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Chapter Data

Chapter Eleven

Fan Fiction: They Also Serve

Chapter Eleven: Shaken, Not Stirred

"In times like these, it helps to recall that there have always been times like these."
~Paul Harvey


The three girls made it perhaps half a mile down the road before a second, much smaller quake shook the ground. Tara stumbled a little, clutching at Willow's arm, then blinked and labelled it "aftershock" in the back of her mind. Willow and Amy didn't seem phased, but then, they'd grown up in California and were probably expecting it.

"Everyone OK?" she asked, glancing over at the others.

"I'm good," Amy said, with a faint smile. She still looked a little shocky, but Tara didn't blame her; the young witch's day had been pretty awful so far. After Willow had summed up what they knew about her adventures, Amy had gone silent, wrapping her arms around herself and staring off into space. She seemed a little less distant now, but still far from her normal expressive self.

Willow started to say something, then grinned suddenly and gave Tara a warm look. "Better than good," she said quietly, giving Tara's arm a gentle squeeze.

Tara blushed at the reference, and smiled back. What a day this had been! Hopefully, it would end as well as it had begun, despite the chaotic events in between.

"Oh!" Willow's eyes went wide with surprise, breaking the mood, and she reached for her pocket. "That reminds me. I'll try the guys again."

Somewhere during the events in the car, Willow must've grabbed the cell phone again-- a good thing, because Tara had completely forgotten it. The machine picked up again at Buffy's house, and Willow got the "not available" message on Xander's cell, but this time she finally remembered Giles' number and he answered.

"Giles!" Willow exclaimed, grinning with relief. "What's going on? I've been trying to reach you guys for awhile now."

Tara couldn't distinguish individual words in Giles' reply, but she could hear the tone, and he didn't sound alarmed or stressed. Willow listened for a moment with wide eyes, then shook her head. "Wow. I can't believe he did that! Did he get hurt?" Giles rumbled a negative, and she sighed in relief. "One of these days, I swear. So did you send them to jail?"

He? Them? The guys must've run into Warren and Andrew. Tara watched the surprise fade from Willow's face, followed by an eye roll and a sigh. "Well, you got the Orbs, we found Amy, and their lair is toast. That means no more crisis, right? Buffy can finish 'em off when she gets back? 'Cause I kinda had other plans for tonight." She shot Tara another warm look.

Giles asked a question, and Willow frowned, shifting her focus to Amy. "Yeah, well, we were just going to find her and call you guys, but the phone wasn't working and she was trapped in a cave-in, so..." Giles interrupted, and Willow look startled. "No, thank God. I mean, we did kinda get into a wreck but... that would have been awful." There was another, sharper interruption, and she sighed again. "Look, Giles, it's a long story. Why don't you meet us at Buffy's again, and we'll compare notes, all right? We're fine... Yes, I'm sure... OK. Bye." She cut off the call and tucked the phone in her pocket again.

"I never thought about that," Amy said, looking pale again. She had also been listening to Willow's side of the conversation. "If I'd still been in that cave during the earthquake..."

"But you weren't," Tara said, soothingly. "It's past now. We're all OK."

Amy shivered. "Swear to God, I'm never doing magic again. I should have learned my lesson the first time, after what happened with my Mom. Not to mention getting stuck as a rat. It just keeps messing up my life."

"I hear you," Willow said, with a sigh.

Amy flinched, and bit her lip. "Uh, I never apologized for the power thing, huh? I just, we'd had so much fun with the magic, and then all of a sudden you went goody-two-shoes about it. I couldn't understand that, and Rack was on my case about you not coming anymore, and I thought it couldn't hurt..." She let her voice trail off, looking a little lost.

"Water under the bridge," Willow said, with a faint smile. "And hey, friends, right? If you're serious about the no-magic thing, maybe we could help each other with it. Like, a support group of two?" She gave Amy a hopeful look, then shot a glance at Tara, as if looking for approval.

Tara nodded back. She didn't entirely trust Amy, but this sounded encouraging. It was always easier to do difficult things if your friends were in it with you, instead of tempting you from the other side. It might give Willow more hope and endurance to be somebody else's example, instead of fighting the pull of darkness alone. Not that Tara would let her be alone, not anymore, but Amy would understand Willow's problems in a way Tara couldn't.

Amy blinked at Willow, then gave a tentative smile. "You think? I'd like that. I'm not sure I could stick it out on my own."

"Of course," Willow said brightly. "Strength in numbers, you know." Then she patted Amy's arm and turned back to the road. "Now, where were we?"

Tara knew Willow meant it rhetorically, but she glanced at the nearest signpost anyway. "Wallace Road," she said. "Maybe we should, uh, call a cab or something? It's going to take us forever to get to Revello Drive, and it's not safe out here."

Willow grimaced, glancing up at the stars coming out overhead. "Duh, I should have asked Giles to pick us up. But then Xander would have asked about his car..."

Tara winced. "If he's with Giles, he already knows it's wrecked."

