Title: All Night Long - chapter seven.
Series: Damned If I Don't, Damned If I Do.
Summary: Curses can pass from one generation to the next, even without biology involved.
As it happened, Xander did not
have breakdown coverage, but the guy who ran the auto-repair shop they usually used offered to do him a solid by driving out to take a look in the morning
. That was the best he could do, he said. He didn’t seem to care that Xander and six young girls were stuck on the side of the road half-way between Wendigo Hollow and the city, in the cold.
“But it’s starting to snow,” he pleaded as small, icy flakes fell softly from the low, dark sky.
“Yeah, it’s coming down heavy, huh? It’s not good. Did you know I’m a dad now, Mr. Harris? I can’t drive in this
, I got a baby to think about.”
“You’re not the only one, Pal!” Xander muttered as he cut the call and huffed hot breath onto the bare hand he was holding his cell with. What next? He turned on the spot to take in as much of the crash site as he could, cursing the combination of dazzling headlights and swirling snowflakes that laughed in the face of any confidence he usually had in his impaired vision. “Okay, ladies, let’s get this van moved out of the road before we wind up crumpled at both ends.”
Xander was taking charge, but really it took the six slayers about three seconds to get the busted vehicle off of the highway and onto the snow-dusted scrub to the side of it.
“Now what?” Ying asked him, rubbing her gloves together in anticipation. “Are we walking to Cleveland or walking back home to get another vehicle?”
He admired her enthusiasm . . . or he would if it didn’t make him feel like super-whiny-guy. He didn’t want
to walk anywhere, not when it would be near to ten miles in either direction, but they were no good to anyone standing on the side of the road like this and the girls were all looking at him, waiting for him to carry on taking charge
So . . . “Uh, I’m just gonna call Buff and see what she thinks is best,” he decided, hitting the button on his cell phone and holding it to his ear. He gave the girls a reassuring smile as it rang on and on. “She’s probably busy pushing a meatball around her plate for Faith; I’ll leave a voicemail.” He had no idea why he dropped his voice and covered the mouthpiece when he said that, except that the background static-y noise was of the creepy wind tunnel kind. It rang and rang and he began to tap his foot impatiently in time until he had to finally accept that Buffy’s voicemail was never going to kick in.
“I’ll try Giles," he told the expectant girls. “If nothing else, he can come and get us.” The G-man wouldn’t like it, but what else could he do? Bracing himself for some good old British grouchiness, Xander called the house, but he only had to listen to the same spooky whooshy sound behind the dull ringing tone for half a minute.
“What the hell happened here?” That hadn’t come through the phone! Xander turned back to face the road to see that another van had pulled up beside theirs and the girls were clustered around the windows.
“God Bless ye merry gentlemen, uh, gentlewomen
,” he exclaimed at the sweet escape from grumpy Britishisms and muscled his way to the driver's window. “Kennedy! Not that it’s not great to see you but what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be surrounding Buffy’s birthday bash by now?”
If he sounded cranky it was only because if his team wasn’t there and Kennedy’s team wasn’t there . . . nobody
Kennedy was sheepish as she explained. “We were, ah, kinda delayed by a . . . Look, there must have been something in the road. It could have happened to anyone.”
“What could have happened to anyone?”
“We got a flat,” she finally admitted, and then the confessions kept on coming. “And I’ve never had to change a tire before, okay! And it’s not like I’m just driving a car
. It took some time, alright, but I did it, so don’t give me that look.” He didn’t know what kind of look he was giving her until she added, “Anyway, what happened to you? Why is your hood all buckled like that?”
Now he knew his look, it was as sheepish as hers. “We, um, may possibly have run into the back of a car. The car Buffy and Faith were in to be exact.”
“Really?” At his embarrassed nod, she deadpanned, “Then you win.”
“Awesome,” he cheered sarcastically. “They’re fine, by the way, left us in the dust . . . actually make that snow. They’re probably already eating. Did Buffy text you the restaurant yet?”
“I don’t think so.” She pulled her cell phone from the dashboard to check anyway and the shake of her head was a negative. “You? Obviously not, or you wouldn’t be asking. Okay, everyone pile in. It’s going to be a squeeze, but Willow will be mad if I leave you out here to freeze to death.”
“You’re all heart,” Xander joked as one of her girls pulled the side door open and they all did as they were told. “But thanks. We appreciate it.”
