“There aren’t any more monsters that are going to come into the house, right?” asked Charlie hopefully. He was looking at his temporary guardian over the rim of his glass of orange juice; he and Willow were sitting quietly at the breakfast table the next morning discussing the events of the previous night- though only to a point seeing as Charlie was just a little kid and should never have found out in the first place.
“I doubt it,” answered the witch. “But if any do they’ll go the same way the other two dem- monsters went.” She didn’t know why she hesitated to use the word ‘demon’, it was what they were, but it would be odd- to Charlie- if she called them demons while he called them monsters; as if she knew a lot about them. Which she did, but he didn’t know that and she didn’t want him to find out about demons, vampires, the supernatural; the whole shebang.
Willow sighed quietly, Charlie already knew about the ‘monsters’ and he’d seen what SHE had been able to do, it was only a matter of time before he brought that up. And what if answered the door and let a vampire in to her house- or his house, if they got him home?
“Willow?” the boy asked jerking her out of her thoughts, she looked at him as he looked back curiously. “You knew- about these monsters before last night? Right?”
The redhead searched for something to tell him, anything that would convince him that evil of the supernatural variety didn’t exist, anything so that he could keep his innocent perspective on what was going on around him. She didn’t want him to be scared of the things that lurked in the darkness; the world ending or anything that an eight year old shouldn’t even be thinking about.
Sometimes, she wished she’d kept her own innocence and that she didn’t know about the dark side of the world she lived in; but then she and the Scoobies wouldn’t have averted all those Apocalypses; she also wouldn’t have met the people that she knew and loved. If she had the chance to go back in time to stop herself finding out the truth would she have done it?
No. Of course not.
But Charlie had the choice that she had never had.
She looked at him for a few moments before saying, “Charlie…I’m not sure you’d want to know, you’d probably regret me telling you if I did.” He would, she was sure he would regret asking.
“About what? Monsters being real?” his big brown eyes stared into hers. “But I saw two of them, they were monsters and…and then you…” he trailed off staring at her open-mouthed. “Y-your not a monster are you?” He was sure she wasn’t, but she’d done all that…stuff, and then there was the black hair and black eyes thing.
Charlie felt kind of bad asking her that when she looked hurt for a second before she appeared to hide it, she shook her head and he felt relieved though still guilty, “Oh, okay…um, so…how?”
“How did I make those demo- monsters float?” why did she not call them ‘demons’? She didn’t want Charlie to ask questions that would lead her to telling him about what went bump in the night.
“Yeah.” Charlie frowned slightly and wondered why she kept tripping over the word ‘monster’, she was about to call them ‘demo-‘ demo…what? “Why did you say ‘demo’ before saying monster?”
Willow groaned inwardly, “Uh, demo…demo…onstrations, demonstrations! Yeah, I mean…those d- monsters they weren’t real…just a demonstration of…ah…”
She cringed, she was officially the world’s crappiest liar; then again, hadn’t she always been?
“Um…you’re a real bad liar,” stated Charlie looking amused. “Tell me, please?”
The redhead bit her lip looking worried, “Charlie…there’s more to it than what you just saw, if I tell you I can’t take it back…you’ll probably wish you hadn’t asked.”
He blinked and then said, “I….I wanna know.”
Willow considered this for several moments before sipping her coffee and looking over the rim of her cup at the boy sitting opposite her, “Okay.” She would leave stuff out of course; there was no reason to tell him everything as he wouldn’t be staying long enough to actually find out about everything. She’d have to tell him anyway, he already knew…he had seen two demons already.
Then again, he had only been with her for a few hours and already he’d been attacked by demons and found out about her not being normal- no she’d omit the details, if it came to it she’d have to tell him but until the time came she’d keep quiet about it.
“Monsters do exist, I call them demons because…well, that’s what they are,” she explained vaguely. “I’m human like you, but…a little different, I’m a witch as you said when you first appeared.”
Charlie nodded smiling in awe, “That is so cool.” Did she fight them? “Do you fight them?”
The witch nodded and then faltered, “Well, Buffy really- Uh” whoops. She shifted slightly in her seat and sipped her coffee again and looked around the room trying to get out of explaining who the Slayer was, ‘cause that would lead to more questions.
The boy looked even more curious, if that was possible, “Who’s Buffy?” A side-kick? He kept looking at her expectantly and she kept glancing around the room as if looking for a way out.
Willow sighed and decided to omit, it wasn’t lying so maybe she wouldn’t be too obvious, “She’s…my best friend, since high school.” No lying there, just omitting the fact that the said best friend was a mystical Slayer with the speed and strength of ten fully grown men…yep, no lying whatsoever.
“Does SHE know about mo-demons?” he queried enthusiastically.
Willow nodded in reply and Charlie sat up in his chair grinning, “So, you’ve been fighting demons since high school? Wow, how long? How did you find out? Is Buffy you’re side-kick? Is anyone else fighting them? Are they normal or like you?” he rattled off questions excitedly and then paused after the last to think of any others and to listen to the answers.
The redhead looked slightly overwhelmed with the questions and then decided to answer quickly so as not to forget the questions, “Yes, almost eight years, got attacked by a demon, Buffy’s the leader, a lot of people are fighting them; my friends are some of them, some are normal while others are like me but different…a few are demons-
“Huh?” his face was a little screwed up in confusion.
“Oh…well, there are nice demons.” She explained thinking of Angel and Anya, not to mention Oz; not that he was a demon- just a werewolf, and she needed to keep on topic. “Not all demons are evil.”
