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We took Helena back to my house to get cleaned up. I took her upstairs to the bathroom and, surprisingly, Cordelia came with to lend a hand. She had stayed behind while the rest of us had gone to the cemetery. I couldn't say as I blamed her.
We helped Helena into the shower and washed the dirt and muck and blood off of her. Strangely, none of the blood was hers. Everyone else involved in the fight had picked up some wound or other. I had a gash in my forehead. Cordelia had offered to look at it for me, but Helena was my priority at the moment. She still hadn't said a word since we met her.
I shut off the shower and Helena sat in the bathtub, shivering.
'Could you leave us alone for a bit?' I asked Cordy.
'You sure?' she asked.
Cordelia scooped up Helena's clothes.
'I'll go and stick these in the machine,' she said.
Helena raised her left hand to her mouth. I'd seen her bite her nails in class. It was a nervous habit.
I reached out and took her hand in both of mine.
'You don't have to be afraid,' I promised her.
As I held her hand, I noticed another odd thing to add to tonight's ever-growing catalogue. All the nails on the hand were perfect and completely unchewed. I looked up at Helena's face and, for a brief moment, her eyes flashed yellow, like a cat's. Then they were normal again. Maybe I had imagined it, but I didn't think so.
'What happened?' I asked.
She remained silent.
'You can tell me,' I said. 'It's me Dawn. I'm your friend, remember?'
Okay, maybe that was exaggerating things a bit, but I felt it was worth a try. In any event, it didn't convince her to open up.
There was a bathrobe hanging on the back of the door. I got up and handed it to Helena.
'Come on,' I said. 'Let's go get you something to eat.'
* * *
'I could always stay,' Giles offered.
It was much later- nearly dawn in fact - and we were sitting in the kitchen drinking cocoa. (Yes, every so often Giles does drink something other than tea.) Once Helena's clothes had been washed and dried, Angel drove her home. I went along for the ride, partly to navigate, partly to hold Helena's hand. She was jittery. She was jumping at every noise, every shadow. She didn't seem at all like the girl that had disembowelled a vampire just hours earlier.
Her father met us at the door, thanked us curtly and practically dragged Helena inside. Then he slammed the door on us.
I took an instant dislike to him.
I wanted to force my way inside, but Angel stopped me.
'If she wanted our help she would have asked for it,' he told me.
'Would she?' I asked.
'Not everyone we meet is a monster,' he continued. 'I know it seems that way sometimes, but you can't let that blind you.'
Reluctantly, I let him lead me back to the car and we drove back home in silence. It was Giles who explained Angel's behaviour to me later. If I had got into trouble, he wouldn't have been able to come inside after me. What with all we had been through lately, I guess I'd forgotten that little fact about vampires.
After that, everyone started to drift off home. Everyone that is except the Angel Investigations crowd. It was too close to daylight for them to drive back to L.A. now, so they were having to stay the night. And the next day, thinking about it. I wondered how Hank would react to that when he arrived.
Anyway, Angel, Giles and I stayed up in the kitchen chatting. Angel opted out of the cocoa.
'Something strange is obviously going on,' Giles continued. We had to keep our voices low because Wesley and Cordelia were asleep upstairs. 'That girl - Helena, did you say her name was? - obviously has supernatural gifts. At least let me help you investigate it.'
I shook my head.
'We'll manage,' I told him.
Giles frowned, but didn't say anything. Maybe he should have. Since he had relocated back to England, our idea of 'managing' had resulted in the deaths of two of my best friends and my sister.
'You're going through a difficult time at the moment,' Giles persisted, 'what with Buffy's '
He trailed off and began to polish his glasses furiously. He wasn't looking at me. He couldn't say the word, couldn't talk about Buffy's death. I knew that he cared for her, but I never knew how much.
'It's okay,' I said, putting a hand on his arm.
'Yes, well,' Giles muttered, replacing his glasses on his nose. 'Anyway, there's always the matter of your father. With all these upheavals you might benefit from a familiar presence.'
'I appreciate it, I really do,' I said, 'but you've got a life back in England now. Plus, this whole thing with Hank, that's something I'm going to have to deal with myself whether you're here or not.'
'I just don't like the idea of leaving you on your own at a time like this,' Giles shot back.
'I'm hardly alone,' I pointed out. 'I've got Xander and Anya and Trix and Clem. Heck, even Hank's coming back from Spain to keep an eye on me. I dont need another babysitter, okay.'
