Author: Anne Parnell

E-mail Address: anne@kayleyangel.com

Title: Pizza Crusts

Rating:   PG-13
Spoilers: None
Keywords: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Chronicles of the Wanderer

Summary: Fun with Alison and Ted…a collection of ficlets revolving around Romero’s Pizza and the staff within, also filling in a few gaps that have popped up and answering one question asked – this is otherwise known as the Pizza World’s Scooby Snacks  <G>

Any characters whose names and descriptions are used are the property of their original owners, and no copyright infringement is intended or meant.  No money can be made from this story.  It can be distributed freely so long as it is kept in its entirety, with all notices and copyright information intact.

The lyrics used are from Sarah McLachlan’s song ‘Angel’ and are used without permission of Sarah McLachlan or Nettwerk / Arista Records.

The mentioning of Hellmouth – New Beginnings and Calling Out The Clan are used with permission from Steve Pantovich, as are the character of Ted the Pizza Delivery Guy and Romero’s Pizza Place.  Steve can be contacted at Steve711@concentric.net
Shaw Hunter is used with permission from Tim Knight, as is the mentioning of Blast For The Past.  Tim can be contacted at doobytim@aol.com
The character of Alison Jarman belongs to me.  Anyone wanting to use her can e-mail me at anne@kayleyangel.com
Author's Thanks: To Steve for making such a great series and for creating some great characters and for allowing me to play with them <G>
To Tim, my comic adviser and editor… you’re not just a pretty face…<G>


Emergency Funds

Money, money, money… must be funny… in a rich man’s world
But getting back to reality…

Jarman household
Feb 3, 1998

"Dad, Alejandro! I’m home from school."  With that one yell, my afternoon ritual begins.  I come home and Alejandro gets me up to date with Dad’s behavior for the morning.  Dad of course denies everything, I laugh and help him into bed for a rest.  I wait for Alejandro to leave and then start my homework.

But today, things are looking differently.  Alejandro has already put Dad to bed.  He is sitting at the kitchen table waiting for me.  I don’t like the feeling I am getting about this situation.  Maybe I could pretend I have forgotten some work back at school… nah, it’s not believable with my character, but Alejandro is only a nurse who occasionally sees me, what would he know about my character?

"Alison, can we talk frankly?"

"What’s up Alejandro?  Did Dad have a turn?"  Yep, really not liking the feeling I am getting.

"No, no nothing like that.  Its just that, I don’t know how to tell you this… my center is in the process of raising its prices on day care."  Higher prices?  We’re barely able to afford him now, let alone with them upping the prices.

"H-how much higher are we talking?"

"It’s only an extra $10 a week for day care, but we also have a day and evening care for people who work longer hours which is about $20 more than you are paying currently."  I do a quick calculation on the prices, and none of them look extremely good with our current situation.  How can day care go up?  This is not what I need at the moment.  The money Mom gave me is for my books and everything.  Looks like I am back to square one with my education; that is, I think I have to drop out.

"When is this going to happen?"  Do I have time to think about what I will be doing?

"End of the month.  Alison, if you want, I can look into other centers that do a similar thing, see if there are any with cheaper rates?"  He’d look into the opposition for me?  Why the Hell would he do that?

"You’d do that for me?"

"Alison, sweetie… you are going through a rough time, there is no way that you could cope with looking after your father by yourself.  You are still, no offense, a child.  Someone who should be enjoying life, not stressing over her father."

"I know, but I just don’t know what I can do.  It won’t be too long before I use up all Dad’s savings on the simple necessities, let alone care."  I know that Dad had put money aside in a College Fund, maybe I can get him to let me have access to it now…

"Alison, have you ever thought about getting a part time job?  If you decide to go to day and evening care, then you could go to work in the afternoons while someone is still here."  A job?  Me?  A Working Girl?

"I hadn’t… no, but I don’t have any experience.  I don’t know squat about getting a job.  Do you think I could?"

"You are the smartest girl I have ever met.  I think you could.  If you need help with writing up a resume, let me know."

"Alejandro, why are you going to so much trouble for me?"  Sorry if you think I am too suspicious, but you never know what may be expected for receiving help.  Hell, you never know what is expected from you when you go to the movies with someone…

"My job is to help the patient and their family out.  To ease the demands placed on the family and to allow them to continue with their lives as smoothly as possible.  Helping you is doing my job.  You pay me to help you.  But now, I must go.  I have to move onto my next patient.  Think about what I have said, and I will see you tomorrow.  Chin up, you’ll find your way."

I stare blankly out the kitchen window.  Why can’t my life ever be simple?  I just want one day to go by without a constant stress.  Maybe I could appeal to Mom for more help?  But Rhys may not like her helping out her ex-husband, considering that Mom told him that she was giving me money for school and he still wasn’t very happy.  I think Alejandro is right; I need to get a job but where?

I head up to my room and decide to run the figures for myself.  I knew this day was going to come sooner or later, I just hoped it would be later.  Dad doesn’t know that I have a copy of the benefits check he gets sent, using that for our only source of income was running us dry, we needed something else, and Mom’s payments wouldn’t help us much either since they were too few and far in between… and they were for my education.  But what good is education when you don’t have any money for the essentials in life, like food?

*****

Espresso Pump
Next day

"Hi, my name’s Alison Jarman, I was wondering if I could speak to the manager?"  The teenager looks me over and grunts before heading out back.  I sit down to await the outcome.  A tall man walks over to me; he’s wearing a wrinkled suit and glasses.

"Miss Jarman? I am Jeffery Edgers, how can I help you?"  He looks me over slowly.

"Mr Edgers, I was wondering if there were any available positions to work part time?"  I hope I sound confident but the way he is looking at me makes me feel uneasy.  Hey!  I am not a piece of meat…

"Do you have any experience?" he asks snootily.  Yeah, because working in a coffee joint makes you just under the President in terms of importance.

"No sir, but I am quick to learn and …"

"Sorry, there is nothing available at the moment."  A sickening feeling rises in my stomach.

"Well thank you for your time."  I gather my possessions and walk out the door as professionally as I can make myself look. 

*****

Sun Cinema

"Hi, is it possible to speak to the manager?" I ask the gray haired woman sitting at the ticket counter.

"You’re speaking to her.  What can I do for you child?"

"I was wondering if there were any part time jobs available?"

"Sorry miss, but if your older sister wants a job, she needs to apply herself, not send someone else to apply."  My older sister?  What the…?

"Ma’am, this job is for myself."  She looks at me again.

"Sorry, we don’t employ children.  In fact why aren’t you in class?"  She turns her back to me and talks to the person next to her.  I blew off school for this?

*****

Jarman household
Several hours later

(A father always knows…)

My feet are killing me, I want a divorce from them!  I open the door and am greeted by the sight of my father sitting on the steps.

"Dad?  What’s wrong?  Where’s Alejandro?"

"I got a call from your principal earlier, hoping that you were feeling better… is there something that you want to tell me?" he sounds disappointed in me.  I don’t want to tell him what I’ve been doing but look what happened last time; he caught me in a lie because whom I said I was with was actually dead.  The fact it was my best friend didn’t help.

"Dad, Alejandro and I had a chat yesterday.  That reminds me, where is Alejandro?"

"He had to leave early and since I am up and about today, he thought that since it was only 10 minutes early he could go.  In fact, I told him to go.  Now, please don’t change the topic.  Continue…"

"As I said, we had a chat yesterday and he told me that the center’s prices were going up at the end of the month.  We are only scraping by as it is, when the prices go up we won’t be able to afford it.  I had a look over our finances last night Dad, and it scares me.  Dad, we can barely afford food each week."  He looks at me blankly.

"Dad, can we move to the kitchen?  I need to show you something."  He nods and heads into the kitchen.  I shut the door and follow him.

I wait for him to get comfortable before I pull out the bank statements and calculations that I worked out last night.  There were a number of figures in red ink, yep we were looking at owing the bank a lot of money.

"Dad, this column here is our last two weeks’ spending." I point at the column on the edge of the page, "and this one here is calculated on the cost of day care rising.  The third column is if we go for day and evening care and the last column is if we scrap all care."

"These are biweekly figures?" Dad looks over the columns grimly.  I’m glad he’s with it today.  I really needed his guidance with this matter.  Hey!  I may be smart but I am still a kid!

"Yep, the first column is the ‘control’ column if you like.  Its what I’ve based the figures for the rest of them on."

"Why can’t we just go for the last column then?"  He wanted me to give up school?  No way could I do that, I need school.  If I want to get anywhere in life I need an education, too much relies on it nowadays.

"Dad, the last column is based on me dropping out of school and taking care of you all day and in the long run, we still have the same problems.  Your benefits check is barely worth anything.  It only pays our grocery bill.  But we would have a few extra dollars because we wouldn’t need to buy supplies or pay fees."

"Ok, I understand all this but what does it have to do with you skipping school and me lying to your principal to cover for you?"  He lied for me?  I wasn’t going to be in trouble tomorrow.

"I spent today searching for a part time job.  We need an extra couple dollars a week, so I thought that this would be the way we could do it.  If we go with day and evening care, then I could work in the afternoon while someone was still here with you.  But for me to look for work, I needed to do it while someone was here.  So I skipped school."  I look at my hands, I don’t need Dad yelling at me.

"Baby girl, look at me."  I hesitate before lifting my head.  He’s smiling at me.  Why is Dad happy with me?

"Alison, I am proud of you.  You are acting so mature for your age.  Life keeps serving you lemons and you’re making lemonade with them.  Jessica left and you took care of me when I got out of the hospital.  Marisa died and instead of imposing on me, you sought help.  Yes, I know about you visiting a counselor, and considering what was going on in your life I know that I wouldn’t have been much help.  Just tell me one thing, was he protected when he did that to you?"  I look up in shock, how did he…?

"Daddy, what are you talking about?" I try playing naïve.

