Title: The Monsters Are Due in Washington Square
Author: Lizbeth Marcs
Summary: Nothing’s the same after the monsters come to town.
Genre: Gen; Apoca-fic, dark fic, future fic
Series: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel the Series
Characters: Xander, Faith, Willow, Angel, original characters
Pairings: Xander/OC; Xander/Faith (referred to in the past tense)
The dark-haired woman carries both sword and food to the other bed and sits down on its edge. “You gotta name, kid?” the woman asks as she sets the sword next to her on the mattress.
She refuses to answer.
“Shit. That was a stupid question wasn’t it? I already know, don’t I? I suck at small talk. Hazards of the job.” The woman opens the bag and digs through it, removing something that looks like a paper-wrapped sub. “Name’s Faith, if you’re wondering,” the woman adds.
She doesn’t even want to look at the woman — at Faith. Faith’s nothing more than a lie. Or is it that everything that came after Faith is a lie? She doesn’t know. What’s more, she doesn’t care. All she knows is that yesterday she had one life where she knew everyone, and today she’s got a new life where she doesn’t know anyone.
Faith’s watching her now. She holds one of those wrapped subs in one hand as she sets aside the bag. “I’d ask how you’re doing, except I know that the question would make me sound like a dumbass,” Faith says. “You ain’t okay.”
“What do you know about it?” she asks. She immediately clamps her mouth shut. She didn’t want to say anything. She doesn’t even want to talk to him, let alone to this…this…scraggly ’ho.
“More than anyone ever should.” Faith sounds almost sad about it. Faith suddenly thrusts the sub at her. “You haven’t eaten since we left Newport.”
“Not hungry,” she mutters.
“There’s a shock,” Faith impatiently shakes the sub at her, “but we got a long few days ahead of us and you passing out from hunger or low blood sugar or whatever could attract the wrong kind of attention, and I ain’t talking about bad attention of the human kind.”
A memory of a twisted, hate-filled, inhuman face pressed against the bedroom window flashes across her mind, and next thing she knows she’s reaching for the sub.
“That’s a good girl,” Faith absently says as she once more digs through the bag. “I don’t know why I’m bothering to hunt and peck through the food. I got the same for everyone.”
What Faith brought was Italians for everyone. She’s not a big fan of antipasto on torpedo bread — something he used to say when he was someone else — but she doesn’t want to talk to anyone any more than she has to.
She takes a bite instead. Then she takes another.
“Whoa, whoa! Not so fast!” Faith barks.
The bathroom door flings open on Faith’s shout.
The view wasn’t nearly as pretty as it would’ve been if they’d just gone to the Del’s down near the waterfront. Instead, she had a clear view of the back of a Jiffy Lube and a tire place from her perch on the trunk of Chris’s car.
“Who’s car is this?” she asked, as she sucked her lemonade slush through a straw.
“A friend’s. And by ‘friend’, I mean, someone I really don’t like but don’t quite hate,” Chris answered. He had the cover off his cup and was stabbing at the lemonade slush with his straw.
The sight of Chris acting so Chris made her smile. She was pretty sure it was the first smile she’d had since Saturday.
“Is this person you don’t quite hate a woman with dark hair or a woman with red hair?” Moira asked.
Chris snorted. “I actually like them, even if the first one tends to drive me nuts.”
Moira swallowed hard. “It wouldn’t be tall, dark, and handsome, would it?”
Chris paused in his stabbing. “Hunh?”
“A guy?” Moira asked.
Chris pinched the bridge of his nose. “Please tell me you haven’t seen him making like Lurker McLurk around the neighborhood at night. While I totally appreciate the thought, he’s more likely to attract the bad kind of attention instead of—”
“Umm, no. I haven’t actually seen him,” Moira squeaked her interruption. “More like there’s been these rumors about you…and a guy…in a hotel bar…and…ummm…”
Chris sighed and began stabbing his lemonade mush again. “Gotta hand it to Willow, she’s still got it. Not only did people see it, everyone’s talking about it. Even people who don’t even know me are talking about it, apparently. If I survive this mess, I’m going have to strangle her with my bare hands because there’s no way I’ll ever be able to live Angel-gate down.”