'I didn't mean it like that,' Giles insisted. 'It's just '
He removed his glasses with one hand and ran the other through his hair.
'Just what?' I asked.
'I wasn't there for your sister, for Buffy,' he explained.
'Do you really think you could have made a difference?' I asked. 'She did what she felt she had to do. That's what she always did. And before she died she told me to tell you, well, she hoped that she had made you proud.'
That she did,' he murmured. 'That she did.'
Was that a tear in his eye or just a trick of the light?
'Listen, maybe I can suggest a compromise,' Angel said. He had been standing so quietly that we had almost forgotten he was there.
'A compromise?' Giles asked.
'Yes,' Angel agreed. 'I reckon I can spare Wesley for a while. He could stay down here and keep an eye on things.'
I must have frowned or something because he added hurriedly, 'Not as a babysitter or anything. He'll be here strictly to investigate this girl and whatever's going on there. Is that okay with you?'
'Hm. For all his faults, Wesley's a good man,' Giles said. 'You could do worse, I suppose. And I'll feel a lot better knowing that you have some degree of adult supervision.'
'You are so on the next plane out of here,' I told him.
'Gladly, just as long as I know you're safe,' he replied. 'Wesley will keep a good eye on things.'
'Don't you think we should ask him first?' I said.
'I'm sure he'll agree to it,' Angel said.
* * *
'You want me to what?' Wesley demanded. 'I'm sorry Angel, Rupert, but I really don't think this is a good idea.'
The kitchen was crowded with the five of us in there. Cordelia and I were the only ones siting at the table, however. We both nursed glasses of orange juice, but I had a stack of pancakes in front of me as well. I was happily squirting syrup over the pile while watching Cordelia out of the corner of my eye and wondering if she was even remotely jealous.
The pancakes had been cooked by Giles and he was busily whipping up another batch.
Wesley and Angel were arguing.
'Giles and I agree that someone should be on hand to keep an eye on things,' Angel said.
'So you don't trust Dawn to look after things on her own,' Wesley accused him. 'What that girl needs is a chance to spread her own wings. The last thing she needs is someone looking over her shoulder the whole time.'
You know, I was really warming to Wesley.
'There's a mystery here, Wes,' Angel said. 'Someone needs to look into it.'
'And I say, let Dawn have a shot,' Wesley retorted. 'What do you or I or Rupert know about teenage girls. Dawn's far more likely to get to the bottom of this than we are.'
'Dawn doesn't have our experience,' Giles said. 'I agree with you that Dawn is much more likely to get Helena to open up than you are, but she'll need you guidance to interpret whatever she may find.'
'And Angel Investigations is only a phone call away,' Wesley replied.
'That doesn't even come close to being on the scene,' Giles responded. 'You know that.'
'Have you any idea how hard I've worked to get where I am?' Wesley asked. 'I finally feel like I've achieved something, found my niche in life and you expect me to throw all that away?'
'Thank of it more as putting it on hold,' Angel said. His eyes narrowed. 'You owe me, Wesley, the kind of debt you aren't likely to repay in a hurry. You do this for me and it evens the score between us. Totally.'
Wesley was wavering, but he still wasn't convinced.
'I hate to admit it,' I said, 'but they're right. I could use the help.'
'Very well then,' Wesley said. 'But I remain part of Angel Investigations. Consider it an extended field assignment.'
'Absolutely,' Angel said.
'And as and when Dawn proves herself capable of handling matters without me I get to return to the office.'
Wesley nodded thoughtfully, the turned to face me.
'I'll need to return to Los Angeles to pick up some things and put my affairs in order. Plus there's a small matter of a gambling debt.'
'How much do you owe?' Giles asked.
'They owe me, actually,' Wesley replied with a grin. 'Someone should really teach these Americans the finer points of darts. But, as I was saying, I'll be away for a few days. Will you be all right in the meantime?'
'I'll be fine,' I promised. 'What could possibly go wrong?'
'What indeed?' Wesley said sceptically.
'Thanks for doing this,' I said. 'I mean, we hardly know each other, but '
'Hardly know each other, rubbish,' Wesley replied. 'Besides, Angel's right. I do have one or two things to atone for.'
'Well, now that that's settled,' Giles said, shovelling pancakes on to plates, 'I suggest you all eat up or we'll be late meeting Dawn's father at the airport.'
* * *
Hank looked just as I remembered him. Okay, so maybe he was a little more tanned, but otherwise just as I remembered him.
And wasn't that a punch in the stomach.