"Sweetheart, I know what that scum did to you.  I saw the phone bill with the help line numbers on it.  You could have told me.  Not only that honey; when you have guys climbing up to your window, make sure you close it again.  I leave mine open so I could clearly hear you two talking.  So, back to the original question, was he protected?"  I start crying, Dad knew… Dad really did know what was going on in my life.  I start crying from relief.

"He w-was protected Daddy.  I’ve shamed you h-haven’t I?  C-cause I didn’t report him…" I hear Dad moving around the table and next thing I know, his arms wrap round me.  I turn and bury my head in his arms, sobbing uncontrollably.  My dark secret was out.

"Shhh, sweetheart.  You’ve done your old man proud.  I was upset you didn’t report him but I understand that you were worried about me.  Your life has been extremely rough so far but we will manage, we Jarmans are strong people.  No matter what you decide I will back you.  I won’t report that scumbag, for your sake.  Now although I am not happy with you skipping school, it’s not like you aren’t keeping up, I’ll let it slide this time.  Are you going tell me about the jobs you went for?"  I sniff a couple of times to get back under control.  Dad wasn’t angry with me?  I am so grateful that he is so understanding.  I swear, I thought he was going to angry with me, or relapse from shock.  But he’s proud of me, I never expected that response.

"I just applied at different places, a lot of places wouldn’t take me cause I had no experience.  Then there was the manager at Sun Cinema who thought I was applying for my ‘sister’ and wouldn’t even look at me.  Why won’t anyone hire me?"  Why am I such a baby now days?  It doesn’t take much to set me off crying and I don’t like it.  Is it because I am now showing feelings again?  When Mom left I just shut myself off, but after Percy I can’t shut myself down again.

"Will you be looking over the next few days?"

"Tomorrow I have to be at school because of my Biology test, but on Friday I have a free period before I finish for the day, so I’ll go then.  I know you don’t want me to miss out on much more school, even if it is boring."  I’ve never seen my Dad smile at me as much as he has today.  I give him a kiss and head upstairs to do some studying.

*****

Romero’s Pizza
Feb 6, 1998
7:30pm

Job hunting sucks!  No matter where I went today I got nowhere.  In fact I’m thinking it may be easier for me to drop out of school than to find a job.  Tonight Dad informs me that he has a little spare cash in another bank account, which is considered his ‘emergency funds’ but tonight he is shouting for pizza.

When I called up to order, I was told there was a large delay on the delivery so I said I would go in to pick them up.  You would think that considering it is almost the weekend that they would have extra staff on.

I park the car and walk into Romero’s Pizza, this is the best pizza shop in town, affordable and they have extremely yummy pizzas.  There were four people standing in front of me, and only one older man doing two jobs, answering the phone and taking over the counter orders.  No wonder he sounded stressed!

The line slowly inches forward, but the older man’s missing a lot of calls.  Without stopping to think about it I head to the front of the line, reach over the counter and answer the phone.

"Romero’s Pizza, Alison speaking.  May I take your order?"  Everyone stops still, shocked into silence.  I motion for a pen and some paper and the older man hands them to me.

"Ok, that’s $24.90.  Is there anything else?  No, that’s cool.  What name did you want the order under?  Okay Ms. Anders.  We’ll see you in 20 minutes when you come to pick them up.  Thank you for ordering from Romero’s."  I hand the order to the older man behind the counter and step back into my spot in the line.

When I reach the front of the line, the older man smiles at me.

"Thanks, you handled that really well.  Have you ever worked in a pizza place before?"

"No, I’ve never worked anywhere."  He looks surprised.  What did I say wrong?

"My name’s Cesar, I’m the manager of Romero’s.  As you can tell, we’re kind of busy at the moment.  Could you come back tomorrow sometime in the morning?  I want to talk to you about something."

"Certainly Cesar.  I can do that."  Am I in trouble for taking that call?  I hope not.

"Now, what name was your order under?"

"Jarman."  He hands me the two pizzas I had ordered, Dad loves the barbequed meat lovers whereas I have to have a Hawaiian special (chicken instead of ham) and when I go to pay, he waves the money away.

"No miss, I can’t take it.  You deserved this, thank you for helping me out."  With a grateful smile, I head off and drive home for dinner with Dad.  The whole time thoughts of why I had to return to Cesar’s tomorrow… and none of them were too good to think about for long periods of time.  Hey, what can I say… paranoid much?  I mean I stepped over the usual customer boundary by answering his phone call… I pretended to be an employee when I was talking to the customer…

But he didn’t seem too unhappy with the issues; he did give me two free pizzas as well, maybe I won’t be in any trouble.  Gee I hope not, I don’t handle trouble very well, it kind of makes me feel sick!  Which is why I try to blend into the wallpaper more often than not.

*****

Romero’s Pizza
Feb 7, 1998

I walk into Romero’s and there is a young man sitting where Cesar had been last night.  I look around nervously and he smiles at me, he’s kind of cute and has a great smile.

"Are you Alison?"

"Yes that’s me."  His smile brightens as soon as I say it.

"Cool, I’m Ted, Cesar’s being his usual slow poke self and will be here shortly.  So how are you today?" he chatters cheerfully.  He seems easy going, laid back even and definitely friendly.

"I’m g-good, and yourself?"  I hope Cesar doesn’t take to long, I’m getting really nervous and when that happens, I start to stutter.

"Yeah pretty good, I heard what you did last night, thanks for that.  We’re usually not that bad, but we’re down a driver so it was pretty much only me and Cesar."  Did I hear his voice waiver when he mentioned the other driver?

"Alison Jarman, good to see you!" Cesar’s voice comes from behind me, making me jump slightly.

"Hi Cesar.  You wanted to see me?"  I watch him walk around to stand just in front of the counter.

"Alison, we’re in a bind.  I want to offer you a job, now it’s only Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights to begin with but working up to more shifts through the week.  Would you be interested?"  I can see Ted nodding his head enthusiastically behind Cesar.  He’s offering me a job?  Oh my Gawd this is so cool!

"Certainly Cesar what do I need to do?"  He smiles and holds out his hand.  I shake it and Ted stands up behind Cesar.

"Welcome to the insanity Ali, you may want to run away about now… Cesar is a slave driver," Ted cheekily grins at me and shakes my hand.  Good grip, nice hands, has a great voice… oh Gawd; I think I am falling here!  Get a grip on yourself girl, before you embarrass yourself.

"Ted, how many times have I told you not to make me look bad?"

"A few and I keep forgetting that you can make yourself look bad easier than I can."  I watch them joking with each other and it’s like they are good friends; I could quite happily work in an environment like this.

"Now Alison, I’m going to get you to come in early on Wednesday so we can start getting you organized before you begin on Thursday, is that alright?  You will be paid for it so don’t worry about that."  I can do this, no problems, especially if someone was helping me out to begin with.

"That’s fine, what time would you like me here?"  Do I sound too eager?  I hope not…

"Anytime after 4 would be good, if I’m not available I’m sure I can convince Ted to get you started.  Anyway we better get back to it and I’ll see you Wednesday.  Welcome aboard."

I say my goodbyes and head back home; I hope Dad is still asleep cause I shouldn’t have left him by himself.  I think I am going to need someone to come out on the weekends too if I am going to work.

*****

Jarman household
Same day

"Dad, I am so excited, I have a job."  I dance around the kitchen making a fool out of myself.  He stands up and hugs me before he mentions that he heard the elves speaking of my success.  Did Dad forget to take his medication again?

Okay, so I am kind of biased.  I can believe in vampires, demons and chaos mages but I can’t believe in elves and fairies or even sprites.  Does that make me a racist?  I hope not… I think of myself as a fairly open-minded person who holds nothing against anyone until they give me a reason, then it’s grudge city.  That reminds me; maybe I should have a talk to Willow and Xander about what happened that night with Jesse in the Bronze.  Nah, it’s still too painful to think of doing right at this moment in time.  One day I will, some time in the very distant future… maybe…

Right now I have to readjust my schedule, which also means changing the day care to day and evening care.  Oh, that reminds me, I have to find out about how much weekend watching will cost… probably expensive but if I end up working all week, it will come in very handy.

*****

After hanging up the phone from the care center I feel slightly upset.  Come Monday, Alejandro is leaving us.  Like what happened when we switched from half day to full day care, we changed nurses and now we are doing so again because Alejandro only works days.

Luckily, on Monday, Alejandro is going to show the new nurse the ropes with Dad.  Introduce them to the house and everything; let them know the best way to bribe my father I think that’s how Alejandro puts it.  Somehow I am a little concerned about how the new nurse is going to put up with Dad’s ‘wee folk’ rants… I hope he doesn’t think that Dad needs to be in a mental institute…

*****

Monday afternoon
Feb 9, 1998

I hurry home from school hoping to be in time to see Alejandro one last time.  It is also for one other reason, I feel more comfortable seeing Alejandro’s reactions to the new nurse and put a lot of weight in the comments about the nurse he makes.  The reason I do that is because the last time we changed nurses, the one we had was pathetic and Alejandro was able to criticize him about everything he did wrong and told us how it was supposed to have been done.  He let us know that where the other nurse was a complete waste of money, he would be worth his weight in gold… and he was.

I make it with about 10 minutes to spare.  The new nurse is a lot younger than Alejandro, which makes me kind of concerned as to how Dad will treat him.  Alejandro introduces him to me but I can’t remember his name, I’m still looking him over.

He’s about 5’9" with bright auburn hair, emerald green eyes and a massive smile.  He is solidly built but it looks to be more muscle than fat.  The thing I can’t get over is how pale he is; if it wasn’t daylight outside I would be worried!  He comes over and shakes my hand and I notice he has a very fine smattering of freckles across his high cheekbones.  He’s wearing a light tan, almost beige shirt with black pants, and the outfit really suits his colorings.  Standing next to Alejandro, this new nurse is his complete opposite in looks.

