

'So now you want to play the father?' I shouted. 'When it suits you? Forget about it.'

I shoved my way paced him and ran up to my room.

* * *

'So it's started,' Lairel concluded when Tara had finished recounting her most recent visit to Earth.

'Yes, it has,' Hedriel confirmed. 'Death is losing her grip. It will begin this way, with isolated incidents, incidents we may be able to contain and rectify ourselves.'

'Rectify?' Tara muttered.

'You have something you wish to add?' Hedriel asked her.

Tara bit her lip the decided to press ahead anyway.

'Yes,' she said. 'Yes I do. What exactly did happen to Jed's spirit? I dispersed him, just like you asked. His consciousness is so vastly distilled he'll never be able to feel pain, or string together a coherent thought, ever again. But he's not dead. He's till trapped in the realm of the living. I won't consider my job done until we've found away to help him cross over.'

'And I commend your dedication, Tara,' Hedriel said, 'but I fear you may be losing sight of the bigger picture.'

'So we should just forget about Jed?' Tara asked. 'At what point did individual souls cease to matter?'

'Tara, that accusation is uncalled for,' Hedriel warned. 'We are dealing with a situation that, if left unchecked, will have catastrophic effects for the whole of humanity. The needs of the human race must take precedence over the needs of a single human. It's simply a question of priorities.'

'Forgive me, Hedriel, but I consider ever single soul sacred,' Tara replied. 'Every. Single. Soul.'

'You are still young,' Hedriel said, 'and it is easy to be idealistic at your age. Once you have lived a few thousand years you'll begin to see that we have to be a little more practical about such things.'

'I hope I never become that jaded,' Tara retorted.

'It seems to me,' murmured another angel - Tara thought his name was Quirrel - 'that we're drifting rather off topic. If Death is, for want of a better word, dying then perhaps the others have the right idea.'

There was a collective gasp at this.

'All I'm saying,' Quirrel continued, 'is that if everything's going to fall apart anyway - and it does rather seem that it will, don't you think? - then drawing a line under things now and starting afresh might be the best approach.'

'You talking about wiping out the entire race,' Lairel pointed out.

'And why not,' Quirrel replied, 'if the cause is just. It's not like He hasn't done it before.'

'Done what before?' Tara asked. 'I don't understand.'

'Quirrel is referring to the Grigori,' Hedriel explained, 'and the events leasing up to the Flood. He seems to have forgotten, however, that these are matters we do not speak of.'

'Refusing to acknowledge something as fact hardly makes that thing any less true,' Quirrel shot back, 'or less relevant to the discussion at hand.'

'I will not give up on the human race,' Hedriel insisted, 'not while there are other options available to us.'

'And what, pray tell, might those options be?' Quirrel asked haughtily.

'A child named Dawn Summers,' Hedriel said, 'who was created as a key to open the barriers between the living and the dead. She was carefully crafted as a potential solution in the event of the catastrophe now upon us.'

'So why have I never heard of her?' Quirrel demanded.

'Because she never came into her fall powers,' Hedriel confessed.

'It's all to do with this pesky thing He granted the humans,' Lairel explained. 'They call it free will.'

'Dawn's development was stunted,' Tara continued. 'She was held back and overshadowed by her sister, a Slayer.'

'It's always the Slayers, isn't it,' Quirrel moaned.

'I warned you before, Quirrel,' Hedriel said. 'We do not speak of that.'

'Well, it still seems to me like you're clutching at straws, to borrow a human expression,' Quirrel remarked. 'This Dawn child is clearly not ready and yet we have run out of time.'

'I have faith in Dawn,' Tara told him. 'She'll be ready when the time comes. You have my word.'

'You've trusted the development of this girl to her?' Quirrel exclaimed.

'I trust Tara,' Lairel told Quirrel.

'As do I,' Hedriel concurred. 'Still, you raise a valid point. Perhaps it would be best if I oversaw the child personally.'