See, the thing is that he looked like my Dad. I'd spent years building up this image of the guy who had walked out on us. The guy who had abandoned his own family, had an affair with his secretary and then run off to Spain with someone completely different. This was the guy who didn't even come to his wife's funeral, let alone help his daughters deal with the aftermath. And I had a very clear picture of that guy.
Thing was, when I looked at Hank, that wasn't what I saw. What I saw was the man who used to fling me over his shoulder and take me for walks. The man who'd play Frisbee with me in the parks and share candyfloss when we visited the fun fair. If my memory was to be believed, I liked this guy.
I did not like the woman with him.
This was Lydia, Hank's fiancee, a tall, curvy brunette. She looked down her nose at me like I was something she had scraped off her designer boots. I felt much the same way about her. Well, except for the designer boots part. Money was still a bit tight around her. But hey, if Hank had that much money to splash around, maybe we could make this bearable after all.
Hiya, sweetheart,' Hank said. 'Long time no see.'
'No kidding,' I muttered.
Hank wrapped his arms around me. I didn't return the embrace and Hank got the hint and let go.
'Who are you're friends?' he asked.
Angel had had to stay behind, but Wesley and Cordelia had decided to come with Giles and me.
'Rupert Giles,' Giles said, offering his hand.
'Hey, I remember you,' hank said, returning the handshake warmly. 'You're the school librarian, aren't you?'
'Former librarian,' Giles admitted. 'Now I'm just a friend of the family.'
'Well any friend of Dawn's is a friend of mine,' Hank said magnanimously. 'And that goes double for you,' he added, turning to Cordelia. 'Who might you be?'
Hank was oblivious to the daggers Lydia was staring into his back. If it annoyed the fiancee then I was all for Hank's flirting with Cordelia. Then I had visions of Cordy as my stepmom and I went right off the idea.
'I'm Cordelia Chase,' Cordelia said. 'I'm an actress.'
Wesley rolled his eyes, but I think I was the only one who noticed.
'You know, I was just thinking you must be,' Hank told her. Now I was joining in the eye rolling.
'And I'm Wesley Wyndham-Price,' Wesley said, interposing himself between Hank and Cordelia.
'Pleased to meet you,' Hanks said. 'And what do you do, My Wyndham-Price.'
'Oh, he's Dawn's personal tutor,' Cordelia explained before Wesley could open his mouth.
'I am?' Wesley asked, then added more forcefully, 'I mean, yes, I am.'
'Why does my daughter need a personal tutor?' Hank asked suspiciously.
'Well, it's not that Dawn isn't bright ' Wesley began. Nice of him to notice.
'That said, after her mother passed away, her grades started slipping at school,' Cordelia added. 'Buffy hired Wesley to give her some extra tuition after school.'
'Buffy never struck me as the pro-education type,' Hank confessed. 'Didn't I hear she dropped out of college?'
'That was entirely due to financial pressures following her mother's death,' Giles insisted.
'And that's probably why she was so keen to help Dawn's education,' Cordelia continued. 'She wanted her to have all the opportunities she'd missed out on.'
'I suppose,' Hank admitted.
'Am I an actress or am I an actress?' Cordelia whispered to me.
'I take it Buffy paid you for this extra tuition?' Hank said.
'Well, naturally,' Wesley replied.
'And you expect me to continue to employ you?'
'Well, that's entirely your decision, sir,' Wesley replied. 'However, I would like to point out that we are talking about your daughter's education.'
Hank thought about this.
'In that case, Mr Wyndham-Price,' Hank said, 'I guess we're going to be seeing a lot more of each other.'
'Please,' Wesley said, shaking Hank's hand, 'call me Wesley.'
* * *
I had been given the day off school in order to meet Hank. I had, however, volunteered to go in later in order to attend the play rehearsal. We were performing the last Friday before Christmas and that no longer seemed such a long time away. I had briefly considered quitting the production. I mean, I had enough problems right now. But, if I quit at this late stage, who were they going to get to replace me? Plus, Buffy had been so proud of me when I'd got the part. I couldn't let her down, could I?
Before the rehearsal, though, I'd gone to visit Clem. He had started to redecorate the crypt. I still thought of it as Spike's crypt, but the soft furnishings were definitely not Spike.
'Are you sure that's such a good idea?' Clem was saying. 'It could be dangerous.'
'It's not like I'm going looking for danger,' I pointed out. 'Janice and Chrissie want to be a part of this whole supernatural world and if I don't let them in they'll just go looking for it themselves. Now that would be dangerous.'