The way Alejandro is speaking, this nurse was chosen by him… Alejandro requested him because he is the best day and evening nurse around.  That gives me a bit more confidence in the guy, even if he is a little young.  But so far Dad seems quite taken with him.  I guess that makes him alright, as long as Dad is happy with him… that’s the main thing at the moment.

I walk Alejandro to the front step where I say goodbye to him and thank him for all the help he’s given me recently.  He smiles warmly, gives me a hug and wishes me well.  I watch him walk off before turning around to head back inside.  The new nurse has made me afternoon tea, a glass of milk and two cookies… what am I? A little kid?  I never have milk and cookies.

I pour myself a glass of water and grab a packet of chips before heading up to my bedroom to do my homework.  Before I even get halfway up the stairs I know that the nurse is not very happy with my movements but I am not changing them for anyone.  This is my household and that is the way it stays!  If I am earning money to have them here, then they will respect me, just because I am younger than most people who run the house does not mean that I should be treated any less than anyone else.  Okay, I know I am sounding defensive but its hard being a ‘responsible young adult’ while still being a kid!  But I make a resolution not to put Newbie through the ringer.  Instead I’ll let him see how I work things and give him the chance to catch up.

At least for the first week.

*****

Wednesday afternoon
Feb 11, 1998

I drop my bag off at home and do a quick session of homework before I shower and change.  After giving Dad a quick kiss, I rush off towards Romero’s Pizza Place.  I am so nervous about starting work but at least it’s more training tonight than proper work.

I park my car round the back and head inside.  At first I can’t see anyone around, so I patiently sit down at one of the tables that is set up and wait.  Well, it’s just after 4 and he did say that anytime after 4 would be okay.

After about 5 minutes Ted waltzes into the building.  He seems so confident with himself, I lost a lot of my confidence years ago…  He hasn’t noticed me yet and heads out the back off the joint, into the kitchen area.  He’s whistling some songless tune and banging things around out there.  I smile as I hear him heading back towards the front area.

"ARGH!!  How long have you been sitting there?" he yells.  I can’t help myself and burst out laughing.  I laugh so hard I have tears streaming down my face.  It’s been a very long time since I have had a good laugh and I needed to let the stress out of my system.  And hey, laughing is a good, non-violent way of doing that.  Finally I start to settle down and I raise my head to look at him but that only serves as something else to laugh myself silly over.  He looks so funny… fear, happiness, concern, and now annoyance flash across his expressive face.  Finally I stop laughing and wipe the tears away from my cheeks.  My cheeks are burning; I must be flushed bright red after that laughter.

"Sorry Ted, I don’t know what came over me," I quickly apologize.  The annoyance melts away from his face.  A small, cheeky grin replaces it.

"That’s cool, Alison… hey can I call you Ali?"  His eyes are pleading with me but there is a glimmer of laughter there as well.  He grabs a drink out of the fridge and takes a swig.

"Oh, I’m being rude, do you want a drink?  We’re allowed a couple of drinks a night but we aren’t to go overboard… kind of like the honor system," I must have looked confused because he continued to explain, "Cesar doesn’t pay us overly much but he DOES look after us.  If we are hungry, we get fed.  Thirsty, same deal.  He pays a certain amount towards our gasoline costs on top of our usual pay and of course, if one person needs more money one week, he’ll always go to that person first.  He’s a nice guy, understanding and shit.  You have a problem with anything you can always talk to him.  Plus most of the times he acts just like one of us, so it’s always a comfortable atmosphere around here… and I’m becoming a babbling idiot aren’t I?"

"No not at all, you were answering all my questions before I could ask them," I try to make him feel better.  I can’t help it; he looks so damn cute!

*****

Ted and I continue to talk for a while longer, with Ted intermittedly taking a few calls and making a few pizzas, which were being picked up.  He gets me to follow him around while he’s making them just so I get the hang of the layout of the kitchen and everything.

Cesar comes into the kitchen just as Ted is showing me how to box up a pizza.  Neither of us notices him at first, mainly because of the way we are positioned.  Ted’s resting his chin on my head, his chest against my back and his arms round just under mine, so he can still box them up.

"Ahem!"  Both of us jump, Ted recovers first and turns to greet our boss.  I blush ferociously and duck my head.  Why am I acting so guilty over nothing?  I’m not like that…

"Hi Cesar, I was just showing Alison around the place.  Started training her with a few bits and pieces before you got here."  I look up at Cesar and he looks suspiciously at the two of us but I guess he decides to let the matter drop since he changes the topic.

"Alison, tonight I just want you on front desk while Ted delivers.  It’s usually not that busy a night, so it will be a nice way for you to get used to the types of customers we get, the pizzas we offer, and the costs for different things.  I’ll be in the kitchen if you need help.  Is that alright with you Alison?" Cesar instructs me and it seems all right, not too difficult.

"And you, Ted, can help out whenever you are not on the road.  Answer any questions she may have if you are not too busy out here with me.  But firstly Ted, since you were so enthusiastically teaching Alison earlier, you can run her through our price lists and menu."  Cesar chuckles evilly when he hears Ted groan at the end.  Both of us start heading out to the front room.

"Oh and one more thing Ted," Cesar shouts out, "stop flirting with your co-worker!"  Ted blushes and quickly ducks his head away from my sight, which in itself is a mean feat to pull since being shorter than most, it’s easier to see their faces.

*****

The night quickly rushes by.  I think I may have impressed Cesar with how quickly I could memorize the lists he had Ted run me through.  I didn’t tell him I have an almost perfect memory, since it’s hard to explain why it isn’t up to full scratch…

Before too long, we are closing up the store.  Cesar has Ted show me how to run off the till and where to input the night’s total into the books.  Ted also shows me where the safe is, to place the money after we check it against the till balance.

Afterwards, we help stack the chairs onto the tables before Cesar starts sweeping the floor.  Ted disappears out back and I can hear him banging away again.  Cesar starts to sing a song I have never heard before, and the next thing I know I hear Ted’s voice join in.

I walk out to the kitchen and see Ted making a Hawaiian special pizza and a barbeque meat lover’s pizza.  I look at him but when he notices me watching him, he just winks.  That is beginning to irritate me; he’s done that so many times to me tonight, and usually when he is pulling a fast one.

Before long, he’s pulled them out of the oven and boxed them up.  He hands both over to me and smiles.

"I know this is your regular order and since you haven’t eaten all night, I gather you would be starving and probably not wanting to cook for whoever it is waiting for you at home."

"Thanks Ted, I-I don’t know what to say except… How did you know it is my regular order?"

"I’ve taken your order on a regular basis and it’s always the same.  You never hesitate when you order.  So obviously…" he tapers off with a sheepish grin.

"Anyways, I better head home, that is if there is nothing else to do here?  Thanks for that Ted, and for everything tonight.  You were a big help with everything."

With that Cesar walked into the room and nods at the pizza in my hands.

"Good work Ted, this girl is all skin and bones, have to fatten her up some way," he says making me blush again. "Anyways Alison, you are free to go.  If you can be here by 6 tomorrow night?  You can be, excellent.  By the way, pay goes into your bank account on Tuesday night for use on Wednesday.  Have a safe trip home Alison."

I head home with dinner on the front passenger seat and I smile.  This job is making me smile a lot.  Things are looking up for Dad and me; maybe we can survive this together…

*****

Wednesday morning
Feb 18, 1998

On the way to school, I stop off at my local ATM and grab a copy of my balance.  A nice healthy figure stared back at me.  I place it in my wallet and then continue on my way to school with a bounce in my step.

Yep, we were going to survive this…


This ficlet is based towards the end of Calling Out The Clan and was suggested by both Steve and Tim… Thanks guys!

Romero’s Induction

New kid?  Throw them into the deep end and see if they sink or swim

Romero’s Pizza

I am so bored.  Nothing is going on at work except Ted’s making an ass out of himself with a pretty customer.  He is so good at flirting, why can’t he do that to me?  I know I know; I’m his co-worker, never going to happen!  Doesn’t mean I can’t dream about it, does it?  And seriously who wouldn’t?  He towers over me but he doesn’t try to use it to intimidate me, cause hey, he could really intimidate me considering how short I am.

A ringing phone interrupts my thoughts, leaning over the counter I go to answer it, but Ted beats me to it.

"Welcome to Romero’s Pizza, can I take your order?"  He rolls his eyes at me, just how long has he been working here?  Not long enough to grow a proper beard that’s for sure, I am so tempted to attack him one day with a razor.  Nah, I’d have to jump to do that, and I could end up slashing his face.

"Captain Randall, can you repeat just how many you are after?  Was that 18 or 80?"  Captain Randall?  Who the hell is that?  And who orders 80 pizzas?  Even 18 is way too many… this has to be Ted’s idea of a joke!

"Cesar, 80 pizzas.  Thanks.  I need ‘em quick.  Doesn't matter what the toppings are, do a couple of everything.  Come on Ali, let’s go help the boss man."  He grabs my hand and pulls me into the kitchen.  I’ve never made a pizza before so this could be interesting, to say the least.  Well don’t blame me, I started off answering phones then started delivering.  I’ve never had kitchen duty before.

Ted quickly shows me what I have to do; we’re working in a line and each has a different job to do.  Cesar is making the dough, Ted is smothering it with sauce and adds the toppings, I finish by adding the cheese on top and then I put them in the oven.  Then once the pizzas are cooked, Cesar cuts them and Ted boxes them up.  Thank Gawd for the hot storing area.

Slowly we work through them all, and I finally notice that Ted is scrawling something on each box.  I peer round his arm and see that he is a pretty smart guy, considering he is labelling everything for later.  But still, who orders 80 pizzas at once?  And who the hell is going to deliver them?

"Ted, Ali, bring your cars closer to the door, I’ll help you load them up.  Both of you will be going to deliver them."  Heading out the door Ted starts grinning madly.