'With respect, Hedriel, I disagree,' Tara said. 'Dawn knows me. She'll listen to me. Were you or anyone else to get involved at this late stage you would have to work to gain her trust, to win her confidence, and that would waste valuable time that, as Quirrel has rightly pointed out, we just do not have.'

'I concede your argument,' Hedriel admitted. 'I am, however, still concerned about the relative inexperience of both yourself and Zauriel. Zauriel is barely a century old and you less than the blink of an eye compared to many gathered in this room.'

'That may be true, Hedriel,' Tara agreed, 'but, as you yourself said, with our youth comes idealism. Both Zauriel and I truly believe in the rightness of our endeavour. I doubt the same could be said for many others here today.'

She looked pointedly at Quirrel.

Hedriel chuckled.

'Well said, Tara, well said. The charge remains yours, for the moment. But remember, I shall be watching you closely.'

* * *

Gideon tapped the side of his glass, calling for silence.

'Thank you all for coming,' he said. 'I know most of you know why you're here, but for the benefit of the few who don't I feel a little recap is in order.

'Every Sunday, we're told in church a story about God and how he created the world and how he created us and most people out there believe that it is just that. A story. Let me put one myth to bed right away. It's not. You don't have to worry about the question of whether or not God exists because I'm telling you that he does. And it's good that we've got that out of the way, because we've got plenty more to worry about.

'There's a crisis coming, a crisis of the order talked of in the Book of Revelations. And I won't kid you, not everyone is going to survive. But I for one am not simply going to stand idly by and watch my world go, quite literally, to Hell. Angels walk among us in these last days and, I am afraid to say, not all of these angels are in the service of the Almighty. Even angels can fall from grace and we must learn to know which speak truth and which seek to cloud our minds with their lies.

'Which raises the question of how can you know that I'm telling you the truth. Simply put, you can't. I understand that and the last thing I expect is for you to take my word as gospel, if you'll forgive the pun. You're free to leave whenever you want with no repercussions. Well, beyond the fact that if I am right then you'll be obliterated when the apocalypse does come.

'Sorry. That was a pitiful attempt at humour.

'But turn it around. How do I know if I can trust you? I'm not trying to be disrespectful, simply practical. The stakes are too high to take unnecessary risks, I'm sure you'll agree. And for that reason, before I introduce you to any of this society's secrets, I require each and every one of you to perform some kind of service to me. Nothing too taxing, just a little something to further our cause.'

* * *

There was a knock on my door.

'Dawn,' Dad called, 'can we talk?'

'Go away,' I told him.

'Dawn, I'm sorry,' he said. 'We're both sorry. We promised to respect your privacy and we blew it. Now can I come in?'

'I guess,' I conceded.

The door opened a crack and Dad peered in. In was curled up on my bed.

'You sure?' he asked.

'Come in if you're gonna,' I replied.

He smiled and sat down next to me.

'I'm sorry if I overreacted down there,' he said.

'Wasn't just you,' I admitted.

'That's true,' he agreed.

'Sorry,' I apologised. 'I'm just a bit on edge right about now.'

'Is this about your friend Chrissie?' Dad asked. 'That threw me too.'

'You?' I said.

'I've spent the day thinking what I'd do if it were you, not her, who had got herself knocked up,' Dad confessed. 'You wouldn't, would you?'

I stared at him.

'Are you serious?' I asked.

'Yes. Yes I am,' he replied. 'Very serious. Listen, I was your age once, hard as that may be to believe. I know what things kids get up to. All I'm saying is that if you're tempted, promise me you'll…um, take precautions.'

'This is making you really uncomfortable, isn't it?' I teased.

'Dawn,' Dad said.

'Sorry, Dad,' I said. 'And I promise, not that the situations ever likely to arise any time soon.'

Dad smiled.

'Never said it would.'

* * *

'What's she doing here?' Drew demanded, pointing at Chrissie.

'She had nowhere else to go,' Mrs Kowalski replied.

'And I'm supposed to care why exactly?' Drew snapped.

'Look, maybe it's best if I go,' Chrissie said, getting up from her chair.

'Yes, maybe you should,' Drew told her.