“The –gate to end all –gates,” Chris grumbled.
Aaaaand she definitely recognized Chris’s don’t-wanna-talk-about-it voice. To compensate, Moira attacked from another angle. “So you aren’t into guys?”
Chris’s stabbing motion became more violent. “I guarantee that if I’m ever tempted, he’d be the absolute last guy in this or any other dimension that I’d want to give a big ol’ happy.” He stopped. “Unless it involved preventing the extinction of the human race.” He shook his head. “Nah. Not even then. I like my neck just the way it is, thanks.”
“And yes, this is his car. Or at least he paid for it.” Chris kicked a tire. “Whatever he paid, he was robbed.”
Moira took another sip to strengthen her nerves. “So what’s going on? Really?”
Chris doubled his concentration on the lemonade slush in his cup. “I did promise, didn’t I?”
Moira nodded and took another sip.
Chris gave her his Serious Face. “Do you think you can convince your mom to leave town for a mini-vacation? Preferably across the Canadian border? Or barring that, New York? Maybe Boston? Hell, I’ll even settle for Providence.”
“Why?” Moira screwed up her face. “Not that you telling me why is even going to get me anywhere near how I’m supposed to do that. It’s in the middle of the school week, not to mention that it’s October. There’s no way she’d agree to a vacation this close to the start of school.”
“You’re right. Can’t blame me for taking the shot.” Chris swiped away at the moisture gathering under his fake left eye. “As for why…” His voice trailed off as he gave Moira a worried look.
“Are you in trouble?” Moira asked.
“Yes,” Chris immediately admitted. “The problem is the entire city of Newport is right there with me.”
Moira could feel her heart pounding. “What kind of trouble?”
Chris closed his eyes and shook his head. “You’re going to think I’m crazy when I tell you what I’m about to tell you. Just hear me out. Don’t interrupt, just listen, okay?”
“Okay,” Moira agreed.
“Very soon, I don’t know exactly when, it could be days or it could be weeks, the sky is going to become pitch black.” Chris looked down into his cup as he stirred his lemonade slush with the straw. “In fact, it’s going to get so dark that if you’re outside it’s going to seem like someone threw a blanket over your head in a dark room.”
Is there a storm coming? Moira wanted to ask. She didn’t, though. She promised she wouldn’t interrupt.
“When you see the sky turning dark, I want you to get home as fast as you can. If you don’t think you’ll be able to make it home before the sky goes full black, run into the most secure building you can find. Either way, whatever you do, don’t go outside no matter what happens.” Chris looked up at her. “Understand?”
“Now, this is the part that’s going to sound like I’ve really gone crazy flakes.” Chris made a face as he set his cup on top of the trunk. “If you manage to get home, I want you to lock the door, pull all the shades, and close all the curtains. You’ll find some white candles in my desk drawer. Use those for any light you need and only those candles. And whatever you do, don’t look out any of the windows. There’s no way I can stress enough. Don’t look out the windows. If you look out the windows, they’ll see you. If they see you, they can get to you.”
Moira shivered, and not because the lemonade slush was making her feel cold. “They?”
Chris looked down into her face. “Monsters. Demons. Things that lurk. Things that kill. They’re real, and they’re coming. If they win here, it’s not going to end with Newport. It’s not going to end with Rhode Island. It’s not going to end with this country. They’re going to keep going until all that’s left is them and the dark.”
Moira wanted to laugh at him. She wanted to tell him that monsters and demons weren’t real. She wanted to tell him to stop lying and to just tell her the truth.
The intense way Chris said it, the way he looked at her like he was speaking the God’s honest truth, stopped her cold.
“Aside from not looking out the windows, don’t open the door either. I don’t care if you hear someone you know out there. I don’t care if it’s your friends, me, or your mother. Don’t open the door. Don’t go near the door.” Chris fixed her with a look. “Understand?”