"Ted, who the hell is ordering all these pizzas?"  He winks at me but avoids answering my question by hopping into his car.

*****

With Cesar’s help we make it out on the road fairly fast, all I know is that I have to go to the Sunnydale Motor Lodge.  Ted won’t tell me any more than the name of whom we need to ask for when we get there, Steve Something or Other...

Approaching the Motor Lodge, I notice there seems to be an awful lot of policemen hanging around.  I am going to kill Ted for making me go in first.  I will kill him… I slow down as I approach and wait for Ted to come and save the day.  As if he could!

"I'm sorry Miss, but there has been an accident up ahead, you’ll need to go another way."  What?  Hang on one frigging moment; I can’t get through yet I have forty hot-soon-to-be-lukewarm pizzas in my car!!!

"Did someone at the Motor Lodge order pizza?"  I hesitatingly ask as Ted pulls up beside me.

"Sir, we have 80 pizzas for Steve St. Wolf’s party.  We were told by a Captain John Randall to bring them here for the ‘thank you’ celebration."  The policeman waves us through.

Ted parks out the front of the office and I pull up next to him.  Looking around I notice Cordelia, Oz, and Buffy milling around.  I had seen Xander for a split second but he disappeared into the crowd.  The guy standing next to Buffy breaks off from the group and heads in our direction.

"Ted, what the bloody hell are you dragging me into this time?" I whisper through clenched teeth, Ted just smiles as usual.  That smile is getting really irritating at the moment.

"Ted, you keeping well?  I take it that the LAPD ordered from you?" he asks as he approaches us, looking warily at me.  Not that he would have to be that careful, considering that it looks like what I imagine an armed camp would.  Who the hell are all these people and where did they come from?

"Yep, sure thing.  And I’m fine, Steve.  By the way I want you to meet Alison, she’s taken over for the other driver I told you about.  Alison, this is Steve St Wolf."  This guy looks familiar for some reason, I know him from somewhere…

"Hi Alison, it’s nice meeting you.   Listen, I need you to keep quiet about what you see in here okay?"  I see Buffy walking up to us.

"Hey Alison since when have you been working with Ted?" she greets me nicely, even though I never really spoke to her much.  I was always too busy listening in to what was happening on the Hellmouth to have actually spoken to her.

"Not very long, a couple of months now but still getting the hang of things.  Hey Buffy, can I ask how you are involved in all of this?"  I watch Buffy looking at Steve and it clicks; now I know where I know him.

"Oh, hang on I know how.  Steve, you’re Buffy’s new boyfriend aren’t you?  I saw you at the Bronze with the guy who looks like Hercules.  That night after Cordelia kissed Xander in public, I think.  The day before Xander made a fool of the football team wasn’t it Buffy?"  I watch Steve’s eyebrows rise ever so slightly.  Buffy looks at me strangely and Ted just smiles at me.

"What?  I kind of have a photographic memory, well that’s when I want to have one really, and I am observant.  But I am right aren’t I?"  I look around again and see something that I can’t really believe that I am seeing.

"Yeah you’re…"

"Is that a living gargoyle?" I interrupt, pointing to something moving around talking to people.  I watch Ted’s mouth drop as soon as he sees it.  Ah, I understand what’s happening here, Ted was certain I would flip out over some of the people here, and yet he’s the one who can’t believe it.

"Yeah, that’s Grif, he’s one of our guy’s companion.  You don’t seem very shocked by all this…" Buffy begins surprised at how well I am taking this.  Ted’s reaction is more to the standard ‘Oh My God’ type.

"Well, duh!  If there are vampires and demons out there, why can't there be gargoyles?  But truthfully… I read a few articles on the clan in New York City saving people.  And is that the Blue Berets?" I ask suddenly changing the direction of the conversation.

"How do you know about them Alison?" Steve asks me cautiously.

"I read a magazine that’s full of conspiracies and things, they did an article on the Blue Berets one day."  Steve seems kind of shocked by my flippancy towards everything.  I love my poker face and if it has shocked Mr. Steve St. Wolf, I guess I am doing well; he looks like the ultimate in straight faces.  I wonder how old he is… he seems a lot older than what he looks but then again why would he be dating someone as young as Buffy if he was older?  Oh Gawd my head is beginning to hurt.

"Ted, are you okay?  You look kind of pale…" Buffy asks suddenly.  Damn it, he really does look kind of pale.  I guess he was expecting the usual group of people and not the turnout that is here in front of us.

"Steve, some day you are going to have to tell me where you get all these guys from… so far you’ve told me you’ve got access to vampire hunters, magicians, ninjas and aliens.  Now I find out you have access to gargoyles and everything else.  You seriously have to invite me to one of these parties one day."  Steve smiles at him and laughs gently.

"Ted, I’ll tell you what.  You can hang around for a little while with Alison, but please don’t ask too many questions.  Now if you’ll excuse me I have to thank a certain policeman for the pizzas…" With that Steve walks off towards Captain Randall.

"Hey Alison, someday soon you, me, and the others should have a big talk.  We have a lot to cover with you.  But I am going to chase after my boyfriend now…" Buffy heads off after Steve.

"Ted, did you say alien before?" I ask suddenly.

"Yeah, the other night when you were making another delivery I made one to Steve’s house.  I made some comment and he answered my comment with something along the lines of ‘just your average vampire hunters, magicians, ninjas and aliens,’ I didn’t believe him at first.  I mean vampire hunters, yeah because this town needs them, but the others I didn’t.  Yet now I see a living gargoyle and you have to wonder if it is so difficult believing in aliens, but there is no way that there would be one around.  This isn’t Trek Wars…"

I shake my head; these guys are incredible.  Buffy and the others blend in like they belong with the other forces.  I guess Buffy has to be able to, considering she would be among some of the more deadly people in the group.  Not because she has killed so many, ‘cause I don’t think she has killed a human, but because of the strength and ability that a Slayer has.  Is this why Xander could kick the football team’s collective asses?

*****

Ted and I mingle around the edge of the group, not straying far from each other because there aren’t many people that we knew.  Every now and then someone says hi to us, but otherwise they are busy talking in little groups.  Man, this has to be a field day for my snooping… I could find out so many secrets!  But I won’t really snoop today, it just doesn’t seem right.

Listening in though to one conversation I discover that there is a second Slayer out there, who is currently in the hospital after she helped a group of policemen out of danger.  But I thought that there could be only one?  Oh well, when we have our chat I’ll ask Buffy about it.

I notice that majority of women are heading over to one room.  Curiosity kicking in, I start drifting over that way too and I can sense Ted not far behind me.  Covering my ass, are you Teddy boy? Too much to hope he’s checking it out instead…

A lone male walks out of one of the rooms and a collective giggle escapes the crowd.  The guy doesn’t seem to be what I would classify as handsome; he’s just shy of 6 foot, kind of built like a weightlifter.  But there isn’t anything there to start giggling over.

The women around me shout, "Take it off."  They hired a stripper?  Why would you hire a stripper in an armed camp?  I watch the man start scratching and I begin to understand.  It’s not a stripper but a practical joke; someone hit the poor guy with itching powder...  I wonder if Xander has anything to do with this?

Catcalls sound out, as his shirt is ripped open.  His arms flex as he moves and the muscles ripple along his chest.  The roar around me is almost deafening, man I have to be stuck in the horniest group of women around!  He’s moving down the stairs and as he reaches the first landing, he rids himself of his pants.

Again the woman shout, "Take it ALL off. Take it ALL off."  The poor guy!  Having to put up with this shit from the crowd.  I wonder how many people know what is really going on?

As he runs down the last of the stairs and heads for the pool, I catch a glimpse at the scars on his body.  It’s a complete mess of them.  There is one straight down the middle of his chest, running the whole length of said chest.  There is another scar on his jaw and countless over the rest of his body. 

But my eyes keep going back to that scar on his chest.  How could anyone survive a cut like that?  Just looking at it is making me queasy.  I’m feeling kind of light headed… Why are there black spots in front of my eyes?

*****

I blink a couple of times to clear my sight and discover I am on the ground and someone, no not someone, Ted is holding my head above the ground.  Why am I on the ground?  And why is Ted holding my head?  What the bloody Hell is going on here?

"Welcome back Ali…" Ted begins gently.  Welcome back?  Huh?  I didn’t go anywhere.

"What happened?" I ask shakily.

"Well, while you were perving on the guy stripping before you fainted as he ran past.  You didn’t even see the conclusion of the act."

"I fainted?  I never faint!  I wouldn’t even know how to faint…" I argue.  Ted laughs and helps me to stand up again.  His hands linger slightly as he brushes the hair out of my face.

"For a first timer, you certainly did a good job.  Buffy just ran off to get the doctor that this group has."

"Oh no," I mumble.  How embarrassing is this?  Ted and the others will never let me live this down…  I accept everything supernatural that’s thrown at me but faint at the simple sight of a scar on someone’s chest.

Buffy is weaving her way through the crowd and a small red head is close behind, when I say small she’s actually taller than me… I’m going by Ted’s height…

When they finally reach us, the red head is all business.  She checks me over thoroughly and pronounces me fit and healthy.  Best free check up I’ve ever had.  Wish she could check out Dad too…

"So, do you think there was any reason why she fainted, Doc?" Ted asks, concerned as Buffy drifts back into the crowd.

"Health wise no, and please both of you call me Dana.  Buffy tells me Alison fainted during Casey’s strip show.  Was there something about him stripping that made you feel sick?" Dana gently questions me.  I nod my head but I can’t talk about it.  My mouth suddenly feels dry and my stomach is beginning to churn again.  I must have moved suddenly because Ted’s arms are gripping me again, holding me close.

"Come on Alison, let’s find a seat for you.  Can’t have my patients fainting on me all the time, makes me look bad," she jokes.  She leads the way over to a seat and Ted picks me up and carries me in his arms.  I like this; I wonder if I can faint more often?  If he is going to give me this much attention, maybe I will have to work it out somehow.