'Can't argue with you there,' Clem said. 'Cheesy thing?'
'Thanks.' I took a handful from the bag. 'The way I see it, I agree to take them out on patrol, steer them well clear of anything remotely interesting, they get bored and this whole thing will go away.'
'You really think that's going to happen?'
'I can dream, can't I?' I said.
'And what does Wesley think about this?' Clem asked.
'I, um, haven't asked him,' I admitted. 'Hey, he was the one that said I needed - what was it - a chance to spread my wings.'
'Just be sure you don't get them clipped,' Clem said.
* * *
Hank was less than happy about me going out that night. That was his problem. Lydia just looked relieved to be rid of me.
We'd agreed to meet outside Weatherley Park. I was the last one to arrive.
'Hey,' Janice called, waving at me. She was wearing a leather jacket over her dark blue sweater and jeans and had pulled her brown hair back in a ponytail. Chrissie was in her usual black and
'What on earth are you carrying?' I demanded.
'I just wanted to be prepared,' she replied.
Hanging from right shoulder to left hip she had what appeared to be some kind of ammunition belt (think Rambo), but instead of cartridges it was packed full of home-made stakes. I wondered how much time she had spent whittling them. There was a baseball bat across her back, tied in place with a length of blue washing-line. And she was wearing goggles, of the big, clunky, school science-lab type.
'Can I just say,' I began, 'that I am completely without speech here. I completely and totally have no response to this.'
'Have you any idea how long I have been looking forward to this?' Chrissie asked. 'This is a chance for some serious payback.'
'Heaven help us all,' Drew sighed.
'Drew,' I said, 'I didn't expect to see you here. I thought you didn't want any part of this.'
'I don't,' Drew replied, 'but someone has to make sure Chrissie doesn't get hurt and I don't trust you to do it.'
So it was going to be like that, was it?
'Well, if the gangs all here,' I announced, 'let's get patrolling.'
Two hours later, we all had sore feet, but we hadn't found a single vampire. Shame.
'Don't you think we should, you know, check the cemeteries?' Janice asked. 'Seems to me that's be a good place to find the walking dead.'
'I'm game,' Chrissie added.
'Boy, have you got a lot to learn,' I said quickly. 'Would you want to hang around dead people if you didn't have to. No self-respecting unliving creature is going to live in a crypt.'
'They're not?' Janice asked. 'But I thought '
'No, they'll live just like you and me and at night they'll be out on the town, in the clubs, the cinemas and what have you.'
'So you've actually brought us to the centre of town because this is where we're most likely to find vampires,' Drew deduced.
'Yep,' I agreed.
'Funny, looked to me as if you'd been trying to avoid them,' he said.
'I thought that was what you wanted,' I retorted.
'Sure it is,' he replied. 'I just didn't know you felt the same way.'
'What was that?' Chrissie asked.
'What was what?' I replied.
'Over there. Sounded like broken glass.'
'Let's go and investigate,' Janice suggested and the two girls were off and running before I could stop them.
I looked at Drew.
'I think we'd better,' he replied and we set off in pursuit.
The noise had come from the jewellery store. Someone had smashed open the front window. You'd think they would have an alarm or something, but I guess the owner was trying to cut costs. Here's hoping he had sympathetic insurers.
The culprits were climbing out of the window as we arrived, wearing chains and bracelets and necklaces and rings from head to toe. They were demons, blue skinned and with long, snout-like faces, almost pig-like. There were three of them. And they were barely a foot tall each.
'So, what do we do now?' Janice asked.
'What do you think?' Chrissie asked.
Then she unslung her baseball bat and charged.
She missed on her first swing, but her second caught the back of the nearest demon's head. The demon exploded into orange dust on impact.
Another demon leaped at Janice and she jumped backwards, letting out a startled cry.
'Give me your coat,' I shouted at her.
She hastily complied and I used the coat as a net, snaring the demon. I scooped up the bundle and slammed it against the wall. I was left holding just the coat and surrounded by clouds of orange dust.
The final demon had run across to Drew and was trying to scale his pants leg.
'Catch,' Chrissie said, throwing one of her stakes to Drew. He used both hands to catch it and then brought it down hard upon his attacker. There was another explosion and yet more dust.
'Well that was easy,' Chrissie said. 'Let's do it again sometime.'
'Maybe,' I said diplomatically. I looked around. We were all caked in that orange gunk. 'I just hope this stuff washes off. This is my favourite jacket.'
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