Moira gave him a hesitant nod.
“You’ll know it’s safe when you see sunlight.” Chris winced. “No. I promised the truth. The truth is there’s no guarantee that you’ll ever see sunlight again. So it’s more like, ‘if you see sunlight you can throw open the doors and windows’. But not a moment before, okay?”
She had no idea what to say to that. None. Chris had never seemed crazy-paranoid before, and she never knew him to believe in demons or monsters. Yet, here she was in broad daylight in a Del’s parking lot listening to Chris talk about demons and monsters like they were not only real, but a real danger.
For lack of anything better to say, Moira said, “Okay.”
Chris’s shoulders slumped, like he knew that she was just humoring him. “If you manage to get home in time, and if they manage to get into the house, get into the closet.”
“Which one?” Moira asked.
“Your mother’s cedar closet. They won’t be able to get in there. It’s because of the design I carved inside the door. Only humans can open that door once it’s closed.” Chris suddenly swatted his cup onto the parking lot pavement. “It’s almost like I knew this day was coming no matter what I did.”
Oh, God. The design! Chris had been crazy-paranoid all along? How did she miss that? How did Mom miss that?
Moira carefully slid off the trunk. “It’s getting late. Mom’s going to wonder where I am.”
Chris dropped his head. “Yeah, okay. Let’s get you home.”
Moira began to move toward the passenger side door. Chris may be paranoid-crazy, but she knew that he wouldn’t hurt her. Still, if he really believed that demons and monsters were coming to get them all, why was he telling her and not Mom?
As she waited for Chris to dig his keys out of his pocket, she figured she might as well ask the million dollar question. “Chris? Have you told Mom any of this?”
Chris didn’t look at her as he freed his car keys and pressed the remote to unlock the doors. “I tried, but she wasn’t in a listening mood.”
Chris pulled up to the curb just as the car’s clock hit 4:40 p.m.
“You okay?” he asked.
“I guess,” Moira said.
“Okay.” As Moira reached to unlock the door, Chris added, “No matter what happens, just remember I love you.”
“I love you, too,” Moira said. She’d have to tell Mom about this. She’d have to. Something happened to Chris that drove him over the edge, but he needed professional help, not a jail cell.
Except if she told Mom that Chris met her after school, he probably would end up in a jail cell. She needed to know more before she decided whether or not to tell Mom about this.
“Hey, Chris?” Moira asked.
His head snapped up. “What?” He sounded hopeful.
“Who’s Alexander?” Moira asked. Mom used that name when she threatened Chris with the FBI. Maybe if she knew who Alexander was and why he’d get Chris in trouble, it could help her reach a decision.
Chris seemed genuinely confused. “Alexander? Who?”
“Mom said that if she saw you again, she’d call the FBI and tell them about some guy named Alexander,” Moira said. “Who is he?”
“Oh. That.” Chris put his hands on the steering wheel, like he was contemplating taking off while Moira was still in the car. “Alexander. Xander, actually. He was someone I knew. Once.”
“What happened?” Moira pressed.
Chris looked at her with a nervous smile. “He was a little crazy. Scratch that. A lot crazy. He had something to prove when he left his hometown, I guess.”
“So you worked with him?” Moira asked.
“One way to put it.” Chris tapped the steering wheel. “He wasn’t ever the smartest guy in the room, or the strongest, or the best fighter. Hell, he didn’t even always know what he was doing. One thing he was good at? Not getting killed. He was better at that than most people. Plus, like I said, crazy with a side of something to prove. Xander in a nutshell.”
“So why can he get you in trouble?” Moira asked.
“We all worked for this organization called the Council.” Chris ran a hand through his hair. He seemed nervous. “Now, this Council worked with other organizations, some good, some pretty sketch. He got this idea in his head that one of these organizations, one that was in the ‘good’ column, was actually an evil-playing-good-because-they’re-biding-t
Chris paused a moment. He was breathing heard, and his hands kept clutching and loosening around the steering wheel. It was pretty obvious that this story was going to end very badly.