"You two weren’t in the group fighting were you?" Dana asks suddenly.  When I don’t speak up, Ted answers for us.

"No ma’am.  We got a call to deliver 80 pizzas from a Captain Randall.  I’ve met Steve a few times and Alison goes to school with Buffy and a couple of others, so Steve allowed us to hang around for a while once we dropped them off here; that is as long as we don’t ask too many questions."

A few people come over and ask Dana how I am.  Why do so many people I don’t know care about me?  I decide to ask Dana about it and am surprised by the answer she gives.

"All these people help to fight to save innocent lives from things supernatural, yet when it comes down to the mundane things we begin to worry about our own mortality.  And also, because if you and Ted disappear on us, who will deliver our pizzas…" she quips.  It makes me feel better about why I fainted and I decide to ‘fess up about it.

"I know why I fainted back there…" Ted shoots me a concerned look and Dana looks at me encouragingly, "it was the scars on his body.  The big one down his chest mainly… was it done by someone human, or by one of the supernatural things you guys fight?  I took it to be a human and the thought that someone human could willing cut someone else that badly makes me sick.  Mom had an accident one day and ended up with a scar, not a big one, but anytime I see it I feel sick."

"So it wasn’t because of how muscular the guy was?" Ted asks me.  Is that jealously that I hear in his voice?  Nah, I must be imaging it.  Why would Ted care if I thought someone was muscular?

"No, it was the scars… they creep me out."  I shiver just thinking about it.  Just then Buffy and a man with black hair, a well-trimmed goatee, and who stood approximately 6 foot approach us.  He smiles warmly towards us and greets Dana, speaking with extremely good English.  I’m talking the accent and everything.

"Ali, Ted I would like you to meet Arthur…" Buffy starts and we smile back but show no recognition towards the man we are seeing for the first time, "Arthur Pendragon."  Still nothing, why do they look at us as if they are expecting the ball to drop?

"Does King Arthur and Excalibur ring any bells?"

"I thought he was a redhead?  That’s how they’ve described him in all the books…" I start, not believing what I just heard.

"Damn, I was about to say ‘isn’t Excalibur a casino?’  You had to beat me didn’t you, Ali?" Ted says, slightly put off.

"Trust you to know about the different casinos Ted…" I start sarcastically.

"I have family in Las Vegas…" he interrupts defensively.

"Oh, is that what you call the ‘Showgirls’ now days?"  I respond before turning to Arthur, "You do know that the RennFaire’s about three hours from here, don’t you?"

"Alison, this is the real King Arthur," Dana softly inputs.  I glance a look at Ted before blacking out again.

"What is it with these two?  They can accept vampires but tell ‘em that Arthur is back and both of them faint…" Buffy mumbles. "Sorry about that Arthur, I would have thought that at least Ali would be able to handle the shock since she handled seeing Grif so well."

"It is all right, Lady Buffy.  I will depart so I do not cause them any more distress.  If you will excuse me Lady Dana, Lady Buffy."

*****

Oh God not again, why do I keep finding myself on the ground?  A moan comes from beside me and I turn my head to see that of Ted lying next to me.  Oh well, at least I’m not alone in my embarrassment this time.

"You awake yet, Ali?" I hear Buffy’s voice floating from somewhere above me.

"What happened?" I ask even though I dread the answer.

"Both you and Ted fainted.  You know about vampires but you faint over a simple person… what’s with that?"  A simple person?  She calls King Arthur a simple person?  Is she nuts?  Or am I?  Both Ted and I stand up again and I am on the defensive.  This is just too much…

"Okay!  Vampires, demons, the Hellmouth, even gargoyles I can deal with.  But the old fart King of England is where I draw the line!  Next thing you'll be telling me that Dungeons and Dragons or Star Trek are real!  Come on Ted, we’re out of here."

Dragging Ted behind me, I storm off to our cars, not hearing what Buffy or Steve are saying.

"Think we should..." Buffy begins, when Steve’s arms wrap round her.

"Tell her about Quinn?  No way," he finishes off, before adding, "at least not without the camera rolling."

"Well, if she’s hanging with the Slayerettes, she’s got to be initiated…" Buffy trails off before kissing Steve.

"I’ve got to keep you and Mulder apart… his sense of humor seems to be rubbing off on you," Dana interrupts them before they start laughing at the possibilities of what could happen.

*****

We hop into our cars and head back to Romero’s.  When we arrive Romero is looking worried but not frantic by the door.  After parking the cars, we walk toward the shop on shaky legs.  There is no way I am telling Cesar about ANYTHING that happened today.  And somehow I don’t think that Ted will either… especially not about him fainting.

"Are you two alright?  You seem kind of pale…" he says as he begins to mother us.

"We’re fine, Cesar," I begin, looking to Ted for support.

"It’s just that we were almost in an accident," Ted finishes.  He’s good; he’s really good.  A natural in the lying scene, fluent, not forced, acceptable to normal people.  Better than what I would have come up with.

Cesar shepherds us toward a table and grabs a drink for both of us.  We sit down and silently sip our drinks until Cesar heads into the kitchen.

"What the hell did we see back there?" I whisper.

"Do you want the speech I have rehearsed, or the truth?" Ted whispers back.  Wow!  I never noticed how husky his voice really is.  Mind out of gutter, Alison!

"Which one won’t make me faint again?"  With that I sigh; today has taken so much out of me.  I close my eyes again and my mind flashes back different scenes of what happened in the Motor Lodge.  I jump when I feel something touching my arm lightly.

"Ali, Alison… are you still with me?"  I can hear Ted’s voice but it’s like a dream.  It’s so far away, like we are miles away from each other.  Someone is shaking my arm now, gently but persistent.

I open my eyes and Ted is standing next to me, looking extremely concerned.

"Are you okay?  I was worried about you…" Why is Ted always worried about me?  It’s not like we are going out or anything.  We are only co-workers, although I wish it was something more, but Ted’s good-looking so he has to have a girlfriend… or boyfriend, since it is the nineties…

"I’m fine Ted, I must have just dozed off," I answer defensively.  I am so not used to someone caring about me, unless it was my Dad or Jesse.  I feel tears coming to my eyes just thinking about him.

I stand up and race out the door and jump into my car, locking the door.  I start bawling my eyes out.  Why Jesse?  Why couldn’t Steve St. Wolf be here in time to save Jesse?  Or any of those fighters that were there today, why couldn’t they save him?  Why didn’t Xander or Willow tell me about what happened?  Why did I have to lose him?  My best friend and I lost him… Jesse, Marisa, Wendy… when is it enough?  Even Mom and Dad are gone in a way from me…  WHY ME?  This isn’t fair!!!

*****

After I stop crying, I decide to head home.  Ted’s standing at my car door but I don’t really want to talk to anyone just yet.  Instead I open my window slightly and tell him I am heading home and to tell Cesar that I am not feeling well.  He asks if I am all right to drive and I promise I will be extremely careful.  I back out to stop any more questions coming up.

I drive slowly through the town, and before I know it I am in front of Willow’s house.  I sit there for a while; just thinking about everything that has gone on in this town for decades.  For so long, odd things have happened in this town and no one has paid much attention to it.  Yet along comes Buffy and Steve and it’s like nothing has ever happened.

There are fewer vampires around, people are coming back out at night, and the death rate has rapidly dropped.  But what is so special about them?  Yeah, Buffy is the Vampire Slayer but when she first turned up it wasn’t like she made that much of an impact.  Yeah, she adverted a few Apocalypses but the streets were still dangerous.  But this St Wolf guy is a scary guy all by himself.  If I hadn’t met him with Buffy around I would have probably pissed my pants.  Why do people come from all over the place just for him?  I know that’s what happened, because I heard people talking about in the car park earlier.

Whenever I feel like I have the questions answered, I get a whole heap more to replace them.  And why did I suddenly break down, thinking about Jesse?  I got over it a long time ago, or so I thought.  I think its definitely time to talk to Willow and Xander.


This is in answer to a question asked on the karrollcom mailing list.  I know what a lot of people expect to happen but I prefer to do it the other way…

Girl Talk, Hellmouth Style

Ever Wonder What Girls Talk About On The Mouth Of Hell?
Sure Ain't Shopping!
 Ali learns a lesson in life and friendship

Sunnydale High School
July 20, 1998

I am so tired these days; the nightmares have come back.  I keep seeing the night Jesse died from the stake over and over in my head.  I watch Mom walk out on Dad and me… I watch Dad turn catatonic.  I see Percy’s face from that night, I watch him raping me and I can’t stop it. 

I am going so crazy here.  I am making mistakes at work and Ted keeps covering for me.  I don’t think Cesar has picked up on my situation yet.  Ted’s pretty good with the covering, always making sure that I am taking the calls, doing the easier work.  It’s not fair for him though.  I am going to have to face my fears…  I’m going to have to talk to Willow and Xander.

I am running early for school today, hoping to catch them in the library.  Imagine my surprise when I see Buffy waiting for me by the main entrance.

"Hey Ali, you ok?" she greets me as I walk by her.

"Yeah, kind of…" I answer, walking with her next to me.  We make an interesting pair I reckon.  She’s all of maybe two inches taller than me, but she’s wearing pretty cool clothes compared to my ratty old gear.

"Can I talk to you in private?  Maybe in the library?" she asks as we walk.

"Sure, why not…?"  Together, we silently walk the rest of the way and enter the library.  I notice that Mr Giles isn’t around, but Ms Calendar, Xander and Willow are sitting round the table.  Cordelia is nowhere to be seen; I kind of expected that.  She doesn’t hang around the library unless she has to.  Or if Xander’s with her.

"Pull up a chair Ali, make yourself comfy…" Willow smiles at me.  Xander nods and starts eating a packet of Ho-Hos.  Ms Calendar just watches what is happening around her but doesn’t speak up.  Why would Ms Calendar be hanging out with these teenagers?

