Disclaimer: Not mine – belongs to Joss Whedon.
A/N: (inspired by Xander's neighbor's house burning when he wanted a fire truck for his 7th birthday, and the librum incendere incident in “Superstar”)
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Cathrine Madison let out a shriek of outrage and disbelief as her spell book suddenly went up in flames. She overturned her tea on it, but it burned merrily on, the pages curling, blackening, and falling into white ash. The crackle of flame sounding like mocking laughter.
She could feel the palms of her hands blister as she beat frantically at the small blaze. It ignored her attempts to smother it, the last corner finally succumbing like the rest. And with the destruction of her spell book, all her spells dissolved like smoke on the wind.
She felt a tug on her spirit, wrenching her from her daughter's body and back into her own.
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Amy could sense someone nearby as she lay on the carpet. Carpet? The last thing she remembered was looking for her mother at the high school. A hand touched her neck and she flinched. “Amy? You okay?” the voice was familiar. Who was it?
She groaned softly, shifting uncomfortably. She ached in places she didn't even know she had. And she felt smaller, somehow. Her hands hurt, too. “Oh, that...” she blinked, her eyes focusing on unusually somber brown eyes. “Xander? Did...? What...? Where's my mom?”
He helped her sit up and she felt the room spin a bit. “At school. Remember? You figured to confront her during cheerleading practice? Buffy and Willow were going as support? Only, no one figured she'd come home.”
“Oh.” He got her to her feet and she stumbled a bit as he lead her to the couch. She sat thinking over the past few months, her mother had taken over her body, and she'd been in hers. It had been horrible. Trapped both in a body she was unfamiliar with, as well as at the house. And she still had to do homework! Being belittled by her mother, no way out. Being discovered by the Scoobies. Gathering up her courage to finally confront her mother and demand she switch them back. Her thoughts spun dizzily and she was only peripherally aware of Xander's exit from the room. It wasn't until she felt someone wrapping one of her burned hands that she refocused on her surroundings. Xander sat on the coffee table opposite her, an open first aid kit beside him. With gentle and confident movements, he spread burn ointment over the palm of her hand, placed a clean gauze pad over it, and began loosely wrapping gauze around the whole hand to keep it in place. She frowned as a thought came to her. “If everyone's at the school, why are you here?”
“Thought I'd see if I could find her spell book. Destroy it if I could. It was the only way to safely cancel the spells she was doing.” He moved to work on her other hand.
She glanced down to where a weapon lay innocently propped against the coffee table. “And the axe?”
He met her eyes, unapologetically. “The unsafe way to stop the spells.”
“Oh.” Surprisingly, she felt no anger or righteous indignation at what he had planned to do. Her mother had been trying to kill his friends, she could not blame him for wanting to protect them.
He finished wrapping her hands. “There. All done.”
She examined them, curious. “Where did you learn to do that?”
“Lots of practice.” He replaced everything in the first aid kit and leaned back some, studying her for a moment. “It'll be about a week before you'll be able to use your hands comfortably. Don't burst the blisters. Let them heal on their own, or you'll end up with scarring. You'll need to change the bandages at least once a day, more if you get them wet. Is your dad still around? I haven't seen him in a while.”
Amy shook her head. “No. He moved out a couple months before the whole body-snatching thing. He lives in L.A.”
“Would he let you stay with him? Even if it's just long enough to recover?”
“Pretty sure,” she fell silent. Dad had tried to tell her that it wasn't her fault that he was leaving, but at the time she could only feel betrayed. It would be nice to see her dad again.
“If you've got his number handy, I'll dial for you.”
Xander propped the handset between her ear and her shoulder and took the first aid kit with him to the kitchen to give her some privacy. “Daddy? Can I come stay with you for a while? Mom's gone crazy and both my hands are burned. I don't want to stay here, daddy. Kinda. I don't want to talk about it right now. ... Really? ... Thank you, daddy. I'll see you soon. ... Love you, too. Bye.” She fumbled for the receiver, managing to clumsily return it to the base. “I'm done, Xander.”
He re-entered the room carrying two glasses of water, one with a straw in it. “Things good?”
“Yeah.” She sipped the water, gratefully. “He said he'll call the bus station about a ticket for me and meet me at the station in L.A. I just got to pack and get there.”
“If you don't have a problem with it, I'll help you pack. Unless you'd rather I call Willow over?” She raised a brow at that. He shrugged, looking a bit sheepish, “Girly things.”
Amy felt her face warm, but shook her head. “I don't mind. I'd rather not wait, you know? Can we get out of here?”
“Gotcha. Okay, let's get a-packing.”
They arrived at the Sunnydale Bus Depot twenty minutes later. Xander had her packed up with necessities, as well as mementos she didn't want to leave behind. He'd also gotten her to smile and laugh for the first time since the whole nightmare had begun. He escorted her to her bus, handing the ticket over to the driver for her. He settled her into her seat. “Good luck, Amy.”
“Thanks. Can-can you let me know what happened? You know, with my mom?”
“Sure, Aims. I've got your dad's number. I'll call later tonight once you're settled.”
“Thank you, Xander. For everything.” She kissed his cheek, for once not embarrassed at showing affection to a boy. He grinned back and stepped off the bus. As the bus pulled away, she watched his waving figure until it disappeared when they turned a corner. She sighed to herself, things were going to be okay.