“It’s okay. You can tell me what happened,” Moira said. “I promise I won’t tell Mom anything. I won’t even tell her that we talked.”
Chris froze. Then he slowly swiveled his head around so he was looking at Moira.
“I promise, I won’t tell her anything,” Moira swore again. “Your secret’s totally safe with me.”
When Chris began talking again, his voice was much steadier. “A lot of things went wrong, and a dozen people got killed just on our side alone. No idea how many people on the other side. Worse, it was all for nothing. There was no proof there, or maybe it got destroyed in the fight or spirited away by one of the bad guys during the fight. I dunno. All I know is that the Council went ballistic. From their point of view, Xander had randomly attacked allied white hats because he didn’t trust them. The Council wanted his head. The bad guys wanted his head. It was a pretty awful scene.”
“So to get out of it, he framed you and you got blamed,” Moira said.
Chris shook his head. “No. The Council just wanted him fired and tossed out on the street with no way to protect himself. The head of the Council, a guy named Giles, thought that was a really bad idea. One, Xander knew too much, which would make him a target for random baddies that wanted inside information about the Council. And two, Xander managed to make a lot of enemies over the years and if those enemies found out they’d come looking for revenge. He knew if Xander was tossed out on the street with no one to fall back on, he’d be dead within weeks.”
“So, this Giles blamed you for Xander’s mess so he could keep Xander?” Moira asked.
“Wrong again. See, Giles was among those people telling Xander he was going after perfectly innocent people and that he should just drop it. After the attack, Giles was furious with him. There was no way he wanted to keep Xander on the payroll.” Chris took a deep breath and added, “So he arranged for Xander to have an ‘accident’.”
Moira could hear the quotes around the word ‘accident’, even though Chris didn’t do the air quote thing with his fingers.
“Let’s just say that Xander went snorkeling alone off the coast of Baja California alive and well. Three weeks later, a corpse washed up on the beach with his teeth smashed out and his hands missing,” Chris said. “Luckily, his worried friends had descended on the town where he’d been staying and were conveniently on-hand to swear that the dead guy was their best bud. I heard they cremated him and buried the ashes in some cemetery outside LA.”
Moira felt her blood run cold. “He was murdered, wasn’t he?”
“In a way.” Chris looked at her, like he was trying to bore a hole through her forehead with eyesight alone. “After Xander disappeared, I walked away from the Council with a clear conscience. I did what Giles asked me to do, and I swore that it would be the last thing I’d ever do for him.” Chris laughed, but it sounded bitter. “Now Giles is dead. I guess I can keep a promise after all.”
Oh God, oh God, oh God. She didn’t need Chris to spell it out for her. He killed Xander. That’s why Mom wanted her to stay far, far away from him.
All of a sudden, she wasn’t sure about anything. If Chris could kill someone he knew in cold blood…
Moira didn’t want to think about what that meant. She had to get away.
She dove for the door handle while Chris impassively watched her.
As she flung the door open, he reached out and grabbed her by her arm. She let out a small scream.
“Make sure you remember everything I said,” Chris told her. “And make sure to tell your mother everything I said to you. Make double-sure you tell her about the closet. Tell her it’s like a homemade panic room if the worst happens. You’ll tell her, right?”
Moira had never been so frightened in her life. “I…I…I will. I’ll tell her. Everything.”
“See that you do,” he said.
Then he let her go.
Moira dove from the car and slammed the door shut behind her.
As she ran down the block for home, she could hear Chris scrub out as he sped away from the curb.
“What is it? What happened?” he shouts.
In the time it takes to blink, Faith leaps from sitting on the bed to catching him as he stumbles through the bathroom door. He’s only partially dressed. The pants are still on — thank God for small favors — but that’s about all.