"Hey guys, what’s happening?" I try to sound happy and awake, but I know I am failing miserably.  Even I can pick up the tinge of resentment in my voice, I hope it isn’t that obvious to them.

"Xander, are you going to share them?  Or are you going to be a pig?" Willow asks.  He mutters something back with his mouth full.

"A pig," Buffy and Willow deduce.  Then they all turn their attention to me.  Why do I feel like I am in the interrogation scene from True Lies, where it’s people I know doing the questioning?

"Alison, can we talk about what you saw the other day?  We really do need to talk about it, and I know it was hard for you to be dragged into that party, but I can fill in the gaps if you let me…"

"Sure Buffy if you can… can I just ask a question?"  I watch them, knowing at least one of them will drop their jaw…

"Go ahead, what is it?"

"Xander, why did you kill Jesse?  And how long before you killed him did you know he was a vampire?" I ask with tightly controlled anger.  Bang, bang, bang, bang… I did better than expected; all four of them are shocked!

"What are you talking about Ali?  I didn’t kill Jesse… he was already a vampire," Xander retorts in a whisper.  He sounds really upset about it.  Maybe it wasn’t just me who mourned his death…

"How long had he been a vampire for?"

"As far as we know, he was turned that day.  Why are you asking this Ali?" Willow helps Xander out.

"Why didn’t you tell me?  Jesse meant so much to me and you never told me that he was missing or that he was turned.  Then I had to watch Xander stake him!  I watched Xander kill his best friend; my best friend and I felt betrayed.  I couldn’t believe what I saw and it didn’t seem to upset either of you," I rant with tears following down my face.  "If you had just told me what was going on then and there, maybe I could have helped, but no!  You said nothing.  I taught myself everything I know about vampires and sure I’m not as smart as Willow, but I take it at that stage you could have used an extra pair of hands.  If I am able to teach myself off a computer then certainly I could have helped."

"Umm, guys… I am kind of lost here…" Buffy speaks up, interrupting my rant.  Ms Calendar nods her head in agreement.

"Ali and Jesse were really close, he was helping her through some difficult times…" Willow begins and I can’t stand how she phrases it.

"Jeez Willow, how politically correct are you?  Why does everyone side step what happened?  Buffy, Ms Calendar, do you know much about me?"

"Not really, just what I’ve seen of you… you’re smart, pretty, almost unflappable… a bit of a loner…" Buffy answers.

"Buffy, until a few years ago I was a lot like Harmony.  I was conceited, concerned too much about looks than anything else.  God, all I cared about was looking good for the opposite sex."

"So was I…" That stops me; Buffy was like that too?

"Why did you change Buffy?"

"The Slayer role, I gather you know about what that is?" I nod.  Buffy continues, "I tried doing both there for a while and it just didn’t work.  God, even when I came here I wasn’t going to slay vampires.  I said I was retired because I didn’t want to go through what I did at Hemery."

"The fire…" I whisper.

"Yeah, pretty big news that.  Jeez, you burn down one gym to rid the school of vampires and you’re the bad guy in the minds of the school committees.  Then they found the dead body in the locker on my first day here.  I hadn’t expected vampires to be here, imagine my surprise when I found out the truth.  But it got drilled into me really quick that I was needed.  It was actually that Jesse incident that made me realize what I was doing.  That night that Jesse went missing, I had managed to save Willow and Xander but while I was doing that, the vampires had grabbed Jesse."

"Still doesn’t explain why Willow and Xander never told me about Jesse…"

"Until that night in the Bronze, did you know about vampires?" Buffy gently asks.

"No, it wasn’t until I was at home and going over everything that I really put two and two together…"

"And once you did, did you tell anyone about it?" Ms Calendar asks.  Do they all know what is happening here?  Why are they asking me these questions?

"Yeah right, who would believe… me.  Oh, I can kind of see now."  Xander and Willow were talking about it in the hallway before that night and I didn’t believe what I was hearing from the two of them.  No wonder they didn’t tell me, but still…

"Ali, we were shocked by what we had found out.  I mean, one moment it was ‘pop quiz’ and next we were talking about vampires and everything.  We were barely coping and if it hadn’t been for Buffy, none of us would be around now.  Sure, it was hard for you to find out about Jesse the way you did, but if Xander hadn’t have staked him, Jesse would have killed you," Willow explains.

"Jesse would never have killed me," I stubbornly argue, "hell, that night in the Bronze he never even paid me any attention when I said hello to him."  They look at each other, silently communicating.

"You approached Jesse in the Bronze?" Xander asks finally.

"Well, yeah.  I didn’t know he was a vampire, I didn’t even know about vampires at that point.  So when I saw him, I went over to him because I hadn’t seen him all day and I was worried about him.  I was confused over everything that was going on, and he ignored me… then I see Xander staking him.  What was I supposed to think?"

"Oh Goddess, I forgot that you would go to him if you saw him.  Ali, if we weren’t so shocked by what we heard, we would have told you.  I know it doesn’t mean anything at the moment, but we didn’t mean to upset you by it.  Why has it taken you so long to talk to us about it?"

"That’s another thing, why do you keep saying ‘Goddess’?  All of a sudden from Cordelia, Amy, and you, its always Goddess this and Goddess that…" I try to evade the question Willow asked me.  I just don’t feel like telling them why I didn’t say anything sooner, mainly because I don’t know why.

"Ummm, that’s something that will be covered in a little while.  Buffy wants to take you through a few things first," Willow answers.

"Fine, go ahead Buffy.  We’ve got class soon."

"Okay, well I will keep this simple… ‘cause it’s a Hell of a lot of information to take in.  Firstly, what you saw yesterday was Section Seven winding down after doing a series of vampire nest raids."

"Section Seven?"

"Yeah, a Covert Operations group… don’t worry, we are the good guys…" Xander answers.

"Oh yeah cause that’s the song isn’t it… ‘Good guys dress in black, remember that…’ Give me a break…"

"Seriously Ali, Section Seven is a group of all different government agencies teaming up together.  Dana who looked after you when you fainted…"

"ALI FAINTED!?" screamed Xander and Willow in unison.

"Thanks Buffy, rub it in… yeah, I fainted… twice.  Get over it."

"Anyways, Dana is a member of the FBI.  Her partner, who is her husband was also there.  You saw the Blue Berets, Grif, Arthur, and the LAPD.  Other people there included top-secret agencies, which I can’t tell you about unless Steve gives me the all clear.  But one thing that binds us all together is that we know what is out there and we are sick and tired of innocents dying.  Could you have imagined if Sunnydale had these forces years ago?  Man, how many years did you guys have to bury friends?  How many disappeared?"

"If it is so top secret why are you telling me about it?"

"Because like you said, you know what’s out there, you’re smart, and you seem to be able to handle most surprises thrown at you.  We could really use an extra hand in researching… most of our researchers are now fighting since they have been given the extra boost…" Ms Calendar inputs, she had let Buffy do most of talking but now she was getting into the conversation.

"Okay I’ll bite, what’s the extra boost comment?"

"The whole reason why they all say ‘Goddess’ and are now fighting is that they are Amazons," Buffy responds to my comment.  The others don’t look at her like she’s crazy, but this is one that is a little hard to comprehend.

"Right, you expect me to believe that?  Doesn’t explain Xander though…"

"Huh? Me?  What about me?"

"Well duh… how the Hell did you take down the WHOLE football team?"

"Oh, that.  Ok… do you remember Halloween last year?"

"Yeah, it was a nightmare… I can still see Buffy screaming ‘A DEMON’ when I was going to offer her help.  I can’t believe you thought the car was a demon who had eaten me…"

"Well, on that night it wasn’t only Buffy who was changed.  Willow became a ghost and I became a solider.  Thing is, when we reverted back, I still remembered what I knew during that time.  Whoever I had been, I was really good at fighting.  So when they decided to take me on, I called up on my memories… nothing more."

"Anyways, getting back to what I wanted to say.  Would you join us?" Buffy interrupts.

They want me to help out?  Yeah, okay, it is only research, but after everything I have to handle nowadays anyway, this would be too much, especially after the whole Halloween deal.  If Ms Calendar weren’t here, I would blow right up at them about how I am so not right for the job.  Instead I tone down my response but still say what I wanted to say.

"Look, I know about what goes on here, and I can keep my mouth shut.  But don't ask me to help save the world.  For one thing, I'm not good under pressure; I had a pint sized Superman save me from an ape last Halloween!  And I have to care more about my Dad.  I'm sorry.  Thanks for clearing a few things up for me though."

I turn and walk off.  Finally, I know what is going on and what had happened all those nights ago.  I haven’t gotten far when Willow catches up to me.  She puts her hand on my shoulder and I can feel the surprising power in it.

"Ali, listen… if you change your mind, let us know okay?  We could really use your help.  Plus if you wanna hang or talk about whatever is going on, you know where we are… at least you won’t be considered crazy for bringing us the stories.  Think about what we’re offering, but don’t make a snap judgement that you may regret later."

  I stop and look into her eyes.  I still see the Willow I knew before Buffy came here, but I see something else.  <She’s grown up.  Like I had to do… WAY too early. >  I decide that I still have more important things on my mind.  And I’m still a bit angry with them over Jesse.  It’s not fair, I know.  But I need to work it out myself.  I nod once and say, "Thanks Willow.  But I really have to go to class."  I start to turn but I can’t ignore the hurt look on her face.  "I just need time, Will.  I’ve got so much on my plate already."

  Willow nods in understanding; maybe she noticed that I called her by her nickname.  Maybe there’s hope for us yet.  She smiles and says, "Okay, Ali.  If you change your mind, you know where we’re at."

  "I will."