'Andrew!' his mom snapped. 'And as for you, Chrissie, you will stay right where you are. This is still my house.'

They heard the front door slam closed. Mr Kowalski, cradling a large cardboard box in his arms, glanced around the living-room.

'Have I come at a bad time?' he asked.

'Are those Chrissie's things,' Mrs Kowalski asked him.

'There are some more in the car,' he replied.

'How are Mom and Dad?' Chrissie asked.

'They are…upset,' Mr Kowalski said after a pause, 'but that is understandable. They want you to go home.'

'They want me to kill my baby,' Chrissie pointed out.

Mr Kowalski considered this.

'They would…prefer it if you had a - what is the word? - termination,' he admitted.

'And so long as I won't, I can't go back,' Chrissie said.

'You will stay with us until you have sorted yourself out,' Mrs Kowalski informed her.

Drew was incredulous.

'She'll what?' he asked.

Mrs Kowalski turned to her husband.

'Victor, could you show Chrissie to the guest room,' she suggested. 'You can help her to settle in. Andrew and I need to have a little talk.'

'What's going on, Mom?' Drew demanded after Chrissie and his dad had gone upstairs. 'I can't believe you've actually invited her to stay here.'

'She has nowhere else to go, Andrew,' his mom explained.

'But after what she did to me?' Drew exclaimed.

'Whatever she else she may be, whatever she has done, she is still a frightened and vulnerable little girl,' Mrs Kowalski said. And she needs our help.'

'Why us?' Drew said.

'Who else?' Mrs Kowalski asked. 'If we can help then we should. Have I ever taught you any difference.'

'No, I guess not,' Drew conceded, collapsing in the chair Chrissie had only recently vacated.

'I know this isn't going to be easy for you, Andrew,' Mrs Kowalski said, 'but this is not going to be easy for Chrissie either. If she keeps this baby, it will turn her life upside down.'

Drew rested his head in his hands.

'Her folks want her to get rid of it,' he said. 'Are you saying they are right?'

Mrs Kowalski shrugged.

'Maybe,' she said, 'but it's not up to me. No one has the right to force Chrissie to get rid of this baby against her will. Not even her parents.'

'I suppose you're right,' Drew said, 'but…but I'm having a hard enough time getting around the fact that she betrayed me as it is. I can't just forgive and forget, you know.'

'I'm not asking you to, Andrew,' Mrs Kowalski said. 'I'm not asking you to like her. But this is my house and Chrissie is a guest in it. Do we have an understanding?'

* * *

I came as soon as Wesley phoned.

'I got your message,' I said when he let me in. 'What happened here?'

'Would you believe another break-in?' Wesley asked.

He looked tired. Very tired.

'And they cleared up after themselves?' I asked, glancing around the suspiciously un-trashed apartment.

'They only came for one thing,' Wesley replied, 'and this time they knew exactly where to look.'

'You don't mean…'

Wesley's cold look confirmed my fears.

'The box is gone.'

* * *

'Back already?' Gideon asked. 'The night is full of surprises.'

'You couldn't keep me away,' Trix told him.

'Can I get you a drink?' Gideon asked, reaching for the decanter.

'No thanks,' Trix said.

'Are you sure?' Gideon said, pouring himself a glass.

'Well, maybe just a small one,' Trix allowed.

Gideon smiled and filled a second glass before handing it to Trix. Trix down the contents in one.

'Feel better?' Gideon asked. 'I imagine you needed to steady your nerves a little after what you've done.'

'Should I need to?' Trix inquired.

'Not at all,' Gideon assured him. 'You have God on your side, after all, but that doesn't necessarily mean that this won't feel like a betrayal.'

'They betrayed me, remember,' Trix said. 'They left me with nothing.'

'Well, now you have us,' Gideon said, clapping Trix on the shoulder. 'And what do we have to show for it?'

'Nothing much,' Trix replied, handing Gideon the box that Zauriel had taken from the angels' weapon.

'Nothing much,' Gideon agreed, 'but just enough to reshape the world.'

 

 
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