For the first time, she sees the full extent of the damage. There are so many bruises all over his chest, arms, and what little she can see of his back that she wonders how it’s even remotely possible that he’s conscious, let alone move as fast as he does.
She once again wonders if he’s even human.
“Nothing’s wrong. The kid here was wolfing down her sub, and I was afraid she’d end dinner with a Technicolor yawn,” Faith says as she somehow manages to haul him back to his feet, despite the fact that he’s so much bigger than she is.
She opens her mouth to protest as she looks down at the sub in her hands so she can prove her point.
Oh. More than half the sub is gone. She remembers taking only a couple of bites, so she has no idea how she managed to eat that much with so little chewing.
When she looks up again, he’s stupidly blinking down at Faith like he’s suddenly forgotten who Faith is, who he is, who she is, and how the three of them ended up in crappy motel room that looks like it doubles as a crack den when people not them are renting it.
Faith glances around him into the closet-sized bathroom. “You got a change of clothes in there, sport?”
Instead of answering, he swivels his glassy glaze gaze away from Faith and on to her. “You okay?” he asks.
She still doesn’t want to talk to him. She looks down at her sub instead.
She doesn’t want to see how badly he’s been hurt. She doesn’t want to feel sorry for him. He said this was his fault back when this whole thing started. He said it, and there is no way he can ever take it back.
She won’t let him take it back.
She may not believe anything he says ever again, but she does believe him on that point.
“Yo!” Faith snaps her fingers in front of his face. “Earth to Xander! Snap to. Clothes? Clean ones? You got ’em in the bathroom?”
She winces upon hearing that hateful name, the one that belongs to a complete stranger.
He shakes his head like he’s been slapped. “Unh, no.”
Faith steps back and crosses her arms. “So, you were going to clean up and then…what? Put on the blood-soaked rags you wore in there?”
He rubs his face with his hands. “I don’t have spares. We don’t have spares.”
“Wrong. You do.” Faith spins on her heel and marches over to the Army surplus-sized duffle bag. “I brought a couple of changes for both of you, most of which will enhance your temp idents until we get the pair of you safe in the loving arms of our Watcher overlords. Had to guess the sizes, so they might not fit perfect.”
Faith pulls out two sets of sweat pants with hoodies. She shudders when she sees the smaller set is a sticky sweet pink. She hates pink.
Faith tosses the grey sweat set at him as she adds, “When was the last time you slept?”
“Well? Or at all?” he asks. He fumbles the catch, and is forced to bend down to pick up the clothes.
“At all,” Faith answers.
“Two days. Maybe three,” he admits as he straightens back up with a grimace.
She viciously hopes it’s a grimace of pain.
“That explains that, then.” Faith chews her lip. “You sure as shit can’t fly to London acting like an escapee from an R.E.M. sleep deprivation experiment. Shower. I’ll work something out so you can catch a few zees.”
He again looks away from Faith and turns his gaze on her. He opens his mouth to say something.
She pointedly looks away from both of them and stares at a suspicious brown stain on the wall above her bed.
She has nothing to say to him.
Nothing at all.
The drama that ensued after Moira told Mom about her unauthorized chat with Chris made her feel like she almost would’ve been better off if she kept her mouth shut.
The important word here being ‘almost’.
The only good thing about the whole mess and the aftermath was that at least Moira now knew why Mom was being so Mama Bear about Chris, and she didn’t blame her one bit.
What really bugged Moira while Mom let her know that she had done something “foolish” and asked her whether she knew “just how wrong this could have gone” was that if Mom had been honest right up front and told her that Chris was not just a dangerous, paranoid nut, but was also a murderer, she would’ve run right back to Thompson Middle the second she saw Chris without saying a word. However, pointing out that Mom’s total lack of honesty played a very big role in what happened was probably a first-class ticket to being grounded.
As it was Moira had to beg and plead when Mom started making noise about keeping her home from school until Chris was locked up for good. If she did that while rumors were still circulating that Chris had become a male ’ho, she’d never live it down. The whole story wouldn’t just follow her around for the rest of the year, but for the rest of middle school, and all of high school. Everyone would take it to mean that the rumors were true and she was bothered by it, which meant she’d be stuck hearing the reheated gossip about Chris for the rest of her life.