Willow sighed, and reached for her cell phone again. She didn't get a chance to call, however; the sound of a vehicle approaching caught the girls' attention, and they stepped off the road to await its passing. It turned out to be a police car, probably out checking the fringes of the city for wrecked vehicles, and it slowed when it neared them.

The drivers' window rolled down as the car came to a halt, and a youngish male officer frowned out at them. "Ladies? Were you in that car I passed half a mile back?"

They glanced at each other, then back at the cop, debating what to tell him. None of them quite trusted Sunnydale's men in blue, even though the Mayor had been dead for years. They still overlooked far too much that went on in this town.

"Uh," Willow began, "Actually, yeah, but ..."

Any hope of reassuring the cop and sending him on his way passed when he caught sight of Amy's clothes, ripped and soaked with blood. "Oh, my God. What happened, ma'am?" he exclaimed reflexively, then caught himself. He had to be new. "Nevermind that," he continued, with a shake of his head, "we've got to get you to a hospital." He reached for his radio.

"No," Tara blurted, "D-don't call an ambulance. It's, it's not as bad as it looks. We're fine!" At his dubious expression, she continued. "Um, you could drive us to the hospital though, if, if it would make you feel better." She glanced at the other two for confirmation, then back at the cop. It would draw less attention than an ambulance, if they could keep him from getting too suspicious, and it would be safer than staying on foot.

He blinked at her, confused, then took a good look at all three of them. Tara could almost hear his mental checklist: Mobile, verbal. No paleness, glassy eyes, or other indications of shock or major injury besides the blood. Not begging for help, which meant they were probably a victim of Things Not To Be Spoken Of. Or perhaps they were Things Not To Be Spoken Of?

Finally, he seemed to reach a decision. "If you're sure you don't need an ambulance...?" he asked, hesitantly.

"We're sure," the three girls said firmly, nearly as one.

"All right, then." He put the car in park and got out, opening the back driver's side door for them. Tara didn't miss the fact that he kept one hand on his gun the entire time, or that he didn't offer to let one of them sit up front with him. Good for him; paranoia would probably add years to his life. Why did cops ever take transfers to Sunnydale, anyway? Surely they knew about the mortality rate.

He didn't ask their names, and they didn't ask his. In fact, he barely spoke another word to them during the drive to the hospital, although he did glance frequently at them in the rear-view mirror. Don't ask, they were thinking at him; don't tell, he was thinking back. It was the way things had always been in Sunnydale, and it didn't look like that would change anytime soon.

He dropped them off at the emergency room doors without any fanfare or attempt at procedures, just a warning to keep safe. The girls watched him go, then turned away from the glass doors. The last thing they wanted was to get stuck for the next couple of hours in the waiting room, or to be examined, especially since they didn't have a good explanation for what had happened to Amy.

"We're just a couple of blocks from the college," Tara said, rubbing at her arms. The air temperature was starting to drop, and she didn't have her coat. "We could stop by my dorm and pick up some fresh clothes for Amy," she suggested.

"Oh, that would be great," Amy said fervently. "And maybe a quick shower? I'm really starting to feel gross."

"Oh, and do any of your roommates have a car?" Willow asked, hopefully. "Would they be willing to drive us over?"

"I can ask," Tara answered.

The minutes ran by, consumed by ordinary activity, and it was nearly nine o'clock when they finally returned to Buffy's house with Amy in tow. Tara's sweats were a little loose on her, but not bad, and all three felt more comfortable for their little break from reality. Tara's roommates had been deep in studies and gossip, and it had been nice to play at being normal kids for a brief while.

Giles' car was already parked at the curb when they arrived. Tara waved her roommates away and started up the front walk with Amy, but Willow paused to scowl at the red convertible. "It's like a big red stop sign," she said, by way of explanation. "Like, Stop! If you go any further, you're going to be asked a million inconvenient questions!"

Amy rolled her eyes, but Tara smiled. "Giles won't be too harsh on us. We saved Amy, and we got back in once piece. And Xander would forgive you anything."

Willow sighed. "I know, I know. It's reflex, I guess. No one on Earth gives guilt like Giles does."

Tara sniffed the air, and her smile widened a little. This ought to encourage Willow. "And no one on Earth eats like Xander does. Do you smell pizza?"

"Pizza?" Willow perked up visibly. "They ordered dinner? Oh, good! I'm starved! Those crackers you had in your room took the edge off, but I'm still all rumbly." She hurried up the walk past Tara, her worries forgotten as she headed for the front door.

Amy watched her go, then turned a sad smile on Tara. "I'm glad she's back with you, you know," she said quietly. "I tried to hook her up with some other girls at the Bronze... she wouldn't even look. Even when we were out having fun, she wasn't really happy. You're the only one that does that for her."

Tara couldn't decide whether to be pleased, upset, or touched. "Um, thanks?" she said, not sure quite what to say.

Amy looked away. "Yeah, um, I'm just gonna..." She shifted her feet uncomfortably, then followed Willow into the house.

Tara took a deep breath and glanced up at the stars again, then headed for the front door herself. Oh, what a day.


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