Charlie nodded but didn’t say anything.
“That’s pretty much it, there are bad guys- we’re the good guys,” she explained trying not to sound too vague; she didn’t want to have to explain how many times the world almost ended, how many times the world almost got sucked into Hell and how many kids and teenagers had got killed keeping ignorant people safe…how many people SHE’D killed and how she’d almost succeeded in doing what evil beings had failed to do before her- end the world and all life on it.
The brown-haired child could tell there were things that she wasn’t telling him and he decided not to ask her, he puffed his chest out slightly and thought that he was being very grown-up because he wanted to ask her what else she wasn’t telling him but he didn’t ask. He looked at her and saw that she was looking more than a little sad; she also looked kinda like a kid who got caught with her hand in the cookie jar before dinner…only worse, and that was why he wasn’t asking.
Willow shook off her guilt quickly and was about to say something when the phone started ringing making both of them jump in shock, Charlie exclaimed loudly in shock and disappointment as the juice he was sipping splashed down his front, “Don’t worry about it, sweetie. Just hold on a second and I’ll get you a new shirt.”
She practically ran to the phone and scooped it up, “Rosenberg,” she informed automatically.
“Hey, Will,” it was Cordelia Chase, ex-nemesis, former cheerleader.
“Cordy, hey!” yep, she couldn’t hide the surprise in her voice. “Oh! The spell I used to find Gunn…it didn’t go the way I expected-
“What’re you talking about?” she interrupted in disbelief. “Your spell worked…only, I thought that when you completed the spell YOU’D get Gunn, not us…not that that’s a bad thing of course, just a little warning would’ve been great.”
Willow snorted, “I didn’t even know the spell- wait, the spell actually worked!?”
“Uhhhh, Yeah!” was usual response of sarcasm and mockery. “Gunn just popped out of nowhere right in front of us, I swear if Angel HAD a heart that beat he would have had a heart attack.”
“But Gunn’s okay, right?” she heard the former cheerleader sigh.
“Yeah, he’s fine; doesn’t remember a thing,” she explained.
Willow nodded, “That’s good-
“Willow! It’s getting sticky!” protested Charlie loudly, he had a look of revulsion on his cute face as he poked and prodded at his now-sticky-shirt. “Ick.”
“Who’s that?” asked Cordy sounding confused and curious at the same time.
It was the redhead’s turn to sigh, “The spell…it, uh, kinda backfired.” She’d never thought she’d have to say those words again, but here she was. “But if the spell worked with Gunn, then why did Charlie pop up here?”
“Yeah, uh, he’s the kid you just heard a second ago,” Willow explained trying to ignore the irritated look the kid now had on his face as he looked at the phone in her hand.
“Stupid phone,” she heard him mutter.
“Wait, so the spell worked, but it backfired too?” asked Cordy incredulously. “Huh, wonder why that is.”
Willow shook her head, “So do I.” she wondered if there was a reason why Charlie was here, besides the spell. She turned to Charlie, “Sweetie, go upstairs and try to find another shirt.”
He nodded and walked out of the room.
“Is the kid okay?” she asked concerned.
The redhead rubbed the bridge of her nose, “He doesn’t remember anything, god, Cordy…I pulled him away from his parents and erased his memories and-
“You didn’t do that, it was an accident,” stated the brunette over the phone. “Does, um, Charlie know about how he was pulled in?”
Willow opened her mouth and then closed it again, “No, I guess not.” She smiled to herself sheepishly and was startled when she felt fear clasp at her heart. Why was she scared? She wasn’t scared, was she? What was she scared of?
“I think he should know, Will,” said Cordelia gently. “If it was me I’d want to know.”
The redhead bit her lip anxiously and then faltered, so that was what was making her feel uncomfortable; she didn’t want to tell him. But why? Cordy was right, he deserved to know.
What if he hated her? The voice at the back of her mind muttered. She had, after all, taken him from his parents, she’d almost gotten him killed by putting him in the path of two dangerous albeit stupid demons. She tried to turn away from the fear, why should she care this much? She’d only known him for about a day, if he hated her, so what?
Yeah, you keep telling yourself that, Willow breathed out slowed. Pretending she didn’t care wasn’t helping, it wasn’t going to help Charlie either. Get a grip, Will. It’s your mistake, fix it and get the kid home.
She nodded to herself firmly before she remembered that Cordy was on the phone, “Heeeeyyy! Will!” she drew out loudly snapping her out of her daydream. “Anyone there?”
Willow snorted at her jibe, “There wasn’t a second ago.” Cordy chuckled, the redhead smiled and jumped at a sudden ‘thump’ that came from upstairs. “Charlie! You okay?!”
“Yes! I found a Snoopy!” he yelled happily from upstairs.
Willow shook her head slightly in bafflement, “Charlie just found Xander’s Snoopy doll. Huh, you know he kinda reminds me of Xander…when we were younger.”
There was silence for a moment, “What? The Snoopy doll?”
“No!” the redhead laughed amused. “Charlie.”
“Ah,” muttered Cordy sounding a little embarrassed. “Right.”
“Look, I gotta go,” said Willow suddenly sounding wary. “I’m glad Gunn’s back.” Now she had to tell Charlie of her involvement in the spell, damn.
They hung up at the same time, Willow turned away from the phone; looked up at the ceiling where she knew, at the other side, Charlie was playing; and sighed.
She walked towards the stairs.