It took some doing, but Moira managed to turn Mom around on the stay-home-from-school idea. However, that meant Mom would be driving her to and picking her up from school. She couldn’t go over to her friends’ houses after school, although they could come here. After school activities were out for the time being. She couldn’t go anywhere without Mom playing chaperone, not even in the front yard.
The deal sucked, but Moira knew that it was the best she was going to get until Chris disappeared from their lives down a deep, dark hole of the federal prison kind.
As for school, by and large it didn’t get any worse. The rumors about Chris were still circulating, but not with as much enthusiasm as the day before. It was almost like her schoolmates were working on autopilot, and that it wouldn’t take much for the gossip mavens to move on as soon as something shinier came along. While Moira wasn’t quite ready to breathe a sigh of relief, she figured that by this time next week a new piece of gossip would be making the rounds and making someone else’s life perfectly miserable.
Despite the sense that things on the school front were beginning to move back to her level of normal, she still approached her usual lunch table with her usual gang with some trepidation. Surely her friends would want to know all the deets about her deal. They probably wouldn’t ask outright — well, Tessa probably would if the others were salivating hard enough for the 411 — but there’d be some definite hint-dropping and nudging in the effort to get the friends-only scoop. She’d have to play dense-o and fail to pick up on those hints, because this was a rare and clear-cut case where the truth was worse than rumor.
In the end, even her trepidation over the coming lunchtime talk with her friends was worse in the anticipation than in the actual event. There were a couple of feints to ferret out information from Sal and Tessa but the attempts were weaksauce at best, like they were doing it because that’s just what one does when one of your friends is at the center of juicy gossip. As for Jo, Emmy, and Claire, they seemed ready to move on to something else.
Moira could feel her shoulders start to relax as the lunch conversation with her friends swirled on to other targets and other bits of gossip. Maybe her friends didn’t care about the whole ‘Chis is a male ’ho’ deal, or maybe her friends made a pact to not bug her about it. Either way, she could’ve kissed all five of them.
Just as they were finishing lunch and making their move to go outside and enjoy some fresh air before they were called back into class, the group spotted Missy Ellington approaching their table.
“Well, that’s bad news,” Jo remarked.
“What do you want to bet she’s coming over here to talk more crap about…” Sal’s voice trailed off as she caught sight of Moira’s face.
“Let’s just ignore her and go,” Emmy said. She grinned at Moira, “Girlfriend, you don’t need her yanking your chain, am I right?”
“I heard that,” Moira agreed as she got to her feet. Thank God for real friends.
“Yo, Murphy,” Missy called out as she approached the table.
“Ignore her, ignore her, ignore her,” Tessa sing-songed quietly next to her as Claire silently positioned herself between Moira and the approaching Missy.
“Yo, Murphy,” Missy repeated again as she came to a stop. Since she was a full head taller than Claire she could clearly see Moira, despite the voluntary human shield. “My mother needs to know if you’re going to come to my grand-ma’s birthday party or not.”
That was so far away from the expected, that Moira could only ask, “Hunh?”
“Yeah, Ma didn’t get your RSVP.” Missy sounded like she was repeating something by rote, like her stupid brain was trying to remember her lines. “So I gotta let her know if she’s gonna pick you up or not.”
Moira and her friends exchanged confused glances. Considering that Missy and her clique hated the bunch of them, this had to be some kind of set-up for a humiliation.
Missy stood there staring into space like the stupid cow she was.
Moira slapped her forehead. “D’oh. I’m so stupid.”
“What? You’re not actually supposed to go, are you?” Jo asked.
“No. It’s just that I can’t,” Moira said with relief. “I’m, unh, grounded.” She turned a sticky-sweet smile on Missy. “So, see? I can’t go, that’s even if there really is a birthday party for your grandmother.”