  I turn and walk to class, wondering if maybe I am acting hastily.  Well, like I said, it’ll take time.  Besides, I don’t want to act like a total spaz and ask, "Are these real, are those real?"  Like my Dad talking about elves and fairies.  If they even do exist, no elf would be so stupid that they’d come to the Hellmouth….

  It’s wacky enough as it is…


Very quick piece to fill in something that was mentioned in Tim’s Blast For The Past

Another Night, Another Fright

Do You Realize That I Realize That Your Eyes Are Red Eyes?
There are still a number of things out there that scare poor, little Alison

Romero’s Pizza Place
Feb 15, 1999

"Ted, I’ll see you in two days," Cesar cheerfully says.  He turns back to me.  "Alison, remember that Ted has a day off tomorrow, so you’ll be on your own on the road.  But you two can scram now, go home and enjoy your night."  We grab our things and head towards the door.  I always hate leaving work ‘cause it means that I have to say goodbye to Ted.  Especially since the ratfink has managed to get another night off.  How does he do that?

"Night Cesar," we yell as we walk out the door.  I walk slowly towards my car. Ted, as always, is being a gentleman and is walking me to my car.  All of, oh maybe, ten feet away.  Hey, it’s the thought that counts and I’ll take it where I can get it.

"So what do you have planned for tomorrow night?  Going out with your girlfriend?"  Have you gathered I am nosey yet?

"Nothing planned, just going to be bumming around.  Maybe I’ll order a pizza and make you deliver it… hehehe…" Yes why don’t you do that Ted?  That way I find out what your house looks like.  But dang it… he didn’t say anything about whether or not he had a girlfriend.

You would think that seeing as though I have been working with Ted for the last year and a bit, I would know if he was dating anyone.  But he never lets on and it is infuriating me!  How can I possibly ask him out if I don’t know these things?  I’m too shy to say anything to him in case he rejects me.  Why does it have to be this difficult to know?  I chance a glance up at the Heavens.  <Rhetorical!>

We arrive at our cars and there’s an awkward silence around us.  What’s going on, we’re never like this with each other?

"Well, I’ll see you in a couple days then.  Have a good night off."  I open my door and hop in before Ted can say anything.  I just want away from the awkwardness.

*****

Driving home in the dark is not a good idea.  Sure it’s a hell of a lot safer than walking home, but you just never know what may be thrown at you as you drive past alleyways.  I’m not saying it has happened to me yet, but you never know if it will occur.

Tonight though, everything seems calm and it makes me even more nervous.  If this town is normal, then I am a monkey’s uncle.  There is no way that anyone could say this town is normal, yet they do.  Is there some kind of mind-altering spell on people who live here?  And if so, why doesn’t it work on me or the people who hang with Buffy?

I can hear sounds of a fight as I near the park.  This is more like it, now I’m not nervous because everything is calm… I’m nervous because it’s a fight!

In the dim light my car is casting over the park, it looks like a couple of kids are being attacked by a few vampires, but someone is holding them off.  Parking my car, I do the stupid thing and hop out to get closer to what I am seeing. 

I pull my stake out as I near the confrontation.  Why am I doing this?  I’m supposed to run away from trouble.  But then I hear it again, the reason why I stopped… Shaw’s voice.  She’s taunting the vampires as she fights them.  Oh no, please Lord don’t let anything happen to her. 

I edge closer, ready to help out if needed.  But as I watch her, I don’t think I am going to be.  Looks like her kicking Percy’s ass after he tried to assault her wasn’t a fluke.  What is with this town and tough women?  Finally the last of the danger is over and I stick around so I can talk to Shaw over it.

But as she turns towards the people she was protecting, I notice something wrong with her.  Instead of her usual eyes, all I can see is red.  Oh my Gawd!  What the Hell is Shaw?  She can’t be human… can she?  The only humans I have heard of with red eyes are albino… Shaw is definitely not one.

Backing away slowly, I try to make as little noise as possible.  I have to have a think about this.  Hiding under the trees, I wait for Shaw to continue her patrol before I run back to my car. 

Driving out of there as quickly as possible, I process everything I know about her.  She seems so human in class, so normal.  Okay maybe not that normal, she seemed kind of out of it the first day in computers… like she had never seen one.  And I know for a fact that Scotland has computers!  Well, in the cities anyway.  Who knows what it’s like in villages like Loch Ness or whatever…

Does this really change her? Or what I think of her?  Does this mean that I don’t want to be her friend anymore?  That’s if of course, I ever manage to become her friend.

Thinking about it, it does change her and what I think of her but I still want to be her friend.  Whatever she is, she’s not evil… she’s helping to protect the town.  So maybe I should just look past her eye color… but that is going to be hard to do.  Although, she has never done anything to make me think of her otherwise.

I just hope I can find out the truth one day…


This next story continues on from the end of Tim’s Blast For The Past… <maybe I should do the whole, "previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer intro"… nah! It would take WAY too long…>

Cesar’s Nightmare

His favorite two employees missing, and the only clue is the delivery address… an abandoned building…

Abandoned Building
Sunnydale, California
12 June 1999

I am in a complete nightmare thanks to those crazies, Shaw and Faith.  I would never have thought that they would scheme up something like this and drag poor Ted into it.  But I am not really complaining… much…

We’re sitting at the candlelit table, one pizza box in front of Ted and one in front of me.  We’re in the kind of awkward silent stage at the moment, but the soft notes of "I Can Show You The World" are still with us.  How many songs did they tape on there?

"Ali?" I can only just hear Ted, like he’s afraid of talking to me.

"Yeah…" I look up to see him staring at me; a faint blush rises on my cheeks.  So I get embarrassed quickly when a good-looking guy looks at me… wouldn’t you?

"This is great and all, but what about Cesar?"  Huh?  Cesar?  Oh shit!  We’re still supposed to be working; he is going to be worried soon.

"There’s nothing really we can do, this is out of our control.  Can we just enjoy it?" 

With that, the song ended and one of my favorite’s came on, Sarah McLachlan’s "Angel".  I softly hum along to the verse before barely whispering the words to the chorus.

In the arms of an angel
fly away from here
from this dark cold hotel room
and the endlessness that you fear
you are pulled from the wreckage
of your silent reverie
you're in the arms of the angel
may you find some comfort there

"You know, you have a beautiful voice…" Oh Gawd that faint blush must be fire engine red by now.  I am so embarrassed; please can the ground just open up and swallow me whole?  Hey, it’s California, it’s possible!

"Seriously, Ali.  You do have a beautiful voice.  May I have this dance?"  I nod slightly and accept the hand that is being offered.  Standing up next to him, I feel so short.  But without another word, he wraps his arms round my back and we start moving slowly next to each other. 

Barely moving, we dance in each other’s arms and I feel more at peace than I have for a long time.  I feel completely safe with Ted here; I know he’s not going to take advantage of me, unlike some other guys I know.  He’s a complete sweetheart.  Dad will definitely love him, why am I thinking of my father at a time like this?

"Angel" finishes and I pick up the starting notes of Bryan Adam’s "Everything I Do".  I wonder who put together the mix of songs?  I would have to say Shaw so far; these are soft, slow type songs.  But then again, Faith could have put it together since it’s close dancing music.  Hmmm, mixing up their orders sounds very tempting.

I can hear Ted humming along to the song.  I pull back slightly and look up at his face.  His eyes are closed and he has a small smile.  He looks so peaceful, almost as if he is asleep.

"What are you staring at?"  How does he manage to talk without moving his lips?

"Just you… nothing else to look at in this place…"

"Why you… that’s it," with that he starts tickling me.  I scream and try to get away from him but he holds onto me too tightly from me to break away.

"UNCLE!!!" I scream, hoping he’ll stop.  He lets me go after kissing the top of my forehead.  All that squealing has surely made me thirsty and I head back to the table.  After another quick drink we start dancing again.  Shawn Mullin’s "Lullaby" gives way to Tal Bachman’s "She’s So High".

*****

Romero’s Pizza

"Where the hell are those two crazy drivers?" Cesar wonders aloud for the fifth time.  His phone is ringing off the hook and he has no help near by.  There’s a line of people in front of him that walk out the door. 

"I’m sorry, this store is now closed," he shouts much to the annoyance of the customers.  After taking the phone off the hook, Cesar walks to the door and locks it after the last person leaves.  Looking around he sighs.

<I am going to have to dock their pay.  I have never shut this store early in my life; this is too much.>

He heads out back, where the lists of all the addresses for the deliveries are kept.  Running through Ted’s list of deliveries, Cesar writes down the last three on the list.  Picking up Alison’s, he does the same thing and notices the last addresses on both are the same.  <Please let these two be safe.  I need them, but they also need each other.>

*****

Outside the building

"So what do you think’s gonna happen in there, Sis?" Faith asks her co-conspirator.

"I do not know, it depends all on Ted’s feelings for Alison.  I bet though, that he will always be a gentleman towards her."  They watch the building for a little while longer.

"Man, I wish there were windows around this side.  Why can’t we watch them?" Faith whines good-heartedly, she just wants to annoy Shaw.

"Faith if we watch through the windows, we may be discovered."

"Well, then why are we still here?  Let’s blow this joint…" Faith begins walking away, and Shaw takes one last look at the building before following Faith.

"Mall or movie?" Shaw asks.

"Mall…" they say in unison before laughing.  <I taught you so well girl.  Shaw, you would have been lost in this world without me.>

"So you’ve asked me what I think.  What do you think will happen in there?" Shaw asks Faith as they walk down the street.  Faith shoots her a devil-may-care look.

"Smoochies, lots and lots of smoochies…" Faith begins, "and maybe a little ‘Dirty Dancing’" She watches Shaw’s face frown with confusion.  Before Shaw can say anything, Faith takes pity on her.

"Do you remember the song that we taped, ‘Time Of My Life’?" Shaw nods her head. "That song is from a movie called Dirty Dancing, kind of a hit movie for the time it came out.  It’s an old favorite of Ali’s… I asked her Dad which songs and movies were her favorites, he told me to look in her room."