With eleven girls and Xander in the back he felt like a sardine. It smelled like a cross between a Macy’s perfume counter, warm, wet wool and the garlic-y lasagna Andrew had made for an early dinner. This van had been modified the same as his with a bench along each side, but even though they were all ten times stronger than him, he was a lot bigger than most of them and chose to sit on the floor between the many pairs of slender feet in big, thick ass-kicking boots.
He eyed them warily and called to the front, “If you could take it easy around the corners that would be . . .?”
Kennedy pulled away from the side of the road at speed and Xander winced and swore under his breath as everyone was jostled around. That was going to bruise . . . in like eleven places!
“I’m going to call Willow,” Kennedy shouted back to him. “Get her to do a locator spell.”
“Good idea. So would be slowing down
The G-force created by Kennedy stamping on the gas was tugging at him, pulling him back, and as he put his hands down to keep his balance they were stepped on. Oh this was just great! Buffy’s birthday curse was obviously getting stronger, because he was having a crap Buffy-birthday too!
“I can’t slow down. We have a lot of time to make up.” And then Willow was saying hello over the speaker-phone and Kennedy was talking to her and Xander just had to grimace and bear it.
Xander was starting to get agitated in the back of the van. “What do you mean the third was a bust too?”
“I mean Willow’s first two attempts came to nothing so she tried again and she’s still coming up state-wide.”
They had reached Cleveland now and Kennedy had pulled up in a side street so the finger-crushing had stopped, but that was the only upside so far. It was still too dark, over-crowded and chaotic in the back but worse than that was Willow’s lack of results. What was the point of him being stuck in this situation if they didn’t even know where Buffy was?
He tried her cell phone again and listened to the same eerie squall as before. “This is stupid!”
“I agree!” Kennedy slammed her hands on the steering wheel. The casing creaked. “Sorry. Just what are we supposed to do now?”
“I don’t know.” He’d pushed his way right to the front so he could talk to Kennedy without being drowned out by the frustrated slayers, but they were still a din that was getting on his nerves. “Did Will speak to Giles? Does he have any ideas?”
“Apparently he’s going frantic. Raving about calling the Seers in England. Willow is getting pissed off with him.”
Xander chuckled at that; it was the only
funny thing about tonight. “Okay, here’s a thought. Buffy’s wrong, Faith’s right. Everything’s going to be fine. We give up and all go home to bed?”
The noise behind him grew even louder.
“I was joking! Have you girls never heard of the humor/horror concept?”
“We only have the most serious girls here,” Kennedy gave him a sympathetic smile.
“Then maybe that’s where we’re going wrong,” he griped.
“Because slayers that don’t
take things seriously have inbuilt GPS?” Kennedy was sarcastic now.
He didn’t appreciate it. “That would be better than this! Buffy could be out there right now, in a major trouble situation and we can’t do squat!”
“And Faith? That is who we’re supposed to be out here protecting anyway, isn’t it?”
“Don’t even.” He shook his head angrily. “I’m here for Faith, but if she . . .”
“What? Didn’t want to take her girlfriend out on her birthday?”
“Didn’t insist on no protection! I wouldn’t be surprised if she was behind our lack of communication. She probably paid someone to block the signals just to be difficult.”
“Would she really do that?” Kennedy asked.
“She’s done more for worse reasons.”
“Well, if she has . . .” The in-car phone rang. “Hang on.” She pressed the button to answer it. “Willow?” “No, it’s me Dawn. Willow’s doing yet another locator spell, but I just hacked Faith’s internet history. Faith made reservations for tonight at T . . . he . . . Lan . . . te . . .rn . . . B . . .”
“Dawn, you’re breaking up. Where?” “Th. . . La . . . t . . . n . . . Be . . .”
“Where?” Xander shouted from the back. “The . . . ter . . .Ell! Ca . . . ou . . . h . . . me?”
“No, say it again!” Kennedy snapped at the phone. “L . . . n . . . ell . . . G . . . t?”
Kennedy looked back to him but he could only helplessly shake his head.
“Hang up and try calling her back?”
She did so. The ringing tone seemed to go forever and then Xander realized it was because it was
going to. Nobody was going to pick up.
“Maybe it’s the weather.” He looked at the windshield. Since they’d been stationary enough snow had settled to obscure the view of the street.
“Maybe. And maybe it’s not.” Kennedy started the engine and the wipers cleared the layer of white flakes with one swipe. “So does everyone agree we’re looking for somewhere in the city beginning with La?”