Missy didn’t even answer. She just continued staring into space. It was kind of freaky to see.
“And what is up with this?” Tessa asked as she snapped her fingers in front of Missy’s face.
“Think she’s hypnotized? I bet she’s hypnotized,” Sal said.
Claire sighed the long-suffering sigh of the smart member of their group. “You can’t hypnotize someone to do something they wouldn’t do if they were fully awake. It doesn’t work like that.”
“So what do you think is wrong, o Brainiac?” Emmy asked as she crowded in to get a closer look at Zombie Missy.
“Maybe she’s on drugs?” Sal asked.
“Look at you. Hypnotism, now drugs,” Jo snarked. “Maybe she’s just playing us.”
“Occam’s Razor.” Claire nodded.
“Oakum’s wha?” Tessa asked.
Claire sighed her brainy sigh again. “The simplest explanation is usually the right one. Jo’s probably right.”
“Nice try, Missy,” Moira sing-songed as she made the international sign of toodle-doo with her fingers. “Had me going there for a second, but—”
Moira’s cell phone trilled with the ring she assigned to Mom. It was obviously Chris-related news, but she sure as heck wasn’t going to talk to Mom in front of Missy, even if Missy couldn’t hear Mom’s half of the conversation.
“Let’s go,” Moira said as she pulled her cell out of her pocket.
As she and her friends turned away from Missy in unison, Moira hit the talk button. “Hey Mom,” Moira answered with as normal a voice as she could manage.
“Ummmm, honey?” Mom sounded nervous. “Did Missy Ellington just invite you to a birthday party for her grandmother?”
Moira stopped cold and looked over her shoulder.
Missy was still standing in the same spot. She also still had that freaky stare, except this time she was staring at nothing.
“Honey? Moira?” Mom’s voice rose in a panicked volume.
“How did you know about Missy?” Moira asked.
There was a long pause. “So it is true.”
“Mom? What’s going on?” Moira asked.
“I need you to tell her that you’ll go,” Mom said in a rush.
“Wait. What? Why? We don’t even like each other,” Moira said.
Her friends exchanged confused glances before they turned their stares on her.
“Just do it. I’ll explain later,” Mom said.
“But—” Moira said.
“Just go with Mrs. Ellington after school, stay at the party, and when Mrs. Ellington offers to give you a ride home after dinner, just take it. Whatever you do, stay with them. Don’t try to leave earlier, and don’t leave on your own,” Mom said.
What Moira wanted to ask was, Oh, God. Did things go that badly with the FBI? Or with Chris? How deep is the suck going to get today?
But she didn’t dare say any of that, not while her friends were watching and listening.
“Moira?” Mom prompted.
“I’m here.” Moira’s brain scrambled to come up with a much shorter and more neutral version of what she really wanted to say. “Ummmm, can I ask why? I mean, what’s going on? Is it bad news?”
“I’m not entirely sure.” Mom sounded really nervous now. “I don’t think we’re in any immediate danger, if that’s what you’re asking.”
Moira couldn’t take it. “Is it—” she began.
“Chris?” Mom finished for her. “No. This is about something related. I think. I…I really don’t know how to explain this at all.”
“Could you try?” Moira desperately asked.
“Honey, please. Just trust me. I will explain when you get home.” Mom paused again before adding, “I’m not sure how I’ll explain, but I will. Please, Moira. I wouldn’t ask you to do this if it wasn’t important.”
“Yeah, okay. I’ll tell Missy that I’m coming,” Moira said.
“Good girl. I’ll talk to you as soon as you get home,” Mom said before she cut the connection.
“What was that about?” Tessa asked.
Moira blinked at her. “That was Mom telling me that I have to go to Missy’s stupid party, whether I want to or not.”
“Seriously?” Emmy asked in disbelief.
“Yeah, I don’t get it either,” Moira said as she turned back to Missy.
She was more than freaked to notice that Missy hadn’t moved a muscle or stopped staring into space since she and her friends had walked away.