"Her father let you look in her room?  You?" Shaw asks sarcastically.

"Hey, I can be very charming when I set my mind to it.  Man, she has some cool books and movies in her room.  Wouldn’t mind stealing some of her CD’s, either.  Got a whole heap of stuff from Oz.  I wonder how she got them?"

"Oz gave Alison a bunch of CDs?" confusion clearly heard in Shaw’s voice.

"No, not that Oz!  Oz as in Australia, the land down under...  Jeez Scottie, you have a lot to learn still."

"And you’ll probably teach me all about it…"

"Darn tootin’!"

*****

Abandoned Building

The only idea of time I have in this place is that so far five songs have played.  The sixth one is just about to begin.

"So you’ve had a crush on me since you started?" Ted suddenly asks me.  I jump in his arms; he startled me when he started speaking.

"Ummm, y-yeah I did.  Why?"  Not moving out of his arms, I lean back again to look him in the eyes.  He’s got beautiful eyes really, like they could look right through me.

"Well, I’ve been kind of wanting to ask you out for a while, yet you kept sending me mixed signals.  One minute you would joke around with me, the next you were so distant.  And some days you were just plain cold.  I never could figure out what was running through your head," he explains to me. 

Oh shit, I never thought the way I was acting would have had affected the way Ted would respond to me.  But how was I supposed to know, considering that I have never had a boyfriend before… and the last guy I had a crush on… well, it turned out really badly when I acted on it.  Don’t tell me that I could have stuffed this right up.

"What’s wrong Ali?  You are so quiet… is there something you are hiding from me?" he sounds so worried.  I watch as he drops his arms from around me and steps back.  Oh no, please no…

"I’m so sorry Ted.  I’m not good at this whole relationship thingy…" I begin, watching his face take on a puzzled look.

"You don’t want to go out with me?"

"That’s not what I said… I’ve just never had a boyfriend before, I’m not used to it.  So please, don’t think that I don’t want to be with you, I do.  I just am a little confused by what is happening."

"Its okay Ali, I understand.  So how much longer do you think that Faith and Shaw are going to keep us in here?  Cause for our first date, I did picture somewhere a bit more romantic."  He had pictured our first date?  Oh my, did he just admit to having a crush on me?  That is so cool!

"I dunno; I think this is the first time they’ve done this… or at least I hope it is.  But I wonder what Cesar is doing?  We’ve been gone a couple of hours now, he’s going to be worried about us.  I hope he hasn’t called the cops."  We share a worried glance but with a shrug of Ted’s shoulders, we went back to dancing.

*****

Meanwhile

Cesar looks at the building once again and then at the address on his list.  This is the right address but the building doesn’t look right.  He glances around and notices both Alison and Ted’s cars are parked out front, but there are no sign of their owners.  Parking his car next to Alison’s station wagon, Cesar warily gets out and heads towards the building.  He can hear a noise coming from inside the building but it’s too muffled to hear what it was.

He’s almost at the door when something taps him on the shoulder.

"ARGH!" he screams while spinning around.  Two girls stand before him with wide smiles on their faces.  Both are rather pretty and one is flaunting it more than the other by wearing figure-hugging clothes.

"Hey Cesar, how’s it hanging?" one of the girls asks.

"Do I know you two?" Cesar asks cautiously. 

"Not personally, but you’re the boss man of one of our friends.  I’m Faith and this is Shaw.  We’re friends with Ali, which is why we’re here," the girl in the tight clothes says with twinkling eyes.  The girl called Shaw nods politely at him when her name is mentioned.

"You are worried about her, too?  Both Alison and Ted went missing on their shift and this was the last address on both of their delivery lists."  With that, Cesar is shocked as both girls burst out laughing.  He stares at them while they try to calm down.

"Oh man, I knew we forgot to warn someone about this prank," Faith said to Shaw, "you better tell him what’s going on.  If I do, I’ll burst out laughing again."

After catching her breath, Shaw starts to explain to Cesar what they’ve done.  Cesar grins at the part where Shaw tells him about letting the cat out of the bag regarding Alison’s crush.

"You know," Cesar interrupts suddenly, "Ted has had a crush on her from the start too.  He would show up to work on days off, or if he weren’t able to come in, then he’d order a pizza to be delivered.  Oh my, although I am not happy about having to close the store early, I am happy that you decided to help them realize their mutual feelings for each other."

"Heeeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyyy!  They’re going to be expecting one of us to unlock the door right?" Faith asks suddenly.

"Yes, considering we are the ones who locked them in there," Shaw answers, not understanding.

"Well, they’ll probably be wanting to kill us for doing that to them.  But what if the Ces-man here lets them out?  Then starts ranting and raving about them doing this to get time off work… would you be up to it Cesar?"  Cesar breaks into an evil grin at the thought of that.

"That would be a reasonable request, Faith.  For getting these two together at last, I’ll treat you both to a free pizza after we let them out.  Now, let’s get this show rolling."

The three of them walk towards the door and Faith hands over the keys before she and Shaw hide near the window to watch the show.  Cesar quickly unlocks the door and throws the keys back to Faith.  He takes a deep breath and opens the door.

He storms in, pretending to be furious.  At first Alison and Ted don’t notice because their lips are locked together.  But when they came up for breath, Ted sees their boss standing in the same building with an angry look on his face.

*****

Ted’s standing too still, his rigid body blocking my view of whatever has upset him.  I try to look around him but he is holding me behind him.  I wonder what it is?  I hope it’s not a vampire or a demon.

"Alison and Ted, I should have known that the two of you would have pulled something like this!  This is unacceptable behavior by you Ted; I thought you would have been a better influence on Alison than this.  And Alison, before you came to work with us, Ted would never have pulled a stunt like this."  Oh no, that’s Cesar’s voice I hear.  I struggle to get out of Ted’s hold and eventually he lets go of me.  I take my place by his side, facing my raging boss.

"Cesar, it wasn’t Ali’s or my fault.  Two of Alison’s so called friends decided to lock us in here together.  We couldn’t get out until they came back," Ted tries to explain.

"They locked you in here?" Cesar asks.  Ted and I both nod our heads at him, knowing how stupid that really sounds.

"Then how come the door was unlocked when I got here?  If it was locked then how did I get in?"  What?  The door was unlocked?  Maybe Shaw and Faith unlocked it and then ran when they heard Cesar approaching.  How else would the door be unlocked?  Oh my God I’m going to KILL those two!!!

"Ted’s telling the truth, Cesar," I started to argue, "we were locked in here by my friends and I don’t know how you managed to get in... maybe Shaw and Faith unlocked the door just before you arrived… I don’t know."

"Also, you do know that it is against policy for two co-workers to be involved with each other," Cesar added.  I look at him and notice he’s trying way too hard not to smile.  What’s going on here?  Are we the butt of someone’s joke? 

"If one of us has to leave, then I will.  Alison needs the money more than me," Ted volunteers.  No way!  I am so not going to let this happen, it’s not fair if one of us had to go.  It would either be both or none of us leaving.

"And if Ted leaves, I will too.  I will not have Ted lose his job when I’m also involved in the matter."  Finally the smile breaks through on Cesar’s face.  He is grinning madly at us.

"Neither of you will be going anywhere.  I ran into the two girls who planned this, and they admitted to setting up the whole deal."

"Squealer!"  I hear Faith’s voice shout out.  I grin at Ted and we move towards the door.

"Faith Pryce!  Shaw Hunter!  Get your asses in here," I yell as we reach the door.  Looking outside our prison, I scan the surrounding area for where the two might be hiding.

"No way AJ!" Faith shoots back, but I can’t pinpoint where she is.  Ted is looking around the area too; he shakes his head at me.  Damn, neither of us knows where they are.

Cesar walks up to us and puts an arm around both of our shoulders.  He leads us towards where are cars are parked.

"Come on you two, you’ll be able to get them some other time.  In fact, I’m treating them both to pizzas tonight.  Let’s go back to the shop and wait for them," Cesar tells us both.  We smile at the idea of them coming to get their pizzas, maybe we can get them back.

*****

Romero’s Pizza Place
Later that night

I sit at the table while Cesar talks to Ted about not hurting me in the back room.  I can’t see Ted purposefully hurting me in anyway, but if he does then I get a new person to try out my aikido moves on.

Cesar has left the store closed, so it’s just us in here.  It’s strange being in here when it’s not fully lit up.  I have a magazine in my hands.  I’m trying to focus on it but my ears are straining to hear what Cesar is now telling Ted.  That’s when I hear the door open; I twirl around in my seat to look at the people entering.

"Hey AJ, we’ve come to get our free pizzas from Cesar.  He around?" Faith asks without a care in the world.  Harrumph!  I’m still not happy with her setting me up like that.  So being childish I give her the silent treatment.

I stand up and walk out the back to get Cesar.  While he heads out the front to get their orders, Ted and I make up two new pizzas.  We toss together two combos, which I think should not go together on a pizza.  For Faith, we make an anchovies and pineapple pizza with barbeque sauce and capsicum slices.  Whereas for Shaw, we throw together a mushroom, pepperoni and tandoori sauce.

I smile at Ted while our creations are cooking.  With that, Cesar comes back in with their orders.  I take the orders and read them.  Two large Barbeque Meat Lovers’.  No way are we going to make them, they can suffer through the two we dish up.

Ted takes the two boxes and walks out to the counter.  He drops both of them on the counter then walks back into the kitchen without saying a word.  We hear Faith and Shaw walk towards the boxes.

"What the Hell!  These aren’t Meat Lovers’, where are our pizzas?" Faith demands.  I crack up laughing and head towards the door.

"Sucks to be you Faith!" I reply, using similar words she used against me.  I grab my gear and say goodbye to everyone.  Giving Ted a quick kiss I leave the store and head home.

I still can’t believe that Ted likes me… he really likes me!

The End

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